Antichrist’s Men Abduct US Hostages (Revelation 13:18)

Why Iran’s thugs just took more hostages

Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini were released on Sunday. In return, seven Iranian citizens, convicted in American courts on arms-smuggling charges, were let go. Fourteen Iranian men, wanted on various charges, were also removed from Interpol’s most-wanted list.
Iraqis tell a dark story: The two men and one woman were partying late into the night at an area in south Baghdad that one Iraqi source described as its “red light district.” The source speculated that while partying, the three apparently made the crucial mistake of bragging that they have American passports.
That turned them into a commodity. Despite looking and dressing as the locals do, and even though they spoke with perfect Iraqi accents, the three — employed by the United States as security contractors at a Baghdad airport — became valuable.
Such details, widely disseminated to Iraqi-based reporters, must be taken with a grain of salt. The Shiite-heavy Iraqi government is embarrassed by the kidnapping, and would gladly blame the victims for their plight.
Washington officials, rightly, declined to shed much light on the affair. Citing privacy issues, State Department spokesman John Kirby made clear this week that while “the picture is becoming a little bit more clear in terms of what might have happened,” he wouldn’t provide further details.
But State also wants to discourage any linkage between the kidnapping and Iran. Did Secretary of State John Kerry contact his new buddy Javad Zarif? Kirby, in mock surprise, answered that the kidnapping occurred in Iraq, so why should Kerry call Iran’s foreign minister?
Yes, to quote “Ali G.,” Sasha Baron Cohen’s bumbling alter ego, “It’d be a good idea if one of them changed their name, to make it different-sounding from the other one.” But serious Americans apparently don’t blame Iran for something that happened in Iraq.
Especially now that in the eyes of American officials, Iran can do no wrong. On Thursday, Kerry acted as an advocate for Iran’s supreme leader, saying that Ali Khamenei’s “apology” for a recent sacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran was “very significant” and a “huge step.”
And even if there was no direct order from Tehran, the kidnappers must have believed that their Iranian patrons would be pleased. Perhaps inspired by recent footage of Iranian naval commandos holding at gunpoint the crews of two US Navy boats, they thought someone in Tehran would handsomely compensate them. The Great Satan bows again.
Whatever the reality is, the new kidnapping situation won’t be resolved without Tehran’s involvement. And indeed, on Thursday Kerry finally acknowledged that he’s asking Zarif for help. So the same DC officials who’ve toiled for months to compensate the mullahs to finally release long-held American hostages are at it again.
And once again, they’ll have to deal with the realities of Tehran’s factional politics. Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani believe that to maintain the regime’s tenuous hold on power, some necessary concessions must be made to America. On the other side, a much more powerful faction — Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards henchmen — fear any opening to the West is detrimental for the future of the regime and push for an ever-increasing confrontation.
The business of hostage negotiation is delicate. For the hardliners, holding Americans is a tried and true tool. Sure, they’d tolerate it if Rouhani & Co. occasionally extract a heavy American price for a swap. After all, President Obama’s diplomacy aside, the Islamic Republic has yet to shed old habits. So either the Guards or some proxy can always find new hostages to start the whole process anew.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Venom From The Scarlet Woman (Revelation 17:4)

ap_hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders_ap-photo-wi-640x383Cinton’s response to Sanders has some Democrats worried

By LISA LERER and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press
None of it appears to be sticking, say some Democrats who have raised concerns that a months-long primary campaign could create lasting damage for their party.
While most believe Clinton will still capture the nomination, some say she is failing to respond effectively to Sanders,fueling both his primary rise and strengthening the Republican argument against her. Others say she got too late a start going after Sanders and is still not hitting him enough — eroding her lead in states that should be safe.
Hillary Clinton: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally on the campus of Simpson College, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Indianola, Iowa. © AP Photo/Jae C. Hong Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally on the campus of Simpson College, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Indianola, Iowa. “They didn’t take him seriously enough because they thought they had a gadfly,” said John Morgan, a Florida attorney and Clinton donor. “The gadfly wasn’t a gadfly — he was a lightning bug. And people have been following that lightning bug all over America.”
Though Sanders has dismissed questions about Clinton’s use of a private email account and server as secretary of state and how she responded to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks, some Democrats say she needs a better response to his critique of her ties to Wall Street, which they argue reinforces months of Republican attacks on her character.
“The better she does, the more those stories seem to recede in the minds of voters,” said Boston-based Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. “Now, Benghazi seems to be back. Email seems to be back. A number of other things seem to be back.”
Though the tightening nature of the race, particularly in Iowa, hasn’t sparked widespread panic among her supporters quite yet, it’s worrying some donors, as well as Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, who shared her concerns at a meeting with supporters in New York this week, according to people close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Democratic donors, strategists and pollsters, including some aligned with Clinton, expressed their concerns in nearly two dozen interviews with The Associated Press.
Attendees listen as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a campaign stop, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Peterborough, N.H. © AP Photo/Matt Rourke Attendees listen as Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a campaign stop, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Peterborough, N.H. Clinton has long struggled to connect with liberal activists, who have gained influence as the party has shifted left during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.
“Clinton’s message has always been more effective for a general election audience than the primary activist base,” said strategist Ben LaBolt, a former Obama campaign aide.
A focus group conducted by an unaffiliated Democratic strategist during the last debate found Clinton’s message fell flat. Her attacks, according to a memo describing the event, backfired when Sanders reinforced his message in his responses.
“It is not about Senator Sanders. It is about his message,” said Chris Kofinis, who conducted the group. “When you attack him, you’re not actually addressing the problem.”
Sanders released a gauzy, uplifting ad Thursday with images of his overflowing rallies over a soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” The wordless spot contrasts with a recent Clinton ad in New Hampshire about her experience and plans.
In recent days, Sanders has intensified his critique of Clinton with rhetoric that’s edged toward breaking one of his core campaign pledges — no attacks.
“Without naming any names, Goldman Sachs also provides very, very generous speaking fees to some unnamed candidates,” he said this week in Iowa, meaning her.
Republicans have tried to bolster Sanders, who they see as the more beatable general election opponent. The Republican National Committee jumped to the self-identified democratic socialist candidate’s defense during the last debate and American Crossroads, a super PAC founded by Karl Rove, has an ad in Iowa highlighting Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. “Does Iowa really want Wall Street in the White House?” the narrator asks.
During Sanders’ rise in the summer, Clinton’s campaign largely avoided criticizing Sanders out of fear that would alienate his liberal supporters who will be important to the Democratic nominee this fall. That hesitancy has changed in recent weeks.
“No one has laid a glove on Bernie,” said Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Clinton supporter who has warned about Sanders’ electability. “We like Bernie and he’s having a conversation we think is important so it’s not an easy thing to do.”
Recent preference polls suggest her lead in Iowa has evaporated and in New Hampshire, Sanders has opened up a significant edge.
Clinton and her team believe they can still win the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, arguing that her broader support will help her pick up more delegates, due to the proportional nature of their allocation in the state.
They’ve long seen New Hampshire as a tougher race, given Sanders’ decades of representing a neighboring state, but expect Clinton to be strong in South Carolina, Nevada and the Southern states that vote on March 1. The larger numbers of minority voters in the later contests benefit Clinton, who’s consistently polled better among those groups.
Clinton also has an overwhelming advantage among the so-called “superdelegates” of party leaders and elected officials.
But even in Southern states, Democrats increasingly see a path for Sanders to cobble together a coalition of liberal whites, independents and younger black supporters who might minimize Clinton’s advantage and allow him to pick up delegates.
“Sanders organizers seem to be making some headway,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who says he’s likely to endorse Clinton. “What I’m hearing more and more is that (black voters) are now open to hearing Bernie.”
And caucuses scheduled in March and April in states like Maine, Colorado and Wyoming could favor Sanders.
“Nobody ever stops running for president, they just run out of money,” said former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a Clinton fundraiser. “Bernie has enough money for a long time.”

Thanks To Obama, Saudi Arabia Will Become A Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Saudi Arabia Minister Avoids Questions On Acquiring Nukes From Pakistan

Press Trust of India | Updated: January 21, 2016 14:47 IST
“I am not going to get into details of discussions we have with foreign governments, and certainly not allied governments. I’m sure you understand,” he said.
“I would not discuss these things in a public forum, certainly not on television,” he told CNN when asked about nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.
His remarks came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan against indulging in trade of nuclear weapons, saying there will be “all kinds of NPT consequences” if Riyadh went ahead with any such plan.
“Saudi Arabia is committed to two things. I always say two things we do not negotiate over, our faith and our security. Saudi Arabia will do whatever it takes in order to protect our nation and our people from any harm. And I will leave it at that,” Al-Jubeir said.
“I discussed the bilateral relationship with Pakistan, which is a strategic one. We discussed the regional situation.
We discussed ways to promote security and stability in the region. We discussed the negative and aggressive Iranian interference and the affairs of the region,” he said.
Responding to a question, the minister said Iran should seize interfering in the affairs of other regional countries.
Iran should cease to support terrorism. Iran should cease to assassinate diplomats and blow up embassies. Iran should cease to support militias whose objective is to destabilise countries in the region. Iran should cease its policy of negative propaganda in the region. Other than that, things should be fine with Iran,” he said.
Al-Jubeir said most countries are concerned over Iran getting billions of dollars as a result of the nuclear deal.
“I think most countries in the world are concerned that Iran will use these funds in order to fund its nefarious activities rather than use them to develop its country and improve the living standards of its people. I hope I’m wrong,” he said.
Lashing out at Iran, he said Tehran harbours the leadership of Al-Qaeda, including one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, and this is a country that has been aggressive and has demonstrated no inhibitions in using terrorism.
“This is a country that has provided troops and recruited troops in a sectarian war in Syria that has allowed Bashar al-Assad to murder more than 250,000 of his people and to render 12 million of them refugees or displaced persons,” he said.

Russian Nuclear Horn Displays Its Military Might (Daniel 7)

Navy publicises presence of destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov and the flagship Varyag missile cruiser in eastern Mediterranean
The view from the deck of the Russian navy destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov, on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean near Syria on Thursday. Photograph: Vladimir Isachenkov/AP

The military demonstrated its global presence on Thursday by bringing Moscow-based journalists aboard the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyer, which sailed alongside the flagship of the Russian naval group, the Varyag missile cruiser.
The display of Russia’s military operations came before planned peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition next week in Geneva, which are meant to pave the way for a political settlement for Syria. Since Russia launched its bombing campaign in Syria on 30 September, its warplanes have flown more than 5,700 missions in support of Syrian government troops.
The warships, accompanied by support vessels, have rotated on duty off Syria’s shores, reviving a Soviet-era practice when warships maintained a permanent vigil in the Mediterranean.
The Varyag has sailed from its Pacific port, while the Vice Admiral Kulakov has come from the Russian base of Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula.
The bigger cruiser Varyag carries long-range anti-ship missiles and powerful air defence systems used to help protect the Russian air base and the warplanes operating from it.

“My ship is in eastern Mediterranean to protect and defend other ships and cargo vessels and to provide search and rescue at sea if necessary,” said Captain 1st Grade Stanislav Varik, the commander of the destroyer.
He emphasised that his ship was optimised for engaging submarines, and added that his crew had successfully tracked several foreign submarines during its stint in the eastern Mediterranean.
“There are submarines belonging to several nations here, and we have spotted, identified their class and tracked some of them,” he said without offering further details.
The Russian naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus has served as the key supply and support point since Soviet times. It is now the only such facility outside the former Soviet Union.
Russian warships come here for refuelling and get other supplies, and some get minor maintenance there.
The Varyag, the flagship of the navy’s Pacific Fleet, has replaced its sister ship, the missile cruiser Moskva on a stint near Syria. The cruisers are equipped with long-range Fort air defence missiles, the navy equivalent of the famous S-300 Russian air defence systems.
Like the Moskva earlier, the Varyag has kept close to the shore to help protect Russian warplanes after Turkey downed a Russian jet in November.

USGS Evidence Shows Power of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes
Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances

Did You Feel the Virginia 2011 Earthquake?

Did You Feel the Virginia 2011 Earthquake?

Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM
Earthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.
“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”
“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”
This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.
The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.
“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”
It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.
In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2 from an earthquake of similar magnitude.
“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”
Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.