Signs of the Times

Pace of Bible Translation Reaches New Highs, Translators Say

Mission News Network reports that Bible translation projects are at an all time high. “We are participating in the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation the church has ever witnessed. We’re actually seeing, in reality, more translation programs being started today than we’ve ever seen in the history of the church,” says President of Wycliffe Bible Translators Bob Creson. He said that Wycliffe is on target to have Bible translation projects underway in every known language that does not yet have the Bible in their native tongue by the year 2025. That means approximately 2,250 projects to go. Yet Creson is optimistic despite the global economic upheaval. “I think the work of Bible translation is one of those things that just transcend all these things that are going on around us,” he said.

U.S. in Debt to the World

As the largest debtor nation on earth by a wide margin, we ought to be concerned about who our creditors are. If they were to call in the debt, we’d be bankrupt and the dollar would be worthless. Unfortunately, many foreign nations hold our debt, few of them our allies. This gives them tremendous influence over our government, industry and economy. Ranked in order of total debt, these foreign creditors are: China, $653 billion; Japan, $586 billion; United Kingdom, $360 billion; Caribbean Banking Centers, $220 billion; Oil Exporting Nations, $188 billion; Brazil, $134 billion; Luxemburg, $86 billion; Russia, $81 billion; Hong Kong, $65 billion; Switzerland, $61 billion.

Nov. Trade Deficit Plunges 29% to Lowest Level since ’03

WASHINGTON (AP) — The trade deficit plunged to the lowest level in five years in November as a deepening recession slashed demand for oil by a record amount. Imports from China also fell by the largest amount on record. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the trade deficit narrowed to $40.4 billion in November, a 28.7% decline from October’s deficit of $56.7 billion. The trade deficit through November was running at an annual rate of $688.2 billion, down from the 2007 imbalance of $700.3 billion. Economists expect the trade deficit will fall even more sharply this year as the recession further cuts demand for imported products. For November, exports of goods and services dropped 5.9% to $142.8 billion, the smallest level in 14 months. Imports fell an even larger 12% to $183.2 billion, the lowest level in 2½ years. The huge decline was led by the largest-ever drop in crude oil, reflecting a record fall in the average price of a barrel of crude. Total petroleum imports were down 36.5% to $23.6 billion.

Ø JJ Commentary: Despite the positive headlines, notice that the trade deficit was still $40 billion for the month and $688 billion for the year. We are still going deeper and deeper into debt.

Bernanke: Stimulus is Good, but Financial Markets Need Help

USA TODAY — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that a massive stimulus bill proposed by president-elect Barack Obama could provide a significant short-term boost to the economy, but he cautioned that more is needed to ensure a long-lasting recovery from the deep recession and the “extraordinary stress” in global financial markets. In a wide-ranging speech to the London School of Economics, Bernanke said it may be necessary to provide more capital injections and loan guarantees to banks and financial firms to stabilize credit markets.

Ø JJ Commentary: More, more, more. More debt, more federal control, more socialism. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson are the point men for the New World Order. Paulson came out of Goldman Sachs, one of the perpetrators of the financial crisis who have now received billions of dollars of assistance, but what they’ve done with it nobody knows. The objective is to bring America down from its superpower status and into the socialistic fold of a one-world government.

More Seek Heating-Bill Help with Low-Income Energy Assistance

USA TODAY — With unemployment soaring, a record number of people are seeking federal assistance to pay energy bills this winter, a survey set released Tuesday indicates. About 7.3 million households, 1.5 million more than last year, will likely receive $5.1 billion in subsidies from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association says. The projected total, which the association compiled from applications so far this winter, is an increase of 9% over the record 6.5 million households that received funds to pay heating and electricity bills in 1985.

Retail Sales Plunge 2.7% in December

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Sales at retailers fell at a steeper-than-expected rate in December, government data showed Wednesday, as a deteriorating economic environment forced consumers to cut spending during the key holiday period. The Commerce Department said total retail sales fell 2.7% to a seasonally adjusted $343.2 billion last month following a revised 2.1% drop in November. U.S. consumer technology sales fell 5.7% in the holiday season, research group NPD said Tuesday.

Israel Pounds Gaza as Rockets Strike from Lebanon

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli aircraft struck a Gaza City cemetery on Wednesday, unearthing dozens of bodies, and pounded militants’ weapons positions and arms smuggling tunnels, witnesses and the military said, as guerrillas in Lebanon raised the specter of a new front by sending rockets crashing into northern Israel. Israeli police said three rockets were fired from Lebanon at open areas near the town of Kiryat Shemona, causing no injuries or damage. Residents of northern Israel were instructed to stay close to bomb shelters following the second attack from Lebanon in less than a week, the military said. On Wednesday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in an effort to wrest a diplomatic end to the violence, which began 19 days ago. Israel’s onslaught against Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers has killed more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians, according to Palestinian hospital officials. Thirteen Israelis have also been killed since the offensive began, four of them by rocket fire from Gaza. Eight years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns sparked the war, which began with a devastating air offensive, then expanded to include a ground campaign.

Israel Ready to Strike Iran

Informed sources in Washington tell Newsmax that Israel indeed will launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities soon – possibly in just days as President George W. Bush prepares to leave office. The reason: The time clock has begun to run out. Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear device under the control of its radical president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in June that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in as little as six months. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicted that Israel would stage a raid against Iran’s nuclear facilities if Barack Obama won the presidential election.

Bin Laden Urges Muslim Jihad Against Israel

CAIRO (AP) — al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments as allies of the Jewish state in a new message aimed at harnessing anger in the Mideast over the Gaza offensive. Bin Laden spoke in an audiotape posted Wednesday on Islamic militant websites where al-Qaeda usually issues its messages. It was his first tape since May and came nearly three weeks after Israel started its campaign against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. The al-Qaeda leader also vowed that the terror network would open “new fronts” against the United States and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. The authenticity of the tape could not be independently confirmed, but the voice resembled that of bin Laden in previous messages.

Gas-Starved EU Nations Seek End to Energy Crisis

MOSCOW (AP) — The leaders of several gas-starved European nations traveled to Ukraine and Russia on Wednesday, pressing them to restore supplies as the EU threatened both with legal action for halting energy deliveries in the midst of winter. But Ukraine’s natural gas company said for a second straight day it would not send Russian gas along to Europe. It claimed that Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom was trying to force it to cut service to parts of Ukraine in order to send the gas along. For his part, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of holding European nations hostage and insisted the EU should not accept Ukraine’s claims. With no end to the politically charged dispute in sight — despite a weekend agreement that sent teams of EU monitors out to pumping stations to keep tabs on the gas flows — the EU was fed up. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Gazprom and Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run gas company, that he will urge European energy companies to sue them unless they move quickly to restore gas supplies.

N. Korea Refuses to Give Up Nuclear Weapons

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea said Tuesday it will hold onto its nuclear arsenal until it is satisfied the U.S. is not hiding atomic weapons in South Korea and Washington establishes diplomatic relations with the regime. The North has long accused Washington of stationing nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula for a possible attack on the communist nation. Both the South and the U.S. deny having nuclear weapons in South Korea. Regional powers have been trying for years to rid North Korea of its nuclear program, but negotiations have recently stalled. The Foreign Ministry indicated it would consider giving up its nuclear weapons if the U.S. threat is removed and diplomatic relations between the two nations are established.

Ø JJ Commentary: North Korea has led the U.S. and other nations on a wild goose chase. They never are going to give up their nuclear weapons, but keep on “negotiating” so as to extract concessions and then later to renege on their agreements.

Group: China Fails to Improve Human Rights in 2008

The Associated Press reports that the Olympic Games did nothing to spread freedoms in China, according to a democracy watchdog organization. The Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House released its 2009 “Freedom in the World” report on Tuesday, and called China’s progress “disappointing” after the country’s many public promises to improve prior to the Olympic Games. “There were restrictions on Internet access even after there was some opening of that when the Games first began, and … a lot of attacks and incidents of foreign journalists arrested,” Asia researcher Sarah Cook said. “Meanwhile, local journalists continue to face a very difficult environment, including arrests.”

Blizzard Slams Plains; East Digs Out from Weekend Storm

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A fast-moving blizzard brought snow and high winds to North Dakota on Monday, closing schools and causing more headaches for residents still trying to dig out from a record snowfall last month. And, forecasters said a blast of cold air was on the way that could send the thermometer as low as 30 below zero. Wind gusts of around 60 mph were reported in southwestern North Dakota and 51 mph in Bismarck. Meanwhile, residents of the Midwest and Northeast dug out after their own tussles with weekend storms. Most residents in New England heeded the authorities’ warnings to stay off roads after the storm dumped up to 9 inches of snow in some areas in Massachusetts and sleet and freezing rain across Rhode Island. The Pacific Northwest remained on alert with three flooded rivers in Washington, where state officials were assessing the damage from heavy rain and melting snow on roads and property.

The record-breaking extreme cold that is freezing the Midwest is dropping temperatures close to 50 below in spots, snapping sewerage lines and causing numerous vehicle pileups. A blast of Arctic air is responsible for the unusual freeze that moved into the United States from Canada. The cold front will spread to the East Coast and descend into the South by the end of the week. New York City could see below-zero temperatures Thursday night, AccuWeather reported, which would be the first time the city has been below zero since Jan. 19, 1994.

Ø JJ Commentary: Global Warming? Some weather experts are now saying that signs point to another ice age. Go figure.

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