December 5, 2005

News for December 5, 2005

| Bookmark at Delicious | Print This Page | |


Search Watchman Bible Study


Narnia’s lion really is Jesus (December 4, 2005) - AN unpublished letter from the novelist C S Lewis has provided conclusive proof of the Christian message in his Narnia children’s books. In the letter, sent to a child fan in 1961, Lewis writes: “The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” It has been found by Walter Hooper, literary adviser to the Lewis estate. It has emerged ahead of this week’s release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The film, starring Tilda Swinton and Jim Broadbent, cost £75m to make and has been at the centre of a tug of war between Christians and secularists. Brian Sibley, author of Shadowlands, the book which describes Lewis’s marriage to Joy Gresham, said: “This is the most specific explanation of Narnia I have heard.” The new film depicts one of the seven novels in Lewis’s series, which tell the story of four children journeying through a wardrobe into Narnia, a world of talking animals that is plunged into endless winter by a witch. The children and animals rally to Aslan, a noble lion. On one side church groups, backed by the film’s producer Disney, are promoting the story’s message as Christian, with Jesus represented by Aslan saving a world fallen into sin. more...


Amazing discovery in heart of biblical Jerusalem (December 4, 2005) - In what many archaeologists hail as the potential find of the century, remains of a massive structure dating to the time of King David have been discovered in the heart of biblical Jerusalem. Eilat Mazar, the Israeli archaeologist leading the excavation, has suggested that it may, in fact, be the palace built by David as described in the Bible. The discovery has shaken the already contentious field of biblical archaeology to its roots: For the last few years, a number of respected archaeologists n most prominently Israel Finkelstein, chairman of Tel Aviv University's archaeology department and author of the 2001 best-seller The Bible Unearthed have argued that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a great and united monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are false. If Mazar’s hypothesis proves right, it would go a long way toward proving Finkelstein and the others wrong. Her findings will also doubtlessly affect the broader political battle over Jerusalem that is, the question of whether the Jewish people has its origins in the city and thus has a special hold over it, or whether the concept of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is nothing but a myth. With such a potentially powerful find, there will naturally be no shortage of skeptics, whether for reasons of politics or scholarship. Yet there are many good reasons to identify Mazar's find, at least provisionally, as the palace described in the Book of Samuel. These reasons deserve to be heard. more...


Powerful quake hits central Africa (December 5, 2005) - A powerful earthquake toppled homes onto children in eastern Congo Monday, leaving an unknown number of casualties in a region already beset by war, poverty and volcanoes. UN spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said an unknown number of people were killed or injured. Anne Edgerton, another UN spokesman in the region, said later that about a dozen injuries had been reported and no deaths could be confirmed. “Dozens of houses have collapsed, several children were buried by the roofs of their houses,” Dr. Jean-Donne Owali told The Associated Press by telephone from lakeside Kalemie, Congo, 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the epicenter. “Injured people have been sent to local hospitals.” He said children were brought to his clinic bleeding from wounds to the head suffered when their mud-and-thatch homes collapsed. UN spokesman Bonnardeaux said most of the casualties were struck by falling zinc and steel roofs. He added damage was reported in Kabalo, a Congolese town 300 kilometer east of Kalemie along the Lukuga River. The desperately poor region has camps for tens of thousands of refugees from wars and economic collapse in Congo and Burundi. The United States Geological Survey gave a preliminary measurement of 6.8 and located the epicenter about 10 kilometers (six miles) below the surface of Lake Tanganyika, between Congo and Tanzania. Quakes of magnitude 7 can cause widespread and heavy damage. more...


Netanyahu hints could consider Iran nuclear strike (December 5, 2005) - Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that he could consider a pre-emptive air strike against Iran’s nuclear installations if he were to be re-elected. Netanyahu, who is widely expected to regain the leadership of the right-wing Likud party later this month, said Israel needed to “act in the spirit” of the late premier Menachem Begin who ordered an air strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. “I view the development of the Iranian nuclear (programme) as a paramount threat and as a real danger to the future of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper. “Israel needs to do everything to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear threat against it.” “We need to act in the spirit of Menachem Begin, who defied the entire world and with a bold step prevented Iraq from arming itself with nuclear weapons.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Netanyahu’s arch rival said last week that Israel would never allow its arch-enemy Iran to come into possession of nuclear weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused an international backlash in October when he called for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map”. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, paving the way for the matter to be referred to the UN Security Council if Iran does not halt nuclear fuel work and cooperate fully with an IAEA investigation. Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is merely designed to meet domestic energy needs.


Pope, Abbas Discuss Mideast Peace Process (December 5, 2005) - Pope Benedict XVI discussed the Middle East peace process Saturday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who invited the pontiff to visit the Holy Land. “You will be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the holy places,” Abbas, speaking English, told the pope after their private 20-minute meeting in Benedict’s library. “Thank you very much,” the pope replied. Abbas later told journalists that Benedict “responded positively” to his invitation but indicated no date for a visit. Last month, Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited Benedict to Israel and said he hoped the pope would visit next year. During their meeting, Benedict and Abbas talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the pope stressing “the need to integrate all components of the Palestinian people into the peace process,” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a written statement. The statement did not elaborate but appeared to be a reference to extremist elements blamed for violence and terrorism. Violence marred primary elections across the Palestinian territories earlier this week. Briefing journalists at a Rome hotel, Abbas said the pope with “his symbolic weight ... can carry out a decisive role for peace.” One of the members in the Palestinian delegation presented the pope with a document that Abbas later said was fashioned by Bethlehem’s inhabitants “to express the ties of friendship and spirituality that link the Vatican and the people of Bethlehem, dear to Christians as Jesus’ birthplace.” When Pope John Paul II received Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1982, the first of many meetings between the two men, it sparked protests in Israel and in the worldwide Jewish community. John Paul consistently championed rights for the Palestinian people while at the same time greatly improving the Vatican’s relations with Israel. more...


El Baradei: Iran only months away from a bomb (December 5, 2005) - IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel’s assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb. If Teheran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only “a few months” to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent. On the other hand, he warned, any attempt to resolve the crisis by non-diplomatic means would “open a Pandora’s box. There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate; and at the end of the day you have to go back to the negotiating table to find the solution.”


Russia Justifies $1 Billion Worth Weapon Deal with Iran (December 4, 2005) - Russia’s weapons sales to Iran are purely for defensive purposes, a government spokesman said Saturday, in response to reports that Russia was selling $1 billion worth of weapons to Iran, AP reported Saturday. The news reports said Russian was selling Iran advanced missiles and other systems, but the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin, did not comment on specifics, saying in a statement only that they were “exclusively defensive weapons.” Kamynin said the sales fully complied with nonproliferation commitments and Russian law. The statement appeared timed to head off the heated reaction expected from the United States after Russian media reported Friday that officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years. The Interfax news agency said the Tor-M1 system could identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet. A high-ranking Iranian official downplayed the deal, telling the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Saturday that Iran buys arms from many countries and would not stop. “Iran’s and Russia’s military cooperation is not a complicated issue,” said Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. “It existed before, and there was no ban on it.” Moscow is already at odds with the West over its nuclear ties with Tehran but has sought to use its warm relations with Iran to be recognized as a key mediator between the West and the Islamic Republic, Reuters added.


Israeli Aircraft Fire on Gaza Rocket Lab (December 4, 2005) - Israeli aircraft fired missiles at an abandoned building and a rocket launching ground in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday in the first aerial attack on Gaza in more than a month, the military said. Palestinian security officials said missiles also struck a charity belong to the Islamic Jihad militant group. A bystander was slightly wounded by flying shrapnel, they said. The Israeli military said it targeted a building used for terror operations and open fields where homemade rockets had been launched in recent days. No one was injured, it said. Palestinians said the building was an abandoned metal workshop. Israel targets workshops it suspects are used to produce producing weapons. After a lull of several weeks, Palestinians began firing homemade rockets at southern Israel from Gaza again last week. Israel responded initially with artillery fire. The air strike Sunday was the first since Oct. 27, the military said. Some Palestinian officials say the attacks on Israel, which have caused no injuries, have been renewed in an effort to show force ahead of Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections.


Threats to Passenger Airlines (December 5, 2005) - This is a HQ INTEL-ALERT Intelligence briefing by Steve Quayle resulting from research into the recent incident with the surface-to-air missile that missed a passeger jet on Monday, November 28, 2005.


Volcano Erupts Near Mexico City (December 5, 2005) - Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano sent a gritty cloud billowing into the sky outside Mexico City early today. Officials warned nearby residents to protect themselves against the rain of ash the eruption will likely cause, and some was reported to have fallen on the town of Amecameca, in Mexico state. The eruption sent a plume of ash almost five kilometers (three miles) into the air, and was accompanied by about 30 minutes of light seismic activity, Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center reported. The 17,886-foot (5,450-meter) volcano has been intermittently erupting since December 1994. In July, the volcano sent a column of hot ash 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) into the air and spat red-hot rocks. But it didn’t threaten residents living at the volcano’s base.


EU Ministers Approve Biometric ID, Fingerprint Data Sharing (December 5, 2005) - The European biometric ID card takes another step forward this week, with the European Justice and Home Affairs Council set to approve “minimum security standards” for national ID cards. Alongside this the Council will be roadmapping the rollout of Europe’s biometric visa system, which will contain the fingerprints of 70 million people within the next few years, and hearing European Commission proposals for greater sharing of fingerprint data. The latter proposals cover the existing Schengen Information System (SIS), its Visa Information System successor (VIS/Schengen II), and the EURODAC database of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, but the Commission will also be raising “other initiatives”, including the consideration of “a system for monitoring entry and exit movements”, a “frequent traveller” system and the creation of “a European criminal Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS).” So although some European states (not the UK) are strongly against the creation of a central biometric database of all their citizens, the construction of large-scale pan-European fingerprint systems proceeds apace. The “minimum security standards” to be adopted for ID cards are effectively those already adopted for the European biometric passport, “bearing in mind the need for interoperability based on ICAO standards”, and consist of an RFID chip containing facial and two fingerprint biometrics. Applicants will be required to attend in person (as is already planned in the UK), and “applications should be verified by authorised personnel against existing databases... for example, civil registers, passport and identity cards databases or driving licence registers.” more...


Support Grows In Congress to Allow Testimony From ‘able Danger’ on Pre-9/11 Intelligence (December 5, 2005) - Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) expects to secure a majority of House signatures in support of a letter calling upon Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to allow members of the former intelligence program “Able Danger” to testify publicly before Congress, Raw Story has learned. “Able Danger” was a Defense Department program that purportedly identified Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11, over a year before the attack. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Captain Scott Phillpot, the officers that led the program, have been ordered by the Pentagon not to discuss any information regarding their work. The program operated under the aegis of the United States Army Special Operations Command. Shaffer’s security clearances have allegedly been revoked by the Pentagon in what some say is retaliation after he came forward about the Able Danger program. The Pentagon, among other things, accused him of stealing pens. more...


Israel Voices Worry Over Iran-Russia Missile Deal (December 4, 2005) - Israel on Sunday lambasted Russia over the sale of anti-missile systems to arch-enemy Iran, the latest round of what the local press has dubbed the “Iranian-Israeli arms race”, AFP said. Iran, already under intense international pressure over its nuclear activities, has reportedly bought 29 mobile air defence systems from Moscow in a deal worth more than $700 mln. “When a country sells arms to Iran, it strengthens the military strength of the state and serves only the interests of the most negative elements in the region,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Marc Regev told AFP. The contract with Russia, which is already helping Tehran build a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, coincided with an Israeli announcement it had successfully testfired an Arrow defence missile against a mock Shahab missile. Tehran’s rapid progress on its ballistic missile programme is a major cause for concern in the international community. Israel’s own fears were heightened in October when Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Jewish state must be “wiped off the map”. more...