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July 17 - 23, 2006 
 Weekly News In Review
 Vol 1, Issue 52
In This Issue
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The Weekly News In Review Newsletter is a compilation of the news articles that have appeared on the Understand The Times website during the previous week.

 July 15, 2006 - Report: Israel gives Syria ultimatum
 Article: Israel and the Last Days

London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat says Israel gave Syria 72 hours to stop Hizbullah's activity, bring about release of kidnapped IDF troops. 'Israel will not end military activity until new situation created that will prevent Syria, Iran from using terror organizations to threaten its security,' newspaper quotes Pentagon official as saying
Roee Nahmias

The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al- Hayat reported Saturday that "Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah's activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences."

The report said "a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country."

*** Note from UTT: If Israel attacks Syria, specifically Damascus, it is possible that this is Isaiah 17 playing out before our eyes.



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 July 17, 2006 - Pope asks Catholics to pray for Mary's intercession in Holy Land
 Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

Valle d'Aosta, Jul. 17, 2006 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in front of the house at Les Combes in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region which he is spending a brief holiday, Pope Benedict XVI called on people to pray for peace in the Holy Land and, in a special way, to pray for the intercession of Mary.

News coming from the Holy Land over the last few days is, said the Pope, "a cause of new and serious concern to everyone, especially for the increasing military activities in Lebanon and for the many victims among the civilian population. At the root of such pitiless contrasts there are, unfortunately, objective ... violations of rights and of justice. But neither terrorist acts or reprisals, especially when they have such tragic consequences on the civilian population, can be justified. Bitter experience shows that by following this path no positive results can be achieved."

..."Let us pray to Mary Queen of Peace," said Benedict, "that she may implore from God the fundamental gift of harmony, bringing political leaders back to the way of reason and opening new possibilities of dialogue and understanding.
 



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 July 17, 2006 - Olmert hopes for "eternal covenant" with Arabs
 Article: Israel and the Last Days

JPost.com Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that he hoped an "eternal covenant" could soon be signed between Israel and its neighbors.

"Israel didn't want these confrontations, on the contrary, we did our utmost to avoid them by withdrawing to borders recognized by the international community," said the prime minister.

Olmert added that Israel had no business in involving itself with the internal struggles within Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority adding, "our problem is with the terrorists attacking us from those territories."



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 July 17, 2006 - Britain set to sizzle in hottest temperatures ever
 Article: Signs of the Last Times

Britain could soon swelter in the highest temperatures ever recorded, weather forecasters said, with a 30 percent chance that Wednesday will become the country's hottest day ever.

Temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius are expected in southeast England and forecasters at Britain's Meteorological Office say one or two areas could experience 39 C (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

That would beat the previous high of 38.5 C, recorded at Faversham in Kent, southeast England, on August 10, 2003, and make parts of the Britain hotter than Spain or Greece.

 



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 July 18, 2006 - More than 340 killed, 230 still missing after 6-foot wave hits Indonesia
 Article: Signs of the Last Times

PANGANDARAN, Indonesia - Corpses were recovered Tuesday from beaches, homes and hotels ravaged by Indonesia's second tsunami in as many years, pushing the death toll to at least 341. Nearly 230 people were missing.

The government, under fire for failing to pass on warnings about the impending disaster, vowed to quickly build an alert system across the country that straddles one of the world's most violent seismic zones.

Bodies covered in white sheets piled up at makeshift morgues, while others lay beneath the blazing sun in the tourist resort of Pangandaran, a 6-month-old baby among them.



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 July 18, 2006 - Rick Warren's North Korea Visit Triggers Mixed Reactions from Freedom Experts
 Article: Social Gospel

Christian religious freedom experts expressed a combination of reactions " ranging from shock, suspicion, encouragement, and joy" after hearing news of Purpose Driven Pastor Rick Warren's scheduled visit to North Korea next year to preach to 15,000 Christians.

"I have mixed feelings about North Korea and about Rick Warren's agreeing to go there to speak," wrote Todd Nettleton, director of media development for The Voice of the Martyrs - USA, in an e-mail on Monday. "On the one hand, I'm thrilled to think that the Gospel will be preached to a North Korean audience, even if that audience is carefully controlled and hand-picked by the government. I believe in the life- changing power of the Gospel, and so to have that Good News preached in such a dark land is a wonderful development."

"On the other hand," he continued, "I know that the casual observer will see this and think there is progress toward religious freedom under the Kim regime, and that is simply not true. I'm concerned that the publicity surrounding Pastor Warren's visit will obscure the true situation that my brothers and sisters in North Korea are facing."

The director for the Christian persecution group pointed out that North Korea is probably the world's most closed nation and Christians are routinely arrested and killed. "Believing in God is considered to be one of the top three crimes," he noted.

UTT comment: If Rick Warren does speak at the North Korean meeting that is being planned, it will be very important to observe whether or not Warren presents the gospel according to the scriptures, or the "purpose driven gospel".



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 July 18, 2006 - Sultry Summer Heat Continues To Bake The Nation
 Article: Signs of the Last Times

AccuWeather.com meteorologists warn that the drought afflicting the U.S. Northern Plains since last fall has compromised the spring wheat crop, which will likely have a far- reaching economic impact on the nation.

"This drought came at the wrong time," said AccuWeather.com Director of Forecast Operations Ken Reeves. This year's spring wheat crop has been devastated by the lack of significant rainfall and the persistently high heat that has been occurring across the region. Compounding this problem is that the expected poor spring wheat harvest will follow on the heels of what is a very low yield winter wheat harvest. "We're going to be looking at very tight wheat supplies in the U.S. going forward," said Reeves.



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 July 18, 2006 - Methodists to affirm Catholic theology
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Protestants Uniting with Roman Catholics

SEOUL, July 18 (UPI) - The World Methodist Conference is expected to sign the joint declaration on justification signed in 1999 by Catholics and Lutherans.
 

The conference, which is meeting in Seoul, South Korea, plans to join the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation in endorsing the ecumenical statement, Zenit.org reported Tuesday.

The conference is convoked at eight-year intervals and brings together Christians from all over the world that belong to Wesley's tradition.
The Methodist movement originated in England in the 18th century as a movement of spiritual, missionary and social renewal. Today it is present in close to 100 countries.

During this week's World Methodist Conference, the ceremony in which the 1999 declaration will be extended to include Methodists will take place in the course of the solemn celebration of the Word of God, in the presence of Cardinal Walter Kasper, from the Vatican, and of the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, secretary general of the World Lutheran Federation.

At the end of last year, when Benedict XVI received a delegation of the World Methodist Council, led by its president, Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, the Holy Father mentioned the council's intention to also sign the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification.

"Should the World Methodist Council express its intention to associate itself to the joint declaration, it would contribute to the reconciliation that we ardently desire and would be a significant step toward the objective of full and visible unity in the faith," the Holy Father said at the time.



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 July 19, 2006 - Wheat Prices Climbing Amid Global Drought
 Article: Signs of the Last Times

The first early harvest reports started coming out this week in Texas, which started cutting wheat two weeks earlier than normal. Early indications on yields and quality are poor, thousands of acres have been abandoned and in some parts the crop is so bad it can't even be baled for hay.

Texas is going to harvest the fewest number of acres since 1925, Woolverton said.

Another indication of a worsening global drought came this week in a report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization indicating nearly two-thirds of the winter wheat crop in western and northern China has been wiped out by a prolonged drought. Some other areas have experienced a 40 percent to 50 percent cut in winter wheat harvest.

"There is this band around the world where wheat is produced that is affected by this drought," Woolverton said, citing droughts in Russia, Ukraine, India and east Africa, among other countries.
 
The Agriculture Department last week forecast global wheat production to be down 3 percent. The agency predicted lower exports for Russia and Ukraine would be partially offset by increased exports for Argentina, Australia and Canada.
 
But the agency noted the world's wheat stocks are at the lowest level they have been in the past 25 years.
"The stage is set for real high wheat prices," Woolverton said.



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 July 20, 2006 - Holy Communion not for sale
 Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

THE Sacrament of Holy Communion is not for sale, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has warned in a circular amid reports some priests were demanding fees before giving the sacrament to public schoolchildren.

"We priests, whom God have called to the custody of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, must see children, above all, not only the ones in the Catholic schools but all those in public schools, as the first recipients of the immense gift of the Eucharist, which God has placed in our consecrated hands," he said.


He said priests were not allowed to collect fees for the sacrament, but they may accept donations.



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 July 19, 2006 - Britain gets through its hottest July day ever
 Article: Signs of the Last Times

LONDON - Lions licked blood-flavored ice blocks in the zoo, judges went wigless in court and guards at Buckingham Palace ducked into the shade.

Britain faced the hottest day ever recorded in July on Wednesday as a heat wave swept much of Europe. Temperatures hit 96.6 degrees south of London  so hot some road surfaces melted.

Two people died in Spain as temperatures climbed above 104 degrees, while officials in France said as many as nine people who died recently were believed to be victims of the heat.



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 July 20, 2006 - Creationist's fight with Uncle Sam may evolve into painful defeat
 Article: Misc.

Hovind appeared polite but determined to fight the case when he was arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court. Neither he nor his wife and co-defendant, Jo, wanted to enter a traditional plea of guilty or not guilty. The Hovinds question the court's right to try them. They consider themselves missionaries exempt from taxes to a government that, incidentally, is providing them with attorneys.

But Magistrate Miles Davis wanted them to enter pleas just as any other citizen would. "If they don't wish to enter a plea, I'll enter one for them," Davis said. When asked by the prosecutor to list his residence, Kent Hovind said he lives in "the church of Jesus Christ ... located all over the world. Asked if he wrote and spoke English, this man who claims a doctorate said, "To some degree."

In turn, Hovind, 53, had his own questions about the indictment, but Davis cut him off, saying, "The government adequately explained" the allegations. The defendant understands the charges "whether you want to admit it or not," he told Kent Hovind. Then, Hovind offered another wrinkle. "I would like to plead subornation of false muster," he said, announcing a defense I haven't heard in 30 years of hanging around courtrooms.

The precedent is not good. A man in the state of Washington tried a similar defense a few years ago, claiming he was a "citizen of heaven" and not subject to state laws. But a court there ruled that when in Washington, do as Washington law requires, and found him guilty.

When it was Jo Hovind's turn, she stood with her husband's hand on her shoulder and reiterated the gist of his statements. She said she was unsure because "this is a whole new world to me." But if she and her husband stay on this path, they could find that the new world will come with bars on its windows.



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 July 14, 2006 - Divine 'Mission' Driving Iran's New Leader
 Article: Islam

As Iran rushes towards confrontation with the world over its nuclear programme, the question uppermost in the mind of western leaders is "What is moving its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to such recklessness?"

One of the first acts of Mr Ahmadinejad's government was to donate about 10 million to the Jamkaran mosque, a popular pilgrimage site where the pious come to drop messages to the Hidden Imam into a holy well.

All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days. A common rumour - denied by the government but widely believed - is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have signed a "contract" pledging themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi and sent it to Jamkaran.

Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.

He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.

Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.



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 July 17, 2006 - Russia may send troops to Middle East
 Article: Israel and the Last Days

President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia would consider contributing troops to an international force in the Middle East if the United Nations approves deployment.

"So far there is no decision yet on sending peacekeeping troops. When there will be a decision we will consider whether to take part," Putin said.

Putin said he was not certain that the return of abducted Israeli soldiers would stop fighting in the Middle East.

"I don't think the situation has gotten out of control but I don't have the certainty that the return of the soldiers will stop the conflict," Putin said in response to a question on the gravity of the conflict in the Middle East.

Putin was speaking at the end of a summit of the Group of Eight industrial nations. The G-8 leaders on Sunday called for the Israeli soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released.



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 July 16, 2006 - Pontiff crossing 'bridge' to Muslims, experts say
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Other Religions Uniting with Roman Catholics

Pope Benedict differs from his predecessor in his perspective on Catholic-Islamic relations
By Emily Stimpson

While visiting with a delegation of Iraqi Muslims in 1999, Pope John Paul II surprised his guests and the world when he reverently placed his lips on the Islamic holy book of the Quran. It was a gesture typical of the pope -- demonstrative, dramatic and eminently photographable. It was also one of the most controversial gestures of his papacy. And it is a gesture few Vatican watchers think his successor is likely to repeat.

..."Not that Pope Benedict doesn't want good relations with Muslims or that he wants to launch some kind of cultural crusade. Quite the contrary. He wants dialogue, but dialogue that has the self-confidence to be honest," Allen told OSV.

And indeed, beginning with his address to Muslims in Cologne, Germany, last August during World Youth Day, in which he said no culture that denies its people freedom of conscience is worthy of the name "civilization," the pope has been much less ambiguous than his predecessor about the differences that divide Muslims and Christians and much more vocal about the dangers of militant Islam.

...Rather than seeing dialogue with other religions as a way to iron out doctrinal differences, an oftentimes impossible task, Pope Benedict sees interreligious dialogue as a means of establishing common values and finding common cause in the fight against secularization and injustice.

Accordingly, Pope Benedict's dialogue with Muslims has thus far centered on questions of culture and human rights, rather than theology.

..."Pope John Paul met with Muslims more than 60 times over the course of his pontificate, and his hope was to build bridges," Allen said. "Pope Benedict, on the other hand, seems to believe those bridges have been built, and now it's time to walk across them."



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 July 21, 2006 - Somali Islamist Leader Declares Holy War on Ethiopia
 Article: Wars and Rumors of Wars

By Pearse Lynch
Nairobi
21 July 2006

Islamist leaders in control of Somalia's capital are declaring a "holy war" against Ethiopian forces that are reported to have entered Somalia to protect the internationally-backed, but weak interim government.

A hard-line leader of the Islamic group, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, and his followers have vowed to wage a holy war, if Ethiopian forces do not leave the country immediately.

Somalia's interim government leaders have refused to confirm the presence of Ethiopian troops. Witness reports Thursday said Ethiopian forces had entered the town of Baidoa, where the interim government is based.



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We hope the Weekly News In Review has been a blessing to you.

In Jesus,
Roger Oakland


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