Current Events & Trends: November/December 2017

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November/December 2017

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MP3 Audio (18.54 MB)


Current Events & Trends: November/December 2017

MP3 Audio (18.54 MB)

Return to bitter U.S.-Russian rivalry

In the wake of the U.S. presidential race last year there were accusations that President Trump had colluded with the Russian government during the campaign. But if Trump and Putin had colluded as was claimed, it hasn’t worked out for their relationship since then.

As the Financial Times points out: “So far from improving under Mr Trump, US-Russian relations are now as bitter as at any time since the height of the cold war. Realising that the Trump administration will not be able to lift sanctions, the Kremlin resorted to a mass expulsion of US diplomats in response to an earlier expulsion of Russians by the Obama administration” (Gideon Rachman, “Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Could Destroy Each Other,” Sept. 11, 2017).

Rather than blossoming friendship, we’re seeing a renewed rivalry between national powers. The United States has been the dominant world power for many decades now. Other nations are yearning for that spot, Russia one of the chief among them.

As we begin to see geopolitical shifts, we can remember that, beyond all this, the return of Jesus Christ will usher in a new government that will be a kingdom of peace. His government will destroy all broken governments and broken relationships. It’s that coming Kingdom we herald in Beyond Today.

The political realm in America is a messy divide causing hate and even violence today. Other nations are also experiencing turmoil and difficulty. As we read the news and try to make sense out of the confusion of “who did what to whom” headlines, we can have comfort that all of this will go away and a new era of peace and prosperity will be ushered in by the King of Kings. (Source: Financial Times.)

Potential North Korea conflict may lead to worse scenarios

In regards to East Asia, all eyes continue to be on North Korea’s frequent nuclear and ballistic tests and Kim Jong Un’s even more frequent threats to unleash terrible violence at any moment. The question continues to be: Will all this lead to direct conflict between the United States and North Korea? The potential for destruction is unthinkable. But there is perhaps an even more chilling scenario that a North Korean conflict could produce.

A recent piece by Harvard political scientist Graham Allison in The Atlantic shines a light on the possibility: “Amid the exchange of threats between North Korea and the United States, ongoing North Korean nuclear and missile tests, and U.S. talk of ‘all options,’ there is growing concern about the real possibility of war with North Korea. What many have not yet reckoned with is an even darker specter. Could  events now cascading on the Korean Peninsula drag the U.S. and China into a great-power war?” (“Can North Korea Drag the U.S. and China Into War?” Sept. 11, 2017).

Allison compares the current situation to the unlikely scenario that led to World War I. All it took was one isolated incident in a remote part of southeastern Europe to send the entire world into a tailspin of war and destruction.

One relevant lesson is that even seemingly small events can create ripples that travel throughout the world and cause enormous unforeseen consequences. This has been the case in many of humanity’s most world-changing moments. It all points to the fact that there is a God who directs and guides mankind’s storyline, pointing us in the direction that ultimately leads to breaking our self-reliance and making us realize our complete dependence on Him for survival. (Source: The Atlantic.)

Looters take advantage of hurricane victims

We saw three massive hurricanes in September. Harvey landed on the southern coast of Texas, Irma plowed through the Caribbean and moved north through Florida, and Maria devastated Puerto Rico. As some residents returned after evacuating, they found their homes had been broken into.

And it wasn’t just homes: “Nine people were arrested after they were caught on camera by a crew of a TV station breaking into and looting stores during Hurricane Irma in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to police” (Gayathri Anuradha, “Looters Caught On Camera in Florida During Irma,” International Business Times, Sept. 11, 2017).

The thieves in Florida weren’t hitting grocery stores because they were desperate and seeking food for survival. Most of the looting was from sporting good stores. Men were seen leaving the stores with their arms full of shoe boxes.

Police departments from Miami to St. Petersburg and all through Florida reported arresting looters as people were evacuating the state for safety.

It’s a sad commentary for America. Sure, we have seen the heroism and work ethic of people helping others during these natural disasters, but we also see stories of greed and taking advantage of an already horrible disaster.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, New International Version). This warning of the apostle Paul about the end of the age is just the beginning of ill characteristics he goes on to describe. We do live in a world where men love themselves, where greed and self are number one. This news about looting during and in the aftermath of the hurricane shows just that. (Source: International Business Times.)

Moscow demonstration displays strength of Chechnya in Russia

The semi-autonomous Chechnya region of Russia has been a source of conflict and consternation in the country since the First Chechen War over 20 years ago. The Sunni-Muslim-majority region has sought its independence from Russia several times in the last two decades, and minor insurgencies from small separatist groups have taken place occasionally in the last decade. Currently Chechnya enjoys a tense and unsteady peace with greater Russia.

Demonstrations and protests are a familiar occurrence within Chechnya itself, as groups often protest the Russian government and other international bodies. But a Chechen protest in Moscow is a different matter entirely. Yet, in response to the horrific religious violence in Myanmar, or Burma, that’s exactly what happened when hundreds of Chechens gathered in the Russian capital.

“And what was more striking than the mobilization of protesters itself,” writes Karina Orlova in The American Interest, “was that they remained unmolested by Russian police—as if the protests were happening in a normal liberal democracy, not Russia. Thousands of people were arrested during the large (and legally authorized) anti-corruption rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg in March.

“Recently, police even arrested a lone protester standing in Red Square holding a plain white piece of paper in his hands. But hundreds of people convening in the center of Moscow shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and ‘Buddhists are terrorists!’—protesting without an official permit but at the invitation of Ramzan Kadyrov [head of the Chechen Republic]—failed to rouse the police to action” ( “Will Chechnya Detonate Russia?” Sept. 6, 2017).

The lack of response has prompted observers to question whether Putin’s typically hardline response to dissent stops at Chechnya’s borders. Undoubtedly the Russian president is unwilling to risk another explosion of violence in Chechnya, especially if it would spill out of the region and into the rest of Russia. Chechnya remains a volatile presence in the otherwise controlled sphere of Russia’s influence. It’s a region to watch in coming months. (Source: The American Interest.)

Child-soldier recruits increasing

The Middle East and North Africa have been ravaged with war and corruption for as long as we can remember. Terrorism and violence is a part of everyday life in these parts of the world. This disparity and conflict has led to more children being involved in the fighting.

According to The Guardian, “The number of children recruited to fight in conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa has more than doubled in a year, UN analysis has found” (Karen McVeigh, “Child Soldier Recruits Double in One Year in Middle East and North Africa,” Sept. 11, 2017).

The article continues, “The agency [Unicef] said in the past it had witnessed children working as porters, guards or paramedics, but it was now seeing them take on more active roles, carrying guns, manning checkpoints and being trained as paid soldiers.”

These nations’ infrastructures have been decimated. Lack of good hospitals, clean water and sanitation facilities have left so many children in need. These children are working as paid soldiers and sealing their future without education or hope of escaping conflict.

The end time was foretold to be a time of cruelty and recklessness. Children wielding weapons and having the power of life and death over one another sets us up for such circumstances. It’s heart-rending knowing about indoctrination by evil at such an early age for these children. It’s hard to imagine what kind of mind they will grow up to have, with the harshness of war so familiar. It’s time for prayer to God to bring His Kingdom of peace. (Source: The Guardian.)

Drones used for help following massive hurricanes

When you hear the word “drone,” you probably at best think of photographers or filmmakers using drone-mounted cameras to take dramatic shots of natural wonders. At worst you probably think of what we call “drone strikes,” where military targets are destroyed using drone-mounted weapons. They’ve become a symbol of modern warfare.

Among the various stories out of Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma making landfall in the United States, one showed a very different side of the use of drones. NBC News reported: “Dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles were deployed in Houston in response to Hurricane Harvey, and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] are expected to be out in full force across Florida in coming days. Experts say UAVs will likely play an even bigger role in relief efforts when future storms or earthquakes hit.

“Drones can perform critical tasks as disasters unfold, including spotting people in need of urgent help. Evidence suggests drones may have certain advantages over traditional search-and-rescue efforts—including speed” (Matthew Hutson, “Hurricanes Show Why Drones Are the Future of Disaster Relief,” Sept. 9, 2017).

In a time of suffering, such as following large-scale natural disasters like hurricanes, it’s inspiring to see people rallying to help others in their time of need. It’s also inspiring to see technology like drones being used for a humanitarian and healing purpose, rather than the typical use as machines of war.

News like this reminds us of a time to come pictured in Isaiah 2:4: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” God speed that day! (Source: NBC News.)