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Ukraine names Baptist pastor as acting president. Ukrainian evangelicals issue call for national prayer & reconciliation in wake of violence.

Acting President Turchynov was elected to Parliament in 1998. (source: Christianity Today)

Acting President Turchynov was elected to Parliament in 1998. (source: Christianity Today)

“Oleksandr Turchynov, a well-known Baptist pastor and top opposition politician in Ukraine, took office on Sunday, Feb. 23, as acting president after the Parliament voted to oust President Yanukovych,” reports Christianity Today.

“The collapse of the Yanukovych regime follows three months of growing protests that exploded in last week’s violence, which claimed more than 88 lives,” the article notes. “Many of these protests took place in the Maidan, or Independence Square in the capital city of Kiev.”

Ukrainian evangelicals are calling for national prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation in the wake of the traumatic recent violence.  According to CT, Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches, Baptist, issued the following statement:

A Message of Reconciliation:

During this time of fateful change in the life of the Ukrainian nation, the Church and each Christian individually cannot remain spectators on the sidelines of the battles and losses. The Church serves society and mourns together with it. We went through difficult days together with the nation – we served through prayer, evangelism, volunteers, medical help, clothing, and food. Today a time has come for a ministry of active reconciliation, which will help maintain unity in our country and nation.

We supported the nation’s demand to put an end to the tyranny of the authorities and repressions by the police. Now it is important to restore justice and due process of law in the country, to form a government that has the people’s trust, and provide fair presidential elections. We believe that those guilty of crimes against the people will be justly judged, and that peaceful citizens will be protected.

But on behalf of the Church we must say more, we must speak the whole truth; we must say that which is still hard to accept and fulfill; that, which is a precondition for a better future.

Therefore the Church calls the Ukrainian nation to more than just feelings of human justice – to Christian forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. We pray to God for repentance for the guilty. However at the same time we ask victims to forgive those who are already repentant as well as those who are still lost. In order to unite the nation, in order to reconcile its various parts, its various social, cultural, and political groups, laws and justice are not enough. Without repentance, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, the country will remain divided and in conflict. This is the precondition for a deep spiritual transformation of Ukraine.

The Bible says that there is, “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:7-8). In accordance with these wise words, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not a time to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not a time to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday’s enemies, and not a time to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us.

We call on the Evangelical churches of Ukraine to serve to bring peace between people and healing to the wounds of war. We do not call black white and do not justify crimes or even mistakes. But we, as Christians, forgive, because we have been forgiven by God. He reconciled us to Himself, and gave us a message of reconciliation. This grace-giving Word to our whole nation should be heard from Lvov to Donetsk, from Kiev to Simferopol.

We also call upon the international Christian community asking for prayer and intercession for the Ukrainian nation and for help with peacemaking. We mourn for the victims, and thank God for His grace toward Ukraine, and pray for peace and spiritual revival in our nation.

Excerpts from the article:

  • At issue was Yanukovych’s decision to move Ukraine into a much closer economic and political relationship with Russia. This move triggered outrage among younger Ukrainians who wish for their nation to cast its lot with the European Union. After the vote to oust him, Yanukovych fled Kiev and is reportedly in Crimea, an autonomous republic in southeast Ukraine. According to media reports, the new government has charged Yanukovych with murder and has issued a warrant for his arrest.
  • Monday night in Kiev, Turchynov, 49, spoke publicly for the first time since taking office as acting president. According to an unofficial translation, he said, “Unprecedented cruelty and brutality of the dictatorial regime did not stop citizens. They selflessly gave their lives to defend their rights—and won.
  • “Our first task today is to stop the confrontation, to regain control … to ensure peace and tranquility, to prevent new victims, local rivalries and lynchings. Another priority is returning to European integration. We must return to the European family. We recognize the importance of relations with the Russian Federation, and are ready for dialogue with the Russian leadership to build relations with this country on a new, truly equitable and good-neighborly basis, which implies recognition of accounting Ukraine’s European choice.”
  • The Parliament has set new national elections for late May.
  • The choice of a Baptist pastor as acting president in Ukraine, which has had an Orthodox majority population for centuries, does not come as a huge surprise to Sergey Rakhuba, head of U.S.-based Russian Ministries. For years, he has been in periodic contact with Turchynov.
  • “He is well-known in political circles as a principled, honest leader, although he was somehow always in the shadow of Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed prime minister who was released yesterday.
  • “He is well-known as a preacher who, despite his political opposition work, preaches on a regular basis at one of the Baptist churches in Kiev, even though security must travel with him. Overall, the evangelical church is excited about Turchynov’s sudden unanimous appointment as acting president. Within the evangelical community, the post-Soviet mindset exists that a true Christian cannot necessarily be a politician. Personally I think it is great that Turchynov is calling for unification and healing of the nation.”
  • In 2008, Susan Wunderink reported a substantial cover story from Ukraine about the changing role of the nation’s evangelical minority after the 2004 Orange Revolution, exploring how Eastern Europe’s most missional evangelical church was rethinking tradition and the Great Commission.
  • This is not the first time that an East European nation has turned to a Protestant to serve as president. In 1999, Macedonia selected as its president Boris Trajkovski, a lay Methodist who served the Roma community. Nationally, citizens referred to him as the “George W. Bush of Macedonia.”
  • In 2001, CT interviewed Trajkovski at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. “To serve God,” he told CT, “is to be with the people and to follow Jesus’ steps.”….

>> To read the full story, please click here.

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Germany Chancellor Merkel, on 2 day visit to Israel, backs main Israeli stances in peace talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a joint press conference at the King David hotel in Jerusalem on February 25, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Menahem Kahana/Times of Israel)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a joint press conference at the King David hotel in Jerusalem on February 25, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Menahem Kahana/Times of Israel)

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed public support Tuesday for Israel’s security requirements and its demand to be recognized by the Palestinians as a Jewish state, giving a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flagship positions while also backing ongoing peace talks,” reports the Times of Israel.

“Merkel, in the country for an intergovernmental meeting, also reiterated her opposition to Israeli expansion of West Bank settlements, saying they make a positive outcome of the talks less likely,” the Times noted.

“Germans are unfamiliar with the constant fear of terror attacks Israelis live with daily, the chancellor said, and especially considering the country’s small size it was important to guarantee that its citizens feel secure,” the Times noted….

Merkel arrived Monday night with 15 ministers — nearly her entire cabinet – for consultations with their Israeli counterparts and to celebrate 50 years of ties between Israel and Germany,” the article stated. “On Monday night, the she and Netanyahu touted the countries’ strong friendship.”

“We have come here with almost the whole of our new government and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship,” Merkel said.

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Here’s my list of 12 books that absolutely changed my life. What’s on your list?

This photo is not my own personal library -- I just wish it was.

This photo is not my personal library — I just wish it was.

Someone recently emailed me to ask for a list of my five favorite books, aside from the Bible.

I wrote back:

I’m so sorry, I can’t possible narrow my list to just five books. 

Here are twelve books that absolutely changed my life:

  1. Fear No Evil by Natan Sharansky – the spell-binding true story a Jewish dissident who spent 9 years in a KGB gulag, a man who became one of my heroes
  2. From Beirut To Jerusalem by Tom Friedman – the riveting account of a New York Times correspondent covering the Middle East that made me want to spend my whole life understanding the epicenter
  3. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas – the brilliant biography of one of the most courageous pastors in the history of Germany, a man who stood for Christ during the reign of Adolf Hitler
  4. Night by Elie Wiesel – the terrifying true account of a Jewish man sent to the Auschwitz death camp and lost his faith in God
  5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom – the amazing true story of a simple Christian woman who not only survived a Nazi concentration camp but learned to forgive her captors because of Jesus’ love for her
  6. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – the most penetrating explanation of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ ever written, by a former atheist professor at Oxford and Cambridge at that
  7. Just As I Am by Billy Graham – the inspiring true story of a North Carolina farm boy who grew up to preach the Gospel to more people face to face than anyone in all of human history
  8. Born Again by Chuck Colson – the game-changing true story of President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” arrested during Watergate, sent to prison, but found utter forgiveness and redemption through Christ and took that message to prisoners all over the world
  9. God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew – the true story of a man willing to risk his life to bring the Word of God to the enslaved people of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
  10. The Coming Peace In The Middle East by Tim LaHaye – long out of print but the most fascinating book about Bible prophecy (specifically Ezekiel 38 & 39) I have ever read, bar none
  11. The Testament by John Grisham – the first novel I ever read that was both absolutely thrilling and spiritually inspiring, something I had never previously imagined was possible
  12. Training The Twelve by A.B. Bruce – the greatest book on how to make disciples by a pastor and theologian no one has ever heard of

Hope you read them all, too (but only after you’ve finished my forthcoming novel, The Auschwitz Escape, of course!)

What’s on your list? (please post yours on my Epicenter Team page on Facebook)

Israel strikes twice near Syrian-Lebanese border, reports Arab & Israeli news sources.

israelifighterjet“The official Lebanese news agency reported that Israeli fighter jets have carried two attacks on Monday in the vicinity of the Syrian-Lebanese border,” reports Ynet News. “The objective of the attack was the destruction of Hezbollah facilities near the border in Lebanon, according to Al Arabiya, whose journalist reported that loud explosions were heard across the Beqaa Valley.”

“Meanwhile, the Lebanese news website Al-Nashra reported that Israeli fighter jets struck twice in the area of the Syrian-Lebanese border,” the article noted. “Al-Nashra did not specify a target for the alleged incursion. It was reported earlier Monday on Lebanese media that Israeli Air Force jets were hovering over Baalbek in the Lebanon Valley. Since the beginning of the three-year-old Syrian civil war, the Israeli Air Force has allegedly targeted weapons convoys, arms depots, and missile installation in Syria and Lebanon.”

Developing…..

German Chancellor Merkel & Cabinet arrive in Israel for two days of meetings. But tensions emerging 50 years after establishment of diplomatic ties.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on Monday, February 24, 2014. (photo credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Times of Israel.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on Monday, February 24, 2014. (photo credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Times of Israel.)

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet landed Monday at Ben Gurion Airport for a two-day stay which will include a joint meeting of the two governments,” reports the Times of Israel. “Netanyahu greeted Merkel in Jerusalem Monday night at a brief press conference. The two were scheduled to meet at the Prime Minister’s Residence afterward for a working dinner.”

Excerpts:
  • Merkel said Germany has been working with Israel “shoulder to shoulder” over the past five decades “to secure the future of the state of Israel.” She said that “part and parcel of the security of Israel is the two state solution…a Jewish state of Israel and alongside it a Palestinian state.”
  • Standing at her side Netanyahu said the U.S mediated peace talks, as well as international efforts to quell Iran’s nuclear program, would figure prominently in his meetings with Merkel.
  • Germany also belongs to a group of nations currently negotiating with Iran, Israel’s arch foe and a particular nemesis for Netanyahu.
  • “I would like to discuss ways to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability. I believe that this is the greatest challenge to the security of the world,” Netanyahu said.
  • He also said he wanted to discuss ways to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians.
  • “The people of Israel want peace, they want a real peace, they want a peace that ends the conflict that finally gets the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and one in which we have the necessary means of security to defend ourselves against any possible contingency in this turbulent Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
  • Merkel’s visit will include the largest bilateral government consultations in Israel’s history.
  • However, the trip, which officially kicks off the preparations for next year’s celebration of 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, is being overshadowed by reports of the worst crisis in diplomatic ties since Merkel took office nearly 10 years ago.

Adds Haaretz:

  • Germany is Israel’s closest ally in Europe. Tensions have been on the rise lately between Israel and Europe, and also Germany, over settlement policies. Israel insists the issue of settlements should be resolved through the peace talks.
  • An article by Der Spiegel last week said that German-Israel ties are at an all-time low, with Netanyahu and Merkel resorting to shouting at each other on the phone on a number of occasions while discussing Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
  • “Relations between the two countries have never been as difficult during Merkel’s three terms in office as they are now,” the magazine said. 

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An early review of “The Auschwitz Escape” you might find interesting.

This novel releases on March 18th. It is available for pre-order now.

This novel releases on March 18th. It is available for pre-order now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With less than a month to go before the release of The Auschwitz Escape, here are excerpts from an early review I thought you might find interesting.

It was written by Rachel McRae, the Fiction Book Buyer for a major American bookstore chain.

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Tyndale House Publishers sent me an advanced copy of the novel a few weeks ago. What a special story this is. Going back to my teenage years, I’ve had an interest in the Holocaust and Eastern European history around World War II. Any book, especially any novel that is set during this time always grabs my attention. I’ve had the privilege to go to Auschwitz twice within the last few years so Rosenberg’s novel sparked my attention even more.  There are many aspects of The Auschwitz Escape that I appreciated and will share a couple of them with you here.

First, Rosenberg’s description of this time in history sets a realistic backdrop for the novel.  I found myself feeling the anxiety and desperation that the characters were facing as Hitler was marching across Europe and killing innocent people along the way.  The depictions of Auschwitz brought up memories of standing in the roll call fields, being in a barrack, or praying in the silence of the crematorium during my trips to the concentration camp.  It made the horrors of what happened in that corner of Poland and across other parts of Europe come to life for me.

Rosenberg does a beautiful job of taking the reader into different viewpoints of the Holocaust. 

Pastor Jean-Luc Leclerc is a humble Protestant who feels led to assist displaced Jews who wander into his small French town.  There are powerful stories tucked away in the history of the War of Christians who sheltered Jews, many times at the risk of their own lives.  This novel shows how people obeyed the Lord when they were faced with the choice to help God’s chosen people or to turn their eyes from what was happening.  Midway through the novel, there is a powerful quote from Jean-Luc.  Jacob Weisz, a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz, was questioning him why he risked his life to help Jews, especially when it landed him as a prisoner in the concentration camp.  Jean-Luc simply said, “And anyway, if you ask me, the question shouldn’t be ‘Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for saving Jews?’ The real question is ‘Why aren’t all Christians here?’”….

Young Jacob Weisz’s story is intriguing as well.  Raised in a Jewish home, he knew enough about the Torah in order to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah but his parents never took the time to teach the ways of their people on a daily basis.  I appreciated that Rosenberg’s main character was not a devoted Jew which provided a unique angle to the story.  It was interesting to watch Jacob struggle with the start of the War, to question why these things were happening to Jews, and to come to understand the rich history of the Jewish nation as he met other people at Auschwitz…..

The Auschwitz Escape is a powerful read that will leave you wondering what you might have done had you lived during this time.  Would you have helped your Jewish neighbors?  Would you have risked your own life to protect another?  Would your faith in God have been strong enough to see you through on days where no hope was able to be found?  We don’t have to be in 1940′s Europe to ponder those questions.  Challenge yourself to plant your roots so firmly in God’s Word, His care, and His guidance so that no matter what you face or what He calls you to do, you will be prepared to answer His call on your life.

>> To read the full review, please click here.

>> To pre-order a copy of The Auschwitz Escape, please click here, or visit your favorite local bookstore.

Ukrainian president has fled the capital. Protestors seize control of Kiev. What will Moscow do?

Ukraine's pro-Putin President, Viktor F. Yanukovych, has fled the capital of Kiev.

Ukraine’s pro-Putin President, Viktor F. Yanukovych, has fled the capital of Kiev.

(Washington, D.C.) — In a rapidly moving story, the president of Ukraine has fled the capital overnight, and protestors have stormed the government buildings and now appear to have seized control the center of Kiev.

It’s a dramatic turn of events in a week plagued by terrible violence and hundreds of casualties. But many questions remain. Is this the end of the story? Is the Putin-backed government collapsing? Will the opposition forces succeed? Or is the regime regrouping and preparing to mount a more ferocious assault on the protestors?

Most ominously, will Russia intervene militarily, especially if Ukraine splits?

President Obama called Russian President Putin on Friday in hopes of persuading the Kremlin to support the E.U.-negotiated truce, but Moscow’s intentions remain unclear at the moment.

CNN is reporting that “Ukraine’s plans to tap Russia for $2 billion in emergency funding have fallen apart, leaving the country sliding towards economic disaster. Russia said earlier this week it was ready to buy Ukrainian government bonds — part of a $15 billion financial aid package agreed in December — but appears to have got cold feet as anti-government protests escalated. The Ukrainian finance ministry canceled the planned bond sale late Thursday…Ukraine desperately needs the cash because it has to repay as much as $13 billion in debt this year.”

While Putin has worked hard to turn the Ukrainian government away from the West — in part by offering the $15 billion aid package — analysts differ on the extent to which the Russian leader is pulling the strings in this crisis.

“The size of Ukraine’s population and, to a less extent, of its economy would make it a valuable asset in the Eurasian Union, which Putin is building in the post-Soviet landscape,” says Harvard University’s Simon Sardzhyan, noting that Putin and his advisers essentially see Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians as one people and “therefore, seek to draw Ukraine into Moscow’s orbit.”

Yanukovich, however, “has never been Russia’s man,” says Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “I think it’s a myth. He’s been a very difficult partner for Russia, a very unreliable partner, someone who let the Russians down on many occasions. Someone absolutely not to be trusted.”

Here’s the latest coverage:

“Protesters took control of Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, seizing the president’s office as parliament sought to oust him and form a new government,” reports CBS News. “An aide to President Viktor Yanukovych said he had left Kiev for his support base in the country’s Russian-speaking east, but that he has no intention of abandoning power.”

“CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports from Kiev that the ministry that controls the police force said it now serves the Ukrainian people and shares their desire for speedy change. In a special parliament session, lawmakers warned that the country risks being split in two. The country’s western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine – which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output – favors closer ties with Russia. ‘The people have risen up and achieved their goals. The authorities are crumbling. Victory is in sight,’ 31-year-old construction worker Sviatoslav Gordichenko said outside a residential compound believed to belong to Yanukovych.”

“An opposition unit took control of the presidential palace outside Kiev on Saturday, as leaders in Parliament said Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, had fled the capital a day after a deal was reached aimed at ending the country’s spiral of violence,” reports the New York Times.

“Members of an opposition group from Lviv called the 31st Hundred — carrying clubs and some of them wearing masks — were in control of the entryways to the palace Saturday morning,” the Times noted. “And Vitali Klitschko, one of three opposition leaders who signed the deal to end the violence, said that Mr. Yanukovych had ‘left the capital’ but his whereabouts were unknown, with members of the opposition speculating that he had gone to Kharkiv, in the northeast part of Ukraine. Protesters claimed to have established control over Kiev. By Saturday morning they had secured key intersections of the city and the government district of the capital, which police officers had fled, leaving behind burned military trucks, mattresses and heaps of garbage at the positions they had occupied for months.”

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Government authority appeared to melt away Saturday, leaving protesters to take control of the capital’s center. President Viktor Yanukovych left the capital for a city in the country’s Russian-speaking east but allies said he had no intention of giving up power. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko called on parliament to vote to oust Mr. Yanukovych and announce presidential elections in May, as police withdrew from the center of the capital. Mr. Yanukovych didn’t appear publicly Saturday, a day after signing an agreement to share power with opponents and call new elections. News agencies quoted an aide as saying he was continuing to fulfill his constitutional duties and planned to appear on television later Saturday from Kharkov. He’s scheduled to meet voters there, as well as participate in a meeting of legislators from the country’s Russian-speaking south and east. It was also reported Ukraine opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is expected to be released from prison, according to a spokeswoman. Saturday, volunteer security brigades from among the protesters took over security at government buildings in the capital, and journalists reported around 300 people had entered Mr. Yanukovych’s opulent suburban residence without resistance.”

With enormous Christian tourist potential in Jordan-Jericho-Jerusalem corridor, major new tourism project launched in West Bank.

The Intercontinental is a luxury hotel in Jericho, a city Palestinian officials would like to see draw more tourists.

The Intercontinental is a luxury hotel in Jericho, a city Palestinian officials would like to see draw more tourists.

Israel had a record year for tourism in 2013. Some 3.5 million people visited the Holy Land, 53% of whom were Christians.

Palestinian and Jordanian officials are eager to draw more tourists of all kinds, including Christians, and believe they have sites that can and should draw pilgrims.

Among them:

  • The site where Jesus was baptized and began His ministry along the Jordan River
  • Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land and later died and was buried by God
  • Petra, where some scholars believe certain End Times prophecies will occur
  • The Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem
  • The historic ruins of Jericho, in modern Jericho (one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world)

Indeed, some — myself included — believe the Jordan-Jericho-Jerusalem corridor represents enormous potential for increased Christian tourism that would also be a blessing to the economies of Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel, and perhaps for peace between all three, as well.

In this context, I found this headline on an Israeli website intriguing: “Largest tourism project in West Bank gets underway — Billionaire Munib al-Masri’s Gate of Jericho plan to feature a series of high-level hotels over 740 acres outside Jericho.”

Excerpts:

  • The largest tourism project in the Palestinian-controlled territories in the West Bank is taking off.
  • This week, bulldozers, funded by Palestinian company Padico Holdings, began construction work on the Gate of Jericho.
  • The ambitious plan will include the establishment of a series of hotels that will include hundreds of rooms, swimming pools, water slides, restaurants and cafes.
  • The holding company’s new plan was approved by Israel, partly because the construction in its entirety is taking place in Palestinian-controlled area. Padico, the largest Palestinian company in the West Bank, is owned by the billionaire Munib al-Masri, who lives in Nablus. The company oversees dozens of projects throughout the Middle East.
  • Besides its ambitious tourism project, it is clear that the PA has made significant efforts to settle the area around Jericho in the Jordan Valley, in order to establish control of land….
  • The intent of the Authority is to strengthen the Palestinian presence in the West Bank, though the only area where Palestinians can build without Israeli approval is around Jericho.

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Embattled Ukraine President Signs Compromise Deal as Parliament Votes to Free His Imprisoned Rival: NYT

Showdown in Kiev.

Showdown in Kiev.

“The embattled president of Ukraine, whose shift toward closer relations with Russia provoked the deadliest political crisis in his country’s post-Soviet history, signed a compromise deal on Friday that will diminish his power and watched helplessly as an emboldened Parliament voted overwhelmingly to free his imprisoned rival,” reported the New York Times.

“The agreement signed by President Viktor F. Yanukovych and leaders of the opposition commits him to early elections and reduces some presidential authority,” noted the Times. “Although Russia declined to endorse the deal, and many protesters — suspicious of the president’s motives — said they wanted Mr. Yanukovych to resign, opposition leaders said they hoped to persuade the skeptics and end the confrontation.”

Excerpts:

  • In a further sign of the president’s diminished influence, Parliament voted to allow the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been imprisoned for more than two years.
  • In a 310-to-54 vote that is veto-proof, lawmakers decriminalized the actions for which she was incarcerated….
  • Parliament also approved a pivotal point in the political settlement by taking the first step toward reverting to a previous version of Ukraine’s Constitution, which significantly weakens the power of the president. With support from the pro-government party, the Party of Regions, that was required to vote with a constitutional majority, lawmakers annulled amendments to the Constitution adopted after 2008, before Mr. Yanukovych became president. The change was adopted with 386 votes, well above the 300 needed.
  • Lawmakers also passed an unconditional and blanket amnesty for all participants in the antigovernment protests absolving those in custody or under investigation now and prohibiting future prosecutions of protesters. They also voted to dismiss the minister of the interior, a reviled figure among protesters.
  • The votes came hours after word of the political deal reached between Mr. Yanukovych and the main opposition leaders….
  • A bigger problem could be a refusal by Russia’s representative to join the Europeans in signing the accord, which suggested Moscow might work to undo the deal through economic or other pressure.
  • “I am upset that the Russians are not signatories,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said. “I am really upset.”…..
  • Yuriy Korshenko, a lawyer and former judge who joined thousands of others on Thursday at Mikhailovsky Cathededral near Independence Square to show support for the protesters, said Mr. Yanukovych must leave office immediately “or he will end up like Ceaucescu and Qaddafi.”
  • The Romanian and Libyan dictators, Nicolae Ceaucescu and Muammar el-Qaddafi, were both killed in bloody uprisings against their rule. Mr. Korshenko added, “If Yanukovych were a man of honor, he would have already shot himself.”
  • By late Thursday evening, the choices for Mr. Yanukovych had narrowed to a stark dilemma between a massacre of protesters or negotiation: exhausted and outnumbered riot police officers had withdrawn from their positions in front of the cabinet building and the Parliament, leaving 500 yards of eerily empty pavement between the last protest barricade near the Dynamo soccer stadium and the seats of power.
  • But the windows of the cabinet building were fortified with sandbags to create firing positions onto the street below, the only option left to defend the building as talks continued through the night elsewhere in the capital with the opposition and the European and Russian envoys.

As Israel gears up to export natural gas, major deals signed with Jordan & Australia while negotiations in motion with other countries.

israel-gasplatform(Washington, D.C.) — With Israel gearing up to be a significant exporter of natural gas, companies and countries are lining up to be part of the action.

For Israelis, it is a long-held dream coming true. It may also prove to be the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

“A recently-released report by the U.S. Department of Interior indicates that Israel has massive reserves of natural gas and oil supplies just offshore, lying under the Mediterranean,” I noted in a 2010 column. “‘The U.S. Geological Survey estimated…122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Levant Basin Province using a geology based assessment methodology,’ stated the report’s executive summary. Israelis for years have lamented that if God wanted to bless them with a ‘promised land’ He could have given them the oil-rich Arabian peninsula. Thus the report has become big news in the Israeli media and the energy industry. Several oil and gas companies are already at work there and have made more modest discoveries in recent years. But this is by far the biggest development to date and some reports indicate Israel could begin using the natural gas — and possibly exporting it — within two years….What intrigues me is that such developments are consistent with several Bible prophecies that indicate petroleum will be discovered in Israel in the last days, adding to the nation’s prosperity. For more details, please see Chapter Five of my 2006 non-fiction book, Epicenter: ‘FUTURE HEADLINE: ISRAEL DISCOVERS MASSIVE RESERVES OF OIL, GAS.'”

>> For more details, see also this blog column in 2013: Game-changer: Israeli natural gas began flowing today. Dawn of “energy independence.” Prophetic, too?

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Excerpts from: “Israel-Jordan sign $500 million natural gas deal: Accord may grow into $30-billion partnership for Israel to become Jordan’s main supplier; deal with Turkey also possible” (Times of Israel)

  • Israeli and Jordanian officials signed a deal Wednesday under which Israel will supply $500 million worth of gas to the Hashemite kingdom from the Tamar natural gas field in the Mediterranean.
  • The supply is set to start in 2016, and to continue over a 15-year period. Ultimately, however, the deal may be expanded to a $30-billion mammoth partnership, under which Israel would become the major supplier of Jordan’s gas needs, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported.
  • Under the deal, Tamar will supply 66 billion cubic feet to Jordan’s Arab Potash and its affiliate, Jordan Bromine, at their facilities near the Dead Sea, according to a statement issued by Texas-based Noble Energy, which owns 36 percent of the Tamar field.
  • Amos Hochstein (Photo credit: US State Department)
  • The Jordanians turned to Israel because their supply of natural gas from Egypt had been halted by repeated terrorist attacks on the gas pipeline from Egypt, the TV report said.
  • Israel decided last year to export 40 percent of the country’s offshore gas finds.
  • In March 2013, Israel began pumping natural gas from the Tamar deposit — discovered in 2009 and located some 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Haifa — which holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • In addition to Tamar, in 2010 an even larger deposit, Leviathan — which boasts an estimated 16-18 trillion cubic feet of gas — was discovered 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa. It is expected to become operational in 2016.
  • The decision on gas exports grew out of conclusions published by the Tzemach Committee headed by former Water and Energy Ministry director general Shaul Tzemach. The committee, formed in late 2011, had called on Israel to keep the first 450 billion cubic meters for domestic use, and allow the export of up to half of any additional amount extracted from the proven reserves.

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