1. According to Reuters, having seen its star wane in Iraq, Al Qaeda has staged a comeback in neighbouring Syria, posing a dilemma for the opposition fighting to remove President Assad and making the West balk at military backing for the revolt. The rise of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, which the United States designated a terrorist organisation last week, could usher in a long and deadly confrontation with the West, and perhaps even Israel. Members of the group say their aim is to revive the Islamic Caliphate.
2. According to The Times of Israel, one of President Obama’s closest Middle East advisers said the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program is headed for a critical point next year. Dennis Ross, a former special envoy to the Middle East, said, “When you look at where we are today, I’d say that 2013 is going to be the decisive year — one way or another.” Ross also called on Israelis and Palestinians to take concrete steps to restore confidence in a two-state solution.
3. According to The Associated Press, the head of the United Nations and all members of the Security Council except the United States criticized Israel on this week and demanded an immediate halt to new settlement construction. Representatives of the 14 council members stepped to the microphone outside the council chamber after its monthly Mideast briefing to denounce the Israeli settlement plans, which they warned are threatening a two-state settlement with the Palestinians. The move was clearly aimed at intensifying pressure on Israel and demonstrating the isolation of the United States on the issue.
4. According to ABC News, a pastor from Boise, Idaho, is being held in Iran without charge. He has been imprisoned, since September, in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison. Rev. Sa-eed A-be-di-ni was born in Iran but is now a U.S. citizen, and is being held captive for his work as a Christian missionary. He traveled to Iran this summer to continue humanitarian efforts, help build an orphanage, and continue leading a house church movement which has spread to over 30 cities in the country.
5. According to Reuters, most American states are not prepared for major natural and health disasters. Two nonprofit groups have released an analysis of the ability of hospitals, health departments and other state organizations to prevent and respond to emergencies ranging from bioterrorism to influenza outbreaks to catastrophic weather. Thirty-five states met fewer than seven of 10 benchmarks. Jeffrey Levi, president of the Trust for America’s Health, “We have not paid sufficient attention to the everyday threats” such as influenza, food poisoning and extreme weather.
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:3: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
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