New Trouble for Euro in Portugal

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Just weeks after European leaders tamped down a banking crisis in Cyprus, troubles in the euro zone have again reared their head, this time in Portugal.

In an address to his beleaguered nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho warned that his government would be forced to cut spending more and that lives “will become more difficult” after a court on Friday struck down some of the austerity measures put in place after a bailout package two years ago.

The renewed tension in Portugal raised the threat of further trouble elsewhere in the euro zone, where ailing members have struggled to rebuild economic growth after enduring wrenching spending cuts.

“The risks in the euro zone have increased markedly over the past six weeks or so,” wrote Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, a London-based consultancy that assesses risk on sovereign debt.

A critical moment for the latest trouble took place on Friday, when Portugal’s Constitutional Court struck down four of nine contested austerity measures that the government introduced as part of a 2013 budget that included about 5 billion euros, or $6.5 billion, of tax increases and spending cuts. The ruling left the government short about 1.4 billion euros of expected revenue, or more than one-fifth of the 2013 austerity package.

Specifically, the court, which began reviewing the legality of the government’s austerity measures in January, ruled as unconstitutional and discriminatory the government’s plans to cut holiday bonuses for civil servants and pensioners, as well as to reduce sick leave and unemployment benefits.

Since Greece’s bailout in 2010, spikes in the borrowing costs of troubled euro countries have spread from one country to another as investors have tried to anticipate possible problems elsewhere in the currency union.

With that contagion risk in mind, politicians in Spain wasted no time over the weekend trying to distance their country from the latest turmoil in Lisbon.

Esteban González Pons, a senior official of the governing Popular Party, told a gathering of the party on Sunday that “Spain is not in the situation of Portugal.” He added, “If Portugal is in worse shape than Spain, it is because they have not taken the necessary measures that we have taken in our country.”

In May 2011, Portugal became the third euro zone country, after Greece and Ireland, to negotiate an international bailout. Lisbon received 78 billion euros from the International Monetary Fund and European creditors in return for introducing spending cuts and tax increases. Since then, however, Portugal has failed to meet its promised budgetary goals. Its economy has instead continued to sink into one of Europe’s most severe and prolonged recessions, spurring labor strikes and huge street demonstrations.

But Mr. Passos Coelho, in his first public address since the court ruling on Friday, defended the record of his nearly two-year-old government and pledged to do “everything to avoid a second bailout.” He ruled out, however, introducing tax increases.

The prime minister addressed the nation on Sunday after an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Saturday, as well as talks with the Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva.

Cyprus received a bailout of 10 billion euros from international creditors last month. It may need even more to save its banks, a top German policy maker said on Sunday.

“The situation in Cyprus has stabilized in the last few days,” Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank, the German central bank, told Deutschlandfunk radio. “However, I wouldn’t rule out that the need for liquidity in Cyprus could increase.”

The crisis in Cyprus reflects how urgent it is for the euro zone to establish a means to shut down failed banks without burdening taxpayers or endangering the financial system, Mr. Weidmann said.

“There continues to be a problem with banks that may be too connected and too big to wind down without creating a danger for the financial system,” he said.

After the Portuguese court ruling on Friday, António José Seguro, the leader of the main Socialist opposition party, urged Mr. Passos Coelho to call an early general election. Two years ago, a Socialist administration was forced to resign and call a snap election after failing to win sufficient parliamentary backing for its own program of austerity measures.

Unlike the Socialists at the time, Mr. Passos Coelho holds a comfortable parliamentary majority, at the helm of a coalition between his Social Democrats and the smaller, conservative Popular Party. Mr. Passos Coelho and lawmakers from his governing center-right coalition on Wednesday defeated a motion of no confidence in Parliament, which had been backed by the Socialists.

Portugal is aiming to cut its budget deficit to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product this year from 6.4 percent in 2012, but that target has recently been put into question by economists because of a deepening recession that has also pushed Portugal’s unemployment rate close to 18 percent, compared with 12 percent when Mr. Passos Coelho came to power two years ago.

While the Constitutional Court’s ruling is a blow for the government in terms of its credibility and budgetary plans, it also gives Mr. Passos Coelho new arguments to persuade international lenders to grant Lisbon additional leeway in meeting its budgetary targets, according to some analysts.

Mr. Passos Coelho said on Sunday that he would seek to explain to creditors how the court’s ruling had left Portugal “in a situation of great difficulty.”

International lenders have already agreed to give Portugal until 2015 to cut the deficit to 3 percent, which is two years later than was agreed two years ago, when the bailout was negotiated.

“It was already clear that Portugal would not meet its budgetary targets anyway, even without this court decision,” said Pedro C. Magalhães, a professor of politics at the University of Lisbon. “The government wants to make it absolutely sure, before the public and especially before our creditors, that it is perceived as having done all it could, that the blame for failure is shifted to the court and that any further relaxing of budgetary targets is seen as being forced by unforeseen circumstances and not by the government’s own lack of commitment.”

Despite Portugal’s recent budget slippage, the I.M.F. has maintained its confidence in the government of Mr. Passos Coelho, especially after Lisbon managed to return to the bond markets in January with a debt issuance of 2.4 billion euros. Lisbon was expected to follow up on that improvement soon by issuing 10-year benchmark bonds for the first time since the bailout.

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Drug & Alcohol Support Groups with a New & Positive Twist!

New biometric cryptology takes us one step closer to a Cashless Society

Over the years there have been many theories concerning the Mark of the Beast and more specifically how the tracking of everyone’s buying and selling habits can be controlled. Revelation 13:16-17 states: He [the beast] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (NKJV)

Smart Cards, Bio Chips, and Bar Code Scans have been some of the technologies in the last twenty years that have been scrutinized as possible vehicles for a monetary control system that is described in Revelation.

There is now a new technology that goes on the watch list that may help usher in a cashless society. While you might expect such a venture to be developed in a mainline University such as MIT, the School of Mines and Technology, a state college in Rapid City, South Dakota is the location of this new technology that is actively being tested among selected students.

School of Mines & Technology. Rapdi City, South Dakota

School of Mines & Technology. Rapid City, South Dakota

By using a unique method of biometric scanning and cryptology, the scanner will match fingerprints along with typed information such as a Birthday or PIN number into the system to make a transaction. The researchers have also thought of how to get around the old movie idea of some criminal just cutting off your finger to use it to access your money. The new system will sense the blood flow in your finger to ensure it is still attached.

In the cover article by Ibnlive.in.com Your finger may soon replace your credit card; will come with an added security layer, in an interview, Al Maas, president of Nexus USA – a subsidiary of Spanish-based Hanscan Identity Management, which patented the technology – acknowledged South Dakota might seem an unlikely locale to test it, but to him, it was a perfect fit. “I said, if it flies here in the conservative Midwest, it’s going to go anywhere,” Maas said.

While not many years ago, a global cashless society was the stuff of science fiction and not even technologically feasible, now we have the computing power and electronic  apps to pull it off. With worries of identity theft and the looming possibility of global financial collapse, the stage is set for a new, secure, and better way for all citizens of the world to be able perform their monitory transactions. People will be attracted to its ease and security.

In conclusion, whatever means of monetary control is developed, the Bible clearly states that whoever chooses to receive the mark of the beast will willingly 1. Worship the beast and his image and 2. they will receive his mark on either their forehead or right hand. (Rev 14:9)

In other words, the technology in itself may not be the mark of the beast but rather a vehicle of how to control the monetary ability of everyone on the planet. There is a time coming when a charismatic world leader will state that you must commit your allegiance to him in order to buy, sell, or trade and take his mark on your hand or forehead. Beware! The decision to do so can seal your fate in eternal punishment. (Rev 14:10-11)

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Teshuvah Road is the Road on which Addiction ENDS!

Vatican hails U.N. Palestine vote, wants guarantees for Jerusalem

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The Vatican hailed the United Nations’ implicit recognition of aPalestinian state on Thursday and called for an internationally guaranteed special status forJerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations from “entity” to “non-member state,” the same status as the Vatican.

“The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations,” a statement said.

But it also said it was a “propitious occasion” to recall a “common position” on Jerusalem expressed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organisation when the two sides signed a basic agreement on their bilateral relations in 2000.

Thursday’s statement called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”

The Vatican’s re-stating of its position on Jerusalem, which has remained mostly dormant for years, was bound to irk Israel, which says there is no need for an international status for Jerusalem because those guarantees already exist.

Israel declared Jerusalem its “united and eternal” capital in 1980 after annexing East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967. World powers have not recognized the annexation.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an eventual state.

Israel has always resisted the concept of any form of international mandate over Jerusalem.

It has been some time since the Vatican re-stated its position on the city so forcefully, and Thursday’s statement was bound to be received negatively by Israel, a diplomat with direct knowledge of their relations said.

Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees the city’s special nature as sacred to the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Thursday’s statement called on both sides to seek an “effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians.”

The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict visited the Jewish state and Palestinian territories.

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Big Brother” comes to the Vatican

As a result of the document leak scandal, each Vatican employee has now been given a swipe card with a microchip so that they can be traced at all times

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Having greeted the Swiss Guard in his magnificent uniform, an impeccably dressed monsignor walks briskly past until his eyes catch sight of the two security barriers located beyond the marble door frame. And his heart sinks with disappointment: from 1 january, anyone who enters or exits will have to swipe their new magnetic ID cards which are fitted with a chip that makes it possible to locate the card’s owner at any time.

Vatican City, Apostolic Palace, frescoed corridor in the Third Loggia: security checks in the Secretariat of State, the Holy See’s control room, have been boosted. And not just in terms of the times when the building can be accessed. This is just one of the consequences of the Vatileaks scandal. Locked archives, more stringent checks on those who wish to view dossiers and the obligation to declare every document that is photocopied. The Holy See has introduced a set of new, tougher rules, which even apply to the few members of the papal household. The personal secretaries’ office has been declared off limits to prevent a repeat of the leaked document incident.

Next to the Pope’s study

The Pope’s secretaries, Georg Gänswein and Alfred Xuereb share an office that is adjacent to Benedict XVI’s study. In this office, apart from the photocopier, there was also a desk with a computer for the papal butler. Angelo Guger, the now retired papal butler who served three Popes, used it for small secretarial tasks assigned to him by Fr. Stanislao Dziwisz. This is where Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI’s former butler, made copies of the famous leaked confidential documents that were passed on to Fr. Georg when the Pope had finished reading them. Because of the Vatileaks scandal, not only is the new papal butler, Sandro Mariotti, also known as Sandrone, not given any secretarial tasks, he is forbidden from spending time in the secretaries’ office. Security has also been tightened with regards to the handling of documents that make their way from the Secretariat of State to the Pope’s desk. These documents are then returned to the Secretariat of State with any additional notes and the unmistakable “B16” the Pope adds in his own writing to all letters read by him personally.

Clocking in and out

The card that shows what time someone entered and left and the apostolic building and the Secretariat of State is not in itself linked to the Vatileaks scandal. It is really a way to ensure everyone respects their agreed working hours, though long gone are the days when John XXIII could respond ironically to the question once asked to him by a diplomat who was interested in finding out how many people worked in the Vatican: “About half…” But the decision to fit the cards with a chip that can be used to locate the card’s owner anywhere inside the apostolic palace, is a telltale sign that the Holy See is tightening checks beyond working hours. “Only superiors have access to information in case there is a problem – a prelate told Italian newspaper La Stampa – and so people will not be monitored constantly.”

A “guardian” to oversee coded messages and photocopies

The man in charge of the Secretariat of State’s office for coded messages, the Slovenian monsignor, Mitja Leskovar, has the task of applying the ne security regulations. The prelate, who was born in Yugoslavia during the communist era and became an anti-espionage expert, handles confidential messages exchanged between the Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncios. Even making photocopies has become complicated in a post-Vatileaks Vatican: those who wish to photocopy texts have to add their name and what it is they are copying, to a special register. The registers are then checked by Leskovar. Greater care and respect for the rules now need to be shown in order to access the two archives kept for the Secretariat of State’s first and second sections respectively. They are both located in the Third Loggia of the Apostolic Palace two different people are in charge of each one. The first archive contains documents relating to the Pope’s daily service to the universal Church and the Roman Curia, the editing of papal documents and reports by Apostolic Nuncios on local churches. The second one holds letters on the relations between the Holy See and the world’s various States. Any Secretariat of State official who wishes to consult one of these documents must fill in a written and authorised request form. This rule already existed before but was not applied rigidly enough. Those who work inside the archive cannot carry mobile phones on them; these must be left in the cupboard provided. Tougher rules, more thorough checks and a tightening of procedures occasionally slows office work down. Even though Vatican leaders are certain Paolo Gabriele has no hidden network of accomplices, the consequences of the Vatileaks scandal are destined to make working life in the Vatican more difficult.

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Electronic tracking: new constraint for Saudi women

Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.

Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.

The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.

“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

The move by the Saudi authorities was swiftly condemned on social network Twitter — a rare bubble of freedom for millions in the kingdom — with critics mocking the decision.

“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!” read one post.

“Why don’t you cuff your women with tracking ankle bracelets too?” wrote Israa.

“Why don’t we just install a microchip into our women to track them around?” joked another.

“If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then I’m either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist,” tweeted Hisham.

“This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned,” said Bishr, the columnist.

“It would have been better for the government to busy itself with finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence” than track their movements into and out of the country.

Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law, and is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

In June 2011, female activists launched a campaign to defy the ban, with many arrested for doing so and forced to sign a pledge they will never drive again.

No law specifically forbids women in Saudi Arabia from driving, but the interior minister formally banned them after 47 women were arrested and punished after demonstrating in cars in November 1990.

Last year, King Abdullah — a cautious reformer — granted women the right to vote and run in the 2015 municipal elections, a historic first for the country.

In January, the 89-year-old monarch appointed Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, a moderate, to head the notorious religious police commission, which enforces the kingdom’s severe version of sharia law.

Following his appointment, Sheikh banned members of the commission from harassing Saudi women over their behaviour and attire, raising hopes a more lenient force will ease draconian social constraints in the country.

But the kingdom’s “religious establishment” is still to blame for the discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia, says liberal activist Suad Shemmari.

“Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives even if they hold high positions,” said Shemmari, who believes “there can never be reform in the kingdom without changing the status of women and treating them” as equals to men.

But that seems a very long way off.

The kingdom enforces strict rules governing mixing between the sexes, while women are forced to wear a veil and a black cloak, or abaya, that covers them from head to toe except for their hands and faces.

The many restrictions on women have led to high rates of female unemployment, officially estimated at around 30 percent.

In October, local media published a justice ministry directive allowing all women lawyers who have a law degree and who have spent at least three years working in a lawyer’s office to plead cases in court.

But the ruling, which was to take effect this month, has not been implemented.

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TEXAS STUDENT SUCCESSFULLY DEFIES ‘TOTAL SURVEILLANCE STATE,’ CITING ‘MARK OF THE BEAST’

The idea of being tracked wherever one goes by a government computer chip may sound like something out of Science Fiction dystopia films like “V for Vendetta” or “Total Recall,” but apparently, it’s actually happening. And at least one Texas high school student has embarked on a mission to stop it.

Meet Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at Texas’ John Jay High School Science and Engineering Academy, and a resistor against a new program there that enables the school to track its pupils: The proposed “tracking” method would require students to wear badges containing Radio Frequency Initiation (RFID) chips, and then track the chips embedded in the badges, presumably as a means of ensuring students don’t play hooky or go off-campus without permission, etc.

But Hernandez refuses to play along with the badges, even braving the threat of expulsion to do so. Why? Because she believes they’re Satanic, according to the blog God Discussion:

The choice has not been without controversy, as several parents have come forward with negative comments regarding their children.

Hernandez is claiming religious principles for refusing to carry her ID card, stating that she believes it is satanic, specifically calling it the “mark of the beast,” in reference to one of the interpretations of Christian biblical prophecy as outlined in the apocalyptic book, Revelation.

And while Hernandez’s reasons might strike some as odd, she’s having more success than one might initially expect, due partially to legal support from the nonprofit Rutherford Institute, which just successfully blocked her expulsion in court. Russia Today reports:

 

Andrea Hernandez was told she’d be expelled from John Jay High School’s Science and Engineering Academy in San Antonio starting next week if she insists any further on disobeying a new policy that requires students to wear ID badges equipped with tiny Radio Frequency Identification (“RFID”) chips. Now attorneys with the Rutherford Institute say Hernandez has been granted a temporary restraining order that will prohibit the Northside Independent School District from relocating the student to another facility.

“The court’s willingness to grant a temporary restraining order is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go — not just in this case, but dealing with the mindset, in general, that everyone needs to be monitored and controlled,”Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead says in a statement.

“Regimes in the past have always started with the schools, where they develop a compliant citizenry. These ‘Student Locator’ programs are ultimately aimed at getting students used to living in a total surveillance state where there will be no privacy, and wherever you go and whatever you text or email will be watched by the government.”

According to San Antonio’s KENS5 News, a judge gave Hernandez a temporary restraining order from the school district and ruled on Wednesday that the principal’s orders to make the surveillance mandatory were a violation of the student’s speech and religion.

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