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March 2005

Deadliest Earthquake Year Since 1556

The Associated Press reported on an estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey about the number of deaths from the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Asia. The agency's estimate was 275,950 killed. They said, however, that the count could go higher when final estimates are made.

Based on the agency's estimate, 2004 would have counted an earthquake death toll of 276,856, the second highest in recorded history.

The deadliest quake on record occurred Jan. 23, 1556, when an estimated magnitude 8 earthquake killed about 830,000 people in Shansi, China.

The magnitude 9.0 temblor that hit Banda Aceh, Indonesia, causing the tsunami, was not the only "great" earthquake that occurred during 2004. Great quakes are those with a magnitude of 8 or higher and an 8.1 earthquake hit north of Macquarie Island, southwest of New Zealand, three days before the Indian Ocean quake and tsunami. No deaths were reported in that event. ("2004 deadliest earthquake year in five centuries," msnbc.com, Feb. 10, 2005)

Inspired Commentary

Inspiration gives a warning about the times of the end:

We are living in the time of the end. The fast-fulfilling signs of the times declare that the coming of Christ is near at hand. The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God. The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude. (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 11)

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:25-27)

Condoleezza Rice in Rome

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visited papal officials recently during a European trip. She met with Cardinal Sodano rather than with the Pope who was hospitalized at the time. The meeting, described as cordial, lasted almost an hour.

Then there was an exchange of opinions "on various international problems, with particular reference to the Holy Land, to the Middle East, and to the situation in other Asian countries," reported Navarro Valls. "Attention was also given to the theme of religious freedom in various parts of the world."

"Finally, certain questions concerning bilateral relations were considered, reaffirming the will to collaborate in safeguarding and promoting spiritual values."

He gave Rice a book on the Vatican and a medal in which Europe's Christian roots were coined and said: "There is no need to ratify the Christian roots of the United States."

"It is always an honor to come to the Vatican," said Rice, who gave a silver tray as a gift.

"Perfect for our chocolates," added Cardinal Sodano.("Rice and Cardinal Sodano Discuss Religious Freedom, and Mideast," zenit.org (e-mail newswletter), Feb. 8, 2005

Inspired Commentary

While wishing to be relate to all people with good will, the prophecies suggest that clear perceptions of the dangers are also appropriate:

When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near." (Testimonies, v. 5, p. 451)

National ID Coming?

The U.S. House of Representatives approved on Thursday a sweeping set of rules aimed at forcing states to issue all adults federally approved electronic ID cards, including driver's licenses. ("House backs major shift to electronic IDs," [Cnet] news.com, Feb. 10, 2005)

The bill would require driver's licenses and other ID (identity) cards to have digital photos and undefined "machine-readable-technology." If the law were enacted it would affect access to airplanes and federally controlled areas (such as national parks and courthouses).

States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently.

Another portion of the bill says that states would be required to link their DMV databases if they wished to receive federal funds. Among the information that must be shared: All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards, and complete drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses. . . .

Because an ID is required to purchase a firearm from a dealer, Gun Owners of America said the bill amounts to a "bureaucratic back door to implementation of a national ID card." The group warned that it would "empower the federal government to determine who can get a driver's license-and under what conditions." (Ibid.)

Inspired Commentary

The goals of those who advocate a U.S. national ID seem admirable, but inspiration indicates that the proposed solution is incomplete:

There are not many, even among educators and statesmen, who comprehend the causes that underlie the present state of society. Those who hold the reins of government are not able to solve the problem of moral corruption, poverty, pauperism, and increasing crime. They are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis. If men would give more heed to the teaching of God's word, they would find a solution of the problems that perplex them. (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 13)

And one day, it is likely that the databases created by national IDs will be abused by those seeking inappropriate control of men's consciences:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Rev. 13:16, 17)

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