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November 2005

Earthquake in Pakistan

On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred with an epicenter in the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir. Earthquakes of similar magnitude have occurred in 1935 at Quetta, Pakistan; in 2001 in Gujarat, India; and in 1906 in San Francisco.

As of October 21, the Pakistani government estimates the death toll at 53,182. Reports from the India-administered portion of Kashmir put the death toll there at 1, 360. Estimates from regional Pakistani officials put the death toll at over 79,000.

Access to the mountainous area is difficult with roads blocked by landslides. The high altitude and cold weather of approaching winter are threatening survivors. Snow started to fall on the Indian side of Kashmir on October 13.

Damage estimates have exceeded $5 billion. (“2005 Kashmir Earthquake,” www.wikipedia.org, Oct. 23, 2005)

Inspired Commentary

This massive earthquake is one of a series of natural disasters that have occurred in the last twelve months, leading some commentators to wonder about connected significance.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matt. 24:6-8

Another Hurricane

This time is is named “Wilma.” At the time of this writing, Wilma has left the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula and is headed across open waters probably gaining wind speed and forward momentum while heading toward Florida. Evacuations have been ordered.

A hurricane watch was issued Saturday for the entire southern Florida peninsula, with heavy rain from Wilma's outer bands already causing hip-deep flooding in the Fort Lauderdale. At the same time, a record 22nd tropical storm - Alpha - formed in the Atlantic. ...

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Alpha formed Saturday in the Caribbean Sea, setting the record for the most number of storms in an Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters said. Alpha is the season's 22nd tropical storm and marks the first time a letter from the Greek alphabet has been used because the list of storm names is used up. The previous record of 21 storms stood since 1933. (“Hurricane Wilma Punishes Mexico Coastline,” The Associated Press, Oct. 22, 2005)

Wilma would mark Florida's eighth hurricane since August 2004 and the fourth evacuation of the Keys this year. (“Wilma Threatens Fla. With 110-Mph Winds,” The Associated Press on www.myway.com, Oct. 23, 2005)

Inspired Commentary

While preparations in Florida are probably enhanced following the widely reported problems lately in New Orleans, the potential for damage remains high.

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)

Bird Flu Threat Continues

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A 48-year-old Thai man has become the 67th person known to have been killed by a bird flu virus that has been moving steadily from Asia into Europe since re-emerging in South Korea in 2003, officials said on Thursday.

Concern about the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu centers on scientists' fears that it may mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, sparking a pandemic that may kill millions.

Possible clusters of bird flu among members of one family in Indonesia have raised concern among health experts that this feared mutation may be happening. (“Bird flu kills Thai man, Jakarta fears mutation,” www.myway.com, Oct. 20, 2005)

The full impact of this virus is unknown at this time.

Inspired Commentary

While it is not popular to suggest that there may be a supernatural component in the sequence of disasters being reported and the potential flu pandemic, inspiration has this warning:

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, v.9, p. 11)

Promised Pensions Fail

While many U.S. workers work for businesses that offer no pensions, large numbers of workers thought they would receive a pension when they retired. A major article in Time magazine indicates that many such pensions will not materialize:

As for the pension-fund deficit, if GM [General Motors] or any other company can't come up with the money, the PBGC [Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation] will cover retirement checks up to a fixed amount--$45,600 this year--or until the agency runs out of money. That's projected to occur around 2013. ...


In the meantime, pension plans that companies are dumping are so short of assets that the PBGC’s financial position is rapidly deteriorating. In 2000, the agency operated with a $10 billion surplus. By 2004, the surplus had turned into a $23 billion deficit. By the end of this year, the shortfall may top $30 billion. As the Government Accountability Office put it earlier this year: “PBGC's accumulated deficit is too big, and plans simply do not have enough money in the system to back up the long-term promises many employers have made to their workers.” To add to its woes, the agency has a record 350 active bankruptcy cases, according to Bradley D. Belt, executive director. Of those, Belt told Congress, “37 have underfunding claims of $100 million or more, including six in excess of $500 million.” (“The Broken Promise,” Time, Oct. 23, 2005)

The article mentioned business executives who received multi-million dollar retirement packages while employees of those businesses essentially lost their promised pensions entirely.

Inspired Commentary

The evident injustice reported in the article breeds distrust between employers and employees, pessimism about government and elemental fairness in working life. God will one day set things straight:

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. James 5:1-4

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