Arizona Wildfire Threatens More Towns

Thousands of people are fleeing small towns in the path of a fast-moving Wallow fire in eastern Arizona that has raged through 600 square miles of land, an area larger than the city of Phoenix. There is little relief in sight. At zero percent containment, the fire in Apache County has become the nation’s No. 1 firefighting priority. About 2,500 firefighters from around the country are trying to keep the fire, second-largest in state history, from consuming the towns in its path. Over 600 homes are threatened as the fire moves east toward New Mexico. A mandatory evacuation order was extended to remaining residents of Springerville and Eager in the path of the wildfire. Sixteen structures have been destroyed so far, but the count is likely much more with firefighters unable to enter areas populated with many homes.

The blaze is headed toward a pair of transmission lines that supply electricity to people as far east as Texas. El Paso Electric warned 372,000 customers of rolling blackouts if the fire damages power lines. The enemy right now is heavy smoke that has blown as far east as Iowa and disrupted air travel to Albuquerque, 200 miles away. Thick ash has been falling in some towns from the fire/ The Wallow blaze was sparked May 29 by what authorities believe was an unattended campfire.

105,000 Christians Martyred Annually, Says Official

According to Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, another Christian dies for his faith every five minutes. CatholicCulture.org reports that Introvigne’s figures do not include the victims of civil wars, or wars between nations, but only the people put to death because they are Christians. He estimates 105,000 Christians are killed every year. Introvigne told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, “[I]f it is not recognized that the persecution against Christians is the first worldwide emergency with regard to religious discrimination and violence, dialogue between religions will only produce wonderful symposia but no concrete results.”

More than 80% of U.S. Mosques Advocate or Promote Violence

Dozens of mosques around the United States have been identified in a new study as incubators for jihad against America, with more than 80 percent of those surveyed advocating violence. “Of the 100 mosques surveyed, 51 percent had texts on-site rated as severely advocating violence; 30 percent had texts rated as moderately advocating violence; and 19 percent had no violent texts at all,” said the survey published by Middle East Quarterly. Mosques identified as being more Shariah-adherent mosques were more likely “to feature violence-positive texts on-site.” In 84.5 percent of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts. Of the 51 percent of the mosques with texts severely advocating violence, 100 percent were led by imams who recommended that worshippers study texts promoting violence. Nearly three in five of the mosques invited guest imams known to promote violent jihad.

  • The notion that Islam is a “peaceful religion” is mere Muslim propaganda that is spread by the globalist-controlled mainstream media to promote tolerance and marginalize Christianity

Medicare & Social Security Creating a Mountain of Debt

The health insurance program for seniors is the nation’s biggest financial challenge. The first of 77 million Baby Boomers turn 65 this year and qualify for Medicare. Enrollment will grow from 48 million in 2010 to 64 million in 2020 and 81 million in 2030, according to Medicare actuaries. That 33-million increase in the next 20 years compares with 13 million in the last 20. This demographic burst — combined with the addition of a prescription drug benefit in 2006 and rising health care costs generally — has created an unfunded liability of nearly $25 trillion or $212,500 per household. That is the taxpayers’ obligation, beyond what Medicare taxes will bring in or seniors will pay in premiums. That $25 trillion is likely an underestimate, Medicare’s actuaries say, because it counts on 165 cost-saving changes in the health care reform law. Many of these are unlikely to occur — such as cutting physician payments 30% by 2012. Medicare’s financial hole grew $1.8 trillion last year, more than the federal deficit. Spending on Medicare is set to increase from $523 billion last year to $676 billion in 2015 and $861 billion in 2020.

Social Security faces the same demographic challenges as Medicare: a rapidly aging population and increased longevity. Social Security’s long-term shortfall grows about $1.2 trillion annually — a sign of an imbalance between the number of young workers and older beneficiaries. The $21.4 trillion unfunded liability represents the difference between all taxes that will be paid and all benefits received over the lifetimes of everyone in the system now — workers and beneficiaries alike. Social Security’s cost will soar more quickly than Medicare because its early retirement age is 62 rather than 65. Social Security’s cost will grow from $712 billion in 2010 to $911 billion in 2015 and $1.2 trillion in 2020, according to the program’s actuaries. President Obama’s debt reduction commission recommended raising the early retirement age to 64 over 75 years, trimming benefits to affluent seniors and reducing annual cost-of-living increases.

According to a USA Today analysis reported Tuesday, the total of all government unfunded obligations has now reached 61.6 trillion, or $534,000 per household. That’s more than five times what Americans have borrowed for everything else — mortgages, car loans and other debt. It reflects the challenge as the number of retirees soars over the next 20 years and seniors try to collect on those spending promises. The interest on our total debt obligation is $3.6 trillion a year.

  • It is unlikely that our political process will yield solutions of sufficient magnitude to prevent debt-driven economic chaos

Appeals Court Hears States’ Case Against Health Care Law

A federal appeals court Wednesday sharply questioned the validity of the government’s new requirement that most Americans buy health insurance and whether, if it is struck down, the entire 2010 health care overhaul is doomed. Of the many legal challenges to the Obama-sponsored health care overhaul, the case brought by 26 states that was heard Wednesday by a federal appeals court in Atlanta stands out. In a lawsuit targeting the rule that all Americans buy health insurance, the states have banded together to claim that Congress exceeded its power and tread on states’ domain. Other lawsuits, such as those recently argued in appeals courts in Richmond and Cincinnati, were filed by individual entities, for example, a Christian university, the single state of Virginia and a cluster of people who do not want to purchase coverage. The case to be aired Wednesday in Atlanta marks the only one in which a lower-court judge, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida, voided the entire health care law after declaring the individual insurance mandate unconstitutional. (His ruling is on hold while appeals are pending.)

Obamacare to Cause 30% of Businesses to Drop Health Coverage

Once provisions of the Affordable Care Act start to kick in during 2014, at least three of every 10 employers will probably stop offering health coverage, a survey released Monday shows. While only 7% of employees will be forced to switch to subsidized-exchange programs, at least 30% of companies say they will “definitely or probably” stop offering employer-sponsored coverage, according to the study published in McKinsey Quarterly. The survey of 1,300 employers says those who are keenly aware of the health-reform measure probably are more likely to consider an alternative to employer-sponsored plans, with 50% to 60% in this group expected to make a change.

Narcissism, Risk-Taking Drive Sex Scandals

The roster of politicians scorched in sexually tinged scandals refreshes itself on a regular basis, leading to outrage, broken families and, on occasion, criminal charges. But while the circumstances differ greatly, the overarching question asked by the public is the same: What were you thinking? Some psychologists say narcissism leads politicians to stray; others, cite a personality type prone to risk-taking, high-sensation and attention seekers. Whatever it is, the outcome is as powerful — and as salacious — as ever, with Weiner, a Democratic New York congressman facing calls for his resignation after acknowledging that he sent graphic photos to women he knew on social media websites. “This was a very dumb thing to do, it was a very hurtful thing to do,” he said from the stage, tears in his eyes. “If you’re looking for some kind of deep explanation for this, I simply don’t have one.”  “It’s risk-taking,” said Frank Farley, a professor in psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “We want bold leadership, we don’t want a timid wallflower in these positions. The thing is there are two sides to risk-taking and the negative side is where you do things and, in a sense, you can’t stop yourself:”

  • Narcissism is becoming more prevalent and blatant, another Biblical end-time phenomenon as many become “lovers of self” (2Timothy 3:2)

Many People Don’t Know They Have HIV

Experts at the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) have long estimated that 20% of people infected with HIV don’t know it. One-third are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they develop AIDS within one year. The new analysis found that the states with the biggest epidemics and the greatest number of late diagnoses are Florida, New York, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey. The issue has taken on new urgency in light of a study released last month by the National Institutes of Health showing that HIV therapy cuts by 96% the risk that an infected person will pass HIV to a sexual partner.

Black Health Gap Persists

Death rates for black Americans surpass those of Americans overall for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and homicide, the CDC reports. “Educationally, we’re doing better. Economically, we’re doing better, so why is it that this gap will not go away?” asks Michelle Gourdine, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and author of the newly released Reclaiming Our Health: A Guide to African American Wellness. Many black Americans have no health insurance and a trip to the doctor is a major expense, says Mona Fouad, director of the Minority Health and Disparities Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

OPEC Fails to Reach Consensus on Increasing Output

In a surprise move, OPEC says it has decided not to increase output levels, with the option of meeting within the next three months for a possible production hike. Oil prices jumped above $100 per barrel after the news. The decision reflects unusual tensions in an organization that usually works by consensus. Saudi Arabia and other influential Gulf nations had pushed to increase production ceilings to calm markets and ease concerns that crude was overpriced for consumer nations struggling with their economies. Those opposed were led by Iran, the second-strongest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Uprisings in Libya and Yemen have created jitters about OPEC’s ability to pump enough oil. The economic downturn has added to uncertainties, with consuming countries saying present prices of benchmark crude around $100 a barrel are unaffordable in the long run.

Economic News

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits for the first time hardly changed for a second straight week, stuck at a high level that points to a slowing job market. Weekly unemployment benefit applications ticked up 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 427,000 last week. It marked the ninth straight week in which applications have been above 400,000. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth.

Main Street out-muscled Wall Street on Wednesday as the Senate reaffirmed its support of limits on what banks can charge businesses for debit card transactions. After weeks of furious lobbying and aggressive ad campaigns, retailers cheered defeat of a measure that would have forced a one-year delay and re-examination of the caps on what are known as “swipe fees.” The measure needed 60 votes for passage but fell six votes short.

Americans borrowed more money in April for a seventh straight month, but they cut back on using their credit cards. The Federal Reserve says consumer borrowing rose by nearly $7.2 billion, fueled by greater demand for school and auto loans. A category that measures credit card use fell for the second time in three months.

The housing bust has been kinder to higher-priced homes than to lower-priced ones. Nationwide, top-tier homes have lost 38% of their value since prices peaked in 2006, while prices for bottom-tier homes have dropped 63% since peaking in 2007. The disparity is consistent across larger cities, according to a study on the state of the U.S. housing market released Tuesday by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Global food prices fell slightly in May, but they will remain “at stubbornly high levels” for months to come, a U.N. agency said Tuesday. Food prices dropped 1% in May compared to the previous month, but remain 37% above May 2010. The index hit an all-time high in February, raising fears of a repeat of the food crisis of 2007-2008, when high prices led to violence and political tensions in many parts of the world.

China has dropped 97 percent of its holdings in U.S. Treasury bills, decreasing its ownership of the short-term U.S. government securities from a peak of $210.4 billion in May 2009 to $5.69 billion in March 2011, the most recent month reported by the U.S. Treasury.

Japan

Japan admitted Tuesday it was unprepared for a severe nuclear accident like the tsunami-caused Fukushima disaster and said damage to the reactors and radiation leakage were worse than it previously thought. In a report being submitted to the U.N. nuclear agency, the government also acknowledged reactor design inadequacies and a need for greater independence for the country’s nuclear regulators. The report said the nuclear fuel in three reactors melted through the inner containment vessels, not just the core. The report said the “inadequate” basic reactor design — the Mark-1 model developed by General Electric— included the venting system for the containment vessels and the location of spent fuel cooling pools high in the buildings, which resulted in leaks of radioactive water that hampered repair work.

Pakistan

Taliban fighters stormed a checkpoint, killing eight Pakistani soldiers in an Afghan border region that the army previously said it had cleared of insurgents, while two bomb attacks elsewhere in the northwest on Thursday killed six civilians. The attacks showed the strength of militant groups along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan despite Pakistani army offensives against them and U.S. drone-fired missile strikes. After four years of offensives, there are few signs the authorities have the upper hand.

Libya

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, increasingly cornered under a stunning upturn in NATO airstrikes, lashed back with renewed shelling of the western city of Misrata Wednesday, killing 10 rebel fighters. The international alliance said it remained determined to keep pounding Gadhafi forces from the air, but would play no military role in the transition to democratic rule in oil-rich North African country once the erratic leader’s 42-year rule was ended. Moammar Gadhafi stood defiant Tuesday in the face of the heaviest and most punishing NATO airstrikes yet — at least 40 thunderous daylight attacks that sent plumes of smoke billowing above the Libyan leader’s central Tripoli compound. In late afternoon and as the strikes continued, Libyan state television broadcast an audio address from Gadhafi, who denounced NATO and the rebels challenging his rule. He vowed never to surrender.

Syria

Syrian troops encircled a restive northern town on Thursday, an activist said, and hundreds of people fled through a single escape route into Turkey to escape days of violence. What appeared to be an imminent assault in the town of Jisr al-Shughour would sharply escalate the upheaval that threatens the 40-year regime led by President Bashar Assad. Armed men killed 120 Syrian security forces and torched government buildings Monday in a northern region where troops have unleashed deadly assaults on protesters for days. The government vowed to respond “decisively,” hinting at an even more brutal crackdown by a regime known for ruthlessly crushing dissent.

Yemen

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was more badly injured than thought in a blast at his compound last week, complicating the U.S. response to increased instability in a key battleground in the war against al-Qaeda. Saleh is receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia for burns covering some 40% of his body, three U.S. officials said. Yemen’s leader also is suffering from bleeding inside his skull. Government troops trying to recapture areas held by Islamic militants have killed 12 suspected al-Qaeda members in the troubled southern province of Abyan. The clashes have also killed another 19 people, including three children, in two Yemeni provinces Tuesday, signaling no respite to the violence in the poor Arab nation shaken by months of unrest.

Even after the departure of its embattled leader of nearly 33 years, the officials said dozens of suspected Muslim militants attacked an army position in the southern Abyan province late Monday night. The ensuing gunfight left nine soldiers and six of the attackers dead. Only days earlier, jubilation had gripped the nation with the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who underwent surgery in Saudi Arabia for wounds he suffered in a rocket attack on his compound.

Iraq

Five American troops serving as advisers to Iraqi security police in eastern Baghdad were killed Monday when rockets slammed into the compound where they lived. The deaths were the largest single-day loss of life for American forces in two years. A suicide bomber in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit and gunmen in the country’s capital killed a total of eight people on Monday morning, demonstrating the simmering violence that threatens Iraq’s stability. In Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, four people died when a bomb went off outside a checkpoint going into a government compound. It was the second attack in four days against the compound and the government employees who live and work there.

Iran

In a shocking report published this week, RAND Corporation researcher Gregory Jones revealed that at the current rate of uranium enrichment, Iran will be prepared to build its first nuclear warhead in just two months. The study revealed that, despite reports of setbacks and delays, Iran has continued to produce enriched uranium, and is nearing the 90% enrichment level needed to reach the goal of its weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Monday that it has unearthed more evidence that Iran is illegally working towards the production of nuclear weapons, despite its strenuous denials of wrongdoing.  Iran will soon install more advanced centrifuges at its new uranium enrichment site, the country’s nuclear chief said Wednesday, underscoring Tehran’s continued defiance in the face of international sanctions imposed over its controversial nuclear program. Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi also announced that Iran plans to triple its output of the higher enriched uranium in 2011 and move the entire program to the new, secretly-built facility.

Weather

An intense and deadly early June heat wave sent temperatures soaring into the mid to upper 90s across the entire eastern half of the nation on Wednesday, closing schools and causing cities to open cooling centers. Daily record highs of 99 degrees were set Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Other cities, such as Syracuse, N.Y. (97 degrees) and Philadelphia (96), also set record highs.

One of the hardest-hit towns in flood-soaked Montana took another blow Wednesday as record flooding struck the small agricultural community for the second time in two weeks, forcing dozens of residents from homes they had just started to clean up. The Musselshell River gushed into Roundup’s neighborhoods, nearly submerging cars and swallowing the ground floors of homes. Officials evacuated between 30 and 35 residences and businesses.

Heavy rain hammered southern Haiti for a seventh straight day Tuesday, triggering floods and mudslides and causing houses and shanties in the capital to collapse. The official death toll was 23 but could rise as remnants of the storm lingered. Haitian authorities listed six people as missing. Runoff from the rain sent rivers surging and flooded many homes as people scrambled to their rooftops. The slow-moving storm system also toppled trees and debris blocked streets throughout the capital.

Monster tornadoes, historic floods, massive wildfires and widespread drought: Springtime has delivered a wallop of weather-related destruction and misery across much of the nation this year. And it may all be related. Never mind the debate over global warming, its possible causes and effects. We’ve got “global weirding.” That’s how climatologist Bill Patzert describes the wide range of deadly weather that has whipped the nation this year, killing hundreds of people and doing billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, schools and churches. Patzert, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. points to the La Niña climate pattern, a phenomenon born far out in the Pacific Ocean that shapes weather across the globe. Less famous than its warm-water climate sibling El Niño, this year’s La Niña has been “near record-breaking” in its intensity. La Niña is defined as cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which affect weather patterns around the world.

  • It may be weird, but it’s not just La Nina – it’s end-time weather growing more and more turbulent as the shaking of the planet has begun in earnest (Hebrews 12:26)

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