Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Shutdown Averted; Disaster Aid Dispute Surmounted

The Obama administration gave Congress a possible way out of its shutdown-threatening budget impasse Monday, saying it had enough disaster relief money to last through Friday. That allowed the Senate to vote for a straightforward short-term spending plan allowing the government to operate at least until next week — but without $1 billion in additional disaster aid. The Disaster Relief Fund was the only issue holding up agreement between the House and Senate as they approached the end of the fiscal year Friday, when the government’s spending authority runs out. And so the Senate agreed to a one-week extension of spending authority — with no additional funding but also no cuts.

Tea Party Group Casts National Debt as a Household Budget

America’s ever-growing debt crisis is in the trillions — more than $14 trillion, give or take a few billion. That’s a lot of zeros, numbers so large they’re sure to make Americans numb when trying to get their arms around what it means to them. But what would the federal debt crisis look like if you set it up as a household budget? A heck of a lot simpler, according to new figures from one Tea Party group, which estimates the government “household” spends nearly twice as much as it takes in every year, has a credit card bill nearly seven times annual income and cuts back less than 2 percent of that spending in an effort to control the debt.

In an effort to break it down into simple terms that most Americans can comprehend, the group divided each federal figure by $100 million and came up with a household with an average family income of $21,700. But that “family” spent nearly twice that — $38,200 — and has an existing credit card balance of a whopping $142,710. When you remove those eight zeros, the proposed $385 billion in spending cuts barely makes a dent.

  • The debt crisis in the U.S. and Europe is so extreme that seemingly draconian measures won’t make much of a difference

Border Bill Would Expand Homeland Security Powers

Border security or federal land grab? That question is driving a heated debate over a controversial bill to give the Department of Homeland Security sweeping authority over federal lands within 100 miles of the U. S. border. The proposed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would let the agency waive 36 federal environmental protection laws in the name of better border patrols on public lands. The measure also waives the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Air Act. Supporters say it would help U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents secure the nation’s borders. Opponents say it would give Homeland Security unchecked authority to disregard major environmental laws covering wilderness areas, national parks and wildlife refuges.

  • There’s always a seemingly ‘good’ reason for the federal government to assume greater powers, but the ongoing creep toward socialism is accelerating rapidly. States’ rights, democracy and individual freedoms are being steamrolled in the process.

Alabama Immigration Law Ruled Legal

A federal judge in Alabama ruled on Wednesday that the state can move forward with key provisions of an immigration law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of the state, ending a 14-month losing streak for anti-illegal-immigration advocates from Arizona to Georgia. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled that federal law does not prohibit state officials from checking the immigration status of students or suspects pulled over by police. Blackburn also refused to stop provisions that make it a misdemeanor for illegal immigrants not to carry immigration papers, allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond and bar state courts from enforcing contracts entered into by illegal immigrants. The U.S. Justice Department and several civil rights groups sued Alabama after it passed the law, arguing that immigration enforcement is solely the responsibility of the federal government. A similar Justice lawsuit last year led to a federal judge blocking the core aspects of Arizona’s SB 1070, which reignited the national immigration debate.

Obama Asks Supreme Court to Hear Health Care Law

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on the legality of its health care law. Appeals courts have split on the question of whether the administration can constitutionally require most Americans to buy health insurance. Opponents of the law said they also welcome a Supreme Court hearing. The case has always seemed bound for the Supreme Court in any event, but the administration’s announcement could speed up the process. If the court accepts the case and rules in its 2011-2012 term, the decision would come down by July — four months before the presidential election.

The signature legislation of the Obama Administration, the Affordable Care Act, came under damaging assault Wednesday from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found it has already partially contributed to increasing health care costs. The survey found that insurance premiums rose by 9 percent in 2011 and that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act already in place — including the allowance for young people up to 26 years of age to remain on their parents insurance policy — contributed to 20 percent of that increase.

No Child Left Behind Revision Meets Praise and Cautions

President Obama is offering to free public schools from many of the requirements of the controversial No Child Left Behind law. But as states consider whether to take him up on it, they’re realizing the offer comes with some costs. Obama said he would waive the proficiency requirements in exchange for a promise that states adopt several reforms, including higher academic standards, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and a promise to intervene in the lowest-performing schools. Congress is due to reauthorize the law, but progress has stalled. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel praised Obama’s offer, but California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the waiver “would appear to cost billions of dollars to fully implement, at a time when California and many other states remain in financial crisis.”

  • This removes some federal requirements while imposing others. Instead, Washington should allow individual states to oversee their own educational systems, which would guarantee the kind of competition among states that will produce true, less costly reforms.

Mass. Man Arrested in Terror Plot

A 26-year-old Massachusetts man with a physics degree was arrested and charged Wednesday with plotting an attack on the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with a remote-controlled model aircraft. Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, planned to use model aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives, authorities said. As a result of an undercover FBI investigation, Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Northeastern University in Boston, was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda for attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas. Ferdaus began planning a violent “jihad” against America in early 2010, and he began supplying the FBI undercover agents with cell phones rigged to act as electric switches for improved explosive devices, intended to be used to kill U.S. soldiers overseas. Undercover federal agents also gave Ferdaus 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives. Ferdaus then ordered and acquired a $6,500 remote-controlled aircraft.

Iran, South Asia Worst for City Air Pollution, U.S. Among Best

Cities in Iran, India, Pakistan and the capital of Mongolia rank among the worst on the planet for air pollution, while those in the U.S. and Canada are among the best, according to the first global survey, released Monday by the World Health Organization. The southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz walked away with the unfortunate distinction of having the highest measured level of airborne particles smaller than 10 micrometers. WHO recommends an upper limit of 20 micrograms for PM10s, which can cause serious respiratory problems in humans. They are mostly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from power plants, auto exhausts and industry. Ahvaz’s annual average of PM10s was 372 micrograms per cubic meter.

The study found that the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator had an annual average PM10s density of 279 micrograms per cubic meter, followed by another west Iranian city, Sanandaj, with 254 micrograms. Cities in Pakistan and India, such as Quetta and Kanpur, as well as Botswana’s capital Gaborone, also ranked high on the pollution scale. At the other end of the list, Yukon territory’s capital Whitehorse had a yearly average of just 3 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter, while Santa Fe, New Mexico, measured 6 micrograms. Washington, D.C., had a level of 18 micrograms, Tokyo measured 23 micrograms, and Paris had 38 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter.

Poverty Expands into Middle Class

A record number of Americans are living in poverty — 46 million. Millions of formerly middle-class Americans now find themselves among the suddenly poor. Today, 15% of the USA— one in six Americans — are considered poor, the highest rate of poverty since 1993. Now among the poor are the college-educated, the former middle-class worker, the suburbanite and the homeowner. They’ve been hit by layoffs, cuts in work hours, health problems and other crises. They’ve gone through savings and 401(k)s. They live off food stamps or other government benefits and rely on help from family members and friends. The number of poor people living in the suburbs of metropolitan areas rose 24%. The poverty line last year was a household income of $22,314 or less for a family of four.

Economic News

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, an encouraging sign that layoffs are easing. The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000, lowest since April 2. Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to signal substantial job growth.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3% in the April-June quarter, up from an estimate of 1% made a month ago. The improvement reflected more consumer spending and a bigger boost from trade.

Home sales are on pace this year to be the worst since 1997. The Commerce Department said Monday that new-home sales fell 2.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000. That’s less than half the roughly 700,000 that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.

Overall orders for durable goods slipped 0.1% last month. The modest decline was largely due to an 8.5% drop in orders for autos and auto parts. At the same time, a category that measures business investment plans rose 1.1% last month.

The head of the IMF has warned that its $384 billion war chest designed as an emergency bail-out fund is inadequate to deliver the scale of the support required by troubled states. n a document distributed to the IMF steering committee at the weekend, Christine Lagarde said: “The fund’s credibility, and hence effectiveness, rests on its perceived capacity to cope with worst-case scenarios. Our lending capacity of almost $400 billion pales in comparison with the potential financing needs of vulnerable countries and crisis bystanders.”

European Union

German lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved expanding the powers of the Eurozone bailout fund, a major step toward tackling the sprawling debt crisis, in a vote that also helped strengthen Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. A lively debate ahead of the vote reflected how divided Germans remain over their role as Europe’s economic power. The vote highlighted tensions in Merkel’s center-right coalition that was strained by threats of dissent from many members who balked at the cost of propping up the eurozone’s strugglers.

A senior EU official urged more unification in Europe as it grapples to contain a debt crisis in Greece that’s threatening the survival of the euro currency itself. In a state of the union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Jose Manuel Barroso, who heads the executive European Commission, came down firmly in favor of the 27-nation EU having a stronger central government. Barroso’s comments came as lawmakers in Finland and Germany prepare to vote on measures that will give the 17 countries that use the euro more powers to fight a debt crisis that’s already led to Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts. Greece is lumbered with so much debt that many in the markets think it will have no option but to default.

  • The inexorable march toward centralized, global government continues unabated (Rev. 13)

Middle East

After last week’s theatrics in New York City, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly called the United Nations the “theater of the absurd.” Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), pressed the UN to recognize Palestine as a nation state. This is the same Abbas who wrote his doctoral dissertation denying the Holocaust.

  • While Abbas positions himself as a man of moderation and peace, he nonetheless seeks the complete elimination of Israel from the Middle East.

The Obama administration told the Palestinian Authority it cannot significantly help advance a Palestinian state until after the 2012 presidential elections, a top PA official told WorldNetDaily. The main message we received from the U.S. is that nothing will happen in a serious way before the 2012 elections,” said the official. “We were told to wait for Obama’s reelection, and that before then nothing serious will happen for a state,” the official continued. “But after the reelection, the U.S. said the schedule will be short to reach a Palestinian state.”

  • Obama will now say anything necessary to get reelected and then ignore American interests to proceed with his anti-Israel, socialist, globalist agenda

Afghanistan

The U.N. says the average monthly tally of armed clashes, roadside bombings and other violence has increased sharply this year in Afghanistan. In its quarterly report on Afghanistan released Wednesday, the U.N. says that as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents was 2,108. That’s up 39% compared with the same period last year. The U.N. report also says that insurgents are conducting more complex suicide operations, involving multiple bombers and gunmen.

Eight policemen were killed in an attack early Wednesday near a southern city that is seen as a pioneer in transition from NATO to Afghan control over security. The pre-dawn attack targeted a police checkpoint near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, where the insurgency has strongholds. Lashkar Gah was one of five provincial capitals and two provinces chosen to start the transition from NATO to Afghan control this summer. At least 16 people, including 11 children, were killed when a bus returning from an engagement party in Afghanistan hit a roadside bomb.

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan will go down only slightly this year despite intense coalition and Afghan efforts to reduce a crop that funds Taliban operations. Reducing poppy cultivation is considered critical to undermining the insurgency because of the strong ties between drug trafficking and the Taliban. The Taliban generated $155 million from the drug trade in 2009, according to the United Nations. Afghanistan supplies about 90% of the world’s opium. The growing of opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, has dropped in some areas where coalition troops have arrived in force. But cultivation is forecast to rise in other provinces.

Iran

Counterterrorism operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi forces have interrupted the flow of sophisticated Iranian weapons to militants, including powerful rockets that hammered American bases this summer. There have been five improvised rocket attacks in the first seven months of 2011 compared with one each in 2010 and 2009 against U.S. bases in Iraq. The worst this year was on June 6, when rockets killed five U.S. soldiers who were part of an advisory team training Iraqi security forces. The rockets struck the soldiers’ living quarters in Baghdad. A total of nine Americans died in June in attacks from the rockets. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that military action and political pressure on Iran from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have helped reduce attacks since the summer.

Libya

About 200,000 Libyans remain under threat as Moammar Gadhafi loyalists battle to the end in the only two areas still contested in Libya: Bani Walid and Sirte, the coastal birthplace of the fallen leader. With supply routes largely severed, water, food and medicine are in short supply. The shortages and a lack of electricity have placed enormous pressure on the civilian population, who are also being used as human shields by Gadhafi loyalists. One of their staging areas has been the main hospital in Sirte, where Gadhafi’s fighters feel protected from NATO airstrikes.

Libya’s transitional government delivered $16 million Tuesday to the remote southern city of Sabha that has been beset by fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to bolster support for revolutionary forces. On the other side, Gadhafi’s son was seen in a video for the first time since Tripoli fell, trying to rally the remnants of his father’s regime.

Egypt

Suspected Islamist militants on Tuesday attacked a gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan. The attack, which targeted a pumping station about 15 miles west of the city of el-Arish, is the sixth on the pipeline since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. Three lines branch out from the pumping station in el-Maydan — one to Israel, a second to Jordan, and a third to Egypt’s domestic market. The Egyptian and Jordanian lines were shut down following Tuesday’s attack. The Israeli pipeline has not been functioning since an attack in July forced it to shut down.

The first of Egypt’s three-tiered elections is scheduled for November, with the increasing possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood will take charge, according to a report by Mission Network News. In January, 10 percent of people polled thought the Muslim Brotherhood would be fit to lead the country, compared with 50 percent today. Concerns for Christians are rising along with the popularity of the Brotherhood; a recent poll shows that 82 percent of Egyptians believe Muslim converts to Christianity should be killed, and 30,000 anti-Christian terrorist prisoners.

Yemen

Security officials and witnesses say a suicide attacker driving an explosives-laden car has blown himself up next to the passing convoy of Yemen’s defense minister, who escaped the attack unscathed. The attacker blew his car up as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed’s convoy passed along the coastal highway in the southern city of Aden. The ministry confirmed Ahmed survived the attack unharmed.

Syria

Pro-government supporters in Syria threw stones and tomatoes at the U.S. ambassador in Damascus. Ambassador Robert Ford and other U.S. diplomats were attacked while visiting an opposition figure in the Syrian capital. Crowds have surrounded the building and that two embassy cars have been damaged. The Assad supporters tried to force their way in, breaking some door locks. Office staff prevented them from rushing in. Syrian security arrived about an hour after the attack began.

Indonesia

A suicide bomber attacked a packed Indonesian church Sunday in the city of Solo, wounding at least 27, Fox News reported. It is the latest in a series of attacks on minority religious groups in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. The bomber, who was inside the church when he got up and detonated the bomb on his way out, was part of a terrorist network in Cirebon, 185 miles east of Jakarta. The man was already on Indonesia’s most wanted list in connection with a suicide attack five months ago. Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, born in Cirebon in western Java, accompanied a suicide bomber to an attack on a police mosque in that city in April which injured 30 people

Saudi Arabia

A Saudi activist was convicted of defying the kingdom’s ban on female drivers, a lawyer and rights advocates, revealing clear limits on how far the conservative Muslim land is willing to go to grant women greater rights. Just a day earlier, King Abdullah, who is regarded as a reformer by Saudi standards, decreed that women would be allowed for the first time to vote and run as candidates in elections for municipal councils starting in 2015. Activists say the trials reveal a gap between the image the kingdom wants to show to the outside world and the reality on the ground in the ultraconservative nation. On Wednesday, King Abdullah overturned the court-ordered lashing of the woman.

Singapore

Explosions rocked Royal Dutch Shell’s largest oil refinery on Thursday, forcing the closure of several refining units and the evacuation of most staff as a fire at the Singapore plant continued for a second day. A blaze that broke out Wednesday at the 500,000 barrel-a-day refinery on Bukom, an island 3 miles offshore, had appeared to be brought largely under control. But there was a new surge on Thursday causing at least three explosions. There have been no reports of injuries. Singapore is one of the world’s top 3 centers for the refining and export of oil and is Asia’s main oil trading hub.

Earthquakes

The Aug. 23 East Coast earthquake damaged the Washington Monument’s elevator, the National Park Service reports. The mechanism is believed to have been damaged by the counterweights, and the elevator is operating only to the 250-foot level of the 555-foot monument. Park officials are also evaluating cracks in four stones and some mortar that crumbled. The monument has been closed since the magnitude-5.8 quake.

Weather

Tens of thousands of people have been stranded and at least 20 have been killed since last week by surging floodwaters in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. The floods caused by heavy rains have inundated more than 3,000 villages that are home to more than 2 million people. More than 120,000 people have been evacuated but tens of thousands are still marooned. Air force helicopters are dropping food parcels, and more than 370 boats are shuttling the stranded to safety. Flooding also killed at least 31 over the weekend in northern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states.

Massive flooding hit the Philippine capital. Manila, Tuesday as typhoon winds and rains isolated the historic old city where residents waded in waist-deep waters, dodging tree branches and debris. Authorities ordered more than 100,000 people to shelter from rains and wind gusts of up to 106 miles per hour. At least 20 people were killed with another 35 missing. Along downtown Manila’s baywalk, cars and buses were stuck and residents waded through floodwaters as waves as high as palm trees washed over the seawall, turning a six-lane highway into a huge brown river.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

 

September 26, 2011

Formal Petition for Palestinian Statehood Presented to U.N.

Palestinians erupted into wild applause in packed town squares across the West Bank as their president delivered a request for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations Friday. The U.N. Security Council says it will take up the Palestinians’ membership request Monday. Action could take weeks, if not months, the Associated Press notes. Full recognition can be granted only by a majority vote of the U.N.’s security council. Flag-waving Palestinians packed Ramallah’s downtown to watch on giant screens as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented his case before the international body’s General Assembly.

A coalition of leading powers that has been mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict said Friday that it will shelve the request for the creation of a Palestinian state and urged him instead to return to peace talks without preconditions. The historic Palestinian bid for statehood goes before the United Nations Security Council Monday, where it looks set for a largely symbolic debate in the face of a promised American veto.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, opposes the statehood bid. Gaza’s Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said Friday that Abbas was giving up Palestinian rights by seeking recognition for a state with borders as they were on June 4, 1967, before the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports: “Yesterday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the podium at the United Nations, the sense of hatred could be felt in the room. There were cheers and applause and a warm welcome for PA President Abbas when he spoke…not for the leader of Israel. So many nations have disguised their anti-Semitism behind a hatred of Israel. The enemies of the Jewish state want nothing less than the utter destruction of Israel, and they are using the demand for Palestinian statehood as a step toward reaching that evil goal.

  • The ultimate goal of the Muslim world is the complete elimination of Israel, whether preceded by Palestinian statehood or not

Budget Impasse as Debt Deadline Approaches Again

With the economy sputtering, the warring factions of Congress have lurched toward gridlock over the usually noncontroversial process of approving disaster aid and keeping the government from shutting down. The GOP-dominated House early Friday muscled through a $3.7 billion disaster aid measure along with a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running past next Friday. Later Friday, the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked the bill because it also called for $1.6 billion in spending cuts to help defray the disaster costs. Democrats say it’s unprecedented and unfair to require spending cuts to accompany badly needed emergency aid. Republicans say that with a $14 trillion-plus national debt, business-as-usual spending is no longer acceptable. So just a week away from a possible government shutdown, lawmakers boxed themselves into yet another budget impasse.

  • Political wrangling and gridlock has been and will continue to be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as America sinks into economic chaos

House Immigration Status-Check Bill Faces Tough Road

The House Judiciary Committee last week passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would require private businesses to use a federal program that checks the immigration status of all job applicants. The bill, the most sweeping piece of immigration legislation moving through Congress, will have a hard time getting through the full House of Representatives, let alone passing the Democrat-controlled Senate and getting a signature from President Obama. The bill passed the committee 22-13 on a party-line vote, with no Democrats voting in favor. At a time when House Republicans are pushing a job-creating, regulation-slashing agenda, Democrats say the immigration verification program, called E-Verify, will cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their jobs, and impose another, expensive layer of regulation on struggling U.S. businesses.

  • Fear-mongering aside, this is a necessary albeit relatively minor step in regaining control over illegal immigration that would ensure more, not less, jobs for American citizens

Obama Administration Suspends 300,000 Deportations

Vision to America reports that various officials within the Obama Administration have recently announced they plan to suspend the deportation orders of 300,000 illegal aliens that have already been issued by a U.S. court of law. In addition to being allowed to stay in the country, each of these 300,000 illegal aliens will also be eligible for temporary work visas, and will continue to take away job opportunities from the 22 million Americans who are unable to find a full-time job. “Once again, President Obama has put the desires of the pro-amnesty movement above the U.S. citizens he has taken an oath to protect.”

‘In God We Trust’ Banished from Classroom

A team of free-speech experts has announced plans to challenge a decision by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that banished the national motto, “In God We Trust,” from a school teacher’s classroom, even while allowing the display of Tibetan prayer flags and the sayings of the Dalai Lama. The Thomas More Law Center said it will appeal the ruling from the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit to the full court. “Astonishingly, the officials left untouched classroom displays by other teachers that included Dalai Lama and Malcolm X posters, Tibetan prayer flags, anti-religious song lyrics, and gay and lesbian promotional materials,” the announcement from the law center said. The school allowed a 35-to-40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha, a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s anti-religion song “Imagine” (which begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven), a poster with Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins,” a poster of Muslim leader Malcolm X and another of Buddhist leader Dalai Lama.

  • ‘Tolerance’ is extended to all things except Christianity

Number of Participating Churches Doubles for National Back To Church Sunday

More than 7,600 churches from 34 denominations opened their doors to an estimated 250,000 visitors during National Back to Church Sunday held Sept. 18. Twice as many churches as last year participated in what has become the single, largest cross-denominational outreach initiative in America. Churches responding to a post-event survey welcomed an average of 34 new visitors, an increase of 25.4 percent in weekly attendance. “The enthusiasm for National Back To Church Sunday has grown along with the number of churches participating,” said spokesman Philip Nation of LifeWay Research, whose organization’s research helped birth the nationwide event three years ago. “We’re excited about the response to this initiative, not only from the churches, but from those friends and neighbors who have told our participants how much they appreciated the welcome—and, in many cases, the welcome back.”

Student Group Launches New Pro-Life Initiative

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 46 percent of all abortions nationwide are performed on women in college. WORLD News Service reports that Students for Life has launched a new program to help pregnant college students give birth to their babies — and stay in school. The Pregnant on Campus Initiative is giving students tools to make their campuses more welcoming to pregnant girls and new mothers, such as lactation stations, diaper-changing decks and affordable on-campus housing.

Iranian Youth Searching for Answers; Open to the Gospel

A significant number of young Iranians, searching for answers to the issues they face, are coming to Christ, the Christian Newswire reports. In many ways they have the same interests and questions as youth in the West, and many of them dream of leaving the country because of the current economic situation with the lack of job prospects, says Ramin, a Christian leader who works with young people in Iran. Nader, another Christian leader, says young Iranians are thirsty for the Gospel, even many who appear to be devout Muslims. Young people are coming to Christ through personal evangelism, satellite TV and websites Christian leaders direct them to through Facebook. Believers must be careful; they face challenges from their families and sometimes suffer or are arrested if they become too outspoken, Ramin says. Iran is ranked No. 2 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.

Freed Hikers Maintain Innocence

Two hikers who spent more than two years in an Iranian prison landed in New York on Sunday and had harsh words for the government they said held them hostage. They were held because they’re Americans, the pair said, not because they were truly suspected of spying. Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist, and Josh Fattal, also 29, an environmental activist originally from Pennsylvania, had been held in Iran since July 31, 2009, when they were arrested along the Iraq-Iran border. Iran sentenced them to eight years in prison for alleged espionage and crossing the border illegally. Iran released the men Wednesday after the country of Oman, a U.S. ally, posted $1 million in bail.

Cantaloupe Listeria Kills 16

The death toll in the 15-state listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from Colorado may now be as high as 10; at least 60 people have been reported ill. Food safety experts are warning anyone who might have had the cantaloupes in their home to clean and sanitize their countertops and refrigerator with bleach because listeria can colonize even on the inside of a vegetable drawer. Listeria is a food-borne disease that is most dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting. It can take up to two months before a person who ate listeria-contaminated food comes down with listeriosis.

Economic News

The Group of 20 leading advanced and emerging economies are vowing to work together to boost the struggling global economy and financial system. The statement came as global stock markets have plunged amid worries the world economy is heading back into recession. The U.S. economy is saddled with high unemployment, Europe is burdened by its sovereign debt crisis and growth in China is also slowing.

A brutal week for the stock market ended on a quiet note Friday, but worries about the global economy continued to pound copper, gold and other commodities. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 37.65 points Friday, or 0.4%, to close at 10,771.48. The Dow lost 6.4% for the week. Commodities from soybeans to metals sank Friday. Gold dropped 5.9%, copper lost 6% and silver 17.7%. Traders had sold gold to raise cash during Thursday’s sell-off.

Nigeria

A series of attacks by armed Muslim extremists in Nigeria’s Plateau State have left more than 100 Christians dead, including one pregnant woman and the elimination of many entire families, according to Compass Direct News. Nigerian Muslim nomads, enlisted by militant Muslims to attack Christian communities because of their expert understanding of the rural terrain, raided three villages in guerilla-type “hit-and-run” attacks this month. Survivors of the attacks said men in military uniforms of the Nigerian Army accompanied the assailants. Emmanuel Dachollom Loman, chairman of the local government council, said he had repeatedly reported the attacks to security agencies and the Nigerian government, but nothing had been done to protect his people. “The government should help us before Muslims come and wipe all of us out one day,” he said.

Iraq

Back-to-back bomb blasts ripped through one of the holiest cities in Shiite Islam Sunday, killing at least 10 people in a community still reeling from a deadly bus hijacking earlier this month that left Iraq’s Shiites again feeling hunted. Four explosions struck the city of Karbala over a five-minute period, government officials said, sending thick black smoke over the city. Two of the bombs targeted an Interior Ministry office that issues ID cards. Another struck near a house, shredding its walls and ceiling. And one of the explosions went off half a mile from an important gold-domed shrine. Ferocious bombing attacks by Sunni insurgent groups like al-Qaida in Iraq have targeted the Shiite community whose leaders came to power after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Afghanistan

An Afghan employed by the U.S. government killed one American and wounded another in an attack on a CIA office in Kabul, officials said Monday, in the latest high-profile attack in the Afghan capital. The shooting Sunday evening is the most recent in a growing number of attacks this year by Afghans working for international forces. Some assailants have turned out to be Taliban sleeper agents, while others have been motivated by personal grievances.

Yemen

President Ali Abdullah Saleh made a surprise return to Yemen on Friday after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in a move certain to further enflame battles between forces loyal to him and his opponents that have turned the capital into a war zone. Saleh immediately called for a cease-fire and said negotiations were the only way out of the crisis, He does not intend to step down immediately and was likely to only anger protesters who have been demanding his ouster for months. Fighting raged on Saturday in the Yemeni capital, leaving at least 40 dead as forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh battled pro-opposition soldiers and moved to clear the protest camp at a Sanaa square that has been the epicenter of the country’s uprising.

Libya

Backed by rockets and heavy artillery, hundreds of Libyan revolutionary fighters pushed into Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown from the west Saturday in the first significant assault in about a week. Gadhafi’s firebrand daughter has said in an audio recording that her father is in high spirits and fighting alongside his supporters against the revolutionary forces who swept his regime from power. Libya’s revolutionary forces say they have stepped up a siege around Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte Sunday to wear down his loyalist forces inside.

Libyan officials announced Sunday that they found a mass grave of 1,270 victims outside the white walls of Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison, where Gadhafi locked up and tortured opponents or simply made them disappear. Those bones could offer some of the most damning evidence of the brutality of Gadhafi’s nearly 42-year rule, and allow relatives of the victims to learn the truth about their fates after years of regime stonewalling.

Iran

American diplomats walked out of the U.N. General Assembly as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a fiercely anti-American speech.Friday. More than a dozen diplomats from other countries, including France, left the chamber soon afterward. Ahmadinejad attacked the United States for a history of slavery, causing two world wars, using a nuclear bomb against “defenseless people,” and imposing and supporting military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes on Asian, African and Latin American nations.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi King Abdullah has given the kingdom’s women the right to vote for first time in nationwide local elections, due in 2015. The king said in an annual speech on Sunday before his advisory assembly that Saudi women will be able to run for office and cast ballots in the 2015 municipal elections. Abdullah says women will also be appointed to “join the all-male” Shura Council, which is selected by Abdullah. Saudi Arabia held its first-ever municipal elections in 2005.

Morocco

Thousands of Moroccans have demonstrated against the government in the North African kingdom’s biggest city, threatening to boycott the upcoming elections. The weekly demonstration by the pro-democracy February 20 movement on Sunday attracted around 10,000 people who marched through Casablanca’s sprawling lower income neighborhood of Sbata. The demonstrators chanted for greater freedoms and an end to corruption. Morocco’s Nov. 25 parliamentary elections will be closely watched as they follow the passing of a new reformist constitution.

Weather

The drought in the northwest U.S. has made hungry bears more aggressive. A fatal bear attack along the Idaho-Montana border last week was the latest in a string of high-profile attacks as black bears roam farther in search of food. The lack of rain has meant less natural food sources in the woods, causing more bears to rove through towns, pawing through garbage cans to find food. Bear populations have been growing for several decades. Add in human population growth and movement into rural areas, and human-bear encounters naturally increase.

No fatalities or injuries have been reported from a possible tornado that touched down Sunday night in Cleveland, Mississippi, authorities said Monday morning. A Sears store and a Walmart store sustained substantial damage, according to local officials. Downed trees and power lines damaged a nearby subdivision.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

September 22, 2011

Typhoon Batters Japan

A powerful typhoon slammed into Japan Wednesday, halting trains and leaving 13 people dead or missing in south-central regions before grazing a crippled nuclear plant and heaping rain on the tsunami-ravaged northeast. The storm, packing sustained winds of up to 100 mph, made landfall in the early afternoon. The typhoon brought new misery to the northeastern region already slammed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, dumping up to 17 inches of rain in some areas. Authorities warned of a high risk of mudslides. Hundreds of tsunami survivors in government shelters in the Miyagi state town of Onagawa were forced to evacuate for fear of flooding. More than 200,000 households in central Japan were without electricity late Wednesday. No damage was reported at the nuclear plant.

Obama Tells Palestinians to Drop Petition for Statehood

U.S. support for Israel remains “unshakeable,” President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, and Palestinian leaders should ditch their plan to petition the international body for statehood. Obama’s speech followed an onslaught of criticism from Republicans and Israeli advocates, who said the president had been endangering Israel with his stated support for a Palestinian state. The president’s supporters in the American Jewish community heralded his remarks as demonstrating that he remains committed to safeguarding Israel. Unlike previous high-profile comments on the Middle East, Obama avoided any mention of borders of a future Palestinian state.

President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations again endorsed the creation of an independent Palestinian state last Friday. “We are supportive and we want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. There is no question about that. And President Obama said so last year, again, here at the General Assembly,” said Susan E. Rice, the U,S, Permanent Rep to the U.N.

  • Obama is trying to walk a fine line as re-election difficulties loom large. Suddenly he’s calling on God, quoting the Bible and espousing support for Israel, all masking his real beliefs and intentions.

Federal Reserve Moves to Lower Long-Term Interest Rates

In a further bid to shore up the anemic economy, the Federal Reserve Board will buy $400 billion in long-term Treasury securities by June 30, 2012. The new program, called “The Twist,” after a similar ’60s-era program, means the Fed will sell its holdings of short-term Treasuries to finance its purchases on long-term notes and bonds. “This program should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and help make broader financial conditions more accommodative,” the Fed said in its statement Wednesday. The Fed will also buy mortgage-backed securities to keep mortgage rates low.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 284 points, or 2.5%, to 11,125, after the announcement, and was down almost 300 points shortly after the markets opened Thursday morning. “Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers,” said a letter sent to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke , which was signed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The letter is unprecedented in recent times.

New Government Fees Riddle Obama Deficit Plan

It’s not just millionaires who’d pay more under President Barack Obama’s latest plan to cut the deficit. Air travelers, federal workers, military retirees, wealthier Medicare beneficiaries and people taking out new mortgages are among those who would pay more than $130 billion in government revenues raised through new or increased fees. These fees are advertised as “savings” in administration budget documents. Airline passengers, for instance, would see their federal security fees double from $5 to $10 for a nonstop roundtrip flight and triple to $15 by 2017. Federal employees would contribute more to their pensions. Some military retirees would pay a $200 fee to have the government pay out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Wealthy Already Pay More in Taxes

President Obama says he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. The data say they already are. On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government, reports the USA Today. The 10% of households with the highest incomes pay more than70% of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that’s less than 1% of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.

  • Liberals always see the glass as half empty in order to continue and even expand their socialistic spending habits

GOP Regroups after Loss on Spending Bill

U.S. lawmakers are scrambling again to prevent the federal government from running out of money next week after Republicans suffered a rare and embarrassing defeat on a temporary spending bill. Republicans, who won control of the House of Representatives last year largely on the strength of the anti-tax tea party movement, were confident ahead of Wednesday’s vote that their bill would pass. But it was defeated 230-195 after 48 Republicans broke ranks with leadership, viewing the spending in the bill to be excessive. They were joined by most of the Democrats, who opposed $1.5 billion in cuts to a government loan program to help car companies build fuel-efficient vehicles. The bill would have funded the U.S. government through mid-November. The vote highlighted the strong partisan divide in Washington as well as the tensions between the Republican leadership and party members allied with the anti-tax, small-government tea party movement. Republicans now need to make sure the government doesn’t shut down on Sept. 30, the end of budget year. More immediate is the risk that the government’s main disaster relief program could run out of money by next Tuesday.

Economic Pessimism Deepens

Americans’ pessimism about the economy and its future is deepening, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and they are increasingly willing to hold President Obama responsible for hard times. Eight of 10 say the economy is in a recession, and nearly as many say it hasn’t improved over the past year. Even more ominous: Six in 10 predict the economy a year from now will be the same or worse than today, a downturn from the public’s views last year and the year before. That gloomy outlook, economists say, can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with consumer spending accounting for 70% of the nation’s economy. For the first time since Obama took office, a majority of Americans say he deserves the blame for the nation’s economic woes.

Recession Changed the American Way of Life

The dismal economy is having a profound effect on the American way of life, from delaying marriage and divorce to reducing car ownership and private school enrollment, according to new Census data. The median age of first marriage has crept up to 28.7 for men and 26.7 for women, up from 27.5 and 25.9 respectively in 2006. At the same time, fewer people are taking a trip to the altar. If the marriage rate had stayed the same as in 2006, there would have been about 4 million more married people in 2010. There were about 65,000 fewer divorces in 2010 than in 2008, a 7% drop. There were 200,000 fewer births to women ages 20 to 34 in 2010 than just two years before even though the number of women in this prime age for having children grew by more than 1 million. The home vacancy rate, a direct consequence of the housing collapse and record foreclosures, rose again in 2010 to 13.1% compared with 12.6% in 2009 and 11.6% in 2006.

Repeal of Gay Ban in Military Effective 9/20

After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks. Repeal of a 1993 law that allowed gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT. The Army was distributing a business-as-usual statement Tuesday saying simply, “The law is repealed,” and reminding soldiers to treat each other fairly.

Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases

The Obama administration is expanding its drone program far beyond Pakistan, building secret bases in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula in a move to target dangerous al-Qaeda affiliates. A senior U.S. military official with knowledge of the program told Fox News that the expansion has been underway for over a year. It started with a base in the Seychelles, an archipelago northeast of Madagascar, followed by the development of one in Ethiopia. The drone program has ramped up significantly in recent years under the Obama administration, being used primarily to take out top terror leaders in the vast tribal areas of Pakistan. Drone attacks have also been reported in Libya, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the two more formal war zones of  Afghanistan and Iraq..

Explosives Costing More U.S. Troops Their Limbs

The number of severe wounds that have resulted in loss of limbs to U.S. service members has been rising this year because of increased foot patrols in areas mined with buried explosives, and is on a pace to exceed any year since the Afghanistan War began. “Nobody has ever seen this degree of injury before,” says Lt. Col. John Oh, the director of trauma care at the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which provided the data and treats nearly all casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. Through July, 134 service members lost limbs in combat this year. In addition, there have been 79 cases of multiple amputations this year, more than any previous full year.

Islamic Center Opens Near Ground Zero

n Islamic cultural center near the site of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center held its first exhibit Wednesday evening, the enthusiasm at the opening belying its troubled beginnings. Sharif El-Gamal, the center’s developer, said the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start. “We made incredible mistakes,” El-Gamal told The Associated Press. The building at 51 Park Place is two blocks from the World Trade Center site. The project has drawn criticism from opponents who say they don’t want a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial, El-Gamal said.

U.S. Violent Crime Down by 6% Last Year

Violent crime dropped 6% in 2010, marking the fourth straight year-to-year decline, while property crime was down for the eighth straight year, falling 2.7%, the FBI reported Monday. Robbery fell 10%, rape dropped 5%, and murder, non-negligent manslaughter and aggravated assault fell more than 4%. Nationwide, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes reported to authorities in 2010 and an estimated 9 million property crimes. An aging population, better policing and continued high rates of imprisonment for criminals are helping to drive down crime rates, criminologists say.

Economic News

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, though the decline isn’t enough to signal improvement in the job market. Weekly applications dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 423,000. Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to significantly lower the unemployment rate.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes rose in August. But sales were driven by an increase in foreclosures, evidence the housing market remains weak. Home sales rose 7.7% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million homes. That’s below the 6 million economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market. Last month’s pace was slightly ahead of the 4.91 million sold in August, 2010.

Housing starts fell 5% in August from July as fewer apartments were started and Hurricane Irene halted some construction. The Commerce Department said builders began work on a seasonally adjusted 571,000 homes last month. That’s less than half the 1.2 million economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets. But in a hopeful sign, building permits for future construction rose 3.2% from July, and 7.8% above August 2010.

The International Monetary Fund has lowered its global growth outlook, warning that “the global economy is in a dangerous new phase.” It now expects the world’s economic output to increase 4% in both 2011 and 2012, compared with growth of 5.1% in 2010.

Greece will suspend more civil servants than originally planned and impose more pension cuts as part of new austerity measures, the government said Wednesday, as it tried to persuade international creditors to continue bailout payments needed to avoid a debt default, causing. increased angst in a country mired in a deep recession, where the number of unemployed is rising to around one in seven.

Late Monday, S&P cut Italy’s credit rating by one notch in light of what it sees as the country’s weakening economic growth prospects and higher-than-expected levels of government debt.

Middle East

In the past two years, Palestinians who live in the West Bank have seen economic growth that would be the envy of other nations. The Israeli checkpoints that aim to stop terrorists but make travel difficult have been reduced by half. And there is an explosion of construction projects ranging from industrial parks to the first planned city in modern history in a territory that fails to treat much of its sewage. Both Israelis and Palestinians say the progress is the result of cooperative agreements between functionaries on both sides who have been working quietly but effectively to improve life in the West Bank while negotiations for a permanent independent Palestinian state are on hold. And some worry that the progress will be halted by the Palestinian Authority campaign at the United Nations this week for statehood without further negotiations.

A poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion this year indicated that Arabs in East Jerusalem are split about who they want controlling the territory where they live – 30% said they would choose Palestinian citizenship; 35% Israeli citizenship; and 35% either declined to answer or said they didn’t know. East Jerusalem is home to 288,000 Arabs, and some Palestinian leaders, such as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, say it should be made the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Israel captured the eastern part of the city from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and says Jerusalem will always be its undivided capital.

  • Secularists look at recent history to try and solve the Middle East puzzle, but the roots are Biblical and extend back over two thousand years to God’s promise to establish His Kingdom in Israel with Jerusalem as His capital. To ignore or thwart His plans is to invite the disaster known to us as the Great Tribulation

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban killed the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been tasked with trying to negotiate a political end to the war. The assassin struck at Rabbani’s home, which is in Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic enclave. Masoom Stanekzai, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, was badly injured in the attack. Rabbani, a former leader of a powerful mujahideen party during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was chosen by Karzai to head the High Peace Council last October. His plan included offering amnesties and jobs to Taliban foot soldiers and asylum in third countries to its leaders. The assassination of the former Afghan president reflects the dangers of negotiations with the Taliban: any effort toward a peace deal can bring deadly action to stop it from factions within the multi-headed insurgency.

Iraq

The number of American troops in Iraq will fall to roughly 40,000 by the end of this month as the U.S. winds down the war, U.S. military officials said Tuesday. “We are on track to meet the president’s goal of withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When the U.S. officially ended its combat mission in Iraq on Sept. 1, 2010, it had about 50,000 troops. Under a 2008 agreement, all U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by the end of this year.

Iran

Two U.S. hikers jailed in Iran two years ago on espionage charges have been freed on $500,000 bail. The BBC reported that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been handed over to the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Iran. Iranian state TV reported that the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic Iran “has confirmed the release of two U.S. nationals, who had been convicted of illegal entry and espionage in Iran.” Sarah Emily Shourd, who had also been detained along with Bauer and Fattal, was released in September 2010 on a $500,000 bail. the bail of $500,000 for each of the men was posted after some last-minute bank problems were resolved, the AP reported. It was not known yet who put up the money.

Libya

Facing little resistance, revolutionary fighters captured the airport and other parts of a southern desert city that is one of the last remaining strongholds of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, even as military offensives stalled to the north. A push to capture Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the mountain enclave of Bani Walid has stalled as well-armed forces loyal to the fugitive leader fight back fiercely with rockets and other heavy weaponry.

Yemen

Yemeni government forces on Wednesday fired mortars at tens of thousands of mourners at funerals held for protesters killed in clashes and attacked an opposition base, shattering a cease-fire negotiated a day earlier to end the Arab nation’s latest bout of deadly violence. The two attacks killed 16 people. The mourners were gathered for funeral prayers for anti-government protesters killed in a deadly, three-day government crackdown in which the death toll topped 80 — a sudden spike in violence explained by protesters’ impatience with their longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who they say is dragging his feet instead of signing a deal to step down.

Turkey

Turkey’s interior minister says three people have been killed in an explosion in the capital that was probably terrorism. The explosion that also left 15 people wounded. The car that exploded in downtown Ankara was purchased a week ago but it was not yet registered.

Russia

Two car bombs killed a Russian policeman and wounded 60 other people in the capital of the violence-plagued republic of Dagestan early Thursday. The first blast was equivalent to about seven pounds of TNT. When police rushed to the scene of that explosion, a blast about 12 times more powerful went off. Of the 60 people injured in the blasts, 44 were police officers. Dagestan regularly sees attacks connected both to criminal gangs and to Islamic insurgents. The insurgency has its roots in neighboring Chechnya, where Russian troops have fought two full-scale wars against rebels since 1994.

Mexico

Suspected drug traffickers drove two trucks to a main avenue in a Mexican Gulf coast city and dumped 35 slaying victims during rush hour while gunmen stood guard and pointed their weapons at frightened motorists. The gruesome scene Tuesday in the downtown of Boca del Rio was the latest escalation in drug violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north. The Zetas drug cartel has been locked in a bloody war with other drug gangs for control of the state.

France

Praying in the streets of Paris is now against the law, after Interior Minister Claude Guéant warned that police would use force if Muslims, and those of any other religion, disobeyed the new rule to keep Paris’ public spaces secular, the Religion News Service reports. After a controversy arose in December when a French politician brought to national attention “more than a thousand” Muslims blocking streets every Friday to pray, and likened them to a Nazi occupation. “The street is for driving in, not praying,” Guéant said, adding that the ban could be extended to the rest of France. France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated total of five million.

Earthquakes

Four earthquakes struck the southeastern part of Guatemala in less than two hours Monday afternoon, causing at least one death as some walls collapsed, authorities said. At least three people were reported missing. the temblors were felt across much of the Central American country, the largest a 5.8 magnitude. All were centered in an area about 30 miles southeast of the capital, Guatemala City.

Officials say the death toll from a Himalayan earthquake that shook northeastern India, Nepal and China has reached 100, while troops trying to reach survivors are pushing through landslide debris with earthmovers. Local authorities reported extensive damage to homes and buildings across Sikkim. Helicopters are ferrying rescue workers and emergency supplies, while paramilitary troops use earthmovers to clear landslides on highways linking the region to the rest of India. Rescuers on Thursday finally reached some of the villages in India’s remote northeast that were cut off by the powerful earthquake and aftershocks.

Weather

Flood victims camped out near inundated fields and crowded hospitals on Monday as authorities and international aid groups struggled to respond to Pakistan’s second major bout of flooding in just over a year. Monsoon rains since early August have killed more than 220 people, damaged or destroyed some 665,000 homes and displaced more than 1.8 million people in the southern Sindh province.

Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say. Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest. Some farmers are trying to buy pumpkins from other regions to cover orders. States along the East Coast are also dealing with a larger than usual number of mosquitoes from residual water from the late-August storm

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

September 19, 2011

Mideast Issues Increasingly Problematic for Obama

When President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year, he suggested optimistically that maybe the next year, the body would get to celebrate an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that would lead to a new member of the United Nations. In the 12 months since Obama’s hopeful speech, the situation has only become more complicated. Peace negotiations unraveled. Israel resumed building settlements in the West Bank despite calls from Obama to halt construction. The Arab Spring protests across many Muslim nations emboldened Palestinian leaders to take their case for statehood to the U.N. Security Council. As Obama heads to New York City on Monday for the annual meeting of world leaders, he finds himself threatening to use the United States’ veto power at the Security Council to thwart a Palestinian application for statehood. At the same time, the president is attempting to repair his slumping relationship with Jewish-American voters who say Obama has been hostile to Israel.

  • Obama’s simplistic ideas and favoritism toward Muslims has further isolated and marginalized Israel, just as Satan and the New World Order folks plan in their secular march to a godless, global government

Obama Details Plan to Reduce Deficit

President Obama unveiled a plan Monday morning to reduce federal deficits by more than $3 trillion over 10 years, about half of which would come from higher taxes on upper-income Americans and corporations. Obama — who has clashed repeatedly with congressional Republicans over higher taxes — also pledged to veto any debt plan that cuts Medicare while not demanding more revenue from the wealthy. The deficit-reduction plan submitted to a special congressional committee would cut $1.5 trillion through tax increases; $1.1 trillion through winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; $580 billion from reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; and $430 billion from reduced interest costs.

Boehner Digs In: No Tax Increase

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday restated his opposition to any tax increases to solve the nation’s deficit problem, signaling a swift return to the trench warfare that characterized the debt-and-spending debate of early summer. Boehner said that the special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should achieve its mandated $1.5 trillion in savings entirely by cutting federal agency spending and shrinking entitlement programs. The Boehner speech was a direct rebuttal to the $447 billion plan proposed by President Barack Obama last week as a way to jump-start the stalled employment sector. The congressional calendar suggests that it will be October before Obama’s proposal will receive any formal consideration on Capitol Hill. But when it does, the debate is sure to be contentious.Democrats talk about having millionaires pay their “fair share” — Republicans talk about “class warfare.”

  • Obama says his $447 billion jobs plan will create 1.9 million American jobs – that’s $235,263 per job! Quite a price tag. Can we really afford it?

Obama Ramps Up God Talk

President Obama is “ramping up his ‘God talk’ for the re-election campaign,” says political scientist John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life. Green points out that, “Obama didn’t talk much about faith during his first two years in office.” On Sunday, Obama recited Psalm 46 at the 9/11 memorial event in New York and quoted Psalm 30 that same night at a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington. In his televised national jobs bill speech, he declared, “We are one nation under God, we always have been and always will be.” These kinds of God mentions won’t move the dial for conservative evangelicals but, Green says, they could be just right for ambivalent voters who “don’t want a hard-edged faith shaping national politics.”

  • Obama is first and foremost a politician who will do virtually anything to get elected. He has proven to both supporters and detractors that he says one thing and does another

GAO Report Reveals Border Rift

For most of the past five years, National Guard troops have patrolled the southwestern border, helping to catch drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. And political analysts say there is a good chance the troops, scheduled to leave Dec. 31, will remain through the 2012 election because President Barack Obama won’t want to risk the political fallout of a move that could be viewed as retreating on border security. But a new report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reveals a rift between the military and Homeland Security officials over border strategy and the Guard’s role. Military chiefs have complained about what they see as a lack of a comprehensive Homeland Security strategy for securing the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, which has made it hard for the Pentagon to figure out the best way to use Guard troops to prevent drug smugglers and illegal immigrants from entering the country.

  • There doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive strategy in any facet of the Obama Administration beyond a blatant grasp for more socialistic control

Treasury Probes $528M Loan to Bankrupt Solar Firm

The Treasury Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation of a $528 million government loan to Solyndra Inc., the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer once cited as a model of the Obama administration’s clean energy program. The Treasury investigation is the latest government inquiry into the collapse of Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy last month. Republican members of the House Energy committee raised questions about whether the loan was rushed to accommodate a Solyndra groundbreaking ceremony in September 2009 that featured Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The loan guarantees essentially make it easier for the companies to get financing, because the government guarantees repayment in the event of default.

  • So now we taxpayers are footing the $528 million because due diligence was bypassed for political expediency

Postal Service Cuts Would Delay Mail

The U.S. Postal Service, desperate to cut billions from its payroll, is proposing to shut down more than half its mail processing centers, a move that would add a day to the time it takes to deliver many first-class letters. The agency, which lost $8.5 billion last year, recently told Congress it could not make a $5.5 billion payment due Sept. 30 to a federal retiree health care trust fund. The Postal Service has proposed a number of radical changes to keep business afloat, including cutting Saturday mail delivery and closing thousands of post offices. The Postal Service does not need congressional approval to close the centers, as it does for other proposed cuts.

Air Show Crashes Bring Closer Scrutiny

Crashes and even pilot fatalities are not uncommon at air races, but the deaths of nine spectators and pilots have brought new scrutiny of Federal Aviation Administration oversight. “We will thoroughly examine FAA‘s current (safety) procedures, what comprehensive plan was in place for this particular race and whether it was followed or not,” NTSB member Mark Rosekind told reporters Sunday. Before approving air races, the FAA examines the race course and spectator area to make sure that a crash or collision does not endanger spectators, the FAA said in a statement Sunday. Air races are a cousin of air shows that feature stunt pilots and military jets but are far more dangerous.

Rising Corn Costs Yield Call to Reduce Ethanol Production

The flooding and record heat that have combined to shrink this year’s corn crop are feeding new calls from livestock producers to weaken the government’s ethanol mandates. Producers told the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday that tightening grain supplies are driving up feed costs further and threatening to push many poultry farms and others out of business. Farmers have serious, immediate concerns about the availability and cost of feed ingredients caused by the mandated use of corn-based ethanol. With corn supplies tightening, the USDA estimated usage for feed would be reduced. About 4.7 billion bushels of this year’s crop is expected to be used for livestock feed, down from 5 billion bushels for the 2010 harvest.

Economic News

Stocks fell Monday morning on fresh concerns that a bailout package for Greece wouldn’t take shape in time for the country to avoid running out of money to pay its debts. The declines come in the wake of Wall Street’s best week in months.The Greek cabinet will meet to devise new austerity measures, but the country risks not qualifying for additional loans.

Unemployment rates rose in most states in August for a third straight month, further proof that job growth is weak nationwide.The Labor Department says unemployment rates increased in 26 states. They fell in 12 and remained unchanged in 12.. Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate among states at 13.4%, up from 12.9% in July.North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate, at 3.5%, up from 3.3% in July. A $7.6 billion federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosures has distributed only 1% of its money to distressed owners 16 months after its creation, government reports show. By June 30, 17 states had used the funds to help about 7,500 homeowners. Overall, the Hardest Hit Fund is expected to help several hundred thousand homeowners. States have until 2017 to use their allotted funds.

  • Governmental inefficiency strikes again

Middle East

The Palestinian president said Friday he would ask the U.N. Security Council next week to endorse his people’s decades-long quest for statehood but emphasized that he did not seek to isolate or delegitimize Israel. Mahmoud Abbas‘ plan to seek full membership at United Nations and bypass negotiations with Israel sets the stage for a diplomatic confrontation with Israel and the United States, which has indicated it would veto the measure in the Security Council. Abbas also acknowledged that his U.N. move would not end the Israeli occupation and cautioned against outsize hopes. Abbas urged the Palestinian people to refrain from violence, saying “anything other than peaceful moves will harm us and sabotage our endeavors.”

Palestinian leaders say a future Palestinian state would be secular and open to all religions — even Jews — if they are willing to follow their laws as Palestinian citizens.” We want a civil state, which in it live all the faiths, Muslim, Christian and Jews also if they agree, (and) accept to be Palestinian citizens,” said Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority‘s minister of religious affairs.Habbash’s comments come after the ambassador for the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States, Maen Areikat, said that Jews should be excluded from a new Palestinian state.

The Obama administration is making a last-ditch effort to head off a major diplomatic embarrassment over the looming Palestinian request for recognition of its statehood at the United Nations. The U.S. is applying diplomatic pressure on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to persuade them to reopen negotiations before the United Nations can take action. Envoys from the quartet of Middle East negotiators will meet on Sunday in a last-ditch push to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and avert a showdown over Palestinian statehood at the U.N., an EU diplomat said on Saturday.

Libya

Libyan revolutionary forces repelled an attack by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists on Sunday but faced fierce resistance from a valley separating them from the loyalist stronghold of Bani Walid.Explosions resounded across the area and smoke rose on the horizon as the two sides exchanged fire with rockets and anti-aircraft missiles. The fighters withdrew Friday after facing withering sniper fire and shelling from loyalists units holding strategic positions above the valley entrance to the town. Meanwhile, more families fled the town. At least a dozen cars streamed out during the lull in the combat.

Syria

Syrian troops killed at least 17 people Friday in raids on anti-government protesters, activists said, but failed to stop thousands from pouring into streets nationwide and taking their uprising against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule into a seventh month. The Friday protests — which have become a weekly ritual after the midday Muslim prayer services — were held under the banner “We will continue until we bring down the regime.” Assad has reacted with deadly force that the U.N. estimates has left some 2,600 people dead. Syria has disputed accounts of civilian deaths and says the regime is fighting terrorists and thugs — not true reform seekers.

Yemen

Yemeni government forces opened fire with anti-aircraft guns and automatic weapons Sunday on tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in the capital demanding ouster of their longtime ruler, killing at least 26 and wounding dozens.Thousands of other protesters attacked government buildings and set fires to buildings they said were used by snipers and pro-government thugs Anti-government protesters in Yemen stormed the capital’s main university Saturday, preventing the first day of classes from beginning and tearing down pictures of the longtime leader whose ouster they seek.Protests since February have failed to push President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. He is currently in Saudi Arabia recovering from wounds sustained during an attack on the presidential compound in June. Around the capital, at least 20 other schools were kept closed to students Saturday because many of the buildings are being used as outposts by government-linked gunmen and soldiers who defected to the opposition. The Obama administration has significantly increased the frequency of drone strikes and other air attacks against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen in recent months amid rising concern about political collapse there.

Bahrain

Security forces clashed with thousands of mourners and opposition factions Friday after the funeral march for a man whose relatives say died after inhaling tear gas fired at Shiite-led protesters in the Gulf kingdom. The skirmishes erupted shortly after mourners joined in anti-government chants that included cries for Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to step aside after more than seven months of unrest on the strategic island, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Tensions could further increase before next week’s elections to fill 18 seats in the 40-member parliament that were abandoned in a walkout by Shiite lawmakers to protest the sweeping crackdowns. Top Shiite political blocs have called for a boycott of the Sept. 24 voting.

Pakistan

A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives Monday outside the home of a senior police officer tasked with cracking down on militants in Pakistan’s largest city. The blast killed at least eight people and left a crater 10 feet (3 meters) deep. A suicide bomber attacked the funeral service Thursday of a Pakistani tribesman opposed to the Taliban, killing 31 people Friday. The blast during the also wounded 75 people. The bomber struck as around 200 mourners were attending the funeral. The attacker hid in a nearby field and then ran toward the graveyard shouting “Allah Akbar!” and then detonated his bomb.

Iran

An Iranian state-owned newspaper says authorities have hanged 22 people convicted of drug trafficking. The report by IRAN daily says all the men had previous criminal convictions. While Iranian authorities do not officially publish the number of executions in the country, human rights groups say scores of people have been hanged in Iran since the start of the year. The country allows for a strict enforcement of Islamic law. Crimes that are punishable by death penalty in Iran include drug trafficking, murder, rape, armed robbery and kidnapping.

Ivory Coast

Armed men from Liberia have killed at least 15 people in attacks on villages along the border over the last two days, Ivory Coast‘s defense minister said Saturday. fighters loyal to ex-President Laurent Gbagbo crossed over the border at night and killed villagers, including women and children, and then disappeared back into the Liberia’s dense jungle just a couple of miles away. The violence began Thursday night in the country’s southwest, a region that has seen fighting even after the resolution of Ivory Coast’s bloody political crisis earlier this year.Ivory Coast was plunged into months of violence after Gbagbo refused to cede power after losing the November presidential election.

Earthquakes

Rescue workers raced Monday to clear roads blocked by mudslides as they attempted to reach remote villages cut off after a powerful earthquake killed at least 55 people and damaged more than 100,000 homes in northeastern India, Nepal and Tibet. Hundreds of paramilitary soldiers and local police cleared away concrete slabs, bricks and mud to rescue scores of people trapped under the debris of houses that collapsed after the 6.9-magnitude quake struck the mountainous Himalayan region Sunday evening. The quake was centered near India’s border with Nepal,

A magnitude-6.6 earthquake shook the east coast of Japan off Honshu early Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. No tsunami warning was issued, and no damage or casualties were immediately reported. The quake was shallow, at 22.6 miles beneath the surface, the USGS said. The USGS said the quake hit some 67 miles southeast of Hachinohe, in Honshu, Japan, and about 356 miles northeast of Tokyo. A series of aftershocks struck over the next few hours, measuring 5.26.2 and5.6, according to the USGS.The day’s seismic activity occurred north of the magnitude 9 quake in March that devastated the Sendai region.

Wildfires

Texas received some welcome rain over the past few days which allowed firefighters to get many of the wildfires under control. Cooler fall temperatures also led to few wildfires overall across the USA.

Weather

It wasn’t just the USA that sizzled to one of its warmest summers ever — the entire Northern Hemisphere also sweltered through its fifth-warmest summer since records began 132 years ago, the National Climatic Data Center reported Thursday. This was the 26th consecutive above-average Northern Hemisphere summer, according to the data center. The unusual warmth also affected the Arctic, where the region’s sea ice shriveled to its second-lowest extent on record. Some spots were cooler-than-average this summer, including the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Great Britain and parts of western Russia.

No relief is in sight this fall for scorched, bone-dry Texas, which just endured its hottest summer on record. In its forecast for the months of October, November and December released Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md., reported that a continuation of hot, dry weather is expected throughout most of the southern tier of the USA. The drought and warmth will continue to exacerbate wildfire conditions in Texas this fall, reports Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, who added that it also will affect winter and spring agriculture as well as water supplies across the state next spring.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

September 15, 2011

U.S. Unable to Account for 16,000 KG of Exported Enriched Uranium

The United States could only account for 1,160 out of 17,500 kilograms of Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) — weapon-usable nuclear material — exported to 27 countries in response to a 1992 congressional mandate, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week. In addition, the GAO pointed out that in the 55 visits from 1994 through 2010, U.S. teams found that countries who received nuclear components met international security guidelines only about 50 percent of the time. The U.S agencies responsible for monitoring the proliferation and negotiating the export of nuclear materials, the Department of Energy, Department of State and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, do not have a systematic process for evaluating the physical security of U.S. nuclear material overseas.

  • While we worry about Iran’s burgeoning capability to produce their own weapons-grade enriched uranium, we have been providing ample opportunity for rogue countries and terrorists to acquire some of our own

Americans Redefining God

Newly released research reveals America’s drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences. The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion research expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for “310 million people with 310 million religions.” “We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education,” he says. Now it’s our religion.” Barna says that in every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing. When he measures people by their belief in seven essential Christian doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified.

  • The great “falling away” of the end-times is reaching a crescendo (2Thess. 2:3)

Abuse Victims Say Criminal Charges Against Pope Not a Stunt

A campaign to hold the pope responsible for “crimes against humanity” is not a publicity stunt, sex abuse victims say, even as experts doubt it will have much success at the International Criminal Court. In a dramatic and unprecedented move, abuse victims filed a complaint that seeks to hold Pope Benedict XVI and others responsible for the “systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.” Lawyers representing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) filed the 84-page complaint at the ICC in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Tuesday. The filing calls for the investigation and prosecution of the pope and three other top Vatican officials.

  • It is not the Pope but rather Catholicism that is at fault because of its unbiblical foundations of chastity as well as worshiping Mary, idols and saints. It is Catholicism that has been guilty of Christianity’s worst sins, including pedophilia, that has turned off secular society from accepting Christ.

HHS Website Advocates Parents to Sexualize Children

The Department of Health and Human Services website offers a new Q&A section on sex. On that site, HHS links directly to a page that states, “Children are human beings and therefore sexual beings… It’s hard for parents to acknowledge this, just as it’s hard for kids to think of their parents as sexually active. But even infants have [sexual] curiosity about their own bodies, which is healthy and normal.”The statements on the page closely imitate a “Parenting” page by Planned Parenthood, where parents are told to “give babies a sense of themselves, their sexuality, and their bodies from birth.” Both pages instruct parents to encourage children to masturbate even in infancy.

  • This is a grotesque, blatant, government-sponsored solicitation for pedophilia and child molestation

U.S. Poverty Rises to 15.1%, Highest Since 1983

The U.S. poverty rate has risen to 15.1%, the highest since 1983, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. About 46.2 million people, or nearly 1 in 6, were in poverty, compared to 43.6 million, or 14.3%, in 2009. Median household money income for the nation was $49,400 in 2010, a decline of 2.3% from 2009, in real terms. The number of people without health insurance increased to 49.9 million in 2010 from 49.0 million in 2009. The number of people over 16 who did not work at least one week increased from 83.3 million in 2009 to 86.7 million last year.

Without help from the federal government, millions more people would have sunk below the poverty line in 2010. Unemployment insurance helped keep 3.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, according to new statistics released Tuesday. Without this vital lifeline, which lasts up to 99 weeks, these jobless citizens would have joined the 46.2 million people now considered in poverty.

Obama Pushes Tax Hikes to Fund Jobs

President Barack Obama announced plans Monday to fund his $447 billion job bill largely by raising taxes on wealthier families, provoking immediate opposition from congressional Republicans. The sequence of events suggests that despite the recent pledges of greater bipartisanship, many of the fiscal and economic stumbling blocks that have left Washington gridlocked in recent months remain firmly in place. The White House said Congress should pay for the job plan by imposing new limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000. Eliminating those deductions would bring in an additional $400 billion in revenue, aides said. The administration also recommended ending subsidies for oil companies and changing the depreciation rules for corporate jets. Altogether, White House aides said, the tax package would raise $467 billion, more than enough to pay for a new job bill.

Officials say 9/11 Threat Remains Unresolved

Top federal security officials said Tuesday that the terrorist threat to strike the U.S., first disclosed on the eve of 9/11’s 10th anniversary, remains unresolved. Officials told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that heightened security levels would be maintained in Washington and New York— the cities targeted in the vehicle-bomb plot. Last week, U.S. authorities said they were investigating a specific and credible lead from a reliable source in Pakistan outlining a scenario in which three individuals were sent to the U.S. to carry out vehicle-bomb attacks in Washington or New York around the time of 9/11’s anniversary.

Republican Wins Weiner’s Old House Seat in Upset

It sounded improbable on the surface that a New York City congressional district where Democrats have a 3-1 registration edge and have held office for nearly a century could even come close to electing a Republican to the U.S. House. But voter frustration over the sour economy and President Obama’s policies made the improbable a reality, as a Republican political novice, Bob Turner, scored an upset victory in a special election Tuesday over David Weprin, a Democratic assemblyman from a prominent local political family. The surprising results in the Brooklyn and Queens-area district portend a perilous national environment for Obama as he prepares to seek re-election next year.

366 Million People Now Have Diabetes

An estimated 366 million people worldwide now suffer from diabetes and the global epidemic is getting worse, health officials said Tuesday. The International Diabetes Federation described the number of cases as “staggering,” with one person dying from diabetes every seven seconds. It estimated that diabetes causes 4.6 million deaths every year and that health systems spend $465 billion annually fighting the disease. The disease can be managed with diet, exercise and medication but chronically high blood sugar levels causes nerve damage, which can result in kidney disease, blindness and amputation. Experts said much of the rise in diabetes cases was due to aging populations — since diabetes typically hits in middle age — and population growth, but that obesity rates had also fueled the disease’s spread.

SAT Reading Scores Fall to Lowest Level on Record

Scores on the critical reading portion of the SAT college entrance exam haven fallen three points to their lowest level on record, and combined reading and math scores are the lowest since 1995. The College Board released results Wednesday for the 1.65 million members of the high school class of 2011 who took the test. Average math scores fell one point to 514 on the 800-point test, while scores on the writing section dropped two points to 489.

  • As texts, tweets and instant messaging dominate youth culture, the ability to focus and read for content will continue to decline

California to Release Thousands of Mothers Early

To comply with a Supreme Court order to ease overcrowding, California prisons will soon begin releasing thousands of mothers to finish their sentences at home under state supervision, the Los Angeles Times reports. Up to 4,000 women convicted of “non-serious,” “non-sexual” crimes with two years or less to serve may be eligible for early release beginning as early as next week. The parolees will have to wear ankle bracelets and report to parole officers. Prisons Secretary Matthew Cate called the early-release program, which the state Legislature approved, “a step in breaking the intergenerational cycle of incarceration.” He said “family involvement is one of the biggest indicators of an inmate’s rehabilitation.”

Prison Work Crews Cut in Cost-Savings Move

Prison inmate labor programs, long considered a lower-cost option for needed public work projects such as clearing debris and cutting weeds on highways, are increasingly facing elimination or reduction because of budget issues. Michigan and North Carolina are the latest to completely eliminate their programs, and Florida reduced its program by nearly 40% this year. It cost Michigan taxpayers $10 million last year to operate the crews. Most of that cost was for transportation and supervision of the inmates. Michigan lawmakers stopped funding the Michigan Department of Corrections’ 15 crews this year, even as more requests for inmate labor poured in from communities. Starting Oct. 1, the entities requesting the prison work crews will have to pay for the service.

Deficit Super-Committee Spars Over Debt Origin

Democrats and Republicans on the congressional “supercommittee” each tried Tuesday to write competing histories of how the country came to be $15 trillion in debt. To Democrats, it was the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Bush-era tax cuts and the GOP prescription-drug plan for Medicare patients. To Republicans, it was a poor economy and growing federal spending. Douglas Elmendorf, Congress’ chief budget number cruncher, urged them to stop looking at the past. “Really, I think the fundamental question for you is not how we got here, but what direction you think the country ought to go?” the director of the Congressional Budget Office told the 12-member deficit panel at its second meeting.

  • The so-called Super-Congress of 12 legislators will prove to be no better than Congress as a whole in moving away from partisan politics to reach a sound solution to America’s debt woes. It’s probably too late anyway to forestall the coming meltdown.

Central Banks Announce Plans to Provide Cash to Banks

The European Central Bank has announced plans to provide banks with dollars in three medium-term loan operations through the end of this year. The ECB said Thursday that it had decided to launch the three-month loans in coordination with the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank. Stocks in Europe and the U.S. rallied Thursday morning on the news. Banking stocks have been hurt recently on fears that they were having trouble getting short-term loans from each other. These central bank loans would relieve that pressure.

Economic News

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits jumped last week to the highest level in three months. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 428,000. Applications need to fall below 375,000 to indicate that hiring is increasing enough to lower the unemployment rate. The economy added zero net jobs in August, worst showing since September 2010.

In a second report Thursday, the Labor Department said its consumer price index rose 0.4% in August, more than expected, following a 0.5% jump in July. The core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2% in August. For the 12 months ended in August, the core index surged 2%, biggest year-over-year increase in nearly three years.

Consumers spent less on autos, clothing and furniture, leaving retail sales unchanged in August. The lack of growth in retail sales may increase recession fears.

Businesses added to their stockpiles in July for a 19th straight month and their sales increased the most since March. The Commerce Department said business inventories rose 0.4% in July following a similar gain in June. Business sales increased 0.7% in July.

Middle East

Palestinian leaders are calling for massive uprisings and protests next week in support of the UN vote on Palestinian statehood. The call is for people to take to the streets in “every city” at noon to demand recognition by the world body. “The president [Abbas] is going to the UN carrying with him the trusteeship of the refugees, Jerusalem, martyrs, prisoners, and the aspirations of our people to achieve freedom and independence,” a Fatah spokesman said. The call for a “day of national struggle” sparked fears of violence. Past demonstrations have included attacks on Israeli civilians and security personnel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that any future Palestinian state it seeks with help from the United Nations and the United States should be free of Jews..Such a state would be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was judenrein, or cleansed of Jews, said Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. National Security Council official. Israel has 1.3 million Muslims who are Israeli citizens. Jews have lived in “Judea and Samaria,” the biblical name for the West Bank, for thousands of years.

Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings in the heart of the capital Tuesday while suicide bombers struck police buildings in an attack blitz that displayed the ability of militants to bring their fight to the doorsteps of Western power in Afghanistan. The 20-hour insurgent assault on the heavily guarded Afghan capital left 27 dead — including police, civilians and attackers — when fighting finally ended on Wednesday morning. The coordinated assaults — coming two days after the United States marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks — carried an unsettling message to Western leaders and their Afghan allies about the resilience and reach of the Taliban network. It was the third major attack in Kabul since late June, casting fresh doubts on the ability of Afghans to secure their own country as the U.S. and other foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Pakistan

Taliban gunmen attacked a school van in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing four children and the driver in an assault they said was carried out to punish local tribesman for resisting the insurgent movement. At least 14 other children and two female teachers were wounded in the attack. Two local tribal leaders in Matani have raised local militias to stop militant infiltration into Peshawar from the nearby border regions with Afghanistan. They get government financial and logistical help, and have killed or captured many militants over the last 18 months.

Libya

Sharp splits are already emerging in the ranks of Libya’s new rulers between Islamic conservatives and more secular figures competing for power even as the leadership begins to settle in Tripoli and start creating a post-Moammar Gadhafi government. The rising tensions, which have become increasingly public, could jeopardize efforts to rebuild the country and form a cohesive state after six months of civil war. Each side accuses the other of trying to monopolize a new government. On one side stand more secular technocrats, some of whom have long lived abroad or once had ties with Gadhafi’s regime. On the other are conservatives, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who opposed Gadhafi for years on the ground in Libya and suffered during his rule.

Yemen

Fierce clashes between Yemeni government forces and al-Qaida linked militants in southern Yemen overnight killed 14, including 12 militants, officials said Wednesday. Islamic militants linked with al-Qaida have taken advantage of the turmoil gripping Yemen over anti-government protests, seizing control of a number of towns and the provincial capital of the southern province of Abyan. The militants have controlled the towns for months, terrorizing the locals. In recent weeks, the military has gone on the offensive, but fierce fighting has not shaken the militants hold on the area and has left thousands of civilians displaced.

China

China’s rivers, coastal waters and countryside are increasingly fouled by industrial pollution that authorities and businesses are not doing enough to prevent, Chinese environmental activists say. Its levels of pollution far outpace the West and is now a source of instability among ordinary Chinese, whose protests have forced the bureaucracy to shut down some operations. China still relies heavily on the dirtiest form of coal for energy and mines more than any other nation. Its factories, which produce many goods for Western companies, are not being fully policed for pollution. Less than 20% of China’s hazardous waste undergoes proper treatment each year, says Zhang Lijun, a vice minister for the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Beijing.

This year, multiple incidents of illegal transfer and dumping of hazardous waste have “seriously threatened environmental safety and damaged the health of the masses,” Liiun says, conceding slack supervision and law enforcement by authorities. More than half of China’s cities are affected by acid rain, and one-sixth of its river water is too polluted even for irrigation, said the ministry’s annual state of the environment report published in June.

Haiti

Protesters calling for the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers from Haiti clashed with police Wednesday outside the earthquake-damaged Haitian National Palace. The protesters hurled rocks at Haitian police in riot gear, and the officers responded by firing volleys of tear gas canisters toward the crowd. Protesters said they were angry over the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay in the southwestern town of Port-Salut. They also expressed anger over a cholera outbreak likely introduced by a battalion from Nepal. The outbreak has killed more than 6,200 people since it surfaced last October, The U.N. has 12,000 U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti but no peacekeepers were in sight as the protesters clashed with the Haitian police.

Wildfires

Wildfires have destroyed over 1,500 homes in Texas in less than a week — far surpassing the statewide record of 436 in 2009. Across Texas, wildfires this year have burned a record 3.7 million acres — an area about the size of Connecticut. Firefighters have been battling wildfires in Texas for 303 consecutive days. Five new wildfires were reported Wednesday.

Calmer winds Wednesday slowed the growth of a huge wildfire that has engulfed woodland in northeastern Minnesota and blanketed cities hundreds of miles away with a smoky haze. The blaze has swallowed at least 160 square miles at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, making it one of the largest on record in the state. The flames spread quickly because of high winds and dry conditions. No buildings have burned and no injuries have been reported, even after the fire raced 16 miles in a single day from Monday to Tuesday. Smoke from the fire drifted as far as Chicago and Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Eight large wildfires (over 100 acres) are burning in Oregon, having consumed over 142,000 acres (about 220 sq. miles) while the Monastery wildfire in Washington has destroyed 106 structures. Meanwhile, five large wildfires in California have burned over 70,000 acres in the past week.

Weather

As parts of the northeastern United States recover from historic flooding, Texas is suffering the worst one-year drought in its history. The state has received just 7.33 inches of rain this year through August, the lowest amount in four decades. Temperatures, meanwhile, have hit record highs: Texas’ June-through-August average of 86.8 degrees was the hottest summer for any state in U.S. history. The dearth of rain has wilted fields and led to destructive wildfires across the state. Most affected by the drought have been cattle and sheep ranchers, whose grazing fields have been scorched into arid brown parchment and who have sent their herds to slaughter in record numbers. The drought so far has cost the state a record $5.2 billion in livestock and crop losses. The drought stretches across swaths of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas but is most acute in Texas.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has joined a long list of Texas cities with a record number of 100-degree days in 2011,.It broke a record from the 1980 summer that was considered the standard-bearer for Texas heat waves. Dallas-Fort Worth became the 15th metropolitan area among 19 around Texas to break a record for triple-digit days this year.

Heavy rains and flooding in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province have killed 226 people over the past month, including 34 children and 59 women. In all, 5.3 million people have been affected, and 1.19 million homes have been damaged. The flooding has inundated more than 4.5 million acres and damaged an estimated 80% of crops.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

 

September 12, 2011

Millions Remember 9/11 Through a Day of Service

An estimated 33 million people observed 9/11 over the weekend by engaging in charitable activities from simple good deeds to organized volunteer work, according to a survey conducted last week for MyGoodDeed Inc. (911day.org), one of the official organizers of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance. Organizers believe Sunday may have been the single largest day of charitable service in U.S. history. “It’s historic,” says David Paine, co-founder of MyGoodDeed. “It far exceeded our expectations for this day. We anticipated mobilizing 10 million people.”

Evangelicals Left Out of 9/11 Commemorations

No conservative evangelical voices were invited to speak at the Washington National Cathedral’s Sunday morning vigil. Mollie Hemingway at the critique site Get Religion wondered, why Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims but no Southern Baptists, or pastors from the Lutheran Missouri Synod or the more traditionalist wing of Presbyterians were on the Cathedral program. Other commentators thought the Episcopal Cathedral’s clergy stood for the nation’s scores of Christian denomination, just as the rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue, stood for a dozen branches of Jewish tradition and so on.

  • The New World Order folks are happy to have mainstream Christian denominations represent all facets of Christianity because they are the least threatening to secular society.

Study Shows Abortion Tied to Depression, Suicide

Women who have undergone an abortion have an 81 percent higher risk for mental health problems and are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse alcohol and suffer depression, Baptist Press reports. The researchers examined 22 studies from 1995-2009 involving 877,000 women, including 163,000 who had experienced an abortion. The report said there actually are “hundreds of studies” showing a link between abortion and serious mental health risks, and that three recent studies that reached a very different conclusion had major flaws. “There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counseled prior to an abortion decision,” the report’s author Priscilla Coleman writes, chiding the research community for not conducting unbiased research. The fact that the study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, one of the world’s leading psychiatric journals, is a significant endorsement of the report’s credibility..

Arizona Parks Rescued by Communities, Non-Profits

In the depths of the recession, state budget cuts made it seem almost certain that the gates to many Arizona parks would remain padlocked. But local communities and non-profit organizations have banded together to keep 14 of the state’s most financially vulnerable parks open by providing more than $820,000 to the cash-strapped Arizona State Parks agency. All but one of the state’s other 13 parks remain open, albeit seasonally in some cases, because they take in enough revenue to stay in the black and fund their own operations. Today, less than two years after major closures seemed certain, 26 of Arizona’s 27 parks are open, although many have abbreviated schedules.

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump Scrapped

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today cleared the way for the Obama administration to push ahead with its plan to scrap the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. But the final decision may rest with Congress and the courts. The NRC directed the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to end its work on the controversial project by Sept. 30 because of “budgetary limitations.” In Nevada, which has fought the project since the 1980s, state officials said today’s decision is neither a clear-cut victory nor a defeat. It’s still status quo until Congress weighs in on the issue.

More Ground Turkey Recalled Because of Salmonella

Cargill Inc. announced a second recall of ground turkey products Sunday after a test showed salmonella in a sample from the same Arkansas plant tied to a recall issued last month. The second recall is much smaller than the one the company issued Aug. 3 for 36 million pounds of ground turkey. That recall followed a salmonella outbreak that federal health officials said had sickened 107 people in 31 states, killing one person. The second recall covers about 185,000 pounds of ground turkey products, including trays of ground meat, patties and chubs, the USDA said. The products were distributed nationwide under the Kroger, Fresh HEB and Cargill’s Honeysuckle White brands.

One in Seven Drivers Has No Insurance

Despite laws in nearly every state requiring auto insurance, one in seven drivers in the USA goes uncovered. That’s according to an industry group that estimates 13.8% of motorists are uninsured, a number that has climbed during the economic downturn as many financially-pressed Americans allowed their insurance to lapse. Insured drivers pay a hefty price for fellow motorists who have no policies — $10.8 billion in 2007, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Most of the people that do have insurance have coverage that includes uninsured motorist coverage … to protect them (if) they’re injured in an accident caused by another motorist who does not have insurance. Automobile insurance is compulsory in every state except New Hampshire.

Many Older Adults Scramble to Pay for Food

An estimated 15.6 million older adults who face the threat of hunger as a result of a lingering weak economy in America, according to a recently released AARP report “Food Insecurity Among Older Adults.” The study, conducted by the University of Kentucky and University of Illinois, showed that between 2007 and 2009 there was a 63% increase in food insecurity among 40- to 49-year-olds and a 37% increase for those between 50 and 59. Besides the lack of jobs, older adults also lack information about benefits that could assist them, says Casey Woodling, Community Food Advocates food stamp outreach coordinator. “There’s the stigma with receiving food stamps, but there’s also the barriers of knowing how the program works, mobility and technology,” Woodling says. “I get a lot of calls from people in that age group, and they’re struggling to get food on the table and paying for health care.”

Health Insurance Denial Rates Routinely Exceed 20%

According to data provided by insurers to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, health insurance denial rates routinely exceed 20% and often are much higher. For example, Humana rejects 26% to 39% of applications in Kentucky, while UnitedHealthcare denies 38% to 43%.Denial rates can vary widely within individual states. In Georgia, for example, Aetna’s denial rate is 15% compared with 47% for Kaiser Permanente and 67% for John Alden Life Insurance. Also, the same insurer can have vastly different denial rates in different states. For example, Kaiser Permanente denied 32% of applications in Maryland but 17% in Colorado. Two companies consistently had the highest denial rates — John Alden Life Insurance and Time Insurance, both owned by Milwaukee-based Assurant Health. In nearly every market surveyed, their denial rates were at least twice the rate of competing insurers.

AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, says the federal data on coverage denials are misleading because they do not include people rejected for one plan but offered another. The Deartment of Health and Human Services acknowledged AHIP’s arguments but said it was important for the data to reflect when people can’t get the specific policies they apply for.

Employers Say Jobs Plan Won’t Lead to Hiring Spur

The dismal state of the economy is the main reason many companies are reluctant to hire workers, and few executives are saying that President Obama’s jobs plan — while welcome — will change their minds any time soon, reports the New York Times. That sentiment was echoed across numerous industries by executives in companies big and small on Friday, underscoring the challenge for the Obama administration as it tries to encourage hiring and perk up the moribund economy. Many employers dismissed the notion that any particular tax break or incentive would be persuasive. Instead, companies are focused on jittery consumer confidence, an unstable stock market, perceived obstacles to business expansion like government regulation and, above all, swings in demand for their products.

Economic News

Don’t expect a big boost in hiring from the retail sector during the holiday season, according to the results of a survey released last week. Although the vast majority of retailers — some 68% — plan on keeping holiday hiring at roughly the same level as last year, a quarter expect to trim hiring plans for seasonal workers. That’s a greater number than last year, when 17% of the retailers the Hay Group surveyed said they would scale back hiring.

Wholesale businesses boosted their stockpiles for a 19th consecutive month in July, but their sales were flat. Weak sales could shake confidence and cause businesses to cut back on their restocking.

Airlines have increased fares for the 10th time this year, zeroing in on pricey, last-minute tickets bought most often by corporate travelers. US Airways sparked the increase last week by raising the price on those same-day tickets by $6 to $10 round trip. Other major carriers, such as American and Delta, soon matched. Airlines are raising prices to cope with the escalating cost of fuel and to try to post a modest profit this year. But bad weather is making it tough on them.

U.S. stocks plunged Friday, erasing the week’s gains, amid rising fears about fallout from Europe’s debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average closed 303.68 points, or 2.7%, to close at 10,992.13. The Dow at several points approached a 400-point decline in afternoon trading. Traders fear that one of Europe’s heavily indebted economies could collapse. Stocks fell broadly as trading opened in New York Monday, following declines in most world stock markets. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock index hit a 28-month low.

American companies are increasingly finding life in China outside Shanghai and Beijing. Companies including Starbucks and Yum Brands — which operates KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants — are aggressively expanding in smaller but rapidly growing cities such as Yiyang and Zhengzhou, where a cup of coffee or a chicken meal costs a healthy chunk of a day’s wage for the average Chinese consumer. They’re doing so as China’s largest cities become saturated with American names and foreign competitors.

Middle East

In a new advertising campaign encouraging the world to vote for Palestinian statehood, the Palestinian Authority is using President Obama’s UN speech last year as the centerpiece. The President said then, “When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that can lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent, sovereign state of Palestine living in peace with Israel.” The ad then features PA President Mahmoud Abbas saying, “If he said it, he must have meant it.” The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes that the division of Jerusalem, the Holy City, ”would be a tragedy of unspeakable scope. Not only would it place Israel in terrible military and economic peril, but it would bring down the judgment of God on every nation that supports it.”

A senior Israeli official says the attack on his country’s embassy in Egypt is a “grave violation” of diplomatic norms and a “blow to peaceful relations” between the two countries. The official says all the embassy staff except the deputy ambassador left Egypt by Saturday morning. Their departure followed a night of violence during which a mob broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo after tearing down a cement barrier around the building. The Israeli official says six Israelis were trapped inside the embassy but that Egyptian commandos later stormed the building and evacuated them. At least three people died and more than 1,000 were hurt during street clashes with police and army troops after the mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

The rampage further worsened already deteriorating ties between Israel and post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt. In Israelis’ eyes, the scene of cars burning outside the embassy and the tale of six Israeli guards trapped inside for hours in a steel-doored safe room underscored their view that anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt was running free after decades of being contained by Mubarak’s regime. The 13-hour rampage deepened Israel’s fears that it is growing increasingly isolated amid the Arab world’s uprisings.

  • War against Israel is coming and will mark the end of “the beginning of sorrows” and the rise of the anti-Christ who will bring “peace” to the world when a treaty is signed “with many” (Daniel 9:27) which signals the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation

Europe

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called for the creation of a “United States of Europe. “The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy,” Schroeder said. He added: “We will have to give up national sovereignty.” “From the European Commission, we should make a government which would be supervised by the European Parliament. And that means the United States of Europe.” Schroeder welcomed an initiative launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to move toward a fiscal union in 2012. Their proposal, which would mean giving up sovereignty over budgetary policies with the aim to shore up the 17-nation currency union, has received a lukewarm response from other euro zone countries.

  • The move toward global government is relentless and will be successful according to Revelation 13:3,8

Libya

Fierce resistance by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists entrenched in two strongholds has stalled the rebels’ final push for complete control over Libya. Three weeks after the fall of Tripoli appeared to herald the end of Libya’s brutal civil war, the protracted battle over the loyalist bastions of Bani Walid and Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown, has dashed hopes of a speedy “declaration of liberation” that would start the clock ticking on a transition to democracy. Libya’s new rulers say that capturing the towns, along with the remote southern stronghold of Sabha, is just a matter of time. However, the former rebels may have underestimated the continued support for Gadhafi in Bani Walid and the other strongholds, which had been favored by the old regime with jobs, investments and other perks.

Egypt

Thousands of Egyptians demonstrated Friday against the pace of reform under the country’s military rulers. The military took over after President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February following a popular revolution. In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focus of the anti-Mubarak rallies, one target was the head of the military council, Hussein Tantawi. He served as Mubarak’s defense minister and are also protesting against the trials of civilians in military courts. It was the first major rally in the square in a month.

Syria

Thousands of Syrian protesters across the country appealed Friday for international protection from a bloody government crackdown, marking a fundamental shift in an uprising that has defied the regime’s bullets, tanks and snipers for six months. A the crackdown continues, and the death toll tops 2,200 people, protesters are increasingly calling for some sort of outside help — although not necessarily military action like the NATO intervention that helped topple the government of Libya. Instead, they are largely calling for observation missions and human rights monitors who could help deter attacks on civilians.

Yemen

Two Yemeni soldiers were killed and four wounded Sunday by a roadside bomb blast in southern Yemen as government forces battled for control of a key city held by al-Qaida-linked militants for nearly four months. Yemeni government forces, backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, are confronting fighters, some with links to Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. The drive by Yemeni security forces into Zinjibar marks their first major advance on the city since May. The militant takeover of Zinjibar has forced more than 100,000 residents to flee for safety, many seeking refuge in schools and apartments in the neighboring province of Aden.

Afghanistan

Nearly 80 American soldiers were wounded and five Afghans civilians were killed in a Taliban truck bombing targeting an American base in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday, a stark reminder that the war in Afghanistan still rages 10 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States. No U.S. soldiers were killed in Saturday night’s bombing, which took place hours after the Taliban vowed to keep fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan until all American troops leave the country. The insurgent movement also stressed that it had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. The attack was carried out by a Taliban suicide bomber who detonated a large bomb inside a truck carrying firewood.

Iran

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency on Monday announced plans to publish new information backing up his belief that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead — developments that leave his organization “increasingly concerned.” The comments by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano were significant because it was the first time he revealed plans to release some of the most recent knowledge available to the IAEA leading to such worries. In its report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said “many member states” are providing evidence for that assessment, describing the information it is receiving as credible, “extensive and comprehensive.”

Revolution in Iran appears to be a matter of time, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta predicted on Tuesday, saying the Iranian reform movement was learning from revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. Panetta, a former CIA director who took over the Pentagon’s top job in July, was asked on the Charlie Rose television show whether the Arab Spring might spread to non-Arab Iran. Panetta responded: ‘Absolutely.’ ‘I think we saw in evidence of that in the last election in Iran that there was a movement within Iran that raised those very same concerns that we’re seeing elsewhere,’ Panetta said. ‘And I think in many ways, it’s a matter of time before that kind of change and reform and revolution occurs in Iran as well.’ Iranian security forces crushed mass protests in the wake of Iran’s disputed June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Earthquakes

A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck Friday off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. The quake’s epicenter was just off the west coast of Vancouver Island and rattled buildings across Vancouver Island and the southwest portion of British Columbia. There has been no immediate reports of damage in the region.

Wildfires

The number of homes destroyed by a Texas wildfire has risen to 1,554 and is expected to further increase as officials enter more areas where the blaze has been extinguished, officials said Sunday. Seventeen people remain unaccounted for. Blustering wind whipped up by Tropical Storm Lee swept across parched, drought-stricken Texas, helping to spark more than 190 wildfires statewide. The worst of the fires has consumed more than 34,000 acres in this area 30 miles southeast of Austin. Tensions and frustrations boiled when residents demanded to be allowed to return to their neighborhoods to see what remains of their homes and attempt to salvage a few belongings. Many people were given only minutes to evacuate as the raging blaze surrounded homes and neighborhoods. Some had time to only gather a few important belongings. Others left with only the clothes on their back.

Meanwhile, A sprawling network of central California wildfires tore through thousands of rural acres and spurred some to leave their homes in mountain communities. The lightning-sparked fires had consumed more than 30,000 acres, or over 40 square miles, across Kern County by Sunday night. Crews were focusing on one major fire plus two fire complexes, made up of about eight smaller blazes. The Milano Fire in a rural area near Walker Basin consumed 10,000 acres and moved into the Sequoia National Forest with zero containment thus far. A fire in the Keene Complex southeast of Bakersfield was threatening numerous structures. Residents in the communities of Keene, Hart Flat, Bear Valley, Golden Hills and Stallion Springs were being told that evacuations were recommended. Another 14 wildfires are burning in Washington and Oregon, having destroyed 107 structures and consumed over 145,000 acres (about 230 sq. miles). The northwest has seen little precipitation over the past month.

Weather

Cleanup began over the weekend across northeastern Pennsylvania and parts of New York state where flooding in some areas exceeded records set in 1972 by Hurricane Agnes. Mayor Keith Moss says Duryea, Pa., (pop. 4,636) looked “like a garbage dump” Sunday as he and municipal engineers checked foundations for damage. As many as 350 houses have water in their basements, he says. Power was restored to many areas by Sunday, and intact roads and bridges were reopened. The Susquehanna crested at almost 42.7 feet in Wilkes-Barre, higher than the record set during Hurricane Agnes, and at 25.7 feet in Binghamton, N.Y. At least seven deaths have been blamed on Lee and its aftermath in Pennsylvania. The Red Cross is distributing cleanup kits and, with other disaster relief groups, providing food and supplies.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

 

September 9, 2011

Wildfires

Firefighters are planning their biggest aerial assault yet Friday of a massive wildfire that has raged for days across Central Texas, destroying nearly 1,400 homes and tens of thousands of acres of drought-parched land. Crews have been making steady progress against the blaze burning in and around Bastrop, closing in around its biggest flames. Concern lingers, however, about wind sparking flare-ups or fanning flames outside the area. The fire has been the most catastrophic of nearly 180 wildfires that the forest service says erupted across Texas this week. The outbreak has left nearly 1,700 homes statewide in charred ruins, killed four people and forced thousands of people to evacuate. The fires have burned over 3.6 million acres (about 5,625 sq. mi.). Record heat and drought have led to fires spanning the entire Lone Star State. Seventeen major cities recorded their hottest summer this year. More than 81% of the state is in exceptional drought conditions, the worst level on record.

Weather

Stretches of the swollen Susquehanna River in New York and Pennsylvania were receding Friday morning after days of rainfall from what had been Tropical Storm Lee flooded communities around the Northeast, sweeping homes off their foundations and forcing nearly 130,000 people to seek higher ground. At least 11 deaths have been blamed on Lee and its remnants. Lee’s impact was felt widely in already waterlogged Pennsylvania, as authorities closed countless roadways, including some heavily traveled interstates, and evacuation shelters were opened to serve the many displaced people.

Similar scenarios played out in Maryland and New York, but the fading storm’s wrath was also felt from Connecticut to Virginia. Evacuees were told to expect to stay at least until Sunday or Monday, and it will be some time before officials get a handle on the damage that included a partial bridge collapse in northern Pennsylvania, vehicles and other property swept away, and failed sewage treatment plants. The flooding was fed by drenching rains from Tropical Storm Lee that continued for days, and followed a little more than a week the dousing that Hurricane Irene gave the East Coast.

The USA just endured its hottest summer in 75 years and the second-hottest summer on record. The average U.S. temperature during the summer of 2011 was 74.5 degrees, which was 2.4 degrees above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Only the Dust Bowl year of 1936, at 74.6 degrees, was warmer. Four states — Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana — had their warmest summer ever recorded. Texas also suffered through its driest summer on record. The state is in the midst of its worst drought since the 1950s. More than 81% of the state is listed as experiencing extreme drought, the worst category, according to Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

Sewage-Tainted Floodwaters Threaten Public Health

Nasty floodwaters from the remnants of Lee and Irene — tainted with sewage and other toxins — threaten public health in parts of the Northeast by direct exposure or the contamination of private water wells, officials said Thursday. “We face a public health emergency because sewage treatment plants are underwater and no longer working,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said. “Flood water is toxic and polluted. If you don’t have to be in it, keep out.” In Waterbury, the municipal wastewater plant was overwhelmed by flooding from Irene and raw sewage flowed into the Winooski River. A dozen Vermont towns flooded by Irene were still on boil-water orders 12 days later, though officials reported no waterborne illness. Similar precautions have been taken throughout other storm-damaged states. Vermont’s state health department, which regulates private water wells, urged residents to check their wells for bacteria with free testing kits it is distributing.

  • Wildfires, wild weather, pestilence and earthquakes are all on the increase as the “beginning of sorrows” is well underway (Matthew 24:8). Famine (e.g. Somalia) is also a growing global problem.

Obama Unveils Jobs Proposal

President Obama urged Congress Thursday night to pass a surprisingly big, $447 billion jobs package that’s intended to spur business hiring and consumer spending in an economy that has sputtered almost to a halt. The package, more than half the size of Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan passed in February 2009, would slash payroll taxes by 50% next year for employees and small businesses, extend unemployment benefits, and create or save jobs for teachers, police and firefighters, and construction workers. The president didn’t say how he would pay for his proposals but promised to do so a week from Monday, when he submits a deficit-reduction plan to a congressional committee charged with cutting red ink by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

The jobs plan includes these main elements: Cutting the 6.2% payroll tax paid by both employees and employers to 3.1% next year. This year, only employees got a 2-percentage-point cut. That would cost $240 billion, more than half of the total package; Spending $140 billion to save the jobs of state and local teachers and first responders, repair deteriorating schools and rebuild roads, railways and airports; Extending jobless benefits to the unemployed, with special emphasis on those out of work at least six months and those in low-income neighborhoods. While most of these initiatives have been tried before with limited success, weaving them together into such a large package marked a bold move for a White House that has been on the defensive for more than two years of heavy government spending with only paltry economic growth to show for it.

9/11 Terror Threat Investigated

Citing several U.S. sources, Fox News reports that authorities are investigating what may be a credible terror threat to New York City or the nation’s capital days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. According to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the threat, “People are aggressively pursuing leads,” and it is “specific enough to elicit worry.” Homeland Security Department spokesman Matt Chandler described the threat as specific and credible. Security has been heightened around the country before this weekend’s commemoration.

Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest

The second Sunday after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, New York clergy members of many faiths joined elected officials at Yankee Stadium in a city-sponsored memorial ceremony that melded the sacred and the secular, replete with flags, prayers and tears. Ten years later, any consensus that existed about the appropriate role of religion in public ceremonies marking a monumental American trauma has fallen apart. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has come under attack by many religious and political leaders for not including clergy members as speakers at Sunday’s official ceremony at ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. At the same time, evangelical Christian leaders said they were outraged that an interfaith prayer service planned by the Washington National Cathedral did not include a Southern Baptist or other evangelical minister. Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in an interview that the planned ceremony only proved that New York was the “epicenter of secularism,” out of step with the rest of America.

Some 62,000 Americans have signed petitions assembled by the Family Research Council asking him to relent. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice wrote that the United States “has a long and cherished history of prayer, from the first prayer in Congress in 1774 to the National Day of Prayer celebrated each year. Even the Supreme Court acknowledges our religious heritage.” Now, however, a new incentive is coming into Bloomberg’s world: A lawsuit that challenges his decision on the basis of the 1st Amendment’s freedom of speech and religion provisions. What he is doing is sending a message that radical Islam takes precedence over the Judeo-Christian tradition in New York City and throughout the country. He’s sending a message that terrorists are welcome in New York City. That’s not the message that one should be sending on 9/11,” said attorney Larry Klayman, who founded Judicial Watch and now is of Freedom Watch. He said the lawsuit will be filed Friday.

Federal Court Tosses Lawsuits over Health Reform

A federal appeals court in Virginia dismissed two lawsuits Thursday that claimed President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was unconstitutional, though it remains likely the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually decide whether the government can force individuals to buy insurance. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited technicalities in both decisions and did not rule on the constitutional issues raised by the lawsuits. Two of the judges on the Virginia panel were appointed by Obama, the other by Bill Clinton. The Richmond-based appeals court is the third appellate court to rule in lawsuits challenging the health care reform law, which requires individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the law, while an appeals court in Atlanta struck down the insurance mandate. More than 30 lawsuits have been filed across the country.

Guard Troops at Arizona Border to Stay 90 More Days

President Barack Obama’s administration said Thursday that 1,200 National Guard troops will remain on watch for drug traffickers and illegal immigrants in Arizona and other states neighboring Mexico for an additional 90 days, which analysts say is part of a political effort to demonstrate he is committed to keeping border security a priority as the 2012 election season heats up. This is the second time the Obama administration has extended the National Guard’s temporary deployment, which originally was scheduled to end in June. The extension, which will be funded by the Department of Defense, comes as the Pentagon is facing billions of dollars in budget cuts and the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to cut spending to reduce the deficit.

Drug Survey Shows Big Drop in Methamphetamine Use

Marijuana is as popular as ever while methamphetamine is falling out of favor, a national drug-use survey has found. Nearly one in 10 Americans report regularly using illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants or prescription drugs used recreationally, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health made public Thursday. Drug use among young adults 18 to 25 has inched up steadily from 19.6% in 2008 to 21.5% in 2010, driven largely by an increase in marijuana use Marijuana, with about 17.4 million regular users, is by far the most commonly used drug. Its popularity is growing: 6.9% of the population reported using marijuana regularly, up from 5.8% in 2007, the survey found.

Meanwhile, methamphetamine use, which raced across the USA for a decade, has declined sharply. The number of past-month users declined from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010. Since methamphetamine emerged as a problem drug in 2001, states have outlawed or restricted the sale of ingredients used to concoct homemade meth, such as pseudoephedrine found in cold medicines such as Sudafed. The percentage of the population who used prescription drugs, such as narcotic painkillers, for non-medical reasons stayed at 2.7%. The survey found that 55% of them got the drugs free from a friend or relative; 11.4% bought them from a friend or relative, and 5% stole them from a friend or relative. Just 4% purchased them from a drug dealer, the survey found.

Adult Smoking Rate Down Slightly

A new government report shows fewer U.S. adults are smoking, and those who light up are smoking fewer cigarettes daily. But the trend is weaker than the government had hoped. Overall, about 19 percent of adults said they smoked last year, down from about 21 percent in 2005. The rate for smoking 30 or more cigarettes daily dropped to about 8 percent from almost 13 percent. The decline means 3 million fewer adults were smoking.

Big Oil: To Create Jobs, Let Us Drill More

With job creation taking center stage in American politics, the oil industry Wednesday made a pitch for drilling more widely. With looser restrictions, the industry says it could deliver 1.4 million new jobs, boost tax rolls by $800 billion, and increase domestic energy production almost 50%. To hit those numbers, the industry would need to drill off the East and West Coasts, in waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast, in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on most federal public land that’s not a national park. These areas are currently off limits to drilling, except for some public land in these regions. In addition, the industry says it would need approval to build new pipelines to facilitate a doubling of production from Canada’s vast oil sands, a halt to the gradual tightening of rules governing shale gas development, and the preservation of favorable tax policies the industry currently enjoys.

Economic News

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits ticked up slightly last week. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 414,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The report suggests companies aren’t significantly increasing layoffs, despite weak economic growth. But it also signals that little hiring is taking place.

However, companies advertised the most job openings in three years, a hopeful sign after the worst month for hiring in nearly a year. The Labor Department said Wednesday that employers posted 3.2 million jobs in July, up from 3.17 million in June. That is the largest number of openings since August 2008.

The ranks of self-employed Americans are shrinking. In August, 14.5 million people were self-employed, down 2.1 million from the most recent peak in December 2006, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. With tightened bank lending, reduced savings and sluggish consumer spending, many can’t afford to start a business or keep an existing one going. Adding to the trouble: Diminished home values make it difficult to get the home equity loans that the self-employed often use for capital.

Fitch Ratings said Thursday that China’s credit risk has increased because local governments have become heavily indebted, with a lack of disclosure by financial institutions compounding the problem. The comments by Fitch, one of three major credit rating agencies, come amid concern that borrowing by local authorities in China for expensive public works may overwhelm the ability of some of those local governments to repay banks. Chinese local governments borrowed heavily the past decade to build subways and other infrastructure that the central government in Beijing initially promised to pay for but then reneged.

Middle East

A top Israeli Army officer predicted “all-out war” will be initiated by Muslims from Egypt, Turkey, and Iran next month, after the U.N. vote to seize Jerusalem on 20 Sept.  Recent revolutions in the Arab world and the deteriorating ties with Turkey are raising the likelihood of a regional war in the Middle East, IDF Home Front Command Chief, Major General Eyal Eisenberg warned. “‘It looks like the Arab Spring, but it can also be a radical Islamic winter,’ he said in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. ‘This raises the likelihood of an all-out, total war, with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used.”

Libya

Moammar Gadhafi supporters rocketed a front line south of Tripoli Friday, testing the patience of the country’s new leaders as a grace period for the holdouts to surrender runs out. The seizure of the capital by the then-rebel forces last month effectively ended nearly 42 years of Gadhafi’s autocratic, violent and unpredictable rule. The new leaders now control most of the country, but as long as Gadhafi is on the loose, able to urge his followers on with messages from underground, they cannot claim total victory. Also Friday, Interpol said it has issued its top most-wanted alert for the arrest of Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country’s ex-head of military intelligence, all sought by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya. They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, also known as Igla-S missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles. A CNN team and Human Rights Watch found dozens of empty crates marked with packing lists and inventory numbers that identified the items as Igla-S surface-to-air missiles. The warehouse contains mortars and artillery rounds, but there are empty crates for those items as well. There are also empty boxes for another surface-to-air missile, the SA-7. Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, told CNN he has seen the same pattern in armories looted elsewhere in Libya, noting that “in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles.” “We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya, and I’ve seen cars packed with them.” he said. “They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone.”

Syria

Syrian security forces barged into a hospital and snatched 18 wounded patients, including five from an operating room, the Human Rights Watch reported. The action occurred Wednesday at al-Barr hospital in the restive western city of Homs during a major military operation there. Human Rights Watch also reported that security forces prevented medical personnel from reaching wounded people in several Homs neighborhoods. The report was issued Thursday as Syrian security personnel continued their unrelenting crackdown on protesters who take to the streets daily to rail against the Bashar al-Assad regime and its policies. Meanwhile, demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in Homs and the southern city of Daraa. Mass protests across the country have been staged after Muslim prayers on Friday over the past six months.

India

A bomb hidden in a briefcase exploded Wednesday outside a crowded entrance to a New Delhi courthouse, killing 11 people and wounding scores more in the deadliest attack in India’s capital in nearly three years. The blast near a gate at the High Court, the second at the building in five months, came despite a high alert in the city. It renewed doubts about India’s ability to protect even its most important institutions despite a security overhaul that followed the 2008 Mumbai siege. A Muslim militant group claimed responsibility for the blast. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami extremist group said to be based in Pakistan that has been blamed for numerous terror strikes in India.

Iraq

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is supporting a plan that would keep 3,000 to 4,000 American troops in Iraq after a deadline for their withdrawal at year’s end, but only to continue training security forces there, a senior military official said on Tuesday. The recommendation would break a longstanding pledge by President Obama to withdraw all American forces from Iraq by the deadline. But it would still involve significantly fewer forces than proposals presented at the Pentagon in recent weeks by the senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, to keep as many as 14,000 to 18,000 troops there.

Reacting to growing threats of new terrorist attacks from Egypt, like the one that killed eight Jews two weeks ago, Israel has moved several warships closer to the southern border with Egypt in the Red Sea. In addition, IDF forces have beefed up security along the 150-mile border. Tension between Israel and Egypt is higher than it has been in more than 30 years. The leading candidates for office in Egypt’s upcoming elections are running on campaign platforms of overturning the peace treaty with Israel.

Afghanistan

Afghan officials have been meeting with Taliban representatives to find a political solution to the conflict. The United States has said that it supports the Afghan initiative but that it is too early to report progress in the talks. However, Pakistan is reluctant to allow senior Taliban leaders to travel to Afghanistan for reconciliation talks, raising concerns that Pakistan is not helping enough to resolve the conflict. Analysts say Pakistan is attempting to play both sides in the conflict, hedging its bets in the event the Taliban remains after the United States leaves the region. The United States plans to withdraw its forces by the end of 2014.

Pakistan

A pair of suicide bombers attacked a top army officer in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta on Wednesday, missing him but killing his wife. At least 22 others died, including several guards. Police said they were investigating whether the strike was in revenge for the recent arrests in Quetta of three top al-Qaida suspects, an operation that was assisted by the CIA. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kashmir

If nuclear war ever breaks out, the most likely place would be in Kashmir, between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. The fabled state of Kashmir lies in majestic isolation amid the towering mountain ranges of the Himalayas and Karakoram that separate the torrid plains of north India from the steppes and deserts of Central Asia. Nineteenth Century geopoliticians called Kashmir one of the world’s primary strategic pivots and site of the world’s longest running border conflict. The state human rights commission of the Indian-ruled portion of divided Kashmir just reported its investigators had found 2,156 bodies buried in unmarked graves in 38 different locations. Most were young men. Many bore bullets wounds. Grisly and horrifying as this discovery was, there was hardly a peep from India’s allies, notably the United States and Britain, who have raised such a hue and cry over alleged civilian deaths in Libya, Iran and Syria. India shrugged off the report. Some nine million Kashmiris live in the Indian-ruled two thirds of Kashmir; over three million in the Pakistani portion, known as “Azad Kashmir,” or in Pakistan proper, and small numbers in the frigid, 15,000-20,000 ft high Aksai Chin plateau which is controlled by China.

Somalia

Leaders in Somalia signed a deal on Tuesday planning to hold elections within a year, aiming to end a string of ineffective transitional U.N.-backed administrations. The deal commits the government to a new constitution, stipulates reforms in governance and security services and calls for talks with armed opposition groups. It also says African Union troops supporting the government should spread beyond the capital of Mogadishu. That is all the territory the transitional administration currently holds. Most of the rest of southern Somalia is held by Islamist insurgents, although allied militias hold a few other areas in southern Somalia.

Six Somalis were shot dead by soldiers as families scrambled for food aid in the Somali capital on Thursday. There have been several deadly shootings in the Somali capital as starving families fight over food aid. Families had stood in line for hours before finally rushing guards and carrying off food aid. The guards tried to beat them back with rifle butts but then opened fire. Six areas in southern Somalia are suffering from famine. The effects of a devastating drought have been exacerbated by Somalia’s 20-year-old civil war.

Nigeria

A Christian family of eight were hacked to death by Muslim youths in an outbreak of sectarian violence that resulted in more than 50 fatalities in Nigeria’s volatile Plateau State. More than 40 Muslims and Christians were killed in Plateau’s capital city, Jos, last week when fighting broke out as Muslims gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Many residents said that the security forces were responsible for most of the deaths, using excessive force to end the violence. Riyom, another village in Plateau State, was spared similar carnage when a bomb planted in a marketplace failed to detonate because its battery had run flat. Plateau State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where the predominantly Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south, is often beset by sectarian tensions. As well as religious conflict, there is political rivalry, with Christians mostly supporting the People’s Democratic Party while Muslims generally support the opposition. More than 1,000 people have been killed in sectarian violence in Jos over the past two years.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

September 6, 2011

Congress Reconvenes to Grapple with Sour Economy

Still bruised by the summer battle over the debt ceiling, the U.S. Congress reconvenes this week for what could be an equally painful confrontation over how to put Americans back to work. Lawmakers returning to Washington after a month long recess are in accord on at least one thing: Jobs policy must be at the top of the agenda. But there’s scant hope they will put aside their differences long enough to come up with legislation that makes measurable improvements either to the unemployment rate or Congress’ dismal approval rate. House Republicans have prepared an autumn jobs agenda that centers on repealing what they say are job-destroying environmental and labor regulations. The anti-regulation bills are likely to hit a dead end in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But the threat of them prompted Obama last week to scrap tougher Environmental Protection Agency regulations on ozone, a key ingredient of smog that causes asthma and other lung illnesses.

President Obama indicated he will call for an extension of a payroll tax cut, as well as new road and bridge projects. While talking jobs, The White House and lawmakers will have one eye on the initial meetings of the supercommittee established under legislation enacted in early August to increase the federal debt ceiling. The bipartisan committee has until Nov. 23 to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts. If it fails to do so or if Congress fails to approve its recommendations by Christmas, automatic spending cuts covering both defense and domestic programs would be triggered starting in 2013.

72% Say Country Headed Wrong Direction

Nearly 3 out of 4 voters contend that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and President Barack Obama  is becoming increasingly vulnerable to Republican challengers, according to a new poll. Only 20 percent of voters say the country is going in the right direction. The demand for redirection puts even more onus on Obama’s jobs speech set for Thursday night. The odds against him are mounting, with the poll finding that 50 percent disapprove of his job performance and just 45 percent approve, which is a seven-point drop since May. Only 39 percent approve of his economic acumen. On the other hand, almost 75 percent said they still like the president as a person.

Feds Warn of Small Airplane Terror Threat

The FBI and Homeland Security have issued a nationwide warning about al-Qaida threats to small airplanes, just days before the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Authorities say there is no specific or credible terrorist threat for the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But they have stepped up security nationwide as a precaution. According to a five-page law enforcement bulletin issued Friday, as recently as early this year, al-Qaida was considering ways to attack airplanes. The alert, issued ahead of the summer’s last busy travel weekend, said terrorists have considered renting private planes and loading them with explosives. Aviation security is much tighter than it was a decade ago, but al-Qaida remains keenly interested in launching attacks on airplanes, believing large attacks with high body counts are more likely to grab headlines the bulletin asserts.

FDA Planning to Outlaw ‘New’ Supplements

Back in the early 1990s, consumers were so alarmed by FDA bullying that they staged a massive revolt. The result was that Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) prohibiting the FDA from banning popular nutrients, which the agency had threatened to do. There was, however, a loophole in the 1994 law. The FDA was given authority to regulate ingredients introduced after October 15, 1994. It has been 17 years, but the FDA just issued draconian proposals as to how it intends to regulate what it now calls “new dietary ingredients.” If implemented, some of the most effective nutrients you are taking will be removed from the market. This includes many fish oil formulas and natural plant extracts. These oppressive rules are exactly what the 1994 law (DSHEA) sought to prevent. The FDA is using its authority in direct violation of congressional intent. In order for these ingredients you are using today to return to the market, the FDA will require manufacturers to conduct outrageously expensive studies using absurdly high doses, in some situations multiplied by a “safety factor” up to 2,000 times the recommended dosage on a per product basis.

 

Feds Sue Biggest US Banks Over Risky Mortgages

In a sweeping move, the government on Friday sued 17 financial firms, including the largest U.S. banks, for selling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities that turned toxic when the housing market collapsed. Among the 17 targeted by the lawsuits were Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs. The lawsuits were filed Friday by the Federal Housing Finance Agency which oversees Fannie and Freddie, the two agencies that buy mortgages loans and mortgage securities issued by the lenders. The total price tag for the securities bought by Fannie and Freddie affected by the lawsuits is $196 billion. The government didn’t provide a dollar amount of how much it seeks in damages. It said that it wants to have the purchases of the securities canceled, be compensated for lost principal and interest payments as well as attorney fees and costs. The lawsuits allege the financial firms broke federal and state laws with the sales.

Postal Service Nearing Default as Losses Mount

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances. In recent weeks, postmaster general Patrick R. Donahoe.has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency’s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. They include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers — nearly one-fifth of the agency’s work force — despite a no-layoffs clause in the unions’ contracts. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the agency’s predicament Tuesday.

Economic News

Wall Street braced for losses on Tuesday after world stock markets took a beating over fears that the U.S. economy was heading back into recession. Japan’s Nikkei closed at its lowest point since April 2009. The most dramatic market movements centered on Switzerland after the central bank announced it was pegging the national currency at 1.20 francs per euro in an attempt to rein in the export-sapping appreciation of the currency. The escalating euro zone debt crisis, combined with a wide array of economic concerns, sent the Dow Jones diving by 260 points early Tuesday in the U.S.

No jobs were added in the U.S. last month, the government said early Friday. It was the worst employment report in 11 months and renewed fears that another recession could be on the way. Total payrolls were unchanged, as was the 9.1% unemployment rate. The jobs picture is even worse than the 9.1 percent unemployment rate suggests, because America’s 14 million unemployed must also compete with 8.8 million other people not counted as unemployed — part-timers who want full-time work.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 253 points Friday, or 2.2%, wiping out its gains for the week. The yield on the 10-year note briefly fell below 2% and gold jumped $48 an ounce as cash flowed into investments seen as less risky than stocks.

Despite a struggling economy — or perhaps because of it — lottery ticket sales have surged across the USA. Financial records for 41 state lotteries that end their fiscal year in June show 28 had higher sales than the year before. Seventeen of those states set all-time sales records.

Middle East

The Obama administration has initiated a last-ditch diplomatic campaign to avert a confrontation this month over a plan by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at the United Nations, but it may already be too late, according to senior American officials and foreign diplomats. The administration has circulated a proposal for renewed peace talks with the Israelis in the hopes of persuading the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to abandon the bid for recognition at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly beginning Sept. 20. The administration has made it clear to Mr. Abbas that it will veto any request presented to the United Nations Security Council to make a Palestinian state a new member outright. The Israeli military is training Jewish settlers in the West Bank and plans to equip them with tear gas and stun grenades. Its part of the military’s comprehensive “Operation Summer Seeds” for dealing with possible violence as the UN considers whether or not to recognize a Palestinian state.

Iran has announced it is sending its 15th Fleet, including at least one submarine, to the Red Sea. The move heightened tensions in Israel, as Iran has the missile capacity to strike Israeli targets from offshore. Though Iran’s naval commander described the news as conveying a “message of peace and friendship to all countries,” the presence of this new threat so close to Israel does not build confidence in a nation that has been repeatedly threatened with being “wiped off the map” by Iran’s leader.

Turkey’s expulsion of Israel’s ambassador Friday signals that its once-warm relationship with the Jewish state is worth less than better relations with the Muslim and Arab world, analysts say. Turkey’s move came in protest to Israel’s refusal to apologize for last year’s deadly raid on a blockade-running flotilla bound for Gaza. A U.N. report scheduled to be published Friday faults Israel for its conduct of the raid, in which nine Turkish activists died, but said the blockade it was defending around Gaza was legal. Turkey insists that Israel end the blockade around the Palestinian territory. But Israel says it is needed to stop weapons and other materials from reaching Hamas, the Islamist militia that controls Gaza and has been designated a terrorist group by the State Department. The Turkish navy will significantly increase its presence in the eastern Mediterranean and plans to escort civilian ships carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as part of a “more aggressive strategy” following the release of the UN report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla.

International news sources report that Arab rockets and terror attacks continue to rock the Israeli countryside, despite Hamas and Islamic Jihad claims of a cease fire. Several towns, many near the Gaza strip, are reporting damage and injuries as a result of the rocket fire. In Tel Aviv, eight Israelis were wounded and one killed after yet another terrorist attack by a man screaming “Allahu akbar.” Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Force guards at the Egyptian border are reporting record attempts to smuggle arms and rockets into the West Bank.

Libya

Tribal elders from one of Moammar Gadhafi’s last strongholds were trying to persuade regime loyalists holed up there to lay down their arms, the elders said during Tuesday talks with rebel negotiators, hours after a large convoy of heavily armed Gadhafi soldiers crossed the desert into neighboring Niger. Gadhafi loyalists have been holed up in several towns, including Bani Walid, some 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli. Thousands of rebel fighters have surrounded the town. Gadhafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim was defiant in a Tuesday phone call to the Syrian TV station al-Rai, saying the ousted dictator was “in excellent health, planning and organizing for the defense of Libya.” Ibrahim said both Gadhafi and his sons remain in Libya.

For the past two weeks, there have been jubilant parades in the streets as opposition fighters celebrate the capture of the capital and the dawn of a new era in this oil-rich North African state. Away from the celebrations, there are many in the city who fear for the future and say they miss the stability and security of life during Moammar Gadhafi’s 42 years in power. Rebel leaders in Tripoli said Libya’s transition to democratic rule would begin with a “declaration of liberation” and be followed in eight months by a vote for a national assembly, and eventually lead to creation of a constitution. The top Libyan rebel military commander in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, dropped something of a bombshell in an interview with the New York Times Friday: In  2004, he said, two CIA agents tortured him in Thailand and then “rendered” him to Libya. From that point on, he maintains, he was held in solitary confinement for the next six years.

Syria

Syrian soldiers opened fire in the restive city of Homs on Tuesday and armored vehicles rolled through its streets, activists said, as the U.N. secretary-general urged the world community to take action on Syria. The U.N. says 2,200 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March, inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. But nearly six months later, the unrest in Syria has descended into a bloody stalemate with neither side willing to back down. Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local media during the revolt, which poses the most serious challenge to the Assad family’s four-decade rule. The regime blames the unrest on thugs and armed gangs and claims security forces are the real victims, not true reform-seekers. The government’s violent crackdown on dissent has led to broad international sanctions aimed at isolating the regime.

Egypt

Relatives of protesters killed during Egypt’s uprising scuffled with police and tried to force their way into a Cairo courtroom Monday, demanding to be allowed to attend the latest session in the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Live TV broadcasts of the landmark trial have been halted by a judges’ order, and family members massed outside the courtroom were angered they could not witness the prosecution of the former leader charged with complicity in their loved ones’ deaths. In Monday’s sessions, proceedings were taking a key turn, with the first witnesses taking the stand after the procedural issues that have dominated the trial so far. A senior police official testified of orders to shoot protesters during the 18-day uprising that brought Mubarak’s downfall on Feb. 11. The 83-year-old Mubarak, who is in ill health, was shown on state TV being wheeled on a gurney from a helicopter into the court building.

Afghanistan

Insurgents in Afghanistan planted more bombs during the spring and summer than at any time during the war, as direct attacks on coalition troops have ebbed. At the same time the military coalition in Afghanistan has more than doubled its seizures of enemy weapons and is finding a higher number of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, before they explode. The latest Pentagon figures on IEDs show that insurgents planted 4,472 of the bombs from May through July, a 17% increase compared with the same three months in 2010. IEDs are the single largest cause of casualties among U.S. troops. Of the IEDs planted in May-July, troops found 2,049 of them before they exploded, a 40% increase. And troops also found 1,548 weapons stashes during that time, a 145% increase.

Somalia

A record 4 million people in Somalia need humanitarian aid and 750,000 people are in danger of “imminent starvation,” the United Nations said on Monday. Officials are calling for a surge in response efforts as the crisis is predicted to get worse. Tens of thousands of people have already died, more than half of whom are children. The famine is being stoked by Somalia’s worst drought in 60 years. Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and fighting between the rebels and government troops has escalated the humanitarian crisis in the famine-ravaged country.

Earthquakes

A 12-year-old boy has died in a 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck Sumatra, Indonesia, early Tuesday morning. Residents of Singkil, an area near the epicenter, said electricity poles fell and crashed into houses. Hundreds of patients have had to be evacuated from a hospital in Medan, Sumatra, near the epicenter of the Tuesday morning earthquake. Residents of homes and guests at hotels also were seen fleeing in panic.

A major earthquake measuring a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 rocked remote portions of Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey reported Monday. The USGS issued, then canceled, a tsunami warning for Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The community closest to the Alaska earthquake is Atka, a village of about 60 people about 100 miles west of the epicenter. The quake was centered about 1,000 miles from Anchorage. An aftershock measuring 4.5 hit the area about a half hour after the initial quake. The initial quake was about 22.1 miles deep, USGS says. Earlier reports had it much closer to the surface.

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck northern Argentina, but the epicenter was almost 370 miles underground. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. A quake measuring 7.0 hit the same sparsely populated region in January. The epicenter of that quake was also very deep and the effect at the surface was limited.

Wildfires

Calmer winds Tuesday should help firefighters battling a wildfire that has destroyed nearly 500 homes in Central Texas and forced thousands of residents to evacuate to shelters to avoid the blaze. The fire enveloped at least 25,000 acres as of Monday. At least 5,000 people were forced from their homes in Bastrop County about 25 miles east of Austin, the state capital, and about 400 were in emergency shelters. A longtime Texas sheriff says it was the fastest-moving fire he has ever seen. Six homes were toppled within minutes, including one trailer where a woman and her 18-month-old daughter were killed because they couldn’t escape in time.

Fifteen large wildfires (over 100 acres) were burning in drought-stricken Texas as of Tuesday morning, having consumed over 73,000 acres (almost 120 sq. miles). “We’ve completely depleted our resources,” Melanie Spradling, a public information officer with the Texas Forestry Service said. “We’re on every fire we can possibly handle and then some.”

Firefighters gained the upper hand on a wildfire that erupted on the main interstate between Southern California and Las Vegas, allowing officials to lift evacuation orders for half of 1,500 homes and reopen the freeway to holiday weekend traffic. The fire began Friday afternoon on the center divider of Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass. It quickly grew to 1,100 acres, or nearly 2 square miles, jumping the freeway and burning chaparral in rolling hills that form the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and rural areas of San Bernardino County. The fire was fueled by winds up to 15 mph and 90 degree temperatures, but by dusk cooler weather and calmer winds helped 750 firefighters surround 20 percent of the blaze which had burned 8,655 acres and destroyed 30 structures as of Tuesday morning.

Weather

No longer a hurricane, a tropical storm or even a tropical depression, Lee continued to drench the South, causing relatively mild flooding and power outages in flatter areas, and promising greater mischief as it moved over more mountainous terrain this week. Lee claimed its first direct victim when a man in northeastern Mississippi drowned after being swept away by floods. The storm dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain in central Mississippi before it weakened and pushed to the east. As much as a foot fell in parts of New Orleans, and even more in other areas. Some of the damage on the Gulf Coast appeared to come from spinoff tornadoes that touched down in southern Mississippi and Alabama. About 100 homes were damaged by suspected twisters in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. Meanwhile, Katia – a category 3 hurricane churning out in the Atlantic – was now expected to turn north and miss a direct hit on the U.S.

Rescuers and search parties scoured central Japan on Monday as the death toll from the worst typhoon to hit the country in seven years climbed to 46 dead and 54 missing, adding more misery to a nation still reeling from its catastrophic tsunami six months ago. Typhoon Talas, which was later downgraded to a tropical storm, lashed coastal areas with destructive winds and record-setting rains over the weekend before moving offshore into the Sea of Japan. In addition to the 26 dead and 52 missing, thousands were stranded as the typhoon washed out bridges, railways and roads. The scenes of destruction from the typhoon were another unwelcome reminder of Japan’s vulnerability to the forces of nature as the country tries to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Helicopters ferried supplies Tuesday to thousands of people still cut off by Japan’s worst storm in 28 years.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

 

September 1, 2011

Millennial Generation Transforming Landscape on Gay and Lesbian Issues

The Millennial generation (age 18 to 29) is transforming the landscape on gay and lesbian issues in American religion, politics and society, a new survey finds. On issues related to gay and lesbian Americans, there is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials and seniors (age 65 and older) on church policies, public policy, and acceptance of social roles. The Millennials, Religion & Gay and Lesbian Issues Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute released Monday is one of the largest public opinion surveys on religion and gay and lesbian issues ever conducted. The survey also finds that these large generational differences on gay and lesbian issues persist even among conservative political and religious groups such as Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. “This is the first year that support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is not a minority position,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Overall trends and the strongly supportive attitudes of the Millennial generation suggest that we will look back on 2011 as the year marking a sea change in American attitudes on gay and lesbian issues.”

  • The secular school system has done its indoctrination job well, just as the New World Order folks strategized years ago. John Dewey, most widely known as the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System used in all our libraries today, was also an atheist, president of the American Humanist Society and author of the Humanist Manifesto. Dewey said in 1930: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

As Water Recedes, Cleanup Begins Across Northeast

Weary residents across the Northeast pulled soggy furniture and ruined possessions onto their front lawns as they cleaned up and surveyed the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene. National Guard helicopters ferried supplies Wednesday to mountain communities in Vermont that had no electricity, no telephone service and limited transportation in or out. Elsewhere, the massive cleanup effort was already well under way at homes, farms and businesses across the flood-scarred landscape. Repair estimates indicated that the storm would almost certainly rank among the nation’s costliest natural disasters, despite packing a lighter punch than initially feared. Even as rivers finally stopped rising in Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut, many communities and farm areas remained flooded, and officials said complete damage estimates were nowhere in sight.

By Wednesday night, crews had completed makeshift roads into all of the isolated towns, Vermont state officials said. They reached the last, Wardsboro, population 850, in south central Vermont, just before 6 p.m. But the roads, some of which pass through treacherous mountain landscape, are accessible only by all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel-drive trucks and cannot support regular traffic. On Thursday morning, Central Vermont Public Service, the state’s largest utility company, said only 5,900 of its customers remained without power. Flooding continues to hamper recovery efforts in northern New Jersey. The Passaic River is receding, but major flooding continues in Paterson, Little Falls and Pine Brook Thursday. Flooding and downed trees remain a problem for utility crews trying to restore electricity to more than 84,000 homes and businesses.

FEMA Almost Out of Disaster Funds

The Federal Disaster Relief Fund, the pot of money used to help communities and individuals hit by disasters, is nearly depleted. That’s bad news for victims of both Hurricane Irene and other disasters like the tornadoes that hit earlier this year. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said Monday that the agency’s fund has fallen to less than $800 million. With less that $1 billion on hand, the agency is only authorized to pay for emergency repairs. That means that long-term projects, like rebuilding roads, schools and other damaged structures in the tornado-ravaged southeastern states and Joplin, Mo., will have to wait. While individuals eligible for assistance from those earlier storms will continue to get their checks, FEMA will put other spending on hold in order to have enough cash on hand for new emergencies. Fugate said he hopes to resume funding those long-term projects at some point, but that Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 in order to do so.

Judge Strikes Down Key Parts of Texas Abortion Law

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key provisions of Texas’ new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed, but struck down the provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to their patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions. Opponents argued that requiring doctors to describe a fetus’ features would force them to say things against their will and would violate medical ethics requiring doctors to respect a patient’s autonomy and act in the patient’s best interest. The law — one of dozens of anti-abortion measures that advanced through state capitals across the United States this year — takes effect Thursday. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights had sued to block it. About 81,000 abortions are performed every year in Texas.

U.S. Judge Blocks Ala. Law Targeting Illegal Immigrants

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama’s tough anti-illegal-immigration law, which was to have taken effect Thursday. Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the measure June 9. The law, considered the toughest in the nation, would make it a state crime to be in Alabama without official documentation. Police would be allowed to detain someone if an officer has a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally, and businesses would be punished for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The U.S. Justice Department and other plaintiffs argued that the law would interfere with immigration enforcement, a federal responsibility, and lead to racial profiling. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn expressed skepticism about the “reasonable suspicion” provision of the law, questioning state attorneys’ arguments that law enforcement could detain individuals for immigration violations even if the Immigration and Naturalization Service was not looking for them.

Quartzsite Election ‘Stolen’?

The mayor of Quartzsite, Arizona, the town seething in vitriol since police forcibly removed a woman from speaking at a public meeting despite the mayor’s objections lost in a recall election Wednesday night, but claims the “corrupt” town council fixed the results to force him out. “They found a whole bunch of early ballots they could stuff the box with,” said Mayor Ed foster, telling WorldNetDaily the election was “absolutely” stolen. Foster says at the polling place, he was winning by a 2-to-1 margin over former Town Councilman and Quartzsite Fire Department Capt. Jose Lizarraga. But there had been 328 early ballots cast, and 208 of those went to Lizarraga, giving the win to Lizarraga by a final tally of 289 votes to 230. But the outcome is not deterring Foster from continuing his fight against alleged corruption in his rural town. “They stole it from me. I’m gonna take it back,” he said.

Health Care Fraud Prosecutions Up 85%

New government statistics show federal health care fraud prosecutions in the first eight months of 2011 are on pace to rise 85% over last year due in large part to ramped-up enforcement efforts. The statistics show 903 prosecutions so far this year. That’s a 24% increase over the total for all of fiscal year 2010, when 731 people were prosecuted for health fraud through federal agencies across the country. In 2010, the government recovered a record $4 billion from health fraud cases after the federal health care law created one agency and expanded another. The actuary for Medicare predicted provisions of the law would ultimately net $4.9 billion in fraud and abuse savings over the next 10 years, which will be rolled back into Medicare. The agencies homed in on criminal enterprises — such as 73 Armenians who defrauded the government of $163 million last fall, as well as major providers who defraud the government — such as corporations or hospitals. Usually, those cases come after a whistle-blower comes forward. In 2010, the government paid $300 million to whistle-blowers.

Outrage as Obama Names New Voter Initiative After ACORN

Government watchdogs are blasting the Obama campaign’s decision to name its 2012 voter-registration initiative “Project Vote” — the same name as a group closely linked to the discredited ACORN organization. Members of ACORN were caught on undercover video giving two supposed clients detailed instructions on how to commit fraud, and ACORN faced a number of voter-registration fraud cases following the 2008 election. ACORN-linked Project Vote is a Washington, D.C.-based 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports voter-registration drives in “historically underrepresented communities.” But there is “no wall of separation” between Project Vote and the well-known ACORN organization, according to Matthew Vadum, the Capital Research Center editor. He calls Project Vote “the branch of ACORN that’s most notorious for voter fraud.”

WikiLeaks Cables Includes Identities of Dozens of Informants

A torrent of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has been published in the last few days, with at least 170 of them naming sources whose identity was meant to be protected, according to an analysis of the documents by CNN. Altogether nearly 143,000 of the cables obtained by WikiLeaks last year had been published by Tuesday, out of a total of 251,000 the group says it possesses. Academics in China, human rights activists in Syria, bankers in Turkey, a Coca-Cola executive in Nepal and British members of Parliament are among dozens of confidential sources named in the cables, which have appeared unredacted on websites such as cablesearch.org. Some sources face at worst potential embarrassment by being identified as sources, and many of the cables are marked as “confidential” rather than “secret.” But for others, especially in states with authoritarian regimes, their contacts with U.S. officials may be more hazardous.

ATF Director Reassigned After Gun Fiasco

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a major shake-up of the U.S. agency that botched an attempt to track weapons smuggled to drug cartels in Mexico after guns were allowed to flow freely over the border. Kenneth Melson, who has been acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since 2009, was reassigned after admitting mistakes in the sting operation meant to try to crack down on weapons reaching violent drug gangs from U.S. gun stores. In further fallout from the operation, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, has resigned effective immediately after acknowledging mistakes in the operation. The sting operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious,” has spawned congressional and internal Justice Department probes and put the Obama administration on the defensive about whether dangerous weapons were knowingly allowed to cross the border.

$60 Billion Misspent in Past 2 U.S. Wars

As much as $60 billion intended for financing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been lost to waste and fraud over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates. In its final report to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said the figure could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes, leaving both countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American tax dollars. Much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better planning and more aggressive oversight, the commission said. Created by Congress in 2008, the eight-member commission held more than two dozen hearings, interviewed hundreds of military and civilian officials and traveled multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel’s final report is the most comprehensive examination so far of the U.S. dependence on contractors and the government’s ability to manage them in combat areas.

  • Government waste, an ongoing theme: more government = more waste.

Forbes: US Will Return to Gold Standard After 2012 Elections

The United States will return to a gold standard of some sort after the 2012 presidential elections because current economic policies that weaken the dollar in hopes of fueling economic growth can’t last forever, says publisher Steve Forbes of Forbes Magazine. “We will return to a gold standard. It will be a modernized version of it but in essence, it’ll be the basic principle that the dollar will remain constant with gold,” Forbes told Newsmax. The U.S. abandoned the gold standard, which bases the value of the dollar to gold, in the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. Today, currencies are valued in relation to one another, normally set by foreign exchange rates. However, since the U.S. dollar serves as the world’s reserve currency, which means other countries use it for stockpiling reserves, to trade with one another or to buy and sell goods in global capital markets, the U.S. Federal Reserve enjoys the luxury of printing as much money as it wants in order to tinker with its economy as it sees fit. The downside of such loose monetary policies includes higher inflation rates and a weaker dollar, and some say the United States should return to a gold standard in hopes of forcing the government to live within its means even if it means sacrificing the flexibility that comes from being home to the world’s reserve currency.

Economic News

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the job market may be improving slightly. Weekly applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000 last week, the first decline in three weeks. Applications have come down steadily from an eight-month high of 478,000 in April. Still, they typically need to drop below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven’t been at that level since February.

Manufacturing grew a little slower in August than the previous month, but didn’t contract as some economists had feared. The 25th straight month of growth was a hopeful sign that U.S. factories weathered a difficult summer for the economy. The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index slipped to 50.6 last month, down slightly from a reading of 50.9. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A private research group says consumers’ confidence in the U.S. economy dropped almost 15 points in August to its lowest level since April 2009 as those worries fueled the wildest stock market swings since the financial meltdown in 2008. The Conference Board says Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 44.5, from a revised 59.2 in July. It was the lowest level since April 2009 when the reading was 40.8. A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.

Since the third quarter of 2008, overall U.S. household debt, which includes credit cards, mortgages, student loans and car loans, has declined by more than $1 trillion. While the rate of the decline has slowed somewhat in recent months, total consumer debt is still down 8.6% from the third quarter of 2008.

Spring buying pushed home prices up for a third straight month in most major U.S. cities in June. Prices rose 3.6% in the April-June quarter from the previous quarter. However, over the past 12 months, home prices have declined in all the tracked cities..

The Pentagon has spent more than $720 million since 2001 on fees for shipping containers that it fails to return on time, according to data and contracts obtained by USA TODAY. The containers — large metal boxes stowed on ships and moved from port on trucks — are familiar sights on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where troops use them for storage, shelter and building material. Yet each 20-foot container returned late can rack up more than $2,200 in late fees.

Middle East

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been trying desperately to highlight the folly of creating a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. He asked, “Will the Western Wall be occupied territory?” The thought that this ancient and sacred place could soon be placed in the hands of radical Islamic terrorists who hate both Christians and Jews underscores the absurdity of splitting Jerusalem in half.

Libya

Moammar Gadhafi was quoted Thursday as warning that tribes loyal to him in key strongholds are armed and won’t surrender to Libyan rebels, a blow to opposition hopes of a peaceful surrender of the ousted leader’s hometown of Sirte. Rebels have been hunting for the Libyan leader since he was forced into hiding after they swept into Tripoli on Aug. 20 and gained control of most of the capital after days of fierce fighting.

Radical Islamists are among the leaders of rebels who have toppled Tripoli and are hunting down Gadhafi. Islamists represent about a fifth of the Libyan Transitional National Council, and Islamist militias have ransacked military weapons caches, controlling neighborhoods and taken over prisons and government offices. If an Islamist movement akin to the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in gaining dominance in Libya, it would divide Libyan society between male and female and block the media and educational system from creating a secular society that can integrate with the West. “They would create a bloc of regimes with other other Islamic regimes that would be against the (Israeli-Palestinian) peace process and mobilize militarily against Israel,” says Walid Phares, an adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.. “They would want to compete with and defeat the influence of the United States in the region and beyond.”

Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, the chairman of the African Union said, citing the fears as one reason the continental body has not recognized opposition forces as Libya’s interim government.About 500 Darfuris “are desperately trying to get out of Libya. They have no money, they are basically homeless because they are from Darfur, and they very much fear for their lives because of the color of their skin.”

Syria

Syrian security forces killed seven people on Tuesday as they opened fire to disperse thousands of protesters rallying against the regime on the first day of a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Security forces fired at protesters in the southern province of Daraa, in the central city of Homs and in Damascus and its suburbs following morning prayers on the start of Eid al-Fitr, a three -day holiday.

More than 8.3 million tourists passed through Syria in 2010, generating 12% of the gross domestic product, according to the Syrian Ministry of Tourism. This year, the streets of the Syrian capital tell a different story: Empty Internet cafes and deserted dining tables at popular restaurants show the cloud of fear and uncertainty that hangs over the city.

Afghanistan

August was the deadliest month ever for Americans in the 10-year war. Sixty-six U.S. service members have been killed this month, a toll that includes the deaths of 30 troops in an Aug. 6 helicopter crash. The previous high was 65 troops killed in July 2010. The Taliban has shifted away from firefights with coalition and Afghan forces and has increasingly turned to suicide attacks. Under a White House plan to reduce troop levels, U.S. forces will be reduced by 10,000 service members by the end of this year and an additional 23,000 by September 2012.

Pakistan

In the aftermath of the secret U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden, Pakistani officials want a detailed agreement spelling out U.S. rules of engagement inside Pakistan, officials in both countries say, but Washington’s refusal to sign a binding document threatens to create another point of friction in the long-troubled relationship. Pakistan military officials want the U.S. to sign what is called a “memorandum of understanding,” an agreement they want to include such details as the number of CIA operatives working in Pakistan, notification before U.S. drone strikes, intelligence gathered and a written promise about Pakistan’s role if al-Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is found in Pakistan.

Japan

Yoshihiko Noda, elected Tuesday as Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years, faces a host of daunting problems, from post-tsunami recovery and an ongoing nuclear crisis to reviving a limp economy and reining in the nation’s bloated debt. Beyond providing vision and a strategy for the enormous task of rebuilding the northeastern coast after March’s tsunami— the worst catastrophe to hit Japan since World War II — Noda must unify his fractious party and restore public trust amid widespread disappointment over the government’s handling of the disaster and persistent political infighting.

Mexico

Five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel have been arrested in northern Mexico and accused of setting the fire that killed 52 people in a Monterrey casino last week, Mexican authorities said today. Two other suspects are being sought. The five, ages 18 to 37, admitted they participated in Thursday’s arson attack at Casino Royale and were members of the Zetas. Authorities believe the arson attack was in retaliation for the casino’s failure to pay extortion money to the Zetas. Most of the dead were women.

Earthquakes

Central Virginia has been shaken by another aftershock from last week’s earthquake that rattled the East Coast. The U.S. Geological Survey reports a 3.4 magnitude aftershock at 5:09 a.m. Thursday. The 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled the USA’s East Coast on Aug. 23 continues to produce aftershocks. At least 19 aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to as little as 2.0 followed the strongest earthquake to strike the East Coast since World War II.

Wildfires

Wildfires fueled by extremely dry conditions and strong winds destroyed dozens of homes in Oklahoma City and North Texas on Tuesday and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. Officials did not yet know what started the blazes, but a summer heat wave and drought in Oklahoma and Texas have left the ground parched and vegetation dry. In Oklahoma City, bursts of flame rose amid thick black smoke as oil-packed cedar trees ignited. Utility poles lit up like matchsticks, and power was out to more than 7,000 homes and businesses. The fire destroyed 10 to 12 homes and consumed 1,500 acres in a sparsely populated and heavily wooded section of the city. Meanwhile, a fast-moving wildfire in North Texas destroyed at more than three dozen homes and prompted authorities to evacuate at least 400 other homes in a lakeside community. The wildfire had spread to about 3,6,200 acres in Palo Pinto County as of Wednesday night. It was expected to burn through most of the tinder-dry trees and shrubs in its path by daybreak Thursday, helping firefighters contain the late-summer blaze during the state’s severe and seemingly endless fire season.

Weather

Hurricane Katia is continuing its trek across the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds early Thursday near 75 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says some strengthening is expected and Katia could become a major hurricane by the weekend. It’s too early to tell if Katia will hit the U.S. Also becoming a concern is a thunderstorm cluster in the Gulf of Mexico, which has a high chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next few days.

The month that wouldn’t cool off has finally, mercifully, ended in Phoenix. August reached record-setting levels of misery in many ways: the highest average high temperature of 109; the highest average low temperature of 87.5. the highest average temperature of 98.3; the hottest August day ever – 117. All in all, it was the hottest August on record.

A typhoon that flooded homes, roads and farmland in Taiwan with more than 20 inches of rain left the island Monday and headed to southeastern China. Typhoon Nanmadol stayed over Taiwan for only a few hours and was weaker than when it pummeled the Philippines, where at least 16 people died and another eight were missing. Some 30,000 households in southern and eastern Taiwan lost power, 8,000 people were evacuated and scores of roads and bridges were closed due to the heavy rain.

Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes