Signs of the Times (12/12/11)

British Christians Fearlessly Proclaim Jesus’ Name

Thousands of Christians all over the United Kingdom took to the streets last week for “Not Ashamed Day 2011,” a day to publicly proclaim the gospel of Jesus and pray for their nation, which has become increasingly hostile to Christianity, CBN News reports. “It’s young people, students in their 20s, the youth, calling out to the rest of the church to come and pray,” said the Rev. Pat Allerton, coordinator of the rally. “Calling them on to the streets where the gospel is designed to be. I mean, the gospel is designed for the marketplace.” Many Christians gathered on the same grounds as Occupy London protesters: “We want to reach out to them in love and proclaim the hope and the truth that is found only and supremely in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern.

U.S. to Use Foreign Aid to Promote Gay Rights

The Obama administration announced an effort to use U.S. foreign aid to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad, including combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality and requiring U.S. agencies to protect gay and lesbian refugees and asylum-seekers, CNSNews.com reports. “The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said. Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel Action said the policy was “frankly offensive,” noting that the administration was apparently ignoring the sovereignty of foreign nations by forcing them to change their principles. He added, “What about nations where Christians are driven out of the nation or executed?”

  • As a global promoter of the gay agenda, the U.S. will increasingly reap the curses that come with violating God’s natural laws

Bill Legalizes Sodomy and Bestiality in Military

The Senate has voted 93-7 to approve a defense authorization bill that includes a provision which not only repeals the military law on sodomy, it also repeals the ban on sex with animals-or bestiality. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said “It’s all about using the military to advance this administration’s radical social agenda.” The bill, which passed 93-7, now goes to a conference committee to be reconciled with the House of Representatives’ version of the bill. According to Perkins, the House version reinforced the Defense of Marriage Act, saying that there is a military Defense of Marriage Act as well, prohibiting same-sex marriage on military bases.

EU’s  Latest Agreement Still Leaves Unfinished Work

After all the hype about the do-or-die talks to save the euro, there was a strange absence of urgency about the latest summit of European Union leaders. The two-day meeting that ended Friday produced no silver bullet to end the euro-crisis and left out some critical details that may require future summits to resolve. Stocks and the euro rose on the news, despite the deep rift which emerged between Britain and the other EU members and the summit’s lack of any clear signal on central bank intervention to save the euro, which many had considered essential to restore confidence in the common currency. Central to what the summit did decide is the creation of a new “fiscal compact” among the 17 Eurozone nations and up to nine of the other EU members. Only Britain, which doesn’t use the euro, said it would stay out.

The plan will involve unprecedented oversight of national economies by the EU with sanctions for governments that run up high deficits as part of a German-inspired drive to restore market confidence in Eurozone nations’ debt and prevent a repeat of the current debt crisis. The pact drafted largely by Germany and France must now be sold to average citizens, who are increasingly mistrustful of surrendering national sovereignty to the European Union, analysts said Sunday. The pact, then, could wind up forcing nations to choose between further European integration or disintegration.

Climate Conference Approves Landmark Deal

A U.N. climate conference surprisingly reached a hard-fought agreement Sunday on a complex and far-reaching program meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades. The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that would put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing commitments to control greenhouse gases. It would take effect by 2020 at the latest. The deal also set up the bodies that will collect, govern and distribute tens of billions of dollars a year for poor countries. Other documents in the package lay out rules for monitoring and verifying emissions reductions, protecting forests, transferring clean technologies to developing countries and scores of technical issues. Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for another five years.

  • Putting “all countries under the same legal regime” is a major advance for the globalist New World Order folks. Along with the U.N., World Bank and World Court (International Court of Justice) and European Union, it goes another step toward the prophesied end-time one-world government (Rev. 13)

Supreme Court Wtoill Hear Challenge to Arizona Immigration Law

The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear arguments over Arizona’s immigration law after a lower court upheld a Justice Department challenge to void the law, arguing the state can’t legislate rules that the federal government is responsible for enforcing. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana. The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several provisions in the Arizona law, including one that requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person’s immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.Like the health care debate, the case adds another politically charged dispute between a Republican-dominated state and the Democratic administration to the court’s election-year lineup.

Police Evict Occupy Boston Protesters

Police officers swept through Dewey Square early Saturday, tearing down tents at the Occupy Boston encampment and arresting dozens of protesters, bringing a peaceful end to the 10-week demonstration. The city had set a deadline for midnight Thursday for the protesters to abandon the site but police took no action until early Saturday, making Boston the latest city where officials moved to oust protesters demonstrating against what they call corporate greed and economic injustice. The protesters were “very accommodating” to the police officers. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said. No injuries were reported. The entire operation lasted less than an hour.

Loss of Drone an Intelligence Coup for Iran

The loss to Iran of the CIA’s surveillance drone bristling with advanced spy technology is more than a propaganda coup and intelligence windfall for the Tehran government. The plane’s capture has peeled back another layer of secrecy from expanding U.S. operations against Iran’s nuclear and military programs. Just as the Soviet Union’s downing of the American U-2 spy plane revealed a hidden aspect of the Cold War, Iran’s recovery of the drone has shed light on the espionage that is part of U.S.-Iran hostilities. Iran has charged the U.S. or its allies with waging a campaign of cyberwarfare and sabotage, and of assassinating some Iranian scientists. The U.S. has accused the Iranian government of helping kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan and plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Iran protested Friday to the United Nations about what it described as “provocative and covert operations” by the U.S. The Tehran government called the flight by the drone a “blatant and unprovoked air violation” that was “tantamount to an act of hostility.”

  • It is the loss of advanced technology to Islamists that is the most serious ramification

Obama’s Foreclosure Aid Programs Not Working

The Obama administration’s initial foreclosure-prevention programs, launched in early 2009, were intended to help 7 million to 9 million people. So far, they’ve aided about 2 million, and not all of those are out of foreclosure danger. Programs begun later have also faltered. One intended to help at least 500,000 has helped just a few hundred a year after its launch. Another initiative to extend $1 billion to help the jobless or underemployed avoid foreclosure ended in September, obligating less than half of its funds. The unused money went back to the U.S. Treasury. As of Nov. 30, the government had spent just $2.8 billion of the $46 billion war chest it had in 2009 to devote to the housing crisis, the Treasury Department says. More has been committed, but only $13 billion will ultimately be spent, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in March.

The administration’s programs were hampered by design flaws, their reliance on a mortgage industry overwhelmed by the fallout from a historic collapse in home prices, and a brutal extended housing downturn. Nor could they always overcome the conflicting interests of borrowers with too much debt, mortgage investors unwilling to surrender profits and mortgage servicers with sometimes greater financial incentives to foreclose on loans than to permanently modify them. Meanwhile, 2.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2009, an additional 4 million are in the foreclosure process or seriously delinquent, and home prices are still falling in much of the U.S., shrinking household wealth for millions of Americans.

Voters Disapprove of Obama’s Job Performance

Less than a year before the election, more American voters disapprove than approve of the job President Obama is doing as president — and almost all view the economy negatively. Forty-four percent of voters approve and 51 percent disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, according to a Fox News poll released Friday. An overwhelming majority of voters — 94 percent — say the economy is in bad shape. Twenty-eight percent rate conditions as “only fair” and 66 percent say “poor.” That is the highest “poor” rating ever measured by the Fox News poll. Less than 1 percent of voters says the economy is in “excellent” shape and 5 percent say it is in “good” condition.

Federal Oversight Lacking on State Highway Projects

The federal government spends $40 billion a year on highway construction but does not track how many projects are over budget, how much goes toward overruns or whether the record is getting better or worse. The result is a patchwork pattern of planning lapses and design errors that sends some states back for more money again and again. State transportation departments (DOTs) are responsible for managing highway and interstate projects, which are usually at least 80% federally funded. Gannett newspapers obtained construction costs for 21 federally funded highway projects through Freedom of Information Act requests. About half finished within 5% of the original contract, but the others had significant overruns: From 2001 to 2010, more than half of state contracts ran over budget and 45% finished late. The House Transportation Committee wants to publicize states’ performance and link it to federal highway funding.

Northeast States Cut Heating Aid to Poor

Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government. Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits to families as Congress considers cutting more than $1 billion from last year’s $4.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that served nearly 9 million households. Families in New England, where the winters are long and cold and people rely heavily on costly oil heat, are expected to be especially hard hit. Many poor and elderly people on fixed incomes struggle with rising heating bills that can run into thousands of dollars. That can force them to cut back on other necessities like food or medicine.

Economic News

Americans are clearly worse off than they were just since this past spring, according to a new Federal Reserve report. The average U.S. household lost $21,261 of net worth over the summer months, according to the latest quarterly report by the Fed. Attributed to falling home values and a tumultuous stock market, the third-quarter decline marked the second straight quarter of eroding net wealth for U.S. households.

Consumers plan to spend considerably more this holiday, but not in the same way they have in years past. The average U.S. shopper plans to spend $751 this year, a 22% increase from a 2010, according to this year’s survey. Only one in five shoppers plans to use credit cards or other types of debt that will not be immediately paid off in full. The most popular destination remains big box stores, like Walmart and Best Buy, where 42% of shoppers plan to do at least some spending. However, that’s down six points from a year ago. Also down six points, the percentage of shoppers who plan to visit traditional department stores — 19%, vs. 25% in 2010. At the same time, plans to shop online continue to move higher, with 27% of shoppers planning to buy online this year, up two points from a year ago.

Come New Year’s Day, San Francisco will make history by becoming the first city in the nation to scale a $10 minimum wage. The city’s hourly wage for its lowest-paid workers will hit $10.24, more than $2 above the California minimum wage and nearly $3 more than the working wage set by the federal government.

The Army said Thursday it is moving forward with plans announced in July to cut about 8,700 positions, using a mix of early retirement offers, buyouts and attrition to trim the jobs by the end of the fiscal year in late September. The cuts will come in 37 states at 70 different locations across eight commands and agencies.

Middle East

Israel exchanged fire with terrorists in the Gaza Strip late Thursday night and into Friday morning, with several rockets landing in Israel and the IDF killing a senior operative in the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah political faction. The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports, “Violence against the Jewish people continues to escalate as Gaza terrorists have fired at least ten rockets into Israel over the past two days. The southern region around Ashkelon was the target of these latest attacks, which thankfully resulted in no injuries. It is so ironic to read the news reports of attacks on Israel from Gaza—the land Israel gave up in exchange for empty promises of peace—side by side with reports of politicians like President Obama urging Israel to give up even more land for peace. There will never be peace until the Palestinians give up their dream of destroying Israel and killing the Jews. That is their purpose. They have no interest in peace. They may enter into an agreement that will give them a temporary advantage, but they will never rest until their evil goal is accomplished—or until they are stopped. The threat to Israel will not disappear because a meaningless piece of paper is signed.”

A slew of Palestinian officials reacted with dismay and rage Saturday to Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s statement that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. The Jewish Channel, a U.S. cable TV network, released excerpts of the interview on Friday in which the former House speaker said Palestinians were not a people because they never had a state and because they were part of the Ottoman Empire before the British mandate and Israel’s creation. “I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places,” Gingrich said. Gingrich responded to the criticism by saying he is speaking as a historian but adds that it’s time for a candidate to stand up and call Palestinian leaders “terrorists.”

  • Gingrich is exactly right. While many Arabs were displaced when the state of Israel was re-formed after WW II, there has never been a nation of Palestine. That was the term the Romans used when they first conquered that general area that included Israel and what we now call Jordan and Syria.

Russia

Tens of thousands of Muscovites thronged to a city square to protest against alleged electoral fraud and against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his party on Saturday, and demonstrators gathered in other rallies across the vast country, the largest public show of discontent in post-Soviet Russia. The protests come three months before Putin, who was president in 2000-2008 and effectively remained the country’s leader while prime minister, is to seek a third term in office. The public outpouring challenges his image, supported by state-controlled TV channels, as a man who won the affection of most Russians. That image was undercut by last Sunday’s parliamentary elections, during which his United Party narrowly retained a majority of seats, but lost the unassailable two-thirds majority it held in the previous parliament. The unprecedented protest by tens of thousands of Russians claiming elections were rigged has prompted the Kremlin to promise to look into fraud charges and may be the first major threat to Vladimir Putin’s uncontested hold on power.

Japan

Radioactive water leaked inside a nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan but did not escape into the environment, the government said Saturday, the latest problem for the country’s nuclear industry amid an ongoing crisis at the northern earthquake/tsunami-destroyed plant. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said 1.8 tons of radioactive water leaked from a pump in Genkai’s No. 3 reactor, and the cause was still under investigation. The water was funneled into a storage area and posed no safety risk.

Yemen

A national unity government was sworn in Saturday in Yemen as part of a deal for the country’s embattled president to step down after nearly a year of protests against his rule and a crackdown that has killed hundreds. The new 35-member administration is made up of an almost equal number of opposition and loyalist ministers, among them nine who served in the previous Cabinet. The new government’s first main task will be to push through a law shielding President Ali Abdullah Saleh from prosecution for alleged corruption and for the violence against protesters — a key condition under the deal for him to relinquish power after 33 years ruling over the Arab world’s poorest nation. Many protesters have rejected the deal, which was brokered by Gulf Arab nations and supported by the United States, because they want to see Saleh brought to trial and because the agreement does not include far-reaching political changes. Many of those activists have continued protesting.

Syria

The Syrian government has warned protesters in the city of Homs that it has a 72-hour deadline to stop demonstrations, hand in weapons and surrender defecting military members — or face bombardment, Lt. Col. Mohamed Hamdo of the opposition Free Syrian Army said Saturday. The deadline would come Monday night. The Syrian National Council, the country’s leading opposition movement, had warned earlier of a potential bloodbath at the hands of the Syrian regime in Homs. And Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “killer,” implicitly comparing him to Libya’s ousted ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

Earthquakes

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck in Mexico’s western Guerrero state Saturday night, shaking buildings and causing panic in the nation’s capital and the Pacific resort of Acapulco. Officials said at least three people died, but there were no reports of widespread damage. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage, although the depth of this temblor lessened its impact. The quake was centered 40.3 miles below the earth’s surface. One man was killed when a house’s roof collapsed in Iguala, and the driver of a cargo truck was killed by rocks that fell on the vehicle driving on the toll highway linking Acapulco with Mexico City.

Weather

The round of dry conditions through the country will come to an end Monday as a strong storm will slam into Southern California. The storm will renew areas of heavy rain along with high-elevation snow not only in California but also through the Southwest over the next couple of days. Winter storm watches are in effect for the hills of Southern California as snow levels will tumble to near 4,000 feet with the cold air from the storm.

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