Signs of the Times (2/22/12)

Evangelicals Join Catholics in Opposing Birth Control Rule

A group of evangelical pastors on Monday joined Roman Catholic clergy who oppose an Obama administration requirement that employees of religiously affiliated businesses receive birth control coverage. More than 2,500 pastors and evangelical leaders have signed a letter to President Obama asking him to reverse the mandate. While most Protestants do not oppose contraception per se, the letter calls the mandate a violation of religious freedoms. “This is not a Catholic issue,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said. “We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedom impinged upon by the government.”

  • This issue opens the door to mandated abortion coverage, at first through the so-called ‘morning-after’ pill which secularists are trying to define as a birth control measure, but it is far different than contraception

Obama Budget Proposal Eliminates Family-Friendly Education Programs

Education advocates cried foul after the Obama administration this month revealed its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013 — one that cancels all federal funding for a popular school choice program in D.C. and abstinence education programs nationwide, WORLD News Service reports. Since 2003, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has given low-income children the opportunity to escape failing public schools in order to attend the private school of their parents’ choice. The nation’s first federally funded school choice program, it boasts a 91 percent high school graduation rate, compared to only 70 percent citywide among children with similar backgrounds. Meanwhile, the president took a 20:1 funding disparity between condom-based sex education programs and abstinence education programs and made it 100:0. “Why would the president want to censor information that helps teens make healthy choices?” said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association. “It just doesn’t make sense!” Virginia Walden Ford, former executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, said Obama had “chosen to stand with special interest groups and not with the children who need him to stand for them.”

U.K. to Monitor all Phone Calls & Emails

The British government has dusted off previously shelved plans to create huge databases, enabling spy agencies to monitor every phone call, email and text message as well as websites visited by everyone in the country.The Telegraph reports that under the plans, the government will force every communications network to store the data for one year. The plans also extend to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and gaming sites. The records would allow the spy agencies to monitor the “who, when and where” of every phone call, text message and email sent, while also allowing for internet browsing histories to be matched to IP addresses. Critics and civil liberties advocates are calling for mass opposition to the plans, noting that the scheme is open to abuse not only by spy agencies and communications companies themselves, but also by hackers and online criminals.

  • The U.S. has been doing this to some extent for years. Privacy is a vestige of the past as Big Brother ramps up.

Israeli Sites in America on High Alert

After numerous attacks and bombing attempts around the world last week, Jewish sites in the U.S.—synagogues, schools and embassy buildings—have been placed on a greatly heightened alert status. Visibly heightened security measures are also being taken when Israeli officials travel to public events. Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in D.C., said, “The recent [planned] attack on a Saudi official in Washington shows a willingness to attack in the United States. This could be an indicator of a much broader campaign and it is right to take precautionary measures.” The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “This is not a far-off problem that affects only people in other lands; the war against Israel has come right to our own doorsteps.”

Alabama Law Leaves Immigrants on Edge

When Alabama’s immigration law went into effect in September, it sent shock waves throughout Hispanic communities within the state. Whole families left overnight, parents pulled their children out of school, and city centers became ghost towns as legal and illegal immigrants alike hid from police. In the months since, a number of illegal immigrants who fled have returned. But with an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on portions of the law set for March 1, Hispanics are still living with one foot out of the state, ready to flee for good. Alabama followed Arizona’s lead by passing a law last year aimed at making everyday life difficult for the state’s estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants. The Alabama law allowed local police to check the immigration status of people stopped for other crimes, required public school officials to collect data on the number of illegal immigrants enrolling, and forbade illegal immigrants from entering into private contracts or conducting any business with the state. Federal courts blocked some portions of the law, including the immigration checks at schools. But unlike judges in Arizona and other states who have barred police from checking immigration status during routine stops, judges allowed the police enforcement provision to go into effect in September.

  • Gee, what a shame that illegal immigrants are living on edge. Strengthen the laws even more so that they go over the edge and deport themselves.

What’s a ‘Fair Share’ of Tax Burden?

President Obama’s catch-phrase that everyone should “pay our fair share of taxes” has become something of a political mantra. He has used the expression in dozens of speeches, beginning back in his State of Union address in January. He is using this sound-bite to push for more taxes on the wealthy. However, the top 10 percent income earners pay about 70 percent of all federal income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent of tax filers pay only 3 percent of federal income taxes. For many of the people who pay no taxes, the government also allows tax credits, which end up providing refunds. About 70 percent of Americans take more out of the tax system than they put into it, according to the Tax Foundation.

  • Obama is so out of touch with reality that the only explanation is subjugation to the globalist, socialistic objectives of the New World Order that seek to rein in wealthy entrepreneurs who espouse free-market, capitalistic policies

Greece Secures Bailout to Avoid Debt Default

Greece won a second massive financial bailout in the early hours of Tuesday morning when its partners in the 17-country eurozone finally stitched together a $170 billion rescue, meant to avoid a potentially disastrous default and secure the euro currency. On top of the new rescue loans, banks and other investment funds will also be asked to forgive $142 billion in debt, while the European Central Bank and national central banks in the eurozone will forgo profits on their holdings. But the patchwork of measures, including the implementation of more austerity in Greece and approval by skeptical German and Dutch Parliaments, mean that it’s unlikely to be the end of the continent’s debt crisis. The eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, which will be providing the money for the new bailout, hope the new program will eventually put Greece back into a position where it can survive without external support and secure its place in the euro currency union.

More Women, Girls Taking Up Guns

There are pink guns. Pink ear protection. Pink shell pouches. For your car, don’t miss the pink “Pistol Packing Princess” sticker. And if you want to pack heat while lunching at your favorite tea room, a purse with a special pistol holster is de rigueur, notes the Des Moines Register. All of this is aimed at women who want to own a gun — for protection, for hunting or for sport shooting — a rapidly growing demographic. Research by the National Sporting Goods Association shows female participation in target shooting grew by 46.5% between 2001 and 2010. And an October 2011 Gallup Poll found that 23% of women now own a gun.

  • The need for self-protection has shifted from fears of crime to concern about social unrest and government imposition of draconian control measures

Wireless Airwaves Full

The U.S. mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and Internet services to its customers. The problem, known as the “spectrum crunch,” threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise customers’ prices. It will also whittle down the nation’s number of wireless carriers and create a deeper financial divide between those companies that have capacity and those that don’t. Wireless spectrum — the invisible infrastructure over which all wireless transmissions travel — is a finite resource. When, exactly, we’ll hit the wall is the subject of intense debate, but almost everyone in the industry agrees that a crunch is coming. There are potential solutions, but none are inexpensive, easy to implement, or comprehensive. The U.S. still has a slight spectrum surplus. But at the current growth rate, the surplus turns into a deficit as early as next year, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Russians Revive Ice Age Flower

It was an Ice Age squirrel’s treasure chamber, a burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been stuck in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. From the fruit tissues, a team of Russian scientists managed to resurrect an entire plant in a pioneering experiment that paves the way for the revival of other species. The Silene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, the researchers said, and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds. “We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in search of an ancient genetic pool, that of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth’s surface,” the scientists said in the article.

  • Exciting and potentially dangerous. What kind of microbes and viruses might also get coincidentally revived for which our immune systems have no defense?

Economic News

Laying down an election-year marker in the debate over taxes, the Obama administration is proposing to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, and to seek an even lower effective rate for manufacturers. In turn, corporations would have to give up dozens of loopholes and subsidies that they now enjoy. Corporations with overseas operations would also face a minimum tax on their foreign earnings. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday was to detail aspects of President Barack Obama’s proposed overhaul of the corporate tax system

The Dow Jones industrial average briefly broke through the 13,000 barrier for the first time since May 2008 in early trading Tuesday, extending its gains since the bear market low to nearly 100%.The Dow, the best-known and most closely followed stock barometer in the USA, has now nearly doubled since hitting rock bottom on March 9, 2009, in what was the worst bear market since the 1930s. It is up about 98% since its low.

Lenders are allowing more short sales by financially strapped homeowners and a few people are even getting cash to complete the sale. Short sales are when lenders allow borrowers to sell homes for less than their unpaid mortgages. They are an alternative to foreclosures. Short sales have been increasing for months, but the financial incentives are a newer wrinkle. JPMorgan Chase went national with short-sale incentive offers last year, paying up to $35,000 in some cases. When a loan modification isn’t possible, a short sale may be a better and faster solution than foreclosure, says JPMorgan. “It’s a lot cheaper to shell out $10,000 or $20,000 to someone than it is to go through a long foreclosure,” says Jim Gillespie, chief executive of Coldwell Banker.


Greeks greeted uneasily the news on Tuesday that their country will likely avoid defaulting on its debts next month and the euro should remain their currency — but at the cost of years of economic hardship. The relief created by the 17-nation eurozone’s approval of a new €130 billion ($170 billion) rescue package was offset by a grim reality: Greece faces many more years of sacrifice, on top of a grueling 24 months of austerity measures that have contributed to record high unemployment and a rapidly contracting economy. The deal in Brussels gives Greece its second financial lifeline in less than two years and the hope is that it will grant the country the breathing space to enact widespread reforms and set it back on a path to growth.

  • EU bailouts (better called printing money out of thin air) will only postpone an inevitable demise under the soaring debt load


For nearly 600 years, Portugal had one of the greatest colonial empires in Europe, commanding trade centers in Africa, South America and China. Now, laid low by recession, Portugal is telling citizens to head to former colonies where Portuguese is spoken, such as Brazil and Macau, to find work. The Portuguese government has admitted it is unable to provide job opportunities to the country’s 700,000 unemployed, especially teachers and recent graduates. Many of them have lost jobs, or been unable to find employment at all, as a result of austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank when they bailed out the country to the tune of $115 billion last May. Portugal’s unemployment rate reached its highest level ever in December, 14%. Talk of a second bailout has led to fears that there might be more austerity to come. The credit ratings agency Fitch predicts Portugal’s economy will shrink by 3% in 2012. In contrast, Brazil’s economy grew by 7.5% last year.


The U.N. nuclear agency acknowledged renewed failure Wednesday after a trip to probe suspicions of covert Iranian nuclear weapons work, in a statement issued just hours after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any foe threatening the country. The double signs of defiance reflected Tehran’s continued resistance to demands that it defuse suspicions about its nuclear activities despite a growing list of international sanctions. As the two-day trip was winding down, Iranian officials sought to cast it in a positive light, with foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast telling reporters that “cooperation with the agency continues and is at its best level.”

  • What a joke. It’s been a ludicrous charade all along and the U.N. is complicit in keeping the illusion going that Iran might cooperate when all they’re doing is stalling for more time

North Korea

The U.S. and North Korea reopen nuclear talks Thursday that will provide a glimpse into where Pyongyang’s opaque government is heading after Kim Jong Il’s death and test its readiness to dismantle nuclear programs for much-needed aid. The two countries were on the verge of a deal to have Washington provide food in return for Pyongyang suspending uranium enrichment when it was upended by the longtime leader’s death on Dec. 17. That North Korea has agreed to re-enter talks so soon afterward could signal a measure of cohesion and a continuation of Kim Jong Il’s policies as it transfers power to his young son and a coterie of advisers. However, stonewalling could point to disagreement within the new leadership or unpredictable directions in policy for a government that has long sought to develop nuclear weapons and already has detonated two nuclear test blasts.

  • Stalling has been the modus operandi of both North Korea and Iran, simply buying more time to get their nuclear capabilities firmly in place.


When Islamic activists joined with pro-democracy demonstrators in Tahrir Square and cities across the country to bring Mubarak’s 30-year tyranny to an end, may Egyptians were excited and enthusiastic about a true revolution. Not any more. The newly politically empowered Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic organization that supports religious law and opposes Western influence, has supported a crackdown on those who disagree with them, including the very activists who helped bring about the free elections that the Brotherhood dominated. A year after the revolution, many Egyptians — already suffering under the weight of a wretched economy — see an undemocratic society where the military and Islamic ideologues are hoarding power while changing nothing. Though some are pleased that a form of law shaped by the Quran is coming to Egypt, others wonder whether they have swapped one corrupt and suppressing dictatorship for another.


Four months after the death of Moammar Gadhafi, the people of Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, were frustrated by stalled reforms. They played a key role in overthrowing the Libyan dictator of 42 years, and were impatient to see the changes they shed blood for. They staged a sit-in on the council’s steps, got the members to resign and call new elections, which were held on Monday. The vote was the first experiment in real democracy anywhere in Libya. It was also another example of how Libya is splintering into largely autonomous city-states, with powerful local militias and emerging local governments. So far, cities like Misrata are pushing ahead even faster with the transition to democracy than the national government is. Libya’s leader acknowledged Tuesday that his transitional government is powerless to control militias that are refusing to lay down their arms as it struggles to impose control over the oil-rich North African nation.


Anti-American demonstrations erupted on the outskirts of Kabul for a second day Wednesday and in another Afghan city over an incident that the U.S. said was inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books at a military base in Afghanistan. The U.S. embassy in Kabul was on lockdown as protests raged in multiple cities, with police killing at least five. More than 2,000 Afghans rallied Tuesday against the inadvertent burning of Qurans and other Islamic religious materials during trash disposal at an American air base. U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, apologized and ordered an investigation into the incident, which he was “not intentional in any way.” The incident stoked anti-foreign sentiment that already is on the rise after nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan and fueled the arguments of Afghans who believe foreign troops are not respectful of their culture or Islamic religion.


Government troops heavily shelled rebellious districts in the resistance stronghold of Homs Tuesday, killing at least 12 people and compounding fears of a new round of bloody urban combat in a country careening toward all-out civil war. In the northern province of Aleppo, the government said a Syrian businessman was shot dead in front of his home in what appears to be the latest in a series of targeted that suggest armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad. A French photojournalist and an American working for a British newspaper were killed Wednesday by Syrian government shelling of the opposition stronghold of Homs, France’s government said.


As Yemenis voted Tuesday to replace their dictator of 34 years, analysts say Yemen must address the legitimate grievances of the country’s factions rather than continue a military crackdown that has cost hundreds of lives. Even if the election goes well, there’s intense trouble ahead say CIA analysts. The United States has been working with Yemen’s government to target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has expanded into one of the most menacing terror franchises in the Middle East, according to the Pentagon. The Obama administration supported the easing aside of dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose family-controlled military has been pounding an uprising in the south. In voting Tuesday, Yemenis cast ballots for his replacement, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi inherits leadership of the Arab world’s poorest country during a conflict that has destroyed the economy, set security forces fighting against each other and allowed al-Qaeda to seize towns.

Burma: Continuing Human Rights Violations Against Christian Civilians

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports ongoing and continuous grave human rights violations being committed by the Burma Army against Christian civilians in Kachin State and other ethnic states. The Burma Army has been waging an offensive against ethnic civilians since breaking a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independent Organization/Army in June. In a recent three-week fact-finding visit to the area, CSW heard first-hand testimonies from internally displaced people from Kachin and Shan states of killings, torture, rape and the destruction of churches, homes and villages by the Burma Army. “These were unarmed civilians, in their paddy fields or homes, who were not engaged in armed combat in any form,” said Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia team leader. “The accounts of torture and other abuses are a cause for very grave concern and … require an urgent and sustained response from the international community.”

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