Signs of the Times (4/10/12)

Britain Can Send Terror Suspects to U.S.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Britain could legally extradite five suspects wanted in the United States on terrorism charges, including Abu Hamza al-Masri, an inflammatory former mosque cleric accused in a range of unprosecuted anti-American plots that date back 14 years. In a precedent that eases extradition of terrorism suspects — an issue that has surfaced repeatedly since Britain relaxed procedures after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington — the court ruled that the human rights of the defendants would not be violated by their incarceration in a maximum security American prison. Although the court said the defendants could not be extradited before further legal procedures were completed, including further objections by rights activists, which could possibly delay their transfer to America for months, the ruling was nonetheless viewed as one of the most important court decisions on the prosecution of terrorism suspects since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises

As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: rising numbers of police officers are being killed. According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 72 officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008. A majority of officers were killed in smaller cities. The F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials cannot fully explain the reasons for the rise in officer homicide. Some law enforcement officials believe that techniques pioneered by the New York Police Department over the past two decades and adopted by other departments may have put officers at greater risk by encouraging them to conduct more street stops and to seek out and confront suspects who seem likely to be armed.

  • Disrespect of authorities is running rampant among our young people who see the police as the face of an increasingly oppressive society

Why are Schools Promoting Violent ‘Hunger Games’?

There are rising fears that the “Survivor-style” theme in the blockbuster film The Hunger Games glamorizes violence and could promote copycat behaviors. Set in a dystopian future where an all-powerful, high-tech centralized government rules over “districts” of impoverished populations barely surviving in Third World conditions, The Hunger Games especially appeals to girls 12 and older. Released March 23, the PG-13 rated film portrays a dark humanistic worldview that ironically dehumanizes life itself, a concept public schools seem to be promoting. Dr. Brenda Hunter, a psychologist, practicing psychotherapist, and co-author of From Santa to Sexting, has serious concerns about the movie. “Middle schools across the country have taken instructional time out of the school day and have transported kids in school buses to see this Hollywood film,” she notes. “And this support has been so extensive that The Associated Press ran an article last week talking about the level of school support for this film through field trips.”

  • Our secular-humanist indoctrination centers strive to promote anything that denigrates God’s natural social order, driven by satanic anti-Christ compulsions toward violence, promiscuity and lawlessness

Pro-Marriage Organization Promotes Starbucks Boycott

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is continuing to encourage churches and believers to “Dump Starbucks.” Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the traditional marriage advocacy group, says her group launched its boycott because of Starbucks’ strong endorsement of the homosexual agenda. “They’ve endorsed ‘gay marriage’ in the state of Washington; they’ve signed a legal brief, asking courts to overturn the federal definition of marriage.” In just the first week of its Dump Starbucks campaign, more than 25,000 people signed the pledge. Now, Christians are being encouraged to find out if Starbucks is being served in their churches.

Economic News

The unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 8.2% in March, its lowest rate since January of 2009. But the overall economy added only 120,000 new jobs in March, lower than expected. And, as the Associated Press pointed out, the unemployment rate “dropped because fewer people searched for jobs. The official unemployment tally only includes those seeking work.”

High gas prices used to hold down new car sales. Now it’s fueling them. So says Automotive News which points to March’s buoyant sales — 1.4 million vehicles, up 13% compared to the same month last year — and says much of the activity involved buyers trading in old, inefficient autos for new gas-saving models. Gas prices continue to rise and there’s a good chance they may top $4 a gallon nationally this week.

Buyers are paying record average prices for new cars. But it’s not gouging by automakers. Rather, more customers are ordering all the frills. Higher gas prices have customers buying loaded versions of smaller vehicles. The average price of a new car is running at $30,748, up 6.9% from a year ago.

Sony more than doubled its projected annual loss to 520 billion yen ($6.4 billion), its worst red ink ever. This would be the fourth year of red ink for Sony. Japanese news reports on Monday said Sony would cut about 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next year as it tries to return to profit.

Middle East

An Israeli airstrike wounded two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border on Saturday. Israel’s military said its air force targeted Palestinians in the town of Rafah attempting to launch a rocket from Gaza into Israel.

The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, vowed on Friday to abduct more Israeli soldiers to pressure the Jewish state to release Palestinian prisoners. Last year, Hamas struck a deal with Israel to swap an Israeli soldier held by Hamas for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including many jailed for helping carry out bombings.

Syria

A U.N.-brokered plan to stop the bloodshed in Syria effectively collapsed Sunday after President Bashar Assad’s government raised new, last-minute demands that the country’s largest rebel group swiftly rejected. The truce plan, devised by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, was supposed to go into effect Tuesday, with a withdrawal of Syrian forces from population centers, followed within 48 hours by a cease-fire on both sides in the uprising against four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family. But on Sunday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said that ahead of any troop pullback, the government needs written guarantees from opposition fighters that they will lay down their weapons. The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, said that although his group is ready to abide by a truce, it does not recognize the regime “and for that reason we will not give guarantees.”  Syria’s main opposition group said Tuesday that 1,000 people have been killed by government forces in the last eight days.

With fighting escalating, the stream of Syrians fleeing to neighboring Turkey picked up considerably this week. Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 2,700 refugees arrived on Thursday and early Friday, pushing the total to nearly 24,000. Syrian government shelling and offensives against rebel-held towns killed at least 43 people across the country on Saturday, as the U.S. posted online satellite images of troop deployments that cast further doubt on whether the regime intends to comply with an internationally sponsored peace plan.  A leading international human rights group says Syrian forces have summarily executed more than 100 people, most of them civilians. Monday’s report by Human Rights Watch says this includes several mass executions in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib. Turkey says 3 people have been wounded after Syrian forces opened fire at refugee camp near the border inside Turkey.

Afghanistan

NATO says a member of an al-Qaeda-linked group who helped finance attacks against Afghan and foreign forces has been captured in northern Afghanistan. The unnamed militant is the third operative with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan reportedly detained or killed in the past two weeks. The group’s leader was killed March 26 in Faryab and another member was captured Friday in Badakhshan province.

A suicide blast blew up a four-wheel-drive vehicle during rush hour Tuesday outside a government office in Herat province in western Afghanistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding more than 20. Two men and a woman wearing a burqa were found dead inside the vehicle that exploded at the gate of a district headquarters building as people were waiting to go inside to see government officials about various business matters.

Pakistan

An avalanche smashed into a Pakistani army base on a Himalayan glacier along the Indian border on Saturday, burying around 135 soldiers. Helicopters, sniffer dogs and troops were deployed to the remote Siachen Glacier to rescue those trapped. Siachen is on the northern tip of the divided Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan. Both countries station thousands of troops there, who brave viciously cold temperatures, altitude sickness and high winds for months at a time. Troops have been deployed at elevations of up to 6,700 meters and have skirmished intermittently since 1984, though the area has been quiet since a cease-fire in 2003. The glacier is known as the world’s highest battlefield.

Egypt

Thousands rallied in Cairo on Friday in support of an ultraconservative Islamist presidential hopeful who may be disqualified from the race after it was announced that his mother was an American citizen. Hazem Abu Ismail is a 50-year-old lawyer-turned-preacher who in recent months vaulted to become one of the strongest contenders for president, with widespread backing from ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis. The showdown between Abu Ismail’s supporters and the government has shaken-up a race that includes former regime officials and Islamists competing against one another in the first presidential election since last year’s ouster or Hosni Mubarak. The balloting is slated for the end of May.

Yemen

Gunmen loyal to Yemen’s ousted president blasted buildings at the country’s main airport with anti-aircraft guns on Saturday, forcing authorities to shut it down, Armed tribesmen and troops in uniform driving pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons opened fire on a tower and destroyed it. Then they surrounded the airport at the capital Sanaa, cut roads and sent passengers’ vehicles away. Authorities canceled all flights. The attack comes a day after Yemen’s new President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fired key security officials appointed by ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh including his half-brother, the air force commander Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, and his nephew, Tariq, who headed the presidential guard.

Tunisia

Police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse protesters seeking to march Monday along the Tunisian capital’s main boulevard despite a ban on demonstrations there. Some of the protesters hurled bricks in response. Bourguiba Avenue has been the main site for protests since Tunisians overthrew their longtime dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a year ago. But last week, authorities barred marches along the thoroughfare because of what they described as threats to “public order.” The ban followed weeks of rival demonstrations between groups calling for and against the implementation of Islamic law in the Arab country, which was staunchly secular under the former regime but now has a moderate Islamist party leading the government.

Mali

Mali’s parliamentary head, who was forced into exile after last month’s coup, returned Saturday to this nation in crisis, marking the first step in Mali’s path back to constitutional rule. Under intense pressure from the nations neighboring Mali, the junior officer who seized power 17 days ago agreed to return the nation to civilian rule, signing an accord late Friday in the presence of ministers from Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. The accord is a milestone for Africa, and especially for the troubled western corner of the continent, where coups or attempted coups are still a regular occurrence.

Mali’s Tuareg rebels, a traditionally nomadic people, have been fighting for independence for the northern half of Mali since at least 1958, when Tuareg elders wrote a letter addressed to the French president asking their colonial rulers to carve out a separate homeland for the Tuareg people. Instead the north, where the lighter-skinned Tuareg people live, was made part of the same country as the south, where the dark-skinned ethnic groups controlled the capital and the nation’s finances.

Weather

At least two tornadoes have touched down and hail the size of softballs pounded northwestern Oklahoma, injuring two people and damaging a county jail and numerous vehicles. In Woodward, hail up to 4.25 inches broke vehicle windows and damaged roofs. Sheriff Gary Stanley says hail broke every skylight in the jail.

A spring snowfall has broken the nearly 60-year-old seasonal snow record of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, which has been inundated with nearly double the snow they usually get. This season’s snowfall surpassed the record of 132.6 inches set in the winter of 1954-55. The 3.4 inches that fell by Saturday afternoon brings the total to 133.6 inches. Extreme weather has hit not only Alaska. It’s also struck the lower 48, where the first three months of 2012 has seen twice the normal number of tornadoes and it was the warmest March in recorded history, having set over 15,000 daily temperature records.

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