Archive for May, 2012

Signs of the Times (5/29/12)

May 29, 2012

Kansas Passes Measure Blocking Islamic Law

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a law aimed at keeping the state’s courts or government agencies from basing decisions on Islamic or other foreign legal codes, and a national Muslim group’s spokesman said Friday that a court challenge is likely. The new law, taking effect July 1, doesn’t specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can’t base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and U.S. constitutions.

  • The rise of states’ rights is a welcome relief from unconstitutional federal intrusion into private affairs and collusion with globalist elitists

Vatican Scandal Erupts

An already sordid scandal over leaked Vatican documents took a Hollywood-like turn Saturday with confirmation that the pope’s own butler had been arrested after confidential documents were found in his Vatican City apartment. The detention of butler Paolo Gabriele, one of the few members of the papal household, capped one of the most convulsive weeks in recent Vatican history and threw the Holy See into chaos as it enters a critical phase in its efforts to show the world it’s serious about complying with international norms on financial transparency. The tumult began with the publication last weekend of a book of leaked Vatican documents detailing power struggles, political intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance. It peaked with the inglorious ouster on Thursday of the president of the Vatican bank. And it concluded with confirmation Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI’s own butler was the alleged mole feeding documents to Italian journalists.

  • The significance of this isn’t financial or just prurient, but rather another black eye for the Christian community that feeds end-time unbelief.

Radioactive Traces from Japan in Fish off California

Scientists, for the first time, have found traces of radioactivity in fish off the California coast that migrated from waters off Japan, site of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The researchers say the evidence is “unequivocal” that the tuna, which were caught last year, were contaminated by the nuclear disaster in Japan last year. Scientists involved in the research say the radioactive cesium detected in samples of Pacific bluefin tuna is well below levels considered unsafe for human.

Economic News

Three years after the recession officially ended, most of the nation’s safety-net programs finally are serving fewer people. The downward trend that started with unemployment insurance in 2010 and welfare benefits in 2011 has reached food stamps, which have seen a two-month dip. Only Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, remains at its peak, due to the slow recovery. Still, even Medicaid has started to level off in some states. Still, half of American households are receiving government funds to support themselves.

Home prices hit new post-bubble lows in March, according to a report out Tuesday. Average home prices were down 2.6% from 12 months earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major markets. Home prices have not been this low since mid-2002. While there has been improvement in some regions, overall housing prices have not turned around yet.

Multiple offers and bidding wars have returned to some housing markets amid shrinking supplies of homes for sale. The dwindling inventories — driven by a mix of reluctant sellers, fewer foreclosure resales and rising demand — are spreading as the housing market gains strength. The number of homes for sale in April hit a 6.6-month supply, down from 9.1 months a year ago. A six-month supply is considered a healthy market.

A better hiring outlook and lower gas prices pushed a measure of U.S. consumer confidence to its highest level in four and a half years. The index of consumer sentiment jumped to 79.3 in May, up from 76.4 in the previous month. That’s the best reading since October 2007 — two months before the recession began.

American consumers appear to be more focused on the U.S. economy than on Europe’s financial crisis, which has weighed heavily on stocks in May. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped another 75 points Friday to close at 12,455. The Dow has fallen 824 points this month since hitting a four-year high of 13,279 on May 1.

More than 100,000 Americans out of work longer than a year in six states and Washington, D.C., are expected to lose their unemployment checks this summer. Affected are extended benefits, paid by the federal government, which provide an additional 13 to 20 weeks of payments to those already out of work 60 to 79 weeks. Economists say the cutbacks will lower the unemployment rate but hurt consumer spending.


The board of directors of Spain’s troubled bank, Bankia, has asked the Spanish government for €19 billion ($23.8 billion) in financial support. The bank’s president, said late Friday that the bailout would “reinforce the solvency, liquidity and solidity of the bank.” The request came on the same day as credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Bankia and four other Spanish banks to junk status because of uncertainty over restructuring and recapitalization plans. Concern about the health of Europe’s banks is a key constituent of the region’s financial crisis. Spanish banks are seen as particularly shaky because they were heavily exposed to the country’s collapsed real estate bubble and now hold massive amounts of soured investments, such as defaulted mortgage loans or devalued property. Bankia has been the worst-hit and holds €32 billion ($40 billion) in toxic assets. The president of Bankia tried Saturday to calm fears about the future of the bank, saying Spain’s second largest mortgage lender will emerge as a solid financial entity after it receives the country’s biggest-ever bank bailout.

Middle East

A new United Nations report has revealed a massive increase in Iran’s nuclear capacity this year. Despite the international embargo that is supposed to be in place, Iran has increased their number of centrifuges by more than 50% since February and has now enriched uranium to at least 27%. This represents a new level of technical ability and brings them even closer to having nuclear warheads. They are already capable of producing dangerous “dirty bombs” to release low-level radiation and devastate Israel’s cities.

Computer malware described as “the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed” has been uncovered in computers in the Middle East and may have infected machines in Europe, according to reports from antivirus researchers and software makers in Russia, Hungary and Ireland. The malware, dubbed Worm.Win32.Flame, is unusual in its complexity, size and the multitude of ways it has of harvesting information from an infected computer including keyboard, screen, microphone, storage devices, network, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB and system processes. Both Kaspersky Labs and CrySyS Lab said it was likely the malware was developed by a government-sponsored entity. “The results of our technical analysis supports the hypotheses that [Flame] was developed by a government agency of a nation state with significant budget and effort, and it may be related to cyber warfare activities,” a CrySyS Lab report said. Vitaly Kamluk, chief malware expert for Kaspersky Labs, said there were many pointers to it being a weapon, not the least of which was how highly-targeted it was. According to their investigations, only 382 infections have been reported, 189 of which were in Iran.

  • Too early to say for sure, but speculation is that Israel is the perpetrator of this focused cyber attack


Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman has denied government troops were behind an attack on a string of villages that left more than 100 people dead. Friday’s assault on Houla, an area northwest of the central city of Homs, was one of the bloodiest single events in Syria’s 15-month-old uprising. Gruesome video Saturday showed rows of dead Syrian children lying in a mosque in bloody shorts and T-shirts with gaping head wounds, haunting images of what activists called one of the deadliest regime attacks yet.

Special envoy Kofi Annan on Monday called on “every individual with a gun” in Syria to lay down arms, saying he was horrified by a weekend massacre, including women and small children. The massacre has emerged as a potential turning point in the Syrian crisis Monday, galvanizing even staunch ally Russia to take an unusually hard line against President Bashar Assad’s government. The U.S. State Department is kicking out Syria’s top diplomat to Washington, joining several other countries in expelling Syrian officials in a bid to increase pressure on Assad.


The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and a veteran of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic regime will face each other in a runoff election on June 16-17 for Egypt’s presidency, according to first-round results Friday. The divisive showdown dismayed many Egyptians who fear either one means an end to any democratic gains produced by last year’s uprising. More than a year after protesters demanding democracy toppled Mubarak, the faceoff between the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and former air-force chief and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq looked like a throwback to the days of his regime — a rivalry between a military-rooted strongman promising a firm hand to ensure stability and Islamists vowing to implement religious law. Three top candidates in Egypt’s presidential race filed appeals to the election commission ahead of the deadline Sunday, alleging violations in the first round vote that they say could change the outcome.


Afghanistan’s parliament has approved a strategic partnership agreement with the United States. The strategic partnership will now go to the Afghan senate, where it is also expected to be approved early next week. It governs the relationship between the two countries through 2024.

Afghan authorities said on Sunday that an airstrike by the U.S.-led NATO coalition killed eight members of a family in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed. A senior NATO official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. Coalition forces were conducting an operation in Paktia province against a large number of insurgents. Meanwhile, four NATO service members were killed in separate roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Sunday.

The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan killed al-Qaeda’s second-highest leader in the country in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, the coalition said Tuesday. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said. He frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al-Qaeda leadership and ferrying in weapons and fighters.


Iran’s nuclear chief says his country is planning to build at least two new nuclear power plants next to an existing facility that became operational with Russia’s help last year. Iran is in the very early stages of planning the new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants and it may begin construction within a year or two. Iran has repeatedly said in recent years that it is planning to build more nuclear power plants but nothing had been offered to show that any work is underway. Iran’s first power plant went into operation last May at the southern coastal city of Bushehr. Iran’s nuclear chief said Sunday there are no reasons at the moment for his country to halt production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers. The West is concerned that the 20-percent enrichment could quickly be turned into nuclear weapons-grade material.

Georgia (former Soviet Republic)

Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of Georgia’s capital on Sunday to show their opposition to President Mikhail Saakashvili in the largest anti-government demonstration in three years. The protest was seen as a test of public support for the opposition ahead of a parliamentary election in October. It also was a political coming-out party for organizer Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman who is Georgia’s richest man and leading philanthropist. He made his entry into politics in October, announcing that he was forming a political party with the aim of winning the parliamentary vote and assuming the post of prime minister. As the participants marched from three directions to join the rally on Freedom Square, they carried Georgian flags but also the flags of the European Union and NATO, indicating that support remains high to one day join the Western organizations.


The United Nations Refugee Agency warned Friday that a major humanitarian crisis is now underway in South Sudan, CBN News reports. At least 10,000 additional refugees crossed over the border from Sudan last week and another 50,000 are expected. More than 120,000 people in total have fled ongoing attacks by Sudan as it heads toward war with South Sudan, arriving at refugee camps in desperate need of food, shelter and water after walking for days in the heat. In the midst of the suffering, however, churches are gathering every Sunday morning in the refugee camps, often with only a tree to shelter them. Local pastors are working together to try to meet physical and spiritual needs of the thousands of refugees. “We need praying for faith in Sudan, and we need praying also for our communities,” one pastor said. “With so many people, they are backsliding now because the situation is not good.”


A magnitude-5.8 earthquake hit northern Italy on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people in the same region still struggling to recover from another fatal tremor on May 20. The quake, which struck just after 9 a.m. local time, was centered 25 miles northwest of the city of Bologna, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was just miles from where a magnitude-6.0 temblor killed seven people earlier this month. The quake was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast, and as far north as Austria. The LaPresse news agency said others were still buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and factories.


Firefighters are battling a massive wildfire in southwestern New Mexico that has destroyed a dozen cabins and spread smoke across the state, prompting holiday weekend air-quality warnings. The fire burned over the holiday weekend through remote and rugged terrain around the Gila Wilderness and has grown to 85,000 acres or more than 130 square miles. Smoke from the giant fire spread across the state and into Arizona. Health officials as far away as Albuquerque and Santa Fe issued alerts for the weekend, advising people to limit outdoor activities, keep windows closed. Residents near a privately owned New Mexico ghost town were ordered Saturday to evacuate.

In Southern California, firefighters worked to corral a wildfire that chewed through 4,100 acres of tinder-dry grass and light brush since it broke out Thursday afternoon east of Julian. On Friday, the fire forced about 50 people to evacuate an RV park in San Diego County. It earlier prompted the evacuation of about 100 homes in the Shelter Valley area, but residents were allowed to return late Thursday. In Arizona, residents of the historic mining town of Crown King were allowed to return home after being evacuated because of a wildfire about 85 miles north of Phoenix. The fire started May 13 and has burned more than 16,000 acres. It is 50% contained.

A wildfire burning across more than 30 square miles of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has destroyed nearly 100 buildings, but there have been no reports of injuries. The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres, or 34 square miles, in Luce County. The fire is 51% contained and officials still are warning people to stay away from the nearby Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

In Nevada, questions were being raised over fire crews’ initial response to a backyard burn that rekindled two days later, destroying two homes in a rural community and scorching 7,500 acres. Volunteer firefighters with the East Fork Fire Protection District arrived at the scene and then left, apparently without fully extinguishing the blaze. Gusty winds rekindled the fire Tuesday, and it spread quickly through thick brush and dry grasses.


The Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early bang in Florida on Monday with the landfall of Tropical Storm Beryl, the most powerful May storm to hit the USA in more than 100 years. Beryl, the second named storm of the 2012 tropical season, came ashore with 70-mph winds early Memorial Day near Jacksonville Beach, Fla., ruining some holiday plans and beach trips, but bringing much-needed rain to the nation’s most drought-plagued region. The Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until Friday and lasts through Nov. 30. Beryl is expected to produce rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches — with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches — from northern Florida through southeastern North Carolina over the next couple of days.

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Signs of the Times (5/25/12)

May 25, 2012

More Truth + More Technology = More Pro-Lifers

A new Gallup poll shows more and more Americans identifying as pro-life. Exactly 50 percent express pro-life beliefs, while the number claiming to be pro-abortion has dropped to 41 percent — a record low since Gallup began sampling public opinion on the issue in 1995. Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, says Americans now understand the definition of pro-choice. “It means pro-abortion — taking the life of an innocent, unborn child,” she states.” Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council, notes, “I think as people understand more and more about what takes place within the womb, particularly younger people, they understand that what we’re dealing with is not just a collection of cells and tissue and so forth,” he offers. “And I also think the ultrasounds that we now have are so sharp and crisp that you cannot deny [that] that’s a person.”

President Obama Calls for Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act

During a fundraising event in New York City Monday, President Obama for the first time personally called for the repeal of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), WORLD News Service reports. DOMA was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal laws and regulations. It also protects individual states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. “If you believe in states’ rights, then we need DOMA,” said former Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickels, who sponsored the Senate version of the law. Though the Obama administration has done several things to undermine DOMA over the last four years — including not defending it in court when it’s attacked — the president’s address Monday marked the first time he’s publicly called for the law to be repealed or struck down outright.

Judge Rules Against Obama’s U.S. Citizen Detentions

WorldNetDaily reports that a district-court judge has suspended enforcement of a law that could strip U.S. citizens of their civil rights and allow indefinite detention of individuals President Obama believes to be in support of terror. “The Obama administration has refused to ensure that the First Amendment rights of authors and writers who express contrary positions or report on terror group activities are protected under his new National Defense Authorization Act. Targeted in the stunning ruling from U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of New York was Paragraph 1021 of the NDAA, which Obama signed into law last Dec. 31. The vague provision appears to allow for the suspension of civil rights for, and indefinite detention of, those individuals targeted as being in support of terror.” Virginia already has passed a law that states it will not cooperate with such detentions, and several local jurisdictions have done the same. Arizona, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington also have reviewed such plans.

2010 Census Missed more than 1.5 Million Minorities

The 2010 census missed more than 1.5 million minorities after struggling to count Black Americans, Hispanics, renters and young men, but it was mostly accurate, the government said Tuesday. In Arizona, despite earlier signs that the state was at risk of an undercount, a slight overcount occurred, the Census Bureau found. The total overcount for Arizona was 26,200, or 0.42 percent of the roughly 6.3 million population. That official total won’t change though. The findings show the 2010 census overcounted the total U.S. population by 36,000 people, or 0.01 percent, due mostly to duplicate counts of affluent Whites owning multiple homes. That is an improvement from a census overcount of 0.5 percent in 2000. However, the census missed about 2.1 percent of Black Americans and 1.5 percent of Hispanics, together accounting for about 1.5 million people.

Real Federal Deficit Dwarfs Official Tally

The typical American household would have paid nearly all of its income in taxes last year to balance the budget if the government used standard accounting rules to compute the deficit, a USA TODAY analysis finds. The big difference between the official deficit and standard accounting: Congress exempts itself from including the cost of promised retirement benefits. Yet companies, states and local governments must include retirement commitments in financial statements, as required by federal law and private boards that set accounting rules. The deficit was $5 trillion last year under those rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, according to government actuaries. Under these accounting practices, the government ran red ink last year equal to $42,054 per household — nearly four times the official number reported under unique rules set by Congress. A U.S. household’s median income is $49,445, the Census reports.

Economic News

A new government study released Tuesday says that allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire and a scheduled round of automatic spending cuts to take effect would probably throw the economy into a recession. The Congressional Budget Office report says that the economy would shrink by 1.3 percent in the first half of next year if the government is allowed to fall off this so-called “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1 — and that the higher tax rates and more than $100 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies are kept in place.

Sales of new homes are showing some signs of life, growing 3.3% month over month to an annualized rate of 343,000 in April, according to a government report released Wednesday. Sales are still slow compared with the boom years when they reached a rate of close to 1.4 million.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications dipped by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000. Applications have leveled off this month after spiking in April to a five-month high of 392,000. When applications drop below 375,000 a week, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Orders for durable goods increased a slight 0.2% last month after a 3.7% decline in March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. But core capital goods orders, which are considered a proxy for business investment plans, fell 1.9% in April after a 2.2% decline in March. Demand for computers and electronics products and heavy machinery fell.

Except for the supply-tight West Coast, motorists can expect more relief at the pump heading into peak summer driving season. After topping out at $3.92 in early April, gasoline now averages $3.68 a gallon. Weak demand, slumping crude oil prices and ample inventories could push prices to $3.55 by mid-June.

Ford’s credit rating was upgraded out of junk bond status to investment-grade status by Moody’s Investor Service, which could cut Ford’s costs when it comes to applying for loans. Ford was the only of The Detroit Three to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection and getting government bailouts to keep going.

Hewlett-Packard announced another round of substantial job cuts Wednesday afternoon in an effort to streamline its teetering PC and services businesses. The layoffs will affect 25,000 workers, which would amount to about 7% of HP’s global workforce. The nation’s largest technology company by revenue currently employs 349,600 people worldwide, according to its latest regulatory filing.

Middle East

Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded an alarm to his nation this week, warning of thousands of “illegal infiltrators” who are entering the country through the lightly guarded border with Egypt. Many of these people are refugees from other nations hoping for a better life in Israel, but the government fears that terrorists could easily hide themselves among these groups entering the country and bypassing security.

An anonymous source told Israel’s leading newspaper over the weekend that the countdown to war with Iran is even shorter than most people believe. “I think they have made a decision to attack,” this high-level source said. “It is going to happen.”


The candidate of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood won a spot in a run-off election, according to partial results Friday from Egypt’s first genuinely competitive presidential election. A former prime minister an a leftist were vying for second place and a chance to run against him to become the country’s next leader. The run-off will be held on June 16-17, pitting the two top contenders from the first round of voting held Wednesday and Thursday. The victor is to be announced June 21. The landmark vote — the fruit of last year’s uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak— turned into a heated battle between Islamist candidates and secular figures rooted in Mubarak’s old regime. The most polarizing figures in the race were the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and former air force commander and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, a veteran of Mubarak’s rule.

Egypt’s State Security Court sentenced 12 Christians to life in prison Monday while acquitting eight Muslims for their roles in an April 2011 fight in Minya that killed two Muslims and destroyed Christian homes and businesses, CBN News reports. The Christians were found guilty of possessing illegal weapons, sowing public discord and shooting two Muslims to death, while the Muslims were freed of charges of possessing illegal weapons and burning down Christian homes and businesses. “The fact that the Muslims were acquitted means that the attorney general’s investigation from the beginning was faulty and unfair because there was evidence to prove these men had burned Christian property,” said human rights researcher Ishak Ibrahim. The convicted men have no recourse for appeal from the State Security Court outside of the military ruling council, which has done little to protect Christians from Islamist attacks since Egypt’s January 2011 revolution.


Gunmen opened fire on a political rally in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and sparking rioting. The violence was a reminder of the port city’s volatility. It is home to several political parties with armed wings that extort its citizens and feud among themselves, leading to frequent outbreaks of violence. City police chief Akhtar Gorchani said nine people were killed and more than 30 wounded in shootouts. The attackers fired on a rally held by Awami Tehrik, a small nationalist group, and it was attended by members of several other parties in the city. Several cars and shops were burned following the incident. Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles that killed 10 alleged militants in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border Thursday.

A Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. track down Usama bin Laden was sentenced to 33 years in prison on Wednesday for conspiring against the state, officials said, a verdict that is likely to further strain the country’s relationship with Washington. Shakil Afridi ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence at the compound in the town of Abbottabad where U.S. commandos killed the Al Qaeda chief last May in a unilateral raid. The operation outraged Pakistani officials, who portrayed it as an act of treachery by a supposed ally. A Senate panel expressed its outrage Thursday over Pakistan’s conviction of the doctor, voting to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million — $1 million for every year of the physician’s 33-year sentence.


Two foreign doctors and their three Afghan colleagues have been kidnapped in a remote area in the extreme northeast Afghanistan. The kidnapping occurred on Tuesday as the group was traveling on horseback between Yaftal and Ragh districts about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the provincial capital of Faizabad.

More than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to an Afghanistan hospital Wednesday after being poisoned in their classes with a type of spray. Forty of the 122 girls were still hospitalized, with symptoms including dizziness, vomiting, headaches and loss of consciousness. “The Afghan people know that the terrorists and the Taliban are doing these things to threaten girls and stop them going to school,” said Khalilullah Aseer, spokesman for Takhar police. There have been several instances of girls being poisoned in schools in recent years. In April, also in Takhar province, more than 170 women and girls were hospitalized after drinking apparently poisoned well water at a school.

  • Islam is a regressive, oppressive, evil religion


The Syrian regime and an increasingly organized rebel force are carrying out illegal killings and torturing their opponents, but government forces are still responsible for most of the violence stemming from the country’s uprising, a U.N. panel said Thursday. The findings were released in Geneva by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which said the conflict has become “increasingly militarized. Fighters in anti-government armed groups were killed after being captured or wounded,” the report said. “In some particularly grave instances, entire families were executed in their homes — usually the family members of those opposing the government.” The U.N. panel also said there is a growing list of abuses committed by anti-government armed groups. Syria’s oil minister blamed international sanctions Wednesday for shortages of cooking gas and other basic goods, saying the measures have bled $4 billion from the nation’s ailing economy.


The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday. The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at Iran’s Fordo enrichment plant, the diplomats told The Associated Press. That is still substantially below the 90-percent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran’s highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 percent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic’s main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 percent.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports that “Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak is not taken in by Iran’s ‘agreement’ to allow some limited inspections of certain sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is “fooling the West,” he said. ‘The Iranians appear to be trying to reach a technical deal that will create an appearance as if there is progress in the talks to remove some of the pressure ahead of the talks in Baghdad and to postpone an escalation in sanctions.’ The world powers that met in Baghdad [this week] for continued talks with Iran about its nuclear program may fall for the promises of cooperation that Iran is making, but no one who knows the history of the radical Islamist regime should think that anything has changed.”

Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, Iran’s military chief of staff, addressed a defense conference in Tehran on Sunday. He said, “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause, and that is the full annihilation of Israel.” There is no possible way in which Iran could be clearer about its intentions. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Now the man in charge of their military says that the utter destruction of Israel is the purpose and goal of his nation.


Suspected drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a hotel being used as a police barracks then attacked it with a car bomb Thursday, wounding eight officers less than 4 miles from the U.S. border. Authorities believed the Zetas cartel, one of Mexico’s two most powerful criminal organizations, carried out the attack on the Hotel Santa Cecilia in Nuevo Laredo, a city across the border from Laredo, Texas. The Zetas, founded by Mexican special forces defectors, have carried out a number of sophisticated attacks, but Thursday’s assault appeared to be one of the most elaborate. The killing of the police chief in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, last weekend has alarmed officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border and raised fears that the vicious drug-cartel violence that has plagued other regions may be spreading to an area that, for the most part, has been spared the bloodshed. San Luis Rio Colorado is just across the border from San Luis, Ariz., and about 26 miles south of Yuma.


A strong earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan, but no tsunami was reported. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-6.1 earthquake hit early Thursday and was centered about 66 miles northeast of Hachinohe at a depth of 25 miles. Japan’s Kyodo News agency says the quake shook Aomori prefecture (state) and other areas of northeastern Japan, but no abnormalities were reported at nearby nuclear power plants.


Winds and erratic flames forced firefighters to sit on the sidelines Thursday as a massive fire that destroyed a dozen homes and several other structures in small New Mexico community grew larger and put more buildings at risk. Tripling in size over the last day, the lightning-sparked Whitewater and Baldy fires merged to burn across more than 110 square miles of the Gila National Forest by Thursday. The wind-whipped fire burned Wednesday afternoon through the Willow Creek subdivision, a small summer community in southwestern New Mexico. Officials confirmed 12 cabins along with seven small outbuildings were destroyed.

A fast-moving wildfire erupted in a rural neighborhood near the Nevada-California line and destroyed at least seven homes Tuesday but no injuries were reported. Between 100 and 200 homes were threatened at one time in the Topaz Ranch Estates about 50 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe after the fire broke out before 2 p.m. — possibly after a controlled burn conducted in the area the day before rekindled in the winds gusting up to 40 mph, authorities said. Three air tankers and seven helicopters were assisting about 250 firefighters battling the blaze and more were on order along with additional aircraft.

Fire officials say crews battling a 16,240 acre wildfire north of Phoenix are making steady progress. They’re up against strong winds, low humidity, high temperatures and dry fuels. But fire information officer Gwen Shaffer says containment lines are holding. The fire broke out at a home last week in Crown King. It is 35 percent contained. Another wildfire south of Payson has burned more than 17,618 acres. It is 43 percent contained. The Bull Flat Fire, which has burned 2,145 acres on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and the Elwood Fire, which burned about 1,600 acres on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, are 95 percent contained.


Hurricane Bud weakened to a Category 2 storm as it headed early Friday toward an area of beach resorts and small mountain villages on Mexico’s Pacific coast stretching south from Puerto Vallarta. Authorities canceled school in 11 communities expected to be hit by heavy rains in Jalisco state, and emergency workers were preparing emergency shelters. A hurricane warning was up for Mexico’s Pacific coast from Manzanillo northwestward to Cabo Corrientes. Bud had been a major Category 3 storm. But the hurricane’s maximum sustained winds decreased early Friday to near 110 mph.

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Signs of the Times (5/22/12)

May 22, 2012

Maine Says No to Planned Parenthood

Pro-lifers in Maine are pleased that their state is done giving money to Planned Parenthood. With Gov. Paul LePage (R) signing into law a 2013 budget that does not include the abortion provider, Teresa McAnn-Tumidajski of the Maine Right to Life Committee says, “It is a great day for the women and unborn babies in Maine.” The budget makes $80 million total in cuts to help reverse the state budget shortfall. The Senate passed the budget 19-14, and the House approved it 75-61. But the pro-lifer points that no one will have to do without the services those tax dollars had been funding. “It just means they will not be available through that particular group. There are services available elsewhere throughout the state and throughout the country,” McAnn-Tumidajski asserts.”

Alabama Revises Immigration Law

Last year, Alabama passed what was widely considered the toughest state law in the nation aimed at driving illegal immigrants out of the state. Friday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a new law that revises, and in some cases expands, that law. “There is substantial progress in this bill. Burdens on legal residents and businesses are eased, and the goal remains the same – that if you live and work in Alabama, you must do so legally.” Two parts of the law worry Bentley, as well as advocacy groups who have been closely following the law. One requires the state Department of Homeland Security to publish on the Internet the names of illegal immigrants who appear in any state court. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have labeled that requirement a “scarlet letter” and would open illegal immigrants to harassment and vigilantism. The other section calls for school children in the state’s K-12 system to have their immigration status checked when they enroll. Bill sponsors have said that would allow the state to gauge the cost of educating illegal immigrants in the state but would not be used to deport children.

Obama: Slaughter of Christians a ‘Misunderstanding’

The violence in northern Nigeria is mistakenly viewed as a religious conflict rather than simply a tribal dispute over land, according to the Obama administration. Despite the ongoing Muslim destruction of churches and the slaughter of Christians – including many murdered during worship services – the U.S. Agency for International Development claims that the misunderstandings make it difficult to administer aid programs. USAID, therefore, has launched a program titled Project PEACE – an acronym for Programming Effectively Against Conflict and Extremism. PEACE says it will hire contractors to help the agency analyze the “true” causes of conflict and consequently provide more effective humanitarian and conflict-resolution assistance. The cost of Obama’s new “knowledge generation, dissemination and management” initiative is $600 million.

  • Regardless of the truth, the New World Order globalists are committed to upholding Muslims and ‘Palestinians’ over Christians and Israel, ignoring or lying about the facts of the situation in order to advance secular humanism objectives

Catholic Institutions Sue Obama over Birth Control Mandate

The birth control dispute between President Obama and some Catholic institutions is headed to court. Dozens of Catholic organizations, from the University of Notre Dame to the Archdioceses of Washington and New York, sued the Obama administration today over a rule requiring them to provide birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans. Catholic groups who oppose birth control say the rule violates their religious freedom. “We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we’ll keep at it, but there’s still no fix,” said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

$18 Billion for Job Training a Waste?

A study commissioned by Sen. Tom Coburn is casting doubt on whether taxpayers’ $18 billion annual investment in federal jobs training programs is paying off. “The vast majority of money we spend in job training doesn’t go to job training, it goes to employ people in those job training federal programs,” Coburn told  Fox News. The 2011 Government Accountability Office study he commissioned, which examined programs in fiscal year 2009, found an overlapping and duplicative maze of 47 federal jobs programs run by nine agencies. Some were rife with mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse and corruption. The study found: some job training participants spent their days sitting on a bus; some were trained for jobs that didn’t exist; funds were misspent to pay a contractor for ghost employees and to purchase video games; job training administrators spent federal funds on extravagant meals and bonuses for themselves; in one state, workforce agency employees took more than 100 gambling trips to casinos mostly during work hours.

USA Scores Well for Wealth, But Not Happiness

A study released Tuesday shows the United States may be on top when it comes to acquiring wealth, but it doesn’t measure up as well when it comes to happiness and life span, MSNBC is reporting. The study of well being, known as the Your Better Life Index, was conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which promotes economic and social satisfaction, according to MSNBC. The index looks at areas such as income, education, work-life balance and life satisfaction. Among the 34 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia included in the study, the United States ranks first in average household wealth, at $102,000. Switzerland is the only country that comes close to that, at $95,000. When it comes to life satisfaction, the study shows that 76% of people in the USA report that they have more positive than negative experiences in a typical day, but many countries — including Denmark, Norway and Switzerland — reported higher scores. The study measured the average life expectancy in the United States to be 79, lower than the overall average of 80.

HistoricLlaunch of Private Rocket Heralds New Era

A new era in space exploration dawned Tuesday as a slender rocket powered into the dark Florida sky before sunrise, carrying the first private spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:44 a.m., carrying 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and scientific experiments on a demonstration mission to gauge the company’s ability to safely and efficiently deliver supplies to astronauts staffing the orbiting station. If successful, the test could open the door to a wave of commercial exploitation of space. “We’re now back on the brink of a new future, a future that embraces the innovation the private sector brings to the table,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “The significance of this day cannot be overstated.”

Youth Diabetes, Pre-Diabetes Rates Soar

Diabetes and pre-diabetes have skyrocketed among the nation’s young people, jumping from 9% of the adolescent population in 2000 to 23% in 2008. About a third of adolescents are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. The research suggests there will be “a 64% increase in diabetes in the next decade because stress on the pancreas and insulin resistance catches up with people. We are truly in deep trouble. Diabetes threatens to destroy the health care system.” The Pediatrics report also found that over all, half of overweight teens and almost two-thirds of obese adolescents have one or more risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure or high levels of bad cholesterol.

  • Fast food and unhealthy diets are ruining our youth

Economic News

The 17-country eurozone risks falling into a “severe recession,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Tuesday, as it called on governments and Europe’s central bank to act quickly to keep the slowdown from dragging down the global economy. OECD Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan warned the eurozone economy could contract by as much as 2% this year.

A downgrade of Japan’s credit rating sent an early shudder through the markets Tuesday morning. The Fitch credit rating agency cited spiraling debt as it lowered Japan’s credit rating. Japan’s gross government debt is projected to hit 239% of its economy by the end of this year, by far the highest of any Fitch-rated country.

Americans bought more previously owned homes in April. The National Association of Realtors says home sales rose 3.4% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million. That still lags January and February’s pace — which was the best for those months in five years. And it’s well below the nearly 6 million per year that economists equate with healthy markets.

Traffic congestion dropped 30% last year from 2010 in the USA’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, driven largely by higher gas prices and a spotty economic recovery, according to a new study by a Washington-state firm that tracks traffic flows. Of the 100 most populous metro areas, 70 saw declines in traffic congestion while just 30 had increases. Tampa had the biggest increase in congestion, and Minneapolis the biggest drop.


At least 20,000 people held a major rally of the local Occupy movement in Frankfurt on Saturday to decry austerity measures affecting much of Europe, the dominance of banks, and what they call untamed capitalism. The protesters peacefully filled the city center of continental Europe’s biggest financial hub. The protest group, named Blockupy, has called for blocking access to the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt’s business district. Organizer spokesman Roland Seuss the protest is “against the Europe-wide austerity dictate by the (creditor) troika of ECB, the EU Commission and the International Monetary Fund.” Last year, thousands in Germany took to the streets in rallies during the worldwide Occupy movement. But as Germany’s economy is robust and unemployment at a record-low, those protests have mostly fizzled out.


Despite some remaining differences, a deal has been reached with Iran that will allow the U.N. nuclear agency to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on developing nuclear arms, the U.N. nuclear chief said Tuesday. The news from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations and could present a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Iran’s nuclear intentions. The six nations hope the talks will result in an agreement by the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

  • Iran continues to use such talks as means of stalling until they have the nuclear weapons they want to develop. They appear to agree at times to minimal concessions and then later distance themselves once again.


The European missile shield is up and running, says NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen, who announced its “interim capability” to shoot down incoming missiles at the end of the NATO summit meeting in Chicago. Earlier Russia voiced strong concern over the issue. The “interim operational capability” declared by Rasmussen is the first step to fulfilling the controversial scheme to defend the whole of Europe against ballistic missile attacks. The final stage, planned for 2022, is also set to provide coverage for the United States from Europe. Moscow has repeatedly stated its concern, demanding legal guarantees from the alliance that the shield will NOT be targeting Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Rasmussen stressed that NATO must be able to defend itself against missile threats, and said the move “cannot be blocked by Russia”, it’s a NATO decision.


President Barack Obama and NATO allies declared Sunday that the end of the long and unpopular Afghanistan war is in sight even as they struggled to hold their fighting force together in the face of dwindling patience and shaky unity. The fate of the war is both the center of this summit and a topic no one is celebrating as a mission accomplished. The alliance already has one foot out the Afghanistan door, Obama has his ear attuned to the politics of an economy-driven presidential election year and other allies are pinching pennies in a European debt crisis. Obama spoke of a post-2014 world when “the Afghan war as we understand it is over.” Until then, though, remaining U.S. and allied troops face the continued likelihood of fierce combat. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, offered a stern warning Sunday that the plan to give Afghan forces the lead in fighting next summer won’t take coalition troops out of harm’s way.


U.S. tensions with Pakistan complicated the opening day of the NATO summit in Chicago. The Obama administration has so far been unable to reach an agreement with Pakistan to reopen key supply routes into Afghanistan that were closed after a Nov. 26 U.S. strike on two border posts that killed two dozen Pakistani troops. U.S. and NATO officials intend to use the summit to intensify pressure on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to cut a deal to reopen the supply routes, though hopes for an immediate breakthrough have faded, Zardari was invited to attend the two-day summit at the last minute in hopes that would lead to a deal, but the two sides remain at odds over how much the U.S. and its allies should pay Pakistan to move cargo through the route.


Residents of the eastern Libyan city that served as the cradle of the uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi voted for a local council Saturday in the city’s first elections since the longtime dictator’s capture and killing last year. More than 400 people were running for the 41 seats up for grabs on the local council of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city. The vote for the city council was the first in Benghazi since the 1960s, and some of the voting centers Saturday were so crowded that they stayed open an extra hour to meet the rush of voters.


A car bomb tore through the parking lot of a military compound in an eastern Syrian city on Saturday, killing nine people in the latest in a series of blasts in recent months targeting security installations. State television said the vehicle was rigged with 2,200 pounds of explosives and that the suicide blast left a crater 15 feet wide and more than 6 feet deep, and heavily damaged buildings up to 100 yards away. Attacks such as the one in Deir al-Zour, which once served as a transit hub for militants heading to fight U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq, have raised fears that al-Qaida-linked jihadis have made serious inroads into Syria’s rebel movement.


A suicide bomber killed more than 95 Yemeni soldiers at a military parade rehearsal in the capital Sanaa on Monday in one of the deadliest attacks in the city in months. Military officials said the suicide bomber was a soldier taking part in the drill, lining up with fellow troops at a main square in the capital, not far from the presidential palace. Meanwhile, Yemeni security officials said three U.S. Coast Guard trainers came under attack on Sunday by militants belonging to an al-Qaida front group in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Yemeni officials said fresh clashes with al-Qaeda fighters in the south have left at least 34 people dead, while a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed two militants. Al-Qaeda briefly overran parts of Bayda earlier this year. Further south in Abyan province, fighting between Yemeni troops and al-Qaeda fighters killed 12 soldiers and 22 al-Qaeda militants.


Demonstrators forced their way into the office of Mali’s interim president on Monday and attacked the elderly leader, who was later brought to a local hospital unconscious. Dioncounda Traore was treated at the Point G Hospital for an injury to the head. He regained consciousness later. “He has been badly injured but the information I have is that his life is not in danger,” said Iba N’Diaye, the vice president of Traore’s party. “This was an attempt on his life.” Thousands of people descended on the presidential palace in Bamako on Monday morning, angry over a deal brokered by regional powers that extended the time Traore would stay in power.


One of the strongest earthquakes to shake northern Italy rattled the region around Bologna early Sunday, a magnitude-6.0 temblor that killed at least four people, toppled buildings and sent residents running into the streets. The quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 22 miles north-northwest of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 3.2 miles. Three people were killed in Sant’Agostino di Ferrara when a ceramics factory collapsed. Northern Italy was shaken gain by an aftershock Monday morning which caused buildings to sway in the town of Finale Emilia, in Italy’s industrial heartland. The tremor had a magnitude of 3.2 and hit near the site of the original quake.

A strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake has struck off Chile’s southern coast, but the authorities say it wasn’t felt on land and discounted the possibility of a tsunami.


The Gladiator fire near Crown King, Arizona, has grown to over 14,000 acres (almost 23 square miles) and is 19% contained as of this morning (5/22). Six structures have burned but many more are threatened. Evacuation of four nearby communities remains in effect. The Gladiator Fire has also threatened communication towers along with more than 400 homes. Over 1,100 firefighters from all over the U.S. continue to fight the blaze. Six have suffered injuries. After a few days of relatively calm winds, the National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning for noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday because forecasters expect strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures, not good news for the firefighters.

Three other large wildfires are also burning across Arizona. The Sunflower Fire in the Tonto National Forest is the largest wildfire burning in Arizona at over 16,000 acres (about 25 square miles). The flames were 43 percent contained as of Sunday night, keeping more than 360 firefighters busy. The wildfire is in a remote area and no homes are nearby. Burning on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, the Bull Flat Fire was 95 percent contained after consuming more than 2,145 acres of land. Firefighters said the Elwood Fire on the San Carlos Indian Reservation may be completely contained by Wednesday. It has burned more than 1,300 acres, and is 95 percent contained.

U.S. Forest Service officials said the blaze about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins grew from about 12 square miles last Thursday amid erratic winds gusts of up to 50 mph. Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations of about 80 homes near Poudre Canyon earlier in the day, even going door to door to issue warnings. Residents of about 65 of those homes were allowed to return by early evening, with instructions to be ready to leave again if conditions change. It is expected to be fully contained by this coming Thursday.


As the nation swelters through its warmest year on record, a new forecast for a broiling summer is raising concern about wildfires and water shortages, especially across parts of the western and southern USA. About three-fourths of the nation — from the Southwest to the Mid-Atlantic — faces elevated odds of above-average temperatures this summer. Summers have trended warm in recent years: The National Climatic Data Center reports that all but two of the summers since 2000 have been warmer than average, including 2011, which was the second-warmest on record. Massive wildfires scorched the southern Plains in 2011. This included Texas’ most destructive fire in state history. In all, wildfires killed five people and caused $1 billion in damage in the U.S.

In addition to wildfires, the unusually dry winter in parts of the country is also raising drought worries: “Areas of the Southwest are extremely dry,” NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch said. “There is a concern about water resources this summer, as reservoirs are below average in New Mexico and Arizona.” The Drought Monitor also reported that 96% of New Mexico and Arizona are currently under drought conditions. Ninety-seven percent of Nevada is in a drought as well. Drought is also being reported across the Southeast and along much of the Eastern Seaboard.

Flood waters ravaged a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 19 people and destroying hundreds of homes. About 60 other people were missing. Northern Afghanistan gets hit nearly every spring by flash flooding from heavy rains and snow melting off the mountains.

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Signs of the Times (5/17/12)

May 17, 2012

Black Clergy Challenge Obama on ‘Gay Marriage’

A group of leading black clergy and civil rights leaders are asking President Barack Obama to reconsider his support for same-gender “marriage.” The Coalition of African-American Pastors says “there is no civil right to do what God says is wrong” — and is asking President Barack Obama to reconsider his support for same-gender “marriage.” William Owens, Sr. is founder and president of CAAP, a group whose goal is to promote and support Christ-centered values in the culture. The CAAP is appalled that radical homosexual activists have managed to hijack the civil rights movement by linking sexual diversity to the historic fight for civil rights by black Americans. What those activists have done, says Owens, is “unacceptable.” “We are really tired of the homosexual community hijacking the civil rights movement,” Owens tells OneNewsNow. In a statement released on Tuesday, CAAP leaders said: “For activists, politicians, and now the highest office in the nation to link sexual behavior God calls sin to the righteous cause Martin Luther King gave his life for is abominable in and of itself.

Obama, World Leaders Begin Four Days of Meetings

President Obama and world leaders will kick off four days of high-level meetings Friday that will be dominated by the eurozone crisis and efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan. The back-to-back meetings of the Group of Eight and NATO alliance get started with G-8 leaders huddling at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland where Obama will urge Europe’s leaders to increase emphasis on spurring growth and lessen their focus on austerity measures. Obama has argued that Europe has had more difficulty in pulling out of its economic malaise than the United States, in part because Europe didn’t take stimulus measures to bolster the economy there as his administration did to stem the U.S. financial crisis. But analysts are doubtful that European members will announce any concrete steps at the summit that would alleviate the Obama administration’s concerns. Afghanistan talks will center on bolstering the Afghan economy as the NATO mission winds down. G-8 members have contributed about 80% of the assistance doled out to Afghanistan.

Chicago is bracing for the worst and hoping for peace as world leaders and protesters gather for a two-day NATO summit that begins Sunday. Thousands of police officers — including reinforcements from Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Charlotte — will be deployed; a no-fly zone will be enforced; and some commuter trains will be canceled. Businesses are boarding up windows; Lake Shore Drive and the Art Institute will close, and the Postal Service warns of delivery delays. Fearing massive protests, a dozen arrests already have been made, but Occupy Chicago and the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda say their rallies and marches will be peaceful.

Republicans Kill Civil Unions in Colorado

A last-ditch effort by Colorado’s governor to give gay couples in the state rights similar to married couples failed Monday after Republicans rejected the proposal during a special legislative session. The bill’s demise was expected by Democrats, who have begun using the issue as a rallying cry to topple Republicans in the November elections. The debate in Colorado is playing out at a time when President Obama became the first U.S. president to publicly endorse gay marriage. But North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that bars civil unions and defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. More than a dozen states allow either gay marriage or civil unions, including several that moved to pass such laws this year.

Colorado Day of Prayer Ruled Unconstitutional

A Colorado appeals court panel ruled that the state’s Day of Prayer is “predominantly religious” and therefore violates the constitutional rights of nonbelievers, CBN News reports. The Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the statewide Day of Prayer — proclaimed six times between 2004 and 2009 by Govs. Bill Ritter and Bill Owens — claiming it amounted to a government endorsement of religion. The three-judge Colorado Court of Appeals panel agreed because the proclamations included Bible verses and religious themes. “[The Day of Prayer] undermine[s] the premise that the government serves believers and nonbelievers equally,” Judge Steven Bernard wrote in the 73-page decision. The case will now go back to a trial court to decide whether future Colorado governors should be barred from making prayer proclamations.

California Faces More Budget Cuts

California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed more than $8 billion in cuts Monday to close a widening state budget deficit that he blamed partly on a slower-than-expected economic recovery. In addition to making cuts to a wide array of state services, Brown wants state workers to take a 5% pay cut, which would save $402 million in the coming fiscal year. Brown also used the announcement of his revised budget plan to make another pitch for his tax-hike initiative that he said would send more money to public schools if voters approve it in November. The revised $15.7 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is roughly 17% of California’s $91 billion general fund. The deficit is far higher than the $9.2 billion gap Brown anticipated in January.

Arizona School-Choice Program Expands

A new Arizona law that will significantly expand a school-voucher-type program allowing students to attend private schools with public money has been signed by the governor. Supporters of the program, who favor more school choice, say that students, especially those in low-performing schools, will benefit by having more alternatives. Opponents, however, view it as one more step toward creating a full-fledged school-voucher system that will provide state funding to parents, who can then spend it on tuition at private schools, including religious ones. They fear such a system will sap public schools of resources. House Bill 2622 expands eligibility for the program to those enrolled in schools that receive D or F letter grades from the state, children of active-duty members of the military and foster children who are being adopted. The money also can be used for tutoring and textbooks, and money not spent can be used for college. Families can apply for the expanded debit-card accounts beginning this fall for the 2013-14 school year.

  • Voucher programs should sap funds from the public schools which have been turned into secular humanist indoctrination centers

Can U.S. Become Energy Independent?

As Americans heave a sigh of relief at gasoline prices falling back from near $4 a gallon, big new discoveries of domestic oil and natural gas hold the promise of more substantial benefits for the U.S. economy for decades to come — even the possibility of energy independence. The U.S. is already the world’s fastest-growing oil and natural gas producer. Counting the output from Canada and Mexico, North America is “the new Middle East,” Citigroup analysts declared in a recent report. The U.S. Energy Information Agency says U.S. oil imports will drop 20% by 2025. Oil giant BP projects the U.S. will get 94% of its energy domestically by 2030, up from 77% now, as oil imports fall by half. The U.S. can make itself a net exporter of crude oil, refined products and natural gas — says Citigroup energy strategist Seth Kleinman. The USA’s 15% gain in crude-oil production since 2008 is by far the world’s biggest, with new fields just beginning to be developed. The U.S. has overtaken Russia as the world’s largest refined-petroleum exporter.

Minorities Now the Majority of Births

More than half of all babies born last year were members of minority groups, the first time in U.S. history. It’s a sign of how swiftly the USA is becoming a nation of younger minorities and older whites. Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities in 2011 accounted for 50.4% of births, They also account for 49.7% of all children under 5 and slightly more than half of the 4 million kids under 1, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. The new report offers a broad picture of where and how the nation is changing. One telling sign: vast differences in the median age — the mid-point of all ages — of racial and ethnic groups. For Hispanics, the USA’s largest minority group, the median age is 27.6. For whites who are not Hispanic, it’s 42.3. Blacks (30.9) and Asians (33.2) are in between.

Communities Start to Fine for Texting While Walking

A growing number of communities are trying to stave off pedestrian accidents that can happen when people walking become too engrossed with their phones. This spring, Fort Lee, N.J., police began issuing $85 fines for careless walking, and the Utah Transit Authority made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. Delaware has taken a different approach, placing about 100 large stickers with the words “LOOK UP” on sidewalks near crosswalks urging pedestrians to pay less attention to their phones and more to what’s going on around them. Research from Ohio State University showed cellphone use by pedestrians led to more than 1,000 emergency-room visits. In March, a 45-year-old woman had to be rescued from Lake Michigan after she fell off a pier while texting and walking.

Millenials Forego Banks

Payday loans, check cashing and prepaid debit cards have found a new customer in the cash-strapped twentysomethings, as they forego using banks. Half of those surveyed said they used a prepaid debit card in the past year. And 34% of those with the lowest income said they used check cashers (which charge 1% to 4% of the amount of the check) in the past year. Respondents making more money used certain services at higher rates than those making less money, including payday loans and overdraft protection. Lack of financial literacy, mounting debt, poor credit and no savings all attract Millennials to the convenience of these services.

  • Our economic future is in the hands of a generation raised in the era of entitlements with an expectation of convenience and a lack of financial knowhow – may God have mercy on us

Economic News

Consumers barely increased their spending on retail goods in April. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose a scant 0.1% April. Retail spending had risen 0.7% in March and 1% in February. Meanwhile, the consumer price index was flat last month as cheaper gasoline offset modest increases for food, clothing and housing. The Labor Department says the seasonally adjusted consumer price index was unchanged in April, after a 0.3% gain in March. Excluding volatile food and gas costs, so-called “core” prices rose 0.2%, the same as in March. Over the past 12 months, prices have risen 2.3%, smallest increase in more than a year. Gas prices fell 2.6% in April, biggest decline in six months. Food prices and housing costs both ticked up 0.2%.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that builders broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 717,000 homes in April from March. That’s 2.6% more than March. However, building permits, a gauge of future construction, fell last month from a 3½ year high to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 715,000. But that was because of a 23% drop in the volatile apartment category. Permits for single-family homes rose almost 2%.Even with the gains, the rate of construction and the level of permits requested remain only half the pace considered healthy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment aid applications stayed at a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the same as the previous week. Applications for benefits surged in April to a five-month high of 392,000. They have fallen since then and are near the lowest levels in four years, just below the threshold required to reduce unemployment.


Europe dodged a bullet, as the combined economy of the 17 countries that use the euro narrowly avoided recession in the first quarter of the year. There was one reason the eurozone avoided an overall recession — defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth: Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, was behind the better-than-expected performance as strong export figures helped it grow 0.5%. The economic bloc is still struggling with a raging debt crisis that’s raising the specter of the breakup of the currency union. And huge economic disparities exist across the single currency bloc. Of the euro’s 17 members, seven are in recession: Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia.


A senior judge was sworn in Wednesday to head Greece’s caretaker government for a month as the debt-crippled country lurches through a political crisis that threatens its membership in the 17-nation eurozone. Panagiotis Pikrammenos, 67, was appointed earlier Wednesday to head a government that will lack the mandate to make any binding commitments until a new election, which is expected June 17. The political uncertainty is worrying Greece’s international creditors as well as Greeks themselves, who have withdrawn hundreds of millions of euros from banks since the May 6 election. Greece may be denied its next payout for its debt from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Without the payout, Greece may soon run out of money to pay public workers and creditors.

Middle East

The number of terrorist missile strikes launched against Israel, mostly from Gaza…the land Israel gave up seven years ago in exchange for promises of peace…has increased more than 250% over last year. “This sad news is just one more reminder of the incredible level of hatred directed toward the Jewish people by their enemies,” notes the Jerusalem Prayer Team. Meanwhile, a poll out of Egypt ahead of presidential elections later this month revealed that more than 60% of the people want the peace treaty with Israel repealed. “This treaty signed by Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Sadat (who was assassinated for making peace with Israel two years later by the same Muslim Brotherhood that is expected to win the upcoming election) at Camp David was a huge boost to the security of Israel. Now all that work and the years of peace between the two neighbors could be undone. The ending of the peace treaty would place a huge strain on Israel’s already limited resources. Egypt fields a large military, and Israel has been able to leave her southern border very lightly defended.”

In a statement that highlights the growing danger to the Jewish state posed by the increasing belligerence of Iran, one of the top hardline newspapers just published a column rejoicing over the fact that Israel has been “rejected by the West.” They cite the rumored willingness of the Obama Administration to accept Iran’s nuclear program (which Iran’s leaders still claim to be peaceful despite all the evidence to the contrary) in the upcoming talks. “It is clear that the current US government is desperate to avoid military action prior to the election this November. Whether they will abandon Israel in pursuit of that effort remains to be seen, but the fact that a growing number of people in Iran apparently believe so will greatly increase the likelihood of a dangerous and destructive war,” the Jerusalem Prayer Team concludes.


As Iran starts a critical round of talks over its nuclear program, its negotiating team may be less interested in reaching a comprehensive settlement than in buying time and establishing the legitimacy of its enrichment program, Iranian officials and analysts said. That is because though Iran finds itself under increased financial pressure from tightening sanctions, officials here argue that their fundamental approach has essentially worked. In continually pushing forward the nuclear activities – increasing enrichment and building a bunker mountain enrichment facility – Iran has in effect forced the West to accept a program it insists is for peaceful purposes. Iranians say their carefully crafted policy has helped move the goal posts in their favor by making enrichment a reality that the West has been unable to stop, reports the United Against Nuclear Iran organization.


Firing assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Lebanese gunmen clashed in street battles Monday as sectarian tensions linked to the 14-month-old uprising in Syria bled across the border for a third day. At least five people have been killed and 100 wounded in Lebanon’s second-largest city since the gunbattles erupted late Saturday, security officials said. Residents say differences over Syria are at the root of the fighting, which pits neighbor against neighbor and raises fears of broader unrest that could draw in neighboring countries. Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily enflamed. Tripoli has seen bouts of sectarian violence in the past, but the fighting has become more frequent as the conflict in Syria worsens.


Government troops and warplanes pounded Al Qaeda positions in southern Yemen on Wednesday, killing at least 29 militants as part of a ramped up campaign against the group, Al Qaeda-linked fighters have taken over a swath of territory and several towns in the south, including the Abyan provincial capital of Zinjibar, in the past year, pushing out government forces and setting up their own rule. In recent weeks, the army has launched a concerted effort to dislodge the militants from their strongholds — and is closely coordinating with U.S. troops who are helping guide the operations from inside Yemen.

  • Our sneaky administration is conducting war in Yemen without authorization and without admitting it


Officials say a group of militants has attacked a government compound in western Afghanistan, killing at least five people. The militants first fired a grenade at the gate of the governor’s complex in Farah province on Thursday, then stormed into it. The fighting is ongoing and ten people have been wounded thus far.


Clashes in a western Libyan city left six dead and at least 20 injured on Wednesday. Unidentified assailants attacked an airport and a hospital in Ghadamis near the Algerian border. Clashes have been common throughout the country since last year’s overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. They have sometimes pitted rival members of the former rebel militias that fought his regime against each other. Other conflicts have involved ethnic groups with grievances dating back to his time in power.


Binge drinking has reached crisis levels in Britain, health experts say, costing the cash-strapped National Health Service 2.7 billion pounds (US$4.4 billion) a year, including the cost of hospital admissions related to booze-fueled violence and longer-term health problems. Unlike all other major health threats, liver disease is on the rise in Britain, increasing by 25 percent in the last decade and causing a record level of deaths, according to recent government figures. Doctors believe rising obesity is combining with heavy drinking to fuel the spike in liver disease, which is hitting more young people than ever. Anyone who’s gone out on a Friday night in any of Britain’s larger towns and cities will be familiar with boozed out groups of people shouting, brawling and causing a scene as they spill out of bars and pubs.


A 4.3-magnitude earthquake rattled eastern Texas early Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake, at a depth of three miles, was centered near Timpson, about 155 miles east-southeast of Dallas. At least one building in Timpson showed damage, with a number of chimney bricks falling to the street below and crashing through the roof. The quake was the second to hit the area in a week.  A 3.9 quake shook Timpson May 10. Thursday morning’s earthquake was the third-strongest in East Texas history.


The Gladiator Fire more than doubled in size to roughly 5,400 acres Wednesday as it roared through the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains, claiming one more home and moving ever closer to others in the remote community of Crown King, Arizona. Most of the roughly 30 residents who remained in Crown King on Wednesday had evacuated by nightfall after electrical power to the area was lost and public-safety officials urged stragglers to leave while they still could. The fire so far has claimed four residences. At a community meeting late in the day at Mayer High School, about 150 residents were told the fire would continue burning and remain wild for at least three more days. Fire officials expect to fight a defensive battle to protect Crown King until the winds shift later in the week. Then, their strategy is likely to change if, as expected, the fire heads in a northeasterly direction into uninhabited wilderness. “It’s getting a lot closer to town every day,” said Joe Reinarz, incident commander for the fire, which still is only 5% contained. Weather conditions could worsen by Friday, with wind gusts of 40mph expected.

Three other large fires continued to burn elsewhere in Arizona, signaling an ominous start to the state’s wildfire season. The largest of those, the Sunflower Fire 21 miles south of Payson in the Tonto National Forest, had burned more than 12,000 acres but was not threatening structures. Meanwhile, more evacuation notices have been issued as a wildfire in northern Colorado grew from 1,000 acres to more than 5,000 acres overnight. The blaze northwest of Fort Collins is still only about 5 percent contained. Nearly 400 firefighters headed back to the fire lines on Thursday. Two groups of residents have received notices to be prepared for possible evacuations, but no one has had to leave. The fire is within a quarter mile of some homes.


Long-running arguments over who needs to do what to stop the planet from overheating are back in focus this week as rich and poor countries meet in Bonn, Germany, to resume talks on a new global climate treaty. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres noted that the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions pledged so far fall short of what scientists say is needed to avoid serious effects of global warming. The talks have been hampered by bickering over how to divide such cuts among developing nations, emerging economies and industrialized countries.

  • Regardless of what countries do or don’t do about greenhouse gas emissions, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

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Signs of the Times (5/14/12)

May 14, 2012

Black Churches Conflicted Over Obama’s Gay Marriage Support

The pulpits of the nation’s black churches took measure Sunday of President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage, and the result was conflicted. Some churches were silent on the issue. At others, pastors spoke against the president’s decision Wednesday — but kindly of the man himself. A few blasted the president and his decision. A minority spoke in favor of the decision and expressed understanding of the president’s change of heart. Bishop Timothy Clark, head of the First Church of God, a large African-American church with a television ministry in Columbus, Ohio, was perhaps most typical. He opposes gay marriage. It is not just a social issue, he said, but a religious one for those who follow the Bible. “The spiritual issue is ground in the word of God.”

Kansas Lawmakers Pass Anti-Foreign-Law Measure

A bill designed to prevent Kansas courts or government agencies from making decisions based on Islamic or other foreign legal codes has cleared the state Legislature after a contentious debate about whether the measure upholds American values or appeals to prejudice against Muslims. The Senate approved the bill Friday on a 33-3 vote. The House had approved it, 120-0, earlier in the week. The measure goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who hasn’t said whether he’ll sign or veto the measure. The measure doesn’t specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says that courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can’t base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and U.S. constitutions.

  • How can it be un-American to uphold our constitutions? Given the overwhelming mandate, our liberal, socialist, globalist leaders need to be kicked out of office for their treasonous ways

International Adoptions Hit 15-Year Low

The number of international adoptions is at its lowest point in 15 years. Worldwide, the number of orphans being adopted by foreign parents dropped from a high of 45,000 in 2004 to an estimated 25,000 last year. The drop is being attributed to crackdowns against baby selling, a struggling world economy and moves by countries to place more children with domestic families. Some adoption advocates blame the drop on the Hague Adoption Convention, a set of international guidelines designed to ensure transparency and child protection following a rash of baby-selling and kidnapping scandals, the Associated Press reports.

Whooping Cough Epidemic in Washington

Washington state’s worst outbreak of whooping cough in decades has prompted health officials to declare an epidemic, seek help from federal experts and urge residents to get vaccinated amid worry that cases of the highly contagious disease could spike much higher. It’s the first state to declare a whooping cough, or pertussis, epidemic since 2010, when California had more than 9,000 cases, including 10 deaths. Washington has had 10 times the cases reported in 2011, and so has Wisconsin with nearly 2,000 cases this year, though that state has not yet declared an epidemic. California responded to its crisis two years ago with a public information campaign, readily available vaccines and a new law requiring a booster shot for middle- and high-school students. Doctors were urged to spot whooping cough early, send infected babies to the hospital and promptly treat those diagnosed which defused the epidemic by 2011.

Student Loans Becoming Oppressive

Millions of Americans now owe more for student loans than credit cards. The loans can top $100,000 — even $200,000 — and often translate into payments of more than $1,000 a month. The average student debt load tops $25,000 in the U.S., while the job market for recent graduates continues to struggle. More than 95 U.S. colleges report that their 2010 graduates — the most recent data available — owed on average more than $35,000. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates 37 million Americans have student loan debt, totaling $870 billion. The amount of debt for college graduates jumped 5% between 2009 and 2010. Much of the increase is attributed to tuition hikes at the nation’s universities.

Bankruptcies are on the rise, with 81% of bankruptcy attorneys reporting more clients with student debts in the past few years. That has some economists worrying that federal student loans could become the nation’s next huge financial crisis. A Democratic bill under debate in Congress would extend the current 3.4% interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans for another year. The rates will grow to 6.8% without congressional action, because a 2007 law that gradually lowered the rates expires July 1.

Economic News

A big decline in gas and energy costs drove a measure of wholesale prices lower in April. The Labor Department said Friday that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, dropped 0.2% last month. Wholesale gas prices tumbled 1.7%. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, the so-called core index rose 0.2%.

The Treasury Department said Thursday that the U.S. deficit totaled $719 billion through the first seven months of the budget year, which began on Oct. 1. That’s $150 billion lower than a year ago, but still large by historical standards. The federal government is on track to exceed a $1 trillion deficit for the fourth straight year. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting the deficit will total $1.17 trillion for the entire 2012 budget year. That’s not much better than the $1.3 trillion deficit run last year.

California’s budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion — much larger than had been predicted just months ago — and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday.

About one in five U.S. households owe more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other debts that aren’t backed by collateral — so not including car or mortgage loans — than they have in savings, checking accounts and other liquid assets, according to a new University of Michigan report.

Nearly three years into the recovery, more than four in 10 Americans don’t believe the economy will improve over the next few years and the vast majority plan to rein in spending over the next 12 months, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey released Monday. Nearly half the respondents said they aren’t financially secure and almost a third said they have no savings. reports that China has given approval for the first time ever for their commercial banks to dump and sell short the U.S. dollar. This unprecedented move by China’s central bank “is about to hit the greenback hard,” Moneynews warns.

Middle East

A disturbing news report out of Jordan reveals that satellite photos show evidence Syria is moving Scud missiles closer to its border with Israel, the Jerusalem Prayer Team reports. The government of Syria is fighting a widespread rebellion, during which it is believed more than 5,000 of its own citizens have been killed. The Assad regime is desperately clinging to power, and many analysts have feared that an attack on Israel might be launched to unify the country against an outside enemy. The report says that “hundreds of heavy missile launchers” were involved in the move—the type that launch longer-range missiles capable of striking anywhere inside Israel.

The news that Prime Minister Netanyahu had created the broadest unity government in Israel’s history was greeted with shock and surprise. All the talk in Israeli politics had centered on early elections, which had been expected to be held in September. Instead, Netanyahu worked out a plan for the largest opposition party to become part of his government. This change will impact Israeli internal politics greatly, but nowhere is it more important than on the issue of dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran. By creating this broad coalition, Prime Minister Netanyahu has brought about a situation where the government can speak with one voice and take whatever military steps prove to be necessary to respond to the growing threat from the mullahs of Tehran.


Muslims dominate this nation of 22 million people, but Christians can be found at all levels of Syria’s government, business community and military. The 2 million Christians here trace their roots to ancient communities and have survived under many rulers as Christian enclaves in other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, have withered. The rebellion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims against Assad that began in March 2011 has not seen Christians abandon their support for the Alawites, the Muslim sect to which Assad belongs and that has controlled Syria for decades. Christians have largely remained quiet as Assad’s forces pummeled rebel cities and towns with artillery, killing close to 10,000 people, according to the United Nations. Many of Syria’s Christians continue to stand by the regime not out of support for Assad but out of fear of civil war if rebels gain strength, or worse, if they win and install an Islamist government hostile to religious minorities.

Activists say Syrian troops have shelled the rebel-held central town of Rastan. The town, just north of the central city of Homs, has been under rebel control since January. The violence further undermines a U.N.-backed peace plan that is supposed to bring an end to Syria’s deadly crisis. Twin car blasts in Damascus that killed 55 people outside a Syrian intelligence compound Thursday show that al-Qaeda is gaining a foothold in the country, though its goals may differ from the mainstream opposition, terrorist experts say. The blasts are the most deadly suicide bombings since such attacks began in December. An al-Qaeda-inspired group called the Al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for previous suicide attacks.


Authorities say a bomb has exploded at a market in northern Afghanistan, killing nine people Monday. Over the weekend. men wearing Afghan police uniforms shot dead two NATO service members Saturday in southern Afghanistan, authorities said, the latest in a string of attacks on international troops by Afghan security forces or militants disguised as police. A man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot dead a U.S. soldier Friday in eastern Afghanistan. That shooting was the 15th incident this year in which Afghan soldiers or insurgents disguised in military uniforms have turned their weapons on foreign troops, according to NATO. So far this month, 18 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan.


Yemeni government forces pounded al-Qaeda targets on Monday, killing at least 16 militants in the troubled south where the army is trying to uproot the terror group. Two suspected U.S. drone strikes killed 11 al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen on Saturday. Another two airstrikes Thursday in south Yemen killed seven al-Qaeda militants, including two top operatives, officials said. Yemeni soldiers, meanwhile, shelled a gathering of al-Qaeda fighters elsewhere in the south, killing 10 militants. The attacks could be another setback for al-Qaeda, coming just days after details emerged about a Saudi mole within the network who reportedly provided information allowing the CIA to target a key leader of Yemen’s terror branch. The United States has usually used drones to strike al-Qaeda in Yemen. Over the past year, parts of southern provinces have fallen under the control of al-Qaeda militants who have capitalized on the turmoil in Yemen that stemmed from the popular uprising that toppled longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.


The United Nations said Friday that South Sudan has pulled its police force out of the disputed Abyei region on the border with Sudan. The withdrawal Thursday follows a U.N. Security Council resolution last week threatening nonmilitary sanctions against both countries if they don’t stop attacking each other and return to negotiations. South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed 2 million people. But the neighboring nations have been drawing closer to full-scale war in recent weeks over unresolved issues of oil revenues and their disputed border. South Sudan is largely Christian while Islamists rule in Sudan, further exacerbating the tensions in the area.


Imprisoned Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces execution for refusing to recant his Christian faith, has issued a letter to persecution aid group Present Truth Ministries, the Christian Post reports. In the letter, Nadarkhani asks for continued prayer that he will be released, and assures his supporters that although he continues to await his freedom, he maintains eternal faith in God’s will. “I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the flesh and spirit,” he writes. “And I try to have a little different approach from others to these days, and consider it as the day of exam and trial of my faith. And during these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God’s commandments. I need to remind my beloveds, though my trial due has been so long, and as in the flesh I wish these days to end, yet I have surrendered myself to God’s will.”


Among Vladimir Putin’s first acts now that he’s back in Russia’s top job was to cancel a date with President Obama. Both nations insist Putin’s no-show at a high-profile economic gathering tailored for his attendance is not a snub. But the decision to skip next week’s meeting of the Group of Eight industrial nations in the United States and a much-anticipated Oval Office meeting with Obama, may set a sour tone for the next four years. If Obama wins re-election, he will have Putin as a sometime partner and sometime adversary through the end of his presidency. If Republican Mitt Romney wins, the dynamic might be very different. Romney has called Russia an “enemy,” while Putin has signaled that he will hold off on any major new cooperation with the United States until he knows who will be president.

Prominent Russian novelists and poets led a street protest by more than 10,000 people in Moscow on Sunday without obtaining the required permit, and police did not intervene. The demonstrators skirted the law by remaining silent and carrying no posters, even though the demonstration had clearly been organized as an anti-President Vladimir Putin rally. The gathering was the latest of several impromptu protests that have taken place in Moscow since Putin’s inauguration Monday.


Japan has a problem, a lack of children, and it seems likely there will be even fewer in the future. Government projections show the birth rate will hit just 1.35 children per woman within 50 years, well below the replacement rate. An academic study recently showed Japan’s population is expected to fall a third from its current 127.7 million over the next century. Now the academics have created a population extinction clock to highlight the fall and encourage public debate on the issue.


Mexican police found the mutilated remains of at least 49 people in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon Sunday morning. The remains were found in plastic bags along the highway between the cities of Monterrey and Reynosa. Police also found 18 dismembered and beheaded bodies inside two vans in an area frequented by tourists near the city of Guadalajara in western Mexico, authorities said Wednesday. Jalisco state Prosecutor Tomas Coronado said earlier police found 15 severed human heads in the vans a few miles from Lake Chapala and his office confirmed later in a statement that three more heads had been found along with the other body parts. He said authorities received a phone call alerting them to the presence of two minivans on a dirt access road near Lake Chapala, which is popular with tourists and American retirees. The area has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Jalisco New Generation gang, allied with the Sinaloa cartel, and the Zetas drug cartel.


An earthquake has shaken down walls and knocked out electricity in parts of far-northern Chile. No injuries have been reported, though. The U.S. Geological Survey calculates the magnitude as 6.2 and says it was centered about 41 miles east-northeast of Tacna, Peru.


Five wildfires raged in Arizona Sunday devouring a combined total of nearly 6,000 acres and forcing the evacuation of Crown King residents in what fire experts describe as an ominous start to the 2012 fire season. The largest fire was one of two in Tonto National Forest, the Sunflower Fire that had scorched 3,100 acres as of late Sunday despite the efforts of an air attack and 280 firefighters, but it threatened no structures. One of the smallest caused the most alarm, the Gladiator Fire four miles north of Crown King burned up 600 acres Sunday in the Bradshaw Mountains and had destroyed three buildings and prompted mandatory evacuations from the town.

The Bull Flat fire, which started Thursday from a lightning strike, has burnt about 700 acres near the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The Elwood fire in the San Carlos Indian Reservation, has burned about 1,150 acres. The Slaughter House fire near Kingman, has burned at least 50 acres amount of acres on Sunday. A wildland fire also broke out east of Dewey-Humboldt Saturday afternoon, causing twenty families to evacuate the Cherry Creek subdivision. It was fully contained by Saturday night due to the presence of Forest Service aircraft at nearby Prescott Airport.


A dust storm and thunderstorm hit the Phoenix metropolitan area with lighting strikes being blamed for starting two house fires and a blaze at a cardboard recycling company. The dust storm late Wednesday afternoon was caused by a combination of wind in the south heading north and wind in the east heading northeast. The thunderstorm hit north-central Pinal County and central Maricopa County with winds of up to 60 mph and nickel-sized hail. The roofs of several mobile homes were ripped off by the wind gusts. The spiraling winds that authorities said damaged residences in the San Tan Valley area may have resembled a tornado but had more in common with ‘dust devils’. So-called ‘gustnadoes’ feature whirling winds like a tornado, but they are more isolated and quicker to dissipate than a tornado.

Wireless carriers and the federal government are launching a system to automatically warn people of dangerous weather and other emergencies via a special type of text messaging to cellphones. The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service, which begins this month, is free, and consumers won’t have to sign up. Warnings will be location-based: If you’re traveling, you’ll get an alert for whatever emergency is happening where you are. Alerts will be issued for such life-threatening events as tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, dust storms, extreme winds, blizzards and ice storms.

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Signs of the Times (5/10/12)

May 10, 2012

N.C. Voters OK Ban on Gay Marriage

North Carolina voters approved a state constitutional amendment Tuesday declaring marriage is solely between a man and a woman, dealing a setback to gay-rights advocates. Approval means North Carolina becomes the 30th state with such a constitutional provision. Six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages. The measure was put on the ballot after Republicans took control of the Legislature in the 2010 elections for the first time in 140 years. Foes of North Carolina’s newly passed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are looking at ways to have it overturned.

  • It’s obvious how ‘nature’ designed male and female bodies to function sexually – gay sex is unnatural, let alone ungodly

In Political Gamble, Obama Supports Gay Marriage

With his endorsement of gay marriage on Wednesday, President Obama electrified his liberal base, incensed cultural conservatives and may have ensured that a debate on social issues will play a part in the debate ahead of the November election. For almost two years, President Obama had said that his views on gay marriage were “evolving.” But after days of renewed pressure for clarification on the issue following strong endorsements of gay marriage from Vice President Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama decided to change his stated position. “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded, that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC News.

  • Is it coincidence that a day after President Obama endorses same-sex marriage, he’s heading out to Hollywood for a $40,000-a-plate campaign fundraiser with George Clooney that’s expected to raise $15 million? No, I don’t think so, because Obama is first and foremost a political animal.
  • End-time lawlessness and rebellion over God’s prescribed social order continues to increase just as the Bible prophesies (Matt. 24:12)

Obama Executive Order Parcels Out More of Our Sovereignty

On May 1st, President Obama signed a new executive order with the innocuous title of “Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation.” The touted purpose is to cut red tape and allow U.S. companies that work overseas to grow their businesses more easily. But it’s another piece in the puzzle of U.S. sovereignty that President Obama is handing over to foreign nations. According to Businessweek, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Sean Heather said last week, “Today’s executive order marks a paradigm shift for U.S. regulators by directing them to take the international implications of their work into account in a consistent and comprehensive way.” Buried in the doublespeak is the heart of the executive order, which is that the White House’s appointed policy panel is to consider changing any U.S. trade regulations it or its regulated businesses find inconvenient so that they match laws in foreign countries.

  • With this executive order, Obama is once again going around Congress and circumventing constitutional and other legal procedures in a process that will occur far from public scrutiny in order to impose his globalist, anti-American agenda

Airline Bomb Plot Thwarted, New Technology Worrisome

Investigators were studying an explosive device Tuesday that they say terrorists in Yemen crafted to slip past airport metal detectors and onto an airplane bound for the United States. U.S. intelligence agents thwarted the plot two weeks ago after receiving a tip from Saudi Arabia. The plot highlights the resolve of terrorists to attack the United States a year after the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden in a stunning raid inside Pakistan. It also shows the lengths they will go to to achieve that goal, adapting new technologies to try to evade security, as well as the difficulties that U.S. authorities face in trying to guard against attack, said Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “This seems to be a new level of sophistication by al Qaeda,” King told CNN. The man who al-Qaeda hoped would carry out a plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner is a mole who infiltrated the terrorist organization and thwarted the attack, U.S. and Yemeni officials said Tuesday.

Border Patrol Implements New Strategy

The Border Patrol on Tuesday unveiled its first national strategy in eight years, a period in which the number of agents more than doubled and apprehensions of people entering illegally from Mexico dropped to a 40-year low. The new approach — outlined in a 32-page document that took more than two years to develop — uses buzzwords like “risk-based” and “intelligence-driven” to describe a more nuanced, targeted response to constantly evolving threats. The Border Patrol previously relied on a strategy that blanketed heavily trafficked corridors for illegal immigrants with agents, pushing migrants to more remote areas where they would presumably be easier to capture and discouraged from trying again.

The new strategy draws on intelligence to identify repeat crossers and to try to determine why they keep coming and seeks to halt a revolving-door policy of sending migrants back to Mexico without any punishment. The Border Patrol now feels it has enough of a handle to begin imposing more serious consequences on almost everyone it catches.Its “Consequence Delivery System” divides border crossers into seven categories, ranging from first-time offenders to people with criminal records. The new strategy makes no mention of expanding fences and other physical barriers and only brief mention of technology in the wake of a failed $1 billion program that was supposed to put a network of cameras, ground sensors and radars along the entire border. The agency is moving more toward mobile surveillance like unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters.

USA is 25th Best Place to Be a Mom

Just in time for Mother’s Day, an annual ranking of the best and worst countries in which to be a mom puts the USA in 25th place, up from 31st last year. The 13th annual State of the World’s Mothers report by the Save the Children foundation, out today, examines the well-being of mothers and their children in 165 countries, based on a range of measures, including mothers’ education, infant mortality and breastfeeding rates. Mothers in the USA face a one-in-2,100 risk of maternal death, the highest of any industrialized nation. The death rate for children younger than 5 is eight per 1,000 births, on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina. A child in the USA is four times as likely as a child in Iceland to die before age 5. Forty countries performed better than the U.S. in this category.  Maternal leave policies in the USA are among the least generous of any wealthy nation. It is the only developed country, and one of only a handful of countries in the world, that does not guarantee working mothers paid leave.

Economic News

The U.S. trade deficit rose in March at the fastest rate in 10 months. A rise in imports of consumer goods lifted imports to a record level, outpacing a solid gain in U.S. exports. The Commerce Department says the trade deficit widened to $51.8 billion in March, from $45.4 billion in February. Imports rose 5.2% to a record $238.6 billion, reflecting more foreign oil, autos, cell phones and clothes. Exports increased 2.9% to $186.8 billion.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits ticked down last week after dropping sharply the previous week, evidence hiring could pick again up this month. Weekly applications dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ending May 5. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 5,250 to 379,000, first decline since late March.

  • Applications below 375,000 are considered to signal an expanding jobs market, so the economy seems stuck in neutral.

The nation has fewer homes for sale, and that’s helping prices in markets where low supplies are meeting strong demand. The U.S. had 2.37 million existing homes for sale at the end of March. That’s down 22% from a year ago and 41% from the peak in mid-2007. First-quarter home sales, meanwhile, were up 5.3% from a year ago. The combination of improving sales — coming off one of the worst years ever for home sales — and declining inventories is helping prices. The latest data shows prices up slightly in March from February.

Retiree health care costs have increased an average 6% a year since 2002, according to a study by Fidelity Investments. A 65-year-old couple would need $240,000 to cover medical expenses during their retirement years, it estimates. That amount could eat up 35% of the couple’s annual Social Security benefit. And it doesn’t even include any long-term care costs.

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae says it made money in the first three months of the year and is not seeking additional federal aid. It’s the first time the company has reported a profit since it was taken over by the government during the financial crisis. Fannie reports net income of $2.7 billion in the January-March quarter. That compares with a net loss of $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011. The company says the improvement was due to slower home price declines, reduced inventory of single-family homes and fewer mortgages in serious delinquency.

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service sought Wednesday to tamp down concern over wide-scale cuts, revealing it will seek to keep thousands of rural post offices open with shorter hours. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the mail agency was backing off its plan to close up to 3,700 low-revenue post offices sometime after May 15. Citing strong community opposition, Donahoe said the agency will now whittle down full-time staff but maintain a part-time post office presence in rural areas, with access to retail lobbies and post office boxes.


Talks to form a government following elections with no clear winner collapsed Wednesday and left in limbo Greece’s future in the European Union and its commitment to an international bailout of its debts. New Democracy took 19% of the vote in Sunday’s elections and Syriza received 17%, meaning neither can lead the government without the help of other parties. Talks between them to form a government together broke down over the issue of bailout in which Greece must slash its spending to qualify for money from the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Syriza is demanding revocation of the deal’s so-called austerity measures requiring Greece to cut public salaries and benefits, pointing out that more than 60% of Sunday’s vote went to parties demanding an end to the austerity measures.


Spain’s government will effectively nationalize the nation’s fourth largest bank to shore up the hurting banking sector and try to convince investors the country doesn’t need a bailout like those taken by Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Bankia faces the heaviest exposure among Spain’s banks to bad property loans caused by a construction boom that went bust, and holds about $40 billion in problematic loans. On Friday, the government is expected to announce a more wide-ranging banking system overhaul to free up frozen credit as Spain weathers a recession and 24.4% unemployment — the worst jobless rate among the 17 nations that use the euro.


Fifty people have been killed in two strong explosions that ripped through the Syrian capital. That makes Thursday morning’s bombings the deadliest attack on the capital since the country’s uprising began 14 months ago. The explosions heavily damaged a military intelligence building. The blasts wounded 170 people. The government has blamed terrorists, their euphemism for the opposition rebels. Central Damascus is tightly under the control of forces loyal to President Bashar Assad but has been struck by several bomb attacks, often targeting security installations or convoys.

A roadside bomb struck a Syrian military truck Wednesday, wounding six soldiers just seconds after a convoy carrying the head of the U.N. observer mission passed by. The attack was “a graphic experience that the Syrian people live with every day,” the head of the U.N. observer mission, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, told reporters. Mood said he does not know whether the blast was meant to target the observers or the military. World powers share a “profound concern” that Syria is descending into civil war, international envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday, but nations remain committed to his six-point peace plan and have pledged to deploy 300 cease-fire monitors there by the end of the month.


Afghanistan’s security situation has overshadowed the glaring humanitarian needs of the nation’s poorest, and their plight may worsen as international assistance wanes. Economic hardship could be an unwanted byproduct of the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, as the U.S.-led military coalition prepares to pull out its foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. The transition will likely coincide with a decline in foreign aid that could lead to critical economic problems as related jobs dry up, according to a World Bank report released this week. The report said up to 10% of the work force has benefited from aid-financed jobs.

The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks. As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits. But the releases are an inherent gamble: The freed detainees are often notorious fighters who would not be released under the traditional legal system for military prisoners in Afghanistan. They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.

  • When will U.S. authorities realize that a dedicated (not even radical) Islamist does not fear capture or death in their demonic desire to sacrifice their life for jihad against Christianity and the western world?


Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s attorney — called by many a hero for his representation of religious minorities — may find himself serving a nine-year prison sentence soon, leaving Nadarkhani without a lawyer, Baptist Press reports. Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah — a Muslim — said he was convicted of acting against national security, spreading propaganda and keeping banned books at home. He has represented Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity, since the case began in 2009. “This development only reinforces the fact that Iran has no regard for basic human rights,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. “It also raises further concern about the fate of Pastor Youcef. With his attorney facing nine years in prison, and no other lawyer likely to take the case, Pastor Youcef has no legal advocate, which places him at greater risk.” Dadkhah previously told the ACLJ that if he himself were jailed, “no attorney would be willing” to take Nadarkhani’s case for fear of “being imprisoned or disbarred” for representing him. Dadkhah represented 12 Christians in Iran in April who had been charged with several crimes, including apostasy, or leaving Islam.


Just days after reclaiming the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin has canceled his planned visit to the United States, where he’d been scheduled to attend a major economic summit and meet with President Obama. Putin claimed he was too busy finalizing cabinet appointments to make the May 18-19 G-8 Summit at Camp David. Yet the Obama administration had moved the gathering to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland from the planned venue in Chicago partly to accommodate Putin. Whether or not the schedule change marked an intentional snub, Putin’s presidential campaign also was decidedly unfriendly toward the U.S., primarily over the planned placement of radars and missile interceptors in Romania and Poland, saying they would undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent. The United States says the system is needed to protect against potential missile attacks by Iran and that the installations could not act against Russian missiles.

Police on Tuesday broke up a demonstration by hundreds of opposition activists who had spent the night outside the presidential administration offices to protest Vladimir Putin’s return as Russia’s president. Two prominent opposition leaders who had called their supporters to the small square in central Moscow were detained by police in the early hours of the morning but later released. They then joined up with dozens of their supporters who had moved on to another square, where they vowed to continue the roving protest. The cat-and-mouse game between protesters and police began on Monday, the day of Putin’s inauguration at a formal ceremony inside the Kremlin. The protest movement has shown an unexpected resilience. A demonstration on the eve of the inauguration drew well more than 20,000.


An aggressive air assault helped halt the spread of a wildfire in northern, Los Angeles County that destroyed several structures and prompted the evacuation of some 30 homes. The blaze erupted shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday near West Crown Valley Road in Acton and quickly spread due to gusty winds and low humidity. The 125-acre blaze was fully contained late Tuesday and all evacuated residents were allowed to return home.One mobile home, one outbuilding, two storage sheds and two vehicles were destroyed in the blaze.

The School Canyon fire sixteen miles southwest of Sierra Vista, Arizona, has consumed 7,770 acres of grassland. It is 50% contained as of Thursday morning. Residences in the area are threatened and are on alert for possible evacuation.


The dearth of snow that set back Colorado’s ski areas this winter is now taking its toll on farmers. Snow runoff traditionally fills up the ditches and ponds that farmers tap to irrigate crops. Not this year. The snow drought is translating to a lack of surface water for farmers who say their options for water are limited. The only option is well water, which has not been plentiful since the 2002 drought. The lack of water could cost farmers millions of dollars and translate to higher prices for consumers.

The nation’s unusual warmth keeps on rolling: Through April, the USA is experiencing its warmest year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Tuesday, with a national average temperature of 45 degrees. This is 5 degrees above the long-term average. So far this year, more than 15,000 record high temperatures have been set across the nation, compared with about 1,100 record lows. The first four months of 2012 were also drier than average for the United States as a whole.

From gas-mileage standards to tax breaks for windmills, public support for “green” energy measures to tackle global warming has dropped significantly in the past two years, particularly among Republicans, a new poll suggests. Overall, support for various steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions has dropped an average of 10 percentage points since 2010, from 72% to 62%. The Stanford University poll shows 65% support gas-mileage standards and 73% support tax breaks for wind and solar power. But just 43% support tax breaks for nuclear power, 26% support increasing gasoline taxes and 18% support hiking taxes on home electricity.

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Signs of the Times (5/7/12)

May 7, 2012

Arizona Governor Signs Planned Parenthood Funding Ban

Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill to cut off Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer money funneled through the state for non-abortion services. Arizona already bars use of public money for abortions except to save the life of the mother. But anti-abortion legislators and other supporters of the bill say the broader prohibition is needed to ensure no public money indirectly supports abortion services. Planned Parenthood Arizona claims a funding ban would interrupt its preventive health care and family planning services for nearly 20,000 women served by the organization’s clinics. The organization says it will consider a legal challenge.

Methodists Vote Against Gay Marriage

After an emotional debate, Methodists at a national legislative meeting Thursday upheld the denomination’s policy that same-sex relationships are “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Delegates at the General Conference voted by about 60% to 40% against softening the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline, which contains church laws and doctrine. The meeting is held once every four years, which means the policy won’t come up for a conference vote again until 2016. With just under 8 million U.S. members, the United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the country. However, the number of Methodists is shrinking inside the U.S., while expanding in African and Asian countries where the church is theologically more conservative.

Mormonism is Fastest-Growing Religion in Half of U.S. States

A new study shows Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in more than half of U.S. states, the Religion News Service reports. The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study shows that Protestants and Catholics, who dominated the 20th century, are literally losing ground to the rapid rise of Mormons and, increasingly, Muslims. Mormons reported 2 million new adherents and new congregations in 295 U.S. counties were they didn’t exist a decade ago, and were also were the fastest-growing group in 26 states, expanding beyond their historic home in Utah to the heart of the Bible Belt and as far away as Maine. Muslims came in second, with growth of 1 million adherents in 197 new counties, to a total of about 2.6 million — and mosques have multiplied at a growth rate of about 50 percent. Overall, non-Christian groups grew by 32 percent in the past 10 years, and the study also found that while upwards of 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, only about 49 percent are affiliated with a local congregation.

  • False religions are rising as the great “falling away” accelerates just as the Bible prophesied (2Thes. 2:3)

‘Occupiers” Try to Blow up Bridge

The ‘Occupy’ movement is scrambling to distance itself from five men charged with plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, but authorities have long been concerned about the group’s potential to inspire violence. Aside from some vandalism and skirmishes with police, notably in Seattle and Oakland, the movement has largely stuck to its nonviolent approach. But the angry rhetoric of ‘Occupy’ leaders has long concerned authorities, and an internal Department of Homeland Security memo leaked earlier this year warned that fringe members could be driven to acts of terror, such as the thwarted plot to blow up a busy commuter bridge on May Day. According to the Occupy Threat Center, a database established by data analytics company ListenLogic to analyze social media posts for threats to corporations from those associated with the ‘Occupy’ movement, leaders have called for physical destruction of buildings and violent action, and associated “hacktivist” groups have targeted financial and law enforcement institutions. Speakers at rallies around the nation have called for an uprising similar to the French Revolution.

New Blockbuster Avengers Movie has Patriotic, God-Centered Theme

The big new summer move, The Avengers, has a strong moral worldview with very strong patriotic themes that includes Captain America calling the shots during a crucial moment, with redemptive references to the story of Jonah and the Whale. Sacrifice is extolled in a dramatic way, and the dialogue indicates a return to “old-fashioned values” like patriotism and heroism. When the main villain claims to be a god compared to Earth people, the Hulk rebukes him and says he’s a “puny god,” and Captain America also says in referring to this villain, “There’s only one God.”

86 Million ‘Invisible’ Unemployed

There are far more jobless people in the United States than you might think, CNN reports. While it’s true that the unemployment rate is falling, that doesn’t include the millions of nonworking adults who aren’t even looking for a job anymore. Last year there were 86 million people who didn’t have a job and weren’t consistently looking for one, according to Labor Department data. And hiring isn’t strong enough to keep up with population growth. As a result, the labor force is now at its smallest size since the 1980s when compared to the broader working age population. A person is counted as part of the labor force if they have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. As of April, only 63.6% of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that category, according to the Labor Department. That’s the lowest labor force participation rate since 1981.

Economic News

The month-long slide in gasoline prices likely will continue in the coming weeks, providing more relief for shell-shocked motorists heading into peak driving season. Nationally, gasoline averages $3.80 a gallon — about 12 cents below this year’s peak and nearly 20 cents below 2011’s $3.99 a gallon. Gasoline prices have now fallen 18 straight days.

Businesses added only 115,000 jobs in April, another weak month of job creation, but the unemployment rate came down from 8.2% to 8.1%. From December through February, employers added a strong 246,000 jobs a month. Small companies — those with fewer than 50 employees — hired 58,000 people in April, while large companies with 500 or more employees hired only 4,000 new workers.

Unemployment among the European Union nations rose to 10.9% in March from 10.8% in February – the highest since the previous record in April 1997. And unemployment among Europe’s youth hit 22% last month. Spain and Greece both have youth unemployment of more than 50%.


Renewed uncertainty over Europe’s ability to deal with its spawning debt crisis following elections in Greece and France hammered stock markets Monday, with the main exchange in Athens down a massive 8%.Investors have been particularly spooked by the Sunday election in Greece, which has resulted in a split Parliament where no party looks like it will be able to form a government.

French voters booted President Nicolas Sarkozy from power Sunday in one of several elections across Europe in which governments that cut a deal to slash budgets to solve a debt crisis were hammered by the electorate. Austerity can no longer be inevitable!” Socialist Francois Hollande declared in a victory speech Sunday night. Hollande has never held public office, but had vowed to renegotiate pacts Sarkozy made with the European Union to bail out struggling EU economies.

Voters outraged at biting budget cuts and tax hikes punished Greece’s two main incumbent parties Sunday, voting in droves for fringe parties on the left and far right. Official projections in Greece on Sunday showed the pro-EU New Democracy party winning 19% of the vote, giving it 108 seats in the 300-member parliament — far short of a majority needed to form a government. The anti-bailout left-wing Syriza party was projected to take second place with 17% and 51 seats. The extremist far-right Golden Dawn party, which opposes the open borders policies of the EU, was projected to win 7% of the vote, historically a massive gain for the party.

In Italy, opinion polls show that approval ratings for Prime Minister Mario Monti, who was installed after predecessor Silvio Berlusconi lagged in approving EU-demanded budget cuts, have gone down steadily as taxes have risen. Voters in Germany’s northernmost state ousted a governing center-right government made up of the same parties as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal coalition. Merkel has been a major backer of EU bailouts to spendthrift EU states as well as the imposition of austerity measures on those nations.


The Taliban warned it will officially start its annual “spring offensive” in Afghanistan on Thursday. Wednesday’s announcement comes hours after an attack following a surprise visit by President Obama. Hours after Obama and President Hamid Karzai signed the strategic partnership agreement that will serve as the framework for future relations between the two nations, the Taliban issued a strong response. Taliban attackers targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by internationals with a car bomb at 6:15 a.m. Gunfire followed the bombing. Police officials say the incident was under control by 9 a.m., leaving seven people dead and 17 injured.

Still for most Afghans, the signing of the agreement comes as a welcome development that secures much needed international support for Afghanistan past the 2014 deadline for Afghans to take over security of their country. The strategic agreement secures relations with between the two nations until 2024, with Afghanistan as a “major non-NATO ally.” The document guarantees America’s commitment to Afghanistan after 2014, without detailing many of the specifics. Issues such as how long U.S. forces and their bases can remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and what the nature of their presence here will be determined in a separate bilateral security agreement.


A new report has revealed that Iran has imported well over half a billion dollars of arms and war equipment in the last three years in spite of the fact that Iran is supposedly under a United Nations arms embargo because of their nuclear program. Russia and China have been the biggest providers of weapons to Iran, flaunting the world community and refusing to consider the impact on the Middle East in order to line their pockets. The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes that Iran’s “massive military buildup is one more indicator of the seriousness of their statements desiring to see Israel ‘wiped off the map.’ This total for imported arms is in addition to the major internal manufacturing increase Iran has mounted as well. The mullahs of Tehran want to see the entire world placed under Muslim sharia law, and they believe that a bloody war is an essential step in that process…a war they are clearly preparing for diligently.”


An American drone fired a volley of missiles into a house close to the Afghan border on Saturday, killing eight suspected militants and indicating U.S. resolve to continue with the attacks despite renewed Pakistani opposition. The strike in North Waziristan was the second American drone operation in Pakistan in the past week. The attacks come amid American efforts to rebuild its relationship with Pakistan, which in November blocked the passage of U.S. and NATO war supplies to neighboring Afghanistan. The country’s parliament has called for an end to the drone strikes, which many here regard as an unacceptable violation of sovereignty.


At least eleven people were killed in Egypt during election-related protests last week. The rioting was so intense that large numbers of army personnel had to be sent to restore order. Five others were killed in an apparent mob attack on the Army Headquarters Building in Cairo. Clashes erupted on Wednesday between assailants and mostly Islamist protesters gathered outside the Defense Ministry in the Egyptian capital, leaving nine people dead and nearly 50 wounded. The violence is the latest episode in more than a year of turmoil in Egypt following the ouster of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak and will likely fuel more tensions just three weeks ahead of presidential elections. The military generals who took over from Mubarak in February last year have promised to hand over power to a civilian administration by July 1 but that has not stopped rallies demanding the generals leave immediately. Military prosecutors have detained more than 300 Egyptian protesters following clashes outside the country’s Defense Ministry who face accusations including attacking troops and disrupting public order, lawyers said Saturday.


Yemeni military officials say 15 Al Qaeda-linked militants have been killed in a missile hit on their training camp in the country’s south. U.S. drones have been active over Yemen, tracking and striking Al Qaeda operatives with missiles. Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen is considered one of the most dangerous and has been linked to several attempted attacks on U.S. targets.


Thousands of Japanese marched to celebrate the last of this nation’s 50 nuclear reactors switching off Saturday, shaking banners shaped as giant fish that have become a potent anti-nuclear symbol. Japan will be without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades. After last year’s March 11 quake and tsunami set off meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, no reactor stopped for checkups has restarted amid growing public worries about the safety of nuclear technology. The government wants to restart nuclear reactors, warning about blackouts and rising emissions as Japan is forced to turn to oil and gas for energy, but Japan now requires reactors to pass new tests to withstand quakes and tsunami and needs local residents’ approval to restart them.


It was a gruesome day for Mexican drug-gang violence in Nuevo Laredo, where nine tortured corpses were hung from a highway bridge and 14 decapitated bodies were stuffed into a van, according to news reports from across the Texas border. Motorists encountered the dangling bodies of five men and four women early this morning next to a profane message alluding to drug gang disputes. Hours later, police found the bodies and 14 severed heads in coolers outside city hall. Three weeks ago the dismembered remains of 14 men were found inside a van left behind Nuevo Laredo city hall, where the heads were found today. The San Antonio Express-News notes that a banner left with those bodies April 18 was allegedly signed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, considered Mexico’s leading crime boss — and vowed his Gulf Cartel would take back Nuevo Laredo from the Zeta.


A tornado tore through a city northeast of Japan’s capital on Sunday, killing one person, injuring dozens of others and destroying scores of houses. Firefighters and medical teams rushed to the area after the tornado struck Tsukuba city, 40 miles from Tokyo. The city is a science center, with dozens of research and academic institutes, but the tornado appeared to be mostly in residential areas. More than 30 other people were injured. Public broadcaster NHK showed rows of houses without roofs, apartment complexes with smashed balconies and shattered windows, and tilting telephone poles that could barely stand. Tornadoes are relatively rare in the Tokyo area.

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Signs of the Times (5/1/12)

May 1, 2012

Opposition to Gay Marriage Lower in 2012 Campaign

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, opposition to gay marriage is significantly lower in 2012 compared to the previous two presidential campaigns, the Religion News Service reports. For the first time, the level of strong support for gay marriage is equal to the level of strong opposition; 22 percent of Americans say they strongly favor gay marriage and 22 percent strongly oppose it. In 2008, strong opposition was twice as high as support — 30 percent to 14 percent. In 2004, a year when several ballot measures to define traditional marriage helped propel social conservatives to the polls, opposition was more than three times higher — 36 percent to 11 percent. This election cycle, as in other recent ones, voters say social issues like gay marriage and abortion are not as important as the economy and jobs. While more than 80 percent of Americans cite the economy and jobs as top voting issues, far fewer rated abortion (39 percent) and gay marriage (28 percent) as very important.

  • Christians are failing to “hold fast” to the faith, succumbing to secular political pressure

Oklahoma’s Top Court Rejects ‘Personhood’ for Embryos

The Oklahoma Supreme Court today unanimously struck down a proposed ballot measure that sought to amend the state Constitution to grant “personhood” rights to human embryos, thereby outlawing abortion and many forms of birth control. The state’s high court ruled that Initiative Petition No. 395, which supporters had hoped to put to voters in November, was “clearly unconstitutional” because if violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to an abortion. The proposed amendment expanded the legal definition of humanity or “personhood” to include every human being, regardless of place of residence, race, gender, age, disability, health, level of function, condition of dependency, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of biological development to the end of natural life. Opponents said the measure would ban all abortions, limit a woman’s choice of contraception and jeopardize in vitro fertilization.

  • Overturning Roe v. Wade is the lynchpin that has rendered abortion ‘constitutional’ and must be overturned

Number of Painkiller-Addicted Newborns Triples in Decade

The number of babies born addicted to the class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers has nearly tripled in the past decade, according to the first national study of its kind. About 3.4 of every 1,000 infants born in a hospital in 2009 suffered from a type of drug withdrawal commonly seen in the babies of pregnant women who abuse narcotic pain medications. That’s about 13,539 infants a year, or one drug-addicted baby born every hour. Treating drug-addicted newborns, most of whom are covered by the publicly financed Medicaid program, cost $720 million in 2009.

May Day Protests

May Day moved beyond its roots as an international workers’ holiday to a day of international protest Tuesday, with rallies throughout Asia demanding wage increases and marches across Europe over government-imposed austerity measures. Europeans took to the streets to protest against the measures that are being blamed for a big increase in the number of unemployed, particularly in Spain where one in four people is out of work. In the United States, demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience are planned, including what could be the country’s most visible Occupy rallies since the anti-Wall Street encampments came down in the fall. In Asia, thousands of May Day protesters in the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan demanded hikes in pay that they say has not kept up with rising consumer prices.

Domestic Violence Rising in Sluggish Economy

Police are encountering more domestic violence related to the sluggish economy, a national survey of law enforcement agencies finds. The review, part of a continuing examination of how economic conditions are affecting law enforcement by the Police Executive Research Forum, found that 56% of the 700 responding agencies reported that the poor economy is driving an increase in domestic conflict, up from 40% of agencies in a similar survey in 2010. Domestic violence is not a separate category of crime tracked in the FBI’s annual crime report, which has recorded a sustained decline in overall violence since the financial collapse in 2008. But the survey concludes that police are responding to more reports of domestic incidents, regardless of whether charges are filed. In Camden, N.J., police responded to 9,100 domestic incidents in 2011, up from 7,500 calls in 2010. Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said it was “impossible” to separate the economy from the domestic turmoil in the city where unemployment is 19%.

Health Spending Rate Slows

The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government’s long-term fiscal performance. Much of the slowdown is because of the recession, and thus not unexpected, health experts say. But some of it seems to be attributable to changing behavior by consumers and providers of health care — meaning that the lower rates of growth might persist even as the economy picks up. Because Medicare and Medicaid are two of the largest contributors to the country’s long-term debts, slower growth in health costs could reduce the pressure for enormous spending cuts or tax increases. In 2009 and 2010, total nationwide health care spending grew less than 4 percent per year, the slowest annual pace in more than five decades. Data for 2011 is not yet available.

Economic News

The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending increased just 0.3% last month after a 0.9% gain in February. Incomes grew 0.4% following a 0.3% gain in February. Still, after-tax income when adjusted for inflation increased just 0.2% in March. The tiny gain followed two months of declines.

Home ownership in the U.S. fell to its lowest rate in 15 years during the first quarter as more delinquent borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure, forcing many to rent. The percentage of Americans who own their homes dropped a full percentage point over the past 12 months to 65.4% during the first three months of 2012. That’s the lowest rate since 1997 and down from the peak of 69.2% reached in 2004.

Michigan, one of the places hardest hit during the country’s economic downturn and home to the struggling U.S. auto industry, is showing signs of an economic rebound, the Detroit Free Press is reporting. While 400,000 people in the state remain without jobs, Michigan’s unemployment rate has gradually declined to 8.5% from a high of 14.2% in August 2009. Housing starts in southeast Michigan were up 47 percent in the first quarter of the year. In suburban Oakland County, new business investment projects are up 70% from last year’s levels.

Tens of thousands of people across Spain protested Sunday against education and health care spending cuts as the country slid into its second recession in three years. Unemployment is at a eurozone high of 24.4%.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia closed its Cairo embassy Saturday and recalled its ambassador following protests over a detained Egyptian human rights lawyer in a sharp escalation of tension between two regional powerhouses already on shaky terms due to uprisings in the Arab world. The unexpected Saudi diplomatic break came following days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi. Relatives and human rights groups say he was detained for allegedly insulting the kingdom’s monarch. Saudi authorities denied that and said he was arrested for trying to smuggle anti-anxiety drugs into the conservative oil-rich kingdom.


Two suicide bombers blew up cars rigged with explosives near a military compound and a hotel in a city in northwestern Syria on Monday, killing at least eight people. The blasts were the latest setback for troubled U.N. efforts to end Syria’s 13-month-old crisis. A team of U.N. observers is already on the ground to salvage a cease-fire that went into effect April 12 but has been widely ignored by both sides. U.N. officials have singled out the regime as the main aggressor in violations of the truce.


Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament said Sunday it was suspending sessions for a week to protest the ruling military’s failure to heed repeated calls for the dismissal of the government. Anger against the country’s military rulers also spilled into the streets where a protester was killed late Saturday in a demonstration outside the Ministry of Defense. Protesters clashed for three hours with unidentified assailants supporting the military, throwing rocks, firebombs and glass bottles. The parliament seated three months ago has been demanding it be allowed to form a Cabinet to replace the one appointed by the country’s military rulers late last year.


NATO said a Taliban leader and another insurgent were killed Tuesday after they opened fire on coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan. Villagers in the area disputed the statement and insisted the victims were civilians killed during a pre-dawn raid. According to the alliance, the Taliban leader killed in Laghman province’s Qarghayi district was wanted for coordinating roadside bombings against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the area. NATO also said that several other insurgents were detained in the Afghan-led operation.

The military is underreporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops, according to the Associated Press. Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war.


One year since U.S. commandos flew into this Pakistani army town and killed Usama bin Laden, Islamabad has failed to answer tough questions over whether its security forces were protecting the world’s most wanted terrorist. Partly as a result, fallout from the raid still poisons relations between Washington and Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment, support for Islamist extremism and anger at the violation of sovereignty in the operation continues to inflame Pakistani passions. Any discussions over how bin Laden managed to stay undetected in Pakistan were drowned out in anger at what the army portrayed as a treacherous act by a supposed ally. That bin Laden was living with his family near Pakistan’s version of West Point — not in a cave in the mountains as many had guessed — raised eyebrows in the West.


The U.S. Air Force is quietly assembling the world’s most powerful air-to-air fighting team at bases near Iran. Stealthy F-22 Raptors on their first front-line deployment have joined a potent mix of active-duty and Air National Guard F-15 Eagles, including some fitted with the latest advanced radars. The Raptor-Eagle team has been honing special tactics for clearing the air of Iranian fighters in the event of war. The fighters join a growing naval armada that includes Navy carriers, submarines, cruisers and destroyers plus patrol boats and minesweepers enhanced with the latest close-in weaponry. It’s been years since the Air Force has maintained a significant dogfighting presence in the Middle East.


Gunmen attacked worship services at a university campus and a church Sunday in northern Nigeria, killing at least 21 people in coordinated assaults that saw panicked Christians gunned down as they tried to flee. The attacks happened Sunday morning at Kano’s Bayero University. Police say gunmen attacked a Catholic Mass on the campus, using small explosives to draw worshipers out before shooting those who fled. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though it mirrored others previously claimed by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. That group carried out a coordinated assault in Kano in January that killed at least 185 people.


One person died and 15 people were wounded when a grenade was thrown into a church in Kenya’s capital during Sunday service. The grenade exploded at God’s House of Miracles International Church in Nairobi. Doctors at Nairobi’s Kenyatta Hospital said they had treated 11 patients wounded in the attack. The incident is the latest in a string of grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October last year. In March, grenade explosions at one of the main bus stations in Kenya’s capital killed nine people and wounded 40 others, the deadliest in the series of attacks. Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants from neighboring Somalia have vowed to carry out a major attack on Kenya for sending troops in.


Glimmers of hope are coming to this devastated capital and its surrounding cities, as the concrete Royal Oasis hotel rises over a metropolitan area still filled with displaced-persons camps housing hundreds of thousands. Signs of Haiti’s comeback can also be seen in the 105-room Best Western hotel being built within blocks of shanty-covered hillsides. At least seven hotels are under construction or are in the planning stage in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas, raising hopes that thousands of investors will soon fill their air-conditioned rooms looking to build factories and tourist infrastructure that will help Haiti bounce back from a 2010 earthquake that officials say claimed 300,000 lives. Together, the projects add up to well over $100 million in new investment and will generate several thousand jobs.


Firefighters are battling the first major Texas wildfires of the season, covering 20,000 acres in the Davis Mountains, including an area that was struck by uncontrolled burning exactly a year ago. No injuries or structural losses were reported late Monday in the fires at the remote mountains 175 miles southeast of El Paso. The forest service says lightning strikes sparked the fires.


One person was killed and 16 others hospitalized Saturday afternoon when a sports bar tent collapsed during a storm that swept through the St. Louis area. Five people suffered serious injuries. Nearly 100 others were treated at the scene, mostly for bruises, cuts, twisted ankles and one broken arm.

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