Signs of the Times (5/14/12)

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.

Get brief alerts on your PC or phone at


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