Signs of the Times (5/22/12)

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.

Germany

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.

Iran

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.

Europe

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.

Afghanistan

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.

Pakistan

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.

Libya

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.

Syria

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.

Yemen

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.

Mali

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.

Earthquakes

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.

Wildfires

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.

Weather

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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