Signs of the Times (5/25/12)

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court when it’s attacked — the president’s address Monday marked the first time he’s publicly called for the law to be repealed or struck down outright.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.”

Egypt

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.

Pakistan

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.

Afghanistan

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

Syria

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.

Iran

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.

Mexico

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.

Earthquakes

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.

Wildfires

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.

Weather

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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