Signs of the Times (6/7/12)

Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker Survives Recall

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beat back a recall challenge Tuesday, winning both the right to finish his term and a voter endorsement of his strategy to curb state spending, which included the explosive measure that eliminated union rights for most public workers. With his defeat of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the union leaders who rallied for months against Walker’s agenda, the rising GOP star became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt. With nearly all precincts reporting, Walker had nearly 53 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for Barrett. Democrats and organized labor spent millions to oust Walker, but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker. Republicans hope the victory carries over into November and that their get-out-the-vote effort can help Mitt Romney become the first GOP nominee to carry the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

  • This is a landmark victory for the silent majority to stand up against wasteful government spending and bloated union perks

November Referendum Blocks Wash. Same-Sex Marriage Law

Opponents of same-sex marriage in Washington have gathered enough signatures to force a November referendum on the state’s marriage-equality law, which was to have taken effect Thursday. Preserve Marriage Washington turned in an estimated 232,000 petition signatures, and plans to submit 9,000 more by the end of the day, the Washington Office of the Secretary of State reports. Election officials must verify that at least 120,577 signatures are valid for Referendum 74 to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot. Pending the certification of the election, the Legislature-passed measure to allow same-sex civil marriages, Senate Bill 6239, is on hold.

Court: Gov’t Interests Trump Religious Beliefs

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) will appeal a ruling that a young Christian couple who owns a photography business in New Mexico violated the rights of a lesbian couple by declining to handle their same-gender “commitment ceremony.” In 2006, Elane Photography of Albuquerque politely refused to photograph the ceremony — prompting a complaint to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission that business owners Elaine and Jon Huguenin discriminated based on sexual orientation. After a one-day trial, the Commission ordered in April 2008 that the Huguenins pay more than $6,000 in costs. On Monday the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the ruling by the Commission that the Huguenins were guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination under state anti-discrimination laws. But New Mexico recognizes neither same-gender “marriages” nor civil unions. ADF attorney Jordan Lorence: “Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs. Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? Of course not — and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience.”

  • The end-time anti-Christ spirit is hard at work attacking Christianity on all fronts, whether legally or not

JCPenney Releases Father’s Day Ad Featuring Two Gay Dads

JCPenney has released a Father’s Day print ad featuring a real-life same-sex couple hugging their two young children, Yahoo! Finance reports. The ad reads: “What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two.” Earlier this year, the retailer came under fire for its decision to employ openly gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman. Conservative group One Million Moms criticized the retailer for abandoning traditional values, but JCPenney stuck with Ellen, saying in a statement that “Ellen represents the values of our company.” One Million Moms released a statement on May 31 condemning JCPenney’s new ad. “It is obvious that JCP would rather take sides than remain neutral in the culture war,” the statement said. “We must remain diligent and stand up for biblical values and truth. Scripture says multiple times that homosexuality is wrong, and God will not tolerate this sinful nature.”

U.N. Issues Climate Warning

The earth’s environmental systems “are being pushed towards their biophysical limits,” beyond which loom sudden, irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes, the United Nations Environment Program warned Wednesday. In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it. Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report.

Climate change, by warming water and reducing river flows, has caused production losses at several nuclear and coal-fired power plants in the United States and Europe in recent years and will lead to more power disruptions in the future, researchers report. The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama, for example, had to shut down more than once last summer because the Tennessee River’s water was too warm to use it for cooling. The likelihood of extreme drops in power generation from total or partial plant shutdowns will triple in the next 50 years, according to the study. Power from thermoelectric plants, which provide more than 90% of electricity in the U.S. and three-quarters in Europe, will decrease 4% to 16% in the U.S. and 6% to 19% in Europe due to lack of cooling water in the future, the researchers estimate.

  • Whether induced by humans or not, end-time weather will grow more and more unsettled and extreme

U.S. Gangs Growing in Numbers and Violence

The recent surge in violence that left 10 dead in Chicago during the Memorial Day weekend underscores a continuing national struggle to control criminal gangs whose numbers continue to grow. Of the 200 murders in Chicago so far this year — up from 139 at the same time last year — local police said that about 80% were gang-related in a city whose gang membership is estimated at more than 100,000. Chicago’s gang presence largely tracks a troubling national trend in which criminal gangs have been expanding in number and reach throughout the country. In Houston, there are an estimated 200 gangs and 10,000 gang members and murders are also up about 15% from last year, most of them gang related.

  • The end-time spirit of lawlessness will manifest in many different ways, such as the rapidly expanding drug killings in Mexico (Matt 24:12)

Counterfeit Products a Growing and dangerous Problem

From fake versions of the drugs Adderall and Avastin to phony designer watches and wedding dresses, counterfeiting is rising fast and is increasingly becoming a safety concern. U.S. Customs said agents seized 24% more shipments of counterfeit goods in the last fiscal year (ended Sept. 30, 2011) than in its previous year. And 325% more counterfeit goods were confiscated from 2002 to 2012 than in the previous decade. While phony designer purses are declining — and didn’t even make Customs’ list of top counterfeit products last year — counterfeit pharmaceuticals were up 200% in the 2011 fiscal year. According to Gallup Consulting and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 64% of counterfeit electrical products are purchased from legitimate shops and retailers. Most well-known brands have several hundred to several thousand pretenders selling their goods online, say industry watchdogs.

Economic News

The federal debt is expected to be 70% of the gross domestic product by the end of this year, and could be double the GDP by 2037 unless major changes are made, the Congressional Budget Office reports. Ultimately, this level of debt is unsustainable, requiring major changes in spending and taxation.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting modest job growth after three months of weak hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for weekly benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 377,000. That’s down from an upwardly revised 389,000 the previous week. It was the first decline in five weeks.

Worker productivity fell by the largest amount in a year from January through March. The steeper drop than first estimated suggests companies may need to hire to keep pace with demand. The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity fell at an annual rate of 0.9% in the first quarter.

Moody’s rocked global markets Wednesday by downgrading not just one German bank, but all six of Germany’s largest banks. Moody’s also, downgraded Austria’s three largest banks. The strongest banks in Europe are melting down. In Spain. In Austria. In Germany — the economic engine of the entire continent. And even in France — the banking capital of the entire world.

China has cut its benchmark lending rate for the first time in nearly four years as it tries to reverse a sharp economic slowdown. The move gave stocks a boost around the world. The Chinese central bank said Thursday that the interest rate on a one-year loan will be reduced by a quarter percentage point to 6.31% effective Friday. The rate cut adds to a string of measures in recent weeks to boost slowing economic growth.

The global economy’s foundations are weakening, one by one. Already hobbled by Europe’s debt crisis, the world now risks being hurt by slowdowns in its economic powerhouses. The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, had a third straight month of feeble job growth in May. High-flying economies in China, India and Brazil are slowing, too. Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro is already at 11%, the European Union’s Eurostat office reported Friday. The most urgent threat is that in mid-June, Greek voters will reject the terms of a $170 billion bailout — which called for painful budget cuts — and abandon the euro.

Syria

Syria barred a string of U.S. and European diplomats Tuesday, saying they were “no longer welcome” as the country plunged into its most profound international isolation in decades. Last week, Western nations expelled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated move over the Houla massacre, in which more than 100 people were slaughtered over one weekend in a cluster of small villages. United Nations monitors who were trying to access the scene of “new massacres” in Syria’s Hama province were shot at with small arms, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists on Monday announced a new rebel coalition that aims to overcome deep divisions within the opposition in its fight against the forces of President Bashar Assad. But it was uncertain how the new organization would coordinate with other sectors of the Syrian opposition, whose failure to unite has hobbled its campaign to topple Assad despite a nationwide uprising that has lasted more than a year.

Iraq

Six months after the last U.S. combat troops left, an Iraq free of Saddam Hussein and overseen by a democratically elected government midwifed by the United States is standing on its own despite ever-present dangers from within and outside its borders. But the United States paid a heavy price in Iraq. More than 4,400 American servicemembers died during eight years of war and occupation, and according to recent polls, most Americans say the war wasn’t worth it. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in terror attacks since the last U.S. troops withdrew in December. Iran continues to retain ties to Shiite militias operating in Iraq. Political differences between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have frequently boiled over into threats of civil war. The government struggles to provide basic services, such as electricity.

However, signs that the country is making progress toward stability abound despite the headlines about political rivalries and terror attacks. Oil production is at its highest levels in decades, says the latest OPEC report, higher than almost any time under Saddam. Gross domestic product in 2011 more than doubled from the year before, says the International Monetary Fund, noting that Iraq’s economy is expected to expand 11% this year. Foreign investors that were banned under Saddam, such as Exxon/Mobil, have been welcomed back and are developing the country’s vast resources. New cars jam Baghdad streets; cafes and restaurants are busy late into the night. Experts say it might all add up to “stability.”

Afghanistan

Three suicide attackers blew themselves up in the largest city in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, leaving 22 people dead in a dusty marketplace. The attack in Kandahar also injured an estimated 50 civilians. The explosions occurred about three miles from the main gate of the massive military installation run by the U.S.-led coalition and roughly 500 yards from an Afghan military base. One suicide bomber detonated a three-wheeled motorbike filled with explosives first, said Rahmatullah Atrafi, deputy police chief in Kandahar province. Then, as people rushed to assist the casualties, two other suicide bombers on foot walked up to the site and blew themselves up.

American troops are suffering more extensive physical damage — measured in lost arms and legs — to buried explosives in Afghanistan than ever before, according to data collected by the Army Surgeon General’s office. This year through May, 60% of all combat amputation casualties in Afghanistan were troops who lost two, three or four limbs, according to statistics. The vast majority are caused by makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the Army says. In 2009, about one in four combat amputations involved multiple limb-loss. Pakistan is impeding U.S. attempts to curb the flow of bombmaking materials from Pakistan to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, a report by the Government Accountability Office shows.

Iran

Iran accused the United Nations nuclear inspectorate of spying, vowed never to suspend uranium enrichment and cast doubt on whether a deal allowing wider atomic inspections is possible. ‘Iran will resist to the end’ and ‘will not permit our national security to be jeopardized’ by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors working for Western intelligence agencies, the Persian Gulf nation’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said today at a press briefing in Vienna. ‘Iran will never suspend its enrichment activities,’ he said… ‘The agency, which is supposed to be an international technical organization, is somehow playing the role of an intelligence agency,’ Soltanieh said.

Egypt

According to the popular Egyptian website El Bashayer, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate competing against former Mubarak official Ahmed Shafiq in the runoff election to become Egypt’s new president, has declared that he will “achieve the Islamic conquest of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya [Islamic tax required of non-Muslims],” the Gatestone Institute reports. Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, adding, “We will not allow [Shafiq] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt.” When the journalist pointed out that the first Muslim conquest of Egypt was “carried out at the hands of Amr bin al-As [in 641],” he asked Morsi who the second Islamic conqueror would be. Morsi replied, “The second Muslim conqueror will be Muhammad Morsi, and history will record it.” When asked what he thought about many Coptic Christians voting for his opponent, Morsi reportedly said, “They need to know that conquest is coming, and Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate.”

Throngs of protesters converged on Tahrir Square in the relative cool of a recent evening, waving flags, wearing face paint and trying to unite around a slew of demands. The gathering was reminiscent of the massive demonstrations last year during 18 days of revolt in which Egyptians of all persuasions were united in calling for a government that respects human rights and delivers impartial justice. Sixteen months after Egypt’s revolution and days away from an election for president, many Egyptians said that the central complaint of the revolution has yet to be addressed. Activists and rights groups say violations of human rights are numerous despite the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak and the election of a new parliament. “There is no improvement in human rights protection overall… in the legal and institutional framework that sustains abusive practices, or policy changes,” said Heba Morayef, researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Wildfires

Firefighters in southern New Mexico are making slow progress against the massive Gila wilderness fire, which has grown to 263,589 acres, over 400 square miles. It is now 30% contained and has destroyed 20 structures, although it continues to burn in mostly isolated areas. Evacuations of two small towns are still in effect.

Meanwhile crews in the northern part of the state worked to contain a lightning-sparked blaze in the Santa Fe National Forest. The blaze was one of several sparked by lightning around the state as dry thunderstorms moved in Sunday and Monday, including two others in the Santa Fe Forest, one near Silver City and two near Taos. Firefighters were able to contain most of the fires quickly.

Weather

Crews will assess damages to roads and bridges following a storm that dumped more than 8 inches of rain across parts of Maine, closing numerous roads and bridges Monday. Heavy rains, which began Saturday and resulted in minor flooding when the Presumpscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers overflowed their banks.

A sudden, violent storm in southeast Missouri has left a man and his two adult sons dead. Authorities are assessing the damage after high winds, heavy rain and hail ripped through parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky late Monday. The worst hit is Diehlstadt, Mo., where winds blew over a mobile home, killing the three men. There were several reports of damage to homes in and around Diehlstadt, a town of 163 residents in Scott County about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

Oklahoma suffered through the hottest summer ever recorded in the U.S. last year. Oklahoma’s average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees, while Texas finished with 86.7 degrees. The previous record for the hottest summer was 85.2 degrees set in 1934 – also in Oklahoma. Average summer temperatures are usually higher in states in the Southeast and southern Plains than in states in the Desert Southwest.

Storms in Texas have left nearly 20,000 homes and businesses without electricity and canceled dozens of flights. American Airlines on Thursday canceled 35 flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after canceling 140 DFW flights Wednesday. Strong winds Wednesday damaged the roof of a Fort Worth apartment complex. Nobody was hurt.

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One Response to “Signs of the Times (6/7/12)”

  1. Lina Says:

      9 de Janeiro de 2012Olá Calorina,É bom saber que gostaste do nosso site e de alguns dos nossos artigos. Contamos contigo para divulgares este projeto na escola aos professores, colegas e amigos. Só assim conseguimos tro¡Ãfarmsn-lo numa verdadeira comunidade de estudantes online

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