Archive for July, 2012

Signs of the Times (7/31/12)

July 31, 2012

Major Blackout in India

Northern India’s power grid crashed Monday, halting hundreds of trains, forcing hospitals and airports to use backup generators and leaving 370 million people — more than the population of the United States and Canada combined — sweltering in the summer heat. Buildings were without water because the pumps weren’t working. India’s energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving 620 million people without government-supplied electricity in the world’s biggest-ever blackout. Hundreds of trains stalled across the country and traffic lights went out, causing widespread traffic jams in New Delhi. Emergency workers rushed generators to coal mines to rescue miners trapped underground. The massive failure has raised serious concerns about India’s outdated infrastructure and the government’s inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.

200,000 Muslims Convert to Christianity

It’s not easy to leave Islam in a Muslim country. It can put one’s freedom and very life at risk. But thousands are doing it, according to a new book by Jerry Trousdale, director of international ministries for City Team International. In fact, he writes in “Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love With Jesus,” some 200,000 Muslims have converted to Christianity in just the last six years. And they include sheiks, imams, and Muslim leaders. The book also documents numerous accounts of Muslims discovering Jesus in dreams and visions.

Judge OK’s Arizona’s Abortion Ban

Arizona’s ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy is poised to take effect this week as scheduled after a federal judge ruled Monday that the new law is constitutional. U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the law is constitutional because it doesn’t prohibit any women from making the decision to end their pregnancies. The judge also wrote that the state provided “substantial and well-documented” evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states to enact types of 20-week bans.

Court Blocks Oklahoma Personhood Initiative

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to determine whether Oklahoma’s personhood initiative can proceed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided against putting it on the ballot, suggesting the issue of personhood would conflict with Supreme Court rulings favoring abortion. Personhood USA believes the court’s ruling denies the right of citizens to petition their government. Steve Crampton, general counsel of Liberty Counsel, tells OneNewsNow that is a huge issue that must be settled. “It’s about the fundamental right of the people of a state, in this case the state of Oklahoma, to decide for themselves what the law in their own state should be, and to simply propose for debate and discussion — and ultimately for a vote — certain issues of great importance. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has interjected itself into that process and just cut it off,” he says.

  • States’ rights and true democracy have been trampled by the Obama administration – about time the courts stood up to the federal onslaught against “for the people, by the people” principles

Colorado Family Business Halts Obama Abortion Pill Mandate

A federal court issued an order Friday that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court. The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties. ADF attorneys obtained the first-ever order against the mandate on behalf of Hercules Industries and the Catholic family that owns it. The administration opposed the order, arguing, contrary to the U.S. Constitution, that people of faith forfeit their religious liberty once they engage in business. The mandate could subject the Newlands to millions of dollars in fines per year if they don’t abide by its requirements. In his order, Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said that the government’s arguments “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.”

  • The intolerance of the socialist Obama administration toward freedom of religion is finally being recognized by our judicial system

Doctor Shortage Likely to Worsen Under Obamacare

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025, as the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care. Even without the health care law, the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would still exceed 100,000. Health experts, including many who support the law, say there is little that the government or the medical profession will be able to do to close the gap by 2014, when the law begins extending coverage to about 30 million Americans, since it typically takes a decade to train a doctor. Across the country, fewer than half of primary care clinicians were accepting new Medicaid patients as of 2008, making it hard for the poor to find care even when they are eligible for Medicaid. The expansion of Medicaid accounts for more than one-third of the overall growth in coverage in President Obama’s health care law.

U.N. Fails to Reach Global Arms Trade Treaty

A U.N. treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade will have to wait after member states failed to an reach agreement, and some diplomats and supporters blamed the United States for the unraveling of the monthlong negotiating conference. Hopes had been raised that agreement could be reached on a revised treaty text that closed some major loopholes by Friday’s deadline for action. But the U.S. announced Friday morning that it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty — and Russia and China then also asked for more time. “This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement Friday evening that the U.S. supports a second round of negotiations next year.

  • Obama does the right thing – I wonder why? Election-year politics probably.

American’s Remain Divided Over Gun Control

Americans remain divided on the issue of gun control vs. gun rights, more than a week after 12 people died in the July 20 massacre at a Colorado movie theater. A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows 47% of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 46% say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns. Pew says the findings in the survey of 1,010 adults aren’t much different than findings from a similar poll taken in April. At that time, 45% of Americans said controlling gun ownership was important vs. 49% who picked the rights of gun owners (margin of error = +/- 3.6%). Pew also found that attitudes about gun laws did not change significantly after the January 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson or the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

  • This is another issue that cannot be fully resolved within a fallen world of good and evil – Jesus remains the only complete and perfect solution

Cyber Attacks Continue to Escalate

Cyber-attacks are accelerating at a pace that suggests the Internet – already a risky environment – is likely to pose a steadily growing threat to individuals and companies for years to come. That’s the somber consensus of security and Internet experts participating in the giant Black Hat cybersecurity conference that concluded last week. Internet-generated attacks comprise “the most significant threat we face as a civilized world, other than a weapon of mass destruction,” Shawn Henry, former head of the FBI’s cybercrime unit, told some 6,500 attendees in a keynote address. Experts say web attacks continue to escalate partly because powerful, easy-to-use hacking programs are widely available for free.

U.S. Blood Supply at Lowest Level in 15 Years

The American Red Cross says its national blood supply is at its lowest level in 15 years because of severe weather combined with a markedly slow summer of donations. Severe storms in early July forced the cancellation of dozens of blood drives. Extreme heat has kept donors indoors and at home, and  fewer businesses hosted blood drives. If things don’t turn around, doctors may have to cancel elective surgeries if needed blood products aren’t readily available.

Economic News

Home prices rose in May from April in all 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index. And a measure of national prices rose 2.2% from April to May, the second increase after seven months of flat or declining readings. S&P’s index committee cautioned that the trend would need to continue into the summer and fall to ensure that it isn’t just a reflection of strong springtime and early summer sales.

Americans spent no more in June than they did in May, even though their income grew at the fastest pace in three months. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that consumer spending was flat in June after declining 0.1% in May. Income rose 0.5%. And wages, the largest component of income, also increased 0.5%, biggest gain since March. The jump in incomes went straight to savings. The savings rate rose to 4.4% in June, highest level in a year.

The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a first-ever default on billions in payments due to the Treasury. With cash running perilously low, two legally required payments for future postal retirees’ health benefits — $5.5 billion due Wednesday, and another $5.6 billion due in September — will be left unpaid, the mail agency said Monday. Postal officials said they also are studying whether they may need to delay other obligations as well. The defaults won’t stir any kind of catastrophe in day-to-day mail service for now. But a growing chorus of analysts labor unions and business customers are troubled by continuing losses that point to deeper, longer-term financial damage.

  • The Postal Service is actually running an operational profit – it’s the steep pension obligations that is the primary problem

It’s been one of the worst quarters for corporate profits in three years, but investors are relieved things aren’t even worse. Profit margins are averaging 0.5% for 291 large-scale corporations that reported second quarter earnings, the worst showing for earnings growth since the third quarter of 2009. Investors, though, appear to be relieved things aren’t even worse, sending the Dow Jones industrials into a two-day, 400-point surge at the end of last week. Stocks also rose on rumors that European and U.S. central banks would provide more stimulus.

Middle East

Mitt Romney would back an Israeli military strike against Iran aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear capability, he said Sunday, outlining the aggressive posture the Republican presidential candidate will take toward Iran. Romney said he has a “zero tolerance” policy toward Iran obtaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Romney believes the option of a U.S. attack should also be “on the table.”

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which holds the rights to broadcast this year’s London Olympic games and is considered the largest broadcast organization in the world, intentionally refuses to list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on its official Olympics website. Even worse, until just a few days ago “East Jerusalem” was listed as the capital of Palestine. The Palestinian Territory is not a recognized nation, though it has recently been seeking to thwart international law and the Middle East peace process to obtain unilateral recognition at the United Nations.

  • In addition, at the daily White House news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also refused to name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, further underscoring Obama’s anti-Israel, pro-Islam prejudices

Syria

Syrian forces pounded the country’s largest city, Aleppo, with military helicopters over the weekend to flush out rebel forces in one of the most important battles of the 17-month-old uprising. Syrian government forces mounted new ground attacks against rebel-controlled neighborhoods in Syria’s commercial hub of Aleppo, the state media said Monday, but failed to dislodge the opposition from their strongholds, according to activists. International concern has been mounting over what activists said could be a looming massacre as Syrian troops bombarded the city for the past week, unleashing artillery and strafing it with aircraft. With a population of about 3 million, Aleppo is Syria’s commercial hub, a key pillar of support for President Bashar Assad’s regime. Authorities said 200,000 people have fled Aleppo over the past two days.

Jordan says it has opened its first tent camp for Syrians fleeing violence in their country, saying a surge of refugees forced it to do so. Authorities had been reluctant to set up the camps, possibly to avoid angering Syrian President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime. But with 142,000 Syrians seeking refuge and their numbers growing daily by up to 2,000, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Sunday that Jordan had no other choice.

Yemen

Thousands of Yemenis rallied over the weekend in the capital Sanaa, urging the authorities to release more than 100 protesters arrested during the year-long popular uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saturday’s rally was also a protest against the government’s slowness to release the detainees, despite an order that their cases be reviewed and that they be set free. Saleh’s followers still hold influential security and military positions, enabling them to delay the release of 117 prisoners.

Iran

Iran’s new message to parents: Get busy and have babies. In a major reversal of once far-reaching family planning policies, authorities are now slashing its birth-control programs in an attempt to avoid an aging demographic similar to many Western countries that are struggling to keep up with state medical and social security costs. Iran’s economy is stumbling under a combination of international sanctions, inflation and double-digit unemployment. Many young people, particularly in Tehran and other large cities, are postponing marriage or keeping their families small because of the uncertainties.

Uganda

The deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda this month, Ugandan health officials said on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange disease that had many people fleeing their homes. The officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala Saturday that there is “an outbreak of Ebola” in Uganda. Health officials told reporters in Kampala that the 14 dead were among 20 reported with the disease. A health official said Monday that six more patients suspected to have Ebola have been admitted to the hospital over the weekend.

Japan

Thousands of people formed “a human chain” around Japan’s parliament complex Sunday to demand the government abandon nuclear power — the latest in a series of peaceful demonstrations here that are on a scale not seen for decades. Also Sunday, voters went to the polls in a closely watched regional election for governor in southwestern Yamaguchi Prefecture, where an outspoken anti-nuclear candidate is running. Protesters said they were angry the government restarted two reactors earlier this month, despite safety worries after the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March last year.

Mexico

Three masked men took less than a minute to burst into the offices of a major Mexican newspaper in northern Mexico, subdue the security guard, drench the reception with gasoline and set the building ablaze. The attack against El Norte’s offices in Monterrey’s metropolitan area is the third in less than a month against the newspaper. Experts say it could be an escalation in the efforts by drug traffickers to intimidate one of the few regional outlets that continues to cover the drug war and investigate official corruption linked to cartels, while others fall silent to intimidation.

Earthquakes

A minor earthquake has rattled the same Virginia area that was at the center of last year’s East Coast quake. The U.S. Geological Survey says the 2.4-magnitude earthquake occurred around 12:43 a.m. Tuesday. The epicenter was 6 miles southeast of Mineral. That’s where the 5.8-magnitude hit Aug. 23, causing deep cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Monument. No one was injured and no damage was reported in the quake Tuesday. The region has experienced dozens of aftershocks since the earthquake a year ago.

Weather

After a June that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says was the warmest on record and a July that has continued the sizzling and exceptionally dry streak, withering huge swaths of the nation’s agricultural economy, people who work outside and the companies that employ or sell to them are feeling the heat, too. From operators of outdoor movie theaters in North Carolina, where the highs Monday will be in the mid-90s; to Kansas cattlemen and their livestock, who face temperatures approaching 110; to landscapers in St. Louis, where another 100-plus-degree day is on tap, this summer is causing many businesses to alter their hours and procedures to schedule operations in the cool of the mornings and evenings.

Giant monsoon dust storms that roll across Arizona and coat everything in a fine film of dirt are becoming more frequent, according to experts. That means more deadly accidents, more harmful pollution and more health problems for people breathing in the irritating dust particles. Some scientists are predicting more frequent and larger dust storms as a result of climate change, which one environmental expert says will cause more powerful and more erratic weather patterns in the Southwest.

  • The scientists are right but for the wrong reason. It’s not humans that are causing climate change, but rather an end-time phenomena induced by God

Signs of the Times (7/27/12)

July 27, 2012

Bipartisan Senators Threaten to Oppose UN Arms Treaty

A bipartisan group of 51 senators is threatening to oppose a global treaty regulating international weapons trade if it falls short in protecting the constitutional right to bear arms, as the United Nations bumps up against a Friday deadline for action. In a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the senators expressed serious concerns with the draft treaty that has circulated at the United Nations, saying that it signals an expansion of gun control that would be unacceptable. “Our country’s sovereignty and the constitutional protection of these individual freedoms must not be infringed,” they wrote. Opponents in the U.S. have portrayed the treaty as a surrender of gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

  • Globalists Obama and Clinton favor this New World Order bill that further restricts national rights in an effort to create the one-world government being orchestrated through the U.N., World Court, World Bank and International Monetary Fund

Senate OKs Tax-Cut Extension Bill

Democrats pushed a yearlong extension of tax cuts for all but the highest-earning Americans through the Senate on Wednesday, giving Democrats a significant political victory on a measure that is fated to go no further in Congress. Senators approved the Democratic bill by a near party-line 51-48 vote. The $250 billion Democratic measure would extend tax cuts in 2013 for millions of Americans that otherwise would expire in January. But it would deny those reductions to individuals making over $200,000 yearly and couples earning at least $250,000. Passage of the Democratic measure put the Senate on record as backing a bill that closely follows the tax-cutting vision of President Obama, who has made tax fairness — meaning tax increases on the rich — an overarching theme of his re-election campaign. The vote also serves as a counterpoint to the GOP-run House, which next week will approve tax cuts nearly identical to the $405 billion Republican plan the Senate rejected Wednesday.

House Passes Bill to Audit the Federal Reserve

The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, that would expand congressional authority to oversee deliberations at the Federal Reserve. The legislation is the culmination of more than three decades of activism by Paul, who has pushed for greater transparency at the central bank since he was first elected in 1976. The bill stands no chance of becoming law because the Democratic-controlled Senate will not take it up. The vote served as a symbolic swan song for Paul, who is not seeking re-election. It is also an indicator of how Paul’s economic views have gone more mainstream, particularly within the Republican Party, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that shook Americans’ confidence in Wall Street and the federal government.

  • The great divide between the Democratic Senate and Republican House will not be resolved until after the elections – if even then, depending on the outcome. Voting has never been more important.

Mass Murders Defy Falling Homicide Rate

The United States is a less violent country than it was two decades ago. The homicide rate, which hit a peak in the early 1990s at about 10 per 100,000 people, has been cut in half to a level not seen since the early 1960s. But there has been no corresponding decline in mass murder — these sudden, stunning eruptions of violence with multiple victims, often perpetrated by gunmen who researchers refer to as “pseudo-commandos.” The statistics on mass murder suggest it is a phenomenon that does not track with other types of violent crime, such as street violence. It does not seem to be affected by the economy or by law-enforcement strategies. The mass murderer has become almost a stock figure in American culture, someone bent on overkill — and, so often, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Many killing sprees are driven by grudges or a desire for revenge. The victims are bosses, co-workers, family members or fellow students, as was the case at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine High School in 1999. So far, there is no clear motive in the recent Aurora killings.

After Colorado Theater Massacre, Gun Sales Jump

Firearms sales are surging in the wake of the Colorado movie massacre as buyers express fears about both personal safety and lawmakers who are using the shooting to seek new weapons restrictions. In Colorado, the site of Friday’s shooting that killed 12 and injured dozens of others, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to buy a firearm — 25 percent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 percent more than the same interval the week prior. In Arizona and some other states, gun retailers reported significant increases in sales that they say are likely connected to the Colorado shooting as well as fears of potential new restrictions on gun ownership.

President Obama has added his voice to the push for stricter gun control in the wake of the massacre last week at a Colorado movie theater. Obama, speaking Wednesday evening to the National Urban League, affirmed his belief in Americans’ right to own guns, but he singled out assault rifles as better suited for the battlefield.

  • If someone in the theater had been armed, this massacre might have been limited to far fewer casualties

Planned Parenthood Faces Fresh Scrutiny After Death

Planned Parenthood is facing new calls for congressional scrutiny after a Chicago woman died following an abortion at a local clinic last week. Twenty-four-year old Tonya Reaves died Friday of hemorrhaging following the abortion, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Her death has been ruled an accident. The abortion provider’s most vocal critics in Washington swiftly began calling for a closer look into the group’s safety guidelines and financial practices.

L.A. Council Outlaws Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The Los Angeles City Council today voted to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries but approved a separate measure that could allow about 180 storefronts to remain open under stricter regulations. If approved by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has voiced his support, the ban would go into effect after 30 days. The city “has fumbled with its medical marijuana laws for years, trying to provide safe and affordable access to the drug for legitimate patients while addressing worries by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and pot users, AP writes. The California Supreme Court is considering challenges to similar bans and regulation of pot dispensaries. In 1996, state voters approved the medical use of marijuana by verified patients who did not get pain relief or other therapeutic benefits from prescription drugs.

U.S. Poverty on Track to Rise to Highest Since 1960s

Poverty in America is on track to rise to levels unseen in nearly half a century, Fox News reports. Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall, and in a recent survey of more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics — nonpartisan, liberal and conservative alike — the Associated Press found a broad consensus that the official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a smaller increase, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest since 1965. Demographers also predict that poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years, that suburban poverty — already at a record level of 11.8 percent — will increase again in 2011, that part-time or underemployed workers will rise to a new high, that child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010, and that the poorest poor — defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level — will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent.

Economic Distress Hurting Children

The percentage of children living in poverty in the U.S. is on the rise, according to the new Kids Count report, which also finds more children living in single-parent homes and parents struggling to afford housing. The data also shows more children had parents lacking steady employment. The decline in children’s economic situations is ominous because living in extended periods of deep poverty threatens children’s development, experts say. 22% of children nationally were poor, up from 19% in 2005. In Mississippi, 33% of children lived in poverty.

Americans Put Off Having Babies Amid Poor Economy

Twenty-somethings who postponed having babies because of the poor economy are still hesitant to jump in to parenthood — an unexpected consequence that has dropped the USA’s birthrate to its lowest point in 25 years. As the economy tanked, the average number of births per woman fell 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007. Demographic Intelligence projects the rate to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year — the lowest since 1987. The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown. Many young adults are unemployed, carrying big student loan debt and often forced to move back in with their parents — factors that may make them think twice about starting a family.

Economic News

The U.S. economy slowed in the spring, with second-quarter growth less than half the pace the economy hit late last year, the government reported Friday. Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.5% between April and June, down from 2.0% in the first quarter and 4.1% late last year. More cautious consumers were the main reason. Consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the economy, grew at a 1.5% rate, compared with 2.4% in the first quarter.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 35,000 last week, but the numbers were skewed by seasonal factors. The Labor Department says applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 353,000, down from a revised 388,000 the previous week. It was the biggest drop since February 2011.

Business cut back on orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods last month, outside aircraft and other transportation equipment. That suggests the sluggish economy is weakening. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6% in June. But excluding transportation equipment, orders actually fell 1.1%, third drop in four months.

More than 200,000 small businesses vanished between early 2008 and 2010 — a period covering the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath — taking with them in excess of 3 million jobs, according to Census figures which illustrate the depth of the country’s economic hole. While the country boasted 5.14 million firms with up to 99 employees as of March 2008, that number dropped to 4.92 million by March 2010 – representing a loss of roughly 223,800 businesses and 3.1 million workers.

Eurozone

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told investors in London that the central bank could intervene in markets to bring down the government borrowing rates. After insisting for months that it was up to governments to restore confidence in the eurozone, he suggested the ECB could now take action to lower the borrowing rates of financially weak countries like Spain and Italy, which sent global stock markets surging upward.

The number of people out of work in Spain shows no sign of dropping, with almost one in four people unemployed and half of those under the age of 25 out of work. 53,500 people more joined the ranks of the unemployed between April and June, making for a total of 5.69 million people out of work.

Middle East

Israelis rushed to get government-issue gas masks Wednesday, the latest sign of mounting fears that the Syrian regime could lose control of its chemical weapons stockpiles and violence could spill over the border. Until a few days ago, the possibility of getting dragged into Syria’s civil war was not a major issue in Israel. That changed when Syrian President Bashar Assad’s grip on his country turned more doubtful last week, following startling military gains by rebels and a bomb attack that killed four top officials. Syria then threatened to unleash chemical and biological weapons if the country faces a foreign attack.

Syria

After a series of setbacks, President Bashar Assad’s forces are solidifying their grip on Aleppo and Damascus, knowing that their fall would almost certainly spell the regime’s end. The regime appears to be regaining momentum after a series of setbacks that put it on the defensive. But while its forces easily outgun the rebels in direct confrontations, the rebellion has spread them thin — pointing to a drawn-out civil war. Rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, were preparing Friday to make a stand against the military of dictator Bashar Assad, whose tanks and soldiers have been gathering for days outside the city. Tens of thousands of troops are deployed around the southern and eastern regions of the city. The Obama administration is considering its options for more direct involvement in the Syrian civil war if the rebels opposing the Assad regime can wrest enough control to create a safe haven for themselves, U.S. officials said.

Iran

Iran is defiantly forging on with its controversial nuclear activities by activating hundreds more uranium enrichment centrifuges, according to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ‘There are currently 11,000 centrifuges active in enrichment facilities’ in Iran, he was quoted by state media as saying late on Tuesday in a meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior regime officials. That was more than the 10,000 centrifuges Iran was last said to have had operating, according to a May 25 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Several thousand Iranians protested rising prices of food-and chicken in particular-in the northeastern city of Neishabour, in what appeared to be the first incident in which the country’s beleaguered economy sparked street unrest. Demonstrators gathered Monday on the city’s main Imam Square and its surrounding streets chanting ‘Death to inflation’ and ‘Shame on you government, you must resign,’ according to a video posted on YouTube and on opposition blogs and websites.

Iraq

Militants downed an Iraqi army helicopter on Thursday in clashes that have killed at least 19 people including 11 policemen, in what appeared to be part of an al-Qaeda surge to retake one of its former strongholds. The fighting around the town of Hadid, about 10 kilometers north of the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba, follows a warning last weekend from al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq to push back into areas the group was driven out of by the U.S. military after sectarian fighting peaked in 2007. A day after al-Qaeda issued the threat, shootings and bombings killed 115 people in Iraq’s deadliest day in more than two years.

Pakistan

A truck packed with explosives detonates in a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan close to the Afghan border on Thursday, killing 11 people. The blast in Salarzai town in the Bajur tribal area also wounded nearly two dozen people, some of them critically, and damaged several vehicles and shops. The Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence in Bajur, but the group’s spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, denied they were behind the bombing. The group often denies involvement in bombings with significant civilian casualties.

China

Chinese authorities say they have arrested more than 10,000 suspects and smashed more than 600 gangs during a four-month crackdown on Internet crimes. At the same time, Beijing police are threatening to punish any online “political rumor” or “attack” on Communist Party leaders, the system or the country, raising fears of tighter controls on speech on the country’s 538 million Internet users. The Ministry of Public Security said “major crimes uncovered” during the nationwide operation since May include “spreading pornographic information, trading guns, wiretapping devices, counterfeiting [professional] certificates as well as illegally collecting and selling citizens’ personal information.” The cyber-police have also deleted 3.2 million messages deemed “harmful,” closed hundreds of Internet cafes and punished 30 service providers for granting access to unlicensed sites.

Earthquakes

Seismologists say a mild earthquake widely felt throughout Southern California was centered along the coast west of downtown Los Angeles. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-3.8 quake struck at 3:18 a.m. Wednesday. The epicenter was 2 miles east-southeast of Marina del Rey near Culver City and Inglewood. Within half an hour of the quake hitting, dozens of people from as far away as Riverside and the San Fernando Valley reported feeling the shaking on the USGS website. Twenty structures have been destroyed, but no injuries have been reported.

Wildfires

The wildfires burning in north-central Nebraska threatened to force the evacuation of a second small town Tuesday and continued to interfere with boating along the scenic Niobrara River. Monday’s windy, hot weather helped the main Fairfield Creek fire expand to nearly 92 square miles — an area bigger than the state capital of Lincoln. Two other smaller fires about 20 miles east of the main fire had burned more than six square miles. Officials say the fires, which have already destroyed at least 10 homes, are about 15 percent contained.

Weather

Communities around the Northeast are cleaning up after strong thunderstorms swept from Ohio into upstate New York, knocking out power to tens of thousands and leaving at least two people dead. In New York City, the storm is blamed for killing a 61-year-old man who was struck by collapsing scaffolding outside a Brooklyn church. Police say lighting brought bricks down onto the scaffolding. A woman in Pennsylvania was killed by a tree felled by Thursday’s powerful storms. A state of emergency and curfew remains in effect in Elmira, N.Y., as crews continue clearing trees and repairing power lines that were brought down by a possible tornado.

The enormous drought scorching the central USA will almost certainly cost at least $12 billion. The Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that food prices next year could go up by 3%-4% as a result, with beef expected to take the highest jump at 4%-5%. About 64% of the contiguous USA is in a drought. In many areas of the Corn Belt, rain wouldn’t help because it is getting too late in the growing season.

Nearly all of Greenland’s massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists. Even Greenland’s coldest and highest place, Summit station, showed melting. Ice core records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years. While some ice usually melts during the summer, what was unusual was that the melting happened in a flash and over a widespread area. The ice melt area went from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent in four days due to a warm mass of air that washed over all of Greenland. However, NASA’s claim that Greenland is experiencing “unprecedented” melting is nothing but a bunch of hot air, according to scientists who say the country’s ice sheets melt naturally with some regularity.

The strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong in 13 years swirled into southern China as a tropical storm Tuesday, still potent enough for mainland authorities to order the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and warn residents of possible flooding. Vicente departed Hong Kong midmorning, after leaving more than 100 residents injured and paralyzing business in one of the world’s leading financial centers.

The worst rainstorm to hit Beijing, the Chinese capital, in six decades has given rise to widespread anger against officials who are accused of censoring the scope of massive floods. Government authorities raised the death toll Thursday to 77 from the previous total of 37, but some suspect the toll could be much higher from flash flooding. China’s state-controlled media continue to publish and broadcast positive news about the relief effort while censors deleted negative postings online.

Signs of the Times (7/24/12)

July 24, 2012

Push for Gun-Control after Colo. Shootings

As the nation searches for answers after last week’s horrific shootings in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is pushing a proposed solution: legislation banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. James Holmes, the 24-year-old suspect in the early Friday shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., carried three weapons — a Remington shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P assault rifle and a Glock .40-caliber handgun, according to police. The shootings killed 12 people and wounded 58. The assault rifle can fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute and is designed to hold a high-capacity clip. Holmes allegedly used a 100-round drum magazine. “No sportsman needs 100 rounds to shoot a duck, but allowing high-capacity magazines in the hands of killers … puts law enforcement at a disadvantage and innocent lives at risk,” Lautenberg said. Congress banned the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips in 1994, but the law lapsed in 2004. Lautenberg’s bill would reinstate the ban. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., another gun-control supporter, echoed Lautenberg’s call for an assault weapons ban.

  • Killers and criminals routinely disregard whatever laws there might be, and will obtain their equipment on the black market if not publicly available. The answer isn’t more laws, the answer is Jesus, and unfortunately that won’t fully manifest until He returns.

Britain Deploys 1,200 More Troops for Olympics

Britain’s government opted Tuesday to deploy 1,200 more troops to protect Olympic venues — a move that reflects a lack of confidence that private security contractor G4S can deliver all it promised for the games. The fresh troops come only three days before Friday’s opening ceremony and mean that some 18,200 U.K. military personnel are now involved in some capacity in securing the London games. Thousands of British soldiers have been sent in on short notice to fill the gap in guards. Some of the servicemen have seen their leaves cancelled while others have only recently returned from tours in Afghanistan. Olympic soccer matches start Wednesday and the games themselves end Aug. 12.

USDA Boosts Aid to farmers, Ranchers Hit by Drought

Farmers and ranchers suffering through the worst drought to hit the United States in more than 50 years will receive additional help from the government, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned on Monday the department does not have the necessary tools to adequately help producers. USDA’s latest assistance package will allow for haying and grazing to occur on Wetlands Reserve and Conservation Reserve land. The Conservation Reserve, created in 1985, pays farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to idle environmentally sensitive land for 10 years or more on nearly 30 million acres. Vilsack, in a letter to crop insurance companies, also said he has asked them to give producers who have struggled financially because of the drought extra time to pay their premiums before they are hit with a penalty. While crop insurers have extended the deadline once to Sept. 30, he has asked for it to be extended until Nov. 1 for spring crops.

U.S. Donates Extra $150 million to Battle AIDS

Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine — and the U.S. is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world’s largest AIDS conference Monday. Those tools include getting more of the millions of untreated people onto life-saving drugs that come with the bonus of keeping them from infecting others. Some 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 2.5 million were infected last year. Much of the AIDS conference is focused on how to get treatment to all people with HIV, because good treatment can cut by 96% their chances of spreading the virus to sexual partners.

Enrollments Off in Big Education Districts, Forcing Layoffs

Enrollment in nearly half of the nation’s largest school districts has dropped steadily over the last five years, triggering school closings that have destabilized neighborhoods, caused layoffs of essential staff and concerns in many cities that the students who remain are some of the neediest and most difficult to educate. While the losses have been especially steep in long-battered cities like Cleveland and Detroit, enrollment has also fallen significantly in places suffering through the recent economic downturn, like Broward County, Fla., San Bernardino, Calif., and Tucson, according to the latest available data from the Department of Education. Enrollment in the New York City schools, the largest district in the country, was flat from 2005 to 2010, but both Chicago and Los Angeles lost students, with declining birthrates and competition from charter schools cited as reasons.

Support … and Opposition … for Chick-fil-A

In the aftermath of the company president’s declaration for traditional marriage, the National Organization for Marriage is calling on people of faith to support Chick-fil-A. At the same time, the mayor of Boston is getting roasted for his opposition to the restaurant chain. Jonathan Baker of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) tells OneNewsNow that Chick-fil-A owners Dan and Truett Cathy are simply taking a firm position based on their faith. For example, the Jim Henson Co., owner of the widely promoted Muppets characters, says it won’t be working with Chick-fil-A any more based on the statement of Christian faith from the restaurant chief that he does not endorse homosexual marriage.

“They’ve not done it in an objectionable fashion. They’ve not denigrated people. They simply shared that they are Christians, that they hold with biblical teaching on what marriage should be,” Baker points out. “And frankly, they’ve put a lot of money where their mouth is. They’re a great example for the rest of us in supporting marriage.” As Baker points out, the resulting rhetoric against the Truett family has been extremely harsh. That, he says, is why his organization is asking supporters to quietly stand with the restaurant. The National Organization for Marriage is urging customers to visit a local Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, July 25th and Wednesday, August 1st. Baker says the “National Eat at Chick-fil-A” days will also send a message that heroes who stand for marriage and family cannot be silenced.

  • The gay agenda is about more than marriage recognition – it seeks to challenge and undermine all of God’s influence in the world, a clear Satanic objective

U.S. Military Marches in Gay Pride Event

An advocate for America’s fighting men and women says it was absolutely inappropriate for the Department of Defense to allow service members to march in uniform in a San Diego “gay pride” parade this past weekend. For the first time in U.S. history, uniformed military personnel took part in a homosexual pride parade. The Pentagon issued a military-wide directive saying it was making an exception to its policy that generally bars troops from marching in uniform during parades. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, says “This is the kind of thing many of us predicted if the 1993 law [don’t ask, don’t tell] were repealed.” Donnelly says allowing military participation in the “gay pride” parade, as well as permitting same-sex civil unions to be performed on military bases, illustrates that the Department of Defense is taking a downward turn in defining its standards.

  • The military’s support of the gay agenda has now moved into proactive measures that are unprecedented in U.S. history. The downward spiral illustrates more than just a downward turn in its standards, it shows the determination of our secular humanistic government to undermine the Christian principles that founded this once great nation.

Cohabiting Women Having More Babies

As more unmarried couples in the USA move in together, more also are getting pregnant, a new government report suggests. The number of births overall to cohabiting women increased from 14% of all births in 2002 to 23% in 2006-10. More than three-quarters of all births to married women were intended, compared with about half of births to cohabiting women and a third of births to women who are unmarried and not cohabiting. Pregnancies ending in miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion were not counted. “Because there’s an underlying shift in the population that more people are cohabiting, that leads to more unintended pregnancies and unintended births,” says Larry Finer, director of domestic research at the non-profit Guttmacher Institute in New York.

  • The war on marriage isn’t just about the gay agenda. Heterosexual couples cohabitating and having children is another of Satan’s strategies to undermine God’s design of the family unit.

Economic News

As the recovery slows, optimism is giving way to caution, with undercurrents of something darker. Economic forecasts are coming down all over Wall Street: Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank both cut forecasts of second-quarter growth to just over 1%. Companies from chipmaker Intel to Morgan Stanley have missed or lowered earnings forecasts — 99 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 lowered second-quarter projections. In June, 22 of 30 U.S. economic-data reports also missed forecasts. Three years into its recovery, the economy is once again on rough road.

The number of companies defaulting on their debt obligations is rising fast. This year, 47 global companies have been unable to keep paying the interest on their debt, which is more than double the levels a year ago, says Standard & Poor’s. A majority of those defaults, 25, are by U.S. companies. This is happening despite record low interest rates that should allow companies to refinance and reduce their interest costs.

A Consumer Federation of America study released Monday shows: 38% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, vs. 31% in 1997; 48% of families with college-bound children are saving for their education, down from 56% in 1997. About half of Americans are behind in retirement savings, compared with 38% in 1997. 34% of Americans say they can retire at 65, vs. 50% in 1997.

U.S. home prices rose mildly on an annual basis in the second quarter, the first increase since 2007. The Zillow Home Value Index climbed 0.2% on a year-to-year basis to $149,300. Home prices in Phoenix, Arizona, a market that was particularly hard hit by the housing bust, showed the biggest jump, surging 12.1%.

Overall consumer electronic sales will grow 5.9% this year, the Consumer Electronics Association said in a report released Tuesday. Sales of smartphones, already in more than half of U.S. homes, and tablet computers, in one-third of homes, are expected to drive annual consumer electronics sales to $206.5 billion this year — the first time above the $200 billion mark.

Eurozone

Europe is on the brink again. The region’s debt crisis flared on Monday as fears intensified that Spain would be next in line for a government bailout. A recession is deepening in Spain, the fourth-largest economy that uses the euro currency. The interest rate on Spanish government bonds soared in a sign of waning market confidence in the country’s ability to pay off its debts. The prospect of bailing out Spain is worrisome for Europe because the potential cost far exceeds what’s available in existing emergency funds. Financial markets are also watching Italy, another major European economy with large debts and a feeble economy.

Last Friday, finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro unanimously approved the terms for a bailout loan for Spanish banks of up to €100 billion ($122.9 billion). The agreement requires the Spanish government to present plans this month to reduce its budget deficit to less than 3% of gross domestic product by 2014. The full amount of money needed to shore up Spain’s banks will not be known until September, after individual banks have been assessed.

Egypt

According to a new Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) report, the number of disappearances and abductions of Coptic women is on the rise, all with the goal of converting them to Islam, CBN News reports. “It’s a war of attrition against the Christians, using the women as scapegoats,” said Michele Clark, CSW board member and co-author of the report. She added that while most cases include kidnapping, abuse and forced marriages, some radicals also use the lure of romance. “They go and make the girls fall in love with them,” she said. “He gets one; she’s married off, goes out, recruits another. He gets her, goes out, recruits another. The same name is recited in five separate police reports.” Some believe the abductions are part of a wider campaign to impose an Islamist agenda. “The practices of abducting, torturing and forcing conversions on Coptic women or any element of society is a terrorist attack,” said Middle East expert Walid Phares.

Syria

Rebels pressed their guerrilla fight to topple Syria’s regime deeper into the capital on Friday, ambushing troops and attacking police stations as thousands of terrified civilians fled to Lebanon and Iraq to escape some of the worst violence of the 16-month conflict. The two-day death toll was more than 470 people, one of the deadliest days of the uprising. The U.N. refugee agency said up to 30,000 Syrians had entered Lebanon in the past 48 hours, and thousands of Iraqis have also returned home, a bitter trip for many who fled to Syria from their own country’s civil war. The Syrian regime acknowledged for the first time Monday that it possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and said it will only use them in case of a foreign attack and never internally against its own citizens.

Iraq

Bombings and shootings ripped across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 115 people in the deadliest day this year. The coordinated attacks in 13 cities sent a chilling warning that al-Qaeda is slowly resurging in the security vacuum created by a weak government in Baghdad and the departure of the U.S. military seven months ago. The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq declared on Sunday a new offensive aimed at sowing instability across the country. Iraqi militants have kept up a steady drumbeat of deadly attacks since the U.S. pulled out in December, ending nearly a decade of war. They have sought to deepen the chaos created by the deepening sectarian political crisis that pits Sunni and Kurdish leaders against Shiite political powers.

Afghanistan

Five NATO service members have been killed in roadside bombings in Afghanistan during the past two days, while Afghan officials reported Sunday that four civilians died when hundreds of shells and rockets were fired from neighboring Pakistan. The artillery shells hit homes along frontier areas from which insurgents have in the past staged cross-border attacks. Pakistan has railed against Afghan and NATO forces for not doing enough to stop the rising number of cross-border attacks, which it says have killed dozens of members of its security forces. However, there has been little sympathy from the U.S. and Afghan governments, which have long complained Pakistan gives sanctuary to militants fighting in Afghanistan crossing the border in the opposite direction.

Pakistan

U.S. drones fired eight missiles at a compound owned by a powerful militant commander in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing nine suspected insurgents. It was unclear whether the commander, Sadiq Noor, was at the compound in Dre Nishter village in the North Waziristan tribal area during the attack. Noor is the most important commander for Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a prominent Pakistani militant focused on fighting in Afghanistan. The nine suspected militants who were killed were believed to be Bahadur’s fighters. U.S. officials rarely discuss the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan in detail.

Bahrain

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain clashed Friday with riot police firing tear gas during demonstrations against plans to limit political marches. Street battles took place in several places around the strategic Gulf island kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The kingdom has been gripped by more than 17 months of clashes between the Sunni monarchy and protesters from the kingdom’s Shiite majority, which claims it faces systematic discrimination. At least 50 people have been killed in unrest in Bahrain since February 2011.

Yemen

Half of Yemen’s children are chronically underfed, leading to stunted growth and other consequences. The country’s levels of malnutrition are second only to Afghanistan’s, according to the United Nations. The crisis is testing the West’s commitment to Yemen, whose leaders have been fighting an al-Qaeda faction in cooperation with the U.S. military. Al-Qaeda has tried to win the loyalties of villagers by providing them food and improving living conditions. The political unrest and fighting has taken a toll. Entire villages have abandoned their rented farmlands. Prices for fuel tripled, and villagers in many towns are unable to afford the diesel needed to pump water to irrigate crops.

Weather

As China’s flood-ravaged capital dealt with the aftermath of the heaviest rain in six decades Monday, including the deaths of 37 people, questions were being raised about whether the city’s push for modernization came at the expense of basic infrastructure such as drainage networks. Rescuers were still searching buildings that collapsed during Saturday night’s torrential downpour and some roads that were covered in waist-deep water remained closed. The city government said as of Sunday night, 25 people had drowned, six were killed when houses collapsed, one was hit by lightning and five were electrocuted by fallen power lines.

Across the USA, as a result of record heat, pests from grasshoppers to crickets and ants to bees are arriving earlier and in greater numbers than usual, entomologists say. “We’re calling it a breeding bonanza,” says Missy Henriksen of the National Pest Control Association. Pest controllers are battling grasshoppers in Texas, ants in Florida, and crickets and bees across the country. “Insects develop more rapidly with higher temperatures,” says entomologist David Denlinger of Ohio State University. He adds that insects did well this past winter given the lack of intense cold. Through June, the USA was sweating through its warmest year on record.

Signs of the Times (7/20/12)

July 20, 2012

Boy Scouts Reaffirm Ban on Homosexuals

After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding “gays,” ruling out any changes despite relentless protest campaigns by some critics. An 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts,” the organization’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press. Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion — preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

Chick-fil-A’s Gay Marriage Stance Causes a Social Storm

The fact that Chick-fil-A is a company that espouses Christian values is no secret. The fact that its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants across the country are closed on Sundays has long been testament to that. But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire. “Guilty as charged,” Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage. “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy is quoted as saying. Strong feelings of support and disagreement have followed, making Chick-fil-A the top Google trend on Thursday morning as the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages were burning up with arguments. Many charged the company with hate-mongering.

  • It’s curious how taking a principled stand is ‘hate-mongering’ when the venomous language comes from the gays and their supporters

Gallup Reports New Low in Religious Confidence

Americans’ confidence in organized religion, slowly but steadily declining since the 1970s, slipped to a new low in the latest survey by the Gallup Organization, the Religion News Service reports. Today, only 44 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion,” Gallup said, compared to 68 percent in the mid-1970s. Pollsters did not name any church or religion in particular, letting respondents define that as they wished, the organization said. Most Protestants, 56 percent, expressed confidence in the church, but only 46 percent of Catholics did. In 1975, “the church or organized religion” was the highest-rated of 16 institutions Gallup asked about. Today, it ranks fourth, behind the military, small business and the police. The least-trusted institution is Congress, in which only 13 percent of Americans voice “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence.

  • The end-time anti-Christ spirit is hard at work advancing Satan’s agenda, eventually resulting in the great falling away the Bible prophesies

Obama Administration Directly Funds Planned Parenthood

The Obama administration has again circumvented state or local governments to fund the country’s leading abortion provider, Baptist Press reports. Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis (Tenn.) will receive nearly $1.2 million from the Department of Health and Human Services during the next three years, a move that comes after the Tennessee legislature eliminated more than $700,000 in state funds for the Memphis Planned Parenthood affiliate and Shelby County transferred a nearly $400,000 family planning contract to another entity, according to the Nashville Tennessean. Last year, New Hampshire barred Planned Parenthood of Northern New Hampshire’s six state clinics from receiving $1.8 million in federal and state family planning funds, but the Obama administration granted a $1 million contract to the organization three months later. Federal family planning funds may not be used for the performance of abortions, but pro-life advocates point out the government grants free up other funds for use in Planned Parenthood’s abortion business. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates received government grants, contracts and reimbursements that totaled $487.4 million in 2009-10, the latest year for which statistics are available.

  • Obama desires to run the country like the Czars of old through fiats that circumvent both Congress and the Judicial System when they don’t do what he wants them to do

Families Sue U.S. over Drone Killings of Americans in Yemen

Families of three Americans killed in drone attacks in Yemen last year have sued Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus and two top special operations forces commanders. The airstrikes killed radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman; and Samir Khan, the editor of an online, English-language jihadist publication. The suit contends the targeted killings “violated the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law.” Al-Awlaki was linked to the plot of the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces a military trial in a shooting spree that killed 13 and wounded 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.

  • This is the type of problem that ensues from fighting an undeclared war. Although we have declared a war against terrorism, Geneva conventions require a declaration of war against specific countries. While it appears the CIA is doing a good job attacking known terrorists, the situation is fraught with legal issues.

Arizona Gets Waiver for No Child Left Behind

Arizona is among six new states that have been granted relief from key requirements of the controversial federal No Child Left Behind law, meaning the state won’t face sanctions if it doesn’t meet certain benchmarks by 2014. The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that the six states and the District of Columbia have been approved for waivers from the decade-old law, which was designed to toughen accountability in public schools and dramatically expanded the federal role in testing students and rating schools. The waivers for Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon and South Carolina bring the total number of states to 32. Four others are still being evaluated. The waiver will give Arizona schools more flexibility in how they use federal money to improve student achievement.

  • The Obama administration is essentially eviscerating the NCLB program. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up for debate, but at least it’s a surprising shift away from federal to state control.

Homes Speaking Foreign Language in U.S. Increasing

The percentage of U.S. population ages five and older that speak a foreign language at home has increased from 13.8% in in 1990 to 20.6% in 2010 according to an analysis of census data. Of those who speak a foreign language at home, 42.4% admit that they don’t speak English very well.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits surged last week, although the figures may have been distorted by seasonal factors. The Labor Department says applications rose by 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. The increase reversed a big drop the previous week. Economists note that the government struggles to adjust the data to reflect temporary summertime layoffs in the auto industry. And this year, many automakers are foregoing the shutdowns because stronger sales have kept plants busier, making the figures difficult to analyze.

The heat and drought ravaging much of the nation will soon be hitting America at the supermarket counter: cheese and milk prices will rise first, and corn and meat are probably not far behind. Temperatures in the 90s and above mean cows give less milk, and sky-high feed prices are making it more expensive to feed them. Add to that the cost dairies must pay for fans and sprinkler systems to keep the animals cool during long hot days and nights. Milk prices are actually the lowest they’ve been in 18 months because of surpluses built up over an ultra-mild winter and spring. By August, the cost of a gallon of milk at the supermarket could rise by 10 to 15 cents and by 2013 an additional 25 cents on top of that.

Builders broke ground on the most new homes and apartments in nearly four years last month. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts rose 6.9% in June from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000. That’s the highest since October 2008. Single-family housing starts rose for the fourth straight month to a two-year high.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke painted a somewhat darker picture of the economy Tuesday but gave no hint the central bank is poised to act to provide further stimulus. Bernanke also reminded the Senate Banking Committee that the nation is at risk of slipping back into a recession if Congress doesn’t reach a compromise to avoid a “fiscal cliff” — a confluence of tax increases and spending cuts that are slated to take effect at year’s end that would stymie growth.

Risky lending caused private student loan debt to balloon in the past decade, leaving many Americans struggling to pay off loans that they can’t afford, a government study says. Private lenders gave out money without considering whether borrowers would repay, then bundled and resold the loans to investors to avoid losing money when students defaulted. The private student loans spiked from $5 billion in 2001 to more than $20 billion in 2008. After the financial crisis, as lending standards tightened, the market shrank to $6 billion in 2011.

Middle East

Christians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip are taking a stand against forced conversions to Islam, CBN News reports. In an unusual public demonstration, men and women gathered in front of the Church of Saint Porphyrius Monday to protest the abduction and forced conversion of members of their congregation — a 25-year-old man and a 31-year-old mother of three — who are now staying with a Muslim official for “protection” from their Christian families. Forced conversion to Islam is not a new phenomenon in Gaza, but public protests by Christians are, according to Labib Nabanat, coordinator of the Israeli and Palestinian Bible Societies. “In the past, there were cases involving women, whole families and younger men,” Nabanat said. “But there has never before been such a public protest by Christians, which means they’ve reached the point of terrible desperation. … There’s no doubt that the general atmosphere on the street under the rule of an Islamist government has Christians feeling more and more under pressure.”

Turkey is building a new refugee camp for up to 10,000 Syrian refugees, officials said Tuesday, as hundreds more people fled the escalating violence. Turkey’s crisis management center said the camp is being set up near the town of Karkamis, in Gaziantep province on the border with Syria. The center said the number of refugees sheltering in eight camps along the 566-mile border reached almost 43,000 on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, standing within earshot of fighting in Syria, said Thursday that Israel would stop Syrian refugees from entering the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights if they try to flee there. The deteriorating situation in Syria has become a mounting concern for Israel, which fears that the collapse of a central regime would give Lebanese Hezbollah militants an opportunity to raid Syrian military arsenals for chemical weapons or sophisticated missiles that could strike Israel.

A lanky, long-haired man wearing a baseball cap and plaid shorts with a fake Michigan driver’s license carried out a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers, Bulgarian officials said Thursday. Israel stuck by its claim that the attack was carried out by Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a Lebanese guerrilla group, and threatened retaliation. Seven people — five Israelis, the Bulgarian driver and the bomber — died in the blast Wednesday. Israel has attributed a series of attacks on its citizens around the world in recent months to Iran, threatening to escalate a shadow war between the two arch-enemies.

Syria

White House press secretary Jay Carney said China and Russia “are on the wrong side of history” after the two countries earlier Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council effort to press for tougher sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria. The 11-2 vote, with two abstentions from South Africa and Pakistan, was the third double veto of a resolution addressing the Syria crisis. Carney also confirmed that the Obama administration won’t back extending the United Nations supervisory mission in Syria, whose mandate expires at the end of Friday. Carney said that the U.N. peace plan — spearheaded by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Anna — has failed. Violence has escalated to a point of near chaos with the capital city of Damascus enduring some of the most intense clashes since the uprising began 17 months ago.

The explosion that killed three of Bashar Assad’s inner circle Wednesday eliminated the Syrian president’s top security team and, along with fighting in the capital, may indicate the regime is crumbling, Syria analysts say. Syria’s national security chief  died Thursday of wounds suffered in a rebel blast.Syria’s rebel commander says his forces carried out the attack in Damascus that killed the defense minister and other regime officials. Rebel forces planted a bomb inside a room where senior government officials were meeting Wednesday. Commander Riad al-Asaadsaid the attack marked “the beginning of the end of the regime.” Syrian government forces struck back against rebels with attack helicopters and shelling around Damascus Thursday. The rebels hae killed 21 Syrian border guards in clashes near the nation’s northern border with Iraq.

Libya

A coalition of secular parties in Libya known as the National Forces Alliance won just shy of half the seats allocated to parties in parliamentary elections, besting the party of the Muslim Brotherhood, officials said Tuesday. The results go against the trend of recent elections in the Arab world, where Islamists have predominated in Egypt and Tunisia following the overthrow of longtime rulers in what has been dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The Muslim Brotherhood’s Libyan arm, the Justice and Construction party, took second place with 17 seats. Under a system set up by the transitional government, political parties hold 40% of the seats in the congress and independent candidates with no party affiliations will make up 60%.

Afghanistan

The Taliban said they detonated a bomb on a fuel tanker Wednesday and then opened fire on other NATO supply trucks in a morning attack that destroyed 22 vehicles loaded with fuel and other goods for U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Violence continues across Afghanistan at a time when its own forces are taking charge of security in more areas as foreign troops continue to withdraw. Two NATO service members were killed in a roadside bombing Wednesday in the east, while another died Tuesday in an insurgent attack in the south. A NATO helicopter crashed in the west, injuring two other service members. And Afghan officials said nine Afghan soldiers died Tuesday night when militants attacked a checkpoint in in the south.

Pakistan

A minibus carrying Shiite Muslims hit a roadside bomb in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 12 of them in the country’s latest apparent sectarian attack. Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, and most Sunnis and Shiites live peacefully together. But the country has a long history of sectarian attacks by extremists on both sides. Attacks by Sunni militants on Shiites have been on the rise over the last year. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Mali

The vast desert expanse of northern Mali has become a magnet for Islamic extremists who have tightened their grip on Timbuktu and other far-flung towns, imposing a strict form of justice that is prompting tens of thousands of people to flee what some are likening to an African Afghanistan. Recent arrivals at a 92,000-person makeshift camp here at Mauritania’s remote eastern edge describe an influx of jihadists — some homegrown and others possibly from afar — intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims who have long coexisted with Western tourists in the fabled town of Timbuktu. The conditions in Mbera are grim, with many of the Malians sick, hungry and bewildered. But that is better, refugees said in interviews Tuesday, than the grueling life turned upside-down that an unexpected Islamist military triumph inflicted on their lives in a vast region in the heart of West Africa.

India

Hindu extremists in Chhattisgarh State in eastern India forced 15 Christians to participate in Hindu worship rituals, then beat them up and rousted them from their village, Open Doors News reports. The Christians were taken to a temple, where they were forced to worship tribal and Hindu dieties and participate in Hindu rituals. There have been no reports on injuries. Local officials provided no recourse, and the dislocated Christians have sought shelter among other families in a nearby town. The incident is consistent with a pattern of harassment of Christians, especially in rural locations and in the five Indian states, including Chhattisgarh, that have adopted a “Freedom of Religion Act.”

  • It is almost always extremists from other religions attacking Christians – further evidence that Christianity is the One True Religion with the One True God

Wildfires

Greek authorities declared a state of emergency Wednesday in the country’s third-largest city due to raging wildfires nearby, and hundreds of students and residents fled their homes. Authorities said the fires burned on three fronts, coming within 6 miles of the western city of Patras, a port of 220,000 people. Strong winds and soaring temperatures drove the wildfires, which sent smoke over the city. Nine planes and a helicopter were involved in the firefighting effort at Ano Kastritsi and at Argyra, to the east, dumping water on burning pine forests.

Weather

For those traveling to London for the start of next week’s Olympics, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe has a bit of advice: Pack your wellies. After the wettest June on record in the United Kingdom, the downpour has continued, threatening to disrupt the summer Olympics which begin July 27th. There are contingency plans for the venues of the greatest concern, if those events need to be rescheduled as a last resort.

An ice island twice the size of Manhattan broke free this week from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in the second major calving at the site in two years. The 46-square-mile island that formed on Monday is about half the size of one that broke off in 2010. The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as the result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and atmosphere.

This year, every state east of the Rockies is enduring its hottest or second-hottest year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Overall, 28 states are seeing their hottest year since accurate weather records began in 1895. A whopping 63.5% of the USA is now in a drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. Water worries are springing up across the Midwest amid worsening the drought conditions. Demand is approaching record levels in some areas, forcing voluntary and mandatory usage restrictions as utilities strain to pump enough water while reservoirs and other sources shrink.

  • End-time weather disturbances and disparities will continue to grow more frequent and extreme

Signs of the Times (7/17/12)

July 17, 2012

Republicans Turn Against Supreme Court & Chief Justice Roberts

Republicans have turned against the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts with a vengeance following the decision upholding President Obama’s health care law, a new Gallup Poll finds. Democrats, on the other hand, have a decidedly more favorable view of the usually conservative court, controlled 5-4 by Republican presidents’ nominees, and of Roberts, who was nominated by George W. Bush. Americans’ views on the court are split, with 46% approving and 45% disapproving. But 64% of Republicans have a negative view, and 68% of Democrats have a positive view. Views on Roberts are even more pronounced, following his decisive vote to uphold the health care law based on Congress’ taxing power. When Gallup last asked about Roberts during his confirmation hearings in 2005, he enjoyed a 3-to-1 favorable rating — and 67% to 4% among Republicans. NowRepublicans are against him, 44%-27%, while Democrats like him, 54%-19%.

  • Roberts’ convoluted reasoning is a sign that the New World Order globalists have gotten to him; he can no longer be trusted to uphold constitutionally protected free-market capitalism as well as individual freedoms

Business Fires Back at Obama Claim

Prominent business groups are joining conservatives and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in calling out President Obama for his recent comments about the relationship between government and business. The president made the comments Friday during a speech to supporters in Roanoke, Va. Arguing that successful business owners got help from others along the way and suggesting they should pay more in taxes in return, he noted how government often provides the infrastructure needed for success. “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen.” David Chavern, chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce, accused Obama of slighting the remarkable achievements of extraordinary individuals. The National Federation of Independent Business said the president’s “unfortunate remarks over the weekend show an utter lack of understanding and appreciation for the people who take a huge personal risk and work endless hours to start a business and create jobs.”

  • Obama reveals the typical socialist-Marxist response to individual accomplishments, desiring that government control everything in order to level the “unfair” playing field. History has already amply shown that such totalitarian systems (e.g. Soviet Union, Mao’s China) are doomed to failure.

ICE Unit in Phoenix Reducing its Staff

A federal unit that answers calls from local police to identify and deport illegal immigrants has been scaled back, leaving the team shorthanded just as local police prepare to start enforcing Arizona’s immigration law. The unit operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was created in 2006 to respond to requests for assistance from local police 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the Phoenix area, long a major hub for illegal-immigrant smuggling. But in June, ICE began reassigning members of the unit to help round up illegal immigrants in other states. It comes at a time when human-smuggling activity is down in the Phoenix area and the agency has shifted its priorities to deporting the most dangerous illegal immigrants. But some immigration-enforcement advocates worry that downsizing the unit could further hamper ICE’s ability to respond to calls from local police trying to enforce Arizona’s immigration law Department of Homeland Security officials have already directed immigration-enforcement officials in Arizona not to deport illegal immigrants identified through enforcement of SB 1070 unless they meet the agency’s priorities.

  • No surprise that the Obama administration would punish Arizona for its win in the courts by pulling staff out of Phoenix

Arizona Study Disputes Benefits of Medical Marijuana

A new University of Arizona study shows little or no evidence that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for anxiety, migraines, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, a finding that could hinder efforts to expand the allowable uses for the drug in the state. The researchers, working on behalf of the state Department of Health Services that oversees the state’s medical-marijuana program, reviewed dozens of scientific studies related to marijuana use for the four medical conditions and determined that most of the research was of little value in weighing the medicinal risks and benefits. The study could affect efforts by medical-marijuana supporters to expand the state’s program to include the treatment of anxiety, migraines, depression and PTSD.

ACLU Sues to Block Arizona’s 20-Week Ban on Abortion

The Center for Arizona Policy reports that, against the best interests of the health and safety of Arizona’s women, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a lawsuit to block CAP-supported legislation that prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. “Once again, we see supposed ‘pro-woman’ organizations fight to protect abortion-on-demand despite the serious risks abortion presents to new moms,” said Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy. “The medical evidence presented during committee hearings make it clear that abortions after 20 weeks present a much greater risk to the life of the women. There is also substantial medical evidence that preborn children can feel pain at this age.”

Scientology Faces New Troubles after Cruise’s Divorce

Behind the high-profile divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes lies a story much larger than two celebrities calling it quits. As the public face of Scientology, Cruise had become the leading advocate of a spiritual and religious empire that claims it can make people more successful, capable and better at personal relations. The latest scrutiny over their divorce is now turning into a public spectacle in which Scientology stands as a major participant. Its cultivated public image — carefully crafted through websites, videos, discreet celebrity endorsements, and visitor centers around the country — is being severely challenged. Many loyal, longtime Scientologists are leaving and the disgruntlement is gathering momentum.

  • Another false religion withers under closer scrutiny because under pressure it can’t deliver on its promises – ultimately it’s a godless religion with only demonic power behind it

Sea Piracy Falls in First Half of 2012

Sea piracy worldwide fell by 54% in the first half of 2012, led by a dramatic drop in Somali piracy. The International Maritime Bureau attributed the sharp drop to “pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics” by international navies patrolling in seas off Somalia as well as increased vigilance by ships including hiring private armed personnel on board. The bureau said 177 attacks were reported worldwide from January to June, down from 266 in the same period last year. It said 20 vessels were hijacked worldwide, with 334 crew members taken hostage and at least four crew members killed.

U.S. Debt Worse Than Eurozone Bailout Recipients

Per capita debt in the United States is higher than in all the European nations that have accepted bailouts to date. Based on official 2010 International Monetary Fund data released earlier this year, the U.S. debt per capita is $46,208. Here’s the same figure for the four European countries that have accepted bailouts: Ireland: $41,906; Greece: $38,159; Portugal: $19,686; Spain: $18,162. Fortunately for the U.S., the economy is much bigger than the corresponding economies in Europe. And people are still buying U.S. debt, helping keep U.S. interest rates far lower than they are in, say, Greece.

  • The U.S. economy is riding along on blind faith – when that erodes, the jig is up

Economic News

Inflation stayed cool in June, as the falling price of gasoline outweighed the a slight pickup in the cost of food. The consumer price index was unchanged for the month. That includes a 1.4% drop in the cost of energy and a 0.2% rise in food prices. The rest of the index, known as the core inflation rate, rose 0.2%. Core inflation for the last 12 months was 2.2%.

However, after a long tumble, gasoline prices have risen for the second straight week as the summer driving season heads to its peak. Regular gas prices averaged $3.427 a gallon across the country in the latest weekly survey by the Energy Information Administration, up from $3.411 last week. Just two weeks ago they were $3.356 a gallon.

Interest rates hit another all-time low Monday, which is great news for borrowers but keeps savers in the land of no returns. The bellwether 10-year Treasury note yielded 1.46% Monday, while the 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to a record low of 3.56%.

Americans cut their spending at retail businesses for a third straight month in June, as a weak job market made consumers more cautious. Retail sales fell 0.5% in June from May, the Commerce Department said Monday. The drop in sales followed declines the previous two months. Retail sales haven’t fallen for three straight months since the fall of 2008, the height of the financial crisis.

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is within weeks of defaulting on a legally required $5.5 billion payment into a health benefits fund for future retirees. So far, it appears House leaders have no intention of preventing that from happening — they have postponed any action on relief measures until at least fall. While a default would be embarrassing for the Postal Service, the practical consequences, if any, are unclear.

China’s economic growth fell to a three-year low, and a potential recovery later this year will probably be too weak to pull the world out of its slump. The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.6% from a year earlier in the three months ended in June, its slowest growth since early 2009. That is far above Western levels but a marked drop from 2010’s explosive 10.5% expansion.

Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service is downgrading the credit ratings for 13 Italian banks three days after cutting the Italian government’s bond rating. Moody’s believes there is a greater risk of the banks defaulting on its debts and “indicates a similarly increased risk that the government might be unable to provide financial support to its banks in financial distress.”

Middle East

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday inaugurated a much-anticipated overland oil pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, giving the OPEC member insurance against Iranian threats to block the strategic waterway. The 236-mile Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline snakes across western desert dunes and over the craggy Hajar mountains to the city of Fujairah on the UAE’s Indian Ocean coast. Once it is running at full capacity, the pipeline could allow the country, OPEC’s third biggest exporter, to ship as much as two-thirds of its peak production through the eastern port city.

The Obama administration is bolstering the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf by building a secret missile-defense radar station in Qatar, sending an additional aircraft carrier and preparing for its biggest minesweeping exercises in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported. U.S. officials told the paper the moves are aimed at “a possible flare-up” with Iran. The Pentagon’s moves reflect concern that tensions with Iran could intensify as the full weight of sanctions targeting the country’s oil exports takes hold this summer.

Syria

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday it now considers the conflict in Syria to be a full-blown civil war, meaning international humanitarian law applies throughout the country. The assessment can form the basis for war crimes prosecutions, especially if civilians are attacked or detained enemies are abused or killed. The U.N. singled out government forces Friday for blame in the latest massacre in Syria, a frenzy of killing that raises new questions about whether diplomacy has any chance to end the crisis more than 16 months into the bloodiest revolt of the Arab Spring. As the violence turns ever more chaotic, analysts warn the effort by special envoy Kofi Annan has become nothing more than a pretense, with government forces, rebels, jihadists and others fighting for power.

Iraq

After years of following the paper trail of $51 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars provided to rebuild a broken Iraq, the U.S. government can say with certainty that too much was wasted. But it can’t say how much. “The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known,” the report said. The inspector general’s investigation of criminal fraud has resulted in 87 indictments, 71 convictions and $176 million in fines and other penalties. These include civilians and military members accused of kickbacks, bribery, bid-rigging, fraud, embezzlement and outright theft of government property and funds.

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban attacked an office of the security force’s intelligence agency in the country’s northwest on Monday, taking several hostages before police stormed the building and ended the siege. The attack took place in the city of Bannu just outside of the militant stronghold of North Waziristan in the rugged tribal region near the border with Afghanistan. Security forces caught two of the attackers while another was killed by police gunshots and a fourth exploded his suicide vest.

Afghanistan

Two troops with the U.S.-led international military coalition and three Afghan men died Monday in violence in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan men died when their car hit a roadside bomb in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province. The coalition said the two service members were killed in an insurgent attack in the south where Afghan and international troops are trying to retain control of territory they seized during the past two years. So far this year, 237 international service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including at least 168 Americans.

Nigeria

In the past three years, over 1,000 Christians in Nigeria have been brutally murdered by an extremist Islamic group known as Boko Haram and the United States has refused to classify the group as being a terrorist organization. Nigeria’s Christian leaders had asked the United States government to place Boko Haram on the list of terrorist organizations.  The radical Islamic group has vowed to eradicate all Christians from Nigerian soil and will continue to murder men, women and children in the process unless something is done to stop them. Instead of declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization, the U.S. government only placed three of the group’s leaders on a terrorist blacklist and then said that it was more important to address social inequalities in the country first.  Christian leaders in Nigeria said the actions or perhaps lack of action by the United States has only served to make the group bolder and more aggressive in their pursuit to exterminate the remaining Christians.

  • The pro-Muslim, anti-Judeo/Christian Obama administration apparently condones the murder of Christians

Mexico

A gang of about a dozen armed people stormed into a church youth camp-out near Mexico City and went on an hours-long rampage of beatings, robberies and rape, authorities said Saturday. Seven girls were raped during the Friday attack and several campers were beaten. About 90 youths sponsored by a church group known as the Chains of the Holy Trinity were camping at an eco-park on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City. The office said that the attack lasted for hours, and that when the attackers left they stole two vehicles and other articles from the campers.

Police in Mexico City are reporting they have detained about 120 youths in what appears to have been one of Mexico’s first instances of flash mob violence. Angry youths who couldn’t get in to the Sunday concert promoted on social networks went on a rampage at local subway stations, damaging turnstiles and streetlamps, robbing people and tossing fireworks.

Wildfires

Lightning started 13 wildfires in northern Mohave County, Arizona, last week. The Hobble Complex of multiple fires has burned over 35,000 acres of cheatgrass and pinyon/Juniper. Roads around the complex fire were  closed for safety reasons. The plateau fire had burned 4500 acres of cheatgrass and pinyon/Juniper and was located 30 miles south near Snap Point in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. The Hobble Complex fires are now 75% contained due to rain. Most of the wildfires in the west are well contained due to widespread rain over the weekend.

Weather

Dozens of homes were flooded after rains drenched the Houston area this week and caused creeks to flow out of their banks. Cypress Creek was flowing 2 to 3 feet above its banks. Some Houston neighborhoods weren’t flooded but were impossible for residents to get in and out of due to flooded roads. Some areas got up to 10 inches rain in a 24-hour period last week.

One man is dead after trying to escape from a vehicle during a flash flood in Lake Havasu City on Friday night. A 38-year-old man and two other people were in their vehicle when it was caught in a rush of water. The two other occupants made it to safety after getting out of the vehicle, but the man was caught in the rapid flow of water and did not emerge from the water.

At least one person was killed and 10 injured in freak wave of tornadoes that swept norther and western Poland. At least 100 homes were destroyed in Kujawy-Pomorze and Wielkopolska provinces in Sunday’s unsually severe weather. Almost a thousand acres of trees were flattened in Tuchola Forest, a national park.

Most of the quarter-million people forced to flee massive flooding in southwest Japan were able to return home by Monday, but weather officials warned the danger had not fully passed from the record rainfall that left at least 28 people dead over the weekend. Thousands of homes and hundreds of roads were damaged, and hundreds of landslides were reported. The military airlifted food by helicopter to stranded districts.

Signs of the Times (7/13/12)

July 13, 2012

Traditional Marriage Laws Under Attack

As the debate over gay marriage intensifies on the heels of President Obama’s endorsement, an under-the-radar case pending before the Supreme Court has the potential, some say, to invalidate traditional marriage laws altogether. The latest ruling comes from the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that Arizona’s recent attempt to strip health benefits for domestic partners of state workers is illegal. But one veteran 9th Circuit judge thinks his colleagues have declared a war on marriage. Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in dissent that his colleagues were ignoring Supreme Court precedent and all but called upon the high court to take the case. Arizona’s attorney general recently filed a brief with the justices asking them to accept O’Scannlain’s invitation.

Episcopal Church Approves Same-Sex Blessing Rite

Episcopalians approved a churchwide ceremony Tuesday to bless same-sex couples, the latest step toward accepting homosexuality by a denomination that nine years ago elected the first openly gay bishop. The denomination voted to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions for the next three years. Supporters of the same-sex blessings insisted it was not a marriage ceremony despite any similarities. Called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” the ceremony includes prayers and an exchange of vows and rings. The Episcopalians also cleared the way for transgender ordination. Other mainline Protestant churches have struck down barriers to gay ordination in recent years or allowed individual congregations to celebrate gay or lesbian unions. However, only one major U.S. Protestant group, the United Church of Christ, has endorsed same-sex marriage outright.

  • The abandonment of Christian fundamentals is one of the clear signs that we are rapidly moving through the latter stages of the end-times

Arizona Pastor Begins 60-Day Jail Sentence for Hosting Home Bible Study

Michael Salman, the Phoenix pastor who was fined and sentenced to jail for holding Bible studies in his home, began his 60-day jail sentence July 9 at 10 a.m., the Christian Post reports. He asked for prayers as he left his wife and six children to report to Maricopa County Jail. Salman, an ordained pastor and owner of a burger restaurant who hosted Bible studies for seven years on his 4.6-acre property, was found guilty of failing to comply with building, zoning, fire and safety codes applicable to churches. In 2008, the city of Phoenix ordered him to comply with code requirements for churches after neighbors complained about the Bible studies, which drew 50 people to a gazebo in his backyard. When Salman refused, saying the order violated his free exercise rights, he was fined $12,180, sentenced to 60 days in jail and given three years of probation, during which he could not have more than 12 people in his home. “They’re cracking down on religious activities and religious use,” he told Fox News Radio last week, contending that the building used in his yard was not a church. “They’re attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home.”

Americans Continue to Reduce Giving to Churches

The economy continues to impact Americans’ giving to churches and nonprofit organizations, according to a recent Barna Group survey showing that one-third of those surveyed had reduced the amount they gave to churches in the past three months, Baptist Press reports. “Church donors stayed more consistent in their giving than did those donating to nonprofits. However, church donors are now showing increasing fatigue. We expect the next six months to be continued cautiousness for donors of all types.” Barna also found that one-third of the roughly 1,000 adults surveyed said they had been affected in a major way by the economic downturn, that 41 percent of adults had reduced giving to nonprofits in the last three months as a result of the economy, and that 11 percent had completely dropped all giving to churches in recent months.

Obama Administration Closing Nine Border Patrol Stations

The Obama administration is moving to shut down nine Border Patrol stations across four states, triggering a backlash from local law enforcement, members of Congress and Border Patrol agents themselves. Critics of the move warn the closures will undercut efforts to intercept drug and human traffickers in well-traveled corridors north of the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it’s closing the stations in order to reassign agents to high-priority areas closer to the border. But at least one Border Patrol supervisor in Texas has called on local officers to “voice your concerns” to elected officials.

Senate Set to Approve Controversial UN Gun Treaty

As the United Nations prepares its final push to ratify a controversial gun treaty, the U.S. Senate is set to approve the measure in late July. Critics say the treaty will not only give away U.S. sovereignty but directly attack the individual gun rights of American citizens, according to a report published Thursday at Stand Up America. Known as “the U.N. small arms treaty,” the measure would regulate private gun ownership, according to firearms rights watchdog groups. The treaty has been in the works for several years, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have expressed full support for the measure, which critics say is an underhanded attempt to implement massive gun control without having to go through the normal legislative process in Congress.

83% of Doctors Consider Quitting Over Obamacare

Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association. The DPMA, a non-partisan association of doctors and patients, surveyed a random selection of 699 doctors nationwide. The survey found that the majority have thought about bailing out of their careers over the legislation, which was upheld last month by the Supreme Court. Even if doctors do not quit their jobs over the ruling, America will face a shortage of at least 90,000 doctors by 2020. The new health care law increases demand for physicians by expanding insurance coverage. This change will exacerbate the current shortage as more Americans live past 65. By 2025 the shortage will balloon to over 130,000, Len Marquez, the director of government relations at the American Association of Medical Colleges predicted.

Majority say Obama has Made Things Worse

A new poll says President Obama has changed things for the worse in the United States. A survey by The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, says that 56% of likely voters believe Obama has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared with 35% who believe the country has changed for the better on his watch. Most of the concerns revolve around the economy.

Facts Discredit Obama’s ‘Fair Share’ Claims

President Obama has elevated one question to a key campaign issue — what is a “fair share” of taxes? He claims the wealthy are not paying their fair share. However, IRS figures show the top 1 percent of earners take home 16.9 percent of the nation’s total income, but pay 36.7 percent of the nation’s income taxes. The top 2 percent of earners pay almost half of all taxes. And the top 10 percent earn just over 43 percent of the total income but  pay more than 70 percent of all income taxes. The top 1 percent pay an average tax rate of more than 24 percent. The top 5 percent — a tax rate of a little more than 20 percent. The top 10 percent — about 18 percent. For the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers, the average rate is 1.85 percent.

  • What’s really not fair is Obama whining about a non-issue. It’s the wealthy who are already supporting the millions of people on various forms of welfare.

Economic News

The budget deficit grew by nearly $60 billion in June, remaining on track to exceed $1 trillion for the fourth straight year. Through the first nine months of the budget year, the federal deficit totaled $904.2 billion, the Treasury Department reported Thursday. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the deficit for the full year, which ends on Sept. 30, will total $1.17 trillion. That would be a slight improvement from the $1.3 trillion deficit recorded in 2011, but still greater than any deficit before President Obama took office.

Wholesale prices rose only slightly last month, as higher costs for food and pickup trucks offset another drop in energy prices. Overall inflation stayed mild. The Labor Department says its producer price index increased 0.1% in June. For the past 12 months through June, wholesale prices have risen 0.7%.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in four years, but the decline was partly due to temporary factors. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000. Automakers traditionally close their plants the first two weeks of July, but this year they are limiting shutdowns to boost production.

Americans stepped up their borrowing in May, helped by the largest one-month gain in credit card debt in more than four years. But overall credit card use is still well below where it was just before the Great Recession began. The Federal Reserve said Monday that consumer borrowing rose by $17.1 billion in May from April. Borrowing has increased steadily over the past two years. But most of the gain has been driven by auto and student loans.

Banks are increasingly placing homes with unpaid mortgages on a countdown that could deliver a swell of new foreclosed properties to the housing market by early next year, potentially weighing further on home values. The number of U.S. homes entering the foreclosure process for the first time increased in June for the second month in a row.

Corn and soybean prices surged Monday after the latest government report showed that a widespread drought in the middle of the country is hurting this year’s crop. The U.S. Department of Agriculture report said 30% of the corn in the 18 states that produce most of the nation’s crop is now considered in poor or very poor condition.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 3.8% to $48.7 billion in May, from $50.6 billion in April. Exports rose 0.2% to $183.1 billion. American companies sold more products in Europe and China, while cheaper oil lowered the amount spent on imports. Imports dropped 0.7% to $231.8 billion. The narrower trade gap is less of a drag on economic growth, although it still adds to the overall debt load.

San Bernardino became the third California city to choose Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection after a City Council vote on Tuesday night. The Southern California city of about 210,000 people will also become the second largest in the nation ever to file for bankruptcy. Stockton, the Northern California city of nearly 300,000, became the biggest when it filed for Chapter 9 on June 28. The much smaller city of Mammoth Lakes voted for bankruptcy July 3. The city is facing a budget shortfall of $45.8 million. It has already stopped paying some vendors, and may not be able to make payroll over the next three months.

Eurozone

Spain’s borrowing costs rose to dangerously high levels Monday. The interest rate, or yield, on the country’s 10-year bonds hit 7% Monday, a level that market-watchers consider is unaffordable for a country to raise money on the bond markets in the long term and the point at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal all sought an international bailout.

Euro area finance ministers agreed early Tuesday on the terms of a bailout for Spain’s troubled banks, saying that $36.88 billion can be ready by end of this month. The finance ministers for the 17 countries that use the euro as their official currency will return to Brussels on July 20 to finalize the agreement, having first obtained the approval of their governments or parliaments.

Unemployment in Greece has risen yet again, reaching 22.5% in April this year, a massive jump from the 16.2% in the same month last year, and up from the 22% in March. The country is mired in a deep recession, currently in its fifth year.

Credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Italy’s government bond rating two notches on concern that deteriorating financial conditions in Europe will lead to a sharp rise in borrowing costs.

Egypt

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament convened Tuesday in defiance of a ruling by the country’s highest court and swiftly voted to seek a legal opinion on the decision that invalidated the chamber over apparent election irregularities. The lawmakers’ session was brief — it lasted just five minutes — but it pushed Egypt deeper into a potential power struggle between new President Mohammed Morsi and the powerful military, which has vowed to uphold the judicial ruling that led to parliament being dissolved.

Syria

Syrian rebels are growing more effective as they have increasingly turned to roadside bombs and other guerrilla tactics to topple the regime of Bashar Assad. Syrian forces have pushed rebels from major cities, such as Homs, but insurgents operate with near impunity in parts of the countryside, outside the reach of Syria’s overstretched military. Russia on Monday signaled that it would not sign new weapons contracts with Syria until the situation there calms down. Putting it in conflict with the West, Russia has blocked the U.N.’s Security Council from taking strong, punitive action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and is seen as Syria’s key arms supplier.

Syrian rebels say an attempt to renew a U.N. peace plan will only help the murderous regime Bashar Assad remain in power. Anti-regime activists in Syria said Friday that government gunners rained shells on a poor, farming village before armed thugs moved in, leaving scores of people dead in what rebels claim could be one of the worst single days of bloodshed in the uprising against Assad’s regime.

Afghanistan

The Taliban took responsibility Monday for a bomb blast in Afghanistan that killed six American troops, while other militants launched suicide attacks on two police headquarters that left 20 people dead. The deadly attacks on a particularly violent day showed the militants’ resilience, with the target date of NATO’s handover of security responsibility to local forces less than 18 months away. Moving the mountain of U.S. military gear out of Afghanistan after more than a decade of war will cost billions of dollars and prove far more difficult than last year’s withdrawal from Iraq, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Pakistan

At least half a dozen Taliban gunmen opened fire on a compound housing policemen in eastern Pakistan on Thursday, killing nine of them. The police who were targeted in the city of Lahore were training to become prison guards. The Pakistani Taliban have waged a blood insurgency against the government over the past few years, demanding it break ties with the United States and establish Islamic law throughout the country. The militants have killed thousands of soldiers, police and civilians in attacks.

Yemen

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a police academy in the capital Sanaa, killing and wounding at least 20 people. The attacker threw himself into a crowd of cadets leaving the academy today after class. Ansar al-Sharia, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the bombing. Yemen’s military is on the offensive against the radical group and has recently retaken several al-Qaeda-held towns in the south.

Nigeria

Coordinated attacks against Christian villages in Nigeria’s Plateau State this weekend left 58 people dead, the Wall Street Journal reports. The assailants launched “sophisticated attacks” on 13 villages near the city of Jos early Saturday, said Mustapha Salisu, spokesman for a special task force of policemen and soldiers deployed to the area to curb violence. “They came in hundreds,” he said. “Some had [police] uniforms, and some even had bulletproof vests.” He said the task force fought back for hours and lost two policemen in the battle, which also claimed the lives of 14 civilians and 21 assailants and displaced more than 300 people. Plateau State has been the site of increasing religious tension and violence in recent months as the Islamic terror group Boko Haram has declared a “war” to annihilate Nigerian Christians.

Mexico

U.S. and Mexican authorities have found two well-built drug-smuggling tunnels featuring power, lights and ventilation in the past week, U.S. agents found the exit of a 750-foot-long passageway in a small business in San Luis, Ariz., near Yuma. Mexican soldiers found the entrance in an ice plant in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. In addition, the Mexican army found an unfinished, 600-foot-long tunnel that was started in a Tijuana bathroom and headed for a warehouse district in the San Diego suburb of Otay Mesa.

Wildfires

Wind-fanned wildfires in southern Idaho are proving stubborn, but across the West as a whole, firefighters are gaining ground and keeping an eye on the weather. A fast-moving blaze spread across nearly 300 square miles of sagebrush and dry grass in Idaho. Twelve large (over 100 acres) wildfires are burning in Idaho, the most in the nation. A total of 316,000 acres (494 sq. miles) have been consumed, but only five structures have been destroyed.

Weather

The first half of the year has been the USA’s warmest on record. Twenty-eight states and more than 100 cities have posted their warmest first six months on record, based on national weather data that go back to 1895. The national temperature this year was 52.9 degrees, which is 4.5 degrees above average and 1.2 degrees above the next-warmest year, which was 2006. Chicago is almost 7 degrees warmer than average this year. From January to June, a whopping 22,356 daily record high temperatures have been set across the USA. Temperatures flirted with the record high of 115 degrees Tuesday in Phoenix.

A severe drought is spreading across the Midwest this summer, resulting in some of the worst conditions in decades and leaving more than a thousand counties designated as natural disaster areas. Farmers in the region are suffering, with pastures for livestock and fields of crops becoming increasingly parched. Almost two-thirds of the nation — around 61% — is now in a drought, the highest percentage in at least 12 years, federal climate scientists announced Thursday. The Northeast is the only region untouched, although many parts of it are still classified as abnormally dry. In addition to the wildfire-charred West, the Midwest corn belt is particularly hard-hit. In Indianapolis, which the National Weather Service says is enduring its longest dry spell in 104 years, Mayor Greg Ballard has declared a water shortage warning, banning watering of lawns and restricting other water uses. The twelve states experiencing the severest drought are Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri.

Heavy rain triggered flash floods and mudslides in southern Japan on Thursday, causing at least 15 deaths and leaving 11 more people missing. Television footage showed residents wading through muddy, knee-deep water on streets. Others shoveled out mud from their homes. Hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged, and tens of thousands of people had to evacuate the area threatened by swollen rivers and mudslides. The heavy rains also disrupted local train services, blocked off roads and left about 22,000 homes without electricity. The Meteorological Agency said as much as 20 inches of rain fell overnight. It predicted up to 8 inches more rainfall through Friday.

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Signs of the Times (7/9/12)

July 9, 2012

Hobby Lobby Placed Full Page July 4th “In God We Trust” Ads

Thanks to Hobby Lobby Ministry Projects for the “In God We Trust” full-page ads on July 4th in newspapers all across the country. The many quotes cited from our Founding Fathers show they truly understood that the independence of our country was won through the grace of God. Beginning Easter Sunday, 1997, Hobby Lobby has placed a full page message ad in all of the newspapers in which they advertise. Since then, they have placed a full page message ad each Christmas day and each Easter Sunday in our newspapers in which they advertise, as well as on July 4th, each will a call to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior

  • With so many companies backing the gay agenda, it’s refreshing that some still stand firm for God and for our country

Palestinians Lay Claim to Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a noted Palestinian apologist, is leading the charge to have the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a Palestinian landmark…and they are likely to succeed. The approval has been placed on the fast track after a vote that Ashrawi described as “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.” Dr. Ashrawi claims she is “descended from the first Palestinian Christian—Jesus.”  Reminding the world that Jesus was born a Jew, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says, “the world should remember that the Church of the Nativity, which is sacred to Christians, was desecrated in the past by Palestinian terrorists.”

  • Palestine is an invented country that continues to invent outrageous lies to create fictional foundations for its ongoing – and largely successful – efforts to establish international legitimacy

North Carolina Legislature De-Funds Planned Parenthood

North Carolina will no longer fund Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. Republican lawmakers voted to end all state contracts with private providers of family planning services, overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of de-funding the group for the second time. The move redirects more than $343,000 from Planned Parenthood to county health departments. “Planned Parenthood is an abortion-centered, profit-driven business, not the caring health provider for women and girls they purport to be,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “They neither need nor deserve taxpayer dollars. This budget amendment does not cut a dime of family planning funding. It does protect the consciences of pro-life taxpayers by sending funds to county health departments which do not perform abortions.”

Healthcare Sharing Ministries Offer Insurance Alternative

No so-called experts view healthcare sharing ministries as a solution to the problem of how to provide care for as many people as possible. But their ongoing existence represents a creative approach that has worked for a small minority for more than two decades. Healthcare sharing ministries stem from the New Testament concept that people must share one another’s burdens. In these ministries, members pay a monthly fee that gets dispersed to a member who needs help paying medical bills. Depending on the ministry, the money may go directly to the family in need or through the ministry. Most of those who opt to belong lack affordable insurance through an employer. Ministry members must attest they are committed Christians and live life accordingly.

  • The world’s various solutions to healthcare and welfare are outgrowths of the Church’s failure to take care of its own. These healthcare sharing ministries are a step back in the right direction.

Drones Moving from Battlefield to Homeland

Long a symbol of the nation’s high-tech war on terror, drones are moving from the battlefield and borderlands into everyday American life. Industry experts predict 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, will be flying in the U.S. by the end of the decade. The expansion is driven by technological advances that have made them smaller, more sophisticated and cheaper, and new federal aviation rules that will open the skies to an array of drones by late 2015. Robotic aircraft promise great advances in everything from humanitarian relief and environmental protection to news gathering and real-estate marketing, industry supporters say. But as with many evolving and potentially intrusive technologies, the civilian drone invasion won’t arrive without controversy or questions about its impact on privacy and safety. Civil libertarians warn that anything that can be flown by a law-abiding person can also be used by a drug smuggler, terrorist or Peeping Tom. In the hands of an unscrupulous journalist or law- enforcement officer, the snooping possibilities are chilling.

  • And in the hands of Big Brother, the future is really scary

Wireless Carriers Flooded with Calls for Surveillance Info

In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations, the New York Times reported Sunday. The cellphone carriers’ reports, which come in response to a Congressional inquiry, document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years, with the companies turning over records thousands of times a day in response to police emergencies, court orders, law enforcement subpoenas and other requests.

  • Personal privacy is now virtually nonexistent. The major concern is how Big Brother will use this information to squelch dissent and persecute freedom fighters and Christians

Natural, Organic Items Grab Bigger Share in Supermarkets

There appears to be a race to pure foods among the nation’s largest supermarkets as they ramp up their offerings, even launch their own brands of organics and naturals, and then heavily advertise the healthy choice. It makes sense, considering that sales of this segment of groceries are outpacing traditional grocery sales. Nationwide, natural and organic food sales grew 8 percent in 2010 versus the less than 1 percent growth in the $630 billion total U.S. food market. This segment has grown at about a 5 percent rate the last few years. With that growth and popularity comes a definite consumer advantage: Slowly but surely, the price of natural foods is falling.

Economic News

Five million jobs. That’s how many jobs the economy has still failed to recover since the Great Recession officially ended three years ago, according to the Associated Press. The nation lost nearly 8.8 million jobs between January 2008 and February 2010. Since then, it’s regained more than 3.8 million — less than 44 percent. The economy has added just 137,000 jobs a month since employment hit bottom. At that pace, it would take three more years for employment to return to where it was in January 2008.

President Obama is launching a push to extend tax cuts for the middle class, as he seeks to shift the election-year economic debate away from the dismal jobs market and toward the issue of tax fairness. Obama, in an address from the White House Monday, called on Congress to pass a one-year extension of tax cuts for people making less than $250,000 a year. The House GOP is expected to make its own push this month for an extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year, including reductions on wealthier income earners.

Greece

Greece’s three-party coalition government will try to get the economy out of its deep recession by encouraging private investment and making privatizations its “highest priority,” finance minister Yannis Stournaras said Saturday. “The privatization program aims at attracting important international capital that will be invested mainly in property development and infrastructure,” Stournaras told parliament. He said the government plans to give priority to 28 privatizations, including the state natural gas, water and betting companies, the development of the former Athens airport, other airports, yacht marinas, the state railways and the sale and leaseback of 28 state properties.

Middle East

The victories of Islamic parties in Egypt and elsewhere have forced the United States to embark on an untested strategy to engage with groups that have historically been hostile to American interests. In the latest triumph for Islamic groups, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president in Egypt last month. Islamist groups have also emerged strong in Tunisia and Libya. Although the United States has had good relations with regimes where political Islam is prevalent, such as Saudi Arabia, its policy toward Islamic groups that are ousting long-standing regimes or pressuring them to change is evolving. Analysts are divided over whether the Obama administration’s policy is a risk that will backfire or represents a pragmatic approach to rapidly changing events in the Arab world.

  • Islamic fanaticism for establishing a global caliphate will not be assuaged through diplomatic negotiations, which countries such as Iran have shown they will use to yank our chain while advancing their extremist ambitions.

Egypt

President Mohammed Morsi has ordered the return of the country’s Islamist-dominated parliament that was dissolved by the powerful military.The Sunday decree from Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, also called for new parliamentary elections to be held within 60 days of the adoption of a new constitution for the country, which is not expected before late this year. Last month, the then-ruling military generals dissolved the legislature based on a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court. Morsi’s move appeared to be in defiance of the military’s “constitutional declaration” announced on June 16 that gave it legislative powers and stripped Morsi of much of his presidential authority. On Monday, Egypt’s top court said its decision to dissolve parliament is final, laying the groundwork for yet more turmoil.

Afghanistan

The U.S. designation Saturday of Afghanistan as its newest “major non-NATO ally” amounts to a political statement of support for the country’s long-term stability and solidifies close defense cooperation after American combat troops withdraw in 2014. The declaration allows for streamlined defense cooperation, including expedited purchasing ability of American equipment and easier export control regulations. Afghanistan’s military, heavily dependent on American and foreign assistance, already enjoys many of these benefits. The non-NATO ally status guarantees it will continue to do so.

Roadside bombs and insurgent attacks Sunday killed 16 Afghan civilians, five policemen and two members of the U.S.-led coalition in southern Afghanistan where militants are trying to reclaim territory. A surge in Afghan and coalition forces during the past two years routed Taliban fighters from many of their strongholds in the south, but the insurgents stepped up their attacks this summer to take back key areas.

Syria

International envoy Kofi Annan raised hopes of a revived peace effort in Syria, saying he has reached a framework with President Bashar Assad and would hold talks with rebel leaders. Annan was traveling to Damascus’ key ally Iran later Monday for talks with leaders there. With violence growing increasingly intense and diplomatic efforts faltering, Annan has said Iran must be a part of a solution to a conflict that activists say has killed at least 14,000 people. It is unclear what role Annan envisions for Iran, a staunch Syrian ally that has stood by Assad throughout the uprising. Tehran’s close ties could make it an interlocutor with the regime.

Pakistan

Thousands of hard-line Islamists streamed toward Pakistan’s capital in a massive convoy of vehicles Sunday to protest the government’s decision to allow the U.S. and other NATO countries to resume shipping troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the route in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops. After months of negotiations, Islamabad finally agreed to reopen the route last week after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for the deaths.

South Sudan

South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, turned one year old on Monday, but its anniversary comes amid high tensions with its northern neighbor and economic concerns. South Sudan became independent last year following decades of civil war. Border clashes have brought the countries to the brink of war and left South Sudan coping with a massive humanitarian crisis as people flee the fighting. In total, aid agencies estimate that at least 150,000 refugees from Sudan are currently in South Sudan. South Sudan obtained around 70% of the formerly united country’s oil reserves when it became independent last year. But the countries have been unable to agree on how much the landlocked South should pay to use infrastructure that remains in Sudan. South Sudan shut down production in late January after accusing Sudan of stealing $815 million worth of its oil. Sudan said it confiscated the crude to make up for unpaid fees.

  • Complicating the situation is the religious rivalry between Islamic Sudan and the Christian/Indigenous faiths of South Sudan

Weather

The record-setting heat wave that cooked most of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic finally relented Sunday. Now, it’s just back to regular, old summer heat. But it may be impossible to forget the havoc wreaked by the two-week heat wave. The heat sent temperatures Saturday soaring over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in several cities, including a record 105 degrees in Washington, St. Louis (106 ), Indianapolis (104), 105 in Louisville, 101 in Philadelphia, and 95 in New York City. The heat buckled highways and derailed a Washington-area train. At least 46 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, mostly among the elderly who died of high temperatures in homes lacking power because of recent outages. Thousands of mid-Atlantic residents remained without power more than a week after deadly summer storms and extreme heat struck the area, including 120,000 in West Virginia and some 8,000 in the suburbs around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Fish are going belly up by the thousands and experts blame the heat wave. City of Knoxville officials in Tennessee, one of at least five states reporting thousands of dead fish, say that the record heat depleted the water’s oxygen levels and killed 10,000 or more small bluegills. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says 5,000 to 6,000 gizzard shad died. Thousands of dead fish turned up at Dexter City Lake in Missouri. Elsewhere, hundreds of dead fish are popping up along the James River in North Dakota and about 200 dead fish were discovered in Dallas’ Turtle Creek.

Torrential rains dropped nearly a foot of water in the Black Sea region of southern Russia overnight Saturday, unleashing intense flooding that killed 103 people and forced many to scramble out of their beds for refuge in trees and on roofs. Many people were asleep when the flooding hit in the Krasnodar region, and the water rushed into the area around the hard-hit town of Krimsk with such speed and volume that rumors emerged that local officials had opened a nearby water reservoir. Muddy water coursed through streets and homes, in some cases high enough to flow over the hoods of cars and even as high as rooftops. About 5,000 residences were flooded.

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Signs of the Times (7/6/12)

July 6, 2012

Catholic Bishops Pound the Drum for Religious Freedom

For two weeks now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pounded the drums for religious freedom from every available platform. On Independence Day, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput brought theological fireworks in a bell-ringing homily on the Affordable Care Act as an enemy of freedom under God. The trigger: The ACA’s requirement for employers to provide free contraception insurance coverage, coverage bishops say will force the faithful to violate church doctrine on abortion. The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a national push called a Fortnight For Freedom, with special Masses and rallies in most of the nation’s 195 dioceses. Archbishop Chaput’s core message was that people don’t belong to their government, they belong to God, and only when they live by God’s plan are they truly free. Hence they are obligated, like the martyrs of the Church, to defy government acts that the Church calls unGodly.

New York City Churches Allowed to Remain in Public Schools Buildings

Christianity Today reports that the 60 or more New York City churches facing possible eviction from their public school locations will now be allowed to stay. Thanks to a permanent injunction issued Friday (06/29/12) from a district court judge. “An ongoing conflict between religious organizations and the Department of Education has kept churches in limbo over the right to rent public school buildings for Sunday worship service,” says Christianity Today. “Churches faced a July 1 deadline on their access to public schools unless the preliminary injunction was extended. Friday’s permanent injunction essentially means that those on the side of churches win the case at the district court level, prevailing on the free exercise clause and establishment claims.”

ObamaCare Raises Concerns of Massive Government Expansion

With the Supreme Court giving President Obama’s new health care law a green light, federal and state officials are turning to implementation of the law — a lengthy and massive undertaking still in its early stages, but already costing money and expanding the government. The IRS, Health and Human Services (HHS) and many other agencies will now write thousands of pages of regulations — an effort well under way. HHS has a huge amount of work to do and the states do, too. There will be new health insurance marketplaces in every state in the country. There has been much focus on the mandate that all Americans obtain health insurance, but analysts say that’s just a small part of the law — covering only a few pages out of the law’s 2700. Much bigger than the mandate itself are the insurance exchanges that will administer $681 billion in subsidies over 10 years, which will require a lot of new federal workers at the IRS and health department.

  • The socialist Obama administration is presiding over an enormous increase in federal bureaucracy, debt and loss of personal and states’ rights. This could be the tipping point in the end-time decline of America.

GOP Governors Resist ObamaCare

Far from being discouraged by the Supreme Court decision upholding the federal health care overhaul, Republican governors are cranking up opposition to the law’s implementation — refusing to carry out two key provisions in the hope November’s election will give the party enough votes to repeal it. At least 18 governors now say they are at least considering not expanding Medicaid — effectively exploiting the one part of the ruling that came down in Republicans’ favor. Previously, the law called on states to expand their Medicaid rolls and threatened to withhold money to those states that did not agree. The Supreme Court nixed that prescribed punishment, taking away the federal government’s stick. Several GOP governors have also said they will not move forward on creating so-called insurance exchanges. Those exchanges, set to go into effect in 2014, are meant to be the state-based marketplaces where strictly regulated insurance plans will be available for purchase. According to a detailed list maintained by the Kaiser Family Foundation, just 15 states are in the process of setting them up.

Five major ObamaCare Taxes in 2013

While the individual mandate tax gets most of the attention, the ObamaCare law actually contains 20 new or higher taxes on the American people. These taxes are gradually phased in through 2018. Six months from now, in January 2013, five major ObamaCare taxes will come into force:

  1. A 2.3 percent tax on medical device makers will raise the price of (for example) every pacemaker, prosthetic limb, stent, and operating table.
  2. The new ObamaCare provision will raise that threshold to for deducting medical expenses on your taxes from 7.5 to 10 percent, subjecting patients to a higher tax bill.
  3. The 24 million Americans who have Flexible Spending Accounts will face a new federally imposed $2,500 annual cap.
  4. The new ObamaCare surtax takes the top capital gains rate to 23.8 percent and top dividend rate to 43.4 percent. The tax will take a minimum of $123 billion out of taxpayer pockets over the next ten years.
  5. An increase in the Medicare payroll tax will soak employers by $86 billion over the ten years

Homeland Security Report Lists ‘Liberty Lovers’ As Terrorists

A new study funded by the Department of Homeland Security characterizes Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right-wing” terrorists. Entitled Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008, the study was produced by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. The organization was launched with the aid of DHS funding to the tune of $12 million dollars. Infowars.com note, “While largely omitting Islamic terrorism – the report fails completely to mention the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – the study focuses on Americans who hold beliefs shared by the vast majority of conservatives and libertarians and puts them in the context of radical extremism.”

  • Socialistic globalists seek to squelch all opposition to their plans for a one-world government (Rev. 13)

Scientists Claim Find of Elusive ‘God Particle’

Scientists said Wednesday that they had discovered a new particle whose characteristics match those of the Higgs boson, the most sought-after particle in physics, which could help unlock some of the universe’s deepest secrets. “We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” said Rolf Heuer, the director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which has been carrying out experiments in search of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator. The particle has been so difficult to pin down that the physicist Leon Lederman called it the ‘God particle.’ Finding the Higgs boson would help explain the origin of mass, one of the open questions in physicists’ current understanding of the way the universe works.

  • Science is simply discovering how God did what He did

Economic News

The European Central Bank has cut its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to a record low of 0.75% to boost a eurozone economy weighed down by the continent’s crisis over too much government debt. The move followed a rate cut by China’s central bank and new stimulus measures by the Bank of England as global financial authorities seek to shore up a slowing global economy.

The employment market remained in a spring slump in June as employers added a disappointing 80,000 jobs. The nation’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2% for the second consecutive month, the Labor Department said Friday. The economy has added just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter. That’s one-third of 226,000 a month created in the first quarter. Job creation is also trailing last year’s pace through the first six months of 2012.

Unemployment aid applications have fallen to the lowest level in 6 weeks, a sign layoffs have eased. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the fewest since the week of May 19. When applications consistently fall below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.

Factory orders increased 0.7% in May from April, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Companies placed more orders with U.S. factories in May from April, demanding more computers, machinery and other equipment that signal investment plans. The increase is a welcome sign after two months of declining factory orders. Still, factory orders are down from the start of the year.

Mortgage rates fell again this week, smashing previous record lows. The rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, the most popular mortgage product, dropped to 3.62% from 3.66% last week. The rate has matched or hit a new low for 10 of the past 11 weeks.

As millions take to their cars this week for Fourth of July getaways, they will be receiving a rare gift when they head to a service station: gas prices that are an average 22 cents cheaper a gallon across the country than this time last year. Self-serve unleaded averages $3.356 a gallon in the government’s latest weekly survey.

Pakistan

Ending a bitter seven-month standoff, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan on Tuesday for the killing of 24 Pakistani troops last fall and won in return the reopening of critical NATO supply lines into Afghanistan. The agreement could save the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars in war costs. “Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region,” she said. The first trucks carrying supplies to American and NATO troops in Afghanistan crossed the Pakistani border Thursday after the seven-month-long closure of the supply routes.

Libya

Libya emerged in October from a brutal civil war in which dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed after 41 years in power. On Saturday, Libyans will vote to fill the seats of a new National Congress after decades in which political parties were banned. The results may show whether political Islam continues its gains in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies hope to prevail as their counterparts have in Tunisia and Egypt.

Syria

The United States and its international allies called Friday for new, global sanctions against President Bashar Assad’s regime, seeking to step up the pressure after the defection of a top general dealt a major blow to the Syrian leader. Washington urged countries around the world to demand that Russia and China force Assad to leave power. Syrian Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a member of the elite Republican Guards, abandoned Assad’s regime, according to Western officials. It was the highest profile departure in 16 months of brutal government crackdowns and civil war that activists say has killed more than 14,000 people.

Turkey

Turkish firefighters were battling several blazes along the Turkish-Syria border on Wednesday in areas that thousands of Syrians have crossed to flee the fighting in their country. Turkey officials said the fires were “deliberately started” at four different points on the Syrian side of the border and spread to Turkey due to strong winds. Turkey’s state-run TRT television said Syrian forces are believed to have started the fires to deny shelter to rebels along the border area. More than 35,000 Syrians are living in refugee camps on the Turkish side of the border that were opened to care for the many people fleeing Syria’s unrest.

Iran

The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates.  The deployments are part of a long-planned effort to bolster the American military presence in the gulf region, in part to reassure Israel as well as a signal to Iran. However, the buildup carries significant risks, including that Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps could decide to lash out against the increased presence.

Iraq

Market blasts and other bombings across Iraq killed at least 33 people and wounded nearly 100 on Tuesday, spooking an already-rattled public and spurring security officials to clamp down on traffic as Shiite Muslims brace for more tragedy during pilgrimages this week. The wave of morning bombings struck four Iraqi cities, the worst hit being Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, where an explosives-laden vegetable truck detonated in a crowded market, killing 25 people and leaving 40 injured. Tuesday’s attacks come as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims head to the holy city of Karbala this week for religious ceremonies that are expected to peak on Friday. Shiite pilgrimages are a favorite target of Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, and attacks timed to strike during a similar march in Baghdad last month left 100 dead. Police said a car bomb in a southern Iraqi town has killed at least eight people and wounded 28 Wednesday in the latest deadly attack.

Japan

Nuclear power returned to Japan’s energy mix Thursday as the first reactor to be restarted since last year’s earthquake and tsunami came back online, ending a nationwide shutdown that left the country without nuclear-generated electricity for the first time since 1970. After the tsunami, all of Japan’s working reactors were gradually taken offline for maintenance or safety checks. The country had been without nuclear power for two months. Officials say the situation at the Fukushima plant has stabilized, though it will take decades to safely decommission and the area around it remains off limits because it is a health hazard.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck off the coast of New Zealand Tuesday sending shock waves into its capital city of Wellington. Its epicenter was between the country’s two large islands at a depth of 147 miles. Residents across the country felt long rumblings but a fire department spokesman said there were no immediate reports of significant damage. A magnitude 3.8 aftershock felt in the city of Christchurch.

Wildfires

Firefighters took advantage of a lull in searing heat and shifting winds in Wyoming and Montana on Thursday to attack wildfires that have charred thousands of acres and forced dozens of residents to flee their homes. In southeast Wyoming, heavy air power, including four large air tankers, helped increase containment of the 16-square-mile Squirrel Creek fire to 51 percent. In southeastern Montana, more than 1,300 personnel took advantage of calm winds and temperatures in the 80s to make headway on five blazes that officials are now managing as one 470-square-mile wildfire complex so they can quickly deploy resources among the blazes.

Rains cooled Colorado wildfires Wednesday, but more than a dozen wildfires elsewhere in the West continued chewing through bone-dry pine and brush .Wildfires in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado sent haze and smoke across Colorado’s Front Range, prompting air-quality health advisories as firefighters warned of growing fires in sparsely populated areas. In all, 14 states, mostly in the West, are dealing with numerous large (over 100 acres) fires. Nationally, wildfires have scorched about 2.4 million acres this year. Officials have called Colorado’s Waldo Canyon Fire the most destructive in state history. Last week, it was like a monster roaring down a mountainside, swallowing houses whole, consuming 28 sq. miles and destroying 350 homes.

Weather

At least two people have been killed as a violent thunderstorm struck the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Multiple injuries were reported.The storms struck Thursday evening at the west end of the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Most of the damage appeared to be in the popular Cades Cove area of the park and in communities just outside the park boundaries.

The heat wave cooking most of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic will keep raging through the weekend as cities in at least 13 states have endure triple-digit heat for a full week. Hundreds of cities around the country set record high. Hundreds of thousands of people from Illinois to New Jersey are still without power Friday after a line of deadly storms struck a week ago. The culprit was a ferocious summer storm that cut a swath of destruction Friday night across 11 states, toppling trees, knocking out traffic lights, and sending thousands of people to shelters and into community pools to escape the heat.

Drought conditions are contributing to a Mississippi River level that has become a cause for concern. At Natchez, Miss., about 60 miles downriver from Vicksburg, the Mississippi is at 12.72 feet, about 49 feet below what was the record high on May 19 of last year. “We’ve had barges running aground, shoaling in a few places,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Walthour said. “We’ve had some groundings, but none have resulted in a major incident yet.” If the channel gets too narrow, barges hit bottom or they can’t pass each other, the Coast Guard will have to institute one-way traffic, she said.

In Arizona, the prolonged 17-year drought has brought reservoirs to dangerously low levels. Bartlett Lake is at 44 percent capacity. Horseshoe is empty. And the Verde River looks about as thin as it’s been in a long while. On Sunday, the Clarkdale gauge hit an all-time low, registering 53 cubic feet per second of Verde River flow. The previous record was 59 cfs registered in 2007.

In Bangladesh and India, devastating flooding has killed nearly 200 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

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Signs of the Times (7/2/12)

July 2, 2012

Americans Split on Health Care Decision

Americans are split down the middle on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law, but a slim majority of them want part or all of the law repealed, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows. The poll is likely to boost Republicans’ efforts to repeal it in Congress and elect candidates in November who vow to keep up the fight. More than four in five Republicans in the poll disagree with the court’s ruling, while nearly four in five Democrats agree with it. Independents are split — although 50% of them favor at least partial repeal, compared with 40% who want to keep the law intact or expand on it.

Roberts Switched Vote on Health Care

CBS News, cited “two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations,” who said Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote after initially siding with four other conservative justices who supported striking down the law. “Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said.” The dispute among the conservative justices revolved around the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that nearly all Americans buy some form of health insurance or pay a fine. Roberts wanted to strike down the mandate — calling it an overreach of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce — but maintain other parts of the health care law. The four other conservatives — Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — argued that if the mandate fell, the whole law would have to fall as well. Rather than strike down the whole law, Roberts — in an alliance with the court’s four more liberal members — crafted his own opinion, upholding the law and the mandate under Congress’ taxing authority.

White House Says Health Care Penalty is Not a Tax

White House chief of staff Jack Lew repeatedly said Sunday that the penalty for failure to buy health insurance is not a tax, no matter what people are saying about last week’s Supreme Court decision. Some Republicans pounced on this reasoning, saying the 2010 health care law is a tax hike as well as bad law. Other Republicans said the court’s 5-4 majority — led by Chief Justice John Roberts — essentially rewrote the statute to make it constitutional under the taxing authority. “If you call it a tax, you can tax anybody to do anything you want from government, apparently,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

  • It is an extreme abuse of power for the Obama administration to continue asserting that the health insurance mandate is a penalty, not a tax. The Supreme Court, whether wrong or right, establishes the legal boundaries. Therefore, it is illegal to continue calling it a penalty. But Obama desperately wants to avoid being saddled with a tax increase in an election year.

DOJ Won’t Prosecute Holder

The Justice Department made it official today, saying they won’t prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress despite the resolution the Republican House passed yesterday. But the “Fast and Furious” case could still wind up in civil court. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Holder’s decision to withhold documents about the bungled gun trafficking investigation from Congress “does not constitute a crime. Therefore, the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general.”

  • No surprise that the Deputy Attorney General won’t prosecute his boss, or that the ‘transparent’ Obama administration continues to hide from well-founded blame

Police Turn to YouTube to Catch Criminals

More than 40 police departments across the country are turning to YouTube, the popular video repository of social media, to communicate with the public and catch criminals. Among the cities: Philadelphia, Kansas City, Mo., Detroit, Houston, Baltimore, Tucson, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Philadelphia police say that YouTube videos helped them solve 85 cases since Feb. 2011 — part of the department’s “Video Villains” program that posts unsolved crime surveillance videos hoping for tips. The Kansas City Police Department has posted at least 46 surveillance videos on their YouTube channel hoping for tips.

Summer Food Programs Seek New Ways to Assist Children

Summer food programs aiming to keep U.S. children from going hungry have grown 25 percent in the last five years amid a nationwide push by local food banks to change the way they serve food to needy people. Run by small charities that collect food donations and funded primarily by the federal government, the programs offer a safe location for children to eat lunch, and get free food to take home to their families. Food banks say the rise in numbers is because of a push to find more creative ways to bring food to an estimated 19 million hungry U.S. children. For instance, a food bank in Gainesville, Fla., is using firetrucks and schoolbuses to deliver food to children in rural areas.

Critics argue that the spike in summer food program growth comes from a “relaxing of restrictions” that is allowing students of any income bracket to receive a free lunch. Wal-Mart announced a $20 million grant last week to organizations running summer food programs. One-third of the grant will go directly to food, another to learning programs for the summer food program participants, and the last third to the creation of summer jobs for them.

Economic News

U.S. consumers spent no more in May than in April after seeing almost no gain in their pay. The lack of growth in consumer spending and wages suggests that a faltering job market is slowing the economy. The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending was unchanged in May. Income growth edged up 0.2%, but that was mostly because of gains from investments. Wages, the largest component of income, were essentially flat.

Financial markets around the world stormed higher Friday after European leaders came up with a breakthrough plan to rescue banks, relieve debt-burdened governments and restore investor confidence. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 278 points, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index had its best day of the year.

Unemployment in the 17-country euro currency bloc hit another record in May as the crippling financial crisis pushed the continent toward the brink of recession, official figures showed Monday. Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said unemployment rose to 11.1% in May from 11% the previous month. Across the wider 27-country European Union, which includes non-euro countries, such as Britain and Poland, unemployment edged up to 10.3% in May from 10.2% the month before.

Middle East

According to Dori Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., the victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi in Egypt will be felt far beyond the country, CBN News reports. “[It] is really a regional earthquake in the Middle East,” Gold said. “The Muslim Brotherhood is going to give a shot of adrenaline to radical Islamic groups across the world, particularly in the Middle East but also in Europe.” The Brotherhood is global and behind terror groups like Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip. “The ultimate agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood is pretty clear,” Gold said. “They speak about it, although not on American network television. The actual goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is to re-establish the caliphate — a global caliphate.”

Egypt

Islamist Mohammed Morsi promised a “new Egypt” as he took the oath of office Saturday to become the country’s first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago. Morsi also became the Arab world’s first freely elected Islamist president. “Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life — absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability,” said Morsi, a 60-year-old U.S.-trained engineer from the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group that has spent most of the 84 years since its inception as an outlawed organization harshly targeted by successive governments. Morsi’s strongly worded speech was a show of defiance as he gears up to power struggle with the country’s ruling generals who passed a constitutional declaration taking over major presidential powers in the days before election results were announced after a bitter campaign.

Syria

Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a U.N.-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with President Bashar Assad or members of his “murderous” regime. An international conference in Geneva on Saturday accepted U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan’s plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government in Syria, but at Russia’s insistence the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria’s president being part of the interim administration. The rejection underlined the seemingly intractable nature of the Syrian conflict, which this week saw some of the bloodiest violence since the start of the uprising against Assad’s regime in March 2011. The head of the Arab League called Monday for the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and said a U.N.-brokered plan for a transitional government in Syria fell short of expectations.

Iraq

A half year after the U.S. military left Iraq, dire predictions seem to be coming true: The country is mired in violence and the government is on the verge of collapsing. With no relief in sight, there’s growing talk of Iraq as a failed state as al-Qaida’s local wing staged near daily attacks that killed at least 234 people in June. Iraq no longer suffers widespread retaliatory killings between Sunni and Shiite extremists that brought the country to the brink of civil war. But the spike in violence heightens fears that Iraq could limp along for years as an unstable and dangerous country. The violence has brought the weakness of Iraq’s security apparatus into sharp focus even as deepening political divisions dim the prospects that the country will emerge as a stable democracy after decades of war and dictatorship.

Pakistan

Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed eight suspected militants in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. Officials said the house was being used by militants loyal to commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and some foreigners were also among the dead. The U.S. has criticized Pakistan for failing to crack down on fighters who stage attacks in Afghanistan and has stepped up drone attacks in the tribal region to combat them. Pakistan’s refusal to let NATO access its ports and roads into Afghanistan – as a protest of drone strikes that have killed innocent civilians – has cost the Pentagon more than $2.1 billion in extra transportation costs to move supplies and equipment in and out of the country.

Afghanistan

An Afghan provincial official says a NATO airstrike has killed three civilians in the east of the country. A spokesman for the coalition says initial reports of the strike do not suggest any civilian deaths. A NATO spokesperson said the strike was called on insurgents who were planting a bomb.

Iran

As new European Union sanctions targeting Iran’s vital oil industry took effect Sunday, Tehran acknowledged that the measures aimed at reining in its disputed nuclear program were taking a toll. The vice president said authorities had stockpiled imported goods and hard currency to help cushion the blow to the economy. The ban by the 27-member EU on the purchase of Iranian oil dealt the Islamic Republic its second economic setback in days, following fresh U.S. sanctions that prohibit the world’s banks from completing oil transactions with Iranian banks. Combined, the measures significantly ratchet up the pressure on an Iranian economy already squeezed by previous rounds of sanctions. Bedeviled by government mismanagement of the economy and international sanctions over its nuclear program, Iran is in the grip of spiraling inflation. The rial has fallen 50 percent against other currencies in the last year.

Kenya

Explosions targeting two churches in Kenya near the Somali border killed at least 17 people, the Red Cross said, in the latest spate of attacks on the East African nation. The blasts wounded at least 40 others. A Catholic church and the African Inland Church were both attacked by people wearing balaclavas and bearing guns and grenades. Violence has escalated since Kenyan forces invaded neighboring Somalia last year to battle Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, which it blamed for kidnappings of foreigners in the nation.

Mali

Islamist fighters with ties to al-Qaeda declared that they now control the northern half of Mali after driving out an ethnic Tuareg separatist group. However, the Tuareg group says it still controls at least 90 percent of northern Mali, and has lost only the main towns. The development is more worrying news for the landlocked nation of 15.4 million in northeastern Africa, which was plunged into chaos after a coup in March.

Mexico

Mexican electoral officials projected victory for presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, whose once long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) would retake power after 12 years on the sidelines. Final results will be announced later in the week, but Peña Nieto and the PRI celebrated an apparent victory, anyway. The PRI controlled the country for much of the last century and presided over pesos crises, government graft and allegedly rigged elections.But times have changed and so has the PRI, promised to unleash long-stalled structural reforms that are necessary for Mexico to achieve economic growth.

Volcanoes

Colombian officials have downgraded the alert level for an eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, and some airports in the area have resumed operations. The volcano in western Colombia spewed smoke and ash on Saturday, but caused no injuries or damage. Officials are continuing precautionary evacuations in 15 towns near the mountain. Gas and vapor have been erupting periodically this year from the Nevado de Ruiz. The 17,457-foot volcano is roughly 90 miles west of the capital, Bogota.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake jolted China’s far-western frontier early Saturday, shaking buildings and cutting off electricity in the remote mountainous area and injuring at least 17 people. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake, which hit China’s Xinjiang region, at magnitude-6.3, while China’s Earthquake Networks Center put it at 6.6. The quake toppled several buildings 300 kilometers (186 miles) to the west in the regional capital, Urumqi.

Wildfires

Making steady progress Saturday against the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, crews kept a wary eye on weather that was getting warmer and drier as National Guard troops were deployed to help local police get things back to normal. The 26-square-mile Waldo Canyon fire was 55 percent contained by Sunday afternoon. It was one of many burning across the West, including eight in Utah and a fast-growing blaze in Montana that forced residents in several small communities to leave. Altogether, five wildfires in Colorado have burned over 65,000 acres and destroyed 351 structures

In other western states, seven large (over 100 acres) wildfires are burning in Wyoming that have consumed over 164,000 acres and destroyed 3 structures; eight fires in Utah at 191,000 acres and 278 structures; three in Idaho at 3,000 acres and 95 structures; twelve in Montana at 224,000 acres and 275 structures; five in Arizona at 52,000 acres and 1 structure; three in New Mexico at 50,000 acres and 254 structures; and two in Nevada at 9,500 acres and no structures.

Weather

Violent evening storms Friday following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 3 million people across the eastern United States and caused 13 fatalities in Virginia Widespread power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated on Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. Earlier Friday, the nation’s capital reached 104 degrees — topping a record of 101 set in 1934. The storms, sometimes packing 70 mph winds, toppled three tractor trailers on Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio. Stifling heat will suffocate the nation from Indiana to Florida on Monday, as millions of people from the Midwest to the East Coast struggle without power for a third straight day. Temperatures topped 109 in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky over the weekend. Atlanta recorded its hottest-ever temperature Saturday, 106 degrees.

More than 80 people have been killed in monsoon floods in northeastern India and nearly half a million people have fled their homes. Air force helicopters were dropping food packets and drinking water to marooned people. Army soldiers have rescued numerous villagers from rooftops. Most of the people killed were swept away when the Brahmaputra River overflowed its banks and flooded villages. Sixteen people were buried in a landslide triggered by the rains.

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