Signs of the Times (7/24/12)

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.

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