Signs of the Times (7/31/12)

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 The massive failure has raised serious concerns about India’s outdated infrastructure and the government’s inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.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

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