Archive for September, 2012

Signs of the Times (9/28/12)

September 28, 2012

Students Around the World Gathered for ‘See You at the Pole 2012’

More than three million students from at least 20 countries gathered on school grounds Wednesday morning for “See You at the Pole 2012,” the annual global day of student prayer, OneNewsNow.com reports. It was the 22nd anniversary of See You at the Pole, which is held on the fourth Wednesday of every September and is student-initiated, student-organized and student-led. Students from elementary school to college meet at their campus flagpoles before school to pray for their friends, families, teachers, school and nation. The theme for this year’s event was “Awaken,” taken from the prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. According to Caleb Stanley, a high school senior and president of the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter in Oxford, Miss., “They try so hard to take prayer and take God out of school, and it’s just awesome to see all these students come together and … say, ‘No — we’re going to be close to God, and there’s nothing you can do about it to stop us.'”

  • The mainstream media continues to under-report or ignore altogether those who support Christian values

Obama Thanks Abortion Provider Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards recently provided another indication of President Barack Obama’s connection to the country’s leading abortion provider, according to Baptist Press. In a Sept. 10 tweet, Richards said: “Yesterday @BarackObama called to thank PP for all we’re doing. He knows how important this election is for @PPFAQ patients. Let’s win this!” Richards was one of 25 speakers at this month’s Democratic National Convention who spoke in support of abortion rights, and the Obama re-election campaign has referred to abortion in its TV ads more than any other major presidential candidate in history. Affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10.

  • The blood on Obama’s and Planned Parenthood’s ‘hands’ assures that the curse of murder will continue to undermine the once great future of the USA

Anti-Islam Film Protests Dwindling

Islamic protesters have pushed barricades and confronted police in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok during a rally against a video produced in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. About 300 police officers were maintaining order Thursday as around 200 men and boys rallied. The protest was organized by a group called the Muslim Group for Peace. It was the second time in less than two weeks that Muslims had gathered at the embassy to rally against the film, which has sparked demonstrations in many Muslim countries. Protesters said they want the U.S. government to punish the filmmaker.

Anti-Islamic Filmmaker Arrested for Probation Violation

The man identified as the producer of an Internet film that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world has been arrested in Los Angeles for violating probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was ordered not to own or use devices with access to the Web without approval from his probation officer, and any approved computers were to be used for work only. There were also restrictions placed on him in enlisting others to get on the Internet for him. Nakoula may have violated those terms after the film trailer was loaded onto YouTube. Nakoula had been arrested in 2009 after federal agents searched his home in Cerritos, Calif., on suspicion that he had engaged in a scheme to create fake identities and open credit cards in those names, then draw tens of thousands of dollars from the phony accounts.

Liberal Pastors Attack Hobby Lobby

A coalition of liberal Christian pastors and groups has come out against Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit challenging federal health care guidelines that require companies to provide insurance that covers the “morning-after” pill. The Rev. Lance Schmitz says more than 80,000 people signed petitions opposing the Oklahoma-based arts and crafts chain’s lawsuit. Hobby Lobby, which operates more than 500 stores in 41 states, says providing coverage for the morning-after pill violates its Christian owners’ “deeply held religious beliefs.” The petitions say Hobby Lobby’s owners shouldn’t use their beliefs to deny women access to birth control. The company says it has no objection to preventive contraceptives.

  • Liberal pastors who compromise or ignore Scripture are a bigger threat to Christianity than atheists and secular humanists

Student Debt Hits Record High

Even as the nation’s households have reduced their total debt in recent years, the proportion that owes student loans has increased sharply, an analysis of the latest available Federal Reserve data shows. With college enrollment growing, student debt has stretched to a record number of U.S. households — nearly 1 in 5 — with the biggest burdens falling on the young and poor. The analysis by the Pew Research Center found that 22.4 million households, or 19 percent, had college debt in 2010. That is double the share in 1989, and up from 15 percent in 2007. The increase was driven by higher tuition costs as well as rising college enrollment during the economic downturn. The biggest jumps occurred in households at the two extremes of the income distribution. More well-off families are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for costly private colleges, while lower-income people in search of higher-wage jobs are enrolling in community colleges, public universities and other schools as a way to boost their resumes.

QE3 Not Enough for Wall Street Addicts

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was hoping that QE3 (the third round of Quantitative Easing) would satisfy the wolves on Wall Street for a while. His promise to recklessly print 40 billion dollars a month and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities is being called “QEInfinity” by detractors. During QE3, nearly half a trillion dollars a year will be added to the financial system until the Fed decides that it is time to stop. This is so crazy that even former Federal Reserve officials are speaking out against it. For example, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker says that QE3 is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember. But the big Wall Street banks are never going to be satisfied. One equity strategist at Morgan Stanley says that he would not be “surprised” if the Federal Reserve announced another new round of money printing by the end of the year.

  • This is what happens when the financial system becomes addicted to easy money.

Economic News

The economy grew at an even more sluggish pace last quarter than previously believed as a severe drought slashed farm production in the Midwest. The economy’s GDP, the broadest measure of its health, grew at an annual rate of 1.3%, revised down from an earlier estimate of a 1.7% annual pace, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

An even bigger surprise on the economic front Thursday was a report showing that orders for long-lasting durable goods plunged to its lowest level since January 2009, when the economy was in recession. Durable goods orders dropped 13.2% in August, Commerce said, after rising 3.3% in July. Most of the huge decline was due to a 101% drop in aircraft orders. Economists tend to pay more attention to core capital goods, which signal investment plans. Those orders rose 1.1%, the first increase since May, although it follows steep declines in the previous two months.

Consumer spending rose 0.5% in August — the biggest jump since February. But the Commerce Department said most of the increase went for higher gas prices. That meant less growth elsewhere for strained household budgets. Spending on items expected to last at least three years like appliances and automobiles, rose 0.3%. And incomes rose just 0.1%, reflecting weak job growth.

As the housing market climbs out of the cellar, home improvement sales are through the roof. Online purchases of home-related goods took priority over back-to-school-spending for families this summer. It’s a trend that’s also driving sales in brick-and-mortar home improvement stores from mom-and-pop hardware shops to Home Depot, which hammered out its highest quarterly earnings report last month in five years at $1.5 billion. The home-related sales stand out in an otherwise underwhelming shopping season.

Bank of America announced on Friday that it would pay $2.43 billion to settle a class action lawsuit related to its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, as the legal woes continue for the financial institution. In 2009, shareholders accused Bank of America of making false and misleading statements about the health of the two companies. In part, the plaintiffs accused Bank of America of hiding a major loss at Merrill Lynch just shortly before shareholders were set to vote on the deal. While Bank of America denied the allegation, it said it decided to settle to put the litigation to rest.

  • Chicanery in the financial sector is an ongoing problem grounded in greed and materialism, the false gods of the 21st century

UN Planning New Global Taxes

The United Nations is at it again:  finding new and “innovative” ways to create global taxes that would transfer hundreds of billions, and even trillions, of dollars from the rich nations of the world — especially the U.S. — to poorer ones, in line with U.N.-directed economic, social and environmental development. A 1 percent tax on billionaires around the world.  A tax on all currency trading in the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound sterling.   Another  “tiny”  tax on all financial transactions, including stock and bond trading, and trading in financial derivatives.  New taxes on carbon emissions and on airline tickets.  A royalty on all undersea mineral resources extracted more than 100 miles offshore of any nation’s territory. These latest global tax proposals have received various forms of endorsement at U.N. meetings over the spring and summer, and will be entered into the record during the 67th  U.N. General Assembly session, which began this week.

  • The steady march toward globalization and the one-world government prophesied in Revelation 13 continues, slowly but surely

Eurozone

The Spanish government and a ruling coalition in Greece met Thursday to move quickly on approval of new austerity measures amid mounting pressures to be more aggressive in addressing a crippling debt crisis in both nations. The two eurozone nations have few options: In order to get more financial aid from the European Central Bank, they must meet stringent austerity measure criteria. In Athens on Thursday, after weeks of fruitless efforts, the heads of the three parties in Greece’s governing coalition have struck a basic deal on a new round of harsh austerity measures required for the country to continue getting vital rescue loans, officials said Thursday. Greece has been in recession for five years.

In Madrid, the Spanish government announced the severest austerity cuts in the country’s history as it approved measures and reforms aimed at creating budget savings of $51 billion to get the country back on firm financial footing. Spanish officials announced the approval Thursday of the 2013 budget, agreeing to a freeze on public sector wages as well as cuts of an average of 8.9% in spending for government ministries, Officials also said they would raise pensions by 1% and planned to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 by the end of the year.

Thousands of angry Greek and Spanish voters outraged by another round of budget cuts took to the streets of Athens and Madrid on Wednesday, demanding their governments slow down budget cuts aimed at avoiding bankruptcy. In Athens, what started as peaceful protests by tens of thousands of strikers ended up with demonstrators throwing gas bombs and bottles at police officers. In Greece, the unrest disrupted flights and closed schools. Hospitals operated with just emergency staff. The budget cuts are an attempt to meet austerity targets demanded by the eurozone, the 17 nations that use the euro as currency, in return for financial assistance.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by next summer and urged the world to draw a clear “red line” to stop it in its tracks. He said Iran already had completed the first stage of uranium enrichment, and then he drew his own red line on the diagram to highlight the point of no return — the completion of the second stage and 90 percent enrichment. “Iran is 70 percent of the way there and … well into the second stage. By next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu said. “From there it is only a few more weeks before they have enriched enough for a bomb.”

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called once again for the end of Israel as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, CBN News reports. U.N. schedulers chose Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, to hear from Ahmadinejad, who stepped to the podium as Israeli Jews were preparing to wind up 24 hours of fasting and prayers. With U.S., Canadian and Israeli representatives boycotting his speech, Ahmadinejad said his country was threatened by “uncivilized Zionists … and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil … are responsible for poverty, corruption, ignorance and oppression and discrimination in every corner of the world.”

  • How is it that the world gives a forum to a blood-thirsty terrorist who advocates genocide?

A few years back, Hal Lindsey, the best-selling non-fiction writer, wrote that “Palestinians” are not “a homogeneous people, but rather a mixed conglomerate.” Now Fathi Hammad, minister of the interior and national security for Hamas, a recognized terror group, has admitted as much, confirming that “half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.” The admission came in a video clip captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute of Hammad making a speech advocating for Arabs to give more to the people living in the West Bank and Gaza.

  • The notion that so-called Palestinians are an ethnic or national group is rooted in propaganda, not fact..

Syria

Two massive explosions rocked the heart of the Syrian capital on Wednesday, striking near the army and air force command headquarters and sending huge columns of thick black smoke over Damascus. The bombings were the latest to hit the city as the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime intensifies, highlighting the increasingly deep reach of the rebels determined to topple him. There were no casualties reported.

Activists say Syrian troops and rebels are fighting some of the fiercest battles of this civil war in the northern city of Aleppo. The clashes Friday are part of a new push by the rebels to drive regime forces out of Syria’s largest city and commercial capital after weeks of stalemate. The major rebel group in the city — the Tawhid Brigade — says on its Facebook page that its members have entered the Sheikh Maksoud neighborhood to fight pro-government Kurdish gunmen. Aleppo was once a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad.

Iraq

Officials say a prison break in central Iraq has killed 10 guards and two inmates and that many prisoners, including suspected al-Qaeda fighters, escaped after hours-long clashes with security troops inside the facility. Several convicts broke into a prison storeroom in Tikrit late on Thursday night, seized weapons and overpowered prison guards. Scores of prisoners had escaped by Friday morning when security troops regained control of the prison. Tikrit is 80 miles north of Baghdad. Prison breaks are common in Iraq and are a big embarrassment to the country’s Shiite-led government.

Somalia

Kenyan military forces made a pre-dawn beach landing on the last port city held by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia in an attack that could see the insurgents lose their last stronghold of value. Kenyan military spokesmen quickly claimed victory early Friday, saying their troops now control the city of Kismayo. Col. Cyrus Oguna, the military’s top spokesman, said the surprise attack met minimal resistance. Residents in Kismayo contacted by The Associated Press said that Kenyan troops had taken control of the port but not the whole city.

Earthquakes

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake rattled the southern part of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula Tuesday and was felt strongly in the city of La Paz.State civil defense director Carlos Rincon said there were no immediate reports of damages or injuries in La Paz, a tranquil fishing and resort city. About twenty minutes later, a 4.6-magnitude aftershock occurred about 24 miles north of La Paz. That quake was also centered in the Gulf of California.

Giant earthquakes that rocked the Indian Ocean in April had global effects, triggering sizable quakes off the Oregon and Mexican coasts and elsewhere, geologists reported Wednesday. The undersea quakes on April 11, which measured magnitude 8.6 and 8.2, struck about 300 miles southwest of Indonesia’s Aceh province. The larger quake was among the 20 most powerful recorded in the past century. The Indonesia quakes were so-called slip-strike quakes in which portions of the Earth’s crust slide sideways against each other. The unusual sideways motion of the quakes April 11 prevented them from raising large tsunami waves but appears to have more efficiently sent the “ground waves” they created traveling worldwide.

Weather

The nation’s worst drought in decades consumed a larger portion of the lower 48 states last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor’s new map shows 65.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. experiencing some form of drought as of Tuesday. The portion of the U.S. in extreme or exceptional drought – the two worst classifications – rose three-quarters of a percentage point to 21.5 percent. About 51 percent of the U.S. corn crop is classified as being in poor or very poor shape. Almost 34 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is considered poor or very poor.

An updated ground and aerial survey indicates about 301 million trees have died in rural Texas because of the 2011 drought. The 301 million figure does not include trees that died in cities and towns. Experts earlier this year determined another 5.6 million trees in urban areas died as a result of the devastating drought. The three-month extended review used ground inspections and before-and-after satellite images. The findings represent trees in rural, forested areas that died from drought, insect infestation or disease due to drought stress.

Signs of the Times (9/25/12)

September 25, 2012

Gay Marriage Advocates Lose in NY Elections

Last week, the voters in New York State finally got a chance to have their say. Powerful donors tried—and are still trying—to remake the Republican Party in their own image: namely, as pro-gay marriage supporters. The four Republicans who voted for gay marriage were hailed as heroes and showered with accolades—and massive quantities of cold hard cash. They were supposed to sail to victory, thus disproving the “myth” that voters care about marriage. But on Thursday, the voters got their turn, and to the shock and surprise of the pundits and establishment hacks, they tossed out long-term incumbents in both parties who had betrayed their constituents’ values and voted for gay marriage.

France to Ban Words ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ on Official Documents

France is set to ban the words “mother” and “father” from all official documents under new plans to legalize gay marriage and give equal adoption rights to homosexual and heterosexual couples. Under the proposed law, only the word “parents” would be used in marriage ceremonies for all heterosexual and same-sex couples, a move that has outraged Catholics. “This could have innumerable consequences. Afterward they will want to create couples with three or four members. And after that, perhaps one day the taboo of incest will fall,” Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the head of the French Catholic Church, said. The law will be presented to France’s President Francois Hollande’s cabinet for approval on October 31. Hollande has pledged to legalize gay marriage.

  • End-time craziness is soaring to new heights. Unfortunately, this is just the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8)

NYC High School Girls to Receive ‘Plan B’

A New York-based family advocate says making emergency contraceptives available free of charge to high school girls in the Big Apple is just another “end-run” around parental rights that ignores spiritual and emotional concerns. Plan B, the “morning-after” pill, can be obtained at 13 high schools without parental consent. The New York City Department of Education says parents can opt their daughters out of the pilot program — but that the program is needed to reduce teen pregnancy and unwanted pregnancies. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms tells OneNewsNow it is shocking how the schools are undermining parental rights and responding to promiscuity with contraception.

  • The undermining of the Biblical family unit makes it more and more irrelevant in today’s promiscuous society, just like Satan plans.

Anti-Islam Film Rally in U.S. Urges Peace

Sending a message of peace and unity, hundreds of people rallied Friday afternoon on the steps of Michigan’s largest mosque to protest the anti-Islam film that has sparked violence around the world. Under a banner that read “Repel Evil With Good,” a dozen Muslim and Christian leaders spoke to the crowd at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. They slammed both the controversial film, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” and the extreme response that has erupted around the Muslim world over the past week. The rally was the first anti-film protest in the United States, Muslim leaders said.

Arab Spring Reforms Leave Women Out

Nawal Al Saadawi has been at the lead of the fight for rights for women for decades, and like many here was exhilarated when women and men united in Tahrir Square to lead protests against dictator Hosni Mubarak. But more than a year after Mubarak’s ouster, not much has changed for women, she laments. “Things didn’t improve for women, and we are going backward,” said Nawal, 81, an author and activist. Many activists see a possible rollback of gains for women won over the past decades as Islamists take over the political process. In Egypt, women have been sidelined from power since only men were appointed to draft an interim constitution after the military council took control last year. The 64-seat quota for women’s representation in parliament was abolished.

No ‘Dreamer’ Driver’s Licenses in Arizona

After conducting a review, the Arizona Department of Transportation has concluded that the state will not issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants granted work permits under President Barack Obama’s deferred-action program. The decision is consistent with Gov. Jan Brewer’s Aug. 15 executive order telling state agencies to take steps to make sure undocumented immigrants who receive deferred action on deportation do not get driver’s licenses or public benefits. The decision angered advocates who believe undocumented immigrants granted deferred action should be able to get driver’s licenses. Without them, the immigrants cannot legally drive to work or school. The state may face a lawsuit from civil-rights groups who say preventing undocumented immigrants granted deferred action from getting driver’s licenses violates state law.

Arizona Taxpayers Pay for 53% of Births

Arizona taxpayers foot the bill for the delivery of more than half of all babies born here, a growing trend with a $200 million-plus annual price tag that has caught state leaders off guard — even though the numbers have been rising for more than a decade. The share of births paid for by Medicaid has been rising steadily since 1990. That growth hit a significant milestone in 2003 as it passed 50 percent, meaning that state-funded births outnumbered for the first time the number paid for by parents or their insurance companies. The share has since continued to inch higher. In 2011, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, paid for 53 percent of the state’s 84,979 births, while private insurance paid for 42 percent, according to state statistics. The remainder were paid for by individuals. The rise in Medicaid-covered births is not unique to Arizona. Nationally, state Medicaid programs on average cover about 40 percent of births.

Gas Drilling Protests Held Worldwide

Demonstrators in the United States and other countries protested Saturday against the natural gas drilling process known as fracking that they say threatens public health and the environment. Participants in the “Global Frackdown” campaign gathered in South Africa and France as well as high turnouts in cities in California, Colorado and New York. Other smaller turnouts occurred in many other countries and cities. The immense volumes of natural gas found by fracturing underground shale rock around the country has spurred a boom in natural gas production that has been credited with creating jobs and lowering prices for industry and consumers. But scientists disagree on the risks of hydraulic fracking, a process that injects large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to break rock apart and free the gas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many state regulators say fracking can be done safely, and the American Lung Association says it can help reduce air pollution.

Prescription Drug Use Drops

Prescription drug abuse in the USA declined last year year to the lowest rate since 2002 amid federal and state crackdowns on drug-seeking patients and over-prescribing doctors. Young adults drove the drop. The number of people 18 to 25 who regularly abuse prescription drugs fell 14% to 1.7 million, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported Monday. In 2011, 3.6% of young adults abused pain relievers, the lowest rate in a decade. In 2011, 6.1 million people abused narcotic pain pills, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, down from 7 million people in 2011, the survey found. Pain pill abuse dropped from 2.1% of the population in 2009 to 1.7% in 2011. Still, the number of people addicted to pain relievers grew from 936,000 in 2002 to 1.4 million in 2011. About a third of the addicts are 18 to 25, the survey found.

Economic News

A recent Tax Foundation study that excluded that group found the percentage of non-taxpayers has risen from 21 percent in 1990 to 42 percent today. The Tax Foundation estimates that the doubling of the non-taxpayer ranks is associated with more than $200 billion in additional entitlement spending. The foundation estimated the cost was $213 billion in 2010, transferred to those 58 million non-taxpayers. Analysts fret that the growing number of people not paying into the system is encouraging greater government bloat.

Home prices kept rising in July across the United States, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures. National home prices increased 1.2% in July, compared to the same month last year. That’s the second straight year-over-year gain after two years without one. Steady price increases and record-low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery.In the 12 months ending in July, prices have risen in 16 of 20 major cities. In Phoenix, one of the cities hardest hit by the housing bust, prices are up 16.6% in that stretch. Prices in Minneapolis and Detroit have risen more than 6%.

Unemployment rates in August rose in 26 states from July, but most states showed lower rates than a year ago. Nevada continued to lead the country with the highest unemployment rate, 12.1% in August. Rhode Island had the second-highest rate, 10.7%, and California was next at 10.6%.Oil-rich North Dakota had the lowest at 3%.Forty-two states and the District of Columbia had lower unemployment rates in August than in August 2011, seven had higher rates and one had no change.

Several retailers plan to hire more seasonal staffers than last year in preparation for an incoming flurry of holiday shoppers and expected increase in sales, according to merchants: 36% plan to hire more seasonal employees than in 2011; 57% will hire about the same as last year.

Eurozone

European governments are scrambling to shrink yawning budget deficits as the euro crisis has pushed some to the brink of insolvency. Generous public pension systems have become prime targets for trimming and cutting. A majority of countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have ushered in some sort of social security reform in the past five years — mostly by boosting retirement ages. By the year 2050, Italy will usher in a legal retirement age of 69 — a drastic jump from 59 in 2010. Greece has raised its retirement age to 65, after decades of allowing many to retire in their 50s with full benefits. The USA guarantees average workers around 39% of their wages in retirement; in Italy, that number had been nearly 65%, and in Greece, 95%. Those rates have recently been slashed to curtail deficit spending, in which Greece allots 12% of its GDP for pensions, and Italy, more than 14% — the highest rate in the world according to OECD figures. By comparison, the USA spends 4.6% of its GDP on Social Security costs.

Germany’s Ifo index of business confidence fell for a fifth consecutive month, revealing the headwinds faced by even Europe’s biggest and strongest economy. Like the U.S., the concern is that a strong economy that is on the rebound in Germany will be weighed down by the rest of the European Union, half of whose members have already entered into recession. Germany’s economy grew 0.3% in the second quarter from the previous quarter, but a number of economists now believe the country is heading for a recession in the second half of the year.

Middle East

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that Israel would not agree to reevaluate its peace deal with Egypt, days after the latest attack along the shared border killed an Israeli soldier and three gunmen. In a bid to restore security to the increasingly lawless Sinai peninsula, Israel and Egypt have agreed to temporarily waive limits on troops included in the historic 1979 peace deal, allowing Egypt to send heavier weaponry into the vast desert region which borders Israel. But there have been calls in Egypt for more permanent adjustments to the peace accords, a cornerstone of regional stability. “There is no chance that Israel will agree to any kind of change” to the peace deal, Lieberman told Israel Radio.

Afghanistan

The growth of Christianity in Afghanistan is causing unrest among Muslim clerics, leading them to call for action against believers, Mission Network News reports. According to a recent report by the Mohabat News Agency, Islamic seminary students and Muslim clerics have “warned the country’s government against the spread of Christianity” and called on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity. Recent turmoil began after a Kabul-based TV station reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and aired photos of them praying and being baptized. This reportedly sparked anger in the parliament, and some members asked to convict believers under sharia law — which decrees that if someone leaves Islam and converts to another religion, he or she can be executed. The Afghan church is completely underground; the last church building was destroyed two years ago and the small number of known believers risk their lives each time they gather in small house meetings..

  • Unreported by the mainstream media is a surge in Christianity in Muslim nations. Unfortunately, this is also causing a rise in persecution

Syria

Several bombs went off Tuesday inside a school in Damascus that activists say was being used by regime forces as a security headquarters. Activists said government forces use the school as a base to fire mortars at rebellious neighborhoods. State-run television quoted the director of the school as saying that two bombs exploded inside in the school, wounding seven people and causing minor damage. It said the bombs were planted by “terrorists” the term that the government uses for rebels. As Syria’s civil war intensifies, rebels have increasingly targeted security sites and symbols of regime power.

Libya

Two Libyan protesters were killed and dozens wounded early Saturday as hundreds of demonstrators attacked militia compounds in a surge of anger at armed groups in Benghazi whose unchecked powers led to last week’s killing of the U.S. ambassador. For many Libyans, the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was the last straw in one of the biggest problems Libya has faced since last year’s ouster and death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi: the multiple mini-armies armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades that are stronger than government security forces. While the late Friday protests were planned in advance though social networking sites and flyers, the storming of the heavily armed militia headquarters took many by surprise. Protesters overtook a building used by Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, set fire to a vehicle and offices after freeing three detainees held in an underground cell. The group is linked to the killing of U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens. Libyan president orders ‘illegitimate’ militias to disband and evacuate military compounds and state property within 48 hours amid growing public anger at the armed groups and violence in the region.

Nigeria

Witnesses say an explosion has struck near a Catholic church in north Nigeria, a region under attack by a radical Islamist sect. An AP journalist said the blast occurred at St. John’s Catholic Church in the city of Bauchi. The explosion occurred during an early morning Mass. A radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has attacked churches throughout Nigeria’s north with gunmen and suicide car bombers. The sect is blamed for more than 680 killings this year alone in Nigeria, according to an AP count.

Wildfires

Residents of a rural San Diego County community were waiting anxiously to learn the fate of homes near a destructive 4-square-mile wildfire that has left one man dead. Authorities say the man ignored evacuation orders. Tierra del Sol remained under evacuation orders, though residents of two other small communities were allowed to return home as crews stopped the fire’s march forward. The blaze has been fanned by winds that gusted up to 30 mph, spreading it across more than 2,400 acres of desert brush near the U.S.-Mexico border. Its cause remained under investigation.

Weather

An avalanche hit climbers on a high Himalayan peak in Nepal on Sunday, leaving at least nine dead and six others missing, officials said. Many of the climbers were French or German. Ten other climbers survived the avalanche but many were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters. Weather conditions were deteriorating and it was not possible to continue air searches of the mountain. The avalanche hit the climbers at a camp at 22,960 feet early in the morning as they were preparing to head toward the summit, which is 26,760 feet high.

U.S. forecasters say hurricane Miriam has strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane well off Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Miriam is packing top sustained winds of 120 mph, making it what’s classified as a major hurricane. The hurricane formed a day earlier in the eastern Pacific and was centered about 410 miles south-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. The center says Miriam was moving northwest at 12 mph. No coastal watches or warnings are in effect, but swells will hit Baja’s southern and western shore during the next couple of days.

Signs of the Times (9/21/12)

September 21, 2012

Abortions Drop 8% in Arizona

The latest statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services show an 8 percent decrease in abortions performed in Arizona year to year. Thanks in part to the growing prolife movement in the state, there were 1,173 fewer women harmed by abortion, and fewer preborn lives lost in August 2011-July 2012 (13,538) compared to August 2010-July 2011 (14,711). “In recent years, Arizona has seen a number of common sense abortion safety standards and informed consent provisions take effect. It is encouraging to see that more and more moms are choosing life,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.

Ancient Fragment Stirs Debate about Jesus Being Married

Karen King, a historian from Harvard Divinity School, revealed on Tuesday what she claims to be a fourth-century fragment of papyrus containing the phrase, in Coptic, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … ‘” According to King, the text, referred to as the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, suggests some early Christians might have held the view that Jesus was married, but she stressed that it could not prove Jesus had a wife. Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, said if this papyrus was authentic, it would be the only text among many to suggest that Jesus had a wife. It represents “a very small minority in a much later period than original Christianity,” Bock said. “It is a fourth-century text in a fringe gnostic group that is not representative of the larger groups that are [part of] Christianity.”

Dr. Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Seminary, echoed Bock: “We have no evidence at all of any debate among the earliest followers of Jesus regarding Jesus’ marital status. This debate surfaced later. It’s important to put this in context. Popular literature (say, from the third and fourth centuries) made all sorts of claims about Jesus … These claims really don’t tell us anything about Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person who lived in the first third of the first century.” “I would say it’s a forgery,” Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, told the Associated Press while attending an international congress on Coptic studies in Rome. “The script doesn’t look authentic” when compared to other samples of Coptic papyrus script dated to the 4th century, he said.

  • Furthermore, Jesus (Yeshua) was a popular name back then, so this fragment could be referencing someone else. Harvard Divinity School has proven to be a welcome home for bashing Christian beliefs.

Family Facing Fines for Hosting Bible Study

A Florida family is facing a $250 per day fine for hosting a Friday night prayer and Bible study in their home- an act that city officials argue violates zoning codes, Todd Starnes reports. Shane and Marlen Roessiger of Venice, Fla. host weekly prayer and study gatherings, which are attended by as many as 10 people. The family is also facing fines for putting a small sign in their front yard that reads: “Need Prayer (941) 484-4915.” “It’s difficult to understand how it is illegal to have a prayer meeting on Friday night with a half dozen people but it is alright if I invited the same group on Monday evening to watch Monday Night Football,” Roessiger said.  The Pacific Justice Institute is representing the family.

  • Laws are being twisted to expand persecution of all things Christian

Pastors Pledge to Defy IRS

More than 1,000 pastors are planning to challenge the IRS next month by deliberately preaching politics ahead of the presidential election despite a federal ban on endorsements from the pulpit. The defiant move, they hope, will prompt the IRS to enforce a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from making political endorsements. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is holding the October summit, said it wants the IRS to press the matter so it can be decided in court. The group believes the law violates the First Amendment by “muzzling” preachers. Pastors attending the Oct. 7 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will “preach sermons that will talk about the candidates running for office” and then “make a specific recommendation.” The sermons will be recorded and sent to the IRS.

74% Increase in U.S. Mosques in Past Decade

A survey conducted earlier this year by a coalition of religious organizations shows the number of mosques in the United States has grown by 74 percent in the past 11 years — up from 1,209 in 2001 to 2,106 in 2011, CNSNews.com reports. The survey by Faith Communities Today, which is affiliated with the Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religious Research, also reveals the largest number of mosques are in: New York (257), California (246), Texas (166), Florida (118), Illinois (109), New Jersey (109), Pennsylvania (99), Michigan (77), Georgia (69) and Virginia (62). Vermont has the least number of mosques, with only one in that state. Most mosques are located in metropolitan areas, with Greater New York City ranked No. 1 (192 mosques). Southern California (120), Greater Chicago (90), Greater Philadelphia (63) and Greater Detroit (63) rounded out the top five metropolitan areas for mosque population.

  • Unfortunately, many of these mosques are breeding grounds for home-grown Islamist militants

Federal Judge Reinstates Unconstitutional NDAA

Late Monday night a federal judge in New York, Raymond Lohier, granted the Obama administration an “emergency” stay that temporarily blocks a ruling by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest last week blocking the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Obama administration characterized the ruling by Forrest as unconstitutional. The Justice Department said the ruling was “unprecedented” and argued that the executive branch has the right under the Constitution to detain anyone indefinitely without due process. “This pernicious law poses one of the greatest threats to civil liberties in our nation’s history,” writes Brian J. Trautman. This law can be used by authorities to detain (forever) anyone the government considers a threat to national security and stability – potentially even demonstrators and protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.”

  • The federal government is putting the pieces in place to detain defenders of American freedoms who object to the socialistic, globalist policies being illegally implemented by the Obama administration

Muslim Film Protests Continue

A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport in the Afghan capital early Tuesday, killing at least 12 people including eight South Africans. A militant group claimed the attack aimed to avenge the anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. Hundreds of Pakistanis angry at the anti-Islam film clashed with police in the Pakistani capital Thursday, the most violent show of anger in a day that saw smaller demonstrations in Indonesia, Iran and Afghanistan.

“The world should know our anger will not be a passing outburst but the start of a serious movement that will continue,” Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said before a crowd of thousands of Lebanese protesters. Nasrallah, whose group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, called on governments to censor websites hosting segments of an obscure video produced in California by an Egyptian Christian.

Europeans are worried over becoming the next battleground over an anti-Islam video. German officials are considering a ban on a screening in Berlin, while a French weekly magazine published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, including some of him naked. Government officials and Muslim community leaders are calling for calm.

The U.S. has closed its diplomatic missions in Indonesia ahead of expected continuing protests over an anti-Islam film. The American Embassy in Jakarta and consulate offices in Surabaya, Medan and Bali were closed Friday. The U.S. Mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also was shut. Water cannons were deployed and spools of razor wire were rolled out in front of the embassy.

Judge Rules Police Can Enforce Ariz. Immigration Law

A judge in Arizona ruled Tuesday that police can immediately start enforcing the most contentious section of the state’s immigration law, marking the first time officers can carry out the so-called “show me your papers” provision. The decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is the latest milestone in a two-year legal battle over the requirement. It culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that upheld the provision on the grounds that it doesn’t conflict with federal law. The section of the law requires that officers, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. The “show me your papers” name comes from opponents.

A growing number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona and other states are taking immigration protests to a new extreme, staging acts of civil disobedience by deliberately getting arrested in order to be turned over to federal immigration officials. Often wearing T-shirts declaring themselves “undocumented and unafraid,” the protesters have sat down in streets and blocked traffic, or occupied buildings in several cities including Phoenix and Tucson. Dozens of protesters have been arrested, but in almost every case, federal immigration officers have declined to deport those in the country illegally. By getting arrested, immigrants say they are making a point: Illegal immigrants who are part of this country shouldn’t have to live in fear of being deported and deserve to live here legally.

  • Illegal = deserve? That’s a dangerous precedent.

Limits Placed on Immigrants in Health Care Law

The White House has ruled that young immigrants who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy will not be eligible for health insurance coverage under President Obama’s health care overhaul. The decision — disclosed last month, to little notice — has infuriated many advocates for Hispanic Americans and immigrants. They say the restrictions are at odds with Mr. Obama’s recent recognition of the young immigrants. Nick Papas, a White House spokesman, said the deferred-deportation policy “was never intended” to confer eligibility for federal health benefits.

Obamacare Tax Penalty to Hit 6 Million Uninsured

Nearly 6 million Americans — most of them in the middle class — will face a tax penalty for not carrying medical coverage once President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law is fully in place, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday. The numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are significantly higher than a previous projection by the same office in 2010, shortly after the law passed. The earlier estimate found 4 million people would be affected. The new estimate amounts to an inconvenient fact for the administration, a reminder of what critics see as a broken campaign promise not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 382,000. The level suggests hiring remains weak. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for a fifth week to 377,750, highest level in nearly three months. Employers added only 96,000 jobs last month, below the 141,000 in July and much lower than the average 226,000 added the first three months of the year.

U.S. builders started work on more homes in August, driven by the fastest pace of single-family home construction in more than two years. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that construction of homes and apartments rose 2.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 last month. Single-family housing starts rose 5.5% to an annual rate of 535,000 homes, the best pace since April 2010. The rate of construction has risen nearly 60% since hitting a recession low of 478,000 in April 2009. It’s still half the pace considered healthy.

The dismal economy and skyrocketing gas prices may have accomplished what years of advocacy failed to: getting more people to stop driving solo. The share of workers driving to work alone dropped slightly from 2010 to 2011 while commutes on public transportation rose nationally and in some of the largest metropolitan areas. The national average price for regular gasoline is $3.85 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s up from $3.72 a month ago and $3.59 a year ago. The record is $4.11 set in July 2008.

The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors’ push for the government to sell off its stake in the automobile maker, The Wall Street Journal reports. Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company’s reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions.

Middle East

Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war. Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea. A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south. In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, began a 12-day exercise earlier this week.

Israeli aircraft carried out a strike on a Palestinian terror cell in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, killing two terrorists and wounding a third. According to the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) which cooperated in the strike, the terror cell included Anis Mamoud Abu al Enin from Rafah, a member of the “Al-Aqsa Defenders” which Hamas uses as a cut-out to avoid retaliation for terror attacks on Israel. Enin was in the final stages of planning for an attack inside Israel.

Syria

Rebels seized control of a border crossing on the frontier with Turkey on Wednesday, pulling down the Syrian flag and sending a stream of jubilant people pouring across the border into Turkey. People were moving freely across the Tal Abyad crossing, crawling under barbed wire. Some appeared to be wounded. Taking control of border crossings helps the opposition ferry supplies into Syria and carve out an area of control, which is key as the rebels try to tip the balance in the civil war.

It has been just over a year since the United States and Europe announced sanctions against the regime of Bashar Assad to end the violence in Syria. Yet Assad remains in power, and the killings have not ended but are escalating. The sanctions have caused economic pain in Syria, but the regime survives because the Assad family is intensely loyal to one another and controls revenue sources that international sanctions could take years to crimp. In August 2011, President Obama announced new sanctions against companies and figures in the Assad regime that barred U.S. citizens and firms from dealing with them. The sanctions were announced the same week that the European Union imposed an embargo of Syrian oil. Syria’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed last month that consumer prices rose 36% in June from a year earlier.

The German weekly news-magazine Der Spiegel reported on Monday that forces loyal to the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad recently test-fired several missiles, artillery shells and other munitions designed to deliver chemical weapons. The tests, which were reportedly witnessed by Iranian special forces troops, were carried out last month at Syria’s chemical weapons research center at Safira, east of Aleppo. The report came days after US President Barack Obama warned the regime that any use of even large movements of chemical and/or biological weapons would trigger an instant and massive US military response.

Afghanistan

Very quietly, the surge of troops into Afghanistan that President Obama announced to such fanfare in late 2009 is now over. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today that 33,000 troops have been withdrawn, calling the Afghan surge “a very important milestone” in a war the Obama administration is winding down; there are sill 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The “surge did accomplish it objectives of reversing the Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increase the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces,” Panetta said. The U.S. and its allies plan to turn over all security responsibilities to the Afghans in 2014.

The coalition command in Afghanistan says that a suspension in some joint operations between U.S. and Afghan forces is temporary and will not hurt affect the campaign to train and build Afghan security forces. The command ordered a pause in some operations following a recent spike in insider attacks and amid concerns over violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan coming from protesters angry over an anti-Islam video produced in the United States.

Iran

The Iranian government is behind cyber-attacks this week that have targeted the websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, NBC News is reporting, citing national security officials. The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which involve overloading a site with requests, are “significant and ongoing” and intended to cause “functional and significant damage,” a former U.S. official told NBC. BofA’s consumer banking site was unavailable to some customers Tuesday, and JPMorgan Chase customers had the same trouble Wednesday. NBC says a group of alleged Middle East hackers has claimed responsibility in a statement posted on Pastebin, saying the attacks were in retaliation for the YouTube video mocking the prophet Mohammed. But a source said that was just “a cover” for the Iranian government.

Sudan

Barnabas Aid’s major operation to rescue 2,000 Christian women and children trapped in Sudan got underway Wednesday with the first successful airlift to South Sudan. A number of practical and bureaucratic obstacles that had delayed the start of the rescue mission have been overcome, enabling the first of 12 chartered flights to depart from Khartoum for Juba. The second and third flights were scheduled for Thursday, with more to be arranged in the days and weeks ahead. Church and community leaders have identified the most needy and vulnerable Christians among the hundreds of thousands of Southerners trapped in Khartoum. Barnabas Aid is flying approximately 800 women, around two-thirds of whom are widows, and 1,200 children to Juba, the capital and largest city of the newly established Republic of South Sudan.

Mexico

The death toll in a pipeline fire at a distribution plant near the U.S. border has risen to 29, Mexico’s state-owned oil company said Wednesday. At least 46 others were injured, and seven more might be missing. President Felipe Calderon said the quick reaction of emergency teams prevented a “real catastrophe,” by controlling the fire before it reached the huge tanks of a neighboring gas processing plant. The enormous fire Tuesday hit a distribution center near the border with Texas that handles natural gas coming in from wells and sends it to a processing plant next door.

Wildfires

The northwest U.S. remains the hot spot for large wildfires (over 100 acres): Eleven large wildfires in Idaho have consumed about 830,000 acres (about 1300 sq. miles); Eight fires in Montana have burned almost 50,000 acres; Five wildfires in Washington have burned over 102,000 acres; Four fires in Oregon have consumed about 27,000 acres; Four wildfires in Wyoming have burned about 70,000 acres. There are only two other large wildfires currently burning in the U.S., one in Alaska (over 47,000 acres) and one in Minnesota (288 acres). Virtually no rain has fallen in these areas in over a week.

Weather

A powerful storm killed five people and injured 81 in Paraguay as it blew across the southern cone of South America on Wednesday, ripping roofs off ramshackle homes and leaving thousands of people without shelter. No deaths were reported, but power outages were widespread and many people had to be evacuated as rivers overran their banks and coastal areas flooded. Wind gusts reached above 62 mph and heavy rains raked Paraguay, southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Uruguay.

The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States and the summer period of June, July and August was the third hottest ever, the National Climatic Data Center reported Monday. While the USA sweated through one of its warmest summers on record, so, too, did the rest of the globe. The average summer temperature over global land and ocean surfaces tied with 2005 as the third-highest on record at 61.25 degrees F, or 1.15 degree F above the 20th century average of 60.1 degrees F. Only the summers of 1998 and 2010 were warmer. Records only go back to 1880.

Scientists say the amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank to an all-time low this year, smashing old records for the critical climate indicator. The ice cap at the North Pole measured 1.32 million square miles on Sunday. The previous low was 1.61 million square miles in 2007. Records only go back to 1979 based on satellite tracking. In the 1980s, summer ice would cover an area slightly smaller than the Lower 48 states. Now it is about half that size.

  • While humans contribute to global warming, this is an end-time natural cycle that will only get worse

Signs of the Times (9/17/12)

September 17, 2012

New Wave of Muslim Protests Turn Violent

Hundreds of Afghans burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base as a demonstration against an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad turned violent in the Afghan capital early Monday. And in Jakarta, Indonesians angered over the film clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and burning tires outside the mission. At least one police officer was seen bleeding from the head and being carried to safety by fellow officers.

Demonstrators scaled the walls of U.S. embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, torching part of a German embassy and clashing with police in violence that left at least four dead. Amid the turmoil, Islamic militants waving black banners and shouting “God is great” stormed an international peacekeepers base in Egypt’s Sinai. Egypt’s new Islamist president went on national TV and appealed to Muslims to not attack embassies, denouncing the violence earlier this week in Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

Riot police clashed with about 200 protesters at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney on Saturday as demonstrations spread to Australia. Network television news showed a policeman knocked unconscious as the mostly male crowd hurled bottles and other missiles. Many of the protesters were wearing Muslim dress. Police used pepper spray against the protesters, who chanted “Obama, Obama, we love Osama” and waved placards saying “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.”

Obama Team Claims Embassy Attacks “Spontaneous”

The Obama administration is doubling down on its theory that the attack a week ago on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a “spontaneous” act, despite the Libyan president calling that idea “preposterous.” The sharply divergent views on what led to the deadly strike in eastern Libya played out across the airwaves Sunday and are sure to generate more questions this week. In two interviews over the weekend, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif joined other members of his government in declaring the attack a planned assault, possibly by an Al Qaeda-tied group. But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, in a string of interviews, stood by the administration’s position that the Libya attack was just part of the wave of protests over the anti-Islam video circulating on the Internet. Three days before the deadly assault on the United States consulate in Libya, a local security official says he met with American diplomats in the city and warned them about deteriorating security.

  • Islamic passions are easy to inflame, something Al Qaeda is quite good at. They are the igniters behind this rash of protests. And once again, Obama is more interested in image than truth.

Some Libyans Express Remorse

As anti-American protests swept across North Africa and the Arabian Gulf, a counter-protest of apology emerged. Photos of Libyans carrying hand-lettered signs condemning the violence and expressing contrition for their countrymen appeared on Facebook. “Sorry” became the trending mantra of Libyans on Twitter. At one counter-protest, an unidentified man carried a crude sign phonetically written in English with blue marker on lined notebook paper, “Sorry People of America this not the Pehavior of our ISLAM and Profit.”

Feds Interview Islam Filmmaker

A southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday. Federal officials have said they had been already investigating the activities of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who has been convicted of financial crimes. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison.

U.S.Investigates Embassy Killings

The U.S. is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country, and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources. The Libyans have barely re-established full control of their country, much less rebuilt their intelligence service, less than a year after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Romney Condemns Obama’s Response

Mitt Romney’s campaign sent out a statement last night criticizing the Obama administration for its response to the protests that led to American deaths, triggered by the anti-Islam film posted online in the United States. “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said in a statement. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

  • Obama’s Muslim background and sympathies have been evident for some time and have now been exposed for all to see

Christians in Egypt, Libya Could Face More Persecution After Attacks

The attacks on U.S. embassies could have severe consequences for already marginalized Christians in the Middle East and northern Africa, according to Open Doors USA. “It illustrates how hot the fuel is that one spark ignites it so suddenly,” said Open Doors spokesman Michael Wood. “At some point we heard that people were protesting because of a film not even knowing what movie this was all about. And as was the case with the publishing of the Danish cartoon several years ago, the movie has been on the internet several months. But it is the unpredictable momentum that suddenly creates a wave of protests and anger. Many of the Muslim fanatics link the U.S. with Christianity. So that puts believers in these hot spots such as Libya and Egypt directly in the line of fire.”

Roberts’ Ruling a Poison Pill for Obamacare?

The penalties Americans will be required to pay under Obamacare for going without health insurance were declared constitutional in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that hinged on Chief Justice John Roberts’ assertion that the assessments are taxes. But a legal challenge to the federal government takeover of health-care decision-making says that’s a problem because Obamacare was initiated in the Senate, not the House. The Constitution requires any tax bills to begin in the House. The demand for an explanation is being raised in an amended complaint filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Collective Bargaining Law

A Wisconsin judge has struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers. Walker’s administration immediately vowed to appeal the Friday ruling, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory.  But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out. The law, a crowning achievement for Walker that made him a national conservative star, took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.

Stand Up for Religion Freedom Rallies Planned

Just 17 days before Election Day, American voters of all faiths will take to the streets in the name of religious freedom and in protest of the Obamacare contraception mandate  – with one of the major protests unfolding on President Obama’s doorstep. On Oct. 20 at 12 noon, more than 100 “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies sponsored by the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Coalition will take place in cities coast to coast, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and others. The White House protest, which is sponsored by the Christian Defense Coalition and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, is scheduled for Sept. 30 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Occupy Wall Street Movement Sputtering

Protesters will mark the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement today with rallies in more than 30 cities around the world, including a march on the New York Stock Exchange, not far from the park where the movement was born. On Monday, a couple hundred protesters converged near the New York Stock Exchange. About 300 people marched in New York on Saturday, the first of three days of rallies, teach-ins and other events. At least a dozen were arrested then, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct, police said. But as the last of its urban encampments close and interest wanes in a movement without an organizational hierarchy or an action agenda, it’s unclear whether Occupy’s first birthday will be its last.

A week ago, Occupy protesters abandoned their spot in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus after getting an eviction notice from the city for failing to obtain a $100 permit and lay down a security deposit of at least $500. In Tampa, Occupy members on Saturday moved out of a private park where they’d been ensconced for eight months with permission from its owner. Neighborhood residents complained that the tent city had become an eyesore populated mostly by the homeless. At the political conventions this summer, Occupy’s ability to mobilize large street protests was minimal.

NASA Has Space Problem

A recent review of NASA’s land holdings on earth revealed a new challenge for the agency: poorly maintained, aging facilities once used for research and development or space vehicle construction, now essentially useless. NASA spends about $1.1 billion annually on maintenance and upkeep of its more than 5,400 buildings, landing strips and other unique sites; but approximately 9 percent of its real property assets aren’t being used, NASA told FoxNews.com. The solution, according to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG): lease them. “Few incentives exist for NASA to identify underutilized property as unnecessary to its mission needs,” Paul K. Martin, NASA Inspector General, concluded in the August report.

Economic News

Consumers’ out-of-control debt loads helped spark the recession, but households are rapidly getting their balance sheets back into shape. Consumers went into the recession carrying debt of nearly double the nation’s gross domestic product. That’s down to below 85% now, and on pace to approach 75% by late next year, Moody predicts. Revolving debt, mostly credit cards, has fallen 19% since 2007. In addition, low interest rates have pushed the ratio of consumers’ monthly rent and debt payments to their income to the lowest level since 1984. Economists hope that this will translate into greater consumer spending in 2013.

The income of American households continued to shift dramatically in 2011, falling sharply for middle-income and working-age people while rising for top earners and seniors, the Census Bureau reported last week. Overall, median household income fell 1.5% to $50,054 last year, the fourth consecutive annual decline after adjusting for inflation, the bureau said. The typical household has lost ground in seven of the past 10 years and now takes in less cash than it did in 1996 when adjusting for inflation. The income for the top 5% of households — those making $186,000 or more — rose 5.3% last year. Big losers: people in their prime earning years. All age groups between 25 and 64 suffered income drops in 2011.

A prominent ratings firm downgraded the U.S. Government’s credit rating from “AA” to “AA-” one day after the Federal Reserve announced it would pump more money into the economy by buying more than $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities per month until the economy improves. Ratings firm Egan-Jones said it cut its credit rating on the U.S. government because it felt the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing “would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality” by devaluing the the dollar while doing nothing to “raise the U.S.’s real gross domestic product.”

The United States on Monday filed a broad trade case against  China at the World Trade Organization, alleging unfair subsidies for exports of  cars and auto parts. Hours after news of the American move began to circulate, but before the trade case was actually filed in Beijing, China’s commerce ministry announced in a statement on its Web site that it was filing its own W.T.O. case against the United States, alleging unfairness in how the United States calculates the penalty tariffs in anti-subsidy cases. W.T.O. cases typically take a year and a half before a final decision is reached, and sometimes longer.

Spain

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards arrived in Madrid on Saturday to attend a rally organized by Spain’s two biggest unions to tell Spanish leaders: “Enough is enough.” European nations such as Spain, France, Greece, Italy and others are wrestling with financial woes brought on by reckless spending and lack of economic growth that is causing some nations to fall deeply in debt. New political leaders have turned to austerity programs, which include reductions in spending and public sector jobs, to heal the situation. But the measures have not created a quick turnaround of the economy and unions and the unemployed are getting impatient. As Spain is entering its second recession in five years, they want jobs, benefits and no more concessions.

Syria

Missiles fired by Syrian warplanes hit Lebanese territory Monday in one of the most serious cross-border violations since Syria’s crisis began 18 months ago. Four missiles fired by two Syrian jets hit a rugged and remote area on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Arsal. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The Syrian forces were believed to be chasing rebels in the area. Arsal is a predominantly Sunni Muslim town, like the majority of Syria’s opposition that is trying to oust President Bashar Assad, a Shiite, from power.

Afghanistan

The U.S.-led NATO military coalition says it is assessing damage to a sprawling British base in southern Afghanistan that was attacked by insurgents, killing two U.S. Marines and wounding several other troops. Sixteen Taliban fighters were also killed. The coalition said in a statement Saturday that the overnight attack focused on Camp Bastion, a huge British base adjacent to Camp Leatherneck which houses U.S. Marine operations in southern Helmand province. Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, was one mile away from the site of the attack and was uninjured.

At least one Afghan police officer turned his gun on NATO troops at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan before dawn Sunday, killing four international service members before escaping. A man believed to be a member of the Afghan Local Police shot and killed two NATO troops on Saturday. Attackers disguised in U.S. uniforms toted automatic rifles, grenades and suicide vests, NATO said. They killed two Marines and destroyed six jets at the military camp where Prince Harry is based. The rising number of insider attacks is complicating plans to train Afghan forces so that most foreign troops can withdraw from the country by the end of 2014. So far this year, 47 international service members have died at the hands of Afghan soldiers or policemen or insurgents wearing their uniforms.

Pakistan

A roadside bomb killed 15 passengers in a van and wounded 12 others in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border on Sunday. Officials said they did not know who set off the bomb, but such attacks are common in the country’s remote tribal regions, where militants from both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are active. the vehicle was not carrying any tribal elders, militia commanders, or others from the area frequently targeted by militants.

China/Japan

Protests against Japan for its control of disputed islands spread across more than a dozen cities in China and turned violent at times Saturday, with protesters hurling rocks at the Japanese Embassy and clashing with Chinese paramilitary police before order was restored. Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the embassy in Beijing. Hundreds tried to storm a metal police barricade but were pushed back by riot police armed with shields, helmets and batons. A few made it through but were quickly taken away by plainclothes police. Protesters also threw rocks and burned Japanese flags. Protests were more orderly in most other cities, though in the southern city of Changsha protesters smashed a police car made by Mitsubishi, a Japanese brand.

Russia

The first major protest against President Vladimir Putin after a summer lull drew tens of thousands of people, determined to show that opposition sentiment remains strong despite Kremlin efforts to muzzle dissent. Leftists, liberals and nationalists mixed with students, teachers, gay activists and others as they marched down Moscow’s tree-lined boulevards chanting “Russia without Putin!” and “We are the power here!” Many wore the white ribbons that have become the symbol of the protest movement. Putin has shown less tolerance for the opposition since his inauguration in May. New repressive laws have been passed to deter people from joining protests, and opposition leaders have been subject to searches and interrogations.

Norway

A Norwegian court has upheld a ban on the display of tobacco products in stores, handing a defeat Friday to the Philip Morris company. Norway, which has had a ban on cigarette and alcohol advertising since 1975, in 2010 banned even the display of tobacco products at their point of sale. Shops must keep cigarettes in unmarked cabinets or special vending machines with no visible logos. Customers wishing to buy tobacco must actively ask merchants for it. Philip Morris sued the Norwegian state, arguing that the display ban interfered with the free flow of goods and broke international agreements which Norway has signed.

Volcanoes

A volcano has erupted in eastern Indonesia, spewing clouds of thick, gray ash. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Mount Gamalama in the Molucca Islands sprang to life last week. It unleashed two strong eruptions over the weekend, sending volcanic ash high into the atmosphere. Villages have been blanketed with thick ash but no evacuations have been ordered. Gamalama last erupted late last year, and its mudflows killed four villagers two weeks later.

Weather

A strong typhoon lashed Japan and southern South Korea with strong winds and heavy rains Monday, leaving more than 100,000 homes and businesses without power and causing cancellations of many flights and ferries. One South Korean was injured in a landslide and 20 people were left homeless, but there have been no reports of deaths. A Japanese man drowned Sunday while swimming in high waves off the southern Japanese island of Ishigaki. In North Korea, which reported heavy casualties from another powerful typhoon last month, heavy rain is the worry. About 127,500 acres of farmland were flooded, buried or washed away by the previous storm.

Signs of the Times (9/14/12)

September 14, 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed

President Obama on Wednesday ordered stepped up security at diplomatic installations around the world after the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others were killed during violent protests at the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed Tuesday night as anti-American violence grew in response to a film ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. Killed in the attack were U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and private security guards Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods. The aggression in Benghazi followed demonstrations in front of Cairo’s U.S. embassy, where protesters tore down the U.S. flag and scaled the embassy’s wall. Obama ordered “all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”

  • So it’s okay to call the U.S. the Great Satan, but don’t you dare disrespect Islam?

Muslims Protest Anti-Islam Film

Chanting “death to America,” hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen’s capital and burned the American flag on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East. Protesters smashed windows as they breached the embassy perimeter and reached the compound grounds, although they did not enter the main building housing the offices. Angry young men brought down the U.S. flag in the courtyard, burned it and replaced it with a black banner bearing Islam’s declaration of faith — “There is no God but Allah.”

Thousands of angry Kashmiri Muslims protested Friday against an anti-Islam film, burning U.S. flags and calling President Obama a “terrorist,” while the top government cleric here reportedly demanded Americans leave the volatile Indian-controlled region immediately. At least 15,000 people took part in more than two dozen protests across Kashmir, chanting “Down with America” and “Down with Israel” in some of the largest anti-American demonstrations against the film in Asia.

Video from Tunisia’s capital shows thick, black smoke rising from an area near the U.S. Embassy Friday. Protesters there had taken down a U.S. flag from the embassy property and replaced it with a black flag, journalist Zeid Mhirsi reported. Police fired tear gas at protesters as some of them climbed the property’s walls.

Mystery Film Maker Identified

Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula,, 55, living in southern California as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast. The filmmaker, who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes, went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam’s prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, where one American was killed. Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location Tuesday, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.

Attacks Planned for 9/11?

Heavily armed militants used a protest of an anti-Islam film as a cover and may have had help from inside Libyan security in their deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate, a senior Libyan official said Thursday. Libya announced the first four arrests, the clearest picture yet emerged of a two-pronged assault. The attacks were suspected to have been timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strike in the United States, the official added, with the militants using the film protest by Libyan civilians to mask their action.

Violence Reflects Struggle between Extremists & Reformers

The violence across the heartland of the Arab Spring reaches far beyond the cries of anger against America and deep into one of the region’s most high-stakes showdowns: ultraconservative Islamists seeking to challenge the new leadership struggling in Egypt and Libya. Islamic absolutist factions such as Salafis have been largely kept on the political margins as more pragmatic Islamist groups — including the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and the Ennahda party in Tunisia — rose to power from the wreckage of pro-Western regimes. But the hard-liners have never been counted out. This week’s mayhem appears to be an opportunity seized by groups such as the Salafis, which follow an austere brand of Islam that has provided some of the dogmatic underpinnings for al-Qaida and other jihadi factions.

Report Criticizes U.S. Missile-Defense System

A congressionally-requested report on the current U.S. missile-defense system says the best way to meet future threats from Iran or North Korea is to place upgraded missiles and improved radars on both coasts of the U.S. The current U.S. system is “very expensive and has limited effectiveness,” said the report from the National Research Council, which offers advice to government agencies under a congressional charter. Fashioned amid tensions with North Korea over the last two decades, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s system now has 30 interceptor missiles ready to launch from bases in Alaska and California, as well as smaller ship-based systems aboard the U.S. Navy’s Pacific and Atlantic Fleet. “The system only has a very limited ability to defend the U.S. from missiles other than ones from North Korea,” says the report.

House Renews Surveillance Law for 5 Years

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly renewed a surveillance law that allows the government to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects abroad, while requiring approval from a secret court when Americans are targeted anywhere in the world. Supporters emphasized that the bill is aimed at foreigners overseas, not Americans. Opponents said the legislation does not adequately protect Americans from unintentional interception of their communications. The bill may run into problems in the Senate where Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has used a procedural tactic to prevent a vote. He is one of several senators who have unsuccessfully tried to learn how many Americans have been caught up in the surveillance.

First Group of Delayed Young Deportees Approved

The Obama administration began notifying some young illegal immigrants this week that they can stay in the country without fear of deportation for up to two years. In the four weeks since the launch of the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, more than 72,000 illegal immigrants have sent applications to the Department of Homeland Security. Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Services have finished reviewing a small number of those cases and begun notifying applicants.

Real Unemployment Rate Is 23%, Not 8.1%

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report says that 8.1% of Americans are currently unemployed. However, this only includes people that are unemployed during the week of the survey and without a job for the four previous weeks. But that is not a real picture of what is going on in the American job market.  The BLS figures do not take into account the millions of Americans that have had to take part time jobs because they have not been able to find full time work, those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and those who are so discouraged that they’ve given up looking for work. There is a second BLS statistic called the Alternative Unemployment Statistic.  The AUS is always higher as it counts all of the employed except for the discouraged workers who have been out of work more than a year.  The current AUS figure is 14.6%. However, there is another even more realistic unemployment statistic that portrays a far more accurate picture of America’s job market.  The SGS or Shadow Government Statistics encompass all of the different factors that deal with unemployment.  The current SGS unemployment figure is a staggering 23%.  That means that nearly 1 of every 4 Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, exhausted unemployment benefits or are so discouraged that they’ve given up looking for work.

Stocks Continue Fed-Fueled Rally

The so-called “Bernanke bounce” may live another day. Stocks opened higher Friday, a day after the Federal Reserve, chaired by Ben Bernanke, announced an unprecedented effort to help boost a sluggish economy. Earlier, global stock markets soared, a day after the Federal Reserve, led by Chairman Ben Bernanke, unleashed a third and open-ended round of stimulus to help goose the economy and the job market. Markets are being fueled by the Fed, which extended its low-rate policy guidance into 2015 and launched an asset purchase program that will continue for the foreseeable future in an effort to keep borrowing rates low and stimulate economic growth. Following a big post-Fed rally Thursday on Wall Street that sent benchmark stock indexes to multiyear highs, stocks were up sharply in Europe, where shares were up roughly 1.4% to 1.9% on exchanges in London, Berlin and Paris.

World stock markets rose Wednesday, registering approval of a German court ruling that backs the country’s participation in a bailout fund created to prevent the weakest euro economies from going bust. Germany’s highest court rejected a challenge to Europe’s permanent rescue fund, paving the way for its ratification by Germany’s president. The fund is considered crucial to resolving the European debt crisis because it can loan money to cash-strapped governments. The fund cannot work without Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

  • These short-term debt-expansion policies will only postpone and exacerbate an inevitable long-term economic implosion

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped to a seasonally adjusted 382,000 last week, the highest level in two months. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 15,000 in part because of the impact of Hurricane Isaac, which disrupted work in nine states and boosted applications by 9,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased for the fourth straight week to 375,000.

More expensive gas drove up consumer prices in August by the most in three years. But outside energy, inflation was tame. The Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% last month, the first increase since March. Higher gas prices accounted for 80% of the increase. Food prices rose 0.2%. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices edged up 0.1%. In the past 12 months, prices have increased 1.7% compared to a 1.9% the same 12-month period a year ago.

Middle-class families continued to see their incomes decline in the aftermath of the Great Recession, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday. Median household income fell to $50,054 in 2011, down 1.5% from a year earlier. Income inequality widened, as the highest income echelon experienced a jump in incomes. Meanwhile, the national poverty rate hit 15.0% in 2011, down slightly from 15.1% the year before. Some 46.2 million people fell below the poverty line last year. The poverty threshold for a family of four was $23,021.

U.S. estimated Gross Domestic Product for 2012 is about $15 trillion. With nominal debt at $16 trillion, our Debt/GDP ratio is 106 per­cent. Using our total debt of $211 trillion which included unfunded liabilities, the ratio is a whopping 1,400 per­cent. Greece, which has a ratio of 160 percent, but the U.S. has Greece beat by a factor of 8.8, and yet Greece is considered to be in the worst financial shape of any nation.

Annual premiums for job-based family health plans went up only 4% this year. Premiums averaged $15,745, with employees paying more than $4,300. Employees at companies with many low-wage workers pay more for skimpier insurance than their counterparts at upscale firms. The Kaiser survey shows premiums for job-based family coverage rose nearly $2,400 since 2009, with a corresponding increase of nearly $800 for employee-only coverage.

Middle East

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that Israel cannot rely on the U.S. to act against Iran’s suspect nuclear program. In an interview published Friday, Netanyahu hinted Israel may have to strike Iran even without U.S. support to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon. The comments indicate Netanyahu is not backing down from his thinly-veiled criticism of the Obama administration. Netanyahu of Israel inserted himself into the most contentious foreign policy issue of the American presidential campaign on Tuesday, criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear progress that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike. As a result, he said, the administration has no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own.

Syria

The Syrian military is bombing hospitals in its weeks-long campaign to crush a rebellion in this commercial center, forcing doctors to treat patients in unsuitable facilities in what human rights groups say is a war crime. The army is firing artillery shells indiscriminately and warplanes are bombing whole neighborhoods daily, killing hundreds of people in Aleppo, activists allege. In several interviews, residents and medical workers say some attacks are directly targeting hospitals. Since fighting began here in Syria’s largest city in late July, the staff at one hospital says the building has been bombed at least four times. In one attack, seven rockets struck the hospital.

Christians in Syria are in a dire state as the country continues to be ravaged by conflict; many are trying to leave, while those who remain are struggling to survive as essential supplies run short. Barnabas Aid received a report from a church leader in Aleppo: “We are facing tough times. The economy is very very bad. We have shortage of bread, food, medicine, kids’ milk… no fuel for cars, nor gas for cooking… The prices of food are five times more now and since two days we don’t have water.” Endangered Christians are resorting to desperate means of escaping their war-torn country, putting themselves into the hands of human traffickers to get to safety.

Japan

A Japanese Cabinet panel called Friday for phasing out of nuclear power over the next three decades as part of an overhaul of the country’s energy policy following the Fukushima meltdowns. The proposed new energy policy is a major shift from Japan’s decades-long advocacy of nuclear power. It calls for greater reliance on renewable energy, more conservation and sustainable use of fossil fuels. The new policy requires the approval of the entire Cabinet. Japanese news reports say the Cabinet has already agreed to the changes.

China

The Japanese government and coast guard said six Chinese surveillance ships entered Japanese waters Friday near disputed islands in the East China Sea, adding to tensions between the Asian giants. It was the first intrusion by Chinese vessels into what Japan says are its waters since Tokyo bought the islands from their private Japanese owners this week. The islands, claimed by both countries and called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, are surrounding by rich fishing grounds and are near key shipping lanes.

Volcanoes

A long-simmering volcano exploded into a series of powerful eruptions outside one of Guatemala’s most famous tourist attractions on Thursday, hurling thick clouds of ash nearly two miles (three kilometers) high, spewing rivers of lava down its flanks and prompting evacuation orders for more than 33,000 people from surrounding communities. the evacuees were ordered to leave some 17 villages around the Volcano del Fuego, which sits about six miles southwest (16 kilometers) from the colonial city of Antigua, home to 45,000 people. The ash was blowing south-southeast and authorities said the tourist center of the country was not currently in danger, although they expected the eruption to last for at least 12 more hours. The agency said the volcano spewed lava nearly 2,000 feet down slopes.

Earthquakes

A strong undersea earthquake has hit parts of western Indonesia, but no tsunami warning was issued and there have been no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey says Friday’s 6.2-magnitude quake struck at a depth of 12 miles. It was centered about 100 miles southeast of Mentawai island, off western Sumatra.

Wildfires

A haze of thick smoke formed Tuesday over vast swaths of the West as wildfires forced more residents to flee their homes in several states. Fire officials reported seven homes were destroyed and hundreds of people were evacuated near Casper, Wyo., where a wildfire has burned across almost 24 square miles. In western Montana, fire crews said there was no containment in sight for a blaze that has prompted an evacuation order for 400 houses west of Hamilton. With winds dying down, fire crews in eastern Washington were hopeful they could gain ground on dozens of fires sparked by weekend lightning storms, but more evacuation orders were issued Tuesday as a wildfire continued to move in the hills west of Wenatchee, a fruit capital on the banks of the Columbia River. Residents of nearly 120 homes were evacuated due to the fire burning about 140 miles east of Seattle.

Weather

Intense thunderstorms swept over parts of the Southwest on Tuesday, delaying flights and stranding motorists in the Las Vegas area and flooding two mobile home parks in Southern California. East of downtown Las Vegas, television news video showed yellow school buses inching slowly along roads after school in some neighbors and muddy brown water up to the lower window sills of stucco homes in others. Dozens of cars were swamped by water up to their headlights in a parking lot outside the University of Nevada, Las Vegas sports arena. More than 1.75 inches of rain were reported in downtown Las Vegas. There were no confirmed reports of serious injuries.

Signs of the Times (9/11/12)

September 11, 2012

As Time Passes, How Should U.S. Mark 9/11?

For most Americans, today is just another busy Tuesday. There are school lunches to pack, business meetings to attend, sports teams to cheer, an evening out to enjoy. The Sept. 11 attacks still elicit sadness, anxiety and anger for many. But as we enter the 11th year after that tragic day, it begs the question: How will the nation mark the occasion as the horrors of that day fade from our collective memories? In decades to come, will 9/11 anniversaries remain a moment frozen in the nation’s consciousness? Or will they be more like time-softened remembrances of other iconic tragedies in U.S. history: Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (Nov. 22, 1963) and the space shuttle Challenger explosion (Jan. 28, 1986)?

Media attention to Sept. 11 has already waned. Nearly 70% of Americans say they somewhat or strongly agree with this statement: “I have moved on from (the events of) Sept. 11,” according to a new American Pulse Survey. Half of Americans will observe today in an informal way and 12% will do it in a formal manner, according to the American Pulse Survey. About 30% said they will not do anything different today. Many Americans will mark the events of Sept. 11 by participating in a day of service.

  • Never forget – and always remember that it was Islamist terrorists who perpetrated this attack on the U.S.

World Trade Center Returns to New York Skyline

Eleven years after terrorist attacks destroyed New York’s World Trade Center, the replacement towers are finally taking shape and attracting new tenants — even though most of the site’s buildings are still under construction. The most prominent — the tower known as 1 WTC – is scheduled for completion in 2014, with 90 floors and 3 million square feet. It’s going to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. 55% of the 3 million square feet has already been leased. The one fully completed building, the 52-story 7 WTC, has leased 100% of its 1.7 million square feet.

God Absent from Obama 9/11 Proclamation

President Obama’s proclamation marking the September 11th terrorist attacks did not include any mention of God. The president also failed to note how Americans sought solace in their religion in the aftermath of the Al-Qaeda attacks. Instead, the president called on Americans to participate in community service to honor those who were lost. “But as we mark the anniversary of September 11, we remember what remains the same: our character as a nation, our faith in one another, and our legacy as a country strengthened by service and selflessness,” the president wrote. He referred to people of all faiths coming together, but didn’t mention God specifically after Democrats loudly protested the inclusion of God in their party platform.

  • Obama only mentions God when its politically necessary and leans more toward the New Age philosophy that all roads/faiths lead to God

Democrats Say We Belong to the Government

WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farar notes “If you want to understand why the Democratic Party represents the gravest threat to America’s freedom, all you really need to know is that the convention planners in Charlotte didn’t see anything wrong with a video shown there Tuesday night in which they declared, ‘Government is the only thing we all belong to.’ This is the philosophy of the Democratic Party. This is the way the hierarchy of the party thinks. Democrats really believe in government – the bigger the better. But, more importantly, they believe the people are subjects of government. The government doesn’t belong to the people, rather we belong to the government.”

  • What ever happened to “by the people for the people” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?

Christian Pastor Freed in Iran

Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was originally sentenced to death in his native country for his Christian faith, was acquitted of apostasy charges and released from custody. Nadarkhani, 32, was imprisoned for three years and waiting execution for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. His charges were lowered to evangelizing to Muslims, which carried a three-year sentence. He was released with time served, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based watchdog group that had been campaigning for the pastor’s release. Nadarkhani’s attorney, who also has been jailed, maintained that the married father of two faced execution because he refused to renounce his religion.

Three States Call for Repeal of DOMA

The Vermont attorney general says the state has joined New York and Connecticut in asking a federal appeals court to repeal the federal law that fails to recognize gay marriage as constitutional. Attorney General William H. Sorrell said in a statement Friday that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, has deprived same-sex couples of federal benefits and unfairly discriminates against them. He said the three states filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The states argue that they, not the federal government, regulate marriage and family relationships and that Congress hasn’t the authority to refuse recognition of gay marriage and essentially “unmarry” couples.

  • The gay agenda continues to assault the traditional, Biblical family whenever and wherever it can in one of the strongest end-time markers

Border Patrol Stops Flying Illegal Immigrants to Mexico

The U.S. government has halted flights home for Mexicans caught entering the country illegally in the deadly summer heat of Arizona’s deserts, a money-saving move that ends a seven-year experiment that cost taxpayers nearly $100 million. More than 125,000 passengers were flown deep into Mexico for free since 2004 in an effort that initially met with skepticism from Mexican government officials and migrants, but was gradually embraced as a way to help people back on their feet and save lives. The Border Patrol hailed it as a way to discourage people from trying their luck again, and it appears to have kept many away. But with Border Patrol arrests at 40-year lows and fresh evidence suggesting more people may be heading south of the border than north, officials struggled to fill the planes and found the costs increasingly difficult to justify.

FBI Begins Implementation of $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

The FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country. The FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” meaning NGI is more than just a database of mug shots mixed up with fingerprints — the FBI has admitted that their intent with the technology surpasses just searching for criminals but includes spectacular surveillance capabilities.

  • The danger for abuse and loss of privacy is growing exponentially, especially as more domestic drones take to the skies.

Wind Could Power the Whole World

There’s enough energy available in the wind to satisfy the entire world’s energy needs, a new study says. The scientists used a computer weather model to show that there is enough wind to exceed the total demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speeds caused by the turbines. How many turbines? About 8 million, each operating at a height of 300 feet, would provide more than the world’s total power demands. The authors propose that half would be on land and half on oceans.

Food Banks Running Short of Food

Shoppers are not the only ones feeling the squeeze of rising food prices. Shelves are going bare in food banks and pantries as more market demand for food means the federal government is buying less fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products to give to needy families. As a result, food banks and pantries nationwide say they are giving out less food, even as record numbers of families turn to them for help. Under a program called the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the federal government buys surplus fruit, vegetables and meats and gives the products to food banks as a bonus. Growing populations worldwide have increased demand for food, while drought and severe weather have reduced the supply, leading to higher prices and reduced government purchases.

Tax Hike Cuts Tobacco Consumption

A giant federal tobacco tax hike has spurred a historic drop in smoking, especially among teens, poor people and those dependent on government health insurance, a USA TODAY analysis finds. President Obama signed the tax hike — the biggest to take effect in his first term — on his 16th day in office, reversing two vetoes by President Bush. The federal cigarette tax jumped from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack on April 1, 2009, to finance expanded health care for children. Since then, the change has brought in more than $30 billion in new revenue, tax records show. The tax increase’s size and national reach lifted prices 22% overnight, more than all state and local tax hikes combined over the past decade when adjusted for inflation.

Economic News

For the third time in less than four years, the Federal Reserve this week will likely move to inject a sick economy with a B-12 shot. Many economists say last week’s disappointing report on job growth in August means the Fed will likely announce Thursday that it will buy more Treasury or government-backed mortgage bonds to lower long-term interest rates and stimulate economic activity.

The Commerce Department says the trade deficit widened to $42 billion, 0.2% higher than June’s imbalance of $41.9 billion. Exports fell 1% to $183.3 billion, hurt by weaker sales of autos, telecommunications equipment and heavy machinery. Imports declined 0.8% to $225.3 billion as oil imports fell 6.5%.The deficit with China grew 7.2% in July to $29.4 billion, largest with any single country. The trade deficit acts as a drag on growth because the U.S. is typically spending more on imports while taking in less from the sales of American-made goods.

Growth in China’s factory production slowed to a three-year low in August, suggesting Beijing might need more stimulus to reverse a painful slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Growth in industrial production weakened to 8.9% from July’s 9.2%, still much higher than the anemic growth in Europe and the U.S.

More than four years after Royal Dutch Shell paid $2.8 billion to the federal government for petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea, a company vessel on Sunday morning sent a drill bit into the ocean floor, beginning preliminary work on an exploratory well 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska. Federal officials estimate Arctic waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas hold 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The U.S. government is selling more of its shares in insurer American International Group Inc., in a move that should decrease its holdings below a majority stake for the first time since the $182 billion bailout in 2008. AIG said Sunday that the Treasury Department is selling $18 billion worth of its common shares to institutional investors. The sale is the latest step to recoup taxpayer money spent on the largest bailout of the financial crisis.

Middle East

Dozens of Palestinian truck drivers have blocked the main streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah to protest rising prices. Nearby, about two dozen quarry workers also held a demonstration. The Sunday protests were the latest in a series of small but snowballing strikes against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority over rising prices and delayed payment of salaries to more than 150,000 civil servants. The Palestinian Authority, which governs Palestinians in the West Bank, is suffering a budgetary shortfall because the U.S. and Arab countries that sustain it haven’t paid all the aid money that they have promised.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports that, “Iran is much closer to having working nuclear weapons than we are being told by the liberal media. They already have enough enriched uranium for at least four “dirty bombs”—low-yield radioactive devices that could contaminate Israel’s major cities and kill thousands. But they are also on the cusp of enriching uranium still further so that a nuclear warhead could be mounted on one of their Shahab-3 missiles and detonated over Israel. The technical work for the triggering and control systems is basically complete. And with Iran’s recently increased centrifuge capacity at its underground Fordow facility, enriching the uranium to the level needed for a warhead could be quickly accomplished.”

With the Jewish High Holy Days coming up…Rosh Hashanah is next weekend…the Israeli defense and intelligence ministries are issuing warnings and alerts due to increasing threats of terrorist attacks both within Israel and around the world. It is known that Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has issued directives for heightened activity against Israeli and Western targets.

Syria

A car bomb ripped through Syria’s largest city of Aleppo on Sunday, killing at least 17 people and wounding 40 in one of the main battlegrounds of the country’s civil war. Al-Qaida-style bombings have become increasingly common in Syria, and Western officials say there is little doubt that Islamist extremists, some associated with the terror network, have made inroads in the country as instability has spread. But the main fighting force looking to oust President Bashar Assad is the Free Syrian Army, a group made up largely of defected Syrian soldiers.

The U.N. refugee agency says the number of Syrian refugees seeking its help now tops a quarter-million. 253,106 people have registered or are awaiting registration as Syrian refugees. There are 85,197 in Jordan, 78,431 in Turkey, 66,915 in Lebanon and 22,563 in Iraq as of this week. Officials acknowledge, however, the real number of Syrian refugees is likely far higher since tens of thousands are believed to have not yet registered with authorities. Activists say up to 26,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising began in March 2011 against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber has blown himself up Saturday near NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing at least 6 people. Five others were wounded. The attack came as Afghans celebrated the 11th anniversary of the death of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Northern Alliance commander who was killed in an al-Qaeda suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The alliance joined with the United States to help rout the Taliban after America invaded Afghanistan a month later.

Pakistan

Pakistani security forces pushed Taliban militants who came from Afghanistan back across the border after more than two weeks of fighting in a mountainous tribal region. The government says over 100 people were killed in the offensive. The violence in the northwestern Bajur area highlighted the growing problem of Taliban militants using sanctuaries in Afghanistan to attack Pakistan. Pakistan has called on Afghan and NATO forces to do more to stop militants from crossing into the country. Kabul and the international coalition have acknowledged the problem, but also want Pakistan to do more to stop militants holed up on its territory from launching attacks into Afghanistan.

Iraq

Insurgents killed at least 92 people in a wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces on Sunday, gunning down soldiers at an army post and bombing police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs. The violence, which struck at least 11 cities and wounded more than 350 people, highlighted militant attempts to sow havoc in the country and undermine the government. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but security forces are a frequent target of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, which has vowed to reassert itself and take back areas it was forced from before U.S. troops withdrew from the country last year.

Iraqi police say a car bomb has killed eight people and wounded 32 outside a restaurant in the southwestern Baghdad. Authorities said the explosion happened in the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of Baiyaa. It came hours after the Iraqi wing of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for countrywide attacks on Sunday. The militant group warned in a statement of “black days” ahead.

Iran

Iran’s currency hit a record low against the dollar in street trading, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Sunday. The collapse of the currency is a sign of the effect of Western sanctions. Western countries have imposed economic sanctions because they suspect Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. On July 1, the European Union banned imports of Iranian oil, and the U.S. tightened sanctions against Iran’s banks. On Friday, Canada cut diplomatic relations with Iran over its nuclear program, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and the country’s poor record on human rights.

Volcanoes

The San Cristobal volcano spewed out a column of ash and gas 2½ miles high Saturday, leading Nicaraguan authorities to evacuate about 3,000 people from nine communities around the country’s tallest mountain. Residents reported hearing three powerful explosions in the volcano as the cloud began billowing skyward and ash drifted over nearby villages. The 1,740-meter (5,740-foot) volcano sits 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Managua, the capital. It has been active since 1520. Nicaragua has been on alert since a strong earthquake shook neighboring Costa Rica on Wednesday and then a swarm of 17 minor tremors were recorded in the area around Lake Managua next to the capital the following day.

Earthquakes

Survivors of a series of earthquakes that killed 81 people and injured more than 800 in a mountainous area of southwestern China were desperately waiting for more aid to arrive Sunday as jolting aftershocks kept fears high and hindered rescue efforts. More than 200,000 residents were evacuated after Friday’s quakes toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders cascading across roads in a region of small farms and mines where some of China’s poorest people live. The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon, joined by dozens of aftershocks. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow, which often causes more damage than deeper ones.

Weather

Tropical Storm Leslie’s outer bands buffeted Bermuda with gusty winds and rain Sunday as it slowly edged past the wary British enclave on a path that was expected to take it to Canada’s Newfoundland later in the week. As Leslie gradually spun away from Bermuda into the northern Atlantic, the Bermuda Police Service said there were no reports of any major damage or injuries.

Damaging storms that spawned tornadoes in New York City, darkened tens of thousands of homes in the Washington, D.C., area and flooded New England streets turned a normal day of rest into a day of cleaning up for many East Coast residents on Sunday. No serious injuries were reported when a twister hit a beachfront neighborhood Saturday on the edge of New York City and a second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 10 miles away. Residents got advance notice but still the storm took people by surprise. The unsettled weather, part of a cold front that crossed over the Eastern Seaboard, toppled trees and power lines and damaged buildings as it passed through. Wind gusts reached 70 mph in some places.

Tornado-like funnel clouds were reported in Fairfax County, Va., and in Prince George’s County, Md. One person suffered minor injuries during a partial stage collapse at the Rosslyn Jazz Festival in Arlington County, Va., and six people were evacuated from a Washington apartment building when a tree fell on it. Fairfax County officials reported three home cave-ins because of downed trees, a water rescue in the Potomac River and dozens of electrical wires down.

Four people, including a young child, were killed when strong winds accompanying severe thunderstorms blew through northeastern Oklahoma. Farther east, straight-line winds flipped a semi onto a cement barrier wall, trapping the driver inside for nearly three hours. The storms were part of a storm system and cold front that collided with triple-digit temperatures in much of the state on Friday. Wind gusts topping 70 mph were reported at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

Signs of the Times (9/7/12)

September 7, 2012

Democrats Restore God, Jerusalem to Platform

The Democrats opened the second night of their convention by adding God and Jerusalem to their platform. Approved on a voice vote, the party platform now mentions God and declares Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — two previous omissions that had been attacked by Republicans and other political organizations. Many delegates in the half-empty hall booed the changes. The convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, had to call for a voice vote three times before the additions were approved.

  • This was just a political maneuver to avert criticism – otherwise, liberals have largely forsaken God and embraced Palestinians

Muslim Delegates at Democratic Convention Quadrupled Since 2004

The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, the Religion News Service reports. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), more than 100 Muslim delegates are representing some 20 states at the DNC in Charlotte, N.C., this week — up from 25 delegates in 2004. CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were “a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party,” adding that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims. A “handful” of Muslims were delegates at the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., McCaw said.

Gallup: Obama Enjoys Massive Lead Among Those With No Religion

According to the Gallup tracking poll of the presidential race, President Barack Obama enjoys a massive lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters who say they have no religion, CNSNews.com reports. In the three-week period ending Sept. 3, Obama led Romney 69 percent to 23 percent among those who had no religion. In other religious categories that Gallup tracks, however, Romney leads Obama: 54 percent to 39 percent among Protestants and Christians, 47 percent to 45 percent among Catholics, 58 percent to 35 percent among those who say they are “highly religious,” and 47 percent to 45 percent among those who say they are “moderately religious.”

Traditional Marriage Means 82% Less Child Poverty

A new study released just this week by The Heritage Foundation reveals that one factor alone can reduce by 82 percent the probability that a child lives in poverty – whether Mom and Dad are married to each other. “Policymakers on the state and national levels recognize that education reduces poverty, but they’re largely unaware that marriage is an equally strong anti-poverty weapon,” Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic policy at the Washington-based organization. The report noted, “As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase. Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable.” The federal government, in fact, does the opposite of what the study reveals would be best, by offering a multitude of programs designed specifically for the one-parent household.

  • Biblical standards would solve all the world’s problems, including not getting into debt.

Evidence of Wider U.S. Waterboarding

Human Rights Watch said it has uncovered evidence of a wider use of waterboarding in American interrogations of detainees than has been acknowledged by the United States, in a report Thursday that details further brutal treatment at secret CIA-run prisons under the Bush administration-era U.S. program of detention and rendition of terror suspects. The 154-page report features interviews by the New York-based group with 14 Libyan dissident exiles. They describe systematic abuses while they were held in U.S.-led detention centers in Afghanistan — some as long as two years — or in U.S.-led interrogations in Pakistan, Morocco, Thailand, Sudan and elsewhere before the Americans handed them over to Libya.

The report comes days after the Justice Department announced it would not bring criminal charges against any CIA personnel over severe interrogation methods used in the detention and rendition program. Investigators said they could not prove any interrogators went beyond guidelines authorized by the Bush administration. Rights activists and some Obama administration officials say even the authorized techniques constituted torture, though the CIA and Bush administration argue they do not.

  • Torturing terrorists to uncover information that will prevent widespread deaths is a necessary and effective wartime tactic – that’s how we found Osama bin Laden

Immigration-Status Checks of SB 1070 Take Effect

One of the last major barriers to implementing a controversial portion of Arizona’s immigration law fell Wednesday when a federal judge decided not to impose a new injunction on the so-called “show me your papers” provision. U.S District Judge Susan Bolton denied a request for a further injunction against a provision of Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, that requires law-enforcement officers to check the legal status of people stopped during the investigation of possible crimes. Bolton, however, did grant a preliminary injunction against a statute making it unlawful to transport or harbor individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. A coalition of civil-rights groups had requested that both statutes be stayed after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a 2-year-old prior injunction against the provision related to officers checking a person’s legal status.

Despite new Arizona Law, Dangerous Bath Salts Flourish

In February, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new bill into law that added seven primary chemicals commonly used in the designer drug known as bath salts to the banned-substances list. But police say the law has done little to curb the growing number of incidents involving people high on bath salts because drugmakers are constantly tweaking their formulas to stay ahead of bans. The drug gives users a high that has been compared to those of cocaine, methamphetamine and PCP. Doctors and police officers acknowledge that the number of bath-salts cases are on the rise as more people smoke, snort or inject the synthetic white-powder drug, which can cause hallucinations, psychosis, paranoia, agitation, combativeness, violent behavior, high body temperature, kidney failure, cardiac arrest and death. Bath salts, which are believed to have originated in China and India, first hit the streets a few years ago and are sold in smoke shops, in head shops, in convenience stores and online under innocuous names, including “plant food,” “Ivory Wave,” “glass cleaner” and “Vanilla Sky.”

Police Chiefs Urge Limits on Drone Use

The nation’s largest consortium of police officials is calling for the limited use of unmanned drones in local law enforcement operations and urging that the controversial aircraft — now popular weapons on international battlefields — not be armed. The first national advisory for the use of unmanned aircraft issued by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) comes as federal lawmakers and civil rights advocates have expressed deep concerns about the vehicles’ use in domestic law enforcement, especially in aerial surveillance. Only a handful of police agencies, including the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department, are currently using unmanned aircraft. But Don Roby, chairman of the IACP’s aviation committee, said an increasing number of departments are considering unmanned aircraft for such things as search and rescue operations, traffic accident scene mapping and some surveillance activities.

Economic News

Employers added a disappointing 96,000 nonfarm jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3% as the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday. The private sector added 103,000 jobs despite a loss of 13,000 manufacturing jobs. Federal, state and local governments cut 7,000 jobs. The past three months, monthly job gains have averaged 94,000, well below the average monthly gain of 225,000 in the first quarter.

The underemployment rate — which includes discouraged job-hunters who have stopped looking, part-time workers who prefer full-time jobs and the unemployed — dipped to 14.7% from 15%.And the number of Americans who have been unemployed for at least six months or longer, which represents 40% of those out of work, fell 152,000 to 5 million. Their ranks thinned most likely, however, because many gave up looking for work or decided to retire early.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has unveiled a much-awaited program to buy government bonds of countries in the 17-member eurozone to help bring down their borrowing rates. Stocks in the U.S. and Europe leapt after the announcement. Draghi said the debt relief program, called Outright Monetary Transactions, will have no set limit and be a “fully effective backstop.” Countries that want the ECB to buy their bonds must agree to “strict and effective” budget policy conditions.

  • The danger of increased debt may offset the temporary relief, depending on how well the countries manage their ‘budget policy’ – and we know how that goes.

Productivity, the amount of output per hour worked, increased at an annual rate of 2.2% in the April-June quarter after declining at a 0.5% pace in the first quarter of the year. One reason productivity improved in the second quarter is hiring slowed to just 75,000 jobs a month from April through June. That’s down from an average of 226,000 a month in the first quarter. Over the past year, productivity has risen 1.2%. That is far below the 3% rise in the average productivity rate in 2009 and 2010. Those gains were mostly due to massive job layoffs during the recession as companies slashed costs to compensate for falling demand.

The United States’ ability to compete on the global stage has fallen for the fourth year running as confidence in the country’s politicians continues to decline. The finding is from an annual survey from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Of the top 10 nations, the Netherlands and Germany have moved ahead of the U.S. The U.S.’ ranking dropped two places to seventh this year, the WEF says. For the fourth straight year, Switzerland tops the rankings of 144 nations, followed by Singapore. Six northern European countries make up the top 10. Others include Hong Kong and Japan.

Middle East

Members of the Quds Forces’ elite Unit 400 have been activated inside Turkey to attack U.S. and Israeli interests and to support the Kurdish separatist movement PKK with violence as needed. A source within the Revolutionary Guards confirmed the presence of the Iranian assets in Turkey as Iran increases pressure on the Turkish government to stop its support of the rebels against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The assets are to attack Western interests in Turkey should war break out against either Syria or Iran and at the same time work to destabilize Turkey as a warning for it not to interfere in Syria’s affairs.

The New York Times reports that Iran has resumed shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace in a new effort to bolster the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The flights started up in July and, to the frustration of American officials, have continued ever since. Military experts say that the flights have enabled Iran to provide supplies to the Syrian government despite the efforts Syrian rebels have made to seize several border crossings where Iranian aid has been trucked in.

The border between Israel and the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip erupted overnight Wednesday, with the IDF repelling two attempted attacks and killing six Palestinian gunmen. The first incident involved the IAF attacking a rocket squad Wednesday night as it was about to fire its weapons into Israel from the central Gaza Strip. Several hours later, IDF ground troops struck a terror cell as it attempted to plant an explosive device on the Gaza border. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Syria

Turkey accused Syria of “state terrorism” Wednesday after a sharp spike in the death toll from the Syrian civil war, and Iran came under new scrutiny with the U.S. alleging that Tehran is flying weapons to President Bashar Assad’s regime across Iraqi airspace. With violence escalating in the nearly 18-month-old crisis, strains rippled across the region as Egypt’s president urged Assad to take a lesson from the Arab Spring uprisings that deposed other leaders and step down. There appears to be no end in sight for the conflict, however. Neither side seems to be able to gain a significant advantage in the fighting that has killed 23,000 people. Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of Assad and is host to Syrian opposition groups as well as about 80,000 of the more than 200,000 refugees who have fled to surrounding countries to escape the bloodshed.

A bomb went off outside a mosque in Damascus on Friday, killing at least five policemen and wounding others, the latest violence in the capital, once the impregnable stronghold of President Bashar Assad’s regime. Later, a second bomb exploded in Damascus, hitting near two government but caused no casualties, although it damaged a number of vehicles. In recent months, the Syrian capital has been hit by a string of bombings. For more than a year after the uprising against Assad’s rule began, Damascus stayed relatively quiet. Then in July, rebels launched a bold attack, capturing several neighborhoods.

Pakistan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will notify Congress Friday of her intent to formally designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terror organization. The designations of the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity would make it easier to pursue those who provide support for the al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked movement. But they could further deteriorate relations with Pakistan. The group has been tied to the deaths of American and NATO troops, as well as multiple attacks on embassies and other government infrastructure in Afghanistan.

A Pakistani judge granted bail Friday to a young, mentally challenged Christian girl accused of insulting Islam for burning pages of the religion’s holy book. Rights activists welcomed the decision after calling for her release since she was arrested three weeks ago. The case has focused attention on Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, which activists claim are used to persecute minorities and settle personal vendettas. Judge Mohammed Azam Khan set bail at 1 million Pakistani rupees, or about $10,500, a significant sum in a country where many families live on only a few dollars a day. The girl’s impoverished family may need outside financial support to free her.

Greece

Greek police say they have made more than 3,000 arrests in a month-old campaign to hold and deport illegal immigrants. A police statement says nearly 17,000 people were temporarily detained in the greater Athens area since the drive started on Aug. 4, with 2,144 of those arrested. Debt-crippled Greece is the main gateway to the European Union for illegal immigrants, most coming from Asia and Africa. The influx has fueled racist rhetoric and violence. Hundreds of thousands have entered Greece in recent years, and officials said Wednesday some 400 were illegally crossing the land border with Turkey every day before the clampdown As a result, the Turkish border influx has dropped 84 percent.

Earthquakes

A small earthquake was widely felt across the Los Angeles area early Friday morning, but authorities said there were no immediate reports of injury or damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said more than 2,000 people reported on its website that they felt the magnitude 3.5 quake, which struck at 12:03 a.m. and was centered in the Beverly Hills area. The temblor followed a 3.2 magnitude quake that struck in the area on Monday.

A series of earthquakes hit rural southwestern China on Friday, killing at least 43 people and damaging more than 20,000 homes. Another 150 people were hurt. The quakes, which ranged from a magnitude of 4.8 to 5.6, struck hilly, agricultural areas of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. The quakes destroyed or damaged 20,000 homes. Buildings in rural areas in China are often constructed poorly. More than 100,000 people had been evacuated in Yunnan.

Costa Rica suffered remarkably little damage from Wednesday’s magnitude-7.6 quake — a few blocked highways, some collapsed houses and one death, of a heart attack caused by fright. Officials credited the relatively deep location of the quake and building codes that Costa Rican officials call as strict as those in California and Japan. The quake was 25 miles below the surface. Tremors that occur deep underground tend to be less damaging, but their shaking can be felt over a wider area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 38 miles from the town of Liberia and 87 miles west of the capital, San Jose.

Wildfires

Rain arrived Wednesday to help in the assault on a 3,800-acre fire in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Firefighters have been working on steep slopes since Sunday to put out a blaze in chaparral that hasn’t burned in 15 or 20 years. With the showers came the risk of dry lightning, which has already started more than 50 fires in California this summer. The latest fire started northeast of Los Angeles and was 24 percent contained before the rains came, officials said. It was expected to be fully surrounded on Sept. 13. There were nearly 1,300 firefighters on hand, with five of them suffering injuries. On the fire lines, crews have eight air tankers, 10 helicopters, 68 engines, eight dozers and 11 water tenders. As many as 12,000 people were asked to leave the area over the busy Labor Day weekend.

Weather

Hurricane Leslie remained stalled about 415 miles away from Bermuda Friday, where schools were closed and government offices were to let out early to give residents more time to prepare. The system will likely intensify into a Category 2 storm with winds exceeding 90 mph and pass about 100 miles from the islands on Sunday. The country was under a tropical storm watch Friday, with tropical-storm force winds expected to reach the island in the next 48 hours.

More than 15,000 large, semi-aquatic rodents killed by Hurricane Isaac have washed ashore on Mississippi beaches, creating a cleanup nightmare. Some beaches in Hancock County have closed while front-end loaders and workers in hazmat suits slowly collect the bloated, rotting carcasses of dead swamp rats. In Harrison County, crews collected and removed nearly 16 tons of dead animals from beaches over the weekend, and local officials said they were still washing ashore today or floating on the Gulf of Mexico surface.

If a well-traveled remnant of last week’s Hurricane Isaac becomes a tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico, it would be a rare but not unprecedented event, forecasters say. In 2005, a remnant from a tropical depression that dissipated near Puerto Rico eventually became part of a new depression, which became the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn O’Neill referred to the remnant as “the spawn of Isaac.” As of Thursday, the Isaac remnant was given a 40 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical cyclone. Dry air and upper-level winds were preventing it from getting stronger.

Signs of the Times (9/4/12)

September 4, 2012

Three-Way Civil Union in Brazil Sparks Controversy

One man and two women became the first people granted a three-way civil union in Brazil, CNN reports. The Brazilian public notary who granted the trio all of the legal benefits of marriage has set off a firestorm. Claudia do Nascimento Domingues is defending her move, calling the three a “polyfidelitous union.” The relationship involves three professionals in their 30s who live together and say they love one another as equals and are like any other non-married cohabiting couple. Some, including religious groups and legal scholars, say the union is not valid and would be the beginning of a slippery slope. Brazilian law defines marriage as a union between two people, so it is legally impossible for a civil union of three to be granted the rights of a marriage of two.

  • Slippery slope? We’re well past that point, heading for the edge of a steep cliff over a deep, dark abyss

Child Becomes Human at Birth, Canadian Medical Association Says

Canada’s leading doctors’ association has approved a resolution that says an unborn child does not become a human being until it is fully born, Baptist Press reports. Delegates to the annual General Council meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) voted August 15 to endorse wording in Canada’s Criminal Code that says a baby “becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.” The resolution was intended to stop a “backdoor” effort in the Canadian parliament to renew a debate about abortion by revising the code, according to the delegate who proposed it. Canadian Physicians for Life decried the resolution, declaring that “every Canadian doctor knows that the unborn child is a live human being.”

  • The Bible says that life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11) and blood forms within 6-10 days of conception. This resolution is yet another means to further justify the murder of children in the womb.

GOP Platform Committee Reins in Gay Military

Delegates crafting the Republican Party’s platform last week took a strong stance on military issues — including vowing to protect chaplains’ conscience rights and enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act on military installations, WORLD News Service reports. The platform committee also said the party opposed “anything that might weaken team cohesion, including intra-military special interest demonstrations” — such as wearing uniforms in gay pride events. Those resolutions echo what the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has been calling on the federal government to do since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” became official earlier this year. “The Republican National Committee rejects the use of the military as a social platform,” said Col. Ron Crews, the group’s executive director. “We again call upon our nation’s leaders to restore policies about sexual behavior within the military that will maximize troop readiness.”

You’ll Need an ID to Prove You’re a Democrat but Not to Vote

In order to get into the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, you will need an ID. Isn’t it a hardship on some people to get an ID? Isn’t this a standard argument sued by liberals on why it’s unconstitutional improper to ask for an ID at the voting booth? If it’s not a hardship in one place (the convention), then it shouldn’t be a hardship in another place (the voting booth). The inconsistency underscores the fallacy in their objections to voter ID.

  • Liberals are intent on blocking voter ID requirements because they know that their fellow-liberals are some of the biggest voter-cheats.

Mother’s Milk Banks, Milk-Sharing Skyrockets

This time last year, Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose may have been able to send a month’s worth of donated breast milk to hospitals in Alaska or Hawaii in a single shipment. Now many of those same hospitals can only get their milk by the week. More and more new moms are using another mother’s donated breast milk to feed their babies. About 2.18 million ounces of breast milk were distributed through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America in 2011. That’s up from 1.5 million ounces in 2009 and 1.8 million ounces in 2010. The numbers are up because more hospitals are using donor milk for pre-term infants. Donor milk also goes to mothers with delayed lactation who use donor milk to tide them over until Mom is ready.

Economic News

A pretty big number will hang over the Democratic convention as it kicks off in North Carolina’s Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday. That’s the day the official debt clock is expected to show the U.S. debt crossing the $16 trillion mark. The counter on the Treasury Department website paused for the Labor Day weekend at $15.99 trillion. It has been increasing by over $2 billion a day.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $3.80 on Monday, up 14 cents from the same time last year, the highest price ever recorded during a Labor Day weekend. Average gas prices grew by nearly 31 cents a gallon in August and have risen 11 cents since August 22, due, in part, to Hurricane Isaac, which forced oil refineries on the Gulf Coast to close.

Car sales jumped in August as U.S. automakers all reported better-than-expected numbers in one of the best months in years. Sales at General Motors were up 10.1% from a year ago, while Ford Motor reported a 12.6% rise. Chrysler Group posted a 14.1% improvement over a year ago.

Middle East

Israel’s prime minister on Sunday urged the international community to get tougher against Iran, saying that without a “clear red line,” Tehran will not halt its nuclear program. The tough language from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflected differences that have emerged between Israel and its allies, particularly the U.S., over how to deal with Iran. Netanyahu said that a new report issued by the U.N. nuclear agency showing progress in the Iranian nuclear program bolstered his claim that international pressure is not working.

With Israel openly debating whether to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months, the Obama administration is moving ahead with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated. Already planned are naval exercises and new antimissile systems in the Persian Gulf, and a more forceful clamping down on Iranian oil revenue. The administration is also racing to complete, in the next several months, a new radar system in Qatar that would combine with radars already in place in Israel and Turkey to form a broad arc of antimissile coverage.

  • Iran will not abandon their nuclear plans no matter how serious the U.S. tries to appear. Islamic fanaticism knows no bounds.

Syria

Government warplanes bombed a town in northern Syria on Monday, killing at least 19 people, activists said, while the new U.N. envoy to the country acknowledged that brokering an end to the nation’s civil war will be a “very, very difficult” task. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the airstrikes targeted a residential area in the northern town of al-Bab, about 20 miles from the Turkish border.

Two bombs exploded near the Syrian military’s joint chiefs of staff’s offices in central Damascus on Sunday, lightly wounding four army officers and causing damage to a building and cars. The twin blasts in the posh Abu Rummaneh district of the Syrian capital were the latest in a wave of bombings to hit Damascus in the recent month as clashes between government troops and rebels reached the tightly controlled capital. Several past bombings have targeted the security establishment in Damascus.

More than 100,000 Syrians fled the country in August, by far the most of any previous month in the crisis, bringing the total to more than 235,300 refugees who are registered or awaiting registration, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday. Syria’s entire population is about 22.5 million.

Afghanistan

Two suicide attackers, one driving a fuel tanker, blew themselves up near a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 50 others. The attack around dawn in the town of Sayed Abad in Wardak province, about 40 miles from Kabul, served as a reminder that even after a decade of fighting, tens of thousands of U.S. and foreign troops are still engaged in a war that shows no signs of slowing down despite the start of a withdrawal of coalition forces. The U.S. military has halted the training of Afghan government-backed militias for at least a month to give the Americans time to redo the vetting of new recruits after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies. The program has been a headlong drive to fill out a police force. From the very beginning, the program has been one of the most controversial in the Afghan security plan.

Pakistan

Pakistani police arrested a Muslim cleric who allegedly tampered with evidence submitted in the case against a Christian girl accused of desecrating a Quran, an investigating officer said Sunday, the latest twist in a religiously charged affair that has focused attention on the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. The case against the Christian girl accused of burning pages of a Quran has sparked controversy at home and abroad in large part because of her age and questions about her mental capacity. It also has triggered an exodus of hundreds of Christians from the neighborhood where the girl lived, fearful of retribution by their Muslim neighbors outraged by the alleged desecration of Islam’s holy book. The cleric, Khalid Chishti, was arrested late Saturday for allegedly planting pages of a Quran in a shopping bag containing burned papers and ash that had been carried by the Christian girl.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting an earthquake early Monday in the greater Los Angeles area. The magnitude-3.3 quake was centered in Beverly Hills at 3:26 a.m. The Los Angeles Fire Department says its survey found no significant damage, injury or loss of life in the city.

Iran’s state news agency said a 5.2 magnitude earthquake has jolted a sparsely populated district in the country’s east. IRNA says the quake hit a district near the town of Qaen before dawn Sunday and that there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Last month, twin earthquakes struck northwestern Iran and claimed the lives of more than 300 people, injured thousands and left several thousand homeless. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 quake killed some 26,000 after it flattened historic city of Bam in the country’s southeast.

Wildfires

A wildfire in the Angeles National Forest that forced the evacuation of thousands of visitors has grown another 500 acres. The fire, which broke out near a campground Sunday afternoon, grew overnight to about 4,100 acres, or roughly 6 square miles. With containment remaining at five percent, the flames continue to burn deeper into a wilderness area away from any structures. Campgrounds that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on the holiday weekend, as well as rehabilitation centers and the private community of Camp Williams Resort, were evacuated on Sunday. The forest is heavily used by Southern California residents because it is close to populated areas.

Wildfires in northwestern Nebraska tripled in size in less than 24 hours Sunday, as strong winds pushed flames through the rugged, rural terrain. More than 285 square miles — an area more than twice the size of the state’s largest city, Omaha — had burned by Sunday afternoon, fire officials said. One of the fires had crossed into South Dakota this weekend and burned more than 50 square miles, including land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A day earlier, the fires had only burned roughly 93 square miles in the ranching territory that’s favored by deer and turkey hunters. Cooler weather moved through the area Saturday night, helping firefighters mostly contain two major fires — the West Ash and Douthit fires — near Chadron. But winds gusted up to 40 mph Sunday, helping spread the fires through drought-stricken trees and grasses. Overall, the fires have damaged at least 10 homes and more than 50 structures in Nebraska and South Dakota. The fires also forced the evacuation of several small communities

Weather

Days after Isaac hammered Louisiana and Mississippi with winds and rain, much of a parish southeast of New Orleans was still flooded and thousand were without power. Thousands of evacuees remained at shelters or bunked with friends or relatives as of Sunday. As the remnants of Hurricane Isaac pushed their way up the Mississippi valley on Saturday, spinning off severe thunderstorms and at least four tornadoes, some on the Gulf Coast were impatient with the pace of restoring power days after the storm dragged through the region. While New Orleans streets were bustling again and workers were returning to offshore oil rigs, thousands of evacuees couldn’t return home to flooded low-lying areas of Louisiana and more than 400,000 sweltering electricity customers in the state remained without power, down from more than 900,000. Isaac dumped as much as 16 inches of rain in some areas, and about 500 people had to be rescued by boat or high-water vehicles. More than 5,000 people were staying in shelters.

Soaking rains from remnants of Hurricane Isaac lifted farmers’ spirits over the long Labor Day weekend in the USA’s drought-stricken breadbasket. But the rain — approaching 6 inches in a few areas — was mostly too little, too late, officials said. After blowing through New Orleans and neighboring Gulf Coast areas last week, Isaac moved slowly through the Midwest for several days, bringing soaking rains that stretched from Indiana to Kansas. For many corn farmers, the rains came too late. Corn needed to have water in May, June and July.

This summer’s U.S. drought, the worst in decades, has damaged corn crops used to produce ethanol, disrupting energy deliveries and threatening thermoelectric power plants, according to the latest federal data. Less than a fourth, or 23%, of the nation’s corn crop is now rated as good to excellent, down from 66% in June, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A significant share of field corn is used to make ethanol, which is blended into gasoline and accounts for about 10% of all motor gasoline. The production of ethanol sank in July to its lowest level in two years and its prices rose significantly.