Signs of the Times (9/4/12)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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