Signs of the Times (9/21/12)

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, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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