Archive for October, 2012

Signs of the Times (10/31/12)

October 31, 2012

Weather

  • End-time weather will continue to grow increasingly severe (Ezek. 13:11-13, 38:22, Rev. 8:7, 11:19. 16:21)

As of 7:30 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, just under 6.1 million customers were still without power due to hurricane Sandy. On Tuesday morning, a peak total of over 8 million customers were in the dark. In some regions, power failures were nearly total. Governor Andrew Cuomo said 90% of Long Island families were without power Tuesday. One of New Jersey’s utilities reported 86% of its 1.1 million customers were without power Tuesday morning, and that figure was still 86% early Wednesday. As of late Tuesday evening, the total number of U.S. fatalities blamed on Sandy is 45 in the mainland United States plus one in Puerto Rico. Many of the victims were killed by falling trees.

Very early damage estimates suggest Sandy caused at least $10 to $20 billion in damage, and possibly as much as $50 billion in total damage and lost business. The higher number would make Sandy the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina. Damage ranged from storm surge flooding to direct wind damage to devastating fires fueled by high winds and the difficulties fire departments faced in navigating flooded or blocked roads. Behind the storm, cold air has moved into areas where power is out. Wednesday morning temperatures were in the 30s and 40s across most areas without power. Snow piled up more than two feet high in the central Appalachians.

Some New York City ground transit and airports are coming back to life Wednesday. The city’s massive subway system will stay offline for several more days as workers try to bring the inundated underground network back to life. New York’s bus service will resume a nearly full schedule Wednesday, but it probably won’t accommodate the 5 million commuters who rely on the subway every day. The rail operations center of New Jersey Transit was crippled by 8 feet of water and floodwater damaged at least 65 locomotive engines and 257 rail cars. It will be weeks before service resumes on the New Jersey coastline.

Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean in addition to destroying or badly damaging thousands of homes. While Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, the majority of deaths and most extensive damage was in impoverished Haiti, where it has rained almost non-stop since last Tuesday. The official death toll in Haiti stood at 44 Saturday, but authorities said that could still rise. The country’s ramshackle housing and denuded hillsides are especially vulnerable to flooding when rains come.

Southeast Asia is dealing with the trail of death and damage from a powerful storm that has killed at least 34 people in the region over the past few days. Tropical Storm Son-Tinh was moving northeast along the northern Vietnamese coast on Monday after tearing the roofs off hundreds of houses and breaching flood defenses overnight in the Philippines. Son-Tinh was at typhoon level when it thumped into northern Vietnam late Sunday with winds as strong as 83 mph. About 19,361 hectares of rice and 70,932 hectares of other crops were submerged by floodwaters. The storm blew off the roofs of 47,400 homes.

CIA Tells Operatives to Stand Down during Embassy Attack

An urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11, Fox News reported Saturday. Later, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied.

  • The handling of this incident is deplorable, from ignoring earlier requests for more security, to denying urgent calls for help, to the subsequent disinformation campaign and attempted coverup

Al-Qaeda leader urges kidnapping of Westerners

The leader of al-Qaeda has urged Muslims to kidnap Westerners to exchange for imprisoned jihadists, including a blind cleric serving a life sentence in the United States for a 1993 plot to blow up New York City landmarks. He said that abducting nationals of “countries waging wars on Muslims” is the only way to free “our captives, and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.” In an undated two-hour videotape posted this week on militant forums, the Egyptian-born jihadist Ayman al-Zawahri also urged support for Syria’s uprising and called for the implementation of Islamic Shariah law in Egypt.

3,000 Illegal Immigrants Applying Daily for Deportation Reprieve

More than 3,000 young illegal immigrants are applying daily to take part in the administration’s new deportation reprieve policy. Roughly 200,000 people have applied since the Homeland Security began accepting applications two months ago. The agency began accepting applications after President Obama in June made the policy change by Executive Order. The growing numbers suggest that whether Obama or Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is elected, either will have to further deal with the change. Romney has been critical of the administration’s policy, but has said if he is elected, he would not revoke permits granted under the change. He has also said his immigration reform plan would make deferred action unnecessary.

Gay Marriage Amendment Fight in Minnesota

The two principal campaigns battling over Minnesota’s constitutional amendment to ban same-gender “marriage” have raised more than $16 million combined, with opponents of the ban outraising supporters by nearly two-to-one. Most of Minnesota for Marriage’s haul since October 22 came from the Minnesota Family Council, a socially conservative group that pursues biblical principles in public policy. It contributed $500,000 last week, which was on top of $476,000 in previous donations. Minnesota’s six Catholic dioceses, which previously contributed $950,000 toward the amendment’s passage, gave another $100,000 this week. Grace Church, an evangelical mega-church in Eden Prairie, handed over $50,000. The total haul for the opponents of the marriage ban to more than $11 million since forming in 2011.

Chick-fil-A Thrives in Third Quarter Despite Marriage Controversy

In the months since Chick-fil-A came under fire for its CEO’s support of traditional marriage, the fast food chain has thrived. Consumer use, visits and ad awareness were all up measurably in the third quarter despite gay activists calling for boycotts against the restaurant. According to a report by research specialist Sandelman & Associates, customer traffic was up 2.2 percent, market share was up 0.6 percent, and total ad awareness was up 6.5 percent. Additionally, Chick-fil-A broadened its regular customer base in 28 of 35 media markets. “There was a lot of talk that this would hurt Chick-fil-A, but it actually helped the brand,” said Jeff Davis, president of Sandelman.

Economic News

The housing market picked up more momentum in August, as the average home price for 20 major cities jumped 0.9%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. The increase marked the fifth consecutive month of gains for the index. Phoenix has roared back the fastest, with a whopping 18.8% year-over-year gain in August. That marks the fourth month in a row of double-digit price hikes. Detroit prices rose 7.6% over the past 12 months and Miami’s grew 6.7%.Among the three cities to have year-over-year losses, Atlanta recorded the biggest decrease in home values, with prices down 6.1%. New York was down 2.3% and Chicago fell 1.6%.

The share of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent of households rose from 20.5 percent in 1979 to 35.4 percent in 2010 — a 50 percent increase. During this time (31 years), real median household income (adjusted for inflation) rose only 7 percent to $50,831, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This represents an annual rise of less than 1/5 of 1 percent. A recent report from the Center for Housing Policy indicates the combined housing and transportation costs for moderate-income households in the 25 largest metropolitan areas rose 75 percent more than income did from 2000 to 2010. Even more striking, these costs represent 59 percent of income on average for each area.

  • The increase in the wealthy and the expansion of the welfare-dependent poor is shrinking the middle class, just as the New World Order desires because they are the ones who are opposing socialism and globalism

During the 2010 tax season, Americans paid 9.9% of their income on state and local taxes. This number, according to a report this week by The Tax Foundation, is up from 9.3% in 2000, but is basically unchanged from 2009. Per-capita income in the U.S. fell from $42,539 in 2009 to $41,146 in 2010, while taxes fell slightly, from $4,160 in 2009 to $4,112 in 2010. Residents in New York paid 12.8% of their income on state and local taxes last year. In Alaska, residents paid just 7% of their income in non-federal taxes.

Ford Motor reported earnings remained steady from a year ago as strong results at home helped balance out the soaring losses in Europe. Ford’s overall net income came in at $1.6 billion, essentially unchanged the same quarter a year earlier. The company lost $468 million in Europe, bringing its losses there so far this year to just over $1 billion. n an effort to stem the losses in Europe Ford announced Tuesday it would close three plants cut 6,200 jobs Europe by 2014.

Chrysler reported third-quarter profits Monday that rose 80% versus a year ago, buoyed by strong sales in U.S. Chrysler’s third-quarter net income hit $381 million, up from $212 million last year, though down versus the first two quarters of this year.

Swiss bank UBS said Tuesday it intends to slash 10,000 jobs as the firm pares back its investment banking arm. The loss of 10,000 bankers represents more than 15% of the bank’s workforce. The layoffs are one of the industry’s largest staff reductions since the financial crisis ripped through Wall Street firms.

The Bank of Japan announced Tuesday that it would expand its asset purchase program by 11 trillion yen in an effort to stimulate its economy. The central bank said it would ramp up its current bond buying program from 80 trillion yen to about 91 trillion yen, a difference of $138 billion.

Unemployment in the eurozone rose in September to a record high of 11.6%, up from 10.3% a year earlier. Unemployment rates within the euro area vary dramatically from one country to the next. Spain, with its sluggish economy, has the highest unemployment rate of 25.8%, followed by Greece at 25.1% and Portugal at 15.7%. On the other side of the spectrum, Austria has the lowest rate at 4.4%, followed by Luxembourg at 5.2%, and Germany and the Netherlands at 5.4%.

Persecution Watch

A Syrian Christian pastor was shot and killed along with his wife and three children by a band of Sunni Muslim militants who stormed into a house church meeting earlier this month, CBN News reports. The Christian Aid director, whose name cannot be released for security reasons, described the martyred pastor, whose name was Sami: “I know he was a Muslim-background believer. He had been in training for a while, and he was given help by Christian Aid Mission. He was a very faithful, godly person that the leadership really trusted in, and they really thought a lot of him.” Thirty-two Christian families associated with Sami are now seeking help to flee Syria. Various mission groups report Syrian Christians are coming under increased attack by armed militants.

At least seven people were killed and dozens were injured in a suicide bombing Sunday (Oct. 28) during Mass at a Catholic church in northern Nigeria, ASSIST News Service reports. An explosive-laden vehicle drove into St. Rita’s Catholic Church in the Malali area of Kaduna. One local hospital said Sunday it was treating 14 wounded, and another hospital was treating 84 victims. According to the BBC, “The vehicle had been stopped at the security gate outside the church. The driver initially reversed, but then careened straight through the church wall and detonated the bomb. Members of the choir are thought to be among the dead and injured.” Kaduna, the dividing line between Nigeria’s majority-Muslim north and majority-Christian south, has been targeted by the Islamic militant sect Boko Haram as the group fights to create an Islamic state and implement sharia (Islamic law). At least 2,800 people have died in fighting since Boko Haram’s insurrection began in 2009.

But Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel asserts that this kneejerk reaction is wrong. “More often than not, what you find are these schools allow people to come to speak to people there and have lunch with those that they know and are associated with. He has every right to be able to be there, just like anyone else.” John and Linda Buchanan, whose daughter attends a middle school in the district, claim the youth pastor’s actions violate the First Amendment. In fact, notes Staver, the school district could actually be the one at fault. “If the pastor is the only one that’s excluded, then the pastor may well have a lawsuit against the school for being singled out and excluded.”

  • The anti-Christ spirit has inflamed many into irrational, demonic bias against all things Christian

Middle East

Palestinian terror militias in the Gaza Strip broke the fragile truce with Israel over the weekend by firing salvos of rockets into Israel, prompting retaliatory air strikes by the IDF. Schools were closed in Beer Sheba on Sunday as Grad rockets landed near the city, and the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Strip, announced that it had fired mortars at IDF bases near the border. Several small groups, including the Popular Resistance Committees, took credit for rocket barrages on civilian areas. One Hamas operative was reported killed and another wounded by IDF strikes as they were in the process of setting up a rocket to be launched.

The Supreme Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, has called for an end to all negotiations regarding Jerusalem and the beginning of “holy Jihad.” Saying “the Zionists only understand force,” Badie called for all Muslims to fulfill their duty and take up the cause of war for “the recovery of Jerusalem.” The Muslim Brotherhood has taken control of Egypt—Israel’s largest neighbor—and is threatening to void the peace treaty that Menachem Begin signed more than thirty years ago.

  • The Islamic enemies of Israel are fully committed to their purpose—the total destruction of the Jewish state and the Jewish people – treaties and negotiations will not change that objective

Syria

Syrian warplanes bombed a building in a Damascus suburb on Saturday, killing at least eight people in the first airstrike since an internationally mediated cease-fire went into effect, activists said. The attack came a day after car bombs and clashes left 151 dead, according to activist tallies, leaving the four-day truce that began Friday at the start of a major Muslim holiday in tatters.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s anti-terror squad arrested 11 people suspected of planning a range of attacks on domestic and foreign targets including the U.S. Embassy and a site near the Australian Embassy, police said Saturday. The suspects were arrested in raids Friday and Saturday in four provinces. The suspects belonged to a new group called the Harakah Sunni for Indonesian Society, or HASMI. Police seized a number of bombs, explosive materials, a bomb-making manual and ammunition.

Myanmar

The death toll from fighting between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar last week has risen to 84 and at least 22,500 people have been displaced by the sectarian violence. 129 people were also injured during the violence, which erupted on October 21 and has cast a pall over recent reforms in the Asian nation. There has been tension between the Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims since May, when violence began in Rakhine state after three Muslim men were arrested on suspicion of raping and killing a Buddhist woman.

Sudan

Two Iranian warships have docked in Sudan carrying “a message of support and friendship,” Sudanese state media said. The warships arrived less than a week after a weapons factory in Khartoum was bombed, killing two people, in what Sudanese officials said was an airstrike by Israel. The officials also dismissed suggestions that the weapons factory was manufacturing arms for Iran or its allies, denying “any link between the Sudanese military manufacturing output and any external party.” Israel has declined to comment on the attack in the east African country. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing last Tuesday.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit in the Queen Charlotte Islands area, followed by a 5.8-magnitude aftershock several minutes later. The quake was felt in Craig and other southeast Alaska communities, but Zidek said there were no immediate reports of damage. A small tsunami created by the magnitude 7.7 quake was barely noticeable in Craig, Alaska, where the first wave or surge was recorded Saturday night. Residents in parts of British Columbia were evacuated but the province appeared to escape the biggest quake in Canada since 1949 largely unscathed.

Signs of the Times (10/26/12)

October 26, 2012

State Dept. Knew Terrorists Attacked Embassy

A series of internal State Department emails shows that officials reported within hours of last month’s deadly consulate attack in Libya that Al Qaeda-tied group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility. The emails provide some of the most detailed information yet about what officials knew in the initial hours after the attack. And it again raises questions about why U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, apparently based on intelligence assessments, would claim five days after the attack that it was a “spontaneous” reaction to protests over an anti-Islam film. The emails were sent by the State Department to a variety of national security platforms.

  • Most politicians lie and Obama is one of the best

Texas Threatens International Poll Observers

Texas officials this week launched a prickly and very public dispute with the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, which plans to send monitors to polling sites across the U.S. on Election Day. The group has done this since 2002 — but this year, Texas took exception to what officials perceived as a challenge to the latest wave of voter ID laws. Attorney General Greg Abbott is now threatening to prosecute any observer who breaks state law by getting too close to any polling site. The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about Voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States,” Abbott wrote in a letter to the OSCE. He went on to remind representatives that they are not allowed to enter a polling place, and cautioned against going within 100 feet of the entrance.

Judge Rules Against Planned Parenthood in Texas

Texas won another battle against Planned Parenthood this week. A federal appeals court, on Thursday, refused to grant another hearing to the organization, a decision that stops the organization’s fight against Texas’ effort to ban state funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates. The decision continues a legal struggle that has been going on for months. Texas opposed government funding for Planned Parenthood clinics because the organization provides abortions.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider, has spent $12 million on this year’s presidential election through its political action committees — the most it has ever spent in an election, Baptist Press reports. About half of the money has gone for TV ads in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to the Associated Press. Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, said she has “taken a break from [her] day job” to campaign for President Obama. In the second presidential debate, Obama mentioned Planned Parenthood five times, advocating continued federal funding for the organization. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has called for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. The abortion provider and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and Planned Parenthood centers reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010.

Most Expensive Campaign Ever

The 2012 presidential campaign was expected Thursday to pass the $2 billion mark in fundraising, according to accounting statements submitted to the government, thanks to an outpouring of cash from both ordinary citizens and the wealthiest Americans hoping to influence the selection of the country’s next leader. The eye-popping figure puts this election on track to be the costliest in history, fueled by a campaign finance system vastly altered by the proliferation of “super” political committees that are bankrolling a barrage of TV ads in battleground states. The $2 billion fundraising figure doesn’t include nearly $130 million spent on political ads by non-profit groups that aren’t required to file campaign finance reports or disclose their donors.

  • The ‘reality show’ of presidential elections has become farcical, and inordinately expensive. As long as voters/viewers tune into this charade, we’ll continue to get bombarded with campaign ads that mean virtually nothing.

Less Religious are Less Likely to Vote, New Poll Finds

A new poll released Monday from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that Americans who are less religious are less likely to head to the polls this election season, the Christian Post reports. Religiously affiliated Americans are more likely to vote than those who are religiously unaffiliated or less religious, by a margin of 73 to 61 percent, the survey found. If these findings are true, it could spell troubling news for the Obama campaign, since voters who are less religious are also more likely to support the president. Americans who identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated — now 19 percent of the population — are the fastest-growing group in America’s religious landscape. Obama holds a substantial lead among the religiously unaffiliated — 73 percent of those polled, compared to only 23 percent of that group who say they support Mitt Romney. The latest Real Clear Politics average of national polls shows Romney with a narrow lead over Obama, 47.7 to 46.9 percent.

Persecution Watch

Threatening leaflets, attacks on Christian property, followed by the displacement of Christians — are becoming commonplace in all of Egypt. Besides attacks on Christian shops and churches, Christians are being kidnapped and held for ransom. They are often arrested and tried for “blasphemy,” with the aim to humiliate, repress and intimidate them. Voice of the Martyrs reports on its website, “During the past three years, there has been a significant increase in violent attacks against Christians, both Coptic and Evangelical. The attacks often go unpunished, and authorities seem to make no attempts to prevent similar violence.”

Christians continue to become victims at the hand of radicals in Syria, Mission Network News reports. According to the Middle East director of Christian Aid Mission, bands of militant Islamists are responsible: “They’re not necessarily Syrians, but they’re very radical Muslims, and their goal is to eradicate Christians. They believe it’s an abomination to have Christians within Syria.” The director, who cannot reveal his identity for security reasons, cited a Christian Aid-supported pastor who was a recent victim. “There was a band of militia that came through and told all of the people to get out; then they went ahead and killed the pastor and his family.”

Automatic Defense Spending Cuts Due January

The question of whether Congress will avoid the steep automatic spending cuts set to take affect in January is a big issue in communities that depend on defense spending, and a comment President Obama made at Monday night’s debate seems to be adding to the anxiety in those communities. Reduction in defense spending is a large part of the $1.2 trillion in cuts scheduled to kick in Jan. 2nd. The cuts were part of a 2011 deal to raise the federal debt ceiling to avert an unprecedented default. Republicans and Democrats decided to use the threat of objectionable cuts to prod Congress into agreeing on more reasonable cuts at a later date. But congressional negotiators never agreed on those more reasonable cuts, leaving the door open for the automatic cuts.

Economic News

U.S. economic growth picked up in the third quarter, boosted by stronger consumer spending, an improving housing sector and increased defense spending. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic health, grew at an annual rate of 2% from July to September, the Commerce Department said Friday, faster than the 1.3% rate in the second quarter. Growth around 2% a year is in line with the pace of the sluggish recovery, and is hardly enough to lead to robust hiring.

Residential construction accelerated at a 14% pace in the third quarter, signaling the housing sector may have finally started recovering. Surprisingly, higher federal defense spending also boosted the economy, growing at a 13% annual rate after shrinking in the three prior quarters. State and local governments contracted for the 12th consecutive quarter. Meanwhile, businesses also cut back on their spending.

  • Defense spending is up because mandated cuts are due January 1st

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the broader trend remains choppy, making it difficult to get a clear reading on the job market in October. About 369,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended October 20, down 23,000 from the previous week. The initial claims number has bounced around for the last five weeks, pointing to little improvement in the job market since September.

More than 30 million Americans are living just above the poverty line. These near poor, often defined as having incomes of up to 1.5 times the poverty threshold, were supporting a family of four on no more than $34,500 last year. The near poor have grown by about 10% in number over the past five years, as the Great Recession sent many people falling down the income ladder. The ranks of those in poverty swelled by 24% in the same period.

Foreclosures fell in nearly two-thirds of the nation’s largest metro areas during the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac Thursday. The numbers indicate that “most of the nation’s housing markets are past the worst of the foreclosure problem,” Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s vice president said in the report.

Bank of America’s (BAC) legal headaches continue to mount as the U.S. filed suit against the banking giant on Wednesday, seeking more than $1 billion in damages for alleged mortgage fraud against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The U.S. alleges that a loan origination program in BofA’s Countrywide Financial unit generated thousands of fraudulent and defective home loans that were sold to Freddie and Fannie. The loans later defaulted and caused massive losses and countless foreclosures.

Eurozone

A weak performance by eurozone factories in October suggests the region could fall deeper into recession in the fourth quarter, as businesses shed jobs in the face of declining orders. Preliminary data published Wednesday showed the weakest reading for eurozone manufacturing and service activity in 40 months, and a separate reading of business sentiment in Germany — the region’s largest economy – fell to its lowest level since February 2010. Eurozone GDP shrank by 0.2% in the second quarter. It is expected to have contracted further in the third.

Greece has reached a new deal with its international lenders, gaining two more years to make painful spending cuts and tax increases, and paving the way for the troubled nation to receive the next installment of bailout funding. By pushing the deadline to 2016, the deal will give Greece Prime Minister Antonis Samaras breathing room to bring Greece’s budget deficit under control. Eurozone finance ministers agreed to a second bailout worth €130 billion for Greece earlier this year. Since forming a government in June, Samaras has impressed his European Union partners with his commitment to take tough measures to rescue Greece’s collapsing economy, despite fierce opposition fueled by the financial and social hardship now facing many Greeks. Unemployment has reached record levels of 25%.

Britain emerged from recession in the third quarter, recording stronger than expected growth of 1% as the London Olympics gave a boost to activity in the service sector. Previously, UK GDP fell by 0.4% in the second quarter, the third consecutive quarter of contraction in the country’s first double-dip recession since the 1970s.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu and other senior officials toured the south of the country Wednesday and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio on Thursday that contrary to what was feared, the Egyptian government led by Islamist president Moamed Morsi has acted strongly against the Islamist terror militia Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip. Shalom also gave Morsi credit for helping to broker the cease-fire which brought an end to several days of rocket barrages into Israel from Gaza-based terror organizations and retaliatory Israeli strikes on terrorist infrastructure.

As dozens of Palestinian rockets rained down on southern Israel, the country’s air force carried out new raids on positions in Gaza on Wednesday. Two days of air strikes have so far killed four Palestinians. Attacks and counter attacks between the two sides are a frequent occurrence but appear to have escalated in the past two days. At least five Israeli civilians were injured and schools were closed Thursday across southern Israel as a barrage of rocket and mortar attacks were launched from Gaza. Various terrorist groups, including the Hamas Al-Qassam brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks. This is just the latest upsurge in what has already been an extremely high level of terrorist activity this year.

Hezbollah is back in action in Lebanon, using the chaos of the civil war in neighboring Syria to take control of a series of villages along the border to strengthen their grip on power in the region. Their main purpose is not gaining power in Lebanon; it is preparing a base from which they can attack Israel. Hezbollah was basically created and funded by Iran, and the mullahs use this group to strike at targets around the world while maintaining deniability. Dr. Mike Evans of the Jerusalem Prayer Team notes that, “This silent war is being ignored by the liberal media, but it poses a grave threat to the Jewish people.”

Syria

After 19 months of incessant violence, the Syrian government agreed to a cease-fire during the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Friday, special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said. The U.N.-Arab League special envoy added that some rebels have also “agreed to the principle” of a cease-fire. But, snipers in Damascus, soldiers shooting protesters, clashes outside a military camp came just hours after the temporary cease-fire was to have taken hold on Friday, dimming hopes that the killings that have wracked Syria would stop.

Afghanistan

It was supposed to be a day of happiness, a moment to mark the start of a Muslim holiday that celebrates peace as the faithful observe the height of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The peaceful, easy feeling was erased by a suicide bomber who left bodies broken and bloodied outside Eid Gah Mosque in the provincial city of Maimana. At least 40 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the attack that came as worshipers were leaving Friday morning prayers. The death toll was likely to rise given the size and timing of the explosion. Officials laid the blame for the attack squarely at the feet of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Japan

Radiation levels in fish caught near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remain high long after the 2011 meltdowns there, suggesting contamination from the site might still be seeping into Pacific waters, a U.S. researcher reported Thursday. The “vast majority” of fish caught off Japan show no sign of radioactive contamination at levels dangerous to humans, but close to the plant, an ongoing high level of the reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137 “implies that cesium is still being released to the food chain,” he claims.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake struck Costa Rica’s Pacific coast on Tuesday, swaying buildings and sending people running into the streets in the nation’s capital of San Jose. The 6.5-magnitude quake was centered in the Guanacaste region of the Central American country, only 5 miles from the popular tourist town of Nicoya, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It had a depth of 24.5 miles. There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties from the 6.5 quake, which was followed by a magnitude-4.5 aftershock.

Weather

Sandy strengthened into the 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season on Wednesday and rapidly strengthened to a strong Category 2 hurricane late Wednesday night as it approached eastern Cuba. The city of Santiago de Cuba reported a wind gust of 114 miles per hour late Wednesday night as Sandy made its second landfall. Sandy claimed a pair of lives before reaching Cuba with one death in Haiti and another in Jamaica. Sandy raged through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 21 people dead across the Caribbean.

Peripheral impacts of rain and gusty winds pushed into portions of the Florida Peninsula Friday even with Sandy’s center staying well off the coast. The latest forecast guidance is showing that the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic will see major impacts from Sandy potentially beginning as early as Sunday and continuing into Monday and Tuesday. It’s likely Sandy will hit some portion of the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic coast, but there remains uncertainty with the exact timing, location and magnitude of the worst impacts. The forecast involves a rare, complex atmospheric setup that will allow the system to pivot back to the northwest into the region rather than simply moving out to sea. The ingredients awaiting Hurricane Sandy appear to be coming together to create what forecasters are calling a monster combination of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides.

Before the beginning of this hurricane season, back in May, forecasters thought this year would be an average one. Come August, when the season typically peaks, forecasters notched up their outlook, saying the season would in fact be busier than average. Now it’s October and it’s been one of the busiest seasons on record, with 19 named storms so far this year, 10 of which became hurricanes, including Hurricane Sandy. That puts the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season in rarified company. Only seven seasons since 1851 (as far back as hurricane records reach) have seen 19 or more named storms. Three of these have been within the last decade: the 2010 and 2011 seasons had 19 storms each and the 2005 season had a whopping 28 storms, the most on record, including Hurricane Katrina.

Signs of the Times (10/23/12)

October 23, 2012

Staggering Debt Defies Politics

No matter who wins the U.S. presidential election come November 6 ― there is simply no way our country will ever make good on its gargantuan debts and pile of IOUs that now total as much as $212 trillion. Washington could raise taxes to 100% of your income, and the debt still wouldn’t be paid off. They could slash spending to zero, and the debt would not be paid off. The same applies to Europe. It’s drowning in debt and there is simply no combination of tax increases and austerity measures that will fix its problems, either. Almost all major central banks are now printing money. They all think that money-printing will inflate away debt, cheapen their currency, revive exports and fix unemployment. Not so. It’s just postponing the inevitable crash. The solution? Some experts suggest creating a new world reserve currency, tied to gold or a commodity basket.

  • The real solution? Until Jesus returns, the black horse of financial disaster is loose in the world (Rev. 6:5)

Welfare Jumps 32% During Obama Presidency

Federal welfare spending has grown by 32 percent over the past four years, swelled by President Obama’s stimulus spending and a growing number of Americans whose recession-depleted incomes now qualify them for public assistance, the Washington Times reports. Federal spending on more than 80 low-income assistance programs reached $746 billion in 2011, and state spending on those programs brought the total to $1.03 trillion, the Congressional Research Service and the Senate Budget Committee reported. That makes welfare the single biggest chunk of federal spending — topping Social Security and basic defense spending. The biggest item on the list is Medicaid, the federal-state healthcare program for the poor, which at $296 in federal spending made up 40 percent of all low-income assistance in 2011. That total is up $82 billion from 2008. The next big program, food stamps, was at $75 billion in 2011, or 10 percent of welfare spending. That’s nearly twice the size it was 2008 and accounts for 20 percent of the total welfare spending increase over the past four years. In that time period, the number of people on food stamps has also risen from 32 million to 47 million.

CIA Seeks to Expand Drone Fleet

The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said. The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots. The outcome has broad implications for counterterrorism policy and whether the CIA gradually returns to being an organization focused mainly on gathering intelligence, or remains a central player in the targeted killing of terrorism suspects abroad.

  • While the use of drones against isolated, spread out terrorist targets has proven effective, it should not be in the hands of the secretive CIA but rather the military services.

Scientists Convicted for Failing to Predict Earthquake

Earthquake experts around the world say they are appalled by an Italian court’s decision to convict six scientists on manslaughter charges for failing to predict the deadly quake that devastated the city of L’Aquila. They warned the ruling could severely harm future scientific research. The court in L’Aquila sentenced the scientists and a government official Monday to six years in prison, ruling that they didn’t accurately communicate the risk of the earthquake in 2009 that killed more than 300 people. he trial centered on a meeting a week before the 6.3-magnitude quake struck. At the meeting, the experts determined that it was “unlikely” but not impossible that a major quake would take place, despite concern among the city’s residents over recent seismic activity. Prosecutors said the defendants provided “inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory information about the dangers” facing L’Aquila.

  • There’s a mistaken notion in the world today that science is exact, but it has not. Scientific theories are often modified and abandoned as new information becomes available. It is this underlying belief that makes many people so diehard about macro evolution, despite missing links and evidence to the contrary

Boys Hitting Puberty Earlier Too

Boys in the United States are starting puberty earlier than ever, according to a new study publishing in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics. Boys are starting to sexually develop six months to two years earlier than medical textbooks say is standard. Parents should be aware that their boy or girl could hit puberty earlier than they did as children, lead author Marcia Herman-Giddes said. Early development in girls has been linked to poor self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression, according to Health.com. Researchers don’t know why this is happening. It’s a very complicated subject,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group. “We’re finding a lot of the chemicals that Americans have daily exposure to have an impact.”

Persecution Watch

Ruth Sweats of Spring Lake Park’s Osborne Apartments tried to read her Bible, pray, and conduct a private conversation about her faith with another resident — but a social worker told her to stop. The reason? The complex claims that because it is a Housing and Urban Development property that receives funds from the federal government, it cannot allow residents to engage in private religious expression in the commons area. Alliance Defending Freedom has written a letter [PDF] to apartment officials explaining that the Establishment Clause found in the Constitution is a restriction on government – not on private speakers. “The private decision of a senior citizen to discuss her faith or read the Bible or pray is all private speech — and no law requires that a privately owned independent living facility like this one should restrict the religious expression,” said ADF attorney Matt Sharp.

Tufts University in Medford, Mass., has banned a Christian group from campus over the group’s requirement that its student leaders adhere to “basic biblical truths of Christianity,” the Weekly Standard reports. The decision to ban the Tufts Christian Fellowship — the Tufts chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA — was made by members of the university’s student government, specifically the Tufts Community Union Judiciary. The group “will lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life,” the Tufts Daily reported, and it will also be unable to receive money from a pool students are required to pay into that is specifically set aside for campus group funding. The constitutional clauses in question require that any TCF member who wishes to apply for a leadership role must adhere to a series of tenets called a Basis of Faith, or eight ‘basic biblical truths of Christianity.'” The group is planning to appeal the student board’s decision.

A new California law banning any counseling to help minors overcome same-sex attraction will put families, teens, and counselors on the wrong side of the law.  The law assumes that the state knows what’s best for children regarding sensitive counseling concerning same-sex attractions.  Liberty Counsel has filed a major lawsuit challenging this outrageous law, which goes into effect January 1st. “SB 1172 and the ethical codes of all of the licensing boards are on an inevitable collision course. The licenses of countless mental health professionals literally hang in the balance!” says Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

A group of Louisiana State University football fans whose admiration for the Tigers is second only to their love for Jesus is outraged after the school digitally erased the tiny crosses they painted on their bare upper chests at a recent football game. LSU officials sent out a photo of The Painted Posse, Christian students who paint their bodies with LSU school colors and small crosses for home games, in an email about the LSU game against South Carolina on Oct. 13. The students were shocked to see the photo, which appeared to be otherwise untouched, School spokesman Herb Vincent told the site the school altered the image to prevent other students from being offended by the weekly Geaux-Mail newsletter.

  • But no one erases or airbrushes satanic symbols which are often glorified in the sport arena

Economic News

Women are finding their way back into the workforce. The economic upswing had until recently been a “hecovery,” but the revival is now becoming more balanced between the genders. The number of women employees has jumped by 300,000 in the past six months, nearly the same amount as men. And in September, men and women each saw a job gain of 57,000. At this point, women have recovered 32% of the jobs lost in the recession, while men have gained back 43%.

Sales of existing homes sold at an annual rate of 4.75 million, according to a closely watched reading reported Friday from the National Association of Realtors. It was off slightly from the 4.83 million pace the previous month, but up 11% from a year earlier. Despite the slip, September’s pace was the second best in more than two years, trailing only the strong August reading.

With inventories rising and demand waning, gasoline prices could plunge 50 cents a gallon from October’s $3.86 peak average over the next few weeks, providing a lift for the economy and possibly becoming a factor in next month’s presidential election. Gasoline, now averaging $3.72 a gallon, is expected to fall to $3.35 or lower by late November. In some regions, prices have already sunk below $3. On Friday, gasbuddy.com was tracking some central Ohio stations selling gas for $2.97 a gallon. Gas prices remain stubbornly high in California — the nation’s priciest state averaging $4.51 a gallon — although some stations are charging more than $5.

Middle East

The Israeli navy boarded a ship and halted an attempt to break the sea blockade of Gaza on Saturday. Soldiers stormed the ship and took the passengers into custody. “The boarding was carried out only after numerous calls to the passengers on board,” an Israeli military statement said. “As a result of their unwillingness to cooperate and after ignoring calls to change course, the decision was made to board the vessel and lead it to the Port of Ashdod.” Passengers were hoping to call attention to the blockade of the Palestinian territory, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. The boat, named Estelle, was about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza when it was stopped. “The important thing is that they were on international waters and no one has the right to board the ship,” said Victoria Strand, a spokeswoman for the ship. ‘It is an act of piracy to board the ship in international waters.”

Israel facilitated the delivery of three new ambulances to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing this week. The ambulances, part of a large shipment of medical supplies, were donated by the German branch of the Red Cross.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to continue building in east Jerusalem, over the objection of Palestinians who claim the territory as capital of their hoped-for state. Netanyahu spoke Sunday after the European Union’s foreign policy chief criticized plans to build 800 new apartments and a military college on contested land. He told his Cabinet on Sunday, “We are not imposing any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem. It is our capital.” The fate of Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians refuse to negotiate while Israel continues to build settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Mideast war. Netanyahu has rejected the notion of partitioning the city.

  • Jerusalem is God’s capital which He assigned to Israel. No amount of political bickering will change that.

Authorities in Cyprus have announced the discovery of a significant quantity of high explosive believed to have been intended for use by a Hezbollah terrorist cell against Israeli tourists visiting the island on cruise ships. This announcement follows the arrest of a Lebanese man who was shadowing Jewish travelers on the island. Israeli leaders pointed out the increase in Hezbollah activity has made Jewish people targets not just in Israel but around the world.

Eleven men with suspected links to al-Qaeda have been charged with terrorism conspiracy for allegedly planning attacks on shopping malls and Western diplomatic missions. The suspects — all Jordanians in their 20s and 30s — have confessed to plotting attacks and illegally possessing weapons and explosives. The men will be tried in a Jordanian military court. No date has been set for the trial. If convicted, they face the death penalty.

Lebanon

A powerful bomb devastated a Christian neighborhood of this capital city of Lebanon on Friday, killing an intelligence official long viewed as an enemy by neighboring Syria and unnerving a nation as Syria’s sectarian-fueled civil war spills beyond its borders and threatens to engulf the region. It was the first large-scale bombing in the country since 2008 and was the most provocative violence here linked to the Syrian conflict since it began 19 months ago. It threatened to inflame sectarian tensions by eliminating General Hassan, a Sunni Muslim known for his close ties to fellow Sunni politicians who support the Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. General Hassan was viewed by Syrian opposition activists as an ally and protector.

Many protesters Sunday called for the Lebanese government to be dismissed. Protesters are furious with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire supported by Hezbollah. A day after the most high-profile assassination in Lebanon in more than seven years, accusations over who’s responsible homed in on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire supported by Hezbollah, announced Saturday that he plans to stay in power, despite having offered his resignation to appease those who claimed al-Assad was behind Friday’s car bombing. Mikati’s decision to stay heads off a power vacuum in Lebanon’s government, as sectarian tensions flare particularly as the effects of Syria’s 19-month civil war spill across borders and threaten the region.

Somalia

Sea piracy has fallen to its lowest level worldwide since 2008, as policing by international naval forces has deterred pirates operating in the waters off Somalia. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said there were 233 actual and attempted attacks on vessels globally in the first nine months of 2012, compared with 352 in the corresponding period last year. The number of attacks by Somali pirates has fallen dramatically, with 70 attacks by the end of September, down from 199 in the same time frame in 201, the lowest number since 2009. Worldwide, pirates have killed six and taken 448 crew hostage in 2012. Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB, said the decline was a reflection of the pre-emptive and disruptive counter-piracy tactics used by international navies, as well as deployment of on-board security measures like armed guards.

Myanmar

Fresh sectarian clashes in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine killed three people and left more than 400 houses, a monastery and a mosque burned to the ground, authorities said Tuesday. The clashes began Sunday night and spread to four townships. The unrest between the majority Buddhists and the Rohingya minority began five months ago. Rakhine is home to the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority who say they have been persecuted by the Myanmar military during its decades of authoritarian rule.

Earthquakes

A moderate earthquake was widely felt as it rattled the central California coast, but authorities said it didn’t cause any damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said nearly 5,000 people reported on its website that they felt the magnitude 5.3 quake, when it struck shortly before midnight Saturday near King City, about 40 miles southeast of Salinas. The temblor struck along the San Andreas Fault and was followed by at least four aftershocks that were greater than magnitude 2.5.

Weather

The National Weather Service believes a tornado is to blame for damage in Jarrettsville, Maryland, over the weekend. A home in Jarrettsville sustained minor damage and at least two trees on the property were destroyed during a Friday night storm that brought heavy winds and rain.

Signs of the Times (10/19/12)

October 19, 2012

Gallop: Only 3.4% of U.S. Adults are LGBT

A new Gallup survey, touted as the largest of its kind, estimates that 3.4 percent of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The findings, released Thursday, were based on interviews with more than 121,000 people. Gallup said it is the largest study ever aimed at calculating the nation’s LGBT population. There was a slight gender difference: 3.6 percent of women identified as LGBT, compared to 3.3 percent of men. And younger adults, aged 18 to 29, were more likely than their elders to identify as LGBT. One striking difference: among 18-to-29-year-olds, 8.3 percent of women identify as LGBT, compared with 4.6 percent of men the same age.

  • Two key points: At 3.4%,, the  ‘gay agenda’ carries far more political and social clout than their numbers justify; and media promotion of the LGBT lifestyle is luring greater numbers of young people down this unholy path.

Gay-Marriage Activists Seeking First Win at Polls

Since 1998, 32 states have held votes on same-sex marriage, and all 32 have opposed it. This year, as four states — Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota — have Nov. 6 referendums on the issue, homosexual activists are trying to break the streak, WORLD Magazine reports. The pro-homosexual Human Rights Campaign is contributing at least $4.4 million in its effort to influence the vote — more than twice as much as the $2 million raised and spent by the National Organization for Marriage. In Maine and Washington, gay marriage seems to be leading in the polls; however, polls have been notoriously inaccurate on this issue, and tend to shift in the last few days before an election — almost always in the direction of traditional marriage.

Courts Continue Their Attack Against Biblical Marriage

A federal appeals court in Manhattan has become the second in the nation to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Thursday. The decision upholds a lower court judge who ruled that the 1996 law that defines marriage as involving a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The three-judge panel says the law violates equal protection. A federal appeals court in Boston earlier this year also found it unconstitutional. The issue is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.

  • This issue is one of the key end-time markers where people become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2Timothy 3:4)

Texas AG Intervenes in Cheerleader Banner Dispute

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday he will defend high school cheerleaders who want to use Bible verses on banners at football games. Abbott has filed court papers to intervene in a lawsuit that cheerleaders at Kountze High School filed against the school district complaining that a new policy violated their freedom of speech. In September, district officials told the cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses at football games after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. The atheist group argued that using banners with phrases such as, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,” violates the First Amendment prohibition on the government establishing a religion.

  • I didn’t know that high school cheerleaders could establish a religion in our country. Such power!

After Romney Meeting, Billy Graham Website Scrubs Mormon ‘Cult’ Reference

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign, the Religion News Service reports. The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, last week. Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday. “Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

  • Jesus Christ is compromised yet again in an effort to choose the best of two evils. Mormonism does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and has many cultic influences.

Trilateral Commission Rules U.S.

Since Jimmy Carter in 1976, the Tri­lat­eral Com­mis­sion has executed a hegemony over each Admin­is­tra­tion, using their power and influ­ence to fur­ther their own narrow, self-interested goals, The August Review Reports. Obama appointed no less than eleven members of the Commission to top-level and key positions in his Administration in less than two weeks after his inauguration. This includes the Secretary of the Treasury, the UN Ambassador, National Security Advisor, National Intelligence, Economic Recovery Committee, etc. And Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, is married to one of the key members. “If you think that a vote for Romney will be a vote against Tri­lat­eral Com­mis­sion hege­mony, you are wrong. They are already sur­rounding him just as they sur­rounded Obama,” the report warns.

  • The Trilateral Commission is determined to establish a global, one-world government and is intent on weakening the USA and encouraging socialistic policies

Obama to Cut Deal with Iran over Nukes?

WorldNetDaily.com reports that Iranian and U.S. negotiators have reached an agreement that calls for Iran to halt part of its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of many of the U.S. sanctions against the Islamic regime, according to a highly placed source. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, expects a letter from President Obama in a few days guaranteeing the details of the agreement. Once Khamenei receives Obama’s guarantees, he will authorize an announcement by Iran on a solution to the nuclear crisis before the U.S. presidential elections. The agreement calls for Iran to announce a temporary halt to partial uranium enrichment after which the U.S. will remove many of its sanctions, including those on the Iranian central bank,. Iran is in the throes of massive inflation and citizen unrest because of the sanctions.

  • If Obama pulls off this election-year stunt, politics will prevail once again over policy. Iran might agree to a short-term cessation, but has no intention of permanently giving up their long-term nuclear ambitions

Federal Reserve Bombing Plot Foiled in NYC

A Bangladeshi national, allegedly inspired by fallen al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was arrested Wednesday by federal authorities who accused him of a plot to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was taken into custody after allegedly assembling and attempting to detonate what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb whose components — unknown to him — had been provided by undercover federal agents. The materials were rendered inoperable and posed no threat. Nafis traveled to the U.S. in January with the purpose of forming a “terrorist cell” and launching an attack.

Meningitis Deaths Rise, FDA Faces New Questions

The death toll from a meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroids jumped to 19 on Wednesday, while U.S. lawmakers pressed federal health regulators to explain what they knew about the pharmacy that produced the drugs. The number of new cases of fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center rose by 14 to 245, the CDC said in its latest daily update. The daily tally was a reminder that one of the worst U.S. health scares in recent years has not been contained, despite emergency steps to recall the medications and stop the use of products from New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts. The FDA is also under scrutiny. While it has limited authority to regulate pharmacies like NECC, it had flagged violations at the company as recently as 2006. On Wednesday a U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating the outbreak gave the FDA until October 31 to turn over its documents related to NECC.

Lapses at Big Drug Factories Add to Shortages and Danger

Recent quality lapses at big drug companies show that contamination and shoddy practices extend well beyond the loosely regulated compounding pharmacies that have attracted attention because of their link to an outbreak of meningitis. In the last three years, six of the major manufacturers of sterile injectable drugs — which are subject to rigorous inspections by the federal government, as opposed to compounding pharmacies, which are generally overseen by the states — have been warned by the Food and Drug Administration about serious violations of manufacturing rules. Four of them have closed factories or significantly slowed production to fix the problems. Nearly a third of the industry’s manufacturing capacity is off line because of quality issues, according to a Congressional report. The shutdowns have contributed to a shortage of critical drugs, and compounding pharmacies have stepped into the gap as medical professionals scramble for alternative sources. But several serious health scares have been traced to compounding pharmacies in recent years.

Falling Unemployment Rate Misleading

While the U.S. unemployment fell to 7.8% in September, that doesn’t mean the other 92.2% of adults are working. Along with the official unemployment rate, the Department of Labor also calculates something called the employment-population ratio, which measures the percent of the U.S. adult population that has a job. The rate currently stands at 58.7%. While it jumps around slightly from month to month, it has essentially been stuck there for three years. The ratio fell from about 63% in 2007 to 59% just two years later. Part of that drop is due to people losing jobs in the financial crisis. Another part is due to Baby Boomers retiring. That paints a much bleaker picture of the job market than the unemployment rate, which has fallen considerably in the last year.

Economic News

The government spent approximately $1.03 trillion on 83 means-tested federal welfare programs in fiscal year 2011 alone — a price tag that makes welfare that year the government’s largest expenditure. The total sum taxpayers spent on federal welfare programs was derived from a new Congressional Research Service report on federal welfare spending — which topped out at $745.84 billion for fiscal year 2011 — combined with state spending on federal welfare programs (based on “The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance”), which reached $282.7 billion in fiscal year 2011.

Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped 46,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the highest in four months. The increase represents a rebound from the previous week’s sharp drop. Both swings were largely due to technical factors. The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 365,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is still a level consistent with modest hiring.

More than three-quarters, 77%, of small businesses believe their taxes will increase, and that’s one reason 67% of them don’t plan on hiring next year, according to a study released today by The Hartford. Additionally, just 33% of are optimistic about the economy — down sharply from the 61% that were upbeat six months ago.

The pace of home building surged to a four-year high. Builders started work at an annual pace of 872,000 homes last month, up 15% from the pace in August. They also filed for permits to build homes at an annual rate of 894,000, up 11.6% from the previous month. Both readings were the best since the summer of 2008, before the meltdown in financial markets that caused home lending and building to freeze up.

Mortgage rates are now near record lows, and the Federal Reserve’s decision to buy $40 billion in mortgages every month is likely to keep rates low for the foreseeable future. Foreclosures have fallen to a five-year low, reducing the supply of distressed homes available on the market. And four years of depressed levels of home building have reduced prices and cut the supply of new homes on the market to nearly record lows. All these factors have helped to lift home prices and get builders back building again.

Employers are boosting benefits faster than wages, handing out stingy pay raises but making up for it by paying more for health insurance and other benefits, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Employer-paid benefits accounted for a record 19.7% of worker compensation last year, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis’ personal income data. That’s up from 16.6% in 2000 and less than 10% in the 1960s.

Weak PC sales finally caught up to Intel, dragging the chipmaking giant’s sales and profits lower in the third quarter. A weakening global economy and consumers’ shift to tablets cut PC demand to half its third-quarter norm, Intel said. The company’s PC chip sales fell by 8% last quarter, in-line with the overall global PC market.

Eurozone

Tens of thousands of Greek protesters clashed in the streets Thursday as European leaders met in Brussels to consider German plans for tighter fiscal unity that would give the European Union power to veto budgets of debtor nations if they don’t cut spending enough. They are protesting against the harsh inhumane austerity measures that are going to be voted on in parliament soon. The Greek government is currently in the process of negotiating a new $17.7 billion package of spending cuts and tax hikes — so-called austerity measures — to qualify for continued loans from their richer European neighbors and avoid bankruptcy.

European leaders took a step toward creating a single supervisor for banks in countries that use the euro on Friday but remained vague about its start date. They decided to try to have the legal framework for the European banking supervisor in place by Jan. 1 and have it operational sometime in 2013. The supervisor needs to be in place before European countries can work on the next big step in their crisis-fighting plan — giving their bailout fund, the ESM, the power to rescue banks directly, bypassing national governments.

Switzerland, one of the world’s richest nations openly expressed concerns over the possible outcome of Europe’s continuing financial troubles, and is currently conducting army exercises against the possibility of riots along its borders. In September, the Swiss military conducted exercises dubbed ‘Stabilo Due,’ with scenarios involving violent instability across the EU. Switzerland has maintained an avowedly neutral stance for decades, and refused to join the eurozone when presented with the opportunity.

Middle East

Egyptian security forces poured into the barren town of Al-Moqatta, Sinai, after 16 border guards were killed by jihadists in an attack on a border post. The raid was part of “Operation Eagle,” an Egyptian military campaign that the army said wiped out the “criminal elements” responsible for numerous attacks in this sparsely populated land of desert and mountains that borders Israel. But the people of this remote desert town not far from the border with Israel say that didn’t happen. They say the security forces roughed up innocent people around a neighborhood mosque and left. The Sinai Peninsula has become a base for arms smugglers and a way station for jihadists from Egypt and the Middle East looking to launch attacks on Israel. The Bedouins who live here say the problem persists and apart from a few ineffective raids, the elected government of Egypt, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, is doing little to stop it.

This week has seen a huge increase in rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza. Day after day, Israeli families have scrambled to get their children and themselves into safe shelter in the fifteen seconds warning time they have when these attacks are launched. And yet the world continues to blame Israel for the lack of peace. Israel gave up Gaza more than five years ago in exchange for promises of peace—but there has been no peace. The Palestinian terrorists have used their control of the region to launch thousands of attacks against Jewish civilians.

Syria

The Syrian government says the international envoy’s call for a holiday cease-fire is pointless because the rebels have no unified leadership to sign it. The scores of brigades fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad have no unified leadership, and many don’t communicate with each other. Lakhdar Brahimithe joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, arrived in Beirut Wednesday for talks with Lebanese officials on how to resolve the crisis. Activists say more than 33,000 have been killed in 19 months of violence in Syria.

A Syrian activist group says it has the names of 18,000 people reportedly kidnapped and it says it knows of about another 10,000 victims. According to the international activist group Avaaz, at least 28,000 have been “forcibly disappeared.” The group uses that term to conform to language used in the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which defines it as kidnapping by someone acting on behalf of a state.

Government airstrikes on rebel areas in northern Syria killed at least 43 people and leveled buildings, forcing residents to search mounds of rubble for bodies trapped underneath. The strikes late Wednesday and early Thursday hit at least five towns in Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Rights groups say the airstrikes often hit civilian areas. And this week, Human Rights Watch accused Syria of using cluster munitions, which the New York-based group says endanger civilians. The regime contends that it is fighting terrorists backed by foreign powers who seek to destroy Syria. It also denied using cluster munitions.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden truck into the wall of a joint NATO-Afghan army base Wednesday, wounding 45 Afghan soldiers. The base at Paktia province also came under indirect fire after the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A senior U.S. defense official says an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency was among those killed in a suicide bombing at an Afghan intelligence office — the latest so-called “insider attack” in the war.

Iraq

Officials say five people have been killed and 15 have been wounded in bomb attacks across Baghdad. A roadside bomb hit a police patrol early Wednesday morning in western Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding two others. Another bomb went off in a grocery market in southern Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding seven. A third bomb exploded in a market in the city’s east. That explosion killed one and wounded six people.

Lebanon

A car bombing rocked the heart of Beirut on Friday, causing eight deaths and many injuries, fiery wreckage and chaos in the streets. The blast took place in Sassine Square in the Ashrafiyeh distrct of East Beirut, a largely Christian and commercial area replete with shops and office buildings. At least 78 others were injured. The bomb was placed in a car in front of a library and 200 meters away from the office of the anti-Syrian Lebanese Phalange political movement, a Maronite Christian group.

Iran

Iran is believed to be further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground, Western diplomats say, in another sign of Tehran defying international demands to curb its disputed nuclear program. But they said the Islamic Republic did not yet appear to have started up the newly-installed centrifuges to boost production of material which Iran says is for reactor fuel but which can also have military uses if processed more. ‘Iran continues to build up enrichment capacity,’ one Western official said. A diplomat accredited to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said: ‘We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid.’

Yemen

Yemeni security officials say suspected U.S. drone strikes have killed at least seven al-Qaida-linked militants in the country’s south. The officials say at least three strikes targeted a gathering of militants on a farm outside the town of Jaar, a one-time al-Qaida stronghold. The officials say the strikes early Thursday followed tips from locals of an imminent al-Qaida attack on the town. A US-backed Yemeni military offensive in June pushed out al-Qaida from many southern areas the militants seized during last year’s uprising.

Pakistan

Doctors treating 15-year-old Pakistani shooting victim Malala Yousafzai said Friday that she is able to stand with help and to write, though she still shows signs of infection. The infection is related to the track of a bullet that grazed her head when she was attacked by Taliban gunmen. Malala was shot and critically wounded on Oct. 9 as she headed home from school in the northwest Swat Valley. The Taliban said they targeted Malala, a fierce advocate for girls’ education, because she promoted “Western thinking” and was critical of the militant group.

Earthquakes

An earthquake hit southern Maine Tuesday night and was felt in New England states as far away as Connecticut. It caused no apparent damage or injuries, but it rattled residents throughout the region. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.0 magnitude quake hit around 7:12 p.m. and its epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, was about 3 miles deep. That location is about 20 miles west of Portland.

Weather

Drought continued its slow retreat this week, according to the latest weekly update from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The percentage of the country in drought fell just over one percentage point to 62.39% of the contiguous 48 states this week, according to the multi-agency report. Still, this is the 15th consecutive week above the 60% threshold, a level that had never previously been exceeded in the 12-year history of the analysis.

Overnight storms injured at least four people overnight in a front that swept from Mississippi to Missouri on Thursday, Oct. 17.  There were also reports of homes and structures damaged in several states. There are preliminary reports of five tornadoes in Eastern Arkansas and Northern Mississippi. As of 4 a.m. E/T, 14,000 customers were reported with no power in Mississippi.  More outages and storm damaged have been reported in Arkansas.  Over the past three days, the National Weather Service has reported more than 700 non-thunderstorm wind reports, mostly in the Plains and Rocky Mountain states. These include damage reports and measurements of winds (sustained or gusts) of at least 40 miles per hour.

The European Union’s farmers’ union is warning that drought, cold and hail have conspired to produce the worst wine harvest for the region in up to half a century. France’s grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20% compared to last year. Italy’s grape crop showed a 7% drop — on top of a decline in 2011. The Champagne and Burgundy the regions were hardest hit.

Signs of the Times (10/16/12)

October 16, 2012

Hobby Lobby’s Request to Halt Contraception Mandate Gets Hearing Date

A judge has scheduled a hearing for Christian crafts retailer Hobby Lobby’s request for preliminary injunction on the Health and Human Services mandate that would require the company to provide emergency contraceptive coverage or face steep fines, the Christian Post reports. The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. on Oct. 24 in Oklahoma City. Hobby Lobby’s owner and founder, David Green, says the mandate violates their religious beliefs because it forces the business to provide insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs, such as the “morning-after” pill. When Hobby Lobby filed suit against the federal government in September, it became the first evangelical employer to challenge the mandate. Thirty-one lawsuits have now been filed to date against the mandate, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Home Depot Promotes Gay Marriage and Gay Military

This past weekend, Home Depot set up a booth at the Atlanta Gay Pride festival. They have done this for many years and continue to support events that push “gay” marriage. One of the main purposes of “gay” pride events is to push for the legalization of gay marriage. Rather than remaining neutral on the issue, Home Depot has taken the side of grown men who parade in public places dressed as drag queens and “fairies.” Home Depot also promoted homosexuality in the military. Posted on the back of the Home Depot float was a huge sign promoting OutServe. OutServe is a national organization promoting homosexuality in the military, including forcing chaplains to conduct same-sex weddings on military bases. The American Family Association is promoting a boycott of Home Depot.

  • There was a firestorm of media outrage over Chick-Fil-A’s president endorsing traditional, Biblical marriage. Where are they when corporations similarly, and more aggressively, promote gay marriage?

Liberal Universities Discriminate Against Conservatives

Conservatives have maintained for years that they are passed over for jobs and promotions at law schools because of their views, but formal challenges have been rare, in part because of the difficulty of proving discrimination. Teresa Wagner says she was blackballed at the University of Iowa because of her legal work against abortion rights and will take her complaint to a jury this week in a case that is being closely watched in higher education because of longstanding allegations of political bias at left-leaning law schools. At a federal trial that starts Monday in Davenport, Wagner will argue that the law school faculty blocked her appointment because she had opposed abortion rights, gay marriage and euthanasia while working as a lawyer for the Family Research Council and the National Right to Life Committee in Washington.

Conservatives are also calling foul against a Maryland university for disciplining one of its employees because she signed a petition to let voters decide the homosexual “marriage” issue. Family Research Council (FRC) spokesman J.P. Duffy explains that Gallaudet University has placed its chief diversity officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, on paid leave because she signed the petition to put the issue on the Maryland ballot. “Up until just a few years ago, I think a decision punishing any employee for engaging in the democratic process would have actually been jaw-dropping. This discriminatory action reflects really a troubling nationwide trend of voter intimidation and bullying tactics against those who believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

  • Liberals and gay activists are quick to cry “intolerance” and “hatred” but it is actually them that are intolerant, vengeful and hateful

Deficit Tops $1 Trillion for Fourth Straight Year Under Obama

The U.S. budget deficit has topped $1 trillion for a fourth straight year, but a modest improvement in economic growth helped narrow the gap by $207 billion compared with last year. The Treasury Department said last Friday the deficit for the 2012 budget year totaled $1.1 trillion. Tax revenue rose 6.4 percent from last year to more than $2.4 trillion, helping contain the deficit. The government’s revenue rose as more people got jobs and received income. Corporations also contributed more tax revenue than in 2011. Government spending fell 1.7 percent to $3.5 trillion. The decline reflected, in part, less defense spending as U.S. military involvement in Iraq was winding down. Barack Obama’s presidency has now coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus annual budget deficits — the first in history. The government borrowed about 31 cents of every dollar it spent in 2012. The string of $1 trillion-plus deficits has driven the national debt above $16 trillion.

‘Waste Book’ Details $19 Billion in Wasteful Government Spending

The latest survey of government waste was released by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Known simply as the Waste Book, the report is a watchlist of eye-opening expenditures, which Coburn blames on a “let them eat caviar” attitude in Washington — at a time when “23 million of our fellow Americans do not have good jobs.” In all, the 2012 Waste Book report details 100 examples totaling nearly $19 billion. Coburn acknowledges that’s a drop in the bucket in contrast to the overall federal deficit, which tops $16 trillion, but he says the items are snapshots of the bigger problem. “The way you get rid of trillion-dollar deficits — a billion at a time,” Coburn told Fox News on Tuesday.

Economic News

Higher gas prices and strong car and electronics sales combined to lift retail sales in September. Overall retail sales rose 1.1%, according to the Census Bureau, little changed from the 1.2% rise in August. Much of the increased spending came from a 2.3% rise in spending at gas stations. Gas prices rose in much of the nation in September, especially in the Northeast. Car sales in the month reached their highest level in more than four years, driven by pent-up demand for new cars, higher prices for used cars and greater access to financing for many buyers. The sector with the biggest increase in demand was electronics and appliance stores. That was driven by the introduction of Apple’s latest iPhone.

Consumer prices held steady last month, as falling energy prices largely canceled out slight increases in food, clothing and shelter. The government’s key measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, showed consumer prices were unchanged in July. Despite the Midwest drought, food prices only ticked up 0.1%. Higher prices on corn, wheat and soybeans are likely to drive inflation higher later this year, but only slightly, with food accounting for only 14% of the CPI’s basket of goods.

Middle East

The Israel Air Force struck a rocket-launching terror cell in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday evening, shortly after the Palestinians had launched projectiles at a southern Israeli farming district. Palestinian medical sources said two men were killed and two more were injured in the air strike. The attack marked the third IAF strike on Gaza terror targets within 24 hours, bringing the Palestinian death toll to five in that span. The Palestinian media reported that the raid was conducted on multiple targets in central Gaza, east of Deir el-Balah.

Israel has warned that it will confront by force a Gaza-bound ship if it tries to break the blockade of the Palestinian territory, a Finnish foreign ministry spokesman has said. “The foreign ministry has been informed by Israel that it would intervene if the ship Estelle which is flying the Finnish flag tries to break [Israel’s] blockade against Gaza from the sea,” spokesman Risto Piipponen said on state television on Saturday. The yacht, which was built in 1922, sailed from Naples, Italy on October 6 as part of the “Freedom Flotilla” movement, in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade. The voyage was organized by an international pro-Palestinian coalition.

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.” A few years back, Hal Lindsey wrote that “Palestinians” are not “a homogeneous people, but rather a mixed conglomerate of workers with no cohesive organizational or political skills.”

  • The plight of Palestinians in Gaza is serious, but it’s not Israel’s fault. Arab nations flooded Gaza and the West Bank with its poorest, most troublesome Muslims in order to cultivate sympathy. Then they’ve used Gaza as a base for rocket launches and terrorist attacks. Hamas needs to clean up its own act and take care of its own people.

Libya

A month after the killing of the American ambassador ignited a public outcry for civilian control of Libya’s fractious militias, that hope has been all but lost in a tangle of grudges, rivalries and egos, the New York Times reports. Scores of disparate militias remain Libya’s only effective police force but have stubbornly resisted government control, a dynamic that is making it difficult for either the Libyan authorities or the United States to catch the attackers who killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Shocked by that assault, tens of thousands of people filled the streets last month to demand the dismantling of all the militias. But the country’s interim president, Mohamed Magariaf, warned them to back off as leaders of the largest brigades threatened to cut off the vital services they provide, like patrolling the borders and putting out fires.

Syria

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats. That casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States, the New York Times notes.

The war in Syria has led to another war of words internationally, with Russia slamming a report that accuses the Syrian air force of using Russian-made cluster bombs. The report says the cluster bombs are Soviet-made, but says it’s unclear how or when Syria allegedly acquired them. “There are loads of weapons in this region, including in Syria and other countries of the region, and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said

For the second time in a week, Turkish officials are searching a civilian airplane headed to Syria, in what appears to be the enforcement of a new Turkish air blockade against the Syrian government. An Armenian cargo plane destined for the battle-scarred Syrian city of Aleppo stopped first in the Turkish city of Erzurum for an inspection of its cargo Monday morning. Unlike last week’s unexpected grounding of a Syrian passenger plane flying from Moscow to Damascus, the plane transporting humanitarian aid to Syria and its stop in Turkey was planned.

Iran

European Union foreign ministers Monday gave their formal approval to a fresh, wide-reaching package of sanctions against Iran and called on the Islamic Republic to urgently comply with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. In a joint statement, EU ministers voiced ‘serious and deepening concerns’ over Iran’s nuclear program and the expansion of its uranium enrichment capacities and called on the regime to cooperate with international nuclear inspectors. Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful, civilian purposes… One cornerstone of the latest measures is a ban on all financial transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless they relate to humanitarian aid. Iran’s central bank will face fresh restrictions and the export of materials and metals used for industrial or military purposes will be prohibited. New rules will seek to curb the movement of Iranian oil tankers and cargoes and impede the country’s ship-building capacities.

The United States believes that Iran is behind cyberattacks on American banks and the oil industry in the Middle East. The U.S. intelligence apparatus observed and tracked the attacks as coming out of Iran. “It certainly is the case that Iran is improving its capabilities in the cyber field. We’re paying attention. We are concerned about their increasing ability to operate in this realm,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

Official news agencies in Iran reported on Monday that security forces have launched a major crackdown on house churches in the Islamic Republic. Describing the churches as a “network of criminals” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) linked Fars agency added that  “most people attracted to these networks come from weak and vulnerable segments of society, who have psychological, emotional and economic problems.”

Libya

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to douse a political firestorm over the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, saying she’s responsible for the security of American diplomatic outposts. “I take responsibility,” Clinton said during a visit to Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.” But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on September 11. Administration officials initially suggested that the attack was “spontaneous” violence that grew out of protests over an anti-Islam film, rather than a premeditated attack. It later became clear that intelligence officials suspected terrorism almost immediately, and investigators now think extremists tied to Al Qaeda carried out a coordinated attack.

The White House has put special operations strike forces on standby and moved drones into the skies above Africa, ready to strike militant targets from Libya to Mali — if investigators can find the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya. But officials say the administration, with weeks until the presidential election, is weighing whether the short-term payoff of exacting retribution on al-Qaida is worth the risk that such strikes could elevate the group’s profile in the region, alienate governments the U.S. needs to fight it in the future and do little to slow the growing terror threat in North Africa.

Afghanistan

Now at its biggest size yet, 195,000 soldiers, the Afghan Army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, officials say. The attrition strikes at the core of America’s exit strategy in Afghanistan: to build an Afghan National Army that can take over the war and allow the United States and NATO forces to withdraw by the end of 2014. The Afghan deserters complain of corruption among their officers, poor food and equipment, indifferent medical care, Taliban intimidation of their families and, probably most troublingly, a lack of belief in the army’s ability to fight the insurgents after the American military withdraws. On top of that, recruits now undergo tougher vetting because of concerns that enemy infiltration of the Afghan military is contributing to a wave of attacks on international forces.

Pakistan

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist shot in the head by the Taliban, is on her way to Britain for treatment as she struggles to overcome her injuries. Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma. She is being transferred to a facility in Britain specializing in care for children with severe injuries. Malala has gained renown in Pakistan and around the globe for her efforts to defend the right of girls to go to school where she lives, the Taliban-heavy Swat Valley. While the Pakistani news media debate how the country should respond to the attack, thousands of people nationwide have joined in rallies in support of the wounded 14-year-old.

Mauritania

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who came under fire from his own troops just hours before, took to his country’s airwaves Sunday, saying the shooting incident was an accident. Troops shot the president late Saturday in what the government is calling a case of “friendly fire” — though others believe it may have been something more sinister. Aziz’s convoy mistakenly came under fire as it was heading back toward the capital of Nouakchott. The gunshots came from a military unit stationed alongside the road in the west African country. Aziz said Sunday he had a successful operation to treat minor injuries. But witnesses said they believe the incident was an assassination attempt, because unknown armed men shot their guns at the president and ran away. Mauritania has a history of political instability and faces threats from al Qaeda militants.

Weather

There were 116 reports of severe thunderstorm activity over the weekend. This sum consisted of 10 tornado reports, 65 severe wind reports, and 41 severe hail reports. The average number of tornadoes for October is 56 for the full month and 23 for the first two weeks of the month; so far in October 2012, the preliminary count stands at 15. This follows six consecutive months (April through September) of below-average tornado activity.

Saturday, Valdez, Alaska, America’s snowiest city, witnessed its first measurable snow of the season, picking up 1.6″ accumulation.  A whopping 438″ of snow fell in Valdez last season.  That’s 36 feet of total snow accumulation!  The 2011-2012 season delivered over 100 inches above the average (326″).Saturday’s first measurable snow in Valdez occurred 17 days earlier than last season.

Last year’s mild winter and a bumper crop of nuts have caused an apparent explosion in the squirrel population in patches of the country, bewildering fruit growers with their ravenous appetites, littering highway shoulders as roadkill, and keeping homeowners and pest control experts busy. Biologists know squirrel populations have rare but periodic “eruptions,” when conditions coincide to produce abundant foods that fuel the fast-reproducing animals. This year’s squirrel boom in parts of Vermont followed two seasons of bountiful acorn and beechnut crops and last year’s mild winter.

Tropical Storm Rafael unleashed heavy rain and powerful gusts on the Virgin Islands early Sunday. Rafael became a category one hurricane Monday evening, making it the ninth hurricane of the Atlantic season. Bermuda is the next land area near Rafael’s path. It may brush southeast Newfoundland later Wednesday or early Thursday.

A tornado that struck the northern suburbs of Marseille, France, on Sunday has been rated an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with estimated winds of 86 to 110 miles per hour. The tornado traveled about 2.5 miles with an average width of about 500 feet, tearing through a commercial center as well as a mix of industrial areas, forests, and farmland. Many automobiles were damaged by small bits of flying debris as well as shopping carts pushed by the wind. Trees were uprooted or snapped off, as were some small electrical poles. Several homes and businesses suffered roof damage. There were 20 minor injuries in the tornado.

Signs of the Times (10/13/12)

October 13, 2012

‘Mix It Up’ Day All Mixed Up

On, Tuesday, October 30, over two thousand schools across the nation will be observing “Mix It Up” (MIT) day. MIT is a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools. A strong focus is directed specifically to elementary and junior high grades. MIT is a project of the fanatical pro-homosexual group, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This is the same organization that launched hateful and malicious rhetoric toward the Family Research Council just prior to the August shooting of a security guard by a SPLC sympathizer. The SPLC is using this project to bully-push its gay agenda, and at the same time, intimidate and silence students who have a Biblical view of homosexuality. The American Family Association is joining other family-oriented groups in urging parents to keep their children at home that day if their local school is sponsoring the “Mix It Up” project.

  • The gay agenda is being force-fed to our children through the public school system. Christians need to resist and/or remove their children from these intolerant secular humanist indoctrination centers.

Christians and Divorce: Busting the Myth

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: The divorce rate among Christians is basically the same as it is among non-Christians. The problem is, it’s not quite true. As Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and Director of the National Marriage Project found that, active, conservative members of both Protestant and Catholic churches are significantly less likely to divorce — by 35 and 31 percent, respectively — than Americans who are religiously unaffiliated. The numbers often get skewed, says Stanton, because most studies fail to take into account the level of religious commitment and practice among those who identify themselves as Christians. Those who claim to be Christian but rarely darken the door of a church divorce at a rate 20 percent higher than secular Americans.

  • Those who call themselves Christian but are not (a significant proportion) undermine Christianity more than atheists and secular humanists

Refusal to Deport Illegal Aliens Unconstitutional

Two law professors, including one who served in the Bush Justice Department, have published a paper charging that President Obama violated the Constitution with his directive to law enforcement not to deport illegal aliens. Robert Delahunty of the University of St. Thomas [Minnesota] and John Yoo, a law professor at University of California at Berkeley and former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, blast Obama’s moratorium on deporting certain illegal immigrants. The paper debunks the claim that the president has the Constitutional to not enforce civil laws crafted and passed by Congress. “It’s the duty of the president. He must always uphold the law,” Yoo said.

Obamacare Fueling Shift to Part-Time Workers

In an experiment aimed at keeping down the cost of health-care reform, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses. Darden said staffing changes are “just one of the many things we are evaluating to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business. Analysts say many other companies, including the White Castle hamburger chain, are considering employing fewer full-timers because of key features of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Under that law, large companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.

Germany to Take Custody of Homeschooled Children

A judge in Germany has ordered a couple to turn over custody of their four children to the state because their homeschooling practices fail to meet the government’s demand for “integration.” Judge Markus Malkmus in the German district court in Darmstadt ordered the four children of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich transferred to the state’s “child protective agency,” called the Jugendamt. Germany has a long history of persecuting homeschoolers, dating back to the era of Adolf Hitler, who claimed children for the state.

  • Obama says we all belong to the government

Costly Election Bails out Postal Service

The 2012 election season couldn’t have come at a better time for the U.S. Postal Service. While still low on cash, the postal service has enough to avoid insolvency this month, thanks in large part to the mountains of political junk mail and the influx of Super PACs paying top postage rates. Federal candidates, political parties and special interest groups are mailing out more fliers and postcards via the postal service in 2012 than in previous election cycles. The postal service is on track to surpass an original estimate of $285 million, which includes the haul from local races nationwide. It’s still not enough to save the postal service. But it’s enough to get the agency past an October cash crunch. The USPS has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. A key reason was a 2006 law that required the postal service to make annual payments of about $5.5 billion for 10 years to pay for future retiree health benefits.

Economic News

Claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to their lowest level in more than four years, but the drop was due mostly to a technical issue. About 339,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended October 6, down 30,000 from the previous week. That’s a dramatic drop in just one week and represents the lowest level of initial claim filings since February 2008. Much of the drop last week was caused by an anomaly, a Labor Department analyst told CNNMoney. One state posted am unexpectedly large decline in claims.

The long-battered housing market is finally starting to get back on its feet. Signs of recovery have been evident in the recent increases in home prices, home sales and construction. Foreclosures are also down and the Federal Reserve has acted to push mortgage rates near record lows.

The wave of foreclosures hitting the nation’s housing market has been much less severe than anticipated, with foreclosure filings at their lowest level in five years last month. Foreclosure filings — including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 180,427 properties in September, a 7% decline from August and down more than 16% from a year earlier. That’s the lowest number of filings since September 2007.

The U.S. government sued Wells Fargo over claims that the bank made reckless home mortgage loans for a decade. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wells Fargo’s “intentional concealment” of bad loan information on some 6,320 risky loans caused the federal government to pay out $190 million on claims for defaulted home mortgages.

JPMorgan Chase reported record profits for the third quarter, with increased revenue in every business line. New mortgages and refinancings were a key driver of overall results, but performance was also strong in commercial lending, investment banking, credit cards and auto loans.

Middle East

The leader of the Shia militant movement Hezbollah in Lebanon said his group is responsible for launching a drone into Israel last week, and that Iranians made the drone. The Israeli air force shot down the unmanned device Saturday over the northern Negev desert. The drone, which was hovering over Gaza and had entered Israeli airspace, wasn’t carrying weapons or explosives. Nasrallah boasted that it wasn’t the first time Hezbollah has sent aerial drones over Israel.

Syria

The joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria was due in Turkey on Saturday for talks aimed at putting a lid on boiling diplomatic tensions between Damascus and Ankara. Lakhdar Brahimi’s visit to Turkey comes amid growing concern that Syria’s civil war could spill over into neighboring countries and destabilize the region. His arrival follows reports that Turkey used F-16 fighter jets to force a Syrian airliner en route from Moscow to Damascus to land in Ankara, where it was searched for weapons. The prime minister has said Turkey confiscated military supplies “traveling from Russia’s agency that exports weapons munitions and military supplies to Syria’s defense ministry.” Russia’s foreign minister said the material seized was radar equipment, not arms. Turkey’s prime minister sharply criticized the U.N. Security Council on Saturday for its failure to agree on decisive steps to end the 19-month civil war in Syria.

Fighters from a shadowy militant group with suspected links to al-Qaida joined Syrian rebels in seizing a government missile defense base Friday in northern Syria, according to activists. It was unclear whether the rebels were able to hold the base after the attack, and analysts questioned whether they would be able to make use of any of the missiles they may have spirited away. Nevertheless, the assault underscored fears of advanced weaponry falling into the hands of extremists playing an increasingly large role in Syria’s civil war.

Libya

The State Department’s top security official in Libya asked for extra security for the consulate in Benghazi in the months before the diplomatic post was overrun in a deadly attack but received no response from superiors, according to documents obtained by CNN. The disclosure comes ahead of a congressional hearing on Wednesday on the armed assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on September 11. U.S. intelligence believes the incident was a terrorist act, not a spontaneous protest of an anti-Islam film.

Jordan

The United States military has secretly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict. American officials familiar with the operation said the mission also includes drawing up plans to try to insulate Jordan, an important American ally in the region, from the upheaval in Syria and to avoid the kind of clashes now occurring along the border of Syria and Turkey.

Pakistan

Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old school girl sought out and shot by the Taliban for blogging against them, was slowly recuperating Wednesday morning from the brazen attack that almost snatched her young life. Pakistan is a country numbed by the depressing regularity of extremist attacks. But the Tuesday morning attack stunned even the weariest. The chief minister of Punjab said he would bear the cost of Malala’s treatment, calling her “the daughter of Pakistan.” On Friday, an international team of neurological specialists said her condition was stable. She’s now breathes on a ventilator and they’re watching her closely. The Taliban is threatening to finish off a 14-year-old Pakistani girl whom it shot for helping other girls go to school — if she survives a wounding that has made her a hero to many Pakistanis.

A suspected U.S. drone strike killed 16 people and wounded six Thursday in one of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal regions. The attack, which included four missiles, targeted a compound on the border of Orakzai Agency and North Waziristan. The compound belonged to Maulvi Shakirullah, a militant affiliated with the Haqqani network. The network is widely viewed to be fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan. A powerful car bomb went off outside the offices of pro-government tribal elders in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 15 people. At least 30 people were also wounded in the attack in the town of Darra Adam Khel in the troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.

Mali

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution that gives regional leaders 45 days to provide specific plans for an international military intervention to oust rebels in northern Mali. The unanimous resolution marks a key step and speeds up preparations for a possible intervention to retake the region from al Qaeda-linked rebels. Mali plunged into chaos in March after a military ruler overthrew the president, shaking one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. The coup leader stepped down in May and transferred power to a civilian transitional government, but ethnic Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants took advantage of the chaos to seize the northern portion of the country. Months later, two groups with ties to al Qaeda toppled the Tuareg movement. The two groups now control two-thirds of northern Mali, an area the size of France.

Weather

A cold Canadian high-pressure system brought some of the chilliest air so far this season to the Northeast on Saturday morning. Record lows were tied or broken in Allentown, Pa. (26 degrees), Buffalo, N.Y. (30 degrees), Burlington, Vt. (26 degrees) Binghamton, N.Y. (26 degrees), Newark, N.J. (34 degrees), Hartford, Conn. (27 degrees) and Bridgeport, Conn. (33 degrees). New York City (38 degrees), Boston (35 degrees) and Philadelphia (37 degrees) all saw temperatures dip into the 30s. Temperatures fell into the teens in Saranac Lake, N.Y.

According to the National Weather Service, Seattle set a new record 80-day dry stretch, with only .07″ of rain from July 21 through October 8, over two and a half months since the last significant rain. Typically, Seattle has more days with precipitation each year than most U.S. cities. But 83% of Seattle’s days with precipitation are light precipitation days (less than 1/2″ total).

It’s been a soggy 2012 in Miami. And there’s a good chance it will become the city’s wettest year on record. Through Oct. 7, Miami International Airport, has recorded 83.14 inches of rain so far in 2012. That’s the wettest year to date on record, and just over six inches shy of the all-time record for an entire calendar year at that location.

Signs of the Times (10/9/12)

October 9, 2012

Pope Convenes Bishops to Confront ‘Tsunami’ of Secularism

Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council revolutionized life inside the Roman Catholic Church, hundreds of bishops from around the world are gathered in Rome to confront an external threat: a mounting tide of secularization. The Synod of Bishops on “New Evangelization” brings together 262 top church leaders for a three-week summit at the Vatican, joined by lay experts and representatives of other Christian groups. In a wide-ranging speech aimed at setting the tone for the bishops’ discussion, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl called on Christians to “overcome the syndrome of embarrassment” about their faith with a more assertive offense against the “tsunami of secular influence” that is sweeping away “marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong.”

Protestants No Longer the Majority in U.S.

For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study. The percentage of Protestant adults in the U.S. has reached a low of 48 percent, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Among the reasons for the change are the growth in nondenominational Christians who can no longer be categorized as Protestant, and a spike in the number of American adults who say they have no religion. The Pew study, released Tuesday, found that about 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent over the last five years.

PCUSA Members Increasingly Favoring Same-Sex Marriage

According to a recent survey by Presbyterian Research Services, support for same-sex marriage among Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members and pastors has considerably increased since 2005, the Christian Post reports. In 2005, 23 percent of PCUSA members supported same-sex marriage; in 2012, the number had increased to 34 percent. Among pastors, support for same-sex marriage in 2005 was 35 percent; in 2012, it is at 49 percent. Though the PCUSA’s General Assembly voted this summer to keep the traditional marriage definition in the denomination’s constitution, “longer term, the effect of generational change will be felt: 75 percent of young adult advisory delegates at the General Assembly supported the redefinition of marriage,” Marcum said. “Hence, the next effort to change the marriage definition might well succeed. Indeed, it’s possible that this year’s effort would have succeeded, save for arguments that such a radical redefinition was too much change in the denomination, too soon.”

  • “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first.” (2Thessalonians 2:3)

Fall TV Season Sees Record LGBT Presence

The new fall TV season will see an increase in the number of gay and bisexual characters, CBN News reports. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), it will be the highest level ever. A new GLAAD report titled “Where We Are on TV” shows that 4.4 percent of actors on prime-time shows portray lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters — up from 2.9 percent in 2011. ABC has the highest amount, with 10 out of 194 being LGBT, and the report also saluted CBS as “much improved,” at 2.8 percent.

  • A very real sign that the period Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows” is accelerating toward the Tribulation (Matt. 24:8)

Dutch Euthanasia Deaths Increase by 18 Percent

The annual number of reported deaths by euthanasia in the Netherlands rose by 18 percent to 3,695 in 2011 — a number that has doubled since 2006, Baptist Press reports. According to a Sept. 25 report, sizable increases were also reported in the euthanasia of people in early stages of dementia and those with psychiatric problems; reported euthanasia deaths for dementia patients doubled to 49 and increased for psychiatric patients from two to 13. However, according to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), the statistics fall short of the reality in the Netherlands — a July study by the journal The Lancet showed 23 percent of euthanasia deaths went unreported in 2010. Therefore, the actual number of euthanasia deaths in 2011 was “more likely” 4,544, the EPC said. Combined with its estimate of 226 deaths by assisted suicide, which is a separate category, the Netherlands likely had a total of 4,770 assisted deaths last year, according to the EPC.

  • Yet another sign of the downward march into end-time “deep darkness” (Isaiah 60:2)

A Dangerous New World of Drones

A decade ago, the United States had a virtual monopoly on drones. Not anymore. According to data compiled by the New America Foundation, more than 70 countries now own some type of drone, though just a small number of those nations possess armed drone aircraft. The explosion in drone technology promises to change the way nations conduct war and threatens to begin a new arms race as governments scramble to counterbalance their adversaries. Late last month, China announced that it would use surveillance drones to monitor a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan. Last Tuesday, Iran disclosed details of a new long-range drone that can fly 1,250 miles, which puts Tel Aviv easily in range.

The Israeli air force shot down an unmanned drone Saturday over the northern Negev desert. The Israeli Defense Forces spotted the drone, which did not carry any weapons or explosives, hovering over Gaza before it entered Israeli airspace. The IDF declined to discuss the drone’s route or whether it had flown over military installations. It was not clear where the drone originated. Military officials, however, said it does not appear that it took off from Gaza, which along with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Mediterranean Sea forms the western border of the Negev. Israeli security experts point the finger at Israel’s longstanding rival Hezbollah, the Shiite militia based in southern Lebanon.

A convoy of more than 100 vehicles left Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday on a march toward South Waziristan to protest U.S. drone attacks. The group includes about 35 members of the U.S. anti-war group Code Pink. The U.K. advocacy group Reprieve and former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, are also part of the convoy. The counterterrorism drone strike program in Pakistan has long been controversial. American officials insist that the choice and execution of the strikes — begun under President George W. Bush and ramped up under President Barack Obama — meet strict standards and that cases of civilian deaths or injuries are extremely rare. But a study released last month by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law said the drone attacks have killed far more people than the United States acknowledges.

Border Shooting Likely an Accident

This week’s fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the wounding of another in Arizona was likely the result of friendly fire, the FBI said late Friday. “While it is important to emphasize that the FBI’s investigation is actively continuing, there are strong preliminary indications that the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie, 30, and the injury to a second agent was the result of an accidental shooting incident involving only the agents,” James Turgal, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix division, said in a statement. The U.S. Border Patrol agent killed last week in a shooting in southern Arizona apparently opened fire on two fellow agents thinking they were armed smugglers and was killed when they returned fire.

Scant Oversight of Drug Maker in Fatal Meningitis Outbreak

A growing national outbreak of meningitis has been caused by the very medicine that was supposed to help the victims. Health officials say they believe it was contaminated with a fungus. The rising toll — 8 dead, 105 ill and thousands potentially exposed — has cast a harsh light on the loose regulations that legal experts say allowed a company to sell 17,676 vials of an unsafe drug to pain clinics in 23 states. Federal health officials said Friday that all patients injected with the steroid drug made by that company, the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., which has a troubled history, needed to be tracked down immediately and informed of the danger. Some doctors and clinics have turned away from major drug manufacturers and have taken their business to so-called compounding pharmacies, like New England Compounding, which mix up batches of drugs on their own, often for much lower prices than major manufacturers charge — and with little of the federal oversight of drug safety and quality that is routine for the big companies.

Economic News

A tentative recovery in the global economy is running out of steam and growth could weaken further due to Europe’s debt crisis and inaction over a looming fiscal squeeze in the United States, the International Monetary Fund said Monday. The IMF said growth would be even weaker than forecast if eurozone leaders fail to take further measures to support ailing members of the 17-nation currency union, and if the United States drives headlong over the so-called fiscal cliff — a $7 trillion program of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that start taking effect at midnight on Dec. 31.

Understanding how the unemployment rate is calculated explains why the rate went down unexpectedly last month. The numbers come from a survey of individuals. The unemployment rate can go down because more people have jobs. But it can also go down if a growing number of people say they have given up looking for work. And for much of the past year the bulk of the reason for the drop in the unemployment rate, which peaked at 10% in late 2009, has been the shrinking workforce.

The federal government logged a $1.1 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2012 ending Sept. 30th — marking the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar shortfalls. As a share of the economy, the deficit fell to roughly 7%, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates released Friday. That’s down from 8.7% in 2011, and well below the bruising 10.1% recorded in 2009 during the depth of the economic downturn. Deficits as a share of GDP in the past four years have been the highest since 1947. The decline is thanks largely to an uptick in revenue. Compared to last year, the federal government collected 6% more in fiscal 2012. A big reason was the jump in corporate tax receipts, which rose a whopping 34%.Spending, meanwhile, fell 2%. That decline, however, is due mostly to shifts in the timing of payments, CBO said.

Deadlocked lawmakers and defense contractors alike have been raising alarm about the more than half-trillion dollars in defense cuts poised to take effect starting in January because of Congress’ failure to reach a more balanced deficit-reduction deal. But there’s another side to that budget ax that rarely gets mentioned — another $500 billion in non-defense cuts that could do serious damage to education, research, safety net and other programs. All those areas would be cut by nearly 8 percent over the next 10 years. Washington has already signaled drastic consequences for the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which says the cuts could stunt economic growth, increase unemployment and send the country into another recession. But state officials are also living in a state of uncertainty and anxiety over the non-defense cuts, as they consider where to find the money to cover the planned reduction in federal support.

Gasoline prices in California rose to another all-time high on Sunday. AAA reported in its latest update on Sunday that the statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.655. AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge report said the national average both Saturday and Sunday was about $3.81 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in some states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.

Eurozone

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Athens Tuesday to protest a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is viewed by many Greeks as being behind their country’s suffering. Critics see Merkel as the main enforcer of the European Union-imposed austerity measures that have left a large number of Greeks unemployed and streaming to soup kitchens for a hot meal. Police estimate as many as 25,000 people have turned out to demonstrate in central Athens, despite a ban on protests in certain areas amid beefed-up security for Merkel’s visit. A number of arrests were made in Syntagma Square, near the Greek parliament building, with missiles thrown at police as tensions began to rise.

Middle East

The IDF hit an Al-Qaida inspired terrorist cell inside the Strip Sunday night to prevent what it called a “large and complex terrorist attack on Israelis” which they were planning on launching “from the Sinai Peninsula.” The Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Strip, joined Islamic Jhihad in launching a barrage of rockets into Israel to retaliate for the strike. Over the course of Sunday and Monday, over 50 rockets rained down on Israel’s south.

Philippines

The Philippines has reached a preliminary agreement with Muslim rebels after 15 years of talks, the president announced Sunday, marking a major milestone after decades of militant insurgency in the nation’s troubled south. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has fought for decades for an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines. It has been blamed for rampant attacks in the region. President Benigno Aquino III described the deal as a “framework agreement” for establishing a new autonomous region to be administered by Muslims in the south. It also provides a framework on issues such as power structure and revenues in the southern region. The new autonomous region will be named Bangsamoro. The preliminary deal marks a major milestone after years of negotiations with the Moro group to help end an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands.

  • Deals with Islamist insurgents generally don’t work out except in their long-term favor

Syria

Dual car bombs exploded near an air force intelligence compound outside Damascus overnight, an opposition group said Tuesday. “We fear that hundreds of regime forces have been killed in this attack because the compound hosts a large number of regime forces,” said Rami Abdulrahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “We also fear for the lives of hundreds if not thousands of anti-government detainees that are being held in the basements of the air force security compound.” Air force intelligence in Syria tortures detainees, using beatings and electric shocks and burning them with hot water and acid, according to Human Rights Watch. The barrage of explosions, gunfire and shelling reported from the Damascus area early Tuesday, suggesting the civil war may be zeroing in further on the Syrian capital.

Turkey

Turkish soldiers returned fire Sunday after a shell from Syria landed near a border village, state media reported, as clashes between the two neighbors entered a fifth day. Clashes between the two started Wednesday when shelling from Syria hit the Turkish town of Akcakale, killing five civilians and injuring nine others. The U.N. Security Council condemned the shelling and appealed for restraint from both countries. Syria “is not seeking any escalation with any of its neighbors, including Turkey,” Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Thursday after expressing his government’s “deepest condolences” over the shelling.

Libya

Libya’s General National Congress rejected Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur’s crisis government proposal Sunday. The “no confidence” vote results in the automatic dismissal of Abushagur as prime minister-elect less than a month after he was appointed, while keeping the current government in place until a new one is formed. Members postponed a decision on setting a new timetable for appointing a new prime minister and the deadline for forming a government. The GNC, Libya’s first elected body in almost half a century, came to power after a July national vote with two primary tasks — to appoint a government and oversee the drafting of a constitution.

Jordan

Thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Amman, Jordan, Friday to demand political change. The demonstration came less than a day after King Abdullah II dissolved the country’s parliament and called for early elections close to the new year. The peaceful rally called for constitutional reforms, with protesters complaining that the king has too much power. They demanded that representatives be able to run for election in a democratic system rather than be under his control. Many said Jordan’s economy is hurting, and too many people cannot afford the high cost of living and are being burdened by high inflation. Unemployment is too high, they said, and young people especially are without work. The complaints have been echoed for some time in Jordan and gained steam when the Arab Spring began to sweep North Africa and the Middle East in 2010 and 2011. Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have ousted longtime leaders from power.

Iraq

Despite a United Nations call for restraint, Iraqi authorities have executed dozens of inmates in recent months. Authorities executed 11 prisoners Sunday and six others Thursday after terrorism convictions, officials said. More than 100 people have been put to death since November, according to a CNN tally. The execution of large groups of prisoners has drawn attention from human rights advocates, who have raised concerns about the fairness of trials and transparency of court proceedings. After 34 inmates were executed on one day this year, the United Nations’ top human rights official said she was shocked and called on the country to implement a moratorium on the death penalty.

Iran

Senior Iranian clerics intensified their anti-Western criticism on Friday, calling the near-collapse of the national currency this past week a consequence of an American-led conspiracy to wage an economic war on Iran, and predicting that the pressure would ease. Proponents of stricter economic penalties against Iran have been emboldened by the currency crisis, calling it evidence that the sanctions are working. Mark D. Wallace, chief executive of United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York-based group that has worked to persuade multinational companies to sever business ties with Iran, said that by its calculation Iran’s currency had fallen by 80 percent in the past year. In a statement on the group’s Web site, he called for an economic blockade on Iran to increase the pressure, saying ‘the regime must be forced to choose between having a nuclear weapon or a functioning economy.

Iranian scientists are nearing completion of a nuclear warhead, having already successfully tested an implosion system and neutron detonator at a secret site while enriching uranium to weapons grade, according to a former Iranian intelligence officer. The information comes from Hamidreza Zakeri, formerly with the Islamic regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, or MOIS. Zakeri, who has in the past provided credible information on another site to Western intelligence agencies, said that after the revelation of the existence of the Iranian atomic research facility in Lavizan-Shian, the team of scientists moved to a secret location.

Volcanoes

Fresh lava and ash spewed Sunday from a volcano in northeast Indonesia, casting haze over the crater and prompting authorities to warn nearby residents. The volatile activity continued Sunday, though authorities could not immediately ascertain how many additional, separate eruptions had occurred. Those living within 1.5 miles of the volcano, which is in the Pacific island nation’s North Sulawesi province, are being told to limit outdoor activity. The volcano has been active since last Friday, with some eruptions spewing ash 1,500 meters into the air.

Weather

An upper-level wind pattern tapping Arctic air is shoving a cold front south into the U.S. Billings, Mont. went from a high of 82° last Tuesday to just over 2″ of snow the following day, their first snow of the season. The town of Sedgwick, Colo. had a daytime high of 90° Wednesday followed by a freeze the following morning. Grand Forks picked up its first snow of the season (2-3″) Thursday, just two days after a high of 80°.Similarly, Denver registered two straight days with highs in the low 80s Tuesday and Wednesday.

Devastating spring freezes and a historic drought have stripped some charm from rustic fall destinations, leaving some corn too short to create mazes, orchards virtually devoid of apples and fall colors muted. Extreme weather has forced agritourism ventures in the heart of the country to scramble to hold onto their share of an industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year. For many farms and orchards, autumn is the peak agritourism season as families seek out a taste of rural life with outings to explore corn mazes, take hay rides and pick their own apples or pumpkins.

Signs of the Times (10/5/12)

October 5, 2012

Poll Results Christians Place Self Over God

Renowned pastor and evangelist, Greg Laurie, reports that a poll was taken among Americans who were asked what the purpose of life was. Sixty-one percent said the main purpose of life was enjoyment and personal fulfillment. Then the same question was asked of Christians, and 50 percent said life’s purpose was enjoyment and self-satisfaction. Laurie asks, “But is that true? Is that the purpose of life for us as Christians—the reason we exist? To find the answer to this question, we have to go to Scripture. In Revelation 4, the apostle John described a scene in heaven. He saw the Lord, seated on His throne, resplendent in glory. Around the throne, he saw living creatures who worshiped God day and night. There were 24 elders who worshiped as well, saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (verse 11). So why do we exist? Why were we created? Answer: to bring God glory and pleasure.”

  • Too many so-called Christians don’t have a clue what life is really all about. How do we bring God glory? By doing His will in our lives.

Illinois Court Affirms Pharmacists’ Conscience Rights

An Illinois appellate court ruled Sept. 21 that the state may not punish pharmacists for refusing to sell possible abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religious convictions, WORLD News Service reports. “The decision is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberties, which has represented the pharmacies since 2005. “The government shouldn’t kick business owners out of the market just because it dislikes their religious beliefs.” The case began after then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a mandate in 2005 requiring all pharmacies and pharmacists to sell Plan B, also known as the “morning-after pill.” When taken by women within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the drug may prevent pregnancy but also may cause an early abortion. In 2005, pharmacists Luke Vander Bleek, a Catholic, and Glenn Kosirog, a Christian, filed a lawsuit against the governor. A circuit court dismissed their claim, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the case must be heart. In 2011, a trial court ordered an injunction to halt the rule, saying it was designed to target religious objectors. The appellate court upheld that decision Sept. 21. Six other states — Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota — have also passed laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency-contraception drugs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

1500 Pastors to Preach  Politics this Sunday

The number of pastors standing up for their right to preach from their pulpits on politics is surging. In 2008, 35 pastors defied the IRS, which holds the position that church “organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” The number of pastors boldly opposing the IRS rule grew to 539 in 2011 and is expected to be more than 1,500 on Oct. 7, during what organizers are calling “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” WorldNetDaily.com reports that no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status, despite claims to the contrary by critics of Christians who speak out on important issues and candidates. Americans United for Separation of Church and State says it has sent 60,000 letters to churches in an effort to tell pastors that the law requires them to stay out of politics.

‘Gay Cure’ Therapists Sue California

Two therapists who try to turn gay people straight, along with a student who says he was successfully converted to heterosexuality, are suing nearly two dozen California state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, saying a new state law infringes on their civil rights. The plaintiffs’ legal team will file a motion sometime this month seeking an injunction before the law goes into effect. The legislation known as Senate Bill 1172 — which the state Senate passed in May, Brown signed into law this weekend, and will take effect January 1 — prohibits attempts to change the sexual orientation of patients under age 18.

  • The gay agenda strikes again, in California of course.

New Orleans to Take Away Religious freedoms

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is suing New Orleans over an ordinance that violates the constitutional right of free speech. Joe La Rue, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, tells OneNewsNow what the city has done is to, in effect, criminalize any religious speech on Bourbon Street at night. Several people have been cited and jailed for violating the ordinance. “A lot of people just don’t realize that religious speech is just as important and just as protected by the Constitution as any other type of speech, and it’s really sad that we have to bring this type of lawsuit to make that point,” La Rue says. ADF is asking the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional so their client and anyone else can engage in free speech in the popular tourist area.

  • ‘Tolerance’ applies to everything except Christianity

Electronic Monitoring Rises Under Obama, ACLU Says

The instances of the Justice Department monitoring electronic communications such as phone calls, emails and even social network updates without a warrant has increased by as much as 60 percent in recent years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Orders to track phone calls increased 60 percent — from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011 — according to Justice Department documents. Orders to track emails and computer network data increased by 361 percent over the same period. The ACLU argues the legal standard to use the surveillance tactics is too low, requiring only that the government submit a court certification stating that it seeks information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

  • Obama will likely blame former president Bush

Fusion Centers Unproductive

A damning report issued by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs declares, “Sharing terrorism-related information between state, local and federal officials is crucial to protecting the United States from another terrorist attack. Achieving this objective was the motivation for Congress and the White House to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over the last nine years in support of dozens of state and local fusion centers across the United States. Congress directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead this initiative. A bipartisan investigation by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found, however, that DHS’ work with those state and local fusion centers has not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts.” The Subcommittee investigation also found that collected data was “endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protection.”

  • Fusion centers are successfully compiling a wealth of information about individual citizens which can and will be used to squelch troublemakers

Judge Blocks Pennsylvania Voter ID Law

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday blocked the state from enforcing its strict voter ID law before the presidential election, citing “disenfranchisement” concerns. The ruling in a vital battleground state comes five weeks before the election. The ruling, which could still be appealed, followed two days of testimony about the state’s efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID, as well as possible hurdles for those seeking proper identification. The challenge to the six-month-old law is one of several across the country to laws — largely backed by Republican legislators — requiring voters to show photo identification. Republicans say the laws are necessary to prevent election fraud. But Democrats, who in Pennsylvania joined up with the AARP and NAACP in opposition, claim residents could be blocked from exercising their right to vote.

  • Democrats know that most of the poor, ‘disenfranchised’ and illegals will vote for them.

Births in US Down for Fourth Straight Year

U.S. births fell for the fourth year in a row, the government reported Wednesday, with experts calling it more proof that the weak economy has continued to dampen enthusiasm for having children. But there may be a silver lining: The decline in 2011 was just 1 percent — not as sharp a fall-off as the 2 to 3 percent drop seen in other recent years. Most striking in the new report were steep declines in Hispanic birth rates and a new low in teen births. Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the flagging economy, experts say, and teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years. Falling births is a relatively new phenomenon in this country. Births had been on the rise since the late 1990s and hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007. But fewer than 4 million births were counted last year — the lowest number since 1998. A birth rate of a little more than 2 children per woman keep a the population stable. The U.S. rate last year was slightly below 1.9.

Peanut Butter Recall Widens

A New Mexico company has expanded its recall of peanut butter and almond butter to include cashew butters, tahini and blanched and roasted peanut products. In addition to Trader Joe’s, the recall includes nut products sold at Whole Foods Market, Target, Fresh & Easy, Giant Food, Harry and David, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company and several other stores. Brand names recalled include Archer Farms, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Late July, Heinen’s, Joseph’s, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout’s, Sunland and Dogsbutter, among others. The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there are now 30 salmonella illnesses in 19 states that can be traced to the Trader Joe’s peanut butter.

Fiscal Cliff Looms

American households face an average tax increase of $3,500 if Congress doesn’t act to avert the looming ‘fiscal cliff’, according to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center. That’s because a record number of tax increases — due mostly to the expiration of temporary provisions put in place since 2001 — are set to take effect starting in January. All told, the center estimates that the fiscal cliff tax provisions would raise an additional $536 billion in revenue next year, or 21% of what the federal government would otherwise collect. The biggest part of the tax hit for middle-income Americans would come from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut. Some 277,000 workers — 14% of the federal work force — could lose their jobs in the next 12 months if the U.S. cannot avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

Overall, 88% of households would end up with higher taxes. The top 1% of households, which have incomes above $506,210, would face an increase of $121,000. Within that group, the top 0.1% — those making more than $2.66 million — would get hit with a tax hike of nearly $634,000. By contrast, households making up to $20,113 would see a $412 average increase. Households in the middle — with total incomes between $39,790 and $64,484 — can expect a roughly $2,000 increase. Few think, however, that Congress will let all the scheduled tax increases take effect.

Economic News

The unemployment rate tumbled in September as more people returned to the labor force and steady hiring continued. Employers added 114,000 jobs during the month, down from a revised 142,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department said Friday. But revisions to July and August mean the economy added 86,000 more jobs than originally reported in those months. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 7.8% in September, from 8.1% the prior month. The country generally needs at least 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.

  • A suspicious drop, considering that fewer jobs were created in September. Oh, yeah, it’s an election year.

Private sector hiring slowed in September, according to a report released Wednesday by payroll processor ADP. Private employers added 162,000 jobs in the month. While that beat economists’ forecasts for 133,000 jobs, it nevertheless marked a slowdown from August, when ADP said private employers added 189,000 jobs.

U.S. car buyers flooded showrooms in September, sending auto sales to their highest level in more than four years. Overall sales were were up 13% from a year ago, according to sales tracker Autodata, which put the pace of sales at an annual rate of just under 15 million vehicles. That easily topped most forecasts and was even better than the spike in sales caused by the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program three years ago.

Delinquencies on credit cards issued by banks dropped to the lowest level since 2001 during the second quarter, according to a report from the American Bankers Association released Thursday. Only 2.93% of all bank card accounts were considered delinquent, meaning they were 30 days or more overdue. That’s down from 3.08% in the first quarter and significantly lower than the 15-year average of 3.91%.

Iran

Riot police clashed with demonstrators and foreign exchange dealers in Tehran on Wednesday over the collapse of the Iranian currency, which has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar in a week, witnesses said. Police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, angered by the plunge in the value of the rial. Protesters shouted slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying his economic policies had fueled the economic crisis… ‘Everyone wants to buy dollars and it’s clear there’s a bit of a bank run,” said a Western diplomat based in Tehran. “Ahmadinejad’s announcement of using police against exchangers and speculators didn’t help at all. Now people are even more worried.’ … Protesters shouted slogans like ‘Mahmoud the traitor – you’ve ruined the country’ and ‘Don’t fear, don’t fear – we are all together.” Sales of Iranian crude are down about 40 percent compared with last year, depriving the country of billions of dollars a month due to economic sanctions imposed by numerous nations to force Iran to give up their nuclear weapons development.

The Iranian lawyer who successfully represented Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in court, leading to his eventual release and acquittal of apostasy, was detained over the weekend and ordered to serve a lengthy sentence in one of Iran’s most dangerous prisons, the American Center for Law and Justice reports. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a world-renowned Muslim human rights attorney, had been previously convicted for representing other religious and political prisoners and was sentenced to nine years in prison, barred for 10 years from practicing or teaching law, fined $1,900 and given a choice of either five lashes or an additional $450 fine. In recent months, however, he had worked out an agreement that allowed him to continue representing Nadarkhani and prevented him from having to serve any time in prison. “He upheld his end of that bargain, and we believe that Iran has reneged now that Pastor Youcef is no longer the focus of international attention,” the ACLJ said. When he was first detained three years ago, he was not treated well by his Iranian captors, the ACLJ said.

Syria

A wave of blasts targeting Syrian government forces killed dozens of people in a popular square Wednesday. At least 40 people were killed and about 90 others wounded when three car bombs exploded in Aleppo’s Saadallah Al-Jabiri square. Most of the casualties were government forces, opposition groups said. A fourth car bomb exploded near Aleppo’s chamber of commerce. The blasts highlight the escalating crisis in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a commercial hub that has morphed into a major battleground between government and rebel forces. Syrian rebels said they will start executing a group of about 48 Shiite pilgrims from Iran if Tehran and Damascus do not comply with their demands

Turkey

Turkey renewed cross-border attacks in Syria on Thursday, even as a government official said the country has “no interest in war with Syria.” The attacks began Wednesday when Turkey fired on Syrian government targets in retaliation for artillery fire that struck the Turkish border town of Akcakale and killed at least five people. It was the first time that Turkey fired into Syria during the 18-month-long crisis there. Now, the cross-border attacks are raising fears that the spillover from Syria’s civil war could ignite a wider regional conflict. Syria and Turkey once enjoyed a cozy bilateral relationship that saw visa-free travel and booming trade between them.

Turkish police are going house to house in this border province issuing an ultimatum, Syrian refugees say: Either move into a refugee camp or go back to Syria. Turkish officials at the local and national level of government confirmed that authorities were pushing Syrian refugees toward the camps. Officially, more than 93,000 refugees currently live in a network of camps spread along Turkey’s long border with Syria. But Turkish diplomats estimate there are another 40,000 to 50,000 unofficial Syrian refugees who have chosen to live in Turkey outside of the camps. On Tuesday the United Nations refugee agency said that the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries has more than tripled since June to over 300,000. Most of the refugees are housed in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Afghanistan

With the surge of American troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal. The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart. The failure to broker meaningful talks with the Taliban underscores the fragility of the gains claimed during the surge of American troops ordered by President Obama in 2009. The 30,000 extra troops won back territory held by the Taliban, but by nearly all estimates failed to deal a crippling blow, according to the New York Times. Critics of the Obama administration say the United States also weakened its own hand by agreeing to the 2014 deadline for its own involvement in combat operations, voluntarily ceding the prize the Taliban has been seeking for over a decade.

China

With only six weeks to go before the formal unveiling of a new set of leaders for China, Communist Party elders and senior officials are still deciding who will ascend to the top ruling bodies and what policy direction they will adopt for the new team, political insiders and analysts say. After nearly a year in which planning for the succession has been upset by an extraordinary string of scandals, the leaders and elders have finally agreed on Nov. 8 as the date to begin the 18th Party Congress, the climax of just the second peaceful transfer of power in China’s Communist era.

Georgia

For the first time in the strategically important former Soviet state of Georgia, power is set to be transferred by free and fair elections instead of revolution. As the results became clear, President Mikheil Saakashvili, a larger-than-life figure who was swept to power in 2003, appeared on national television to accept defeat. Bogged down and damaged by accusations of authoritarianism and human rights abuse, including appalling images that emerged last month of prison inmates being physically and sexually abused in a Georgian jail, his once popular support appears to have slid away. The prime minister-elect, who will take the reins of power from Saakashvili next year, is Bidzina Ivanishvili, a controversial 56-year-old billionaire who made his fortune in Russia during the 1990s. He is now estimated by Forbes magazine to be the 153rd richest man in the world, with assets worth more than half of tiny Georgia¹s GDP. During a bitter election campaign, government officials accused him of wanting to turn his back on Europe, NATO and the United States, to return Georgia to Russia’s sphere of influence.

Weather

A landslide buried 18 Chinese elementary school students studying during a public holiday Thursday to make up for classes disrupted by recent earthquakes in southwest China. The landslide followed several days of rain. Rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of five students as they scour through rubble at a village in Yunnan province after the landslide struck the school and two houses.

Ravaging floods killed dozens in Nigeria and displaced tens of thousands of residents as crocodiles, hippos and other water animals washed into homes. The floods have left 148 people dead and affected 21 of the nation’s three dozen states. Torrential downpours in recent weeks have caused widespread destruction and forced many families into makeshift camps. An estimated 134,000 people have now been affected by the floods and concern is growing about the spread of waterborne diseases..

Signs of the Times (10/1/12)

October 1, 2012

App Makes Children’s Bible Available in Closed Countries

Scandinavia Christian Publishing House has now made 85 children’s Bibles available as apps that can be downloaded and read on iPhones and iPads, with Android and Kindle formats on their way, ASSIST News Service reports. The apps are being sold worldwide, even in closed Muslim and communist countries where the written Bible and other Christian books are not permitted. “We are able to monitor global sales of our apps daily,” said Scandinavia’s Jorgen Vium Olesen. “In just one day, 300 Bibles and biblical books were downloaded in approximately 60 countries. There were 94 books in the USA, 25 in China, 23 in Saudi Arabia, 19 in the United Arab Emirates, nine in Malaysia, seven in Russia and four in Egypt. Some days, up to 52 are downloaded in Saudi Arabia alone. … We continue to see a high number of downloads in China. In Beijing in 2010 we were informed there are no restrictions on digital Bibles and children’s Bibles in China. If this freedom remains, it will provide a great opportunity to legally get Bibles into China using digital means.”

Evangelicals Rally in Philly

Thousands of conservative Christians gathered Saturday on Independence Mall in Philadelphia to pray for the future of the United States in the weeks before the presidential election. Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins topped a full day of speakers at ‘‘The America for Jesus 2012’’ prayer rally. ‘‘I don’t care what the ACLU says or any atheists say. This nation belongs to Jesus, and we’re here today to reclaim his sovereignty,’’ said Robertson, 82, who founded the Christian Coalition and Christian Broadcasting Network. Perkins asked the crowd to pray for elected officials including Obama. ‘‘We pray that his eyes will be open to the truth,’’ Perkins said. Organizers plan another prayer rally Oct. 20 in Washington, D.C., two weeks before President Barack Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential election.

Obama/Napolitano Give Deportation Break to Homosexual Illegal Immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to issue a policy memo stating illegal immigrants with American same-sex partners are eligible for consideration of having their deportation put on hold. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano delivered the news on Thursday in a letter to 84 Democratic lawmakers who had pressed her agency to provide written guidance. The policy expected to go out next week falls under a federal program designed to focus resources away from low-priority deportation cases. Napolitano says the memo to Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices will state that binational same-gender couples in long-term relationships would meet the definition of family that government lawyers can use as grounds for deferring a foreign citizen’s removal from the U.S.

  • Satan’s goal to redefine God’s ordained family structure continues to accelerate with complicity by the Obama administration

Obamacare Hospital Fines Begin

Starting Monday, Medicare will fine hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge due to complications. The penalties are part of a broader push under President Barack Obama’s health care law to improve quality while also trying to cut costs. About two-thirds of the hospitals serving Medicare patients, or some 2,200 facilities, will be hit with penalties averaging around $125,000 per facility this coming year, according to government estimates. It adds up to a new way of doing business for hospitals, and they have scrambled to prepare for well over a year. They are working on ways to improve communication with rehabilitation centers and doctors who follow patients after they’re released, as well as connecting individually with patients. Still, industry officials say they have misgivings about being held liable for circumstances beyond their control. They also complain that facilities serving low-income people, including many major teaching hospitals, are much more likely to be fined, raising questions of fairness.

Economic News

U.S. manufacturing activity grew in September for the first time in four months, according to a closely watched survey of executives. The Institute of Supply Management’s monthly reading came in at 51.5. Any number above 50 indicates growth, and the September reading was the first above 50 since May. The three-month slump followed a string of almost three years of manufacturing growth. Monday’s reading bucked the trend of a slowdown in other major manufacturing centers around the globe.

Activity in China’s factory sector continued to slide last month, bringing more bad news for the country’s political class as they prepare for a once-a-decade leadership transition. The Chinese government said Monday that its official manufacturing index hit 49.8 in September. Any reading below 50 indicates that factory activity is shrinking rather than growing. The fate of manufacturing in China is considered a barometer of the global economy because of the country’s role as a powerhouse exporter.

Middle East

The ASSIST News Service reports that Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has given King Abdullah II notice that he has until October to bow to their demand to transform the moderate nation into a constitutional monarchy — or face Arab Spring street pressure for his abdication. Middle East sources report that Israeli and Saudi intelligence watchers are becoming increasingly concerned about the approaching climax of the conflict in Amman between Islamists and the throne. For Israel, an upheaval in Jordan “bodes the tightening of the Islamist noose around its borders — Egypt and Libya to the south and Syria to the north, with unpredictable consequences with regard to Jordan’s Palestinian population,” according to DEBKAfile. The Muslim Brotherhood has already set a date for mass demonstrations against the king to start on Oct. 10, and has ordered its members to begin working to mobilize at least 50,000 demonstrators for daily protests until the king bows to their will. Abdullah is reported to soon be meeting with Brotherhood leaders to personally appeal for calm.

Egypt

Coptic Christian families have fled their homes in the town of Rafah in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, fearing for their lives after receiving death threats from suspected Islamic militants, CNSNews.com reports. According to a local priest, Islamic militants dropped leaflets on the doorsteps of shops owned by Copts in Rafah, ordering them to leave town within 48 hours and making an implicit warning of violence if they failed to do so. Two days later, masked militants on a motorcycle opened fire on one of the shops before speeding off. No one was hurt in the shooting. When Christians met Tuesday with the province’s top government official — who was recently appointed by Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi — the governor promised to facilitate the Copts’ move to the nearby city of el-Arish but did not offer to protect the community to ensure that it stayed in Rafah,

Syria

Efforts to draw together the fragmented foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad could lead to direct talks between the leader’s regime and his opponents, a key official said after talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Friday proposed plans to broker discussions for a political transition in Syria — amid the paralysis at the U.N. Security Council which has cast a pall over the annual gathering of world leaders in New York. The U.N. and Arab League joint envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, would need to take the plan forward. Establishing a more coherent opposition is seen as a means of increasing pressure on the Syrian leadership amid Russia and China’s decisions to veto three Western-backed resolutions aimed at forcing Assad to end the violence.

Syrian forces are uprooting thousands of people and then demolishing their homes in part of a flashpoint city that has been the center of an anti-government rebellion, according to residents there. Tanks and bulldozers have been tearing down houses in the Mesha Alarbeen district of the city of Hama, the site of intense fighting during an uprising against the Syrian government. Once again, Hama is a stronghold of anti-government activists who have roiled the country for the past 18 months. The Hama Massacre of 1982 is fresh in the minds of Syrians. Acting under orders from Hafez Assad — the father of the current Syrian president — the Syrian military brutally suppressed a revolt in Hama.

Pakistan

Thousands of members of Pakistan’s radical Islamic groups rallied on Saturday in the southern city of Karachi against the anti-Islam film that has sparked violence across the Muslim world. Chanting “Down with America” and demanding expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, the participants gathered in the heart of the city’s business district, where prominent radical leader Muneebur Rehman demanded stern punishment for the filmmaker. But he asked the protesters to remain peaceful. Protests are dying down in many countries but continue in Pakistan, home to several powerful radical movements. Since 23 people died in Karachi last week during demonstrations against the film, however, marchers appear to have heeded calls by clerics and other public figures to avoid violence.

Afghanistan

An Afghan soldier turned his gun on American troops Saturday at a checkpoint in the country’s east, killing two Americans and at least two fellow members of Afghanistan’s army in a shooting that marked both the continuance of a disturbing trend of insider attacks and the 2,000th U.S. troop death in the long-running war. The string of insider attacks is one of the greatest threats to NATO’s mission in the country, endangering a partnership key to training up Afghan security forces and withdrawing international troops.

A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan Monday killed 14 people, including three NATO service members and four Afghan police, and wounded 57 others. The bomber targeted a joint patrol of NATO forces and Afghan police, using an explosives-packed motorcycle. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iraq

A unit of U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq and more U.S. soldiers may soon be on their way, according to a New York Times report on the impact the civil war in neighboring Syria is having on Iraq’s “fragile society and fledgling democracy.” The Times reports that, “Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions” and that a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers has already been deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

At least 19 people were killed Sunday in a wave of bombings in Iraq, making it the country’s deadliest day in nearly a month. The country’s majority Shiite Muslim community seemed to be the main target of the attacks, with a Shiite shrine among the targets. The blasts seem to be part of a new increase in the level of violence in the country after a period of relative stability. There were seven explosions in and around Baghdad, which killed 14 people. At least 25 other people were wounded in the blasts in the city center, the Baghdad neighborhoods of al-Mashahda and al-Amel, and the nearby city of Taji.

Nigeria

Gunmen detonated a bomb Sunday near an Islamic boarding school in northern Nigeria and later exchanged gunfire with security forces, causing unknown casualties in the region’s latest round of violence. The explosion could have potentially killed more people, but the gunmen ordered the children out of the school before triggering the bomb. Sunday’s attack hit Zaria, a city in the northern reaches of Kaduna state that is the nerve center of Shiite Muslims in a country where Muslims are predominantly Sunni. Following the blast, soldiers and police flooded the area and opened fire on gunmen they suspected of planting the bomb, killing two people.

  • If Islamic extremists can’t kill infidels, they turn on each other

Bangladesh

Crowds of angry Muslims attacked Buddhist shrines and homes, torching some of them Sunday in Bangladesh to protest after a photo of a partially burned Quran was posted on Facebook. The protesters chanted anti-Buddhist slogans, blaming the burning of the Muslim holy book on a Buddhist boy. The boy is tagged in the photo but did not post it himself. The boy’s account has been deleted and police are not naming him. The violence began in Ramu in Cox’s Bazar, a town south of the capital Dhaka on the coast, early Sunday and it spread in the adjacent areas through Sunday evening.

Philippines

Britain, Australia and Canada have joined the United States in warning their citizens of a security threat in the Philippines, particularly in the capital, Manila. Philippine authorities say they have no information of a specific threat against Westerners but are treating the warnings seriously. On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said “reliable security forces” detected a threat specifically in suburban Pasay City where it maintains a residential facility and a Veterans Affairs office. It urged U.S. citizens to avoid gatherings that may be regarded as “American events.”

Kenya

Al-Shabab rebels pulled out of a key port city in southern Somalia, the group said Saturday, a day after Kenyan troops invaded and marched toward the city center and seaside port that long served as the militants’ key source of funding, officials said. Residents in Kismayo said they woke to find police and government headquarters abandoned by the militants, sparking a looting spree of the government and police headquarters. The Kenyan troops landed by boats in the northern part of Kismayo on Friday and moved toward the port, he said. He said that al-Shabab lost “many, many militants, including some key commanders” during battles on Friday that involved helicopter gunships.

An explosive device set off in a Sunday school class killed one child and seriously wounded three. Sympathizers with the Somali militant group al-Shabab were behind the attack at an Anglican church in Nairobi. Kenya has seen a series of attacks on churches ever since Kenyan forces moved into Somalia to fight al-Shabab last year.

Earthquakes

A minor earthquake measuring a preliminary 3.4 magnitude rattled a suburban community west of Dallas during the night but there were no immediate reports of any damages or injuries. The quake struck at 11:05 p.m. CDT Saturday and was centered about 2 miles north of The Dallas suburb of Irving. The quake lasted several seconds and was strong enough to have been felt near the epicenter and possibly as far as15 or 20 miles away.

Weather

Following on the heels of a deadly 2011, when almost 1,700 tornadoes killed 553 Americans, 2012 has been a remarkably quiet year for tornadoes across the USA. So far this year, about 750 tornadoes have been reported in the USA. At this time last year, about 1,500 had formed. An average year, to date, has about 1,200 tornadoes. Since accurate tornado records began in the 1950s, the year with the fewest tornadoes was 1987, when only 1,013 tornadoes were reported. The same weather pattern that created the devastating drought was a key factor in the quiet tornado year. For much of the year, a large area of high pressure sat over the West Coast and the Rockies, which kept storms from moving into the central USA, the nation’s tornado hotbed.

A tornado has swept through a fair ground in a Spanish town, knocking down a Ferris wheel and injuring 35 people, while the death toll from flooding in the southern part of the country rose to eight. Local media report the fair was closed to the public at the time of a thunderstorm and that all the injured were fair workers. Just inland from the coastal town, three more victims of Friday’s flash floods were found overnight.

A powerful typhoon headed to Tokyo has injured dozens of people, caused blackouts and paralyzed traffic in southern and western Japan. Japan’s Meteorological Agency warned of torrential rain and strong wind gusts, urging residents to stay indoors. The agency said the storm was packing winds of up to 78 miles an hour as it passed the Nagoya area in central Japan. Nagoya authorities issued an evacuation advisory to more than 50,000 residents because of fear of flooding from a swollen river. More than 10,000 people were also evacuated in Ishinomaki, a coastal city in northern Japan that was hit by last year’s tsunami.