Signs of the Times (10/5/12)

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.” 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%.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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..

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