Signs of the Times (10/19/12)

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.

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