Signs of the Times (10/23/12)

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.

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