Signs of the Times (11/5/12)

Sandy Aftermath

Six days after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the U.S. East Coast, the storm’s U.S. death toll continues to rise – reaching 110 on Sunday, in addition to two killed by the storm in Canada and 67 in the Caribbean. More than 1.5 million customers were still without power on Sunday night, six days after Sandy slammed into the U.S. East Coast, according to data from utilities. More than 900,000 of those outages were in New Jersey, with about half a million in New York. An estimated 27% of stations in metropolitan New York – which includes parts of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York state – do not have gas for sale. The buildings that dot the water’s edge in Lower Manhattan remain weeks or months away from being able to reopen and invite their tenants back.

Commuters into New York City endured long waits and crowded trains, giving the recovering commuter system a stress test a week after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New Jersey and New York coast lines. Trains were so crowded Monday on the Long Island Rail Road that dozens of people missed their trains. With PATH trains between New Jersey and Manhattan still out, lines for the ferry in Jersey City quickly stretched to several hundred people by daybreak. Key subway lines connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn under the East River had been restored after a week off-line. But officials warned that other water-logged tunnels still weren’t ready for Monday’s rush hour and that fewer-than-normal trains were running.

Just what New York and New Jersey need after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy: more high winds. The National Weather Service predicted Sunday that a Nor’easter that could include gusts of up to 55 mph is likely to reach the area by Wednesday and could compound the havoc brought by last week’s violent weather. “Prepare for more outages,” advised weather service meteorologist Joe Pollina. “Stay indoors. Stock up again.” Meanwhile, cold temperatures streamed in and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that means “tens of thousands” of people whose homes were damaged by the superstorm will need other places to live. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 20,000 people in the city could need housing help.

Appeal of Arizona Abortion Law Begins

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will face off this morning against an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to defend Arizona’s new law forbidding abortions past 20 weeks of gestation except in medical emergencies. Three Arizona obstetrician-gynecologists challenged the law in federal court, and a U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix ruled that it was constitutional. The doctors appealed to the 9th Circuit, which will compel a ruling that will, in itself, become law and affect similar laws in other states. HB 2036 forbids doctors from aborting most fetuses with a gestational age of 20 weeks or older, even in situations where the doctor discovers the fetus has a fatal defect. The law defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of the woman’s last period. Supporters of House Bill 2036, the Mother’s Health and Safety Act, claim that it protects the health of the mother — and prevents the fetus from suffering pain. Its opponents claim that the law is an attempt to whittle away a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is notoriously liberal, so this requires a lot of prayer

Graphic Homosexual Sex Taught in Elementary School

Gay marriage activists falsely claim time and time again that legalizing same sex-marriage won’t change what is taught to our children in school. They should tell that to Kristy Howard, a mother in Maine whose child was taught about graphic homosexual foreplay during “Diversity Day” at Gorham Elementary and Middle School just last week – without any notice to their parent,. the National Organization for Marriage reports. “I don’t want my child taught heterosexual foreplay, let alone homosexual foreplay in school,” she said. Amazingly, the principal is still defending the choice to have “Diversity Day.”

  • Gay marriage doesn’t just mean it will be taught in schools in the future—it’s already happening now

Anti-Semitic Incidents Decline in U.S.

Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. dropped by 13 percent in 2011, according to a report released Thursday (Nov. 1) by the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks assaults and other attacks on Jews. “It is encouraging that over the past five or six years we have seen a consistent decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country and that the numbers are now at a historic low,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director. ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents for 2011 included 19 physical assaults, 731 cases of harassment and threats and 330 incidents of vandalism.

  • Anti-Semitism declines while anti-Christ persecution intensifies

Persecution Watch

A woman who voted early last week near Austin, Texas, was forced to cover up her T-shirt that said “Vote the Bible,” CBN News reports. According to the pro-family group Texas Values, Kay Hill was told by election workers at the Taylor City Hall polling place in Williamson County that her shirt was “offensive.” She was told to either turn the shirt inside out, go home and change, or cover up the words “Vote the Bible.” She tried to disagree but was eventually forced to cover up the words, and poll workers reportedly provided a jacket for her to wear over the shirt. Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said: “It’s outrageous that a person of faith would be mistreated this way while trying to vote. If this isn’t voter intimidation, I don’t know what is. No one should have to suffer the humiliation, embarrassment and intimidation that Ms. Hill endured. No one should be asked to give up their religious freedom in order to vote.”

Members of a Christians-only health insurance plan will lose their coverage on January 1st under a judge’s order to cease operations. Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate found that Medi-Share doesn’t comply with state insurance regulations and shouldn’t be operating in Kentucky. That means some 800 Kentuckians will lose coverage. Medi-Share closely resembles secular insurance, but only allows participation by churchgoers who pledge to abstain from smoking, intoxicating substances or sex outside of marriage. Medi-Share contends that its participants aren’t buying insurance, but are involved in a charitable endeavor to help cover medical bills of fellow Christians and potentially have their own expenses covered should the need arise.

An Iranian Assembly of God pastor, his wife and two other church ministers have each been sentenced to a year in prison for preaching Christianity, ASSIST News Service reports. The four Christians, who were arrested in a church raid on Dec. 23, 2011. The Revolutionary Court said their charges were “converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert, as well as propagating against the Islamic regime through promoting evangelical Christianity.” When the Christians’ homes were searched, security authorities confiscated a number of personal items, including their computers, books, cell phones and DVDs, as well as sound equipment and musical instruments used at their church. The Christians have an opportunity to appeal the sentencing, but the verdict issued by that court will be final.

Poll: 29 Percent of Pastors Discuss Candidates in Pulpit

A majority of regular churchgoers say their pastor has discussed the importance of voting, while 29 percent say their pastor has taken sides, in sermons, in the presidential race, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, Baptist Press reports. The Oct. 24-28 poll shows that among all churchgoers — Protestants and Catholics who attend church at least monthly — 15 percent say their pastor’s message has been more supportive of President Obama while 14 percent say their pastor’s sermon has been more supportive of Mitt Romney. However, what “people are hearing” from their pastor “varies greatly by race,” the survey shows. For example, among black Protestants, 45 percent say their pastor has supported Obama, with none in the sample saying their pastor backed Romney. Among white evangelicals, 26 percent say their pastor has been more supportive of Romney but only 5 percent say the pastor has been more supportive of Obama.

  • The pulpit challenge against IRS rules prohibiting political discourse has been largely successful

Economic News

The economy added 171,000 jobs in October, and unemployment ticked up to 7.9%, from 7.8% in September. The rise in the unemployment rate was expected by economists, and was mainly because more people entered the labor force. Roughly 12.3 million people remain unemployed, 40.6% of whom have been so for more than six months. While many industries are adding jobs, the current tepid pace of growth is not enough to climb out of the jobs hole, economists said.

The number of planned layoffs by U.S. firms jumped 41.1 percent in October to the highest level in five months. Employers announced 47,724 planned job cuts last month, up from September’s 33,816. The total for the year so far stands at 433,725, down from 521,823 for the same period in 2011.

OPEC oil output rose slightly in October as extra supplies from Iraq, Angola and Libya have offset disruptions in Nigeria and a further decline in Iran to its lowest in two decades.

Middle East

Iran and Syria have arranged a gasoline-for-diesel swap, helping each other overcome international sanctions that have cut them off from fuel supplies needed to keep their economies afloat and support their armies. Tracking data shows that a tanker from Iran arrived in Syria with a cargo of fuel, and a shipper who works in the region said Iran was delivering diesel to Syria in return for gasoline. U.S. and European Union sanctions have virtually ground Syria’s trade in oil and refined products to a halt, while Iran is struggling to sell its crude as buyers around the world cut purchases.

In contrast to a recent survey finding respondents in 21 countries around the world favor President Obama over Mitt Romney by a significant margin, a new opinion poll in Israel suggests that Jews in that country would be much happier to see the Republican candidate win, according to CNSNews.com. Fifty-seven percent of Jewish respondents said that “when it comes to Israel’s interests,” they would prefer Romney as the next U.S. president, compared to 22 percent who said the same of Obama. Among Israeli Arab respondents, Obama was favored by a 45-to-15-point margin.

Iran

Fulfilling a request of Barack Obama’s administration, Iran announced a promise in the secret negotiations with the U.S. to suspend uranium enrichment to the 20 percent level for its nuclear program, WorldNetDailycom reports. During an interview with the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), Mohammad Hassan Asfari, member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced that Iran has halted the enrichment to the 20 percent level and at the same time requested the removal of sanctions by the West. “In order to build trust, the Islamic regime has set aside the 20 percent enrichment process. It is expected that the 5+1 will remove the sanctions. If such action does not take place, Iran will continue with its process of reaching peaceful nuclear energy,” said Asfari.

Iranian car manufacturers have begun laying off thousands of workers as production grinds to a halt, the latest setback to strike an economy nearing collapse under pressure from international sanctions. The mass redundancies in one of Iran’s biggest industries has added to the sense of crisis in the country. Inflation is soaring and the rial slumped to an all-time low against the US dollar last month. Unemployment in some parts of the country has reached 40 per cent.

Syria

An array of explosives, from shells to barrel bombs, fell on Syrian cities in another day of bloodshed Thursday. The Local Coordination Committees accused the government of using “vacuum bombs.” Also known as thermobaric explosives, they are effective at spreading destruction through urban areas, according to military experts. At least eight people died Thursday, according to opposition activists. The early reports follow a week of grim tolls, including 121 reported dead Wednesday and 163 on Tuesday.

Rebel fighters in Syria sought to move against the government’s increasing use of deadly air power Saturday, with an attack on the Taftanaz military airport in the northerly Idlib province. An opposition activist in the north told CNN the air base was surrounded and that about 200 regime troops were thought to be inside.

Pakistan

It’s the latest cruel tactic in the Pakistani Taliban’s battle to stop girls and women from getting an education: acid thrown in their faces to scar them for life and deter others from following in their footsteps. Fifteen students, boys and girls, from Kohat University were on their way home to Parachinar when unknown “extremists” stopped the vehicle and threw acid at the girls and shot one of the boys. “We will never allow the girls of this area to go and get a Western education,” said Qari Muhavia, the local Pakistani Taliban leader.

Egypt

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-majority government continues to debate the phrasing used while drafting its new constitution, which will more than likely have sharia (Islamic law) as its foundation, the Christian Post reports. According to Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA, the implementation of such a constitution is expected and can only mean deepening trouble for Egyptian Christians. “It is hardly a surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood is now pushing sharia as the law of the land in Egypt,” Dykstra said. “Strict Islamic law has always been its main agenda for Egypt. President Morsi attempted to disguise this before the election, saying his government would be moderate. Now the true face of extreme Islam is being unveiled to the world. The high hopes of the revolution and overthrow of Mubarak have now been replaced by the reality of another form of extremist government — an Islamist one.” Islamists have dominated every election since the ousting of Mubarak, and ultra-conservative Salafis are pressuring the new government to make sure sharia is followed. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Brotherhood was “committed to enshrining Islamic sharia law as the main source of a new constitution.”

Russia

Moscow is to increase its annual defense spending by 59 percent by 2015 as it attempts to modernize its military – while the United States looks to ways to downside in the face of major spending cuts, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. Russia is expected to concentrate its modernization efforts in command and control structures and the ability to project its conventional forces within its regional area of influence, designed primarily to project Russia itself while relying more on its nuclear arsenal to thwart attempts to gain influence by other countries.

  • Russia is prophesied to be a key player in the end-time war against Israel/God (‘Rosh’ in Ezek. 38-39)

Earthquakes

As if they haven’t had enough headaches in New Jersey in the past week, this morning they can add earthquake to the list. The magnitude-2.0 temblor struck at 1:19 a.m. and was centered two miles south-southeast of Ringwood, New Jersey, not far from the border with New York. The depth was 3.1 miles. People felt the quake across seven zip codes in New York and New Jersey. Quakes in the eastern U.S. – even small ones like this – are typically felt over a larger area than quakes in the western part of the country because of their shallow depth. No damage was reported from Monday’s quake.

Weather

At least eight people were killed and thousands displaced after powerful Cyclone Nilam roared into India’s southeastern coast Thursday. About 8,000 people in low-lying areas on the coast of Tamil Nadu state were moved to temporary shelters. Nilam crossed the southern coast at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. It then moved inland and weakened into a deep depression.

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