Signs of the Times (11/12/12)

Justice Department Targeting Abortion Protesters

According to CBN News, government officials are increasingly using lawsuits to target pro-life protesters outside abortion clinics. A variety of laws have already put restrictions on these protests — a major one being the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which can cause convicted protesters to face thousands of dollars in fines as well as jail time — and the Feds have steadily stepped up the number of cases in the past few years. “They’re trying to shut down free speech at abortion clinics, but then [Planned Parenthood president] Cecile Richards is one of the most frequent  visitors to the White House, so you know she’s having an impact,” said Jo Scott, a longtime protester outside Planned Parenthood in Denver who has faced several charges of obstructing the clinic’s entrance with her husband, Ken. Though the government has had a tough time winning many of its cases against pro-life protesters, the FACE Act remains “dangerous in so many ways,” said pro-life attorney Rebecca Messall. “And it’s been used … across the country to try to intimidate and punish people for exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Kansas Cities Say No to Gay Protection Laws

Earlier this year in Salina, Kansas, the city council passed an ordinance granting special legal protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. Citizens drafted a protest position that made the ballot and voted to repeal the ordinance granting special protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. In Hutchinson, the city passed a limited ordinance along the same lines. Citizens launched a successful protest petition,and  voters in Hutchinson rejected the proposed ordinance 58 percent to 42 percent.

Gay Agenda to Step Up Lawsuits

After election successes in four states this month, there likely will be lawsuits against churches. Justices of the peace or other officials could have a bull’s-eye on their backs. Small businesses, such as photographers, venue operators and cake bakers will be hit with claims under anti-discrimination laws. People who have any connection to governmental licenses could be impacted, such as notaries public, mayors and commissioners. In Canada, according to a report by National Review, there have been hundreds of formal complaints pursued against people who hold to the biblical instruction that marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • The gay agenda isn’t just about homosexual rights, it is the hallmark of Satan’s strategy to undermine the Biblical family structure

Gun Sales Soar after Obama Re-election

Owners of guns have been stocking up because they are concerned about a potential tightening of regulations on assault weapons in the president’s second term. In October the number of background checks on people applying to buy guns, an indicator of future sales, increased by 18.4 per cent. There was a similar jump when President Obama was first elected in 2008. A total of 12.7 million background checks were carried out that year, up from 11.2 million the year before, and the number has been rising since then.

  • Obama’s second term will yield more aggressive steps toward gun control, immigration amnesty, higher taxes on the ‘wealthy,’ increased welfare spending, and the expansion of homeland security’s fusion and detention centers.

NY Drivers Deal with Continued Gas Rationing

A return to 1970s-era gas rationing seemed to help with hours-long gas station lines that formed after Superstorm Sandy, but it didn’t end a fuel-gauge fixation that suddenly has become a way of life for drivers in the nation’s largest city. As drivers sorted out an odd-even plan – a scheme not seen in New York since the 1970s Arab oil embargo – thousands of people in the region got their power back for the first time since Sandy came ashore 12 days ago. Meanwhile, disaster cleanup efforts have been hampered by the influx of gawkers – tourists who want to see the carnage for themselves.

Record number of foreign students in U.S.

The number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges climbed 6% to a record 764,495 last year, propelled primarily by continuing increases of students from China and a recent surge from Saudi Arabia. The number of U.S. students earning academic credit abroad also continues to increase but at a slower rate. In 2010-11, 273,996 U.S. students studied abroad, up 1.3% from the previous year. Raising concerns that American students are not developing the skills they will need to succeed in a global workforce, Institute of International Education President Allan Goodman called on U.S. educators to step up efforts to send more students abroad.

Small Banks to Disappear?

Now that President Obama has been re-elected, analysts, consultants and dealmakers have turned from whether Dodd-Frank Act will be repealed to what it means for banks now that it’s likely here to stay. The overwhelming conclusion: Thousands of small banks will soon disappear. Industry analysts predicted that the number of banks in the U.S. would shrink to a few hundred. There are currently more than 7,000. Bill Egan, head of financial institutions investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, agreed, but said the weeding out process was likely to take more than a decade. All the new regulations lumped on the banking industry in a good faith effort to make our financial system safer will most likely make it harder for small banks to stick around.

Occupy’s New Mission: Forgiving Peoples’ Debt

Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement launched to fight corporate greed and corruption, is now buying up peoples’ debts and forgiving them. Its new initiative, called Rolling Jubilee, is being spearheaded by Occupy’s Strike Debt team to protest a “predatory” lending system, according to its website. The group will hold a telethon and variety show called “The People’s Bailout” in New York on Nov. 15 to raise money for the cause, and the proceeds will be used to buy defaulted debts — such as unpaid student loans and medical bills — and erase them. “The basic premise is simple: people shouldn’t have to go into debt for an education, because they need medical care, or because they have to put food on the table during hard times,” Occupy’s website says.

  • The premise that people shouldn’t have to pay for basic services such as education and medical needs results in socialism or communism which failed miserably in the 20th century.

U.S. to Become Biggest Oil Producer

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020, and will be energy independent 10 years later, according to a new forecast by the International Energy Agency. The recent resurgence in oil and gas production, and efforts to make the transport sector more efficient, are radically reshaping the nation’s energy market, reported Paris-based IEA in its World Energy Outlook. “The United States, which currently imports around 20% of its total energy needs, will become all but self-sufficient in net terms — a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy importing countries,” the IEA stated.

Economic News

Democratic and Republican leaders appeared Sunday to draw closer to reaching a compromise on keeping the country from going off the fast-approaching “fiscal cliff” — with closing tax loopholes for America’s highest earners emerging as the potential middle ground. Economists and others warn the country could go over the fiscal cliff in January when tax cuts for many Americans expire while nearly $1 trillion in federal cuts begin.

The U.S. trade deficit declined to the lowest level in nearly two years because exports rose to a record high. The gain might not last given the global economic slowdown. The deficit narrowed to $41.5 billion in September, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That is 5.1 percent below the August deficit and the smallest imbalance since December 2010. Exports climbed 3.1 percent to an all-time high of $187 billion. That followed two monthly declines and reflected stronger sales of commercial aircraft, heavy machinery and farm goods. Imports rose 1.5 percent to $228.5 billion.

  • A deficit is still a deficit, and it’s still a large one which adds to overall federal indebtedness

Another month, another dip in video game sales. Total retail sales for October plunged 25%, the 11th straight month the industry has shown decline. Hardware experienced the largest drop, 37%, compared to the same time last year.

Japan’s economy contracted in the latest quarter, signaling that like Europe it may already be in recession, further weighing down world growth. On an annualized basis, the world’s No. 3 economy shrank 3.5% in the July-September quarter, the government reported Monday. Japan’s territorial dispute with China hammered exports that were already weakened by feeble global demand.

Persecution Watch

A pastor was killed and 11 others wounded in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa on Sunday when suspected Islamic extremists launched a grenade through the sheet-iron roof of Utawala Interdenominational Church during the worship service, the Christian Post reports. At least three of the 11 injured had wounds so serious they were airlifted to Kenyatta General Hospital in Nairobi. According to a source, the grenade “landed right at the podium where the chaplain was delivering a church sermon, hitting him right at the forehead, and he died immediately.” Then followed several gunshots, the source added. It is suspected the blast could be a revenge attack by sympathizers of the terror group al Shabaab in neighboring Somalia, where Kenyan forces are involved in fighting the Islamists.

A Bible school in Sudan that was torched by an Islamist mob earlier this year has re-opened but remains in danger as Muslim hostility towards Christians intensifies. The compound, which includes a Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church building, was targeted on 21 April. The Islamist attackers bulldozed a wall and set fire to the school and church; three other congregations were affected, as they used halls at the school for their services. A clinic, home for the elderly and living quarters were damaged. Some of the students’ belongings were destroyed, as were library books and a large number of Bibles. The perpetrators broke into a safe and made off with school funds; they also ruined school furniture. Before the arson attack, Islamists had obtained approval from the Commissioner of Khartoum to take part of the property.

Christians were assaulted by a mob of Salafist Muslims as they left a church service in Egypt. The Muslims were angry that ten Christians from neighboring villages, which do not have church buildings, were coming to Tala for worship. Five Christians were hospitalized with broken limbs, and the two cars that were used to transport the visiting Christians were torched. Later in the afternoon, Muslims went to a number of Christian homes and attacked the residents; five required hospital treatment.

Middle East

Israeli airstrikes hit Palestinian targets in Gaza overnight, scoring direct hits on a “terror tunnel” and a weapons storage facility, the military said Monday. A military representative said militants have launched more than 110 rockets at Israel  since Saturday. “The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel,” an Israel Defense Forces statement said. “The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

The Israeli military says it scored “direct hits” on targets in Syria after responding to stray mortar fire from its northern neighbor. The military says that Israeli tanks opened fire on targets in Syria on Monday after the mortar round landed in an open area in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The incident marked the second straight day that Israel has responded to fire from Syria. The mortars are believed to be coming from fighting in Syria’s civil war, and Israel says the shells do not appear to be aimed at Israeli targets. Nonetheless, Israel has promised a tough response if the fire continues.

Attempts to find Arab-Israeli common ground on banning weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast have failed, and high-profile talks on the issue have been called off, diplomats said Saturday. The diplomats said the United States, one of the organizers, would make a formal announcement soon saying that with tensions in the region remaining high, “time is not opportune” for such a gathering. The meeting — to be held in Helsinki, Finland, by year’s end — was on shaky ground since it was agreed to in 2010 by the 189 member nations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki dropped a diplomatic bombshell on Thursday when he said the 1993 Oslo Accords, which govern the relatively peaceful relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, would become null and void when the UN General Assembly votes to grant the PA the status of non-member state. “Once we become a recognized state, we will go to all UN agencies to force the international community to take legal action against Israel,” Zaki told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly considering making a request for a vote on the question in the coming weeks. Several PA officials have warned Israel of dire consequences if it imposes sanctions in retaliation for the move.

Syria

Chaos and terror reigned near Syrian border towns, forcing thousands to flee to Turkey over a 24-hour period — some in the dead of the night amid raging gunfire. More than 11,000 Syrians have entered neighboring Turkey since Thursday. Of the thousands of refugees, 71 were injured, the official said. Two died of their wounds. Before the new arrivals, the Turkish government had said it is hosting more than 111,000 Syrian refugees. Elsewhere, at least 22 people were killed Friday when shelling and fierce clashes erupted in various cities, including Damascus. The bloody uprising against the Syrian government has gone on for 19 months and left more than 35,000 people dead.

Syria’s rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners. The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition.

Iran

Iran defended its right to “confront” incursions into its territory after the Pentagon said two Iranian jets fired on an unmanned U.S. Air Force drone last week. The United States said the shooting happened over international waters. It triggered a formal warning by the United States to Iran through diplomatic channels. The drone was not hit, and it returned under its own power to its base.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake struck Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on Sunday, collapsing a bridge and a gold mine, damaging several old Buddhist pagodas and leaving as many as 12 people feared dead. The magnitude-6.8 quake struck at 7:42 a.m. local time. The area surrounding the epicenter is underdeveloped, and casualty reports were coming in piecemeal, mostly from local media. Authorities resumed their search for four missing workers Monday near the collapsed bridge over the Irrawaddy River in Kyaukmyaung. Myanmar has a poor official disaster response system, despite having lost upwards of 140,000 people to a devastating cyclone in 2008.

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