Signs of the Times (11/15/12)

Rockets Kill 3 in Israel, Retaliation Escalating

Militants in the Gaza Strip pounded southern Israel with rocket fire on Thursday, killing three people as the Israeli military pressed forward with a second day of intense air raids and naval attacks on militant targets. With Israel threatening to invade the Palestinian territory, the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas in four years showed no signs of letting up. The fighting began Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas’ military chief. Gaza’s streets were mostly empty as the Israeli air force continued to strike targets. Residents across southern Israel remained huddled indoors or close to home, ordered by authorities to remain close to a network of public bomb shelters. Following the assassination of Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday, Israeli tanks, gunboats and aircraft struck dozens of sites across Gaza. A total of 13 Palestinians, including four civilians, have been killed and more than 100 people wounded.

  • War in the Middle East is a precursor to the Tribulation period and will usher in the rise of the anti-Christ

Government Surveillance On the Rise

The tangled David Petraeus scandal highlights how easily the U.S. government can access citizens’ private e-mails. The FBI’s request to access Paula Broadwell’s personal Gmail account was one of 7,969 similar requests Google received from the U.S. government in the first half of 2012, according to Google. The company said it complied with the requests, either fully or partially, 90% of the time. “One trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Dorothy Chou, a Google senior policy analyst, writes in the blog post announcing the latest report.

750,000 Petition to Secede from U.S.

The White House has received petitions from all 50 states – signed by nearly 750,000 citizens asking permission to secede from the United States. The petitions were filed on the White House website’s “We the People” petition system. The Obama administration promises to respond to petitions that receive at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days. At least seven states – including Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee have met that threshold. Nearly 100,000 citizens have signed the Texas petition. But the Lone Star State is not going anywhere, according to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, but he said he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government.

  • Unrest in the U.S. is increasing from both the left (Occupy) and the right (Tea Party, etc.)

Catholic Pro-Life Group Anticipates Incarceration

The spokesman for a Catholic pro-life group predicts that unless the courts intervene, civil disobedience — and maybe even prison time — could result in the clash between the Obama administration and the church over religious freedom. Thus far, 40 Christian organizations and businesses have filed suit to block the HHS mandate requiring free insurance coverage of contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life group, told OneNewsNow that the church is on a collision course with the administration, which has refused to provide a broad religious exemption that would protect the rights of people of faith who oppose such practices on religious grounds. The churches, says Pavone, are not going to back down.

Timing of Petraeus Resignation Questioned

CIA chief David Petraeus’ extramarital affair ended months ago. But it continues to make waves in Washington this week, as suspicions ripple through lawmaker ranks about the timing of its revelation and his resignation which coincided with scheduled testimony into the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. President Barack Obama has bypassed the chorus of congressional voices calling for an investigation into why the FBI did not notify Washington’s leaders sooner about its investigation. There is also some concern that confidential information may have been leaked.

Health Insurance Costs Rising Despite Obamacare

Health insurance premiums are high and rising. According to a survey from the National Business Group on Health, employers  expect their health insurance costs to increase 7%. And, 60% of those employers plan to ask workers to pay higher monthly premiums. Health-care reform was supposed to keep costs low and quality of care the same or better. But increasingly, it’s clear the industry is changing dramatically even before all parts of the law go into effect. What’s more, the unintended consequences aren’t good. Obamacare was supposed to ensure everyone gets covered while keeping costs low, but already Wal-Mart employees are saying they will drop out of company plans – meaning more people will burden emergency rooms. And costs aren’t declining; they are rising.

Health Law Has States Feeling Tense Over Deadline

The days since President Obama won re-election have been marked by tension and angst in Republican-led states like which have waited until the last minute to decide whether to create a crucial tool for people to get medical coverage under Mr. Obama’s health care law. States are supposed to tell the Obama administration by Friday whether they want to create their own health insurance exchange or cede that responsibility to the federal government — a deadline that many had bet might never come to pass, choosing to sit on their hands for months in the hope that Mitt Romney would win the presidency and the health care law would be repealed. On Wednesday, leaders of the Republican Governors Association, gathering in Las Vegas for their annual meeting, wrote a letter to Mr. Obama requesting more time, more guidance and a meeting where the president and governors could talk.

Diabetes Cases Hit Record High- But Half Go Unnoticed

Diabetes is running at record levels worldwide and half the people estimated to have the disease are, as yet, undiagnosed. The number of people living with diabetes is now put at 371 million, up from 366 million a year ago, with numbers expected to reach 552 million by 2030, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) said. Diabetes is often viewed as a western problem, since the vast majority of people have type 2 disease which is linked to obesity and lack of exercise. But the disease is also spreading rapidly in poorer countries, alongside urbanization, and four out of five diabetics now live in low and middle-income countries. China alone has 92.3 million people with diabetes, more than any other nation in the world, and the hidden burden is also enormous in sub-Saharan Africa where limited healthcare means less than a fifth of cases get diagnosed. Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control which can lead to serious complications, including nerve and kidney damage and blindness. Worldwide deaths from the disease are running at 4.8 million a year.

U.S. Preterm Birthrate Lowest in a Decade

For the fifth consecutive year, the preterm birthrate in the USA continued its slow but steady downward trend. The nation’s premature birthrate is 11.7% of all live births — the lowest in a decade. In 2006, the nation’s preterm birthrate peaked at 12.8% after rising steadily for more than two decades. Preterm birth (before 37 weeks of completed pregnancy) is the leading cause of infant death during the first month of life.

Persecution Watch

Two women in full Islamic head coverings assaulted and forcefully cut the hair of a Christian woman on the metro Sunday, the third such reported incident in two months, raising fears of a growing vigilante movement to punish Egyptian women for not wearing the veil in public, the Egypt Independent reports. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the assaulters called the 28-year-old Christian woman an “infidel” and pushed her off the train, breaking her arm. Last week, a woman wearing the veil cut the hair of a 13-year-old Christian girl on the metro, and a teacher was also given a six-month suspended prison sentence for cutting the hair of two 12-year-old girls after they refused to cover their heads.

An evangelist accused of defaming Islam was telling mourners at a funeral about the sacrifice of Christ when Muslims present took offense, ASSIST News Service reports. Karma Patras, 55, has been in jail since Oct. 13 for allegedly “outraging the religious feelings” of Muslims at the funeral of a Christian where most of those present were church members, and he faces a sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine under Section 295-A of Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy law. Patras’ son, Robin Masih, said after his father’s arrest, area Muslims told him and his four brothers to leave the village or else they would set them on fire. Masih’s family and those of his brothers sought refuge with relatives elsewhere; meanwhile, Patras awaits a second hearing on his bail application after the first was denied.

Islamic Child Abusrse Get Probation in Arizona

Apparently torturing your offspring is no longer a violent offense in Phoenix, Arizona. Last week an Arizona Superior Court Judge awarded probation to a Muslim family who admitted to kidnapping, beating and trying to kill their nineteen-year-old daughter. Islamists rejoice! “Honor violence” is now officially sanctioned as part of the American culture. According to Maricopa County Prosecutors, in February 2012, Aiya Altameemi, a nineteen-year-old Muslim female was beaten, tied to her bed, burned with a hot spoon, stabbed in the neck and locked in her room by her family for her unwillingness to accept an arranged marriage to a 38-year-old Muslim man and speaking to a male classmate in public. Last week, during a sentencing hearing Aiya’s father admitted to attempting to kill his daughter by cutting her neck. Mohammed Altameemi, 46, received two years’ probation for disorderly conduct. Altameeni’s wife, Yursah Farhan, 51, was sentenced to two years’ probation for unlawful imprisonment of her daughter.

  • Persecute Christians but give Islamists a break – that’s life in the U.S. now as the end-times ramp up

Economic News

The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the October $120 billion deficit — the gap between the government’s tax revenue and its spending — was 22 percent higher than the same month last year. Tax revenue increased to $184.3 billion — 13 percent greater than the same month last year. Still, spending also rose to $304.3 billion, a 16.4 percent jump. Obama’s presidency has coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus deficits, the first in history.

Retail sales dropped in October for the first time in three months as Superstorm Sandy took its toll on auto sales, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Retail and food-service sales were down 0.3 percent last month, compared with September. Car buying has been a major driver of retail sales growth recently. Auto sales dropped 1.6 percent last month compared with September. But higher gas prices led to an increase of 1.7 percent in sales at gas stations in October compared with the previous month.

There were nearly 50 million Americans living in poverty in 2011, under an alternative measure released by the Census Bureau Wednesday. That’s 16.1% of the nation. The alternative measure showed the importance of Social Security and the weight of medical care on the elderly. Without Social Security, some 54.1% of Americans age 65-plus would be in poverty, as opposed to 15.1%.Refundable tax credits — the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — proved the next most effective government initiative keeping Americans out of poverty. It lowered the supplemental rate by 2.8 percentage points. Food stamps, meanwhile, kept 4.7 million people out of poverty, and unemployment insurance 3.4 million.

  • Despite record spending on welfare programs, more and more people are immersed in poverty or dependent on government assistance – just the way the New World Order folks like it

Eurozone

The Eurozone has slipped into recession for a second time in four years, as the sharp fall in activity in debt-ridden southern Europe economies weighed on output across the region. Eurostat’s first reading of gross domestic product for the three months ended in September showed a contraction of 0.1% in the Eurozone, after a decline of 0.2% in the second quarter — confirming the 17-nation currency area is back in recession for the first time since 2009. Efforts by governments and households to reduce debt, rising unemployment and uncertainty over the fate of weaker members of the Eurozone are depressing economic activity.

A wave of anger over austerity is sweeping across Europe as workers fed up with government spending cuts and tax rises take to the streets in a coordinated day of action. Some of the largest protests are taking place in Spain, where a general strike is under way. Public transport has been shut down, or disrupted, while many schools, shops, factories and airports are closed. There have also been significant walkouts — and outbreaks of violence — in Portugal, Greece and Italy. Limited protests are taking place in other countries, including France and Belgium — and even in Germany where the traditionally strong economy has taken a hit. Transport across the continent is being disrupted by the strikes. Hundreds of flights have been grounded, and there are severe reductions in intercity rail services and local transit systems. Protesters say the cuts will compromise livelihoods and increase unemployment.

  • This is a harbinger of what awaits the U.S. as it plunges deeper into European-style socialism

Syria

France announced Tuesday that it was recognizing the newly formed Syrian rebel coalition and would consider arming the group, seeking to inject momentum into a broad Western and Arab effort to build a viable and effective opposition that would hasten the end of a stalemated civil war that has destabilized the Middle East. Throughout the conflict, the West has taken half measures and been reluctant to back an aggressive effort to oust Mr. Assad. This appears to be the first time that Western nations, with Arab allies, are determined to build a viable opposition leadership that can ultimately function as a government. Whether it can succeed remains unclear.

As the total death toll in Syria marches towards 40,000, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday lambasted the recent U.S. backing of Syria’s opposition in its quest to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. “The Syrian opposition has been given a false signal, strengthening the positions of extremists, including terrorists,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry wrote.

  • A Russian and Persian alliance is key to the end-time war against Israel (Ezek. 38-39)

Pakistan

Pakistan freed several Taliban prisoners at the request of the Afghan government Wednesday, a move meant to facilitate the process of striking a peace deal with the militant group. The release of the prisoners — described as mid- and low-level fighters — is the most encouraging sign yet that Pakistan may be willing to help jumpstart peace talks that have mostly gone nowhere, hobbled by distrust among the major players involved, including the United States. Pakistan is seen as key to the process because of its historical ties to the Taliban and because many of the group’s leaders are believed to be based on Pakistani territory, having fled there following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Iran

The US and its allies have targeted Iran for a range of financial sanctions, designed to make it harder for the country to insure its tankers or receive payment for oil sales. Mounting evidence suggests that these measures are helping to cripple the Iranian economy. The International Energy Agency released its monthly oil market report showing that Iranian exports averaged 1.3 million barrels per day in October, compared with the average of 2.3 million per day last year. That represents a daily loss of revenue of $109 million at current market prices. Iran’s losses are running over $3 billion per month – or $33 billion so far this year. That represents almost 30 per cent of the Iranian government’s total budget of $113 billion in 2012/13

Sudan

A yellow fever outbreak in Sudan’s Darfur region has killed 107 people in the past six weeks, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday, warning that the disease could spread all over the country. The number of deaths from the outbreak is steadily rising, and Sudan is working on an emergency vaccination drive. There is no medicinal cure for yellow fever, which is spread by mosquitoes. Doctors treat the main symptoms — dehydration, fever, bleeding and vomiting — and wait for the viral infection to pass. The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people in 32 countries in Africa are at risk of infection.

China

China’s magnificent seven, the fifth and latest generation of Communist Party leaders to helm the world’s most populous nation, strode into the limelight Thursday morning to end many months of backroom bargaining. The leader of the group is Xi Jinping, 59, who has a celebrity singer wife and a daughter studying at Harvard. He took over from Hu Jintao as general secretary of the 82-million-strong Chinese Communist Party. This once-a-decade leadership transition, picking a new party chief and the other members of the party’s Politburo standing committee, the apex of power in China, represents only the second orderly succession in the People’s Republic of China’s often-troubled history. There was no surprise in Xi’s appointment, as he had long been picked to succeed Hu as party chief and president; nor in the appearance of Li Keqiang, 57, likely to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier when the less-important transition of government leaders takes place in March.

Earthquakes

An earthquake has shaken southern Mexico, though there are no immediate reports of damage. The quake hit at about 3:20 a.m. Thursday, causing alarm in Mexico City. The U.S. Geological Survey reported it had a magnitude of 6.0 and was located about 107 miles southwest of Mexico City.

Weather

At least three people have been killed as heavy rain in Italy’s Tuscany region caused rivers to burst their banks and flood the surrounding areas. Two men and a woman were killed when their car fell off a collapsed bridge in Tuscany on Tuesday, as floods battered central Italy for a third straight day. The flooding forced part of the country’s main north-south highway to close and has damaged many homes and shops as well as thousands of acres of farmland. 800 people were evacuated from their homes in the village of Albinia, thousands were left without electricity and several towns were isolated by swamped roads.

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