Signs of the Times (12/24/12)

Christmas Carols = Bullying?

A Christian attorney says some Montana parents are taking the “war on Christmas” to a whole new level. The complaining parents in Missoula, who refused to be identified, want “Joy to the World” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” replaced with secular songs. They say the traditional carols are a form of bullying and need to go. But Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel thinks their claim is ridiculous. The attorney says Christians should not be afraid to push back against such anti-religious attacks, doing it in a godly, civil manner. “We need to make a stand. If we don’t, we ultimately will lose our liberties, lose our right to speak, and the only viewpoint will be a secularist, anti-God viewpoint,” Staver warns.

Secularists see ‘HumanLight’ as New December Holiday

In addition to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, secular humanists have added a new celebration to the crowded calendar. HumanLight, observed on or about Dec. 23, is a secular celebration of human potential that is growing in acceptance. This year, at least 18 groups, from New Jersey to Florida and Pennsylvania to Colorado, have ceremonies planned. And at least one government building that displays holiday scenes has added HumanLight to the roster: the county courthouse in Wabash, Ind., displays a yellow, white and red HumanLight banner on the same lawn as the Christian creche.

  • Christmas has already become so secularized with its emphasis on Satan and materialism that the secularists hardly need another event. However, the anti-Christ spirit will continue to escalate its end-time war against all things Christian.

Evil Cited as Reason Behind School Shooting

Amid national soul searching in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in American history, faith leaders say the removal of God from the nation’s schools and communities is at the root of this monstrous tragedy. Marshall Foster, a Christian historian, founder of the World History Institute, says the culprit is “not an imbalance of chemical enzymes in Lanza’s brain; the culprit is Lanza’s sin nature. For years, public schools have been teaching children that evil does not reside in their souls and is therefore, by default, circumstantial, Foster says, and according to this misguided worldview, there must have been something circumstantially that caused Lanza to shoot innocent children. Mankind, Foster says, always looks for excuses “outside himself,” but he never wants to face the “demons in his own soul.”

  • The secularist denial of evil is Satan’s greatest triumph, because by extension it also leads to denial of God

Unbelief Now the World’s Third-Largest ‘Religion’

A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that while Christians and Muslims make up the two largest groups, those with no religious affiliation — including atheists and agnostics — are now the third-largest “religious” group in the world, the Religion News Service reports. The study found that 84 percent of the world’s 7 billion people adhere to some form of religion. Christians make up the largest group, with 2.2 billion adherents, or 31 percent worldwide, followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent worldwide. Close behind are the “nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation — at 1.1 billion, or 16 percent. The next largest groups, the report finds, are Hindus (1 billion people, or 15 percent), Buddhists (500 million people, or 7 percent) and Jews (14 million people, or 0.2 percent). More than 400 million people — 6 percent — practice folk traditions from African, Chinese, Native American or Australian aboriginal cultures. An additional 58 million people — slightly less than 1 percent — belong to “other” religions, such as the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism.

NRA Calls for Armed Police Officer in Every School

The nation’s largest gun-rights lobby is calling for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer “waiting in the wings.” The National Rifle Association broke its silence Friday on last week’s shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead. The group’s top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said at a Washington news conference that, quote, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He also blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out. LaPierre also said that President Obama has “zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget. And scrapped ‘Secure Our Schools’ policing grants in next year’s budget. With all the foreign aid the United States does, with all the money in the federal budget, can’t we afford to put a police officer in every single school?”

Court Blocks California Law Banning Gay Therapy

A federal appeals court on Friday put the brakes on a first-of-its-kind California law that bans therapy aimed at turning gay minors straight. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency order putting the law on hold until the court can hear full arguments on the measure’s constitutionality. The law was set to take effect Jan. 1. Licensed counselors who practice so-called “reparative therapy” and two families who say their teenage sons have benefited from it sought the injunction after a lower court judge refused the request. The law, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this fall, states that therapists and counselors who use “sexual orientation change efforts” on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.

Audits of Companies for Illegal Immigrants Rise

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reached its highest number yet of companies audited for illegal immigrants on payrolls this past fiscal year. Audits of employer forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million. The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238. “Our goal is compliance and deterrence,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge at ICE’s Seattle office. “The majority of the companies we do audits on end up with no fines at all. If companies know we’re out there, looking across the board, they’re more likely to bring themselves into compliance.”

Army Teams Sent to Africa as Terror Threat Grows

A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge. The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defense. The sharper focus on Africa by the U.S. comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali. The terror threat from al-Qaida linked groups in Africa has been growing steadily, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria.

U.S. Population Growth Flat

The nation’s population growth remains near historic lows as it struggles to recover from the Great Recession, new Census estimates show. The U.S. population reached 313.9 million on July 1, a 0.75 percent increase or 2.3 million gain in one year. The population numbers also show that the oil boom in North Dakota has sparked a people boom that made the state the fastest-growing since 2011 — 2.2 percent or three times the national rate. Former boom states such as Nevada and Arizona continue to grow but at a much slower pace than before the 2007-09 recession. Two states — Rhode Island and Vermont — lost population, largely because young people are leaving and few immigrants are arriving. Maine and West Virginia are aging so rapidly that deaths now outnumber births. Many states with strong diversified economies like North Carolina and Colorado are showing new strength. Texas gained the largest number of people — 427,400.

Tax increases in California Prompt Exodus

A vote last month that makes Californians among the highest-taxed residents in the country is sparking debate about whether the Democrat-back initiative will backfire, by forcing high-earners to join a long exodus from the cash-strapped state. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown successfully pushed the tax increase by suggesting that high-earners must shoulder the largest burden in bailing out the state, particularly its debt-ridden public school system. However, high unemployment and government debt have already sent residents fleeing in large numbers – an estimated 225,000 annually. And the recently passed tax increase for families making more than $250,000 each year could further shrink the tax base for California, whose 2012 budget deficit is projected to hit $28 billion.

Fiscal Cliff Talks head to New Year’s Eve

Some things never change: Negotiations in Washington always go down to the last minute. So it is with the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the series of tax hikes and budget cuts that take effect next year if the White House and Congress are unable to reach a debt reduction deal. With President Obama and Congress taking a Christmas break — amid the stops and starts of recent weeks — it looks like they will need every possible hour to avoid going over the cliff on Jan. 1. With the year running out, more lawmakers question whether they can agree on a big deal to reduce the nation’s $16 trillion-plus debt, or a smaller one to get past the fiscal cliff.

Economic News

Companies increased their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in November. The Commerce Department said orders for durable goods rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in November from October, when orders rose 1.1%.Orders for core capital goods — considered a proxy for business investment — were up 2.7% in November after a revised 3.2% gain in October, which was the biggest increase in 10 months.

A federal judge has given final approval to BP’s settlement with a bulk of businesses and individuals who lost money because of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP PLC has estimated it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve economic and medical claims from more than 100,000 businesses and individuals hurt by the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

Persecution Watch

Gunmen in central Somalia on Dec. 8 killed an underground Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam, Morning Star News reports. Two unidentified masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home in Beledweyne, 200 miles north of Mogadishu, and fled immediately after the murder. Siad’s oldest daughter, 15, said her father was killed “because he failed to attend the mosque for prayers and used to pray at home. He used to share with us about Jesus.” She said he had received messages on his mobile phone stating, “We know what you are doing, and you must stop, otherwise you risk your life.” “Siad deserved to die because he was not committed to the Islamic religion,” a Muslim resident said. Siad’s 42-year-old wife, three daughters and two sons have fled the area, fearing for their lives.

Egypt

Egypt’s Islamist-backed constitution received a “yes” majority in a final round of voting on a referendum that saw a low voter turnout, but the deep divisions it has opened up threaten to fuel continued turmoil. Passage is a victory for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, but a costly one. The bruising battle over the past month stripped away hope that the long-awaited constitution would bring a national consensus on the path Egypt will take after shedding its autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago. Instead, Morsi disillusioned many non-Islamists who had once backed him and has become more reliant on his core support in the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Hard-liners in his camp are determined to implement provisions for stricter rule by Islamic law’

Syria

The international envoy tasked with pushing to end Syria’s civil war said he was worried after discussing the crisis with President Bashar Assad on Monday, indicating there had been no apparent progress in efforts to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict. The two met just hours after a government airstrike on a bakery in a rebel-held town in central Syria killed more than 60 people late on Sunday. Little progress has been made toward brokering an end to the conflict because both sides adamantly refuse to talk to each other. The government describes the rebels as foreign-backed terrorists set on destroying the country. The opposition says that forces under Assad’s command have killed too many people for him to be part of any solution.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed nine people including a provincial government official at a political rally held Saturday by a party that has opposed the Taliban. The rally in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was held by the Awami National Party, whose members have been repeatedly targeted by the Taliban. Over 20 others were wounded by the blast. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing in a statement, reiterating the United Nations’ support for Pakistani efforts “to combat the scourge of terrorism.”

Myanmar

Myanmar’s military chief says the country plans to use nuclear technology for medical, research and energy purposes but will not develop atomic weapons, a statement that came a month after the government said it would declare any nuclear material in the country. “The military will not develop nuclear technology to produce weapons of mass destruction but will conduct studies and experiments for peaceful purposes in accordance with international standards to use in the medical sector, in laboratory research for science and in the electrical energy sector,” said Vice Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Argentina

Looters ransacked supermarkets in several Argentine cities Friday, causing two deaths and evoking memories of widespread theft and riots that killed dozens during the country’s worst economic crisis a decade ago. Two people were killed by a sharp object and gunfire after attacks early Friday on about 20 supermarkets in the cities of Rosario and Villa Gobernador Galvez. 25 people were injured and 130 arrested during the looting about 190 miles northeast of Buenos Aires. Closer to the capital, riot police fired rubber bullets to drive off a mob that was trying to break into a supermarket in San Fernando, a town in Buenos Aires province. Officials said 378 people had been arrested in those confrontations. The officials also said that the act of “vandals” instigated by union leaders who oppose President Cristina Fernandez.

  • The end-time spirit of lawlessness will continue to stir up more wars, violent protests and mass killings

Haiti

Despite billions of dollars spent — and billions more allocated for Haiti but unspent — rebuilding has barely begun and 357,785 Haitians still languish in 496 tent camps following the Jan. 10, 2010, earthquake. Michèle Pierre-Louis, a former prime minister of Haiti, says “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.” More than half of the money has gone to relief aid, which saves lives and alleviates misery but carries high costs and leaves no permanent footprint — tents shred; emergency food and water gets consumed; short-term jobs expire; transitional shelters, clinics and schools are not built to last. Just a sliver of the total disbursement — $215 million — has been allocated to the most obvious and pressing need: safe, permanent housing.

Volcanoes

Chilean authorities on Sunday issued a red alert — the most severe in their warning system — that the Copahue Volcano, high in the Andes mountains on the border with Argentina, might be poised for a significant eruption. No mandatory evacuations have been ordered around the remote volcano. The service warned specifically about potentially dangerous mudslides.

Weather

Christmas 2012 will not only feature heavy snow from Winter Storm Euclid.  Euclid will head out across the Great Basin to produce snow and wind through Nevada to The Wasatch where a foot or more of new snow is likely. Snow levels will be low enough to bring a few inches to Salt Lake City on Monday. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will target parts of the South Christmas Day into Wednesday. Isolated strong to severe thunderstorms possible in parts of the Deep South both during day and Monday night. Severe weather outbreak may begin before sunrise Christmas morning in east and southeast Texas into Louisiana.

Western Antarctica has warmed unexpectedly fast over the last five decades, weather records confirm, adding to sea-level rise concerns in a warming world. Temperatures in West Antarctica have increased at a rate nearly twice as large as the global average, a 4.3 degree Fahrenheit increase since 1958.

  • Global warming/climate change is an end-time God/nature induced cycle that has been exacerbated not caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Note to scientists: correlations are not causations

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