Signs of the Times (2/1/13)

Baptist Leaders Predict ‘Mass Exodus’ From Boy Scouts

The Southern Baptist Convention expressed extreme disappointment to news that the Boy Scouts of America will likely end a longtime ban on gay members, with SBC officials predicting a mass exodus out of Scouting by Baptist churches, the Christian Post reports. A vote on the matter by the BSA is planned during an executive meeting the first week of February. Dr. Richard Land, head of SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said: “This is a catastrophic decision for the Boy Scouts of America. In order to placate their East and West Coast appendages, they are tearing out the heart of their Midwest and Southern support. This decision will lead to a mass exodus of traditional, orthodox Christianity from the Boy Scouts.” SBC’s president, Fred Luter, a former Cub Scout and Boy Scout, also expressed disappointment. “To now see this organization that I thought stood on biblical principles about to give in to the politically correct thing is very disappointing.”

Leading U.S. Cardinal punished for Role in Abuse Coverup

One of the most powerful Catholic leaders in the USA, Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, has been relieved of his public roles for covering up for sexually abusive priests — a role the current archbishop called “evil.” Just hours after a court-ordered massive release of priest personnel files revealed the extent of Mahony’s role in covering up for known sexual predators, Archbishop José Gómez announced Thursday night that he has relieved Mahony of his remaining duties. This is the first time since the massive abuse scandal exploded in 2002 hen there were direct repercussions for top church officials. In December 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned his post as archbishop of Boston when protesters and priests called for him to step aside.

Obama Secretly Pledges to Divide Jerusalem

Now that he has secured his second term, President Barack Obama has already secretly pledged to the Palestinians he will press Israel into a new round of so-called land-for-peace negotiations, a top Palestinian Authority negotiator told WorldNetDaily. The negotiator said top members of the Obama administration told the Palestinians the U.S. president will renew talks aimed at creating a Palestinian state in the so-called 1967 borders – meaning in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and, notably, eastern Jerusalem. The negotiator further revealed when it comes to dividing Jerusalem, Obama wants to rehash what is known as the Clinton parameters. That formula, pushed by Bill Clinton during the Camp David talks in 2000, called for Jewish areas of Jerusalem to remain Israeli while the Palestinians will get sovereignty over neighborhoods that are largely Arab. Palestinians are building illegally in Jewish-owned areas of Jerusalem, changing facts on the ground and resulting in Arab majorities on certain neighborhoods.

Cost of Illegal Immigrant Citizenship could Outweigh Fiscal Benefits

Any immigration reform plan that allows the roughly 11 million individuals now in the United States illegally to stay in the country would bring with it a mix of new revenues and increased costs. And as President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators separately press the issue this week, past studies suggest it is doubtful that the fiscal benefits of such policy changes would outweigh the costs. By legally joining the workforce, the immigrants in question would generate additional and much-needed income tax but also would become eligible for a certain level of government assistance. Research shows creating a path to citizenship for so many illegal immigrants would result in significant costs to state, local and federal governments.

The latest Fox News poll shows a majority (66%) of American voters believes illegal immigrants should be given a chance to apply for citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements, such as paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check.

Amnesty Plan Equals ‘Unlimited Future Illegal Immigration’

An agreement over a sweeping overhaul of immigration law reached by a bipartisan group of leading senators has quickly drawn its critics. The outline of the plan covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, tells Newsmax that the agreement is no different than existing law that the federal government repeatedly fails to implement. “When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican from Texas said. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

Drones Now In Place Over America

From news reports as of a couple of weeks ago, 348 drones were approved for domestic use, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Sixty-nine percent of the applications came from the Defense Department. Homeland spying by the military is ramping up quickly under the guise of searching out terrorists.

DHS Adds 200,000 Rounds to its 2 Billion Round Stockpile

Last year, it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security had purchased 1.6 billion rounds of hollow point ammunition of various calibers for reasons that the agency refuses to reveal. On Wednesday, the DHS announced that it would acquire another 200,000 rounds from a company known as Evian Group, Inc. reports WorldNetDaily. Not only is the reason for the agency’s stockpiling of nearly 2 billion rounds of ammo shrouded in mystery, but so too is the Evian Group. For one, it seems that the Evian Group was formed on December 12, 2012, just 5 days before the announcement of the solicitation. The price that the agency paid for the rounds is suspect too, less than half of what the other manufacturers are charging. Also suspicious is the company’s address of 105 South Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, Nev., which doesn’t appear to be the kind of place that could produce that much ammunition and then ship it anywhere.

  • Homeland Security is preparing to quash dissent in the U.S. when the economy falls apart

Economic News

The U.S. economy posted a decline of 0.1% at an annual rate last quarter, shocking experts. The economy grew 3.1% in the third quarter of 2012, 1.3% in the second and 2.0% in the first. Growth has averaged less than 2.5% since the recession ended in mid-2009. That’s below what many economists say is needed to create jobs and bring down unemployment quickly.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows. Employers added 157,000 jobs in January, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9%, the government reported Friday. January’s job growth was weaker than in December when employers added 196,000 jobs.

Consumer confidence plunged in January for the third straight month, erasing all of 2012’s gains, the Conference Board reported earlier this week.

A government watchdog says U.S. taxpayers stand to lose $27 billion from the 2008 financial bailout, up from an estimate of $22 billion made in the fall. The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program says the estimate is higher because of increased losses for the Treasury Department on sales of shares in bailed-out companies.

Nearly half the states have increased their minimum wage this year or are considering plans to hike it. In nine states, automatic wage hikes took effect, adding 10 to 35 cents per hour to state minimum wages. In a 10th state, an increase approved by the Rhode Island Legislature last June raised the state’s minimum from $7.40 to $7.75 as of Jan. 1. It was the state’s first increase since 2007. Thirteen other states are weighing wage increases.

As of Sunday, stores in most states could start charging a “checkout fee” when you pay for something with plastic. The new fees stem from a multi-billion dollar settlement announced in July between credit card issuers and millions of merchants. Visa, MasterCard and nine major banks agreed to a $7.25 billion deal to settle charges that they were fixing credit card processing fees..

Persecution Watch

An armed Islamic movement calling itself the “Brigade of Muslims” released a statement on Saturday threatening Egypt’s Coptic Christians and asking them to pay tribute, the Christian Post reports. “Egypt is an Islamic country and will be ruled according to sharia,” the statement said. The movement threatened all Egyptian media professionals who “mock religion and Islamic rule,” warning that their persistence in mocking would result in the “shedding of their blood in the ugliest way.” The movement said it was established because of the strife being plotted against the country and the plans of enemies of Islam, both at home and abroad. It noted its approach was jihad, and that it would fight the Egyptian army and Interior Ministry if they did not stand up to “Copts and their helpers.”

The University of Michigan is accused of kicking an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter off campus because the group requires its leaders to be Christians – an apparent violation of the university’s non-discrimination policy. The group was directed to either revise its constitution – or else be forced off campus.

Middle East

Syria and Iran have threatened to retaliate for an Israeli air raid near the capital Damascus. U.S. officials said Israel launched a rare airstrike inside Syria on Wednesday, targeting a convoy believed to contain anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah. The Syrian military denied the existence of any such shipment and said a scientific research facility outside Damascus was hit. The Israelis blew up the convoy because the weapons would have altered the balance of power in its ongoing conflict with the terrorist group, challenging the ability of Israel’s air force to carry out daily surveillance flights over southern Lebanon and eastern Lebanon along the border with Syria

Egypt

Egypt’s army chief has warned of “the collapse of the state” if the political crisis roiling the nation for nearly a week continues. The warning by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, also the defense minister, comes as the country sinks deeper into chaos and lawlessness. Attempts by the Islamist president to stem a wave of political violence appear to have made no headway. Some 60 people have been killed in the unrest that began last Thursday. Anti-government protesters ignored Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s curfew order in cities along the Suez Canal and clashed with police and troops, state-run media reported Tuesday.

On January 22nd four of the proposed 20 F-16 fighter jets were delivered to Egypt. The jets, decorated with Egypt’s flag on their tails, are part of a $213 million “gift” from the United States, including 200 Abrams tanks. The highly questionable “gift” of such military might was originally intended for Hosni Mubarak in 2010. Hosni Mubarak is no longer in power in Egypt; Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is and they are intent on destroying Israel.

  • Once again, we are arming our declared enemies.

Turkey

A suicide bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing one Turkish security guard along with the bomber. A woman visiting the embassy on business was also injured. Turkey, a member of NATO, has come under attack from a number of groups operating on its territory including Kurdish separatists, leftists and Islamist militants. It is not yet known what the motive for this bombing was.

Iran

After the devastating explosions at Iran’s Fordow nuclear site, Tehran informed the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog it was going to install thousands of modern centrifuges at another of its nuclear facilities in an apparent move to restore its bargaining position. In a letter to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, Iran said it plans to install thousands of its upgraded centrifuges at the Natanz facility. The White House called Iran’s decision “provocative.” Iran, whose economy has been battered by the international sanctions brought by its illicit nuclear program, apparently has lost much of its negotiating position since the incident at Fordow.

Mali

France plans to leave northern Mali soon, now that its troops have retaken northern Mali from jihadist militias. Its strategy relies on handing control of an area the size of Texas to an African force that is unprepared and has yet to fully materialize. About 2,500 French troops took part in the operation alongside the Malian military, which was overrun last year by Tuareg and Islamist militias that outnumbered and outgunned it. An international coalition of neighboring African countries has also committed troops, but there are serious questions about their number, training and experience for the mission.

Niger

The United States has signed a deal with the central African nation of Niger to host American troops and surveillance drones to keep tabs on Islamic militants in the region, officials from those countries said Tuesday. Niger is next door to Mali, where France joined the fight against Islamic rebels earlier this month. Niger’s ambassador to the United States, Maman Sidikou, told CNN that his government has agreed to let U.S. drones operate from its territory.

Asian Space Race

South Korea said Wednesday that it had put a satellite in orbit for the first time, giving a lift to its homegrown space industry and matching a feat achieved last month by its hostile neighbor, North Korea. Wednesday’s successful effort comes at a delicate time on the Korean peninsula: North Korea said last week that it plans to conduct a new nuclear test and carry out more rocket launches after the U.N. Security Council voted to tighten sanctions on the secretive regime. Although the North’s rocket launch last month managed to put an object in space, it was widely considered to be a test of long-range ballistic missile technology.

The Washington Times says, “North Korea is a mortal nuclear threat to the United States – right now.” The real concern is that North Korea now has miniaturized nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery and armed missiles with nuclear warheads that could destroy the U.S. in a single blow with an EMP attack that would send the U.S. back to 19th century technology.

In the second half of 2013, China will shoot for the moon with the aim of landing a rover vehicle on its surface; building on exploration milestones in 2003 and 2012 with the first man, then woman, in space. India plans to send an unmanned probe into Mars orbit this November. Last July, Japan’s government set up the country’s first-ever Cabinet-level office for space strategy. According to official Iranian news reports, a monkey was strapped snugly into a Pishgam rocket and launched 75 miles into the sky on Monday. He returned back to Earth sometime later, looking shell-shocked but alive.

China

Thick, off-the-scale smog shrouded eastern China for the second time in about two weeks Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility and prompting Beijing to temporarily shut factories and curtail fleets of government cars. The capital was a colorless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country’s peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10. The U.S. Embassy reported an hourly peak level of PM2.5 – tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs – at 526 micrograms per cubic meter, or “beyond index,” and more than 20 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period.

Slovenia

Tens of thousands of Slovenes have taken part in organized protests, including students, workers, academics and those who helped establish the country’s independence more than 20 years ago. They’ve shut down schools, theaters, hospitals and border crossings, and they plan to do so again next week. Slovenes had been complaining for months about corrupt politicians living well while people were subject to austerity measures, such as benefits cuts and higher taxes, to accommodate deficit targets of the debt-laden European Union.

Weather

The deadly storm that stretched across 1,700 miles Thursday caused havoc in the South brought flooding to the Mid-Atlantic, and downright wacky weather to northern New England. Three people died because of the massive storm system that marched across the U.S. — tornadoes killed one each in Tennessee and Georgia, while floodwaters killed a third in Maryland. Many people lost their homes and were left with little else a day later.

The storm’s most destructive element struck Wednesday in Adairsville, Ga., where authorities believe a tornado swelled to 900 yards wide and as it tore across northwest Georgia for nearly 22 miles. The twister had an estimated wind speed of 160 mph when it demolished a large manufacturing plant in Adairsville, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. The tornado destroyed more than 60 buildings in Bartow and Gordon counties.

Tens of thousands were without power at the storm’s peak as a cold front sent what had been unseasonably high temperatures plummeting to near-freezing depths. Dangerous wind blanketed the nation’s midsection, with subzero temperatures and wind chills recorded in the Dakotas. In Detroit, icy roads were blamed for a massive chain reaction wreck involving about 30 vehicles on Interstate 75. At least three people died there, and another pileup involving more than 40 vehicles near Indianapolis closed a stretch of Interstate 70 in both directions.

Other areas closely watched rivers swollen by torrential rains, and officials opened flood gates to ease pressure on dams in Maryland. Hundreds were evacuated to higher ground. In Anne Arundel County, one person apparently drowned in a flooded camp where homeless people live in tents. In Laurel, Md., More than a hundred homes and businesses in Laurel, Md. were evacuated Thursday afternoon after heavy rains prompted the opening of nearby dams. Roads in Montgomery County, Md. are closed, and some are even buckling, due to the heavy rain and high water.

In New England, the region was hit with thick fog, heavy rain, record warmth, ice jams and wind gusts topping 70 mph that caused numerous power outages. It was capped off with a pendulum swing back to colder temperatures. Wind gusts up to 81 mph were clocked in southern New England early Thursday. At the height of the storm, winds knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers in New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

The catastrophic drought in the central USA — which has cost the nation at least $35 billion, according to a report last week — shows no signs of abating as the nation enters the final full month of winter and moves toward spring. A warm, dry spring seems likely: Unfortunately for the western Plains and eastern Rockies, forecasters believe the drought is going to persist, and it is going to be strong going into the springtime.

Heavy flooding in Australia caused by torrential rains has forced mass evacuations from towns along the country’s east coast, with critically-ill patients and newborns from one hospital being airlifted to safety. The floods, which came in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Oswald, have killed four people so far. Bundaberg, a coastal town about 220 miles northwest of Brisbane, was particularly hard hit, with more than 2,000 homes inundated with water. Some of the town’s roads were under five feet of water and some one-story houses were completely covered.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

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