Signs of the Times (3/29/13)

New Research Suggests Shroud of Turin is Real

Tests conducted on the Shroud of Turin by researchers at Italy’s University of Padua indicate that the linen sheet believed by some to be Christ’s burial cloth dates back to Jesus’ lifetime. The 14-foot-long cloth bearing the image of a man with wounds similar to those suffered by Christ was analyzed by university scientists using infrared light, according to The Daily Telegraph. Giulio Fanti, a professor at Padua University, told the Telegraph that the results were based on 15 years of research on fibers taken from the cloth, which were subjected to radiation intensity tests. The Vatican has never confirmed the authenticity of the shroud, but a Vatican researcher in 2009 said that faint writing on the cloth proves it was used to wrap Jesus’ body after his crucifixion. The cloth is presently housed in Turin Cathedral in northwest Italy.

  • Whether it’s real or not is beside the point. Jesus is real. He died for our sins and rose again from the dead so that we might have eternal life with Him in Heaven

Next for Supreme Court: Defense of Marriage Act

The Supreme Court turns Wednesday from the threshold issue of sanctioning same-sex marriage to one with financial repercussions: Can the federal government deny benefits to those gays already married? At issue is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President Clinton that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. (Clinton has said he has changed his mind about the law.) At the time of its passage, no states had legalized gay marriage, but now nine states and the District of Columbia have done so — and legally wed gay couples are denied federal benefits. The case accepted by the court from among several it could have taken features Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old New York widow who married her partner of four decades, Thea Spyer, in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was socked with a $363,000 estate tax bill that she would have avoided if DOMA wasn’t the law of the land.

A majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared ready to strike down a key section of a law that withholds federal benefits from gay married couples, as the justices concluded two days of hearings that showed them to be as divided as the rest of the nation over same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the pivotal justice on the issue, said the federal Defense of Marriage Act may have intruded too deeply on the traditional role of state governments in defining marriage. Justice joined the four liberals in posing skeptical questions to a lawyer defending the law.

  • The secular shift away from God’s ordained family structure continues unabated as symptoms of the Tribulation to come

March for Marriage Draws More 15,000 Supporters

About 15,000 people swarmed the streets of Washington, D.C., Tuesday to march in support of God’s design for marriage. “This (turnout) shows that Americans are realizing that they are going to have to stand up and make their voices heard to take a stand for the definition of marriage,” Thomas Peters, communications director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), told CitizenLink. The march, sponsored by NOM, took place the same day the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in cases challenging a federal law and a California marriage amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

9th Circuit Approves Jesus Prayers in California; Hawaii Senate Too

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week it’s OK for pastors to pray “in Jesus’ name” before city council meetings, and Jesus prayers do NOT violate the Constitution. This victory is significant, considering the 4th Circuit and 2nd Circuit have banned city councils from allowing Jesus prayers in many states on the East Coast. The anti-Jesus complainer intends to appeal, either en banc to the full circuit, or to the Supreme Court of the United States. The 75% of the citizens of Lancaster voted in 2010 to allow pastors to pray “in Jesus’ name” before city council meetings.  Diverse faiths were also invited. Now local governments in eleven West-Coast States or Territories may allow free speech by pastors.  AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, Guam, and N. Marianas Islands have legal precedent to all prayers in ‘Jesus’ name’ without fear of frivolous lawsuits.The Hawaii Senate restored freedom to open legislative sessions with a “moment of contemplation” that may include Jesus prayers, after a 2-year ban on all prayer.

California Schools to Now Include LGBT-Themed Books

The California Department of Education’s newest reading list for students K-12 includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature, prompting complaints from critics who say a leftist agenda is being pushed on kids, Fox News reports. Controversial topics have been introduced to California students in the past, but this is the first time the state has put forth works celebrated by the Stonewall Book Awards, which since 1971 has recognized LGBT literature. The reading list has been met with controversy by those who say it promotes the LGBT lifestyle to children at such a young age. “It’s a frightening trend,” said American Family Radio talk show host Sandy Rios. “The reading lists are very overtly propagating a point of view that is at odds with most American parents. Leftist educators are advocates of everything from socialism to sexual anarchy. It’s very base; it’s raping the innocence of our children.”

Abortion Enters Arizona Debate on Medicaid Expansion

One of the Legislature’s most powerful lobbying groups says Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid-expansion plan would subsidize abortions and is pushing for an amendment that complicates negotiations and threatens the proposal. The Center for Arizona Policy is using an opinion from the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal-defense organization, to argue that the draft Medicaid legislation should be amended to disqualify the non-profit women’s health provider Planned Parenthood from receiving public money. It’s the first in what is expected to be a long line of suggested changes to Brewer’s proposal to broaden eligibility for the state-federal health-insurance program for the poor and disabled, each with the potential to gain or lose votes for the governor’s top legislative priority with thousands of lives and billions of dollars at stake.

U.N. Arms Treaty Blocked

Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked adoption of a U.N. treaty that for the first time would regulate the multibillion-dollar international arms trade. An agreement required approval by all 193 U.N. member states. The Control Arms Coalition, representing about 100 organizations which have campaigned for a strong treaty, said the earliest the General Assembly could vote is April 2, when the chair of the negotiations, Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott, will present his report to the full world body. There has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime. Hopes of reaching agreement were dashed last July when the U.S. said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord — a move quickly backed by Russia and China.

  • U.S. critics argue that the U.N. treaty will lead to regulation and confiscation of weapons from private individuals in violation of the 2nd amendment

U.S. Releases Climate Change National Strategy

Climate change threatens U.S. fish, wildlife and plants, including brook trout, the lesser prairie-chicken and the Joshua tree, the Obama administration said Tuesday in releasing its first national strategy on climate adaptation. “Flowers are blooming earlier. Plants and animals are moving” to new places to cope with rising sea levels, higher temperatures, loss of sea ice and other climate effects, said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which co-authored the strategy. Ashe said the report, prepared at the request of Congress, amounts to an “urgent call to action” for federal. state, tribal and local officials in the next five to 10 years because — in his words — “as wildlife goes, so goes the nation.”

The report recommends seven goals, which include conserving land, maintaining species and informing the public. Ashe said many “millions of acres across the landscape” will need to be conserved as habitats for threatened species such as the polar bear. Under the Obama administration, he said 10 new wildlife habitats — totaling 4.5 million acres — have been established.

  • Government can strive all it wants (and conservation is always a laudable goal), but the severity of end-time weather will trump all such efforts

Obamacare to Raise Claims Costs 32%

Medical claims costs — the biggest driver of health insurance premiums — will jump an average 32% for Americans’ individual policies under the Affordable Care Act health care law, according to a study out Tuesday by the nation’s leading group of financial risk analysts. Much of the reason for the higher claims costs is that sicker people are expected to join the pool, the report said. While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report prepared by the Society of Actuaries concluded that the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases. By 2017, the estimated increase would be 62% for California, about 80% for Ohio, more than 20% for Florida and 67% for Maryland.

Tea Party Express reports that Obamacare is “a disaster waiting to happen.”  Premiums are expected to rise 169%, an estimated 7 million working Americans are going to lose their employer-provided health coverage, and small businesses are either being forced to lay off workers or will be unable to hire new workers. TPE also documents “20 hidden taxes in Obamacare” in the attached document.

Indiana School Vouchers Upheld in Court, Could Set Precedent

In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools. Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs. Supporters say it gives families without financial means more options on where to educate their children. However, opponents of the Indiana program had sued to block it, describing it as unconstitutional and saying it takes money from public schools. As many as 9,000 students statewide are part of the voucher program and more than 80% use the funds to go to religious schools. But in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that was not an issue. It said it did not matter that funds had been directed to religious schools as long as the state was not directly funding the education. The tuition, the court said, was being funded by the parents who chose to pay it with their vouchers.

  • Below the surface, this is an ongoing effort of anti-Christian secularists to maintain their humanist indoctrination centers and restrict Christian alternatives

‘The Bible’ Miniseries Dominates Across Media

History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries continues to draw audiences from across all platforms, including books, DVDs and downloads, as it heads into its finale, according to Grace Hill Media. The series, which has been viewed by close to 80 million people, has continued to outperform all other television shows on Sunday nights. It took over the No. 1 spot on iTunes for top TV show downloads, and is currently ranked No. 2 on the list of 100 on Amazon’s bestsellers list in movies and TV. Executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s novelization of the miniseries, The Bible: A Story of God and All of Us, which debuted Feb. 26, has also climbed to No. 10 on the Publishers Weekly top hardcover fiction list and No. 20 on the New York Times hardcover fiction list. “Roma and I continue to be grateful for the overwhelming global enthusiasm for ‘The Bible’ series,” Burnett said. Downey added: “The audience reaction says so much about what people are looking for these days. We are just thrilled that we were able to bring these stories to life.”

Texting While Driving: Adults Worse than Teens

Forget teenagers. Adults are the biggest texting-while-driving problem in the USA. Almost half of all adults admit to texting while driving in a survey by AT&T provided to USA TODAY, compared with 43% of teenagers. More than 98% of adults — almost all of them — admit they know it’s wrong but still do it. “Texting while driving is not just a teen problem,” says John Ulczycki of the National Safety Council. “Teens text. But you’re looking at around 10 million teen drivers, but about 180 million other adult drivers.” The AT&T survey follows a study this month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found 31% of drivers in the USA reported texting or e-mailing while driving. Each day, an average of more than nine people are killed and more than 1,060 injured in crashes caused by distracted driving.

Economic News

The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending rose 0.7% in February from January. It was the biggest gain in five months and followed a revised 0.4% rise in January. Americans were able to spend more because their income rose 1.1% last month. That followed January’s 3.7% plunge. The jump in income allowed consumers to put a little more away in February. The saving rate increased to 2.6% of after-tax income, up from 2.2% in January. The jump in spending and income suggests economic growth strengthened at the start of the year after nearly stalling at the end of last year. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity.

The government reported durable goods orders rose a robust 5.7% in February, substantially higher than experts expected. Factory orders surged in February, helped by a surge in demand for commercial aircraft. Overall orders for durable goods, a catchall term for products ranging from refrigerators to jumbo jets, saw the biggest increase in five months.

Housing prices rose in January at the fastest pace since the summer of 2006, before the housing bubble popped. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city price index climbed 8.1% in the 12 months to January. That comes after a 6.8 % increase the previous month. Prices rose in all 20 cities, led by Phoenix.

New claims for unemployment benefits jumped unexpectedly last week to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, up 16,000 from a revised 341,000 the week before. The jump in claims was the second straight weekly increase. Despite weekly hiccups, claims have been declining steadily since November, coinciding with steady job growth. The number of people seeking aid averaged only 320,000 a week in 2007. That figure soared to 418,000 in 2008 and 574,000 in 2009.

Coming off a year in which the Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 13% and companies ended up sitting on record amounts of cash, CEOs are back to collecting big raises. All told, CEOs scored an 8% pay increase in 2012, taking the median to $9.7 million, for the biggest increase in two years.

Eurozone

Cypress reopened its banks for the first time since it agreed to stringent capital controls as part of a $13 billion bailout from international lenders. As part of Cyprus’ deal with the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission depositors with more than 100,000 euros (about $130,000) in the country’s two largest banks are being forced to take losses. Authorities have been putting measures in place to prevent a rush of euros out of the country’s banks. Cash withdrawals will be limited to 300 euros ($383) per person each day, and no checks will be cashed.

Persecution Watch

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is calling on the state university system chancellor to investigate a classroom lesson at Florida Atlantic University in which students were instructed to stomp on sheets of paper that had “Jesus” written on them. “As we enter the week memorializing the events of Christ’s passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students,” Scott wrote in the letter to Chancellor Frank Brogan. “The professor’s lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom.” Scott said in his letter that he was “deeply disappointed” by the recent incident in an intercultural communications class taught by Deandre Poole, who also happens to be the vice chair of the Palm Beach Democratic party. Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon was in the classroom and refused to obey the instructor’s directions. When he complained, Rotela was banned from the classroom and charged with violating the student code of conduct.

Middle East

Medical teams again provided first-aid to several wounded Syrians who approached the border on Wednesday. One of the wounded Syrians, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, died despite the best efforts of doctors at the Western Galilee Government Hospital in Nahariya. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council issued a statement of concern about recent incidents of cross-border fire which have violated the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan Heights, as well as the danger to UN peacekeepers in the area. “The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at all violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement,” the council said, adding its “grave concern at the presence of the Syrian Arab Republic Armed Forces inside the area of separation.”

Last week, President Obama visited with Israel and Palestinian authorities on their turf. Here’s what he said to Israel: “I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.” Here’s what they said: President Abbas to media: “As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas.” Hamas leaders said: “We don’t want anything peaceful, only bullets and missiles.”

  • Islamic nations will never cease their efforts to completely destroy and eliminate Israel. And policy that doesn’t take that into account will result in Israel’s ultimate demise.

Syria

A Syrian government official says 12 people have been killed and 20 wounded in a mortar attack against Damascus University. The official says the mortar rounds struck the university’s architecture department’s cafeteria in the central Baramkeh district on Thursday.

Afghanistan

A blitz of attacks across Afghanistan led to the deaths of 52 armed Taliban members in the past day, the Ministry of Interior said Wednesday. The operations were carried out by Afghanistan’s national police and army as well as NATO-led coalition forces. An additional 45 Taliban members were wounded and 21 others arrested. Authorities also confiscated ammunition and improvised explosive devices in the sweep, which spanned 10 provinces. The Afghan government said another 23 armed members of the Taliban were killed in the previous day.

Pakistan

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a blast that killed 10 people near the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar on Friday. The strike also injured 31 others. A suicide bomber rode a motorbike up to a security checkpoint a third of a mile from the consulate and detonated 22 pounds of explosives attached to his body. Violent attacks occur frequently around Peshawar, which is in Pakistan’s northwest near the border with Afghanistan and adjacent to Pakistan’s tribal region.

Myanmar

As sectarian tensions continue to boil in central Myanmar, authorities have imposed curfews in more towns in an attempt to stop groups of Buddhists from setting fire to mosques and Muslims’ homes. The fresh restrictions come after a state of emergency was declared last week where clashes between the two communities first broke out, leaving at least 40 people dead. Police on Tuesday reported arson attacks on Muslim properties in three townships in recent days.

Mali

Up to 11,200 peacekeeping troops could maintain stability in Mali under a new U.N. proposal. And up to 1,440 police could also participate in a U.N.-led mission there, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the U.N. Security Council released Tuesday. Under the proposal, the West African multinational force currently in Mali would eventually become part of the U.N. stabilizing mission. French and allied forces, including Malian and Chadian troops, have made significant inroads in recent weeks combating Islamist extremist fighters in Mali. But fighting continues in the remote northeastern part of the West African nation.

North Korea

On Tuesday, North Korea threatened to strike Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland with nuclear missiles. North Korea said it was putting its long-range rocket units on the highest possible combat-posture level following what is says are provocations from the United States. The U.S. military and the South Korean military have been conducting regularly scheduled drills on land this month. North Korea said Wednesday that it had cut off a key military hotline with South Korea that allows cross border travel to a jointly run industrial complex in the North, a move that ratchets up already high tension and possibly jeopardizes the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Mexico

It was a staggering sight, even in a Mexican city that has seen its share of violence in recent years as drug-related crimes surged. Seven bodies sat slumped in white plastic chairs placed near a central plaza in Uruapan, Mexico. Local media reported messages were left behind, written on poster board and pinned to some of the victims’ bodies with icepicks. Investigators believe organized crime groups are to blame. The seven corpses were among at least 30 killed nationwide — a high death toll that once again drew attention toward violence in Mexico, where more than 60,000 people were killed in drug-related violence from 2006 to 2012.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake struck central Taiwan on Wednesday, killing at one person and injuring 19 as it damaged buildings on the quake-prone island. The Central Weather Bureau said the magnitude-6.1 earthquake was felt throughout the island. Buildings swayed in the capital Taipei, and sections of the high-speed rail were suspended from service. Emergency officials said a 72-year-old woman died when a temple wall she was standing next to collapsed and crushed her.

Weather

Danger lurks beyond our shores that will eventually threaten clams, mussels and everything with a shell or that eats something with a shell. The entire food chain could be affected. “Ocean acidification,” the shifting of the ocean’s water toward the acidic side of its chemical balance, has been driven by climate change and has brought increasingly corrosive seawater to the surface along the West Coast and the inlets of Puget Sound. Since the start of the industrial revolution, the world’s oceans have grown nearly 30% more acidic. Why? Climate change, where heat-trapping carbon dioxide emitted into the air by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels ends up as excess carbonic acid absorbed into the ocean.

  • Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died. (Rev. 16:3)

 

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