Signs of the Times (4/1/13)

Pope’s Foot-Wash Final Straw for Traditionalists

Pope Francis has won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world’s poorest, but he has devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy. Francis’ decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict’s papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church. Virtually everything he has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another. Francis may have rubbed salt into the wounds with his comments at the Good Friday procession at Rome’s Coliseum, which re-enacts Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, praising “the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters” during a prayer ceremony.

  • Foot-washing is a good thing, and many Catholic ‘traditions’ are not Biblical. But it will bear watching closely as this possible ‘final’ pope continues to reach out to Muslims

Top U.S. Catholic: Welcome Gays

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the top U.S. Catholic prelate, says the Catholic Church has to make sure that its defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gays. Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and last month was reputed to have gathered some votes in the Vatican conclave where Pope Francis was eventually elected. He made his remarks on two morning talk shows just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex marriage cases. Dolan says the church hasn’t “been too good at that” and could work on being more welcoming to gays and lesbians.

  • All churches should welcome all sinners and then lovingly point them in the right direction without watering down the Word of God

Google Controversy: Cesar Chavez over Jesus Christ

Google’s decision to mark Easter Sunday with a doodle of leftist icon Cesar Chavez atop its search engine angered some users in what they see as a snub of Jesus on the day Christians mark his resurrection. Google defended the decision by saying it reserves the spot for historical figures and events, but a review of its past doodles shows it has never honored Jesus on Christmas or Easter, despite his historical and spiritual significance to billions around the world. Microsoft’s Bing, in contrast, featured brightly-colored Easter eggs on its main search page on Sunday.

  • Google has always been blatantly anti-Christian

Fusion Centers “Only Spy on Anti-Government Americans”

In trying to clear up the ‘misconceptions’ about the conduct of fusion centers, Arkansas State Fusion Center Director Richard Davis simply confirmed Americans’ fears: the center does in fact spy on Americans – but only on those who are suspected to be ‘anti-government’. After claiming that his office ‘absolutely’ does not spy on Americans, he proceeded to explain that this does not apply to those who could be interpreted as a ‘threat’ to national security. Davis said his office places its focus on international plots, “domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government.”

  • It’s how ‘anti-government’ is defined. If it follows Dept. of Homeland Security guidelines, you and I are most likely on their watch list

New Surveillance Tool Raises Concerns of Judges

Federal investigators in Northern California routinely used a sophisticated surveillance system to scoop up data from cellphones and other wireless devices in an effort to track criminal suspects — but failed to detail the practice to judges authorizing the probes. The practice was disclosed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California — in a glimpse into a technology that federal agents rarely discuss publicly. The issues, judges and activists say, are twofold: whether federal agents are informing courts when seeking permission to monitor suspects, and whether they are providing enough evidence to justify the use of a tool that sweeps up data not only from a suspect’s wireless device but also from those of bystanders in the vicinity.

  • Give government a new tool and you can be sure that its use will be abused

Special Forces Commander: ‘Constabulary Force’ Coming

Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, retired, warns that America is well along the pathway that other societies have used to bludgeon and beat their populations into submission to socialism. Even to the point of establishing a “constabulary force” to control the people. Boykin now is executive vice president of Family Research Council. But during his military career, he was one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. He ultimately commanded those elite warriors in combat operations. Later, Boykin commanded all the Army’s Green Berets as well as the Special Warfare Center and School. His concern is that the six steps “done in every Marxist insurgency” now “are being done in America today.” He lists them: 1. nationalize major sections of the economy (the corporate bailouts), 2. redistribute wealth (the man appointed to head Medicare said health care is “nothing but a redistribution of wealth”), 3. discredit opposition (the Obama administration called returning vets, pro-lifers and others a terror threat), 4. censorship (Obama’s censorship has been through “hate crimes” legislation aimed at Christian pastors and others), 5. gun control (Washington’s present agenda), and 6. a constabulary force that Boykin says is the next step and why government is arming itself to the hilt.

In a campaign stop in Colorado on July 2, 2008, President Obama said, “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” This puts the DHS purchase of billions of rounds of ammunition into perspective.  Much of that ammo are hollow-point bullets, designed to expand in the body to cause more damage. These are never used for training exercises as the government claims they are doing. Experts estimate that, at the peak of the Iraq war, American troops were firing around 5.5 million rounds per month. At that rate, the Dept. of Homeland Security is armed for a 24-year equivalent war.

UN Humanitarian Aid is Disorganized

The United Nations spends billions annually to relieve the suffering caused by natural disasters and civil war, but those costly efforts are uncoordinated, overlap or duplicate effort, and often don’t show where the money went, according to a report by a special U.N. watchdog unit. Nor, the report adds, has the world organization done much about it, with several internal efforts to get a grip on at least part of the problem among a tangle of funds, agencies and programs with different operating procedures either ending in frustration or failing to materialize. The result: a sometimes chaotic U.N. global relief effort, where “basic humanitarian financing needs are only partly met in an inconsistent and unpredictable way. ”Keeping track of where the money goes frequently doesn’t happen (or, as the report delicately says, “the reporting and monitoring of financing remain somewhat elusive);” and even a coherent definition of “humanitarian assistance” seems to be lacking.

  • So why would anyone want a one-world government spearheaded by agencies such as the UN? Satan and his New World Order cohorts, that’s who, because it is the elitists who profit from such disorganization.

Most Effects of Sequester Cuts Yet to be Felt

A month after the so-called “sequester” triggered $85 billion in automatic cuts to the federal budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find much evidence that anything has changed. Flights haven’t been grounded, jobs haven’t been lost, and government personnel haven’t been sent home en masse. The fact is, it’s not going to be as bad as originally outlined by President Barack Obama’s administration and his Democratic allies in Congress. Some of the effects of sequester were lessened by passage of the 2013 budget, which moved money around inside many departments to avoid some of the harsher reductions.

However, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced civilian defense personnel will still face furloughs, only there will be 14 days without pay instead of 22, and they will begin in June instead of April. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration went through with plans to close 149 contract air traffic control towers around the country. Education spending cuts also remained largely in place, though they won’t be felt until next school year, most likely. Many other sequester effects will slowly roll-out over the next few months.

Airports Suing FAA over Planned Control Tower Shutdowns

Airport operators are mounting a legal challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to cut funding for 149 air traffic control towers, accusing the agency of violating federal law meant to ensure major changes at airports do not erode safety. Several airports are now asking a federal court to halt the plan and compel the FAA to more carefully study the potential safety impact. Carl Olson, director of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill., warned that without a more cautious approach, lives will be put at risk by cuts that he contends are arbitrary and the result of reckless political brinkmanship in Washington.

Economic News

After a drop last autumn, the U.S. dollar has climbed 5% against other currencies over the past two months, reaching the highest level since August. The main reason is the recovery in the U.S. economy. Although growth is still weak, the outlook for the U.S. is better than elsewhere in the developed world. Europe is stuck in a recession and struggling to control its debt. Japan is trying to push down the value of the yen to boost exports and end deflation.

Student loan interest rates are going to double on new student loans, to 6.8 percent on July 1st. The difference between 3.4 percent and 6.8 percent interest rates is $6 billion. Although Congress is talking about a deal to avert the large increase, but nothing concrete has yet emerged.

According to Census data released this week, state and local tax revenue rose in the U.S, for the 13th quarter in a row. However, some states remain much more tax friendly to businesses than others. According to the Tax Foundation, Wyoming is the most business friendly, while New York is the worst.

Activity in China’s manufacturing sector accelerated in March, bolstering hopes for a more robust economic recovery this year as the country completes a key leadership transition. China’s official manufacturing index posted a gain, rising to 50.9 from 50.1 in February. A reading above 50 signals expansion in the manufacturing sector. The index is now at its highest level in 11 months.

Eurozone

A Central Bank official and a senior Finance Ministry technocrat says that Bank of Cyprus savers with over 100,000 euros could take losses of up to 60%. Deposits over 100,000 euros at the country’s largest lender will lose 37.5% of their value after being converted into bank shares. They could lose up to 22.5% more, depending on an assessment by officials who will determine the exact figure aimed at restoring the troubled bank back to health.

Just as quickly as Cyprus’ euro area partners decided that a deposit grab was the only way out, so Cypriots decided their tiny island was ground zero in Europe’s new financial scorched earth policy and that it had to be resisted at all costs. Protests broke out at the country’s Parliament building. One placard stated, “It starts with us, it ends with you” as a warning to other Europeans that their savings were no longer safe.

Persecution Watch

Radical Islamists took over a Cairo mosque and used it to torture Christians who had been protesting against the Muslim Brotherhood, CBN News reports. According to Fox News, mosque officials were so upset over the incident that they had filed a police report. Leaders of Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque said radicals took control of the building after Friday prayers, then detained Christian and Muslim protesters and tortured them there for hours. Mosque officials said they “deeply regret what has happened and apologize.” Observers say that more radical elements of the Muslim Brotherhood are gaining power in Egypt and pushing an Islamist agenda.

A “sudden increase in violence against the Christian community” in Sri Lanka has been reported; incidents include a brutal attack on a pastor’s home and the burning down of a church building. Barnabas Aid received news last week of ten anti-Christian incidents in different parts of the country during March. The most violent of them was an attack by Buddhist extremists on Pastor Pradeep Kumara’s house in Katuwana, Weeraketiya.

The authorities in Indonesia have carried out their threat to demolish a church building in Bekasi, West Java. Workers were cheered on by Muslim protestors, who denounced Christians as “infidels”. HKBP Setu Church was sealed off on 7 March and the congregation were subsequently given a week to destroy their place of worship. Church members refused, so on Thursday (21 March), a bulldozer moved in. As the building was demolished, Pastor Leonard Nababan said that the government was “criminalizing our religion”.

Middle East

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Thursday that it had arrested 30 members of the Palestinian Tanzim Fatah terror group, all from the Palestinian village of Beit Fajar, near Bethlehem, on suspicion of carrying out multiple Molotov cocktail and shooting attacks earlier this year on the settlement of Migdal Oz. “During questioning by the Shin Bet, the suspects confessed to carrying out the attacks, and to plans to carry out additional shootings in Gush Etzion – a plot that was disrupted by the arrests,” the Shin Bet said. In related news, Judea Brigade commander Col. Avi Bluth told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the latest uptick in violence in the West Bank has not yet reached a level where it could be called a “third Intifada.”

Korea

North Korea declared Saturday it has entered “a state of war” with South Korea in the latest of a string of threats that have raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s government, parties and organizations said in a joint statement that all matters between the two countries will now be dealt with in a manner befitting war. The Korean Peninsula is already in a technical state of war because the Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. But Pyongyang ditched that armistice earlier this month. The U.S. has sent F-22 Raptors to the main U.S. Air Force Base in South Korea to support air drills in the annual Foal Eagle training exercises there.

Afghanistan

U.S. special operations forces handed over their base in a strategic region of eastern Afghanistan to local Afghan commandos on Saturday, a senior U.S. commander said. The withdrawal from Nirkh district meets a demand by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that U.S. forces leave the area after allegations that the Americans’ Afghan counterparts committed human rights abuses there. The transfer of authority ends a controversial chapter in which Karzai accused U.S. troops and an interpreter working with them of torture, kidnapping and summary execution of militant suspects in Nirkh — charges U.S. officials including top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford firmly denied.

Syria

Syrian rebels pushed into a strategic neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo after days of heavy clashes. The gains marked the biggest shift in the front lines in the embattled city of Aleppo in months. The city, Syria’s largest and a former commercial hub, has been a key battleground in the country’s civil war since rebels launched an offensive on it in July, seizing several districts before the fighting largely settled into a bloody stalemate.

The conflict in Syria entered its third year this month. More than 70,000 people have been killed, over three million displaced and much of the nation’s infrastructure destroyed. Hope of a political solution has all but dissipated, and as the official opposition is in a state of disarray, Islamist units are asserting their strength, imposing sharia law in rebel-held areas.

Egypt

A fuel shortage has helped send food prices soaring. Electricity is blacking out even before the summer. And gas-line gunfights have killed at least five people and wounded dozens over the past two weeks. The root of the crisis, economists say, is that Egypt is running out of the hard currency it needs for fuel imports. The shortage is raising questions about Egypt’s ability to keep importing wheat that is essential to subsidized bread supplies, stirring fears of an economic catastrophe at a time when the government is already struggling to quell violent protests by its political rivals. Farmers already lack fuel for the pumps that irrigate their fields, and they say they fear they will not have enough for the tractors to reap their wheat next month before it rots in the fields.

Iraq

A suicide bomber drove an oil tanker into a police station in central Tikrit on Monday, killing at least nine people and wounding 20 others. Tikrit is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Baghdad. It’s a predominantly Sunni town located in Salaheddin province and is the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In Baghdad, two policemen and a civilian were shot dead by gunmen in two separate incidents. Two other people were wounded. On Sunday, at least seven people were killed and more than 17 others were wounded in violence across the country. In figures complied by Iraq’s Interior, Defense and Health ministries for the month of March, 163 Iraqi civilians, policemen and soldiers were killed in acts of violence across the country and 256 others were wounded.

Algeria

Protests by the unemployed in southern Algeria are raising the specter of rising unrest in the country’s sensitive oil regions, and are increasingly attracting the attention of al-Qaeda. Algeria’s vast, sparsely populated Sahara only holds 10 percent of the country’s population but it is home to this North African country’s enormous oil and gas reserves — the basis of the entire economy and the source of the government’s power. Those who live there claim they aren’t benefiting from that wealth, and can’t get jobs with the oil companies. Now al-Qaeda has praised the protesters, raising the possibility that it is seeking support among the disaffected groups. The government is rushing to address the protesters’ demands, but hasn’t yet convinced them that it’s serious.

Weather

The term “Marchuary” has been floating around on Twitter to describe the frustrating cold temperatures that has been seen this March in the central and eastern United States. For several cities in this region, March 2013 has turned out to be colder than January 2013 based on the monthly average temperature (highs/lows combined).

Given the timing, you might think it’s a cruel April Fools’ Day joke as we look at the forecast to start out the upcoming work week. A cold front is ushering in yet another blast of late-season arctic air that will charge into the central and eastern states after a brief warmup to near-average temperatures over Easter weekend. Of course, this only piles on to the misery of what was a frustratingly cold March east of the Rockies.

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