Signs of the Times (4/12/13)

Judge Defends Cross at 9/11 Memorial

A New York City judge has protected the Cross of Jesus Christ to be displayed in the 9/11 memorial display, and thrown out a lawsuit by the American Atheists.  The Blaze reports:  “A judge sided with New Yorkers and others around the country who believe that a steel cross that was formed when World Trade Center buildings collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001 should be included in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. American Atheists (AA), a secular group committed to church-state separatism, has long fought the presence of the symbol that is being included in an effort that remembers the lives lost during the nation’s most horrific terror attack.

Biggest Reason for Declining Church Attendance: Children’s Sports?

Sunday morning used to be a time reserved by many Christians for attending worship services, but new research indicates the extent to which American churches today are competing against other activities — the biggest competition being children’s sports, Christianity Today reports. According to a study published in the Review of Religious Research, an examination of declining attendance at 16 congregations revealed that most pastors place the most blame on children’s sports activities, since practices and competitions alike are increasingly “scheduled on Sunday mornings at the very time when many churches traditionally have provided religious education.” However, that doesn’t mean that families whose kids are highly involved in athletics will stop attending church. Instead, more Protestant churches are offering alternate service times to accommodate members with Sunday morning commitments. They’re also increasing their emphasis on physical fitness programs or sports ministries. According to David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives, “More than two-thirds of congregations who said sports and fitness programs were a specialty of the congregation reported more than a 10 percent growth in attendance from 2000 to 2010. In contrast, only a third of churches with no athletic programs reported such growth.”

VP Biden Calls for New World Order

At a banking conference last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden called for the creation of a “new world order” with new financial institutions, updated global rules, a level playing field, and a prosperous China. Biden’s remarks also come one week after China, Russia and other powers announced the creation of a new economic order that would rival the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Delivering the keynote address at the Export-Import Bank Conference in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Biden stated “the affirmative task we have now is to create a new world order… We have to update the global rules of the road.”

  • Globalists are seeking to create a one-world government, just as Revelation 13 prophesies.

Obama Sends Congress $3.8 Trillion Spending Plan

President Obama found himself weathering bipartisan broadsides Wednesday as he sent Congress his 2014 budget proposal, which in its effort to please both sides of the aisle has ended up angering both. The budget arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, delivered 65 days after the legal deadline. The $3.77 trillion spending plan, which is over 2,000 pages, tries to curb deficits by further raising taxes on top earners and reining in the growth of Social Security. But Republicans argue they already consented to increased taxes as part of the fiscal crisis deal and have expressed little interest in negotiating another hike. And liberal Democrats — particularly powerful advocacy groups — have launched a series of campaigns to oppose the changes to Social Security.

Obamacare Exchanges Costs Double to: $4.4 Billion

As a number of Republican governors continue to say “no” to Obamacare, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) on Wednesday acknowledged that the president’s signature healthcare law is racking up twice the costs to set up the all-important insurance exchanges. HHS more than doubled its previous cost estimate of $2 billion for the amount it expects to spend to help states set up insurance exchanges, which is a central component of Obamacare. Despite the projection overruns, the department is “determined to make them work,” said HHS. Exchanges were envisioned as places where private consumers, who aren’t necessarily covered by an employer healthcare program, can compare and purchase healthcare coverage.

  • Anytime the government gets involved in running a business, losses and cost overruns are all but guaranteed (e.g. the Postal Service and Amtrak)

Pentagon Report Says N. Korea Can Arm Missile with Nuke

Obama administration officials scrambled to downplay the errant disclosure of a classified portion of an intelligence report finding that North Korea has advanced its nuclear knowledge to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. The analysis, disclosed Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill, says the Pentagon’s intelligence wing has “moderate confidence” that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon was unreliable. The revelation was significant, because it has not been previously reported or believed that the country had the ability to miniaturize and deliver a nuclear weapon.

North Korea warned foreigners to leave South Korea Tuesday, to avoid harm in the event of war. The latest moves follow weeks of ever escalating threats from Pyongyang, which has reacted with increasing anger to United Nations sanctions punishing the North for its third nuclear test, conducted February 12th. North Korea has raised at least one missile into its upright firing position, feeding concerns that a launch is imminent, a U.S. official told CNN Thursday. After the raising of the missile Wednesday, it was not clear to U.S. officials why the North Korean government did not proceed with the firing.

U.S. Arming Islamist Militants Through Libya?

Questions remain about the Obama administration’s role in supplying arms to Libyan rebels as a United Nations report released this week reveals the weapons from Libya to extremists proliferating at an “alarming rate,” fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere. In December 2012, the New York Times reported that after discussions among members of the National Security Council, the Obama administration backed arms shipments to Libyan rebels from both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The administration urged the emirates to ship foreign weapons to Libya that could not be traced to the U.S., the Times reported. The Times further reported in 2012 the White House “secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants. A report by the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts blamed Qatar and the UAE for arming the rebels, but omitted U.S. involvement in what some say is an elaborate coverup.

IRS Tells Agents PK to Snoop on Emails Without Warrant

The Internal Revenue Service believes it doesn’t need permission to root through emails, texts or other forms of electronic correspondence, according to recently released internal agency documents. The documents, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, reveal that tax department agents have been operating under the assumption that they can bypass warrants. According to a 2009 IRS employee handbook, though, the tax agency said the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users don’t “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” A lawyer for the agency reiterated the policy in 2010. And the current online version of the IRS manual says that no warrant is required for emails that are stored by an Internet storage provider for more than 180 days. Privacy advocate groups, like the ACLU, say the government must obtain a search warrant based on probable cause.

  • Under the Obama Administration we belong to the government and they can do whatever they want

ATF Seeks ‘Massive’ Database of Personal Info

A recent solicitation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reveals that the agency is seeking a “massive” online database capable of pulling up individuals’ personal information, connections and associates. On March 28, ATF posted the notice on FedBizOpps.gov, entitled “Investigative System.”  The solicitation was updated on April 5 with a few minor changes. The document says that the system will be utilized by staff “to provide rapid searches on various entities for example; names, telephone numbers, utility data and reverse phone look-ups, as a means to assist with investigations, and background research on people, assets and businesses.” The system is described as a “massive online data repository system that contains a wide variety of data sources both historically and current that can be utilized in support of investigations and backgrounds.”

  • Government abuse of such information is sure to follow in order to quench dissent

Study Points to Overuse of Drug Prescriptions

Doctors are prescribing enough antibiotics to give them to 4 out of 5 Americans every year, an alarming pace that suggests they are being overused, a new government study finds. Overuse is one reason antibiotics are losing their punch, making infections harder to treat. There is no scientific consensus on an appropriate level of antibiotic prescribing. But some experts said the new study’s results are disturbing, and that rates are excessive. Experts say chances of resistance increase when antibiotics are not used long enough or are taken for the wrong reasons, allowing bacteria to survive and adapt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking at least 20 strains of resistant bacteria.

  • One possible cause of end-time pestilence

Mood of the Nation Trending Upward

As the stock market continues to show record highs, the number of Americans who say things are going well in the country has reached 50% for the first time in more than six years, according to a new national survey. But that doesn’t mean the country is entirely out of the woods yet. The CNN/ORC International poll released Friday indicates that an equal 50% say the country is in bad shape. “The number continues an upward pattern since the summer of last year, when only 35% were optimistic about the country’s conditions,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. Americans haven’t been this optimistic since January 2007, when 57% felt the country was in good shape. For more of the next four years, the figure hovered in the 20’s and 30’s, and stayed mostly in the 30’s and 40’s last year.

  • Irrational exuberance? Time will tell. Most likely is the calm before the storm.

Economic News

Retail sales fell in March from February, taking the biggest drop in nine months, the Commerce Department said Friday. Retail sales declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4% last month, Commerce said. That followed a 1% gain in February. Consumers cut back across a wide range of categories. Sales at auto dealers dropped 0.6%.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 42,000 in the latest week to 346,000 from an upwardly revised 388,000 a week earlier. The data have been volatile the past two weeks largely because of the Easter holiday.

Foreclosure filings — including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — during the first quarter fell 23% from a year earlier, the lowest level since the second quarter of 2007. Last month, banks repossessed just under 44,000 homes, within striking distance of the pre-housing bust monthly average. At the height of the housing meltdown, in September 2010, repossessions topped 100,000 a month.

The number of homes listed for sale ticked up by almost 2.4% in March from February but remained down 15% from a year ago. The low inventory of homes for sale in many markets is helping drive up prices.

Personal computer shipments worldwide plummeted 13.9% in the first quarter, the latest evidence of a decaying market. Consumer preferences for tablets and smartphones continue to turn the PC industry upside-down. Desktops have been particularly hard hit as sales have been shaved nearly in half in the past 10 years.

Persecution Watch

Tens of thousands of Christians have left post-revolution Egypt due to concerns over rising Muslim conservatism and a general instability they say is emboldening attacks against them. Perhaps the most dramatic example of sectarian tension yet occurred Sunday in central Cairo, where a crowd attacked Christian mourners after they emerged from a funeral in Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral. Coptic Pope Tawadros II underscored rising tensions between Christians and Muslims when he criticized Islamist president Mohammed Morsi for the weekend violence which resulted in the deaths of four Christians. The state of instability, decaying economy and rise in crime have scared many Egyptians into leaving, or trying to — not least of all Egyptian Christians who say they are easy targets when trouble erupts and there is no system in place to protect them. “They feel if there is an issue, there is vigilante violence,” said Douglas May, a U.S. Catholic priest based in Egypt, where he has lived for 18 years. He said that although there were restrictions on minorities under former President Hosni Mubarak, Christians felt safer because there was at least a sense the country was under control. There are no official figures for how many Christians have left Egypt since the revolution, though estimates range as high as in the tens of thousands. “When there is no clarity, rumors abound,” said Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, patriarch of Egypt’s estimated 250,000 Coptic Catholics. “There are those saying hundreds of thousands, others saying thousands, but there are people leaving, this we know — and not only Christians, Muslims are leaving as well.”

Syria

President Barack Obama has signed off on a new package of nonlethal aid for Syrian rebels, U.S. officials told CNN, signaling his administration is cautiously wading further into the conflict. The move reflects what officials describe as a ramped-up effort to change the military balance on the battlefield in Syria. It follows a decision by Obama last month to send food and medicine to the rebels, the first direct U.S. support for the armed opposition.

A Syrian rebel group’s pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s replacement for Osama bin Laden suggests that the terrorist group’s influence is not waning and that it may take a greater role in the Western-backed fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria’s extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers. A website linked to Jabhat Al-Nusra confirmed on Tuesday the merger with the Islamic State of Iraq. Jabhat Al-Nusra has taken an ever-bigger role in Syria’s conflict over the last year, fighting in key battles and staging several large suicide bombings. The U.S. has designated it a terrorist organization.

Last month marked the deadliest month in Syria since protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began two years ago, CBN News reports. More than 6,000 people were killed in what is being called “Bloody March”; a third of those were civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Those killed include 291 women, nearly 300 children and more than 1,400 rebel fighters. The United Nations reports that 70,000 people have died since the uprising began, but Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, said, “We estimate it is actually around 120,000 people.” Efforts by foreign media and independent human rights organizations within the country have been curtailed, making the verification of casualty figures virtually impossible.

Iran

Iran’s crude exports declined in March to the lowest this year as international sanctions aimed at the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program and weaker global demand cut purchases, the International Energy Agency said. Imports from Iran slipped to 1.1 million barrels a day in March, from a revised 1.26 million barrels daily in February, the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations said in a report today. The U.S. and its allies are restricting Iran’s oil exports, the country’s largest source of revenue, to pressure the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

Mali

About 70,000 refugees who fled violence in Mali are living in “appalling” conditions in a camp in the middle of the Mauritanian desert, Doctors Without Borders said Friday. The situation has only got worse in Mbera camp since French forces entered Mali in January to help local forces take on Islamist militants. About 15,000 more refugees have flooded into the camp since the fighting, and conditions are so bad there that many who were healthy became ill or malnourished after they arrived. The number of children admitted to clinics in the camp for severe malnutrition more than doubled in that time, climbing from 42 to 106. The camp was set up by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, with the Mauritanian government about 37 miles from the border.

China

The death toll in China’s bird flu crisis stood at 10 on Friday, as Hong Kong authorities announced plans to test all poultry imported from the mainland. The total number of cases across eastern China climbed to 38. Seventy people have had close contact with the three patients, but none of them have exhibited abnormal symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese health officials continue to monitor for human-to-human transmission. On Wednesday, the Chinese Academy of Sciences said the H7N9 virus had probably originated from migratory birds from East Asia mixing with domestic fowl in China’s Yangtze River delta region.

Mexico

Gunmen in Mexico opened fire on police and civilians Wednesday in two separate incidents, in which at least 13 people. Police seized the gunmen’s vehicles and found five assault rifles with magazines and other combat paraphernalia, the National Safety Commission said. Mexico has a reputation for strict gun ownership laws. In the town of Apatzingan, gunmen opened fire twice on residents who were commemorating the anniversary of the death of a revolutionary figure popular in the region. Eight died when the same group, marching in a ceremonial parade, came under fire again. In addition, six civilians and two police officers were wounded.

Earthquakes

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 and injured hundreds more in a sparsely populated area in southern Iran on Tuesday, Iranian officials said, adding that it did not damage a nuclear plant in the region. The report said the earthquake struck the town of Kaki some 60 miles southeast of Bushehr, a town on the Persian Gulf that is home of Iran’s first nuclear power plant, built with Russian help. Dozens of aftershocks have been reported by the official IRNA news agency.

Weather

Friday is a day of clean up across several southern and midwestern states, after a classic spring storm spawned tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms Thursday. A powerful spring storm hit parts of the Mid-Atlantic on Friday morning after unleashing tornadoes, hail and high winds as it swept through the Midwest and into the Deep South, where it left three people dead and thousands without power. A supercell thunderstorm spawned a tornado in eastern Mississippi killing one person. The severe storm system packed high winds and tornadoes ripped through sections of Arkansas and eastern Missouri overnight Wednesday, including a neighborhood in St. Louis, prompting the governors of two states to activate the National Guard. The storm was part of a dangerous system that raked the Midwest and may have also spawned a tornado in north-central Arkansas that left four people injured. In Missouri, where thousands of people were left without power in the southern parts of the state, Gov. Jay Nixon also called out the Guard and issued a state of emergency.

A winter storm was a major problem for the Plains, dropping temperatures dramatically and then dumping more than a foot of snow across parts of several states. More than two feet of snow fell in parts of South Dakota, while ice has become a problem in the southern Plains.

A wildfire due to extreme drought, a possible tornado touchdown and a blizzard warning all within a 50 mile radius — the weather in northeast Colorado went crazy overnight Monday to Tuesday. Hours after firefighters defeated a 2,600 acre blaze in Sterling County, a wind storm, suspected of being a tornado, tore down a home in adjoining Washington County to the south. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is predicting a blizzard in the neighboring counties of Arapahoe and Adams to the east, where temperatures should drop into the single digits Tuesday night.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

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