Archive for May, 2013

Signs of the Times (5/29/13)

May 29, 2013

Family Groups Expect a Mass Exodus from Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America has turned against traditional values and moral standards – and that could turn off a large segment of America, according to pro-family groups. Changes are in the wind for the BSA, as the organization has voted to change its century-old tradition of being morally straight. Meeting in Grapevine, Texas, Boys Scout delegates on Thursday voted – by a wide margin – in favor of a proposed policy to allow open homosexuals as members but not as Scout leaders. Homosexual activists on hand in Grapevine said that would be their next project: to pressure the organization to permit homosexual leaders. Randy Sharp, director of special projects at American Family Association, says, “I think what we’re going to see in the next year or so is a mass exodus of adults and boys from the Boy Scouts of America program. Some of the estimates that I’ve heard are up to 400,000 to 500,000 boys and adults will resign their positions with the Boy Scouts of America.”

An evangelical Christian church in Louisville with more than 30,000 members will break ties with the Boy Scouts of America because it believes the youth organization has become too polarizing, its executive pastor said. The Boy Scouts’ national council voted last week to allow openly gay youth. The Scouts have until the end of the year to relocate.

Media Relentlessly Bullied the Scouts

A research group says liberal media may have played a role in last week’s decision by the Boy Scouts to open their ranks to homosexuals. According to the Media Research Center, for more than a decade the media have consistently given “the megaphone to gay activists and others with grievances” while ignoring important milestones for the Scouts. In a column posted at MRC.org, Matt Philbin – managing editor of MRC’s Culture and Media Institute – writes of the media’s treatment: “They’ve demanded the Scouts ‘change with the times,’ and said the Scouts’ policy made the organization a ‘symbol of hate. In the 13 years since the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts had the right to exclude gays from its ranks and from its leadership, the networks and the rest of the media have waged a pretty relentless campaign of bullying the Boy Scouts into accepting gays,”

Colorado Lawmakers Facing Recall over Strict Gun Laws

A handful of Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado face recall petition efforts in what looks to be the first wave of fallout over legislative votes to limit gun rights. In an era in which recall efforts are booming, from governor’s offices down to town councils and school boards, the Colorado efforts will serve as the first test of gun-rights groups’ ability to punish elected officials who expanded gun control laws after last year’s Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., shooting massacres.

UN Still Seeks To Override Our 2nd Amendment

On JUNE 3rd, the United Nations will release their Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to member nations for ratification. President Obama has indicated his willingness to sign it, and it will then move to the Senate for ratification. Adopting this U.N. treaty means the international body of the United Nations will override our Second Amendment. The ATT will regulate the trade of large arms (such as tanks, helicopters and missiles) and also, “Small arms and light weapons,” the definition of which is “weapons designed for individual use, including” but not limited to “revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns.” It will: enact tougher licensing requirements, making it almost impossible for an individual, to own a firearm; require the government to confiscate firearms owned by individuals; place further restrictions on the sale of arms; create an international gun registry; give foreign nations access to your personal data.

GE Investing Billions to Improve Fracking

One of America’s corporate giants is investing billions of dollars in the new boom of oil and gas drilling, or fracking. General Electric Co. is opening a new laboratory in Oklahoma, buying up related companies, and placing a big bet that cutting-edge science will improve profits for clients and reduce the environmental and health effects of the boom. GE did almost nothing in oil and gas just over a decade ago but has invested more than $15 billion in the past few years. GE doesn’t drill wells or produce oil or gas, but Little said the complexity of the fracking boom plays into the company strengths. Wells are being drilled horizontally at great depths in a variety of formations all around the country, and that means each location may require different techniques. There are also big differences in how surrounding communities view the boom. There’s been little controversy in traditional oil and gas states such as Oklahoma, but nearby landowners in Pennsylvania, Colorado and other states have complained of environmental and health effects.

California Anti-Fracking Bills May Halt Oil Rush

California is on the verge of a new gold rush. Expanded hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — at the Monterey Shale formation is sparking estimates that 15 billion barrels of oil could be accessed, along with millions of jobs and huge contributions to the domestic energy supply. Even the state’s green-friendly Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, says “the potential is extraordinary.” But standing in the way is a flurry of anti-fracking bills. At last count, 10 were on the table, all introduced by Democrats seeking tighter controls over the controversial technology. Some of the measures take aim at how crude is extracted from rock layers beyond the reach of conventional drilling. Others call for full disclosure of what chemicals are used in the high-pressure process, how they’re removed, and where they’re stored. California State Sen. Fran Pavley, a longtime environmental activist, is pushing for a fracking moratorium until more studies are done on the potential risks, particularly to the groundwater supply.

Swedish Riots Caused by Muslims

The nightly rioting in Stockholm that establishment media ascribes merely to “youths,” is actually being carried out by Muslim immigrants. Muslim immigrants in Sweden now total slightly more than 6 percent of the population, providing additional support for the maxim that a Muslim population of 5 percent is a tipping point for political turmoil. In other countries, Muslim immigrants at that point have begun to seek concessions, including, typically, the right to govern themselves by Shariah, or Islamic law. In Sweden, the Muslim population has doubled in the last 14 years, with Muslims now accounting for over 41 percent of Sweden’s total population growth. The growth reflects not only increasing Islamic immigration but also a disproportionately high birth rate in a nation in which the native birth rate is trending toward zero-growth.

Newly Discovered Virus Takes More Lives

A new SARS-like virus recently found in humans continues to spread — with the worldwide total now at 49, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. Of the 49 known infections with the MERS-CoV virus, 27 have resulted in death. The latest deaths were reported in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi health ministry said Wednesday that three people died from their infections in the country’s eastern region. The virus is “a threat to the entire world,” the WHO’s general director said Monday. Although many of the cases have occurred on the Arabian Peninsula, people have died of the infection elsewhere. However, “all of the European cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East,” the WHO said earlier this month.

Economic News

On July 1, the interest rates on student loans subsidized by Uncle Sam will most likely double to 6.8%.Congress and the White House agree that something should be done to prevent that. They don’t agree on what.

The class of 2013 is in for a rude awakening this graduation season. Between ballooning student loans, credit cards and money owed to family members, they are facing an average $35,200 in college-related debt, a Fidelity survey of 750 college graduates shows. The bulk of the class of 2013’s debt is in government loans, with graduates owing an average of $26,000.

U.S. home prices posted year-over-year gains for the fourth consecutive quarter as prices rose 10.2% in the period ending in March. The index posted its highest annual returns since 2007.

A record 40% of households with children include “breadwinner moms,” according to a report out Tuesday. These moms are the sole or primary source of income for households with children younger than 18, a Pew Research Center analysis finds. The share of households with children where there is a mother who is the sole or primary breadwinner is up about fourfold from 1960, when it was only 11%.

Persecution Watch

The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 shows persecution against Christians and Jews is on the rise, especially in Muslim countries, CBN News reports. Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are among the many countries where non-Muslims are suffering persecution. Saudi Arabia prohibits any religion except Islam and enforces state restrictions on religious freedom. In Sudan, Muslim rioters burned down an evangelical church compound; in Libya, terrorists bombed an Orthodox church; and in Nigeria, Muslim radicals murdered hundreds of Christians. The report also devotes a section to the ongoing global increase in anti-Semitism, citing Venezuela, Egypt and Iran as countries with political and religious leaders who openly espouse Holocaust denial and anti-Israel rhetoric.

Syria

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad unleashed on Saturday their heaviest artillery and rocket barrage in a week-long battle to dislodge rebels from a strategic western town, activists said. Pro-Assad troops, including fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, have been trying to push rebels out of Qusair. They have gained ground, but rebels have clung to some positions. Qusair is important to Assad because it sits on a land corridor linking two of his strongholds, the capital of Damascus and towns on the Mediterranean coast. For the rebels, holding Qusair means protecting a supply line to Lebanon, six miles away.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister says the European Union’s decision to lift an arms embargo to Syrian opposition undermines the efforts of both Russia and the U.S to mediate peace talks in Geneva next month. The European Union said its member states within days will be able to send weapons to help Syria’s outgunned rebels after its current embargo expires this week, seeking to pressure President Bashar Assad’s regime ahead of the planned peace talks. For two years, Syrian rebels have begged the world to arm them as they try to overthrow a four-decade dynasty. Now, European Union countries may be stepping up to that call.

Lebanon

Rockets slammed Sunday into two southern Beirut neighborhoods that are strongholds of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, wounding four people and raising fears that Syria’s civil war is increasingly moving to Lebanon. Lebanon’s sectarian divide mirrors that of Syria, and Lebanese armed factions have taken sides in their neighbor’s civil war. One leader of Syria’s overwhelmingly Sunni rebels had threatened to strike Hezbollah strongholds to retaliate against the Iranian-backed Shiite group for sending fighters to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Three soldiers from the Lebanese army were the latest fatalities in the deep escalation of violence hitting Lebanon as a result of the Syrian revolution, causing concern over the spread of the conflict regionally. A group of gunmen in a black jeep fatally shot the three soldiers at a checkpoint in the northeast town of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni enclave close to the Lebanese-Syrian border. The gunmen escaped into Syria. The town of Arsal is a smuggling route between the two countries, and these days, weapons are the main item being ferried across. Arsal is also the temporary home to thousands of Syrian refugees who have flooded over the border in the past two years.

Iraq

At least 51 people have been killed and more than 160 others were wounded in a wave of violence in Iraq on Monday, The attacks continue the increase in political and sectarian violence in Iraq, including its capital, Baghdad, over the past several weeks. Much of the violence was Sunnis squaring off with Shiites and the Shiite-led government. Most of the casualties Monday were in and around Baghdad, where 11 car bombs exploded, mostly in Shiite neighborhoods, According to a CNN tally, more than 300 people have been killed in acts of violence across the country since the beginning of May.

Iran

Iran has fielded a ‘massive’ number of new long-range missile launchers, state TV reported Sunday. The new weapon components delivered to Iranian military units would allow them to ‘crush the enemy’ with the mass simultaneous fire of long-range surface-to-surface missiles, Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying. TV showed footage of him inspecting two dozen launch trucks without missiles at an outdoor site. The report did not specify the type of missile that would be fired, nor more details on the number of launchers deployed. Some of Iran’s surface-to-surface missiles are estimated to have ranges of over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), capable of hitting its arch-foe Israel and the U.S. bases in the region.

Pakistan

A suspected U.S. drone strike killed the No. 2 commander of the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday, Pakistani intelligence officials said, although the militant group denied he was killed. If confirmed, the death of Waliur Rehman would be a strong blow to the militant group responsible for hundreds of bombings and shootings across Pakistan. The United States has a $5 million bounty out on Rehman, who Washington has accused of involvement in the 2009 suicide attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans working for the CIA. Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed into a house early Wednesday in Miran Shah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region, killing four people including Rehman, three Pakistani officials said.

Burma

Sectarian violence spread to a new region of Burma, with a mob burning down a mosque, a Muslim orphanage and shops in a northeastern town after rumors spread that a Muslim man had set fire to a Buddhist woman. The full extent of the unrest was still unclear, with no immediate reports of how many people may have been injured. Deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims has occurred since last year in other parts of the country, first in a western region and then in central towns. The new flare-up will reinforce doubts that President Thein Sein’s government can or will act to contain the violence.

India

About 200 suspected Maoist rebels set off a land mine and opened fire on a convoy of cars carrying local leaders and supporters of India’s ruling Congress party in an eastern state, killing 28 people and wounding 24 others in one of their most audacious attacks on politicians. The ambush occurred Saturday in the Sukma area, about 215 miles (345 kilometers) south of Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state. Four state party leaders and five police officers were among those killed. Other victims were party supporters.

China

Chinese hackers have gained access to the designs of many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems, according to report prepared for the Defense Department and government and defense industry officials,The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The compromised weapons designs include, among others, advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The report comes a month before a President Obama meets with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in California. It also coincides with reports in the Australian media that Chinese hackers had allegedly stolen blueprints for Australian’s new spy headquarters.

Earthquakes

Three dozen earthquakes over the past week in central Arkansas shook shelves, rattled nerves and prompted speculation about their cause. “Are they being being triggered or are they natural? That’s something we don’t know,” Arkansas Geological Survey scientist Scott Ausbrook said Sunday. The chances of so many temblors in the region in such a short time are “Powerball kind of odds,” Ausbrook said. “What was unusual was to have four different areas in the state to be active in the same week.” More than two dozen quakes recorded since Wednesday have been centered north of Morrilton, Arkansas. The strongest, on Wednesday and Thursday nights, had reported magnitudes of 3.5 and 3.4.

Wildfires

Thousands of Memorial Day campers were sent scampering out of the mountains by a wildfire that was fanned by the wind into an ominous spectacle hanging over nearby Santa Barbara. Paradise Road and the many campgrounds along it were closed, forcing between 4,000 and 6,000 of campers, many already clearing out at the end of the holiday weekend, to evacuate. The fire was threatening about 50 homes, many of them cabins and vacation rentals. The fire broke out about Monday afternoon in Los Padres National Forest about 15 miles north of Santa Barbara, and hours later had grown to 1,000 acres – or 1.5 square miles – amid winds of about 20 mph. It was 5 percent contained. A huge plume of gray and white smoke rose over the mountains and hovered over Santa Barbara.

Firefighters made big strides toward getting ahead of a forest fire in mountains northwest of Santa Barbara, Calif. and stopped several smaller blazes around Southern California. The wildfire had carved its way through 3.2 square miles of chaparral, oak and pine Tuesday, but by day’s end firefighters had it 65 percent contained and residents from a few dozen homes that were evacuated Monday were allowed to return. Another blaze flared just before noon Tuesday near the Magic Mountain theme park and Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles. It quickly consumed 55 acres of brush, but was almost contained by nightfall after hundreds of Los Angeles County firefighters responded with air support. In San Diego County, investigators determined Tuesday that recreational shooting sparked a wildfire that has burned nearly 1,000 remote acres southeast of Julian.

Water Woes

Top water decision-makers from seven Western states plan to join conservation groups and Indian tribes in San Diego on Tuesday to begin hammering out rules for squeezing every useable drop from the overtaxed Colorado River. The work meeting hosted by federal water managers comes amid dire predictions for the waterway. The U.S. interior secretary five months ago issued a call to arms and declared that the river already described as the most plumbed and regulated in the world would be unable to meet demands of a growing regional population. “We’re looking at a very significant chance of declaring a shortage in the Colorado River basin in 2016,” Michael Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, said in an interview in advance of the conference.

The river provides drinking water, power and recreation for some 40 million people in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. Its largest reservoirs — Lake Mead near Las Vegas and Lake Powell near Page, Ariz. — are projected to drop to 45 percent capacity by September. Mexico also has a stake in the river, and U.S. and Mexican officials signed a pact in November for new rules on sharing Colorado River water, including a deal that lets Mexico store water in Lake Mead. The deal provides for international cooperation to ensure that river water reaches the Gulf of California for the first time in decades.

Weather

Drought or deluge. In the Midwest, it seems those have been the only options for weather these past few years. Two years ago, in 2011, the region witnessed severe floods on the Missouri River as well as record flooding along parts of the Mississippi River and lower Ohio River. A year later, 2012 brought the “flash drought” that parched the nation’s heartland and led to one of the largest drought zones in modern U.S. history., taking in nearly two-thirds of the contiguous U.S. Lately that drought zone continues to be chipped away by repeated rounds of thunderstorms, especially on the eastern edge of the drought. A zone from the Dakotas through Iowa into Illinois has been subject to repeated bouts of thunderstorms with heavy rainfall over the past several days.

Massive flooding from torrential rains in the San Antonio area left at least two persons dead Saturday and sent emergency workers rushing in boats to rescue more than 200 residents stranded in cars and homes. A woman was trapped in her car, got on the roof and was swept away in floodwaters. Her body was later found against a fence. The water was very deep in some areas and more flood victims could be found. The water was up to 4 feet high in some homes. Even a city bus was swept away, but firefighters on a boat were able to rescue the three passengers and driver. The San Antonio International Airport by Saturday afternoon had recorded 9.87 inches of rain since midnight, causing nearly all streams and rivers to experience extraordinary flooding.

The string of tornadoes that ripped across the central United States in the past week did between $2 billion and $5 billion in damage, according to initial estimates. The storms produced 79 tornadoes that touched down in 10 states over a three day period from May 18 through 20. There were an estimated 13,000 structures damaged in the town of Moore alone, and the bulk of the losses from the storm system were concentrated there.

The California Highway Patrol says a sandstorm north of Los Angeles led to several car wrecks that injured six people and forced a freeway shutdown. The sandstorm kicked up on the Antelope Valley Freeway at about 4 p.m. Tuesday. Officers at first accompanied cars through the dust cloud, but soon had to shut down the entire freeway in both directions for about four hours. The Los Angeles County Fire Department took five people to the hospital with minor-to-moderate injuries. A sixth person was treated at the scene. Fire officials say visibility in the area was less than 6 feet at times.

Signs of the Times (5/24/44)

May 24, 2013

Boy Scouts Vote to Allow Gay Members

The Boy Scouts of America’s decision Thursday to open its ranks to gay youths but not gay leaders has all the markings of a fiercely contested compromise: It disappointed almost everyone. The new policy will have little practical impact because most troops s have long operated under an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” membership policy, though they were less accepting of gay leaders. Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.

  • The ruling might not have much ‘practical impact’ but the approval lends further credibility and momentum for acceptance of homosexuality as ‘normal’ whereas Romans 1:26-27 calls it shameful

Department of Justice Forcing Federal Employees to Publicly Affirm Homosexuality

The Obama administration is apparently requiring federal workers to not only tolerate homosexuality, but to “publicly embrace and affirm” it, according to the religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel, Charisma News reports. Last week, a whistleblower from the Department of Justice sent Liberty Counsel a copy of a brochure sent to all DOJ employees entitled “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” The directive requires employees to vocally affirm homosexuality: “DON’T judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.” The DOJ also instructs managers to “use inclusive words like ‘partner,’ ‘significant other’ or ‘spouse’ rather than gender-specific terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife'” and to “use a transgender person’s chosen name and the pronoun that is consistent with the person’s self-identified gender.” According to Liberty Counsel, “No longer can Christians quietly dissent or remain neutral to same-sex relationships. Now the DOJ is requiring federal employees to affirm sexual behaviors that every major religion throughout history has deemed immoral.”

In U.S., Record High Say Gay, Lesbian Relations Morally OK

Americans’ views toward a number of moral issues have shifted significantly since 2001. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans’ acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years to a record high of 59 percent today. Americans’ tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater — up 15 points since 2001 to the current 60 percent. Americans have also become significantly more accepting of sex between an unmarried man and woman, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, polygamy, and cloning humans. The only issue that Americans have become significantly less accepting of over the past 12 years is medical testing on animals. A majority of Americans continue to say seven of the 19 items measured are morally wrong: married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy, suicide, pornography, sex between teenagers (measured for the first time this year), and cloning animals. Attitudes toward two items — doctor-assisted suicide and abortion — are fairly evenly split, with less than half of Americans seeing each as either morally acceptable or morally unacceptable.

Court Strikes Down Arizona’s 20-Week Abortion Ban

A federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday struck down Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, AP reports. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violates a string of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, starting with Roe v. Wade, that guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion before a baby is able to survive outside the womb — generally considered to be about 24 weeks. Several states have enacted similar bans starting at 20 weeks, but the 9th Circuit’s ruling is binding only in the nine states under the county’s jurisdiction. Idaho is the only other state with a similar ban in the region covered by the 9th Circuit. A trial judge had ruled that the ban could take effect, saying it was constitutional partly because of concerns about women’s health and fetal pain, but abortion-rights groups appealed that decision, saying the 20-week ban would not give some women enough time to decide whether to abort. The ban included an exception for medical emergencies.

Vermont Legalizes Physician-Assisted Suicide

Vermont is now the fourth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after Gov. Peter Shumlin signed it into law Monday, CBN News reports. Vermont joins Oregon, Washington and Montana in adopting such a measure, which allows doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients. Opponents are concerned the law could eventually target the disabled and elderly. “Physician-assisted suicide does not affirm the life or dignity of individuals facing serious illness or death,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “Instead, it opens the door to abuses and dangers for extremely vulnerable individuals.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Immigration Overhaul

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws on a bipartisan vote, sending the most significant immigration policy changes in decades to the full Senate, where the debate is expected to begin next month. The 13-to-5 vote came as the committee reached a deal on one of the final snags threatening the legislation — and agreed to hold off on a particularly politically charged amendment, which would have added protections for same-sex couples. After intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, struck an agreement with the group of eight senators who drafted the original bill to address his concerns about visas for skilled foreign workers who could fill jobs in the high-tech industry.

Atty. Gen. Holder Admits 4 Americans Killed Abroad in Drone Strikes

Attorney General Eric Holder informed Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. has killed four Americans in drone strikes since 2009: radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and three others who were “not specifically targeted.” Under pressure from Congress and international allies, President Obama announced a change in what has been a central piece of his counter-terrorism strategy, saying he will place new restrictions on the targeting of terrorists with missiles fired from drones. The president said he would continue ordering lethal drone strikes to stop potential terrorist attacks because the relative precision of drone warfare is preferable to major troop deployments or traditional bombing. But a newly codified rule book, administration officials said, would hold U.S. authorities to a tougher standard when deciding whom to kill, where, and under what circumstances.

New Guns Effectively Banned in California

California has effectively banned the sale of all new guns after Attorney General Kamala Harris officially certified a law that will require all new semiautomatic handguns to use technology that stamps identifying information on bullet casings. Since gun manufacturers are not likely to spend money retrofitting their entire production lines, California has effectively banned the sale of all new guns. The law, which was initially signed back in 2007 by then governor Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was delayed because of patents on the technology. On Friday, the Attorney General of California certified the law, becoming the first state in the country to require new guns use this stamping technology. The “microstamping” act requires every new handgun produced or brought into the state of California to have a special firing pin that will stamp a serial number onto the primer of a round.

Teen Birthrate Hits Record Low

The teen birthrate in 2011 set another new record low, according to the latest federal data, released Thursday. The numbers reflect a continued trend downward for teens having babies. The new rate, 31.3 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19, is about half the 1991 rate of 61.8 births per 1,000 teens, which was an all-time high. The new report shows particularly steep drops more recently, with a 25% decline in the overall teen birthrate just since 2007. Rates fell 30% or more in seven states, with the largest drops — 35% each — in Arizona and Utah. In that same period, the three largest population groups all experienced declines in their teen birthrates, with Hispanic teens dropping the most at 34%, followed by declines of 24% among blacks and 20% for whites.

Amphibians Dying Off at Alarming Rate

Federal wildlife scientists report Wednesday that frogs, salamanders and toads are dying off at alarming rates nationwide, with the declines most dire among threatened species. Mandated by Congress, the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative team report summarizes hundreds of studies conducted over the past decade into declines in amphibians. They study finds that even in national parks thought to be islands of conservation, amphibians are dying off. It finds that overall numbers of frogs and their kin drop 3.7% every year, meaning they could disappear in half of the habitats they now occupy nationwide in 26 years. For 12 threatened species, things are even worse, with their numbers dropping 11.6% every year. Worldwide, nearly a third of amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Habitat destruction and a spreading fungal syndrome are seen as leading causes.

I-5 Bridge Collapses in Washington State

Authorities said it appeared nobody was killed Thursday evening in the collapse of a bridge on Interstate Five about 60 miles north of Seattle in Skagit County. The bridge failure cut off the main route between Seattle and Canada and raised questions about the safety of aging spans in the U.S.  State Patrol detectives and the patrol’s commercial vehicle enforcement bureau troopers retained a commercial truck driver whose rig struck the structure. Several vehicles plunged into the Skagit River but there were no deaths and three people were taken to a local hospital.

Economic News

Initial jobless claims dropped by 23,000 last week as more signs point to a recovery in the American job market. Initial claims are down to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 from 363,000 the previous week. Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The decline in claims has coincided with steady job growth over the past six months. Since November, employers have added an average 208,000 jobs a month. That’s up from just 138,000 jobs a month during the previous six months.

Existing-home sales rose slightly last month to reach their highest level since late 2009, while the supply of homes for sale took a big jump but still remains tight, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Total existing home sales increased 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million in April, 9.7% above year-ago levels. But sales are still at a relatively low level. From 2000 through 2005, before the housing bubble burst, the annual rate of sales averaged more than 6 million a month.

The Commerce Department says durable goods orders rose 3.3% last month after a 5.9% decline in March. And a measure of business investment plans increased 1.2% after a revised 0.9% gain in March. Business ordered more machinery, computers and electronics last month.

The Federal Reserve’s release of the minutes of its last meeting set off a wave of jitters in the stock market after traders read that some Fed policymakers favored trimming Fed bond purchases as soon as June if the economy showed signs of strong growth. However, the minutes also suggested that the Federal Reserve is likely to keep buying bonds to drive down interest rates until the job market improves substantially.

Persecution Watch

Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being targeted by Islamist militants who seized control of the country in March; they are being tied up, beaten and forced to hand over money to save their lives. A pastor in CAR said that “a reign of terror” is being conducted against Christians by the Seleka rebels who took over the country in a bloody coup on 24 March. The church leader said that the rebels have a hit list of pastors and other Christian workers, and that places of worship are being attacked. Christian property is being looted. In one incident, Seleka troops seized all the collection money given at a gathering of church leaders.

A Christian father of three was killed and a Christian teenager left in a coma in the second of two church attacks in Egypt last week. Sedky Sherif (36) died in the violence that broke out in the Dakhela district of Alexandria. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”), they threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at the church, burning the gate and breaking most of the windows. As Christians tried to defend the site, they also came under assault; the Muslims fired birdshot and threw bricks at them. Mina Milad Saber (19) needed brain surgery after being seriously injured in the violence; he was left in a coma. A number of other Christians were also wounded.

Middle East

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority leaders on Thursday evening, after talks in the morning with Israeli leaders and statements to the press in which he urged both sides to compromise in order to restart negotiations. But PA President Mahmoud Abbas made it clear he’s not prepared to compromise on the PA’s long-held demands that Israel cease all construction in the West Bank and the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem and release Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails before he is even willing to begin negotiations.

Britain

A gruesome cleaver attack on a British soldier left London reeling Thursday, as Britain grappled with questions over who was responsible and whether Islamist extremism was to blame. A meat cleaver-wielding man with bloody hands addressed a camera, his victim lying mutilated in the street behind him. “The only reasons we killed this man … is because Muslims are dying daily,” he said in video aired by CNN affiliate ITN. The scene revealed through cell phone camera footage and witness accounts. “This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth,” he said. “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone.”

  • Why would they even question whether Islamist extremism is to blame. Like the Boston bombing, these smaller, public attacks represent the new face of Islamist militancy. Expect more.

Iran

Iran’s election overseers removed potential wildcard candidates from the presidential race Tuesday, blocking a top aide of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a former president who revived hopes of reformers. Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favor with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles. It also pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran’s leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program. Those cleared by the candidate-vetting Guardian Council included eight high-profile figures considered firm and predictable loyalists to the ruling Islamic establishment.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on Wednesday which, as expected, showed that Iran has increased its capacity to refine uranium by installing hundreds of new centrifuges at its main facilities at Fordow and Natanz, despite years of efforts by the international community to convince the Islamic Republic to abandon its renegade nuclear program. However, the report adds that Iran has not yet accumulated enough weapons-grade plutonium to violate Israel’s “red line” for military strikes. The report also said Iran has proceeded with construction of a nuclear research reactor in the central town of Arak, although the facility is not yet operational.

Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Arab and European allies Wednesday on stepping up support for Syria’s rebels to help them “fight for the freedom of their country” if Assad refuses to join hoped-for peace talks in Geneva next month.

Afghanistan

An explosion has sent smoke rising over the heart of Afghanistan’s capital. The strong blast was felt several miles away. An Associated Press cameraman who witnessed Friday’s blast said it was near a hospital for the National Security Directorate, the state intelligence service. He said the blast collapsed a building wall, but was not clear if there were any casualties. Police quickly cordoned off the area, which also houses buildings used by international aid agencies. It is the second explosion to hit Kabul in just over a week.

Sweden

Suburbs of Stockholm, the Swedish capital, were engulfed in a fourth night of rioting early Thursday in the country’s worst civil unrest in years. Groups of youth have smashed shop windows, set cars ablaze and burnt down a cultural center as the riots that started in one Stockholm suburb after a fatal police shooting spread to other low-income areas of Stockholm. Thirty vehicles were set ablaze in six suburbs where mainly immigrants live. Gangs of up to 60 youths also set fire to a school and a nursery and hurled rocks at police and fire fighters. Seven people were briefly detained early Wednesday and one person was arrested on suspicion of arson of a cultural center housed in a 19th century building. The unrest began Sunday in response to the May 13 shooting, in which police killed a 69-year-old, knife-wielding man in a northwestern suburb.

Earthquakes

An earthquake in far northeastern California was felt by thousands of people as far away as San Francisco and in two other states, but there have been no reports of injury or serious damage. The magnitude-5.7 quake broke dishes and shook mirrors when it struck at 8:47 p.m. Thursday. It was centered near Greenville, about 25 miles southwest of Susanville. There have been several aftershocks, including a magnitude 4.9 that struck early Friday morning.

A powerful earthquake on Friday hit Russia’s Far East with tremors felt as far away as Moscow, about 7,000 kilometers (4,400 miles) west of the epicenter. The epicenter was in the Sea of Okhotsk, east of the Russian coast and north of Japan. The quake registered 8.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake originated 600 kilometers (375 miles) under the sea bed and with the tremors so far down they have the potential to spread quite far. Tremors were felt in Moscow, prompting some people to evacuate from buildings across the city. Tremors are extremely rare in Moscow, the last recorded instance was in the 1977.

Weather

The tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs this week ranks among the strongest storms ever to strike the United States, packing powerful winds that topped 200 mph. Officials from the National Weather Service gave the tornado that hit Moore on Monday a preliminary EF5 rating — the highest score on the scale that measures tornado intensities. The tornado spanned 1.3 miles — the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end — carving a 17-mile path of destruction and releasing an amount of energy that dwarfed even the power of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima, according to experts. Pounding rain soaked tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, on Thursday morning, and winds sent pieces of debris flying, hindering recovery efforts three days after the devastating tornado.

A blistering heat wave has swept across most parts of north and western India, causing massive electricity cuts and leading angry residents to protest and even attack power company officials and property. In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, enraged citizens have set fire to a power station and held power company employees hostage for several hours. Police said Thursday that at least 21 people have been arrested for the violence and for damaging government property. Uttar Pradesh, home to 190 million people, is India’s most populous state and one of the poorest. Its inadequate energy infrastructure has been unable to cope with the high demand for electricity as temperatures have peaked above 116 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days.

Signs of the Times (5/21/13)

May 21, 2013

Department of Education to Eliminate ‘Mother,’ ‘Father’ From Student Aid Forms

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that student financial aid forms will begin using the terms “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” rather than the gender-specific terms “mother” and “father,” Baptist Press reports. The 2014-15 federal student aid forms will for the first time collect income and other information from a dependent student’s legal parents regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together, according to the department. In addition to removing “mother” and “father,” the new forms will provide an option for applications to describe their parents’ marital status as “unmarried and both parents living together.” Traditionally, the forms have been written to collect information about a student’s parents only if the parents are married, thus excluding income and other information from one of the student’s legal parents when the parents are unmarried, even if those parents are living together. “Gender-specific terms also fail to capture income and other information from one parent when a student’s parents are in a same-sex marriage under state law but not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act,” the department said. “All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

  • The end-time breakdown of God’s natural order continues unabated

Tea Party Groups to Sue IRS

A group of conservative activists, being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, are preparing to sue the federal government for their admitted targeting Tea Party groups. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow told FoxNews.com he’ll likely file the civil suits next Wednesday or Thursday on behalf of more than a dozen Tea Party groups who say they were singled out by the IRS and had their tax-exempt status severely delayed or denied altogether. The suits, combined with congressional inquiries an FBI probe, and the resignation of the IRS chief signal the start of a protracted legal and political battle over the scandal.

Sekulow said the number of plaintiffs in the civil suit are growing as is the list of who his organization wants held accountable. It’s still unclear whether the organization will file as a class-action or individually in the 17 different states where the complaints originate. “In testimony before Congress, the acting Commissioner of the IRS called the intentional targeting of conservative groups merely ‘horrible customer service.’ No, this was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens,” said Sekulow. As a major tea party group plans protests Tuesday at Internal Revenue Service offices across the country, a new national poll indicates that the IRS controversy has given the four-year-old movement a shot in the arm.

AP Ponders Legal Action Against DOJ

Associated Press President Gary Pruitt says the Justice Department sent a strong – and negative — message to future sources that the government would go after them if they spoke to the press. It’s a move Pruitt called not only unconstitutional, but damaging to the ideal of a free press in the country. Pruitt said, “It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action but… we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated.” He said President Obama “should rein in that out-of-control investigation.” Although the Justice Department has not explained why it sought phone records from the AP, Pruitt pointed to a May 7, 2012, story that disclosed details of a successful CIA operation in Yemen.

Colorado Sheriffs Sue over New State Gun Restrictions.

Colorado sheriffs upset with gun restrictions adopted in the aftermath of last year’s mass shootings filed a federal lawsuit Friday, challenging the regulations as unconstitutional. The lawsuit involves sheriffs from 54 of Colorado’s 64 counties, most representing rural, gun-friendly areas of the state. The sheriffs say the new state laws violate Second Amendment protections that guarantee the right to keep and bear arms. The filing targets Colorado laws that limit the size of ammunition magazines and expand background checks. The regulations passed the Legislature this spring and are set to take effect July 1.

Chinese Hackers Resume Attacks on U.S. Targets

Three months after hackers working for a cyberunit of China’s People’s Liberation Army went silent amid evidence that they had stolen data from scores of American companies and government agencies, they appear to have resumed their attacks The Obama administration had bet that “naming and shaming” the groups, first in industry reports and then in the Pentagon’s own detailed survey of Chinese military capabilities, might prompt China’s new leadership to crack down on the military’s highly organized team of hackers. But Unit 61398, whose well-guarded 12-story white headquarters on the edges of Shanghai became the symbol of Chinese cyberpower, is back in business, according to American officials and security companies.

“Crazy Ants’ Threaten Ecology of Southeastern U.S.

Researchers at the University of Texas are warning that the invasive species from South America has the potential to change the ecological balance in the southeastern United States. The crazy ants, officially called “Tawny crazy ants,” are omnivores that can take over an area by both killing what’s there and starving out what they don’t kill. The crazy ants nest in walls, crawl spaces, house plants or empty containers in the yard. They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests. Videos on YouTube show people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants, having to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. Scientists are unsure how far the ants, which are native to Argentina and Brazil, may spread in the U.S. Since being first seen in Houston in 2002, they’ve been found mostly in wetter environments with mild winters in parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Economic News

Even as Americans held overall consumer debt to a 9 percent increase from 2004 to this year, student debt tripled to $986 billion after adjusting for inflation. It’s now 8.8 percent of all consumer debt, up from 3.1 percent in 2004. A system that pushes students to borrow whatever they need to get through college has come under increasing scrutiny as college gets more expensive and a new generation of students is hamstrung by larger and larger debt loads.

Last week, a measure of consumer sentiment showed buying attitudes toward appliances and other durable goods at the highest level since mid-2007. And the government reported that April retail sales solidly beat estimates despite huge federal spending cuts.

Sales at restaurants are at an all-time high. Sales at eating and drinking places in April reached $45.9 billion, a $200 million seasonally-adjusted increase from the previous high in December 2012.

Syria

Violence surged in the strategically important Syrian town of Qusayr on Sunday. Activists said the offensive marked some of the most intense fighting they’ve seen in the fiercely contested area near the Lebanese border. Rebels and the Syrian government both claimed to control parts of the city, where fighting has been raging for weeks. Activists said artillery shells, mortar shells and bombs from aircraft were raining down as government forces attacked. Makeshift medical clinics were reportedly filled with casualties.

Hezbollah was pulled more deeply into Syria’s civil war as 28 guerrillas from the Lebanese Shiite militant group were killed and dozens more wounded while fighting rebels, Syria activists said Monday. The overt Hezbollah involvement edges the war further into a regional sectarian conflict pitting the Middle East’s Iranian-backed Shiite axis against Sunnis. A staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah is heavily invested in the survival of the Damascus regime and is known to have sent fighters to aid government forces.

Turkey

Two bomb attacks in Reyhanli, Turkey claimed some 50 lives and injured hundreds more in the deadliest attack on Turkish soil in more than 20 years. Reyhanli sits at the border with Syria, where an increasingly brutal civil war has spilled over in an action that, many Turks say, demands international response. Turkey has endured several attacks by Syria and many are concerned the attacks will only increase. President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met at the White House on Thursday, emerging later to say they remain opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and want his removal. But neither offered any initiatives to make that happen.

Iraq

Bombs ripped through Sunni areas in Baghdad and surrounding areas Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months. Another string of car bombs and shootings tore through Iraq on Monday, killing at least 57 people. Additional attacks Monday killed another seven and wounded dozens more.The attacks hit markets and crowded bus stops. The major spike in sectarian bloodshed heightened fears the country could again be veering toward civil war. The attacks followed two days of bombings targeting Shiites, including bus stops and outdoor markets, with a total of 130 people killed since Wednesday. Tensions have been intensifying since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions.

Afghanistan

A suicide attack in northern Afghanistan on Monday morning killed at least 11 people, including the head of the local provincial government. The attack took place outside the Baghlan provincial council compound in the capital, Pul-e-Khumri. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to CNN.

Nigeria

An ongoing “massive deployment” against insurgent groups in northern Nigeria by the nation’s special forces killed at least 14 suspected terrorists and captured 20 others, according to a statement released Sunday by Nigeria’s defense ministry. The ministry had reported killing at least 10 suspected terrorists and apprehending another 65 on Saturday, as well as the deaths of over 20 dead on Friday. Sunday’s update noted that three soldiers were killed and seven more were wounded in the offensive. Among those targeted by the military was the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Yemen

Yemeni security officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike killed four al-Qaeda militants in the country’s south. The officials say the attack took place around dawn Saturday in an area called Deyfa in Abyan province. Yemeni forces battled al-Qaeda in Abyan province last year, routing out militants from major cities that al-Qaeda had overrun during the country’s 2011 political turmoil. The militants fled to surrounding mountainous areas. There has been a dramatic rise in such drone strikes in Yemen since the country’s new U.S.-backed president assumed power early last year.

North Korea

North Korea continued firing short-range weapons over its own eastern waters Monday after a weekend of what it called “rocket launching tests” intended to bolster deterrence against enemy attack. North Korea routinely test-launches short-range missiles. But the latest launches came during a period of tentative diplomacy aimed at easing recent tension, including near-daily threats by North Korea to attack South Korea and the U.S. last month. North Korea has a variety of missiles but Seoul and Washington don’t believe the country has mastered the technology needed to manufacture nuclear warheads that are small and light enough to be placed on a missile capable of reaching the U.S.

Earthquakes

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 has struck off the coast of Chile. The quake was recorded at 5:49 a.m. local time Monday, at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), some 370 miles from the city of Puerto Quellon. No tsunami warning was issued. The strongest earthquake ever recorded also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

People on both sides of the border felt an earthquake originating around the Quebec and Ontario borders, the Canadian government said. Natural Resources Canada gave it a preliminary magnitude of 5.2; the U.S. Geological Survey put it at 4.4. With an epicenter about 11 miles from Shawville, in western Quebec, the quake was felt in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and out to Toronto, more than 260 miles away. It also was felt in New York state and Cleveland.

Volcanoes

One of Alaska’s most restless volcanoes shot an ash cloud 15,000 feet into the air Friday in an ongoing eruption that is visible for miles. The ash would have to rise tens of thousands of feet to threaten larger planes. The eruption began Monday 5/13, with lava spraying out from the summit of the Pavlov volcano, located 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. Residents of Cold Bay, about 40 miles from Pavlof, are concerned the ash could damage their power generators. But so far, the wind has blown the ash away from the area. The ash cloud reached 19,500 feet Sunday, just below the 20,000-foot threshold considered to be a major threat to trans-continental aircraft. The aviation warming level remained at code orange, a step below red, the highest of the four levels.

Wildfires

As firefighters took on a stubborn 3-day-old wildfire Friday in rough terrain north of Los Angeles, a second and more serious blaze broke out 30 miles away near Interstate 5, quickly surging to more than 500 acres, briefly threatening an elementary school and leading to the precautionary evacuation of nearly 20 homes. The new fire burned very close to I-5 during some of the busiest hours of the week for the heavily traveled route in and out of Los Angeles. The freeway has seen wildfire activity in its surrounding hills all week. But some 350 firefighters were able to get the edge on the blaze as quickly as it arose. The fire was 60 percent contained by nightfall.

Weather

Several tornadoes struck parts of the nation’s midsection Sunday, concentrating damage in central Oklahoma and Wichita, Kan. Entire subdivisions were destroyed. Altogether five states were hit with tornadoes. Search-and-rescue crews worked through the night after a monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburbs, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood. At least 24 people were killed, including at least seven children with 101 people pulled alive out of the rubble.

Signs of the Times (5/17/13)

May 17, 2013

Texas Doc Picks Up Where Gosnell Left Off

Kermit Gosnell may be behind bars, but his deadly legacy lives on. Just when the abortion lobby thought it could turn the page on the PR disaster of the Women’s Medical Society, a new “house of horrors” is making headlines–this time in Texas. There, the eye-witness accounts rival those of even Gosnell’s clinic, as three former employees described a staggering amount of violence, which would, on occasion, involve Douglas Karpen twisting off the heads of newborn babies. It was a routine procedure, Deborah Edge said of the born-alive killings–which usually involved cutting babies’ spinal cords or gouging them in the skull.

  • The light of truth is now shining on the baby murder factories for all to see its evil underbelly (Mark 4:22, John 3:19-21, Eph. 5:12-13)

More Immigrant Felons Freed than Initially Reported

Under pressure from lawmakers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has disclosed new details about the criminal backgrounds of some of the approximately 2,200 immigration detainees let out of custody in February in anticipation of spending cuts, revealing that 32 of the 622 convicted criminals released nationwide had multiple felony convictions. The new details, released in a briefing made to a Capitol Hill investigatory panel, raised more questions about the decision in February by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials to release 2,226 immigration detainees from facilities in Arizona and several other states in order to slow rising detention costs in the face of $300 million in automatic budget cuts which kicked in March 1.

During two congressional hearings in March, ICE Director John Morton insisted that only detainees who did not pose a threat to public safety were released and that all remained under supervision. But information released by DHS officials in response to requests from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations shows that ICE has taken back into custody 58 of the convicted criminals released nationally after a review showed the seriousness of their offenses.

House Votes to Fully Repeal Obamacare

The Republican-controlled House voted Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. The House voted for repeal 229-195, with votes cast almost entirely down party lines. Two Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of repeal: Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah and Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina. With implementation of Obamacare set to begin later this year, the vote is largely symbolic. The Senate is highly unlikely to even take up a vote on repeal.

AFA Says AARP Supports Gay Agenda

The American Family Association is going after the AARP (American Association for Retired People) for contributing money to the “homosexual agenda.” “If you are a Christian and believe in biblical values, you can pretty much count on the fact that everything that you are in favor of, the AARP is opposing,” said AFA Executive Vice President Buddy Smith. AARP Pride is the organization’s site dedicated to resources on marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, nondiscrimination policies and other issues relevant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Lawsuit Accuses IRS of Illegally Obtaining 60 Million Health Records

A lawsuit filed in California accuses the Internal Revenue Service of illegal seizure of 60 million electronic health care records belonging to 10 million Americans. The lawsuit – which was filed March 11, 2013, and surfaced Wednesday – claims that the “medical records contained intimate and private information of more than 10,000,000 Americans, information that by its nature includes information about treatment for any kind of medical concern, including psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual or drug treatment, and a wide range of medical matters covering the most intimate and private of concerns.” The suit said the 15 IRS agents involved in the raid did not have a search warrant or subpoena for the medical records.

Solar Flares Kick into High Gear

The sun has kicked into high gear and produced four so-called X-class solar flares over the past week from a solar spot that is expected to come more into alignment with Earth as the sun’s activity peaks this year and next. The intense solar storms are expected to last as long as until 2020. Until now, the sun has remained relatively dormant, but with four X-class eruptions in one week, it is beginning to reach its “solar storm maximum” in this latest 11-year cycle of activity.

Along with the radiation from the flares, there also is a coronal mass ejection, or CME. During a CME, billions of tons of highly charged particles are ejected to interact with Earth’s magnetic field, causing potential radio blackouts and the shutdown or destruction of vulnerable electrical grid systems and sensitive electronic components. Because the United States and other Western countries are technologically based societies, with critical infrastructures run by electronics, the increase in space weather activity takes on a high level of importance.

  • Solar activity is a key marker of end-time events (Joel 2:31, Matt. 24:29, Rev. 6:12, 8:12)

White Kids a Minority in a Few Years

White, non-Hispanic kids will no longer make up the majority of America’s youth in just five to six years, according to Census Bureau projections released Wednesday. Those projections, which include four different scenarios for population growth, estimate that today’s minority ethnic groups will soon account for at least half of the under-18 population, either in 2018 or 2019. Already, more than half of American babies being born belong to racial and ethnic groups traditionally thought of as “minorities.” By the time those kids grow up to become adults — sometime between 2036 and 2042 — everyone in the working-age population (ages 18 to 64) will be members of these former minorities.

U.S. Oil Boom Causing Energy Upheaval

Booming North American oil production is reshaping world markets and will help satisfy the growing thirst for oil in the developing world, according to the International Energy Agency. “North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. “This is helping to ease a market that was relatively tight for several years.” In its latest report, the Paris-based IEA forecasts that North America’s oil supply will grow by nearly 4 million barrels per day between 2012 to 2018, amounting to nearly 50% of global output growth over that period. The U.S. is experiencing an oil boom, in large part thanks to high world prices and new technologies, including hydraulic fracking, that have made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock commercially viable.

Economic News

A continued decline in the federal budget deficit this year is resulting in a better than expected fiscal forecast for 2013 from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO projects a $642 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2013, down more than $200 billion from its February estimate and the smallest annual shortfall since 2008. It is the lowest level of deficit spending to date under President Obama, who faced $1 trillion or more in annual deficits during his first term.

The number of U.S. workers applying for unemployment benefits for the first time rose sharply in the week ended May 11 after hitting a five-year low the previous week. First-time claims jumped 32,000 to 360,000, highest since March. The broader economy has been mixed with the government reporting this week that factory output fell sharply last month while retail sales unexpectedly rose.

A sharp fall in the cost of gas drove a measure of U.S. consumer prices down last month by the most since December 2008. Outside the drop in fuel costs, prices were largely unchanged. The Labor Department says the consumer price index fell 0.4% in April from March. An 8.1% fall in gas prices was the main reason for the decline. In the 12 months ending in April, overall prices rose 1.1%, the smallest annual gain in 2 ½ years.

A sharp pullback in apartment and condominium construction led to a big decline in overall home building in April, even as single-family home construction remained strong, according to government data released Thursday. The Census Bureau reported that housing starts fell 17% in the month to an annual pace of 853,000. The decline was driven by a 38% drop in starts of buildings with five or more apartments or condo units in them. Single-family home starts fell only 2% to a pace of 610,000. The single-family starts remained 21% above year-earlier levels. Building permits rose to an annual rate of 1 million from March, a five-year high.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 continue to set record highs and have put $13 trillion in paper profits into investors’ pockets.This week it has also driven the number of S&P 500 stocks hitting fresh 52-week highs to the highest level in almost 25 years.

Eurozone

Europe’s biggest economy Germany has returned to growth in the first quarter, narrowly avoiding recession. No such luck for France. The economy there is back in a technical recession after gross domestic product fell for two consecutive quarters. New figures released Wednesday showed the Eurozone’s economy continued to contract in the first quarter, keeping it in recession for a sixth consecutive quarter. Although Germany avoided recession, its 0.1% quarterly growth was weak, while France fell back into recession.

Persecution Watch

Muslims in Bangladesh have been obtaining Christian children from their parents in small villages, promising to educate them and provide them jobs. Instead, they have been sold into madrassas, or Islamic training centers. Corey Bailey of International Christian Concern (ICC) says police in Bangladesh have rescued 140 children so far, most of whom are Christian. “In this group, almost half of them were girls,” Bailey reports. “And of these girls, many of them reported to us that they had actually been sent to local hotels to work in the sex trade and that they had also been forced to be slaves in people’s homes.

Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman for Open Doors USA, says that after American troops left Iraq, Christians seem to be an open target for Islamic extremists. “We know that there’s more and more violence there, there’s more and more Christians leaving. They want the Christians out completely.” At one point, many Iraqi Christians who did leave fled to Syria, but the conflict there is sending them back to Iraq, where conditions are much worse than when they left. That is especially the case in Mosul, the biblical city of Ninevah which has been largely Christian. “Many Christians are fleeing cities like Mosul and going to the northern part of Iraq, which is called Kurdistan,” the Open Doors spokesman reports. “And even there there’s a lack of security, and [there are] kidnappings, church attacks.”

Middle East

A senior Palestinian Authority official declared his support for dropping nuclear bombs on Israel. Palestinian Media Watch has reported that Jibril Rajoub, the deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and the chairman of the PA Olympics Committee, declared on Lebanese television, “Listen. We as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.” Rajoub has a long history of being involved with terrorist activities. Unfortunately, Rajoub is not the only PA official to support violence against Israel and the Jewish people.

Despite Palestinian leaders within Fatah continuing to openly call for violence against Jews and Israelis and rewarding Palestinian terrorists, western countries friendly towards Israel, including the United States continues to fund the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. Last March, President Obama even released $500 million in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority that had been frozen for the Palestinian Authority violating the Oslo Agreements by unilaterally seeking statehood at the United Nations in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel.

Syria

The leaders of Turkey and the United States are huddling in Washington on Thursday over how to handle the Syrian civil war, the raging conflict that has left an estimated 80,000 people dead and a few million displaced — despite more than two years of diplomacy to halt the bloodshed. President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan, discussed how to strengthen the Syrian opposition, help the many people displaced by the war, and mobilize the international community to put more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and forge a political transition. They spoke as the warfare in Syria raged Thursday. The opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria said at least 63 people were killed Wednesday, including 45 in Damascus and its suburbs.

Also on Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a political transition in Syria. The resolution, which passed by a 107-12 vote, with 59 abstentions, also condemned the government’s increased use of heavy weapons and ongoing “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said a U.N. statement.

Afghanistan

A suicide car bombing tore through a U.S. convoy during rush hour in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least 15 people, including six U.S. military advisers and two children. NATO says four U.S. service personnel have also been killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan’s volatile south. It was the deadliest attack to rock the Afghan capital in more than two months and followed a series of other attacks against Americans that has made May the deadliest month for international forces this year. There are a number of wounded as well. The powerful explosion ripped through a NATO convoy Tuesday in southern Kandahar province, the heartland of the insurgent Taliban.

Iraq

Car bombs struck Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital and a northern city on Thursday, killing 16 people, while gunmen in Baghdad shot dead the brother of a Sunni lawmaker. The attacks followed a wave of bombings Wednesday that also struck in mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, killing 33 people and raising concerns over a return to sectarian bloodshed in Iraq.

Iran

Negotiations held Wednesday in Vienna between representative from Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) aimed at setting up a mechanism to investigate the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program failed to produce an agreement.

Nigeria

At least 20 insurgents were killed Friday as Nigeria’s military carried out an aerial bombardment of suspected militant Islamist camps in the country’s northeast. The raid by Nigerian Air Force jets and attack helicopters is part of what the military says is a “massive deployment” of Nigerian forces this week to tackle insurgent groups, especially Boko Haram. “Within those insurgents’ camps, we discovered that they have been storing sophisticated, high-caliber weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons,” said defense spokesman Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade.

Bolivia

Hundreds of miners, teachers and other workers have marched in Bolivia’s capital on the 11th day of protests called by the country’s largest union to demand higher old-age pensions. Miners exploded dynamite and protesters tried to occupy the plaza where Bolivia’s seats of government are located. Police forced protesters back with tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests Thursday, but protests over the past week left 33 people injured and more than 100 detained. Protesters are demanding that President Evo Morales’ government double pensions, which currently range from $21 to $28 a month. The government is offering an 81% hike.

Volcanoes

An Alaska volcano exhibiting “elevated seismic activity” has spewed ash clouds skyward — as high as 20,000 feet above sea level — an observatory reported Wednesday. As was the case a day earlier, the Pavlof Volcano was on “watch” status on Wednesday. The same alert levels also continue to apply to the Cleveland Volcano, which like Pavlof is in the Aleutian Island range southwest of mainland Alaska. Lava was reported flowing Tuesday at Pavlof and Cleveland. Alaskans and air travelers remained on alert Thursday due to the rumblings of the 8,000-foot Pavlof volcano emitting a “continuous ash, steam and gas cloud” that already extends up to 60 miles away.

Wildfires

Prosecutors announced Thursday they won’t file charges against loggers whose equipment apparently started a massive wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin, concluding there was no criminal intent or negligence. The fire began Tuesday afternoon in the woods near Simms Lake in Douglas County, about 40 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn. It consumed 8,131 acres, destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens of people to evacuate before firefighters contained it late Wednesday evening. No injuries have been reported. Firefighters from nearly 40 departments battled the blaze.

Firefighters had to battle terrain as much as flames as they worked to surround a wildfire entering its third day in harsh hills and mountains north of Los Angeles. Temperatures dipped Thursday and were expected to remain cool on Friday, but winds upwards of 20 mph continued to swirl, and much of the blaze that has blackened some 3,800 acres was in rocky, rugged, difficult-to-reach places, making containment a challenge. After a heavy aerial assault Thursday, the fire was 25 percent contained by nightfall.

Weather

Sixteen tornadoes ripped through an area of North Central Texas Wednesday night, leaving at least six people dead and over one hundred injured. The tornadoes drove hundreds from homes that were flattened by the turbulent winds and pounded by hail the size of grapefruit. Emergency teams rushed 18 bulldozers into the subdivision to clear the way for rescue teams and to look for people trapped in the debris. More than 250 people were evacuated, many by bus. Seven people remained unaccounted for, and 37 people were treated at local hospital while 15 people, including two in critical condition, were transported to hospitals in Fort Worth. The injuries range from lost limbs to minor bumps and bruises, according to local officials.

Starting this weekend and continuing into Monday of next week, a more substantial threat of severe storms, including tornadoes, will target parts of the Plains and Midwest. Saturday in northwest Oklahoma to South Dakota and southeast North Dakota forecasters expect large hail greater than two inches in diameter, damaging winds and tornadoes. Sunday those storms will move on to central Oklahoma northeastward to central/eastern Kansas, northwest Missouri, eastern Nebraska, western/central Iowa, and southern Minnesota.

North America — and the USA in particular — has the world’s wildest weather extremes: No other part of the planet can boast its ferocious weather stew of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, wildfires, blizzards, heat waves and cold snaps according to the Discovery Channel. Our wild weather has always fascinated us, and was a shock to the early pioneers. “Europeans who settled America from east to west were progressively amazed by the spectrum of conditions they encountered,” wrote meteorologist and author Robert Henson in his book The Rough Guide to Weather.

Signs of the Times (5/14/13)

May 14, 2013

Abortionist Gosnell Convicted of Murder

Now that jurors have convicted the 72-year-old Kermit Gosnell of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive jurors must decide whether his grisly abortion practices warrant putting him to death, or whether he spend the rest of his life in prison. The sentencing hearing begins May 21. Prosecutors said Gosnell delivered babies alive and killed them, or had untrained staff kill them. Gosnell was also convicted of infanticide, racketeering and more than 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania’s abortion laws by performing third-term abortions or failing to counsel women 24 hours in advance.

Benghazi memo Show State/White House Involvement in Coverup

A disclosure of e-mails showed the White House was more involved in revising talking points about the attack in Libya than officials have previously acknowledged. A top State Department official pressed the CIA and the White House to delete any mention of terrorism in public statements on the Benghazi terror attack that killed four embassy personnel in order to prevent critics from blaming lax security at the consulate, according to documents obtained by ABC News. According to ABC News, Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the State Department, objected in an email to White House and intelligence officials that the CIA description “could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat up on the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.” Nuland said she was expressing the concerns of her “leadership” when she sent the email.

AP Blasts Feds for Phone Records Search

The Justice Department secretly collected two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press, the news service disclosed Monday in an outraged letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The records included calls from several AP bureaus and the personal phone lines of several staffers, AP President Gary Pruitt wrote. Pruitt called the subpoenas a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its reporting. The AP reported that the government has not said why it wanted the records. Lawmakers from both parties ripped the Dept. Of Justice over its effort to secretly obtain AP phone records. “The First Amendment is first for a reason,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “If the Obama administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a good explanation.”

IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative Groups

The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday. Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. Senior IRS officials were aware as early as 2011 that its agents were targeting Tea Party groups to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, Fox News confirmed. The agency also targeted groups focused on government spending, the Constitution and more.

Russia reportedly withheld intel on Boston bomb suspect

Russia withheld a crucial piece of information from the U.S. before the Boston bombings, U.S. officials say, bolstering a concern that distrust between the two governments erased an opportunity to avert the disaster. In 2011, Russia sent an alert to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about alleged bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prompted in part by text messages between his mother and a Russian relative. The texts suggested Tsarnaev was interested in joining militant groups that Russia blames for attacks in the Caucasus region. U.S. officials call these text messages the most important in a series of missed signals between the two countries. The U.S. officials say they learned about them roughly a week after the April 15 bombings.

  • Blaming the Russians for our intel failures is just an easy way out from under harsh scrutiny

More Terrorist Acts to Come

Iran has given the go-ahead to operatives of three terrorist groups that have infiltrated the United States to carry out missions, including what is expected to be a Mumbai-style attack on a hotel where innocent bystanders would be killed, WorldNetDaily reported Tuesday. A full report with many details of the missions has been passed on to U.S. officials. Three targets have been chosen within America for imminent attack, and the terror teams have now cut communications with the operational center in Iran, a sign that they are moving ahead with the attacks, according to a high-level intelligence officer within the Islamic regime. One of the planned attacks resemble the Mumbai attack in 2008, the source added, in which a hotel was targeted, hostages were taken and 164 people were killed over several days.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Soar to New High

For the first time in recorded human history, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm), according to data released Friday morning from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The average level of carbon dioxide over the past five days is 400.03 ppm. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas that is responsible for 63% of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases caused by the burning of the oil, gas and coal that power our world are enhancing the natural “greenhouse effect,” causing the planet to warm to levels that climate scientists say can’t be linked to natural forces, NOAA asserts.

Economic News

Retail sales posted an unexpected gain in April, which may ease fears about how much this year’s federal tax increases and spending cuts are slowing the economy. Sales climbed 0.1% in April, the Commerce Department reported. Sales were up 3.7% from April 2012. This is a bounce back from a March decline of 0.5%.

The dollar rose Friday to more than 100 yen for the second straight day, staying at its highest level since April 2009, and a gain against the euro currency. The price of commodities including crude oil and gold fell as the dollar strengthened.

Persecution Watch

At least five people were killed and around 60 wounded in the bombing of a new church building in Tanzania during a service to mark its official opening. An explosive device was thrown into the church compound in Olasti, a predominantly Christian suburb of Arusha. Many of the wounded were in a critical condition. Radical camps in the country were teaching young Muslims that Christians must be killed or live as second-class citizens. Senior Christian leaders have reported details of these camps to the authorities, but no serious action has been taken against them.

Christian workers, arrested as part of an ongoing crackdown in Sudan, were interrogated by security officers, who threatened to bury them alive if they did not reveal information about their activities. The staff, from a university campus-based ministry, were arrested on 23 February and interrogated for a week. For the ensuing two weeks they had to report to the offices of the National Intelligence and Security Services every day for further questioning; they have since had to present themselves on a weekly basis.

Syria

Syrians are losing patience, confidence in revolution. As President Obama announces more support for the Syrian opposition, many caught in the crossfire worry about the proliferation of Islamist groups among rebels. Monday, President Obama said the United States is working with Britain to strengthen the moderate opposition in Syria. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people, and 1.4 million Syrians live as refugees outside the country. Throughout Syria, it has become hard to make a living. In opposition-controlled areas, few people are able to work, and most people live off savings and humanitarian aid. The country has seen a sharp spike in crime. In many areas, kidnapping is emerging as a serious threat.

Russia defended its sales of anti-aircraft systems to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov avoided saying whether those sales included advanced S-300 batteries. Israel has asked Russia to cancel what it said was the imminent sale of the S-300 missiles, portrayed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as destabilizing to Israel’s security. The S-300s would make it harder for the U.S. and other countries to even consider intervening militarily or enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria. The U.S. has urged Russia — an Assad ally along with China, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia — to cut off weapons supplies to Syria.

Turkey

Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Guler says the death toll in two car bomb explosions in a town near the border with Syria has risen to 43 with 140 injured. The bombs exploded in the town of Reyhanli, just across the border from Syria’s Idlib province on Saturday. He says one of the car bombs exploded outside the city hall while the other went off outside the post office. Suspicion immediately fell on Syria, but there was no immediate confirmation of its involvement. Turkey, which shares a more than 500-mile border with Syria, has been a crucial supporter of the Syrian rebel cause and Ankara has allowed its territory to be used as a logistics base and staging center for Syrian insurgents.

Pakistan

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared victory as unofficial, partial vote counts showed his party with an overwhelming lead following a historic election marred by violence Saturday, including a string of attacks that killed 29 people. Defying the danger of militant attacks, Pakistanis streamed to the polls Saturday for a historic vote pitting a former cricket star against a two-time prime minister and an unpopular incumbent. The violence was a continuation of what has been a brutal election season with more than 130 people killed in bombings and shootings. Some are calling this one of the deadliest votes in the country’s history. Despite the violence, many see the election — the country’s first transition between an elected government fulfilling its term to another — as a key step to solidify civilian rule for a country that has experienced three military coups.

Earthquakes

Seismic activity has increased at the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City, leading authorities to alert towns in two central states and the capital. Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center says the white-capped volcano spewed a plume of steam more than a half mile into the sky. The volcano shook during Saturday night, sometimes emitting glowing rock over the crater. The government deployed soldiers and federal police to the area Sunday in the event of a bigger eruption, and officials closed off a seven-square-mile zone around the cone of the 17,886-foot volcano. State authorities also prepared shelters.

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake has hit the Pacific island nation of Tonga Saturday, but no tsunami warning was issued. The quake struck 218 miles northwest of the capital, Nuku’alofa. It occurred 127 miles below the surface.

Iranian state TV says a strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake has jolted the south of the country, injuring at least 15 people. The report said the quake struck the Arabian Sea port town of Jask at 6:38 a.m. Saturday damaging hundreds of homes. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 in southern Iran last month.

Weather

Monday and Tuesday of this week offered an impressive contrast between morning frost and freezes and searing 90s and triple digits across the nation. On Monday morning, new record low temperatures for May 13 were tied or broken in Nashville, Tenn., Toledo, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., Tupelo, Miss. and Marquette, Mich., to name a few locations. Light snow was even reported in Bradford, Pa. and in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. By Monday afternoon, the season’s first 90s surged as far north as the Dakotas. Some cities in the Dakotas have seen temperature rises of 65+ degrees from Sunday morning’s lows in the 20s. Aberdeen, S.D. saw a temperature swing of 70 degrees from 22 on Sunday morning to 92 on Monday afternoon. In Las Vegas, Nev., temperatures reached the 100-degree mark for the first time this year. Salt Lake City, Utah (93), Boise, Idaho (95) and Bismarck, N.D. (91) were among the cities that either tied or set new record highs for May 13.

Signs of the Times (5/10/13)

May 10, 2013

Delaware Eleventh State to Approve Same-Sex Marriage

Delaware became the eleventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday after the State Senate approved the measure and the state’s governor signed it into law. Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed the bill following a 12-9 vote in the State Senate passing the measure. The State House approved the bill in April. While the state had an existing civil unions law, the new measure allows gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia all allow same-sex marriage.

  • This marker of the end-time decline in morality continues its downward plunge

Military Sexual Assaults Rising

The number of service members anonymously reporting a sexual assault grew by more than 30% in the past two years, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday. The Defense Department estimated that more than 26,000 troops experienced an episode of “unwanted sexual contact,” a huge jump from the 19,300 figure in the 2010 report. Military officials worry that many victims don’t come forward because they are frightened of retaliation. But the numbers might indicate that more victims are willing to report crimes than in the past. The Defense Department has stepped up efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, establishing a special victims unit to handle cases and working to improve tracking of reports.

Jihadists Push New Tactics in U.S.

Aware that intensified American counterterrorism efforts have made an ambitious Sept. 11-style plot a long shot, Al Qaeda propagandists for several years have called on their devotees in the United States to carry out smaller-scale solo attacks and provided the online education to teach them how. “I strongly recommend all of the brothers and sisters coming from the West to consider attacking America in its own backyard,” wrote Samir Khan, an American who joined Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch. “The effect is much greater, it always embarrasses the enemy, and these types of individual decision-making attacks are nearly impossible for them to contain,” Mr. Khan wrote in a Web publication. The Boston Marathon bombing — which the authorities believe was carried out according to instructions that Mr. Khan posted online — offers an unsettling example of just how devastating such an attack can be, even when the death toll is relatively low. The web site shows how plotters can construct powerful bombs without attracting official attention.

Al Jazeera to Open 12 U.S. Bureaus

The Al Jazeera news organization, which bought Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million earlier this year, has said it will begin broadcasting Al Jazeera America sometime late this summer and will have news bureaus in 12 cities across the country. Bob Wheelock, executive producer of Al Jazeera English, said “We’re trying to have bureaus in places where other networks do not,” Wheelock said. “Detroit is one place, obviously. … New Orleans is another, and Nashville.” Bureaus are also to be opened in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

Testimony Raises New Benghazi Questions

Three State Department officials provided a riveting, emotional account of last year’s fatal attack on U.S. installations in eastern Libya on Wednesday as they charged senior government officials with withholding embarrassing facts and failing to take enough responsibility for security lapses. Speaking before the Republican-led congressional panel, they reiterated criticism of the Obama administration’s initial reluctance to describe the attacks as premeditated terrorist acts. The move hindered the FBI’s probe into the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. in expanding the narrative of the intensely politicized episode, the witnesses raised fresh questions about whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her deputies were sufficiently engaged in assessing the security posture of diplomatic posts last year. But the new information failed to break the political logjam the attacks spawned, with Republicans and Democrats offering starkly different interpretations of what happened and who within the U.S. government is to blame. One of the whistleblowers, a veteran diplomat stationed at Benghazi, said he was demoted because he questioned official accounts of the attack.

U.S. Blames China’s Military for Cyberattacks

The Obama administration on Monday explicitly accused China’s military of mounting attacks on American government computer systems and defense contractors, saying one motive could be to map “military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.” Some recent estimates have more than 90 percent of cyberespionage in the United States originating in China. Until now the administration avoided directly accusing both the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army of using cyberweapons against the United States in a deliberate, government-developed strategy to steal intellectual property and gain strategic advantage. The report, released Monday, described China’s primary goal as stealing industrial technology, but said many intrusions also seemed aimed at obtaining insights into American policy decisions.

Public, Government Deplete Ammo Supplies

Demand for guns and ammunition has cleaned out stores nationwide, leading to waiting lists and early morning lines outside of gun and sporting goods stores for ammunition shipments. Common calibers routinely sell out within minutes of appearing on store shelves and prices have soared as much as 70 percent. Gun enthusiasts, already anxious President Obama’s re-election would translate into harsh controls on gun ownership, have packed stores, buying as many firearms and as much ammunition as they can find. Moves to expand background checks and limit firearm and magazine sales have added to the hysteria. Massive government purchases, including a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to buy more than 1 billion rounds of ammunition, have further stoked fears – and suspicions. Concerns over a federal government bid to purchase large amounts of ammunition sent gun enthusiasts back to the stores.

Citrus Disease With No Cure

Florida’s citrus industry is grappling with the most serious threat in its history: a bacterial disease with no cure that has infected all 32 of the state’s citrus-growing counties. Although the disease, citrus greening, was first spotted in Florida in 2005, this year’s losses from it are by far the most extensive. While the bacteria, which causes fruit to turn bitter and drop from the trees when still unripe, affects all citrus fruits, it has been most devastating to oranges, the largest crop. The relentless migration of the disease from southern to northern Florida — and beyond — has deepened concerns this year among orange juice processors, investors, growers and lawmakers. Florida is the second-largest producer of orange juice in the world, behind Brazil

Economic News

The annual deficit has fallen 32% over the first seven months of this fiscal year compared with same period last year, according to Congressional Budget Office figures released Tuesday. A major reason: A big jump in tax revenue. Tax collections rose by $220 billion — or 16% — between the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 through April 30. The tax haul rose sharply primarily because wages and salaries were higher, the payroll tax cut of the past two years expired on Jan. 1 and the fiscal cliff deal brokered over New Year’s raised tax rates on high earners.

Spending, meanwhile, fell 1.9% year over year, the CBO estimated. The biggest percentage drop occurred in the payment of unemployment benefits, which were down nearly 25%, or $15 billion. Defense spending fell 5.3%, or $20 billion, and “other activities” — primarily spending on nondefense programs — fell 8.6%, or $58 billion.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits hit the lowest level since January 2008 last week. First-time claims for jobless benefits fell 4,000 to 323,000, bolstering the view that the jobs market is improving. However, many economists remain skeptical that a big surge in job creation will occur the rest of the year.

Foreclosure activity in April fell to its lowest level in 74 months. In April, one of every 905 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing, market watcher RealtyTrac says. That was the lowest level since February 2007 — near the beginning of the nation’s foreclosure crisis — and down 23% from a year ago.

Home prices in March were 10.5% higher than a year ago. The overall change was the biggest year-over-year jump in seven years and the 13th straight month for home price gains. Home prices increased 1.9% in March from February.

Hourly wages ticked up 4 cents in April to an average $23.87, rising at about the same tepid 2% annual pace since the recovery began in mid-2009. But taking inflation into account, they’re virtually flat. Adjusting for inflation, an average worker who was paid $49,650 at the end of 2009 is making about $545 less now — and that’s before taxes and deductions.

Consumer borrowing rose just $8 billion in March from February to a seasonally adjusted $2.81 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. It was the smallest increase in eight months. The gain was driven entirely by more loans to attend school and buy cars. credit card debt fell $1.7 billion to $846 billion. That’s 17.2% below the peak of $1.022 trillion set in July 2008.

Eurozone

Portugal held a sale of 10-year bonds Tuesday for the first time since it needed a bailout in 2011, a milestone in its efforts to regain investor confidence and prove its austerity policies are paying off. Yields on outstanding Portuguese 10-year bonds had recently fallen to around 5.5%. Last year, yields were in double digits. Early indications Tuesday were that the interest rate in the latest bond sale would be below 5.7%.As the 17-nation eurozone tries to reduce its debt load, Portugal has been at the heart of the debate about the merits of the austerity policies demanded by the bailout creditors in return for their loan.

Syria

Concern over the possibility of broader war in the Middle East grew Monday in the wake of Israeli airstrikes on Syrian military installations. The reported strikes killed 42 Syrian soldiers, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday, and 100 people remained missing. Syria claimed Israeli missiles struck at its military facilities on Sunday. Syrian ally Iran warned of a “crushing response” while Russia called reports of Israeli involvement “very worrying.”

President Bashar Assad’s regime has given a Palestinian militant group the go-ahead to set up missiles to attack Israel in the wake of recent Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian capital, a spokesman for the group said Tuesday. Syria has hinted at possible retribution against Israel since the Jewish state carried out the airstrikes over the weekend, although official government statements have been relatively mild. In that light, the Assad regime’s decision to allow a minor Syria-based Palestinian group to prepare for attacks is largely seen as a face-saving gesture unlikely to escalate the confrontation with Israel.

Libya

The Ansar al Sharia Brigade, the Islamist terror group linked to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, continues to operate freely in that Libyan city, according to U.S. military officials. The group remains active in the Mediterranean port city, operating patrols and checkpoints, and earlier this year reached an agreement with other Islamist groups allowing it to operate openly. The group “continues to spread its ideology in the Benghazi area, particularly targeting youth,” said one official, who noted that the lack of central government security was the key reason the militia has not been suppressed. The group is attempting to reinvent itself as a humanitarian and charitable organization after the Sept. 11 attack.

Bangladesh

At least 15 people died in clashes Monday between police and Islamic hardliners demanding that Bangladesh implement an anti-blasphemy law. Eight people, including two policemen and a paramilitary soldier, were killed in clashes in Kanchpur just outside the capital, Dhaka, another seven people died in Motijheel, a commercial area of Dhaka. The protesters blocked roads in the area with burning tires and logs during more than five hours of clashes. The violence erupted after security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets in the central commercial district.

Tanzania

Four Saudi Arabian citizens have been arrested following a bomb attack on a Catholic church. The four Saudi nationals were among six people arrested. Two people died in Sunday’s bombing of a newly opened church in the northern city of Arusha. Nearly four dozen people were wounded in the blast just before the church’s inaugural Mass, which was attended by the pope’s envoy to Tanzania. Mulogo said eyewitnesses reported that the bomb was thrown from a motorcycle into the church.

Somalia

A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a convoy carrying a Qatari delegation in Mogadishu Sunday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven. Those killed were all bystanders at the busy intersection in Somalia’s capital. The radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the bombing. Several principal roads in and around the capital were locked down by government troops in recent days amid threats by Al-Shabaab to launch deadly attacks. The site of Sunday’s suicide bombing was just reopened a day ago.

China

Poultry workers moving to and from wet markets and farms may be responsible for the spread of the deadly H7N9 virus in China, says a virologist who’s working with the World Health Organisation to investigate the outbreak. The closure of Shanghai’s poultry markets on April 6 had resulted in a sharp drop in the number of human cases in the city, clear evidence that the poultry markets are the primary source of human infection experts say.

Earthquakes

Iran says a moderate earthquake rattled a region near the country’s main nuclear reactor, but there were no reports of damage or deaths in the surrounding area. Monday’s quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 and was centered near Kaki, about 60 miles southeast of Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast. A more powerful 6.1 temblor struck the same area last month, killing at least 37 people and raising calls for greater international safety inspectors at the nuclear reactor in Bushehr.

Volcanoes

One of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes rumbled to life Tuesday, spewing room-sized rocks toward nearly 30 surprised climbers, killing five and injuring others that had to be fetched with rescue helicopters and rope. Eight people were injured, and The 2,460-meter (8,070-foot) mountain about 340 kilometers (212 miles) southeast of Manila has erupted about 40 times during the last 400 years.the others were in the process of being brought down the mountain. Ash clouds have cleared over the volcano, which was quiet later in the morning.

Weather

California and federal public health officials say valley fever, a potentially lethal but often misdiagnosed disease infecting more and more people around the nation, has been on the rise as warming climates and drought have kicked up the dust that spreads it. The fever has hit California’s agricultural heartland particularly hard in recent years, with incidence dramatically increasing in 2010 and 2011. The disease – which is prevalent in arid regions of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America – can be contracted by simply breathing in fungus-laced spores from dust disturbed by wind as well as human or animal activity. Although millions of residents in Central California face the threat of valley fever, experts say people who work in dusty fields or construction sites are most at risk, as are certain ethnic groups and those with weak immune systems. Newcomers and visitors passing through the region may also be more susceptible.

Days of rain in the Southeast U.S. have left roads underwater and rivers and creeks at high levels.  The flooding threat will continue for several more days. Heavy rain caused flooding from northern Alabama and northern Georgia to western North Carolina over the weekend. The core of the heaviest rains are expected to shift northward into Virginia and northern North Carolina through Tuesday. Several parts of northwest Georgia remained under a flood watch Monday morning, May 6. Others were under food warnings as rivers and creeks were spilling over their banks.

According to the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi, Texas, parts of South Texas have rainfall deficits on the order of several feet over a two-and-a-half-year period from October 2010 through April 2013.

Signs of the Times (5/5/13)

May 5, 2013

Obama Guts National Day of Prayer

President Obama issued a statement endorsing the National Day of Prayer, but he excised virtually any reference to Christianity, the primary faith of the nation’s founders. The nation’s Christian heritage is referenced only in his statement that “the earliest settlers prayed that they would ‘rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness.”

Rhode Island Passes Gay Marriage Bill

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage after the state legislature approved the measure Thursday, making Rhode Island the tenth state in the nation to give same-sex couples the right to wed. Iowa, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Their combined populations, based on U.S. Census estimates for 2012, represent 15.8% of the U.S. population.

Americans Blind to Truth about Planned Parenthood

A recent poll commissioned by the National Right to Life Committee shows that people need to be educated on the mission of Planned Parenthood. Because when that happens, they tend to change their view. The survey shows that a majority has a favorable opinion of the abortion giant. Although 63 percent said that they had a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, including 38 percent of those who identified themselves as pro-life, 55 percent of those polled did not know that Planned Parenthood performs abortions. But based on current figures, the truth is an estimated 27 percent of all abortions done in the U.S. are performed at Planned Parenthood facilities.

Results from the poll show that once people become informed of the fact Planned Parenthood kills well over 300,000 babies in the womb each year, the favorable opinion of the tax-supported organization fades. For example, 53 percent would either prohibit all abortions, or allow them only if the life of the mother is in danger or in cases of rape or incest, which is much different from Planned Parenthood’s practice of performing abortion for any reason.

  • The reason people do not know the truth about the abortion giant is the secular media does not report it.

FDA Approves Morning-After Pill Without Prescription

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it approved the availability of the Plan B One-Step emergency contraception pill without a prescription for women 15 and older. This move comes just weeks after a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, ordered the FDA to make the morning-after birth control pill available to women of any age, without a prescription. According to the new FDA decision, Plan B One-Step will now be labeled to reflect that proof of age is required to purchase it, and it cannot be sold where age cannot be verified. The packaging will include a product code that prompts the cashier to ask and verify the age of the customer.

The Obama administration on Wednesday appealed a federal judge’s order to lift all age limits on who can buy morning-after birth control pills without a prescription. In appealing the ruling, the administration recommitted itself to a position Obama took during his re-election campaign that younger teens shouldn’t have unabated access to emergency contraceptives, despite the insistence by physicians groups and much of his Democratic base that the pill should be readily available.

Alabama Senate Votes To Ignore New Federal Gun Laws

The Alabama State legislature is warning the federal government and other to back off on gun control legislation. On Tuesday, the Alabama State Senate passed legislation that declared “All federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms are a violation of the Second Amendment.” The vote was 24-6 and also declared that all federal laws in violation of the Second Amendment (which are all of them) would be considered null and void in Alabama.

Illegals Entering US Triple With Talk of Immigration Reform

Arrests of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States have nearly tripled in recent months in anticipation of Congressional efforts to enact comprehensive immigration legislation, border patrol agents told CBS News. “Once the first group gets across, they call their family, they call their friends and let them know, ‘Hey the time is right, come on over,’” Border Patrol agent and union representative Chris Cabrera told CBS News. In March, 7,500 illegals were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. That’s up from 2,800 in January. Border Patrol agents have become so concerned about overcrowding and unsanitary conditions that they’ve complained to local and federal officials, the Monitor.com reports. Immigration into the United States had been slowing during the recession. But, CBS says, hopes of gaining citizenship under new legislation and a rebounding U.S. economy are fueling the fresh migration.

Suicides Double for 50-Somethings

Teen suicides often get the most media, but a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more attention needs to be directed at preventing suicide in adults as well. Between 1999 and 2010, suicides in the 35-to-64 age group increased 28.4%, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Suicides among people aged 50 to 59 years old specifically almost doubled during that time period. More than 38,000 Americans killed themselves in 2010; that’s more than double those who were killed in a homicide that same year. In 2009, the number of deaths from suicide in the United States surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes for the first time. Experts assume that the increase is related to the economic recession.

Time to Revive the Gold Standard?

The prospects for the United States to implement a 21st century gold standard are rising sharply, according to economist and author Ralph Benko. Writing in Forbes, Benko acknowledged official and academic debate about establishing a new gold standard has been out of favor and even given fringe status in recent decades. However, recent global economic turmoil and ultra-loose monetary policies may have given the debate fresh impetus. Critics say major governments’ monetary policies have debased sovereign currencies and that gold could be an alternative.

Economic News

Employers added a better-than-expected 165,000 jobs in April,, easing concerns that payroll growth may be slipping into a sustained mid-year slump. The unemployment rate fell to 7.5% from 7.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s the lowest since December 2008. Businesses added 176,000 jobs. Federal, state and local governments cut 11,000. Professional and business services, restaurants and health care led the private-sector job gains.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell 18,000 in the week ended April 27, to 324,000 from a revised 342,000 the week before. Claims were at their lowest level since January 2008. The 4-week moving average of claims was 342,250, down 16,000 from the previous week. The peak of 670,000 was reached the week of March 28, 2009.

Nearly 4.4 million Americans were out of work for at least 27 weeks in April, according to Labor Department data released Friday. That’s a drop of 14% from last April, when the figure topped 5 million, and a far cry from April 2010, when a record 6.7 million people were unemployed for more than six months. What’s unknown is whether these formerly jobless folks are finding new positions or are simply giving up and dropping out of the labor force.

Unemployment fraud is costing the government billions of dollars in paid benefits to people who are still working, no longer alive or are behind bars, according to a recent report. A study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve found that of the $108 billion paid out in unemployment benefits in 2011, some $3.3 billion was paid out dishonestly The largest share of the fraud payments — $2.2 billion — went to people who were still working.

Investors cheered the latest report on the U.S. job market Friday, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average briefly above 15,000 for the first time. The Dow rose 0.9% to end the day at 14,972. The S&P 500 gained 1%, rising above 1,600 for the first time. The Nasdaq gained 1.1% to end at the highest level since November 2000.

Foreigners now hold more than $13 trillion in American securities, a record set as the U.S. seeks to assert itself as the safest port in troubled global waters. Foreign holdings have more than doubled since 2005 and are getting close to the $15 trillion total size of the U.S. economy

The Australian government has just announced new rules which penalize citizens who have responsibly set aside savings for their own retirement. Any income over A$100,000 drawn from a superannuation fund (the equivalent of an IRA in the United States) will now be taxed at 15%. Previously, all such income was tax-free. The government is going to tax people’s savings ‘on both ends,’ meaning that people are taxed on money they move INTO the retirement fund, and now they can be taxed again when they pull money out.

Persecution Watch

Christians in a village in Punjab, Pakistan were forced to evacuate their homes after they were attacked by armed Muslims who threatened to destroy their property. This is the third Christian community to come under attack in less than two months. A mob of around 50-60 armed Muslims attacked Christians in Eassa Pur village, Khanewal district, on 26 April. The furious assailants opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, which they also threatened to torch. When the police arrived they took control of the furious mob, evacuating the Christian community to a safe place. Christian communities in nearby villages were also forced to flee their homes after receiving threats against their property.

A Texas high school track team was disqualified from competing in the state championships because one of the runners made a gesture thanking God after he crossed the finish line. Derrick Hayes, the anchor of the Columbus High School 4×100 relay team had just crossed the finish line when he raised his finger to the sky – thanking the Lord for winning the race that would send them to the state finals. But a judge with the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for high school athletics in Texas, ruled that the gesture was a violation of the taunting rule – and the Cardinals were stripped of their victory. Robert O’Connor, the superintendent of the school district filed an appeal, but so far the UIL is standing by its rule.

Middle East

Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be on their way to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group. The Israeli airstrike, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war. Syria’s state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near the Syrian capital and caused casualties.

It was the third Israeli strike this year against Syria and the latest salvo in its long-running effort to disrupt Hezbollah’s quest to build an arsenal capable of spreading destruction inside the Jewish state. The strike comes as the U.S. considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its bloody civil war. Syria has condemned the Israeli airstrikes against targets around Damascus, saying the attacks aim “to give direct military support to terrorist groups” fighting the government and declared it “an act of war.”

Iraq

Twenty-five people died in a spate of car bombs Monday. Three of the bombs exploded at markets where people were shopping. Last week, bombs blew up at Sunni mosques amid Friday prayers and at a restaurant in a Shiite area. The uptick in violence has prompted fears among Iraqi leaders and international powers that the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites could escalate further and threaten to burst into full-blown sectarian war. After the U.S. military withdrawal, sectarianism began to re-emerge with a vengeance, plus al Qaeda in Iraq and various other groups are trying to re-establish themselves and there is fallout from what’s happening in neighboring Syria. More people died violently in Iraq in April than in any other month in nearly five years, the United Nations said Thursday. A total of 712 people died and 1,633 more sustained injuries.

Afghanistan

Seven U.S. service members were killed on Saturday in one of the deadliest days for Americans in Afghanistan in recent months and the latest of attacks against international troops since the Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive. The renewed violence came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged at a news conference that regular payments his government has received from CIA for more than a decade would continue. Karzai also said that talks on a U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement to govern future American military presence in the country had been delayed because of conditions the Afghans were placing on the deal. NATO says five members of the U.S.-led international military coalition have been killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan — the first foreign troops killed in May around the country.

North Korea

North Korea has sentenced a Korean American to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified “hostile acts” against the state, the North’s KCNA news agency announced Thursday. Kenneth Bae, 44, from Washington state, had been detained since November after entering the country’s northeast as either a tourist or tour operator. A devout Christian, who ran a travel company from the northeast China city of Dalian, Bae had previously visited North Korea several times without incident. He could be used as a bargaining chip to lure the U.S. to Pyongyang to negotiate his release, and thereby kick-start a dialogue with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Bangladesh

The death toll in the factory-building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh rose to more than 580 on Sunday, a day after the country’s finance minister downplayed the impact of the disaster on the garment industry, saying he didn’t think it was “really serious.” The government suspended Savar’s mayor and arrested an engineer who was accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the eight-story structure. The building owner was arrested earlier. The government appears to be attempting to fend off accusations that it is in part to blame for the tragedy because of weak oversight of the building’s construction.

Wildfires

A flow of damp air from the Pacific Ocean helped firefighters in their battle against a huge wildfire burning through coastal mountains in Southern California. Fire crews on Saturday worked to create miles of containment lines as the high winds and hot, dry air of recent days faded. The wildfire 50 miles north of Los Angeles mushroomed to 43 square miles Friday. Forecasters said a weekend of increased humidity should help teams fighting the early-season blaze. The fire forced the evacuation of a university and thousands of people from hundreds of homes. The blaze was 56 percent contained as of Sunday morning. Some 2,000 homes were threatened. Despite the fire’s size and proximity to populated areas, no houses had been destroyed, though 15 were damaged and a cluster of RVs in a parking lot was destroyed by flames.

Firefighters were able to beat back a powerful wildfire that bore down on a dry Southern California city, limiting the damages to a single house and curbing the threat to hundreds more. But the difficult conditions that helped fuel the 4½ square-mile blaze in Riverside County on Wednesday could be even worse in parts of the state Thursday. Winds of 20-30 mph are expected, along with nearly non-existent humidity and an abundance of wildfire fuel. The grass, brush and trees are very volatile. They’re ready to burn.

Weather

The calendar said May 1, but it might as well have been winter across the front range of the Rockies where 5 inches or more of snow was be the norm from Cheyenne south to Denver. While their neighbors to the northeast were braving the winter-like weather, residents of Phoenix were running their air conditioners full blast to cope with triple-digit temperatures. The May Day snow storm made travel difficult on some Colorado highways, where several crashes were reported late Wednesday, and along Interstate 80 in southeastern Wyoming. Denver’s airport reported about 50 flight cancellations, and other flights were delayed for de-icing.

This winter storm was a rare snowstorm for parts of the central United States that delivered historic amounts of snow for the month of May to the Midwest. Up to 18 inches of snow fell in Blooming Prairie, Minn. Several locations in western Wisconsin have reported more than 14 inches of snow, including one report of up to 18 inches near Hayward, Wis. Up to 11 inches was reported in Britt, Iowa.

Six states in the Midwest have been suffering from flooding since Sunday and more rain is on the way. At least six rivers in northern Illinois have surged to record levels and downpours have also sparked flooding concerns for rivers in Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi and Michigan.

Some farmers and ranchers in parts of the West and the Plains, including southwest Oklahoma, are pondering the prospect of another year of a desert-like landscape and a disappointing harvest. For some, this year may be a tipping point. Two years of heat and far too little rain already have drained Oklahoma agriculture of more than $1.1 billion in direct losses. In that time, farmers and ranchers sold nearly one in five of their cattle as ponds and creeks dried up and feed became scarce. It’s a scenario Oklahomans know only too well and dread — parched earth, blowing dust, burned crops. During the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, boiling dark masses of dirt, some thousands of feet high, rolled along, blotting out the sun.

The World Meteorological Organization says last year was the ninth-warmest since record-keeping began in 1850, despite the cooling effect of the weather pattern called La Nina. The U.N.’s weather agency says this marks the 27th year in a row the global average temperature – 58 degrees Fahrenheit in 2012 – surpassed the 1961-1990 average. WMO said in annual climate report Thursday the years from 2001 to 2012 were all among the top 13 warmest on record – the hottest being 2010, when the average temperature was 58.2 degrees F.