Signs of the Times (5/5/13)

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.

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