Signs of the Times (5/29/13)

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.

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