Archive for July, 2013

Signs of the Times (7/30/13)

July 30, 2013

North Carolina Lawmakers Pass New Abortion Restrictions

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have passed new restrictions on the state’s abortion clinics, CBN News reports. The bill also mandates that a doctor be physically present during abortions, including those induced by drugs. The law’s passage comes as new polls show that most Americans favor restricting abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, rather than the 24-week mark established under current law. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 56 percent support those limits. Another 10 percent of those surveyed would prefer to outlaw abortion in the United States altogether or limit it earlier than 20 weeks after fertilization. More than half — 54 percent — say they oppose state laws that make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate compared to 45 percent who support such legislation. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found similar results. Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Pope Francis on Gays: `Who am I to judge?’

Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. When someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives but forgets.

  • Yes, God forgives and forgets – but only if that person repents which means to ‘turn away’ from their sin. Gay priests should not be allowed to continue in their ministry. The (last?) Pope’s watered down Gospel is yet another sign that the end-times draw nigh.

Majority Would Support Gay Marriage in All 50 States

A slight majority, 52 percent, of Americans support making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Forty-three percent say they would vote against it. The demographic grups who were most supportive of a national policy redefining marriage to include couples of the same gender were liberals (77 percent), those with no religious affiliation (76 percent), Democrats (70 percent), young adults aged 18 to 34 (69 percent), those who rarely or never attend church (67 percent), Catholics (60 percent) and those who live in the East (62 percent) and West (57 percent). The demographic groups that had a majority opposing the referendum were those who attend church weekly (73 percent), conservatives (67 percent), Republicans (66 percent), Protestants (58 percent), those aged 55 and older (58 percent), and Southerners (51 percent). Women were more supportive (56 percent) than men (48 percent), and whites were slightly more supportive (54 percent) than non-whites (51 percent). “Public opinion on gay marriage has reached a tipping point, whereby the majority now clearly supports it,” Gallup wrote. “Nevertheless, the issue remains highly divisive, as large majorities of left-leaning, nonreligious, and younger Americans endorse it, while right-leaning, religious, and older Americans still oppose it

  • Lawlessness will abound in the end-times (Matt. 24:12, 2Thess. 2:7, 2Tim. 3:1-5) – gay marriage is but one form of it

UN Advocating Gay Agenda

Fox News reports: “Amid a surge of anti-gay violence and repression in several countries, the United Nations’ human rights office on Friday launched its first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals. Called Free & Equal, it’s an unprecedented effort by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the U.N.’s own member states.”

One-Third of Recently Married Met Online

According to a major study published recently by the National Academy of Sciences, 35% of those recently married met online. Researchers also reported that relationships that began on the Internet appeared to be happier and more enduring than traditional unions. But sociologists say it’s too soon to conclude that online relationships are stronger and more fulfilling.

  • Seems counterintuitive, even a bit creepy, but the digital age is redefining many aspects of society

FBI Arrests 150 in Child Prostitution Sting

In announcing the FBI’s latest crackdown on child prostitution, officials Monday described a dark underside of society that has grown through Internet sites that provide pimps easy access to johns in hotels, motels, at truck stops and just about anywhere else. The nationwide operation over the weekend resulted in 150 arrests, with 105 children between the ages of 13 and 17 rescued. Overall, the three-day undercover Operation Cross Country took place in 76 cities and involved 230 law enforcement units. It was the largest such sweep to date, he said, with 28 searches and 129 seizures of cash, drugs, vehicles and firearms.

Deadly Epidemic: Prescription Drug Overdoses

A growing epidemic of overdoses of prescription painkillers is leading to a record numbers of deaths, especially among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined, and since 2008, prescription drug-induced deaths have outstripped those from automobile accidents, according to the CDC. The CDC’s latest figures show that 16,500 people died from overdoses tied to common narcotic pain relievers — such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana and methadone — in 2010. Of those, 40% were women. “Women are dying at rates that we have never seen before,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said. In the past 11 years, deaths from overdose increased more than 400% among women, compared with a 265% rise among men.

Health Care Costs Slowing

Health care costs rose last year at the slowest rate in the last 50 years, the White House announced Monday, citing statistics aimed at bolstering the case for the 2010 health care law. The 1.1% increase in personal consumption spending over the 12 months ending in May was due to decreases in hospital and nursing home services, according to a statement from Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Hospital readmissions rates dropped from an average of 19% to 17.9% for Medicare patients since the passage of the 2010 health care law, Krueger said. Monday’s announcement follows a recent study the Department of Health and Human Services that showed that for Americans who receive health insurance through their employers, premiums rose 3% from 2011 to 2012, the lowest increase since 1996.

IRS Workers Want Out of Obamacare

The federal employees who will be responsible for administering Obamacare for the American people don’t want it for themselves. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents workers at the Internal Revenue Service, is asking its members to write letters to Capitol Hill saying they are “very concerned” about legislative efforts requiring IRS and Treasury employees to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Obamacare’s insurance subsidies are technically tax credits, falling under the authority of the IRS. The effort by the Treasury Employees Union comes two weeks after representatives of three large labor unions fired off a strongly-worded letter to congressional Democrats, complaining that Obamacare would “shatter … our hard-earned health benefits” and create “nightmare scenarios” for their members.

Four in Five Americans Face Economic Hardship

Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press point to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend. The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession.

Economic News

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was up 12.2% compared to a year ago, slightly better than the 12.1% rise in April. It was the biggest year-over-year jump in prices since March 2006, near the peak of the housing bubble. Just a year ago, the index showed a 12-month decline in prices. But they have increased every month since June 2012, and each month the increase has been greater than the month before.

Just over half of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings for the second quarter and some sectors are performing better than others. Banks and other financial companies have been the standouts. Mining and chemical companies have fared the worst. Earnings are also contracting in the technology industry. Overall, earnings growth is projected to slow for a third straight quarter, estimated at 4.5% vs. 5.2% in the first quarter.

A flurry of merger activity Monday shows the megamerger is back, and more companies are starting to get traded like so many baseball cards. A potent cocktail of surging corporate cash piles and companies hungry for growth is fueling an uptick in merger-and-acquisition activity. The question is whether these deals might cause problems for the economy, such as higher prices or a wave of layoffs, as they did three decades ago.

Fast food workers will walk off work in seven cities across the country this week, continuing their campaign to garner higher wages and the right to unionize. Dozens of workers asking to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour and the right to organize without retaliation protested outside of McDonald’s and Wendy’s locations across New York City on Monday. The rallies will move to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan the rest of the week.

Persecution Watch

Organizations representing Nigerian Christians called on the United States to officially recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group at a press conference on Thursday in the nation’s capital, the Christian Post reports. Leaders from the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) made their case, sharing that they have tried to get the Islamic jihadist militant organization in Africa to be labeled a terrorist group by meeting with members of Congress, drawing up petitions and working with other organizations, including several American groups. Pastor Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN, said it was a question of universal human rights. For years, the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram has been targeting Christian communities, schools and churches in the predominantly Muslim northern region of Nigeria.

Middle East

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni had dinner with chief Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Saeb Erekat and US Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington Monday evening, kicking off the latest round of negotiations which the two sides both pledged to continue for at least nine months. Livni and Erekat were joined at the dinner by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Fatah official Muhammad Shtayyeh, while Kerry was joined by Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and other State Department officials. “This is part and parcel of creating mutual trust between [us and the Palestinians],” Livni told Israel Radio Tuesday morning. She also praised Kerry’s “enthusiasm and determination to help both sides.”

President Obama on Friday afternoon ordered another waiver of congressional restrictions on direct funding of the Palestinian Authority, clearing the way for more U.S. aid. In the one-page order, Mr. Obama said he was taking the action due to the “national security interests” of the U.S. The move comes as the administration is preparing to host renewed direct talks in Washington between Palestinians and Israelis for the first time since 2010. The president in March directed about $500 million to be sent to the Palestinian Authority, also waiving the restrictions set by Congress. At the time, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he was seeking to move another $200 million to the Palestinians. Some lawmakers oppose the aid, both because of sequestration budget cuts and the Palestinian Authority’s ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.

Egypt

Scores of protesters angry at Egypt’s military-backed government and the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi died in late-night clashes in the volatile nation’s capital Saturday. Medics in a Brotherhood field hospitals put the death toll at 66, with another 61 on life support and thousands more wounded. A wounded protester getting medical treatment at a field hospital said he saw men in plainclothes fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators with shotguns. “Police forces were standing behind them,” he added.

Syria

The Syrian regime says it has taken over a rebel stronghold in Homs, inflicting a strategic and psychological blow to rebels in the country’s 2-year-long crisis. The area in western Syria is crucial because it connects the capital, Damascus, to the Mediterranean coast. A regime capture of Homs could be a key turning point in the bloody war, which has killed more than 100,000 people.

Iraq

As violence and political turmoil tear through a war-wrecked Iraq, military experts are warning Congress that Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cells are regrouping and working together not only in Iraq but in the entire region to undo a decade of U.S.-led progress. Iraq’s parliament speaker painted a grim picture of a crumbling country that is taking another beating by terrorists. “The situation is grave,” Osama al-Nujaifi said during a press conference. Speaker Al-Nujaifi believes recent spikes in sectarian violence coupled with political instability are fueling concerns that the country could be pushed into another civil war.

A wave of over a dozen car bombings hit central and southern Iraq during morning rush hour on Monday, officials said, killing at least 47 people in the latest coordinated attack by insurgents determined to undermine the government. The blasts, which wounded scores more, are part of a months-long surge of attacks that is reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed more than 3,000 people since April, including more than 500 since the start of July.

Libya

More than a thousand prisoners escaped during a riot at Kuayfia Prison near Benghazi Saturday and remain on the run. They escaped while a group of the prison’s 4,000 inmates were engaged in “civil disobedience.” The escapees are serving sentences for a range of crimes, including murder, drug dealing and crimes of morality. They were able to escape because the prison did not have enough security equipment to secure either the staff or the facility, officials said.

Pakistan

Prison guards say they were totally overwhelmed when dozens of Taliban militants attacked their jail in northwest Pakistan, freeing over 250 prisoners on Tuesday. The militants killed more than a dozen people, including six policemen, six Shiite Muslim prisoners and two civilians. Authorities are searching for both the militants and the prisoners who escaped.

Tunisia

Thousands of protesters chanting anti-government slogans joined a funeral march to lay to rest an assassinated Tunisian opposition politician on Saturday, a display of the anger threatening the survival of a government once seen as a model in the region for the transition to democracy. Adding to the tension, a bomb exploded in the early morning underneath a car at the port in Tunis outside a police station. Though there were no injuries, the rare attack helped deepen the sense of unease in this North African country, where two opposition politicians have been shot dead in the last six months.

Somalia

A bomber detonated a minivan laden with explosives outside a Turkish hospital in Somalia’s capital on Saturday, killing at least one person and wounding more than three others. The bomber also died in the attack at the Al-Shifa hospital in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter saying they were targeting a group of Turkish diplomats. Al-Shabab, which has links with al-Qaida, has been carrying out guerrilla attacks in Somalia since the group was expelled from the capital by African Union troops in August 2011. It has long been threatening Turkish workers and aid agencies in Somalia accusing them of spreading secularism in Somalia.

Nigeria

Multiple explosions at a bar and entertainment area in a Christian quarter of Nigeria’s northern and mainly Muslim city of Kano killed at least 24 people. The blasts were blamed on suspected members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram network. Nigeria is fighting an Islamic uprising by extremists based mainly in the northeast, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Kano city and state are in the northwest and not part of that emergency. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” wants to impose Islamic law in all of Nigeria,

Weather

Folks in the Midwest must be wondering where summer went, with record-low temperatures blanketing the region this weekend and another unusually cool day expected Monday. Chicago saw a high of just 65 at O’Hare on Saturday, breaking the daily coolest-high record of 69 set in 1981. Up the road a bit, Milwaukee tied its 1981 record-cool high of 64. Sunday morning brought even chillier temperatures, with numerous daily record lows broken from the Dakotas all the way to the Ohio Valley. For Sioux City, Iowa, it was the coolest July morning since 1995, with a low of 44. Sunday afternoon in Concordia, Kan. was unlike any other July day in the history books, there.  The daytime high was only 62 degrees, topping the previous record coolest July daily high of 63 degrees.

Heavy rains that caused power outages and flash floods in western North Carolina were blamed for the deaths of a 10-year-old girl and 48-year-old man who were swept away while swimming in a rural creek. Parts of Catawba, Lincoln and Cleveland received up to a foot of rain Saturday as a result of a slow-moving rain system. The county and the cities of Hickory and Newton – where dozens of streets were underwater Saturday afternoon – were among the communities declaring local emergencies as a precursor to seeking state and federal aid.

Philadelphia has set a record for one-day rainfall as strong storms rolled through the region, causing flash flooding, power outages and airline cancellations. The National Weather Service says 8.02 inches of rain fell in the city Sunday, shattering the previous record of 6.63 inches set during Tropical Storm Floyd on Sept. 16, 1999. The deluge caused a power outage at Philadelphia International Airport, where some sections of Terminal A were still without power Monday. The soaking rains also flooded roads and caused traffic headaches.

Signs of the Times (7/27/13)

July 27, 2013

Outspoken Atheist Seeks Position as U.S. Navy Chaplain

An outspoken atheist is generating controversy in his pursuit of a position as an official United States Navy chaplain, the Christian News Network reports. In applying for the chaplain position, 38-year-old Jason Heap points out that he earned master’s degrees from both Oxford University and Brite Divinity School, with substantial experience in human resources. He also successfully completed the necessary paperwork and all the required physical tests. However, in order to be accepted as a Navy chaplain, all applicants must receive endorsements from religious organizations approved by the military. According to the Department of Defense website, this list of “ecclesiastical endorsing agents” includes representatives from over 200 different denominations and organizations.

Although the majority of agents would be considered Christian, several other religions are included, such as Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Unitarianism. Heap claims that because he is endorsed by the Humanist Society, he should be offered the chaplain position, but the Navy does not recognize the Humanist Society as an endorsing agent. Humanists assert that well over 10,000 active servicemen identify as atheist or agnostic, and therefore, there should be like-minded chaplains available. House lawmakers late Tuesday approved an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill to prevent the appointment of nonreligious military chaplains.

  • Secular Humanism is the counterfeit ‘religion’ of the New World Order and they will continue to do all they can to undermine the Judeo-Christian foundations of America

Angry Atheists Strike Again

Angry atheists strike again – and this time they’ve gone further than ever before. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, well-known for relentless attacks on Christian symbols, is now attacking a Holocaust memorial – saying it shouldn’t feature the Star of David. They claim the symbol is “exclusionary” and a “dishonor.” The Star of David is a symbol of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, Israel. And it is the symbol the Nazis forced the Jews to wear in the Holocaust. Six million Jews were murdered in the genocide of the Holocaust. The Star of David honors their memory.

  • Just as with the gay agenda, atheists & humanists will continue their attacks and ‘wear out’ the saints (Daniel 7:25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, KJV)

Planned Parenthood Ordered to Pay $1.4 Million Fine

The Texas Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday that the nation’s largest abortion seller must pay $1.4 million for overbilling the state’s Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast submitted “repeated false, fraudulent, and ineligible claims for Medicaid reimbursements” through the Texas Women’s Health Program, according to a federal lawsuit made public last week. “No matter where a person stands on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Michael J. Norton. “It certainly isn’t entitled to a penny of public funds, especially if it is committing Medicaid fraud.”

  • Immoral principles lead to lawless behavior

Albuquerque to Vote on Pro-Life Bill

In a titanic effort that garnered twice the necessary signatures in half the required time, pro-life groups spearheaded by Project Defending Life have submitted 27,000 signatures to the Albuquerque City Clerk on a city-wide legislative petition to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation. That number of signatures virtually ensures the proposed late-term abortion ban will be on the ballot in an upcoming election, possibly as soon as October 8. Albuquerque is the home of Southwestern Women’s Options, the largest late-term abortion clinic in the U.S. Project Defending Life’s Tara Shaver has obtained nearly a dozen 911 calls that document all-too-frequent abortion-related medical emergencies at that clinic.

Senate Passes Student Loan Fix

The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate approved a bill to tie federal college loan rates to financial markets to retroactively roll back an unpopular July 1 rate hike. The GOP-controlled U.S. House is expected to approve the legislation before the August recess. The legislation will affect seven million students heading to college this fall and will bring down interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans in the short-term. These rates doubled to 6.8% on July 1 because Congress could not come to terms on an agreement ahead of that deadline. Under the new legislation, undergraduates will be able to borrow at 3.9% for this school year; graduate students at 5.4%, and parents at 6.4%.

Halliburton Admits Destroying Gulf Oil Spill Evidence

Halliburton Energy Services has admitted destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and will plead guilty to a criminal charge, the Department of Justice has announced. Under the plea agreement, which requires court approval, Houston-based Halliburton will also face three years’ probation, pay the maximum fine possible and continue to cooperate in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the April 2010 explosion and fire on the drilling platform, which killed 11 rig workers off Louisiana.

Many Home Buyers Paying in Cash

If you want to buy a house in Nevada you better bring cash. In June, 58% of the sales in the state were made in all-cash. But it’s not just Nevada. All-cash deals in Florida comprised 57% of home sales during the month; in the state of New York, it was 51%, and in Vermont, a whopping 80%.In markets like these, lingering foreclosures and depressed home prices are attracting private equity firms and other investors looking to buy before home prices go much higher. In other markets, where there are fewer distressed properties, the all-cash deals are a lot less prevalent. Nationwide, cash deals comprised 30% of home sales in June, down from 31% a year earlier, RealtyTrac reported. But in states like Texas, Utah and New Mexico, such deals were practically non-existent.

Housing Recipients Re-Defaulting in Alarming Numbers

Nearly one-third of the homeowners who got help through the government’s main foreclosure prevention program are defaulting again on their mortgages, according to a government watchdog’s report. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) has worked on 1.2 million mortgage modifications since it started four years ago. Of those, more than 306,000 borrowers have defaulted again on their loans, and another 88,000 are at risk as well. The Special Inspector for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), which conducted the review, said homeowners are also more likely to default again on the modified loans the longer they stay in the program, with 46 percent of those involved in the program since 2009 defaulting on their loans again.

  • It wasn’t just the mortgage industry that caused the housing bubble to burst – people stupidly agreed to horrendous mortgage terms based on inflated real estate values. Now those same people are doing it all over again.

Economic News

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 343,000. The increase follows a drop of 22,000 the previous week. The Labor Department says the four-week average, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, fell 1,250 to 345,250. The Labor Department says the four-week average, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, fell 1,250 to 345,250. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They’re down nearly 8% this year. Employers have added an average 202,000 new jobs a month this year, up from an average 183,000 in 2012.

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose in June, bolstered by higher aircraft demand and more businesses spending that signals investment plans. The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods increased 4.2% last month. That followed a 5.2% gain in May. Commercial aircraft orders, which are volatile from month to month, jumped 31.4%. Excluding autos and airplanes, orders were unchanged.

Quarterly company earnings are coming in ahead of the estimates at the start of the quarter, with more than half the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 — 262 — reporting quarterly results and two-thirds of them topping expectations. Earnings are on pace to grow 4.5%.

Eurozone

New data show Spain’s unemployment level unexpectedly fell for the first time in two years, suggesting the country — and the Eurozone as a whole — may be turning a corner. The jobless rate in the second quarter still stood at an eye-catching 26.3%, with nearly 6 million Spaniards still out of work. But that’s an improvement from the previous quarter, when unemployment stood at a stark 27.2%. Germany’s closely watched Ifo business sentiment index rose for a third consecutive month.

The recovery in the U.K. economy is gathering pace as rapidly rising house prices encourage consumers to forget austerity and spend rather than save. Gross domestic product grew by 0.6% in the second quarter, double the rate of expansion seen in the first three months of the year. The dominant service sector got a boost from rising consumer confidence, but manufacturing and construction also contributed to faster growth.

Persecution Watch

A group of 39 students, including 11 female students have been excluded from a graduation ceremony and have instead been placed under harsh military punishment at Sawa military training center. Sources told Open Doors USA that the arrests came as a result of the students’ “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ.” The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water. Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they “fail to renounce Christ.” Since the beginning of the year, Christians belonging to groups outside of the government-sanctioned Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches have faced a widespread arrest campaign, and more than 200 men and women of various ages have been detained without charges under harsh circumstances.

Christian girls in Northern Nigeria are being abducted, kept in the homes of Muslim leaders and forced to renounce their faith. Professor Daniel Babayi, secretary of the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that the issue was getting worse and that they are currently pursuing five cases. He said: “Christian girls below the age of 18 are forcefully abducted and made to denounce their faith… They have been kept in the houses of emirs or imams. When we report to the police, they tell you there is nothing they can do. The police have become very helpless. In some instances, they are part of the conspiracy.” Christians in Northern Nigeria are being targeted on a number of fronts as Islamist militant group Boko Haram wages its deadly campaign to establish an Islamic state. Churches have frequently been attacked and individual Christians murdered.

Middle East

The announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry that both the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to direct peace talks has been refuted by sources on both sides. Since becoming Secretary of State earlier this year, he has made six trips to try to restart the peace talks. Yet despite his best efforts (some observers viewed his announcement as an attempt to strong-arm the parties into an agreement they had not reached), the Palestinians continue to refuse to even talk to the Israelis unless they first receive the concessions that they would hope to get from any negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel is prepared to begin talks immediately if there are no pre-conditions. This is the hurdle that Secretary of State Kerry has been attempting to clear without success.

Egypt’s new government has imposed the toughest border restrictions in years on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, sealing smuggling tunnels, blocking most passenger traffic and causing millions of dollars in economic losses. Some in Hamas fear the movement is being swept up in the same Egyptian military campaign that earlier this month toppled the country’s democratically elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi — like the Gaza rulers part of the region’s Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s military has said the Gaza restrictions are part of its security crackdown in the Sinai and has not suggested it is trying to weaken the Hamas government or bring it down in the process. Past predictions that Gazans fed up with the daily hardships of life under blockade will rise up against Hamas have not materialized.

Egypt

Egyptian authorities ordered that former President Mohammed Morsi continue to be detained pending investigation into a slew of accusations, further upsetting a fragile political scene more than three weeks after the elected president was unseated. The accusations against Morsi include that he conspired with the Palestinian group Hamas to carry out acts of violence in Egypt. Dozens were killed in violent clashes between security forces and supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday morning in one of the deadliest spells of unrest since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian health ministry said 29 people were killed while a field hospital put the number at 75. The violence began overnight when supporters of Morsi tried to extend a sit-in into a major road and police fired tear gas. Morsi supporters have held a sit-in for more than three weeks outside Rabaa Al Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City.

Syria

Syrian government troops gained ground in clashes Friday in two rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs, edging closer to a historic mosque and closing in on opposition fighters in the area. The advance came amid a wide offensive by President Bashar Assad’s forces and as Syria’s Western-backed opposition group met for the first time with the U.N. Security Council. With about 1 million residents, Homs lies along a main artery linking the capital, Damascus, with regime strongholds on the Mediterranean coast to the west. Homs has played a key role in the country’s civil war, now in its third year. Activists consider Homs “the capital of the revolution.”

Pakistan

The death toll from a pair of overnight bombings at a busy market in northern Pakistan rose to 49 on Saturday with 10 more people dying at a local hospital and 25 more listed in a critical condition.. The bombings struck Friday in the town of Parachinar, which sits in the Kurram tribal area that borders Afghanistan to the west. The market was full of people hurrying to buy items for their evening meal that breaks the day-time fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The Kurram tribal region, like much of northwest Pakistan, has been roiled by violence for years. Taliban militants trying to overthrow the Pakistani government have carried out a vicious campaign of suicide bombings and shootings against Pakistan security forces and other targets.

Tunisia

Angry anti-government demonstrations broke out Thursday across Tunisia after gunmen killed the leader of a leftist opposition party, raising fears of new chaos on the difficult road to democracy in the cradle of the Arab Spring. Just five months after a similar assassination plunged the country into crisis, two gunmen shot Mohammed Brahmi, leader of the Popular Current party, in his car outside his home. Tunisia is struggling after overthrowing dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. Many Tunisians are fed up with the government led by the moderate Islamist ruling party, Ennahda, which appears unable to handle a faltering economy, address popular unrest over unmet expectations and crack down on a rising extremist Islamist movement.

Weather

July marks the typical start of the annual monsoon season, and it has arrived in earnest this summer, bringing daily thunderstorms from New Mexico to southern California. The “drunken” monsoon pattern has weather systems moving east to west, the opposite of their typical direction. Though this has provided some relief to the drought-parched regions, they’re not out of the woods yet, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. Overall, 46.55 percent of the lower 48 states is experiencing some form of drought, almost all of it in the western half of the country.

Several communities in Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, woke up to a flash flood headache Friday after a night of heavy rain. The National Weather Service office in Norman, Okla. says, at one point Friday morning, more than one inch of rain fell in just seven minutes. There are reports of multiple accidents on I-240 and I-44, including a semi that overturned and caught on fire around 4 a.m.

Call it weird, call it extreme, maybe even call it the new normal. Wild weather in the United States in the past decade has amassed a long list of toppled records and financial disasters, notes Weather.com. A new study confirms that everywhere except in the Atlantic Plains region, more rain and snow is falling during wet and dry seasons alike. The Atlantic Plains are the flatlands along the central and southern Atlantic Coast that stretch from Massachusetts to Mississippi. On average, the total precipitation in the contiguous United States has increased 5.9 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What’s more, the timing has changed too. In some parts of the United States, dry seasons are arriving earlier and wet seasons are starting later than they did 80 years ago. Altering the timing of dry and wet season starts can significantly affect agriculture.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

Signs of the Times (7/24/13)

July 24, 2013

Final version of Two Sons: Book One now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

U.S. Marriage Rate Drops to New Low

The marriage rate in the United States is continuing its decades-long downward slide, with fewer American women than ever getting married and others waiting longer to wed, LiveScience reports. The marriage rate has fluctuated in the past, with dips in the 1930s and 1960s, but it has been in steady decline since the 1970s. Now, researchers report that the marriage rate has dropped to a new low of 31.1, meaning there are about 31 marriages in the U.S. for every 1,000 unmarried women, researchers found. In 1950, that number was 90.2. In 1920, it was 92.3. “Marriage is no longer compulsory,” said study researcher Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. “It’s just one of an array of options. Increasingly, many couples choose to cohabit and still others prefer to remain single.” A woman’s average age at first marriage in the United States is now nearly 27, the highest in more than a century.Among all American women over 15 years of age, less than half (47 percent) are married today, the lowest since the turn of the 20th century, and down from a peak of 65 percent in 1950. On the other hand, the proportion of women who are separated or divorced is on the rise, at 15 percent today, compared with less than 1 percent in 1920, the researchers say.

Hobby Lobby Solidifies ‘Major Victory’ Against HHS Contraceptive Mandate

Hobby Lobby has solidified its victory against the HHS contraceptive mandate, as a lower court agreed with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals July 19 and temporarily banned the enforcement of the mandate on the evangelical-owned craft chain, Christianity Today reports. “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved,” ruled the court (albeit somewhat reluctantly), according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby as well as Wheaton College and other high-profile challengers. There are currently 63 cases and 200 plaintiffs challenging the mandate. Courts have largely split on granting requests for injunctions, with the scorecard for for-profit challengers standing at 23-7 (when rulings have examined merits vs. technicalities), according to Becket’s ongoing tally. Most of the 30 nonprofit cases have been dismissed on technicalities, though Geneva College recently became the first to receive a judgment on the merits and win.

Court Renews NSA Telephone Surveillance Program

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court renewed the government’s authority Friday to continue the collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records, one of the classified counter-terrorism programs disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In an unusual public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that the court renewed the authority that was set to expire Friday. Earlier this week, Democrat and Republican lawmakers expressed deep concerns about the scope of the surveillance program and suggested that Congress may not renew legislative authority for it when it comes up for review in nearly two years.

Benghazi Survivors Forced to Sign Non-Disclosures

We finally know why we’ve never heard from the survivors of the Benghazi terrorist attack:  these individuals were forced to shut up and ordered to sign non-disclosure documents. The news comes to us via Congressman Frank Wolfe (R-Virginia) who is calling on the Obama administration to explain why the survivors of last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, were reportedly asked to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from talking about the attack. Mary Parker of ConservativeCampaign.org notes, “The Obama administration is demonstrating once again that it is the most deceitful and manipulative presidential administrations in our nation’s history.  Everything is either a ‘spin-job,’ a lie, or a manipulation (think of taking advantage of crises to scare people into accepting radical policies or the current race-baiting Obama is engaged in over the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case).”

Critical State Dept. Agency in Chaos

An obscure little State Department agency whose work is called “critical to the Department’s information security posture” has been in a shambles for years, and is still in chaos, according to an audit report by the department’s inspector general. As one result of all the bumbling and inaction, the security checks that the agency is supposed to perform and subsequent approvals for use that it is supposed to bestow every three years on 36 of those State Department systems have lapsed entirely, meaning that they are operating, in effect, illegally. One of the systems that is operating without a current license, known as iPost, was given an award two years ago for “significantly improving the effectiveness of the nation’s cyber security.”  According to the inspector general’s report, auditors couldn’t find any documentation to back up how the award-winning system was created or maintained, nor any source code for the information it was supposed to track.

  • Typical government boondoggle, and they want to impose more government, not less?

Judge Rules Detroit Bankruptcy Unconstitutional

A Michigan Circuit Court Judge ruled Friday that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is unconstitutional and ordered the case be withdrawn from federal bankruptcy court. But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement soon after the decision that he intended an immediate appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals and would seek to block this latest order from taking effect while the appeal is heard. The order came in response to motions by lawyers for retirees and pension funds for city workers, who argue the state constitution prohibits cutting pension and retirement benefits, as has been proposed in the bankruptcy case.

Doctors Bailing Out on Their Practices

Doctors who own private practices are looking for a way out. Fed up with their rising business expenses and shrinking payouts from insurers, many are selling their practices to hospitals. It’s happening nationwide and has picked up pace. Experts say the number of physicians unloading their practices to hospitals is up 30% to 40% in the last five years. Doctors who sell typically become employees of the hospital, as do the people who work for them. Obamacare has also created more fear of the unknown. Doctors are worried that new regulations will add to their administrative work and require them to pour more money into their businesses.

Crushing Pension Obligations Weighs Heavy on Cities/States

Detroit may be alone among the nation’s biggest cities in terms of filing for bankruptcy, but it is far from the only city being crushed by a roiling mountain of long-term debt. At the heart of Detroit’s problem is a growing unfunded debt on benefits owed to current and future retirees — some $3.5 billion, which mirrors a circumstance being seen across the U.S. From Baltimore to Los Angeles, and many points in between, municipalities are increasingly confronted with how to pay for these massive promises. The Pew Center for the States, in Washington, estimated states’ public pension plans across the U.S. were underfunded by a whopping $1.4 trillion in 2010.

Economic News

The recent bankruptcy filing in Detroit is raising red flags about other major U.S. cities also dealing with billions in under-funded retiree benefits, prompting the question — who might be next? Just last week, Chicago’s credit rating was downgraded as a result of its $19 billion in under-funded pension liabilities. Moody’s Investors

Existing-home sales fell 1.2% in June, the National Association of Realtors said Monday, in a report that mostly reflected deals that were agreed to before mortgage rates began to rise in late May. But most other statistics indicate that rising rates have had only a small effect on prospects for home buying.

Builders’ confidence rose 6 points this month, to 57 on a 100-point scale. The confidence index dipped below 10 during the housing bust. July’s climb reflected both higher traffic at new home developments and better expectations about future sales.

Health care costs are the top concern of chief financial officers, who are still unsure of and worried about the impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on their businesses, a new survey of CFOs by Bank of America Merrill Lynch says. Seven out of 10 CFOs and other top financial executives ranked health care among their top business concerns for 2013, easily topping a list of suggestions that included revenue growth, energy costs, taxes and the ability to find qualified workers.

Persecution Watch

Gunmen killed six Christians in an early morning attack Sunday on Dinu village in southern Plateau state, a month after Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot a Christian to death in a nearby village. Rev. Johnson Kikem, chairman of a nearby Regional Church Council of the Church of Christ in Nations, reported that church members who fled the village in Wase Local Government Area said the assailants were Muslims. Fulani Muslims have long fought over property with Christians of other ethnicities, and Islamic extremist groups are suspected of inflaming the herdsmen’s anti-Christian sentiment.

A young couple in Vietnam who accepted Christ last month have been beaten and threatened by officials, Voice of the Martyrs reports. Local authorities hit the wife on the face with a stick and threatened to take the couple’s land and home if they refuse to renounce Christianity and return to Buddhism. The wife fears further beatings, and the husband is afraid they will lose their land and have no way of supporting their family. The couple, who survive through subsistence farming, have three boys aged 10, 12 and 14.

Middle East

The Central Bureau of Statistics published a report in 2012 showing that there are roughly 158,000 Christians in Israel, with over 80% being Arabs belonging to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. The remainder belong to various other denominations and speaking several different languages, including Hebrew, Russian, German and English. Most Arab Christians live in the Galilee, while Jerusalem is also home to nearly 12,000. Israel maintains its status as the only country in the Middle East whose Christian population is growing, although the annual growth rate of 1.3% is lower than the 1.8% growth rate for Jews and 2.5% for Muslims.

Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood reportedly is attempting to blame Egypt’s Coptic Christian community for the recent ousting of President Mohammed Morsi and even resorting to violent tactics in an effort to gain back power. Reports have surfaced out of Egypt that sectarian attacks against Copts by Islamic extremists are on the rise since Morsi was ousted July 3. Copts, who make up about 9% of Egypt’s population, have said they consistently have been targeted by Islamic radicals for campaigning against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president. : The sectarian attacks against Copts are one of the controversial strategies pursued by Islamic extremist currents in their bid to intimidate Christians,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, political analyst and researcher for the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

A bomb blast outside the security headquarters in one of Egypt’s Nile Delta cities wounded 19 people, security officials said early Wednesday, raising fears of deteriorating security after President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster. Eleven people have been killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of the ousted president since Monday. Most were killed in pre-dawn street battles near a pro-Morsi protest camp as the country remained mired in turmoil three weeks after the military overthrew the Islamist leader.

Syria

A deal reached in Congress to allow the United States to ship arms to Syrian rebels could spur more support from other nations, blunting the military gains of dictator Bashar Assad and preventing him from crushing the rebel movement. Syrian rebels say the decision by U.S. lawmakers to go along with President Obama’s plan announced weeks ago to arm their factions will give them an edge. Obama announced in June that he intended to provide the rebels lethal means to combat Assad’s forces after they crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons against rebel strongholds in cities. The White House has said it planned to provide “light arms” to the rebels. But no arms flowed because of concerns on Capitol Hill, among them worries that the arms would wind up in the hands of the many al-Qaeda aligned groups that are fighting in Syria.

  • Over and over again we supply arms that eventually are used against us or our interests. Bad idea.

Iraq

Violence exploded in Iraq over the past 24 hours near Baghdad and in Mosul, leaving nearly 50 people dead and hundreds of al Qaeda-linked militants free in a massive jailbreak, authorities said Monday. Security forces battled militants outside two major penitentiaries near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and thwarted prison breaks, the Justice Ministry said Monday. The incidents occurred Sunday night at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, and al-Taji prison, north of the capital. The Justice Ministry said well-armed “terrorist groups” attacked the prisons simultaneously using mortars. They also carried rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and were accompanied by suicide bombers and car bombs. The attacks coincided with riots by inmates who set fires inside the prisons. An al Qaeda group claimed responsibility Tuesday for coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons that a lawmaker said freed more than 500 inmates, including some senior members of the militant group.

Afghanistan

A key aspect of the military’s effort to protect troops from roadside bombs has been sabotaged from within, according to a report by Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghanistan. A $32-million effort begun in 2009 to seal off culverts to prevent insurgents from using them as hiding places for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been plagued by fraud and may have resulted in several U.S. troops being killed or wounded, the report notes. The inspector general found that Afghan contractors took money to construct the barriers, and in some cases did no work. U.S. contracting officers didn’t do enough to ensure the work was done.

Mexico

A group of 81 migrants held captive in a house in the border city of Reynosa were rescued by Mexican authorities. A tip led state and federal agents to the two-story home where the migrants were held Wednesday. They had been held hostage there for several days. Men and women were among the captives, 39 from Honduras, 38 from Guatemala, three from El Salvador and one Mexican. The migrants told authorities that they were attempting to enter the United States illegally. Reynosa sits right on the U.S.-Mexico border, near McAllen, Texas. Mass kidnappings of this sort in Mexico are not unheard of. In June, 52 migrants were rescued from another home in Reynosa. That same month, 165 migrants were rescued from the city of Gustavo Diaz Ordaez, also in Tamaulipas state.

Volcanoes

Indonesia’s most volatile volcano spewed smoke and ash Monday, forcing hundreds of people to flee their villages along its slopes. Mount Merapi on the main island of Java rumbled as heavy rain fell around its cloud-covered crater. The volcano unleashed a column of dark red volcanic material 3,280 feet into the air, and the ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages as terrified residents fled to safety. The sound was heard 18 miles away, but an eruption did not occur. The 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) mountain is the most active of 500 Indonesian volcanoes. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people.

Earthquakes

A strong, shallow earthquake struck a dry, hilly farming area in western China early Monday, killing at least 94 people, injuring over a thousand. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged. The quake hit near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province, a hilly region of mountains, desert and pastureland about 766 miles west of Beijing. Residents described shaking windows and swinging lights but there was relatively little major damage or panic in the city itself. The tremor came three months and two days after a deadly quake hit Sichuan province on April 20, killing nearly 200 people.

New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, was rattled by a strong magnitude 6.9 earthquake on Sunday that broke water mains, smashed windows and downed power lines that left parts of the city without power. At least two people have been injured. The quake struck under the Cook Strait 34 miles south-southwest of Wellington. It was a relatively shallow quake, estimated to have occurred just 8.7 miles underground. The quake struck at 5:09 p.m. local time Sunday, near nightfall.

Wildfires

A new central Oregon wildfire that quickly grew to cover half a square mile has prompted the evacuation of about 120 homes in several subdivisions. The Stagecoach fire started Monday afternoon northeast of Gilchrist.It was about 10 percent contained by Monday night. Meanwhile, a fire that has burned 20,000 to 25,000 acres — or 31 to 39 square miles — on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of central Oregon was estimated to be 20 percent contained. A couple dozen people remained evacuated from their homes. The fire bypassed a reservation resort without causing damage.

Heavy rain aided firefighters who made substantial gains against a week-old wildfire that burned across 42 square miles as thousands of people were allowed to return to their homes in Southern California mountain communities near Palm Springs. With the arrival of an inch and a half of rain Sunday, firefighters began to beat back the flames and had the blaze 68 percent contained. Some 6,000 people fled the idyllic little towns that dot the San Jacinto Mountains between Palm Springs and Hemet after the fire broke out Monday and quickly raged across the heavily wooded area. Twenty-three structures, including the seven homes, were destroyed. There were no reports of injuries.

Weather

A heat wave in England is being blamed for hundreds of premature deaths, and a wildfire warning has been issued as the mercury continues to rise. The estimated death toll for the first nine days of the heat wave as between 540 and 760 people in England alone. With rainfall at only around 15 percent of average monthly totals so far, Britain’s national weather service has warned there is an “elevated risk” of fires in the countryside.

A severe thunderstorm with strong winds swept through Las Vegas, knocking down trees and utility poles and scattering gamblers from the casino floor at Caesars Palace as flooding hit parts of the famed Strip. Some resorts on the Strip and Fremont Street were without power several hours after the fast-moving storm moved through the city at about 7 p.m. on Friday. Fire units also responded to several calls of people needing water rescue near the Strip. Power outages affected 33,000 people across the Las Vegas area. Some of the record rainfall kicked a hole in the roof of Gilley’s Saloon, a Western-style bar at Treasure Island on the Strip where customers watched as sheets of water fell in.

July 18 was the record wettest July calendar day at Miami Beach.  6.78″ of rain was measured, there.  Dating to 1927, only five other calendar days were wetter, most recently, Oct. 30, 2011, when 7″ of rain fell there.  A record 9.23″ of rain fell Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the second wettest calendar day on record, dating to 1898. It topped the previous wettest July day by over 5″.

A tornado packing 110 mph winds hit Ursuline College in northeast Ohio early Saturday morning, collapsing a wall of the school’s athletic center and damaging other buildings but causing no injuries. The twister reached 100-200 yards wide and traveled 1.3 miles. Only a few students were on campus at the time.

A summer of rain has left its mark on South Carolina, undermining dozens of roads, flooding neighborhoods from the mountains to the coast, and ruining the South Carolina Botanical Gardens. Parts of Pickens County have received more than 60 inches of rain so far in 2013. With soil moisture at near-record levels, emergency officials worry that if a tropical storm moves over the state in the next month and brings more torrential rains, the results could be disastrous.

Sunday’s monsoon rains brought the Phoenix region treacherous flooding that prompted numerous water rescues and historically low temperatures during the hottest time of the year. Flash floods swamped parts of the Phoenix area Sunday as a storm dropped up to two inches of rain in some areas, flooded washes, stranded some residents, and sent fire crews to numerous water rescues from Apache Junction to Phoenix. The downpour prompted the shutdown of U.S. 60 in Tempe, Ariz. The water swept away several vehicles and stranded some people in their homes. Meanwhile, it took just a half hour for the streets in the Tucson, Arizona, area to become dangerous rivers of fast-moving water from the monsoon downpours. For firefighters, it was one rescue after another, after another.

Signs of the Times (7/19/13)

July 19, 2013

Busiest Abortion Clinic in Virginia Closes Thanks to Pro-Life Law

The busiest abortion business in Virginia is closing, thanks to pro-life laws requiring abortion facilities to meet stricter health and safety standards, LifeNews.com reports. Nova Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax, a clinic with a history of botched abortions and at least one patient death, was forced to close after state lawmakers adopted new pro-life laws holding abortion clinics accountable for putting women’s health at risk. Nova’s lease in its current location was terminated via a lawsuit by the property owners on the grounds that the abortion clinic created a nuisance. Nova had previously applied for a building permit but was denied because it was one parking space short of compliance with city ordinances. It attempted to reapply as a “health spa” to circumvent the need for the additional space, but the city manager saw through the ruse and again denied the application. Nova did 3,066 abortions in 2012 and 3,567 in 2011. The pro-life law putting stricter abortion regulations in place is already saving the lives of thousands of unborn children. This closure is one of 30 abortion clinics to close in 2013 alone, more than doubling the number of closures over all of last year.

Britain Legalizes Gay Marriage

Britain has legalized gay marriage after Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal stamp of approval. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow told lawmakers that the royal assent had been given Wednesday — the day after the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales cleared Parliament. It clears the way for the first gay marriages next summer. The bill enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales. It also will allow couples who had previously entered into a civil partnership to convert their relationship to a marriage.

Former New York Times Writer Blasted for Creationism

Virginia Heffernan, a former New York Times technology and culture writer who now writes for Yahoo! News, wrote in a column last Thursday that she believes God created the world, Jim Denison reports. Her position is not uninformed: she’s read Darwin’s Origin of Species along with “probably a dozen books about evolution and atheism, from Stephen Jay Gould to Sam Harris.” And yet, she testifies, “I have never found a more compelling story of our origins than the ones that involve God.” Criticism has been swift. For instance, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker is convinced that “Virginia Heffernan should no longer be taken seriously.” According to him, “Well-educated people who are still creationists have lost the plot somewhere along the line.” Denison writes: “We’re used to reading about persecution against Christians in places like Iran and North Korea. We’re less familiar with the crescendo of opposition to the gospel in the West, but its rise is no less real.”

Survey Categorizes Christians by Values

One-in-five Americans (19 percent) are religious progressives, while 38 percent are religious moderates, 28 percent are religious conservatives, and 15 percent are nonreligious, a new survey finds. The new Economic Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Brookings Institution, was used to develop a new religious orientation scale that combines theological, economic and social outlooks in order to paint a new portrait of the American religious landscape. “Our new research shows a complex religious landscape, with religious conservatives holding an advantage over religious progressives in terms of size and homogeneity,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “However, the percentage of religious conservatives shrinks in each successive generation, with religious progressives outnumbering religious conservatives in the millennial generation.”

  • The shift toward liberalism in the Christian community is evidence of the great “falling away” prophesied in 2Thessalonians 2:3

Obama Executive Order: Americans Must Be Tested For HIV / AIDS

Barack Obama issued an executive order on July 16, 2013 titled “HIV Care Continuum Initiative” which he claims will be a national movement and federal involvement in the war on HIV/AIDS. According to the executive order, recommendations are that HIV testing be administered for “all individuals ages 15 to 65 years” and this will be overseen by the US Preventative Services Task Force, coordinating with the Department of Health and Human Services. The exact language of the executive order reads: “Based on these and other data, recommendations for HIV testing and treatment have changed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that clinicians screen all individuals ages 15 to 65 years for HIV, and the Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines for Use of Antiretroviral Agents now recommends offering treatment to all adolescents and adults diagnosed with HIV.”

  • Obama and the socialistic globalists want control over all aspects of our lives

Unions Now Say Obamacare Will Cause ‘Nightmare Scenarios’

Labor unions fought successfully for the passage of Obamacare, but now their solidarity is broken and the unions are among the loudest critics of the pending national health insurance program. Last week, heads of three of the nation’s largest unions sent a letter to the top Democrats in Congress who spearheaded the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The letter claims that Obamacare will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour week that is the backbone of the American middle class,” according to Forbes. The unions say they fear Obamacare’s employer mandate is leading smaller companies to shift their workers to part-time status in order to avoid the health coverage requirement on full-time employees.

Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50%

Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday. State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.

  • That’s good news for the individual subscribers, but bad news for the national debt as federal subsidies for Obamacare ramp up

White Moths Invade the West

Agriculture and forestry experts in Nevada, Utah and California are concerned about a potential infestation of a small white moth that can destroy entire groves of aspen, cottonwood and willow trees, especially in mountainous areas. The white satin moth numbers are up 100-fold this year in some parts of Nevada, and no one is sure why. A cousin of the infamous gypsy moth that has seriously damaged forests in the northeastern U.S. and Upper Midwest, the white satin moth is found across most of the northern half of North America. It likely arrived from Europe in the 1920s, scientists say.

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

Detroit, the once-thriving Midwest metropolis that gave birth to the nation’s auto industry, is now the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. Kevyn Orr, the city’s appointed emergency manager, formally sought federal bankruptcy court protection on Thursday after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, approved the filing, deeming the decision necessary “as a last resort to return this great city to financial and civic health for its residents and taxpayers.” The city’s unemployment rate has nearly tripled since 2000 and is more than double the national average. The homicide rate is at historically high levels, and the city has been named among America’s most dangerous for more than 20 years. An estimated 40% of the city’s street lights didn’t work in the first quarter of 2013. Roughly 78,000 structures have been abandoned.

Economic News

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in prepared testimony to Congress Wednesday that a reduction in its bond-bond stimulus does not foreshadow a rise in short-term interest rates. The Fed’s benchmark short-term interest rates could remain “near zero” for “a considerable time” after its bond-buying ends, Bernanke said. They plan to keep the Fed’s benchmark short-term interest rate near zero at least until the 7.6% unemployment rate falls to 6.5%, and likely beyond that.

Claims for unemployment benefits fell 24,000 to 334,000 the week ended July 13, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week moving average, a more reliable gauge of layoffs fell to 346,000 — a drop of 5,250.

Housing starts fell 9.9% in June, a possible sign that rising mortgage rates have started to affect housing’s recovery. Average interest rates on a 30-year-fixed rate mortgage hit 4.5% for the week ended July 11, up from 3.35% in early May. Meanwhile, home prices are going up nearly everywhere because of shortages.

Employers anticipate increasing worker salaries by an average of 2.9% in 2014, just marginally better than the 2.8% boost they gave this year, according to an annual survey of 1,500 mid-size and large U.S. employers. While an improvement from 2009, when raises averaged 2.1%, the expected pay increases are still a far cry from mid-2000 levels when they averaged around 3.5%. Weighing on wages are increased costs tied to retirement and health care benefits, which leave less available money for salary increases.

Drivers in California became the first in the mainland U.S. to pay an average of $4 a gallon for gas in the current price spike. They probably will get lots of company soon. The average price in Connecticut and Illinois is now pennies away from $4. The national average stands at $3.64 a gallon Tuesday, up 16 cents in just the last week.

Investors around the world were taking a step back early Friday following worse-than-expected quarterly results from Google and Microsoft. Google and Microsoft reported disappointing quarterly numbers, sending their shares sharply lower in Friday’s trading and souring the broader market mood after another record close on Thursday.

Persecution Watch

Christians in two villages in North Sinai, Egypt have fled for their lives after a priest was gunned down and a Christian businessman was abducted and killed, his decapitated body dumped onto a street. Suspected members of an unidentified Islamic extremist militant group had kidnapped him on July 6, and he was thought to have been killed on the first day of Ramadan, which in Egypt began on July 10. The suspected militants purposely targeted a Christian leader. He was a committed Christian, and he used to serve in the church, and he was active in his prayers and his ministry – he used to open his home for prayers. The grisly killing of Lamei and the lethal shooting of the Rev. Mina Aboud Sharubim, a Coptic priest, in Arish on July 6, were the final factors depleting three villages of Christians who have suffered months of attacks, threats and harassment.

Another Christian has been killed in Egypt as the minority community continues to bear the brunt of Islamist anger following the removal of Mohammad Morsi. Magdy Habashi (60) was found decapitated in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday (11 July), five days after he was kidnapped by gunmen and beheaded. The murders, plus further death threats from Islamist groups, have prompted more than 100 Christian families to flee the area; there are now no Christians left in the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.

Despite a promise by the Sudanese government to grant its minority Christian population religious freedom, church leaders there said they are beset by increased restrictions and hostility in the wake of the South Sudan’s independence. In 2011, South Sudan, a mostly Christian region, split from the predominantly Muslim and Arab north, in a process strongly supported by the international community and churches in the West. But while the separation is praised as good for political reasons, several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages. Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out.

Middle East

Senior Palestinian Authority officials issued statements on Tuesday praising the EU’s codification of a long-time de facto boycott of Jewish communities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, said that the EU statement “constitutes a significant development in the way the EU countries deal with Israeli occupation.” The PA government also said it was a preface for “halting settlement construction and ending occupation.” However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyuhu responded to the move by saying “I would expect those who truly want peace and stability in the region would discuss this issue after solving more urgent regional problems such as the civil war in Syria or Iran’s race to achieve nuclear weapons.”

  • So far, the U.S. has not denounced the EU boycott, tacitly continuing to support the Palestinians over Israel

Israel is reacting with a mixture of disbelief and outrage to the announcement that both Iran and Syria are running for seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government of Syria is embroiled in a civil war that has left around 100,000 of its own people dead, and Iran strongly represses any dissent to the rule of the mullahs and funds terrorists who attack civilians around the globe. Yet these two rogue states are being considered for the role of evaluating the performance of other nations on the human rights front.

  • This is so ludicrous it defies justification, except to see how persecution of all things Jewish and Christian continues to ramp up as the end-times roll onward

In a stinging setback to a process which US officials thought was days away from getting started, leaders of the Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday evening that they were not ready to resume long-delayed negotiations with Israel. The announcement came following a briefing given to PLO leaders by PA President Mahmoud Abbas on the details of his recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has invested a great deal of time and personal prestige in trying to get the two sides to resume negotiations. “Most PLO officials who attended the meeting described Kerry’s offer as not sufficient for resuming negotiations with Israel,” PLO official Qais Abdel-Karim told Reuters, adding that the PLO leaders agreed that before resuming negotiations, Israel must agree to all of their conditions. Israeli officials have consistently said that if they agreed to these conditions, there would be nothing left to negotiate about.

Syria

Rebel gains and momentum have now been reversed. In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate. At the same time, the United States and other Western powers that have called for Mr. Assad to step down have shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons. Although few expect that Mr. Assad can reassert his authority over the whole of Syria, even some of his staunchest enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months. His resilience suggests that he has carved out what amounts to a rump state in central Syria that is firmly backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah and that Mr. Assad and his supporters will probably continue to chip away at the splintered rebel movement.

Cuba

Cuba said military equipment found buried under sacks of sugar on a North Korean ship seized as it tried to cross the Panama Canal was obsolete weaponry from the mid-20th century that it had sent to be repaired. Panamanian authorities said it might take a week to search the ship, since so far they have only examined one of its five container sections. They have requested help from United Nations inspectors. North Korea has not commented on the seizure, during which 35 North Koreans were arrested after resisting police efforts to intercept the ship in Panamanian waters last week.

Yemen

The Yemen-based branch of Al Qaeda confirmed on Wednesday that the group’s No. 2 figure, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. The announcement, posted on militant websites, gave no date for the death of Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri. His killing is considered a major blow to the Yemen-based Al Qaeda branch.

Wildfires

A wildfire in the mountains west of Palm Springs, California burned seven homes and led to the evacuation of dozens more Tuesday. The blaze destroyed three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles. The wildfire started Monday between Palm Springs and Hemet, near the rural Riverside County community of Mountain Center, and a day later had surged to about 14 square miles. More than 2,200 firefighters and 25 aircraft were fighting the blaze. The wildfire burned huge swaths of wilderness and turned toward the mountain community of Idyllwild, Wednesday, leaving the town of artists, inns and outdoorsmen virtually empty in a summer tourist season when it’s normally booming. Some 6,000 residents and visitors in Idyllwild and smaller surrounding communities had to clear out as the fire spread across the mountains southwest of Palm Springs. Some 2,200 homes were evacuated and 4,100 residences including hotels, condominiums and cabins were threatened. The fire had consumed over 35 square miles and was only 15% contained as of Friday morning.

Weather

Millions of people in the Northeast and New England are in the grips of a heat wave that is forecast to last until the weekend. From Virginia to Maine, residents are dealing with the hottest temperatures of the year, so far. In New England, electricity use is nearing record levels, and the power grid operator has asked customers to conserve electricity. The heat index in Philadelphia Tuesday could reach 110 degrees. Extreme killed over 8,000 people between 1979 and 2003, more than “hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

The fire-scarred community of Yarnell, Arizona was on edge again Wednesday as monsoon rain sent residents scrambling for sandbags to protect their homes from flash-flooding. The specter of floodwaters pouring off hills denuded by the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire became real for residents by midafternoon when the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for parts of Yavapai County. Two weeks after the blaze claimed the lives of 19 hotshot firefighters and destroyed 115 homes and other structures, residents were bracing for another natural disaster on their doorsteps, anxiously watching as fast-rising runoff fills creeks and washes.

A downpour on Flagstaff, Arizona’s Mount Elden sent water and debris sweeping by homes and across U.S. 89 on Tuesday afternoon, serving as an uncomfortable reminder that fire-scarred areas are at risk during the monsoon. “A short period of moderate rainfall on a burned watershed can lead to flash floods or debris flows,” the National Weather Service said on its website.

Heavy rain in areas burned by wildfires in northern Colorado has led to flash flooding, and a mudslide has closed both directions of Interstate 70 at Palisade in western Colorado. The National Weather Service says more than 1.5 inches of rain fell in the northern Colorado burn areas Thursday. The rain pushed mud and rocks onto parts of Highway 14. In western Colorado, a mudslide closed U.S. 24 two miles east of Minturn. Mudslides also were reported in the Marble and Redstone areas. The National Weather Service estimates some parts of western Colorado got two inches of rain.

Meanwhile, Wellington fire officials say lightning struck nine farmworkers, injuring two critically and four seriously. The incident came as two other lightning strikes in Colorado and Montana left people injured, and as firefighters battled lightning-sparked wildfires across the West.

An official says a landslide triggered by heavy rains has killed at least five people near Turkey’s border with Syria. The landslide, which struck early Friday, demolished six hillside houses near the town of Dortyol in the border province of Hatay. At least 12 people were hurt. The victims included an elderly man and woman and their two grandchildren who were buried beneath their collapsed home. At least nine people were rescued by helicopters dispatched to the area.

Signs of the Times (7/16/13)

July 16, 2013

Future of Marriage is Being Undermined

Canada legalized same-sex marriage ten years ago and the results don’t bode well for marriage in general. Canada’s 2011 census shows that marriage is in overall decline. Whistleblower magazine notes that the redefining of marriage obscures its meaning and purpose which discourages people from taking it seriously. Meanwhile, same-sex marriage in Canada remains a statistically minor event with just 21,000 married same-sex couples out of 6.3 million total marriages. The article further notes that marriage rates have also plummeted in both Spain and the Netherlands after same-sex marriage became legal.

This is in line with the gay agenda which seeks to destroy marriage entirely, as admitted by a prominent lesbian journalist. “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there,” said Masha Gessen at a Sydney Writer’s Festival. Gessen, whose three children have five parents, further states, “It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”

  • Satan and his minions won’t rest until God’s ordained family structure is completely rent asunder

85% Say Christian Photographer Has Right to Turn Down Same-Sex Wedding Job

Eighty-five percent of American adults believe if a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage is asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, he has the right to say no, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Only 8 percent disagree — even as the courts are hearing such challenges. The survey, which was conducted on July 7-8, 2013, has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

  • Even as our secularist, socialist, globalist government seeks to mold public opinion, they ignore it when it conflicts with their objectives, using liberal courts and executive orders to enforce their agenda
  • Texas Senate Approves Restrictive Abortion Bill

Republicans in the Texas Legislature passed an omnibus abortion bill that is one of the most restrictive in the nation, but Democrats vowed Saturday to fight both in the courts and the ballot box as they used the measure to rally their supporters. More than 2,000 demonstrators filled the Capitol building in Austin to oppose the bill, and state troopers dragged six out of the Senate chamber for trying to disrupt the debate. The Republican majority ultimately passed the bill unchanged just before midnight, with all but one Democrat voting against it. “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” said Gov. Rick Perry who will sign the bill into law in the next few days. “This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health.”

Abortion Industry Targets Minorities

Statistics from the federal government now prove something that pro-lifers have contended – and the abortion industry has denied – for years: minorities are targeted by abortions. The numbers come from the CDC Abortion Surveillance report showing that 63 percent of abortions terminate the lives of black or Hispanic babies. It also revealed the presence of multiple abortuaries in many super-minority populated areas. Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics, who has been watching the situation for years. “That just tracks what we found in our research that we’ve done before; and that is that the American abortion industry targets the minority community. They’ve been doing this since Day 1.” The Life Dynamics work took a look at zip codes where abortion clinics are located and found they are largely in or near minority neighborhoods. According to Crutcher that confirms that the underlying purpose of the abortion industry is eugenics.

Agriculture Industry Teeming with Jobs

U.S. agriculture and food companies are struggling to attract enough workers, a problem the industry concedes is getting worse as innovation and growing demand for their products leads to the creation of thousands of new jobs. Agribusinesses have been working for years to shed their stodgy and outdated image to help draw employees and stop the loss of highly qualified workers to other fields such as engineering and financial services. While there has been an increase in the number of students enrolled in agriculture at U.S. universities, that’s not been enough to keep up with the demand that we’ve got in the workforce. Research found that, between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 54,400 jobs would be created annually in agricultural, food and renewable natural resources. To help fill the void, only 29,300 students are expected to earn degrees in traditional agriculture.

Economic News

Both low interest rates and higher home prices have played a role in the housing recovery changes, but as mortgage rates begin to tick upward, housing affordability will decrease, which in turn could cause a pause in the recovery’s progression, experts say. Mortgage rates began a swift climb in early May from record low levels. The increase in mortgage rates from 3.5 percent to 5 percent causes a 15-20 percent decrease in what the average home buyer can afford.

Consumer prices rise 0.5% in June with much of the increase coming from a jump in gas prices, the government said Tuesday. That was the largest monthly increase since February. Compared to a year earlier, prices are up only 1.8%, a level that’s considered low and consistent with a slow-growing economy. Stripping out volatile gas and food prices shows core inflation was up only 1.6% over the last 12 months, the smallest annual change since June 2011.

Goldman Sachs said its second-quarter profit doubled, as the giant investment bank saw revenues climb 30% while stock and bond underwriting sales rose by nearly half. Other banks like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have also been able to exploit the fast-changing rate environment to boost profits,

China, the world’s second-largest economy, saw its gross domestic product grow 7.5% from a year earlier in the second quarter, slowing from the previous quarter’s 7.7%, but still strong.

A 24-hour general strike protesting further austerity measures brought many public services in Greece to a grinding halt Tuesday. Public transit systems, flights and garbage collection services were affected by the nationwide action — the fourth general strike this year — while hospitals are running on skeleton staffing. The general strike takes place ahead of a vote in parliament Wednesday on a bill containing further austerity measures.

Persecution Watch

A court in Pakistan on Saturday (July 13) sentenced a Christian to life in prison for alleged blasphemy in spite of the complainant retracting the accusation and admitting police pressured him into making it, his attorney said. Attorney Javed Sahotra told Morning Star News by phone that prosecutors at the court in Toba Tek Singh District in Punjab Province produced no evidence that 29-year-old Sajjad Masih denigrated the prophet of Islam, and that Islamist mobs pressured the judge into the conviction and verdict.

Middle East

U.S. officials say Israel targeted advanced anti-ship cruise missiles near Syria’s principal port city in an air attack carried out earlier this month. The officials say the attack on July 5 near the city of Latakia targeted a type of Russian-made missile called the Yakhont that Russia had sold to the Syrian government, the New York Times reported on its website Saturday night. Russia is a key political ally and arms supplier of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Israel maintains it’s not involved in Syria’s 2-year-old civil war except to stop weapons transfers. The strike near Latakia was the fourth known air strike in Syria by Israel this year.

Saudi Arabia has built missile launch pads that target both Iran and Israel with ballistic missiles, according to imagery and analysis by IHS Jane’s, the British security consultancy. The discovery is a sign that Saudi Arabia has prepared for the possibility that Iran will become a nuclear power, and it’s a reminder that a decades-long truce between Saudi Arabia and Israel is just that, and not a peace treaty. Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said in 2011 that his country would purchase “off the shelf” nuclear weapons if Iran developed its own supply.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a renewed initiative on Sunday to raise awareness of the danger posed to the world from Iran’s renegade nuclear program. In an appearance on CBS New’s Face the Nation program Sunday morning, Netanyahu declared that the Islamic Republic was just 60 kilograms short of crossing the “red line” he defined at last year’s UN General Assembly, the possession of 250 kg. of 20% enriched uranium, enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb. He added that Iranian engineers were building “faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line at a much faster rate. That is, within a few weeks. They’re getting closer. They should understand that they’re not going to be allowed to cross it.”

Egypt

A fresh round of violence erupted in Egypt’s capital Monday night, killing at least seven and injuring hundreds, after a week of relative calm. Police fired tear gas at protesters who blocked a major road when they gathered in Ramses Square to show support for former president Mohammed Morsi. The scene quickly devolved into clashes as some demonstrators, shielding their faces from stinging gas, retaliated by hurling stones. Two people were killed in the immediate vicinity, while five more were killed in Giza due to clashes, which continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi will meet met with Cabinet nominees Sunday and Monday in an effort to complete formation of a new government by Tuesday or Wednesday. The moves come as Egyptian authorities launch an investigation of ousted President Mohamed Morsi as well as several leaders and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The state prosecutor opened the probe after receiving complaints against Morsi and several leaders of his Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria

Syria’s main Western-backed opposition said Sunday that 200 civilians are trapped in a mosque in a suburb of the Syrian capital as fighting rages outside between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, Syrian activists said mortar shells landed in three separate Damascus districts, killing one person and wounding several others. The attacks coincided with Syrian army strikes on the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees on the edge of the city.

Taliban fighters from Pakistan have joined forces with al Qaeda forces in Syria to fight Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime. Pakistan Taliban (TTP) commander Abdul Rashid Abbasi has told CNN that the first batch of 120 fighters has arrived in Syria and established a command and control center to launch operational activities alongside Syrian rebel fighters. The Taliban commander went on to say that another batch of fighters comprising 150 men will arrive in Syria this week.

Iraq

Bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques in Baghdad late Saturday, killing at least 21 people leaving prayers and extending a wave of daily violence rippling across Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan. A separate attack at a funeral northeast of the capital killed at least three others. Iraq is weathering its worst eruption of violence in half a decade, raising fears the country is heading back toward the widespread sectarian fighting that peaked in 2006 and 2007. More than 2,600 people have been killed since the start of April.

Sudan

Gunmen ambushed a United Nations peacekeeping team Saturday in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, killing seven and wounding another 17 in the deadliest single attack on the international force in the country. The assault included sustained heavy fire from machine guns and possibly rocket-propelled grenades, targeting the UN force. Reinforcements later arrived to rescue the wounded, which included two female police advisers. Peacekeepers have been targeted by assailants in the past in the region since the international force began its work there in 2008.

Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir has left Nigeria, a diplomat at his embassy said Tuesday, following demands from human rights activists for the arrest of the man indicted for genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Nigeria was forced in the past to hand over an internationally wanted criminal — former Liberian President Charles Taylor, the warlord who began that country’s devastating civil war in 1989. South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Central Africa Republic “have specifically made clear Bashir will be arrested in their territory.

North Korea

Panama says it has seized a North Korean-flagged ship carrying what appeared to be ballistic missiles and other arms that had set sail from Cuba. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said the undeclared military cargo appeared to include missiles and non-conventional arms. He said the ship was violating United Nations resolutions against arms trafficking. He said that the arms were “hidden in containers underneath the cargo of sugar.”

North Korea is to blame for last month’s cyberattacks on the websites of South Korean media companies and the president and prime minister’s offices, a South Korean investigation concluded Tuesday. South Korea’s ministry of science said it was blaming North Korea based on analysis of codes, Internet addresses and personal computers used to launch the attacks. The attacks occurred June 25, the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

Mexico

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the notoriously brutal leader of the feared Zetas drug cartel, has been captured in the first major blow against an organized crime leader by a Mexican administration struggling to drive down persistently high levels of violence. Trevino’s capture removes the leader of a corps of special forces defectors who splintered off into their own cartel and spread across Mexico, expanding from drug dealing into extortion and human trafficking. Along the way, the Zetas authored some of the worst atrocities of Mexico’s drug war, slaughtering dozens, leaving their bodies on display and gaining a reputation as perhaps the most terrifying of the country’s numerous ruthless cartels.

Wildfires

Firefighters worked amid rainstorms and flash flooding Friday to contain a wildfire that has burned since July 1 in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas, while U.S. Forest Service crews began trying to restore damaged plant and animal habitat. The rain caused flash flooding in eastern parts of the fragile and damaged burn zone. Firefighters improved and expand fire lines already constructed around 43 percent of the fire, including near more than 400 homes, a rustic hotel and a scenic alpine lodge in the Kyle Canyon area about 25 miles northwest of Las Vegas. More than 500 residents remained evacuated from the Rainbow, Old Town and Echo hamlets in Kyle Canyon, heading into a second weekend out of their homes.

Last week, there were more large wildfires burning in the western U.S. now than at any time in the past 40 years and the total area burned each year has also increased. A recent federal study analyzed wildfire data stretching back to the 1970s to see how fires have changed in the American West. In some states, like Arizona and Idaho, the number of large fires burning each year has tripled or even quadrupled. And in other states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled. Over the same span, average spring and summer temperatures across 11 Western states have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, contributing to the higher fire risks. Spring temperatures in Arizona have warmed faster than any other state in the U.S., rising nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit per decade since 1970, which has likely played a key role in Arizona’s rapid increase in fires over the past two decades. However, the monsoon rainy season has arrived and has helped extinguish many fires except in California which has remained dry.

Weather

Typically, weather systems move from west to east in the United States and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. This was not the case over the last four to five days as an area of low pressure moved in the reverse direction from the eastern states towards the southwestern states. This is the second odd July weather pattern this month. Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere got stuck over the South and brought daily bouts of showers and thunderstorms that caused flooding from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachians and Ohio Valley.

A powerful typhoon surged across northern Taiwan on Saturday, killing at least one person and disrupting transportation and commerce around the island of 23 million people, before heading westward toward the heavily populated Chinese coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. Typhoon Soulik was packing winds of 86 mph. Torrential rains buffeted large areas of northern and central Taiwan, with Hsinchu and the neighboring county of Miaoli reporting totals of 27-31 inches by early Saturday. Around Taipei and in its environs, emergency crews were struggling to restore power to the 520,000 homes and to remove hundreds of trees uprooted by the storm from streets and roads. The typhoon then hit coastal Fujian, China on Saturday afternoon, where about 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Signs of the Times (7/12/13)

July 12, 2013

Texas House Approves Abortion Law 98-49

The Texas House has approved new abortion limits in a second special session, less than two weeks after Senate Republicans failed to finish work on the bill amid a filibuster and raucous protests, ABC News reports. The bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allow abortions in surgical centers and ban abortions after 20 weeks. A final vote could be held as early as Friday in the Senate, where the measure died as the first special session expired. The House voted mostly along party lines Wednesday on what has become signature GOP legislation. Lawmakers spent more than 10 hours debating the bill on Tuesday, and Republicans rejected every attempt to amend it. Throngs of protesters were missing for Wednesday’s mostly procedural vote after days of protests by supporters and opponents. The Texas Senate votes on the bill Friday.

Coalition Says Military Christians are Being Silenced

Some officials in Washington are attempting to force military members to keep their religious beliefs quiet, according to CBN News. In response, a coalition of 14 groups concerned about religious liberty is backing the troops’ rights to speak about and act on their beliefs. The coalition announced they would be passing out palm cards to troops, letting them know what their religious rights are and who to turn to if they feel the military is violating those rights. “Back in April, Adm. William Dean Lee of the Coast Guard stood up at a local prayer breakfast and explained how he as an admiral in the Coast Guard was told that it was prohibited for him to give a Bible to a man who had just attempted suicide,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William Boykin of the Family Research Council. “We have an Air Force officer [who] for 23 years, everywhere he set up his shop, he would always put a Bible on his desk,” said Col. Ret. Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “He came to a new location, put his Bible on his desk, [and] his superior officer told him, ‘You cannot put your Bible on the desk because it may offend someone.'” The coalition presented a report citing dozens of cases involving anti-religious acts by the military in recent months and years.

Study: Teen Girls Targeted for Sexual Exploitation on TV

New research from the Parents Television Council found that underage female characters on primetime broadcast television are more likely to be presented in sexually exploitative scenes than adult women, and the appearance of underage female characters in a sexually exploitative scene increased the probability that the scene would be presented as humorous. The study results revealed that out of 238 scripted episodes which aired during the study period, 150 episodes (63 percent) contained sexual content in scenes that were associated with females and 33 percent of the episodes contained sexual content that rose to the level of sexual exploitation. The likelihood that a scene would include sexual exploitation was highest when the female characters were underage (23 percent). Sexually exploitative topics targeting underage females were more likely to be humorous (42.85 percent) compared to adult women (33.02 percent).

More Pro-LGBT Curriculum Coming

At their just-ended convention, the National Education Association adopted a business item that encourages members to incorporate into the classroom lessons promoting the homosexual lifestyle. The business item states that the NEA encourages “all educators [to] integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history, people and issues into their instructional programs.” The primary curriculum, Unheard Voices, is produced by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and offers what it calls “thematic” lessons on such topics as gender identity, “anti-LGBT slurs,” and “winning the right to marry.” NEA delegate Sue Halvorson of Minnesota, a Christian, urges parents to investigate these lessons online “because kids might not bring home [the material] because this curriculum that’s discussed there is something that’s done in the classroom and [during] classroom discussion.”

Survey: Evangelicals Increasingly Countercultural on Same-Sex Issues

As Americans who believe in a “one man, one woman” definition of marriage become a minority for the first time ever, evangelical Christians have actually become more opposed to same-sex marriage, according to a recent survey by the Barna Group, Christianity Today reports. The poll reveals that as Americans have become more aware of the LGBT community’s agenda, a majority of Americans have likewise become more accepting of legal recognition of same-sex unions and granting these unions equal rights. Catholics, other religious groups, and religious “nones” have shown large increases in support for legal recognition of gay rights, but churchgoing Protestants — and evangelicals in particular — have maintained firm opposition to the legal measures on social and moral grounds. More than a third of practicing Catholics think same-sex relationships are morally sound, a marked increase since 2003, but those who identify as practicing Protestants show the least moral support for same-sex marriages, at only 15 percent. Evangelicals pronounced an even stronger rejection of the morality of same-sex relationships, with the percentage of disapproving respondents jumping from 95 percent to 98 percent. Pew found that for the first time in history, a (slim) majority of Americans support legalization of gay marriage. While only 22 percent of white evangelical Protestants favored same-sex marriage in 2013, the number who supported “legal agreements” recognizing same-sex unions more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Governments Lose Trust as Corruption Soars

More than one in four people around the world have paid a bribe in the past year, according to a global survey conducted by Transparency International. Released Tuesday, the survey finds that corruption is a growing problem, with a majority of respondents saying that the situation has deteriorated in their country over the past two years. Political parties are seen as the most corrupt class of organization in some 51 countries. Thirty-six countries name the police as the most corrupt, while another 20 countries say the judiciary is their biggest source of trouble. More than 50% of people think that their government is controlled by small groups and special interests.

Liberia and Sierra Leone rank at the bottom, with more than three in four of those surveyed saying they had paid a bribe in the past year. Bribery rates were over 50% in Cambodia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Tanzania, Kenya, Libya, Mozambique, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe. At the other end of the spectrum, Australia, Belgium, Portugal, Malaysia, Finland, Denmark and Croatia were among the countries reporting a bribery rate of less than 5%. Between 5% and 9.9% of respondents in the United States and United Kingdom said they had paid a bribe.

  • But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2Timothy 3:1-4)

Taking the Military at Faith Value

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council writes, “There may not be a lot of atheists in foxholes, but there certainly are a lot of quiet Christians these days. Under an administration that views religion as more of a liability than an asset, more of our troops are taking the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach to faith. The climate of intimidation that began in the Air Force is bleeding over into every branch — leading even military chaplains to wonder about their security in referencing a Bible that some airmen aren’t even allowed to leave on their desks. In a Pentagon where evangelical Christians are viewed by some as “extremists,” the pressure to impose a secular culture on our nation’s military has intensified enormously during President Obama’s time as commander-in-chief. His administration, whose primary goal seems to be opposing Americans’ conscience rights, is continuing that attack on a military culture defined by a long tradition of faith.”

  • The attacks on all things Christian are rapidly intensifying as the anti-Christ spirit stirs the pot in the end-time lead-up to the one-world government led by Satan’s chosen anti-Christ leader

One-Third of Americans Receive Food Support

Roughly one-third of Americans receive subsidized food assistance from the government, outstripping the total number of people employed in the country’s private sector. Of the 316 million people living in America, a total of 101 million people currently participate in at least one of the nation’s 15 federal food programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, costing taxpayers $114 billion in 2012, The food stamp program represents the largest federally funded food assistance program, with a record 46.7 million participants, costing $88.6 billion in 2012. The next largest is the National School Lunch program which provides 32 million students with low-cost or no-cost meals daily.

Job Picture Not as Rosy as Claimed

The “official” unemployment rate held steady at 7.6%. The economy created 195,000 jobs in June. However, the number of people who gave up looking for work because they believe no jobs were available increased by 206,000 from a year earlier to 1 million. The number of individuals who were working part time increased by 432,000, twice the number of jobs created. Full time jobs actually declined by 272,000. In part, this increase in part time jobs and decline in full time jobs reflects a change in hiring practices in anticipation of ObamaCare taking effect. The new law substantially increases the cost of businesses providing employees health insurance but only requires that they provide coverage to full time employees. As result, employers are dividing available hours of work among more jobs, creating more part time employees and reducing the number of full time jobs. This actually reduces the official unemployment rate which counts part time jobs as equal to full time jobs.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits the weekend July 6 jumped a more-than-expected 16,000 to 360,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The prior week’s figure was also revised up and the four-week moving average — a less volatile measure of claims for jobless aid — rose 6,000 to 351,750. The jobs market is still not solid enough for the Federal Reserve to speed up any plans to pull back on its massive monthly bond purchases, Chairman Bernanke said.

The Consumer Confidence Index, produced by the Conference Board, climbed to 81.4 in June, up from 73.4 in May. The Conference Board’s said that 19.6% of those surveyed in June expected jobs to be more plentiful, up from 16.3% those surveyed in May.

Shoppers broke out their credit cards in May, another sign that consumer optimism might be on the rise. Consumer credit soared a seasonally adjusted $19.6 billion in May vs. $10.9 billion in April. In percentage terms, the 8.3% annualized gain in total consumer debt in May was the largest since a 9% gain in May 2012. Revolving credit — credit-card debt, mainly — rose to $856.5 billion in May from $849.9 billion in April, a 9.3% annualized gain.

Credit card holders are more responsible about paying their bills than they’ve been in more than 22 years. Delinquencies on bank-issued credit cards — on accounts that were 30 days or more overdue — fell to 2.41% in the first quarter of 2013, the lowest level since 1990. Delinquencies on bank-issued credit card accounts, which declined for six consecutive quarters, were less than half the record high of 5.01% set in 2009 and well below the 15-year average of 3.87%.

Total foreclosure filings, including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, dropped to 127,790 in June, down 35% over the past 12 months. The number of foreclosure filings have plunged so fast — down 14% since May — that the housing market could be back to pre-mortgage meltdown levels before the end of the year.

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to 4.51%, a two-year high. Rates have been rising on expectations that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases this year.

Middle East

Dozens of people were wounded on Tuesday when a massive car bomb hit the Bir al-Abed neighborhood of Beirut, known to be a stronghold the Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, the most dramatic evidence yet that the civil war in neighboring Syria is spilling over into its smaller Western neighbor. “This is the work of agents trying to create strife in Lebanon,” said Hezbollah parliamentary deputy Ali Meqdad. Interior Minister Marwan Charbel agreed, saying the attack was “a criminal act aimed at destabilizing the country and creating Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife.

Egypt

A senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the timetable announced by the country’s interim president for amending the country’s constitution and setting new presidential elections. “The Brotherhood will not drop its push to reinstate deposed President Mohammed Morsi,” said Essam el-Erian. Interim President Adly Mansour issued the timetable for the transition process late Monday. Under the plan, he would create two panels to amend the constitution. Those changes would be put to a referendum within about 4½ months, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2014.

Egyptian soldiers and police clashed with Islamists protesting the military’s ouster of the president in bloodshed Monday that left at least 51 protesters and three members of the security forces dead, officials and witnesses said, and plunged the divided country deeper into crisis with calls by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party for all-out rebellion against the army. The carnage outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo — where toppled President Mohammed Morsi was first held last week — marked the single biggest death toll since massive protests forced Morsi’s government from power and brought in an interim civilian administration. Egypt geared up for another day of protests Friday as the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi planned to take to the streets to resist the military’s overthrow of the Islamist leader.

Iran

US intelligence agencies have assessed that as early as 2015, Iran will be set to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that has the capability to strike the United States, a released Pentagon report states. “Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality, and accuracy of its ballistic missile force,” the report says. “Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” The US Department of Defense assessment was compiled by The National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, together with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Pakistan

Taliban militants have pressed their violent campaign against girls’ education in northwestern Pakistan, bombing schools and terrifying pupils and parents. More than 800 schools in the region have been attacked since 2009. The Pakistani Taliban see schools as symbols of both Western decadence and government authority, but their attacks are also intended to deny the Pakistani military the possibility of establishing temporary bases in the buildings. Typically, they strike in the dead of night, planting explosives that topple buildings and shred desks and blackboards. And the Taliban continue to exert pressure on parents and pupils. Night letters posted in the town describe girls’ schooling as a “product of the West” and order pious Muslims to shun the schools.

Wildfires

Firefighters in the mountains near Las Vegas hoped that predicted rain showers and cooler temperatures would help them corral a massive wildfire that for 10 days charred almost 44 square miles and was still just 15 percent contained. Thunderstorms could be a mixed blessing for crews working to protect 400 woodsy homes, a rustic hotel and a scenic alpine lodge from the stubborn Carpenter 1 blaze. Flames have destroyed soil-anchoring grass and shrubs on hillsides in the pinion, juniper and bristlecone pine forest spread over steep and rocky terrain. Too little rain won’t help. Too much could cause mudslides in burned areas. Lightning could spark new fires. Crews were working Thursday to stop flames from advancing southeast toward the scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. Five structures at a remote ranch and one commercial building at Prospect Springs burned Tuesday.

In northern Nevada, a voluntary evacuation order was lifted for residents near a wildfire in the mountains near Gardnerville and Carson City. More than 1,060 firefighters have been battling the Bison fire that was sparked by lightning July 4. The blaze, which is 65 percent contained, is burning on roughly 43 square miles of rugged terrain.

In Arizona, residents were allowed to return Tuesday to about 100 of the 200 homes evacuated due to a wildfire in Kearny, 73 miles southeast of Phoenix. In Northern California, more than 800 firefighters battled a fire in the El Dorado National Forest west of South Lake Tahoe that spread to almost 1 square mile but was about 80 percent contained. In Southern California, cooler and calm weather helped slow an 11-square-mile wildfire that destroyed at least 100 buildings at a mountain camp near Julian, 60 miles east of San Diego. The blaze was 40 percent contained.

Weather

Flooding in western China, the worst in 50 years for some areas, triggered a landslide that buried up to 40 people Wednesday. There was no immediate word on the chances of survival for the 30 to 40 people buried in the landslide. Meanwhile, to the northeast, at least 12 workers were killed when a violent rainstorm caused the collapse of an unfinished coal mine workshop they were building. The accident Tuesday night came amid heavy rain and high winds across a swath of northern China, including the capital, Beijing.

Tropical Storm Chantal roared south of Puerto Rico early Wednesday on a path that will see it pass over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where authorities warned of possible landslides and heavy flooding. Chantal was becoming disorganized and a hurricane watch was discontinued for the Dominican Republic’s southern coast. Officials in the Dominican Republic, where Chantal was expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon, urged those living in low-lying areas to evacuate, but few paid heed.

A line of severe thunderstorms raced through the Ohio River Valley Wednesday, causing numerous power outages due to downed trees and power lines. Roughly 300 reports of either wind damage or high winds (greater than 58 mph) were received in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the majority of which were in a swath from eastern Illinois and Indiana into Ohio, western Pennsylvania, southwest New York, and northern West Virginia.

Heavy rain sent rocks, mud, debris and running water rushing down part of U.S. 24 in a canyon in Manitou Springs, Colorado, leaving some vehicles covered or stuck in mud. The rockslide closed a four-mile stretch of U.S. 24 Wednesday afternoon. The American Red Cross opened a shelter for people seeking higher ground. The National Weather Service had issued flash flood warnings Wednesday afternoon for areas scarred by the Waldo Canyon Fire last year and the Black Forest Fire this year, since soil and vegetation that normally would absorb rainfall there has been burned away.

Signs of the Times (7/8/13)

July 8, 2013

Ohio Terminates Planned Parenthood Funding With Pro-Life Budget

At first glance, it’s a budget bill: Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year, $62 billion state budget on June 30 that reduces state income tax by $2.6 billion. But the new budget also eliminates funding from Planned Parenthood, blocks public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion clinics and requires abortion providers to provide ultrasounds on women seeking abortions, WORLD reports. Ohio has 12 abortion facilities, and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the new budget could force many clinics to close. “Today Governor Kasich enacted measures that prescribe medically unnecessary procedures, force doctors to mislead their patients and will force quality medical centers to close,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of the group. Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, praised Kasich, saying it will protect women and save babies’ lives. The budget went into effect July 3.

3 Major Newspapers Refuse Pro-Life Ad

A pro-life organization called Heroic Media created an ad raising awareness of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. The ad featured a baby around 20 to 24 weeks being held in a person’s hand. The caption beside the image read:  “This child has no voice, which is why it needs yours.” This group wanted to purchase ad space from certain newspapers, but three major newspapers turned them down, because the image of the small child was “too controversial.” It was the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and USA Today that refused to run their ad.

Churches Boost Security as Violent Incidents Grow

The number of deadly episodes in church sanctuaries has soared over the last decade. In 1999, there were 22 violent deaths — including homicides and suicides — reported at worship centers nationwide, according to statistics compiled by Chinn. Last year, there were 115 attacks, with 75 of those ending in a fatality. In many churches, ushers still are the front line of security, with many spotting distraught worshipers or stepping in during minor disputes. Other congregations have no systematic way of knowing or watching who walks through the doors.

Just last month, the federal government stepped in with a first-ever report outlining security recommendations for houses of worship. The 38-page plan, released just days after a man was shot and wounded during a Catholic Mass in Salt Lake City, advises congregations to plan for potential emergencies, including what police call random “active shooter” situations. Some church leaders are reluctant to discuss security measures but point to a long tradition of pastors preaching faith but also carrying guns. Florida law allows people to carry weapons in houses of worship.

  • The anti-Christ spirit is becoming more active and more violent as the end-times progress toward the Great Tribulation

Another Delay for Obamacare

The Obama administration has scaled back another of its key healthcare rules, delaying a requirement that verifies the income levels of those seeking taxpayer subsidies until after the 2014 midterm elections. Instead, the new insurance marketplaces operated by states and the District of Columbia will take the consumer’s word that they qualify for the subsidies. Verification plans for the taxpayer subsidies won’t go into effect until 2015 for those earning about $45,000 to purchase health insurance. The move comes days after another Obamacare snag was announced on Wednesday when the administration delayed until 2015 the employer mandate that required businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to pay stiff fines for failing to providing insurance.

  • These delays conveniently postpone controversial aspects of Obamacare until after midterm elections

Secret Court Expands NSA Surveillance Powers

Officials say that more than a dozen classified rulings have created a secret body of law that gives the NSA the power to gather massive information collections on Americans. The data collection is not just restricted to terrorism suspects but “people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks.” According to officials who are familiar with these classified rulings, the court has expanded its role while assessing “broad constitutional questions” and establishing judicial precedents without any public scrutiny. The role of the FISA court has changed over the years, originally approving case by case wiretaps. In 2007, with greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations and other legislation, the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court “has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.”

  • This court was supposed to oversee foreign intelligence, not domestic, demonstrating yet again how politicians twist and subvert laws and courts to suit their own objectives. Now FISA becomes part of the New World Order’s arsenal for suppressing dissent as it foists socialism and secularism upon America

41 IMF Bailouts And Counting

Broke nations are bailing out other broke nations with borrowed money. As of April, 41 different countries had active financial “arrangements” with the IMF.  Sometimes they are called “bailouts” and sometimes they are called other things, but in every single case they involve loans. And most of the time, these loans come with very stringent conditions.  It is a form of “global governance” that doesn’t get any mainstream press coverage. For decades, the IMF used its funds as a way to force developing nations to do what it wants them to do.  Up until fairly recently, this had mostly only been done with poor nations.  But now an increasing number of wealthy nations are turning to the IMF for help.  We have already seen Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus receive bailouts which were partly funded by the IMF. Spain has received a bailout for its banking sector, and it is being projected that Italy will need a major bailout within six months.

  • How long can indebted nations like the U.S. continue to bail out others without the entire economic system collapsing? But in the meantime, globalists are able to use the IMF to force us closer and closer to the one-world government prophesied in Revelation 11.

Doctor Shortage Worsening

In 2010, the U.S. was short 13,700 physicians, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. This will grow to 62,900 by 2015 and reach a crisis level of 130,000 by 2025. There are three primary reasons for the accelerating shortage: first, the rapidly aging baby boomer population requires more and more services; second, Obamacare is expected to bring an influx of 40 million newly insured patients seeking medical care; and third, reimbursements to providers from private insurers and the government are diminishing, leading to a huge exodus of doctors leaving the field.

Economic News

Flush with cash, Chinese homebuyers are flooding into the U.S. housing market, and paying top dollar. Chinese buyers accounted for 18% of the $68.2 billion that foreigners spent on homes during the 12 months ended March 31. At a median price of $425,000, the Chinese are also buying more expensive homes than other foreign buyers, who spent a median of nearly $276,000 on U.S. homes. And nearly 70% of those pricey Chinese deals were made in all cash. Nowhere is the influx of Chinese homebuyers felt more strongly than in California, where more than half of the homes sold to foreign buyers went to Chinese nationals.

Egypt

Deadly violence erupted in Cairo on Monday at a sit-in by supporters of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, leaving many dead and raising the specter of civil war. Egypt’s health ministry said at least 42 people were killed and over 300 hundred injured when Egyptian soldiers and police clashed with Islamists protesting the president’s ouster outside a military building in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm has called on Egyptians to rise up against the army, a move that threatens to divide further a country that is already deep in crisis. Supporters of Morsi said the security forces fired on hundreds of protesters, including women and children, at a sit-in encampment outside a Republican Guard building as they performed early morning prayers. The military said people tried to storm the building in Cairo’s Nasr City.

At least 30 people were killed Friday in Egypt as gunfire and running battles erupted in several cities during a day of protests called by Islamists angered by the military ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. At least 12 deaths were reported in clashes In Alexandria, the country’s second largest city, after Islamists opened fire on a rally of Morsi opponents. More than 400 were reported injured nationwide.

Syria

The United States faces “a 10-year issue” in Syria as it weighs how deeply it wants to get involved the country’s civil war, the top U.S. military officer warned in an interview that aired Sunday. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told CNN’s State of the Union that the conflict is entwined in a regional issue that is now spilling over into both Lebanon and Iraq, and those underlying causes “will persist for 10 years.” It is related to a competition between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, and it’s been hijacked at some level on both sides by extremists — al Qaeda on one side and Lebanese Hezbollah and others on the other side,” said Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Iran

Iran’s central bank on Saturday drastically devalued the national currency’s fixed subsidized rate against the dollar, as the Islamic republic struggles to shore up its faltering economy. The rial has lost more than two thirds of its value on the open market since early 2012, when the United States and the European Union imposed harsh economic sanctions curbing Iran’s ability to export oil and conduct financial transactions.

At least 14 prisoners have been executed according to official and unofficial reports from Iran Saturday. Seven other prisoners were scheduled to be executed today according to unconfirmed reports. According to official and unofficial reports at least 60 prisoners have been executed after the Presidential elections in Iran. According to ‘Human rights and democracy activists in Iran, 11 prisoners, five of them women, were hanged in the prison of Zahedan.

Nigeria

Islamic militants attacked a boarding school in northeast Nigeria before dawn Saturday, killing 29 students and one teacher. Some of the pupils were burned alive in the latest school attack blamed on a radical terror group. The gunmen are believed to be from the Boko Haram sect whose name means “Western education is sacrilege.” The gunmen came armed with jerry cans of fuel that they used to torch the school’s administrative block and one of the hostels.

India

A series of small bombs went off in and around a world-famous Buddhist temple in eastern India Sunday, injuring two people. Four of the eight explosions occurred at the Mahabodhi temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Bihar state that houses a tree where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. The temple itself was not damaged. The other four blasts hit other sacred locations around Mahabodhi. Suspicion fell on the home-grown Islamist group Indian Mujahideen. The group, designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is blamed for dozens of deadly bomb explosions throughout India since 2005.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 on Saturday struck off Mentawai islands in western Indonesia, causing panic but officials said there were no reports of damages or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered 121 miles west-northwest of Bengkulu on Sumatra Island, at a depth of 14 miles.

Weather

Panama City Beach, Florida, was slammed with some of the worst flooding residents have seen in a long time. The area got 4.24 inches of rain in a short amount of time on Friday. The fire department used boats to rescue dozens of county residents from flooded homes in low-lying area.

Tropical Storm Chantal barreled through the Atlantic Ocean early Monday, racing toward the Lesser Antilles, the National Weather Service said. The third named storm of the 2013 hurricane season is expected to cross into the Caribbean on Tuesday. The five-day tracking map takes the storm near Puerto Rico, the island of Hispaniola, Cuba, the Bahamas and South Florida.

Signs of the Times (7/5/13)

July 5, 2013

Abortionists Chant “Hail Satan” as Christians Sing Amazing Grace

As Texas gears up to push legislation that would prohibit late term abortions — those conducted after 20 weeks — Christian activists in the Texas State Capitol sang “Amazing Grace.” Abortion rights activists, there to support killing kids, tried to shout down the Christians by chanting “Hail Satan.” These people support the party that booed the inclusion of God in the Democratic platform. See the video.

  • Their true colors are showing through as they wittingly and unwittingly advance Satan’s agenda

Polygamists Celebrate Supreme Court Marriage Decisions

Across America in June, homosexuals gathered in so-called “pride parades.” This year, they celebrated the recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 — but they’re not the only ones celebrating. Polygamists are celebrating too. “We’re very happy with it,” said Joe Darger, a Utah polygamist. “I think [the court] has taken a step in correcting some inequality, and that’s certainly something that’s going to trickle down and impact us.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said: “Proponents of ‘plural marriages’ are riding the homosexual movement’s wave of success all the way to legitimacy. They’re using the same playbook, the same sound bites. … After all, who are we to say that two or three or nine consenting adults shouldn’t be able to make the same commitment? Love is love, right?”

  • Destroying God’s ordained family structure is one of Satan’s key end-time strategies

Record Number of Single Dads Head U.S. Households

Single dads are on the rise in the United States, heading a record 8 percent of American households with kids, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. There were 2.6 million households led by a single father in 2011, a nine-fold increase from 1960 when that number was fewer than 300,000, Pew found. This means that men now lead about a quarter of all single-parent families. The trend underscores the decades-long decline of the two-married-parent model of the American family. Today, about two-thirds of U.S. households with kids are led by a married couple, down from more than nine in 10 in 1960.

Belgium Weighing Euthanasia for Children

Belgium appears on the verge of becoming the first developed country to legalize euthanasia for children, Baptist Press reports. The Belgian Federal Parliament reportedly has a consensus for passing legislation that would permit some seriously ill children to choose to die by euthanasia, according to the International Business Times, which based its reporting on an article in the Belgian newspaper Der Morgen. To conduct euthanasia, a physician administers a lethal dose of drugs that takes a patient’s life. Belgian legislators are considering a bill that would guide doctors in determining if a child’s health is serious enough to merit euthanasia and whether he is mature enough to decide to end his life, according to the June 11 report. Euthanasia of children is a reality now, according to the testimony of the head of the intensive care unit at Fabiola Hospital in Brussels. “We all know that euthanasia is already practiced on children,” he told a Senate committee. The Netherlands has not legalized euthanasia for children but has agreed since 2005 not to prosecute doctors who follow a set of rules while performing euthanasia on some minors.

Implementation of Obamacare Delayed

Businesses reacted with relief to the Obama administration’s decision to give large and midsize employers until 2015 to provide health care coverage for their workers or face fines. Before the administration’s announcement Tuesday, businesses with 50 or more employees had to provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees starting Jan. 1 or risk a series of penalties if even one worker ended up getting government-subsidized insurance. Reaction marked a divide between representatives of big business, who mostly provide insurance already and were focused on complying with complex new reporting rules, and representatives of small business who said they need much bigger changes. Small-business groups that opposed Obamacare entirely said the move didn’t go far enough. They are still lobbying for changes that will mandate coverage only for employees who work at least 40 hours a week, rather than 30.

100 anti-NSA Protests in U.S.

Americans outraged by the federal government’s spying programs took to the streets on Independence Day for “Restore the Fourth” protests in an estimated 100 American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Memphis and Miami, plus international cities such as London and Munich. The “Restore the Fourth” national protest was named after the Fourth Amendment, which was intended to protect Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” NSA’s PRISM online surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden only weeks ago. Americans soon learned that at least nine Internet companies reportedly submitted to government surveillance of their servers: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000 last week, a sign that layoffs remain low and companies are adding a modest number of jobs. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. Since March, they have fluctuated roughly between 340,000 and 360,000, a level consistent with steady hiring.

Employers added a better-than-expected 195,000 jobs in June, as the labor market continued to withstand huge federal spending cuts and tax increases, and a Eurozone recession. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. In June businesses added 202,000 jobs, while federal state and local governments cut 7,000.

Home sales have hit pre-recession levels and consumer confidence has surged for three straight months. But reports have shown consumer spending and manufacturing weakening. And last week, the government revised down its estimate for first-quarter economic growth to an annual rate of 1.8% from 2.4%.

The U.S. trade deficit increased in May to the highest level in six months as a weak global economy depressed U.S. export sales while imports of autos and other nonpetroleum products hit an all-time high. The trade deficit rose to $45 billion in May, up 12.1% from April’s $40.1 billion imbalance, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the largest trade gap since last November. Exports slipped 0.3% to $187.1 billion as sales of American farm products dropped to the lowest point in more than two years. Imports rose 1.9% to $232.1 billion. The trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $501.2 billion, 6.3% lower than last year’s total of $534.7 billion.

U.S. manufacturing activity grew in June at its slowest pace in eight months as overseas demand dried up and firms took on the fewest new workers in more than three years, a survey showed on Monday.

U.S. home prices jumped 12.2% in May from a year ago, the most in seven years. The increase suggests the housing recovery is strengthening. Prices rose 26% in Nevada to lead all states. It was followed by California (20.2%), Arizona (16.9%), Hawaii (16.1%) and Oregon (15.5%). Prices rose 2.6% in May from April, the fifteenth straight month-over-month increase.

The price of regular-grade gasoline has fallen below $3.50 a gallon on average nationally just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. And it wasn’t just a tiny price drop. A gallon of regular fell eight cents during the week from $3.577 to $3.496. Among regions, the cheapest gas can still be found, as usual, on the refinery-rich Gulf Coast. There, it averaged $3.312 a gallon, down from $3.377 a gallon. And the priciest? In California, the country’s driving Mecca, gas still is tops at an average of $4.002 a gallon.

Eurozone

Political turmoil in Portugal is threatening to re-ignite Europe’s debt crisis after a year of relative calm. Having won praise for taking tough measures to restore the financial health of the eurozone state, Portugal’s government has been rocked this week by the resignation of two ministers who quit because of waning public support for its program of austerity. Anxious investors sold stocks and bonds heavily Wednesday on fears that the government may collapse. Its economy has paid a heavy price for the spending cuts and structural reforms demanded in return for the rescue loans. Gross domestic product is forecast to shrink by 2.3% in 2013, a third consecutive year of recession, and unemployment has hit a record high of close to 18%. Portugal signed up for a 78-billion euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund in 2011, and was hoping to exit the program in mid-2014.

Persecution Watch

Syrian Catholic priest Francois Murad was beheaded last weekend by jihadi fighters, The Blaze reports. Murad, 49, who was setting up a monastery in Gassanieh, in northern Syria, was attacked at the monastery last Sunday by extremist militants trying to topple President Bashar Assad. The Catholic news service quoted local sources who reported that the radical al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, was behind the savage killing. In video posted by Live Leak purporting to show the execution, dozens of men and boys are seen cheering on as three men are seated on the ground awaiting their grisly fate. The men are methodically beheaded one at a time by men holding what appears to be a simple kitchen knife, after which the heads are placed on top of the bodies. A frenzy ensues, with dozens drawing out their smartphones to capture the bloody scene, as a chorus of Allahu Akbar (“Allah is the greatest”) is sung. Catholic Online is raising alarm that western nations are providing support to the rebels who have shown a proclivity toward persecuting Christians: “This should make it clear to Christians around the world what jihadists are about. Make no mistake. Catholics and [other] Christians around the globe are under dire threat, particularly from the spread of militant Islam. Until the threat is recognized and taken seriously, martyrdoms like this will continue.”

Egypt

Egypt’s top judge, Adly Mansour, was sworn in as the nation’s interim president Thursday as the country grapples with uncertainty over its future, and as deposed leader Mohammed Morsi is under house arrest at an undisclosed location. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party chief and deputy chief were also arrested early Thursday. Mansour will be Egypt’s interim president until a new election is held in the months ahead. A date for the vote has not yet been set. In his first remarks as the country’s new leader, Mansour, 67, who is the head of the High Constitutional Court, praised the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. The momentous upheaval effectively ousted Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected leader, and set the nation on a precarious path of transition. On Wednesday, the capital exploded in celebration, with fireworks erupting across the sky and thousands crowding into Tahrir Square. Flags waved from countless windows.

Egypt braced for more unrest Friday as Islamists were gathering to protest against what they are calling a military coup. A coalition of Islamist groups that includes the Muslim Brotherhood called for peaceful demonstrations on what they have dubbed a “Friday of Rejection.” The alliance said “It affirmed its full and categorical rejection of the military coup — against the President, the Constitution and democratic legitimacy — and all consequent actions and effects.” The ongoing political turmoil has sparked pockets of violence nationwide over the past week, killing around 50. Clashes erupted again on Thursday between Morsi’s opponents and supporters, this time in Morsi’s hometown, Zagazig, which is located in the Nile Delta region. Dozens were injured.

Syria

Syria’s main opposition bloc on Friday urged the international community to take action to protect civilians in the cities of Homs and Daraa that have been targeted by military as part of a government campaign to regain control of the territory it lost to the opposition. The government controls much of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, while several neighborhoods in the center are opposition strongholds. The appeal comes as opposition figures meet in Turkey to elect a new leadership, including an interim government that would try to run rebel-held territories in Syria. More than 93,000 people have been killed in the conflict that began as peaceful protests but turned into an armed revolt after opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown.

Afghanistan

The Taliban launched a series of attacks at the start of the latest fighting season to test Afghanistan’s new security forces, but government forces have blunted the assaults and responded with offensive operations throughout the country, a top coalition operations officer said. The fighting has led to a spike in Afghan casualties as government forces have moved into a lead role in fighting the Taliban. This fighting season is considered a major test of the resolve and capabilities of Afghanistan’s armed forces and police, which are confronting insurgents as a largely independent force for the first time. The United States and its allies are functioning solely in a support role. Afghan militants armed with explosives and firearms attacked a NATO compound just outside of Kabul early Tuesday, killing seven people and wounding several others

Pakistan

Unmanned U.S. aircraft fired four missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan before dawn Wednesday, killing 16 suspected militants. The drone strike elicited a swift condemnation by the Pakistani government, which released a statement saying the strikes are a violation of its sovereignty. The suspected militants who were targeted were believed to be from the Afghan Haqqani network. U.S. officials consider the Haqqani network to be one of the most dangerous militant factions in neighboring Afghanistan. The leadership of the Haqqani network pledges allegiance to Taliban chief Mullah Omar but operates fairly independently.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake struck Indonesia’s Aceh province on Tuesday, killing at least 235 people and leaving two others missing. More than 200 houses were damaged and dozens of villagers were injured. The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6 miles) and its epicenter was located 55 kilometers (34 miles) west of the town of Bireun on the western tip of Sumatra island. The worst-hit area was the district of Bener Meriah, where the quake caused a landslide that killed a man and left his wife and a young boy missing. Dozens of people were injured and are being treated at three hospitals.

Volcanoes

At least six U.S. airlines canceled more than 40 flights into and out of Mexico City and Toluca airports Thursday after the Popocatepetl volcano spewed out ash, steam and glowing rocks. Mexico City airport spokesman Jorge Gomez said U.S. Airways, Delta, United, American and Alaska Airlines canceled 47 flights as a precaution. But he said the airport otherwise continues to operate normally and that by Thursday afternoon no ash had reached the area. Federal civil protection authorities established a 7-mile (12-kilometer) safety radius around the Popocatepetl, which means no one can enter that area.

Wildfires

Containment on the Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters over the weekend has nearly doubled. Fire officials say the Yarnell Hill Fire is 80 percent contained, up from 45 percent earlier in the day Thursday. On Sunday, violent winds took the Granite Mountain Hotshots by surprise and killed 19 members of the elite crew. The fire also destroyed more than 100 homes and has burned about 13 square miles. Residents of the small town of Yarnell remain evacuated.

As of Friday morning, there are currently forty large (over 100 acres) wildfires burning in the U.S. Eleven are in Alaska which have burned over 134,000 acres. Ten wildfires are burning in Nevada and have consumed over 84,000 acres. One of the three wildland fires in New Mexico has consumed over 138,000 acres (about 216 square miles) and is 78% contained. The West Fork Complex wildfire in Colorado has burned over 110,000 acres with evacuations and road closures still in effect.

A Palestinian jihadist group, Masada al Mujahideen, recently claimed credit for ongoing wildfires in Arizona in a statement posted to jihadist forums today. The statement, entitled Masada al-Mujahideen Fulfilled its Promise and Attacked America Again. “We had previously announced an unconventional war against the occupation state of Israel, and then we escalated this war to reach its main supporter, America, so that it receives a major share of it, which will destroy their flora and fauna, with permission from Allah and then with our hands,” the group said.

Weather

Excessive heat is the No. 1 weather killer in the United States and it’s at its most dangerous when it doesn’t cool down at night. The current heat wave over California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico has temperatures hitting triple digits, with little relief at night. Hot weather is also baking the rest of the far West, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Utah and Montana. At Death Valley National Park, the official high of 129 degrees at Furnace Creek Sunday established a new June record for that notoriously toasty site. There was no relief at night either. Phoenix set a record for highest nighttime temperature: 91. Las Vegas has gone three days without getting below 90 overnight. If you aren’t in an air-conditioned place, “your body never has a chance to recover” at night,” say Eli Jacks, chief of fire and public weather services at the National Weather Service.

What was warned about for months since last year’s deadly Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs finally happened: flash flooding near the burn scar that shoved debris into homes and moved vehicles. More than a half inch of rain fell in less than 20 minutes Monday, causing mud to flow into 20 houses in Manitou Springs and western Colorado Springs. At least three homes were total losses, and at least 11 vehicles were damaged. The downpour over the burn scar forced more than 160 people to briefly evacuate a low-lying trailer park, and it also closed U.S. 24 for several hours.

The world has warmed faster in the last decade than any other in recorded history (since the 1800s), as the 2001-2010 period brought “unprecedented” climate extremes and high-impact weather events around the world, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization released July 3. More than 90 percent of the countries in the WMO survey reported their warmest decade. The year 2010 was the world’s wettest since modern weather measurements began, while the full decade was the world’s second-wettest since 1901. The loss of more than 370,000 people can be attributed to extreme weather and climate events around the world between 2001 and 2010. The number of deaths is 20 percent higher than the previous decade, largely due to heat waves in Europe and Russia (in 2003 and 2010, respectively), which spiked the number of heat-related deaths from 6,000 worldwide in 1991-2000 to about 136,000 in 2001-2010.

  • The key phrases here are ‘recorded history’ and ‘modern measurements’ which don’t include ice ages of the past nor other periods when the earth heated up. The Bible prophesies that we will see 100-pound hail stones in the Tribulation, so we know that weather will be getting more extreme (Rev. 16:21)

What’s turning many lakes around the world pink? It’s the presence of a certain kind of algae that turns these lakes pink, reports TheWorldGeography.com. Once the lake water reaches a higher salinity level than sea water and the temperature rises high enough, the reddish pigment beta carotene begins to accumulate in the algae and, according to a Daily Mail story, the lake turns a brilliant pink color. Pink lakes re found on nearly every continent now.

  • Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. (Revelation 16:4)

Signs of the Times (7/1/13)

July 1, 2013

Wildfire in Arizona Kills 19 Firefighters

An elite crew of firefighters trained to battle the nation’s fiercest wildfires was overtaken by an out-of-control blaze in Arizona, killing 19 members as they tried to protect themselves from the flames under fire-resistant shields. It was the most firefighters killed battling a wildfire in the U.S. since 1933. The lightning-sparked fire, which spread to over 8,300 acres with zero containment amid triple-digit temperatures, also destroyed 200 homes and sent hundreds fleeing from Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. Residents huddled in shelters and bars, watching their homes burn on TV as flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town. The disaster Sunday afternoon all but wiped out the 20-member Hotshot fire crew based in nearby Prescott, leaving the city’s fire department reeling.

Evangelicals Score Highest on Patriotism

When it comes to God and country, white evangelicals report the most intense patriotic feelings in a new poll, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) saying they are extremely proud to be an American. That figure was markedly higher than for white mainline Protestants (56 percent), minority Christians (49 percent), Catholics (48 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (39 percent), according to the study, conducted by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. White evangelicals are also more likely than any other religious group surveyed to believe that God has granted the U.S. a special role in history (84 percent) and to say they will likely attend a public July 4th celebration (62 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, relatively few religiously unaffiliated Americans believe in a God-given American exceptionalism, (40 percent) or plan to attend a public Independence Day celebration (48 percent).

Chick-fil-A CEO: ‘Founding Fathers Would Be Ashamed’ of Supreme Court Ruling

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has spoken out against gay marriage once again. Following the Supreme Court rulings Wednesday striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and opening the door for same-sex marriages in California, Cathy took to Twitter to criticize the rulings, CBS reports. “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies,” Cathy tweeted. It was later deleted from his account. Cathy created a firestorm last year when he spoke out in favor of traditional marriage, leading to protests and boycotts of Chick-fil-A. Thousands of supporters though flocked to restaurants nationwide last August for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” to stand behind the company’s platform.

New White House Study Finds… Guns Save Lives!

A new report commissioned by the White House titled Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-related Violence suggests what many self-defense gun proponents have been saying for years – that guns save lives. The report, ordered under one of President Obama’s 23 Executive Orders signed in the wake of the Sandy Hook incident, asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Research Council and other federal agencies to identify the “most pressing problems in firearms violence.” To the surprise of the authors and those who would no doubt have used the report to further restrict access to personal defense firearms, the study found that gun ownership actually saves lives and those who have a firearm at their disposal improve their chances of survival and reduce their chance of injury in the event they are confronted by a violent criminal: “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was “used” by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

Police Confiscate Guns From Flooded Town

The town of High River, Alberta, flooded, and then police came in, evacuated the population … and confiscated the residents’ guns out of their empty houses. Several news sources report tensions are high since news broke police have also been gathering residents’ firearms. “I find that absolutely incredible that they have the right to go into a person’s belongings out of their home,” resident Brenda Lackey told the Calgary Herald. “This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms,” said Charles Timpano at the checkpoint, where he and others have gathered to demand reentry into High River. The police, thus far, insist the gun confiscation is only for the citizens’ safety and that the firearms will be returned.

NSA Spied on European Union, Nations Protest

The diplomatic fallout over allegations the National Security Agency spied on European Union institutions threatened to escalate on Monday as Germany said it was summoning the U.S. ambassador over the breach in trust. The German news weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday that the NSA had bugged EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. The report cited secret U.S. documents allegedly obtained by the NSA leaker and former contractor Edward Snowden. The United States also taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China, according to secret U.S. documents quoted by a German news magazine.

French President Francois Hollande is demanding that the United States immediately stop its alleged eavesdropping of the European Union. The European Parliament has demanded an explanation from Washington and warned that EU-U.S. relations could suffer as a result. European officials, angered over the new revelations, said the program could threaten ongoing negotiations on a trans-Atlantic trade treaty.

Immigration Reform Bill Passes Senate, On to House

Immigration-reform advocates and opponents are turning their attention to the House of Representatives after Senate passage of a landmark immigration-reform bill to boost border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The Senate passed the historic 1,200-plus-page bill on Thursday by a vote of 68-32. Fourteen Republican senators joined all 52 Democrats and two independents to pass the bill, which was crafted by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators from both parties. The far-reaching legislation is the first comprehensive immigration-reform bill to clear the Senate since 2006. That year, the bill died in the House, which reform supporters fear poses a similarly steep challenge this year. Speaker John Boehner vowed that the House will take up its own legislation rather than vote on the bipartisan Senate bill.

Lawmakers Fail to Reach Student Loan Deal

Interest rates on student loans are set to double on Monday after lawmakers failed to find a bipartisan solution to keep the federally subsidized borrowing costs down. The Senate adjourned Thursday night for the July 4 recess without approving a student loan rate package. With the current, 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans — the most popular funding for college students – set to expire on July 1, a host of 11th-hour fixes all failed to generate support from both sides of the aisle. Without new legislation the cap rises to 6.8 percent. The higher rates would add about $3,000 to the total interest on a $23,000 student loan repaid over 10 years.

Texas Lawmakers Back to Continue Abortion Fight

Round two of Texas’ fierce ideological battle over abortion limits was set to begin Monday, less than a week after a Democratic filibuster and hundreds of raucous protesters threw the end of the first special session into chaos. The Legislature’s Republican majority has vowed to pass wide-ranging abortion restrictions quickly and easily this time, even as opponents mobilize for more protests. Governor Perry said he expects lawmakers to get their work done more quickly this time, making it harder for a filibuster to talk any proposed legislation to death.

ObamaCare Contraception Mandate Opponents Reject Compromise

The Obama administration’s final compromise for religiously affiliated nonprofits that object to covering birth control in their employee health plans is being met with criticism from some opponents of the so-called contraceptive mandate in ObamaCare. The final plan simplifies how insurers provide the coverage separately from faith-based groups and gives religious nonprofits more time to comply. The changes are unlikely to resolve objections from faith groups that the requirement violates their religious freedom. More than 60 lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule. The cases are expected to reach the Supreme Court. “This doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses,” said Eric Rassbach, an attorney representing many Christian clients, including Hobby Lobby.

U.K. to OK Creating Babies with DNA from 3 People

Britain may allow a controversial technique to create babies using DNA from three people, a move that would help couples avoid passing on rare genetic diseases, the country’s top medical officer says. The new techniques help women with faulty mitochondria, the energy source in a cell, from passing on to their babies defects that can result in such diseases as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation. About one in 200 children is born every year in Britain with a mitochondrial disorder. For a woman with faulty mitochondria, scientists take only the healthy genetic material from her egg or embryo. They then transfer that into a donor egg or embryo that still has its healthy mitochondria but has had the rest of its key DNA removed. The fertilized embryo is then transferred into the womb of the mother. The British press has labeled it the creation of a “three-parent baby.” Similar research is going on in the U.S., where the embryos are not (yet) being used to produce children.

  • There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25)

FDA Shuts Down 1,677 Online Pharmacies

The prices may look tempting, but ordering from an online pharmacy is often a bad deal, according to Interpol and the U.S Food and Drug Administration, announcing a crackdown Thursday on thousands of websites. The FDA said it has shut down 1,677 sites for selling counterfeit or substandard medication, or for selling drugs without appropriate safeguards. Other sites received regulatory warnings. Officials said they also arrested 58 people and seized more than $41 million worth of illegal medicines. Several sites had sleek interfaces and names that could easily be confused with legitimate pharmacy retailers. For example, the FDA shuttered Walgreens-Store.com; the well-known drugstore chain’s website is actually Walgreens.com. “These products can have none of the active ingredient that people need for the treatment of their disease. They can have too much or too little (of the ingredient); they can have toxic ingredients,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Student Loans Weighing Heavy on Millennials

Countless Millennials across the country find themselves tethered to student debt loads, stuck between the desire to become fully independent adults and not being able to afford the financial and cultural milestones traditionally associated with young adulthood. Rising tuition costs and an anemic job market are feeding this vicious cycle, as a generation with more student loan debt than any other is struggling to find its economic footing. The Project on Student Debt found that two-thirds of 2011 graduates had an average student loan debt of $27,500. That’s in stark contrast with 1993, when less than half of students graduated with debt, and those who did averaged $9,350,according to data from the Project on Student Debt. In today’s dollars, that’s about $15,000.

Economic News

Homebuyers got blindsided by an interest rate hike of more than half a percentage point Thursday, the biggest increase in more than 26 years. Now, many shoppers don’t know whether they should scramble for a loan or wait on the sidelines. Mortgage rates have risen by a full percentage point over the past two months.

U.S. home prices have risen for 14 straight months, but one set of buyers has been increasingly on the sidelines: first-time home buyers. In May, first-time buyers accounted for 28% of existing-home purchases, down from 34% a year before and 36% two years ago. Home loans are harder to get than before the housing bust, especially for first-time buyers.

Unemployment across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro hit another all-time high in May. Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said the Eurozone’s unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point in May to the new all-time high of 12.1%. There were 19.22 million people unemployed, 67,000 higher than the previous month. Nearly one in four people aged under-25 in the Eurozone are out of work. However, it is the U.S. that has the world’s worst unemployment rate among 25-to-34 year-olds at 26.2% in 2011.

Persecution Watch

Syrian Christians are asking why the United States supports extremists who want to turn Syria into an Islamic state, according to CBN News. That testimony came during a congressional hearing on Syria’s religious minorities on Tuesday. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who chairs the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, called on President Barack Obama to defend the rights of Syrian Christians. Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, testified that Islamic insurgents were targeting Christians for “ethno-religious cleansing.” Christian Solidarity International CEO Dr. John Eibner said displaced Christians were asking him, “Why is the U.S. at war against us?” He added that the U.S. should work with Russia to negotiate peace rather than help Sunni Muslims turn the country into an Islamic state.

Local authorities have taken the citizenship and farmland of six Christian families in Laos, promising to reinstate them only when the 16 people give up their Christian faith, Voice of the Martyrs reports. Laotian authorities and village party members confiscated the registration papers of the families, saying they would be returned if they renounced their faith. Next, they also took the deeds to their land. The families said, “We are willing to die rather than renounce our faith.” Voice of the Martyrs is helping the believers with food and fuel.

Middle East

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on his way back to Washington Monday that “real progress” had been made towards restarting negotiations during his visit to the region, which included long meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They (Netanyahu and Abbas) have spent hours working through language, working through ideas, and the effort that they and their teams have put into this convinces me of their interest in being successful,” Kerry said in a press release. However, declining to go into details Kerry added that “we have all agreed that the best way to serve this effort is not to be floating ideas or possibilities out there for everybody to tear apart and evaluate and analyze.”

As an intermittent supply of arms to the Syrian opposition gathered momentum last year, the Obama administration repeatedly implored its Arab allies to keep one type of powerful weapon out of the rebels’ hands: heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles, American officials warned, could one day be used by terrorist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda, to shoot down civilian aircraft. But one country ignored this admonition: Qatar, the tiny, oil- and gas-rich emirate that has made itself the indispensable nation to rebel forces battling calcified Arab governments and that has been shipping arms to the Syrian rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, reports the New York Times. Since the beginning of the year, according to four American and Middle Eastern officials with knowledge of intelligence reports on the weapons, Qatar has used a shadowy arms network to move at least two shipments of shoulder-fired missiles, one of them a batch of Chinese-made FN-6s, to Syrian rebels who have used them against Mr. Assad’s air force.

Egypt

A young American in Egypt was killed Friday in Alexandria while photographing clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohammed Morsi. Andrew Pochter was a 21-year-old teacher from Chevy Chase, Md., working in Egypt as an intern for a non-profit education organization. A medical official told the Associated Press the man died from a gunshot wound Fighting began when thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators marched toward the Brotherhood’s headquarters, where up to 1,000 supporters of the president were deployed, protecting the building. One other person was killed with 85 wounded. Tens of thousands opponents of President Mohammed Morsi also rallied Friday in Cairo, raising the specter of a second revolution in just three years.

Anti-government protesters in Egypt on Monday stormed the Cairo headquarters of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group. The six-story building in an eastern Cairo was ransacked and set on fire, and activists say at least five protesters were killed during the clashes between armed Morsi supporters barricaded inside the building and young protesters pelting it with firebombs and rocks. The fresh outbreak of violence comes after millions across the country on Sunday took to the streets to demand that the president resign. Opposition groups have given Morsi until Tuesday to step down.

Pakistan

Two separate bomb blasts in different parts of Pakistan on Sunday killed a total of at least 47 people and wounded more than 90 others. The attacks are the latest in a series of violent acts that have struck Pakistan in recent weeks, underscoring the daunting challenges faced by security forces and the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Hundreds of Shiites, including many Hazaras, have been killed in bloody attacks over the past year and a half by extremist groups in Pakistan, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. Human rights groups have criticized the failure of authorities to clamp down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni organization that has admitted carrying out much of the violence against Shiites.

Iran

Sanctions on Iran by the U.S. signed into law in January, and implemented and expanded via executive order in early June come into effect on Monday.The law, signed in January as part of the annual national defense authorization act, targets the Iranian energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, barring the sale, supply or transfer of ‘significant’ goods or services by non-U.S. companies. But the executive order goes even further than that. It targets the Iranian Rial, giving the U.S. the power to place sanctions on foreign financial institutions conducting ‘significant’ transactions involving the currency. The goal, senior administration officials said in June, was to make the Rial useless outside of Iran. Individuals or foreign financial institutions found providing material support to anyone already under sanctions against Iran are themselves subject to sanctions, the order says. The order authorizes sanctions against those who sell, supply or transfer to Iran goods or services that aid in making light and heavy vehicles such as passenger cars, trucks, buses, minibuses, pick-up trucks and motorcycles. The sanctions focused on the auto sector but also target foreign financial institutions.

Croatia

Croatia formally became the newest member of the European Union on Monday, marking an end to a 10-year campaign for a Balkan state that emerged from the ruins of a bloody civil war. The nation of 4.4 million people is the 28th member of the EU, and the second Balkan country that rose out of the ashes of Yugoslavia to join the union. Slovenia became a member in 2004. With a low credit rating and a political class stained by accusations of endemic corruption, Croatia’s challenges are unlikely to disappear overnight. It is three years into a debt crisis that is plaguing countries across southern Europe. Last year, unemployment peaked at 17.3% which is behind only Greece and Spain.

Africa

President Obama unveiled a new initiative to double access to electric power in sub-Saharan Africa with an initial $7 billion investment from the U.S. during a speech at the University of Cape Town Sunday. Private power companies such as General Electric and Symbion Power will also make an additional $9 billion in commitments to the project. Obama is in South Africa as part of a week-long trip to three countries on the continent. His first stop was in Senegal. On Monday, Obama will head to Tanzania in east Africa. His stay in South Africa has been overshadowed in part by the critical condition of 94-year-old former president Nelson Mandela who has been in hospital for more than three weeks due to a recurring lung condition.

North Korea

North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator will meet senior Russian officials next week to discuss ending the embattled nation’s nuclear program, Russia’s foreign ministry said. The meeting is “part of efforts to resume the six-party talks” related to North Korea’s controversial nuclear program. Those talks involving officials from North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia have been at a virtual standstill since 1999.

Weather

The heat wave that is gripping the western U.S. is one of the worst in years, with desert locations in the Southwest seeing temperatures approach 120 degrees. The blazing heat wave threatened to ground airliners and raised fears that pets will get burned on the scalding pavement. The heat was so punishing that rangers took up positions at trailheads at Lake Mead in Nevada to persuade people not to hike. Tourists at California’s Death Valley took photos of the harsh landscape and a thermometer that read 121 Friday. The mercury there was expected to reach nearly 130 through the weekend. Phoenix hit 119 degrees by mid-afternoon, breaking the record for June 29th, its fourth hottest day in history. Las Vegas tied its all-time record high Sunday for any month of the year, 117 degrees at McCarran International Airport.

Two people were missing after heavy rains inundated the northeast and led to severe flooding in some areas, officials said Saturday. A woman in upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley is unaccounted for after her mobile home was washed away by rising waters Friday. In Pennsylvania, officials said an 86-year-old Clinton County man was swept into a rain-swollen creek Thursday while trying to retrieve an ATV. One part of the county received about 7 inches of rain in an hour Thursday night.