Signs of the Times (7/19/13)

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.

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