Archive for August, 2013

Signs of the Times (8/31/13)

August 31, 2013

Public Wants Obama to Clear Syria Military Plans with Congress

Nearly 80% of Americans think President Obama should seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Syria, according to a NBC News poll published on Friday. The tough poll numbers for the White House come one day after members of Obama’s national security team provided 26 lawmakers with an unclassified briefing to detail some of the intelligence that they say shows regime loyalists linked to Syria President Bashar Assad was responsible for an Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus that left hundreds dead.

The British Parliament also voted on Thursday to reject taking limited military action against Syria, despite the UK government releasing intelligence that shows the regime have deployed chemical weapons 15 times against the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said his country could go ahead with a strike on Syria. U.N. weapons inspectors have left Syria ahead of schedule amid high anticipation of an imminent U.S. attack. President Obama said any U.S. response to Syria’s chemical arms attack would not involve sending U.S. troops on the ground.

  • As a candidate, Barack Obama blasted George W. Bush for waging the Iraq war without key European allies; now President Obama finds himself on the verge of pursuing a go-it-alone approach in Syria, after British lawmakers rejected military action.

Syria Launches Cyber Attack on U.S.

The latest disruption to U.S. media outlets dealt out by the Syrian Electronic Army may be a precursor for warfare in the digital age. One aspect of the frontal assault that ought not be overlooked is the timing: The SEA, which supports strongman President Bashar al-Assad, knocked down websites of the New York Times, Huffington Post and Twitter, a few hours after US officials indicated the US may launch missile strikes against the Syrian government. A self-described operative of the SEA told ABC News in an e-mail exchange: “When we hacked media we do not destroy the site but only publish on it if possible, or publish an article [that] contains the truth of what is happening in Syria. . . . if the USA launch attack on Syria we may use methods of causing harm, both for the U.S. economy or other.”

Obama Announces New Gun Control Measures

Striving to take action where Congress would not, the Obama administration announced new steps Thursday on gun control, curbing the import of military surplus weapons and proposing to close a little-known loophole that lets felons and others circumvent background checks by registering guns to corporations. Four months after a gun control drive collapsed spectacularly in the Senate, President Obama added two more executive actions to a list of 23 steps the White House determined Obama could take on his own to reduce gun violence. One new policy will end a government practice that lets military weapons, sold or donated by the U.S. to allies, be reimported into the U.S. by private entities, where some may end up on the streets. The White House said the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to be reimported since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.

Obamacare Rate Hikes May Be Large

Health insurance policy holders across the country can expect letters from their providers notifying them of “staggering” rate increases, some even approaching 300%, according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens. Weber noted that officials in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky say they expect rates to increase by averages of 35% to 80% or more. But at least one major health insurance provider has notified policy holders that their premiums may skyrocket due to Obamacare.  One Kentucky family received a letter from Humana stating that its premium would increase by nearly 300%. “It’s not Humana’s fault, they are being forced to go along with the program, what bothers me is that we were told our premiums would go down and that we could keep our policies. It looks like we were lied to,” said Andrew Mangione, a senior AMAC executive.

Fast-Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay

Workers at McDonald’s and other fast-food chains conducted strikes and walkouts in nearly 60 cities Thursday, hoping for super-size wage hikes that for many would boost their hourly pay to $15 from the current federal minimum $7.25. The pre-Labor Day protests, which follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. Targeted fast-food chains include McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, whose chains include KFC and Taco Bell. Workers are also seeking the right to unionize.

43% Pay No Taxes

A little more than 43% of U.S. households — or 70 million homes – will end up owing no federal income taxes for 2013, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That’s down from recent years because of an improving economy and the expiration of various tax cuts that were passed after the 2008 financial crisis. The households with zero income tax liability are not evenly distributed across income groups. The majority this year — nearly 67% — have incomes below $30,000. An estimated 798,000 households in the nonpayer group make between $100,000 and $200,000 a year; 48,000 have incomes between $200,000 and $500,000; 3,000 make between $500,000 and $1 million; and just 1,000 nonpayer households bring in more than $1 million. That’s less than 1 million high income total nonpayers versus the 70 million low-income nonpayers.

  • 57% are paying taxes to keep the 43% afloat in our welfare-oriented economy

Economic News

White House efforts to reach common ground with Senate Republicans on fiscal matters appear to have failed Thursday, with a key senator saying there is no “common ground.” The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and the Obama Administration is looking for a long term deal to replace the government-wide spending cuts known as sequester that cut federal programs this year largely without distinction.

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate in the second quarter, faster than initially estimated, as American companies exported more and consumers imported less than the government had calculated last month. The Commerce Department said consumer spending climbed 1.8%, non-residential investment spending moved up at a 4.4% rate, and federal government spending fell 1.6%.

A big jump in home values has pulled 3.2 million homeowners above water on their mortgages in the past year. At the end of June, 12.2 million homeowners with mortgages — 23.8% — remained underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. That’s down from 15.3 million a year ago. The sizable drop in underwater borrowers correlated with a robust jump in home prices, which were up 12.1% for the 12 months ended in June.

In Detroit, America’s biggest bankrupt city — currently more than $18 billion in debt and home to 70,000-plus vacant structures — there is another problem: Tens of thousands of stray dogs roam the streets. As many of Detroit’s residents struggle to get by, many of its dogs have been abandoned.

Persecution Watch

During the last two weeks a total of seven Christians have been murdered and 17 kidnapped in violence directed at Christians by Muslim Brotherhood extremists. Hundreds more have been injured. Additionally, the rampage has resulted in the destruction or damage of 212 privately-owned Christian shops and homes and 95 church buildings. Orphanages, schools and Bible book stores have also been destroyed or damaged. Many Christian families have lost everything and escaped with only what they were wearing. In the wake of the unprecedented violence targeting Egypt’s Christian community,

International Christian Concern (ICC) is alarmed by the latest series of events that continue a pattern of egregious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Iran. Three Christians, Ebrahim Firouzi, Sevada Aghasar, and Masoud Mirzaei, were arrested on Wednesday, August 21, and detained without charges. On Sunday, August 25, an appeals court in Tehran rejected an appeal in the case of American Saeed Abedini, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison because of his religious beliefs.

Middle East

Iranian lawmakers and commanders issued stark warnings to the United States and its allies on Tuesday, saying any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel fanned by ‘the flames of outrage.’ The warnings came against a backdrop of rising momentum among Western governments for a military intervention in the Syrian conflict over what the United States, Britain, France and others have called undeniable evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used banned chemical weapons on civilians last week, killing hundreds.

Israeli leaders issued calm reiterations Thursday of their position that Israel is not involved in the Syrian crisis but will respond fiercely if attacked, providing a sharp contrast with the hysterical ranting of Iranian and Assad regime officials that Israel would be annihilated if Western forces attack the regime in the near future.

Syria

People in the Syrian capital of Damascus have been insulated from the civil war that has consumed whole cities and left nearly 100,000 people dead. But no longer. Residents of Damascus are fleeing the city, as well as other areas, for the nation’s borders as the U.S. and its Western allies prepare possible military strikes over alleged chemical weapons attacks by the regime of Bashar Assad. But Russia warned the West against intervening militarily in the Syrian conflict without the approval of the UN Security Council, saying such action would violate international law. Iran said that they will work with Russia in ‘extensive cooperation’ to prevent any military action against Syria.

Iraq

A coordinated wave of bombings tore through Shiite Muslim areas in and around the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, part of a wave of bloodshed that killed at least 66 people and wounded many more, officials said. The blasts, which came in quick succession, mainly targeted residents out shopping and on their way to work. The attacks are the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has left thousands dead since April, marking the country’s worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. Coordinated waves of car bombs have hit Baghdad repeatedly each month, sometimes as often as twice per week.

Egypt

Egyptian security forces arrested a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader on suspicion of inciting violence after last month’s ouster of then-President Mohamed Morsy, state-run media reported Thursday. Mohamed El-Beltagi was arrested in Giza province, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported. The Egyptian military and other security forces have arrested a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders since the ouster of Morsy, who belonged to the brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. In many cases, those arrested have been accused of inciting violence. This month, hundreds of people — citizens as well as members of security forces — were killed. Many of the deaths occurred when the military used force to clear two pro-Morsy sit-in sites in Cairo, and when violence raged after pro-Morsy supporters staged demonstrations two days later.

Nigeria

Suspected Islamist extremists killed at least 44 villagers this week in continuing attacks in an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria, The Blaze reports. According to an official from the National Emergency Management Agency, the attackers hit Dumba village in Borno state before dawn Tuesday and slit their victims’ throats — a new strategy since gunfire attracts security forces. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attackers gouged out the eyes of some victims who survived. Dumba is near the fishing village of Baga, where security forces in March gunned down 187 civilians in retaliation for an attack by extremists. It is difficult to get information from the area under a state of emergency, with cell phone and Internet service cut. Borno is one of three northeastern states under a state of emergency declared May 14 to crack down on the Boko Haram terrorist network. Since 2010, more than 1,700 people have been killed in attacks by Islamic insurgents, according to an Associated Press count.

Yemen

U.S. drone strikes in Yemen on Friday killed six militants, including two senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Qaed al-Thahab, the top AQAP leader in the country’s Baitha province and described as a “high-profile target,” was among those killed. The sources said eight missiles were launched by two unmanned drone planes targeting vehicles.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Alaska’s Aleutian Islands with a jet-like rumble Friday that shook homes and sent residents scrambling for cover. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the earthquake, which occurred in a seismically active region. The quake was followed by multiple aftershocks, including one measuring magnitude 4.9. The earthquake didn’t trigger a tsunami warning. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the primary earthquake was centered 67 miles southwest of Adak, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Shaking lasted up to one minute.

An earthquake hit a mountainous area in southwestern China Saturday morning, killing at least three people injuring 10 others. The quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale shook several counties, including the scenic Shangri-La and Deqen counties in Yunnan province, and Derong county in Sichuan province just to the north. The quake also destroyed 600 residential units and damaged 55,500 others. More than 9,000 residents were forced to relocate. China’s mountainous areas in its southwest are prone to earthquakes.

Wildfires

The giant wildfire burning at the edge of Yosemite National Park has not only destroyed buildings and threatened water supplies, electricity and sequoias, it has also unleashed a smoky haze that has worsened air quality more than 100 miles away in Nevada. The plume from the Rim Fire in California triggered emergency warnings in the Reno and Carson City area. Schoolchildren were kept inside for the second time in a week, people went to hospitals complaining of eye and throat irritation and officials urged people to avoid all physical activity outdoors. The Rim Fire, so far, has burned through 301 square miles, destroyed 23 structures and threatened water supplies, hydroelectric power and giant sequoias. On Wednesday night, authorities said the blaze was 30 percent contained.

Weather

Monday was once more a day for record-breaking heat in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The temperature at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport topped out at 97 degrees, shattering the old record of 94, set in 1948.  on Tuesday. Chicago tied its hottest day of the year, so far (96).  Des Moines, Omaha, and Pierre, S.D. (each 99 degrees) narrowly missed the century mark. Rapid City, S.D. and North Platte, Neb. (101) weren’t so lucky. On Thursday, daily record highs were broken or tied in McCook, Neb. (105), Goodland, Kan. (101) and Omaha, Neb. (98). From Oklahoma City to Chicago, we expect much of the Midwest to roast in the mid-upper 90s to low 100s on Friday. Despite spring flooding, some parts of the Midwest are in danger of returning to drought conditions.

Meanwhile, the southwest monsoon season continues in earnest with flash floods all over Arizona and Nevada. Las Vegas reported its highest dew point temperature ever recorded – 75 degrees F – with 100% humidity.

Tropical Storm Kong-Rey battered Taiwan on Thursday, dumping more than 19 inches of rain on the heavily populated west coast and causing widespread flooding. Particularly hard hit in Taiwan were the large west coast cities of Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung, where flooding in some areas reached second-story levels. In Tainan, officials evacuated 29 residents from a nursing home and cancelled some train services. Kong-Rey is the second major storm to hit Taiwan this month. Last week, a severe tropical storm dumped up to a meter (39 inches) of rain on the southern part of the island. High winds caused the cancellation of scores of international flights and in conjunction with the rain led to the disruption of high speed rail service between the capital of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The flattening over the past 15 years of a rise in the world’s average surface temperature springs from a natural cooling pattern in the eastern Pacific Ocean, climate scientists reported Wednesday. That leveling off fed part of the skepticism toward global warming predictions in recent years, but researchers behind the new report see this “hiatus” as a pause in an inevitable climb. For now, the “hiatus” in global warming has left average surface temperatures lodged about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the past century.

  • Records only go back to the late 1800s, so it’s impossible to say what normal is; now that data shows a leveling off, global warming alarmists are forced to admit it but with an excuse of course; nevertheless, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme as Biblically prophesied

 

Signs of the Times (8/27/13)

August 27, 2013

Two-Thirds of Americans Want the Bible in Public Schools

A recent American Bible Society survey found Americans overwhelmingly (77%) believe morals and values are declining in the U.S., and 75% believe a valid reason to teach the Bible in public schools is because it would provide kids with the moral principles that are badly needed. Currently, only Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas allow elective Bible courses in public high schools. Arkansas, Wyoming and North Carolina may soon follow suit. The State of the Bible 2013 survey, conducted by Barna Group on behalf of American Bible Society, found that: 66% of adults think it is important for public schools to teach the values of the Bible; 75% think teaching about the Bible in public schools would be valid because it teaches moral principles badly needed today; but 45% think a valid objection to teaching the Bible is because it would favor one religion over another, 32% fear it might offend people and 9% believe there is no valid reason to teach the Bible in schools.

  • Our government no longer cares what Americans think because they believe they know better and feel justified to impose their secular, socialistic agenda on us

State, County Officials Defying NM’s Marriage Law

While a case currently before the New Mexico Supreme Court could determine if the Land of Enchantment is the next state to legalize homosexual “marriage,” some duly elected officials there are defying the state’s current marriage law. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to legalize homosexual marriage and that case is now before the New Mexico Supreme Court. Chris Plante of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) points out his organization’s concern. “The [New Mexico] attorney general [Gary King] has refused to defend the law as it stands and to fight the case,” he points out, “and so New Mexico could very well follow in the way of California, as well as Pennsylvania, where attorney generals refused to step in and defend the law as it stands.” Plante notes that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder refused to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Pennsylvania’s attorney general refused to defend that state’s law, and California’s governor and attorney general declined to defend Proposition 8 – all “defying their oath of office and betraying the people who put them into office and becoming the law unto themselves.”

  • Laws defending Christian tenets are now ignored (lawlessness) and hate crime laws only are applied against Christians and conservatives (intolerance)

Churches Preparing for Law Suits Over Gay Marriage

Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible only allows marriage between one man and one woman, the Associated Press reports. Although there have been lawsuits against wedding industry businesses that refuse to serve gay couples, attorneys promoting the bylaw changes say they don’t know of any lawsuits against churches. Critics say the changes are unnecessary, but some churches fear that it’s only a matter of time before one of them is sued. In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. A second decision was more technical but essentially ushered in legal gay marriage in California. Kevin Snider, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. Eric Rassbach, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said it is unlikely the government would try to force a pastor to perform a same-sex marriage, but churches that rent out their facilities to the general public could face problems if they refuse to rent to gay couples.

  • It’s only a matter of time before our anti-Christ government and organizations attack churches to spread the rapidly spreading cancer of gay marriage

DOD Training Manual Calls Founding Fathers “Extremists”

Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch recently obtained a Department of Defense training manual which lists people who embrace ‘individual liberties’ and honor ‘states’ rights,’ among other characteristics, as potential ‘extremists’ who are likely to be members of ‘hate groups. This training guide elaborates: In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples…Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place…

  • There are entrenched New World Order flunkies throughout our increasingly socialistic anti-Christ government who want to obliterate the founding Judeo-Christian principles of this once great nations

NSA Officers Sometimes Spy for Own Purposes

National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said. The practice isn’t frequent, but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT. Last week officials revealed that NSA had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions in a one-year period.

  • That’s the danger of invasive surveillance, that it can and will be used for prurient or political purposes

Poor Children Overprescribed with Anti-Psychotics

Federal health regulators are investigating why so many doctors are prescribing antipsychotic drugs to Medicaid-eligible children. The number of poor kids on the powerful medication tripled between 1999 and 2008, and the program now spends more money on antipsychotics than any other drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been investigating the phenomenon for several months, according to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal. The study focuses on drugs like Abilify, part of the newest class of antipsychotics called “atypicals.” Though Abilify is the no. 1 drug in the country, drugs like it are prescribed to the poor in highly disproportionate numbers. Stephen Crystal, a health policy professor at Rutgers University, found that children on Medicaid are four times more likely to be on antipsychotics than privately insured children.

  • Some have blamed the anti-psychotic drugs for school violence

Thousands Join Anniversary March on Washington

Tens of thousands gathered Saturday on the nation’s “front yard,” the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, yearning for that transcendent sense of racial unity heralded on this spot by the Rev. Martin Luther King 50 years ago in his “I Have a Dream” speech. With a message that the nation’s racial tension remains unfinished to this day, aging veterans of the original March on Washington gathered with younger generations, amassing a crowd that in contrast is more female, more Hispanic, more diverse by sexual orientation and far more tech-savvy than 50 years ago.

U.S. Federal Employees Highest Paid in World

Federal employees in the United States receive significantly higher total compensation than do central-government workers in other developed nations, according to a new analysis of income data. On average, American federal government workers receive 16 percent higher total compensation than do similar workers in other developed nations, even after differences in the countries’ average income levels are taken into account. American government workers’ salaries are not outrageously higher than those in other countries, but their benefits are. U.S. federal employees’ total benefits add up to 37 percent of their wages, compared to 16 percent for employees in Australia, 27 percent in the U.K., and 23 percent as a whole.

Economic News

New home sales plunged 13.4% in July, in one of the first signs that higher mortgage rates may be cutting into home demand. Sales fell to a seasonally adjusted rate of 394,000 a year, from 497,000 in June, the Census Bureau reported Friday. Sales were 6.8% higher than last July. The median price was $257,200, up from $249,700 last month.

Orders for durable goods dropped in July by the most in almost a year, calling into question the strength of the projected pickup in U.S. growth. Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years fell 7.3 percent, the first decrease in four months and the biggest since August 2012

The United States will reach the limit of its borrowing authority in mid-October, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Monday. At that point, Lew warned, unless Congress has raised the debt ceiling, the Treasury Department will only be able to pay the country’s incoming bills with the cash it has on hand. Treasury forecasts that by mid-October it will have a cash balance of only $50 billion, as the debt ceiling now stands at $16.699 trillion.

A growing number of older people are still working and retiring later. Every day for the next 16 years, 10,000 people will turn 65, according to the Pew Research Center, Of those 65 and older, 18.5% are remaining in the work force.

Persecution Watch

An international relief agency plans to airlift some 3,400 Christians out of Sudan, where they face increasing persecution from the Islamist government. The Barnabas Fund has already whisked about 5,000 Christians from the embattled country, where President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has vowed to create a “a 100 percent Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western [influences].” The Christians will be taken to South Sudan, a smaller nation formed in 2011 where religious freedom is better tolerated.

Middle East

A Palestinian official says planned peace talks with the Israelis scheduled for Monday have been called off following a deadly clash in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians Monday in clashes during an arrest raid in the West Bank outside Jerusalem. The violence came as Israel and the Palestinians were expected to begin rounds of peace talks, the first such meetings in five years. The Palestinian official says the Palestinians decided to postpone Monday’s meeting to protest the killings. He says the Palestinians are also upset about an Israeli announcement on Sunday pushing forward with new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

An official at a Ramallah hospital said the three died from gunshot wounds sustained in the nearby refugee camp of Qalandia. More than a dozen others were wounded. Israeli security forces attempted to arrest terror suspects in the village of Kalandiya near Ramallah Monday morning, but came under attack from a large mob who surrounded the vehicles on all sides and from nearby rooftops and threw stones and building materials at them which, of course, the Palestinians neglect to mention.

Syria

The Pentagon is moving naval forces closer to Syria in a potential attempt to be prepared should President Obama order military strikes, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. “The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be ale to carry out different options – whatever options the president might choose,” Hagel said. The Obama administration moved closer to military action against Syria on Monday. The White House started reaching out to congressional leaders Monday to clear the way for military action. The U.S. military is now moving cruise missiles into position for a possible strike against Syrian government forces, reports CBS News Saturday.

The Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical weapons Saturday and warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze. The accusations by the regime of President Bashar Assad against opposition forces came as an international aid group said it has tallied 355 deaths from a purported chemical weapons attack on Wednesday in a suburb of the Syrian capital known as Ghouta. Syria has agreed to allow weapons inspectors full access to any site of a purported chemical weapons attack, Syria’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday. A vehicle used by U.S. chemical weapons investigators was shot at Monday by snipers. There were no reported injuries. As the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned safely back to the government checkpoint.

Lebanon

A pair of blasts in Lebanon, the magnitude of which have not been seen since the 1980s, is raising fears of heightening sectarian tensions. The two powerful explosions ripped through neighborhoods near mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday. At least 27 people died and 600 were wounded in the bombings. While the motive for the attacks was unclear, the state-run National News Agency said they appeared to target mosques run by imams with ties to Syrian rebels. Lebanon has been the scene of increasing sectarian violence recently, including battles between supporters and opponents of the regime in Syria,

Egypt

Egypt’s government on Saturday shortened a widely imposed evening curfew, signaling that authorities’ sense turmoil is waning after unrest following president’s ouster threatened to destabilize the country this month. The Cabinet’s decision to cut the curfew by two hours came as Egypt’s interim prime minister vowed that his government’s priority is restoring security. Nationwide clashes and attacks killed more than 1,000 people after the security forces cleared two Cairo sit-ins belonging to supporters of toppled president Mohammed Morsi.

Iraq

Insurgents bent on destabilizing Iraq killed at least 46 people in numerous attacks scattered around the country on Sunday, striking targets as varied as a coffee shop, a wedding party convoy and a carload of off-duty soldiers. The boldest attack was near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where militants set up a fake security checkpoint, captured five soldiers and shot them. Attacks have been on the rise in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown in April on a Sunni protest camp. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months, raising fears the country could see an even deadlier, sectarian round of bloodshed similar to what brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Yemen

A powerful blast ripped through a bus carrying air force personnel down a main street in Yemen’s capital on Sunday, causing at least a score of casualties About 24 officers and soldiers were on the bus, and at least 20 were either wounded or killed. The bus was heading to air force headquarters when the blast went off, most likely originating from inside the vehicle. Yemen’s government is battling militants linked to al-Qaeda, who regularly target the country’s military.

China

Internet users in China were met with sluggish response times early Sunday as the country’s domain extension .cn The attack was the largest of its kind ever in China, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a state agency that manages the .cn country domain. The double-barreled attacks took place at around 2 a.m. Sunday, and then again at 4 a.m. The second attack was “long-lasting and large-scale,” according to state media, which said that service was slowly being restored. Denial of service attacks aren’t technically “hacks,” since they can be done without breaking into any systems. Typically, DoS attacks overwhelm a website’s servers by flooding them with requests. That makes websites unreachable or unresponsive. came under a “denial of service” attack. Chinese authorities closely regulate content and websites available to Internet users in the country. The restrictions are extremely sophisticated, leading some to call it a second “Great Wall.”

Wildfires

Inaccessible terrain, strong winds and bone-dry conditions have hampered their efforts to contain the Rim Fire, which began Aug. 17 and has grown to become one of the biggest in California history. Firefighters were hoping to advance on the flames Monday but strong winds were threatening push the blaze closer to Tuolumne City and nearby communities. The fire has consumed nearly 251 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at 20% Monday. It continues burning in the remote wilderness area of Yosemite and is edging closer to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco’s famously pure drinking water. Despite ash falling like snowflakes on the reservoir and a thick haze of smoke limiting visibility to 100 feet, the quality of the water piped to the city 150 miles away is still good, say officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The city’s hydroelectric power generated by the system has been interrupted by the fire, forcing the utility to spend $600,000 buying power on the open market.

Weather

Authorities say crews carried out 18 swift water rescues after flash flooding hit the Las Vegas area. A large-scale weather pattern helped to draw copious amounts of moisture from the tropical storm Ivo northward into the Desert Southwest, fueling the development of drenching thunderstorms. Nevada Highway Patrol says that the Kyle Canyon Road will remain closed indefinitely because part of the road was washed away. Ivo’s lingering moisture will keep the flood threat going in the Southwest through Monday.

A massive monsoon storm walloped the Phoenix valley on Monday evening, downing trees and power lines, flooding roadways and leaving nearly 14,000 customers without power. Pushing a wall of dust hundreds of feet high, the storm struck first in the southeast Valley with wind gusts of 62 mph reported in Chandler. Damaged trees littered the Valley, with some uprooted and some snapped in half. A few were engulfed in flames from lightning strikes. Flooding closed several lanes on U.S. 60 near Mill Avenue, and water spanned roadways in south Tempe.

A dome of high pressure in the upper-levels of the atmosphere will set up over the central Plains and Missouri Valley over the next several days. Sunny skies, sinking air, and gusty southerly surface winds will send temperatures rocketing well into the 90s over a large swath of the Plains and Upper Midwest. The broiling heat has already begun in parts of the Plains, where highs over the weekend included 102 in Pierre, S.D., and 100 in McCook, Neb.

Minneapolis, and St. Cloud, Minn., both broke their record highs on Sunday as the mercury peaked at 96 and 94 degrees respectively. Schools in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Illinois let out early on Monday as temperatures crept toward the mid-90s – beyond in some places. After-school sports practices and evening games were canceled in St. Paul, Minn., and misting stations were keeping people cool at the Minnesota State Fair, where about 90 fairgoers had been treated for heat-related illnesses over the weekend.

Tropical Storm Fernand formed in the southwest Gulf of Mexico late Sunday afternoon. The storm then made landfall Sunday night into early Monday morning in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Fernand will weaken and eventually dissipate as it moves farther inland, however a heavy rain, flooding and mudslide threat will continue. Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches (locally up to 12 inches) are expected in the region of Mexico where Fernand made landfall. The storm is no threat to the United States.

 

Signs of the Times (8/23/13)

August 23, 2013

Judge Invalidates City’s Action Against Pro-Live Mobile Pregnancy Unit

A federal court has ruled the city of Elgin, Ill., acted unconstitutionally in shutting down a pro-life mobile pregnancy help center, Baptist Press reports. Federal judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued a permanent injunction Aug. 8 against a 2012 amendment to the city’s zoning code that effectively prevented Life Center from operating its mobile unit more than four times a year at each of two locations. The City Council of Elgin, which is located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, changed the zoning code to classify the mobile facility for “temporary land use,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents Life Center in the case. The new injunction means Life Center may again park its mobile pregnancy help center at Evangelical Covenant Church and JB’s Pub & Bar, both of which are located near Elgin Larkin High School. The mobile unit provides free ultrasounds, pregnancy information and services. “Women deserve access to the help they need for themselves and their unborn children without undue interference from the government,” said ADF senior counsel Steven Aden. “Life Center’s free services help both the city and its citizens, so the city’s actions have been both counterproductive and unconstitutional.” Life Center operates the mobile unit under the name TLC Pregnancy Services.

Arizona’s Anti-Abortion Medicaid Law Struck Down

Arizona has lost another battle in its ongoing war to restrict abortions, adding to a growing list of defeats this year for the state’s anti-abortion movement. On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona cannot strip Medicaid funding from doctors and clinics that perform abortions, upholding a lower-court ruling. House Bill 2800, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed in 2012, would have halted Medicaid reimbursements for contraceptives, cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and annual women’s exams at the state’s more than 80 hospitals and clinics that also perform abortions. It is already a violation of state law to spend state or federal money on elective abortions, and that prohibition was not disputed in this case.

Christian Photographers Lose in Court

The case of Elane Photography v. Willock has been decided in favor of the lesbian plaintiffs. The case centered around Elaine Huguenin, a Christian in New Mexico who owned a photography business. She was asked to provide services to a gay commitment ceremony between two lesbians, Vanessa Willock and her partner. Ms. Huguenin and her husband declined to provide their services because they are Christians and the orthodox tenets of their faith tell them that marriage is between a man and a woman. Vanessa Willock, in an act of spite and retribution, decided to file a discrimination claim and punish Mrs. Huguenin for adhering to her religious beliefs. In a very profound decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Christians, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and others must surrender the faithful practice of their religion in the name of citizenship. The judge wrote that it is, “tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people…. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

  • What about the reverse intolerance shown by the plaintiff and judge against the Huguenin’s beliefs?

NSA Surveillance Broader than Acknowledged

The National Security Agency’s surveillance network has the capacity to spy on 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Citing current and former NSA officials for the 75 percent figure, the paper reported that the agency can observe more of Americans’ online communications than officials have publicly acknowledged. The NSA’s system of programs that filter communications, achieved with the help of telecommunications companies, is designed to look for communications that either start or end abroad, or happen to pass through the U.S. between foreign countries. However, the officials told the Journal that the system’s reach is so broad, that it is more likely that purely domestic communications will be intercepted as a byproduct of the hunt for foreign ones. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, a former to intelligence official told the Journal that the government changed its definition of “reasonable” intelligence collection, enabling the NSA to widen the holes in the “filtering” system.

Obama Admin Seeks Warrentless Cell Phone Searches

Amid concerns from privacy advocates about the government’s sprawling surveillance programs, the Obama administration earlier this month petitioned the Supreme Court in support of a federal court ruling that allowed police searches of cell phones records without a warrant. The implications of the petition are huge, given that today’s smart phones are giant repositories of private information and can serve as tracking devices, as well. “The phone company, at any given time, knows where you are as a result of the basically technical functioning of the network, ” says Alan Butler of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act , which governs police access to cell phone records, was written in 1986 when cell phones were in their infancy and had nowhere near the capacity of current smart phones to store personal information. Courts have recently split over police collection of cell phone data. A New Jersey state court ruled this year that cell phone privacy is protected under the New Jersey equivalent of the Fourth Amendment.

  • In a perfect world, law-abiding citizens would not fear cell-phone searches by a righteous government; however, in our imperfect world, such searches could be used illicitly or as a means of limiting dissent

Kansas & Arizona Sue Feds Over Voter ID

Kansas and Arizona filed a joint lawsuit against the federal government Wednesday over requirements needed to register to vote. The lawsuit demands that the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission modify the federal voter registration form in both states so it would allow for proof of citizenship when people sign up to vote. The federal form doesn’t require proof of citizenship. It only requires prospective voters to declare that they are citizens. “A mere oath without concrete evidence of citizenship, as allowed for by the current version of the Federal Form, does not suffice to effectuate the State laws of Plaintiffs or enable Plaintiffs to obtain information Plaintiffs deem necessary to assess the eligibility of voter registration applicants and to enforce their voter qualifications,” the lawsuit reads. It is the latest legal effort in a nationwide battle by states to crack down on voter fraud by making it harder for non-U.S. citizens to gain access to the ballot box.

Feds Sue Texas Over Voter ID Law

The Obama administration will sue to halt a Texas requirement that voters show identification at the polls, signaling a new effort on voting rights enforcement following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year that threw out a key part of a landmark federal law. The Justice Department said on Thursday that it had put in motion a plan to seek a court order declaring that the strict 2011 Texas law violates the Voting Rights Act and certain constitutional guarantees. “Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Patriot Update reports that the mainstream media have “ignored the facts which show that not only do black voters support voter ID more than whites, getting an ID card is not nearly so onerous as anti-reform groups pretend it to be, and that helping people get identification for themselves is a good way of ensuring they are part of the many other parts of societal interaction that require identification. This much should be evident to reporters who continuously amplify incendiary, racially charged allegations that do not square with reality.”

  • Illegal immigrants vote Democratic, hence voter ID opposition

Obamacare Police Force Now Hiring

Freedom Outpost reports that “we should be at least somewhat concerned with a breaking news story about the new “ObamaCare” Police. It would seem that the IRS implementation will not be the only strong arm of ObamaCare but that Health and Human Services will have a substantial number of investigative storm troopers as well.” The Daily Mail reports: “More than 1,600 new employees hired by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources in the aftermath of Obamacare’s passage include just two described as ‘consumer safety’ officers, but 86 tasked with ‘criminal investigating’ – indicating that the agency is building an army of detectives to sleuth out violations of a law that many in Congress who supported it still find confusing.”

Obamacare Hurts Spouses

Republican lawmakers are raising new concerns about ObamaCare after several large employers announced they are dropping health coverage for some employee spouses due to rising costs under the new law. Both the University of Virginia and UPS told their employees recently they are no longer offering spousal coverage to those able to obtain insurance elsewhere. UVA said Wednesday this is only one of many “major changes” coming to their health plans as a result of ObamaCare. The university says the changes are necessary because the law is projected to add $7.3 million to the cost of the university’s health plan in 2014 alone. Similarly, UPS partially blamed the new health law for the change, which is estimated to affect roughly 15,000 employee spouses. The rising cost of health care “combined with the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost,” UPS said.

Black on White Attacks Continue

One of three teens charged in the ‘thrill kill’ of an Australian college student in Oklahoma last week has previously posted racist tweets on his Twitter account, according to a report. One tweet reads, “90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM.” Another post read, “Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!)” The Daily Caller’s report noted that ‘woods’ is used as a derogatory term for white people. One suspect told officers that he and other boys were bored and that they followed Lane and killed him for “the fun of it.”

Police in Spokane, Washington are searching for two young suspects after a World War II veteran was severely beaten in a parking lot Wednesday and later died from his injuries. Authorities on Thursday released surveillance photos of the two suspects in the ‘random’ murder, who they describe as African-American males between the ages of 16 and 19.

A Department of Homeland Security manager in charge of buying weapons and ammunition for the government is, on the side, running an inflammatory website that throws around gay slurs and advocates the mass murder of “whites” and the “ethnic cleansing” of “Uncle Tom race traitors,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. His website, “War on the Horizon,” declares, “in order for Black people to survive the 21st century, we are going to have to kill a lot of whites – more than our Christian hearts can possibly count,” the Alabama-based SPLC said in its report.

  • A recent string of random black-on-white attacks has gone unreported by the mainstream press which focuses their reports on gun control. However, when a white attacks a black there is a hue and cry about racism.

Level of Long-Term Unemployment Unprecedented

The economy has seen an “unprecedented” number of long-term unemployed under the Obama administration, according to a liberal think tank. Nearly 5 million workers are classified as long-term unemployed, while 900,000 more have stopped looking for work altogether, according to a new series of reports issued by the Urban Institute. “That long-term unemployment would rise during a recession is not at all surprising, but the extent of the increase and its persistently high level since the start of the recovery are both troubling and unprecedented,” the report states. The center-left think tank said that those startling figures are unlikely to change unless the United States can achieve dramatic job growth, rather than the middling 2 percent overall economic growth figures the Obama administration has averaged.

Economic News

The nation may be in better economic shape, but that doesn’t mean Americans’ paychecks are, CNN reported Thursday. Median annual household income has fallen 4.4% to $52,098 in the four years since the economic recovery began. Black Americans took the biggest income hit since the Great Recession ended. Median household income for blacks dropped by more than $4,000 to $33,519. Whites, on the other hand, saw their median income slip just over $2,000 to $58,000.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week after reaching the lowest level in nearly six years. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for first-time benefits rose 13,000 in the week ending Aug. 17 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000. The four-week average, which smooths week to week fluctuations, fell to 330,500. That’s the sixth straight decline and the lowest for the average since November 2007. At the height of the recession in March 2009, applications numbered 670,000.

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose this week to their highest levels in two years, driven by heightened speculation that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases later this year. the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.58%, up from 4.40% last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.60% from 3.44 percent. Both averages are the highest since July 2011. Rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May.

Persecution Watch

“Undoubtedly, the last week’s wave of fierce attacks on Christians in Egypt is shocking and unprecedented,” a Christian leader in Egypt writes to Open Doors USA. “We’ve always witnessed occasional incidents of variable attacks on churches by radical Muslims in villages or towns, Christian families harassed or forced to migrate from their hometowns, and repeated everyday discrimination against Christians, wherever they lived or worked. But the systematic violence conducted against the Christians of Egypt over the last five days has been unprecedented. According to the latest report published by the head of the Coptic Cultural Center, Christian losses since the violent dismantling of the two sit-ins of the Muslim Brotherhood last Wednesday are massive: 73 churches and monasteries, as well as 22 adjunct church service buildings (including orphanages, schools and Bible bookshops), were either partially or totally burned down or damaged. Moreover, 212 private Coptic Christian properties have been attacked, looted or set on fire, and seven Christians’ deaths confirmed.

Middle East

Israeli warplanes struck a target south of Beirut early Friday, a day after militants fired four rockets into northern Israel. The Israeli military said that the aircraft targeted “a terror site located between Beirut and Sidon in response” to the rocket attack. It was the first air raid on the area since the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group. Ramez Mustafa, a Lebanon-based official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said the raid caused no casualties or material damage. An Associated Press photographer in Naameh said the raid targeted a PFLP-GC base in a valley in the town. Lebanese troops in the area prevented journalists from reaching the base.

Lebanon

Lebanon’s official news agency says at least 12 people have been killed by twin explosions outside two Sunni mosques in a northern city. The National News Agency said another 25 were wounded in the Friday blasts. The explosions in Tripoli come amid rising tensions in Lebanon resulting from Syria’s civil war, which has sharply polarized the country along sectarian lines and between supporters and opponents of the regime of President Bashar Assad. Tripoli has previously seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs.

Syria

Government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have carried out a “poisonous gas” attack near the capital Damascus that has left hundreds dead, Syrian opposition groups claimed Wednesday. Anti-regime activists are saying that regime forces fired “rockets with poisonous gas heads” in the attack. The Syrian government said there was no truth to the allegations “whatsoever” that chemical weapons were used. UN chemical weapons inspectors are in Syria this week to investigate claims that chemical weapons have been used there by both sides in a bloody and protracted civil war. Syrian government forces pressed on with a military offensive in eastern Damascus on Thursday, bombing rebel-held suburbs, the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack. Some first responders to a reported chemical attack in Syria have died after treating victims, providing more evidence that a weapon of mass destruction was used

The number of registered child refugees fleeing Syria’s violence has topped the 1 million mark in another grim milestone of the deepening conflict, the U.N. said Friday. Roughly half of all the nearly 2 million registered refugees from Syria are children, and some 740,000 of those are under the age of 11.

Egypt

Rallies are planned across the capital in what supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi are calling a “Friday of Martyrs,” threatening to propel more bloodshed in Egypt after weeks of deadly unrest. The marches will leave from 28 mosques across Cairo following Friday prayers. “To every revolutionary out there, tell your family & friends, Friday is the day we get back the revolution that was stolen from us,” an anti-coup and pro-Morsi coalition said on Twitter. Nearly 900 people were killed in four days of political violence last week, including security personnel, after security forces plowed down two sit-ins where people had gathered to resist a July 3 coup and demand Morsi’s reinstatement.

Iran

A gap in U.S. law has allowed China to import nearly $500 million of additional oil products from Iran this year while avoiding U.S. sanctions, demonstrating Washington’s challenge in designing effective measures to target Tehran. The latest twist stems from a gap in the sanctions law: When discussing exemptions, it mentions only crude oil, not fuel oil, a byproduct of refining crude into more expensive products such as diesel and gasoline. While fuel oil is significantly less valuable than other refined fuels, some Chinese refineries can process it into more valuable fuels. China imported 5.4 million barrels of Iranian fuel oil valued at $495 million in the first seven months of 2013, according to Chinese customs data, up from less than $1 million in all of 2012. China has purchased more Iranian fuel oil this year than in the past four years combined, according to the data

Congo

The deadliest war in modern African history is entering a new phase. For two decades, at least 20 armed groups have been fighting in a country about the size of the Eastern USA. Millions of people have died, most from starvation and disease brought on by relentless combat that has stymied intervention by the United Nations and forced millions of people to plod from village to village in search of safety. In a first-of-its kind arrangement, the U.N. Security Council authorized an offensive military force to join Congolese government soldiers in operations against the rebels. The 3,000-troop intervention brigade will be in addition to the peacekeeping force of 17,000 U.N. soldiers — the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world.

The U.N. mission, which has been trying to stabilize the Congo since 1999, is funded with an annual budget of $1.35 billion. Rebels in far-flung regions of a country that is home to more than 200 different ethnic groups say they want a measure of freedom from the dictates of the central government. They say the government is corrupt and refuses them a fair share of the country’s significant deposits of gold, platinum and coltan, a mineral critical to computer processors.

Japan

Japan is poised to declare a toxic water leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant a level 3 “serious incident,” its gravest warning since the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that sent three reactors into meltdown. The leak previously had a level 1 “anomaly rating” on the scale, which ranges from zero, for no safety threat, to seven, for a major accident like the meltdowns at the plant after the earthquake and tsunami. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, which is in charge of the plant, has struggled to manage the vast quantities of contaminated water at the plant since the tsunami, which swamped the facility. In response to the latest leakage of 300 tons of toxic water, a TEPCO spokesman said Wednesday the company has finished removing radioactive water from a leaky tank and transferred it to another tank at the plant.

India

A young photojournalist was gang raped while her male colleague was tied up and beaten in an isolated, overgrown corner of India’s business hub of Mumbai, police said Friday. The case was reminiscent of the December gang rape and death of a young university student in the Indian capital that shocked the country. The latest attack took place Thursday evening in Lower Parel, a onetime textile-manufacturing neighborhood of south Mumbai that over the past decade has changed dramatically. Today, upscale malls, trendy restaurants and super-luxury condominiums sit side-by-side with abandoned textile mills and sprawling slums. Police said the 22-year-old woman was on assignment to take pictures of the neighborhood.

  • End-time lawlessness is on the rise worldwide

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake struck near Mexico’s Pacific coast resort of Acapulco on Wednesday, causing cracks in some buildings and knocking bricks and plaster off other structures. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake at 7:38 a.m. had a magnitude of 6.2. It was centered near the Pacific coast and about 60 miles east of Acapulco. At least one aftershock of 5.62 magnitude has already been registered. Mexico City is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit. Located atop three of the large tectonic plates, Mexico is one of the world’s most seismologically active regions.

Wildfires

A wildfire outside Yosemite National Park – one of more than 60 major brush blazes burning across the western U.S. – raged beyond the control of firefighters, but several days after it started it there has been minimal property damage. The blaze in Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite grew to more than 25 square miles and was only 5 percent contained Wednesday, threatening some 2,500 homes, hotels and camp buildings. The fire has destroyed two residences and seven outbuildings and led to the evacuation of the private gated summer community of Pine Mountain Lake, which has a population of 2,800. Several organized camps and at least two campgrounds have been evacuated since the fire broke out Saturday.

Sixty-one major uncontained wildfires are burning throughout the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, including in California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires. But the U.S. Forest Service, the nation’s top wildfire-fighting agency, said Wednesday that it is running out of money to fight wildfires and is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the gap. The agency said it had spent $967 million so far this year and was down to $50 million – typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires.

Weather

Summer’s heat and humidity is making a comeback. A dome of high pressure in the upper-levels of the atmosphere will set up over the central Plains and Missouri Valley later in the weekend into early next week. Sunny skies, sinking air, and gusty southerly surface winds will send temperatures rocketing into the 90s over a large swath of the Plains and Upper Midwest.  Little relief is in sight through the end of next week, as the stubborn dome of high pressure aloft will stay put.  By late next week, it’s not out of the question parts of Iowa or Nebraska may flirt with the 100-degree mark.

Severe Tropical Storm Trami struck Wednesday in heavily populated northern Taiwan, prompting schools and offices to close down as heavy rains triggered landslides and other disruptions throughout the island. In Taiwan, the storm had dumped 12 inches of rain on Taipei by nightfall Wednesday, and close to 20 inches in mountainous areas of northwestern Taiwan. Southern China was hit by fresh flooding Thursday as the second typhoon in a week lashed the region after killing 17 people in the Philippines. Typhoon Trami skirted Taiwan and brought heavy rain to a region still feeling the effects of Typhoon Utor. Flooding around China over the past week has left about 250 people dead or missing.

The US.is in the middle of a tornado drought, and 2013 is on track to possibly be a record low tornado year. Only 674 tornadoes have been reported in the U.S. so far this year. That’s 38 percent below average. The numbers don’t mean it has been an easy tornado year. At least 44 people have died in the U.S.from tornadoes this year. Two extremely destructive tornadoes devastated towns in Oklahoma in May.

Signs of the Times (8/20/13)

August 20, 2013

Air Force OK with Drag Queens … But With Christian Faith, Not So Much

The U.S. Air Force recently confirmed to Fox News that it invited a well-known drag queen group known as “Jewels and the Brunchettes” to perform at Los Angeles Air Force Base on “Diversity Day” (August 8) because drag is a “symbol of gay pride and unity.” The event also featured a speech by Brigadier General Tammy Smith, who became the first openly homosexual general after the repeal of the law banning “gays” and lesbians from military service. Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association, points out that while the Air Force is apparently okay with drag queens, it continues to be hostile to Christian chaplains, officers, and enlisted personnel who publicly share their faith. “Right now the American military, particularly the Air Force, is extremely hostile to any kind of expression of Christian faith,” he laments, “and they have clearly come down on the side of sexual perversity over biblical values in this case.

  • Just another end-time sign of declining moral values and the increased impact of the anti-Christ spirit

The Egyptian Conundrum

The U.S. military is heavily dependent on Egypt to move personnel and equipment to Afghanistan and around volatile parts of the Middle East, complicating U.S. efforts to place pressure on the Egyptian military in the wake of its violent crackdown on protesters. During the past year, more than 2,000 U.S. military aircraft flew through Egyptian airspace, supporting missions in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East. About 35 to 45 U.S. 5th Fleet naval ships pass through the Suez Canal annually, including carrier strike groups. Egyptian cooperation is particularly critical at a time when the Pentagon is facing budget pressures and tensions with Iran remain high.

Egypt’s military has long hoarded and sought to protect an empire of businesses – from banking to pasta factories – and that may be a reason it feels threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood. Estimates of the 1 million-member Egyptian military’s share of the country’s economy range from 5% to 40% and its hands reach into many industries. “It cannot afford to lose” if it’s economic empire and dominant political role is to survive, Nimrod Raphaeli, a senior researcher for the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington.

U.S. military aid to Egypt has been temporarily cut off, reports Tuesday said, as Egyptian authorities continued an increasingly violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood group that previously ran Egypt. Saudi Arabia’s royal family gave its full backing—and its oil money—to Egypt’s interim government, and pledges to make up any loss of Western aid due to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • Time and time again the U.S. gets in bed with what we think is the lesser of two evils only to have the lesser evil come back to bite us. Such is the lesson of dealing with Islamists – don’t ever count on them.

Feds Release $67 Million to Help Americans Navigate Obamacare

The Obama administration is announcing the release of $67 million in federal funds for individuals and groups such as Planned Parenthood to help Americans navigate ObamaCare. The announcement was made Thursday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and stated the grant money, which is purportedly $13 million more than originally set aside, will go to so-called “navigators” to help people “make sense” of coverage options and “go shopping” for coverage plans under the president’s new heath care law. The money is going to 105 grantees in the 34 states that will have federally funded market places in which Americans can buy insurance starting Oct. 1. The 16 other states will have their own exchanges and outreach programs.

  • Obamacare’s hidden expenses will prove to be enormous, especially with the buildup of the IRS to enforce compliance

Paying for Obamacare: Some Feel Singled Out

The Affordable Care Act generates revenue through a hodgepodge of new taxes, financial penalties and IRS rule changes. Medical device manufacturers are among the federal health law losers, those that will have to pay up to 2.8% of gross revenue to cover the cost of implementing it. Others include high-wage earners, tanning salons and, in some cases, working parents and folks with big medical bills. Individuals won’t be able to pass along taxes as easily as businesses. People making more than $200,000 annually and couples making more than $250,000 will have to pay a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income when they file next year — and that’s not their only new tax. Besides the investment tax, people with these higher incomes also will have to pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes.

Obama Expands the Regulatory State of Govt

President Obama has overseen a dramatic expansion of the regulatory state that will outlast his time in the White House. The reach of the executive branch has advanced steadily on his watch, further solidifying the power of bureaucrats who churn out regulations that touch nearly every aspect of American life and business. Obama famously signaled his intent to use the machinery of government to further his policy goals after the 2010 elections, declaring: “Where Congress won’t act, I will.” Since then, the administration has pressed ahead unilaterally on several fronts, including immigration, gun control, cybersecurity and sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. Meanwhile, new federal rules are accumulating faster than outdated ones are removed, resulting in a steady increase in the number of federal mandates. Data collected by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center shows that the Code of Federal Regulations, where all rules and regulations are detailed, has ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages last year.

  • Socialism is establishing deep roots in the USA that will be very difficult to undo

Colorado River Drought Will Cut Downstream Flows

A federal Bureau of Reclamation study released Friday says the Colorado River’s worst drought in a century will force reduced water releases from Lake Powell that could affect agriculture, downstream business and hydroelectric power production. Groups urging conservation warned of drastic water cutbacks and severe economic implications, while state officials sought to downplay the alarm. The bureau said releases from Lake Powell in the coming year will be cut from 8.23 million acre-feet to 7.48 million acre-feet — the lowest since the lake was first filled in the 1960s. An acre-foot is roughly 325,000 gallons. Water from Lake Powell flows through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead, where levels are expected to drop eight feet next year, causing reduced deliveries to farms and water banks. Based on the projections, CAP officials said shortages could trigger a 20 percent decrease in Arizona deliveries to agriculture. “This is the worst 14-year drought period in the last 100 years,” said Larry Walkoviak, the Bureau’s Upper Colorado Region director.

Census: 7 Percent of Americans Speak English ‘Not at All’

The number of people in the United States who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled since 1980 — far outpacing the overall population growth. According to a new report from the Census Bureau, some 60.6 million people — nearly 1 in 5 people age 5 or older — spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, up from 23 million in 1980. That number rose 158 percent over the three decades, while the population grew only 38 percent. Among those who speak a language other than English at home, nearly two-thirds or 37.6 million speak Spanish, up from 11 million in 1980.  The report highlighted another sobering statistic — among those speaking a language other than English at home, 7 percent said they spoke English “not at all,” including 9.7 percent of Chinese speakers and 9 percent of Spanish speakers. And another 15.4 percent of those who speak another language at home said they spoke English “not well.”

Sequester Cuts Have Succeeded Beyond Expectations

The automatic government spending cuts that drew howls of protest from Washington when they began March 1 have turned out splendidly, says Stephen Moore, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member. “The biggest underreported story out of Washington this year is that the federal budget is shrinking and much more than anyone in either party expected,” he wrote Sunday. Annual spending peaked at about $3.6 trillion in fiscal 2011. Many experts had expected outlays would reach $4 trillion by 2014, Moore reported. Instead, spending dropped to $3.54 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on track to dip below $3.45 trillion by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2013.

  • Pretty soon Obama will take credit for something he opposed

Economic News

Unemployment rates rose in 28 states and the District of Columbia in July, reflecting weaker job prospects across the country despite a drop in the national jobless rate. Unemployment fell in eight states and was unchanged in 14 states, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Monday. The unemployment rate rose sharply in eight states, including Alaska and Georgia which posted the largest increases.

An era of exceptionally affordable housing is fading in some parts of the U.S. as stagnant incomes collide with rising prices and interest rates. The share of median household income devoted to home mortgage payments recently surpassed historical averages in six of 30 major housing markets. Five of those are in California — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Jose and San Diego — and the sixth is Portland, Ore. Prices in Los Angeles and San Francisco were 21% higher in June than a year ago compared with the national average increase of almost 12%.

With college costs continuing to rise, more students are receiving federal financial aid. Data released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics shows 71 percent of all undergraduate students received some type of financial aid in the 2011-12 school year, up from 66 percent four years earlier. Forty-two percent of students received federal grants, up from 28 percent, and 40 percent received federal loans, an increase of 5 percentage points. The data comes just weeks after President Barack Obama signed a law restoring lower interest rates for millions of college students.

U.S. stocks fell Tuesday for the fourth straight session. But bond yields continued to creep higher amid chatter that the Federal Reserve could begin winding down its stimulus sooner rather than later. Worries that the central bank could taper its $85 billion a month in bond purchases, or quantitative easing, as early as September has spurred a huge sell-off in bonds. Investors have yanked nearly $20 billion from bond mutual funds and exchange traded funds so far in August. That’s the fourth highest pullback ever.

India’s rupee is trading at record lows and stocks have lost 10% in a month, even as the Indian government insists the country’s faltering economy is not in crisis. The slide that has rocked Indian markets accelerated Monday, with the rupee hitting a new record low against the dollar. Investors are worried about India’s large current account deficit, which reflects the nation’s tendency to import many more goods than it exports and leaves it heavily reliant on foreign capital.

Persecution Watch

Egypt Islamists are targeting Christian churches and businesses as the country increases security at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo ahead of planned mass protests by Morsi supporters. In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by Morsi supporters, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches, along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism. Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

An organization called Barnabas Fund was able to transfer 3,400 Christians out of hostile Muslim Sudan to relatively safe South Sudan, International Christian Concern reports. Most of those rescued were widows and orphans, and the organization plans to continue focusing on aiding them. Those evacuated are living in tents, but praising God for their rescue. Christians are facing increasing levels of persecution in Sudan since the country divided, and the aggressive Islamist government wants to eradicate the Christian presence from the north. Because of border tensions, Christians in Sudan have been unable to flee to South Sudan, leaving many of them in shantytowns surrounding Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Barnabas Fund has airlifted and bussed nearly 5,000 vulnerable Christians to South Sudan.

Egypt

The death toll in Friday’s clashes across Egypt has risen to 173 with at least 1330 people injured. Witnesses said Egyptian security forces fired tear gas at hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who barricaded themselves overnight inside the al-Fatah mosque at Ramses Square, the scene of some of the heaviest clashes Friday. The mosque has been serving as a field hospital and morgue following Friday’s violence. The day after marches in Cairo devolved into the fiercest street battles that the capital has seen in more than two years, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters were defying a state of emergency with new protests.

At least 25 policemen were killed Monday when militants ambushed two mini-buses carrying security personnel in Egypt’s North Sinai Peninsula, which shares a border with Israel and the Gaza Strip and has been a restive center for militant activity. Egyptian authorities arrested the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie.

Iran

Iran’s outgoing nuclear chief says Tehran has a total of 18,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment — a process that can be a pathway to making nuclear weapons. The number is higher by a third than publicly known. Abbasi says 10,000 centrifuges currently operating are of an older model, IR-1, while about 7,000 more of the same model are ready to be installed along with just over 1,000 centrifuges of an advanced new model. The U.S. and its allies fear Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Afghanistan

If the Afghan government is going to take over all military operations in Afghanistan from U.S. forces next year, it will need to know who’s in its military. That’s why the Pentagon is looking for a contractor to upgrade the existing Afghan database to determine who is serving in the military, and whether those troops can read, write and whether they have received enough training to be able to train other Afghan troops. Literacy remains a problem for Afghan forces. New recruits receive only a 64-hour literacy course that makes a soldier able to write his own name, according to a recent Pentagon status report on Afghanistan.

  • With such poor recordkeeping and illiteracy, it’s no wonder that insider attacks by uniformed terrorist have been rising.

Volcanoes

Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes, experienced one of its most powerful eruptions in decades Sunday, sending an ash plume as high as three miles into the air. The volcano, located in the far southwestern part of Japan’s mainland on the island of Kyushu, began to erupt at 4:31 p.m. local time Sunday (3:31 a.m. EDT U.S. time). The smoke plume eventually reached a height of approximately 16,000 feet, the volcano’s tallest ash plume since records began in 1955. Visibility in the city of Kagoshima, where the volcano sits, deteriorated quickly as ash spread into populated portions of the city of 600,000 residents. A fast-moving current of gas and rock, was observed along a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) swath on the southeast flank of the mountain.

Wildfires

A wind-driven wildfire burned its way through sage and pine trees near the Idaho mountain resort community of Sun Valley as sheriff’s deputies expanded evacuation orders to 2,300 homes last Friday. The evacuation orders for the 160-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire included homes in drainages and foothills west of the towns of Hailey and extending to north of Ketchum in central Idaho. More than 1600 state and federal firefighters were working to get the blaze under control and protect property in the affluent resort region that’s a second home to celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. Fire managers expressed optimism Sunday in their battle against the wildfire which was now 9% contained and growing more slowly.

Meanwhile, crews continued battling other wildfires across the West, including a group of fires near the Oregon city of The Dalles, on the Columbia River. Those fires were threatening about 70 homes Sunday, and some residents in the area were told to be ready to evacuate. Three wildfires were burning in the area, with the largest covering about 700 acres in The Dalles watershed. In Utah, the last evacuation orders were scheduled to be lifted Monday after a series of mountain fires burned more than a dozen homes last week. Utah’s biggest blaze, the Patch Springs Fire, was estimated at 50 square miles and 25 percent contained Sunday.

Erratic winds are fueling a wildfire in Northern California that is threatening more than 400 structures and forcing hundreds of people and animals to evacuate. The shifting winds mean the direction of the nearly 2,000-acre fire in Butte County can change rapidly. The 900 firefighters on the scene are among 5,000 firefighters battling 10 wildfires burning in California.

Weather

Flooding caused by some of the Philippines’ heaviest rains on record submerged more than half the capital Tuesday, turning roads into rivers and trapping tens of thousands of people in homes and shelters. The government suspended all work except rescues and disaster response for a second day. At least seven people have died, including four who drowned north of Manila on Monday. Throughout the sprawling, low-lying capital region of 12 million people, offices, banks and schools were closed and most roads were impassable. People stumbled through waist- or neck-deep waters, holding on to ropes strung from flooded houses. More than 200 evacuation centers were opened in Manila and surrounding provinces, filled with tens of thousands of people. Overall, more than 600,000 people have been affected by the floods.

A government news agency said Sunday that the death toll in flooding in China’s northeast and southeast has risen to 107 and landslides blocked a major train line. A total of 37 million residents in that region were affected by flood waters. Landslides blocked the rail linking Beijing with Guangzhou, the country’s southern railway center, delaying some 80,000 passengers. This summer’s inundation is the Northeast’s most severe in decades. Several hundred thousand residents have been relocated.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry says around 20,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in the wake of floods in Russia’s Far East. The evacuation is underway in three Far East regions, some 3,100 miles east of Moscow. Some of the evacuees have moved into emergency shelters. Authorities estimate that another 14,000 people were also affected.

Signs of the Times (8/16/13)

August 16, 2013

NSA Spying Broke Privacy Rules Many Times

The National Security Agency broke privacy rules or overstepped its legal bounds thousands of times each year since Congress granted it broad new powers in 2008, according to news reports published Thursday night. An internal audit of the agency based in suburban Maryland turned up almost 2,800 illegal incidents within a year, according to a report by The Washington Post. The majority of the incidents involve unauthorized spying on Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States. The report was based on documents provided earlier this summer to the Post by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor wanted by the United States for leaking secrets regarding NSA intelligence gathering. “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official said.

  • Humans are flawed beings in a world of good and evil. Thus any system or program can and will be used in mistaken and nefarious ways. All the more reason to limit government’s reach.

Al-Qaeda Has Grown Much More Powerful Under Obama Administration

Al-Qaeda has successfully evolved into a franchise organization under the overall leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri, making the terrorist organization even more dangerous and more difficult to track, according to intelligence experts as reported at Lignet.com. Since the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, al-Qaeda has decentralized its hierarchical cell structure and improved financing methods, attack approaches and communication techniques to counter new intelligence efforts. The group is responsible for four times as many terrorist attacks today as it was before the Sept.11, 2001, attacks. Al-Qaeda is still aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate, and is establishing training camps around the world toward that end.

Georgia Bans Abortions Funded by Employee Insurance Policies

Georgia taxpayers will no longer pay for some abortions. The state Department of Community Health (DCH) on Thursday voted to restrict employee insurance policies from paying for abortions. The change is scheduled to take effect in January. Under the current plan, 75 percent of abortion coverage is funded by tax dollars. Gov. Nathan Deal said “Today’s vote by the Department of Community Health Board shows our state’s commitment to reducing the number of abortions in our state by ensuring that state taxpayers aren’t paying for a procedure that many find morally objectionable.” In Georgia alone, state employees got 366 surgical abortions and 47 medical abortions in 2011. This cost nearly $223,000 — most of which involved taxpayer funds.

California Court Denies Bid to Revive Gay Marriage Ban

Those trying to reinstitute Proposition 8 — the voter-backed referendum to ban gay marriage in California — lost once again in court on Wednesday, meaning no stop to such legal unions that resumed a few weeks ago. One appeal was brought by ProtectMarriage.com, the group that’s led legal efforts defending what’s known as Prop 8, and the other came from a San Diego County clerk who’d argued the state had put him in an “untenable position” by compelling him to sign off on marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples. Fifty-two percent of voters backed Proposition 8 to halt gay and lesbian marriages.

26% of U.S. Women Still Choose Not to Work

Sixty years ago, American women began heading off to the workplace in droves. But in the last couple of decades, that trend has completely stalled out. In 1950, only 37% of women ages 25-54 participated in the labor force — meaning they had a job or were looking for one. The number rose rapidly, climbing to 74% by 1990. But then the trend stopped. Today, still only 74% of women are active in the U.S. workforce, little changed in the last 25 years. As of last year, America ranked 27th out of 37 developed countries for women’s labor force participation. The United States remains the only major industrialized country in the world that doesn’t mandate some sort of paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but only applies to about 58% of American workers.

  • The New World Order folks would rather have all women working, leaving child-rearing (indoctrination) up to the government

More Women Finding Jobs in Tech Sector

Even with advances, a gender gap still exists. An executive summary prepared for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce notes that women represent 23% of the workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions. But women make up 48% of workers in all occupations across the board. Men out-earn women in the tech industry sectors, $95,900 compared with $87,500 for women. However, the compensation gender gap has narrowed, with average salaries equal for male and female tech pros with comparable levels of experience and education and parallel job titles.

Anti-Fracking Protests Delay U.K. Drilling

Plans for massive protests by anti-fracking campaigners have led a U.K.-based oil and gas exploration company to suspend its drilling in southern England. Cuadrilla has vowed to resume drilling once it is safe, as the company searches for ideal sites to conduct hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The latest developments illustrate the backlash oil and gas explorers face as they search for suitable fracking sites in a densely populated island nation. Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to crack shale rock and allow oil or gas to flow. The process is currently being used in various locations across the United States and has led to an American shale oil boom. Fracking has been so successful in the U.S. that the International Energy Agency predicts that the nation will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020.

Economic News

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000, the fewest since October 2007 — a sign of dwindling layoffs and steady if modest job growth. Applications, which reflect layoffs, have fallen 14% this year. That’s a sign that companies are cutting fewer workers. But hiring is still sluggish.

Falling energy prices kept a lid on U.S. wholesale inflation in July after a jump in gasoline boosted prices in June. Wholesale prices showed no change last month compared with June, when they rose 0.8%.Energy costs fell 0.2%, after June’s 2.9% surge. Gasoline prices dropped 0.8%, and natural gas costs slid 3.9%.Excluding volatile food and energy costs, so-called core prices rose just 0.2%. Core wholesale prices are up 1.2% over the past 12 months, the smallest one-year increase since November 2010.

Housing starts trended up in July but not as much as many forecasters expected. Starts rose 5.9% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 from June’s revised figure of 846,000, the Census Bureau said Friday. But single family housing starts were down 2.2% from June, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000. Builders said attractive lots remain in short supply in many markets given that little land development was done during the housing downturn. In addition, higher interest rates may be affecting buyers,

Foreclosure filings last month — including default notices, auctions and bank repossessions — increased 2% from their 78-month low in June but were still down 32% from a year ago. Foreclosure starts — the beginning of the process — were up 6% from June but 38% lower year over year. While down nationwide, foreclosure starts actually increased from a year ago in 15 states. Year over year, foreclosure starts were up 275% in Maryland, 137% in Oregon, 89% in New Jersey, 37% in Connecticut and 27% in New York.

Eurozone

The longest-ever recession to afflict the Eurozone came to an end in the second quarter of the year, official figures confirmed Wednesday. Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, said the 17 European Union countries that use the euro saw their collective economic output grow by 0.3% in the April to June period from the previous quarter. That’s the first quarterly growth since the eurozone slipped into recession in the last three months of 2011. The ensuing recession of six quarters was the longest since the euro currency was launched in 1999.

Persecution Watch

A judge on Tuesday acquitted two men charged with unlawful protest for reading the Bible outside a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Hemet, Calif., WORLD reports. Riverside Court Superior Judge Timothy Freer ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Pastor Bret Coronado of Reconciled Christian Fellowship and church elder Mark Mackey needed to obtain a permit before reading the Bible. Police arrested the men more than a year ago after Coronado started reading the Bible out loud to the people standing in line waiting for the DMV to open. A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer grabbed the Bible from Coronado and handcuffed him, saying he was not allowed to preach to a captive audience. The penal code does not forbid preaching to a captive audience, so the officer claimed they were “obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business.” But that code also did not apply because the men were standing 40 feet from the building on public property and the DMV had not opened yet. When Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed a lawsuit against the CHP for unlawful arrest, the Riverside County district attorney changed the charge again to trespassing on state property: But Advocates for Faith and Freedom attorney Robert Tyler said the men’s actions did not match the definition of a demonstration and also argued that the law violated the First Amendment.

Kashfi and Jalaudin, two Christian brothers, were sentenced to three years in prison on Aug. 2, 2013, after being convicted of “evangelizing Muslims,” Voice of the Martyrs reports. On March 20, 2013, their home was attacked by an angry mob of about 200 Muslims. Police stopped the attack on their home and then arrested the two brothers. The brothers were convicted despite their lawyers’ insistence in court that the trial violated their human rights. Five other families associated with the brothers’ ministry were forced to leave the area for their own safety. Release International has provided support to help these families resettle elsewhere. Kashfi and Jalaudin, along with others in their team, have led more than 100 Muslims to Christ. They plan to appeal their conviction.

Angry Muslims tossed gasoline bombs into a Christian church and four Christian homes in southern Egypt over the weekend, wounding 15 people, CBN News reports. Officials say the incident began Sunday, when two families started fighting after a Muslim tried to stop a Christian neighbor from building a speed bump in front of her home. Tensions between Egypt’s Muslim and Christian communities have been high ever since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power last month.

Egypt’s Christian minority was attacked by Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi across the country on Wednesday with several churches and Christian owned homes and businesses being burnt and dozens of individuals assaulted. “These attacks on the Copts is unprecedented in the modern era,” Bishop Anba Suriel, the bishop for the Coptic Orthodox Church in Melbourne, wrote on Twitter. Attackers appeared to be indiscriminatory in their attacks, targeting Christian facilities as diverse as the Bible Society’s modest shop in Cairo to the Virgin Mary church in Minya, which was built in the 4th century AD.

Middle East

Israel’s Red Sea resort city of Eilat, which has been the focused of an increased alert by the IDF in recent weeks, was targeted by two terrorist rockets overnight Monday. Both rockets were intercepted by IDF Iron Dome air defense batteries. A jihadist group calling itself Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attacks, declaring in a statement that “this was a response to the latest crimes by the Jews, who used a drone to attack and kill four of our fighters in Sinai.

At least 22 people were killed and hundreds injured when a car bomb rocked a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. The bomb Thursday was in an area known as a stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army said. At least 228 others were injured. After the blast, a YouTube video surfaced in which three masked men holding weapons claimed they are part of a group responsible for the attack. They stood before a large Arabic sign containing the Islamic creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.” In its YouTube post, the group called Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah a “pig” and said he works on behalf of Iran and Israel.

Egypt

Over 600 people were killed in clashes across the country that erupted Wednesday when Egyptian security forces cleared out thousands of people at sit-ins demanding the return of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb put the number of the injured on Wednesday at 3,717. It was by far the deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler and autocrat Hosni Mubarak — a grim milestone that does not bode well for the future of a nation roiled in turmoil and divisions for the past 2 ½ years. In Cairo, smoke spread across the sky from fires smoldering in the streets where two sit-ins were largely abandoned, heaped with charred tent poles and tarps.

Clashes erupted Friday between security forces and protesters as tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood took to streets in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency and despite the death of more than 600 people from two days of violence. The protesters poured out of mosques after traditional mid-day prayers, responding to the Muslim Brotherhood’s call for a “Day of Rage” to demonstrate against the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in July. Armored military vehicles sealed off main squares in the Egyptian capital and troops with machine guns stood at the ready on key junctions.

Iraq

A wave of car bombs in the Iraqi capital on Thursday killed 31 people and wounded dozens, the latest attacks in a months-long surge in violence. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months, raising fears Iraq could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s bombings, but Sunni extremists such as al-Qaeda’s Iraq arm that seeks to undermine the Shiite-led government are usually behind attacks targeting civilians. Iraqi forces have imposed tight security measures in and around the capital since two brazen jailbreaks in July, but so far these measures have failed to stop the attacks.

Yemen

Al-Qaeda militants have killed three Yemeni soldiers in the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in what the military said Tuesday was an attempt to capture the provincial capital city of Hawtah in Lahj province. The battle there between militants and the army killed three soldiers, one of them by sniper fire. Four others were wounded. The U.S. considers the local al-Qaeda branch, also known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to be the world’s most active.

Iran

Westerners hoping Iran’s new president will help lead Tehran in a more moderate direction won’t find much support in the cabinet Hasan Rowhani has assembled. Rowhani’s 18-member, all-male, all-Shiite Muslim panel of close advisers includes hard-line holdovers, infamous former intelligence officers and one former justice minister known for ordering mass executions of political prisoners. The picks belie Rowhani’s claims during the election that he would be more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ‘His cabinet reflects who he is,’ said Mark Wallace, chief executive officer of United Against Nuclear Iran. ‘He is a savvy political operator who uses the balancing of a variety of different forces to maintain the status quo.’

Earthquakes

Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand on Friday, damaging homes and roads and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital. No serious injuries were reported. A magnitude-6.5 temblor struck just after 2:30 p.m. near the small South Island town of Seddon, with at least six aftershocks of 5.0 magnitude or stronger. Several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in. A bridge was severely damaged on the main highway near Seddon, with rocks and debris fallen onto the road.

Wildfires

A lightning-sparked wildfire fanned by high winds has destroyed at least a dozen homes as it threatens hundreds of others near a Utah resort town where firefighters prepared to battle the blaze for a second day Wednesday. The fire burning near Park City had destroyed the homes in a subdivision about 10 miles northeast of town and burned at least 15 other structures such as vehicles, sheds and boats. The fire has grown to 4,000 acres, or more than 6 square miles. It is 5 percent contained. In west-central Utah’s Skull Valley, more than 20 structures were threatened by the Patch Springs Fire that covered some 16 square miles. No evacuations had been ordered

The blaze was among several others in the West, where fires have devoured dry grass and brush and burned to the edges of small communities in several states. In about a dozen Western states, crews were actively fighting fires where drought has dried out landscapes and contributed to extreme fire behavior. Nationwide, there were 35 large (over 100 acres) active wildfires burning Tuesday.

Weather

Downtown Los Angeles finally reached the 80s on August 13, ending the longest non-80s streak to start August on record, according to the National Weather Service. The surprisingly cool weather over the past two to three weeks prompted complaints from beachgoers in Southern California. Daytime highs at the beach have been stuck in the low 70s, coupled with morning fog and patchy drizzle. Global warming seems to have forgotten about L.A.

 

Signs of the Times (8/13/13)

August 13, 2013

More Obamacare Delays

The Obama administration has quietly delayed another major provision of the federal health care overhaul, pushing off until 2015 a mandatory cap on out-of-pocket costs for individuals. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the administration is giving some insurers a one-year grace period to adhere to the limit, which otherwise would have capped individual costs at $6,350 a year and gone into effect in 2014. The change means some insurers could set higher limits or set no limit at all on out-of-pocket costs during that period. The grace period apparently was granted earlier this year, though was buried in reams of regulatory material and was not publicly reported until now. The confirmation comes weeks after the administration announced it was delaying a key insurance mandate – the requirement on mid-sized and large businesses to provide coverage to full-time workers. According to the Times, the decision to delay the cap on costs was made because many employers said they needed to upgrade their computer systems. The decision raises concerns that, at least for next year, the health care law will not save people as much money as President Obama claimed.

  • This overly complex program will have many unexpected deleterious effects down the road, as do all socialistic attempts by government to control private markets

New Federal Rule to Put ‘Big Brother’ in Your Vehicle

A proposed federal rule that would require black boxes or event data recorders (EDRs) in every U.S. automobile may mean “Big Brother” could be in your passenger seat for every drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule requires all light passenger vehicles be equipped with an EDR by Sept..1, 2014. They only record information in the brief period before and after a crash. But black box data retrieved from U.S. car accidents in a single day would provide more information than a year’s worth of crash testing, says Tom Kowalick, who heads the design team that is standardizing the devices for automakers worldwide. But he also said he fears that for all their potential good, the EDRs present a massive privacy dilemma, and an opportunity for fraudsters. “They can take that odometer and roll that odometer back to zero,” he said. “They can change the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is in the computer. And once they do that, then it’s okay for them to very simply steal the motor vehicle and move it away.”

  • The law of unintended consequences is sure to raise its ugly head in this situation as well

Stop-and-Frisk Policy in New York City Violated Rights, Judge Rules

In a repudiation of a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy, a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms. In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision. These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

California Gov. Brown Signs Transgender-Student Bill

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial bill into law Monday afternoon allowing the state’s transgender public school students to choose which bathrooms they use and whether they participate in boy or girl sports. While California is the first state to pass a law of this magnitude, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington and Colorado have all adopted policies designed to protect transgendered pupils. Supporters say the law will help cut down on bullying against transgender students, Opponents of the bill say allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other would invade the other students’ privacy.

  • The consequences of this law will open the door to all sorts of abuse, worsening the plight of those it seeks to protect.

Most Embassies Reopened

Eighteen of 19 of U.S. embassies and consulates across the Middle East, Asia and Africa that were closed recently due to terror threats reopened on Sunday. The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of continuing concerns about a threat for potential terrorist attacks by al Qaeda. The U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which shut down Friday due to a separate threat also will remain closed.

U.S. Postal Service Doing Better, Not Good Enough

The U.S. Postal Service said Friday that it lost $740 million in the three months ending June 30, far less than in recent quarters. During the same period last year, it reported a $5.2 billion loss. So far, the Postal Service has lost $3.9 billion in its fiscal year, which has three months remaining. It lost $16 billion in 2012. The agency was helped by a big uptick in customers shipping packages, the area where it competes with United Postal Service and Fed Ex. But total mail volume continued to fall. The Postal Service handled 37.9 billion pieces of mail between April and June, down from 38.3 billion pieces last year.

Another big issue is a mandate that the Postal Service “prefund” health care benefits for future retirees. The requirement has been a major drag on the agency, which has exhausted a $15 billion loan from taxpayers to make up for shortfalls. This year, the Postal Service owes $5.6 billion to fund future retiree health costs. The Postal Service is expected to default on the payment — something it has done twice before — when it is due Sept. 30.

Economic News

Retail sales climbed 0.2% in July, a tepid performance that may fuel debate about how rapidly the economy may accelerate during the second half of the year. The July gain was held back by a 1% drop in the sales of cars and parts, the Census Bureau said. Sales of furniture and building materials, which economists had expected to get a boost from the housing recovery, also declined.

For the first time since the start of the financial crisis, banks have more lent out then they did in late 2008. In mid-July, according to the Federal Reserve. Banks had $7.33 trillion in loans outstanding. That was slightly more than the $7.32 trillion banks had extended in October 2008, the last time credit peaked. But the growth in lending has remained slow and uneven. Lending in the first three months of the year dropped, before rebounding in the second quarter. And much of the rebound in lending has been to corporate borrowers.

Consumers are about to get a break at the gas pump for the rest of 2013 and much of 2014, analysts say. Coupled with ample supplies and lower autumn demand, the national average price of regular-grade gasoline is likely to fall to about $3.40 in the coming weeks. That’s about 5% less than Saturday’s $3.56 national average.

Middle East

Angry protests have arisen in several quarters of Israel over the list of 26 convicted Palestinian terrorists who will soon be released as part of the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The releases, which are scheduled for Tuesday and which will culminate with a heroes’ welcome for the convicted murderers at the residence of PA President Mohammed Abbas in Ramallah. The releases are proceeding despite the protests and the legal appeals of families who lost loved ones during attacks carried out by the soon-to-be-released murderers. The High Court of Justice briefly heard and dismissed a petition by the Almagor Terror Victims Association on Sunday. Another three batches of convicted murderers are scheduled to be released over the next nine months as negotiations proceed.

  • The Obama Administration continues to pressure Israel to cave-in to terrorism, forcing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release 104 terrorist prisoners in exchange for empty promises of peace talks with Palestinians bent on destroying the Jews.

Israel’s defense minister said that his country won’t let “rumors and speculation” harm the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, an apparent attempt to downplay reports that an Israeli drone killed four militants in a cross-border strike into Egypt. The late Saturday statement by Moshe Yaalon did not explicitly deny that Israel carried out the Friday attack. The Israeli military said Friday it was looking into the report. On Sunday it said it had no further comment. Egypt is highly sensitive to criticism about letting Israel carry out strikes on its soil.

Israel’s housing minister on Sunday gave final approval to build nearly 1,200 apartments in Jewish settlements, just three days before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are to resume in Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had long insisted he would not resume talks without an Israeli settlement freeze, arguing that the expansion of settlements is pre-empting the outcome of negotiations. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967. Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that are now home to some 560,000 Israelis.

Persecution Watch

Sixteen human rights groups are warning that more violence is about to erupt against Egypt’s Christians, CBN News reports. Isalmists in the southern part of the country are stirring up anger against the Christian community with charges that its leaders helped engineer President Mohammed Morsi’s downfall. On Tuesday, 10,000 Muslims in the city of Assiut marched through a Christian neighborhood chanting pro-Islamist slogans. They also defaced churches with spray-painted messages, including one calling Coptic Pope Tawadros “a dog.” Hossam Nabil, who owns a jewelry store on the street where the demonstration took place, said: “[The Islamists] will not stop as long as they are left to do as they please without fear of accountability. They are many and one day they will trash our stores. … [The marchers] run their index finger across their throats to suggest they will slaughter us, or scream Morsi’s name in our faces.” The human rights groups are calling on Egyptian authorities to protect the country’s Christian minority.

Egypt

Clashes erupted in Cairo a day after Egypt’s security forces backed away from a plan to disperse protest camps, as residents pelted Morsi supporters with rocks and bottles as they marched toward a government building. Police also fired tear gas at the thousands of people who participated in the march; the protesters are demanding reinstatement of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi following his July 3 ouster. The protesters responded by throwing rocks at police, Reuters reports. Two men wielding machetes were also seen chasing pro-Morsi crowds who were heading to the Interior Ministry building. On Monday, Morsi supporters flooded two camps in Cairo that have been the flashpoint of unrest.

Iraq

A wave of car bombings targeting those celebrating the end of Ramadan across Iraq killed 69 people Saturday, a bloody reminder of the inability of Iraqi authorities to stop violence threatening to spiral out of control. The surge of attacks has sparked fears that the country could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. This past year has seen a marked increase in attacks, especially coordinated simultaneous strikes, a trademark of ISI — the Islamic State of Iraq — an umbrella organization that includes al Qaeda in Iraq.

Nigeria

Gunmen attacked a mosque in Nigeria with automatic weapons over the weekend, killing at least 44 people. It’s not clear who was behind Sunday’s massacre, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram — which has staged attacks in the same region before — issued a video around the same time boasting that it was gaining in strength. Details have been slow to emerge about the attack in Konduga, about 19 miles southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northern Borno state.

Volcanoes

Gushing hot lava from an erupting volcano killed six people sleeping in a beach village in eastern Indonesia on Saturday, after ash and smoke shot up 6,560 feet into the air, Mount Rokatenda in East Nusa Tenggara province erupted early Saturday morning. Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from the area on Palue island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 240 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.

Wildfires

Thousands of acres of a Southern California forest are going up in flames for the second time in less than three weeks. Together, the two blazes have scorched a large hole out of the wooded mountains near Palm Springs. More than 1,400 firefighters were struggling to contain the current ongoing wildfire as a steady wind blows it toward the east. The blaze has scorched more than 30 square miles and burned 48 buildings including 26 homes. The Silver Fire was 90 percent contained by Sunday evening.

California truly is the Golden State this summer – golden brown – and that has fire officials worried heading into the peak of the wildfire season. It’s still weeks before the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds usually arrive and already it’s been a brutal fire season, with nearly twice as many acres burned statewide from a year ago, including 18,000 scorched last week in a blaze still raging in the mountains 90 miles east of Los Angeles. So far this year, California fire officials have battled 4,300 wildfires, a stark increase from the yearly average of nearly 3,000 they faced from 2008 to 2012. Those fires had already burned 111 square miles or more than 71,000 acres, up from 40,000 acres during the same period last year.

More than 10,000 lightning strikes have peppered Oregon over the weekend, starting many small wildfires in central and southern sections of the state. There are eight major fires or complexes of fires in Oregon, all coming after barrages of lightning since late July. The largest active fire is the Douglas Complex in southwest Oregon, which has scorched almost 45,000 acres. Cloud cover and relatively calm winds have slowed the growth of a wildfire that has burned more than 24 square miles in northwest Wyoming. A wildfire on the Utah-Idaho border grew to more than 25 square miles Sunday evening.

Weather

While most of the United States enjoys a pleasant, temperate summer, record highs have been breaking in Europe again and again. The Slovenian capital of Ljubljanahas broken its all-time record high five times in six days, culminating in a high of 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Aug. 8. Other parts of the continent have risen to even hotter temperatures. The mercury unofficially surpassed 105 degrees in parts of Austria last Thursday, a country that never had a reading of 104 degrees or higher. The highest readings were in Croatia, however. Temperatures soared to a 113-degree reading. On Monday, the temperature reached 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit in Shimanto in southern Japan, setting a new national record,

Since late July, we’ve seen roughly two dozen flash flood events from the East to the Plains and Desert Southwest. Water-weary residents of Missouri, Kansas and nearby states saw more rain Friday night into Saturday after a week of intermittent downpours dumped as much as 17 inches of rain and caused several deaths. A front that arrived on Aug. 2 and stalled over the Plains has hit Missouri’s Ozarks region the hardest, with parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma also experiencing persistent rain and spotty flooding, leading to at least four fatalities.

Roads in Colorado were ripped to rubble by floodwaters up to 10 feet deep, rushing up to 30 mph. Shattered homes near others still standing upright. One person dead, three others missing. That’s the harsh reality police, firefighters and residents were dealing with Saturday in Manitou Springs, a mountain community of about 5,000 people just west of Colorado Springs, after sudden, raging waters tore through the area. Under mostly sunny skies, crews spent the day looking for the missing and combing through wreckage wrought by floods triggered by intense rain.

A powerful typhoon battered the northern Philippines on Monday, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across mountains, cities and food-growing plains. The storm killed at least two people in a landslide and left 44 fishermen missing. Typhoon Utor, described as the strongest globally so far this year, slammed ashore in mountainous eastern Aurora province with sustained winds of 109 miles per hour and gusts of up to 130 mph. The typhoon triggered waves of up to eight feet.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

Signs of the Times (8/9/13)

August 9, 2013

Jesus Wins, Atheist Complainers Lose in Appeals Court

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this week that prayers [offered ‘in Jesus’ name’] given before legislative bodies are constitutional, despite atheist assertions that such practices cannot withstand legal scrutiny,” reports ChristianNews.net.  Last summer, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) mailed a letter to officials in Hamilton County, Tennessee to complain about citizen-led prayers that are regularly given before county commission meetings. Although county commissioners invite individuals from all different faiths to lead the prayers, FFRF argued that the practice was unconstitutional, since a majority of the invocations are given ‘in Jesus’ name.’ However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals published an opinion last Friday, likewise refusing to grant an injunction. In the 21-page opinion, Judge Avern Cohn wrote that—unless new evidence shows otherwise—the commission’s prayer policy is constitutional.

Planned Parenthood Investigation Launched

A congressional watchdog agency has agreed to investigate how Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations spend federal funds, drawing praise from pro-life advocates inside and outside the legislative branch, Baptist Press reports. Members of Congress announced August 5 that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had accepted their request for such an investigation. A GAO spokesman confirmed with Baptist Press on August 6th that the nonpartisan agency had agreed to conduct the review. Disclosure of the investigation comes at a time when Planned Parenthood’s use of government funds is drawing closer scrutiny. Only a week before, one of the affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $4.3 million for alleged Medicaid fraud. Other Medicaid fraud suits are pending against Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider. A January report by PPFA showed it established records for both the most abortions performed and most government funds received in the latest year for which statistics are available. PPFA said its affiliates performed 333,964 of the lethal procedures during 2010-11. It received $542.4 million in federal, state and local government grants and reimbursements during the latest fiscal year.

Abortion Clinics Close in Various States

Abortion centers across the country continue to close. According to Baptist Press, two Ohio clinics closed in recent months, and another is expected to shut down soon. A Toledo clinic closed after being unable to enter into a transfer agreement with a public hospital for its patients, as a new law prohibits public hospitals from participating in such arrangements. Another Toledo clinic is expected to close for the same reason, resulting in no such center in the city. A clinic in Cuyahoga Falls, which is near Akron, shut down in April after an inspection found it violated various health and safety standards. The only abortion clinic in Green Bay, Wis., was to close Aug. 1, when its sale to Bellin Health Systems took effect. Bellin will not provide abortions. A Harlingen, Texas, clinic will close because of a new state law. The law, signed by Gov. Rick Perry July 18, requires abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety requirements as outpatient surgical centers. Recent closings previously announced included clinics in Fairfax City, Va.; Durham, N.C.; and Bryan, Texas.

Gay Spouses Could Soon Get Military Benefits

The Pentagon could begin extending benefits to gay spouses in the military by the end of the August, under a new proposal by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, CBN News reports. The proposal would give same-sex spouses access to military health care and housing programs. Meanwhile, an earlier plan to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married is being reconsidered. The Pentagon might instead give same-sex couples 10 days of leave to travel to states where they can marry legally. “Although we have bases and installations in all 50 states, not all state laws are equal when it comes to same-sex marriage,” said one defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That is why we are looking at providing extra leave for same-sex couples who want to get married to travel to a state where same-sex marriages are legal.” The Pentagon would not be able to begin implementing the plan until the Justice Department completes its review.

  • The government has become the leading proponent of the gay agenda as end-time morality continues to nose-dive

Obama Administration to Apply Social Engineering to U.S. Neighborhoods

In a move some claim is tantamount to social engineering, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is imposing a new rule that would allow the feds to track diversity in America’s neighborhoods and then push policies to change those it deems discriminatory. The policy is called, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.” It will require HUD to gather data on segregation and discrimination in every single neighborhood and try to remedy it. Data from this discrimination database would be used with zoning laws, housing finance policy, infrastructure planning and transportation to alleviate alleged discrimination and segregation. Now published in the Federal Register and undergoing a 60-day comment period, the rule. “This is just the latest of a series of attempts by HUD to social engineer the American people,” said Ed Pinto, of the American Enterprise Institute. “It started with public housing and urban renewal, which failed spectacularly back in the 50’s and 60’s. They tried it again in the 90’s when they wanted to transform house finance, do away with down payments, and the result was millions of foreclosures and financial collapse.”

Obama Cancels Talks with Putin Ahead of G-20 Summit

President Barack Obama formally canceled a much-discussed visit to Moscow next month for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing a lack of progress in bilateral relations since Putin regained the presidency a year ago. Obama will still attend a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in early September, but now will go to Sweden beforehand instead of stopping in Moscow to meet with Putin. A statement said the cancellation was due to lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights. The statement also cited Russia’s recent decision to grant asylum to classified NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a factor in the decision.

Obama/Congress Plan to Eliminate Fannie Mae & Fannie Mac

Homebuyers could feel the pinch if Congress follows through on plans to shut down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage guarantee giants that were rescued by a $187 billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis. Borrowers would probably end up paying slightly higher mortgage rates under House and Senate bills that would phase out Fannie and Freddie over five years and shrink the government’s huge role in guaranteeing mortgage securities. Fannie and Freddie teetered under a crush of massive losses on risky mortgages before being bailed out. The idea behind both plans is to shift more mortgage financing risk from the government to the private sector to prevent taxpayers from having to pay for future bailouts. Community bankers and mortgage lenders are skeptical the call from President Obama to shutter mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, arguing that the still-fragile US housing industry is not ready for such a change.

House and Senate Find Common Ground on E-Verify

While the Senate and House remain far apart on the best way to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system, there is strong agreement on the need for an electronic employment-verification system that would affect all U.S. workers and impose huge new penalties on employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. Currently, the system is voluntary for most employers. The one area where the two chambers’ approaches are almost identical are provisions making it mandatory for employers nationwide to check all new employees through a federal database known as E-Verify. A few states, including Arizona, require employers to use the system under state law. Some federal contractors must use the system. All employees, including U.S. citizens, would have to undergo the check when they apply for a job to ensure they are legally eligible to work here.

One In 25 Americans Was Arrested In 2011

According to the FBI, in 2011 there were 3991.1 arrests for every 100,000 people living in America. That means over the course of a single year, one in 25 Americans was arrested. More people were arrested for drug crimes than any other class of crimes — about one in every 207. One in every 258 of us was arrested for drunk driving.

  • End-time lawlessness continues to ramp up infecting all areas of society (Matt. 24:12)

Medical-Marijuana DUIs Create Legal Quandary

Medical-marijuana cardholders in Arizona who drive after using the drug may face a difficult legal choice: their driver’s license or their marijuana card. If they use both, they could be charged with DUI. Phoenix area prosecutors say that any trace of marijuana in a driver’s blood is enough to charge a motorist with driving under the influence of drugs and that a card authorizing use of medical pot is no defense. But advocates of medical marijuana, which voters approved in November 2010, argue that the presence of marijuana in a person’s bloodstream is not grounds for charging drivers who are allowed to use the drug.

The legal battle over the rights of medical-marijuana cardholders to drive while medicating is being fought in the state’s court system. Motorists convicted in municipal courts, which typically rule it unlawful for a driver to have any trace of marijuana in his or her blood, are appealing cases to Superior Court, where judges’ decisions could set precedents for how the medical-marijuana law applies to Arizona drivers. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, making marijuana-related DUIs an issue for police, prosecutors and politicians nationwide.

Economic News

Americans borrowed more in June to buy cars and attend schools. But they were frugal again with their credit cards, indicating many are still wary of taking on high-interest debt. The Federal Reserve says borrowing rose $13.8 billion in June from May to a seasonally adjusted $2.85 trillion, the highest ever. The gain followed a $17.5 billion increase in May. The category that includes credit card use dropped $2.7 billion in June. Overall credit card debt has fallen 16.5% from its July 2008 peak.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 5,000 last week to 333,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week average, which often gives a clearer read of the labor market’s underlying health, fell to its lowest since November 2007, just before the United States fell into recession. The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 67,000 to 3.018 million in the week ended July 27.

Eurozone

Signs of economic recovery are popping up in Europe. But not in Greece. Stuck in recession for a sixth consecutive year, Greece reported a jobless rate of 27.6% in May, a new record high. Most worrying is the rate of youth unemployment. Almost 65% of Greeks aged 15-24 are unable to find work. The number of Greeks out of work has increased by nearly 200,000 to 1.38 million over the past 12 months, and by one million over the past five years. The Greek GDP has shrunk by about 30% since 2008. Greece has been kept afloat since 2010 by funds drawn from a €240 billion bailout program financed by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The Bank of England said Wednesday it would not raise interest rates until U.K. unemployment falls to 7%, a level it doesn’t expect to see for about three years. Issuing detailed “forward guidance” on monetary policy for the first time under new Governor Mark Carney, the central bank said it wanted to avoid a premature rise in market rates of interest that would risk choking off the recovery in the world’s sixth biggest economy,

Persecution Watch

Pro-Morsi supporters and other Islamists still blame Christians for the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood leader from the Egyptian presidency, and attacks against Christians, especially in upper Egypt, continue unabated. In the latest wave of attacks on August 3, militant Muslims attacked homes and businesses in three Christian villages near al Minya, where rioting Islamists planted a black al Qaeda flag at a Coptic Orthodox church in Sohag. While Islamists are on the defensive in Cairo following the military coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in Assiut and elsewhere in Egypt’s deep south they are waging a stepped-up hate campaign, claiming the country’s Christian minority. The hostility led a coalition of 16 Egyptian rights groups to warn on Wednesday of a wave of violence to come, and to demand that the post-coup authorities protect the Christians who are 10 percent of the population and suffer chronic discrimination. Nile-side Assiut, a city of one million people 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Cairo, dates back to the pharaohs. The New Testament says Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus passed through as they fled the infanticidal King Herod. Today, its Christian fears are compounded by the failure of authorities to curb the graffiti-spraying and the Islamists’ demonstrations, which have gone on almost nightly since the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi.

Christians in Central African Republic have been shocked by the violent arrest on Tuesday of the president of the Evangelical Alliance of Central African Republic (CAR), Pastor Nicolas Grekoyame Gbangouon, Open Doors USA reports. Sources, who cannot be named for security reasons, told Open Doors the arrest was ordered by the acting president Michiel Djotodia through the Attorney General. It is not clear where he is being held or what the conditions are, but Open Doors expects him to endure harsh treatment. Local Christians say the arrest came as a result of a July 2013 interview the pastor did with a local publication called the Democrate, in which he blamed the government and key government officials for the continuing violence in the country. Christians in CAR now face open persecution. They expressed grave concern over information that Seleka soldiers have been distributing arms to Muslims living around the area of the capital city of Bangui.

Middle East

The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “Iran’s new president began his four-year term in office this past weekend. After eight years of the public ranting and raving of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s new leader offers a different tone but very little difference in policy or philosophy. Though he is often described in the Western press as a moderate, the reality is that Hassan Rouhani, like every other Iranian leader, is firmly under the thumb of Supreme Leader Khamenei, and he is just as intolerant toward Israel as Ahmadinejad, although less given to outrageous public pronouncements.”

Syria

As foreign fighters pour into Syria at an increasing clip, extremist groups are carving out pockets of territory that are becoming havens for Islamist militants, posing what United States and Western intelligence officials say may be developing into one of the biggest terrorist threats in the world today. Known as fierce fighters willing to employ suicide car bombs, the jihadist groups now include more than 6,000 foreigners, counterterrorism officials say, adding that such fighters are streaming into Syria in greater numbers than went into Iraq at the height of the insurgency there against the American occupation. But others are assembling under a new, even more extreme umbrella group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, that is merging some Syrians with fighters from around the world — Chechnya, Pakistan, Egypt and the West, as well as Al Qaeda in Iraq The concern is that a new affiliate of Al Qaeda could be emerging from those groups.

Iran

Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, on Tuesday used his first news conference to call for serious negotiations to solve the decade-long dispute over the country’s nuclear program, and he repeatedly suggested openness to direct talks with the United States, an idea that until recently had been unthinkable for many years. At the same time, Mr. Rouhani said Americans needed to take the first step in the stalled nuclear negotiations, and he would not specify what his country would be prepared to do, if anything, to make those negotiations advance. While the tone of Mr. Rouhani’s remarks appeared more accommodating than that of his predecessor, he broke no new ground on Iran’s position regarding the nuclear dispute, the most serious international issue confronting the country. ‘As the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I state that the Islamic republic system is very seriously determined to solve the nuclear issue. It will defend its people’s rights and at the same time will remove the concerns of the other party,’ Mr. Rouhani said.

Pakistan

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to Pakistan and ordered nonessential government personnel to leave the U.S. Consulate in Lahore because of a specific threat to that diplomatic mission. In a travel warning, the State Department said the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups posed a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. The personnel drawdown at the Lahore consulate was a precautionary measure and wasn’t related to the recent closures of numerous U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world,

A suicide bombing tore through the funeral of a police official in the Pakistani city of Quetta Thursday, killing 30 people — as well as the bomber — and wounding at least 40 others. The blast happened as people lined up for a funeral procession at a mosque. Most of the victims were policemen. A bomb blast that appeared to be targeting a provincial government minister killed 11 people before dawn Wednesday at a soccer field in southern Pakistan, the latest in a series of attacks that left 28 people dead across the country. The bomb planted next to the field in the city of Karachi was hidden in a motorcycle. Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and has a long history of political, criminal and religious violence.

Yemen

Three U.S. drone strikes killed a total of 12 suspected al-Qaeda militants Thursday in one of the group’s former strongholds in a central province. The strike was the eighth by a U.S. drone over the past 10 days. So far, about 29 suspected militants have been killed by unmanned U.S. aircraft in an apparent stepped-up drone war in Yemen. The uptick in drone strikes signals that the Obama administration is stepping up its efforts to target Yemen’s al-Qaeda offshoot — al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — amid fears of attacks after the interception of a message between its leader and the global leader of the terror network.

Yemen foiled an al Qaeda plot to capture oil and gas facilities and seize two key southern ports earlier this week. News of the foiled plot came a day after the United States urged all Americans to leave the country amid fears of a possible terror threat. Two U.S. military transport aircraft landed in Yemen on Tuesday to evacuate American citizens. A senior Yemeni Interior Ministry official told CNN that “a few” al Qaeda operatives have arrived in Sanaa over the past three days, which forced government authorities to put Yemeni forces on high alert.

Wildfires

A wildfire that broke out in the inland mountains of Southern California has expanded exponentially, burning homes, forcing the evacuation of several small mountain communities and leaving three people injured, including two firefighters. The rapidly spreading wildfire raging through a rugged Southern California mountain range Thursday had already destroyed 26 homes and was threatening more than 500 other residences, forcing some 1,800 people to flee. More than 1,400 firefighters and nine helicopters battled the flames as they pushed eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert range 90 miles east of Los Angeles. The fire was estimated at nearly 22 square miles Thursday with 20 percent containment.

Weather

Torrential rains continued across the nation’s midsection on Thursday, causing flash flooding that killed a woman and a child, damaged homes and forced multiple water rescues. Up to 10 inches of rain pounded southern Missouri overnight. Missouri has gotten the worst of it. The area near the tourist boom town of Branson, Mo., was hit especially hard early Thursday. At least 100 homes and businesses in Hollister, Mo., right next to Branson, were damaged when Turkey Creek flooded.

Over the past three days, 12-16 inches of rain has fallen in areas of Kansas and Missouri. Heavy thunderstorms early Wednesday hit already saturated areas of south-central Missouri, where flooding forced the closure of major highways and a handful of evacuations. The Missouri Department of Transportation closed Interstate 44 south of Rolla along the Gasconade River, and U.S. 63 in Maries County after about 6 inches of rain fell in the area early Wednesday. Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday also ordered the deployment of 50 military policemen of the Missouri National Guard to help local authorities dealing with flooding.

Heavy rain in northern Georgia Wednesday morning caused mudslides that blocked traffic on Highway 5 in Gilmer County as well as Highway 136 in Pickens County. At least one home has been evacuated. Numerous roads were reported closed in Gilmer County, Pickens County, Dawson County and northern Forsyth County. More than five inches of rain was reported near Jasper, Ga. and more than 7 inches was measured near Dawsonville, Ga. A stationary cluster of thunderstorms parked over Nashville on Thursday, triggering flash flooding over some parts of the metro area.

Sgins of the Times (8/6/13)

August 6, 2013

Many Embassies Remain Closed

The U.S. State Department announced that 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa will be closed through Saturday, including a small number of additional posts that were not shuttered on Sunday. A press release said the closures were out of an “abundance of caution” and not an “indication of a new threat.” The new embassies ordered to shut down through Saturday include facilities in central and east Africa, including the capitals of Burundi and Rwanda. Authorities also closed a third embassy in Saudi Arabia. Among those closed Sunday but to reopen Monday: posts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bangladesh. Security was beefed up in Cairo and elsewhere as U.S. embassies and consulates closed because of the threat.

A worldwide travel alert remains in effect until Aug. 31. That alert warns U.S. citizens that al-Qaeda and affiliated groups continue to plan terrorist attacks particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The State Department on Tuesday ordered non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen to leave the country. A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes killed four al Qaeda militants in Yemen as the United States maintained a heightened security alert in the country and urged all Americans to leave immediately. The potential terror attacks are thought to be in retaliation for all the drone strikes in Yemen over the past two years that have killed several al-Qaeda leaders. Concerns about a possible attack, at least two major U.S. cities (New York and San Francisco) have stepped up their security.

Last-Minute Deal: Congress Exempts Itself from ObamaCare

Moments before shuttering Capitol Hill for a month-long recess, Congress exempted 11,000 members and staff from ObamaCare. News of Friday’s last-minute deal making is especially frustrating since part of ObamaCare’s original sell to the American people was that lawmakers and aides had to use the plan. According to The Wall Street Journal, both parties went ballistic when they learned staff would incur dramatically higher healthcare costs. “Democrats in particular, begged for help,” and President Obama leapt into action telling them in a closed-door meeting that “he would personally moonlight as H.R. manager and resolve the issue.” He did … for Congress.

“A behind-closed-doors deal announced after Congress is safely away from the crime scene. This is exactly why America rightly hates Washington,” charged Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Hundreds of politically connected companies and unions have also gotten exemptions. The Teamsters had warned that Obamacare is so complex that an army of “navigators” must be hired to sign people up, and Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who is the outgoing head of the Finance Committee referred to the effort to administer the law as a potential “train wreck.”

More U.S. Companies Buckle Under LGBT Pressure

The Human Rights Campaign’s list of LGBT-friendly businesses is long and quickly growing — almost 300 Fortune 500 businesses offer workplaces with insurance, employment and retirement policies friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered workers. When HRC first released the Corporate Equality Index a decade ago, only 13 businesses made the list. Still, not all companies have jumped on the rainbow train. Both Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil, Fortune’s top two companies, got less-than-perfect scores. Exxon Mobil received a negative 25 for supporting conservative groups that oppose homosexuality. Rob Schwarzwalder, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, believes that LGBT-friendly companies miss a bigger picture in light of current profit: “Companies that actively and openly affirm homosexuality as a valid choice of life and behavior are failing to recognize the toll that homosexual unions will take on society if they become fully legitimated.”

  • LGBT acceptance is one of the clearest signs of the prophesied decline of end-time morality (Matt. 24:12, 2Tim. 3:1-5)

Abortions Down in Arizona

There were 1,061 fewer abortions in 2012 than in 2011, according to Arizona data released last week. Anti-abortion advocates used the numbers to claim victory, while abortion-rights advocates fretted that they reflect a drastic decline in women’s access to reproductive health care in the state. Since Gov. Jan Brewer took office in 2009, Arizona has passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Several of those laws, some of which have been delayed for years by court battles, went into effect in late 2011 and resulted in Planned Parenthood of Arizona halting abortions at seven clinics. Women seeking an abortion in Arizona must meet with a doctor at least 24hours in advance and agree to an ultrasound. Only a physician may now perform abortions. Parental consent for a minor’s abortion must be notarized.

IRS Harassment of Pro-Life Groups Persists

The Thomas More Society says it has “irrefutable evidence” the IRS is continuing to harass pro-life groups that are applying for tax-exempt status. “Despite claims to the contrary, the IRS continues to target and harass pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions,” says Peter Breen, Society vice president and senior counsel. One pro-life organization was told that to obtain tax-exempt status it would have to commit to stop praying and demonstrating at abortion clinics.

DEA Covers Up Program Used to Investigate Americans

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated.

More States Banning International Law in Courts

A growing number of states are targeting what they see as a threat to their court systems: the influence of international laws. North Carolina last month became the seventh state to pass legislation barring judges from considering foreign law in their decisions, including sharia. Six other states — Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee — have already enacted similar legislation since 2010, and at least 26 have introduced such measures. Sharia, or Islamic law, is both a moral code and religious law that governs all aspects of Muslim life, ranging from religious obligations to family relationships. Many of the bills, including North Carolina’s, would apply only in situations in which invoking foreign law would violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Germany Pulls Out of Information Sharing Pact with U.S.

Germany has canceled a decades-old agreement on information-sharing with Britain and the United States, in the wake of controversy sparked by American leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance programs. Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said cancellation of the pact — which dates back to the late 1960s — “was a necessary and a correct consequence resulting from the latest debates in regards to protect privacy.” Other European nations, including France, have also voiced concern. The row blew up after German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that classified leaks by Snowden detailed NSA bugging of European Union offices in Washington and New York, as well as an “electronic eavesdropping operation” that tapped into an EU building in Brussels.

Virginia Gun Crime Drops as Gun Sales Soar

Amid calls nationwide for stricter gun control laws, Virginia is experiencing a unique trend: the state’s gun-related crime is declining but firearms sales are increasing. Firearms sales rose 16 percent to a record 490,119 guns purchased from licensed gun dealers in 2012. During the same period, major crimes committed with firearms dropped 5 percent to 4,378. “This appears to be additional evidence that more guns don’t necessarily lead to more crime,” said Thomas R. Baker, of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Obamacare Creates Difficulties for Public Unions

Cities and towns across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018.  The so-called Cadillac tax was inserted into the Affordable Care Act at the advice of economists who argued that expensive health insurance with the employee bearing little cost made people insensitive to the cost of care. In public employment, though, where benefits are arrived at through bargaining with powerful unions, switching to cheaper plans will not be easy. Cities including New York and Boston, and school districts from Westchester County, N.Y., to Orange County, Calif., are warning unions that if they cannot figure out how to rein in health care costs now, the price when the tax goes into effect will be steep, threatening raises and even jobs.

Most New Jobs are Part-Time and Low Wages

U.S. employers added a disappointing 162,000 jobs in July, but some economists are even more concerned about the types of jobs the economy is generating. Job growth in recent months has skewed toward part-time work in low-wage industries. Retailers led job gains with 47,000, and restaurants and bars added 38,000. All told, four low-paying sectors — retail, restaurants, temporary staffing firms and home health care — accounted for 60% of the jobs added in July, though they make up just 22% of total employment. The trend appears to have improved the job prospects of less educated Americans. Employment for high school graduates increased by nearly 400,000 in July, while payrolls for those with at least a four-year college degree fell by 256,000.

Economic News

Government statistics are hiding the true unemployment rate. While the Bureau Labor Statistics says the unemployment rate has been around 7.5 or 7.6 percent in recent months, it’s really 14.3 percent. What’s the difference? The commonly cited unemployment number ignores people who want to work but are no longer actively seeking jobs and counts part-time workers as employed even if they’d prefer full-time jobs.

According to the government’s latest jobs report, 12.6% of black Americans were unemployed. That’s down from a high of 16.5% in August of 2011 and its lowest level since December 2008. But the current unemployment rate for blacks is considerably higher than the rate of 7.4% for the overall population.

Home prices rose in June for the 16th consecutive month nationwide but at a slower pace than in recent months. June home sales prices were up 11.9% year-over-year and up 1.9% from May. But that’s a slower month-to-month rise than 2.6% in May from April and the 2.8% increase in April from March.

The U.S. homeownership rate, which soared to a record high 69 percent in 2004, is back where it was two decades ago at 65%, before the housing bubble inflated, busted and forced more than 7 million Americans from their homes.

Despite booming sales of new vehicles in the past year, the average age of America’s auto fleet has hit another record. The average age of all cars and trucks now stands at 11.4 years, up from 11.2 years last year, says research firm Polk. A decade ago it was 9.7 years. New car sales on track this year to come close, maybe even top, 16 million for the first time since 2007. Auto sales bottomed in 2009 at 10.4 million, according to Autodata.

Persecution Watch

The congregation of a church in Sugankerni, Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka, was attacked when a worship service was raided by Hindu extremists on 16 June. A mob armed with clubs, knives and swords entered the building, shouting demands that the Christians stop worshipping and the church be closed down. The extremists beat the worshippers, leaving the pastor and other Christians injured, and caused serious damage to the building. Christians in Hindu-majority Batticaloa are under pressure from Hindu extremists in other ways as well; for example they are denied land for burying their loved ones.

Praise God that the Vietnamese government has made an unusual move in support of persecuted Christians! Four persecuted Christian families from an ethnic minority in the Central Highlands were resettled by the authorities into a new area following a campaign of aggression against them. Their animist former neighbours became increasingly hostile after the families converted to Christianity. The new believers’ homes were targeted in a succession of night-time raids, during which their possessions were destroyed and their houses damaged beyond use.

Egypt

Al-Qaeda’s leader is condemning the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, but also blaming the ousted Egyptian leader for trying to “satisfy America” by abandoning jihad. Ayman al-Zawahrisays Morsi, toppled in a July 3 coup after millions took to the streets demanding his overthrow, was targeted by a conspiracy of secularists, Coptic Christians, and Egypt’s “Americanized” army for being Islamist. But he also condemned Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for having “tried its best to satisfy America and the secularists” by relinquishing “jihad,” usually invoked by al-Qaeda to mean armed struggle. Morsi was Egypt’s first freely elected president.

Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi have expanded their vigils in Cairo, starting a third near the capital’s international airport. That’s in defiance of threats from authorities to break-up their sit-ins. Thousands of supporters already set up tents and blocked traffic. On the other side of town, an official said security forces lobbed tear gas canisters at pro-Morsi supporters who tried to storm a complex housing most of Egypt’s private television stations. The expanding protests follow threats from authorities that they would besieged and break up pro-Morsi vigils, describing them a “threat to national security.”

Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad dashed hopes for a quick or peaceful end to the conflict in his country when he gave a speech before prominent community leaders on Sunday evening. As recently as the Spring, Assad’s regime looked on the verge of defeat, but was rescued by support from the Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah and Iran, as well as a steady supply of weapons, money and diplomatic support from Russia. UN investigators have accused the regime of quietly promoting a campaign of terror against groups suspected of supporting the rebels, including unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence, indiscriminate attacks and pillaging. Much of this has been done by Shi’ite militias operating under the protection of the regular army.

Meanwhile, analysts assess that Syria has effectively split into three semi-autonomous zones, each with its own independently operating security agencies, courts and other state infrastructure. The regime still controls the coast and an arc of territory running south through Damascus and down to the Jordanian border, whereas the opposition controls most of the north, center and east of the country. In the northeast corner, Kurdish tribes have carved out a zone of their own.

Iraq

A series of attacks across Iraq on Sunday have killed fifteen people, including a judge. Violence has been on the rise in Iraq all year, but the number of attacks against civilians and security forces has spiked during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began early last month. The surge in the bloodshed is raising fears of a return to the widespread killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Algeria

About 300 people in a restive northern region of Algeria joined a public lunch Saturday during Ramadan to protest what they say is persecution of people who refuse to observe the religious fast. The protest lunch was highly unusual for North Africa, where people can be arrested for not fasting during the Muslim holy month. It was held as a demonstration against the decision of security forces to question three young people who were eating outside last week in the Kabylie region during the 18-hour daily fasting period.

Russia

An international backlash against Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is gathering speed, from calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia to gay bars in Los Angeles planning “vodka-dumping” protests. The furor follows concern sparked by the Russian Parliament’s overwhelming support for a new law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors.” It bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it. As Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the resort city of Sochi, there is also great concern about what the legislation will mean for gay athletes and visitors to the country.

Mexico

Mexican cartels are recruiting hit men from the U.S. military, offering big money to highly-trained soldiers to carry out contract killings and potentially share their skills with gangsters south of the border, according to law enforcement experts. The involvement of three American soldiers in separate incidents, including a 2009 murder that led to last week’s life sentence for a former Army private, underscore a problem the U.S. military has fought hard to address. Using American servicemen could make it easier to carry out a murder in the U.S. since they can more easily move across the border. And the lure of quick money has proven tempting for theses soldiers given the dismal military pay scale.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake shook northeastern Japan on Sunday in the same region devastated by a giant tsunami and temblor 2-1/2 years ago, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 struck shortly after midday, and was centered off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, and 30 miles below the seabed. The quake shook a wide region, including Fukushima and Iwate prefectures. There was no risk of a tsunami, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs Fukushima Dai-ichi, said no problems were reported there or at another one of its nuclear plants in Fukushima, and that there were no power outages and radiation monitors did not show any change.

Weather

The once parched Midwest is again dealing with heavy rains that have produced flash flooding in Kansas and Missouri.  Drivers have been urged to stay off Hutchinson, Kan. streets after more than 4 inches of rain deluged the town and caused widespread flooding.  The Hutchinson News reports even large military-type vehicles couldn’t get through some streets Sunday morning. Tuesday morning travel was made difficult by serious flash-flooding in several central Missouri counties, as well as a few water rescues after some residents tried to drive through floodwaters.

People who live in an area near Colorado Springs that saw the most destructive wildfire in state history are trying to figure out how to get home after a road collapsed, leaving a wide chasm on their main route. The washout Sunday was the latest in a series of floods that have swept away cars and blocked highways across Colorado over the past few months. County road crews said they are working on a temporary fix on the rural road about 10 miles northeast of Colorado Springs.

Flash flooding ravaged areas around Afghanistan’s capital, killing more than 70 people and destroying dozens of houses. Seven others were killed in eastern Nuristan and Khost provinces due to floods. Fast-moving waters washed away small villages in the Sorubi district, located in Kabul province. The water destroyed a hospital, many shops and vehicles, not to mention wiping out hundreds of cattle.

Heavy rains that caused flash floods and collapsed houses in different parts of Pakistan have killed 53 people over the past three days. Civil and military authorities have launched rescue and relief efforts to deal with the crisis. Flooding was especially bad in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, because of the southern city’s faulty drainage system.

Signs of the Times (8/2/13)

August 2, 2013

42nd Abortion Clinic Closed This Year

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it has suspended the license of Femcare, an abortion clinic in Asheville, for two dozen serious health and safety violations discovered during a routine inspection on July 18 and 19th. This is the 42nd abortion clinic to close nationally in 2013. Clinic safety regulations have contributed to many of the closings. This number far eclipses the 24 abortion clinics that closed in 2012. Since 1991, over 70% of all abortion clinics in the U.S. have closed. “This is a wake-up call for abortion supporters. What they thought was a clinic that could meet high standards ended up being one with practices so shoddy and conditions so dangerous that it is not fit to operate,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

Regional Differences over Abortion Widen

Opinion on abortion in the United States has held mostly steady for the past two decades, but regional differences are widening, according to the Pew Research Center, reports Yahoo! News. That growing regional divide comes as many of the states in conservative regions add new laws regulating abortion doctors and clinics. In particular, the South Central region — Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — has seen significant growth in opposition to abortion since 1995, Pew found. “The most important trend in this report is that the balance has flipped” in the South Central part of the country, says Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center.

“You always saw less support for legal abortion in South Central, but since the ’90s, it’s flipped from modestly in favor to 12 points against.” In that region, 40 percent of adults surveyed in 2012 and 2013 said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, versus 52 percent who said it should be illegal in all or most cases. In 1995 and 1996, 52 percent of Southerners supported abortion rights in all or most cases and 45 percent said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. The growing polarization of views on abortion also reflects the polarization of politics in the U.S. between red (liberal) and blue (conservative) states. The most liberal region on abortion is New England, where 75 percent of adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 20 percent say it should be illegal.

Theater Owners Call for More Family Films

At CinemaCon 2013, the large annual convention of theater owners, John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said: “If exhibitors could make one recommendation to our studio partners, it would be make more family titles and fewer R-rated movies.  Only two R-rated movies made the top twenty last year, even though more R-rated movies were distributed than any other rating category.” Addressing a 12 percent decline in box office, he said: “Our numbers suffered this year under the weight of too many R-rated movies.” Fithian’s points are backed by more than 21 years of box office research by Movieguide. From 1995 to 2012, the MPAA has rated 52 percent of movies R. Those movies have generated less than 15 percent of all box office. Since 1995, G-rated movies average more than twice the box office of R-rated movies. Furthermore, family movies (which includes movies rated PG) sell up to five times more DVDs.

NSA Snooping on Web Data

The National Security Agency is operating a massive database system that allows analysts to scour individuals’ emails, chats and Internet browsing histories at will, according to a new report from The Guardian based on leaked documents. The agency acknowledged the existence of the program — called XKeyscore — but said access is limited and suggested it was mainly aimed at foreign intelligence targets. According to The Guardian, the XKeyscore program is the “widest-reaching” system the agency has and allows analysts without prior authorization to dig around the database by filling out an on-screen form giving a basic justification.

  • The NSA also gave the same denial about phone calls until it was forced to admit the truth. If it focuses just on terrorism, it’s a worthy tool; but if it is used maliciously, it’s governmental abuse – which is on the rise as we shift toward socialism with the feds involved in almost all aspects of our lives

TSA Misconduct Rampant

A new government report says misconduct by Transportation Security Administration workers has increased more than 26% in the last three years. Some of the most serious violations include: Employees sleeping on the job, letting family and friends go without being screened, leaving work without permission and stealing. The Government Accountability Office report released this week says more than 9,000 cases of misconduct were documented over a three-year span. More than 1,900 of the incidents were deemed significant enough to be possible security threats. This may be just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and longtime critic of the TSA who ordered the audit.

Terrorists Not Involved in 4th Plant Explosion of the Year?

Following the most recent propane factory explosion in Florida, ConservativeByte.com observes, “It seems quite a coincidence that there have been so many accidents this year at plants across the country. They still don’t know what happened at the Texas fertilizer plant or the chemical plant in Louisiana. But we keep being told that terrorists aren’t involved. If they don’t know what happened I’m not sure how they can say this. Especially with how easy it is for illegals to get jobs at these places. It certainly seems that something is going on.”

  • Islamic terrorists have reportedly switched tactics from a few large scale attacks to more numerous smaller ones, like the Boston Marathon. So it is not unreasonable to suspect they might have had a hand in these plant explosions

House Passes Student Loan Interest Relief

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill Wednesday to roll back a July 1 jump in student loan interest rates and reduce the borrowing costs for millions of students. The bill, passed by the Senate last week, now goes to President Obama who said he will sign it. The legislation links student loan interest rates to the financial markets, offering lower rates for most students now but higher ones down the line if the economy improves as forecast.

Obama Bailing Out Detroit Via Obamacare

In a Sunday New York Times piece, Monica Davey and Abby Goodnough indicated that the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) is a key component of Detroit’s bankruptcy plan to bail out Democrat controlled cities and corrupt public employee unions. In other words, Barack Obama is bailing out Detroit and he’s going to use American tax dollars to do it through Obamacare. They wrote: “As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers. Similar proposals that could shift public sector retirees into the new insurance markets, called exchanges, are already being planned or contemplated in places like Chicago; Sheboygan County, Wisconsin; and Stockton, California.”

  • Obamacare is dangerous legislation in so many ways

Economic News

The unemployment rate fell to 7.4% from 7.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. But employers added just 162,000 jobs in July, adding to worries that the labor market may finally be wobbling amid federal spending cuts and a payroll tax increase. May’s gains were revised to 176,000 and June’s to 188,000. The number of discouraged workers rose to 988,000, up 136,000 from a year earlier.

Initial jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since January 2008. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 to 326,000 the week ended July 27. Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen more than 12% this year.

The U.S. economy’s growth picked up in the second quarter, as the impact of federal budget cuts outweighed the recovering housing market. The economy grew at an annual pace of 1.7% between April and June, the Commerce Department said. The government revised down its estimate of first quarter growth to 1.1% from the 1.8% originally reported. Consumer spending was held back partly by the increase in payroll taxes at the beginning of the year.

U.S. factory activity expanded in July at the fastest pace in two years The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its index of factory activity jumped to 55.4 in July, up from 50.9 in June. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in June by the largest amount in five months as government building activity declined to the lowest level since 2006. Construction spending dropped 0.6% in June compared with May when spending had surged 1.3%. Total construction stood at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $883.9 billion in June, 3.3% above the level of a year ago.

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday the economy continues to recover but is still in need of support, offering no indication that it is planning to reduce its bond-buying stimulus at its next meeting in September. The central bank said after a two-day meeting that it would keep buying $85 billion in mortgage and Treasury securities per month in its effort to strengthen an economy that it said was still challenged by federal budget-tightening. It also pointed to a recent run up in mortgage rates as a concern.

Eurozone

The Eurozone — plagued in recent years by sky-high joblessness and rampant youth unemployment — might be turning a corner. New figures for June indicate a slight decline in the number of jobless people across the region, though the unemployment rate remained steady at a record high of 12.1%.Compared to the previous month, there were 24,000 fewer people looking for work across the 17-nation region, according to Eurostat data. That’s not much of a change in the grand scheme of things, but it’s certainly a start.

Persecution Watch

Suspected terrorists from the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group set off four bombs that hit two churches in Kano city on Monday night (July 29), killing at least 45 people. The Rev. Ramsey Noah, chairman of the Kano state chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), told Morning Star News by phone the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were planted near three churches, blasting two of them as well as nearby Christian-owned businesses.

Five women were beaten in the Andhra Pradesh region of India while sharing about the love of Jesus in a public marketplace, Charisma News reports. Amazingly spared, they retreated to safety, thanking God for the honor of suffering for His sake. The women, all leaders in the Gospel for Asia-sponsored Women’s Fellowship ministry, had been sharing with store owners and shoppers when they were attacked. They reported that no bystanders came to their defense during the ordeal but they miraculously escaped from their multiple attackers and were delivered from further harm. “Jesus promised persecuting and hardships,” said Daniel Punnose, vice president of GFA. “These young ladies see it worth facing the beatings in order to share the love of Christ. … When we see young women publicly beaten for the faith, it tells us what the future holds in regards to persecution. Things will get worse, but the Lord is faithful in all things.”

Four girls were abducted from a Christian school in India and gang-raped by around 25 armed men in a case that has renewed outrage over rising sexual violence against women in the country. Around 25 masked men armed with knives and iron rods broke into the Evangelical Church of India and tied up and gagged four male teachers and a female warden before seizing four girls aged between 12 and 14 from their dormitory. Parliament has passed a new law toughening sentences for rapists, but the main problem, according to one Christian leader, is one of impunity. He added: “The preferred victims are girls from tribal, Dalit or marginalized communities. These groups are vulnerable, weak; they have little social and political influence and are often defenseless.” Christians are certainly among the most marginalized people in Indian society. A small minority among a Hindu majority, some of whom are becoming increasingly militant, they are frequently subjected to violent attacks, for which they rarely receive justice.

Middle East

Egypt is not the only place where Islamist groups are facing wrath. In the past few days Muslim Brotherhood offices have been ransacked in Libya, and thousands marched against the Islamist-led government in Tunisia. The unrest is seen by some as a backlash against Islamist groups that emerged politically powerful in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions but are spurring anger and disappointment with their governance. In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, groups across political and social spectrums that united to overthrow ruling autocratic regimes in 2011 are now engaging in bitter conflict and competition that has left hundreds of people dead.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ indication that he would agree to land swaps with Israel to get a Palestinian state helps prospects for a peace deal but also opens the door to new problems. Even after land swaps, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews may remain scattered in cities and villages that would come under Palestinian domain. Israeli leaders may also be faced with having to turn over land in which Israeli citizens of Arab descent currently reside. In both cases, both Jewish and Arab Israelis are likely to resist what negotiators on both sides may agree to, analysts say. Israel’s victory against attacking Arab armies in 1967 left it in control of the land west of the Jordan River and East Jerusalem, both of which had been occupied by the country of Jordan for 19 years.

In a dramatic move, Palestinian Authority Minister for Wakf (Religious) Affairs Mahmoud Habbash issued a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) on Wednesday urging Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to overthrow the government of the Islamist terror militia Hamas which currently rules there. Habbash, part of the same PA which is currently negotiating with Israel towards the establishment of a two-state solution, declared on his Facebook page that Muslims have a duty “to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem” before explaining that in the current state of separation between his Fatah faction and Hamas, that was impossible. So he recommended either a Hamas surrender to PA control or “a revolution against Hamas.”

Al Qaeda is linked to a terror threat that has prompted the State Department to direct its embassies in key Middle East nations, including Egypt and Israel, to close Sunday, with the possibility they could remain idle longer. A U.S. official called the threat “credible and serious.” It was “directed at American targets overseas,” but may not be confined to main diplomatic facilities. The State Department action includes diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Kuwait.

Egypt

A group supporting deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called for a million-man march from 33 mosques Friday amid concerns that tensions could erupt into further violence. The Anti-Coup Prodemocracy Alliance is behind the planned march under the banner of “Egypt against the coup,” which was announced in a statement Thursday. It is expected to start after noon prayers. The group also urged “all free people in all countries of the world to demonstrate peacefully” in support of their marches.

Iran

The House of Representatives easily passed a bill on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on Iran, showing a strong message to Tehran over its disputed nuclear program days before President-elect Hassan Rouhani is sworn in. The vote also highlighted a growing divide between Congress and the Obama administration on Iran policy ahead of international talks on the nuclear program in coming months. Iran insists the nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes. The bill, which passed 400 to 20, would cut Iran’s oil exports by another 1 million barrels per day over a year to near zero, in an attempt to reduce the flow of funds to the nuclear program. It is the first sanctions bill to put a number on exactly how much Iran’s oil exports would be cut. The legislation provides for heavy penalties for buyers who do not find alternative supplies, limits Iran’s access to funds in overseas accounts and penalizes countries trading with Iran in other industrial sectors.

Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, said Thursday that the two countries will resume high-level negotiations over security issues. Kerry also said he had invited Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to come to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama. He said the talks will cover “all of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism to promoting U.S. private investment and to Pakistan’s own journey to economic revitalization.” Following the talks with the Pakistani government, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is making progress in the war on terror, and hopes to end the use of drone strikes “very soon.”

The U.S. and Pakistan launched high-level talks on a wide swath of security and development programs in 2010. But the talks stalled in November 2011 after U.S. drone on a Pakistani post on the Afghan border accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Even before that, the bilateral relationship was severely damaged by a variety of incidents, including a CIA contractor shooting to death two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore and the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistani town of Abbottabad.

Afghanistan

Supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been getting U.S. military contracts, and American officials are citing “due process rights” as a reason not to cancel the agreements, according to an independent agency monitoring spending. The U.S. Army Suspension and Debarment Office has declined to act in 43 such cases, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said today in a letter accompanying a quarterly report to Congress. “I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko said.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s elections received cautious approval Friday from the head of African monitors despite allegations by the main challenger to President Robert Mugabe and a local monitoring group that the vote was heavily rigged. Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the African Union observer mission, said his monitors noted some apparent irregularities but that they did not constitute evidence of systematic tampering. Mugabe’s supporters have rejected allegations of rigging and claimed victory, raising fears of a fresh uncertainty in a country long afflicted by division and economic turmoil.

Weather

Anchorage, Alaska, set a record for the most consecutive days over 70 degrees during this unusually warm summer, while Fairbanks is closing in on its own seasonal heat record. The National Weather Service said Alaska’s largest city topped out at 70 degrees at 4 p.m. Tuesday, making it the 14th straight day the thermometer read 70 or higher. That breaks a record of 13 straight days set in 2004. In Fairbanks, temperatures Monday reached 80 or higher for the 29th day this summer. The record is 30 days of 80 degrees or higher, also set in 2004.

Another round of heat is building over much of Europe, not long after severe thunderstorms brought a violent end to intense heat earlier this week. The heat wave earlier this week sent Salzburg, Austria, to a new all-time record high of 101.5ºF. Triple-digit temperatures also gripped parts of Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the former Yugoslav republics.

Record-breaking temperatures have been searing large swaths of China, resulting in dozens of heat-related deaths and prompting authorities to issue a national alert. People are packing into swimming pools or taking refuge in caves in their attempts to escape the fierce temperatures. Local governments are resorting to cloud-seeding technology to try to bring rain to millions of acres of parched farmland. The worst of the smoldering heat wave has been concentrated in the south and east of the country, with the commercial metropolis of Shanghai experiencing its hottest July on record.

A severe storm ripped through Jacksonville, damaging 15 to 20 homes and leaving at least one person with minor injuries. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 tornado touched down Thursday afternoon in the city’s Arlington neighborhood. The Florida Times-Union reports the storm also dumped between two and four inches of rain on the city. Fire officials say lightning may have sparked two house fires. Both were quickly extinguished. There were reports of multiple trees down across the area.