Signs of the Times (9/14/13)

Federal Court Upholds ‘In God We Trust’

A challenge to America’s national motto has been struck down by a federal district court, CBN News reports. Dr. Michael Newdow and the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to have “In God We Trust” deleted from U.S. currency, but the court stated there was ample body of case law and they could only come to one conclusion. The order rejects arguments that the motto violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The American Center for Law and Justice represented 41 members of Congress and almost 90,000 Americans who opposed Newdow’s lawsuit. “The decision is welcomes and well-reasoned,” said ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow. The ACLJ, in a brief submitted to the court, points out the national motto reflects the historical beginnings of the United States and that removing all references to God to please atheistic preferences is not supported by the First Amendment. The brief also explains, “The national motto simply echoes the principle found in the Declaration of Independence that our freedoms come from God and not the state” and that the Establishment Clause is not intended to guarantee the public will not be exposed to religion or religious symbols.

Same-Sex “Marriage” Initiative Folds Due to Lack of Support

Proponents of redefining marriage in Arizona learned a simple reality this summer: the voters do not want to redefine marriage, reports the Center for Arizona Policy. The “Equal Marriage Campaign” could not overcome the support for one-man and one-woman marriage and failed to obtain anywhere near the number of signatures needed to place a new measure on the election ballot. Just five years ago, Arizona voters sent a clear message that marriage between a man and a woman serves a fundamental public purpose and should be protected in the state’s constitution. “Redefining marriage is a nonstarter today in Arizona, regardless of the out-of-state money and numerous political operatives that poured into our state for this failed effort.” writes CAP’s President Cathi Herrod.

AFL-CIO Condemns ObamaCare

The AFL-CIO approved a resolution saying that President Obama’s health care overhaul will drive up the costs of union-sponsored health plans to the point that workers and employers are forced to abandon them. In a strongly worded resolution released Wednesday, the federation said that the law is being implemented in a way that is “highly disruptive” to union health care plans. Some individual unions have complained about the law’s impact for months, but the resolution marks the first time the nation’s largest labor federation has gone on record embracing that view. Unions were among the most enthusiastic backers of the law when it passed in 2010.

  • Obamacare will prove to be a nightmare of unintended consequences and a bureaucratic boondoggle

Gun-Control Democrats Ousted in Colorado Recall

Voters booted out two Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado on Tuesday in a heated recall effort that generated national headlines as a referendum on the renewed gun control debate. Both lawmakers voted in favor of the state’s unpopular new gun laws earlier this year, sparking a wave of protest that got their names on the ballot for the state’s first-ever recall at the state level. State Senate President John Morse, who was a little more than a year shy of finishing his final term in office, conceded after he narrowly failed to win enough votes to keep his seat representing Colorado Springs. 51% of voters in his district said “yes” to the recall, while 49% said “no.” He’ll be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin. Morse’s colleague, state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, was also on the ballot and conceded late Tuesday night. She lost in a 56%-44% yes-no vote, and will be replaced by Republican George Rivera.

Multiple NASA Websites Hacked

Nearly a dozen NASA websites run from the heart of Silicon Valley were hacked on Tuesday and remain offline days later, following a politically motivated digital broadside against the space agency. The Ames Center in Mountain View, Calif., where scientists once worked on the Viking and Pioneer spacecraft, currently houses high-tech facilities for NASA and others. A group calling itself BMPoC took credit for the hack, saying it had taken down the sites to protest U.S. cyberintelligence activities.

Global Cooling?

A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent. The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013. Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year. More than 20 yachts that had planned to sail it have been left ice-bound and a cruise ship attempting the route was forced to turn back. Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading, according to the UK’s Daily Mail

Taxpayer Burden Rises as Big Companies End Retiree Plans

America’s biggest employers, from GE to IBM, are increasingly moving retirees to insurance exchanges where they select their own health plans, an historic shift that could push more costs onto U.S. taxpayers. Time Warner Inc. has said it would steer retired workers toward a privately run exchange, days after a similar announcement by International Business Machines Corp. General Electric Co. last year said it, too, would curb benefits in a move that may send some former employees to the public insurance exchanges created under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. While retiree health benefits have been shrinking for years, the newest cutbacks may quickly become the norm. About 44 percent of companies plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years, a survey last month by consultant Towers Watson & Co. found. Retirees are concerned their costs may rise, while analysts predict benefits will decline in some cases.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 292,000. But the drop was mostly because of technical issues in two states that delayed the processing of applications. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell to 321,250, the lowest in six years.

Retail sales rose 0.2% in August, bouncing back from a soft July as car sales rose almost 1% and the rest of the economy was little changed. The rise was less than expected and matched the 0.2% gain in July. Sales were 4.7% higher than in August 2012.

The gulf between the richest 1% of the USA and the rest of the country got to its widest level in history last year. The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years. The richest Americans haven’t claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%. The analysis is based on data from Internal Revenue Service data.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 is projected to reduce charitable giving because it imposes higher taxes on the wealthy, with the top income tax rate rising from 35% to 39.6%.  And the new tax rules also limit how much the wealthy can itemize as charitable deductions.

The Social Security Administration has paid an estimated $1.3 billion in disability insurance payments to thousands of people who weren’t eligible for the benefits, a government watchdog report finds. Since the beginning of the year, about 36,000 people have received “potential overpayments” from the agency, the Government Accountability Office reported.

Eurozone

Unemployment continues to rise in recession-hit Greece, with the overall rate reaching 27.9% in June. Even worse, 58.8% of people under age 25 are out of work. In June 2008 before the global financial crisis bared its teeth and Greece entered recession, the rate stood at 7.3%. Years of emergency taxes, pay cuts, and other austerity measures implemented as a condition of international bailout loans have hammered Greece’s private sector.

Persecution Watch

A Tennessee mom is looking for answers after her daughter’s teacher refused to let the child write about God for a school assignment. Erin Shead, a 10-year-old student at Lucy Elementary School in Millington, was assigned to write about someone she idolized. The girl, who is a Christian, decided to write about God. But Erica Shead said her daughter’s teacher objected to the choice and told her she could not use God as an idol for the assignment. The teacher then told the child that she had to take the paper about God home – because it could not remain on school property.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have begun forcing the roughly 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village in Egypt to pay a Jizya tax as indicated in Koran 9:29, the Washington Times reports. Jizya is the money, or tribute, “that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords ‘with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued’ to safeguard their existence,” according to author and translator Raymond Ibrahim. In some cases, families not able to pay have been attacked. As many as 40 Christian families have now fled Dalga, Ibrahim reported.

Muslim, ethnic Fulani herdsmen shot five members of a Christian family to death last week, including a 7-year-old boy, and killed another Christian as they fled, relatives said. As in other attacks by Fulani cattle herders, targeting a home on the edge of the village enabled the gunmen to slip back quickly into the bush before area Christians could defend themselves.

Middle East

A report in the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant Wednesday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to go ahead with the long-stalled sale of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, in an $800 million deal which also includes the construction of an additional nuclear reactor in Bushehr. The details of the deal are expected to be finalized during a meeting on Friday between Putin and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan. Israeli officials have long feared that Iranian acquisition of the S-300 would massively complicate any plans to bomb the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program.

Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday they have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions — short of military action — if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply. Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that Syria will put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control in response to a Russian proposal and not because of the threat of a U.S. military strike. However, a deal allowing Bashar Assad to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles runs the risk of extending his stay in power and undercutting support of rebels who have been fighting his regime.

The United States could still go ahead with a planned cruise missile strike if no agreement is reached, President Obama said in an address to the country Tuesday night. The president asked Congress to postpone a vote on military action while pursuing diplomacy. But Obama said military action could still be used if diplomacy failed. Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing in the New York Times, said Wednesday that “there is every reason to believe” poison gas was used in Syria by opposition rebels rather than that nation’s military.

The CIA has been delivering weapons to rebels in Syria over the past two weeks, with contributions of vehicles and other equipment from the State Department, The Washington Post is reporting. U.S. officials are hoping the donations will boost the muscle of the rebel fighters in Syria’s 2 1/2-year civil war, according to the Post. However, Free Syrian rebel commanders and the Syrian opposition told USA Today that the Arms smuggled by the United States to the Syrian rebels are just “symbolic” and won’t make a difference in the fight against the regime.

Evidence confirms at least eight massacres have been perpetrated in Syria by President Bashar Assad’s regime and supporters and one by rebels over the past year and a half, a U.N. commission said Wednesday. Calling Syria a battlefield where armed forces are getting away with large-scale murder, the U.N. commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said that in each of the incidents since April 2012 “the intentional mass killing and identity of the perpetrator were confirmed to the commission’s evidentiary standards.” The four-member commission is probing nine more suspected mass killings since March.

Egypt

Clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s ousted president during nationwide protests Friday as the military battled al-Qaida-inspired groups in northern Sinai. The street rallies came a day after Egypt’s military-backed interim government extended a nationwide state of emergency by two months, citing ongoing security concerns. Officials said they feared more terrorist attacks after a failed assassination attempt targeting Egypt’s interior minister last week and suicide attacks this week at a military intelligence headquarters. Unrest in Egypt spiked after the popularly backed July 3 military coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi. The interim government has responded by targeting members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for arrest and detention.

Afghanistan

Taliban militants staged a suicide car bombing outside the United States consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat early Friday, killing two Afghan police and a security guard. U.S. and Afghan security forces then fought off an attack by insurgents. No Americans were injured in the attack. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham said: “We are grateful for the quick response of the Afghan and ISAF security forces who secured the facility and kept our personnel safe.”

Iraq

Iraqi officials say a double bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad that struck as worshipers were leaving after prayers has killed at least 35. Police say more than 50 people were wounded in the Wednesday evening attack. They say it happened in a part of the Iraqi capital known as Kasra, a predominantly Shiite enclave in a part of the city that is otherwise largely Sunni.

Libya

A car bomb exploded outside a Foreign Ministry building in the Libyan city of Benghazi Wednesday, state media said, on the anniversary of an assault on the U.S. Consulate there that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The blast did not cause any casualties but blew away large parts of the building’s façade. The blast also damaged a branch of the Central Bank of Libya and slightly injured one of its security guards.

India

Every day, millions of girls and women are being discriminated against and murdered, simply because of their sex. As WORLD reports, India has come under increased scrutiny for this. A recent census revealed 37 million more men than women, the result of millions of baby girls being drowned, strangled or aborted. Sex selection, or “gendercide,” is rampant in India, driven by a strong culture preference for boys. A girl’s parents are expected to pay a generous dowry to her future husband. Poor families simply cannot afford this high price. India’s National Crime Records Bureau revealed that one woman is murdered every hour in India over dowry disputes. Wives who are unable to bear boys face further abuse.

Philippines

Philippine officials say government troops have started to battle their way into coastal villages in the south held by Muslim rebels holding scores of hostages in order to end a six-day standoff that has left 56 people dead. Government forces surrounding about 200 fighters from a Moro National Liberation Front rebel faction have started to retake some of the rebel-held areas and clear roads in coastal villages in Zamboanga city. The standoff has sent more than 60,000 residents fleeing from homes.

Weather

A desperate, life-threatening flooding situation continues in the Colorado Front Range. By air and by land, the rescue of hundreds of Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding was accelerating as food and water supplies ran low, while thousands more were driven from their homes on the plains as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas inundating towns and farms miles from the Rockies. National Guard choppers evacuated 295 people — plus pets — from the mountain hamlet of Jamestown, which was isolated by flooding that scoured the canyon the town sits in. Thousands of evacuees sought shelter in cities that were nearly surrounded by raging rivers spilling over their banks. The days-long rush of water from higher ground has killed four people and turned towns on Colorado’s expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses.

Boulder County officials said Friday night that the number of people unaccounted for had risen to 172. The city of Boulder reported late Friday that the rushing waters had caused “a significant breach in its main wastewater pipeline” to the treatment plant, but officials said it would not affect drinking water. A 70-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line. The campus of University of Colorado Boulder was completely shut down with as many as 500 students, faculty and staff have been displaced by the surging water. Approximately 25 percent of buildings on the campus suffered some form of water damage.

Heavy rains pushed previously drought-stricken rivers from their banks and flooded streets and mountain canyons across New Mexico Friday, forcing evacuations from Las Vegas to the U.S.-Mexico border. In southern New Mexico, People around Las Animas and Palomas Creeks were told Friday morning to immediately leave their homes and head to the city’s convention center for emergency shelter. Authorities became concerned after the Rio Grande, which had been dry for months south of Albuquerque, overflowed. The three to four days of rain that have been falling across the state stem from the same storm system that has battered Colorado, causing at least three deaths. In northern New Mexico, the Las Vegas Optic reported major flooding forced the evacuation of homes, schools and businesses near the overflowing Gallinas River. Part of the canal that carries flood waters to Storrie Lake ruptured, which contributed to the flooding in the area.

Wednesday brought hot temperatures to the Northeast. Islip, N.Y. tied their record high temperature on Wednesday, reaching 88 degrees. The prior record was set in 1989. Binghamton, N.Y. reached 88 degrees as well, breaking the old record of 87 degrees set in 1983. Bridgeport, Conn., sizzled to 90 degrees, tying the record high set in 1983. Boston, Mass. officially hit 97 degrees on Wednesday, which is just 2 degrees shy of the record. New York City topped out at 96 degrees and Philadelphia peaked at 94 degrees.

A number of downtown buildings in Detroit, including City Hall, several courts, a college campus and an art museum closed after problems in Detroit’s aging electrical infrastructure combined with an unseasonable heat wave to cause a massive power outage. A number of people were trapped in elevators when power was knocked out about 1 p.m. Wednesday. Trials and arraignments in Detroit’s 36th District Court and Frank Murphy Hall of Justice were postponed as courtrooms were plunged into darkness.

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