Signs of the Times (9/25/13)

Pastor Saeed Abedini Leads 30 to Christ in Iranian Prison

The wife of the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith says her husband remains bold for Jesus Christ in prison, Charisma News reports. Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, recently spoke to students at Liberty University about her family’s plight. She said in spite of being tortured and asked to deny his faith in Christ and return to Islam, Pastor Saeed has been a light for Jesus in Evin Prison, one of the worst in the world. “They’ve told him many times that they would free him and allow him to return to our family, the kids and I, if he would deny his Christian faith, and he’s stood strong in that prison. He’s led many, many — over 30 people — to Christ in that prison,” she told the audience.

Supreme Court May Get Second Chance to Kill Obamacare’s Insurance Mandate

The last time Obamacare went before the US Supreme Court, they ruled that the insurance mandate was legal because it was a tax and not a penalty. Hidden away from the general public, the lawsuit Sissel vs. US Dept. of Health and Human Services moves forward and is one step closer the US Supreme Court. The lawsuit is based upon Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution, commonly known as the Origination Clause, which states: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” Once the Supreme Court ruled that the insurance mandate was a tax, which meant the bill violated this section of the Constitution.  The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Matt Sissel by Pacific Legal Foundation, contends that the originated in the US Senate and not the House, as required by the Constitution.  They claim that Sen. Harry Reid used procedural gimmicks to launch the bill and therefore Obamacare violates the Origination Clause.

Same-Sex Benefits Extended to All States

The Obama administration said this week that same-sex couples “legally married” in one of the few states that offer such marriages now enjoy the same federal rights as other married couples when it comes to pensions, 401(k)s, health plans and other employee benefits, WORLD reports. That’s true even if they live in states that don’t recognize their union, the Labor Department said. According to the Associated Press, “The new guidance is the latest effort by the Obama administration to clarify questions left unanswered after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June which invalidated part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The interpretation is consistent with a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service last month that legally married gay couples can file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.”

Obamacare Enacts Parity in Mental Health Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” insurers will soon be required to give mental illness coverage equal to that for physical ailments. Starting next year, the ACA calls for one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance abuse coverage in a generation, requiring that all new small-group and individual market plans offer mental health services and cover them at a par with medical benefits. Federal officials estimate that the ACA will extend parity protection to nearly 30 million people and offer insurance with mental health coverage to another 32 million previously uninsured Americans.

Obamacare Premiums Less than Expected?

The Obamacare premiums will cost less than predicted, according to data released Wednesday by the Obama administration. The national average premium for the benchmark plan will be $328 a month before subsidies, 16% less than originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office. The long-awaited release of the premium rates also details for the first time what shoppers will pay on the 36 state-based exchanges that the federal government will fully or partly run. States that are operating their own exchanges have been revealing their rates over the past few months. Consumers will be able to start enrolling in the exchanges on Oct. 1, with coverage beginning in January.

National Park Service Video Praises Islam

The National Parks Service has made videos praising Islam for its contribution to women’s rights. This is the very same Islam that allows young girls to marry middle age men, promotes honor killings of disobedient wives and daughters and makes women the property of men. Shamelessly using children to argue that Islam honors women, one child is seen saying, “People think that Islam oppresses women and there’s no equality, but they’re wrong – there’s equity … 7th century A.D. Islam gave women the right to be involved in politics, the right to earn and keep her own money.” Just this past week, an eight year old girl died of internal injuries on her wedding night in Yemen. The groom was 40.

  • Under Obama, our government has become a promoter of Islam and a persecutor of Christians

Vet Suicide Rate Over 22 per Day

Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as the number is, it may actually be higher. The figure, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February, is based on the agency’s own data and numbers reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011. Experts have no doubt that people are being missed in the national counting of veteran suicides. Part of the problem is that there is no uniform reporting system for deaths in America. It’s usually up to a funeral director or a coroner to enter veteran status and suicide on a death certificate. Veteran status is a single question on the death report, and there is no verification of it from the Defense Department or the VA.

Chicago Tops for Murders

Chicago grabbed headlines last week as “the nation’s murder capital.” The distinction was based on a new Federal Bureau of Investigation report that showed Chicago, with 500 murders in 2012, had more killings than any other U.S. city that year. As if to underscore that dubious honor, at least another 11 people were shot since last Friday, five of them fatally.

Economic News

The fiscal year ends next Monday at midnight, and there will be a shutdown unless Obama and the Republicans agree to a new spending plan and resolve a dispute over Obama’s health care plan. Some GOP members say they will not approve a new spending plan unless it de-funds “Obamacare,” though there is division within the party over this tactic.

Home prices rose 0.6% in July, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas. Prices were up 12.4% from a year earlier. But many economists expect slower home price growth in the second half of this year.

The Commerce Department says durable goods orders increased 0.1% in August, after they plummeted 8.1% the previous month. July’s decline was driven by a drop in demand for commercial aircraft, a volatile category. Auto factories reported a 2.4% increase in orders, the biggest in six months. Orders for defense aircraft and other goods fell sharply. Excluding defense, orders rose 0.5%.

Already on a 23-straight-day slide, regular unleaded gas now averages $3.46 a gallon — the lowest national average since January, and 35 cents less than year-ago levels. Prices are expected to drop another 20 to 25 cents in the coming weeks. Behind the fall: Record high refining in the U.S., shrinking consumer demand and slumping crude oil prices.

Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad said his government will allow international experts access to its chemical weapons sites, but cautioned in an interview broadcast Monday that rebels might block them from reaching some of the locations. Assad said his government is dedicated to implementing a Russia-U.S. agreement to surrender its chemical weapons to international control. Assad’s government met a first deadline under a U.S.-Russia agreement aimed at swiftly ridding Syria of its chemical arsenal, submitting last week what was supposedly the full list of its chemical weapons and production facilities to the U.N. agency so they can be secured and destroyed.

Iran

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani will address the United Nations for the first time later Tuesday on a day when President Obama is also due to speak. Already, Rouhani has displayed a more conciliatory tone in his dealings with the West on a range of issues. On Monday, for example, Rouhani’s foreign minister agreed to restart nuclear negotiations with six world powers. Earlier this month, his cabinet sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jews on their New Year’s holiday. Iran is prepared to engage in nuclear talks and nuclear weapons have no place in his country’s security, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday at the United Nations.

Pakistan

A pair of suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing over 80 people in the deadliest-ever attack on the country’s Christian minority. The bombing in Peshawar, which wounded another 120 people, underlines the threat posed by Islamic extremists as the government seeks a peace deal with domestic Taliban militants. It will likely intensify criticism from those who believe that negotiating peace with militants is a mistake.

Egypt

An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the Muslim Brotherhood to be banned and its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organizations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories. The verdict banned the group itself — including the official association it registered under earlier this year — as well as “any  institution branching out of it or … receiving financial support from it,” according to the court ruling. The judge at the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also ordered the “confiscation of all the group’s money, assets, and buildings.”

Kenya

Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from the upscale Kenyan mall where there was an ongoing hostage standoff with Islamic extremists after they attacked using grenades and assault rifle. The militants held an unknown number of hostages in the shopping center located in the Westlands area of Nairobi, after killing at least 61 people. The militant group behind the takeover claimed Wednesday that a Kenyan government assault team carried out “a demolition” of the building, burying 137 hostages in rubble. A government spokesman denied the claim and said Kenyan forces were clearing all rooms, firing as they moved and encountering no one. Kenyan forces killed five of the terrorists, and 11 other people are in custody for possible links to the attacks,

Members of the Islamist terrorist group al Shabaab, wearing black turbans and carrying grenades and automatic weapons, ordered women, men and children to line up. Those who were Muslims could go, they said, but anyone who was not a Muslim would be executed. Merely stating that one was a Muslim wasn’t enough for the attackers, however, who demanded that those who claim the faith recite verses from the Koran or name the Prophet Mohammed’s mother. Some officials warned that Shabab, the Somalian terrorist group, could be signaling a wider offensive, particularly within Kenya, despite their losses in recent years at the hands of the African Union and Kenyan troops in its home country.

Earthquakes

The United States Geological Survey reported a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Pakistan on Tuesday, with the epicenter 43 miles north-northeast of Awaran in the province of Balochistan. The tremor occurred at 7:29 a.m. Eastern time (4:29 p.m. local time) and shook the Pakistani mountain region, according to the USGS. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populous province, with just under 8 million people in an area slightly smaller than Montana. Rescuers struggled Wednesday to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in the massive earthquake as the death toll rose overnight to 210. A new island appeared off Pakistan after a deadly 7.7-magnitude quake struck Tuesday afternoon in Baluchistan province’s Awaran district — a dirt-poor expanse of land that is roughly the size of Wales.

Weather

Coloradans who ventured back into the flood-ravaged town of Lyons found scenes of stomach-churning destruction, with dozens of homes destroyed, family keepsakes missing, food spoiling and mud everywhere. E. coli has been found in the town’s drinking water and it could be two to six months before the town is livable. However, residents willing to rough it will be allowed to stay. Millions of gallons of sewage have been released around the state because of septic systems and sewer lines torn out by flood waters and flooded waste treatment plants. People in some communities have had to boil their water. So far, there have been no reports of illness from the dirty water but people might not attribute their illness back to the water.

Massive flooding has forced thousands of people to evacuate villages in the west Indian state of Gujarat, where heavy rains and swollen rivers have inundated cities and closed off roads and railway lines, officials said Wednesday. At least three people have died. Almost 14,000 people were evacuated from Bharuch’s villages, while thousands of others elsewhere were also evacuated. The floods followed heavy rains that caused rivers, including the Vishwamitri and the Narmada, to swell above flood level.

At least 101 people have been killed, with 68 people missing in La Pintada after storms Manuel and Ingrid hit Mexico last weekend. Rescuers fighting tons of slippery, wet mud at the site of this week’s worst storm disaster unearthed a woman’s body Saturday, possibly one of 68 missing in a massive landslide that buried half of the remote coffee-growing town of La Pintada. Houses were filled to their roofs with dirt and vehicles were tossed on their sides when the hillside collapsed last week after several days of rain brought by Tropical Storm Manuel.

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