Signs of the Times (10/8/13)

Beleaguered Christians in Syria Gaining Converts

The war in Syria is one of the greatest crises seen in the Middle East in the last 20 years. It has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, both Muslim and Christian. More than 2 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. In the midst of this crisis, our persecuted family is boldly reaching out. And the reactions of Muslims have been astonishing. “When you hear about one Muslim coming to Christ, it’s a great thing, and everybody rejoices,” said a Voice Of the Martrys Syrian contact. “Today in Syria I’m not talking about one person. We’re talking about hundreds and even thousands of Muslims coming to know Christ.” Teams of believers are working in the refugee camps, providing Christ’s love while sharing material aid, such as medical supplies and Bibles, as well as spiritual aid.

LGBT History Month Polluting Children’s Minds

Freedom Outpost News notes that “Schools across America are gambling with the very souls of the children in their charge, deliberately polluting them. October has been declared LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgendered) History Month, which is the ultimate oxymoron. It’s twisted perversion at its most harrowing. Its beginnings go back to the Garden of Eden and the complete destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah… [It] should be renamed ‘sin/abomination history month’. But when 2 percent of the population claim homosexuality and hold the other 98 percent captive, this is the end result.” President Obama declared June as LGBT History month, but the militants in the homosexual agenda declared October to be the month to ‘celebrate’ LGBT history. Legislatures are now mandating that this be taught in schools. California already took this step two years ago, but now it has spread across the nation.

  • Our public schools have become secular humanism indoctrination centers and are at the forefront of infecting our children and youth with unGodly, immoral concepts and practices

City Orders Residents to Remove ‘God Bless America’ Signs

Residents of a Florida city who have had “God Bless America” signs posted on their front lawns for months have been ordered by local officials to remove them. MyFoxTampaBay.com reports that the First Baptist Church of Bartow distributed some 300 signs to residents following a Fourth of July celebration. The city only permits residents to display signs during major holidays is starting to crack down on the displays. “Being a veteran, I felt like I was just kicked in the gut. I couldn’t believe it, that I couldn’t display my love for my nation by putting a sign up that says “God Bless America,” Bartow resident Marcus Seger told the station.

  • Such local ordinances are rarely enforced but serve as an insidious tool to advance anti-God agendas

A&E Adds Fake ‘Obscenity Bleeps’ to Duck Dynasty and Censors Out Jesus’s Name

A&E’s Duck Dynasty is the most popular show on Cable TV. People adore the Robertson family, which is close-knit, hard-working, funny, clean-living, and deeply faithful. The problem for A&E is that it doesn’t truly understand what makes Duck Dynasty so popular. In Hollywood, there’s little respect for clean-living, clean-talking people of faith. So Hollywood did what Hollywood does: it tried to erase these hallmarks of decency. A&E’s editors added “bleeps” to cover non-existent swearing, and then deliberately censored Jesus’s name.

Truckers Plan to Clog D.C. Beltway Friday

Tractor-trailer drivers will intentionally clog the inner loop of the Washington, D.C., beltway beginning on the morning of Oct. 11, according to a coordinator of the upcoming “Truckers Ride for the Constitution” rally. The organization declares that, “The American people are sick and tired of the corruption that is destroying America! We therefore declare a GENERAL STRIKE on the weekend of October 11-13, 2013!” Organizers of the three-day ride want to call attention to a litany of trucker frustrations and express their disapproval of national political leaders. Earl Conlon, a Georgia trucker who is handling logistics for the protest, said tractor-trailer drivers will circle the beltway “three lanes deep” as he rides with other participants to Congress to seek the arrest of congressmen for allegedly disregarding the Constitution. The truckers circling I-495 will keep the left lane open for emergency vehicles, Conlon said, but “everybody that doesn’t have a supporter sticker on their window, good luck: Nobody in, nobody out.” The trucks will be going the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.

Shutdown Update

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was left playing damage control Friday after a “senior administration official” told The Wall Street Journal that the administration doesn’t care how long the government shutdown continues. “We are winning,” the unnamed official told the Journal. “It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts “because what matters is the end result,” the official said. Seven in 10 adults disapprove of the way Republicans are handling the wrangling over funding the government, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. That’s a 7-point jump since last week. More than half say they don’t approve of the way President Obama is handling the budget standoff, and 61% say the same about congressional Democrats.

The Pentagon on Sunday called back to work most of its roughly 400,000 civilian employees, based on administration lawyers’ legal interpretation of the recent government ‘slimdown’. Hagel said the decision to recall the workers is based on a Pentagon legal interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act. “Attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” Hagel said. The Defense secretary also stated that members of the military reserves and full-time National Guardsman are among those being asked to return. The civilian employees were back on the job at the Pentagon on Monday, but about 500,000 federal workers are still idle in the government shutdown.

Native American tribes depend heavily on federal money to provide their more than 200,000 members with education, health care, housing and public safety. As the partial shutdown of the federal government continues, the tribes are expected to be among the hardest hit. Most of the medical services available are federally funded, the housing, the schools.

The Park Service appears to be closing streets on mere whim and caprice. The rangers even closed the parking lot at Mount Vernon, where the plantation home of George Washington is a favorite tourist destination. That was after they barred the new World War II Memorial on the Mall to veterans of World War II. But the government does not own Mount Vernon; it is privately owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The ladies bought it years ago to preserve it as a national memorial. The feds closed access to the parking lots this week, even though the lots are jointly owned with the Mount Vernon ladies. “It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

According to the Miami Herald, the National Park Service even went so far as to close 1,100 square miles of open ocean off the coast of Florida allegedly due to the government shutdown! The Herald calls this “prime fishing” area that will be closed “until further notice.”

  • In its desire to inflict unnecessary shutdown pain on U.S. citizens, the Obama administration is going to ludicrous lengths so absurd that it will only serve to shoot themselves in the foot

Majority Would Vote Against Raising Debt Ceiling

Soon Congress will have to vote on raising the nation’s debt limit so the federal government can borrow more money to make good on its spending commitments.  If it were up to the American public, they would vote no — with a majority saying the debt limit should only be raised after major spending cuts have been made.  A Fox News national poll asks voters to imagine being a lawmaker and having to cast an up-or-down vote on raising the debt ceiling:  37 percent would vote in favor of it, while 58 percent would vote against it.  Most Republicans (78 percent) and a majority of independents (57 percent) would vote against raising the limit.  So would almost all Tea Partiers (88 percent).  Over half of Democrats would vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling (57 percent), while 38 percent would vote against doing so.

Least Essential Agencies Completely Shut Down: Make it Permanent?

Fiscal hawks say the silver lining to the partial government shutdown, which is entering its second week of scaled-back services, could be the picture of government waste it paints for taxpayers. A look through the shutdown contingency plans of the federal government shows some little-known commissions and agencies — like the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness — don’t have anybody reporting for work during the partial shutdown. The ability of the government to run without any of the people from any of these agencies on the clock is prompting some watchdog groups to question why, then, do the agencies need to exist in the first place?

The Denali Commission, a tiny Alaska-based economic development agency, gained some notoriety after it emerged that the group’s inspector general was petitioning Congress to de-fund it. But guess what agency survived the “shutdown?” According to its own contingency plan, because the commission’s staffers are paid under the prior year’s budget, all 14 employees are exempt from furlough, and “reporting to work.”

Amber Alert Website Brought Back Online After Outcry

The Obama administration has brought the Amber Alert website back online, following outcry over the site being taken down amid the partial government shutdown. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said a furloughed Justice Department employee was called back to work to restore the website. A senior Justice Department official told Fox News that the Amber Alert system itself was never taken down, and that only the website, which is maintained by federal employees, was off-line.

Obamacare’s Official Website Down for the Weekend

Bedeviled by technology glitches that frustrated millions of consumers, the Obama administration took down its health overhaul website for repairs this past weekend. Enrollment functions of the healthcare.gov site was unavailable during off-peak hours this weekend, the Health and Human Services Department announced Friday. The website remained open for general information. Technology problems overwhelmed the launch of new health insurance markets last week, embarrassing the administration just when the health care law was supposed to be introduced to average consumers. The government website launched this week to sell health insurance was overwhelmed by up to five times as many users as it was designed to handle, President Obama’s top technology adviser said Saturday. An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users were planned for, but instead the site has drawn as many as 250,000 at a time since it launched Oct. 1.

On Thursday, the government’s official Obamacare Facebook page was riddled with people expressing sticker shock over the government’s high cost premiums after struggling for hours to wade through the technical failures vexing Obamacare exchanges all across the country. “I am so disappointed,” wrote one woman. “These prices are outrageous and there are huge deductibles. No one can afford this!” The comment received 169 “likes.”

Read more at http://patriotupdate.com/2013/10/obamacare-facebook-erupts-citizen-sticker-shock/#zJhk5WuLM0le9fH3.99

  • “Americans have seen once again that Obamacare is not ready for prime time,” Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, said in a statement. “A dysfunctional website is the least of that law’s problems.”

Obama’s Approval Rating Down in Muslim World

The Pew Research Center’s 2012 Global Attitudes survey found the approval of Obama’s policies in Muslim-majority countries dropped from an average 34% to 15%. In 2010 he was considered a great statesman, one who vowed to go further than his predecessors in solidifying relations with the Muslim world. But that was before he overlooked a military coup in Egypt, threatened to bomb Syria, and ramped up drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.

Violent Crime Rate Rises for First Time in 20 Years

While violent crime rose just under 1% nationally in 2012, the trend for the past 20 years has been steady decline. Crime peaked in the late 1980s, fueled by the crack cocaine epidemic. Beginning in the early 1990s, crime began to decline. Although the exact cause remains unclear, experts have pointed to factors such as better policing, demographic changes, higher incarceration rates, a drop in cocaine use and the introduction of a variety of social programs.

U.S. Adults Lag Behind World in Basic Skills

Americans have been hearing for years that their kids are lagging behind the rest of the developed world in skills. Now it’s the adults’ turn for a reality check. A first-ever international comparison of the labor force in 23 industrialized nations shows that Americans ages 16 to 65 fall below international averages in basic problem-solving, reading and math skills, with gaps between the more- and less-educated in the USA larger than those of many other countries. The new test was given to about 5,000 Americans between August 2011 and April 2012. The results show that the typical American’s literacy score falls below the international average, with adults in 12 countries scoring higher and only five (Poland, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy) scoring lower. In math, 18 countries scored higher, with only two (Italy and Spain) scoring lower. In both cases, several countries’ scores were statistically even with the USA.

  • We spend more $/student than every other country but three, and yet lag well behind in end results. Bloated bureaucracy, low pay and restrictive regulations hamstring teacher creativity.

U.S. Falls to 17th in Economic Freedom

The Cato Institute has released its latest annual report on the “Economic Freedom of the World,” and it shows that the United States ranks only at No. 17. From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy, behind only Hong Kong and Singapore, and in 2000 it was ranked second. But the rating dropped to No. 8 in 2005, to No. 16 in 2010, and to No. 17 in 2011, the most recent year for which sufficient data is available. According to Cato, “The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, the freedom to enter and compete in markets, and protection of persons and their property from aggression by others. Economic freedom is present when individuals are permitted to choose for themselves and engage in voluntary transactions as long as they do not harm the person or property of others.” To compile its report, Cato assesses the economic freedom within a nation based on five areas: size of government, legal system and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and economic regulations.

  • Socialism continues to eat away at U.S. freedoms across the board, not just economically

Economic News

As the partial government shutdown hit Day 7, the anxiety level on Wall Street is on the upswing and stocks fell Monday as hardening stances on both sides of the political aisle over the weekend inches the world’s largest economy closer to its first-ever debt default. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 136.34 points, or 0.9% Monday. World markets kicked off the week nervously due to the U.S. debt impasse, with stocks falling in Tokyo and Hong Kong and most major European markets saw losses as well.

China and Japan — which hold a combined $2.4 trillion in U.S. debt — have called for a quick resolution to the crisis and expressed worries over the economic consequences of a default. In the first official response by China, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said that a solution must be found quickly in order to “ensure the safety of Chinese investments” and provide stability for economies around the globe. Economists predict a default would do great harm with investors likely dropping the dollar, an event that would stress other currencies. Equity markets would surely take a hit, and transactions pegged to the value of Treasuries would be difficult to execute. In the past five months, the dollar has fallen 5%. Meanwhile, the euro has gained 3%, and the yen is up more than 5%.

Lockheed Martin will furlough 3,000 employees on Monday and potentially more in coming weeks due to the government shutdown. This announcement comes just days after United Technologies Corp. said that it will furlough 2,000 employees by Monday and more than 5,000 if the shutdown continues into next month.

Middle East

Israeli police announced on Monday that a recent drug bust at the Nitzana crossing from Egypt into Israel resulted in the seizure of 320 kg of hashish with an estimated street value of NIS 25 million. Police also announced the seizure of a large shipment of hashing which smugglers were attempting to bring into Israel from the Egyptian Sinai, where six Egyptian soldiers were killed on Monday during an attack on their patrol near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. Shortly thereafter, in the southern Sinai town of Al-Tor, a suspected suicide carbomb attack on security headquarters killed three people and wounded 48.

Syria

Whether by a harrowing boat trip across the Mediterranean, a mountain crossing over the Turkish border or a flight to Germany, more than 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as well as in the Gulf countries and in Europe. The problems they face in their new homes varies tremendously depending on the country. Some say they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Others worry about violence against foreigners. Many face bureaucratic hurdles to visas and bank accounts, and a hostile political situation on the ground.

Afghanistan

The United States and Afghanistan have reached an impasse in their talks over the role that American forces will play here beyond next year, officials from both countries say, raising the distinct possibility of a total withdrawal — an outcome that the Pentagon’s top military commanders dismissed just months ago. American officials say they are preparing to suspend negotiations absent a breakthrough in the coming weeks, and a senior administration official said talk of resuming them with President Hamid Karzai’s successor, who will be chosen in elections set for next April, is, “frankly, not very likely.” A complete withdrawal from Afghanistan could be far costlier than it was in Iraq. It would force European powers to pull their forces as well, risking a dangerous collapse in confidence among Afghans and giving a boost to the Taliban, which remain a potent threat.

Syria

International inspectors began destroying Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons and the machinery used to create it, a United Nations official said Sunday, racing under a tight deadline aiming to eliminate President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program within nine months. The move kicks off the ambitious program, prompted by a chemical weapons attack in mid-August that killed hundreds of civilians on the outskirts of Damascus and brought a rare consensus at the U.N. Under a Security Council resolution in September, the first stage is to destroy Syria’s capability to produce chemical weapons by Nov. 1

Libya

A top al-Qaeda leader who helped plan the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania is in custody following a U.S. anti-terrorism operation in Libya. Pentagon spokesman George Little said Saturday that Abu Anas al-Libi is being held in a secure location outside Libya. The embassy attacks killed more than 220 people, and the FBI had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture. Al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was linked to Osama bin Laden and could ultimately be brought to the U.S. to stand trial. He has been on the USA’s most-wanted fugitives list since 2000, when a New York court indicted him for his role in the embassy attacks.

Egypt

A string of violence hit three locations across the country Monday a day after more than 50 people died in clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi. A massive explosion struck a security headquarters in a southern Sinai town near popular tourist resorts, killing two and wounding dozens Monday morning. The attack – possibly a car bomb – was unusual for the south Sinai Peninsula, which has remained relatively undisturbed despite frequent assaults by militants on security outposts in the northern region. Also on Monday, gunmen killed six Egyptian soldiers while they were sitting in a car at a checkpoint near the Suez Canal. By Tuesday, the death toll from Sunday’s violence climbed to 55. That number could continue to rise, as some of the 250 injured could succumb to their wounds.

Iraq

Suicide attackers blew up explosives-laden vehicles next to an elementary school and a police station in a small northern Iraqi village on Sunday, killing at least 13 people, many of them children. Sixty-seven others were wounded. The attacks are the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has made for Iraq’s deadliest outburst of violence since 2008. The mounting death tolls are raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Qatar

There’s nearly a decade to go before a ball is kicked at soccer’s 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But the tiny Gulf state, which won the right to host the event nearly three years ago, is embroiled in controversy over the treatment of the huge migrant labor force within its borders and claims it is a “slave state.” The “slave state” claim came as Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, warned that if current trends continue an estimated 4,000 migrant workers may die in Qatar as they toil on construction projects in the run-up to the World Cup. “They’re forced to live in squalor, they are indeed pushed to work in extreme heat, often left without enough water for very long hours and then they go home to cook food in unhygienic conditions, live 8, 10, 12 to a room, and even if they want to leave, if they’ve just had enough, they can’t go because the employer has to sign an exit visa or sign the papers to allow them to work for a better employer,” said Burrow.

Somalia

Foreign military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday against foreign fighters in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaeda operative. The strike was carried out in the town of Barawe in the hours before morning prayers against what one official said were “high-profile” targets. The strike comes exactly two weeks after al-Shabab militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, a four-day terrorist assault that killed at least 67 people in neighboring Kenya.

Wildfires

Fueled by strong winds, a Southern California wildfire forced 260 residents and hospital patients to evacuate at a military base. Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was not threatened by the fire, but a power outage prompted officials to evacuate about 30 patients to other hospitals in the area and stop accepting new patients. Service at the hospital was restored by late Saturday. The nearly 4-square-mile wildfire on the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton was reduced to smoldering Monday as hot, dry Santa Ana winds faded and a cooling trend began as a storm approached.

Weather

A storm system that buried parts of Wyoming and South Dakota in heavy, wet snow on Friday also brought powerful thunderstorms packing tornadoes to the Great Plains. Breaking nearly century-old early autumn snowfall records, a storm system smothered South Dakota’s scenic Black Hills in South Dakota with up to 3½ feet of wet, heavy snow, leaving residents the challenge of digging out. Power outages and impassable roads plagued western South Dakota on Saturday. More than 25,000 people had lost power in the Black Hills area, and authorities were recruiting snowmobilers to help rescue about 80 motorists who’d been stuck overnight. The record-breaking storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota left ranchers dealing with heavy losses, in some cases perhaps up to half their herds, as they assess how many of their cattle died during the unseasonably early blizzard.

Later in the day, thunderstorms rolled across the Plains, and witnesses reported seeing tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Twelve separate tornadoes were reportedfrom northeast Nebraska into northwest Iowa. Some of the greatest damage from tornadoes seemed to be in Wayne, Neb., a town of 9,600 where witnesses said at least four homes were destroyed and ten businesses damaged. At least 15 people were hurt, but none of the injuries was considered life-threatening.

Dozens of people were displaced over the weekend by flooding in Louisville and Jefferson County, including some by rescue personnel using boats. A potent storm front rumbling across the nation’s midsection was blamed for more than 6 inches of rain that drenched the region Saturday, swamping some low-lying neighborhoods with water from ankle-deep to waist-deep in spots.

Fast-moving storms have blown through parts of the Northeast, lashing states with heavy rain and high winds and knocking out power. There were over 140 reports of damaging winds in the Northeast Monday, most of them in a swath from New York City and the Catskills northeast into Maine. Utility crews have been working to fix scattered power outages affecting thousands of customers in eastern New York. The National Weather Service has warned of potential flooding along small streams and in poor drainage areas in Pennsylvania.

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