Signs of the Times (10/21/13)

‘Judicial Oligarchy’ Ushers in NJ Same-Sex ‘Marriages’

A family advocate in New Jersey is blasting that state’s highest court for usurping the authority of voters and legislators by stepping in and deciding it’s time to legalize “gay marriage.” As of today, homosexual men and women can pair off and legally marry in New Jersey. In late September, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled New Jersey’s civil union law discriminates against homosexuals. The state appealed to the NJ Supreme Court, but that panel refused to grant a stay pending outcome of the January court date. Len Deo, who heads New Jersey Family First, contends the issue of same-gender marriage should be decided by New Jersey residents and their elected representatives. But the court took over responsibility for the decision – and did so before the legal question is even argued.

  • The liberal media and courts have conspired against God to enact their shamefully immoral agenda

Insurers Getting Faulty Data from ObamaCare Exchanges

Insurers say faulty data from ObamaCare marketplaces is straining their ability to handle even the first wave of consumers who were able to sign up for health insurance using federally run exchanges during the glitch-ridden rollout of the new law. Executives at more than a dozen health insurance companies say they have received data from online marketplaces that is riddled with errors, including duplicate enrollments, missing data fields and spouses reported as children, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska, which has about 50 ObamaCare enrollees, said it had to stop enrollments from coming through automatically and hire temporary workers to contact customers to fix inaccuracies in submissions.

Insurers Avoiding Many State Healthcare Exchanges

So few insurers offer plans on some of the new government health insurance exchanges that consumers in those states may pay too much or face large rate increases later, insurance experts say. An average of eight insurers compete for business in 36 states that had exchanges run or supported by the federal government. Many state-run exchanges have far fewer than average,. Vermont has two, Kentucky has three and Nevada and Maryland each have four. Some insurers pulled out of the exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act as the Oct. 1 launch approached. That leaves an uneven patchwork of providers — ranging from one insurer in New Hampshire and West Virginia to 16 in New York. The difference also leads to a wide disparity in the numbers of plans, from just seven in Alabama to 106 in Arizona.

Obama Mad About Healthcare Website Problems

President Obama declared Monday that “nobody is madder than me” about the failures of the government’s health care Web site, but said the technical problems do not indicate a broader failure of the Affordable Care Act. Many people have had trouble signing up for health-care plans in the online insurances exchanges that are a centerpiece of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. USA TODAY reported that “the federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months.” Administration officials say about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges. However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projecting by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period.

Lionfish Infestation in Atlantic Ocean

Lionfish are not native to the Atlantic Ocean but have begun to proliferate there. The venomous, fast reproducing fish are aggressive eaters and will consume anything and everything, gorging so much they are actually getting liver disease. With no known predators — except human beings — they can wipe out 90% of a reef. “The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face,” said Graham Maddocks, president and founder of Ocean Support Foundation. They produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days and are sexually mature by 1 year old. Florida pet owners are blamed for their release into unfamiliar waters.

Economic News

U.S. debt jumped a record $328 billion on Thursday, the first day the federal government was able to borrow money under the deal President Obama and Congress sealed this week. The debt now equals $17.075 trillion, according to figures the Treasury Department posted online on Friday. The national debt is up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office in 2009. This debt obligation comes out to nearly $53,000 if every person living in the U.S., including children and unemployed had to pay a share. If every working American had to pay their share of the $16.7 trillion debt in 2012, they would be shelling out $123,000.

  • The debt load on taxpayers will continue to expand despite the efforts of some to enforce fiscal responsibility on a bloated, insatiable government, ultimately bringing the U.S. economy crashing down

Some fortunate federal employees will likely get paid twice for not working this month. Several states are expected to allow federal workers who collected unemployment insurance during the government shutdown to keep both those benefits and the back pay they’re set to receive, according to the Labor Department. Their decisions may add at least a few million dollars more to the shutdown’s still-untallied costs to taxpayers.

Home price gains are slowing after a strong bounce off the bottom, potentially marking a new phase for the housing recovery. Home values aren’t rising as fast as they were and even dipped in a few hot markets in September. U.S. home values were up 1.2% in the third quarter from the second. That’s down from a 2.5% jump in the second quarter from the first. Half of 30 major metropolitan areas saw values fall in September from August. Earlier this summer, all 30 of the metros were seeing month-to-month gains.

JPMorgan Chase and the Department of Justice have tentatively agreed to a $13 billion civil settlement to resolve several investigations into the bank’s mortgage securities business. Mortgage-backed securities and related derivatives were a key cause of the financial crisis, saddling financial institutions with losses as the housing market cratered.

More than half of fast food workers have to rely on public assistance programs since their wages aren’t enough to support them, a new report found. 52% of families of fast food workers receive assistance from a public program like Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That’s compared to 25% of families in the workforce as a whole.

Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday. That’s almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job. Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.

In the aftermath of a historic housing bust, rented single-family homes are on the rise in communities from coast to coast. At least a fifth of all occupied single-family homes were rentals last year in 32 of the nation’s top metropolitan regions. That’s up from seven metros in 2006. Millions of homeowners lost homes to foreclosure and were forced to become renters, while others delayed homeownership.

China’s economic growth rebounded in the latest quarter. The world’s second-largest economy grew by 7.8% over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, boosted by higher government spending. That was up from a two-decade low of 7.5% the previous quarter (in contrast to U.S. growth of just 2.1% last quarter).

Persecution Watch

Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed ten Christians in three villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state last week in what authorities called a cattle-rustling attempt. But a visit to the home where eight members of one family were killed revealed the presence of no cows. A state official was quick to deny that the attack was rooted in the ethno-religious violence that has convulsed the state, and military officials asserted that security forces recovered 20 cows and killed five of the rustlers in thwarting an attempted theft, but a Morning Star News reporter found no evidence of cattle ownership at the home in Kukyek village where eight family members were slain in the wee hours of Oct. 10th.

Middle East

The Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has called for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to be suspended and for a return to armed violence against Israelis. On Friday, senior Hamas official Issat al-Rishq further threatened that Hamas would try to abduct more soldiers following what it considers was the success of the Gilad Schalit kidnapping. Meanwhile, an Israeli campaign to warn residents of the Strip against cooperating with Hamas by delivering pre-recorded phone messages commenced over the weekend.  “Know that Hamas is spending millions of dollars on tunnels used for hostile and terrorist acts against the state of Israel,” the message said, according to an AFP report. “This money should have gone to infrastructure, education and health projects.”

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has rejected Friday a seat on the U.N. Security Council just hours after it was elected as one of the Council’s 10 nonpermanent members. In a statement issued through the state Saudi Press Agency, the Middle Eastern nation thanked those countries “that have given (it) their confidence” but said the 15-member body is incapable of resolving the world’s conflicts. The Saudi Foreign Ministry noted, in particular, that the Council had failed in its duties toward Syria. It said this alleged failure enabled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to perpetrate the killings of its people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any deterrents or punishment. The Ministry also said the Council has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past decades and has failed to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Egypt

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood faces a wave of trials unlike any it has seen in its history, threatening to put a large number of its senior leadership behind bars for years. The prosecutions are the next phase in the wide-scale crackdown on the Brotherhood following the military’s July ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, who goes on trial next month. Morsi’s trial, the most high-profile case, is setting the pattern for the others, aiming to show the Brotherhood leadership as directing a campaign of violence. Morsi is charged with inciting murder in connection to a protest during his year in office in which his supporters attacked protesters outside his palace.

Syria

Syrian rebels assaulted a checkpoint in a pro-government suburb of Damascus on Saturday, setting off a suicide vehicle bomb that killed 30 people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebels led by the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, carried out the attack while trying to capture the checkpoint near the town of Mleiha adjoining Jaramana. It reported heavy fighting after the blast. Rebels control much of the countryside around Damascus but Jaramana, a Christian and Druse area, is mostly loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Iraq

A coordinated attack Monday against police headquarters in a former al-Qaeda stronghold in central Iraq killed seven policemen. The attack in the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, involved at least two suicide bombers and several gunmen. One bomber detonated his explosives-laden belt at the main checkpoint outside the Fallujah police headquarters, while the second blew himself up near the building gates as security forces engaged in a shootout with other gunmen.

Pakistan

The U.S. has quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Usama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers. The U.S. has quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Usama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers.

  • Under the guise of an “improved” relationship this is nothing more than giving money directly to Islamic terrorists.

Libya

Libya marks the second anniversary of the death of Muammar Gaddafi with the country on the brink of a new civil war and fighting raging in the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of its Arab spring revolution. Violence between radical militias and regular forces broke out on Friday night and continued yesterday, while the capital Tripoli is braced for fallout from the kidnapping earlier this month of prime minister Ali Zaidan. Federalists in Cyrenaica, home to most of Libya’s oil, open their own independent parliament in Benghazi this week, in a step that may herald the breakup of the country.

Yemen

Dozens of al Qaeda fighters attacked a military base Friday, killing seven soldiers in southern Yemen. Seven more suffered injuries in the assault in Abyan province and were taken to a hospital. The militants attacked the compound from three sides, drove a bomb-laden vehicle inside and detonated it. Abyan province was considered a hub for al Qaeda militants throughout Yemen’s political turmoil in 2011. After coming to power in February of 2013, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi launched offensives against the Islamist extremists, uprooting its strongholds in southern Yemen. The militants had warned soldiers in brochures ahead of time not to defend Yemen’s government, which it accuses of being aligned with the United States.

France

Thousands of high school students are protesting in Paris over the expulsion of immigrant children and their families. Police have used tear gas against some of the protesters. The demonstration comes as the government is finalizing a report Friday into the treatment of a 15-year-old girl taken by police from a school field trip, then deported. The incident shocked many in France and inflamed the anger of high school student unions, which staged Friday’s protest. Most of them rallied peacefully, but a few threw stones and pens at riot police trying to slow down their march.

The United States’ ambassador to France Charles H. Rivkin has been summoned by the French foreign minister following claims made by the Le Monde newspaper group Monday that the National Security Agency spied on millions of French citizens. Le Monde made the allegations it said based on documents it secured from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. According to the report, which was co-authored by the ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, over a 30-day period between December last year and January 2013 the NSA’s top-secret “US-985D” program intercepted data on over 70 million phone calls made in France.

Mexico

Mexico’s government said Sunday it “categorically condemns” email spying, after a German news magazine reported that documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden say the U.S. gained access to the e-mail system of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon. A report posted by Der Spiegel said the documents describe an operation dubbed “Flat liquid” that claim to have accessed Mexico’s “presidencia” domain, which was also purportedly used by members of Calderon’s Cabinet. “This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and contrary to Mexican law and international law,” Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said in a statement.

India

Police in a southern Indian port city on Friday arrested the crew of a U.S.-owned ship on charges of illegally transporting weapons and ammunition in Indian waters. Eight crew and 25 security guards aboard the MV Seaman Guard Ohio were arrested after they failed to produce documents allowing them to carry the weapons. The ship is owned by Virginia-based security company AdvanFort but is registered in Sierra Leone. The ship’s captain told investigators that the company provides armed escorts to merchant vessels traveling in pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean.

China

Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in the northern Chinese city of Harbin as the region entered its high-smog season. Winter typically brings the worst air pollution to northern China because of a combination of weather conditions and an increase in the burning of coal for homes and municipal heating systems.

Earthquakes

Mexico’s Baja California peninsula was rattled by a 6.4-magnitude offshore quake Saturday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages. The United States Geological Survey says the quake occurred at almost 11 a.m. Saturday and was centered in the Gulf of California, between the Baja Peninsula and Mexico’s western coast.

Wildfires

At least one person has been killed and dozens of homes destroyed as nearly 100 wildfires continue rage across Australia’s most populous state on Friday. The fires hae forced hundreds of evacuations as the nation’s annual fire season got off to an unusually early start. The number of fires in New South Wales State had dropped from more than 100 overnight to 89, burning across 375 square miles. But 25 continued to burn out of control. The fires have killed one man, destroyed 208 homes and damaged another 122 since Thursday Firefighters were focusing on a major blaze Sunday near the town of Lithgow that stretched along a 190-mile front.

Weather

Hurricane Raymond strengthened to a Category 3 storm early Monday as swirled near Mexico’s already soaked southern Pacific coast, bringing the threat of heavy and possibly dangerous rains a month after Tropical Storm Manuel caused widespread damage with floods and mudslides. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the newly formed storm had stalled south of Mexico but a general northward drift was expected that would bring the hurricane closer to the coast. Mexican authorities rushed to deploy emergency crews and said they were considering ordering evacuations of low-lying areas. About 10,000 people already were living away from their homes one month after Manuel inundated homes and left behind drenched hillsides that posed serious landslide risks.

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