Signs of the Times (11/1/13)

Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Most of Texas’ Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court issued a ruling Thursday reinstating most of Texas’ controversial new abortions restrictions, just three days after a federal judge ruled they were unconstitutional. A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward. The panel’s decision means as least 12 clinics won’t be able to perform the procedure starting Nov 1. In its 20-page ruling, it acknowledged that the provision “may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions.” However, the panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that having “the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate” a law that serves a valid purpose, “one not designed to strike at the right itself.”

Court Overturns New York Stop-and-Frisk Ruling

A federal appellate court on Thursday granted a stay in the landmark police stop-and-frisk ruling in New York City, and removed the trial judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, from the case. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Judge Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008. The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes to the policy that Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department.

DOJ Argues International Treaty Can Trump the Constitution

Justice Department attorneys are advancing an argument at the Supreme Court that could allow the government to invoke international treaties as a legal basis for policies such as gun control that conflict with the U.S. Constitution. Their argument is that a law implementing an international treaty signed by the U.S. allows the federal government to prosecute a criminal case that would normally be handled by state or local authorities. Justice Department attorneys are advancing an argument at the Supreme Court that could allow the government to invoke international treaties as a legal basis for policies such as gun control that conflict with the U.S. Constitution, according to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

  • Another step toward the one-world government prophesied in Revelation 11

Strange Dismissals of Nine Military Generals

The strange recent chain of high-level dismissals from the U.S. military is so bizarre and so unheard of that even Dianne Sawyer of ABC news reached out to cover it on October 12th when the 9th, yes 9th, general was relieved of duty in less than a year. This doesn’t include the long list last year, this is just the nine individuals this year alone.

A video, shot in September 2013, shows an army commander briefing the MPs on their new command structure under the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for domestic operations with the National Guard. The MP began recording the exchange after being shocked to hear that they were now under FEMA control. In this video you can clearly hear the commander discuss the suspension of the Constitution for martial law and gun confiscations in America. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LavSGvONNxc)

  • U.S. military is being eviscerated for two reasons: first to minimize its ability to act worldwide on its own; second, to prepare for the institution of martial law in America under the guise of responding to a major internal crisis (e.g. economic collapse), but instead its goal is to suppress rebellion and dissent. Hence the large ammunition buys and construction of detention centers.

Air Force Academy Drops ‘So Help Me God’ From Honor Oath

Air Force Academy cadets will no longer be required to include the words “so help me God” when taking their annual Honor Oath. On Friday (Oct. 25), officials at the Colorado Springs, Colo., campus announced its 4,000 current cadets would be allowed to opt out of the final phrase of their honor code, which they reaffirm each of their four years of study and training. “Here at the Academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference — or not,” said Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the academy’s superintendent, in a statement. “So in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the Honor Oath with ‘So help me God.’”

  • Lack of respect for God will prove to be much more significant and eternally fatal

Obama Approval Ratings Falling

Problems with the health care law — and perhaps fallout from the recent government shutdown — are taking a toll on President Obama’s public standing. The president’s approval rating hit a low point of 42% in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, down 5 points from earlier in October. The poll said 51% now disapprove of Obama’s performance.

Obamacare Website Down Again

Visitors trying to log on to the Obamacare website Thursday morning saw the same stubborn phrase that has roiled users for weeks: “The system is down at the moment.” It’s been almost a full month since the HealthCare.gov website launched, riddled with technical problems despite a series of advance warning signs. And even after a chorus of apologies out of Washington, it may be at least another month before everything’s running smoothly. Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the “miserably frustrating” problems during a 3 1/2-hour congressional grilling. She said she made a mistake when she told President Barack Obama that HealthCare.gov was “ready to go” for its October 1 launch.

Obama Administration Knew Millions Would Lose Insurance

Millions of Americans are getting their health insurance cancelled under the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration has known for about three years that this would happen, NBC News is reporting. Between half and three quarters of 14 million consumers who buy health insurance individually will receive a cancellation letter or its equivalent in the next year because their current policies don’t meet the standards laid out by the new law, the news organization reports. Of those who will be forced to buy new insurance, many will face huge price increases, NBC reports.

Lawmakers Seek to Delay Huge Flood Insurance Rate Hikes

A bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday unveiled legislation that would delay for about four years several changes to the federal government’s flood insurance program that are threatening to sock thousands of people with unaffordable premium hikes. The move comes as the government is beginning to implement a significant overhaul of the much-criticized program. That overhaul passed last year with sweeping support. The revamped program was backed by both liberals and tea party conservatives but has caused a panic in places like Staten Island, N.Y., and the New Jersey coast and in flood-prone areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, where higher rates threaten to push some people out of their homes.

In southern states the new rules have sent some home values plummeting because of uncertainty over insurance rates and because subsidized rates can’t be passed along to buyers. New flood maps threaten to saddle some homeowners who are paying a few hundred dollars a year now with annual premiums of more than $20,000. Under the old rules, they could retain their old rates since they followed the rules when they bought or built their home, but they will soon lose those “grandfathered” rates under the new law.

US Out of Top 20 in Global Economic ‘Prosperity’ Index

The U.S. tumbled out of the top 20 most economically prosperous nations in an annual measure of wealth and well-being compiled by the Legatum Institute, falling below France and China. In a month in which lawmakers shut the government and struck a deal to avoid default only as the clock began running out, faith in the U.S. government also fell to an all-time low. “The U.S. can no longer be seen as the most prosperous nation in the world — indeed it’s no longer even in the club,” said Jeffrey Gedmin, the institute’s president and chief executive officer. “This year’s index shows that Americans are suffering increasing hardship as a result of the country’s economic condition.” The seven-year-old Legatum Prosperity Index is a study of wealth and well-being in 142 countries, based on eight categories such as economic strength, education and governance. It is an attempt to broaden measurement of a nation’s economic health beyond indicators such as gross domestic product.

Deep Cuts to Food Stamps Begin Nov. 1

Forty-eight million Americans will have their food stamps benefits slashed starting Friday, when a recession-era boost in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) expires. The move to cut back benefits will be the first wide-scale change to the program affecting nearly every single participant. The 13.6 percent cut comes out to about $36 a month less for a family of four getting government assistance or $420 a year, according to the Department of Agriculture. Since 2000, the costs for the plan have increased more than 358 percent. Enrollment in the food-stamp benefits rose markedly during the 2007-2011 recession.

Economic News

The federal government’s latest annual deficit is the smallest it’s been since 2008, according to Treasury Department data released Wednesday. At $680 billion, the fiscal 2013 deficit is 51% less than it was in 2009, when it hit a record high nominally of $1.4 trillion. As a percent of the economy, it’s also considerably smaller than it’s been in the past five years, coming in at 4.1% of gross domestic product. By contrast, the annual deficit in 2009 topped 10% of GDP. And last year it was 6.8%. The improvement was attributed to an improving economy and a mix of fiscal restraint — primarily, the expiration of stimulus measures, the imposition of across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester, and tax increases on high-income households during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended September 30.

Applications for unemployment benefits dropped for the third week in a row, down 10,000 to 340,000 for the week ended Oct. 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications are now close to the pre-recession levels that were reached in August, before California’s computer problems and the federal government shutdown distorted the data.

In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed said it would continue to purchase $85 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to hold down long-term interest rates and stimulate economic growth. A growing chorus of Wall Street pros say a bubble is forming in the U.S. stock market. They blame the Fed’s unprecedented stimulus, including its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, for artificially inflating stock prices. There is concern that if the Fed does not dial back its asset purchases soon, stocks could shoot higher and become even more delinked from business fundamentals.

  • Continuing to artificially boost the money supply, in effect printing money out of thin air, will keep the anemic recovery going in the short-term but increase the odds of an even bigger collapse in the future

A $7.6 billion federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure in 18 states and the District of Columbia has gotten just 22% of its funds to homeowners more than three years after its launch, a government report out Tuesday said. The report criticizes the Treasury Department, which oversees the Hardest Hit fund, for failing to set measurable goals for the program and lax oversight.

Consumer prices increased only slightly in September as higher energy costs were offset by flat food prices. The figures are the latest evidence that slow economic growth is keeping inflation tame. The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in September, up from 0.1% in August. In the past year, consumer prices have increased just 1.2%, below the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target.

Persecution Watch

Since the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, Christians have been the targets of violence. Once the Islamist government was sacked, Christians hoped the situation would change, but, according to Mission Network News, it hasn’t. However, “Churches are united together. And the spirit of prayer is happening in all the churches. People are praying all the time… Christians posted signs on their burned-out churches that read: “You burned our church, but we love you. his makes many Muslims discover the reality of Christianity, and many of them come to know Jesus. … Until now, they find difficulty for security reason to join local churches, so they meet underground in a secret way.”

Eritrean security forces raided a prayer meeting and arrested 150 Christians found praying together in Maitemenai, a suburb to the north of Asmara, International Christian Concern reports. It is thought that the believers had gathered to pray about the escalating refugee crisis and the trouble in the country that has been of concern to many Eritreans in recent days. The gathering is said to have been under the auspices of an underground fellowship known as Hiyaw Amlak (Living God), part of a wide network of underground fellowships that have been in operation throughout Eritrea since 2002, when the government shut all churches not belonging to the officially sanctioned religious groups. Although no whereabouts of all the prisoners have been officially disclosed, friends and family of the detained believe at least some of them are held at a police station in the adjoining district from where the raid and arrests occurred.

Students won’t be allowed to sing religious holiday songs at winter concerts in a south-central New Jersey school district. Bordentown Superintendent Constance J. Bauer issued a statement on Oct. 18 saying that some of the selections were questioned and that “religious music should not be part of the elementary program,” mentioning how the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 declined to hear an appeal of a similar situation. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said public school administrations can determine which songs are appropriate according to constitutional guidelines to create a secular “inclusive environment.”

  • Secular humanism should also be classified as a religion because it places its faith in humanity instead of God. Therefore, this decision is discriminatory in advocating a federal religion.

Middle East

As Israeli prison officials prepared to release 26 Palestinian security prisoners, some of whom were convicted of grisly murders and other crimes prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that he would continue to work for the release of more. “We won’t have comfort until they are all released,” Abbas said, referring to the more than 5,000 Palestinians serving time in Israeli prisons, many for acts of terrorism and murder, as well as common criminal offenses. A large and festive reception is planned for the released murderers when they return to Ramallah in the evening, while the only reference made to the ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the PA which the prisoner releases are supposed to be a part of was made by PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Karaka, who declared on Monday that there is no connection between the two things.

Israeli warplanes struck targets inside Syria on Thursday. The targets were SA-125 missiles that were being transferred to the militant group Hezbollah, according to a senior defense official. It was similar to an operation in May in which Israeli jets fired weapons at a shipment of accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles. That attack occurred near Damascus. Israel also struck suspected weapons bound for Hezbollah in January. Thursday’s attack occurred in the Syrian port city of Latakia.

IDF troops came under fire from suspected Palestinian terrorists early Friday morning as they were attempting to destroy a tunnel under the border built by the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Five soldiers were wounded in the attack, and IDF return fire directed at the suspects in the vicinity of the Gaza coast city of Khan Younis killed four suspects and possibly wounded others, according to Palestinian medical sources. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry will be back in the region next week as senior Palestinian Authority officials have threatened to quit rather than continue negotiations with Israel following this week’s approval of plans to expand building activity in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and settlements in the West Bank.

Syria

Inspectors in Syria have completed the destruction of machinery used to produce chemical weapons, meeting a crucial deadline in the international effort to eliminate the deadly weapons from the war-torn country. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemicals Weapons “is now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment,” according to the statement. The deadline was to complete it by Nov. 1.

However, the international inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have missed an early deadline in a brutally tight schedule after security concerns prevented them from visiting two sites linked to Damascus’ chemical program. Syria has identified 41 facilities at 23 chemical sites where it stored approximately 1,300 tons of precursors and agents, and over 1,200 unfilled munitions to deliver them. But the OPCW said inspectors were only able to visit 21 of the 23 sites because of security risks.

Iran

Iran announced that it would be building 34 new nuclear plants in the next seven years. Iran also announced that Russia has agreed to help them complete this project with technical and other support. Biblically, the alliance of Russia (Rosh) and Iran (Persia) is a key end-time indicator (Ezekiel 38)

The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt its new wave of repression of the media and civil society and stop its numerous rushed executions, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. In the past three days alone, the Judiciary has banned the reformist daily Bahar, sentenced the prominent actress Pegah Ahangarani to 18 months in prison, and put to death 18 individuals who are ethnic minorities. ‘President Rouhani has an immense responsibility to uphold his promises to protect citizenship rights and use all means at his disposal to stop this latest onslaught against civil and human rights,’ said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s executive director.

Iraq

Nearly two years after the U.S. military withdrew its last troops from his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will press President Obama on Friday to step up security assistance as violence in Iraq is tilting back to levels not seen in years. Ahead of his Oval Office meeting with Obama, al-Maliki said in a speech in Washington on Thursday that he needs significantly more help from the United States — including more weapons and greater sharing of U.S. intelligence — to stem the bloodshed that has left 7,000 Iraqi civilians dead already this year.

Pakistan

Missiles fired by a U.S. drone killed three people in Pakistan early Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said, the first such attack since Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asked U.S. President Barack Obama to end the campaign of drone strikes. The strike in northwest Pakistan also comes the week after human rights groups questioned the legality of the U.S. drone program in Pakistan and Yemen, documenting in detail some of the civilian casualties they say it has caused. North Waziristan is rife with militants and is the area where the United States conducts its most intensive drone campaign, against the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda operatives.

Nigeria

Heavily armed militants, suspected members of Boko Haram, attacked Damaturu, the capital of Nigeria’s Yobe state, last Thursday, Open Doors USA reports. It appears that hundreds of members of the Muslim terrorist sect took part in the surprise offensive in an area that hosts government institutions but is also dominated by Christians. According to the BBC, the militants also attacked a hospital, stole drugs and drove off in ambulances. An Open Doors worker in Nigeria reported: “Efforts to reach Christians in the town by telephone proved futile as all lines have been cut. That is common practice during attacks such as these. We are concerned over the effect of the continued violence on believers in Yobe state. They are living in constant fear. Every single day there are believers who lose loved ones and see destruction of their property.”

China

Chinese authorities named a pair of suspects from a majority Muslim western region of the country as suspicions grew that a deadly car crash and fire near Tiananmen Square was a terror attack. The crash at the center of the capital at lunchtime Monday plowed through dozens of pedestrians and police, killing five people, including the driver, two passengers, a female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from Guangdong province in South China, and injuring 38 people. Ethnic unrest has plagued the region as China’s majority Han people immigrated to the area and clashed with the native Uighur people. The Uighur, who are Muslim, have long complained about repressive rule by Beijing.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake hit eastern Taiwan on Thursday, shaking buildings over a wide area including the capital. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured magnitude 6.6 and struck in the evening. It was centered in a remote mountainous area 28 miles south-southwest of the coastal city of Hualian at a depth of just 5.8 miles. In Taipei, the capital, buildings swayed for more than 10 seconds and startled residents ducked for cover.

Weather

From Anchorage to Fairbanks and Barrow, many cities in Alaska have seen very mild temperatures this October due to a persistent area of high pressure in the upper atmosphere. In the interior Alaskan city of Fairbanks, the monthly average temperature was 36.1 degrees. This is more than 11 degrees above average and ranks among the warmest Octobers on record in the city. Monday, Oct. 28 was extremely mild. The high temperature for the day reached a daily record of 51 degrees, more than 30 degrees above the late-October average high of 20 degrees. Even the low temperature of 38 degrees exceeded the average high by about 18 degrees.

Two people were killed as heavy rains across Central Texas swelled rivers and creeks and triggered flash flooding Thursday, prompting dozens of rescues across a region that’s been dealing with a long, punishing drought. About 10 miles south of Austin, one frightening rescue involved a couple whose SUV was swept away by floodwaters. They were forced to cling to trees for hours until a helicopter rescued them on Thursday morning. In all, the National Weather Service said, more than a foot of rain fell across Texas’ midsection, including up to 14 inches in Wimberley, southwest of the state capital.

A stream of thick, blowing dust crossing an Arizona highway led to a chain-reaction crash that killed three people in an area where gusting winds often stir up towering clouds of dirt that can reduce visibility to zero. At least 12 other people were injured Tuesday in the 19-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Parts of westbound I-10 were closed for more than five hours.

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