Signs of the Times (11/15/13)

AFA Releases Christmas ‘Naughty or Nice’ Retailer List

As the Christmas shopping season begins full swing, the American Family Association has released its annual “Naughty or Nice” retailer list. They have taken the top 100 national retailers and reviewed their websites, media advertising and in-store signage in an effort identify which companies are Christmas-friendly. “There are secular forces in our country that hate Christmas because the word itself is a reminder of Jesus Christ. They want to eradicate anything that reminds Americans of Christianity. That is why it is important to remind governments and companies to keep the word Christmas alive. AFA wants to keep Christ in Christmas and Christmas in America.”

  • See AFA’s 2013 “Naughty or Nice” retailer list here

Obama & Obamacare Hit New Low mark in Poll

A new Quinnipiac University survey says American voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by 54% to 39%, the worst marks of his presidency. As with similar polls in recent days, most of Obama’s problems can be traced to criticism of the new health care plan, including website problems and cancellation notices on existing policies. Quinnipiac noted that Obama had a 45% approval rating at the start of October, the month the health care plan rollout began.

Approval numbers for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, continue to illustrate wariness among American voters about health care reform, with only 19% saying they believe the quality of their health care will improve in the next year. Forty-three percent say it will get worse, while 33% say the controversial law won’t affect their health care, according to Quinnipiac.

Obamacare Problems Not Just with Website

Project Veritas undercover camera teams caught ObamaCare navigators in Texas on tape repeatedly encouraging applicants to commit fraud so they’ll get more money. The applicants are taught to conceal income so they’ll get higher taxpayer subsidies and lower premiums. Smokers are told to conceal their habit so they get lower premiums. ”I always lie on mine,” one navigator cheerfully says of the paperwork.

  • The billion-dollar program to hire largely unvetted “navigators” to help confused applicants navigate the maze of ObamaCare regulations is an open invitation for fraud

Though the number is estimated to eventually hit as high as 10 to 15 million, right now the number of insurance policies canceled due to ObamaCare is 5 million, reports Patriot Update. “Wednesday, the Obama administration claimed that 106,185 Americans enrolled in ObamaCare. Except, according to the White House, those are not actual enrollments. Some have not paid for but have only only “selected a marketplace plan.” Orwellian nonsense aside, that is still somewhere around a 50-to-1 ratio of cancellations to enrollees.”

Top Democrats Join Push to Keep Health Plans

An influential Democratic senator is now backing the push to restore insurance plans canceled due to ObamaCare, on the heels of a blunt critique from former president Bill Clinton on President Obama’s handling of the health care law’s rocky rollout. The president is rapidly facing questions and concerns from members of his own party about the law’s rollout. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she is cosponsoring a bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would force insurance companies to reinstate canceled policies that Obama repeatedly vowed that people could keep. The involvement of Feinstein in the push to restore canceled policies adds considerable pressure on the Obama administration to address those concerns. A private meeting on Capitol Hill with House Democrats and White House officials on Wednesday became heated when rank-and-file members expressed frustration about continued Obamacare problems, according to multiple sources in the room.

Obama’s Insurance ‘Fix’ Stirs Confusion

President Obama’s “fix” for the wave of insurance cancellation notices going out as a result of ObamaCare is creating mass confusion for state-level insurance commissioners and companies who are unclear how they would implement the change — if at all — at this late stage. The change was meant to address the concerns of millions of Americans who have lost their current insurance plans because they didn’t meet the minimum standards under the law. “For three years, state insurance regulators have been working to adapt to the Affordable Care Act in a way that best meets the needs of consumers in each state,” the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in a statement. “It is unclear how, as a practical matter, the changes proposed … by the president can be put into effect.” The statement was one of many complaints and outright cries for help at the state level after Obama announced Thursday that he’s allowing insurance companies to sell policies that would otherwise be out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act for another year.

Immigration Reform All but Bead for 2013

Immigration reform appears to be dead for 2013, or at least in critical condition. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said as much when he announced Wednesday that the House won’t consider negotiating over the comprehensive immigration package that the Senate passed in June. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reportedly told immigration activists last week that the tight schedule meant lawmakers probably wouldn’t get to immigration reform until next year at the earliest. Even then it will be difficult to reach a consensus as partisan gridlock intensifies in advance of the 2014 congressional midterm elections.

Secret Service Accused of Misconduct in 17 Countries

Secret Service officials are being accused of recently engaging in sexual misconduct and other indiscretions in a total of 17 countries, according to a report Friday in The Washington Post. The paper reported that the claims were made by whistleblowers to a Senate committee. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., top Republican on that Homeland Security subcommittee, told the Post that the accounts contradict claims made by Secret Service leaders that the agency does not allow such behavior. The shocking allegations follow the April 2012 incident where a number of agents were caught drinking and seeing prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia.

  • End-time lawlessness is spreading, now contaminating even the revered Secret Service (2Thess. 2:7-9)

Federal Sequester Cuts Slash Hundreds of Programs

Cuts to critical retraining skills for unemployed Americans. Reduced help for struggling readers in elementary school. Fewer meals for seniors. Less food for starving children in far flung countries. These are just some of the effects of the deep federal budget cuts, also known as sequester, that went into effect on March 1. Details of the effects are listed in a new report released Tuesday by the NDD United, which represents about 3,000 non- defense groups fighting to end sequester. The report comes a day before a panel of lawmakers will meet to consider the 2014 budget. One of the panel’s decisions is whether the U.S. government will shrink, end, or go ahead with a second round of sequester cuts — this time $110 billion — slated to hit mid-January. The March sequester sliced $80 billion from defense and nondefense programs this year.

  • The trouble with budget cuts is that the bloated bureaucracy remains entrenched while the meat of such programs is slashed. We need to start cutting at the top of the inverted pyramid, not the bottom.

Milestone: U.S. Produces More Oil than it Imports

The United States edged closer to energy independence last month when — for the first time in nearly two decades — it produced more crude oil than it imported, federal officials said Wednesday. The nation has been moving toward this milestone, because two trends are converging. Domestic oil production is at a 24-year high while foreign oil imports are at a 17-year low. The result: production exceeded net imports for the first time since February 1995, although the nation still imports 35% of the petroleum it uses.

U.S. to Become Top Oil Producer by 2015

The United States will knock off Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015. Massive investment in the production of shale gas has driven the U.S. supply boom, thanks in large part to new technologies such as hydraulic fracking, which has made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock commercially viable. But limited reserves will cap the surge in shale oil output within the next 10 years. “Shale oil is good news for the U.S, but we do not expect this trend will continue after the 2020s,” IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told reporters Tuesday. That will translate into an increase in OPEC producers’ share of global output since those nations would remain the only large source of relatively low cost oil.

Economic News

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but an upward revision to the prior week’s figure suggested the labor market recovery remained gradual. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, dropped 5,750 to 344,000. Lackluster domestic demand is preventing the labor market from generating stronger jobs growth that would decisively lower the unemployment rate.

Fewer U.S. homeowners are falling behind on their mortgage payments, aided by rising home values, low interest rates and stable job gains. The percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell in the July-September quarter to 4.09% from 5.33% a year earlier. The last time the mortgage delinquency rate was lower was the third quarter of 2008.

U.S. mobility for young adults has fallen to the lowest level in more than 50 years as cash-strapped 20-somethings shun home-buying and refrain from major moves in a weak job market. The new 2013 figures from the Census Bureau, underscore the impact of the sluggish economy on young people, many of them college graduates, whom demographers sometimes refer to as “Generation Wait.” Burdened with college debt or toiling in low-wage jobs, they are delaying careers, marriage and having children. Waiting anxiously for their lucky break, they are staying put and doubling up with roommates or living with Mom and Dad, unable to make long-term plans or commit to buying a home — let alone pay a mortgage.

The U.S. government sold another $1.2 billion worth of General Motors stock last month as it moves closer to selling its entire stake in the automaker. The government’s stake as of Oct. 31 was down to 4%. A report to Congress Tuesday said the government has recovered roughly $37.2 billion of the $49.5 billion it spent to save GM five years ago. That means taxpayers are still $12.3 billion in the hole. The government got 912 million shares, or a 61% stake in GM, in exchange for the bailout. A Treasury Department watchdog says the government expects to lose a net of at least $9.7 billion on the bailout.

Over 1.3 million jobless Americans are scheduled to lose federal unemployment benefits at the end of this year. That’s when an emergency program to help the long-term unemployed will expire. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when the unemployment rate climbed to more than 10%, the government extended federal benefits to jobless Americans, whose state unemployment insurance had run out. Those benefits have been either extended or expanded 11 times, since being first enacted in June 2008. The last time was in January, as part of a measure to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

Eurozone

Europe’s recovery from 18 months of recession stalled in the third quarter as exports slowed and the region’s second-biggest economy slipped back into reverse gear. The 17-nation eurozone’s first estimate of GDP showed growth of just 0.1% over the previous quarter, when the economy grew by 0.3% after contracting for six consecutive quarters through the depths of the region’s debt crisis. Germany’s rate of growth more than halved to 0.3%, while the French economy shrank by 0.1%.The figures confirm suspicions that the eurozone is struggling to generate any real momentum, as record levels of unemployment, weak investment, tight credit conditions and government austerity — albeit at a slower pace than last year — are weighing on demand.

Japan’s economy also slowed dramatically in the third quarter. The government said Thursday that the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.9% in the three months that ended Sept. 30, compared to 3.8% in the previous quarter. Weaker exports and private consumption were the main culprits.

Persecution Watch

A pastor who is serving an 11-year jail term in Vietnam for “undermining national unity” has told his wife that his life is in danger after repeated beatings by prison guards and inmates. Nguyen Cong Chinh (44), who was sentenced in March 2012, has reported the attacks to the prison authorities, but they have failed to take action against the perpetrators. Before his arrest in April 2011, the pastor had faced other forms of opposition, including the destruction of his church building, confiscation of his property and the withholding of his identity documents.

A pastor and his family have been subjected to a campaign of harassment by Cuban authorities in what appears to be an attempt forcibly to confiscate church property. Violent and abusive mobs have been sent by state security agents to surround the Rev. Yiorvis Bravo Denis’ home in Camagüey, which also serves as the national headquarters of one of the country’s largest Protestant church networks, in order to intimidate the family. They have received support from leaders and members of other churches, who have joined them inside the property in a show of solidarity. Government officials have also launched a defamation campaign against the pastor and his uncle, the Rev. Omar Gude Perez, who left Cuba earlier this year. They told members of the state media to publish defamatory articles about the pair, emphasizing that they “are not pastors, but rather common criminals”.

An Uzbekistan court has ordered the confiscation of a church group’s camp venue 13 years after it legally bought the site. Tashkent City Economic Court ruled on that the plot of land in Bostanlyk be expropriated, ordering that it be returned to its “lawful owner”, the state. The country’s Baptist Union bought the site from a restaurant chain in 2000 and has since used it for summer camps. These have been subjected to repeated raids, legal cases and media attacks.

Middle East

The Palestinian negotiating team has resigned and will not participate in peace talks with the Israelis, a spokesman for the Palestinian mission to the United Nations told CNN Wednesday. Settlement building in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank is “the issue that will make or break the negotiations,” Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakatsaid. “(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has a choice: settlements or peace; he can’t have both.” Ending the talks would be a blow to efforts by the Obama administration to get long-stalled discussions back on track.

Israel canceled controversial plans to construct thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank, hours after the announcement sparked strong criticism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel to reconsider long-term plans to build more than 20,000 units, according to a press release from Netanyahu’s office. Ariel said he would accede to Netanyahu’s request, according to the press release.

The nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last weekend broke down when France refused to agree to a deal between the US and Iran that would have lifted many of the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic due to its illegal nuclear program—which is still underway. Israeli leaders were reportedly furious that they had been “misled” (the polite, diplomatic word for lied to) by the State Department and other top US officials.

Syria

Most of the more than 1,000 jihadists who have poured into Syria to fight alongside Al Qaeda carry passports from North America and Europe, raising the possibility that they could easily bring terror back to the west. The prospect is especially chilling given that Al Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria seem determined to use the embattled nation as a haven from which to launch future attacks beyond the region. Terrorists hardened on the battlefields of Syria would not even require passports to get into the U.S., if the border with Mexico is not better protected, argued the head of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Outside support for the warring parties in Syria has helped sustain the conflict and transformed it into a proxy battle by regional powers, with Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah helping the government and with Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing the main support for the rebels. But the flow of private funds to rebel groups has added a wild-card factor to the war, analysts say, exacerbating divisions in the opposition and bolstering its most extreme elements. While the West has been hesitant to arm and finance the more secular forces that initially led the turn to armed rebellion, fighters have flocked to Islamist militias and in some cases rebranded themselves as jihadist because that is where the money is.

Iraq

The mayor of the Iraqi city of Falluja was shot to death while bombings there, in Baghdad and in another city killed 24 more people Wednesday, Adnan al-Jalbawi, Falluja’s mayor for the past three years, died in a burst of gunfire while visiting a sewage pumping station. Iraq’s Shiite-led government has blamed such killings on Sunni extremists loyal to al Qaeda in Iraq. The Baquba bombing targeted pilgrims gathering for the Shiite religious commemoration of Ashura, the holiest day of the Shiite calendar. In Baghdad, Shiite pilgrims and security forces were among the targets of gunfire and more bombs, which left 10 dead and 17 wounded in six separate incidents.

China

China will loosen its decades-old one-child policy by allowing two children for families with one parent who was an only child and will abolish a much-criticized labor camp system, its ruling Communist Party said Friday. The Chinese government credits the one-child policy introduced in 1980 with preventing hundreds of millions of births and helping lift countless families out of poverty. But the strict limits have led to forced abortions and sterilizations, even though such measures are illegal. The changes were part of a key policy document released by the official Xinhua News Agency following a four-day meeting of party leaders through Tuesday in Beijing. The labor camp — or “re-education through labor” — system was established to punish early critics of the Communist Party but now is used by local officials to deal with people challenging their authority on issues including land rights and corruption.

Environment

A new global map of deforestation reveals that 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest has vanished since 2000 based on satellite data and is the first of its kind. During that time, 309,000 square miles of new forests were gained. Of the 888,000 square miles lost and 309,000 square miles gained, about 77,000 square miles were areas that were lost between 2000 and 2012 and then re-established. The calculations are accurate down to about 100 feet, enough detail to provide useful local information while still covering the whole globe. Brazil’s efforts to slow deforestation have paid off, with about 500 square miles less loss each year. But the rest of the tropics more than made up for Brazil’s improvements with rapidly increasing losses. Indonesia saw the fastest increases in deforestation.

The world’s oceans have become 26% more acidic since the start of the Industrial Revolution and continue to acidify at an “unprecedented rate,” threatening marine ecosystems, aquaculture and the societies that rely on them, scientists say. In a report released Thursday, researchers say that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities such as fossil fuel burning are the primary cause of ocean acidification. They say the rate of change may be faster than at any time in the last 300 million years, predicting that by 2100 there will have been a 170% increase in ocean acidity, compared to pre-industrial times. Unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, marine ecosystems will be damaged and the impact of climate change will be worsened, the scientists warn.

  • The Bible prophesies that one-third of trees and oceans will be tainted in the Tribulation (Rev. 8:7-8)

Weather

Tons of food from around the world have arrived in the Philippines, but hundreds of thousands left homeless and hungry after Typhoon Haiyan have yet to get a bite of it. People who survived the typhoon that ripped through here five days ago were struggling to survive in tropical heat without food and water Wednesday as lawlessness and destroyed roads and ports made delivery of aid difficult. Though massive amounts of food and water have arrived on nearby islands and in parts of Leyte, it cannot be moved into needy areas in large amounts because there is no fuel for trucks nor have many roads been cleared. Overall, there have been 3,621 confirmed deaths, 1,140 are still missing and 12,166 were injured, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In hard hit Tacloban, Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan left boats tossed up on the shore, whole roofs and trees smothering cars and rickshaws. Its streets look more like garbage dumps, piled high with split wood, broken glass, concrete chunks. Bloated corpses still lay alongside roads covered partly by sheets and corrugated metal. As conditions grow more desperate, eight people were crushed to death when survivors stormed a government rice warehouse. Workers in Tacloban buried hundreds of its thousands of dead in a hillside mass burial Thursday as desperately needed aid began to reach some of the half-million people displaced by the disaster. Six days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, many of the dead were still lying along roads as survivors searched for bodies buried under the rubble. Philippine soldiers on trucks distributed rice and water as chainsaw-wielding teams cut debris from blocked roads. The USS George Washington aircraft carrier arrived in the Philippine Sea near the Gulf of Leyte Thursday, and will set up a position off the coast of Samar Island to provide medical and water supplies, the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: