Signs of the Times (11/26/13)

Iran Agrees to Nuclear Deal

Six world powers reached an interim agreement with Iran on its disputed nuclear program after four days of talks in Geneva. In the six-month interim deal, Iran agreed to limit nuclear activities in return for relief of up to $7 billion in sanctions that have hurt its economy. Late Saturday night, President Obama called the agreement “an important first step” but said sanctions can be reapplied if the Iranians violate it, adding “Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its (nuclear) program.” Administration officials said the deal addresses several of Israel’s most serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program — including Iran growing its supply of 20% uranium and the Arak reactor coming online. The deal provides for daily visits by international inspectors to Iran’s uranium enrichment sites in Natanz and Fordow. The deal gives Iran about $7 billion in relief on oil, gold, auto exports and educational cash reserves. Enrichment is capped but not frozen or rolled back, leaving Iran close to a breakout for a bomb. Uranium enrichment capabilities are not dismantled, as had been demanded by U.N. resolutions. The deal also allows Iran to claim the West has accepted its “right” to enrich uranium.

However, on Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the deal, calling it “a historic mistake” that leaves Iran with its nuclear capabilities mostly intact. He said Israel will not be bound by the deal, and that “Israel has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself.” The Israeli government said Sunday that a deal reached with Iran only slows a nuclear program that will still be capable of producing a bomb. There was silence from the capitals of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan — Arab countries who are extremely worried about Persians (Iran) having nuclear weapons. Bipartisan skepticism in the U.S. Senate about the Iran deal could mean a renewed push for more and tougher sanctions — and a possible veto showdown with President Obama. Even Democrats skewered Obama and the deal on talk shows Monday.

  • Iran desperately needed relief from the sanctions, but in the long-run its goals haven’t changed. They will continue to advance their nuclear program in secret, albeit at a slower pace.

Nuclear Deal Betrays U.S. Pastor Imprisoned in Iran

The Obama administration betrayed American pastor Saeed Abedini by reaching a deal with Iran that includes easing sanctions and providing humanitarian relief—a deal that leaves a U.S. citizen behind, imprisoned because of his faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is working to secure his release. “President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry turned their backs on a U.S. citizen by refusing to secure his freedom before reaching an agreement with Iran,” says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “It is outrageous and a betrayal of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has spent more than a year in an Iranian prison simply because of his Christian faith. The Obama administration has left Pastor Saeed behind. And by failing to secure his release as a precondition to any negotiations, the Obama administration sends a troubling message to the Iranian government that Americans are expendable.”

  • Obama only cares about his image and legacy, everything else is expendable

No Chance of Global Trade Deal

The director-general of the World Trade Organization says negotiators have failed to craft the first global trade deal in more than a decade, which could have given the world economy a $1 trillion boost. Diplomats from the WTO’s 159 members tried hard but “cannot cross the finish line here in Geneva” ahead of a summit in Bali, Indonesia next week where ministers were to have signed the deal. Without a deal the organization’s credibility will suffer, because it will only be viewed as a trade court and no longer as a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements.

  • Globalists suffer a setback here but the one-world government is still coming just as Revelation 13 tells us

Not Wanted: 100,000 New Medicaid Enrollees

States don’t want them, but they have to take them. More than 100,000 people were approved for Medicaid last month in the 25 states that have opted not to expand the government program, according to a CNNMoney analysis. These folks currently qualified for Medicaid, but had not enrolled. Likely drawn in by all the campaigns to enroll the uninsured, the so-called woodwork effect, they applied through the federal Obamacare exchange. Expanding Medicaid has split the nation since the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could decide whether to widen coverage to all residents up to 138% of the poverty level, or $15,900 for individuals and $32,500 for a family of four, as Obamacare called for. The federal government will pick up the total cost of the expansion for the first three years, after which the funding will phase down to 90%.

  • The unanticipated ripples from Obamacare continue to heap more costs and debt onto an already fragile economy

Up to 80 Million to Lose Employer Health Insurance

Almost 80 million people with employer health plans could find their coverage canceled because they are not compliant with ObamaCare, several experts predicted. Their losses would be in addition to the millions who found their individual coverage cancelled for the same reason. Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute said that in addition to the individual cancellations, “at least half the people on employer plans would by 2014 start losing plans as well.” There are approximately 157 million employer health care policy holders. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, anticipates half to two-thirds of small businesses would have policies canceled or be compelled to send workers onto the ObamaCare exchanges. They predicted up to 100 million small and large business policies could be canceled next year.

Obama & Democrats Take More Hits in Polls

Only four out of 10 Americans believe President Barack Obama can manage the federal government effectively, according to a new national poll. That 40% figure is down 12 percentage points from June. In addition, a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning also indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way. Obama’s woes are not limited to honesty and his managerial skills. Fifty-six percent say he is not a person they admire, and fifty-six percent also say he does not inspire confidence, while 53% don’t view him as a strong and decisive leader.

A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge. The new survey was conducted last week and released Tuesday.

Newsroom Protests Against White House Spread

Over thirty-five news agencies are boycotting the use of official White House photography over what it says is an unprecedented lack of access to the president. Last Thursday, a coalition of major news organizations including the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, and CNN protested their photojournalists being locked out of public events in a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,” the letter said. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”

  • The Narcissist-in-Chief doesn’t like to be seen when things are going bad and his poll numbers are down

Oregon Ballot Initiative to Protect Religious Freedom

A Christian organization in Oregon has filed a ballot initiative that would protect business owners against lawsuits and other penalties in the event that they decline to directly or indirectly participate in a same-sex “wedding.” The Oregon Family Council filed the proposal, entitled the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, on Thursday in light of the lawsuits and complaints lodged in recent months against several bakers, florists and photographers in the nation. Current non-discrimination laws prohibit businesses from refusing service based on “race, color, religion, sex [or] sexual orientation.” Earlier this year, the Christian owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham were placed under investigation after they declined to make a cake for a lesbian ceremony. The business states that it was soon forced to close its doors and operate from home due to protests and harassment from homosexuals.

  • Such ‘harassment’ needs to be prosecuted under the new ‘hate crimes’ law

NSA Steals Internet Data

The recent revelation that the National Security Agency was able to eavesdrop on the communications of Google and Yahoo users without breaking into either companies’ data centers sounded like something pulled from a Robert Ludlum spy thriller notes the New York Times. How on earth, the companies asked, did the N.S.A. get their data without them knowing about it? People knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo’s infrastructure say they believe that government spies bypassed the big Internet companies and hit them at a weak spot — the fiber-optic cables that connect data centers around the world that are owned by companies like Verizon Communications, the BT Group, the Vodafone Group and Level 3 Communications. In particular, fingers have been pointed at Level 3, the world’s largest so-called Internet backbone provider, whose cables are used by Google and Yahoo. The Internet companies’ data centers are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners. But between the data centers — on Level 3’s fiber-optic cables that connected those massive computer farms — information was unencrypted and an easier target for government intercept efforts.

Economic News

The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students. The $41.3 billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but it’s a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil cleared $44.9 billion in 2012, and Apple cleared $41.7 billion. Congress is expected to take a look at the issue in the coming months.

  • These profits are grossly unfair for a government program presumably designed to help students, not saddle them with a heavy debt load that will burden them for decades

Persecution Watch

The United Bible Society has reported a sharp increase in the number of Christian Scriptures distributed in some of the countries where believers suffer the highest levels of persecution. Statistics show that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. However, recent figures released from Bible Societies around the world indicate that more Christian Scriptures were distributed than ever before in 2012. Global Scripture distribution rose from just over 381 million in 2011 to more than 405 million in 2012; an increase of 6%Of the 405 million distributed, 32.1 million were whole Bibles, which matched 2011’s record-breaking year of Bible distribution. Surprisingly, the highest increase was in Syria, which is facing huge humanitarian crises as a result of ongoing conflict across the country. Despite this, over eight times more Scriptures were distributed by the Bible Society, through a network of church volunteers, in 2012 than 2011; 163,000 in total last year.

  • Just as with the twelve disciples, persecution opens the door for evangelism

Middle East

The Saudi Arabian king and his envoys — like the Israelis — have spent weeks lobbying fruitlessly against the interim nuclear accord with Iran that was reached in Geneva on Sunday. In the end, there was little they could do: The Obama administration saw the nuclear talks in a fundamentally different light from the Saudis, who fear that any letup in the sanctions will come at the cost of a wider and more dangerous Iranian role in the Middle East. Although the Saudis remain close American allies, the nuclear accord is the culmination of a slow mutual disenchantment that began at the end of the Cold War.

For decades, Washington depended on Saudi Arabia — a country of 30 million people but the Middle East’s largest reserves of oil — to shore up stability in the region. The Saudis used their role as the dominant power in OPEC to help rein in Iraq and Iran, and they supported bases for the American military, anchoring American influence in the Middle East and beyond. But the Arab uprisings altered the balance of power across the Middle East, especially with the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of both the Saudis and the Americans.

Syria

The Syrian government and opposition groups will hold peace talks early next year, the first time the parties will convene for negotiations since the beginning of the conflict in Syria that has left tens of thousands dead and displaced millions from their homes. The development was announced Monday by the United Nations. The international body will sponsor the talks to be held in Geneva on January 22, 2014. The conflict started in March 2011 and previous attempts to bring the two sides together have failed.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s president says he won’t immediately sign a security deal with the United States, ignoring a recommendation by an assembly of Afghan elders and leaders that he do so by the end of the year. Hamid Karzai spoke after the Loya Jirga issued its statement Sunday. He argued Afghanistan needed more time to ensure that the United States was committed to peace in the country. The chairman of the 2,500-member national consultative council approved the deal and asked that it be signed by the end of 2013.

Libya

Seven Libyan soldiers were killed and more than 39 injured in heavy clashes between the Libyan army and members of an Islamist group believed to be behind last year’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission. The clashes erupted Sunday night in eastern city of Benghazi between the military and members of Ansar al-Sharia. They continued into Monday morning. The fighting was intense and Islamist fighters used mortars and rocket propelled grenades.By midday, residents reported a tense calm. Schools were closed. And, according to local media reports, security forces secured the main roads and entrances into the city.

Iraq

At least 19 people were killed and 43 others were wounded in explosions and shootings across Iraq on Monday. The deadliest incident happened at the busy al-Sadriya outdoor commercial market in central Baghdad, as a hidden bomb there exploded, killing nine people and wounded 25 others. Violence continues to escalate between Shiite and Sunni sects.

Pakistan

Trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to Afghanistan remained stuck in Pakistan on Tuesday as concern lingered about demonstrators seeking to stop the vehicles in protest of U.S. drone strikes. Most trucks carrying both NATO supplies and commercial goods to neighboring Afghanistan stopped three days ago when the protests began in northwest Pakistan. Police intervened Monday to stop the protesters from halting trucks. But transportation companies did not yet feel comfortable enough to resume their shipments

Thailand

Three years after bloody street protests left more than 90 dead and thousands injured, Thailand’s simmering political tensions are once again threatening to boil over. Weeks of protests against have escalated into an attempt by opposition leaders to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Pheu Thai Party. The opposition group called for a rally of 1 million supporters in Bangkok on Sunday to protest a government they claim is deeply corrupt and still under the control of Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed former prime minister. The protesters hope to display enough popular support Sunday to convince civil servants, the police and the military to join their cause. Protesters in Thailand’s capital swarmed the Finance Ministry compound Monday, overrunning several buildings and cutting electricity in an escalating campaign to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. Thailand’s embattled Prime Minister faces a no-confidence motion in parliament Tuesday.

Ukraine

Ukrainians angry at their government’s last-minute decision to suspend talks with the EU clashed for a second day with police in the capital Kiev on Monday. A day earlier, tens of thousands of protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings. On both occasions, police responded with batons and tear gas to disperse them. At the heart of the protests is Ukraine’s about-turn after a year of insisting that it was intent on signing a historic political and trade agreement with the European Union.

China

A murky Islamic militant group has described a deadly attack in China’s Tiananmen Square last month as a “jihadi operation” and warned of more violence to come, according to an organization that monitors extremist websites. Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party (T.I.P.), said those who carried out the attack in the heavily policed center of Beijing were “mujahideen,” the SITE Intelligence Group said in a report late last week. On October 28, a vehicle drove through security barriers into a crowd in Tiananmen Square, crashed into a pedestrian bridge in front of the Forbidden City and burst into flames. The attack killed five people — including the three in the vehicle — and wounded 40 others.

Environment

The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane – a potent heat-trapping gas – than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn’t stay in the air as long. Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

A potential ban on plastic foam food containers in a city that thrives on takeout proved a piping-hot topic among lawmakers Monday, as they debated the material’s pros, cons and prospects for recycling. An environmental bane to some, a food-service staple to others, the familiar foam to-go cups, plates and cartons already are prohibited in San Francisco and dozens of other U.S. cities and could be on their way out in New YoThe City Council is weighing competing proposals, including a measure that would outlaw the containers after a year’s inquiry to see whether the tons of containers could be effectively recycled instead – a possibility ban backers and opponents vehemently dispute. The city’s plastics recycler says it’s not workable right now.

Volcanoes

Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, has erupted again, showering volcanic ash on towns dotting the mountain’s slopes and nearby Taormina, Sicily. The eruption Saturday did not force any evacuations, but a highway was closed for half an hour as a precaution. Authorities also briefly closed two of four air corridors serving the nearby Catania airport but air traffic was not interrupted. Etna experiences minor eruptions occasionally. Its last major eruption occurred in 1992.

Weather

A wave of Arctic cold blamed for at least twelve deaths as it blasted California and the Southwest with heavy rains, flooding, snow and sleet will continue its assault across much of the nation and threatens to bring havoc to Thanksgiving travel this week. An Arctic air mass will probably keep temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal along the East Coast through Thursday. The storm has already left more than 100 wrecks. Passengers on nearly 500 flights out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had to find alternate routes when the storm iced the area over the weekend. But the snowy weather has yet to hit its target. It should finish icing up New England by Friday. The weather may put a further dent in the trip home, as winds rev up to 40 miles per hour as the holiday wraps up.

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