Signs of the Times (12/7/13)

Mandela’s Faith was His Foundation

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon, died Thursday. One facet of his life the mainstream media leave out of their reports is that he was a strong, lifetime Christian. One of Nelson Mandela’s famous quotes was also an expression of a deeply Christian idea – “until I changed myself, I could not change others”. That expression of being born again, the need for internal revival before one can lead others to their own change, was just one of many expressions of faith Nelson Mandela shared throughout his life. He attended a Methodist church school growing up, and was baptized in a small Methodist stone church in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu. In his autobiography, “The Long Walk to Freedom” he talked of his early experiences with Christianity, praising its engagements with the society around him: “The Church was as concerned with this world as the next: I saw that virtually all of the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about through the missionary work of the Church.”

Abortion Rates Fall to Lowest Level in Over 30 Years

The Center for Disease Control expanded on its figures it released last week showing that abortions dropped another three percent in 2010 and are down 8 percent over the last two years. The new report shows the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest point in over 30 years. The new report says:  “The abortion rate has dropped almost continuously since 1980. The abortion rate in 2009 (18.5) was 32% lower than in 1990 (27.4). The 2009 abortion rate for teenagers (16.6 per 1,000) was less than one-half the rate in 1991 (37.4) and 1990 (40.3).” Among pregnant unmarried women, the abortion rate fell from 47.7 per 1,000 in 1990 to 28.9 per 1,000 in 2009. Among pregnant married women, the abortion rate fell from 10.6 per 1,000 to 6.1 per 1,000 over the same time. Combined, the rate fell about a third and is the lowest since 1976 — just three years after the Supreme Court allowed virtually unlimited abortions in Roe v. Wade. The pregnancy rate also declined to its second-lowest level in 30 years, falling from 115.8 per 1,000 to 102.1 per 1,000, with the largest declines coming in teen pregnancy rates. The abortion rate among teens has not fallen as dramatically as the pregnancy rate.

  • This ongoing victory is the result of strong prayer and activism efforts. However, the curse of shed blood continues to stain America’s spiritual landscape, requiring even more warfare.

Obama Lied About Kenyan Uncle

In yet another example of White House dissembling and the subservient mainstream media rolling over, the White House admitted Thursday that Liar-in-Chief Obama not only knows a Kenyan uncle who faced deportation, but that the president lived with this uncle in the eighties. When asked in 2011, the White House said there was no record of the two ever meeting. The media accepted that false information without ever following up or even asking if the president had been asked. The Boston Globe now reports that at a recent deportation hearing, the president’s uncle, Onyango Obama, testified that “his famous nephew had stayed at his Cambridge apartment for about three weeks. At the time, Onyango Obama was here illegally and fighting deportation.” Obviously, this testimony directly contradicted the 2011 statement from the White House. Faced with the contradiction, the White house offered the following explanation: “The press office had not fully researched the relationship between the president and his uncle before telling the Globe that they had no record of the two meeting. This time, the press office asked the president directly, which they had not done in 2011.”

  • What a terrible moral example the leader of the once-free world has set for our youth, exhibiting virtually all the end-time personality characteristics enumerated in 2Timothy 3:1-5

Obamacare the Biggest Expansion of Welfare State in U.S. History

Obamacare is going to be the biggest expansion of the welfare state in U.S. history.  It is being projected that a decade from now 17 million Americans will be receiving Obamacare subsidies and an additional 21 million Americans will have been added to the Medicaid rolls.  In addition, it is being projected that bringing millions upon millions of new people into the Medicaid program will also cause enrollment in many other federal welfare programs such as food stamps to surge.  At a time when we are already running trillion dollar deficits, is this really something that the government should be taking on?  Right now, the percentage of Americans that are financially dependent on the U.S. government is already at an all-time high, and Obamacare is going to cause the level of government dependence to go much, much higher.

  • How much weight can the “safety net” actually carry before it breaks entirely? We’re going to find out the hard way.

Internet Giant Offered to Build Obamacare Website for Free

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told Bill Hemmer on America’s Newsroom Thursday that an unidentified internet ‘giant’ offered to build the Obamacare website for free. This was confirmed during testimony today before a Congressional committee. Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman, said the Obama White House turned down the offer. The Obama administration blew over a billion dollars so far to build the failed Obamacare website when they could have had it done better for nothing.

  • But then Obama’s tech buddies wouldn’t have received vast sums for their shoddy work.

3.7 Million Visited HealthCare.gov This Past Week

More than 3.7 million people visited HealthCare.gov since the website was upgraded last weekend, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Friday. Also, CMS communications director Julie Bataille said, the percentage of duplicate or incorrect forms from the website to insurers has dropped from 25% to 10%.”This week, the site remains stable and experienced no unexpected downtime,” Bataille said. As technicians fixed the initial problems that plagued the site since its Oct. 1 opening, many of the other problems that had been causing difficulties with insurer forms were also fixed. However, the Obama administration announced Friday that enrollment records for one in four Americans who selected health plans on HealthCare.gov in October and November could contain errors, raising concerns that consumers who think they have coverage won’t actually be enrolled on Jan. 1.

Mass Hack Attack Affects 2 Million Internet Accounts

Almost 2 million accounts on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and other social media and Internet sites have been breached, according to a Trustwave, a Chicago-based cybersecurity firm. The hackers stole 1.58 million website login credentials and 320,000 e-mail account credentials, among other items, the firm Trustwave reported. Included in the breaches were thefts of 318,121 passwords from Facebook, 59,549 from Yahoo, 54,437 from Google, 21,708 from Twitter and 8,490 from LinkedIn. The list also includes 7,978 from ADP, the payroll service provider. ADP, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter told CNN they have notified users and reset passwords for compromised accounts. Google declined to comment.

States Not Expanding Medicare to Lose Billions in Federal Funds

The 20 states choosing not to expand Medicaid will lose billions of dollars in federal funds, according to a new study released Thursday. By 2022, Texas could lose $9.2 billion by not expanding Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, while Florida could lose $5 billion over that period. Georgia could lose $2.9 billion, while Virginia could lose $2.8 billion. “There are no states where the taxpayers would actually gain by not expanding Medicaid,” said Sherry Glied, lead author on the study. Under the Affordable Care Act, states may expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone who falls beneath 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $32,500 for a family of four. Many of the states not expanding Medicare have said increasing Medicaid coverage would add to the federal deficit. Others have long opposed the law since its passage in 2010.

Arizona Forestry Division Fined over Yarnell Hill Fire that Killed 19

Arizona forestry officials knowingly disregarded wildfire-planning rules, sent crews into hazardous areas without adequate safety provisions and then failed to withdraw 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots as the Yarnell Hill Fire raged toward them last summer, a state safety commission ruled Wednesday. The Arizona Division of Forestry has been fined $559,000 by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health for workplace violations during the Yarnell Hill fire that left 19 elite firefighters dead. The state forestry division has 15 days to appeal the citations, which accuse the organization of mismanaging the fire when it failed to prioritize the safety of firefighters over the protection of non-defensible structures and property. It also accuses the state forestry division of failing to develop the necessary action plans and fire analysis to combat the wildfire as well as failing to provide necessary and key incident command personnel. The report could result in criminal charges against the state agency and its employees, legal sources say.

Deal to Boost Global Trade Reached at WTO Summit

A deal to boost global trade has been approved by the World Trade Organization’s 159 member economies for the first time in nearly two decades, keeping alive the possibility that a broader agreement to create a level playing field for rich and poor countries can be reached in the future. “We have put the world back into the World Trade Organization,” TO Director-General Roberto Azevedosaid. “For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered.” Trade ministers had come to the four-day WTO meeting on the resort island of Bali with little hope that an agreement would be reached after years of inertia in trade negotiations. The centerpiece of the agreement reached in Bali was measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.

  • Another step toward a one-world government, not necessarily a bad thing, but Scripture prophesies that it will become the instrument of Satan and the anti-Christ to take control (Rev. 13:7-8)

Regulation Nation

A new report on the government’s regulatory actions was released just before Thanksgiving, and it contains more than 3,300 rules — which the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) estimates will, together with other regulations, cost more than $1.8 trillion to implement on an annual basis. At a time when the economy is still struggling to zoom out of its post-recession rut, businesses worry that the crush of regulation is another sandbag weighing down the recovery. “Back in the ’90s, the federal budget itself was not even $1.8 trillion,” said Wayne Crews, vice president of policy for CEI. “Now we have this entire $1.8 trillion hidden tax of government compliance and intervention cost imposed in the economy.”

America in Worse Fiscal Shape than Detroit

Boston University Economics Professor, Laurence Kotlikoff, says, “The country is in worse fiscal shape by many miles than Detroit.  So, the country is essentially bankrupt.”  Dr. Kotlikoff estimates the long term debt and liabilities of America are more than $200 trillion.  He is spearheading a bill in Congress called The Inform Act.  It is an attempt to wake up the nation to our dire financial situation so something can be done to fix this enormous problem.  Dr. Kotlikoff explains, “The bill has been endorsed by over 1,000 economists, including fifteen Nobel Prize winners in economics . . .Never in the history of this country have this many top economists from all political persuasions endorsed a piece of legislation like this.”  Dr. Kotlikoff and his fellow economists all contend, “The country needs to do honest accounting.”  The professor charges the government is “disguising the true problem.”   Dr. Kotlikoff says, “The government is printing mountains of money to pay its bills.  The Fed is printing 29 cents of every dollar that Uncle Sam is spending.”

  • The coming economic meltdown will be far worse than the recent so-called Great Recession

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.0% — the lowest level since November 2008. This is encouraging news for the 11 million Americans who remain unemployed. The job market has been improving for three years now, but at a frustratingly slow pace. Still, the job market has a long way to go until it’s entirely healed. The United States lost 8.7 million jobs in the aftermath of the financial crisis. As of November, it had gained about 7.4 million of those jobs back.

Only about 63% of Americans over the age of 16 participate in the job market — meaning they either have a job or are looking for one. This percentage is near its lowest levels since 1978, driven partly by Baby Boomers retiring, but also by workers simply giving up hope.

Benefits for 1.3 million workers will expire Dec. 28 if Congress fails to extend a recession-era program by the end of this month. President Obama’s is pushing Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits by another year, and Republicans say they’re willing to consider the idea. The White House Council of Economic Advisers and Department of Labor issued a joint report touting how jobless benefits buoy the economy, while keeping 2.5 million workers out of poverty each year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, declining for a third straight week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 10,750 to 322,250, the lowest level this year.

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose sharply this week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.46% from 4.29% last week. Rates have risen a full percentage point since May after the Federal Reserve signaled it might slow its bond purchases by year’s end.

Persecution Watch

France has warned that the Central African Republic is “on the verge of genocide” as the Christian majority continues to be terrorized by rampaging Islamist fighters. The country has been in a state of anarchy since a coup by the Seleka rebels in March, which resulted in the installation of CAR’s first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia. Although he dissolved the 25,000-strong Seleka militia in September, many have been absorbed into the army or else have refused to disarm, continuing their killing, raping and looting atrocities. The Muslim fighters have targeted Christian communities, razing entire villages to the ground.

A missionary has been killed and several churches set ablaze in attacks by Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram in neighboring Cameroon. The Nigerian missionary, David Dina Mataware, with the Christian Missionary Foundation (CMF), was killed recently by suspected Boko Haram militants in Ashigashia, a village which straddles the Nigeria-Cameroon border. He was murdered on the same day as the kidnapping of a French priest, Father Georges Vandenbeusch, but the death was not reported by the media, a church leader told World Watch Monitor, even though both incidents happened in the same area. The kidnap was claimed by Boko Haram “in an operation coordinated with Ansaru,” its spokesman told Agence France Presse. Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter group that has attacked several Western and Nigerian targets.

Middle East

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opened the door for the U.S. to sell missile defense and other weapons systems to U.S.-friendly Gulf nations, with an eye toward boosting their abilities to counter Iran’s ballistic missiles. Hagel made it clear that the emerging global agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t mean the security threat from Iran is over. Instead, he laid out steps to beef up defense cooperation in the Gulf region, while at the same time insisting that America’s military commitment to the Middle East will continue.

  • How many times do we have to arm Muslim nations only to have them turn on us later?

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jerusalem Wednesday evening for another round of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, indications abounded that the Israeli officials he will be meeting with are for more interested in discussing Iran than the Palestinians and the PA officials, for their part, have publicly voiced doubts and pessimism over the future of the peace process. “US bias in favor of Israel does not serve peace,” declared PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi.

Syria

Syrian activists say government airstrikes on a rebel-held city have killed at least 12 people, including five children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the air raids — seven strikes in total — hit the northeastern city of Raqqa on Saturday. Rebels captured Raqqa, the capital of the province of the same name, in March. It’s the only major urban center to fall entirely under opposition control since the Syrian co

A group of chemical weapons declared by Syria has been destroyed, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Friday. The weapons, labeled Category 3 chemical weapons, are unfilled munitions or other equipment designated to deploy chemical agents. The OPCW also verified that parts of buildings that housed chemical weapons production facilities have been destroyed.

Iran

In 2013, the Iranian regime executed over 500 people, jailed over 800 political prisoners and added over 3,000 centrifuges to bring its total to 19,000. The interim agreement reached in Geneva leaves Iran with the ability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb in 2 months. Further, it does not address the regime’s sponsorship of terrorism and daily human rights violations, reports United Against Nuclear Iran, a program of the non-profit American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc.

Afghanistan

Coalition and Afghan officials are continuing to plan for a U.S. military advisory role after 2014 when the current combat mission ends despite the political uncertainty created by President Hamid Karzai’s reluctance to sign a security agreement, U.S. officials say. Karzai’s reluctance to sign the agreement soon has raised the prospect that all coalition forces could be removed by the end of next year. “I have not been told to plan for a zero option, but clearly, I understand that it is a possibility, given the current impasse,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Yemen

Militants staged a deadly attack on Yemen’s Defense Ministry on Thursday, ramming the building with an explosives-laden vehicle, followed by gunmen who battled security forces inside. At least 30 people, including four foreign doctors, died in the attack in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa as well as 10 soldiers and 9 militants. The initial blast was powerful enough to damage surrounding structures. It took several hours for security forces to regain control of the building. Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed by many analysts to be the most dangerous affiliate of the terror network.

Central African Republic

Months after a coup escalated chaos and violence in the Central African Republic, a French military operation has begun in the capital, Bangui, France’s defense minister said Friday. The French deployment, along with that of African forces, was unanimously approved Thursday by the U.N. Security Council. The council also voted to impose an arms embargo on the Central African Republic, which is east of Cameroon and north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Security Council resolution, put forward by France, authorizes an African Union-led peacekeeping force to intervene with the support of French forces to protect civilians, restore humanitarian access and stabilize the country. After two days of clashes in the capital, the number of corpses delivered to a hospital morgue in the city rose Friday afternoon to 92, with 170 people treated for injuries. Violence has raged in the country since a coalition of rebels deposed President Francois Bozize in March, the latest in a series of coups since the nation gained independence. Christian vigilante groups have formed to battle Seleka, the predominantly Muslim coalition behind the president’s removal.

Environment

Severe pollution choked Shanghai and other cities in China for a second day Friday, disrupting hundreds of flights and forcing schools to close. Residents of Shanghai — a city of 23 million — woke up Thursday to heavy smog, which cut visibility to below 200 meters in most districts. International flights, ferries and long-distance bus services were canceled or delayed, and children and the elderly were told to stay indoors. China’s leaders are facing growing pressure to clean up the country’s air after decades of prioritizing economic growth over environmental standards. A study published earlier this year found that severe pollution has slashed an average of five and a half years from life expectancy in northern China. Researchers found higher rates of stroke, heart disease and cancer among people living north of China’s Huai River.

Wildlife workers in boats struggled unsuccessfully Wednesday to coax nearly four dozen pilot whales out of dangerous shallow waters in Florida’s Everglades National Park, hoping to spare them the fate of 10 others that already had died. The whales are stranded in a remote area near Highland Beach, the western boundary of Everglades National Park and about 20 miles east of where they normally live. It takes more than an hour to reach the spot from the nearest boat ramp and there is no cellphone service, complicating rescue efforts. Rescuers were trying to surround the whales, which were in roughly 3 feet of salt water about 75 feet from shore, and herd them back to sea, but so far the whales are not cooperating. The short-finned pilot whales typically live in very deep water and are known for their close-knit social groups, meaning if one whale gets stuck or stays behind, the others are likely to stay behind or even beach themselves as well. Pilot whales are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the killer whale.

Weather

Arctic air has spread across the western states and into the Plains and Upper Midwest Wednesday with temperatures falling as low as 37 degrees below zero in Wyoming. Denver recorded a low of 13 degrees below zero which beat the old record of 5 degrees below zero set in 2008. Other record lows included Ely, Nevada (-17), Great Falls, Montana (-23) and Medford, Oregon (-18). Wednesday’s official high in Dallas was 80 but Thursday night brought freezing rain, sleet and a low in the 20s. It’s turned travel into a nightmare, left regions freezing in bone-chilling darkness, and made snow over the neon lights of Las Vegas a possibility.

A treacherous ice storm coated everything in its path Thursday with up to an inch of frozen water from Texas to Tennessee where 426,000 electricity customers are without power. The governors of Tennessee and Arkansas declared states of emergency ahead of the storm. More than 181,000 customers were without power in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area as of Friday morning. People across the country prepared for icy conditions expected to last through the weekend after cold rain and winds lashed the south-central U.S. on Friday, killing at least four, disrupting thousands of flights, and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands.

Gale-force winds hit Scotland on Thursday, leaving thousands of homes without electricity. Winds gusting up to 114 miles per hour were measured in the Scottish Highlands, and many roads and bridges were closed. All train services in Scotland were suspended. Thousands of people in Britain face a second day of flooding Friday as the country confronts its worst tidal surge in 60 years after a powerful storm with hurricane-force gusts roared across northern Europe. Traffic ground to a halt on icy highways and train service was canceled in large parts of Sweden. Tens of thousands of people lost electricity. Scores of flights were canceled at airports in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland. More than 1,000 people spent the night at Copenhagen airport where 200 flights were canceled.

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