Signs of the Times (12/10/13)

Kansas City School Bans Christian Posters, Allows Profane Ones

OneNewsNow.com reports that the Alliance Defending Freedom organization has stepped in and filed a lawsuit on behalf of a seventh-grader who was confronted at a school dance by a school counselor who traumatized the student by telling her what she was doing was “illegal.” According to ADF, officials at Robert E. Clark Middle School destroyed the flyers after tearing them down, resulting in only a few students getting word of the September event. “That negative response from the school – being pulled out, called out at a dance and reprimanded for putting up your posters when everything else under the sun has been allowed – absolutely was traumatic for her,” says Matt Sharp, ADF legal counsel. A variety of posted material can be found on the campus, says ADF, including a hand-made poster of a tombstone with the letters “R.I.P.” and a poster of rap artist Lil Wayne with the words “Good Kush and Alcohol” – a reference to one of his profanity-laden songs that demeans women and glorifies sexual promiscuity.

  • The anti-Christ spirit has blinded unbelievers to such an extent that they can no longer see or understand the ludicrousness of their hostile antipathy.

Judge Rules Baker Must Provide Wedding Services to Gay Couples despite Religious Convictions

A Denver baker who adamantly refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding must offer his services to gay couples, a judge ruled last Friday. Judge Robert N. Spencer said Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips must comply with the order despite his religious beliefs or pay fines, according to the Associated Press. The order reportedly said his shop discriminated against a couple “because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage.” The baker’s lawyer, however, said the order forces him to violate his religious beliefs. Nicolle Martin, an attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop, said the judge’s order puts Phillips in an impossible position of having to choose between making a living and adhering to his Christian faith.

School Bans Christmas and the Colors Red & Green

Godfatherpolitics.com writes, “Progress report from the front lines of the war on Christmas — you know, the war that according to atheists, leftists and the lamestream media doesn’t exist? An elementary school in Frisco, Texas, under the pretense of not offending anyone, has banned talk of Christmas or the wearing of red and green from its annual ‘Winter Party.’ In an email, Nichols Elementary School’s PTA told parents that children attending the Winter Party would be forbidden from mentioning Christmas or any other religious holiday, wearing red or green, or displaying Christmas trees. Not only is the school being politically hyper-correct, it’s also breaking Texas’ “Merry Christmas Law,” which was passed to prevent just this sort of liberal nonsense.”

Supreme Court to Decide Obamacare Abortion Mandate

The American Center for Law & Justice is challenging Obamacare’s mandate for health insurance to cover the Plan B, morning-after abortion pill. The ACLJ says, “The Obama Administration’s abortion-pill mandate represents one of the worst violations of religious liberty in our nation’s history. President Obama’s edict forcing Americans to violate their faith – to pay for life-ending abortion pills – is blatantly unconstitutional. The ACLJ has been challenging the HHS Mandate since day one – successfully stopping enforcement against our clients in all seven of our cases. Now, one of our cases is pending before the Supreme Court, and the high Court will decide the fate of the Mandate. We are preparing to file one of the most important Supreme Court amicus briefs in ACLJ history.”

Planned Parenthood Pushes Sex Ed on Five-Year-Olds in New Zealand

The New Zealand Family Planning Association is an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation [IPPF]. The NZFPA wants five year olds to know what a condom is. Lifenews.com observes, “We are now depriving very young children of their innocence and initiating them into the web of sexualization that permeates our society. The Federation is at the forefront of promoting a worldwide culture of death. Family Planning proclaims that they support the right of women to choose, this is a lie. The China Family Planning Association is a member of the IPPF. The IPPF supports China’s one child family planning policy with forced abortions, sterilizations and imprisonment for those who dare violate this policy.”

Congress Races against End-of-Year Clock

Payments to doctors, the price of milk, long-term jobless benefits and more are all on the line this week as lawmakers scramble to beat several end-of-year deadlines — and all by Friday. Though Dec. 31 is still a few weeks away, congressional sources say the House plans to adjourn at the end of this week. With the Senate returning from its latest recess on Monday that leaves just five days when both chambers are in session. After a year in which little was accomplished even by congressional standards, the deadlines are piling up. Lawmakers are also facing a Jan. 15 deadline to pass a budget or risk another partial government shutdown, though congressional negotiators reportedly are closing in on a possible deal. Long-term unemployment aid, a prickly issue on the Hill, is expected to expire on Dec. 28 for 1.3 million workers who’ve been without a job for longer than six months. Ahead of a very busy week, congressional leaders got to work trading blame for the lack of progress to date.

Obama: Final Iran Deal Less Than ‘50/50’

President Obama said Saturday that he believed that the chances of a final, comprehensive nuclear agreement being struck with Iran are less than 50-50.  However, Obama defended the interim deal struck between the U.S., Iran, and five other world powers last month in Geneva, saying that diplomacy had to be tested as a solution to the crisis and was the best way to prevent Tehran from acquiring automatic weapons. The president’s remark was startling. Obama has tried to allay the fears of many Israelis and some Americans that his administration last month promised to ease economic pressure too much in return for too few Iranian concessions. The comment nevertheless pointed to the difficult talks that await as the U.S. and its negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — work toward a final pact next year.

  • Diplomacy only aids and abets a rogue nation hell-bent on destroying Israel and establishing Islam as the world’s religion through violent force

Tech Giants Form Coalition against NSA Snooping

Torched by disclosures the National Security Agency tapped into its data and spied on people and businesses, some of tech’s biggest names have banded together to form what is essentially an anti-NSA coalition. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo lead the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, announced late tonight, to rein in the vast tentacles of the NSA and — perhaps — salve the worries of privacy-conscious consumers. The coalition hopes to limit the federal government’s authority to collect user information, protect citizens’ privacy, and impose more legislative oversight and accountability of organizations like the NSA. Each of the participating companies — which also include LinkedIn and AOL — have taken technological, legal and PR steps to assure customers that their personal information is safe, in hopes of preserving their brand names and not losing business in the U.S. and abroad. That may be the case in China, where IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and, most notably, Cisco Systems have reported substantial drops in sales since the NSA surveillance program came to light.

More Obamacare Website Woes

The federal health care exchange is incorrectly determining that some people are eligible for Medicaid when they clearly are not, leaving them with little chance to get the subsidized insurance they are entitled to as the Dec. 23 deadline for enrollment approaches. When consumers applying for insurance put their income information into subsidy calculators on HealthCare.gov — the exchange handling insurance sales for 36 states — it tells them how much financial assistance they qualify for or that they are eligible for Medicaid. If it’s the latter, consumers aren’t able to obtain subsidies toward the insurance, although they could buy full-priced plans. Brokers are reporting that some of their clients are in insurance limbo as they wait for the error to be corrected by HHS or their states so they can reapply.

For months, the Obama administration has heralded the low premiums of medical insurance policies on sale in the insurance exchanges created by the new health law. But as consumers dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans, reports the New York Times. Until now, it was almost impossible for people using the federal health care website to see the deductible amounts, which consumers pay before coverage kicks in. But federal officials finally relented last week and added a “window shopping” feature that displays data on deductibles.

Calif. Health Exchange Shares Consumers’ Data Without Permission

The California health exchange has admitted it has been divulging contact information for tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage. Covered California said it was handing out consumer information as part of a pilot program to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by the new year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options, but didn’t ask to be contacted. Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, but names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses were made available, exchange officials said.

  • Online data is never truly private or safe, but government giveaways of personal info is outrageous

NSA Not Only Agency Tracking Cellphone Data

The National Security Agency isn’t the only government entity secretly collecting data from people’s cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not, according to public records obtained by USA TODAY,

About one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a “tower dump,” which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers, and wireless providers, and can net information from thousands of phones. At least 25 police departments own a Stingray, a suitcase-size device that costs as much as $400,000 and acts as a fake cell tower. The system, typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood, tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police. The federal government funds most of the purchases, via anti-terror grants.

Economic News

A surging stock market and a steady recovery in home prices drove Americans’ wealth to a record last quarter. The nation’s wealth rose 2.6% from July through September to $77.3 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. Household wealth has been rising gradually since bottoming at $57.2 trillion in 2008. Early this year, America finally regained all the wealth it had lost to the Great Recession. When Americans feel richer, they typically spend more and fuel economic growth.

U.S. taxpayers no longer own any of automaker General Motors. The Treasury sold the last of its remaining 31.1 million GM shares today. It started with 500 million shares in 2010. The taxpayer loss on the GM bailout is $10.5 billion. The Treasury department said it recovered $39 billion from selling its GM stake, and had put $49.5 billion of taxpayer money directly into the GM bailout.

There are more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, according to the New York Times.

Persecution Watch

A Christian woman was recently held by Muslim terrorists in Nigeria and ordered to convert to Islam or die. Nineteen-year-old Hajja told Reuters she was held by the group Boko Haram and told to renounce Christianity or perish. Members of Boko Haram threatened to slit her throat if she did not give up her faith in Christ. Hajja’s last name has not been released as she has family in northern Nigeria, who could be in danger if identified. “They told me I must become a Muslim, but I refused again and again,” Hajja said. “They were about to slaughter me, and one of them begged me not to resist and just before I had my throat slit, I relented. They put a veil on me and made me read from the Koran.” Boko Haram made Hajja a domestic slave. She was forced to clean and prepare meals for the terrorist militia. Hajja’s testimony of captivity included Boko Haram using her as bait to lure civilian Nigerians working with the military into death traps. She witnessed Boko Haram militia slashing the throats of captured civilians.

  • What does it say about a religion that forces conversion under the threat of death? That it’s of Satan, that’s what.

Thailand

Desperate to defuse Thailand’s deepening political crisis, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house of Parliament on Monday and called for early elections. But the moves did nothing to stem a growing tide of more than 150,000 protesters vowing to overthrow her in one of the nation’s largest demonstrations in years. Analysts said the steps came too late and are unlikely to satisfy opponents who want to rid Thailand of her powerful family’s influence. The protesters are pushing for a non-elected “people’s council” to replace her democratically elected government. Thailand has been plagued by major bouts of upheaval since Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled in a 2006 army coup that laid bare a deeper conflict between the elite and educated middle class against Thaksin’s power base in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies designed to win over the rural poor.

South Korea/China

South Korea on Sunday announced an expansion of its air defense zone following China’s move to establish a similar zone that has been criticized by Beijing’s neighbors. The new South Korean zone includes a submerged reef that is South Korean-controlled but also claimed by China and enlarged parts of airspace that is also covered by the Chinese zone. The new South Korean zone also overlaps with parts of the Japanese air defense zone. South Korea earlier requested China to redraw its air defense zone because it partly overlaps with South Korea’s but Beijing rejected it. The U.S., Japan and other countries have also protested the Chinese zone. Beijing said last month that all aircraft entering the vast area must identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions. U.S., Japan and South Korea have flown military reconnaissance flights in the area without notifying China in defiance of Beijing’s announcement.

Earthquakes

A magnitude-4.5 earthquake recoded in central Oklahoma by the U.S. Geological Survey has been followed by two smaller earthquakes. No injuries or damage were reported. The USGS says the magnitude-4.5 quake was recorded at 12:10 p.m. Saturday near Arcadia, about 14 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The agency reports that temblor was followed by a 2.8-magnitude earthquake at 1:26 p.m. about 10 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and a magnitude-3.1 tremor at 5:58 p.m. about 6 miles northeast of the city. Oklahoma is crisscrossed with fault lines that generate frequent small earthquakes, most too weak to be felt. But after decades of limited seismic activity in this region, earthquakes have become more common in the last several years.

Weather

A swath of heavy snow and ice that hit the eastern USA on Sunday from West Virginia to Philadelphia. The snow came from an arctic blast of frigid air that froze highways in the middle of the country over the weekend and knocked power out to thousands of homes. The system dumped 6 to 12 inches in a swath that stretched from northern West Virginia to Philadelphia and east into New Jersey.

On Saturday morning, temperatures dropped as low as -42 in Jordan, Montana. Cold weather has forced thousands of flights to be cancelled or delayed across the country Sunday, leaving many travelers frustrated for yet another day. The tracking website Flightaware.com estimates more than 2,000 flights were cancelled nationwide as of Sunday afternoon and more than 6,000 flights were delayed. That follows two days of similarly difficult travel conditions. Cold weather has affected much of the country, but hit Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport particularly hard. The airport said more than 400 departures were cancelled for the day. It is also still trying to clear out thousands of travelers who have been sleeping at the terminal or in nearby hotels who have been waiting for a flight out since Thursday night. Cold weather turned the region into an “ice rink” Thursday night. That forced 3,000 people to stay the night Thursday, which swelled to 4,000 Friday. As flights began to slowly resume, that figure dropped to 2,000 for Saturday night.

  • East Antarctica recently set a record for coldest temperature ever — 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The old record had been -128.6 degrees.

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