Signs of the Times (1/16/14)

New Mexico Doctors Can Help Terminal Patients Die

In a decision sure to cause debate, a New Mexico judge has ruled that terminally ill, mentally competent patients have the right to get a doctor to end their lives. The landmark decision Monday by New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash came after a two-day trial and could make New Mexico the fifth state to allow doctors to prescribe fatal prescriptions to terminal patients. The ACLU and Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group, filed the lawsuit on behalf of two New Mexico doctors and cancer patient Aja Riggs. The judge was asked to consider whether the doctors should be allowed to write prescriptions for a terminally ill cancer patient who wanted to use drugs to end her life.

  • While seemingly compassionate on the surface, euthanasia represents a further expansion of a culture of death beginning with abortion and ending with population control (i.e. the depopulation required to meet the sustainability espoused in Agenda 21)

Oklahoma Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that an Oklahoma law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the U.S. Constitution, giving yet another victory to same-sex marriage supporters. U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern said the court would not immediately enforce this ruling — therefore not opening the doors right away to marriages of gay and lesbian couples in Oklahoma — pending appeals. Still, he delivered a clear opinion on how the voter-approved Oklahoma state constitutional amendment relates to the U.S. Constitution. “The Court holds that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the judge wrote.

  • In today’s USA it doesn’t matter anymore what voters decide, the activist Judiciary can set those aside and establish policy on its own, a clear violation of states’ rights and legislative prerogatives.

Illegal Sex-Selection Abortions Widespread in Britain

The illegal practice of sex-selection abortions is so widespread in England that it is responsible for killing thousands of girls and as many as 5,000 girls are missing from the census, official reports say. Official figures suggest as many as 4,700 females who should have been included in census numbers have disappeared from the latest national census records of England and Wales, raising fears that the bias in favor of boys that results in sex-selection abortions in Asian nations like China and India has made its way to the U.K. The practice of sex-selective abortion is now so commonplace that it has affected the natural 50:50 balance of boys to girls within some immigrant groups.

Administration Lies Again about Obamacare Numbers

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog post Monday that “More than 6 million Americans have now either signed up for a private health insurance plan through the Marketplace or for Medicaid coverage.” But that number is misleading. It includes 3.9 million people who learned they’re eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And, the 3.9 million figure includes people who were already on Medicaid and are just renewing, as Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services noted in a separate blog post.

The nearly 2.2 million people who signed up for Obamacare last year, is well below the 7 million expected. Of even greater concern is that the proportion of younger applicants is also running well below the expectations of experts and the White House itself. Insurers based their premiums on a decent share of younger, healthier Americans enrolling on the exchanges to balance out older, sicker applicants, who run up higher bills. If too few young people sign up, premiums for 2015 could rise to reflect the increased risk and cost.

Taxpayers to Bail Out Insurers Under Obamacare

Robert Laszewski—a prominent consultant to health insurance companies—recently wrote in a remarkably candid blog post that, while Obamacare is almost certain to cause insurance costs to skyrocket even higher than it already has, “insurers won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it” because insurance companies won’t bear the cost of their own losses—at least not more than about a quarter of them.  The other three-quarters will be borne by American taxpayers. It’s bad enough that Obamacare is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to funnel $1,071,000,000,000.00 (that’s $1.071 trillion) over the next decade (2014 to 2023) from American taxpayers, through Washington, to health insurance companies. Even worse, Obamacare contains a “Reinsurance Program that caps big claim costs for insurers (individual plans only).”  He writes that “in 2014, 80% of individual costs between $45,000 and $250,000 are paid by the government [read: by taxpayers],

  • For some reason, President Obama hasn’t talked about this particular feature of his signature legislation.

Congressional Negotiators Unveil $1.1T Spending Bill

Congressional negotiators unveiled a bipartisan, $1.1 trillion spending bill Monday night that will reverse a 1 percent cut to cost-of-living increases for disabled veterans and provide $1.525 billion in aid to Egypt, among other provisions. The measure fleshes out the details of the budget deal that Congress passed last month; it would fund the government through October. The budget pact gave relatively modest relief to the Pentagon and domestic agencies from the deep sequester budget cuts they would otherwise face. On Tuesday, the House is slated to approve a short-term funding bill to extend the Senate’s deadline to finish the overall spending bill until midnight on Saturday. The current short-term spending bill expires at midnight Wednesday evening. The GOP-led House is slated to vote on the measure Wednesday.

NSA Spying on Computers Around the World

The National Security Agency has placed software on nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows it to conduct covert surveillance on the machines, the New York Times reports. The technology gives the agency access to private computer networks and could also create a virtual highway for cyberattacks. The agency describes its efforts as part of an “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks rather than an offensive tool. But U.S. officials have protested when similar software was discovered to have been placed on computers in this country by Chinese attackers. “What’s new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency’s ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before,” James Andrew Lewis, the cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Times.

Net Neutrality Struck Down by Courts

Many Internet content providers may be exposed to higher costs in the wake of a major court decision that voided rules governing Internet access known as net neutrality. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit struck down FCC rules requiring Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, to be neutral in their restrictions on bandwidth. The move means ISPs will be allowed to charge content providers based on how much bandwidth they use. This ruling will impact those websites that transmit the most data, so sites that stream video content (particularly in high definition) will potentially feel the most significant impact.

Jobless Aid Bill Fails to Advance

A Senate plan to restore long-term jobless benefits to at least 1.3 million Americans hit a wall Tuesday after Republicans withdrew their support amid complaints over cost and other issues. Two versions of the plan failed on two separate test votes. The benefits expired Dec. 28, immediately cutting off support for unemployed workers who have exhausted state-paid benefits that generally run for 26 weeks

Economic News

The U.S. labor force has dropped by six million. Workers began to disappear during the Great Recession, but it has continued even after the economy has improved. The current labor force participation rate averaged 63.3% in 2013 — the lowest rate in three and a half decades. The dropouts aren’t just the young and retirees. The labor force participation rate has been dropping for workers aged 25 to 54. And in fact, in the past year, the number of dropouts from that category has been increasing. The real reason, those critics say, is the so-called Obummer economy. Despite government propaganda, there really hasn’t been a recovery, at least not as large as some think. And more and more people are deciding it will never get better and dropping out of the workforce.

More than 2.3 million children currently live with a long-term unemployed parent. That’s three times more than in 2007, according to research by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. While still large, the number of children who live with long-term unemployed parents, has fallen since 2010 when it reached a high of 3.6 million. Federal unemployment benefits ended on Dec. 28, cutting off 1.3 million workers, many of whom are parents. Poverty has tripled among parents who have not had a job for six months or more — from 12 percent to 35 percent.

Total foreclosure filings for 2013, including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, were reported on 1.36 million properties, down 26% from 2012, the lowest level since 2007. With one in every 96 homes reporting at least one foreclosure filing in 2013, the national foreclosure rate has dropped to 1.04% — close to the historic norm of just below 1%. During the 2010 peak of the housing crisis, the national foreclosure rate was 2.23%.  However, in December, 9.3 million properties, or 19% of all homes, were reported to be “deeply underwater,” meaning borrowers owed at least 25% more on their mortgage than the homes was worth.

Forty-two percent of Americans said they’re worse off financially than they were last year, compared to 35 percent who feel they’re better off, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. Twenty-two percent of respondents said their financial situation has stayed the same. Those who believe they’re worse off rose from 39 percent one year ago.

Persecution Watch

Six evangelical Christians were shot to death at the weekend in El Salvador by gang members. The Christian men, whose ages ranged from 16 to 54, were killed in Ahuachapán State, a rural western region close to the Guatemala border. Those targeted were leaving a church service when gunfire broke out. Investigators have been unable to determine what motivated the shootings. El Salvador’s government has struggled to crack down on gangs that control large parts of the country and are seen as the primary driver behind its high murder rate.

Middle East

Israeli Iron Dome air defense systems shot down five rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Thursday morning, underlying the ongoing tensions in Israel’s southern region. The rockets came hours after the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced that an attempt by Hamas to set up a cell in the West Bank, with the purpose of kidnapping Israelis, had been broken up. The Shin Bet explained that the effort had been directed by operatives of the self-named “Holy Warriors Brigade” who are serving time in Israeli prisons. “The Holy Warriors Brigade is a terror group that splintered off from Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and adopted extremist Islamist characteristics,” the Shin Bet said. “We can say that in effect, the Holy Warriors Brigades is a Hamas front-group in every way.”

Iran

Iranian officials have been keen on portraying the new nuclear pact with the West as advantageous to their country in easing sanctions in return for what they say are minimal nuclear concessions. President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks Tuesday appeared to be part of efforts to bring around hard-liners who have denounced the deal, claiming it tramples on Iran’s enrichment rights. ‘Do you know what the Geneva agreement means? It means the surrender of the big powers before the great Iranian nation,’ Rouhani told a crowd in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan. ‘The Geneva agreement means the wall of sanctions has broken. The unfair sanctions were imposed on the revered and peace-loving Iranian nation,’ he said. ‘It means an admission by the world of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

  • Meanwhile, Kerry/Obama continue to portray it as a win. They are either delusional or purposely lying

Iraq

A wave of bombings across Iraq striking busy markets and a funeral north of Baghdad killed at least 44 people Wednesday, authorities said, as the country remains gripped by violence after al-Qaeda-linked militants took control of two cities in western Anbar province. Insurgent groups, mainly al-Qaeda’s local branch and other Sunni militants, frequently target civilians in cafes and public areas, as well as Shiites and members of Iraqi security forces in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government and stir sectarian tensions.

Syria

Wounded Syrians streamed across the Turkish border seeking first aid Wednesday after a car bombing in a border town that’s become a battleground in the fight between Syrian rebel factions. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the car bomb exploded near a cultural center controlled by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. That al Qaeda-linked force has taken control of much of northern Syria amid that country’s bloody civil war. The Syrian Observatory said heavy clashes were still going on in Jarablus. ISIS, which has also taken control of parts of western Iraq, has attempted to impose strict Islamic law in towns where it holds sway. Rebel troops who had been battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an effort to push back the Islamists two weeks ago, but that offensive appears to have faltered after hundreds of deaths on both sides.

Christians uprooted and left destitute by fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) urgently need food and other essentials. The violence has claimed at least 1,000 lives and displaced nearly a million people from their homes. Some fled to the bush, where they are dying of hunger, exposure and disease. Others are living in dire conditions in overcrowded makeshift camps, without food, water, shelter and medical supplies. Children are showing signs of malnutrition.

Egypt

Egypt’s proposed new constitution, backed by the nation’s military leaders, is expected to pass with overwhelming support from Egyptians who cast their ballots this week, according to initial unofficial results published in local news media. The charter’s passing is not a surprise  Because authorities have been increasingly cracking down on dissent and many of those who opposed the document did not vote. The charter paves the way for upcoming fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. The vote is a milestone in a military-backed political roadmap toward a ballot-box test of public opinion on the coup that removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from power last July. The balloting has laid bare the sharp divisions in the nation between the supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in one camp, and the military and security forces in another, backed by a large segment of the population that is yearning for stability after three years of deadly turmoil and economic woes since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

South Sudan

Dozens of dead, mangled and bloated bodies line the roadside from the airport into this state capital of one of South Sudan’s oil-producing regions. Houses, buildings and shops have been looted, burned or destroyed, as blackened cars and buses smolder. The remnants of war in Bentiu show the damage being done across the world’s newest country, as the military continues to battle men who served in the same ranks only a month ago but who are now labeled rebels. Bentiu was re-captured by the military over the weekend. Next up for government troops is the rebel-held town of Bor.

Thailand

Tens of thousands of demonstrators on Tuesday continued anti-government protests in Bangkok intended to drive Thailand’s Prime Minister out of office. The protesters have laid siege to major intersections in Thailand’s large and hectic capital city. At their peak on Monday evening, they numbered as many as 170,000. The protesters, who say they want Thailand’s political system overhauled instead of new elections scheduled for next month, occupied seven main intersections and blocked one government office on Monday. Groups of them marched to several government buildings on Tuesday, including the labor, commerce and foreign ministries. In each case, the protesters entered the offices for a short period and then left — a form of symbolic occupation. Gunshots rang out in the heart of Thailand’s capital overnight in an apparent attack on anti-government protesters early Wednesday that wounded at least two people and ratcheted up tensions in Thailand’s deepening political crisis.

Environment

Cincinnati plans to shut down intake valves along the Ohio River to protect the city’s drinking water from a chemical spill in West Virginia. Mayor John Cranley announced Monday that the valves will be shut down for at least 20 hours beginning Tuesday night. Cranley says that will allow the water to pass the city without any chemicals entering the drinking supply. The city plans to use a reserve of 60 hours of treated water, built up specially following the West Virginia spill. Last Thursday, a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a plant into the nearby Elk River in Charleston, W.Va. The Elk River feeds into the Ohio River. More than half of the 300,000 West Virginians who haven’t been able to turn on their faucets since last week now have access to safe water again.

Beijing’s skyscrapers receded into a dense gray smog Thursday as the capital saw the season’s first wave of extremely dangerous pollution, with the concentration of toxic small particles registering more than two dozen times the level considered safe. Many of the city’s commuters wore industrial strength face masks as they hurried to work Stagnant weather patterns combined with an increase in coal-burning exacerbate other forms of pollution and create periods of heavy smog for days at a time. But the readings early Thursday for particles of PM2.5 pollution marked the first ones of the season above 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

Wildfires

A dangerous combination of record dry conditions, rare January red flag warnings and the Santa Ana winds could be a recipe for disaster in the fight against California wildfires. Red flag warnings are in effect for the Sierra Nevada and a huge portion of central and southern California as small fires broke out throughout the state. It’s the first time they’ve ever issued red flag warnings in the month of January. Following the driest year on record, 2014 is kicking off as what may be the driest January on record in many locations in California.

Dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes overnight were raging in heat wave conditions across rural southern Australia on Wednesday. Firefighters were able to contain most of the fires in South Australia and Victoria. But authorities warned of worsening fire conditions on Friday, when winds were expected to gather pace. The number of fires peaked at 350 in that state since Tuesday, most of them sparked by lightning strikes. Lighting had also started 256 blazes across Victoria by early Wednesday

Weather

A dominant ridge, or dome of high pressure aloft, is acting as a block to any precipitation in the Golden State. Not only does this so-called ridge prevent Pacific weather systems from affecting California with rain and snow, it’s also leading to offshore winds, record high temperatures and a high fire danger this week.

Having already taken enough heat for not stopping matches earlier, blistering temperatures finally halted play on Day 4 of the 2014 Australian Open as a high temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded nearby. It was the first time since 2009 play had been halted due to heat at the Australian Open. American Varvara Lepchenko received medical treatment during her match against 11th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, lying flat on her back during a changeover as trainers rubbed iced on her body.

Days of torrential rain triggered a landslide and flash floods on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, killing at least 13 people and sending tens of thousands fleeing for safe ground, disaster officials said Thursday. Residents and rescuers in Sangihe district of North Sulawesi province dug through debris with their bare hands and shovels. Two bodies were pulled from the mud, and eleven others were found in the water late Wednesday. More than 1,000 houses were flooded by overflowing rivers in five other districts of the province.

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