Signs of the Times

Abortion rate at lowest level since 1973

The abortion rate in the USA has dropped to its lowest level since the procedure became legal in 1973, according to a new data analysis that reflects a 13% decline in both the abortion rate and the number of abortions from 2008 to 2011. The report issued today by the Guttmacher Institute in New York finds the 2011 rate declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44, second only to 1973, when the rate was 16.3 per 1,000. “A 13% percent drop over a three-year time period is a pretty steep decline. It’s unusual,” says Rachel Jones, the lead author of the study.

  • Pro-life voices have been making themselves heard more and more – keep up the good work!

Retraction of Joni’s Oscar Nomination Deemed Prejudicial

Christian media analyst Ted Baehr believes a double standard is at work in the recent rescission of an Academy Award nomination for a song performed by Christian author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada. The decision by Academy Awards officials to rescind the “Original Song” nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone, a film with Christian themes and music by Bruce Broughton, has drawn a lot of media attention because the song was sung by Tada, a quadriplegic who is a prolific author, hosts the radio program “Joni and Friends,” and is a member of the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, claims the unprecedented decision to withdraw the nomination was prompted by the discovery that Broughton, a former member of the Academy’s Board of Governors and current Music Branch executive committee member, had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period. But Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, explains there was nothing unusual about Broughton’s promotional efforts. “The fact of the matter is that every year I see articles in the LA Times and elsewhere that people like the Weinsteins [owners of an independent film studio] are spending lots of money to manipulate the votes – throwing dinners, throwing parties,” he told OneNewsNow.

  • Just another example of the anti-Christ spirit at work as the end-times ramp up and intolerance escalates

Obama Uses Executive Orders for Two New Gun Control Laws

Just a few weeks ago Obama quietly issued executive orders mandating that healthcare professionals disregard their oaths and state law and submit patient’s medical data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The government will then sort through and determine those not fit to own a weapon (i.e. those who were “involuntarily committed to inpatient or outpatient facilities”). Basically the government is starting out slowly and testing the water to see how the public will react not only to gun confiscation but to a governmental invasion of legally protected privacy. Obama has unconstitutionally used executive actions to pass the laws he wasn’t able to through legal means, according to Vision to American News

Keystone Pipeline Passes Review, but Obama Delays Approval

A new environmental assessment from the State Department that raised no major environmental concerns on long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline isn’t the last step in deciding whether the pipeline can be built, the White House said late Friday. The long-delayed pipeline got a major boost as it cleared a major hurdle toward approval, a serious blow to environmentalists’ hopes that President Obama will block the controversial project running more than 1,000 miles from Canada through the heart of the U.S. The White House released a statement pushing back on the notion that the pipeline is now headed for speedy approval, saying Sec. of State John Kerry and other agency heads will “closely evaluate” the report in the coming weeks.

ObamaCare Site Errors Unfixed

Thousands of people who tried to sign up for a health plan via the federal healthcare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, have seen their appeals to fix site issues go unanswered. The Washington Post, citing internal government data, reports that approximately 22,000 Americans have filed appeals to try and get site errors corrected. The complaints range from being denied coverage altogether to being overcharged for coverage to being steered into the wrong program. So far, months after the site launched October 1, the appeals have been untouched. What’s more, the Post reports, people who have tried to call the marketplace directly for assistance, have been told that the Healthcare.gov computer system is not yet allowing workers to correct enrollment records.

Parents Don’t See their Kids as Obese

Parents may be in denial when it comes to their kids’ weight. About half of parents with overweight or obese children don’t think their kids are too heavy, a new study shows. This is true in the U.S. and around the world, the researchers found. “Parents who underestimate their kids’ weight may not take action to encourage healthy behaviors that would improve their child’s weight and reduce their risk of future health conditions,” says the report’s lead author. These findings come after a study out last week showed that kids who are overweight in kindergarten are four times more likely to be obese by eighth grade compared with their normal-weight peers. About a third of the nation’s young people are overweight or obese, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extra pounds put kids at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, sleep apnea, musculoskeletal problems and other health problems.

  • We’ve become a nation of gluttony, one of the seven deadly (cardinal) sins

Battles Loom in Many States over Budget Surpluses

In a year when three dozen governors are up for election, unexpectedly robust revenues from taxes and other sources are filling most state coffers, creating surpluses not seen in years and prompting statehouse battles over what to do with the money. After so many years of sluggish revenues, layoffs and draconian service cuts, governors and legislators are eager to use the newfound money to cut taxes, restore spending or, in some cases, pay down debts or replenish rainy-day funds for future recessions. Republicans are tending to advocate more tax cuts and Democrats are more often pushing to restore spending on education and other programs.

Economic News

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 326.05 points Monday, a 2.1% decline, bringing its 2014 loss to 7.3%. Among the worries: world markets are plunging; the Federal Reserve dialing back its bond-buying program; the U.S. will hit its debt limit by the end of February; and the factory manufacturing index fell to 51.3, lower than most forecasts.

Consumer confidence dipped in January, but remains strong compared to a year ago. The index of consumer sentiment dropped 1.3 points to 81.2., but marks a significant increase from a year ago, when the index was at 73.8. Home prices were up 11% in December year over year as 2013 marked the strongest year for home price gains since 2005. Home price gains this year are not expected to be as robust. New home sales dropped 7 percent to a 414,000 annualized rate in December amid rising interest rates and extremely cold weather in much of the country.

In New Jersey, Florida and the District of Columbia, nearly half of the unemployed have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among all 50 states and D.C., the average is 33%.Before the Great Recession, the highest the long-term joblessness share ever reached was 26% in mid-1983. Today, 41 states and D.C. have shares of long-term unemployment above that level.

Americans increased their spending at a solid pace for the second straight month in December even though their income was flat. Consumer spending rose 0.4% in December, compared with November when spending had increased an even stronger 0.6%.Income, however, showed no gain at all in December after a 0.2% rise in November. Wages and salaries were basically flat last month, reflecting a sharp slowing in employment growth.

Middle East

Israel’s economics minister lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday for warning against a growing boycott movement against the Jewish state should peace talks with the Palestinians fail. Naftali Bennett has been a fierce critic of the Kerry-led talks and a persistent gadfly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is negotiating against a backdrop of increasing international pressure to reach a deal coupled with a growing call for boycotting Israel. A small but growing number of European businesses and pension funds have begun to drop investments or limit trade with Israeli firms involved in West Bank settlements. At a security conference in Germany this weekend, Kerry warned that a breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian talks would accelerate this trend.

Syria

After more than a week of negotiations aimed at ending its civil war, Syria’s government refused Friday to commit to a date for the next round of peace talks and roundly dismissed the opposition’s demand to transfer power away from President Bashar Assad. The two sides continue to blame each other for the violence in Syria — where a three-year civil war has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes. They also remain deeply divided over how to end the war and if Syria’s future government should include Assad. A tally by activists estimated Friday that 1,900 people — including at least 430 civilians — were killed in Syria during the peace talks alone.

No longer facing the imminent threat of a U.S. military strike, the Assad regime is dragging its feet on relinquishing its chemical weapons — leaving U.S. officials scrambling to pressure the Syrian government to honor the terms of last year’s deal. The Obama administration acknowledged on Thursday that the regime has shipped out less than 5 percent of its chemical arms. The country is weeks behind schedule and falling behind more every day. This, despite President Obama declaring in his State of the Union address that Syria’s chemical weapons “are being eliminated” thanks to American diplomacy.

Ninety people were killed in a day of punishing air assaults on Aleppo as so-called barrel bombs rained down on the city. Women and children were among the victims in Saturday’s raids in various neighborhoods in the rebel stronghold, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. It added that 10 fighters from the radical Nusra Front were killed when their headquarters were targeted. Barrel bombs — drums packed with explosives and shrapnel — can level entire buildings with one hit. In four hours, the area of Ansari was targeted with about 17 air strikes by President Assad’s government forces.

Libya

Even as the international effort to destroy Syria’s vast chemical weapons stockpile lags behind schedule, a similar American-backed campaign carried out under a cloak of secrecy ended successfully last week in another strife-torn country, Libya. The United States and Libya in the past three months have discreetly destroyed what both sides say were the last remnants of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s lethal arsenal of chemical arms. They used a transportable oven technology to destroy hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds filled with deadly mustard agent, which American officials had feared could fall into the hands of terrorists. The effort also helped inspire the use of the technology in the much bigger disposal plan in Syria.

Iran

Iran and six world powers will hold talks about Iran’s nuclear program on February 18 in Vienna, Austria. The seven-nation talks will come four weeks after Iran started suspending high levels of uranium enrichment as part of an interim deal. As part of the agreement, Iran must eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, dismantle some infrastructure that makes enrichment possible, and allow broader and more intrusive inspections of its programs.

Iraq

A new series of car bombings in and around Baghdad on Monday killed at least 16 people, officials said, as Iraq’s Shiite-led government grapples with a stubborn Sunni extremist-led insurgency in the western Anbar province. In the town of Mahmoudiya, a parked car bomb went off near the local council building, followed by another car bomb at an outdoor market nearby. The blasts in the town, located about 20 miles south of Baghdad, killed nine people and wounded 28. In Baghdad, an explosives-laden car ripped through a commercial area in the northern Hurriyah neighborhood, killing four people and wounding 11. Three bystanders were killed and nine were wounded in another car bomb explosion in the city’s eastern Baladiyat neighborhood. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but coordinated bombings bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq.

Afghanistan

Campaigning is officially underway for Afghanistan’s presidential election, with 11 candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai. The April 5 presidential vote will be a crucial test of whether Afghanistan can ensure a stable political transition as NATO combat forces ready their withdrawal after nearly 13 years of war. The election faces many hurdles: allegations of vote-rigging marred the 2009 election and security is a major concern. The specter of violence hangs over the campaign, with the Taliban vowing to disrupt the poll. On the eve of the campaign launch, two political workers were killed in western Afghanistan.

Egypt

Egypt’s military launched airstrikes in the country’s Sinai Peninsula, killing 13 people who the military called “extremists” loyal to the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood. The Thursday night strikes hit four homes in the northern Sinai. The strikes follow at least two recent deadly incidents on the peninsula. Egypt’s interim military-backed government has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for many bomb attacks and shootings that have taken place in recent months.

Lebanon

A shadowy Lebanese extremist group has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite town that killed at least three people. The Nusra Front in Lebanon said on Twitter that the bombing in the northeast town of Hermel on Saturday was to punish the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which fights alongside forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It is the third bombing that the Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility for in the country.

Thailand

After disrupting a national election, anti-government demonstrators in Thailand have vowed to keep up their campaign against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The troubled election Sunday, which was boycotted by the main opposition party, appears unlikely to resolve Thailand’s protracted political crisis, which has fueled bouts of deadly unrest in the Southeast Asian country. During the tense election process, anti-government protesters stopped candidates from registering, blocked delivery of ballot boxes and prevented people from casting their votes. As a result, voting was disrupted in 69 out of the country’s 375 electoral districts. The demonstrators have been protesting since November, saying they want to rid Thailand of the influence of Yingluck and her older brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now lives in exile.

Central African Republic

Clashes between Muslim and Christian residents have left at least 75 people dead in a single town, a local priest said Monday, while heavy fighting broke out between rebels and peacekeepers in the capital. In Bangui, Muslim militias engaged Burundian troops who returned fire in some of the heaviest fighting since France sent peacekeepers to its former colony in early December. Some 1,600 French and 5,000 African peacekeepers are struggling to keep a lid on the violence. An untold number of people have been slain across the country since March 2013 when heavily armed rebels overthrew the president of a decade, setting off sectarian violence.

Earthquakes

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off western Greece, rattling the western Greek island of Kefalonia a little over a week after a similar quake damaged dozens of buildings across the island and forced residents to flee the area. Thousands of residents have been spending nights with relatives or in ships sent to accommodate displaced locals after a magnitude-5.9 temblor on Jan. 26 damaged thousands of buildings and slightly injured seven people on the island. Schools on the island of Kefalonia have been closed for the past week as a result of the first quake. Greek authorities set up tents Tuesday for those left homeless by the series of earthquakes and were sending in dozens of prefabricated classrooms so children can go back to school safely.

Volcanoes

On Saturday, Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute reported at least three significant explosive eruptions from a volcano in Tunguraha with an ash column reaching up to 32,000 feet. The volcanic eruptions and prompted evacuations in surrounding towns. Two moderate explosions on Saturday were followed by a third of greater size. The blasts created a 5-mile column of ash above the volcano, which is located 84 miles southeast of the capital, Quito. Authorities said the lava reached the lower part of a ravine called Achupashal, blocking a route to a tourist site Banos. Tungurahua has been active since 1999. An outburst in 2006 left four dead and two missing.

These latest eruptions in Ecuador come on the heels of a massive eruption at Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung, which killed 15 people on Saturday. One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Mount Sinabung, erupted again Saturday, spewing searing toxic gas down the slopes of the mountain that killed at least 14 people and injured three more, The deaths came after villagers who fled previous eruptions returned to the area under the illusion that it was safe. Mount Sinabung’s morning eruption was followed by a more powerful blast that sent lava and pyroclastic flows down southern slopes up to 2.8 miles away. Villages, farms and trees around the 8,530-foot volcano covered in thick gray ash.

Weather

In an unprecedented move that is disturbing evidence of California’s growing drought crisis, officials announced Friday that beginning this spring, the state reservoir will effectively be closed for business starting this spring. In the first time in its 54-year history, the State Water Project, which is the backbone of the California water-delivery system, won’t allot any water to the 25 million people and 1 million acres of farmland that it usually services. Officials said Friday that in the spring, they will stop water releases from the State Water Project’s 34 storage facilities, reservoirs and lakes and also from large reservoirs in North California to preserve supplies in what has become one of the worst droughts in modern California history.

A winter Storm brought heavy snow and travel delays to the Northeast Monday, dropping eight inches of snow in New York City’s Central Park, which set a new daily snowfall record. More than 1,900 U.S. flights were canceled Monday in the Northeast due to snow and ice. Another storm will create many travel problems from the Plains to the Midwest and Northeast Tuesday into Wednesday. Winter storm warnings and advisories are posted from the Rockies to southern Maine in advance of the second storm’s impacts.

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