Signs of the Times (2/28/14)

Arizona Governor Vetoes Controversial Religious Rights Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed businesses that asserted their religious beliefs the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. The controversial measure faced a surge of opposition in recent days from large corporations and athletic organizations, including Delta Air Lines, the Super Bowl host committee and Major League Baseball. Doug Napier, an attorney representing the Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped craft the bill, criticized the governor’s decision. “Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed,” he said in a statement. “Today’s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona.” The Family Research Council notes that, “All SB 1062 did was ensure the government couldn’t force business owners to violate their religious beliefs. If that’s controversial, then so is the First Amendment.”

  • Religious freedom is now a misnomer in the U.S. Instead, religion has become the enemy and have no rights

Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Ban on Gay Marriage

A federal judge declared a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional on Wednesday, but will allow the nation’s second-most populous state to enforce the law pending an appeal that will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. His ruling is the latest in a tangled web of lawsuits across the country expected to end up in the Supreme Court next year. Garcia, appointed by President Bill Clinton, is the first judge in the conservative 5th Circuit to reach such a decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who also is the leading Republican candidate to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, promised to appeal the decision.

Girl Scouts Hire Lesbian as Chief ‘Girl Experience Officer’

As millions of moms consider digging into pocketbooks for Girl Scout cookies this year, they may be interested to know about the hiring of Krista Kokjohn-Poehler in the Girl Scouts executive office in New York City. Kokjohn-Poehler is an out-in-the-open lesbian married to a woman named Ashley Kokjohn. And, given her sexual preference, it may strike some as unsettling that her job title is “Girl Experience Officer.” Her hiring five months ago was largely missed by the mainstream media and even conservative outlets.

  • The undermining of God’s ordained family structure continues to accelerate unabated with both the boy and girl scouts submitting to the gay agenda

U.S. One of Few Nations Allowing Abortions after 20 Weeks

The United States and Canada are among only a handful of nations that allow abortions on babies after 20 weeks. Two of those nations are the biggest human rights abusers in the world. Every other nation on the planet either bans abortions after that time, which is just before viability, or limits them. A new report co-released Wednesday by Charlotte Lozier Institute and Life Canada finds that the United States and Canada join China, North Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and Netherlands in allowing abortion beyond 20 weeks, more than halfway through pregnancy and the point at which research shows the unborn child feels pain. “Our fresh review of international statutes and case law was undertaken with the knowledge that U.S. policies, set by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, are among the world’s most permissive,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

AG Holder: State AG’s Don’t Have to Enforce Laws They Disagree With

Attorney General Eric Holder is taking the lawless attitude of the Obama administration and passing it down to state attorneys general. Wednesday, during an interview with The New York Times, Holder said state attorneys- general do not have to enforce laws they disagree with, specifically when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. Mr. Holder said when laws touch on core constitutional issues like equal protection, an attorney general should apply the highest level of scrutiny before reaching a decision on whether to defend it.

  • Picking and choosing which laws to enforce is not constitutional. Attorney Generals are not policy-makers. When county sheriffs refuse to enforce new gun-control laws and Christian pharmacists refuse to fill abortion-pill prescriptions, there is a great hue and cry by the imperial Obama administration who believe they can have it both ways – any way they want.

NIH Director on Legalizing Pot: Not so Fast

One of the nation’s top scientists raised concerns about the nationwide move to legalize marijuana, saying regular use of the drug by adolescents had been tied to a drop in IQ and that a possible link to lung cancer hasn’t been seriously studied. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Thursday that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which he oversees, was interested in pursuing such studies now that legalization has made them more feasible to do. But the process will take time, he cautioned. Collins, 63, is a geneticist who led the project to map the human genome. Since 2009, he has headed the NIH, the nation’s leading agency for biomedical research.

Surge in Concealed Weapon Permits in California

Gun owners are flooding the sheriff’s offices in two California counties with applications for concealed weapon permits following a bombshell ruling two weeks ago by a federal appeals court that citizens need not justify their requests. Orange and Ventura counties have dropped the “good cause” standard for issuing conceal carry permits after the requirement was struck down Feb. 13 by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel of the court ruled 2 to 1 that the Second Amendment bars California counties from requiring law-abiding gun owners who want to carry concealed firearms to demonstrate special, individualized needs for protection.

Chemicals in Western Diet Linked to Alzheimer’s

Common compounds in the “Western” diet seem to promote Alzheimer’s-linked brain deposits and memory problems in mice, researchers say. Scientists found that when they added the compounds — called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) — to the lifelong diets of laboratory mice, the animals developed greater amounts of beta-amyloid in the brain. Beta-amyloid is the protein that makes up the brain “plaques” seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. These compounds are ingested through food — particularly animal products prepared at a high heat. That includes fried, grilled or broiled meats, and dairy products that are pasteurized or sterilized. Accumulating AGEs can promote chronic inflammation in the body. And that type of persistent, low-level inflammation is implicated in many disease processes, including Alzheimer’s.

Obesity Declines in Young Children

Obesity in young children shrank sharply in the past decade, a new study suggests. The finding comes from a government study considered a gold-standard gauge of trends in the public’s health. The researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 decreased — to 8 percent from 14 percent a decade ago. That represents a 43 percent drop. But the only decline was seen in preschoolers, not in older children. And some experts note that even the improvement in young children wasn’t a steady decline and say that it’s hard to know yet whether preschooler weight figures are permanently curving down or merely jumping around statistically.

Offshore Wind Farms Can Tame Hurricanes

Billions of dollars in U.S. damage from mega-storms Katrina and Sandy might have been avoided with a perhaps surprising device — wind turbines. That’s the finding of a ground-breaking study that says mammoth offshore wind farms can tame hurricanes rather than be destroyed by them. It says a phalanx of tens of thousands of turbines can lower a hurricane’s wind speed up to 92 mph and reduce its storm surge up to 79%. The study, published online in Nature Climate Change, is the first to look at how offshore turbines interact with hurricanes. The impact may seem surprising but it makes sense: Turbines produce power by taking energy from wind and thus slowing it down. No offshore wind farms currently operate in the United States, although 11 are under development — mostly off the East and Texas coasts. Most of the world’s offshore turbines are in northwestern Europe, but China is ramping up its capacity.

Economic News

The economy grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter of 2013 than first thought, weighed down by disappointing retail sales, inventory adjustments and a less robust trade balance. The Commerce Department said Friday it now estimates the economy grew by 2.4 percent in October, November and December, down from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent released on Jan. 30.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Last week’s increase pushed them to the upper end of their range so far this year. An unusually cold winter has clouded the labor market picture, with job growth braking sharply in December and recovering only marginally in January.

New home sales rose sharply in January, defying expectations for a drop-off due to harsh winter weather in much of the country. Sales jumped to their highest level in more than five years, and were up 9.6% from December, to hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 last month. The latest reports on existing home sales, pending home sales, housing starts and home builder confidence were all weaker. Economists reacted cautiously to Wednesday’s report because new home sales figures can be volatile.

The collapse on Monday of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, the world’s largest online exchange site for the cyber-currency Bitcoin, triggered seismic waves of anguish and anger across the Twitterverse and other online sites. An estimated 744,000 Bitcoins have been lost by Mt.Gox, valued at nearly $400 million. Federal prosecutors in New York issued a subpoena to Mt. Gox. Japanese officials said at a Wednesday news conference that they are looking into the matter. Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy protection, the Tokyo-based firm announced Friday. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told senators Thursday that the central bank can’t regulate troubled digital currency Bitcoin because it operates outside the banking system.

Americans used smartphones and tablets more than PCs to access the Internet last month — the first time that has ever happened. Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January. Apps made up 47% of Internet traffic and 8% of traffic came from mobile browsers. As of January, 55% of American adults had smartphones, while 42% owned tablets.

Persecution Watch

Suspected Islamic extremists killed at least 29 students at a school dormitory in a pre-dawn attack early Tuesday, the spokesman for the governor of Nigeria’s Yobe state told The Associated Press. Soldiers guarding a checkpoint near the government school were mysteriously withdrawn hours before the attack, said the spokesman Abdullahi Bego. The militants locked the door of a dormitory where male students were sleeping and then set it ablaze, slitting the throats of those who tried to clamber out of windows and gunning down those who ran away. Female students were spared in the attack. Repeated Boko Haram attacks targeting Christians in northeastern Nigeria have created a humanitarian aid crisis in neighboring cities where tens of thousands have fled for safety. In the latest violence, Boko Haram gunman are blamed for three separate attacks Wednesday (Feb. 26) that killed at least 37 people in northeast Nigeria

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced on Wednesday that they have provided a list of 12 rules to Christians in the northern city of Raqa which they must follow in order to continue living in their homes and receive “protection.” The rules include guidelines for how Christians are allowed to dress, the payment of extra “jiziyeh” taxes and a requirement that religious services and rituals must be conducted behind closed doors. Another rule says Christians must not “put on display a cross or anything from their book, anywhere on Moslems’ path or markets.” Rebuilding or repairing churches destroyed by Moslems is also forbidden, as is the possession of any kind of weapons. The statement concluded that any Christian caught violating these rules will suffer “the fate that the people of war and rebellion faced.

A church was demolished and its land confiscated by the Sudanese authorities as part of an ongoing campaign to rid the strict Islamic country of its Christian presence. The Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman was bulldozed without prior notice. Police and officials from the National Intelligence and Security Services, who oversaw the demolition work, said that the 300-member church was not wanted in a “Muslim area”. Since the secession of the majority-Christian South Sudan in July 2011, the Sudanese authorities have destroyed numerous church buildings, clamped down on Christian activity and targeted individual Christians in various ways. Believers have been subjected to harassment, arrests and death threats; foreign Christians have been deported.


Unidentified armed men who may belong to the Russian military are blockading an airport near Sevastopol Friday in an escalation of tensions between the neighboring states that Ukraine’s interior minister is calling an “armed invasion.” Dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings have also apparently taken over the main airport in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, although it has not been confirmed that the men at either airport belong to Russian military units. While no violence has so far been reported, any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine’s conflict, which saw the pro-Russian president flee last weekend after three months of anti-government protests. Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where it has a major naval base. Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away.


According to The Daily Mail, over 120,000 people are without food, water, medicine and essential services in Syria’s capital city of Damascus. Many are starving to death. Humanitarian aid has been slow to come amid complications with Syrian leadership, continued fighting in the country and the sheer size of the population requiring assistance. Friday the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) called on rebel forces and Al-Assad’s troops alike to allow ‘safe and unhindered humanitarian access’ to thousands of civilians in Yarmouk, a Palestinian district in the Syrian capital. Yarmouk has seen some of the worst fighting in the capital, leading to severe food shortages and widespread hunger.


Wednesday, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) announced the first in a series of periodic updates on the Geneva Interim Agreement. One month into the implementation of the agreement, Iran is enjoying substantial economic benefits from sanctions relief, while still developing its nuclear program. There has been a 73% increase in Iran’s oil exports from October 2013, before the Geneva interim agreement, to January 2014. Iran’s oil exports have risen further in February for a fourth consecutive month. Meanwhile, on February 10, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran is developing “a new type of centrifuge ’15 times more powerful’ than those currently being used to enrich uranium.”


The number of days with subzero temperatures has reached record or near-record levels for many Midwest cities this winter. Friday will mark day number 70 for International Falls, Minn., tying the all-time record for the period of Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 set in 1977-1978. Tuesday morning’s temperature was -29F. For Grand Forks, ND, Subzero day number 70 will be this Friday. This will tie as the fourth most number of subzero days on record for the period from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. The all-time record for this period of time is 74 days. The Detroit area will experience wind chills between 10 and 25 degrees below zero Friday. Detroit public schools will be closed Friday because of extreme cold, the school system said for the beleaguered city that has received over 78 inches of snow this winter.

After months of dangerous drought dried out the land and led to a massive wildfire near Glendora, Calif., even when the rains finally came, more danger was stirred up by the wet, unstable ground. Emergency flood alert levels were raised Wednesday and mandatory evacuations are in place for areas affected by the mid-January Colby fire, which raged in the hills near the eastern Los Angeles suburbs. The first storm brought nearly a half-inch of rain to downtown Los Angeles as of early Thursday. A much wetter storm will arrive late Thursday night and will continue to bring rain through Saturday, from 3 to 6 inches. Because this will be the biggest rainfall the area has received since the massive fire killed the vegetation along the hillside, residents worry the hills won’t hold together.

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