Signs of the Times (3/4/14)

‘Son of God’ Blows Away Expectations with $26M Box Office Weekend

“Son of God,” the first major cinematic retelling of the story of Jesus in more than a decade, confounded Hollywood elites, mainstream critics, and industry experts Sunday with a staggering $26.5 million box office take. The Fox release nearly toppled reigning box office heavyweight Liam Neeson, coming in a close second to his adventure film “Non-Stop.” That film was No. 1 with a $30 million weekend box office. “Son of God” brings to the big screen an epic from the team that created “The Bible” for cable TV’s History Channel. The film covers Jesus’ birth, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. It marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since “The Passion of the Christ” 10 years ago. The film’s success also revealed the huge divide between the Christian fan base and mainstream movie critics. The film attracted favorable ratings of 22 percent from critics at Rottentomatoes.com, while 83 percent of fans like it.

More Biblical Noah Movie to Also be Released

On the same day Hollywood plans to release their highly anticipate (and highly controversial) Noah movie, Christian evangelist Ray Comfort plans to release his own film entitled Noah –And the Last Days. According to The Christian New Network, Comfort was disappointed with the portrayal of Noah in the upcoming film, believing producers had depicted him inaccurately. As a result, Comfort will be revealing his own 30-minute movie which he believes conveys a “very important biblical message.” “Noah and the Last Days’ will draw biblical correlations between the rampant sinfulness of the world in the time of Noah and the state of today’s culture. “They have no qualms about sensationalizing the story of Noah in order to make it more profitable,” he says. “That’s their bottom line. But the movie strays so far from the biblical account that it omits its essential message – God’s judgment for man’s sin and evil,” Comfort says.

Judge Rules Veterans Monument Unconstitutional Endorsement of Christianity

A federal judge in California has ruled that a veterans’ monument that includes the symbol of the cross is an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. The city council of Lake Elsinore unanimously approved the creation of the monument in November 2012, which was to be erected in Diamond Stadium. The 5-0 vote followed a public hearing where over 100 residents attended to voice their opinion, mainly in support of the display. However, the 6-foot granite monument was met with disapproval by atheist groups and others who asserted that one aspect of its design went too far. The monument, which declares, “In honor of our brave men and women who by their service give life to our most precious gift — freedom,” also depicts a soldier kneeling before a row of cemetery markers in the shape of a cross. A Star of David is also featured on the display, as well as an American flag and a soaring eagle.

  • Satan wants to stamp out every Christian and Jewish symbol on earth as part of his end-time one-world government that the Bible says is coming (Revelation 13:7-8,12)

Christian Home-Schooling Family Deported

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike came to the United States in 2008 seeking political asylum. They fled their German homeland in the face of religious persecution for homeschooling their children. They wanted to live in a country where they could raise their children in accordance with their Christian beliefs. The Romeikes were initially given asylum, but the Obama administration objected – claiming that German laws that outlaw homeschooling do not constitute persecution. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Romeike’s appeal – paving the way for the Christian family of eight to be deported, reports Todd Starnes at Foxnews.com. “I think this is a part of the Obama administration’s overall campaign to crush religious freedom in this country,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association which is representing the family.

  • There are many forms of persecution, just ask the blacks. However, Christians are now the primary target for intolerant religious bigots.

FCC Blinks, Drops Newsroom Monitor Plan

The Federal Communications Commission, under intense fire last week for proposing to install government agents in radio, television and even newspaper newsrooms to look at how editorial decisions are made, abruptly backed away from the plan Monday. Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said “in the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate. Chairman Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required.”

  • Nevertheless, the failed attempt reveals the direction our increasingly socialistic government wants to go

1 in 3 Personally Hurt by Obamacare

One-third of Americans say the Affordable Care Act has had a negative impact on them personally, while 14 percent say the law has helped them, according to a new Rasmussen survey. The poll finds that public dissatisfaction with Obamcare remains nearly as high as it was during the height of the website’s problems last year. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they view the law unfavorably, just shy of a high of 58 percent in November of last year. The one-third of Americans who say they have been hurt by the law is a slight increase from the 29 percent who said the same in January, while those saying they had been helped by the law dropped 2 percent over the same period.

2 out of 3 Americans Reject Obama-Boehner’s Immigration Plan

According to a new poll by Pulse Opinion Research, 2 out of every 3 Americans oppose the Obama-Boehner immigration plan that would give work permits to illegal aliens before enforcement measures are fully put in place: 59% of respondents said to grant work permits only after Congress certifies full implementation of all border, interior and workplace enforcement; only 25% said work permits during the first year before new enforcement; 16% were unsure. Eliminating the unsure means that 70% oppose premature work permits.

Giant Virus Resurrected from Permafrost

A mysterious giant virus buried for 30,000 years in Siberian permafrost has been resurrected. The virus only infects single-celled organisms and doesn’t closely resemble any known pathogens that harm humans. Even so, the new discovery raises the possibility that as the climate warms and exploration expands in long-untouched regions of Siberia, humans could release ancient or eradicated viruses. These could include Neanderthal viruses or even smallpox that have lain dormant in the ice for thousands of years. “If they have been extinct for a long time, then our immune system is no longer prepared to respond to them,” says study co-author Jean-Michel Claverie, a bioinformatics researcher at Aix-Marseille University in France

Rates of Mental Disorders much Higher in Soldiers than Civilians

The largest study of mental-health risk ever conducted among the U.S. military has found that many soldiers suffer from some form of mental illness, and rates of many of these disorders are much higher in soldiers than in civilians. The rate of major depression is five times as high among soldiers as civilians, intermittent explosive disorder six times as high, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nearly 15 times as high. When it came to suicidal thoughts, one study found about 14% of soldiers had thought about taking their lives, while 5.3% had planned a suicide and 2.4% had actually made one or more attempts.

Lawyers, Doctors, Pharmacists top Civilian Suicide Rates

One by one, state by state, bar associations say the tally is rising: Lawyers are killing themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided CNN with the latest available data on suicide deaths by profession. Lawyers ranked fourth when the proportion of suicides in that profession is compared to suicides in all other occupations in the study population (adjusted for age).They come right behind dentists, pharmacists and physicians. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, mostly trial attorneys.

U.S. Kids’ Tooth Decay Hits ‘Epidemic’ Proportions

Tooth decay is largely preventable, but it remains one of the most common diseases of childhood — five times as common as asthma, and seven times as common as hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC says 42% of children ages 2 to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth; 21% of those ages 6 to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth. A new education campaign by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry highlights the seriousness of dental decay in children and urges parents and caregivers to start early to prevent it. “We’re reaching epidemic proportions of a rapid form of tooth decay especially in younger children, often from disadvantaged backgrounds. We’re seeing increases in the rate of what we call early childhood caries (ECC),” says Warren Brill, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “It develops most commonly with infants and toddlers when they are put to sleep with a bottle in their mouth, put to sleep nursing, or walk around with a sippy cup. That, combined with the fact that their teeth aren’t being cleaned as carefully as they should, leads to this situation.”

Economic News

Stocks mostly managed to close with gains Friday, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 closed at an all-time high for the second straight day, powered by strong earnings from a number of U.S. companies. But large swaths of the market are completely missing out and are nowhere near their highs, a potentially troubling sign about the health of the rally. Corners of the stock market still far from their highs include entire sectors like financials and technology, not to mention household name stocks like Apple, Starbucks and Alcoa.

Nationally, the price of regular grade gasoline has climbed 17 cents the past 21 days. With the 5% jump, consumers paid an average $3.45 a gallon this past weekend, vs. $3.28 a month ago. However, consumers are spending about 33 cents a gallon less than year ago levels. Prices will likely peak at about $3.75 a gallon.

Banks everywhere are in a race against time to upgrade their ATMs before they become hot targets for hackers. An estimated 95% of American bank ATMs run on Windows XP, and Microsoft is killing off tech support for that operating system on April 8. That means Microsoft will no longer issue security updates to patch holes in Windows XP, leaving those ATMs exposed to new kinds of cyberattacks. If hackers discover new flaws in Windows XP, those bugs will go unaddressed, leaving attackers free to exploit them.

RadioShack revealed another quarter of red ink and a 19% tumble in same-store sales on Tuesday, prompting the embattled electronics retailer to shutter up to 1,100 stores. The company noted it will still have more than 4,000 locations in the U.S. even after the closures.

Persecution Watch

Islamist militants have told Christians in a northern Syrian city that they will guarantee their safety. But there’s a catch. Make that a lot of catches. Christian residents of Raqqa, once one of the nation’s most liberal cities, will have to pay as much as 17 grams of gold per adult male in an annual payment, the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said in a statement posted online this week. The group is also forbidding the city’s Christians from repairing or refurbishing their churches and monasteries. The list of constraints imposed by the militants also limits Christian worship, business activities and alcohol consumption.

Middle East

President Barack Obama continues to push Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to a peace deal over land disputes in Palestine, the Blaze reports. Jeffery Goldberg of the Bloomberg View writes that President Obama is prepared to warn Netanyahu that Israel could have a “bleak future” characterized by “international isolation and demographic disaster” if Israel cannot compromise. Although Obama claims that America’s ties to Israel are solid and unwavering, he is troubled by Israel’s “aggressive settlement construction” that continues to happen in the controversial West Bank. Yuval Steinitz, Strategic Affairs Minister, addressed Obama’s warning by insisting that Israel does want to promote a political settlement. The members of the Israeli government, he continues, “are justifiably concerned about our national security. There is no reason to pressure Israel. We are only caring for Israel’s most fundamental needs.”

  • Obama is the most anti-Israel president we’ve ever had with a pro-Muslim inclination

Ukraine

The standoff between Ukraine and Russia is the “biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st Century,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday as Russia’s foreign minister insisted that his nation’s troops were needed in Crimea to protect Russian citizens. A senior U.S. administration official told CNN Russia has “complete operational control of the Crimean Peninsula” and the U.S. estimates there are 6,000 Russian forces in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is not yet a need to send Russian troops into Ukraine as he separately ordered troops taking part in military exercises in western Russia near the border with Ukraine to return to their bases. But Putin also said that Russia reserves the right to use “all means” necessary to protect its citizens in Ukraine. However, Russia is not considering trying to make Crimea a part of Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. In a demonstration of support for Ukraine’s fledgling government, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here on Tuesday with an offer of $1 billion in American loan guarantees and pledges of technical assistance. The purpose of the loan guarantee is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West and help offset the reduction of energy subsidies from Russia.

Iran

Iran is moving ahead with a nuclear program that U.S. officials said would be frozen. Iran has continued research and development on new, far more efficient machines for producing uranium fuel that could power reactors or bombs, and its stockpile of low enriched uranium has actually grown, according to a report by Institute for Science and International Security. The Iranian regime has also trumpeted recent tests of new ballistic missiles that could be used to deliver a future warhead while its pariah economy has begun a modest recovery.

  • Surprise, surprise, Iran didn’t keep its word. How many times must this occur before the Obama administration realizes that this is the way it is and not the way they keep blindly hoping.

Syria

Syria has submitted a revised proposal “that aims to complete the removal of all chemicals” from the country before the end of April, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday. Nearly one third of Syria’s chemical weapons material has already been removed or destroyed, Syria claims. The slow pace of removal, prompting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to warn that all options remain available to force compliance. Syria didn’t meet the initial removal levels in a prior agreement. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been working with senior Syrian officials to discuss a new schedule going forward.

Afghanistan

Outgoing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai angrily criticized the U.S. government for its conduct of the war in that country, which he described as being “for the U.S. security and for the Western interests.” Karzai told The Washington Post that he feels “betrayed” by what he says are insufficient efforts by the U.S. to target Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. He also criticized the U.S. for inflicting civilian casualties in various military operation, saying “Afghans died in a war that’s not ours.” Karzai’s comments have caused bitterness in Washington, where U.S. officials point to the number of lives lost — approximately 2,300 — and the amount of money spent — over $600 billion — on operations in Afghanistan. Karzai has refused to sign a long-term security pact that would keep some American troops in Afghanistan past the end of this year.

Pakistan

At least 11 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suicide attack Monday on a court building in the Pakistani capital. Two militants threw hand grenades, fired guns and then blew themselves up at the district court building. Other armed attackers opened fire and then left the scene. Attacks of this nature are rare in Pakistan’s heavily policed capital.

Nigeria

The fight against militant Islamists in Nigeria led to dozens of deaths, mostly of civilians, in three villages this weekend. A military plane trying to bomb camps of the Boko Haram extremist group in the Sambisa Forest on Friday night “mistook the village (Daglun) for a Boko Haram camp,” said Ali Ndume, a senator representing the region. The inaccurate air raid was part of “an ongoing offensive” against the insurgents, Ndume said. Less than 24 hours after that incident, a flurry of violence in northeastern Nigeria, blamed on Boko Haram, left more than three dozen people dead and may have taken many more lives. Dozens of attackers in military uniforms stormed the village of Mainok on Saturday evening, riding four-wheelers and motorcycles, as residents were preparing for evening prayers. Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group that has waged a campaign of violence in northeastern Nigeria, trying to impose its strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.

China

Twenty-nine people were killed and 130 were injured Saturday night when eight men armed with long knives stormed the station in the southwest Chinese city of Kunming, the state news agency Xinhua reported. Members of a separatist group from Xinjiang, in northwest China, are believed to have carried out the assault, authorities said. The report referred to them as “terrorists.” Police said they killed at least four attackers and shot and wounded a female suspect. Police have arrested three more suspects in Saturday’s knife attack. Authorities now believe all eight alleged attackers have been arrested or killed.

Weather

A winter storm over the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley moved northeastward to the mid-Atlantic by Sunday evening, eventually dumping 6-12 inches of snow across a swath that includes Washington, D.C., according to the National Weather Service. The federal government closed its offices in the Washington area Monday due to the storm. An area including Philadelphia, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Northern Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky bore the brunt of the snow. The storm wound down Monday night, but not before killing at least 12 people, causing hundreds of accidents on icy roads, cancelling thousands of flights and leaving tens of thousands without power.

Bitter cold temperatures continued to affect the nation’s northern tier over the first few days of March. International Falls, Minn. set a daily record low temperature of -36 degrees. Friday morning, daily record lows were set in Gaylord, Mich. (-29 degrees), Green Bay, Wis. (-21 degrees), Flint, Mich. (-16 degrees), Grand Rapids, Mich. (-12 degrees) and Toledo, Ohio (-7 degrees), to name just a few locations. Saturday, Grand Forks, N.D. and Fargo, N.D. recorded their coldest high temperatures on record for the month of March, peaking at -11 degrees. Sunday morning, Billings, Mont. set an all-time record low temperature for the month of March at -21 degrees. Over 90% of the Great Lakes are frozen solid, the highest level in 20 years.

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