Signs of the Times (3/19/14)

Alabama Pro-Lifers Celebrate Closing of ‘New Woman’ Clinic

An infamous Alabama abortion clinic appears to be closed for good.  The New Woman All Women abortion clinic gained fame when the state launched an investigation, after three women were transported to an emergency room in one day after abortions.  The state ordered it closed but several court hearings took place because it continued to operate. Dana Cody, who heads Life Legal Defense Foundation, tells OneNewsNow the abortuary is closed and there is a sign posted that reads, “Property Available.” The owner, Diane Derzis, has clinics in other states, including the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.

Prayer Rally will Precede ObamaCare SCOTUS Arguments

A prayer rally will be held in Washington next week in the lead-up to arguments in two high-profile Supreme Court cases dealing with the Affordable Care Act. Next Tuesday, the high court will hear lawsuits against the ObamaCare mandate that employers provide free insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs. Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League comments on the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga cases, saying what he finds frightening is that the government is deciding what counts as public exercise of religion – and is telling business owners they aren’t allowed to provide the kind of health plans to their employees that reflect their faith. Scheidler adds it’s alarming to think what right will be lost next if the cases go against people of faith.

These 4 Nations to be in New ‘Russian Empire’?

The lack of any significant deterrent to Russia’s annexation of Crimea makes more territorial grabs far more likely and is made possible by repeated demonstrations of U.S. weakness throughout the Obama administration, notes WorldNetDaily.com.  Meanwhile at least four countries remain vulnerable to Russian aggression and annexation. Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Reagan administration says that eastern Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Lithuania are all extremely vulnerable to Russian annexation. WND is now reporting that Putin may now be looking to take the rest of Ukraine because of its geo-strategic importance.

  • Russia, allied with Persia (Iran) is one of the key elements leading up to the end-time war against Israel (Ezekiel 38-39)

Al Qaeda Calls for Car Bombs in U.S. Cities

Al Qaeda is calling on terrorist affiliates to detonate car bombs in major U.S. cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, in the latest edition of its Inspire magazine. The issue comes nearly a year after the Boston Marathon bombing, and as the city readies new security measures for this year’s race, being held next month. Inspire is the same magazine that included instructions for how to make pressure cooker bombs, which were used in last year’s Boston attack. The magazine’s Spring 2014 issue urges jihadists to target heavily populated events such as political rallies and sporting events, both in the United States and abroad — including in Great Britain, France and other “Crusader” countries. The issue also contains extremely detailed, “absolutely simple” instructions on how to build a car bomb.

Obamacare Sticker Shock: Premiums Set to Skyrocket

Health industry officials say Obamacare premiums will likely double, and in some cases triple, in certain parts of the country next year, and announcements of rate hikes could come within months, potentially adding to the pressure on Democrats going into the midterm elections. The botched rollout of the federal healthcare program, including its numerous delays and changes, is one of the chief reasons for impending hikes. But the most significant cause of rate increases, officials say, is related to the administration’s erroneous projections about the number of young, healthy consumers who would enroll. “Young healthy people, and a lot of them, are needed to keep the market stable and premiums low. As we head into the final few weeks, we have a pretty good idea of how many young healthy people there will be, and the answer is: a whole lot fewer than the healthcare wonks were expecting, Megan McArdle writes in her column for Bloomberg View.

Colon Cancer Rates Drop Sharply Due to Screenings

Colon cancer rates have fallen by 30% over the past decade in people over age 50, and colonoscopies are getting much of the credit, according to a report released Monday. Screening rates have climbed in recent years. The number of Americans ages 50 to 64 who have had a colonoscopy — which allow doctors to detect and remove polyps before they turn malignant — has nearly tripled, growing from 19% in 2000 to 55% in 2010. Use of colonoscopy also rose among those age 65 and over, growing from 55% in 2000 to 64% in 2010, according to the new report. To further reduce colon cancer cases and deaths, the American Cancer Society has set a goal of screening 80% of eligible people by 2018. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the USA. The cancer society estimates that 136,830 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year and that 50,310 will die from it.

Toyota to Pay $1.2 B to Settle Criminal Probe

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Toyota will pay $1.2 billion to settle a criminal probe of its handling of reports of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. It is the largest criminal penalty imposed on a car company in U. S. history. “Today we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday. The investigation was spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI in New York.

Looking for a Job? North Dakota Wants You

In a new recruiting campaign to be rolled out in May, the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation is aiming to fill more than 20,000 jobs — ranging from truck drivers and oilfield workers to receptionists and food servers. North Dakota’s huge oil boom has spurred thousands of job seekers to flock to the state for years now. In some cities, the population has quadrupled. Yet, the growth continues and companies are still so desperate for workers that the state is teaming up with oil giant Hess Corp. to launch an $800,000 campaign to attract new talent. Over the past few years, the flood of workers moving to the state — specifically to the Northwest corner where oil activity is greatest — has caused a severe housing shortage. In Williston, a town at the center of the boom, home prices have more than tripled and rent there is currently the highest in the nation. Even though many employees are now raking in six-figure salaries, they are essentially homeless, living in their cars in parking lots, in other peoples’ basements, in RVs or even in churches.

Economic News

Prices are rising for a range of food staples, from meat and pork to fruits and vegetables, squeezing consumers still struggling with modest wage gains. Food prices rose 0.4% in February, the most since September 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday. Beef and veal shoppers were socked with some of the biggest increases, as prices jumped 4% from January. Overall inflation remained tame, as falling gasoline and other energy costs offset the food price increases. The consumer price index ticked up just 0.1% from January and 1.1% in the past year.

Housing starts fell slightly last month but building permits rebounded to levels last seen in the fall, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Builders started construction of new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000. That’s down 0.2% from January’s revised estimate of 909,000. Permits, an indicator of future construction, were just over 1 million, a 7.7% increase over January’s revised rate of 945,000 and the highest level since October.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder sentiment this month rose to 47 from 46 in February, the NAHB reported Monday. Readings below 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

Persecution Watch

Officials say Fulani Muslim herders attacked three Christian villages and killed more than 100 civilians. Hundreds of thatched-roof huts were set ablaze. Thousands have been killed in recent years in competition for land and water between mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers across Nigeria’s Middle Belt. More than 100 people were killed in similar attacks in neighboring Katsina state last week. Chenshyi village chief Nuhu Moses said Sunday that gunmen killed more than 50 people including the pastor’s wife and children. He said the entire village in the southern part of Kaduna state was destroyed.

Middle East

Israeli airstrikes against Syrian military posts in the Golan Heights killed one soldier and wounded seven on Wednesday in the most serious escalation between the two neighboring countries since Syria’s civil war broke out three years ago. The airstrikes came in retaliation for a roadside bombing in the strategic plateau that wounded four Israeli soldiers the previous day. The Syrian army said a repetition of the strikes would endanger stability in the entire Middle East while Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he pursues a path harmful to Israel, he would “regret his actions.” The Israeli military said its warplanes unleashed airstrikes on Syrian army targets, hitting a Syrian army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries early on Wednesday. Earlier, Israel also carried out artillery strikes against Syrian military targets shortly after Tuesday’s bombing.

Ukraine

Crimea’s parliament Monday moved to declare independence after residents in the semi-autonomous region there overwhelmingly backed a referendum to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Crimea’s election committee said that 97% of voters backed a union between the largely ethnic-Russian peninsula and Russia. Sunday’s referendum is not recognized by the West, and the United States and the European Union are preparing sanctions against Russia, whose troops have been occupying Crimea for several weeks. But in the Ukrainian capital, anti-government protesters are warning that the ballot may trigger chaos on the southern peninsula.

Crimea’s self-defense forces on Wednesday stormed the Ukrainian navy base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a day took down the gate and make their way onto the headquarters’ premises. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters. On Tuesday, Ukraine authorities authorized soldiers to shoot in self-defense after an officer was killed when gunmen attacked a besieged military base near the capital of Crimea. The shooting came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty that makes the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian Federation, a move the White House and European leaders called an illegal annexation. Ukraine’s acting defense minister says Ukrainian forces will not withdraw from Crimea despite being largely outnumbered and coming under increased pressure since the region was nominally incorporated into Russia.

Syria

The Obama administration ordered the Syrian government on Tuesday to suspend its diplomatic and consular missions in the United States, requiring all personnel who are not legal U.S residents to leave the country. The order, three years after the start of Syria’s bloody civil war, essentially shutters the Syrian embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Troy, Mich., and Houston, Texas. It comes in response to a decision by President Bashar Assad’s government to suspend consular services for Syrians living in the U.S. However, U.S. special envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein said the U.S. wants to continue diplomatic relations with Damascus, “as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar Assad leaves power.”

Afghanistan

In his final address to Afghanistan’s parliament Saturday, President Hamid Karzai told the United States its soldiers can leave at the end of the year because his military, which already protects 93 percent of the country, was ready to take over entirely. He reiterated his stance that he would not sign a pact with the United States that would provide for a residual force of U.S. troops to remain behind after the final withdrawal. The Afghan president has come under heavy pressure to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, with a council of notables that he himself convened recommend that he sign the pact. The residual force would train and mentor Afghan troops, and some U.S. Special Forces would also be left behind to hunt down Al Qaeda.

Iran

Executions of Iranian political figures and citizens in 2013 skyrocketed to unsettling numbers according to the recent annual report of death penalties in the nation by the group Iran Human Rights (IHR). The number of Iranians executed in 2013 was 687, some of which were women and children reported IHR. Already this year, almost 200 people have come to the same fate. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani assured citizens that he would moderate the killing, but no such relief has yet occurred. IHR spokesman Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said the alarming rates of Iranian death penalty should be placed “at the top of the agenda in the dialogue between the international community and the Iranian authorities.”

Libya

U.S. Navy SEALs have taken control of a hijacked commercial tanker that was being held by armed Libyans, the Pentagon said Monday. No one was hurt tonight when U.S. forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans. The tanker, said to be flying a North Korea flag, is loaded with oil and thought to be owned by the Libyan government’s National Oil Company. North Korea says it has nothing to do with the ship. The ship is at the center of a dispute between Libya’s weak central government and rebel groups. Libya’s government has struggled to establish security in the wake of the overthrow of Moammar Ghadafi in 2011. Militias outside government control continue to exert control in parts of the country.

Republic of Congo

The province of Katanga in southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is degenerating into a humanitarian crisis, Christian Aid has warned. UN officials say more than 400,000 people have been displaced as a result of fighting between government troops and Mai Mai and Bakata Katanga rebels. Christian Aid said violence had intensifed since January and that its partners on the ground have recorded a doubling in the number of internally displaced people in Pweto territory, from 59,000 to just under 128,000. Pweto forms together with Mitwaba and Manono territories what has been dubbed the ‘triangle of death’ due to the level of violence. While clashes between rebel groups have surged in recent weeks, the government forces were too small to keep the rebels in check, jeopardizing the delivery of aid.

Earthquakes

According to the USGS, a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck just to the northwest of downtown Los Angeles at around 6:30 a.m. PDT Monday. The predawn quake rattled nerves and shook buildings along a 150-mile swath of Southern California from Santa Barbara to Orange County in the greater Los Angeles area but caused no major damage. The quake’s epicenter was located six miles to the north-northwest of Westwood, Calif. and around 15 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, at a depth of 5.3 miles. A 2.7-magnitude earthquake followed the initial rumble just under an hour later. Though southern California is no stranger to earthquakes, the quake’s location in the Santa Monica Mountains is unusual because it was the only magnitude-4.4 temblor within the range since recording of earthquakes began.

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Chile’s Pacific coast Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake’s epicenter was 37 miles west-northwest of Iquique, Chile, and its depth was 12.4 miles, the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries. Sea level readings in the area indicated a tsunami was generated, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, but there was no widespread destructive tsunami threat.

A shallow 6.3 magnitude earthquake has rattled northern Peru near the coastal city of Piura on Saturday with no immediate reports of damage or injuries. It was the second quake to shake seismically active Peru on Saturday. A 6.1 magnitude temblor centered near the city of Pisco struck at 3:59 a.m. with no damage reported. The city suffered a devastating 2007 quake of 8.0 magnitude that claimed more than 500 lives.

Weather

Yet another winter storm roared into the Middle Atlantic region overnight Sunday, dropping more than a foot of snow in parts of Virginia, closing schools and shutting down the federal government in Washington, D.C., the fifth time this season winter weather has closed the federal government.  Heavy snow closed runways at Reagan National Airport. More than 360 flights had been canceled by 7 a.m. Monday at D.C.-area airports. During the weekend, the system spawned downburst winds that led the collapse of a shopping center in Atmore, Ala. Saturday. It was the snowiest St. Patrick’s Day dating back to 1884 across the region.

Sometimes it doesn’t take a whopper of a storm to deal a big blow to drivers. That was the case in eastern and central North Carolina Monday night into Tuesday morning, as light freezing rain and drizzle left roads a mess from Asheville to Greensboro and into Raleigh causing numerous accidents. North Carolina Department of Transportation has asked people to stay off the roads until at least midday Tuesday. Schools have been canceled or delayed across the region.

A large dust storm brought a blanket of dust across West Texas and New Mexico Tuesday. The wall of dust rose as a high as 1,000 feet and traveled 200 miles, stretching from Amarillo west into New Mexico and east as far as Post, Texas. High wind gusts spanned the entire Plains Tuesday, hitting 58 mph in Lubbock and 49 mph in Amarillo. The High Plains are also in an exceptional to severe drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor. Those two elements are the ingredients for large dust storms.

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