Signs of the Times (3/31/14)

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Tough Abortion Rules in Texas

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas’ tough new abortion restrictions that shuttered many of the abortions clinics in the state. A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and served no medical purpose. In its opinion, the appeals court said the law “on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman.” Texas lawmakers last year passed some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and placed strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills.

County Commissioner Will Take Jail over Being Denied Her Religious Rights

A Carroll County [Maryland] commissioner said she was ‘willing to go to jail’ opening up a board meeting with a prayer despite a federal judge in Maryland ruling the board has to stop with opening meetings with prayers that reference Jesus Christ or any specific deity. “If we cease to believe that our rights come from God, we cease to be America,” Robin Bartlett Frazier said Thursday. “We’ve been told to be careful. But we’re going to be careful all the way to Communism if we don’t start standing up and saying no.”

  • The First Amendment is directed at Congress: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” Congress has made no such law, so the federal judge had no jurisdiction over what happens in a county meeting.

5 Year Old Told Not to Pray For School Lunch

PatriotUpdate.com reports that a five-year old child was told by school staff not to pray over her lunch. Her father, Marcos Perez, posted a video on YouTube in which he says, “My wife and I were shocked when our 5-year-old daughter began to tell us that someone on staff at her school saw her praying – told her to stop – and said “it is not good”. This is Kindergarten. She was praying to herself for her food, following the biblical values we are working hard to instill in our children. We are so proud of our little princess and as you can see – we continue to affirm [to] her that prayer IS GOOD and that NO ONE can tell her she can’t pray. No doubt we will homeschool going forward. We live in the United States of America – the land of the free, yet our traditional values and religious freedoms are under assault. This is just a small example.”

  • Government schools have become the primary secular humanism indoctrination centers and are toxic to our Christian children

Citing UN Treaty, Scotland Assigns Overseer to Every Child

Citing a radical United Nations treaty known as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), lawmakers in Scotland approved a deeply controversial new law assigning an individual government overseer to each and every child in the country charged with monitoring their development. However, the draconian measure, which has sparked criticism and outrage around the world as a brazen assault on parental rights and privacy, is already in the process of being challenged in court. Concerns have been especially widespread in the United States, where parental-rights advocates are warning about an accelerating worldwide attack on the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. In fact, according to the Scottish legislation itself, the decision to appoint a government overseer to supervise the development of every child is meant to comply with what the Scottish government views as its “existing obligations” under the UN CRC treaty.

  • The one-world government is sneaking up on us until the cumulative weight suddenly becomes an unstoppable avalanche

World Court: Japanese Whaling not for Scientific Purposes

The International Court of Justice on Monday ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program, ruling that it is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese had claimed. Australia had sued Japan at the U.N.’s highest court for resolving disputes between nations in hopes of ending whaling in the icy Southern Ocean. Reading a 12-4 decision by the court’s 16-judge panel, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said Japan’s program failed to justify the large number of Minke whales it aims to catch under its current Antarctic program. The court ordered Japan to halt any issuing of whaling permits until the program has been revamped. The decision is a major victory for Australia and environmental groups that oppose whaling on ethical grounds, though it will not mean the end of whaling.

  • Of greater significance is the further establishment of the international court as the one-world government prophesied in Revelation 13 continues to form

Obamacare Tops 6 Million Signups

More than 6 million people have signed up for Obamacare, as a crush of people raced to get health insurance before the March 31 deadline. Reaching 6 million is a symbolic victory for the Obama administration following the botched launch in October. It is short of the initial goal of 7 million, which was based on a projection by the Congressional Budget Office and adopted by the administration. But it shows considerable gains from the first month when just 106,000 people had signed up. But just how many people fully enroll in the program this year remains to be seen. The latest figures reflect those picking plans, not paying their premiums. Only those who pay their first month’s premium are considered enrolled. Federal officials also do not know how many of those who selected plans were previously uninsured

The New York Times notes that, “disparities reveal a stark truth about the Affordable Care Act: With the first open enrollment period set to end Monday, six months after its troubled online exchanges opened for business, the program widely known as Obamacare looks less like a sweeping federal overhaul than a collection of individual ventures playing out unevenly, state to state, in the laboratories of democracy.” Some states have had a flowering of competition among insurers. But in other places, including parts of states like New Hampshire and West Virginia, consumers have hardly any insurance choices at all.

Health Care Spending Growth Hits 10-Year High

Health care spending rose at the fastest pace in 10 years last quarter, a development that could foreshadow higher costs for consumers this year. Expenses for health care rose at a 5.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. The jump triggered a sharp upward revision in the government’s estimate of consumer spending overall and accounted for nearly a quarter of the economy’s 2.6% annualized growth in the last three months of 2013. Driving the increase was an $8 billion rise in hospital revenue — more than the previous four quarters combined. The increase in hospitals’ income was puzzling because the number of inpatient days dipped 1% over the same period. The 2010 Affordable Care Act has prompted insurance companies to increasingly shift costs to patients through high-deductible plans and other measures, prompting Americans to limit visits to doctors and hospitals, says Dan Mendelson, CEO of consulting firm Avalere Health.

Albuquerque Police Square Off Against Hundreds of Protesters

A protest over deadly police shootings turned from peaceful into “mayhem,” Albuquerque’s mayor said late Sunday, as officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators. People are angry over Albuquerque police’s involvement in 37 shootings, 23 of them fatal since 2010. Critics say that’s far too many for a department serving a city of about 555,000. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating the department for more than a year, looking into complaints of civil rights violations and allegations of excessive use of force. An Associated Press reporter saw gas canisters being thrown and Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies charging at the crowds, which had mostly dispersed by late Sunday. Mayor Richard Berry said one police officer was injured, and at one point protesters trapped police in a vehicle and tried to break the windows.

CDC: 1 in 68 Children Diagnosed with Autism

The rates of autism continue to rise. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 68 children have been identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States. The new statistics represent a 30 percent increase from the 2012 estimates of 1 in 88 children with ASD. The report also found that rates varied widely between communities, ranging from 1 in 175 children in Alabama to 1 in 45 children in New Jersey. Additionally, the condition continues to affect more boys than girls: 1 in 42 versus 1 in 189 respectively. Given this sharp increase in ASD incidence, CDC officials are urging parents to have their children screened for developmental delays as soon as possible.

Scientists Create First ‘Designer Chromosome’

Researchers have chopped, spliced and manipulated DNA to craft the first extensively modified “designer chromosome,” a genetic structure carefully engineered to spur scientific discovery. The work is being hailed as a bioengineering feat and an important step toward producing a complex organism — in this case brewer’s yeast — with a custom-made synthetic genome, or genetic blueprint. The research paves the way for producing new medicines and even biofuels from life forms with artificial chromosomes. Previous artificial chromosomes were “copy-and-paste,” The new structure is “a serious redesign of a chromosome with lots of very clever ways of making it more engineerable and more understandable,” says Adam Arkin of the University of California-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

  • In a world of good and evil, the prospects for engineering life have serious downsides in addition to possible benefits. And, as experience has shown over and over again, trying to regulate cutting-edge technology is tenuous at best. Frankenstein, here we come. Instead, come Lord Jesus, come.

Cellphone Use Causes over 1 in 4 Car Accidents

The National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report, “Injury Facts,” found that the use of cellphones causes 26% of the nation’s car accidents. Only 5% of cellphone-related crashes occur because the driver is texting. The majority of the accidents involve drivers distracted while talking on handheld or hands-free cellphones. The NSC report warns drivers that talking can be more dangerous than texting while operating a vehicle, and the use of talk-to-text applications is not a solution. Hands-free cellphone use has become a driving force in cellphone-related distractions of those behind the wheel.

Economic News

Thanks to fracking technology and horizontal drilling techniques, the United States has gone from a large-scale energy importer to the world’s top producer — a development with far-reaching consequences. America produced an average of about 12.1 million barrels of crude oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels a day in 2013 — that’s 300,000 barrels a day more than Saudi Arabia and 1.6 million more than Russia, the two previous leaders. U.S. production of crude oil alone rose by a record 991,000 barrels a day last year, according to the International Energy Agency. And oil imports declined by 16 percent, from $310 billion to $268 billion.

Ukraine

Four hours of talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart failed to break a tense East-West deadlock over how to proceed on the Ukraine crisis, though the two men agreed the situation requires a diplomatic solution. The talks came hours after a leading Ukrainian military analyst told Fox News there are now about 50,000 Russian troops within several hours of the two nations’ border, but there has been a “general decrease in tensions” since Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama on Friday. “The Russian troop buildup is creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine,” Kerry told reporters.

Afghanistan

Taliban militants attacked the main Afghan election commission’s headquarters Saturday in Kabul, opening fire on the compound with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns from a house outside its perimeter wall. It’s the latest in a series of high-profile attacks that come as the Islamic militant movement steps up a campaign of violence to disrupt presidential elections, which are due to be held in a week. Security already had been increased around the compound because an attack had been widely expected, and no casualties have been reported.

Pakistan

A special Pakistani court has indicted former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in a high treason case for suspending the country’s constitution by imposing emergency rule in 2007. The development is a huge blow to Pakistan’s powerful military and the first time in the country that any acting or former army chief has been charged with treason. Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup but was forced to step down in 2008. He later left Pakistan but returned last year to take part in elections. Musharraf appeared in court on Monday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of treason. He insisted he had improved Pakistan’s economy while in office and put it on the path of progress.

A 5-year-old girl was killed and 16 people injured in a deadly blast in Pakistan’s volatile southwestern Balochistan province, police said on Saturday. Militants targeted a vehicle belonging to the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital. They had planted an improvised explosive device in a rickshaw parked on the side of the road. Nearby shops were damaged in the explosion. The incident came a day after militants torched a tanker carrying fuel for U.S. and NATO troops in the Dhadar area of Balochistan.

Earthquakes

Yellowstone National Park was shaken by its largest earthquake in 34 years Sunday, but scientists say there is no concern that the quake will lead to an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, a super-volcano located in the park. The magnitude-4.8 earthquake struck inside the park boundaries at 6:34 a.m. MDT Sunday. The epicenter was near the middle of the park, near the Norris Geyser Basin. The quake, the largest since another 4.8 tremor on February 22, 1980, was preceded by two foreshocks measuring 2.8 and 3.0 at 12:23 a.m. and 4:36 a.m. Sunday, respectively. The main shock was then followed by at least four aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 2.5 to 3.3 later Sunday morning.

A 5.1 earthquake centered at La Habra near Los Angeles rolled Southern California Friday evening. The strong earthquake was felt widely across the region shortly after 9 p.m. PT. The USGS said the epicenter was one mile from Brea, located about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Southern California Edison reported power outages to nearly 2,000 customers following the quake. The quake triggered a rockslide that closed Carbon Canyon Road in northern Orange County near the center of the quake. Up to 50 people have been displaced due to housing damage. Seven water leaks, including a broken water main in Fullerton, not far from the center of the quake, were attributed to the temblor. The quake was felt as far south as San Diego and as far north as Ventura County. More than two dozen aftershocks rattled the region. A magnitude-4.1 shake rattled the area Saturday afternoon, centered about a mile and a quarter southeast of the Los Angeles County community of Rowland Heights

A swarm of earthquakes struck central Oklahoma Saturday and early Sunday, producing the state’s strongest quakes so far in 2014, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In one cluster, the USGS recorded nine earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.6 to 4.3 between 10 p.m. CDT Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday. The two earthquakes measuring 4.3 on the moment magnitude scale were the strongest earthquakes so far in 2014 in Oklahoma, eclipsing a 4.1 jolt centered near Langston on Feb. 8. A separate cluster of earthquakes occurred near Choctaw, an eastern suburb of Oklahoma City, on Saturday and Saturday night. Six earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.4 to 3.7 were reported between 1 a.m. CDT Saturday and 1 a.m. CDT Sunday. The strongest temblor occurred at 10:08 p.m. Saturday and was felt across much of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

  • Earlier this month, a study confirmed that Oklahoma’s strongest recent earthquake, a damaging magnitude-5.7 quake in 2011 near Prague, was caused by wastewater injection related to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a method of gas and oil extraction.

Weather

Nearly 100 percent of California remains in one of the four categories of drought, ranging in severity from moderate to exceptional, the Drought Monitor update released Thursday shows. Although much of the attention has been focused on the drought in the Golden State this winter, it isn’t alone. In Oregon, 95 percent of the state is in either moderate or severe drought. Drought conditions also extend well inland across the West into portions of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and southern Idaho. With the dry season quickly approaching, it’s unlikely there will be enough time to make up the large rain and snowfall deficits that have grown over the last several months.

Six big glaciers in West Antarctica are flowing much faster than 40 years ago, a new study finds. The brisk clip may mean this part of Antarctica, which could raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) if it completely melts, is nearing full-scale collapse, said Jeremie Mouginot, lead study author and a glaciologist at University of California, Irvine. “We’re not seeing anything that could stop the retreat of the grounding line and the acceleration of these glaciers,” he told Live Science. (A grounding line is the location where the glacier leaves bedrock and meets the ocean.) Ice from the six glaciers accounts for almost 10 percent of the world’s sea-level rise per year. Researchers worry the “collapse” of West Antarctica’s glaciers would hasten sea-level rise.

Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct. The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

  • Ent-time weather will continue to grow more extreme eventually resulting in 100-lb hailstones (Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:21)

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