Signs of the Times (4/22/14)

Nearly 1,000 Abortion Patients Hospitalized Annually in Texas

A decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the State of Texas to enforce a controversial abortion law passed last year reveals that abortion complications that require emergency hospitalization are higher than thought, and raise the concerns that the true number of serious abortion-related injuries and maternal deaths are being kept from the public. “Information in this decision has forced us to crunch the numbers,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “Our calculations based on conservative estimates indicates that nearly 1,000 women might very well be hospitalized each year in Texas alone. That number is completely unacceptable.” The appeals decision issued on March 27, 2014, reveals troubling information that was submitted in the form of sworn testimony during a challenge to the constitutionality of HB 2, a sweeping abortion law that requires abortionists to maintain hospital privileges within 30 miles of their abortion clinics and follow protocols set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for administering the abortion pill, mifepristone, also known as RU-486.

  • Beyond ending a baby’s life, the impact of abortion on women not only exposes them to physical complications, but also causes severe emotional trauma and spiritual oppression

China on Course to Become ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied. Christian congregations have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution. Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation. “By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule. China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, Prof. Yang predicted.

Professor Punished for Faith in Jesus, but Wins Court Case

“A jury found that the University of North Carolina-Wilmington retaliated unconstitutionally against one of its conservative, outspoken, Christian professors,” reports OneNewsNow. Dr. Mike Adams was hired by UNC-Wilmington as an assistant professor in 1993. The criminology professor, who was an avowed atheist when hired, became a Christian in 2000. His conversion impacted his view on political and social issues, topics which he addressed frequently in opinion columns. Consequently, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, Adams was subjected to ‘intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and a denial of promotion to full professor’ because the university often disagreed with his views – despite an award-winning record of teaching, research, and service, and scholarly output surpassing that of almost all of his colleagues. The school’s anti-Christian persecution led to a lawsuit by Christian lawyers on Adam’s behalf. ADF calls yesterday’s verdict “a powerful message for academic freedom and free speech at America’s public universities.”

Family Sues N.J. School District over ‘Under God’ in Pledge

A family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent, seeking to have the phrase “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that students recite every day. A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Monmouth County on behalf of the family, who wish to remain unidentified, and the American Humanist Association claims that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge of allegiance discriminates against atheists, in violation of New Jersey’s constitution. But the school district’s attorney says the district is simply following a state law that requires pupils to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. “If the group who’s brought this lawsuit questions the wisdom of that policy or the legality of it, we believe their arguments are much better directed to the state Legislature who’s imposed this requirement on us, rather than suing an individual school district on this matter,” Attorney Rubin said.

Western States Hold Summit on Controlling Federal Land

Lawmakers from Western states said Friday that the time has come for them to take control of federal lands within their borders and suggested the standoff this month between a Nevada rancher and the federal government was a problem waiting to happen. The lawmakers — more than 50 of them from nine Western states – attended the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands, in Utah, which was scheduled before this month’s standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management. The agency rounded up hundreds of Bundy’s cattle, saying he hasn’t paid more than $1 million in grazing fees he owes for trespassing on federal lands since the 1990s. But Bundy does not recognize federal authority on the land, which his family has used since the 1870s. The agency released the cattle after a showdown last weekend with angry armed protesters whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid referred to as “domestic terrorists.” On Friday, political leaders from the nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal of wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the U.S. government. They argue that states and local governments west of the Mississippi River often can best manage the land and that doing so would allow them to use it to improve their economies.

  • The history of the USA is one of the federal government continually usurping state’s rights in violation of the Constitution

U.S. Population Growth Slowing

The U.S. population rose by just 0.72% in 2013, the lowest growth rate in more than 70 years. Not only has the country become less-attractive to immigrants than in years past, with net immigration down from nearly 1.2 million as of 2001 to 843,145 last year, but the U.S.’s domestic birth rate has also dropped to a multi-decade low. The U.S. fertility rate fell to another record low in 2012, with 63.0 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s down slightly from the previous low of 63.2 in 2011. It marked the fifth year in a row the U.S. birth rate has declined, and the lowest rate on record since the government started tracking the fertility rate in 1909. In 2007, the rate was 69.3. It takes 2.1 children per woman for a given generation to replace itself, and U.S. births have been below replacement level since 2007. As of last year, a separate CDC analysis shows an American woman will give birth to an average of 1.88 children over her lifetime, also a record low.

Economic News

In the budget proposal he presented to Congress last month, President Barack Obama called for what would be the highest level of sustained taxation ever imposed on the American people, according to the analysis published last week by the Congressional Budget Office. Under Obama’s proposal, taxes would rise from 17.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2014 to 19.2 percent in 2024. During the ten years from 2015 to 2024, federal taxation would average 18.7 percent GDP. America has never been subjected to a ten-year stretch of taxation at that level.

Wage inflation could soon surge in the United States because short-term unemployment is almost back at normal levels, and that could present the Federal Reserve with a fresh dilemma, according to the Financial Times. That’s because if wage hikes do gain momentum, it could undercut the Fed’s key hope of keeping interest rates low at least until 2015. “If such wage pressures start to show up this year, they could force the Fed to consider earlier interest rates rises even while the unemployment rate remains relatively high,” the Times concluded. While Fed Chair Janet Yellen clings to the notion that long-term unemployment will work to keep a lid on wage inflation, the Times noted that some important economists, including Alan Krueger, former chairman of President Barack Obama’s council of economic advisers, disagree.

Persecution Watch

An Islamist mob beat, stabbed, and shot Mary Sameh George to death in Cairo on March 28, reportedly because of the cross hanging in her car. George, a Coptic Christian in her mid-20s, parked near Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church to deliver medicine and food to the elderly after work that day. After clashing with security officers, witness Wahid said the protesters headed toward the church firing shots, and attacked George when they identified her as a Christian by a cross hanging from her rear view mirror. He described the mob jumping on the car until the roof collapsed, dragging her from the car, beating and stabbing her repeatedly. “They were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar’ and cursing her while stabbing her,” Wahid said.

A 22-year-old Christian man was murdered in Pakistan April 16 for not converting to Islam. Only known as Haroon, the United Kingdom-based Center for Legal Aid and Settlement claims he recently started work at an Islamic center in Lahore as a sweeper, where he was mocked for his Christian faith by a Muslim co-worker. Umer Farooq, a security guard at the center, promised Haroon a life of luxury and marriage to a rich Muslim woman if he would embrace Islam. Witnesses claim Haroon did not care about such things and refused to convert to Islam stating he was a follower of Jesus Christ. Allegedly Farooq became angered and opened fire on Haroon, killing him instantly with a single gunshot to the head.

Middle East

Palestinian terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip marked the end of Passover Monday evening with a barrage of rockets, one of which landed near a hall filled with worshipers in the border community of Sderot. An IDF ground patrol near the border was also targeted by an Improvised Explosive Device over the weekend. No casualties were reported from the strikes, but the IAF responded with air strikes targeting terrorist infrastructure in the Strip. “Today the IDF hit in the Gaza Strip those who wanted to harm Israeli citizens and violate the peace of the holiday,” said PM Benjamin Netanyahu in a Facebook posting. “We will continue to act aggressively against the enemies of Israel to ensure security for our citizens. We will hit anyone who seeks to harm us. That’s what we have done, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk dug in for another day Saturday in defiance of an international deal aimed at helping resolve a crisis that has threatened to devolve into civil war. So far, the separatists have rejected calls for them to leave the public buildings they occupied in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine and lay down their arms. The demand to surrender, accompanied by a promise of amnesty for the protesters, is a key plank of an agreement signed Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland, by officials from Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and Russia. But separatists in eastern Ukraine have not signed on nor indicated they intend to, unless the pro-Western government in Kiev steps down.

An Easter truce was shattered early Sunday after a shootout at a militia checkpoint in eastern Ukraine left at least one dead. A holiday truce had been declared by Kiev’s interim government, which pledged not to use force to dislodge the separatists who have called for secession of this predominately Russian-speaking region. Russia echoed separatist claims that the attack was the work of right-wing extremists allied with Ukraine’s interim government. Ukraine’s interim government says it has proof that Russian military and intelligence forces are fomenting the unrest that has destabilized the eastern part of that country since Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month.

Syria

Elections are usually an effective way to throw out unfavorable presidents or regimes. That is, unless you live in Syria. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria against holding presidential elections on June 3, a date the government announced Monday. Having elections during the current crisis “will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for political solution,” said Ban. He added that such elections are incompatible with the Geneva Communique — the international plan adopted two years ago that calls for a transitional government to lead to free and fair elections. If history repeats itself, the upcoming elections will yield no major change in a country now devastated by civil war. President Bashar al-Assad’s family has had a tight grip on power in Syria for the past 43 years. Al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000 and won a second term in 2007, unopposed.

Iraq

Suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed at least 19 people and wounded 36 on Monday, officials said, the latest in an uptick in violence as the country counts down to crucial parliament elections later this month. In one suicide attack, the bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint in the town of Suwayrah, killing 12 people — five policemen and seven civilians — and wounding 19 people. In the nearby town of Madain, about 14 miles southeast of Baghdad, another suicide car bomber struck an army checkpoint, killing three soldiers and two civilians. Twelve other people were wounded in that attack.

A wave of suicide bombings carried out by foreign volunteers entering Iraq from Syria is killing some 1,000 civilians a month, bringing the country back to the brink of civil war. The foreign jihadists are brought to Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which in recent weeks has started to publicize on its Twitter feed the national origins of the bombers. According to a study by Bill Roggio, of the Long War Journal website, of 26 Isis bombers in one much-fought over Iraqi province, Diyala, north-east of Baghdad, no less than 24 were foreigners whose noms de guerre indicate that the majority came from North Africa, with 10 from Tunisia, five from Saudi Arabia, two each from Libya and Egypt, and one each from Denmark, Chechnya, Iran and Tajikistan.

Yemen

An operation targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is under way in Abyan and Shabwa, Yemen. A high-level Yemeni government official said that the scale of the strikes against AQAP is “massive and unprecedented” and that at least 30 militants have been killed. The operation involved Yemeni commandos who are now “going after high-level AQAP targets,” the official said. A day earlier, suspected U.S. drone strikes targeted al Qaeda fighters in Yemen for the second time in two days, killing “at least a dozen.”

South Sudan

South Sudanese rebels seized a strategic oil town last week, separating terrified residents by ethnicity before killing hundreds, the United Nations said. At one mosque, more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and 400 others wounded, according to the United Nations. The residents had sought shelter in churches, mosques and hospitals when the rebels raided Bentiu town. Before the attacks, some rebel commanders broadcast messages on local radio warning certain groups to leave town. The Nuer community backs rebel leader Riek Machar while his rival, President Salva Kiir, is a Dinka. Militias loyal to both have battled each others’ forces. Violence has quickly spread, with reports of mass killings emerging nationwide. South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But numerous armed groups have remained active in the oil-rich country.

Earthquakes

The magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck Friday in southern Mexico’s Guerrero state didn’t land the kind of punch that it might have. It struck at 9:27 a.m. and was centered 22 miles north-northwest of Tecpan. Tecpan is 54 miles (87 kilometers) northwest of Acapulco. The quake’s depth at the epicenter was a shallow 15 miles. A few walls from older buildings had collapsed, but nothing worse. Any quake magnitude 7.0 to 7.9 is considered “major.” Its impact was also felt in Mexico City, 170 miles northeast of the epicenter. At least one building in the capital was damaged, but there were no reports of major damage.

A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded off the coast of Papua New Guinea Saturday, and a tsunami warning was issued for a short time for both Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was located 47 miles southwest of the town of Panguna on Bougainville Island. It struck at a depth of 19 miles. A small tsunami of less than a half foot was observed. Saturday’s tremor marks the third major earthquake in the region in the past week. On April 13, two separate earthquakes hit the Solomon Islands with magnitudes 7.6 and 7.4. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 was also recorded off Papua New Guinea’s remote Bougainville Island on April 11, but there were no damage reports.

Wildfires

Massive wildfires (over 1000 acres) are on the increase in the Western USA due to rising temperatures and worsening drought, and the trend could continue in the decades to come, new research suggests. Overall, the number of large wildfires increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, while the total area damaged by fire increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres per year. The study comes against the backdrop of what could be a disastrous year for fires in the West, especially drought-plagued California, which even saw fires in the normally quiet month of January. “Continuing changes in climate, invasive species and consequences of past fire suppression, added to the impacts of larger, more frequent fires, will drive further disruptions to fire regimes of the Western U.S.,” according to the study, published last week in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Weather

A combination of melting snow, ice jams and recent heavy rain sent rivers swelling this week in parts of northern New England, Lower Michigan and eastern Canada. A hydroelectric dam in St. Regis Falls was damaged by large chunks of ice and the force of the high water. A state of emergency was declared in nearby St. Lawrence County. Several roads remained closed due to high water, as of Thursday morning. An electric substation was flooded in the county Tuesday. Lake Champlain at Burlington inched above flood stage Wednesday night and is likely to creep higher in the coming days, as more runoff from swollen rivers and melt-water from snow drains into the lake. The Kennebec River crested at just under 5.5 feet above flood stage Wednesday in Augusta, flooding parks, parking lots and some basements, but not leading to any major damage. The combination of rain and warmer temperatures melted 28 inches of snow in 11 days in Caribou, Maine. The Muskegon River in Michigan crested almost a foot above the previous record level from March 1989 at Evart. Numerous roads remained flooded and closed in Osceola County.

Despite recent tornadoes in Missouri, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina, among other states, we have set a new record for a lack of stronger tornadoes-to-date in 2014. Through April 19, not one tornado of EF3 intensity or stronger has been observed anywhere in the U.S., the latest wait for the first such tornado in any year on record dating to 1950. The period from January through March averaged between eight and nine tornadoes of F/EF3+ intensity in the period 1950-2012. The last U.S. tornado of EF3 intensity or stronger was during the Nov. 17, 2013 outbreak in the Midwest, an almost five-month stretch.

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