Signs of the Times (5/1/14)

May 1st is National Day of Prayer

Today, May 1st, is the National Day of Prayer.  To find an event in your city, click here. Thankfully, the Department of Defense is allowing uniformed soldiers to attend the National Day of Prayer events in Washington DC, ignoring ridiculous complaints by anti-Christian groups that soldiers are not allowed to express their Christian faith while in uniform. “The U.S. military has no plans to back out of a National Day of Prayer event after being urged by a prominent activist group to withdraw,” reports ChristianNews.net. According to Stars & Stripes, the military has “no plans to withdraw from the gathering, which has been observed annually via the National Day of Prayer Task Force for over the past two decades.”

Obama’s Muslim Appointees Hold High Security Positions

According to FreedomOutpost.com, President Obama has placed individuals who represent, or are a part of, the Muslim Brotherhood into high security positions. These include:

  • Arif AlikhanAssistant Secretary for Policy Development for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Alikhan was responsible for derailing the LAPD’s efforts to monitor activities within the city’s Muslim community, where numerous radical mosques and madrassas were known to exist, and where some of the 9/11 hijackers had received support from local residents.
  • Mohammed Elibiary Homeland Security Adviser.  Elibiary is an Islamic Cleric, Elibiary was a guest speaker at a December 2004 conference in Dallas, titled “A Tribute to the Great Islamic Visionary,” which was held in honor of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Elibiary defended the profoundly anti-American early Muslim Brotherhood leader and theorist Sayyid Qutb.
  • Imam Mohamed Magid Obama’s Sharia Czar from the Islamic Society of North America. Magid accused the Bush administration of waging a “war against Islam and Muslims.” He was named to President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2011. Magid persuaded DHS to erase from its “Countering Violent Extremism” curriculum any suggestion that Muslim terrorism draws its inspiration from the laws and doctrines of Islam.

o   America is being undermined from within. For further appointees, go to: http://freedomoutpost.com/2014/04/sharia-advisers-barack-obamas-muslim-appointees/

Pro-Lifers Celebrate Victory in Historic Case

After 28 years of court battles — including three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court — a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a Chicago-based pro-life group. On Tuesday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals awarded $63,391 to the Pro-Life Action League. In his seven-page opinion, Judge Frank Easterbrook called the arguments presented by the abortion lawyers “preposterous.” The story began in 1986 when Joseph— president of Pro-Life Action League — urged pro-lifers to “shut down” the abortion industry via a national crusade. Abortion activist groups then filed a federal anti-trust “class action” claim on behalf of abortion sellers and women seeking abortions in the entire United States. They later amended their complaint to include claims against another pro-life group, Operation Rescue. They also added claims under the federal extortion and racketeering (RICO) laws. In these claims, they said that each pro-life “sit in” or “rescue” was a federal felony crime of extortion.

Maryland Lawmakers Push to Overturn Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’

Two Maryland lawmakers are trying to overturn a recently passed transgender rights bill which they claim would allow men to walk freely into ladies’ restrooms. The lawmakers started a petition drive Tuesday to get the issue put on the November ballot and let voters decide. Legislator Kathy Szeliga said Wednesday she fully supports protecting the rights of transgender people, but the so-called “bathroom bill” could have been written in a better way to protect young girls and women. If signed, Maryland would join California in becoming the second state to have adopted such a law. It applies to accommodations in public and private places such as “hotels, restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters and sports arenas,” according to the bill, and would allow transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender they identify with. Critics argue this is written so loosely as to allow a man to waltz into a women’s bathroom simply by claiming he’s a woman — or vice versa.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear NDAA Legal Challenge

In refusing to hear a legal challenge to the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), the United States Supreme Court has affirmed that the President and the U.S. military can arrest and indefinitely detain individuals, including American citizens. By denying without comment a petition for review in Hedges v. Obama, the high court not only passed up an opportunity to overturn its 1944 Korematsu v. United States ruling allowing for the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, but also let stand a lower court ruling empowering the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to indefinitely detain persons associated with or “suspected” of aiding terrorist organizations. “Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown itself to be an advocate for the government, no matter how illegal its action, rather than a champion of the Constitution and, by extension, the American people,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

  • Detention centers have already been built and now await a manufactured crisis to begin rounding up ‘dissidents” according to however the government chooses to define grounds for interment

Firearm Applications Increase 380% – Overwhelm ATF Registration System

Much to the chagrin of gun control advocates everywhere, a surge of firearm applications has overwhelmed the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Between 2005 and 2013, firearms act-related applications skyrocketed by more than 380 percent to 200,000. According to the USA Today, the ATF said it was temporarily suspending parts of its computerized system to shore up capacity in part to process the required registrations. In an April 16 memo from ATF Deputy Assistant Director Marvin Richardson, the surge was said to contribute to a 70,000-application backlog, requiring the ATF to hire 15 additional people and to reassign 15 existing employees to combat the backlog.

WHO Sounds Alarm on Widespread ‘Superbug’ Infections

Disease-causing bacteria that resist antibiotic treatment are now widespread in every part of the world and have reached “alarming levels” in many areas, says the first global report on the issue from the World Health Organization. “The problem is so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine,” says the report released Wednesday. “A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – is a very real possibility for the 21st century.” Thanks in part to antibiotic overuse and the dearth of new drugs, some bugs that were once easily curable now resist even the latest, most powerful antibiotics, the report says. For example, cases of gonorrhea that are untreatable with the latest cephalosporins have been found in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Urinary tract infections with E. coli bacteria that resist treatment with fluoroquinolone antibiotics make up more than half of cases in many countries, the report says.

  • Pestilence will become widespread during the end-times: And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences. (Luke 21:11)

Good News/Bad News for U.S. Air Quality

The 2014 State of the Air report out Wednesday from the American Lung Association presents a good news/bad news mix showing improvements in America’s air quality compared with previous decades, but more recently an increase in ozone readings since its 2013 report. Bottom line, the association says, is that 147.6 million people live in areas where air quality remains unhealthy, almost 16 million more than the 2013 report. Particle and ozone pollution increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 25 cities with the worst levels of year-round particle pollution, 18 had lower levels, while five recorded higher levels, and two cities stayed the same. Though some improved, all of the most polluted cities have year-round particle levels that violate health standards, according to the report. Ozone pollution was also worse as 22 of the 25 most polluted cities experienced more high-ozone days in 2010-2012 compared with 2009-2011.

Economic News

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose for the third straight week to their highest level since late February, the Labor Department said Thursday. First-time claims last week reached a seasonally adjusted level of 344,000, up 14,000 from a week earlier. Claims have been climbing since early April when they reached a seven-year low of 301,000, but they remain well below their peak levels that were well over 600,000 a week in 2009. Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs, so higher numbers could suggest a weakening labor market.

U.S. consumers ramped up spending in March at the fastest pace in 4½ years, a sign the economy is gaining momentum after its winter slowdown. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.9 percent, the largest gain since April 2009. Consumer activity accounts for 70% of the economy .Income rose 0.5% after rising 0.4% in February.

The nation’s gross domestic product in the first three months of 2014 increased at just a 0.1% annual pace, down from 2.6% in the fourth quarter, the government said Wednesday. That’s the weakest pace since late 2012. Consumer spending held up well despite the adverse weather, growing at a 3% annual rate, down from 3.3% in the fourth quarter. But business investment fell 2.1%, and spending on equipment tumbled 5.5%. Federal government spending ticked up 0.7%. Exports declined 7.6% as growth slowed in Europe and China.

Federal Reserve policymakers agreed Wednesday to continue winding down their stimulus program despite anemic first-quarter growth, noting that the slowdown was partly weather-related. In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed said it will reduce its monthly government bond purchases to $45 billion from $55 billion. The purchases are intended to hold down long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy.

After bouncing back smartly in 2012 and most of 2013 following the 2006-09 real estate crash, the housing market began slowing last fall. Although an unusually cold and snowy winter hindered activity early this year, home sales and starts were disappointing again in March, even in the West and South. Sharp increases in home prices in much of the USA, along with higher mortgage rates, have discouraged many house-hunters. Home inventories are at historically low levels. First-time home buyers, who traditionally drive home sales, remain saddled with student debt and face still-stringent lending standards.

Persecution Watch

A massive church was razed to the ground this week in Wenzhou, a coastal Chinese city nicknamed the “Jerusalem of the East” for its large Christian population. Local officials responsible for the demolition say the church was an illegal structure that was four times the permitted structure size. But Christian groups are concerned that the demolition signals an official campaign against religious organizations. The Sanjiang Church took 12 years and 30 million yuan ($4.7 million) to build, reports Chinese media. Its soaring spires were a symbol of worship in a city that is fifteen percent Christian. The church’s demolition on Monday was preceded by a month-long standoff between supporters of the church and local authorities, with supporters occupying the church to protest its destruction.

A study from Tel Aviv University released this week revealed a stunning increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe—up to 550 last year. The findings led Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, to sound the alarm. He stated, “The Jews in Europe have no future.” Dr. Mike Evans, head of the Jerusalem Prayer Team says, “Hatred of the Jewish people is not because there is a nation called Israel, and it is not confined to those living in Israel. This is an ancient evil we are confronting…and we must be strong and diligent as we stand in support of God’s Chosen People.”

A Palestinian Christian woman says she fled her hometown of Bethlehem and was granted political asylum in Britain due to threats on her life after she criticized Palestinian terrorism and expressed support for Israel’s right to exist. After traveling to Sweden in recent weeks where she gave a candid speech to students at Uppsala University, Christy said that her uncle threatened to kill her for endangering their family which still resides in Bethlehem. The women, who has identified herself as “Christy,” posted a 25-minute video on YouTube in which she detailed the extent of the persecution of Palestinian Christians as well as the incitement to violence, institutional corruption, and the second class status of women under Palestinian Authority rule.

Middle East

In a ruling which could have wide-ranging consequences for tourism and other sectors in Israel’s capital city, a fatwa (Moslem religious edict) was issued in Amman Jordan on Wednesday allowing Moslems around the world to visit the Al-Aksa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, despite the fact that Israel is in physical and political control of the area. Moslem religious authorities have long forbade visits to the Mosque by Moslems because they said it would amount to a sign of “normalization” with the Jewish State. But the new fatwa, issued by a conference entitled “The Way to Jerusalem” and attended by senior officials from the Moslem Brotherhood franchises in Israel and around the Middle East, was presented as part of a wider plan to end “the attack on Al-Aksa” by the Israelis.

Ukraine

President Obama announced on Monday that the United States is levying a new round of sanctions against Russia in response to their actions in Ukraine, striking against individuals and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Seven Russian government officials, including two members of Putin’s inner circle, will be subject to an asset freeze and a U.S. visa ban, and 17 companies linked to Putin’s inner circle will be subject to an asset freeze. The European Union named another 15 people Tuesday who will face sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine, including a number of high-ranking Russian officials. The sanctions, which go into immediate effect, include asset freezes and travel bans.

In the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, makeshift barricades, concertina wire and masked men in camouflage greeted visitors to the regional administration building Wednesday. Seized by armed men Tuesday, the building in Ukraine’s restive Donetsk region is just the latest to fall under the control of pro-Russian militants. Ukraine’s police and security forces are “helpless” to quell unrest in two eastern regions bordering Russia and the goal now was to prevent the agitation from spreading to other territories, the country’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said Wednesday. Russia has placed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine and Turchynov said the threat of a Russian invasion was real. He called on creating regional self-defense units throughout the country.

Syria

Dozens of children are among the latest victims of the Syrian civil war after barrel bombs fell on an elementary school Wednesday, dissidents said. Syrian forces dropped the bombs on an opposition-held area of Aleppo, the country’s largest city. More than 50 people were killed Tuesday in “terrorist” mortar and car bomb attacks in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. A car bombing in Homs’ al-Zahra neighborhood killed 36, SANA reported, citing an unnamed source in the area. Scores were injured in the attacks in the two cities, SANA said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, also reported many casualties, including women and children, in the car bomb attack. The violence comes amid Syria’s three-year civil war pitting government forces against rebels trying to end the rule of al-Assad. The government refers to rebels as armed terrorists bent on destabilizing the country. More than 100,000 people, including many civilians, have been killed in the war.

Egypt

An Egyptian judge has sentenced to death more than 680 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president over acts of violence and the murder of policemen in the latest mass trial in Egypt that included the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. The case is linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August. Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters.

Iraq

Sunni militants in Iraq unleashed attacks against polling stations as soldiers and security forces cast ballots two days ahead of parliamentary selections, killing at least 32 people on Monday. The wave of attacks was an apparent attempt to derail the balloting process and to discourage the rest of the country’s 22 million registered voters from going to polls on Wednesday in the first nationwide elections since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces. The early balloting for police and soldiers is meant to free up the 1 million-strong military and security forces for Wednesday, so they can protect polling stations and voters. More than 9,000 candidates are vying for 328 seats in parliament, which is widely expected to be won by an alliance led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Brunei

Brunei has become the first East Asian country to adopt sharia law, despite widespread condemnation from international human rights groups. The Islamic criminal law is set to include punishments such as flogging, dismemberment and death by stoning for crimes such as rape, adultery and sodomy. The religious laws will operate alongside the existing civil penal code. The oil-rich kingdom, located on the island of Borneo, has a population of just 412,000 people. The country already follows a more conservative Islamic rule than neighboring Muslim-dominated countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, and has implemented strict religiously-motivated laws, such as the banning of the sale of alcohol.

Kenya

A new law that went into effect in Kenya this week makes it legal for a man to marry as many women as he wants. And a leading women’s group is applauding it. President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the polygamy measure into law Tuesday, formally recognizing what has long been a cultural practice in the nation. Parliament passed the bill in March despite protests from female lawmakers who angrily stormed out of the late-night session at the time. The Federation of Women Lawyers, a powerful women’s rights group, applauded aspects of the bill and criticized others. The bill, the group said, is long overdue because polygamous unions were previously not regarded as equal to regular marriages. “We are happy with the law because finally all marriages are being treated equally,” said Christine Ochieng, executive director of the federation.

Central African Republic

At least 22 people, including 15 local chiefs and three members of staff of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, were killed in an attack on a town in the Central African Republic. Four people were killed as the assailants approached the town but most died when Seleka rebels went to an MSF-run health clinic in search of money. The attack took place while local chiefs were holding a meeting there and the gunmen opened fire when some of the chiefs tried to run away. The attack on Saturday was in Nanga Boguila, about 450 km (280 miles) north of the capital Bangui. Some 2,000 French and over 5,000 African peacekeepers are struggling to halt waves of violence that have gripped the country over the last 18 months.

Wildfires

Mandatory evacuations were lifted Wednesday for nearly 1,700 homes in the path of a wildfire near Rancho Cucamonga, California, but fire officials urged some residents to keep on an eye on the wind-whipped blaze. Four schools — a high school, intermediate school and two elementary schools — were evacuated, and a temporary evacuation center has been established in Rancho Cucamonga. While mandatory evacuations were lifted, a voluntary evacuation remained in effect for neighborhoods within possible range of the fire.

Weather

The heaviest rain has ended in the Northeast, but investigators and cleanup crews continue to deal with landslides in two separate states. The larger of the two happened in Baltimore’s busy Charles Village neighborhood Wednesday, when a retaining wall buckled on 26th Street, sending cars and mud tumbling 75 feet onto CSX railroad tracks. No one was injured but homes were evacuated so investigators could assess the area’s stability. The wet weather is also blamed for a mudslide on Metro-North train tracks in Yonkers, New York. A retaining wall collapsed Wednesday evening, sending debris onto the tracks. Metro-North told commuters on the Hudson Line to expect delays Thursday morning.

Torrential rain from a pair of thunderstorm clusters triggered major flash flooding along parts of the Alabama Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Authorities blamed the flooding for one death in Pensacola, Florida. Residents were reportedly stranded in cars and homes, waiting for rescuers to find a way around impassable roads while others abandoned vehicles to walk to safety. A 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 was flooded and closed from the Alabama state line into western Florida on Wednesday morning. Several roads were also closed throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Many homes were flooded and fire rescue crews weren’t able to respond to some calls for help because of road flooding in and around Pensacola. Emergency officials described it was the worst flooding they had seen in 30 years with more than 20 inches of rain reported in some areas.

At least 11 people were killed after tornadoes touched down in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, bringing the overall death toll from three days of severe weather to at least 35. At least five tornadoes were reported to have touched down in North Carolina Tuesday evening. As of 7:45 a.m. CDT Wednesday, the Storm Prediction Center had received 613 reports of severe weather since 7 a.m. Sunday, including 116 reports of tornadoes.

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