Signs of the Times (5/5/14)

Filipino Village Awakened to Gospel by Ongoing Relief Efforts

A small-scale spiritual awakening continues in Agojo, a Filipino fishing village devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last November. Nearly 80 Filipinos have made decisions for Christ followed by dozens of ocean baptisms and the start of multiple Simbalays, or Filipino home churches. The new Filipino believers face challenges and need prayer, volunteers said. “Some will be ostracized from their families, friends and communities,” Garry McDugle said. “Here, it is not well-received for one to be baptized outside the Catholic faith.” Filipino pastor Ronald Calina conducts the beach services. At one evening service in March, 30 adults and 15 children prayed to receive Jesus. While the Gospel is at work, the physical work of recovery and rebuilding continues. Much progress can be seen at the local elementary school, painted by volunteers from the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Georgia contingent completed work on 80 sites.

Supreme Court Allows Prayers at Town Meetings

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.” In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.” Town officials said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer.

More School Districts Removing ‘Under God’ from Pledge

School districts in New Jersey and Wisconsin have removed the ‘under God’ phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance students say each morning. Some schools replaced it with ‘peace.’ A lawsuit filed against a New Jersey school district March 28, contends that reciting the phrase “under God” in the pledge sends a message that nonbelievers are bad citizens and creates a hostile environment for atheist students. However, in a survey of Americans conducted by Nashville-based Lifeway Research 85 percent of the respondents said they prefer to keep “under God” in the pledge. Researchers did find 1 in 4 Americans (25 percent) believe forcing students to say “under God” violates their rights. But less than one in 10 (eight percent) Americans want to remove “under God” from the pledge.

  • America was founded ‘under God’ but now is falling victim to the end-time anti-Christ spirit, which will continue to increase in influence as we stumble toward the Great Tribulation to come

Research Indicates Islam Growing Faster than Christianity

New research claims that the global numbers of Christians has remained stagnant, while Islam has skyrocketed as a worldwide religion reports Christianity Today. According to the report, Christianity has remained about the same, but Islam has almost doubled in members. Christians made up 34.5 percent of the world’s population in 1900, but fell to 32.9 percent in 2010. Muslims made up 12.3 percent of the world’s population in 1900, but rose to 22.5 percent in 2010. Dick Slikker of Christian mission consultancy group Project Care who assembled the report says the declining numbers of Christian is due to “increased materialism, secularism, rationalism, rejection of the notion of spiritual authority outside of oneself.”

Good News? Obamacare’s Enrollment Numbers Only 33% Bogus

The Administration refuses to release the total of paid and valid ObamaCare policies sold, or their demographic breakdown. If it was good news, they would of course release it immediately. Thanks to work by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we have a better idea of why the “Most Transparent Administration in History” is guarding those figures closely. Previous estimates from the insurance industry held that 20 to 25 percent of the reported ObamaCare signups were unpaid and invalid, but the actual numbers from the federal exchange system turn out to be considerably worse. Data provided to the committee by every insurance provider in the health care law’s Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) shows that, as of April 15, 2014, only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month’s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process.

Latinos Not Signing Up for Obamacare

Minorities are more likely to be uninsured than whites, but Latinos have largely shied away from signing up for Obamacare. Only 10.7% of people who picked plans on the federal exchange and reported their race were Latino, according to federal data released Thursday. Whites made up nearly 63% of signups, while blacks accounted for 16.7% and Asians for 7.9%.This relatively scant participation comes despite a heavy push by the Obama administration and its supporters into the Latino community. The federal exchange had a Spanish-language site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, as well as a call center with representatives fluent in Spanish. The administration also funded application counselors to help people in low-income and minority neighborhoods enroll. “Enrollment among Latinos is lagging behind other groups when you look at the share they represent of the target market and the uninsured. This will be one of the big challenges, particularly in border states, as attention turns to increasing sign ups next year,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

BLM’s Battles go Beyond Rancher Dispute

The Bureau of Land Management, the nation’s biggest landlord, found itself in the spotlight after a high-profile brawl with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and another dispute with state officials over the Texas-Oklahoma borderlands. But the seemingly obscure agency, which is in charge of millions of acres of public land, is no stranger to controversy. History shows the power struggle over property rights and land use is one that’s been fought — fiercely — ever since the bureau was created. In the nearly seven decades of its existence, the BLM has struggled to find its footing and exert its power, pitted against a vocal states’ rights movement. “The federal government already owns too much land,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of the champions of that modern-day movement, recently told Fox News. He called for the federal government, and by extension the BLM, to “divest itself of a huge amount of this landholdings that it has across the country.” Currently, the agency, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Interior, oversees 247.3 million acres — or about one-eighth of the land in the country.

  • BLM is just another way the federal government has trampled on the Constitution which strongly limits federal powers and advocates states’ rights.
  • The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Article I, Section 8 enumerates the limited powers of the federal government.

Report Confirms Chinese Drywall Health Complaints

Chinese-made drywall used in more than 20,000 homes in the United States could have caused nosebleeds, headaches, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks in tens of thousands of Americans exposed to it, the federal government said in a long-awaited report released Friday. The drywall was installed in mostly Southern homes since 2005, and it has been the subject of multiple lawsuits. In addition to health-related complaints, homeowners have also alleged sulfur dioxide and other chemicals found in the drywall caused foul odors and corroded pipes and wiring. There have been five settlements totaling more than $1 billion, but it’s not clear how much of the drywall has been replaced. “The bottom line is that this modeling data suggests that levels of sulfur dioxide and other sulfur compounds found in the Chinese manufactured drywall were sufficiently high to result in the health effects people have been reporting,” said Vikas Kapil, chief medical officer with the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Economic News

The labor market roared ahead in April as milder weather helped employers add 288,000 jobs — the most in more than two years. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% — the lowest since September 2008, the Labor Department said Friday. Businesses added 273,000 jobs, led by strong gains in professional and business services, retail and restaurants, and construction. Federal, state and local governments added 15,000. A broader measure of job-market distress — that includes part-time employees who prefer full-time jobs and those who’ve given up looking for work, as well as the unemployed — fell to 12.3% from 12.7%.

U.S. income taxes plus social security averaged 24.6% for the average worker in 2012. This compares to 42.6% in Belgium, 39.6% in Germany, 38.6% in Denmark and 28.4% in France. Countries with lower taxes were the United Kingdom at 24.1%, Australia at 23.1%, Canada at 22.8% and Japan at 21.6%.

Persecution Watch

A shock attack on a Christian village in Syria has driven up to 350 families from their homes; 49 men were kidnapped as properties were torched and looted. Kharaba in Sweida province was stormed by armed opposition militants on 23 April following the disappearance of a young Christian man. They torched eight houses, including the home of the missing man’s father, who had stood up to the attackers, and looted others. The fighters kidnapped 49 Christian men, most of whom are elderly. The families fled to nearby villages and the town of Sweida. The Syrian army drove the insurgents out of Kharaba on 27 April, and a few families have now started to return. The local bishop helped to negotiate the release of all but around half a dozen of the kidnapped men. It is not yet known what has happened to those still missing.

Middle East

A group of Moslem and Christian leaders in the Middle East has issued a joint statement denouncing recent efforts by Israel to encourage Arab Christian youths to enlist in the IDF as a “Zionist conspiracy aiming not only to divide and weaken the Arab ranks, but also to push Christians to leave their original land.” The Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Atallah Hanna, told The Jordan Times last week that “we reject a policy that forces our children to hold weapons and oppress and kill their own people.”

Ukraine

Ukraine launched Friday what appeared to be a major assault against pro-Russian forces in the country’s east. Three deaths were reported in early fighting, including a Ukrainian pilot and a serviceman who were killed when two helicopters were shot down near the city of Slovyansk. The intensification of clashes led Moscow to warn that any hope of implementing the Geneva agreements was now all but over. Ukraine resumed a military offensive against pro-Russian forces in the country’s east on Saturday, as military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who were held for more than a week were released.

Ukraine’s prime minister on Sunday visited the city where a horrific blaze killed dozens of pro-Russian demonstrators during political riots — seeking to defuse mounting tensions by calling the deaths a “tragedy for all Ukraine.” Arseniy Yatsenyuk said police were being investigated for their failure to maintain order in Friday’s violence, while hinting strongly that he sees Moscow’s hand in the events. More than 40 people died in the unrest — some from gunshot wounds, but most in a fire that tore through a trade union building. Outrage over the deaths of pro-Russian activists in riots in Odessa triggered new violence Sunday in the Black Sea port, where a mob of protesters stormed police headquarters and reportedly freed 67 of their jailed allies.

Syria

Fierce fighting around Syria’s contested northern province of Aleppo killed at least 21 rebels on Monday as rockets slammed into a government-held district in the provincial capital, killing nine people. Meanwhile, a Syrian court said on Sunday it had accepted requests from President Bashar al-Assad and two other candidates to be nominated to run in a presidential election next month. Assad’s challengers are unlikely to pose a serious threat to the president in the June 3 vote, which his international opponents and the rebels fighting to overthrow him have dismissed as a farce. Authorities have not yet said how they will conduct the vote in a country where six million people have been displaced and large swathes of territory remain outside government control.

Nigeria

International pressure on Nigeria is mounting with protesters taking to the streets around the world to demand the rescue of hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the terror group Boko Haram. From Los Angeles to London, demonstrators carried posters reading #BringBackOurGirls — a campaign that began on Twitter following the mass abduction of the girls in April. In Washington, protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to denounce what they described as a poor response by the Nigerian government to rescue the girls. The protests on Saturday came the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to step up efforts to find the girls who were abducted April 16 from a school in Chibok, in the country’s rural northeast. A man claiming to be Boko Haram’s leader has said he’ll sell the more than 200 girls that the Islamist militant group abducted from a rural Nigerian school last month.

Kenya

Deadly explosions ripped through two passenger buses in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, on Sunday, killing at least three people and injuring a sixty-two others, twenty critically. Police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack. The buses were on Thika Highway, one near the Safari Park Hotel, the other near the Homeland Inn, when the explosions occurred.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake jolted Tokyo early Monday, rattling windows and nerves though there were no initial reports of major damage. Seventeen people were reported injured, some of them from falls as the quake struck. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake at 5:18 a.m. local time. The quake was felt across a wide area of Japan, with the strongest shaking registered in central Tokyo. It was the strongest quake felt in the Japanese capital since the aftershocks of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake rattled northern Thailand on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake struck 17 miles southwest of the town of Chiang Rai, the USGS said. Tall buildings swayed in the Thai capital of Bangkok, 500 miles to the south. The quake also was felt in Yangon, the capital of neighboring Myanmar. There has been minor damage to buildings in Chiang Rai, while some shops have goods scattered about.

Wildfires

National Guard helicopters were being called out Monday to help battle a wildfire that has consumed 3,000 acres in central Oklahoma, destroyed at least 6 homes and killed at least one person. The unidentified victim did not want to leave his home in Guthrie during the evacuations. Fire officials says that the blaze, which started from a controlled burn that got out of hand, is 75 per cent contained, on the south, west and east but still threatens at least 150 homes to the north of the burn area.

Landslides

Rescuers and hundreds of residents from nearby areas are trying to help people in a small village in northeastern Afghanistan hit by a massive landslide. The United Nations on Friday said at least 350 people were killed while the provincial governor said as many as 2,000 people were feared missing. A second landslide buried hundreds of rescuers. Officials declared on Saturday that the site a mass grave holding thousands of people after they found that digging for bodies in 50 meters of mud and rock was impossible.

Families evacuated from their Charles Village homes in Baltimore after a street collapse could be looking at a long nightmare ahead. About 20 people have been out of their homes since Wednesday, when a retaining wall buckled on 26th Street, sending cars and mud tumbling 75 feet onto CSX railroad tracks. The city said the people could be out of their homes as long as 40 days, as inspectors try to figure out what went wrong. Crews will begin stabilizing the area in a process that will take 8 to 10 days.

Weather

The first triple-digit temperatures of the year were recorded in parts of the Plains states, and more heat is on the way over the next few days in the Plains and Deep South. The sudden change of seasons is a particularly cruel turn for Wichita, Kansas, where three-tenths of an inch of snow fell on April 14, its second-latest measurable snow on record (behind April 23 just last year). Now, just 20 days later, the city has recorded its earliest 100-degree day in history. Sunday marked the first time Wichita had ever gone above 100 before the start of June. Other record highs are possible across much of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as parts of the Southeast through Tuesday.

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