Signs of the Times (5/9/14)

Praying in Jesus’ Name Upheld by Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it’s OK for pastors to pray “in Jesus’ name” at city council meetings. Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt of PrayInJesusName.org says, “When the Supreme Court ruled this week allowing prayers “in Jesus’ name” before city council meetings, it had several ramifications: 1) Atheist complainers must think twice before filing frivolous lawsuits to silence Christians, or they risk paying our attorneys’ fees on top of their own when they lose; 2) The 2nd Circuit and 4th Circuit Courts must restore religious freedom of speech in states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont; 3) Persecuted pastors like Hashmel Turner in Virginia and pastors in Forsyth County North Carolina, not to mention County Commissioners like Robin Bartlett Frazier in Maryland are now free again to pray “in Jesus’ name” despite bad judges who said otherwise.”

Number of LGBT’s Not as High as Perceived

Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie reports, “There is a movement afoot in our country to redefine marriage and family. Media and modern culture are pushing for same-sex marriage. The normalization of homosexuality is also gaining momentum, illustrated by television programs such as Modern Family and The New Normal. With the emphasis on gay marriage and homosexuality in general, you would think a huge percentage of today’s population must be gay. Some advocates say it is as high as 25 percent. Many accept the premise that it is at least 10 percent. But an extensive survey, the largest of its kind, was recently completed by the Gallup polling agency. The survey, which interviewed 120,000 Americans, revealed that 3.4 percent of the U.S. population is gay. That includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Even though it represents a small percentage of the population.”

  • When things are not as they seem, you can usually find Satan manipulating things behind the black curtain. He is adept at deception and has bamboozled the world to adopt his anti-family agenda under the guise of tolerance and inclusivity.

Scientists Create First Living Organism Containing Artificial DNA

Researchers for the first time created microbes containing artificial DNA, expanding the universal genetic code that guides life. The advance one day could lead to new antibiotics, vaccines and other medical products not possible with today’s bioscience. In a report published Wednesday in Nature, the scientists said they created two additions to the normal genetic code, and then prompted bacteria to incorporate these pieces of man-made DNA with few ill effects. The experiment demonstrates the feasibility of life-forms based on a different DNA code, independent experts said. Eventually, scientists could use an expanded genetic code to design living cells that could make new medical compounds. Many scientists had assumed that a normal cell would ignore any imitation DNA.

  • Humanity as gods? Very scary prospect.

Edible Marijuana Causing Illness & Death

Two deaths connected with edible marijuana products have Colorado lawmakers scrambling to toughen regulations and experts warning of bizarre behavior as consumers eat powerful pot-infused foods. Experts say the amount of marijuana in edibles can vary widely, and in some cases, the levels are so high people report extreme paranoia and anxiety bordering on psychotic behavior. On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana — Washington state expects to begin legal retail sales this summer — and commercially made edible products have become a popular alternative to smoking pot. Edibles give users a different kind of high than the one they get from smoking marijuana, largely because the pot is absorbed through the stomach instead of the lungs. The effects are slower to arrive, generally last longer and can be more intense because people unwittingly eat more than they intend to.

House Votes to Establish Select Committee on Benghazi

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to establish a select committee on Benghazi, formally launching a comprehensive and contentious investigation aimed at answering lingering questions about what happened before, during and after the terror attack that killed four Americans at our embassy in Libya. The House voted 232-186 to approve the panel. The vote breakdown was 225 Republicans and 7 Democrats in favor, with 186 Democrats voting against the measure. The probe ensures that Benghazi will remain front and center during the midterm election season, something Democrats say is by design. They have slammed the select committee as a partisan, and unnecessary, exercise. But Republicans argue that individual congressional committee and other investigations have been insufficient in getting at the full truth, pointing in part to emails released last week that had been kept under wraps since 2012. One email from a White House adviser stressing the role of an anti-Islam web video adds fuel to the belief that a cover-up was instituted to keep blame from falling on President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Most People Paying Obamacare Premiums

Most people signing up for Obamacare are paying their premiums, insurers told a Congressional subcommittee Wednesday. Though it may take weeks or months for the final payment figures to be calculated, rates are running in the 80% to 90% range, several major insurers said. Some 8.1 million people selected insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges during the first open enrollment period, which ended March 31. But these folks will not be fully enrolled until they pay their premiums. The Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee last week issued a report saying that only 67% of those signing up for Obamacare had paid their first month’s premium. But the insurers appearing before the subcommittee said the figures in the panel report were incomplete.

Report Finds Only 1 Layoff from Sequester Cuts

Despite doomsday warnings from the White House and lawmakers on both sides that hundreds of thousands would lose their jobs as a result of the so-called sequester, it turns out the budget cuts have only led to one job being lost among 23 federal agencies. The findings were revealed in a government watchdog report. Now Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is demanding answers as to why the Obama administration repeatedly warned taxpayers that the $85.3 billion in spending cuts, which went into effect in March 2013, would threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs. The March report by the Government Accountability Office describes how 23 agencies and departments — which appear to span most of the federal government — complied with the cuts. Only one, the Department of Justice, decided to lay off a single employee in fiscal year 2013.

Economic News

The U.S. Treasury Department booked a $114 billion surplus in April, the largest for that month since 2008, according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released Wednesday. April typically brings an influx of receipts as Americans file their tax returns. For the first seven months of this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, the CBO estimates the country has racked up a $301 billion deficit, which is $187 billion lower than it was for the same period last year.

U.S. retailers posted a 6 percent comparable-stores sales gain in April, the biggest increase since September 2011, as better weather and the late Easter as well as aggressive promotions attracted shoppers. Combined March and April sales rose 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

Consumers increased their borrowing in March by the largest amount in more than a year, using their credit cards and taking out more auto and student loans. Consumer borrowing increased $17.5 billion in March, up from a gain of $13 billion in February, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. It was the biggest monthly increase since a $19.3 billion advance in February 2013. The category that includes auto and student loans rose $16.4 billion while the category that covers credit card borrowing increased $1.1 billion. The overall increase in consumer debt pushed total borrowing to a record $3.14 trillion.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March as exports rebounded to the second highest level on record, led by strong gains in sales of aircraft, autos and farm goods. The Commerce Department says the deficit declined to $40.4 billion, down 3.6% from a revised February imbalance of $41.9 billion, which had been the biggest trade gap in five months. U.S. exports rose 2.1% to $193.9 billion with exports to Canada and South Korea hitting all-time highs. Imports also rose but by a slower 1.1% to $234.3 billion, reflecting increased shipments of cellphones, clothing and other consumer goods and increased demand for heavy machinery and other capital goods.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, told Congress Wednesday that the recent housing slowdown “could prove more protracted” than expected. More than half of 40 top economists surveyed by USA TODAY May 2-6 are more pessimistic about the housing recovery than they were in December. Neither Yellen nor the surveyed economists expect a housing rebound that began in 2011 to reverse course. Rather, economists say the turnaround will likely be more gradual, crimping economic gains in 2014. Both home sales and housing starts have weakened in recent months.

There are two economic trends that Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen told Congress this week she finds “very disturbing.” Unfortunately, the Fed has very little power to fix either of them: 1) About 3.5 million Americans have been out of a job for at least six months. This group accounts for 35% of all the unemployed; 2) “We have seen a trend toward rising inequality in income and also in wealth.”

Persecution Watch

Christians are under siege in the Middle East, and the Obama administration is not doing enough to stop religious persecution by its allies, according to a new report from a bipartisan federal commission. The report, from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, faulted usual suspects Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as North Korea. The number of Christians in the Middle East has plunged to just 10 percent of the overall population from more than 25 percent in 2011. “While the Obama administration should continue to shine a spotlight on abuses through public statements, it also should impose targeted sanctions to demonstrate that there are consequences, too,” Dwight Bashir, the commission’s deputy director of policy and research, told FoxNews.com. “As of February 2014, at least 40 Christians were either in prison, detained or awaiting trial because of their religious beliefs and activities,” noted the report.

The cable network HGTV has pulled reality series Flip It Forward allegedly because the hosts of the show, brothers David and Jason Benham, hold a biblical worldview on the issues of life and marriage. Apparently the decision came following an article by Right Wing Watch that detailed the family’s activist history in the pro-life movement. The twin brother’s father, Flip Benham, is director of Operation Save America. Faith Driven Consumer, the group which played a key role in Phil Robertson’s return to Duck Dynasty, has launched the #FlipThisDecision campaign calling on HGTV to reinstate “Flip it Forward.” “This is pure intolerance, discrimination, and bullying toward those who hold to widely held and legitimate views. HGTV’s rash actions hold no place in America’s rainbow of diversity. Whether people agree or disagree with the Beham’s faith-driven perspective is beside the point; the Benhams have a right to have those views and to be treated equally with those who hold to other viewpoints.”

Ukraine

A council of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk voted unanimously on Thursday to hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine on Sunday despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a postponement. Pro-Russian militia took a number of cities in East Ukraine in April, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s new interim government that came into power after pro-European demonstrations, held mainly in Kiev’s Maidan Square and toppled the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Ukraine has launched what it called a counter-terrorist operation against the separatists, and insists the referendum is illegal because it’s being foisted on the local population by an armed militia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Crime Friday since Russia annexed the region in March and hailed the incorporation of the disputed Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation. Earlier, Putin joined thousands in Moscow’s Red Square Friday for a similar celebration that featured an unusually large display of military might. Meanwhile, major fighting erupted in the Ukrainian city of Mairupol as Ukrainian troops crackdown on pro-Russian separates. The clashes at the police headquarters and at the local interior ministry building in the port town left at least eight people dead.

Syria

A rebel-claimed bombing Thursday in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo leveled a once luxurious hotel near the ancient Citadel that government troops used as a military base, causing multiple casualties. Syrian state television said the explosion struck the Carlton Hotel in a government-held area on the edge of a contested neighborhood in the old part of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains a network of activists on the ground, said at least 14 soldiers were killed in the blast. The Islamic Front, Syria’s biggest rebel alliance which claimed the attack, claimed to have killed 50 soldiers.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s president vowed Thursday to find 276 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic terrorists and counter threats from militant group Boko Haram, as U.S. officials and agents arrived in Nigeria to assist in rescue efforts. The kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls on April 15 in the town of Chibok has sparked accusations that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to stop the militants. The U.S. State Department, under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, repeatedly resisted and blocked efforts to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group. Those who pushed for the designation as early as 2011 are now saying the department missed a major opportunity to track and target the deadly organization as it grew. The State Department did label Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization in November 2013, under Secretary John Kerry, years after a string of high-profile terrorist attacks including the mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya on September, 2013.

Thailand

For the third time in less than a decade a court in Thailand on Wednesday ordered the nation’s prime minister to step aside from office. Yingluck Shinawatra was told to leave office after a constitutional court in Bangkok found her guilty in an abuse of power case. A caretaker cabinet appointed Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan as Thailand’s acting prime minister, and the move brings uncertainty to elections planned for July 20. Yingluck had been charged with abusing her authority by transferring a senior civil servant, Thawil Pliensri, to another position in 2011. The judge in the case said that move allowed Yingluck to give her brother-in-law, Priewpan Damapong, the post of national police chief.

South Africa

South Africans headed to the polls Wednesday in the country’s first general elections since the death of Nelson Mandela last year, and the first in which voters born after the fall of apartheid are old enough to take part. Many of these young voters say they won’t participate in the ballot because they “don’t believe in our government leaders and their empty promises,” said Asanda Mkhwane. Mkhwane is part of the “born-free” generation, those born on or after April 27, 1994, when the country overwhelmingly voted for Nelson Mandela as president. Only one-third of 18- and 19-year-old South Africans are registered to vote.

Landslides

More than two dozen homes were evacuated in Fort Washington, Maryland, a community that borders Washington, D.C., Monday afternoon after what has been described as a “slope failure.” The failure happened during the weekend, collapsing part of Piscataway Drive. When conditions deteriorated Monday, causing a water main break and a sewer failure, officials decided to evacuate homes. At least five of the houses were “directly affected.” Significant rainfall last week may have caused the ground to shift, they said.

Wildfires

As firefighters continue to battle a persistent wind- and heat-fueled wildfire in Oklahoma, residents were allowed back into their homes, with some returning to only charred remains. The deadly wildfire began burning out of control on Sunday afternoon, torching parts of Guthrie and chasing more than 1,000 people from their houses. Wind gusts above 30 mph helped to fan the flames, and dry conditions in a state plagued by drought provided plenty of fuel. Early Tuesday morning, Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said the blaze is 90 percent contained, having burned 3,000 to 3,500 acres of land so far. At least 30 structures were destroyed by the fire, and 104 firefighters were treated for heat-related illnesses.

Officials also are assessing damage from numerous other wildfires in the state, including one in Pawnee County that claimed 1,500 acres and was threatening about 25 homes. Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Monday for counties throughout Oklahoma and a burn ban for 36 counties mostly in western and south-central Oklahoma.

Earthquakes

A large earthquake near the west coast of Mexico shook much of the country on Thursday afternoon, including Mexico City. It was measured at a 6.4-magnitude by the United States Geological Survey, with an epicenter 8 miles west-southwest of Tecpan de Galeana. Residents in Mexico City also reported feeling the quake, about 188 miles from the epicenter. There were no reports of injuries. Among the damage was the collapse of a 30-yard section of highway bridge that was already under repair from last fall’s flooding and a magnitude-7.2 quake in the same area in April. Flooding of the detour route from heavy rain Thursday left the federal highway between the resort cities of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo closed. Three homes collapsed in Zijuatanejo and 17 more were unstable after the temblor. Dozens of simple adobe homes collapsed near the epicenter, though no one was injured. Aguirre also reported mudslides on other major highways, including the one connecting Acapulco with Mexico City.

Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma. Geologists don’t know when or where the state’s next big earthquake will strike, nor will they put a number on the increased risk. “We haven’t seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it,” Robert Williams, a research geophysicist with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Golden, Colorado, told Live Science. “But we know from other cases around the world that if you have an increasing number of small earthquakes, the chances of a larger one will go up.”

Weather

Severe storms rolled through the Plains Thursday, damaging homes, flooding roads and leaving at least two people injured. Seventy-three reports of severe weather were received by the Storm Prediction Center Thursday. A tornado warning was posted for the northeast side of Dallas at 3:34 p.m. CDT, but it was unclear whether an actual tornado had formed. In parts of Dallas, winds reached up to 70 mph Thursday afternoon, which tore holes in warehouse roofs and peeled away the front wall of a church. The storms were the second round of dangerous weather to pulse through the Metroplex Thursday. In the morning, rescue crews pulled five teenagers out of creek in Dallas. Heavy rain, as much as 5 inches in some areas, sent streams and creeks rising, and the teenagers were trapped.

In Minnesota, severe storms may have spawned several tornadoes Thursday evening, but no major damage or injuries were reported. Nicollet in south-central Minnesota received 2.2 inches of rain Thursday evening. Some street flooding was reported in Burnsville south of Minneapolis. Mena received 5.68 inches of rain in a four-hour period Thursday with a daily total of more than 7 inches. The weather service says the relentless downpour caused creeks and streams to overflow and flooding over roads. In South Dakota, the National Weather Service says golf ball-sized hail was reported near Sinai, while hail as big as baseballs fell near Urbandale.

Global warming is affecting where and how Americans live and work, and evidence is mounting that burning fossil fuels has made extreme weather such as heat waves and heavy precipitation much more likely in the USA, according to a massive federal report released Tuesday. While scientists continue to refine projections of the future climate, they maintain that ongoing measurements unequivocally show that the climate is changing and that the warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These emissions come mainly from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, the report states.

  • It doesn’t matter what scientists measure or believe, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme regardless of what we do or don’t do, eventually resulting in the 100-pound hailstones prophesied in Revelation.

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