Signs of the Times (5/20/14)

Judge Strikes All Arkansas Bans on Gay Marriage, Then Overturned

A day after being overruled by the Arkansas Supreme Court, the county judge who struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage issued a broader decision Thursday that clears the way — at least temporarily — for such unions to resume. In Arkansas, the attorney general said he would appeal Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling, which voids a constitutional ban on clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Wednesday, the state’s top court said his decision Friday striking down constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage did not affect the licensing law. Arkansas’ whirlwind week of granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples ended Friday when the state Supreme Court ordered a temporary stop just as a final pair completed their paperwork at a Little Rock courthouse. More than 540 gay couples received marriage licenses during the last week after a Pulaski County circuit judge declared the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The one-paragraph order by the justices put on hold Piazza’s decision voiding a 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Appeals Court Upholds Idaho’s Ban on Gay Marriage

In Idaho, a federal appeals court stepped in to halt same-sex marriage, which was to begin Friday. Tuesday, a U.S. judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended a federal judge’s order declaring Idaho’s 2006 voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. “I appreciate the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepping in to ensure Idaho will not have to endure the same kind of chaos and confusion that Utah faced after a similar lower-court decision,” Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement. “Today’s ruling stays the federal magistrate’s order and maintains the status of marriage as defined by the Idaho Constitution – between one man and one woman.”

Same-Sex Couples Marry after Federal Judge Strikes Down Oregon Ban

Dozens of same-sex couples were officially married Monday after a federal judge ruled that Oregon’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the ban discriminates against gay couples and ordered Oregon not to enforce it. Oregon officials earlier refused to defend the ban in court. Jubilant couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately after McShane issued his ruling.

  • The genetic pool has continuously been corrupted by Satan and sin with homosexuality a key indicator as the run-up to the end-time Tribulation escalates

Americans Less Happy than a Decade Ago

Americans are a lot less happy today compared to more than a decade ago, a Fox News poll finds. The poll, released Monday, finds 53 percent of American voters are “very happy” or “happy.” That’s down slightly from 56 percent who said the same five years ago (May 2009). And down significantly from the 68 percent who reported feeling happy back in April 2001. People over age 65 (56 percent) are a bit more content than those under age 30 (50 percent). And while money can’t buy happiness, it seems to help — people living in higher-income households (58 percent) are more likely to say they are happy than those in lower-income households (47 percent). The biggest decline — a substantial 34-point drop — comes among Republicans. In 2001 — back at the beginning of George W. Bush’s first term — 82 percent were happy, while only 48 percent are today. Independents are less content too: It was 69 percent in the Bush era vs. 50 percent now. Democrats are happier, though: 61 percent feel happy today, up seven points from 54 percent in 2001.

Former British Imam Convicted in Terror Trial in New York

The fiery British cleric who prosecutors said had “devoted his life to violent jihad” and had dispatched young men around the world to train and fight was convicted of 11 terrorism-related charges on Monday in Manhattan. Prosecutors had charged that the cleric, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, a former imam at the Finsbury Park mosque in North London, helped to orchestrate the violent 1998 kidnappings of 16 American, British and Australian tourists in Yemen; had tried to create a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore.; and had supported terrorism by sending one of his followers to train with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the tourist abductions, four hostages were killed after their captors, a militant group allied with Mr. Mostafa, were used as human shields during a Yemeni rescue operation. “He jumped at opportunities across the globe to support this violent jihad,” a prosecutor, Ian McGinley, told the jury in a closing argument on Wednesday. Mr. Mostafa was tried and convicted in Britain in 2006 on separate charges, of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. He served a prison sentence, and after fighting extradition unsuccessfully, he was sent in 2012 to the United States to face terrorism charges in New York.

ObamaCare Subsidies May be Wrong for Over 1 Million

Hundreds of thousands of Americans signed up for coverage under ObamaCare may be receiving incorrect subsidy payments — some bigger than they actually deserve — from the federal government, The Washington Post reported. The government has identified the errors, which are the result of discrepancies in income listings on insurance applications and those on file with the Internal Revenue Service, but has been unable to fix the problem, according to the report. Only a fraction of consumers notified about the discrepancies have responded to federal health officials’ requests to submit pay stubs or other proof of their income. Officials told The Washington Post they do not yet know the percentages of overpayments or underpayments.

Obama Administration Warned of VA Problems in 2008

The Washington Times reports that The Obama administration received clear notice more than five years ago that VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely health care — problems that have turned into a growing scandal. Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting. ‘This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,’ the officials wrote.

Trust in Government Drops

A Fox News poll also finds that less than four in 10 voters trust the federal government. The new poll, released Thursday, finds 37 percent of voters answer “yes” when asked: “would you say you generally trust the federal government?” Six in 10 say they don’t trust the government. 78 percent of voters consider the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a serious matter, including 52 percent who say “very serious.” Just over half (53 percent) see government surveillance of everyday Americans as “very serious” and 44 percent feel that way about the IRS targeting conservative groups. Only about a quarter of voters think the Obama administration has lived up to the promise of being the most transparent White House in history.

Tea Party comeback?

The Tea Party movement would like to make clear that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Victories this week by Tea Party-backed candidates in Nebraska and West Virginia Republican primaries are helping to reinvigorate the movement. Tea Party-aligned lawmakers in Congress continue to play a strong role in the direction of the party. Polls of conservatives consistently show figures like Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as political favorites in a hypothetical 2016 race. Still, it is becoming clear this year that the Tea Party will struggle to repeat its past record of ousting high-profile Republican incumbents in the primaries. Hopes in the movement are fading that Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin will knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell next Tuesday.

U.S. Indicts China for Illegal Hacking

The U.S. accused Chinese military officials of hacking into several U.S. enterprises to steal trade secrets and intellectual property in an indictment made Monday. It is the first time the U.S. has charged a state actor in a criminal cyber espionage case. Federal law enforcement sources said the Chinese hackers, using military and intelligence resources, downloaded massive amounts of industrial information, including strategic plans, from U.S. businesses. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the indictment Monday and called it a national security case. The charges are false and should be withdrawn, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news briefing in Beijing, while China’s Ministry of Defense warned that the U.S. was damaging military-to-military relations. Chinese officials summoned the U.S. ambassador to its foreign ministry and suspended a joint working group on cyber-security with the U.S.

More than 100 Nabbed in Global Hacker Crackdown

The FBI and police in several countries have arrested more than 100 people and conducted hundreds of searches in recent days in a global crackdown on hackers linked to the malicious software called Blackshades. The years-long investigation is targeting one of the most popular tools used by cybercriminals to hijack computers around the world. The malware sells for as little as $40. It can be used to hijack computers remotely and turn on webcams, access hard drives and capture keystrokes to steal passwords without the victim’s knowledge. The FBI recently promised to make arrests and indictments to combat what it says are increasing criminal intrusions.

AT&T Buys DirecTV for $48.5 Billion

AT&T agreed Sunday to buy DirecTV for about $48.5 billion in yet another mammoth deal in the pay-TV space this year that would immediately boost the telecom giant’s customer base at a time of confounding industry challenges. The merger, which both boards approved Sunday, is the latest evidence of TV-industry consolidation, one born of telecommunications companies’ desire to amass customers and control content and delivery. With streaming and wireless technology upending the industry, cable and satellite service providers are rushing to add product options while boosting revenue per customer to please shareholders.

Economic News

Home building surged in April as warmer weather helped builders break ground on new homes at the fastest pace this year. Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million, up from 947,000 in March. Single-family starts were up 0.8% to a rate of 649,000.

Sales of new and existing homes have slowed in recent months and prices are rising more slowly than last year in many big markets. Buyers have been constrained by a low supply of homes for sale, higher prices and mortgage rates that are higher than last spring.

General Motors will pay $35 million in a civil settlement with the federal government over its failure to report in a timely manner a defective ignition switch in 2.6 million smaller cars, the Department of Transportation announced on Friday. In addition, the automaker agreed to make changes to its internal safety practices, the department said in a statement. G.M., which was first alerted to the problem more than a decade ago, has linked the defect to 13 deaths.

Persecution Watch

Refusing an Islamic judge’s offer of clemency if she would publicly deny her faith Jesus Christ, a pregnant Sudanese mother of a toddler has been sentenced to death. “Sudanese doctor Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, a graduate of the University Of Khartoum Medical School, is the beautiful wife of an American,” reports Faith J. H. McDonnell, writing for the Counter-Jihad Report.” After she refused to renounce Christianity, Sudan’s Public Order Court sentenced her to receive a public flogging of 100 lashes, then to be put to death by hanging. The heavily pregnant Ibrahim “faces the death penalty for allegedly converting from Islam to Christianity,” reports the Catholic Herald.


As Syria’s civil war continues, the death toll has reached more than 160,000, including 8,600 children, and left millions homeless. Christian Aid Ministries reports nine million Syrians have fled their homes, driven either by fear or the destruction of their houses. Over 2 million have escaped to neighboring countries leaving 6.6 million displaced inside Syria. A result of the “Arab Spring,” the war pits the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his international supporters against the different factions that make up the domestic and anti-regime opposition groups from outside the region.


Libya’s army chief has ordered the deployment of Islamist-led militias to the capital, a day after the storming of the parliament building in Tripoli by a renegade general’s troops. Monday’s development paves the way for a possible showdown between the militias — which hail from Libya’s western and central regions — and the anti-Islamist troops allied with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who staged the parliament attack Sunday. Gen. Hifter suspended the Islamist-dominated house, blaming it for empowering Islamic extremists. Sunday’s move against parliament appeared to be directly challenging the legitimacy of the country’s weak central government three years after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s leadership condemned the attack and vowed to carry on. The U.S. military has doubled the number of aircraft standing by in Italy if needed to evacuate Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.


Two explosions have struck the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Friday, killing four people. The blasts came just hours after Britain’s Foreign Office urged tourists to leave the country following what it said was a “high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping.” The U.S. State Department also issued a travel alert for Kenya this week over possible terrorist attacks. On Twitter, Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Center said Friday one blast targeted a mini-van that Kenyans use for public transportation. It says that a second blast went off in a market.


Vietnam smothered anti-China protests on Sunday with a massive security clampdown after deadly riots triggered by a territorial dispute with Beijing spooked foreign investors and the country’s authoritarian leadership alike. As patrol ships from both countries remained locked in a standoff close to a Chinese oil rig in a disputed patch of the South China Sea, Beijing said it had evacuated 3,000 nationals from Vietnam and was sending the first of five ships to pull out others wanting to leave. China also said that it would suspend some of its bilateral exchange plans with Vietnam and that it was advising Chinese not to visit the country. China’s decision to deploy the massive oil rig on May 1 has been widely seen as it one of its most provocative steps in a campaign to assert its sovereignty in the waters. It triggered fury in Vietnam and the worst breakdown in ties between Hanoi and Beijing in years. Two Chinese ships arrived at the coast of Vietnam on Monday to begin efforts to collect thousands of Chinese citizens who are fleeing the country after deadly attacks last week.


Thailand’s powerful army declared martial law before dawn Tuesday, deploying troops into the heart of Bangkok in a dramatic move it said was aimed at stabilizing the Southeast Asian country after six months of turbulent political unrest. The military, however, insisted a coup d’etat was not underway. The surprise operation, which places the army in charge of public security nationwide, came amid deepening uncertainty over the nation’s fate and one day after the caretaker prime minister refused to step down in the face of long-running anti-government protests. Although soldiers entered multiple television stations to broadcast the army message, life in the vast skyscraper-strewn metropolis of 10 million people remained largely unaffected, with schools, businesses and tourist sites open and traffic flowing as usual.


Turkish authorities have detained 16 people in connection with last week’s coal mine fire in Soma that killed 301 miners. The search for victims of Tuesday’s fire ended Saturday. As the recovery effort came to an end, controversy over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to the tragedy refuses to blow over. On Friday, police in Soma used tear gas, plastic pellets and a water cannon on protesters angered by the government’s response. Amid a rising tide of discontent, local authorities have banned protests in Soma and apparently clamped down on those taking part.


Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed victory as India’s next prime minister Friday, bringing to power a man whose controversial past at one point led the United States to deny him a visa. Viewed as pro-business, Modi, 63, has pledged reforms to revive the nation’s flagging economy. Analysts predict his arrival in India’s top office will bring a marked change in direction for the world’s most populous democracy. Modi’s victory had long been anticipated, as polls indicated a slump in support for the ruling Indian National Congress Party, which has been dogged by high-profile corruption scandals amid stubborn inflation and a slowed economy.


A strong and shallow undersea earthquake hit parts of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island on Sunday, causing panic but there were no immediate reports of casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.2-magnitude quake hit at a depth of 5.5 miles beneath the sea. It was centered 197 miles southwest of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province. The quake was felt across many parts of the province, causing panic among some residents. The earthquake did not cause major damage.


The good news: Temperatures and winds across scorched parts of southern California are starting to subside. The bad news: Unruly wildfires keep barreling across the region, destroying homes and spawning “firenadoes” — funnels of flames that look like tornadoes. With 10,000 acres of land already devoured, thousands of homes are still in jeopardy as at least six fires rage in the San Diego area as of Thursday. In just a few hours, fires in San Marcos went from minor blazes to raging infernos, filling the sky with bright orange flames and solid black smoke. Unusually fierce winds mixed with the flames to spawn firenadoes. And grass parched by California’s severe drought meant any stray spark could start another blaze. On and around the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, six large wildfires remain active, having burned over 25,000 acres total. Since January 1, Cal Fire has responded to over 1,500 wildfires — well above the average yearly number of approximately 800.


The entire state of California is in a severe drought — or worse. The three worst levels of drought are severe, extreme and exceptional: 100% of the state is now in one of those three categories: (23.31% severe, 51.92.% extreme and 24.77% exceptional.

After a day of heavy rain in the Washington, D.C. area, The National Park Service warns that some parks in and around the city may be closed this weekend due to flooding. Storms were also blamed for flight delays at Philadelphia International Airport, as well as a messy rush hour,

At least 25 people have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes in the Balkans during the worst flooding in a century for the region. Three months’ worth of rain has fallen on the region in three days this week, creating the worst floods since records began 120 years ago. Bosnia has been particularly hard hit. Almost a third of the entire country, home to nearly a million people, was submerged Sunday. At least 17 people have died in Bosnia alone, a number that’s only expected to grow as the flood waters recede and bodies continue to be recovered. Others have been killed by some of the 300 landslides that have occurred over the past four days, triggered by the tremendous amount of water that has destabilized and shifted the earth. A landslide in the Bosnian village of Horozovina split the town in two, swallowing at least eight houses. As if the deadly flooding inundating much of the Balkans wasn’t alarming enough, rescuers must now grapple with another concern: the risk of landmines from the Bosnian war resurfacing.

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