Signs of the Times

Pope Endorses Palestinian State and Will Host Peace Conference

Pope Francis took a dramatic plunge Sunday into Mideast politics while on his Holy Land pilgrimage, receiving an acceptance from the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to visit him at the Vatican next month to discuss embattled peace efforts. The summit was an important moral victory for the pope, who is named after the peace-loving Francis of Assisi. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in late April, and there have been no public high-level meetings for a year. Francis landed in Bethlehem, the cradle of Christianity, in a symbolic nod to Palestinian aspirations for their own state. He called the stalemate in peace talks “unacceptable” and stopped briefly to pray at the Israeli separation barrier surrounding this biblical West Bank town. At the end of an open air Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, the pope invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray with him for peace and invited them to the Vatican. The offices of the Israeli and Palestinian presidents quickly confirmed that they had accepted the invitation. Francis also buoyed Palestinian hopes by openly endorsing “the State of Palestine.”

  • Saint Malachy’s ‘last Pope’ is living up to end-time prophesies by getting involved in Middle East political affairs. Expect continued pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel policies.

U.S. Catholics Face Shortage of Priests

Nationally, one in five Catholic parishes does not have a resident priest. America’s Catholic population is rising by 1 percent annually, but seminary enrollment is flat. An inadequate supply of priests already has forced hundreds of parishes to close or consolidate. Priests aren’t getting any younger, either. Their average age is 63. In 1975, there were 58,909 priests in the United States. Today, the number of priests has dwindled to 39,600, a 33 percent drop. Meanwhile, America’s Catholic population rose from 54.5 million to 78.2 million, a 43 percent increase, during the same period.

Feds Force Oklahoma to Overturn Anti-Sharia Law & Pay Islamists $303,333

The US government has forced the state of Oklahoma to overturn its anti-Sharia bill, after a Muslim man named Muneer Awad sued the state for supposed violations against “freedom of religion.” The state of Oklahoma must now pay $303,333 to Awad for legal fees, costs and nontaxable expenses. The money is going into the hands of Muslims because the lawsuit was done by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), a Muslim jihadist organization of Islamic lawyers. Awad himself is a lawyer and the executive director for CAIR. According to Jordan Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law & Justice, the bill never infringed on the Islamic religion, but was placed to prevent international codes of law from entering the government: “At its core, the amendment has nothing to do with infringing on a Muslim’s right to practice Islam or religious freedom generally. This amendment is about judicial authority, and is not a demonization of Islam.”

Hundreds of VA Health-Related Positions Remain Unfilled

Despite rampant allegations of veterans stuck in limbo waiting for care, hundreds of jobs remain unfilled at the Department of Veterans Affairs. A search by FoxNews.com on Friday of the USA Jobs federal employment website showed more than 1,080 current vacancies in health-related fields at the VA and 167 job openings for physicians with top-range salaries of roughly $295,000 a year. In recent weeks, whistleblowers have come forward to criticize how the agency is handling its massive caseload. The allegations generally accuse local VA facilities of pushing off patients and then manipulating their own records to make it seem like they’re receiving care in a timely fashion. Officials, in explaining the overburdened system, have pointed to the influx of veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the long-term care of aging vets from Vietnam. Since these are not new conditions, why haven’t VA officials hired staff to fill budgeted positions?

An Obamacare Winner: Safety-Net Hospitals

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the health law’s expansion of coverage to more than 13 million people this year has been the nation’s safety-net hospitals, which treat a disproportionate share of poor and uninsured people and therefore face billions of dollars in unpaid bills. Such facilities, most of which are government-owned or non-profit, had expected to see a drop in uninsured patients seeking treatment, but the change has been faster and deeper than most anticipated — at least in the 25 states that expanded Medicaid in January, according to interviews with safety-net hospital officials across the country. At Seattle’s largest safety-net hospital, the proportion of uninsured patients fell from 12% last year to an unprecedented low of 2% this spring — a drop expected to boost Harborview Medical Center’s revenue by $20 million this year. The share of uninsured patients was cut roughly in half this year at two other major safety net hospitals — Denver Health in Colorado and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital (UAMS) in Little Rock.

Mexican Drug Cartels Making Inroads in U.S.

Last week, residents of El Paso, TX witnessed a disturbing sight which would seem to be a direct threat to local police. Two billboards on I-10 have been defaced with a hanging effigy and the words “Plata o plomo” which means “silver or lead.” It is believed to be a message from Mexican Drug cartels to local law enforcement to “accept bribes or die.” Border Patrol agents are now warning that Mexican drug cartels are actively operating inside the United States and spending millions of dollars each year to expand their networks here. These agents pointed the finger at politicians and said they were protecting their illegal activities. In an open letter to the American people, several retired Border Patrol agents wrote on behalf of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers and issued their warning to the citizens of the U.S. last year: “Transnational criminal enterprises have annually invested millions of dollars to create and staff international drug and human smuggling networks inside the United States; thus it is no surprise that they continue to accelerate their efforts to get trusted representatives in place as a means to guarantee continued success,” the Border Patrol agents wrote. “We must never lose sight of the fact that the United States is the market place for the bulk of transnational criminal businesses engaged in human trafficking and the smuggling, distribution and sale of illegal drugs,” they continued.

Economic News

While the U.S. economy has improved since the Great Recession ended five years ago, part-time and “contract” workers are filling many of the new jobs. Contract workers made up less than half of one percent of all U.S. employment in the 1980s but now account for 2.3%. Economists predict contract workers will play a larger role in the years ahead. They are a diverse army of laborers, ranging from janitors, security officers, home-care and food service-workers to computer programmers, freelance photographers and illustrators. Many others are self-employed, working under contracts that lay out specific responsibilities and deadlines. Labor leaders and many economists worry. Contract workers have less job security and don’t contribute to the economy through spending as much as permanent, full-time workers. Nor do they have the same job protections.

Persecution Watch

An American citizen whose pregnant wife has been sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Friday that his wife is staying strong in her convictions despite her ordeal. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, whose Christian husband Daniel Wani holds American citizenship, has been held in a Sudanese prison along with her 20-month old son for more than three months. Last week, in a decision that drew international condemnation, a judge in Khartoum sentenced her to death by hanging once she gives birth and nurses her child for two years, because she would not renounce her Christianity. Wani said the conditions in the prison are “not good.” However he said despite her ordeal, Ibrahim is staying strong in her convictions. “She said she is not going to convert to Islam,” he said.

Eurozone

France’s far-right National Front has won a nationwide election for the first time, as far-right parties across Europe caused a political “earthquake,” with a string of victories in voting for the European Parliament. The National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, notched up 24.95% of the vote in France, according to official estimates, well ahead of mainstream parties UMP and the Socialist Party. Le Pen said the win showed that people want to see change in Europe. France’s Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the result was “more than a warning. It is a shock, an earthquake.” Right-wing parties also gained ground in the UK, Denmark and Austria. Provisional results indicate that left-center and right-center parties will still hold a majority of seats in the European Parliament, which plays a key role in shaping European laws and will weigh in on who the European Commission’s next President should be. But right-wing parties and other so-called Euroskeptic groups who oppose the European Union are gaining ground.

Egypt

Egyptians hit the polls Monday amid boosted security nationwide to cast their ballots in a two-day vote that is predicted to propel a former defense minister to the presidency. The election comes almost 11 months after former military chief and presidential front-runner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi from power last July. Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi is the only other candidate in the election. He seeks to draw support from the country’s youth and vows to fight for the rights of the poor. Monday’s vote, which will continue for a second day Tuesday, is taking place under an interim, military-backed government. The election comes amid a broad crackdown on opposition that has led to thousands of deaths and mass imprisonment. The crackdown on Islamists has fueled militant violence largely targeting police, government buildings and security installations. To secure voting stations this week, hundreds of thousands of police and army forces have been deployed nationwide.

Ukraine

Even as Ukraine’s new president-elect pledged to travel to eastern regions to seek peace with insurgents, Ukrainian fighter jets attacked armed insurgents who took over Donestk airport on Monday. The military had given an ultimatum to the armed men to lay down their arms. When the gunmen didn’t comply, the military launched an air strike. It was not clear whether the ongoing resistance by rebels was a demonstration of defiance or a last gasp effort following voting on Sunday that elected 48-year-old chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko as president. “Peace in the country and peace in the east is my main priority,” Poroshenko said Monday, signaling that he would bring to an end the Ukrainian army’s much-criticized campaign to drive out the armed pro-Russia separatists.

Russia

Two weeks ago Russian signed an historic and huge deal with China to supply them with natural gas. This past week, the two totalitarian nations conducted joint military exercises they called “Maritime Cooperation-2014.” Pointed taking place near Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea, Chinese and Russian naval vessels conducted maneuvers in the exercise area covering such missions as joint escort, joint rescue the hijacked ship, a joint verification of identification and joint air, sea assault on joint exercises and other subjects.

  • The increasing cooperation of the two anti-American countries fulfills Biblical end-time prophecies of anti-Christ alliances along with Russia’s alignment with Persia (Iran).

China

China has launched a terrorism crackdown one day after a series of explosions in an open-air market killed dozens in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, the country’s state news agency, Xinhua said Friday. the report said authorities had undertaken a “one-year crackdown on violent terrorist activities” in the volatile region after blasts in the heavily policed city of Urumqi killed at least 39 people and wounded more than 90, according to state media. The number of dead does not include the attackers. The state news agency reported Friday that five attackers were responsible for the blasts; four were killed in the explosions, and a fifth was arrested Thursday. In Urumqi, authorities tightened security checks at entry ports in an attempt to curb weapons smuggling, including inspections of individuals, luggage, transport facilities and postal deliveries at land border crossings.

Thailand

The Thai military on Friday tightened its grip on the politically unstable Southeast Asian nation, banning more than 150 prominent figures from leaving the country and threatening to arrest politicians who disobey its orders. Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was among those who reported to the military junta, which seized power in a coup Thursday after months of turmoil that paralyzed much of the government and caused deadly clashes in the streets of Bangkok. The United States and other countries have criticized the military’s intervention, the latest in a long list of coups in Thailand, and called for the swift restoration of democracy. Bolstered by an endorsement from Thailand’s King, Monday to run the country after last week’s coup, Thailand’s junta leader warned citizens not to cause trouble, not to criticize, not to protest — or else face a return to the “old days” of street violence.

Nigeria

Suspected Islamist Boko Haram gunmen have attacked three villages in northern Nigeria, killing 28 people and burning houses to the ground in a pattern of violence that has become almost a daily occurrence. Separately, a suicide bombing that was meant to happen at the TV screening of a football match in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Saturday killed three people before the bomber reached the target. The bomber approached the Jos Viewing Centre while people were watching Real Madrid play Atletico Madrid, but he failed to get there before his car exploded.

Somalia

Militants in Mogadishu on Saturday carried out a multi-pronged, complex attack against the country’s parliament building involving a car bomb, suicide bomber and gunmen on foot. At least seven people were killed, including six attackers and one soldier who tried to stop a suicide bomber from entering the building, Many members of parliament were inside the building as the attack unfolded. Gunfire and two blasts rang out near the building long after the attack began and after police had confirmed six attackers’ deaths, suggesting other militants may have also been involved. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked group, has carried out several such complex attacks in Mogadishu, including on the city’s main court complex and attempts against the presidential palace. The group was booted out of the capital in 2011 but still controls wide areas of southern Somalia.

Earthquakes

A moderate earthquake struck southwest China, injuring about a dozen people and damaging thousands of houses. The quake happened early Saturday in quake-prone Yingjiang County in Yunnan province near China’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma. The U.S. Geological Survey said it had a magnitude of 5.6. More than 9,000 houses were damaged, with a dozen collapsing. It said 13 people suffered minor injuries.

Landslides

Three people are missing in rural Colorado after a massive mudslide struck near Colbran at around 6:15 p.m. local time Sunday. The slide is estimated to be 2 miles wide, 4 miles long and up to 250 feet deep in places. Authorities added that the site of the mudslide was extremely unstable and that the entire ridge was moving for much of the day Sunday. Search and rescue efforts began almost immediately after the mudslide was reported Sunday night, but were pulled back overnight once darkness fell. The sheriff’s department said crews were searching for three residents of the Collbran area after they were reported missing in the slide area, situated near Salt Creek road and Vega Reservoir.

Wildfires

Firefighters said that they were making slow, but steady progress on Arizona’s Slide Fire just north of Sedona, which had grown to around 21 square miles by late Sunday. Fire crews intentionally set fires to rob the blaze of its natural forest fuels on Saturday. The strategy appeared to be working Sunday, with containment up to 25 percent, 15 percent higher than early Saturday. The human-caused fire has been burning since Tuesday around Oak Creek Canyon, a scenic recreation area along the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff that would normally be filed with tourists as Memorial Day approaches. Slide Rock State Park, one of the most-visited tourist spots in Arizona, has been closed. The fire has consumed 14,100 acres (about 12 square miles) but no structures or injuries have been reported.

In southern Arizona, the Skunk Fired grew to over 43,000 acres (about 67 square miles) north of San Carlos. It is in a remote area and no structures have burned so far and there hasn’t been any reported injuries or deaths.

A massive wildfire in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula grew to more than 156,000 acres on Monday, leading to mandatory evacuations of 1,000 structures on Sunday and threatening hundreds of cabins, vacation homes and year-round residences. The wildfire, which was only 30 percent contained by Monday morning, covered more than 243 square miles by late Sunday. The fire was dubbed the “Funny River Fire” after a nearby road where all residents are being evacuated. Alaska State Troopers are going door to door, evacuating an area that’s mostly second homes and is home to many retirees.

Weather

At least 19 people have died and seven were reporting missing Sunday in widespread flooding that’s hit hundreds of thousands of people in a swath of southern China. Historic-level rains lashed the cities of Guangzhou, Zhaoqing and Qingyuan and triggered floods, mudslides and the collapse of 1,143 houses. About 21,000 people have been evacuated in the region, while in the city of Pingxiang, 5,000 remained trapped by floodwaters at noon Sunday. Heavy rains have battered the region since last week, with 25 inches accumulating in the city of Shanwei in Guangdong province since Wednesday.

Hurricane Amanda became the strongest eastern Pacific hurricane on record in the month of May after a period of rapid intensification Sunday. Amanda’s estimated maximum sustained winds reached 155 mph late Sunday morning, putting it at the top end of the Category 4 range on the five-category Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It has now surpassed 2001’s Hurricane Adolph, which was previously the eastern Pacific’s strongest May hurricane on record. The strongest Atlantic May hurricane of record was Category 3 Hurricane Able with peak winds of 115 mph off North Carolina’s Outer Banks on May 21, 1951. Amanda, the first named storm and first hurricane of the eastern Pacific hurricane season, formed Thursday afternoon as a tropical depression about 635 miles south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico. Other than a few minor islands well offshore such as Socorro Island, it is no threat to land.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more ‘historic’

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