Archive for June, 2014

Signs of the Times (6/30/14)

June 30, 2014

Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision Is a Victory for Christian Businesses Owners

Monday’s 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is a victory for Christian business owners, who will now be protected from unconstitutional government mandates forcing them to compromise their religious convictions in their business practices and policies. The decision invalidates the birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which directs businesses to provide birth control coverage to their employees. Faith-based businesses, religious schools and churches are exempt, but the mandate did not provide allowances for secular businesses that are owned by Christians whose religious beliefs may go against the mandate. The American Family Association notes, “With God’s help, Hobby Lobby took a bold step for all Christian-owned businesses in America and emerged victorious. From the start, this case was about whether the government could blatantly ignore the constitutionally-protected right to the free exercise of religion and force people of faith to violate their deeply held religious convictions.”

Boy Scouts to March in NYC Gay Pride Parade

This past Sunday, New York City held its 44th Annual NYC Pride March down Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. They were expecting around 14,000 people to march in the gay pride event. For the first time in history, a number of Boy Scouts from the New York area marched in the parade that some commentators refer to as the Sodom and Gomorrah Parade. According to the notice posted on GLAAD’s website (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation): “Three generations of Boy Scouts — gay and straight — will be on hand and in uniform at nation’s oldest and largest LGBT Pride event, where they will present the American flag during the national anthem and subsequently serve as Color Guard during the march.”

  • Such things shouldn’t be a surprise any more as we accelerate our end-time march to the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign on earth.

Pattern of Mistakes Overlooked at Military Hospitals

An examination by The New York Times of the sprawling United States military hospital system — entirely separate from the scandal-plagued veterans system — has found persistent lapses in patient care that have led to severe injuries and deaths. Internal documents obtained by The Times also depict a system in which such avoidable errors are chronic but scrutiny is at best sporadic. The country’s military hospitals care for 1.6 million active-duty service members and their families. More than 50,000 babies are born at military hospitals each year, and they are twice as likely to be injured during delivery as newborns nationwide. In surgery, half of the system’s 16 largest hospitals had higher than expected rates of complications.

Economic News

After accounting for inflation, consumer spending dipped 0.1% in May after falling 0.2% in April, the Commerce Department said. The feeble spending has prompted many analysts to cast doubt on the much-anticipated acceleration in growth this year.

The recent run-up in gasoline prices will make the Fourth of July weekend the costliest for motorists since 2008. Prices will average about $3.68 a gallon for regular grade gas, up 17 cents from last year but well below the all-time $4.11 record set just after July 4, 2008. Rising crude oil prices have been driving an unseasonably early summer run-up on retail gas prices, mostly on continued fears of political unrest in Iraq.

Since the late 1970s, we’ve seen an explosion in executive pay. CEO pay has risen 725% since 1978, whereas pay for the standard employee has only gone up around 10%.A new study shows that companies with the highest-paid CEOs tend to perform worse in the long run. The study found that companies that pay CEOs in the top 10% earned an average of negative 8% profit over the next few years.

Persecution Watch

Hitting “like” on Facebook has landed a Christian man in Egypt in jail for six years. Kerolos Shawky was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison and fined the equivalent of $840 on charges of blasphemy and contempt of Islam for simply “liking” the Facebook page ‘Knights of the Cross’, according to International Christian Concern (ICC). Kerolos was convicted by the Egyptian court of violating Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code, which prohibits “ridiculing, or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife.” Ironically, it was the public accusations against Kerolos which actually incited local violence as Christian shops and homes were vandalized and set afire.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that up to 10,000 Christians have fled northern Iraq since ISIS began its takeover of the predominantly Christian region. Violence and gunfire in the area has prompted civilians to flee Qaraqosh as quickly as possible; most refugees bring few belongings. “They have no access to showers and there is no air conditioning. They are living in classrooms where daytime temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit),” said a UNHCR spokesperson. Some refugees need medical treatment and lack access to doctors.

Middle East

Communities bordering the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in southern Israel were under fire from a large barrage of at least 16 rockets Monday morning, following a weekend in which several Israelis were wounded and a factory in Sderote was destroyed by rocket fire. Retaliatory strikes by Israeli aircraft reportedly killed a Hamas operative on Sunday. “We know unequivocally that the terrorist killed in the strike was preparing to fire rockets,” an IDF source said. Although it is not clear if Hamas or smaller terrorist groups are firing most of the rockets, the source added that since Hamas is the de facto controlling element in the Strip, it is ultimately responsible for all rocket fire into the Jewish State. Meanwhile, IDF units have been ordered to assemble in the South as rumors swirl about an imminent ground incursion into the Strip.


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will decide by 3 p.m. today whether to extend a shaky cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels in the country’s east, as European leaders press Russia to help de-escalate the simmering conflict. Poroshenko is pressing for the fulfillment of conditions to move forward with a peace plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. Those conditions include the return of control points on the border with Russia to Ukrainian control and the entrance of international monitors to verify the cease-fire. European leaders have pressed Russia to help de-escalate the situation or face the possibility of additional economic sanctions.


Emboldened by a weakened Iraqi government that is struggling to stop their murderous advance, the extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared over the weekend that they have set up a caliphate spanning large areas of the two countries. The group said in the message Sunday that its flag now flies from Aleppo province in northwestern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq. It announced that it was changing its name to just the “Islamic State.” The group called on Muslims to swear allegiance to the caliphate, which means Islamic state.

Iraq’s government touted its military offensive to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit from extremists, with some officials taking to state-run television over the weekend to declare the army had defeated ISIS. But residents in the city nestled along the Tigris River, about 87 miles northwest of Baghdad, gave a different account on Sunday. A large number of people have fled Tikrit for smaller villages to the north, according to witnesses, who say Iraqi forces are battling ISIS on the southern edge of the city.


In one of the most significant coordinated assaults on the government in years, the Taliban have attacked police outposts and government facilities across several districts in northern Helmand Province, sending police and military officials scrambling to shore up defenses and heralding a troubling new chapter as coalition forces prepare to depart, reports the New York Times. The attacks have focused on the district of Sangin, historically an insurgent stronghold and one of the deadliest districts in the country for the American and British forces who fought for years to secure it. The Taliban have mounted simultaneous attempts to conquer territory in the neighboring districts of Now Zad, Musa Qala and Kajaki. In the past week, more than 100 members of the Afghan forces and 50 civilians have been killed or wounded in fierce fighting. With a deepening political crisis in Kabul already casting the presidential election and long-term political stability into doubt, the Taliban offensive presents a new worst-case situation for Western officials: an aggressive insurgent push that is seizing territory even before American troops have completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.


A moderate earthquake struck in Arizona near the New Mexico line that was widely felt across the region, but no injuries or damages were immediately reported. County sheriffs’ offices on both sides of the state line reported receiving numerous phone calls after Saturday’s magnitude 5.2 quake shook the largely rural region. Arizona residents in Graham County, Safford, Tucson, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler and other areas have reported feeling the tremor. It was felt as far away as Phoenix and El Paso, Texas, both about 175 miles from the epicenter.


Firefighters are beginning to make progress on a wildfire burning in eastern Arizona that forced evacuations and torched nearly 9 square miles of land. Fire officials say as many as 90 structures have been threatened by the wildfire. Even though the fire continues to grow, firefighters have been busy setting perimeter lines during burnout operations that will help contain the blaze. The blaze is now 5 percent contained and the other edges of the fire are “very secure.” While the heat and low humidity continue, winds will be less of a headache the next few days, generally on the order of 10 mph or so. The fire is about 135 miles northeast of Phoenix, near the New Mexico line. It’s wedged between areas heavily damaged by the Wallow and Rodeo fires, two of the largest fires in Arizona history.

The Oak Fire, currently burning about 10,700 acres southwest of Safford in the Galiuro Mountains, has reached five percent containment, but officials expect the fire to grow despite active fire prevention efforts. The fire is expected to grow southwest of its current location toward Tucson in the Rattlesnake Creek, Corral Canyon and Paddy’s River areas. The majority of the flames are of a low intensity and the fire is being managed until a monsoonal weather pattern settles into the area, which will greatly aid in the extinguishing of the fire.


A cluster of slow-moving thunderstorms triggered flash flooding in the Memphis metro area and parts of eastern Arkansas that forced some residents out of their homes Sunday. Two to three feet of water flooded underpasses along the I-240 to the I-40 corridor. Multiple cars were reported stranded in Shelby County, including areas of east Memphis, Germantown and Cordova. Flooding in parts of Shelby County has forced some residents to evacuate their homes. Firefighters rescued seven residents from a mobile home park after rising water got inside their trailers.

The sea ice coverage around Antarctica over the weekend marked a record high, with the ice surrounding the continent measuring at 2.07 million square kilometers, according to an environmentalist and author who says the ice there has actually been increasing since 1979 despite continued warnings of global warming. The new record was posted for the first time by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s online record, The Cryosphere Today. “The previous record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice area was 1.840 million square kilometers and occurred on December 20, 2007,” said Harold Ambler, a journalist and author of the book “Don’t Sell Your Coat: Surprising Truths About Climate Change.

Signs of the Times (6/27/14)

June 27, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Pro-Life Advocates Have Free Speech at Abortion Clinics

A unanimous Supreme Court vote today ruled that pro-life advocates have the right to speak against abortion directly in front of abortion clinics. A previous law in Massachusetts prohibited pro-life activists from free speech within a 35-foot “buffer zone” of abortion clinics. Supreme Court justices ruled that the previous law was a violation of the First Amendment’s right to Freedom of Speech. According to the ruling, the buffer zone “restricts access to ‘public way[s]’ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open to speech activities.” President of Students for Life of America Kirstan Hawkins said, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling in McCullen v. Coakley is wonderful news for all Americans because it upholds our crucial First Amendment rights of free speech but perhaps no more important than for women considering abortion because it frees sidewalk counselors at abortion facilities to be able to offer compassionate and caring alternatives.

Divorce Rate among Christians Lower than Previously Estimated

Harvard-trained researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says for years she was troubled with the staggering statistic touted by most social commentators claiming a 50 percent divorce rate in the United States, but equally concerned that the same rate applied to Christians, too. Eight years ago Feldhahn set out to investigate the validity of the widely shared statistic. According to Charisma Magazine, Feldhahn discovered the divorce rate is actually closer to 31 percent. Christians who attend church regularly fair even better. It’s “maybe 15 percent, maybe 20 percent for all marriages,” said Feldhahn. “People need to be able to look around the average congregation and say, ‘You know what, most of these people will have strong and happy marriages for a lifetime. Doing what God says matters. This is a big deal to know.”

  • It is a big deal because liberals have been touting false information in their goal to redefine marriage

Judge Overturns Indiana Same-Sex Marriage Ban

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that Indiana’s law banning homosexual marriage is unconstitutional. The federal judge claims marriage between one man and one woman violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. “The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue,” Young wrote in his decision. “In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.”

  • This key end-time marker demonstrates the overall decline in morality and deviation from God’s Word, indicating that we have moved far down the path leading to the Great Tribulation

VA Scandal Worsens with New Disclosures

Records of dead veterans were changed or physically altered, some even in recent weeks, to hide how many people died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, whistle-blower Pauline DeWinter told CNN in stunning revelations that point to a new coverup in the ongoing VA scandal. DeWenter is the actual scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA who said for the better part of a year she was ordered by supervisors to manage and handle the so-called “secret waiting list,” where veterans’ names of those seeking medical care were often placed, sometimes left for months with no care at all. But at least seven times since last October, records that showed that veterans died while waiting for care — records which DeWenter personally handled and had entered in details of veterans’ deaths — were physically altered, or written over, by someone else — trying to pretend that some dead veterans remain alive.

Supreme Court Rules Against Obama on Recess Appointments

The Supreme Court dealt a historic blow to the powers of the presidency Thursday, ruling decisively that President Obama violated the Constitution by going around the Senate to name key labor and financial watchdogs. Resolving a longstanding battle between the two other branches of government, the justices declared invalid key “recess appointments” made by Obama in 2012. The judgment was unanimous, but four conservative justices would have applied the restriction far more broadly. The court stopped short of limiting such appointments to remote periods and circumstances, as a federal appeals court had ruled last year. But it nullified actions Obama took while the Senate was holding “pro-forma” sessions every three days for the specific purpose of preventing such executive actions.

World’s Oceans Trashed with Plastic

A series of new reports are raising concerns about the damage plastic waste is doing to oceans — harming marine animals, destroying sensitive ecosystems, and contaminating the fish we eat. Plastic waste in oceans is causing $13 billion of damage each year, according to the United Nations Environment Program report, and that figure could be much higher. Worldwide plastic production is projected to reach 33 billion tons by 2050, and plastic makes up 80% of litter on oceans and shorelines. Ten to 20 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, from litter, runoff from poorly managed landfills, and other sources. Once it’s in the water, plastic does not degrade but instead breaks into smaller pieces.

Scientists are especially worried about the growing prevalence of tiny microplastics which are smaller than 5 millimeters and are used in toothpaste, gels, facial cleansers and other consumer goods. Microplastics aren’t filtered by sewage treatment plants, and can be ingested by marine animals with deadly effect. It’s expensive and ineffective to clean up existing marine debris. Picking trash off beaches or sweeping it from the ocean surface “does nothing to fix the problem.” Governments can help solve the problem by regulating the use of plastics and creating infrastructure to recycle them, the report recommends. For example, dozens of nations have banned plastic bags at supermarkets or restricted their use.

Supreme Court Shields Privacy of Cellphones

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies. “This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

Facebook’s Lack of Diversity Mirrors High-Tech Industry

Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, released statistics on the makeup of its workforce that do not reflect the demographics of its users around the globe. The lopsided numbers are just the latest from a major Silicon Valley company to paint a stark picture of an industry sector dominated by white men and are sure to escalate an already heated debate over the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Nearly 70% of Facebook employees are men and 57% are white. Asians make up 34% of employees. But Hispanics represent just 4% and African Americans are just 2% of Facebook’s workforce. Technology is a key driver of the U.S. economy. It makes the products from iPhones to Google search that Americans use every day. Yet the companies that make these products do not mirror the demographics of the United States in race, gender or age.

Sand Rush in Midwest for Fracking Material

It’s not a gold rush, but a sand rush that is taking place in the Midwest, where a rare type of sand used in the energy extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing is exclusively found. The smooth, round, very strong white sand known as “Northern White” or “Ottawa White” is pitting neighbor against neighbor, and neighbors against sand mining companies. The sand is 99.5 percent pure silica. The special sand is sold to the hydraulic fracking industry which unleashes fossil fuels from deep within the earth. When the hydraulic pressure is relieved from the well, the sand is pumped into the well to hold open the small fractures in the rock while allowing oil and gas to pass up to the surface. With horizontal drilling, even more sand is needed because the borings travel extend farther. Despite the financial bonanza for area towns, many worry that farmland is disappearing from America’s heartland.

Economic News

The economy turned in its worst quarter in five years during the first three months of 2014, shrinking more sharply than previously estimated. The nation’s gross domestic product in the first quarter fell at a 2.9% annual rate vs. the 1% contraction previously believed, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The decline was the sharpest since growth tumbled 5.4% in the first quarter of 2009 in the middle of the Great Recession. Many economists say much of the first-quarter weakness was the result of temporary factors, such as unusually harsh winter weather. They expect growth to exceed 3% in the current quarter and the rest of the year.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,000 to 314,000. The average has fallen 9 percent since the beginning of this year. The number of people actually receiving benefits inched up by 12,000 to 2.57 million. But the small increase comes after the level fell to a six-year low in the previous week. The low level of applications indicates employers haven’t been rattled by the first quarter’s dismal showing.

U.S. consumers stepped up their spending slightly in May, boosted by a jump in auto sales and higher income. Spending rose 0.2 percent last month after no gain in April, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The two months followed a robust spending surge of 0.8 percent in March. Last month, spending on durable goods jumped 0.7 percent, a big rebound after having fallen 0.9 percent in April. In May, auto dealers reported their best sales month in nine years, helped by brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks.

Inflation edged up 0.2 percent in May. The 1.8 percent increase in the Personal Consumption Expenditures measure employed by the Federal Reserve over the past 12 months was up from a 12-month increase of 1.6 percent in April and increases of 1 percent or less for much of the past year.

Persecution Watch

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) is demanding Christians in Mosul pay a poll tax. The tax of at least $250 does not apply to Muslim citizens. Christian citizens may have to pay more depending on their profession. Council of High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq member Salama Al Khafaji said, “The economic situation in Mosul is extremely difficult, and there are no financial resources or job opportunities except for vegetable shops, any other businesses are non-existent. Citizens are at a loss now as to how to make ends meet; how can they pay those amounts to ISIS?”

A court convicted an Egyptian Christian to six years imprisonment for blasphemy and contempt of religion on Tuesday. The Luxor court issued its verdict against Kerolos Ghattas, 30, after his arrest earlier this month for posting pictures deemed insulting to Islam on his Facebook page. Ghattas’ arrest sparked fears of sectarian conflict in his village, where unidentified assailants have hurled Molotov cocktails at shops owned by Christians.

  • Maybe the new hate crime laws in the U.S. could be used to stifle intolerant, blasphemous atheists?

Middle East

The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted two rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening, while several other rockets landed in open areas. Israel’s Air Force responded to the barrage later in the evening with attacks on underground rocket launching sites and other terrorist infrastructure in the Strip. Another rocket fired towards Israel from the Strip landed inside the coastal territory instead, killing a three year old Palestinian child and wounding three other people. Tuesday’s events was the largest in a string of cross-border incidents in recent days which have seen over a dozen rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, prompting retaliatory air strikes.

Israeli security forces searching for kidnapped teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gil- Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah arrested several more suspects in raids early Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of those detained to 354, including 269 members of the Islamist terror militia Hamas. Israeli security forces continued Operation Brothers’ Keeper in the West Bank overnight Thursday, arresting 9 terror suspects and confiscating weapons just hours after naming the main suspects in the abductions as Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha, Hamas operatives from Hebron. Meanwhile, diplomats from Iran and several Arab countries announced on Thursday that they intend to demand that the UN Security Council condemn Israel’s search for the teens, calling it an “overreaction” to the abductions. “Rather than denouncing this appalling attack, the Arab nations have the audacity to stand before you today and criticize Israel,” said Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Dermer.


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday signed a broad deal with the European Union covering closer trade and political ties despite objections from Russia, which warned that the deal will have grave consequences. Deadly protests broke out this winter when the-then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign the EU trade deal under pressure from Moscow. But on Friday Poroshenko said the agreement — which allows for free trade within the EU as well as for key business-related reforms for Kiev — may be the “most important day” for his country since it became independent from the Soviet Union. The EU’s deal with Ukraine is especially sensitive now as it comes at a time when a fragile cease-fire between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia separatists is due to end, and as Europe’s top diplomats decide whether to impose fresh economic sanctions on Russia. Georgia and Moldova also signed association agreements with the EU on Friday in a move that is also opposed by Russia.


Secretary of State John Kerry traveled Tuesday to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s northern, autonomous Kurdish region — his second day in the country where he is spearheading talks between Iraq’s leaders. Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani has for years feuded with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Kerry is hoping that by securing support from Barzani that will force al-Maliki to cede more power to Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities, a situation that could help diffuse one of the causes behind an insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq militants. ISIL succeeded in seizing Iraq’s main oil refinery Monday, the BBC reports. The U.S. military began flying armed drones over Baghdad in the last 24 hours, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN on Friday. The Baghdad drones are not to be used for offensive airstrikes against fighters with the insurgent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but they are to provide additional protection for 180 U.S. military advisers in the area, the official said.

Iraqi insurgents executed at least 160 captives earlier this month in the northern city of Tikrit, Human Rights Watch said Friday. The U.S.-based rights group said militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant killed between 160 and 190 men in two locations in Tikrit between June 11 and June 14. “The number of victims may well be much higher,” they said. The extremist Sunni militants sweeping across Iraq may have a singular goal, but there’s a broad coalition of recruits from outside of the Middle East willing to help them achieve it. ISIL wants to establish an Islamic state stretching from northern Syria into Iraq. And as the brutal terror group racks up victory after victory on the battlefield, more foreign fighters are considering joining their ranks, some from the U.S. and Britain.


At least 57 Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 120 others were wounded by what local officials say were Syrian warplanes that struck several parts of Anbar province Tuesday. Sabah Karkhout, the head of Iraq’s Anbar provincial council, told CNN that the attacks struck markets and fuel stations in areas such as Rutba, al-Walid and Qaim. “Iraq is facing a cross-border terrorist attack that is supported by some neighboring countries,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a televised speech Wednesday. 140 Kurdish schoolboys were kidnapped in Syria last month by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and forced to take daily lessons in radical Islamic theology, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, and local activists say.

Humanitarian group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Syrian children are being used by the military in horrifying ways. According to the report, children as young as 15 are being trained to fight and kill, while those even younger take on “supporting” roles. The youngest children are forced to become suicide bombers, snipers, spies, lookouts, and army nurses, and deliver ammunition and supplies to the front lines. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, 100,000 have lost lies; 11,000 of those people were children. HRW is now finding that 194 “non-civilian” boys have been killed since September 2011.


More than 450,000 Pakistanis have fled their homes for safer areas in the past two weeks as the military has attacked suspected anti-government militant hideouts in northwestern Pakistan. Many of the displaced civilians have moved from the North Waziristan region, where the military campaign is largely focused, to camps in Pakistan’s nearby Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan launched a military operation in North Waziristan and other restive parts of Pakistan’s loosely governed tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan on June 15. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the offensive is meant to “finish off” militants in the area “once and for all,”. The Pakistani Taliban is among the targets


Four minor explosions struck subway stations in Cairo on Wednesday, wounding at least four people and causing widespread panic among morning commuters. The blasts, which were caused by homemade explosive devices, took place at four different stations in central and northern Cairo, in the teeming neighborhoods of Ghamra and Shubra el-Khemia. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks — the first in the Egyptian capital since last month’s election of former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as the country’s new president. El-Sissi led the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after millions demonstrated against him in the streets last July. Since Morsi’s ouster, his supporters have staged near-daily protests demanding his return to power.


Libyans are defying the turmoil roiling their nation to vote in parliament elections on Wednesday, the third nationwide balloting since the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The vote is a key step in transition for the oil-rich Libya, embroiled in deep political chaos and instability mainly because of the absence of a strong military and police force. Successive transitional governments have depended on militias to achieve security. But it’s unclear how balloting for parliament can take place in the violence-stricken east. In the provincial council elections, voters in the eastern city of Darna came under attack when militants bombed polling centers in their city, a stronghold of Islamic militias.


Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in northeast Nigeria. Security forces denied the kidnappings. Nigeria’s government and military have attracted widespread criticism for their slow response to the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped April 15. An explosion rocked an upscale shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police said at least 21 people have been killed and 17 people were wounded. It is the latest in a series of violent attacks blamed on Islamic extremists from Boko Haram.


A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Monday about 15 miles from Little Sitkin Island, Alaska at a depth of 71 miles. It was the largest quake to hit the U.S. in more than a decade. The town of Adak evacuated its 150 residents to a shelter about 600 feet above sea level after the initial tsunami warning which was later cancelled. There were no initial reports of quake damage in Adak or on Shemya Island. There were 17 measurable aftershocks in the two hours after the quake.

A trio of earthquakes struck in the South Pacific Ocean Tuesday morning southeast of Raoul Island, New Zealand, There were no immediate reports of damage. Two quakes, with magnitudes of 6.9 and 6.3, hit within minutes of each other. A third, 6.2-magnitude quake struck about 45 minutes later. The quakes hit near the eastern edge of the Australian tectonic plate, one of the most active seismic regions in the world.


Despite the mainstream media’s portrayal of global warming contributing to increased wildfire dangers and the calls for increased funding, the last two years have been way below average in the U.S. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that as of 6/26/14, the number of wildland fires so far this year total 25,096 versus the ten-year average of 36,542. The acreage burned this year-to-date totals 865,030 acres versus the ten-year-average of 1,968,856 acres. Last year also was far less than the previous decade.


A tornado tracked through western and northern Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon, damaging homes and forcing thousands to take shelter. The National Weather Service (NWS) gave the storm an EF1 rating, with wind speeds up to 100 mph and an estimated 75 to 100 homes in the metro area receiving at least minor damage. Buildings in the city’s commercial district were also hit. No injuries were reported.

River levels have soared over the past few weeks in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, flooding towns, killing crops and even setting off a mudslide in Minneapolis. The Mississippi River has been pushed into major flood stage in the Twin Cities, as have 50-year-old levees. In St. Paul, Minnesota, the Mississippi River was nearing a crest early Thursday, just over 6 feet above flood stage. The river is expected to remain at major flood stage through at least the middle of next week, depending on how much more rain the region receives.

Social media has been filled with photos Thursday morning of fans trying to get to the World Cup game between the USA and Germany in Recife, Brazil, in streets flooded due to heavy rain. Rain has been falling in Recife for the better part of 17 hours. Some t U.S. fans were abandoning their vehicles and walking through torrential rain to stadium, which was 17 miles away.

Signs of the Times

June 23, 2014

Biblical Marriage Supporters March in Washington, D.C.

Thousands marched on Thursday on the Capitol lawn in support for traditional marriage. People chanted, “one man, one woman” during the rally and held signs in favor of traditional marriage. The rally included speakers such as Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. The rally ended with a march from the Capitol lawn to the Supreme Court. The March for Marriage was meant to show lawmakers that many Americans still support traditional marriage. However, a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 53 percent of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

  • This is the time for Christians to pray hard and fight loud over this pivotal end-time spiritual cross roads

Federal Appeals Court Denies Atheist Suit against Ground Zero Cross

A federal appeals court said this week that an atheist group trying to keep the so-called Ground Zero Cross out of the National September 11 Memorial Museum must better explain how displaying the artifact is “offensive” and violates members’ constitutional rights. The 17-foot-tall, steel beam “cross” was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York that fell during the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The cross became a sort of shrine or place of comfort for first responders who often prayed there and left messages or flowers. It was moved away from the debris a few weeks later and became a tourist attraction through several years of reconstruction. American Atheists filed the suit in 2011, which was thrown out last year by a federal judge in the Southern District of New York. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argued that American Atheists had no right to bring a lawsuit in the first place. “Courts should not allow people to sue just because they claim to get ‘dyspepsia’ over a historical artifact displayed in a museum.”

Presbyterians Vote to Allow Gay Marriage by Whopping 3-1 Ratio

The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Thursday (June 19) to allow gay and lesbian weddings within the church, making it among the largest Christian denomination to take an embracing step toward same-sex marriage. By a 76-24 percent vote, the General Assembly of the 1.8 million-member PCUSA voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in states where they are legal. Delegates, meeting in Detroit this week, also approved new language about marriage in the church’s Book of Order, or constitution, altering references to “a man and woman” to “two persons.” This change will not become church law until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to ratify the new language. But given the lopsided 3-1 ratio of the vote, approval is expected.

  • The end-time “falling away” of 2Thessalonians 2:3 is gaining steam as we proceed through the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:80 toward the seven-year Tribulation

Presbyterians Divest Israel to Support Palestinians

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday became the most prominent religious group in the United States to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, voting to sell church stock in three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories. The General Assembly passed the measure by a razor-thin margin — 310-303. The decision is expected to reverberate well beyond the church. It comes amid discouragement over failed peace talks that have left activists desperate for some way to affect change and as the broader movement known as BDS — or boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — has gained some momentum in the U.S., Israel’s closest and most important ally. The American Jewish Committee, a policy and advocacy group based in New York, said the vote was “driven by hatred of Israel.” Many American Jewish groups and their supporters have denounced the campaign as an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state

  • This is yet another end-time example of the Church “falling away” from uncompromising adherence to the Gospel and the Word of God which unabashedly supports Israel against those who loudly call for its annihilation (which includes the Palestinians) while Israel only acts in self-defense.

Media in Central America to Migrants: Don’t Go to U.S.

“The U.S. will not give asylum to migrant children,” blared Thursday’s front page of La Prensa Grafica, one of the largest papers in El Salvador. Other newspapers sported similar headlines. It has been all but impossible in this country in recent days to look at a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch a TV newscast without hearing this message. The same message that Vice President Joe Biden delivered in Guatemala City on Friday at a meeting with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. Much of this past week, evening newscasts in Central America either led with or prominently featured reports that minors apprehended in the United States would be deported back to El Salvador.

Over the past eight months, the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Mexico, most of them into Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Roughly three-fourths of them have come from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. Their numbers have jumped tenfold from three years ago.

  • The Obama administration is a little late to finally realize the impact of their failed policies that encouraged migrants to come to the U.S., but better late than never

Number of Displaced People Hits Post-World War II High

For the first time since the World War II era, the number of people forced from their homes worldwide has surged past 50 million, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday. Syrians fleeing the bloodletting at home and a fast-growing web of other crises across the world accounted for the spike in the displaced, the UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends Report. At the end of last year, 51.2 million people had been forced from their homes worldwide, the highest figure of displacement since World War II. That’s six million more people than at the end of the previous year, reflecting what the agency described as important undercurrents in international relations.

The massive increase was mainly driven by Syria’s civil war. By the end of last year, 2.5 million Syrians had become refugees in neighboring countries and more than 6.5 million had been displaced within Syria. In addition, more than a million Iraqis have been forced from their homes by conflict this year, a number likely to rise as Islamist militants and Iraqi security forces battle for control. Of the 51.2 million displaced worldwide last year, 16.7 million were refugees outside their countries’ borders. Nearly 12 million of them are cared for by U.N. agencies. More than half of the refugees under UNHCR’s care have been in exile for more than five years.

IRS Scandal Cover-Up?

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is facing accusations of a “cover-up” over the Tea Party targeting scandal, after claims surfaced that ex-official Lois Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed and emails from several other officials also have gone missing. GOP lawmakers are furious after learning a week ago that many Lerner emails from a two-year period supposedly have disappeared. Committee Republicans now say that the IRS may have known about this for months, and that the agency may have lost emails from another six employees. To boot, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he’s been told that Lerner’s hard drive was simply destroyed. “They just got rid of it,” he told Fox News. “It really looks bad and I’ve got to say it looks like a cover-up to me.”

Common Core to be Election Flashpoint

Common Core has emerged as the newest Republican litmus test for gauging candidates’ conservative bona fides, and experts say the controversial national education standard will help shape elections from school boards to the White House for the foreseeable future. Whether prompted by pressure from grassroots groups and well-funded political action committees, or simply by a realization of what is involved in the sweeping K-12 reform, Common Core has become a hot button issue within the GOP. Several Republican governors, including some rumored to be considering 2016 White House runs, have turned against the plan and critics have coined a loaded term for it that lays bare the political divide: “ObamaCore.” Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a onetime backer of Common Core, issued an executive order designed to block its implementation in the Bayou State. Although Louisiana was one of 45 states that initially adopted the plan, Jindal has since turned against it, as criticism mounted around the nation. The ultimate goal of Common Core is to have every school district follow the same national standards. Stop Common Core, a PAC that has spent nearly $1 million on ads attacking proponents, says “This is a failed educational approach that will undermine educational quality and choice.”

  • Common Core is proving to be far more expensive to implement by states than first estimated, another example of the federal government foisting programs on states and forcing them to pay for it.

Stem-Cell Advances May Quell Ethics Concerns

Recent strides in stem-cell research show adult stem cells to be ever-more-promising, many scientists say, quelling the controversy steeped in faith and science that has long surrounded embryonic stem cells. In addition to these genetically reprogrammed adult cells — known as induced pluripotent stem cells or IPS cells — scientists are on the cusp of being able to turn one type of cell into another in the body without using stem cells at all. IPS cells overcome the main ethical issues, namely the use and destruction of embryos many Americans consider sacred human life, putting it in the same category as abortion.

Ebola Called ‘Out of Control’ in West Africa

The deadliest-ever outbreak ever of the Ebola virus has surged in West Africa after slowing briefly, and the pandemic is now “out of control,” according to Doctors Without Borders. Nearly 600 infections and 340 Ebola-related deaths have been recorded in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the most since the virus was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan almost 40 years ago, the World Health Organization said this week. There’s no cure or vaccine for the highly contagious disease, which has mortality rate of up to 90%. “The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave,” Bart Janssens, a medical charity’s operations director, told the Associated Press on Friday. “And, for me, it is totally out of control.” He criticized the WHO and African governments for not doing more to contain the outbreak and to thoroughly trace everyone who has had contact with the sick or the dead.

Economic News

Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs across the nation shot up to all-time highs in May, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price index for these items, which BLS has kept records of since 1967, “rose 1.4 percent in May after a 1.5 percent increase in April, with virtually all of its major components increasing,” the agency said. Only cereal and bakery products declined last month, falling 0.1 percent. The price increases in meat can be directly tied back to the cumulative impact of the drought in California and Texas as well as the drought that hit the Corn Belt.

Islamist militant gains in Iraq sent world oil prices higher Monday, sparking concerns that this could hurt global economic growth, especially in Europe where the recovery seems to be faltering. Prices have risen above $107 a barrel on the Nymex on fear that supplies could be hit later this year, just as world demand peaks. Prices are up 16% so far this year.

More than a quarter of Americans have no emergency savings, according to an annual survey released Monday by Of those who do have savings, 67% have less than six months’ worth of expenses, what Bankrate calls the recommended amount, and those with at least three months’ of expenses declined from 45% in 2013 to 40%.

The total number of disability beneficiaries in the United States topped 11 million for the first time last month, increasing from 10,996,447 in April to a record 11,004,507 in May, according to new data released by the Social Security Administration. The 11,004,507 total disability beneficiaries in May included a record 8,947,220 disabled workers. It also included 153,554 spouses of disabled workers and 1,903,733 children of disabled workers.

Middle East

The Israeli military says it has carried out airstrikes on a number of military targets inside Syria, including the military headquarters, in response to a cross-border attack that left an Israeli teenager dead. In a statement early Monday, the military said nine targets were struck and “direct hits were confirmed.” “Yesterday’s attack was an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel, and a direct continuation to recent attacks that occurred in the area,” said a military spokesman. He said Israel “will not tolerate any attempt to breach Israel’s sovereignty and will act in order to safeguard the civilians of the state of Israel.” In the initial deadly incident, a civilian vehicle in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was targeted, killing a 14-year-old boy in the first deadly incident along the volatile area since the Syrian civil war erupted more than three years ago.


Hostilities between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists have escalated. On Thursday, government security forces claimed to have killed about 300 separatists in fierce clashes 60 miles from the border with Russia. The government said seven from its own military forces were killed. NATO said Thursday that Russia has resumed its military buildup along the border with Ukraine border in an apparent attempt to intimidate its neighbor. Ukrainian forces have completed an operation to close off the country’s eastern border with Russia, Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov told Ukraine’s Parliament on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered military forces in central Russia on combat alert.

  • One concern not noted in the mainstream media is that there are a combined 230 nuclear weapons in the Ukraine and Crimea, recently annexed by Russia (a key end-time player in Ezekiel 38-39). Making matters worse, reports Newsmax, is that there are no fewer than eight Islamic terrorist factions with open alliances to these unstable militaries, including both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The potential for apocalyptic tribulation exists right there, right now.


President Obama said Thursday that the United States will deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help beleaguered security forces fend off Sunni militants, edging the United States back into a military conflict that Obama thought he had left behind. Obama said, “We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if we conclude the situation on the ground requires it.” The president emphasized again that he will not send combat troops to Iraq, but he said the United States would help the Iraqis “take the fight” to the militants, who he said pose a threat to Iraq’s stability and to American interests because Iraq could become a sanctuary for terrorists who could strike the United States or its allies. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Monday in a bid to push for a power-sharing arrangement.

Twenty thousand Shiite militiamen have paraded in Baghdad and several other cities in southern Iraq with heavy weaponry, signaling their readiness to take on Sunni militants who seized much of the country’s north. The parades were staged by followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and came after the al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — known as ISIL or ISIS — and allied Sunni militants, captured a crossing on the Syria-Iraq border the day before. Muqtada al-Sadr has referred to US military advisers en route to Iraq as ‘the occupier’ and warned ‘we will be ready for you if you are back.’ The Sunni ISIS push that has brought havoc to western Iraq continued virtually unabated Sunday as militants secured the town of Rutba, the fourth to fall in two days in embattled Anbar Province. At least 71 prisoners and five police officers were killed Monday when militants attacked an Iraqi police convoy transferring inmates from one prison to another. As the battles intensify, Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came out against U.S. intervention, telling the Iran state news agency IRNA that “Iran believes that people and government as well as religious leaders of Iraq can end the adventurism.”

Behind the image of savagery that the extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria present to the world lies a disciplined organization that employs social media and sophisticated financial strategies in the funding and governance of the areas it has conquered, notes the New York Times. The insurgents seized as much as $400 million from the central bank in Mosul, said Atheel Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, and reportedly emptied the vaults in all the other banks in a city of more than one million residents. The terrorists may also have access to a secret sarin poison gas production facility in northeast Iraq as a result of a new alliance with a top military commander who previously was an aide to executed Sunni Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, WorldNetDaily reports.


An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to seven years in prison. Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were convicted of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the authorities have declared a terrorist organization. The three were arrested in December as part of a sweeping crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Monday’s verdict is seen as a blow to freedom of expression. The managing director of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera English, Al Anstey, said in a statement that “not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them.”


A powerful truck bomb exploded on Friday in a government-held village in central Syria, killing at least 34 civilians and wounding more than 50. The attack “caused the destruction of a large number of houses and buildings in the village. The Islamic Front, an umbrella for several rebel groups in Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted online.


Hours after an attack killed at least 21 young soccer fans watching a televised World Cup match, Nigerian security forces announced they had arrested a senior commander and more than 485 members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram that is terrorizing the country. The commander was arrested when police apprehended a convoy of suspected terrorists in the southern state of Abia. “Police refuse to disclose the identity of the militant,” reported Ludovica Iaccino for International Business Times. Boko Haram mainly targets villages in the north. The discovery of a senior Boko Haram militant in a southern state stoked fears that the insurgents are expanding their range. The slain soccer fans – reportedly mostly children and young soccer players – had gathered at an outdoor video screen to watch the World Cup’s Brazil v Mexico match in the tournament’s opening round. A bomb went off, apparently concealed in a pedicab-rickshaw.


Chinese police shot dead 13 people who attacked a police station in the restive northwest region of Xinjiang Saturday morning. A group of “thugs” drove a vehicle to ram the main office building of the public security bureau of Yecheng County in Kashgar District and detonated explosives. Three policemen were slightly injured and no civilians were hurt, Tianshan reported. The incident appears the latest in an escalating series of attacks over the past two years by radicalized members of Xinjiang’s native Uighur population. Beijing says overseas terrorist groups spread terrorism and extremist Islamic views within Xinjiang and other parts of China. Uighur exiles argue that Chinese repression triggers the growing violence.


A wildfire on the Navajo reservation straddling Arizona and New Mexico has burned 14,712 acres (about 23 square miles) and destroyed 19 structures. No injuries or deaths have been recorded in the sparsely populated area. As of Monday morning, the fire was 65% contained.


The same system that brought devastating tornadoes to Pilger, Nebraska, Monday night and Wessington Springs, South Dakota Wednesday night, has doused parts of South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois leading to historic flooding in some areas. On Friday, residents in several states continued preparations for the rising water, with people lining up for sandbags and moving items to higher ground. Days of flooding in Minnesota were too much for the land in one area, as a mudslide along the Mississippi River led to a partial road closure and the evacuation of some employees at a Minneapolis hospital. Meanwhile, the fast-moving Big Sioux River has been swollen by days of thunderstorms and is expected to crest Friday more than a foot above the previous record level set in 1969, threatening homes and businesses in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

A sinkhole that opened up last week in the wake of record-breaking rainfall in the World Cup host city of Natal, Brazil continues to expand, swallowing homes and cars and forcing the evacuation of 150 families. More rain fell on the coastal city in three days last week—more than 13 inches worth—than the area usually sees in the entire month of June, sparking landslides, flash flooding and opening up the sinkhole four miles from the Arena das Dunas stadium. Some 150 families have been evacuated from the affected area.

At least 12 people – including 2 children – were killed in torrential rains and flooding in northeastern Bulgaria. Dozens remain missing. The rush of water swamped streets and houses with mud and debris and left cars mangled and stacked on top of each other like toys. Roads in and out of Asparuhovo were blocked and tens of thousands were without electricity. Away from the northern Black Sea coastline, flooding has impacted a number of towns and cities across Central and Northeastern Bulgaria. A state of emergency has been declared in Veliko Tarnovo and Shumen, and also in the southern town of Pazardzhik.

Signs of the Times (6/19/14)

June 19, 2014

Charitable Giving to Religious Groups is Down

Americans are slowly pulling themselves out of a charitable slump — except when it comes to religious groups. The latest Giving USA report, perhaps the most-read annual study on philanthropy, shows a slight downturn for churches and other religious organizations against an improving charity landscape. American individuals, groups, foundations and corporations gave $335 billion in 2013 — a 3 percent increase from 2012 (adjusted for inflation). It’s the fourth consecutive year in which giving rose after taking a beating during the recession that officially ended in 2009. But religious groups saw donations drop 1.6 percent from 2012 to 2013. That contrasts to healthy jumps in education (7.4 percent), the arts and humanities (6.3 percent) and environmental and animal groups (6 percent).

  • The end-time anti-Christ spirit promotes the religion of secular humanism (the worship of man, Satan’s counterfeit) at the expense of the Church

Religious Activities on Résumé Cut Hiring Potential

New research from the Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination shows that listing faith-based activities on a resume will lower an applicant’s chance of getting a job. The recently released studies published in the Washington Times say that “applicants who expressed a religious identity were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers.” The results of the study are concerning because they suggest that many employers held a bias against religion when looking at resumes.

  • The age of ‘tolerance’ applies to everything except religion, especially Christianity

U.S. Captures Suspected Leader of Benghazi Attack

United States Special Forces have captured the suspected leader of the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others, White House and Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Apprehension of the suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is a major breakthrough in the two-and-a-half-year-old investigation into the attack. President Obama vowed swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice, but efforts to identify and prosecute the attackers were stymied by the chaos of the event and the broader mayhem in Libya. Mr. Obama’s handling of the attack and aftermath became a lightning rod for Republican critics. They accused him of misleading Americans about the circumstances behind it for his own political purposes and for failing to aggressively pursue those responsible. The execution of the raid appears to signal that the investigators are confident in their case.

Border Patrol Overwhelmed by Flow of Illegal Immigrants

The number of illegal immigrants is so high that the Border Patrol can barely cope. From last October to the end of May, 162,000 people from countries “other than Mexico” have entered the United States across the southern border. That’s a nearly 100 percent increase from the previous year. Three-quarters of those crossed in the Rio Grande Valley. Among them were 47,017 unaccompanied children, sent by family in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador or Nicaragua to join relatives in the United States. The unaccompanied minors present a complex problem for authorities. They can’t be immediately sent back – and they can’t be left alone in the U.S. to fend for themselves. They are supposed to be handed off to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours, but the sheer numbers of children has left some of them languishing in crowded Border Patrol stations longer than that. And as many children as have crossed the border, their numbers are eclipsed by the “family units” racing to get into the United States. They are traveling hundreds of miles with small children, knowing that under U.S. law, they will not be deported immediately. Many of them are in the advanced stages of pregnancy and will likely have a child that will become an American citizen.

  • The lack of border security is a direct result of the Obama administration’s lax enforcement and even outright encouragement of illegal immigration

Obama’s Foreign Policy Ratings Hit New Low

Facing a number of challenges — including renewed violence in Iraq, Russian adventurism in Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear program and trading Guantanamo five terrorists for an awol U.S. soldier — President Obama’s foreign policy approval ratings have hit new low marks. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll says only 37% approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy overall — a new low — while 57% disapprove, which is a new high for this survey. Obama’s overall approval rating is 41%, tied for his all-time law mark in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

U.S. Health Care: Most Expensive, Least Effective

The U.S. health care system is the most expensive among large developed nations. And it produces the worst results. According to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund, The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 edition. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity. The United Kingdom ranks first, followed closely by Switzerland. Not only did the United States rank 11th out of the 11 countries covered in the report, average cost for health care per capita in 2011 was $8,508. New Zealand was the least expensive per capita at $3,182. The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation

  • The Commonwealth Fund is hardly unbiased. According to their website, they are “a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.” Sounds like an Obamacare commercial. Everything depends on how you measure things. Still, our high cost doesn’t yield the performance it should.

Phoenix VA Gave $10 Million in Bonuses in Last 3 Years

Newly released records show the Phoenix VA Health Care System paid out roughly $10 million in bonuses during the past three years, when some staff manipulated patient wait-time records to trigger bonuses as veterans died awaiting care. The Arizona Republic, after asking for bonus records at least 10 times since March, obtained the data Friday from the Department of Veteran Affairs under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Bonus payouts increased significantly under Sharon Helman, who became director of the Phoenix VA in February 2012. She was placed on administrative leave last month with two other top staff members amid accusations of mismanagement stemming from the bonus scandal. Records show 4,188 bonuses were paid over the past three fiscal years to more than 2,150 employees, including doctors, nurses, administrators, secretaries and cleaners. The bonus totals increased from $2.5 million in 2011, to $3.5 million in 2012 and $3.9 million in 2013. The issue of bonuses being paid to VA staff while veterans were denied care has infuriated the public and members of Congress. “(The) VA’s sordid bonus culture is a symptom of a much bigger organizational problem: The department’s extreme reluctance to hold employees and executives accountable for mismanagement that harms veterans,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

The Social Security Cash Crunch Congress Can’t Ignore

It’s highly unlikely that Congress will reform Social Security any time soon. But there is a near-term cash crunch in one part of Social Security that lawmakers must resolve in the next year or two. The trust fund for Social Security disability benefits, which is separate from the fund for retirement benefits, is on track to be insolvent — most likely by the end of 2016 but no later than 2017. So unless Congress acts to replenish the fund beforehand, the program will only be able to pay an estimated 80% of promised benefits to 8.8 million disabled workers, plus the benefits paid to their spouses and dependents if the disabled worker was the primary breadwinner. The current average monthly payment for a disabled worker is $1,146.

Half of Recent College Grads Need Financial Support from Family

Today’s college grads are drowning in debt, now with half of them needing financial support from their families and many living at home. A unique, multi-year study by researchers at the University of Arizona found that more than half of recent college graduates are still relying on their parents or other family members for financial support. Less than half of the 20-somethings surveyed by the University of Arizona were employed full-time, and 20% were working part-time. Unsurprisingly, unemployed college graduates were much more likely get help from family (75%), but nearly half (48%) of college grads who have jobs are getting help, too, they found. With the average student debt load hovering just under $30,000 in the U.S., it’s not hard to imagine why young college graduates may be struggling financially. And on top of debt, their job prospects haven’t been so great either. As many as 40% of young adults are considered underemployed today

Economic News

Housing starts fell 6.5% in May but remained just above a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1 million, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Permits, a gauge of future construction activity, fell by 6.4% to an annual rate of 991,000 after three months above a 1 million pace.

Consumer prices last month posted their sharpest increase in 15 months as inflation continued a recent acceleration from unusually low levels. The consumer price index jumped 0.4% after rising 0.3% in April, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 2.1%. The rise in prices was broad-based, with food, energy, housing, apparel and other costs among those increasing. The unusually sharp rise in inflation last month could help prompt the Fed to begin to raise interest rates earlier in 2015 than expected.

Persecution Watch

Pope Francis expressed his concern for the extremely high rate of Christian persecution in an interview with “La Vanguardia” magazine, calling it “stronger than in the first centuries of the Church.” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that Christians have been targeted for violence in 151 countries between 2006 and 2012. About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by Open Doors, a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide.

A new report from the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD) states that more than 550 Egyptian Christian women and girls have been kidnapped since 2011. The kidnapped women are then forced to adopt Islam and marry their captors. The AVAFD reported that the women’s ages ranged from 14 to 40. Many of the women are raped; many are not even sought after by police. Authorities instead claim the women left their families by choice. AVAFD founder, Ebram Louis said that kidnappings have increased in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak fell from power. “Before the revolution, five or six girls would disappear each month. Now the average is 15.”

At least three people have been killed and 52 injured after Buddhist mobs rampaged through Muslim areas in southwest Sri Lanka, police say. The outbreak of religious violence followed a large rally Sunday by the Bodu Bala Sena, a hardline Buddhist nationalist group led by monks, in the town of Aluthgama, about 60 kilometers south of Colombo. The rally was prompted by the alleged assault of a monk by Muslim youths days earlier. After the rally, violence erupted on both sides as the demonstrators marched through Muslim neighborhoods, allegedly chanting anti-Muslim slogans. Muslim homes and shops were gutted in the violence, which has prompted Muslims in the region to gather in mosques for safety.

Middle East

Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinians during an arrest raid early Thursday in the most violent confrontation so far in the weeklong search for three missing Israeli teens believed to have been abducted in the West Bank. The military said about 300 Palestinians took to the streets when the soldiers entered Jenin at about 2 a.m. Some opened fire at the troops, others threw explosive devices or rocks at the soldiers. It said soldiers retaliated with live fire. The military said 30 Palestinians were arrested in the overnight raid. Israel has blamed the Islamic militant group Hamas for the abductions and has launched a widespread crackdown on the militant Islamic group, arresting scores of members while conducting a feverish manhunt for the missing youths. Hamas has praised the abduction of the teenagers, but has not claimed responsibility for it.

Islamist politicians swept elections across the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, stepping close to power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco and undermining the thesis of Qaeda-style militants that violence offered the only hope for change, reports the New York Times. Today, those politicians are in frantic retreat from Riyadh to Rabat, stymied by their political opponents, stalked by generals and plotted against by oil-rich monarchs. Instead, it is the jihadists who are on the march, roving unchecked across broad sections of North Africa and the Middle East. Now they have seized control of territory straddling the borders of Iraq and Syria where they hope to establish an Islamic caliphate. “Rights cannot be restored except by force,” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the surging Qaeda breakaway group, declared last year after the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood from office, calling the more election-minded Muslim Brotherhood “a secular party in Islamic clothes” and “more evil and cunning than the secularists.”


Ukraine’s President on Wednesday announced that he will implement a unilateral cease-fire to ease the crisis in the restive eastern part of the country. Ukrainian forces are putting their arms down only shortly, President Petro Poroshenko said, a period during which he expects separatist groups to disarm. The plan offers amnesty to those who didn’t commit serious crimes. An escape corridor will be offered for those who disarm to leave Ukraine. The plan would also include the closure of the Ukraine-Russia border and changes to the constitution to decentralize power. Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a tense standoff since March, when Russia annexed Crimea and massed troops along its border with Ukraine. Moscow has since begun to withdraw those forces.


As Sunni militants strike ever closer to Baghdad, both Iran and the United States are deepening their involvement in war-torn Iraq, with the commander of Tehran’s elite Quds force helping out the Iraqi military and the U.S. beefing up security for its embassy in the capital. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim said Iraqi security forces killed 56 “terrorists” and wounded 21 just outside the capital in the last 24 hours in clashes with the al-Qaeda -breakaway group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, referred to as ISIL or ISIS. The Levant is a traditional name for the region including Iraq and greater Syria. Insurgents have also seized the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, while an army helicopter was shot down during clashes west of Baghdad.

Iraq’s army claimed Wednesday it had repelled an attack on the nation’s largest oil refinery and killed 40 militant. As Islamic militants continue their murderous advance in Iraq, the Pentagon is moving more firepower and manpower into the region to prepare for whatever U.S. President Barack Obama orders. Already at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, dozens of Marines and Army troops have moved in to beef up security. Another 100 personnel are in the region to provide support if needed, the Pentagon said. The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush and five other warships are now in the Persian Gulf. More than 500 Marines and dozens of helicopters are on standby. There’s a growing chorus — both in Washington and in the Arab world — that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has to go if there’s any hope of unifying Iraq as Islamic militants advance south toward Baghdad. the White House is now focused on a political transition that would move Iraqis toward a more inclusive government — one without al-Maliki that would include Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.


Egypt’s newly elected President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has sworn in the country’s new Cabinet. The government of about 30 ministers is led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. The Cabinet also includes four women and several technocrats. It’s the first Cabinet under el-Sissi, the country’s former army chief and defense minister who last July led the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.


An explosion ripped through a viewing center on Tuesday for people watching World Cup Soccer in Damaturu in northern Nigeria, killing at least 21 people. Witnesses said the blast happened after a suicide bomber steered a tricycle packed with explosives to the venue where people were viewing the game between Brazil and Mexico. Damaturu is a town in the state of Yobe, one of three northeastern Nigerian states under a state of emergency since May due to attacks by the militant group Boko Haram, according to the Guardian, a Nigerian news organization.


Christian and Muslim leaders united Tuesday (June 17) to demand government action after a deadly terror attack in Kenya’s coastal region. The Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, demanded that the government take decisive action to stem the rising stream of insecurity. Sheik Abdullahi Abdi, the National Muslim Leaders Forum chairman, said Kenyan Muslims were opposed to anyone using Islam to justify attacks on innocent civilians. On Sunday and Monday, armed gunmen stormed Mpeketoni town and nearby villages, killing more than 60 people — an attack described as the worst since the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall attack in September. The gunmen held the town hostage for more than four hours, burning houses, hotels and banks and even attacking the local police station. The Islamic militant group al-Shabaab said it executed the attack as revenge for the Kenyan army’s presence in Somalia, the killing of Muslim scholars in the coastal region and the oppression of Muslims.


After making the controversial decision to open formal peace negotiations with the rebel group that has been waging a war in Colombia for 50 years, President Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected in an narrow runoff over the weekend that many viewed as a national referendum on those peace talks. Now comes the hard part. The negotiations between Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been ongoing for two years now. Held mostly in Cuba, the two sides have met regularly and slowly come to some basic agreements on how to overhaul land ownership in the country and whether former guerrillas can participate in future governments. Some of the hardest issues remain, including whether the government can prosecute combatants who have engaged in human rights violations and how to compensate victims of the many years of bloodshed.


After the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a double-barreled defeat to Argentina Monday in that nation’s continuing efforts to escape its creditors, President Cristina Fernandez said her country can’t comply with the demand to pay up. Fernandez, in a nationally televised address, said Argentina is willing to negotiate, but will be unable to pay its debts within the next two weeks, as the court has ordered. “What I cannot do as president is submit the country to such extortion,” Fernandez said. The high court refused to consider Argentina’s appeal of lower court rulings in New York that it remains liable for debts to holdout creditors who earlier refused to accept its restructured debt offerings. And the justices ruled in a separate case that the holdout creditors have the right to seek the debtor nation’s hidden assets around the world. Fernandez said experts are working to find a solution that would enable Argentina to honor their debts and avoid default.


On the New Mexico-Arizona border, residents of two Native American communities were forced to leave their homes as strong winds fanned the flames of a wildfire burning in the Chuska Mountains. The fire ballooned to more than 17 square miles, forcing Navajo Nation police to issue an evacuation order for parts of Naschitti and nearby Sheep Springs. About 400 people live in the area, and fire managers said more evacuations could be possible. The fire was burning unchecked across dry pinon, juniper and brush. Gusts grounded all air support and hampered other efforts to directly attack the fast-moving flames. Authorities did sweeps of sheep herding camps in the hills and evacuated some people. The fire has since burned through those areas.

In northern Arizona, a 12-acre wildfire that broke out in Oak Creek Canyon was 25 percent contained. The fire that broke out Monday afternoon was just north of a blaze that charred 31 square miles last month in the scenic canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff.


At least one person has died and scores more injured after tornadoes struck in Nebraska on Monday. The fatality and fifteen injured were all in the tiny town of Pilger. On its website, the village of Pilger, Nebraska, about 380 residents strong, touts itself as “The little town too tough to die.” But after twin tornadoes struck Monday afternoon, wiping out most of this town 85 miles northwest of Omaha, residents could be faced with their biggest challenges yet. “The co-op is all gone. The office buildings, the convenience store, all the bins. It’s all gone. It’s just all gone. The big Lutheran church on the east side of town is all gone. It’s terrible. It’s really terrible,” said Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt.

A tornadic supercell rolled through Wessington Springs, South Dakota, damaging numerous homes and buildings. All of the town’s residents were accounted for and only one person had to be treated for injuries. At least 11 homes are damaged to the point of being uninhabitable, Koch said. Three businesses on the south end of town also were a total loss. In addition, strong storms packing powerful winds punched through parts of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and East Wednesday. A 78 mph wind gust was clocked near Morningside, Maryland, just after midnight early Thursday morning. A gust to 77 mph accompanied severe thunderstorms southwest of Aurora, Illinois Wednesday evening. As of early Thursday morning, just under 46,000 customers were without power in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

As summer approaches, snow fell over the higher elevations as an upper-level low swirled over the Northern Rockies. A spring deluge that has dumped nearly 5 inches of rain and more than a foot of snow in parts of Glacier National Park has tourists seeking cover and rivers spilling over their banks from the mountain runoff. A winter storm warning was issued earlier for higher elevations, and more than 14 inches of snow had already fallen at the Sperry Chalet in the park east of Lake McDonald. The storm has pounded northern Montana over the past two days, and the National Weather Service issued a flood warning Wednesday for a broad swath of territory from the northern Rocky Mountain Front to east of Cut Bank.

Signs of the Times (6/16/04)

June 16, 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Compares Homosexuality to Alcoholism

Texas Gov. Rick Perry compared homosexuality to alcoholism during a discussion with Commonwealth Club of California members in San Francisco on Wednesday. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” His comments drew heavy criticism from gay rights activists.

  • Flaws in our genetic coding are due to “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations,” which remains part of the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:5). Genetic corruption is reaching critical mass as the end-times roll forward toward the Great Tribulation

Liberal groups Angry over Order to Teach Constitution

The South Carolina legislature has rankled liberal groups after requiring that a pair of public schools use state funds to teach the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents — on the heels of a budget fight over gay-themed books in the curriculum. State House lawmakers previously had cut funds from two public universities in retaliation for required-reading material containing homosexual themes. A revised budget passed by both the House and the Senate earlier this month, though, restored the money — but dictated that exact amount be spent “for instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.”

Planned Parenthood Using Tax Dollars to Teach Young Teens about BDSM & Kinky Sex

In a series of undercover audits, Live Action investigators documented Planned Parenthood counselors and nurses advising their investigators, who the Planned Parenthood staffers thought were minors, on how to practice torture sex. In the videos, Planned Parenthood counselors encourage undercover investigators posting as 15 and 16-year-old teens, to engage in the sadomasochistic practices saying it was “totally okay.” Dave Jolly of notes, “Planned Parenthood is the most anti-family, anti-Christian and anti-parental authority group in America next to the Democratic Party. They receive around $500 million of your tax money each year to murder unborn children, teach your young kids to have sex and how to keep you from knowing. They have gone so far as to show teens how to bypass abortion reporting and parental notification laws.”

Union: Fire Federal Employees for Displaying ‘Duck Dynasty’ Decals on Personal Vehicles

Two senior management officials at Eglin Air Force base are being threatened with termination for displaying Duck Dynasty decals on their personal vehicles. The American Federation of Government Employees union says the decals, which state, “I Support Phil,” are inappropriate. Alan Cooper, executive vice president of the union’s local chapter said, “These two particular individuals have a great amount of influence over individuals who may be gay, who may be African-American – and we have a concern they should not be in a position to exert that influence when it comes to promotions.” One of the unnamed individuals said that he is neither racist, nor homophobic, but simply a fan of the show. “I’m pro-family. I’m pro-life. I don’t have a problem with anybody who doesn’t agree with me.” The employee said that he will not remove the sticker from his vehicle because he has a right to freedom of speech.

  • The degree of intolerance exhibited by those who tout tolerance is mind-boggling. The end-time anti-Christ spirit has produced the double-mindedness described in James 1:8 making such people mentally unbalanced

Obama Releases another 12 Jihad Terrorists from US Military Prison

It was reported at the end of the week that the Obama administration released a dozen non-Afghan detainees to their respective homes from a US military prison in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama, in a letter to Congress released on Thursday, informed U.S. lawmakers that about 38 non-Afghan prisoners remained at the Parwan detention center outside of Kabul, down from around 50 a few months ago. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a Frenchman, a Kuwaiti and 10 Pakistani prisoners were sent back to their respective home countries at the end of May. One of those men is openly declaring that he will once again engage the US in jihad, according to

Spain Arrests Eight Islamist Terrorists, One a Former Guantanamo Detainee

Spanish police arrested eight suspected Islamic militants in Madrid in predawn raids Monday, for allegedly recruiting and sending radical fighters to aid the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The arrests come just ahead of the proclamation of Spain’s new King Felipe VI on Thursday in parliament, and the ministry last week raised the terror alert level from 2 to 3, to tighten security in the capital during the festivities. The suspected leader of the cell broken up Monday had been detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and later was a prisoner at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the ministry said. Just last month, police arrested six Spanish men in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, on Morocco’s north coast, on suspicion of recruiting and sending 26 radical Islamic fighters for terrorist groups in Syria, Mali and Libya.

  • The prisoners Obama releases from Guantanamo go right back to their terrorist activities.

Number of Police Officers Killed up 40% over Last Year

Last week’s Las Vegas shootings that left five dead, including two on-duty police officers, coincides with a nationwide increase of officers killed in 2014. According to the Nationwide Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, 63 officers have died on the job this year compared to 45 at the same time last year — a 40 percent increase. Previously, the overall number of officer fatalities had been declining. “In general, we’re seeing more violence in society and that violence in society leads to violence against police officers,” said Richard Beary, vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Comcast Turning Homes into Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Comcast cable customers are having their home’s private Wi-Fi routers turned into public hotspots. It’s potentially an invasion of privacy, but the upside is Internet everywhere. It’s been one year since Comcast (CMCSA) started its monster project to blanket residential and commercial areas with continuous Wi-Fi coverage. Comcast has been swapping out customers’ old routers with new ones capable of doubling as public hotspots. So far, the company has turned 3 million home devices into public ones. By year’s end it plans to activate that feature on the other 5 million already installed. Outsiders supposedly never get access to your private, password-protected home network. Each box has two separate antennae.

  • What about hackers? No system is foolproof.

Economic News

Industrial production rebounded in May after a smaller drop in April than previously estimated, the Federal Reserve said Monday. Production at factories, mines and utilities rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% after falling 0.3% in April. Total production was up 4.3% over the past year. Capacity utilization also rose to 79.1%, the highest this year.

Summer drivers beware: Prices at the pump could climb higher in coming weeks if the conflict in Iraq continues. As violence in Iraq escalated on Thursday, oil futures climbed to $106 per barrel — a 2% increase and the highest level since September 2013. If oil prices keep heading higher, that could translate into a jump of more than 20 cents at the pump within the next couple weeks.

U.S. savings bonds, a graduation gift staple for nearly a century, are on the verge of extinction. Americans bought over 40 million of the most popular savings bonds in 2000. Last year, the U.S. sold a mere 400,000 of them. Savings bonds, which have been around since the 1930s, are no longer an attractive investment. The interest rates are so low these days that people just don’t get involved in them anymore, analysts say. The fixed-rate “EE” bond offers a mere 0.5% interest rate for the next 20 years, barely better than putting money under a mattress. Bonds issued at the end of last year were yielding an even lower 0.1% rate.

Middle East

Israel’s military arrested around 80 Palestinians in the West Bank, including members of the militant group Hamas, early Sunday as part of efforts to locate three teenagers, including an American, believed abducted in the territory. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the Thursday night disappearance of the teens. The Palestinian Authority denied involvement. Palestinian officials say they are assisting Israeli forces, who examined surveillance footage Saturday. Netanyahu said an “intensive operation” was underway to prevent the teens from being taken to the Gaza Strip or elsewhere. Monday, Israeli troops rounded up dozens more Hamas activists, including senior figures, as part of a feverish search for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers who Israel alleges were seized by the Islamic militant group in the West Bank.


Russia on Monday cut gas supplies to Ukraine as a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal on gas prices and unpaid bills amid continued fighting in eastern Ukraine. The decision does not immediately affect the gas flow to Europe, but could disrupt the long-term energy supply to the region if the issue remains unresolved, analysts said. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that since Ukraine had failed to pay anything for the gas by Monday, from now on the company would demand advance payment for any future deliveries.

The Ukrainian government says 49 people died Saturday when pro-Russian separatists shot down a military transport. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the plane was carrying equipment and food as well as personnel. The ministry’s statement said that the rebels “cynically and treacherously” downed the plane using anti-aircraft guns and heavy caliber machine guns. The Ukrainian health ministry says at least 270 people have died in clashes between government forces and armed separatists, who Ukraine says are supported by Russia.

Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists clashed Friday in a southern port town, as the United States confirmed earlier reports that a convoy of armored vehicles including three T-64 Russian tanks moved into Ukraine from Russia and now are in the hands of the rebels. About 100 soldiers emerged triumphant from the previously rebel-occupied buildings in Mariupol, the second-largest city in the eastern Donetsk region, where armed separatists have declared independence from the government in Kiev.


Iraq edged closer to the prospect of full-blown civil war Saturday, with Iraqis lining up to join the fight after a top Shiite Muslim cleric issued a call to arms against Muslim extremists who are continuing their military campaign to supplant the government. An al-Qaeda splinter group overran Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, as well as other towns in the past week after encountering little resistance from Iraqi troops. In Baghdad, a military recruitment center that has been swamped for the past two days with men eager to defend the capital from ISIL militants, who have vowed to take the city. Iraq’s security forces were able to halt the advance of Sunni Islamist militants north of Baghdad Saturday as thousands of Iraqi Shiites stood in line to join up with militias of their own.

Iraq War veterans in Michigan and across the country are watching with dismay, bitterness and even sadness as the same insurgency they fought against took control of two major cities — Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit — last week. Nearly 4,800 U.S. and coalition military personnel were killed in Iraq and more than 32,000 were wounded. The war will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion, including long-term care for wounded veterans, according to a 2013 study by the Costs of War project, based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

  • Obama pulled the troops out too quickly and didn’t leave a residual force thereby throwing away all the hard won victories. Now he’s doing the same thing in Afghanistan. What a legacy.


Diplomats seeking to avert the decade-long threat of war over Iran’s nuclear work will meet for talks this week with the clock ticking on attempts to resolve competing demands. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif convene the latest round of weeklong talks in Vienna today. Their aim is to reach a long-term accord before an interim pact expires on July 20. ‘The negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 is now in a very critical stage,’ Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said June 12 in Rome, referring to the six world powers with which the Persian Gulf country is pursuing talks. Negotiations stumbled last month when participants failed to begin drafting the text of a deal because of differences over how much uranium-enrichment capacity Iran should be allowed to maintain.


Millions of Afghans braved the threat of violence Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff that will mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of power as it prepares for the departure of foreign combat troops by the end of this year. Despite a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks that Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said killed 47 people, including 20 civilians and an election commission worker, the voting was largely peaceful. Daudzai also said 60 militants were killed. However, the government reported voting was not significantly disrupted by the time polls closed at 4 p.m. local time. Abdullah Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45 percent of the vote in the first round, faces Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official and finance minister. Neither garnered the majority needed to win outright, but previous candidates and their supporters have since offered endorsements to each, making the final outcome unpredictable. The new leader will be challenged with trying to improve ties with the West and combating corruption while facing a powerful Taliban insurgency and declining international aid.


Pakistani military jets pounded militant hideouts in the northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan early Sunday morning, officials said, killing as many as 100 militants in the second strike on the region since a deadly attack on the Karachi airport a week ago. Many of the dead were believed to be Uzbeks and other foreign fighters. The Pakistani government has been under pressure to combat the resilient insurgency that has plagued the country for years after the shocking attack of the country’s busiest airport that left 36 people dead, including 10 assailants. Government efforts that started months ago to negotiate with the militants appeared to be going nowhere and the airport violence has made negotiations even less likely to succeed.


Despite tougher laws against sexual violence, the grisly rape and murder of two teenage girls found hanging from a tree shows India has a long way to go to safeguard women in its male-dominated, socially stratified culture, critics say. The incident in Katra Sadatganj, an impoverished village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is just the latest in a string of attacks. At least two other rape cases were reported in the past two weeks in the same state. The incidents are igniting debate about sexual violence against women and triggering outrage over lax attitudes about it, despite the strengthening of laws against rape last year. More than 240,000 sexual offenses against women were reported in 2012, according to Indian government statistics. But human rights experts believe that number is vastly underestimated because many women don’t report the crimes. India’s traditional hierarchy of social castes is a major factor in the people’s resistance to changing their attitudes.


Fearful of a crackdown on undocumented workers, thousands of Cambodian migrants clutching children and towing their possessions in sacks and plastic bags, milled into a train station to flee possible persecution and arrest, allegations that the Thai junta vehemently denies. But it has not stemmed the tide of Cambodian workers heading to the borders. About 140,000 migrant workers have fled Thailand causing bottleneck congestion at the border. Thailand has been under the control of the military since a coup in late May. Although tackling illegal migration has been one of the junta’s priorities, unease over the issue and the sudden change in government may have fueled the migrant workers’ concerns.


Attackers thought to be members of the Al Shabaab terrorist group shot and hacked people to death Sunday evening in the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni. The group of attackers entered the town center and began killing people before moving into a residential area where they moved door-to-door. The Kenya Red Cross put the death toll from the incidents at 48. The Kenyan National Disaster Operation Centre said the gunmen also set fire to two hotels used as boarding houses. They also torched vehicles, houses and shops. The Disaster Operation Centre blamed the attacks on the Al Shabaab Islamist terrorist group.


A deadly plant disease, known commonly as citrus greening, has ravaged the Florida citrus industry this season causing orange juice prices to skyrocket. Up to 70 percent of Florida’s citrus trees are infected with the citrus greening disease, or huanglongbing, which is caused by bacteria deposited by insects and causes citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits to be discolored, bitter and misshapen. The disease has been a devastating blow to Florida’s iconic crop – as well as its 9 million dollar citrus industry – prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday to announce millions of dollars in funding to combat the blight.


A smoky wildfire burning in southern California forced calls for the evacuation of some 500 homes, authorities said. The Kern County Sheriff’s office said late Saturday night that the evacuation call was for parts of the Wofford Heights area, which is about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield. The blaze had grown to 1,190 acres by late Sunday night and was just 10 percent contained, federal fire officials said. The officials warned that smoke could cause respiratory problems for some people in the area. Some local roads are closed.


After a storm brought winds up to 89 mph and hail up to the size of grapefruit in parts of the Plains Saturday, Sunday turned out relatively quiet with only spotty severe weather. However, the relative lull will be short-lived, as Monday could bring another round of tornadoes and violent thunderstorms to the Plains and Missouri River Valley.

Torrential rains have plagued the site of the opening World Cup soccer game for the U.S. Three days of heavy rain in Natal—a coastal city of nearly 1 million people in northeastern Brazil—has inundated streets, blocked off roads and triggered landslides that destroyed or damaged 20 to 40 homes and forced the evacuations of at least 50 people. In response, the city declared a state of emergency Sunday, mobilizing emergency responders to deal with impacts from the heavy rain.

The Great Lakes were finally 100 percent ice-free on June 10, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Lingering patches of ice in parts of southern Lake Superior in late May and early June were the most widespread on record for that time of year. One of the coldest winters on record, followed by a persistently chilly spring, were the culprits for this persistent lake ice.

There’s a massive reservoir of water buried hundreds of miles beneath our feet in the United States that’s as much as three times the amount on the surface in all of the world’s oceans today, according to a scientific study released Friday. The water is believed to exist in what scientists call a “transition zone” in Earth’s mantle rock, about 250 to 410 miles below the surface. There, the water exists in a form that wouldn’t be familiar to us – it’s not liquid, frozen or vapor – but rather is trapped in the molecular structure of mantle rock by tremendous pressure and temperatures above 2,000°F.

Signs of the Times (6/13/14)

June 13, 2014

University Ordered to Pay $710,000 for Discrimination against Christian Professor

University of North Carolina-Wilmington must pay over $710,000 for denying a Christian professor a promotion because of his beliefs. Dr. Mike Adams, an associate criminology professor at the university since 1998, was denied a promotion to full-time professor in 2006 because of his faith. Adams hired the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to defend his case; the university must now pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and $50,000 of back pay to Adams. According to Christian News, Adams was an atheist when he was hired at the university, but became a Christian in 2000. At that time, he adopted conservative viewpoints which he expressed on political website

Christians Demand Accuracy for Biblical Films

A survey has concluded that Christian moviegoers want to see films that are biblically accurate. The poll, conducted by Christian News Service and American Insights, found that “historical and biblical accuracy is important” to most Christians. “This poll was conducted for the purpose of guiding the film and television industry in its production of both historically-based films and movies that explore questions about God. The results clearly show that the public will not be toyed with in regard to accuracy in both biblical and historical accounts,” said president and CEO of Christian News Service Russ Jones. Specific findings of the survey included the following: 79 percent of Christian respondents indicated the importance of biblical accuracy for Christian films; 80 percent of Christian respondents said they were interested to the coming “Exodus” film if it is biblically accurate; if “Exodus” does not follow scripture, only 29 percent of Christian respondents were interested in viewing the film

VA Awarded $100M in Bonuses as Vets Awaited Care

Even as federal inspectors repeatedly warned that patient wait lists were having a detrimental impact on care, the troubled Veterans Affairs health system handed out $108.7 million in bonuses to executives and employees the past three years, an Asbury Park Press investigation found. The biggest bonuses went to top executives in the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for what its Office of Inspector General called “systemic patient safety issues” that may have led to wrongful deaths. On Tuesday, the U.S. House voted 426-0 to ban all bonuses through 2016, which would save the VA $400 million annually, according to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the bill’s author. Miller said that money could be used for expanded care for veterans. The measure also would let veterans facing long delays for appointments or living more than 40 miles from VA facilities opt to get care from non-agency providers for the next two years.

Cantor ‘Earthquake’ Rattles Capitol Hill

In a year when mainstream Republicans have mostly bested tea party-backed challengers, a little-known and little-funded tea party challenger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District pulled the upset of the year, defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by 10 percentage points. The victory by economics professor Dave Brat gives the tea party an instant jolt of energy, sends shock waves through Capitol Hill, shakes up the GOP House hierarchy — as Cantor was seen by many as the next speaker — and effectively kills any chance of immigration reform passing through the House any time soon. Cantor becomes only the second member of Congress running for re-election this year to go down in defeat in the primaries. Thad Cochran of Mississippi may soon become the third. He’s fighting for his political life as he faces a primary runoff election in two weeks against a tea party-backed state senator who narrowly edged him in last week’s primary but not by enough to win outright. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor plans to step aside from his leadership post on July 31, following his primary election loss and with several leading Republicans jockeying to run for his No. 2 position.

Influx of Central American Child Immigrants Continues

Taxpayers are footing the bill for relocating what could be as many as 90,000 children this year from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who are crossing the U.S. border without their parents. In recent years, the number of children younger than 18 found trying to cross the Mexican border without their parents has skyrocketed. Between 2003 and 2011, between 6,000 and 7,500 children a year were landing in the custody of Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement program. In 2012, border agents apprehended 13,625 unaccompanied children, and last year that number surged to more than 24,000 as children fled drug and gang violence in their home countries. This year, the number of kids that border agents catch in the USA is expected to more than triple. Several temporary and permanent resettlement centers on the border have opened just to house unaccompanied migrant children.

New Heroin Epidemic in U.S.

The United States is in the grips of one of the worst heroin epidemics in its history, due in part to a flood of cheap doses of the drug flooding across the Mexican border which can be had for as little as $4 apiece. Much of the heroin is now ordered from dark corners of the Web and delivered to front doors in the suburbs. In some regions, such as the Great Lakes states, heroin is deemed “highly available” by local police in more than three times the number of communities as it was just seven years ago. The resurgence of the deadly drug has sparked a flurry of action from governors’ mansions and statehouses across New England and the Midwest to small-town police stations from northern Kentucky to Wisconsin. Even Capitol Hill and the White House are weighing in on what’s become a full-blown health crisis that cuts across geographic, social, racial and economic boundaries. Government studies estimate the number of heroin users is around 330,000 and growing, up about 75% from five years ago. All told, heroin and related opioid pain pills have killed more than 125,000 in the U.S. in the past 10 years.

USDA Wildlife Service Killed More Than 4 Million Wild Animals in 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture killed 4.3 million wild animals in fiscal year 2013, 2 million of which were native species, according to data posted to the agency’s web site. A program called Wildlife Services, which falls under the USDA agency Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is tasked with managing invasive species and handling wildlife when it interferes with human activities like agriculture and property threats. The number of animals killed varies widely from year to year, according to The Washington Post, hitting a peak of 5 million in 2008 after remaining at a relatively low 1.5 million in the early 2000s. Last year, Wildlife Services killed 75,326 coyotes, plus destroying 366 coyote dens; 345 mountain lions; 321 wolves, including one extremely rare Mexican gray wolf; 603 monkeys; 6,498 vultures; 10,486 mynas, a type of starling; and 37 frogs, among many others. The animals included three eagles, one bald and two golden, which are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Birds are among the most highly targeted, according the Post, in part due to the problems they cause at airports.

Economic News

Higher sales of autos, building materials and gardening supplies in May lifted retail sales to their fourth straight monthly gain, but growth was less than many economists forecast. The disappointing report raises questions about consumers continuing to step up spending and spur greater economic growth the rest of this year. Retail sales rose 0.3% in May down from 0.5% in April. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose only 0.1% in May compared with a 0.4% increase in April.

More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid remain near pre-recession levels. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 317,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 315,250. These figures are near the jobless claims levels before the outbreak of the Great Recession in December 2007.

Job openings in April soared to their highest level in almost seven years in another sign of the labor market’s growing strength. Employers recruited candidates for 4.5 million open jobs in April, up from 4.2 million in March, the most since September 2007. Openings are “in shouting distance” of their pre-recession high, 4.7 million, in March 2007.

Wholesale prices fell for the first time in three months, indicating inflation remains low. The government’s producer price index, which measures the cost of goods and services before they reach consumers, fell 0.2% in May. Last month’s decline followed a rise of 0.6% in April and 0.5% in March.

Student loans. Credit cards. Many millennials feel as if they are drowning in debt. Four in 10 millennials say they are “overwhelmed” by their debt — nearly double the number of baby boomers who feel that way, according to a Wells Fargo survey of millennials between 22 and 33 years old, and 1,500 baby boomers between 49 and 59 years old. To try to get out from underneath it, 47% said they spend at least half of their monthly paychecks on paying off their debts.

Persecution Watch

Bodies of Christian children and their parents litter the chaotic streets of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as violent Muslim extremists have seized a terrorized city Iraqi Christians once considered their last safe refuge. “Very critical and even apocalyptic,” was an emailed description from Catholic Priest Najeeb Michaeel who signed off abruptly, saying armed extremists had surrounded the convent to which he had fled. “What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago. Pray for us. I’m sorry that I can’t continue. They are not far from our convent. Don’t reply. We are now surrounded and threatened with death.”

Hamas—which fully supports the new Palestinian government that is receiving tens of millions of US tax dollars every month—is not backing down on its calls for Israel’s destruction. They issued a call this week for the “men of the resistance” to strike at Israeli targets, both civilian and military. “The occupation must pay a high price in the blood of its soldiers and settlers,” the statement said. David Evans of the Jerusalem Prayer Team comments, “It breaks my heart to know that our leaders in Washington are fine with funneling money into the hands of those who publicly declare their intention to murder my Jewish brothers and sisters. It is a tragedy and an outrage.”

Pressure from Islamic extremists has forced the closure of seven churches by the authorities in Cianjur district of West Java, Indonesia. An average of 40 churches are being shut down every year. Building permit irregularities were cited as the reason for the closures, which are the latest in a long line of similar incidents, most of them in West Java. Some of the members of the seven churches have moved to other locations for security reasons. Church officials in Cianjur have reported the matter to the national human rights commission, which says local authorities “should not be so quick to close down and disqualify [places of worship]”. All of the churches pre-date the 2006 decree that sets out the conditions for a building permit. Although this is meant to apply only to new places of worship, local authorities are imposing it retrospectively to long-standing ones.


Newly elected Israeli president Reuven Rivlin said during his victory speech on Tuesday that he was dropping all his long-held “political” positions and from now on would be the president of all Israel’s citizens whether they were “Jews, Arabs, Druse, rich, poor, those who are more observant and those who are less.” Lamenting the loss of public trust in the presidency following a bruising campaign season he added “as president, I must rehabilitate that trust. I will continue to serve the public faithfully.” He concluded by saying “Long live Israeli democracy! Long live the State of Israel!”


Extremist militants have overrun the northern city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest. As many as half a million civilians have fled their homes to escape the violence, and the brazen incursion has highlighted all the weaknesses of the government’s ability to maintain security. Militants seized Mosul’s airport, its TV stations and the governor’s office. They freed up to 1,000 prisoners. Police and soldiers ran from their posts rather than put up a fight, abandoning their weapons as they went. The militants took their place in the city’s boulevards and buildings. The devastating militant advance, which had been building for some time, is proving an object lesson of much that is wrong in Iraq and the region — growing sectarian tensions at home and a festering civil war over the border in Syria. Critics of the Obama administration argue that leaving a residual force behind after combat troops left in 2011 would have helped stiffen the resolve of Iraq’s armed forces

The militants are part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an al Qaeda splinter group so extreme that al Qaeda has disowned it. The al-Qaeda splinter group vowed to seize the Iraqi capital Thursday following its seizure of two provincial capitals earlier this week as the U.S. mulls action in the country it withdrew from almost three years ago. The militants — who aim to create an Islamic state spanning Syria and Iraq — captured Mosul and Tikrit earlier this week and already control the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi along with most of Anbar province. It’s Washington’s worst nightmare. Less than three years after the last American combat troops rolled out of Iraq, the country is plunging into chaos — again. Islamic radicals are on the march toward Baghdad, the capital, as the country edges closer to civil war.


Iran’s oil production is increasing despite sanctions, the country’s oil minister said Tuesday. Speaking as he arrived for a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Bijan Zanganeh said “we will do everything we can to increase our production. We have done it during the last month.” China is set to take more Iranian crude than it did before tough sanctions were put in place in early 2012, as Asia’s biggest refiner Sinopec Corp buys more oil from Iran.


A suspected U.S. missile strike targeted a militant compound early Thursday in a northwestern tribal district in Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing at least 10 people. It was the second such strike since Wednesday night, when three militants died in a drone attack in the same area in North Waziristan, marking the resumption of the CIA-led program in Pakistan after a nearly six-month hiatus. Pakistan’s northwest, particularly the North Waziristan tribal area that borders Afghanistan, is home to numerous militant groups — both local and al-Qaida-linked foreign groups — who often work together, sharing fighters, money and expertise.


Brazilian police have clashed with anti-World Cup protesters trying to block part of the main highway leading to the stadium that hosts the opening match of the tournament. Riot police used tear gas and rubber truncheons to disperse demonstrators that tried to block the Radial Leste highway. Police moved in after the demonstrators refused to clear the highway. Protesters decried corruption that generated a flow of excess funds to the wealthy as the costs to host the World Cup skyrocketed.


Severe weather hammered the San Angelo, Texas, area Wednesday night, damaging buildings, downing trees and leaving nearly half the population without power. A supercell thunderstorm raked through the north and east sides of the city of almost 100,000with a measured gust to 73 mph at a Weather Underground station. A few buildings suffered major damage during the storm. One building “appeared” in a field near Central Freshman Campus, and the Sea Arrow Marine building collapsed into Rust Street, blocking the roadway.

Flooding killed at least nine people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in southern Brazil ahead of the World Cup soccer tournament, which opens Thursday. Torrential rains caused rivers to swell to record levels on Tuesday in Brazil and neighboring Paraguay and Argentina. 132 cities in Brazil’s Parana state have been affected, including the state capital of Curitiba, which is one of 12 World Cup host cities. Over the weekend, torrential rains upstream in the Barigui River forced 13,000 people to evacuate the city. The torrential rainfalls of recent days also have caused widespread flooding in Argentina and Paraguay, where officials said about 100,000 people had been forced to evacuate.

Signs of the Times (6/10/14)

June 10, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin’s Gay Marriage Ban

Same-sex couples began getting married in Wisconsin on Friday shortly after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban and despite confusion over the effect of the ruling. Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, a little over an hour after the judge released her ruling. Judges were on hand at both courthouses to perform ceremonies. Court officials conducted the marriages even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin and sought an sought an emergency order in federal court to stop them.

More patients flocking to ERs under Obamacare

It wasn’t supposed to work this way, but since the Affordable Care Act took effect in January, many hospitals have seen their packed emergency rooms become even more crowded, some as much as 12% more people. That’s just the opposite of what many people expected under Obamacare, particularly because one of the goals of health reform was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care. Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since Jan. 1, and nearly nine in 10 expect those visits to rise in the next three years. Experts cite many reasons: A long-standing shortage of primary-care doctors leaves too few to handle all the newly insured patients. Some doctors won’t accept Medicaid. And poor people often can’t take time from work when most primary care offices are open, while ERs operate round-the-clock and by law must at least stabilize patients.

Hundreds of Illegal Immigrant Children Sent to Arizona

The federal government on Friday began sending hundreds of unaccompanied children caught crossing the border illegally in Texas to a holding center in Nogales, Ariz., further straining relations with Gov. Jan Brewer, who was already angry over the recent release of hundreds of undocumented families at bus stations in Phoenix and Tucson. Brewer said she learned Friday that 432 children were transported to a holding facility in Nogales and that an additional 732 children would be brought there Saturday and Sunday. “I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama’s administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy,” Brewer said. Brewer’s spokesman, Andrew Wilder, told The Associated Press that conditions at the holding facility in Nogales are so dire that the state is releasing federal medical and other supplies to the facility. The flood of illegal immigrants — particularly children — crossing into the U.S. along the southern border is at a “crisis” level, creating a humanitarian emergency that both immigration officials and lawmakers are putting at the feet of the Obama administration.

  • This is simply Obama’s petty retribution for Brewer’s stands against his policies

Deportation Costs Surge with Increasing Number Of Central Americans

As the tide of undocumented immigrants from Mexico is replaced by a growing surge from Central America, federal authorities in the United States are faced with the issue of returning home those migrants slated for deportation — now that “home” is a few thousand miles farther. The Department of Homeland (DHS), the federal agency responsible for deporting undocumented immigrants, charters daily flights to return migrants to their home countries – but as the number of immigrants rises so have the number of flights … and the cost. The rise in flight costs and the number of flights – approximately one or two a day to countries like Guatemala and Honduras – has coincided with the rapid rise of Central Americans arriving in the United States, especially along Texas’ southern border. While undocumented immigrants from Mexico still make up the largest segment of the immigrant population – peaking at 6.9 million in 2007 – their numbers have dropped in recent years thanks to stepped-up border enforcement in traditional hotspots like Arizona and California as well as rebounding Mexican economic situation.

Taliban Now Have Modern U.S. Missiles

The Obama administration isn’t only giving the Taliban back its commanders (trading five Gitmo Taliban leaders for American captive Bowe Bergdahl) it’s giving them weapons, reports Miliary records and sources reveal that on July 25, 2012, Taliban fighters in Kunar province successfully targeted a US Army CH-47 helicopter with a new generation Stinger missile. Sources in the US Special Operations community believe the Stinger fired against the Chinook was part of the same lot the CIA turned over to the ­Qataris in early 2011, weapons Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department intended for anti-Khadafy forces in Libya. They believe the Qataris delivered between 50 and 60 of those same Stingers to the Taliban in early 2012, and an additional 200 SA-24 Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

  • The U.S. has a long history of unwittingly arming our eventual enemies. Will we never learn?

Colorado’s Pot Production Creating Black Markets in Adjacent States

States are fighting a new kind of border battle against marijuana trafficking. The weed used to come from Mexico — now, it’s coming from Colorado. Ever since Colorado legalized pot, law enforcement officers in surrounding states have noticed a surge in marijuana being brought across state lines. These neighboring states face rising costs associated with arresting and processing those who mistakenly think they can get away with transporting marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. “One of the [arguments] for legalizing marijuana [in Colorado and Washington state] … was to reduce the black market,” said Tom Gorman, who heads a multi-state task force called the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. “In fact, the legalized marijuana has become the black market for other states.”

Economic News

The recovery hit a key milestone in May, as the U.S. economy finally recouped all 8.7 million jobs lost in the financial crisis. But not everyone has benefited equally. Men still lag behind women. Overall, men have 699,000 fewer jobs now than they did in December 2007, when the recession began. Women, on the other hand, recovered more than all their lost jobs last year. Why is this happening? First, men were hit harder in the recession than women. Second, the jobs that are returning are not the same ones that were lost in crisis. Male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing accounted for about half of all jobs lost in the downturn, and those positions have been slow to return. In contrast, female-dominated industries like education and health care have been growing quickly, adding about 2 million jobs over the last five years.

A new report finds that auto loans are becoming more supercharged than ever as financing terms reach record highs. The average auto-loan term increased to 66 months during the first quarter, a record high. Making matters worse, nearly 25% of all new vehicle loans originated during the quarter had terms extending out 73 months to 84 months, representing a 27.6% surge from a year earlier. The average amount financed for a new vehicle loan also reached an all-time high of $27,612.

Middle East

Pope Francis, flanked by the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, on Sunday hosted a special spiritual meeting in the Vatican gardens to pray for peace in the war-torn Middle East. The unprecedented encounter held in the early evening with the towering Basilica of St. Peter’s as a backdrop, was the fruit of Francis’ surprise invitation to Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas during the pontiff’s three-day visit to the Holy Land last month. Over the last several days, the Vatican repeatedly downplayed expectations the summit might lead to a quick breakthrough, and that turned out to be the case. The meeting was cordial but not warm, with Peres and Abbas lightly embracing at its end before planting a small olive tree the Vatican said would be “an enduring symbol of the mutual desire for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.” Both leaders called for peace, but neither giving a hint that a spirit of compromise might be in the cards.


Syria is descending into a Somalia-style failed state run by warlords which poses a grave threat to the future of the Middle East, former peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said. Brahimi, who stepped down a week ago after the failure of peace talks he mediated in Geneva, said that without concerted efforts for a political solution to Syria’s brutal civil war “there is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up.” “The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria,” he told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published at the weekend. More than 160,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which grew out of protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, inspired by prior uprisings in the wider Arab world.


Petro Poroshenko took the oath of office as Ukraine’s president Saturday, calling on armed groups to lay down their weapons as he assumed leadership of a country mired in a violent uprising and economic troubles. In his inaugural address to the Verkhovna Rada, the country’s parliament, Poroshenko promised amnesty “for those who do not have blood on their hands.” That appeared to apply both to separatist, pro-Russia insurgents in the country’s east and to nationalist groups that oppose them. Poroshenko also promised dialogue with citizens in the eastern regions, but excluded the insurgents. “Talking to gangsters and killers is not our avenue,” he said. Poroshenko said he will not accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He also promised to meet anyone challenging Ukraine’s territorial integrity with military might.


Egypt’s former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was sworn in on Sunday as president for a four-year term, assuming the highest office of a deeply polarized nation that has been roiled by deadly unrest and an economic crisis since its 2011 uprising. El-Sissi’s inauguration came less than a year after the 59-year-old career infantry officer ousted the country’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, following days of mass protests demanding he step down. Sunday was declared a national holiday for el-Sissi’s inauguration and police and troops were deployed throughout Cairo.

An Egyptian court sentenced 10 supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement to death in absentia Saturday on charges of inciting violence and blocking a road last July. The remaining 38 accused in the case will be sentenced at the next hearing on Jul. 5. The case is one of a series of ongoing mass trials of supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the largest of which saw 529 sentenced to death in one session in the southern Egyptian province of Minya. Under Egyptian law, those sentenced in absentia will have a new trial if they are arrested or surrender to authorities.


For the first time since 2001, Afghans will be choosing a president later this week whose name is not Karzai. The transition is an opportunity for the Afghan people to turn the page on a tenure fraught with corruption and mismanagement, and for America to move beyond an increasingly bitter and contentious relationship. It also carries the risk that hard-fought gains could unravel in an instant — observers were reminded of this Friday, when the leading presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped an apparent assassination attempt when his convoy was bombed. Those risks may have grown after the Obama administration freed five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for captured American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Sources close to Abdullah told Fox News the candidate is extremely concerned about the Taliban members’ release. Aside from evident security challenges, another key question is whether the winner will survive the horse-trading and notorious political corruption to emerge a reformer, or send Afghanistan down a path to more of the same, or worse, civil war.

Five American troops were killed in an apparent friendly fire tragedy in southern Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday. The deaths occurred Monday when the unit came into contact with enemy forces. Monday’s event took place in Arghandab district when troops called for air support during an operation in Gizee area. Taliban fighters were locked in a gun battle with foreign troops when coalition planes bombed their own troops. The incident comes as U.S. and allied forces are drawing down and turning the fight over to Afghan security forces. Monday’s deaths rank among of the most serious cases involving coalition-on-coalition friendly fire during the nearly 14-year Afghan war.


Iraqi police and army forces abandoned their posts in the northern city of Mosul after militants overran the provincial government headquarters and other key buildings, dealing a serious blow to Baghdad’s efforts to control a widening insurgency in the country. The insurgents seized the government complex — a key symbol of state authority — late on Monday, following days of fighting in the country’s second-largest city, a former al-Qaeda stronghold situated in what has long been one of the more restive parts of Iraq. The gunmen also torched several of the city’s police stations. The fighters are affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda splinter group that is behind the bulk of the bloody attacks in Iraq, freeing detainees held in lockups.


The Taliban claimed responsibility for a brazen siege on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport overnight Monday that left dozens dead, saying the attack was in retaliation for drone strikes on villages in Pakistan’s troubled northwest border region. The militant group vowed to continue their campaign. The attack began late overnight Monday after 10 men armed with machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers stormed the busy airport at a terminal for cargo and VIP passengers. Some of the attackers were wearing suicide vests, with at least one blowing himself up as law enforcement approached. Some of the attackers, all of whom were killed by special army commandos, had been disguised as airport security personnel. At least 10 members of the security forces were also killed, as was a flight engineer for the country’s state airline. For the second time in two days, Pakistan’s largest and busiest airport was forced to shut down after militants launched another attack on airport security forces. Tuesday’s assault targeted the Airport Security Forces academy near Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.

Pakistani lawmakers are set to adopt a bill to ensure other girls aren’t forced into marriage by increasing the punishment for the practice, already illegal under a 1929 law widely disregarded in the country. The measure has led to a fierce debate, intensifying an ongoing cultural clash in the country over secular and Muslim values. Advocates for harsher laws against child marriage argue that it’s an oppressive practice that traumatizes young girls, while traditionalists say it goes against the Koran to pass such a law. According to the Muslim holy book, the Prophet Muhammad married minors. Worldwide, more than 140 million girls younger than 18 will be married to men as old as 60 in the next decade, the United Nations Human Rights Council estimated recently.


A double bombing at a Kurdish party office killed 29 people in a town northeast of Baghdad on Sunday. The attack took place in the morning when a suicide bomber set off his explosive vest at the gate of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan office in Jalula, 80 miles northeast of Baghdad in the ethnically mixed Diyala province. Minutes later, a car bomb exploded near the building as security forces arrived to inspect the scene of the first blast. Police put the death toll for both explosions at 29 killed and 150 wounded. An earlier series of bombings and clashes left at least 73 people dead. The PUK is headed by the ailing Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, who is receiving treatment in a hospital in Germany. According to U.N. figures, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq in 2013. The U.N. mission said that May was the deadliest month so far this year, with 799 Iraqis killed in violence, including 603 civilians.


Boko Haram gunmen have reportedly kidnapped 20 women from a nomadic settlement in northeast Nigeria near the town of Chibok, where the Islamic militants abducted more than 300 schoolgirls and young women on April 15. The gunmen arrived at noon Thursday in the Garkin Fulani settlement and forced the women to enter their vehicles at gunpoint and drove away to an unknown location in the remote stretch of Borno state. The group also took three young men who tried to stop the kidnapping. In another incident, the Defense Headquarters said Monday that troops prevented raids by Boko Haram this weekend on villages in Borno and neighboring Adamawa state. Soldiers killed more than 50 militants on Saturday night as they were on their way to attack the communities.


Several tornadoes touched down as a line of severe thunderstorms swept through Colorado, with one of the twisters hitting near a junior golf tournament, injuring a caddy and others while causing extensive property damage. Six of the tornadoes struck in northeast Colorado, while two others hit in Park County in the center of the state. A twister also touched down in a sparsely populated area of southeast Wyoming, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage.

At least six people died in western Germany when a round of strong winds, hail and heavy rain slammed the region Monday night. Severe thunderstorms have ravaged parts of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany over the past several days. Supercells deposited hail from baseball to softball size near Paris, France both Sunday and Monday. Many flights from Düsseldorf Airport were delayed and some train routes were still closed Tuesday.

More than 80 bodies have been found two days after a devastating flash flood in Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote north, a provincial official said Sunday, as police and villagers scoured the rugged terrain for missing people and Army helicopters flew in supplies to thousands left homeless by the disaster. About 850 houses across several villages were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 were damaged by the heavy rain and flooding, leaving thousands of people in need of shelter, food, water and medicine.

Signs of the Times (6/6/14)

June 6, 2014

Abortion Cartel Continues to Collapse

“The demand for abortion had dropped significantly in America so there is more competition for every abortion dollar. Planned Parenthood’s bloated organizations are collapsing under their own weight,” said Troy Newman of Operation Rescue. “But more importantly, Planned Parenthood is feeling the heat from new legislation that is forcing it to comply with new safety regulations and halting tax money that has freely flowed into its coffers for years. The downsizing of Planned Parenthood is one of many indicators that we are winning. Closed abortion facilities always translate into reduced abortion rates – and that means lives are being saved.”

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette announced yesterday that it will be closing offices in Gresham and Clackamas, Oregon, and Salmon Creek, Washington. It also said that it closed the McMinnville, Oregon, office two months ago. This follows on the heels of an announcement by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland that it will shutter abortion facilities in Red Oak and Creston, Iowa, as of June 18. Those offices offered the abortion pill through a controversial process where an abortionist would interview women over an Internet video conferencing connection then would dispense abortion drugs by remotely releasing a drawer containing the pills. Women are never seen in person by a licensed physician and have no access to one at Planned Parenthood in the event of an emergency.

Missouri Principal Wows Graduates, Angers Atheists

A Missouri high school principal who garnered thunderous applause and a starring role in a viral video for a commencement speech in which he repeatedly invoked God in ways to dodge First Amendment objections has atheists seeing red. Lebanon High School Principal Kevin Lowery can be seen on a 3-minute YouTube clip reminding graduates that the nation’s motto of “In God We Trust” can be found on U.S. currency and in Francis Scott Key’s original version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Lowery also wryly noted during the May 23 commencement that even though “God is reflected in the very fabric” of the nation, it would be inappropriate to mention The Almighty at a secular ceremony. “So while it would not be politically correct for us to have an official prayer this evening, I would like for us to have a moment of silence in honor of tonight’s graduates,” Lowery told students. “Thank you. And just in case you’re interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers and for this community.” Thunderous applause followed Lowery’s statement. But dozens of others commenting on the video blasted Lowery, including the American Atheists. The Freedom From Religion Foundation also voiced concerns on Lowery’s speech, characterizing it as a “serious constitutional violation.”

  • Since God is on our currency, in our nation’s motto and pledge of allegiance, and in our national song how can anyone seriously object to mentioning God in public ceremonies? Unconstitutional? Ridiculous.

VA Acting Chief says 18 Veterans Left off Waiting List Have Died

In the latest development in the mounting scandal surrounding the Department for Veterans Affairs, the acting head of the agency says that 18 of the 1,700 veterans kept off an official electronic appointment list have since died. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a visit to Phoenix Thursday that he would ask the inspector general to see if there is any indication those deaths were related to long wait times. If so, they would reach out to those veterans’ families. Gibson’s remarks were the latest related to the scandal over long patient waits for care and falsified records covering up the delays at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide. More than 100,000 of America’s military veterans were victims of bogus waiting lists for medical appointments. Gibson has already placed mobile care units in Phoenix and more are on the way. Gibson’s announcement came as senior senators reached agreement Thursday on the framework for a bipartisan bill making it easier for veterans to get health care outside VA hospitals and clinics.

New EPA Carbon Regulations to Cost U.S. $500 Billion

An Energy Institute report provides clear evidence that, even with implementation features designed to keep compliance costs low in the recently proposed EPA rules regulating CO2 emissions, the cost will be nearly a half trillion dollars in total compliance expense. They estimate peak Gross Domestic Product losses of over $100 billion, hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, higher electricity costs for consumers and businesses, and more than $200 on average every year in lower disposable income for families already struggling with a weak economy. “Given the significant and sustained harm to the U.S economy coupled with the limited overall impact on worldwide greenhouse gas emissions that would result from implementing these regulations, serious questions must be raised and answered about the timing and scope of what EPA is pursuing,” the report notes.

Brewer to Obama: Stop Dumping Illegals in Ariz. Bus Stations

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer urged President Barack Obama on Monday to end a policy that saw hundreds of migrants detained in Texas released at bus stations in Arizona because of overcrowded facilities. Brewer said she had not been notified of the operation, which took place over the Memorial Day weekend. She described the “unconscionable policy” as “another disturbing example of a deliberate failure to enforce border security policies and repair a broken immigration system.” she said in her letter, asking for details of what she called a “dangerous and unconscionable policy.”

Many Americans Stop Buying Online Due to Data Breaches

News of Internet security breaches at eBay, Target and other large companies appears to be having an effect on online habits. A USA TODAY survey finds that almost a quarter of Americans have at least temporarily stopped buying online because of security concerns. 56% said they had cut back on the number of Internet sites they used and were only going to large, well-known companies they were confident were safe. The poll found that users are also keeping a closer eye on their accounts, with 55% saying they had started checking banking, investment and credit card sites more often for signs that someone had hacked into their accounts.

GM Fires 15 over Botched Recall

The delayed recall by General Motors that led to the deaths of at least 13 people was due to both the misconduct of about 20 employees, as well as “a pattern of incompetence and neglect” throughout the company, according to an internal probe of the recall released Thursday. GM CEO Mary Barra announced that 15 employees have been dismissed from the company and five more have been disciplined in the wake of the three-month probe by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas. GM (GM) admitted in February that its engineers first discovered the problem with the ignition switch as early as 2004, but it did not recall the 2.6 million cars affected until earlier this year. The faulty ignition switch made the cars prone to shutting off while on the road, disabling the airbags, power steering and anti-lock brakes. The internal investigation by General Motors concluded that there was no deliberate cover-up, Barra said.

Economic News

Employers added 217,000 jobs in May as the labor market reached a milestone with the recovery of all 8.7 million jobs lost in the recession. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.3%.Employment, at 138.5 million, exceeds its pre-recession level for the first time in the nearly five-year-old recovery. While the milestone is noteworthy, U.S. employment is still below where it should be after taking into account the growth in population and the labor force since the recession. May’s tally also mark the fourth straight month that job gains have topped 200,000 — the first such stretch since October 1999-January 2000. Discouraged workers — those who have given up looking for jobs — remained at 3.4 million, a rate the Federal Reserve views as too high to push wages higher.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 to 312,000 last week. Claims have been trending down over the past year. Declining jobless claims mean fewer people are losing their jobs, a trend that may foreshadow stronger employment numbers in coming months. Late in the recession claims steadily ran over 600,000 a week.

Rising stock markets and home prices helped lift U.S. household wealth to a record in the first three months of the year. The Federal Reserve says household net worth increased $1.5 trillion in the first quarter to $81.8 trillion. The gain was driven by higher home prices, which boosted Americans’ home values $758 billion. A rising, if choppy, stock market pushed up stock and mutual fund holdings $361 billion. Checking account balances, pensions plan assets and retirement savings, such as 401(k) accounts, also rose. The wealth is flowing mainly to affluent Americans: Roughly 10% of households own about 80% of stocks.

The U.S. trade deficit widened to its highest in almost two years in April as goods imports set a record. The Commerce Department said last month’s trade deficit in goods and services was $47.2 billion, the highest since July 2012. That was up $3 billion, or 6.9%, from March. Total April exports were $193.3 billion, down $300 million from March. Imports rose to $2.7 billion to $240.6 billion. April’s $14 billion trade deficit with the European Union, and the $7 billion trade gap with Germany, were the highest on record. April imports from South Korea also set a record.


The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low on Thursday and, in an unprecedented attempt to stimulate the euro zone economy, said it would begin charging interest on deposits held by the bank. The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.15 percent from 0.25 percent, and the deposit rate to minus 0.10 percent from zero. The so-called negative deposit rate has never been tried on such a large scale and is a bid to push down the value of the euro and encourage banks to invest excess cash rather than hoarding it in central bank vaults. Those actions had become all but certain after data earlier in the week showed that inflation in the euro zone fell to an annual rate of 0.5 percent in May, a level considered perilously low.

Persecution Watch

As the world commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre today, leaders maintain that Christianity in the People’s Republic of China is growing rapidly in spite of continued persecution by the nations Communist government. Experts claim the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre motivated the underground Church and continues to impassion believers. “The really committed, devout believers will be increasingly strengthened in their faith by this ‘winds of persecution’ and honestly the church buildings may be torn down, but that doesn’t mean the congregations themselves have scattered,” Carsten Vala, assistant professor at the Political Science Department of Loyola University Maryland, told The Christian Post.

Middle East

The new Palestinian “unity” government is fully backed and supported by Hamas, a terrorist group that even the Obama Administration officially classifies as terrorists. Yet, despite protests from Israel and the US law that forbids funding terrorists, the Obama Administration has announced that they will continue sending $500,000,000 a year—half a billion of our tax dollars—to the Palestinian Authority. The fig leaf they are using to justify this is that no open members of Hamas are members of the leadership of the new unity government, notes the Jerusalem Prater Team. A senior Israeli official confirmed on Thursday that the Jewish State is poised to move forward with building plans for an additional 1,800 housing units in West Bank settlements. The announcements, taken in response to Monday’s swearing in of the Palestinian unity government in the West Bank, yielded an immediate chorus of condemnation from the U.S., the European Union and the Palestinians.


Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke briefly with Ukraine counterpart Petro Poroshenko on Friday, amid efforts by President Obama and other leaders to push a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. After the G-7 meeting ended on Thursday, Obama said that “if Russia’s provocations continue, it’s clear from our discussions here that the G-7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia.” President Obama announced an increase in non-lethal aid to Ukraine’s military, a package that ranges from training to body armor, night vision goggles and other equipment. So far, the administration has resisted calls to send weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine receives much of its energy supplies from Russia, which has often wielded its oil and gas sales as diplomatic weapons.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will maintain his position as president, according to the results of a landslide vote. Assad won the election with 88.7 percent of votes; however, opponents criticize the circumstances of the election. Voting only took place in the western and central regions of Syria, where Assad’s supporters primarily reside. Critics also argue that a credible election cannot be held in the midst of a three-year civil war that has killed 160,000 people and displaced millions. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the results of the questionable election. “They are meaningless, and they are meaningless because you can’t have an election where millions of your people don’t even have the ability to vote, where they don’t have the ability to contest the election, and they have no choice,” he said.


At the end of the year, the United States will be leaving 9,800 troops in Afghanistan; 1,800 of those will be designated for counterterror operations. The AP reports that other countries may also send troops designated to combat terrorism. The United States plans to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan in half by the end of 2015; by 2016, only several hundred troops will be necessary. The U.S. also has committed to assisting Afghan forces with logistics and budgeting, along with other allies.

South Sudan

A famine worse than anything in recent history looms in war-torn South Sudan – the predominantly Christian, oil-rich African nation that fought for decades to gain independence from Muslim-dominated Sudan. “An acute shortage of food is threatening the lives of millions,” reports the BBC, “at the same time as the country is mired in a civil war between government forces and armed rebels. The conflict has sparked widespread ethnic violence between the country’s largest tribal groups, the Dinka and the Nuer.” At least a million people are unable to meet basic needs, according to the United Nations. It’s a manmade famine. In 2011, the country experienced one of the best agricultural years in decades with farmers producing nearly three-quarters of the 1.3 million metric tons of food required to feed the population. However, “fighting has killed thousands of people and driven more than 1.3 million from their homes,” reported Reuters. They have been unable “to recover scattered livestock and rebuild looted markets.”


Scores of residents in four villages in the northeastern Borno state of Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon, were killed Tuesday in Boko Haram raids Witnesses say Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three communities in northeastern Nigeria and that the military failed to intervene. A community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said residents of the Gwoza local government district in Borno state had pleaded for the military to send soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack, but help didn’t arrive. Boko Haram wants to establish Islamic state in Nigeria.


An Ebola outbreak in Guinea has led to more than 100 deaths. Despite the outbreak, missionaries in the area are seeing more conversations about salvation. “By demonstrating care for people’s temporal welfare, we find that they’re much more open to hear the Good News: that God has a plan of salvation for them,” Reach Beyond President and CEO Wayne Pederson said. So far Reach Beyond’s mobile medical clinics have cared for about 300 people in three villages. “We proclaim God’s love through the radio outreach, and through the media we use,” Pederson said. “And we demonstrate God’s love through healthcare.”


Speaking from a stage decorated with a banner proclaiming ‘America cannot do a damn thing,’ Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday asserted that the Obama administration had taken the option of military intervention to resolve conflicts off the table. ‘They realized that military attacks are as dangerous or even more dangerous for the assaulting country as they are for the country attacked,’ the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in an address to the country’s political and military establishment. A ‘military attack is not a priority for Americans now,’ he concluded. ‘They have renounced the idea of any military actions.’ The remarks by Ayatollah Khamenei, a Shiite Muslim cleric who has the final say in the Islamic Republic’s central policies, amounted to his first public reaction to President Obama’s commencement speech last week at the United States Military Academy in West Point, in which he asserted that the United States had other ways of carrying out foreign policy besides military force.


The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) issued a red alert warning this week when the Pavlof Volcano shifted into an intense eruption, sending ash 22,000 feet into the air. Pavlof is located in an uninhabited region of the Alaska Peninsula, 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. This is the state’s first red alert since 2009, Reuters reports, when Mount Redoubt sent ash flying 50,000 feet into the air, disrupting air traffic. This week’s eruption didn’t aggravate airline activity. Pavlof’s alert level was slightly lowered to Orange by late Tuesday because seismic tremors had decreased for the past 12 hours, but scientists are still watching the volcano closely.


A storm system which originated in Colorado and traveled nearly 1,000 miles across the Midwest and into the South, brought damaging hurricane force wind gusts, hail and thunderstorms to a wide swath of the U.S. for more than 15 hours straight Thursday. The powerful wind gusts blew roofs and walls off of buildings, tossed a Cessna airplane dozens of feet into the air, toppled a freight train in Arkansas and uprooted thousands of trees from Colorado to Georgia. Wind gusts from the derecho storm reached up to 111 mph in eastern Colorado, just after 10 p.m. local time Wednesday, causing extensive damage, including a flattened barn and downed power poles. As the storm moved east Thursday, strong winds and flooding led to the deaths of at least three people in the South.

Earlier, clusters of damaging thunderstorms swept from the Midwest to the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys Tuesday and Wednesday leaving costly damage across the Heartland. Although a handful of tornadoes were reported, baseball-sized hail and flooding rains left the biggest mark. In Blair, officials said nearly every home, as well as any car that was parked outdoors, was damaged. The courthouse alone sustained more than $1.2 million in damage because the rain continued for hours after hail shattered windows and skylights. More than 20 people were taken to the hospital from injuries they sustained from being out in the storm; none were seriously injured. The Woodhouse Auto Family, which owns car dealerships in both Iowa and Nebraska, said about 4,500 vehicles were damaged across their properties.

Much of the Israel was hit by sweltering temperatures on Wednesday as Israelis attempted to enjoy the Feast of Shavuot with picnics and family gatherings. The high temperatures and dry conditions, called in Hebrew a “sharav” were the result of a warm depression from northeastern Africa, with thermometers recording temperatures in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit in many areas. The high temperatures and dry conditions led to wildfires in the northeastern Negev on Tuesday, forcing evacuations of some communities near the Lahav forest, which saw over 300 acres burned before the blaze was brought under control.


Signs of the Times (6/3/14)

June 3, 2014

Arizona Grads Open/Close Ceremony in Prayer

When an Arizona school district decided to stop allowing any formal prayer at commencement ceremonies, Pima High School students took matters into their own hands at their graduation last week. Senior student, Esperanza Gonzalez volunteered to open her school’s ceremony with a prayer, and Calleigh Summers ended the event with a benediction. Fellow students bowed their heads and prayed with the two, and afterward, broke into cheers. “The world keeps saying, ‘No to God, no to God,'” Esperanza told the Eastern Arizona Courier. “So, we said ‘Yes’ to God, because He has helped us throughout our entire high school career.” The superintendent of Pima Unified School District noted that the decision to disallow formal prayer was made at the advice of legal counsel, but he added, “The fact that the students here at Pima High School felt that they wanted to show their true colors, as it were, by saying a prayer at the beginning and end of their graduation ceremony makes me very proud,” reported the Center for Arizona Policy.

Over 40 Percent Of Americans Believe In Creationism

42% of Americans hold the creationist belief that God created humanity as it currently exists a mere 10,000 years ago, according to a Gallup poll from May 2014. The Gallup data shows that a distinct majority of Americans have held the belief that God played a role in human origins since they first started the survey in 1982. The percentage of Americans who believe that God created humans 10,000 years ago has only decreased by 2 percentage points in thirty-two years while the figures rose from 9% to 19% for people who don’t believe that God had anything to do with evolution at all. The religious and educational backgrounds of survey respondents correlated strongly with their answers as well as age. More religious people were dramatically more likely to indicate that they believed in creationism, as well as people over the age of sixty-five. Higher levels of education corresponded with a stronger belief that God was not involved with creation, but over 25% of college graduates do believe in creationism, according to the study.

  • Science has relentlessly been attacking the role of God in humanity’s development. However, it takes more faith to believe that life as we know it evolved on its own from chemical soup than it does to believe that there is an intelligence (God) behind it all.

Southern Baptists Report Dismal Numbers of Baptized Millennials

Southern Baptist baptisms have dropped for the seventh year in a row, according to reports. This year there were only about 310,300 baptisms, but findings also discovered that 80 percent of churches reported only one or zero baptisms among ages 18 to 29. “The problem is even greater than these numbers indicate,” a task force report from a group of pastors said. “Considering how the North American population has increased substantially between the 1950s’ baptism peak and today, these figures indicate how much ground we have lost and are losing.”

  • The prophesied end-time ‘falling away’ is most evident among our young people. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. (2Thessalonians 2:3)

VA Audit: Staff Routinely Falsified Records to Collect Bonuses

Before offering his resignation Friday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki presented President Barack Obama with a damning audit that paints the VA health-care system as bound by unrealistic expectations and a culture that pressures appointment schedulers to falsify data tied to performance bonuses. “The misconduct has not been limited to a few VA facilities but many across the country,” Obama said as he announced his acceptance of the secretary’s resignation. The reviews and the resulting firestorm that has spread from Phoenix to Washington was sparked in April by a whistle-blower, Dr. Sam Foote, a former Phoenix VA physician. He disclosed improper scheduling schemes and secret lists that caused veterans to wait months for medical appointments. Foote said at least 40 patients may have died while waiting for care.

  • So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners. (Proverbs 1:19)
  • For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1Timothy 6:10)

Did the U.S. Just Release 5 Jihadists and Get a Jihad Convert in Trade?

President Obama ordered the release of five Gitmo detainees in trade for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his Taliban captors in Afghanistan. “But on second look – did we get one jihad convert for the release of five jihadists?” asks Here’s a mighty strange tweet from the father of Bowe Bergdahl (that has since been deleted): “I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, amen!” Bergdahl fellow soldiers say he wasn’t captured but simply walked off the base. Six American soldiers were subsequently killed searching for Bergdahl. Many are calling for a court martial hearing upon Bergdahl’s return to the U.S. The president is facing heavy criticism from Congress for negotiating the release of the “Taliban Dream Team” and for proceeding with the prisoner swap without telling lawmakers in advance. The leader of the Taliban released a statement on the exchange saying, “We shall thank almighty for this great victory. The sacrifice of our Mujahedin [fighters] have resulted in the release of our senior leaders from the hand of the enemy.”

  • Not only did the Obama team negotiate with terrorists, violating a foundational U.S. principle, but they released five hardcore terrorists to gain back a treasonous terrorist, a lose/lose outcome

EPA Carbon Rules Could Speed U.S. Shift from Coal

The Obama administration’s historic proposal to reduce carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, announced Monday, could accelerate the nation’s shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. Aimed at fighting climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency rules will require states to develop and implement plans to cut power plant emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. They will give states a range of options to comply, including the trading of pollution credits. Critics, however, say they could drive up electricity prices and shutter plants nationwide. Thwarted by Congress’ inability to pass a bill to lower U.S. carbon emissions, President Obama is pushing forward his own approach that could become one of the signature achievements of his administration. “This is a colossal proposal that should achieve the biggest carbon pollution reductions ever undertaken by the United States,” says Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank with close ties to the White House. The EPA estimates that the new rules would cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030

Healthcare Costs to Skyrocket?

Some alarming statistics from the nation’s first economic quarter under Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) has left some economists predicting sharply higher health-insurance to come. Healthcare spending increased by 9.9% in the first quarter versus the 5.3% average increase over recent decades, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, only 28% of those enrolling in Obamacare were between 18 and 34 years of age, well below the 40% needed to keep premiums from skyrocketing. Once insurance companies adjust to these circumstances, some economists say costs will continue to rise at above average rates for some time.

Medicare Logjam Threatens Senior Healthcare

Fifty-one top medical organizations have written a letter to federal officials protesting a Medicare appeals backlog that now numbers more than 357,000 cases. Healthcare providers and patients whose claims have been rejected often have to wait more than two years before their appeals are heard by administrative law judges. Many of these payment denials are reversed on appeal. Some physician groups also blame the red tape for the accelerating flight of doctors out of the Medicare system altogether.

World on the Verge of a Sixth Great Extinction?

Earth is on a collision course with yet another great extinction if humans don’t their act together, according to a new study released by a team of nine international scientists. Previous mass extinctions, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, didn’t involve humans, but this potential die-off seems entirely dependent upon the action, and resulting inaction, of humans to curtail environmentally destructive behavior, maintain the authors. The study found that Earth’s species are disappearing exponentially quicker than ever before thanks to a variety of human catalysts, including habitat loss, overfishing, climate change and the introduction of invasive species. According to researchers, species are disappearing at least 1,000 times faster than the pre-human or “natural rate.” Such a drastic increase in species extinction rates has largely been brought upon by human factors, in particular, habitat loss. As the human population grows, people continue to infringe upon, and destroy, habitat vital to the survival of many species.

  • The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died. (Revelation 8:7-9)

Common Core Costs Uncommonly High

The Common Core educational standards are proving to be uncommonly expensive for states to implement, costing up to $16 billion some educational experts contend. California is slated to spend up to $35 million per year just in testing, according to Accountability Works estimates that the cost to states will be $15.9 billion over the first seven years, comprised of: $6.9 billion for computers; $5.3 billion for teacher training; $2.5 billion for revised textbooks; and $1.24 billion for testing. Supports say Common Core will elevate the quality of U.S. education by eliminating state-by-state variations. Thedor Rebarber, founder of Accountability Works, says Common Core gives federal authorities too much power over how the states elect to teach children. “For the first time in this country, states are giving up the final say on what their children will learn. That’s never been true before.”

  • Converting the public school system into secular-humanist indoctrination centers is an expensive process funded by unwitting taxpayers.

America’s Growing Housing Affordability Gap

When it comes to buying a home, America’s affordability gap is growing ever wider. For the typical American household earning the median income, 65.5% of homes were affordable during the first quarter, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo Bank’s Housing Affordability Index. But in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Denver, where prices are soaring, it’s much more difficult for the average earner to afford a home. In San Francisco — the most expensive metro market in the nation with a median home price of $815,000 — only 13.3% of homes could be purchased comfortably by households earning the median income of $100,000 in that area. That was down from 28.9% in 2013. Meanwhile, the most affordable U.S. cities tend to be in the Midwest and Northeast, predominantly in old industrial towns where the economy is no longer expanding and there is plenty of land to build on. In Syracuse, N.Y, For example, nearly 94% of homes could be comfortably paid for by a family earning the median income.

NC Ends Long-Term Unemployment Benefits, Sees Unemployment Rate Drop

When North Carolina cut off extended unemployment benefits, so-called experts predicted an economic tailspin. However, in just eight months the unemployment rate dropped from 8.9% to 6.4%. NC Governor at McCrory told Newsmax that, “We’ve had the largest drop of unemployment in the country and the major variable is the decision we made on unemployment.” He says people stopped being so picky about their employment, and were willing to accept whatever job the marketplace offered them.

Economic News

It’s been five years since the Great Recession officially ended but most people aren’t celebrating the recovery. The majority of Americans still rate economic conditions as “poor” reports CNN. The jobs recovery is the slowest on record, wages are barely rising, home prices are still below their peak and more Americans are using food stamps than ever before.

Just 36% of Americans under the age of 35 own a home, according to the Census Bureau. That’s down from 42% in 2007. Student loan debt, tight lending standards and stiff competition have made it next to impossible for many of these younger Americans to make the leap. Many Millennials simply can’t come up with the hefty 20% down payments. Others don’t have good enough credit to qualify for loans.

A monthly gauge of U.S. consumer sentiment fell in May as a gloomy view on income growth clouded an otherwise positive economic outlook, a survey released on Friday showed. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final May reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 81.9, down from 84.1 the month before.

Seattle City Council voted Monday to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the highest in the nation. The plan, which includes a lower training wage aimed at teenagers, will phase in the higher, local minimum over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business and benefits they provide employees. Next April 1, when the plan takes effect, every worker will get at least a $1-an-hour raise. City officials estimate that about a quarter of workers earn less than $15 an hour. Full-time work at that rate translates to about $31,000 a year.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture predicts that farm profits will fall 36% this year from the 2013 figure of $130.5 billion. Falling prices for corn and soybeans are the main reason. Overall, farmers have done well over the past few years with total net income increasing 90% from 2006 through 2011.

Propelled by a soaring stock market, the media pay package for CEOs rose above eight figures ($10 million) for the first time last year. The head of a S&P’s 500 company earned a record median of $10.5 million, up from $9.6 million in 2012.

Persecution Watch

In their annual report about Christian persecution, Open Doors found that Christian martyr deaths doubled worldwide in 2013 to 2123 killings compared with 1,201 in 2012. In Syria alone there were 1,213 such deaths last year, but Syria is ranked as just the third worst persecutor. Once again, the worst persecutor of Christians is North Korea where as many as 100,000 Christians are held captive in prison camps where prisoners are often abused and are sometimes executed.

A South Korean missionary has been sentenced to life in a North Korean prison for attempting to organize underground churches. Kim Jung-wook admitted to committing religious acts against North Korea during his trial on Friday. He will now serve a life sentence of hard labor in prison. Kim also assisted people illegally leaving North Korea for several years. In 2012, Chinese authorities caught 12 illegal immigrants that Kim was aiding in escape, and returned them to North Korea.

Middle East

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas established a unity government Monday in a major step toward ending a seven-year rift between rival factions Hamas and Fatah. The two sides negotiated until the last minute on Monday over the composition of the Cabinet. The move will increase friction with Israel, which has made clear it will reject the new government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned against any international rush to recognize the newly instituted Palestinian government. Israel and the West classify Hamas as a terrorist organization and have no official dealings with the movement, which advocates the anniilation of the Jewish state.


Five militants were killed in the volatile eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on Monday after they took part in a large coordinated assault Monday on a border guard base. The attacks began early Monday morning when least 100 militants tried to storm the border unit on the southern edge of the city. The guards repulsed the first few attacks, but then the militants changed positions and began to shoot from inside nearby buildings where local people live, Border guards were refraining from returning fire because they didn’t want to cause civilian casualties. The separatist unrest that has gripped Ukraine in recent weeks has been centered in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.


In the midst of a bloody and protracted civil war, the Syrian government is set to hold a presidential election Tuesday. The outcome is hardly in doubt: President Bashar al-Assad is almost guaranteed to emerge victorious in a vote that opposition groups and many Western countries say will be rigged from the start. Some analysts say the purpose of this week’s vote, which U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Syrian government not to hold, is to send a message to al-Assad’s opponents, both in Syria and abroad. The election is being held against the backdrop of a grinding three-year conflict that has killed around 150,000 people, displaced about 6.5 million people within Syria and prompted almost 3 million people to flee outside its borders. Voting will only take place in areas controlled by the regime. Rebels hold significant areas of the north and east of the country.


Spain’s King Juan Carlos unexpectedly stepped down Monday in favor of his son Crown Prince Felipe, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced in a nationwide television broadcast. The abdication 39 years after Juan Carlos ascended to the throne, a period when the king oversaw Spain’s transition to democracy in the wake of the nation’s notorious dictator Francisco Franco, comes as corruption scandals have dogged the royal family and the monarchy has seen renewed calls for its disbandment. Juan Carlos has enjoyed high popularity for decades but in the past few years his approval ratings fell sharply after a series of personal blunders.


The radical Islamist terror group Boko Haram claimed the lives of 40 this weekend in a bombing near a soccer stadium in northeast Nigeria, though not without losing some of its own in an attack by Cameroon forces. The attack, which appears to have targeted fans leaving a soccer game, killed dozens, including women and children who attended the game. It also appears that militants may have been targeting a military base in the area, home to Nigeria’s Special Operations Battalion. The Tribune adds that Boko Haram seems to have been especially active this past weekend in northeast Borno state, its home base, attacking remote villages.

While the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria has been compromised, both by the violent nature of the organization and reports that Boko Haram militants have infiltrated high enough levels of Nigerian law enforcement to make targeting the group difficult, Cameroon’s forces successfully attacked a group of Boko Haram militants this weekend. Boko Haram militants clashed with security forces in a lethal interaction that Reuters reports killed 40 militants. That attack, according to Cameroon state radio, followed “the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun suspected to have been held by the Islamist group.”


A moderately strong earthquake in southwestern China has injured 45 people and forced thousands to seek shelter in an area near the border with Myanmar. Residents fled buildings during last Friday’s quake and students evacuated schools that had already been damaged by another quake in the same area of Yunnan province the prior week. Eight people were seriously injured, and 184, 678 were moved to more than four dozen temporary shelters. The quake in Dehong’s Yingjiang County was registered at magnitude 6.1 by China’s earthquake monitoring agency. The number of injured was much reduced because authorities had ordered the evacuation of buildings damaged following the previous week’s 5.6 magnitude quake.


At least nine people were killed in and around New Delhi, India, Friday when a rush hour dust storm and thunderstorm brought down trees and cut off power in the National Capital Region, throwing the commute into turmoil. Traffic jams were reported across the city. The dust was so thick, it blocked out the sun. Reported winds hit 90 mph, knocking out power and temporarily suspending metro service, stranding people in train stations and diverting flights.

At least five people were reported killed and 30 injured Monday evening when a freak dust storm rolled through Iran’s capital, Tehran. The storm brought winds that nearly reached 75 mph, according to Iran’s Press TV. It reported the storm plunged the city into darkness. Some flights were delayed at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport, but operations returned to normal when the storm passed.