Signs of the Times

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 Bankrate.com. 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.

Ukraine

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.

Iraq

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.

Egypt

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.”

Syria

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.

Nigeria

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.

China

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.

Wildfire

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.

Weather

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.

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