Archive for July, 2014

Signs of the Times (7/28/14)

July 28, 2014

Fifty Shades of Gray Promotes Domestic and Sexual Violence

The newly released trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey deceives the public with a visually appealing melodramatic love story that romanticizes and normalizes sexual violence, says a press release from moralityinmedia.org. The main character is a childlike, mousey, young woman, lacking confidence and capability, who becomes the target of a powerful, intimidating, older man who puts her under contract to serve in sexual “submission.” The implications of such a relationship—abuse of power, female inequality, coercion, and sexual violence—glamorizes and legitimatizes violence against women. The popular series promotes torture as sexually gratifying and normalizes domestic violence.

  • Another indication of the end-time decline in morality: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2Timothy 3:1-4)

Pro-Life Leaders Skeptical of Proposed Obamacare Compromise

Skepticism has greeted the White House’s announcement that it is changing Obamacare rules requiring religious groups to give employees free birth control. Under the compromise, the government would work directly with employees wanting contraception included in their health care. “The change, announced by administration officials late Tuesday night, would allow nonprofit groups to opt out of the mandate simply by writing a letter to the federal government,” reports Ben Wolfgang at the Washington Times. “Until now, nonprofit religious groups such as charities and universities had to file paperwork with health insurance companies allowing those companies to offer birth control directly to employees.” That paperwork was objectionable to Christian organizations who called it a form of “permission giving” that they viewed as complicity with evil.

Washington DC’s Ban on Handguns in Public Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled that Washington DC’s ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In a ruling made public Saturday, Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. said that “there is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.” The defendants cited in the judge’s opinion were the District of Columbia and its police chief, Cathy Lanier. The plaintiffs were four individuals and the Second Amendment Foundation, a group that advocates the right to firearms.

Officials Cite Marijuana as Reason for Rise in Denver Homelessness

Officials at Denver homeless shelters say the legalization of marijuana has contributed to an increase in the number of younger people living on the city’s streets. The deputy director of Urban Peak, which specifically helps homeless youth, tells The Denver Post that the majority of new young people it is seeing say they’re in Colorado because of marijuana. At the St. Francis Center, a daytime homeless shelter, pot is the second most frequently volunteered reason for being homeless in Colorado, after looking for work in the marijuana industry.

Tax Inversion Loophole Causing U.S. Companies to Relocate Abroad

A loophole is known as tax inversion, is a controversial tactic that allows a company that does most of its business in the USA to cut its federal tax bill by merging or buying an overseas company in a lower-tax country and then nominally relocating its headquarters there. Despite years of on-and-off efforts by lawmakers in Washington and the IRS to close the loophole, dozens of American companies have used it — several in recent months. This year alone, eight major U.S. companies — including AbbVie, Medtronic and Mylan — have announced plans to shift their headquarters overseas in an effort to trim their corporate tax rate, which hovers around 35% in the U.S. and is among the highest in the world. The Walgreens drugstore chain, with more than 8,500 stores, is considering taking advantage of the loophole as it considers acquiring controlling interest in Alliance Boots, a Swiss-based company that operates drugstores in Britain. It could save the company roughly $4 billion over the next five years. By relocating its headquarters from Dixon, Illinois, to Europe, the company could save roughly $4 billion over the next five years.

Economic News

Sales of new single-family homes fell 8.1% in June. Paired with May’s slippage, the disappointing results show the industry’s spring performance was weaker than previously estimated. June sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000, the second-weakest pace of the year. May’s level was revised to 442,000 from the 504,000 annual pace reported a month ago. Sales fell from May in every region, led by a 20% decline in the Northeast. The falloffs elsewhere were 1.9% in the West, 8.2% in the Midwest and 9.5% in the South.

Chinese buyers are now the biggest international players in the U.S. housing market and some states are seeing billions of dollars in real estate deals as a result. The hottest markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York and Seattle, according to Juwai.com, a Hong Kong-based website that connects Chinese buyers with U.S. properties. California is particularly attractive because it’s so close to the homeland, and its major cities have large Chinese-American populations and attractive climates and lifestyles, said Andrew Taylor, Juwai’s co-CEO.

Persecution Watch

An Iowa newspaper is being called to task for firing an employee who expressed his Christian beliefs in a personal blog. Bob Eschliman was editor-in-chief for the Newton Daily News in Newton, Iowa, and is now taking his complaint against his former employer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint [PDF], charging the newspaper’s owners with “religious discrimination and retaliation,” was filed last Wednesday. Eschliman’s attorney is Liberty Institute-allied lawyer and former federal prosecutor Mat Whitaker, who tells OneNewsNow the journalist was an “exemplary” employee. “He had won many awards as a journalist and by all accounts he had outstanding performance as an employee,” says the attorney.

A Christian college in Massachusetts is in trouble for its public opposition to hiring homosexuals and lesbians. Gordon College, located near Boston, is seemingly being attacked on all sides. The college president signed a letter sent to President Obama asking for the religious school to be exempted when the President signed an executive order banning federal contractors from refusing to hire homosexuals. Prompted by the letter, Gordon College is now coming under review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions. Gordon College has also been targeted by Kim Driscoll, mayor of Salem. She tore up a city contract that allows Gordon College to maintain and operate Old Town Hall, a tourist attraction, on behalf of the city. In a commentary about the mayor’s action, OneNewsNow columnist Kevin McCullough suggested that Gordon College and other Christian schools are the newest target for pro-homosexual activists.

  • Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Middle East

Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants roared on Monday despite a strong statement from the United Nations Security Council calling for an “immediate and unconditional” cease-fire. The air strikes and rocket attacks took place even as the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, celebrating the completion of month-long dawn-to-dusk fasting for Ramadan, began Monday. Hamas had agreed Sunday to hold fire ahead of the holiday. The Israel Defense Forces said its jets hit two rocket launchers and a rocket manufacturing facility in central and northern Gaza in three airstrikes ordered in response to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. The military said eight rockets had been fired at Israel since midnight Sunday. Hamas has fired more than 2,500 rockets into Israel since the Israeli military operation began.

About 1,000 displaced Muslim Palestinians have packed inside a Christian church in Gaza, in hopes that it will not be targeted with Israeli rocket fire. Saint Porphyrios Church of Gaza City is providing food and shelter for the refugees while fighting between Gaza and Israel rages on. The Daily Beast reports that 50 mosques have been bombed since the start of the conflict; Israelis reportedly believe that Hamas’ weapons are stored inside the mosques.

Ukraine

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine that left 298 people dead may amount to a war crime, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Monday. Data downloaded from a black box retrieved from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 are consistent with a missile attack, officials say. A thorough investigation of the site, however, remains elusive 10 days after the jetliner crashed in an area of eastern Ukraine held by ethnic-Russian separatists. On Sunday, a team of international police officers cleared by separatist leader Alexander Borodai to visit the site canceled the trip when fighting broke out in the area. Ukrainian officials said their forces advanced to the outskirts of a key town north of Donetsk on Saturday as they try to retake the stronghold held for months by pro-Russia rebels. Russia also appears to becoming more involved in the fighting, with the U.S. and Ukraine accusing Moscow of moving heavily artillery across the border to the rebels.

Russia

The European Union on Friday extended its Ukraine-related sanctions to target top Russian intelligence officials and leaders of the pro-Russia revolt in eastern Ukraine. Among the 15 new people subjected to an EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban were Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security Service, and Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB department that oversees international operations and intelligence activity. Four members of Russia’s Security Council were also included on the EU list. Eighteen organizations or businesses, including rebel formations in Ukraine’s east, were added to the trade bloc’s sanctions list at the same time.

Afghanistan

Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, reports the New York Times. The Taliban have found success beyond their traditional strongholds in the rural south and are now dominating territory near crucial highways and cities that surround Kabul, the capital, as well as in strategic provinces like Kapisa and Nangarhar. Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.

Libya

The U.S. embassy in strife-torn Libya was evacuated early Saturday, under cover of American warplanes and spy aircraft, according to the State Department and Pentagon. Personnel from the embassy were evacuated as security deteriorated in the capital of Tripoli. “Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” the State Department said. Embassy personnel were taken to temporary offices in neighboring Tunisia with security provided by U.S. forces. The embassy is not closed permanently, but operations have been temporarily suspended. The Libyan government on Monday appealed for international help after a huge oil depot caught fire amid clashes over the country’s international airport in the capital, Tripoli.

Central African Republic

A yearlong battle between Muslims and Christians has ended with a ceasefire agreement in Central African Republic (CAR). Muslim rebels sought to seize power in March 2013. Since that time, Muslim Seleka rebels have fought against “anti-balaka” Christian militia for the nation to be divided into a Muslim north and a Christian south. “We have signed this ceasefire agreement today in front of everyone. Our commitment is firm and irreversible” said Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane, who headed the Seleka delegation. “Patrick Edouard Ngaissona, who led the anti-balaka delegation, echoed the pledges of peace, saying anyone caught breaking the ceasefire would be arrested.” Two-thousand French peacekeeping troops continue to patrol the streets Bambari where the mostly Muslim residents call the ceasefire “worthless” and claim the French have a bias towards Christians.

Nigeria

Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world’s deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 21 million people. The fact that the traveler from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact Ebola’s symptoms are similar to other diseases. Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man’s flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country. An American doctor trying to quell the Ebola outbreak in Liberia is now infected with the virus and a Liberian doctor died of it Saturday. A second American aid worker in Liberia has also tested positive for Ebola. The World Health Organization says the outbreak, the largest ever recorded, has also killed 319 people in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.

Philippines

Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed at least 18 villagers, including women and children, in a road attack Monday as the civilians traveled in two vans to visit relatives and celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the southern Philippines. About 40 to 50 Abu Sayyaf militants, armed with assault rifles, staged the attack in a coastal village in Talipao town in predominantly Muslim Sulu province, where the militants have survived in jungle encampments despite years of U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives. The Abu Sayyaf was organized in the early 1990s in the south, but it has been crippled by government operations and endures largely due to huge ransoms from kidnappings. Abu Sayyaf now holds about 10 hostages, including two German tourists seized in April and two birdwatchers, one Dutch and the other Swiss, who were kidnapped two years ago. The Abu Sayyaf is one of about four smaller Muslim insurgent groups outside of a peace deal signed by the Philippine government in March with the main rebel group, the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front that calls for the creation of a more powerful and potentially larger autonomous region for minority Muslims in the south of the largely Roman Catholic country.

Environment

A pair of large craters have formed in Siberia just days apart, and scientists are trying to figure out why it’s happening. According to the Moscow Times, the two holes were found about 18 miles apart. The first one was more than 160 feet wide and about 230 feet deep. The report adds that the second, most recent, hole was smaller. About 10,000 years ago, the area was a sea, and a mixture of salt, sand, gas and water froze into ice underground, Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center scientist Anna Kurchatova told the Siberian Times. As the globe has warmed, she said, the ice is melting and the gas is being released, causing an effect like a champagne cork popping off a bottle. The holes may foreshadow bigger problems for our planet in the near future, scientists worry. Permafrost around the Arctic contains methane and carbon dioxide, and both could be dangerous to our environment if released. As long as the permafrost remains frozen, the report adds, this isn’t a concern, but climate models have painted a grim future for rising temperatures in the Arctic.

Wildfires

Fire crews were battling two fast-moving wildfires in California that threatened many homes and forced hundreds of evacuations, officials said. The Sand Fire, sparked July 25 by a vehicle that drove over dry brush, has already claimed 56 structures, including 13 homes, in Armador and El Dorado counties to the east of Sacramento, California. The fire, fueled by hot, dry, windy conditions ballooned to around 4,000 acres over the weekend, but was 50 percent contained by Sunday evening. More than 1,200 people have been evacuated during the course of the fire, including more than 500 homes that remain under evacuation orders.

Meanwhile, hundreds of other people were evacuated to the south in Yosemite National Park after a fire there grew to 2,600-plus acres, threatening the communities of Foresta and Old El Portal. 125 homes, were completely evacuated over the weekend as the fire moved northeast toward the two communities. So far, at least one home has been destroyed in Foresta, and the fire is still 0 percent contained. With California’s record-setting drought only worsening, more disastrous fires seem inevitable for the state.

The Associated Press reported 300 homes have burned in the Carlton fire complex in Washington by the largest wildfire in state history, having consumed 390 square miles. Residents in Okanogan County directly in the fire’s path are wondering why they never received any warnings or alerts about the wildfire. Officials say it was because electric power and cell phone service were compromised by the fire.

Weather

Thousands of utility customers in the Phoenix area were without power for up to several hours Friday evening following a massive dust storm, but a temporary “ground stop” for all incoming flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was lifted two hours later. Up to 12,000 were originally without power. Visibility on the roads in the affected area was very low. Reports ranged from no visibility to 1/2 mile just south of the Valley.

One man was killed and 13 people were injured after being struck by lightning on Venice Beach in Los Angeles during a bout of freak July thunderstorms on Sunday. About hour earlier, a 57-year-old man was struck by lightning on a golf course on Catalina Island. In Redondo Beach, lightning struck a home and caught a car on fire, damaging several homes. Authorities say the thunderstorms also set at least two small brush fires on Catalina that were quickly doused.

At least four tornadoes were reported in northeast Tennessee Sunday afternoon, damaging a number of homes. Hail as large as softballs was reported Sunday afternoon in southeast Kentucky as supercell thunderstorms tracked from Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region across the Cumberland Plateau and Coalfields areas and into the Appalachians of east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina. Other severe storms with damaging winds have struck Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and several New England states. A confirmed but weak tornado touched down in Wolcott, Connecticut shortly after noon.

Signs of the Times (7/25/14)

July 25, 2014

IRS Faces New Grilling Over Targeting Churches

The Internal Revenue Service, already probably the most reviled of federal agencies, was caught harassing conservative organizations. It is currently the focal point of multiple investigations by irate members of Congress who believe the agency deliberately withheld information. Now yet another scandal could be looming. The Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the largest constitutional-rights legal teams in the nation, has submitted a demand for information about the agency’s actions against churches. “We are asking the IRS to disclose the new protocols and procedures it apparently adopted for determining whether to investigate churches. What it intends to do to churches must be brought into the light of day.” The issue developed because of a recent announcement by the Freedom from Religion Foundation that the IRS had set up procedures to begin investigating what the group called “rogue political churches.” The atheist group recently settled its lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for not challenging pastors that speak from the pulpit on political issues and candidates. Alliance Defending Freedom is seeking IRS documents related to that agreement.

Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the IRS for not enforcing the Johnson Amendment, passed in 1954. The Johnson Amendment limits political involvement by non-profits, which includes churches. ADF, which conducts an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” encourages preachers to abide by the First Amendment rather than the Johnson Amendment. Last year more than 1,600 pastors participated in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” by preaching on political issues based on biblical truth. If the IRS takes action against the churches and pastors, ADF is waiting to represent them.

Atheists ‘Warn’ about Children Hearing the Good News

Atheists in Oregon are warning parents that a Christian organization will damage their children through its summer Bible program. Child Evangelism Fellowship, well known for its after-school “Good News Clubs” on school campuses, is working with local churches to conduct “Good News Summer Clubs” in the Portland area. There are approximately 4,300 Good News Clubs in the U.S. OneNewsNow reports that Portland atheists paid for a full-page newspaper ad to oppose the outreach. Atheists, incidentally, aren’t opposed to all summer camps as evidenced by “Camp Quest.” Those atheist summer camps are conducted across the United States, combining archery and canoeing with learning about “humanist heroes” and evolution for children as young as eight. Gallup polls as recently as 2012 showed Oregon is among the “least religious” state in the country.

  • The supposedly tolerant humanists and atheists are hypocritically intolerant of Christianity because they fear that the Good News really does set people free

Texas Gov. Perry Sends National Guard Troops to Border

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will immediately send up to 1,000 National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed into the United States this year in a surge that is deemed a humanitarian crisis. Perry also wants President Barack Obama and Congress to hire an additional 3,000 border patrol agents for the Texas border, which would eventually replace the temporary guard forces. Perry’s state has received the majority of migrant children, especially in the Rio Grande region, and he has repeatedly called on the federal government to beef up border security, which is a federal responsibility. The Rio Grande sector currently has 3,000 border patrol agents covering 320 miles of land and 250 miles of water, which equates to 5.4 agents per mile. The Tucson sector, for instance, has approximately 15.7 agents per mile.

Conflicting Rulings on Obamacare

A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals dealt a major blow to ObamaCare Tuesday. The Federal Court of Appeals ruled that federal tax subsidies, which are central to the ObamaCare program, may not be provided to residents of the states which opted out of the ObamaCare exchanges, reports Liberty Counsel. The poorly written law that Congress passed without reading and President Obama signed says that the federal subsidies can only be provided when someone enrolls in an exchange run by the states or the District of Columbia. Then, hours after that ruling, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, issued a conflicting ruling, finding that the IRS rule for the federal subsidies is valid based on the intention of the law.

  • The Affordable Healthcare Act is so huge, jumbled and complicated that even federal courts can’t figure it out.

Voters say Obama Exceeded Authority, but Oppose Impeachment

Despite believing Barack Obama has overstepped his authority as president, most voters reject calls to impeach him for that — or for any other reason. By a 58-37 percent margin, the latest Fox News poll finds that voters think President Obama exceeded his authority under the Constitution when he unilaterally changed the health care law by executive order. And, more generally, a similar majority disapproves of Obama bypassing Congress, acting unilaterally and refusing to enforce laws he disagrees with. Obama’s use of executive power plays well with the party faithful, as a 64-percent majority of Democrats approves of his actions, while a majority of every other demographic group disapproves (including fully 91 percent of Republicans). Some prominent Republicans, including 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have called for the president’s impeachment. Yet 61% oppose impeaching Obama for changing some laws and failing to enforce others or “for any other reason.” Some 36 percent favor impeachment.

Earth in Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction

The loss and decline of animals around the world — caused by habitat loss and global climate disruption — mean we’re in the midst of a sixth “mass extinction” of life on Earth, according to several studies out Thursday in the journal Science. One study found that although human population has doubled in the past 35 years, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45% during that same period. The study reported that around 322 species have gone extinct over the last five centuries. Five times in the history of the Earth, a huge percentage of the planet’s life has been wiped out in what are called mass extinctions, typically from collisions with giant meteors. What’s new about this extinction is “that the underlying driving force for this is not a meteorite or a mega-volcanic eruption; it is one species – homo sapiens.” Overall, scientists estimate that due to all of the past extinctions, about nine out of 10 of all life-forms that have existed on our planet are extinct.

  • The plagues in Revelation suggest that there will be mass extinctions of life in the seas and on land
  1. S. Ranks near Bottom for Energy Efficiency

A new report says the U.S. scored 13th in global energy efficiency ranking, or near the bottom of the world’s 16 largest economies. That’s the conclusion of a new report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which ranks the world’s 16 largest economies based on 31 different measurements of efficiency, including national energy savings targets, fuel economy standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for appliances, average vehicle mpg, and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings, among other metrics. The ACEEE report ranked the U.S. 13th overall, with Germany, Italy, smaller European Union nations, France and China making up the top five most energy efficient economies in the world.

The U.S. was the 9th most energy-efficient economy in the ACEEE’s 2012 ranking, which criticized the country for focusing more on road construction than expanding public transportation. Since then, the U.S. has made very little progress toward using energy more efficiently, the 2014 report says. Americans drive more than 9,300 miles per year, more than citizens in any other major world economy, according to the report. India tops the list, driving 85 miles per year per capita, followed by China with 513 miles per year. Americans also ranked last for the percentage of their travel accomplished using public transit — 10 percent, tying with Canada. Residents of China use transit 72 percent of the time, followed by Indians, who use transit 65 percent of the time.

Economic News

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level in eight years. The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000. That’s the lowest reading since February 2006, nearly two years before the Great Recession began.

The consumer price index increased 0.3% after rising 0.4% in May, which was a 15-month high, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Over the past 12 months, prices have risen 2.1%.Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, consumer prices were up 0.1%.Gasoline prices surged 3.3% last month — the biggest increase in a year — accounting for two-thirds of the rise in all consumer prices. Food costs moderated after several months of dramatic increases, with overall prices rising 0.1% following a 0.5% increase in May. Meat prices rose 0.2% after jumping 1.4% in May and prices for dairy and foods and vegetables fell.

Foreclosure activity in the United States dropped last month to the lowest level since July 2006, before the housing bubble burst, and likely will continue to drop through the first half of next year. RealtyTrac, which tracks housing market trends, said that 107,194 properties across the country were at some stage of the foreclosure process in June. That marked a 2 percent decline from May and left foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, 16 percent below the year-ago level. June was the 45th consecutive month foreclosure activity was down on an annual basis. Lenders reclaimed a total of 26,889 properties in June, down 5 percent from May and the lowest level since June 2007. Repossessions were down 24 percent from a year ago.

Forget stocks. Millennials want their money in cold, hard cash. Americans between 18 and 29 years old are three times more likely than older generations to keep their long-term investments in the form of cash rather than in the stock market, according to a survey from Bankrate.com. Even the booming stock market hasn’t been able to shake off the risk-aversion that is now the hallmark of this recession-scarred generation. About 39% of Millennials picked cash as the preferred way to invest the money that they don’t need for at least 10 years — the biggest percentage of any age group. Another 24% chose real estate, while 13% picked the stock market.

Persecution Watch

Christians have inhabited Mosul for over 2,000 years, but the last Christian fled the Iraqi city on Saturday around noon. ISIS militants had demanded that all Christians leave Mosul, convert to Islam or be killed. The ultimatum prompted thousands of people to leave the city; 500,000 have been forced to flee since ISIS gained control of the city on June 10. Former Mosul residents said that militants forced themselves into homes, stole anything they saw and threatened to kill families inside. The Muslims who remain in the city are now being controlled under strict Sharia law; many Muslims are trying to escape now as well.

Middle East

Israel continued airstrikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday, as Palestinians in the West Bank called for a “Day of Rage” following the shelling of a U.N. school used as a shelter the previous day, where the deaths of at least 15 set off protests in the West Bank. Israeli planes hit 30 houses throughout Gaza early Friday, including the home of Salah Hassanein, a leader of the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas. The Kalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah was the site of a massive riot Thursday evening. Police estimated a crowd of over 10,000 Palestinians gathered to protest Israel’s military operations in the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip. One Palestinian was killed and over 200 others wounded in the melee, while 13 Israeli police officers were also wounded. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted at least eight rockets fired from Gaza into central Israel on Thursday morning.

As Israeli forces continued their air, land and sea offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, outrage among Palestinians caught in the crossfire grows with the mounting death toll. More than 828 Palestinians have died and more than 5,200 people injured in the offensive, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The United Nations estimates that more than 70% were civilians. The two-week carnage has led many Palestinians to express their support for Hamas, the terrorist-cum-political group that Israeli forces have been targeting since July 8 in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks against Israel. Abu Awni, 38, of Gaza City, said, “Civilians are attacked in their homes. I’m against Hamas, but when Israel is killing my family, then I will join Hamas… we have been collectively punished.”

  • Israel warned civilians to leave the areas they intended to attack, but Hamas urged them to stay thereby reaping a huge propaganda victory.

Hamas, a radical Islamist terror organization, is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al- Islamiyah (Islamic resistance movement.) The overall leader, Khaled Meshaal, is based in Qatar. Not only is his base far removed from the war in Gaza, virtually the entire leadership of Hamas and its command and control center is there as well, reports David Evans of the Jerusalem Prayer Team. Hamas’s leaders are not fighting in Gaza; they are hiding behind the safety of a rich Gulf Oil state that boasts the world’s third largest natural gas and oil reserves…but funds their attacks on the Jewish people.

Ukraine

The Ukrainian army on Friday charged that its soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight, bolstering claims by U.S. officials that the Russian military has been firing artillery rounds at Ukrainian military targets for several days. Russian-backed separatists shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets Wednesday in the eastern regions of the country. The jets were among four Russian-built fighters that were returning to base after providing air support for Ukrainian troops near the border. The Sukhoi-25 fighters were downed in an area called Savur Mogila in the Shaktersky region near the Russian border.

In the tangled aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster, two narratives have emerged — one that most of the world subscribes to, and another that Russia and the rebels are pushing. In the first, MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, using a sophisticated Russian-built missile system. In the second, Russia and the rebels suggest several different scenarios for what brought the jetliner down, some of them bordering on the bizarre. Rebel commander Igor Girkin suggested that many of MH17’s passengers were corpses — already dead — and put aboard the 11-plus-hour flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

  • Russia has a long history of misinformation and lying to sway public opinion, but this time it’s obviously absurd

Russia

Russia is paying an ever higher price for its growing isolation over the crisis in Ukraine. The country’s central bank jacked up interest rates Friday for the third time since March, taking them up to 8%.With inflation running at 7.5%, it had little choice. The crisis has led investors and companies to yank money out of Russia. This has crushed the ruble and raised the cost of imports — helping to drive prices higher. The ruble has fallen 6% against the dollar so far this year, while Moscow’s main stock market has dropped 7.6%.Russia’s $2 trillion economy slowed dramatically this year as cash flooded out of the country in response to the threat of tough financial sanctions.

Nigeria

A days-long raid on a northeast Nigerian town by Boko Haram left dozens dead and displaced more than 15,000 residents, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency reports. Scores of fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and guns descended on the town of Damboa last Thursday evening. By the time the raid ended on Sunday, 66 residents had been killed and more than 15,000 had fled. The Islamic militant group’s trademark black flag was hoisted afterward, signifying that the town was under their control. But the Nigerian military tried to assure residents that it would retake the town.

Wildfires

Washington and Oregon remain under siege from about 20 major wildfires across the two states, and as brisk winds prevail in some of the fire zones, temperatures are also expected to rise in the coming days. Both states, particularly Oregon, have been hit hard by drought, leading to dry foliage that’s easily ignited by lightning strikes. Firefighters continued to make progress in their efforts to get the largest wildfire the state’s history under control, with wetter weather bringing some relief but also raising concerns about flash flooding. Temperatures have cooled down in the region on the heels of triple-digit heat, providing much-needed relief for the thousands of firefighters trying to keep the flames at bay, but changing weather conditions in the coming days won’t provide much certainty for containment efforts. The Carlton Complex fire has grown to become the largest wildfire in state history at more than 250,000 acres. Rainy conditions helped firefighters immensely on Wednesday, as fire containment grew from 16 percent to 52 percent.

  • While the mainstream media continues to proclaim increased fire danger due to global warming and call for greater funding, official statistics tell a different story. So far this year, 31,326 fires have burned 1,612,197 acres, much less that the ten-year average of 45,195 fires and 6,630,417 acres over the same time span, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Weather

Just hours after Matmo cut through Taiwan as a category 1 equivalent tropical cyclone, the storm hit eastern China as a tropical storm, producing heavy rain and strong winds over Fujian province as it moved north toward Shanghai. On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane carrying 58 people crashed into a small Taiwanese island, killing 48. Though the cause of the crash is still under investigation, severe weather from Matmo is seen as the likely explanation. An additional 17 people were injured when Matmo first passed through Taiwan. More than 460,000 people lost power and water in Taiwan due to Matmo. About $9 million worth of crops were destroyed. More than 50,000 were evacuated in Zhejiang province due to floodwaters. This typhoon struck China just a week after Typhoon Rammasun killed at least 56 people in southern provinces of China.

An Air Algerie flight en route to Algiers from Burkina Faso with 116 people aboard — including 50 French citizens — disappeared from radar early Thursday over the Sahara during bad weather. Air navigation services lost track of AH0517 about 50 minutes after takeoff. The pilot reportedly contacted air traffic control in Niamey, Niger, to change course because of a storm. The charred remains of the plane and its missing passengers in a remote region of northern Mali Friday. None of the 116 passengers and crew survived the crash.

Damaging thunderstorms took a swipe across Arkansas Wednesday, bringing down large trees and damaging several buildings. Thunderstorm wind damage reports were filed from Kansas to the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas border, a distance that spans over 300 miles. Entergy Arkansas Inc. said about 40,000 people were without power immediately after the storms. An estimated 20 buildings have sustained damage due to the thunderstorms.

A husband and wife were killed Thursday morning when a tornado rushed through a crowded campground on the Delmarva Peninsula, injuring at least 36 people. Their 13-year-old son was staying in a nearby tent and sustained life-threatening injuries and is in a coma. All three of the couple’s children are hospitalized. The storm overturned recreational vehicles and downed numerous trees at Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort, a 300-acre playground of swimming pools, mini-golf, pier fishing, crabbing and other activities. The campground is located near Cape Charles, a small town about 40 miles north of Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay side of the peninsula.

Last month was the hottest June in more than 130 years of recorded weather history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday in its monthly state of the climate report, surpassing the previous record high for the month set in 1998. Nine of the 10 warmest Junes on record have occurred in the 21st century, including each of the past five years. Parts of southeast Asia, eastern and central Africa, northern South America and southern Greenland experienced record June warmth. On the other end of the spectrum, cooler-than-average June temperatures were observed in parts of Alaska, the northern Rockies, western Russia and the Baltic countries.

  • Whether due to greenhouse gases and human activity or not, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme eventually resulting in flooding, high winds and the 100-pound hailstones in Revelation

Signs of the Times (7/21/14)

July 21, 2014

Moment of Truth for Russia

As the investigation on the ground continued, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there’s no shortage of evidence that shows pro-Russian rebels shot down a Malaysian jet in Ukraine last week, killing all 298 people aboard. There’s video of a launcher with one surface-to-air missile missing, satellite imagery showing the firing of the missile and intercepted calls with rebels claiming credit for the strike, Kerry said. “This is the moment of truth for Russia. Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists. And Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control,” he said. British Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t mince words either on who was to blame. In an op-ed in The Sunday Times, he called the plane crash and its aftermath “an outrage made in Moscow.” The Ukraine accused rebels of looting jewelry, credit cards and money Saturday from the crash site. The United States predicts the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, by pro-Russian rebels will fundamentally shift the relationship between Russia and the international community. The Buk M2 missile launcher used to down the passenger plane is likely back in Russia after recently being imported into Ukraine, claim U.S. sources.

  • Russia is prophesied to be a major player in the end-time conflagration (Ezekiel 39)

Middle East

Diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas intensified Monday following the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two-week campaign. The death toll among Palestinians from the Israeli offensive in Gaza surpassed 500 on Monday, Gaza health officials said. They said Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah, killing at least four people and wounding 60, half of them medical staffers. Thirteen Israeli soldiers died Sunday in clashes with Hamas, bringing the overall Israeli death toll to 20, including two civilians who died from rocket and mortar fire directed at Israeli towns and villages from Gaza. There were at least 65 Palestinian deaths Sunday.

  • Civilian casualties in Gaza are largely due to Hamas purposely using people and residential areas as shields so that they can later wage a media campaign protesting Israel’s violence. Israel has dropped thousands of leaflets and post many online warnings to advise Palestinians to evacuate targeted areas.

On Saturday, Israel pounded Hamas rocket launchers and uncovered more than a dozen cross-border tunnels while engaging in numerous gun battles with Palestinian militants on the second day of its open-ended ground operation in Gaza. The Israeli military said that in 12 days of fighting it has hit 2,350 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers, and severely diminished the arsenal of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the coastal territory. Palestinian militants meanwhile fired more than 1,600 rockets since the latest round of fighting began on July 8.

  • War in the Middle East will eventually usher in the anti-Christ and the one-world government prophesied in Revelation 13

Judge Okays Incest by Equating it to Homosexuality

New South Wales District Judge Garry Neilson equated incest to homosexuality which at one time was also considered wrong and taboo but now is “acceptable.” Nielson was hearing a case where a brother was charged with raping his younger sister. The brother pleaded guilty to sexual assault for the charges incurred when his sister was around 10-11 years of age. However, the brother had pleaded not guilty to the charges incurred when his sister was 18 and he was 26. Nielson mentioned that with access to contraception and abortion, steps could be taken to prevent any children from being born with birth defects caused by the close relationship of the siblings. “A jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now ‘available’, not having a sexual partner.”

  • The slippery slope of immorality has accelerated by deeming homosexuality to be acceptable

No Religious Exemption in Obama Executive Order

President Obama signed an executive order on Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. There will be no exemption for companies with religious objections to hiring gays. Gay groups stepped up their already intense campaign to persuade Mr. Obama to sign the order after the Supreme Court’s decision last month in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case. In that ruling, the court said that family-run corporations with religious objections could be exempted from providing employees with insurance coverage for contraception, and there were fears that the case would have repercussions for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

  • Once again, King Obama sidesteps the Supreme Court by executive fiat

Millennials Say No to Marriage

Today’s young adults are on track have the lowest rates of marriage by age 40 compared to any previous generation. If the current pace continues, more than 30% of millennial women will remain unmarried by age 40, nearly twice the share of their Gen X counterparts, according to a recent Urban Institute report. The importance of marriage among young people has been diminishing for years. More Americans are living together without getting married. Marriage used to be the starting point for young adults. Now, many feel they have to be more established, especially financially, before they walk down the aisle. Marriage rates fell drastically during the Great Recession, when young adults had a tough time landing their first jobs and other Americans found themselves collecting unemployment checks.

  • Satan’s ongoing war against marriage and family has made great gains in the end-time period Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8)

Detroit Police Chief gives Credit to Armed Citizens for Drop in Crime

Fed up with crime, some armed Detroiters have fought back — and Police Chief James Craig said lawbreakers are getting the message. Detroit has experienced 37 percent fewer robberies in 2014 than during the same period last year, 22 percent fewer break-ins of businesses and homes, and 30 percent fewer car-jackings. Craig attributed the drop to better police work and criminals being reluctant to prey on citizens who may be carrying guns. “Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,” said Craig, who has repeatedly said he believes armed citizens deter crime.

Colorado Underestimated Pot Demand

Folks in Colorado are consuming a lot of marijuana — 130 metric tons per year. Of the state’s 5.36 million people, 485,000, or 9%, are identified as regular adult marijuana users. There is also an estimated 8.9 metric tons of demand from tourists. It’s estimated that 44% of retail sales in metro areas like Denver are made by out-of-state visitors. The data shows that regulators largely underestimated how big the demand would actually be for retail marijuana in the state.

Economic News

Although there are many signs the economy is improving, average weekly wages in the United States remained stagnant throughout 2013. This is a notable change from a year earlier, when weekly wages rose 4.7% over the same period.

Consumers and businesses are starting to borrow more after hunkering down since the Great Recession, fueling a pickup in economic growth. Bank loans and leases grew at a 7.7% annual rate in the second quarter, the sharpest increase since 2008. The surge was largely driven by business loans, which jumped 12.6% annualized. Consumer loans, meanwhile, rose at a 6% pace, up from 3.8% in the year-ago period.

Auto loans to people with tarnished credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered subprime. The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are feeding the growth in subprime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

  • Here we go again. Greed triumphs over common sense in the world of finance, with both lenders and consumers sharing the blame

Persecution Watch

Boko Haram is behind another Nigerian church attack, this time setting three churches on fire and killing 27 people. According to Open Doors, a group of gunmen entered the Christian village of Dille in Borno state on Monday, proceeding to kill dozens of residents. Eyewitnesses said the men were “heavily armed with anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled launchers and explosives.”

Christian communities in Kenya’s coastal region were targeted in attacks by al-Shabaab Islamist militants that left more than 30 dead. Heavily armed fighters descended on Hindi, Lamu county, and Gamba, in neighbouring Tana River county, on the night of 5 July, killing at least 29 people. In Hindi, the assailants torched a church and several houses; they targeted non-Muslim men, some of whom were tied up and had their throats slit, while others were killed when their homes were set ablaze. The assailants told non-Muslims that they should leave the area or else convert to Islam.

On June 30, the Sudanese government demolished a church in Khartoum without reason given, with only one day’s notice; now authorities have announced that the construction of new churches in the country is banned. Guidance and Endowments Minister Shalil Abdullah told Sudanese Christians that there are enough churches in the nation already. Therefore, construction of new churches would not be permitted by the government. However, Rev. El Ramli told BCC that Christianity is growing in Sudan and Christians need more locations to worship.

The Islamist militants, now occupying large regions of Iraq and Syria, have issued an ultimatum to the remaining Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul: accept Islam, pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia courts, or face “death by the sword.” The letters from ISIS were distributed in recent days to the dwindling number of Christian leaders in Iraq’s second largest city. Christians who do not agree to convert or pay extra taxes must leave the northern Iraqi city by noon Saturday. After that, the message said, “The only option is the sword.”

A hardline Buddhist group in Sri Lanka has launched a four-day campaign against “Christian fundamentalism” in the country as Christians face vicious attacks in ongoing efforts to stop their activities. In an ominous message, Ravana Balaya General Secretary Ittekande Saddhatissa Thera said they would “advise” Christians to halt their activities but, if they failed to take heed, would take firmer action. He said that the group decided to conduct a campaign after receiving complaints from Buddhist monks and others about evangelism by Christians.

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces have taken full control of Donetsk airport as they continue to fight pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Ukraine city, a Ukrainian military spokesman says. However, the conflict in eastern Ukraine is driving the economy even deeper into crisis, which may force the government to seek another bailout. Ukrainian forces have been struggling to control a pro-Russian separatist rebellion raging in eastern regions since March, when Moscow annexed Crimea. The International Monetary Fund agreed in April to lend Ukraine $17 billion over the next two years to stave off the threat of economic collapse. But conditions in Ukraine have deteriorated since then, making it harder for the government to meet the terms of the bailout. Making matters worse, Russia has also cut off gas supplies.

Syria

At least 60 soldiers have died as the army battles to retake a gas field in central Syria where jihadists killed 270 people, a pro-regime newspaper reported on Sunday. On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said it had documented “the deaths of 270 people killed in fighting or executed” by IS militants. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, killed 270 Syrians, including national guard members, security guards and employees, after storming and seizing the al Shaer gas field in Homs province on Thursday, the group said. The death toll could climb. Another 90 security guards and employees are missing.

Libya

Fierce fighting raged on the outskirts of Tripoli on Sunday as militias continued to battle for control of the airport in what’s being called the worst fighting in Libya since the 2011 revolution. The airport has been under the control of militia from the Western Mountains city of Zintan for the past three years. The latest assaults were launched by militias from the city of Misrata and an Islamist militia umbrella group in the capital known as the “Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room.” According to residents in different parts of Tripoli, thick plumes of black smoke rose from the direction of the airport and large blasts and gunfire echoed across the city.

Iran

Negotiators for world powers and Iran agreed Friday in Vienna to extend nuclear talks until November over how to limit Iran’s disputed nuclear program in exchange for the removal of international sanctions. The talks, which were supposed to be concluded Sunday. Negotiators from the world’s five nuclear powers, United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, plus Germany have been seeking a deal with Iran that would ensure its nuclear program is as peaceful as Iran claims. Iran seeks the removal of international sanctions while negotiators want Iran to stop producing nuclear fuel.

  • Iran’s ongoing and successful strategy continues as delays, obfuscation and outright lies are buying more and more time to surreptitiously produce nuclear weapons.

Nigeria

Boko Haram gunmen killed more than 100 villagers and set homes ablaze in a northeastern Nigerian town just 53 miles from the strategic center of Maiduguri before dawn Friday, according to survivors. Residents of Damboa town told The Associated Press that they were “piling up corpses.” Half the town is up in flames, say civilian defense fighters there. Well-armed Islamic extremists attacked as residents were preparing for the 5 a.m. dawn prayers and the civilian defense fighters could only resist with clubs and homemade shotguns.

Wildfires

Washington and Oregon are currently under siege from at least 22 major wildfires across the two states, fueled by dry, windy conditions. The fires have consumed nearly 886,000 acres. Both states, particularly Oregon, have been hit hard by drought, leading to dry foliage that’s easily ignited by lightning strikes. Temperatures have cooled down in the region on the heels of triple digit heat, providing much-needed relief for the thousands of firefighters trying to keep the flames at bay. Thunderstorms will also bring severe weather and lightning strikes that could spark additional fires. The Carlton Complex fire started in the Methow Valley in Okanogan County, Washington, roughly 7 miles south of Twisp, Washington, after a lightning strike on July 14, and has since grown to become the largest wildfire in state history. The blaze measured nearly 370 square miles by Sunday, up from 260 square miles on Friday. Firefighters make their first progress on the Carlton Complex fire, bringing containment up to 2 percent. Also in Washington, the Chiwaukum Creek fire started after a lightning strike on July 15, and grew more than 3,000 acres Saturday. More than 1,500 structures threatened in the Leavenworth area. Nearly 900 people were evacuated and the fire closed a roughly 15 mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2.

The Buzzard Complex fire in Oregon consists of seven separate fires burning through a large area in east-central, Oregon. The fires broke out after a series of lightning strikes on July 14, in a remote area 45 miles northeast of Burns, Oregon and expanded rapidly across the area, burning across 380 square miles. Significant progress has been made in the last couple of days, with containment lines established around the blaze. Even so, the fire is still extremely large with the greatest threat of expansion coming from the eastern flank of the fire. The fire claimed the lives of an unknown, but substantial, number of livestock across the area. The Shaniko Butte Fire developed after a lightning strike on July 13, on Shaniko Butte, some 12 miles to the north of Warm Springs, Oregon. The fire spread rapidly, but firefighters continued to make significant progress on the fire over the weekend. Evacuations were still in place for Dant, Oregon with 108 structures threatened. Also in Oregon, the Waterman Complex is comprised of four separate fires started via lightning on July 11, the most pressing of which is the Bailey Butte Fire, which had burned more than 2,000 acres and was just 50 percent contained. The Pine Creek Fire was sparked by lightning in the Deschutes National Forest about 11 miles South of Fossil, Oregon. The blaze was expected to approach residences in Rowe Creek.

Hikers in the Bear Mountain area just to the northwest of Sedona, Arizona, watched in horror as a single-engine plane crashed into the side of Mogollon Rim Sunday, killing 4 people and sparking a wildfire that burned out of control into the night. The burning plane ignited dry brush in the area, sparking the Fay Canyon Wildfire. As of late Sunday evening the blaze had scorched 25 acres of earth in the Red Rock Secret Wilderness area of Fay Canyon and was 0 percent contained. No structures are currently threatened.

Weather

Temperature records set way back in the 1880s have been broken as unusually cool air blanketed a large part of the country in the heart of summer. It felt more like fall from the Upper Midwest into the South this past week. A few of the cities that set records are Memphis, Tennessee, Greenwood, Mississippi and Longview, Texas. Minneapolis set a record cool high of 65 degrees, breaking the record set back in 1884. But now, the central USA’s first intense heat wave of the summer is baking the region this week, with high temperatures forecast in the upper 90s to over 100 degrees in many locations. Heat advisories and warnings have been posted in seven north-central states.

Super Typhoon Rammasun’s came ashore at 3:30 p.m. Friday, local time on south China’s island province of Hainan, spreading into the adjoining Leizhou Peninsula. As of 5 a.m. EDT Friday in the U.S., Rammasun’s maximum sustained winds were an estimated 155 mph, the strongest storm to hit China in decades. Typhoon Rammasun continued its deadly rampage Saturday, killing at least 8 people in China just days after killing at least 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines.

 

Signs of the Times (7/21/14)

July 17, 2014

California Bans the Words ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ In Marriage

In the state of California, heterosexual married couples can no longer be referred to as husbands and wives. Democrat Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that not only redefines marriage, but eliminates any reference to husband and wife, replacing each with the generic term of spouse. SB 1306 deletes all references to ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ in the Family Code and instead refers only to a ‘spouse.’

  • The absurdity of it all is beyond comprehension. But the Bible foresaw the day when “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Clearly they are deluded and believe such ridiculous lies.

Christian Charities Step Up to Serve Border Crisis Refugees

Thousands of immigrant children remain in processing facilities in Texas, California and Arizona while the government deals with what is being called the “border crisis,” the 47,000 children who have entered the U.S. illegally since Oct. 1. While the children are being detained, Christian charities and churches have stepped in to tend to the needs of the unaccompanied children. Volunteers have distributed food, water and clothing. Texas Baptist Men have set up a laundry station manned by volunteers, as well as a place to shower. Pastor Chad Mason of Calvary Baptist Churchestimates that Catholic Charities have helped 6,000 children in McAllen, Texas so far. John Andrews of the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino County said, “I would encourage [everyone] to view this as a humanitarian crisis. When your brother or sister presents themselves to you in their need, as we know from the parable of the Good Samaritan, then we don’t pick and choose. We don’t say, ‘Well, we’re going to help this person in need but not that person in need.’ When you see a person who’s presenting themselves to you and you can see clearly that they need your help, you see the Lord Jesus in them, and you help them,”

Illegal Immigrant Children Resettled in Cities & States without their Knowledge/Approval

High-ranking elected officials in two states far north of the U.S.-Mexico border claimed that the Obama administration resettled hundreds of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in their states without adequate notice — and has refused to disclose their exact locations. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told the Wall Street Journal that 200 children were sent to his state without warning, adding that federal officials refused to disclose their names and locations. Fox News also reported that 748 unaccompanied minors have been transferred from areas near the border to the Chicago area; 319 of them have been placed with family members or sponsors while they await immigration hearings. But the other 429 have been placed in facilities run by the Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization that receives grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., told Fox News Friday that he didn’t know the exact locations of the facilities holding the children and concluded that the White House didn’t want the children’s living conditions publicized.

In places such as Murrieta, California, and Oracle, Arizona, the message is clear: Thousands of immigrant children fleeing Central America are unwelcome in Small Town U.S.A, reports CNN. Southwest border towns, West Coast suburbs, and middle-America enclaves have become the newest battleground in the vitriolic political debate over immigration. In Oracle, a town of roughly 3,700, protesters faced off Tuesday at Sycamore Canyon Academy, a nearby boys ranch that is to be used as a temporary housing facility for the immigrant minors. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said accepting the unaccompanied juvenile immigrants only encourages more to come. Protestors in Waco, Texas, meanwhile, are demanding better conditions for the 250 men from El Salvador being held at the Jack Harwell Detention Center. And the League City, Texas, City Council approved a proposal banning the housing or detention of undocumented immigrants within the city at a recent meetingIn Artesia, New Mexico, hundreds of residents turned out for a contentious town hall meeting to decry the hundreds of women and children being housed at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, a facility that also trains Border Patrol agents.

  • Obama put out the welcome mat and now must be held accountable and forced to deal with the consequences without shunting the problem off onto states and cities.

Black Chicago Residents call Obama “Worst President Ever”

Last Friday evening residents from Chicago’s Southside held a protest in front of the Chicago Police Department against the intolerable violence plaguing their communities. The also sounded off about President Obama paying more favor to illegal aliens crossing the southern border than to the beleaguered Chicagoans. Residents also called for the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for their failure to effectively handle the city’s violence epidemic. The president’s handling of the illegal invasion in Texas prompted residents to call him out for ignoring the current state of Chicago, where 120 people have been shot and at least 26 killed so far this July. “Barack will go down as the worth president ever elected, Bill Clinton was the African-American President,” one resident said, in response to the president’s performance on the job, “President Barack needs to pay attention to Chicago, if he can not pay attention to Chicago and the African-American community, he needs to resign.”

Britain Arrests over 600 Suspected Pedophiles

Over 600 suspected pedophiles have been arrested in Britain as part of a six-month investigation, the National Crime Agency said Wednesday. The NCA said that doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers are among those detained. The operation targeted people viewing what it called “indecent” images of children online. The NCA said that some of those arrested had “unsupervised access to children in the course of their work.” Several child abuse scandals have rocked Britain in recent years.

Economic News

Housing starts fell for the second month in a row in June as construction fell off sharply in the South, the Census Bureau said Thursday. Permits, a barometer of future construction plans, fell 4% from May to their lowest level since January. Builders broke ground on new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 893,000, down 9.3% from May’s rate. Construction starts plunged in the South, typically the USA’s biggest region for home building. Overall starts fell almost 30% and construction of new single-family homes was off about 20% from May.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid dipped 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, also dropped 3,000 to 309,000, the lowest level since June 2007, about five months before the start of the Great Recession. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of job gains above 200,000. Still, the steady hiring gains have yet to boost wages significantly. Wage growth has barely matched inflation since the recession ended five years ago.

Retail sales rose just 0.2% in June as spending at building materials and garden supply stores fell. Despite the lower-than-expected increase, it’s the fifth straight month of increases since January, when there was a nearly 1% decrease in sales following the holiday season. June sales were also hindered by weak sales at restaurants and auto dealers. But sales at clothing and department stores, and sporting goods stores all rose.

U.S. public debt remains on an unsustainable path and will reach 106 percent of economic output in 25 years versus about 74 percent currently, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday The CBO said that, despite some near-term relief, the federal deficits are unsustainable and could lead to another financial crisis in the long run. It attributes much of the increase in deficits and debt through 2039 to the costs of caring for an aging population, especially the so-called baby boom generation. By 2039, spending on healthcare programs would rise sharply, to 14 percent of gross domestic product, up from a seven percent average over the past 40 years. As the federal debt load increases, net interest payments would balloon to 4.7 percent of GDP in 2039 from about 1.3 percent currently.

Microsoft confirmed it will cut up to 18,000 jobs over the next year, part of the tech titan’s efforts to streamline its business under new CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft says about 12,500 of the professional and factory positions will be cut as part of its $7 billion acquisition of Nokia’s handset business, which the company closed in April. The layoffs by Microsoft — which employs 125,000 people — are the company’s largest since 2009, when they cut more than 5,000 jobs. Microsoft expects to incur pre-tax charges as high as $1.6 billion over the next four quarters, which will include $750 million to $800 million for severance and related benefit costs.

Middle East

A temporary cease-fire in the conflict between Hamas and Israel expired Thursday, followed quickly by a rocket attack from Gaza and a reported Israeli military strike. No deaths or injuries were immediately reported in the exchange of fire following a five-hour lull in hostilities, which had been requested by the United Nations to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the repair of water and electrical lines damaged in more than a week of Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli military attacked 37 targets in Gaza, including the homes of Hamas leaders Khalil al-Haya and Fathi Hamad, while Hamas fired another 11 rockets at Israel early Thursday, ahead of the planned cease-fire.

An Egypt-backed cease-fire between Israel and Hamas fell apart Tuesday as rocket attacks from Gaza were answered by Israeli airstrikes once again. The rocket attacks from Hamas militants in Gaza never ceased, Israeli officials said. For its part, Israel refrained from airstrikes for about six hours before announcing it was resuming the attacks. The Israel Defense Forces said 47 rockets were fired into Israel during the cease-fire period, which Hamas never accepted. The faltering of the cease-fire attempt means there may be little hope of seeing an end to the near constant exchange of fire that has so far killed more than 204 Palestinians in Gaza with one Israeli death. Israeli leaders had agreed to the cease-fire, but from the outset warned it would be short-lived if the attacks from Gaza didn’t stop.

Even as missiles fly from Gaza into Israel, Israel continues to supply electricity, food, and water to Gaza, as well as on-going humanitarian aid and medical treatment to any Palestinians in need, reports BridgeBuilders International. “Israel is the only nation in the world whose military warns its enemies of impending attacks on strategic sites in order to avert civilian causalities,” said U.S. Israeli Ambasador Meir Shlomo. When under attack, Israel has the right of self-defense and is obligated to act decisively, Abm.Shlomo said. Israel’s military directs only pinpointed attacks at missile launchers, terror infrastructures and the weapon depots of Hamas, which have turned the Gaza Strip into the center for attacking Israel.

David Evans of the Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “The reality is that Israel is not really fighting against Hamas. The real enemy is Iran. The mullahs of Tehran provide the weapons, equipment, training, and funding for these attacks on the Jewish people. What has happened so far is only scratching the surface. There are tens of thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at Israel, provided by Iran. And there is another threat as well. Al Qaeda and ISIS both have fighters in Gaza right now. Their goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate. This is a battle against the powers of evil.”

Syria

Proclaiming the Syrian people winners in a “dirty war” waged by outsiders, President Bashar Assad was sworn in on Wednesday, marking the start of his third seven-year term in office amid a bloody civil war that has ravaged the Arab country. Meanwhile, a Sunni extremist group has taken over opposition-held areas of another city, Syrian activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, says militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over the areas in Deir el-Zour on Monday. The Islamic State group has captured territories in the east mostly and merged those captured areas with its areas in Iraq. According to reports, about 7,000 people have been killed in the rebel-on-rebel fighting since January. The majority of those killed have been militants.

Iraq

Iraqi lawmakers have broken their deadlock and elected a new speaker of parliament — the first step toward forming a new government. The legislature chose Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri as the new speaker with 194 votes Tuesday in the 328-seat parliament. It was unclear whether al-Jubouri’s election indicated that a larger agreement had been struck among political blocs for the posts of president and prime minister. Under an informal agreement that took hold after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the speaker’s chair goes to a Sunni, the presidency to a Kurd and the prime minister’s post to a Shiite. Parliament is under pressure to move quickly to fill all three posts and form a new government that can confront the Sunni militants who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq.

Afghanistan

Gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on the Kabul International Airport in the Afghan capital on Thursday, raining down rockets, setting off a gunbattle with security forces and forcing the airport to close for hours. The militants occupied two buildings which were under construction some 700 meters (yards) north of the facility, and were using them as a base to direct rockets and gunfire toward the airport and international jet fighters flying over Kabul. Kabul Police Chief Mohammed Zahir Zahir later said four of the attackers were killed and that the attack was halted without any civilian or police casualties. The airport was later reopened and operations returned to normal after security forces inspected the runways for shrapnel and explosives.

The death toll from a suicide car bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province has climbed to 90, with more than 40 people wounded. The blast took place on Tuesday when the bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle near a crowded market and a mosque in the Urgun district of Paktika province. Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb ripped through a minivan carrying employees of the presidential palace in eastern Kabul, killing two passenger. The explosion also wounded five other people inside the minivan. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. Roadside bombings are a major threat to both Afghan security forces and civilians across the country. Such attacks have escalated as the Taliban intensify their campaign ahead of the U.S.-led foreign forces’ withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Ukraine

A Russian military plane shot down a Ukrainian jet fighter over Ukrainian territory, forcing the pilot to eject. The latest reported skirmish came as Russia hit back at the United States on Thursday following the imposition of a new round of sanctions for its actions in Ukraine. The United States is escalating its sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, targeting some of Russia’s largest banks, energy companies and arms-makers and individuals tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin said the sanctions will ultimately backfire against American companies working in Russia and that they are “driving into a corner” relations between the two nations. President Obama said Wednesday that the sanctions were and designed to minimize “spillover effects” on U.S. businesses.

A celebrated Ukrainian bomber pilot who faces murder charges in Moscow has become a new, high-profile flash point between Ukraine and Russia as they clash over deadly fighting along their border. First Lt. Nadiya Savchenko, 33, Ukraine’s first female military pilot, is accused of complicity in the June 17 killing of two Russian journalists during a mortar attack on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists outside Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. She was captured the next day by the separatists and surfaced this month in Voronezh, southwestern Russia, where she is to go on trial. The case is stoking new tension between Ukraine and Russia because Ukraine contends Savchenko was taken to Russia against her will.

Nigeria

A new report detailing the extent to which the radical Islamist group Boko Haram is using brutality and murder to spread terror among Nigerian villages reveals that 2,053 people have been killed in 95 attacks in the first half of 2014. Human Rights Watch, which authored the report, also said that the militant Islamist group is increasing its use of bombs, detonating 14 explosions that killed 423 people during that same period. The blasts, including several apparent suicide bombings, occurred in a brothel, a technical college, marketplaces and, on two occasions, in venues where people were watching soccer matches. In other attacks, armed Boko Haram militia opened fire in places of worship. In April, the organization kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok. Boko Haram leaders reportedly are willing to return the young women in exchange for members being held in Nigerian prisons, but such a deal appears highly unlikely.

Wildfires

A total of 21 large wildfires (over 100 acres) were burning in Washington and Oregon as of Thursday morning, having consumed about 148,000 acres (about 231 square miles). A state of emergency has been declared in 20 eastern Washington counties because of multiple wildfires and scorching hot temperatures coupled with high winds on Wednesday. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber also declared a state of emergency so the state could mobilize the Oregon National Guard to help combat the fires. And Oregon Washington state officials are worried about extreme fire conditions, including temperatures above 100 degrees and winds forecast at 30 mph in portions of the state east of the Cascade Range. A handful of new wildfires, some started by lightning, grew dramatically Tuesday in central Washington, and several threatened homes even as firefighters made progress against a destructive Oregon blaze.

A brush fire that jumped containment lines Tuesday night temporarily closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in the central part of the Washington. Washington’s largest wildfire, the Mills Canyon blaze near the central Washington town of Entiat, was 40 percent contained Tuesday and holding steady about 35 square miles. In southern Oregon, winds turned around a spreading wildfire and kept the fire from breaking out of a 4-square-mile area near the ranching town of Sprague River. The fire claimed six houses when it broke out Sunday in the Moccasin Hill subdivision, and destroyed 14 other structures, such as barns and garages. The Bully Fire around the rural community of Igo in Shasta County, California, has destroyed eight homes and 10 other structures and had burned through nearly 13 square miles, or 8,100 acres, of forest land. It was 20 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

Weather

Temperature records set way back in the 1880s are in jeopardy as unusually cool air is blanketing a large part of the country in the heart of summer. It will feel more like fall from the Upper Midwest into the South through this weekend. An unusually strong cold front for July began its southward plunge on Monday. The result is below-average temperatures for much of the East. The potential for record lows and record cool highs extends all the way from the Northern Plains to the Gulf Coast. Record low temperatures have already been broken on Thursday morning. So far, Mobile, Alabama has tied their record low of 65 set back in 1886. Record lows also fell in Atlanta, Georgia, Pensacola, Florida and Jackson, Kentucky.

The drought in California – the third most severe on record – is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen for the state’s agriculture industry. River water for Central Valley farms has been reduced by roughly one-third, according to a study out Tuesday from the University of California-Davis. Farmers in pockets of California hardest hit by the drought could begin to see wells run dry next year. The entire state is in a drought. More than 36% of the state is in “exceptional” drought, the worst level, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that’s updated weekly. The UC-Davis report found that direct costs to agriculture total about $1.5 billion (which include revenue losses of $1 billion and $0.5 billion in additional pumping costs). This net revenue loss is about 3% of the state’s total agricultural value.

Heavy rain slammed the New York City Tri-state Tuesday afternoon, knocking out power and snarling the evening commute. Flooding closed several main thoroughfares, including the Cross Bronx Expressway at Jerome Avenue. In White Plains, southbound lanes of the Bronx River Parkway were shut down, along with two miles of the Hutchinson River Parkway in Mount Vernon. More than 700 flights were canceled at the four regional airports. Delays stretched into the 90-minute range. A lightning strike hit power lines in Graniteville on Staten Island, knocking out power to more than 1,400 customers. At least 12,000 more customers in New Jersey also lost power during the storms.

Typhoon Rammasun — called Glenda in the Philippines — swept through the Philippines Wednesday, leaving at least 38 people dead, 10 more missing and forcing the evacuations of more than 500,000 people. The typhoon destroyed more than 7,000 houses, $14 million in crops and damaged more than 19,000 homes. A landslide in Quezon forced 21 families to evacuate, although no one was hurt. The death toll could’ve been worse, however, if not for the evacuation of some 500,000 people across a dozen or so provinces. Although the capital city of Manila was spared the brunt of the storm—most power had been restored in Manila by Thursday— thousands in areas to the southeast of the capital city remained without power.

Signs of the Times (7/14/14)

July 14, 2014

Pastors Banned from Comforting Unaccompanied Children in Border Detention Facilities

Churches and pastors have been banned from helping the thousands of unaccompanied children housed in border detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Border Patrol told us pastors and churches are not allowed to visit,” Kyle Coffin, the pastor of CrossRoads Church in Tucson, Arizona told Starnes. “It’s pretty heartbreaking that they don’t let anybody in there — even credentialed pastors.” Baptist Child and Family Services of San Antonio, Texas were also denied access to the children. Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, planned to tour a detention center in Nogales but was turned away because his entourage included five clergy members.

Obama Rates Highest among U.S. Muslims, Lowest with Mormons

A new poll of religious groups shows that President Obama ranks highest with Muslims, and lowest among Mormons and Christian religions. The Gallup Poll reports Obama’s approval ratings among seven religious groups: Muslims (72%), other non-Christian religions (59%), Jewish (55%), atheists and other non-religious (54%), Catholics (44%), Protestants and other Christians (37%), and Mormons (18%). The report notes: “The United States remains a predominantly Christian nation, with roughly half of Americans identifying with a Protestant religion and another quarter identifying as Catholics. Thus, the opinions of these Christian groups are by far the most influential in determining Obama’s overall ratings.”

Flood Across Border Continues Unabated

Life jackets of all sizes and the occasional punctured raft are strewn along the banks of the Rio Grande, just south of Mission, Texas, where a relentless onslaught of illegal immigrants eagerly surrender to beleaguered Border Patrol agents around the clock, knowing that U.S. laws prevent their immediate return across the border. “You’re going to be out here a long time,” Fernando, an El Salvadoran child, told FoxNews.com shortly after surrendering to Border Patrol authorities after midnight Saturday. “There are thousands of us.” With most of the men and women charged with securing the Mexican border busy processing some of the 60,000 illegal immigrants who have made the harrowing journey to the American border in the past nine months, only a handful of Border Patrol agents patrol the porous border. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have flocked to the U.S. in recent months, believing the Dream Act, as well as a 2008 law that grants an asylum hearing to any child not from a border nation, and the White House policy known as “prosecutorial discretion” means once they arrive, they’ll never have to go back.

  • The Obama administration has, wittingly or unwittingly, opened the floodgates and are doing virtually nothing to stem the tide.

Uninsured Rate Plummets under Obamacare

The number of Americans lacking health insurance has plummeted this year, two surveys released Thursday found. The reports — conducted by three major research organizations — aim to measure the early effect of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Urban Institute found that he uninsured rate fell to 13.9% in June, down from 17.4% at the end of last year. Some 8 million adults gained coverage. Gallup found that Americans lacking health coverage fell to 13.4% in the second quarter, down from 17.1% at the close of 2013. This is the lowest quarterly rate recorded since Gallup and Healthways began tracking the share of uninsured Americans in 2008. Some 8 million people signed up for coverage during Obamacare’s first open enrollment period, which ended March 31. It’s not known how many of these folks were previously uninsured. Another 6 million low-income Americans were added to the Medicaid rolls.

  • The problem with Obamacare is not that it failed to reach its objectives, but rather that it did indeed attain most of its objectives. It represents a major expansion of government intrusion into the private affairs of citizens and the market place, dramatically plunging the U.S. deeper into socialism.

C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

After potentially serious back-to-back laboratory accidents, federal health officials announced Friday that they had temporarily closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency’s highest-security labs, reports the New York Times. In one episode last month, at least 62 C.D.C. employees may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle them. Employees not wearing protective gear worked with bacteria that were supposed to have been killed but may not have been. All were offered a vaccine and antibiotics, and the agency said it believed no one was in danger. In a second accident, disclosed Friday, a C.D.C. lab accidentally contaminated a relatively benign flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain that has killed 386 people since 2003. Fortunately, a United States Agriculture Department laboratory realized that the strain was more dangerous than expected and alerted the C.D.C.

  • If human beings are involved, accidents and corruption are sure to follow. Could our own labs be the source of end-time pestilence prophesied in Scripture?

VA Also Struggling with Benefits Paid to Veterans

The federal department responsible for caring for America’s veterans, already mired in scandal over delays in health care, continues struggling with another major responsibility: paying compensation to those wounded or injured or who grew ill from service in uniform. The written testimony provided by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in advance of a congressional hearing outlines several sloppy or improper steps taken by the Department of Veterans Affairs in processing compensation claims. They include potentially inflated success rate in reducing a controversial backlog and over-paying veterans by hundreds of millions of dollars. Compensation for injuries or wounds incurred during military service is one of the most costly programs within the VA, expected to be $73 billion paid out to veterans this year alone. The money accounts for about half the VA’s budget. Because of a new generation of veterans flowing out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars along with greater access to compensation benefits provided to veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder or illnesses related to Agent Orange, the backlog of total compensation requests soared to more than 850,000 early last year. Processors completed nearly 1.2 million compensation requests last year and will complete a record 1.3 million this year.

Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Weakening Fast

Earth’s protective magnetic field has been weakening at a faster rate than expected, according to data from newly launched European Space Agency satellites. The finding may indicate that Earth’s poles will switch sooner than scientists thought. Because of the iron core at the Earth’s center, the planet produces a magnetic field that extends 370,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to LiveScience (the moon is 240,000 miles from earth). Studies on deep ocean cores have revealed that, on average, the poles reverse once every 200,000 to 300,000 years, according to NASA. It’s been about 780,000 years since the last flip. It was previously thought that the field was weakening by about 5 percent each century. But the new data shows a much more dramatic weakening, at a pace of 5 percent per decade. The observations confirm that magnetic north is moving southward, toward Siberia. Though a magnetic flip sounds dramatic, there is no evidence that it would cause any harm to life on Earth, according to scientists.

Economic News

New business formation is picking up in the U.S., early indicators show, as banks ease credit conditions and rising home and stock prices provide would-be entrepreneurs more investment assets. Business start-ups are vital to employment growth because they tend to add jobs at a much faster rate than other companies. . Approval rates of small business loans by big banks hit a post-recession high of 20% in June. About 4% of the approvals are for start-ups this year, up from 1% since the beginning of the recovery in 2009. New firms typically account for about half of total job gains during recoveries. Businesses with 19 or fewer employees have accounted for 27% of job gains since January 2013. The number of franchise locations launched by first-time franchisees is expected to rise to about 5,700 this year from 4,700 in 2013

A government watchdog agency said an estimated $106 billion in payments were made in error last year: meaning they were the wrong amount, went to the wrong person or lacked sufficient documentation. These payments include tax refunds, unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, and Medicare and Medicaid coverage. The improper payments could be even higher since not all agencies reported to the Government Accountability Office. The White House acknowledged that “the loss to the Federal Government is significant,” but it pointed to a declining overall error rate: Just 3.5% from 5% in 2009.

Citigroup has agreed to pay $7 billion as part of a landmark settlement with the Justice Department for misdeeds associated with the sale of mortgage-backed securities tied to the 2008 financial crisis. The agreement includes a $4 billion penalty, which is the largest penalty of its kind. The company will pay $500 million to state attorneys general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The remaining $2.5 billion will go to help consumers struggling with mortgages and other problems from the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Hispanics make up 16.3% of the U.S. population, but own only 2.2% of its wealth. Hispanic households amassed $109,000 in wealth, on average, compared to $495,000 for all households in 2010, according to a recent report by St. Louis Federal Reserve researchers. Hispanics also carry more debt than the average American family, putting them on shakier financial footing. Much of this stems from higher levels of mortgage debt.

Persecution Watch

As militants tear through Iraq, Christians are being forced out of their homes to escape the violence. Newsweek reports that the Christian population in Iraq has dropped dramatically from 1.5 million in 2003 to 400,000 today. Last month, Sunni militants overtook the city of Mosul, sending Christians running for their lives. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako said, “The next days will be very bad. If the situation does not change, Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq. If they leave, their history is finished.”

Iran has arrested three more Christians and sentenced them to prison for spreading the Gospel. “Iranian Christians Mohammad Roghangir, Suroush Saraie and Pastor Matthias Haghnejad were arrested by the security forces at the pastor’s home in Bandar-Anzali,” reports Independent Catholic News. Sources close to Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that security agents confiscated Bibles belonging to Pastor Matthias’ family during the raid, while Human Rights Activist News Agency reports that pamphlets and a personal computer owned by the pastor were also taken. “Pastor Matthias has been targeted regularly by the Iranian regime and has been imprisoned on three other occasions,” reported the Catholic news service.

Middle East

Israeli forces dropped leaflets in Gaza to warn residents to move away from Hamas sites immediately to avoid airstrikes. Thousands of residents fled northern Gaza on Sunday at the urging of the Israeli military as its ground troops briefly crossed the border on a mission to destroy a launching site. The tumult came as the death toll from Israel’s six-day Operation Protective Edge offensive rose to more than 172, with more than 1,250 injured as of Monday morning. Israeli airstrikes hit more than 200 homes and buildings across Gaza on Sunday. Despite calls from the United Nations and world leaders, there were no signs the two sides will agree to a cease-fire anytime soon.

The weekend also saw the continued bombardment of cities in southern and central Israel by rockets fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with the Iron Dome air defense system intercepting three rockets over Tel Aviv shortly after a rocket hit a gas station in the southern city of Ashdod, starting a fire which wounded several people. Palestinians have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel which prompted the retaliation. Israeli gunboats also shelled Gaza’s harbor, destroying most of the boats and ships. Israeli said the military was doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, calling inhabitants ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks. He said Israeli forces also fire “non-explosive munitions” at roofs as a warning and look for people to leave before destroying a structure.

In separate developments Friday, Lebanon’s state-run news agency said two rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the strikes, which prompted Israel to retaliate with artillery fire toward the source of the firing. Recent fire from Lebanon has been blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area. Hamas officials said Saturday that overnight raids by Israeli forces targeted their homes and installations — and for the first time a pair of mosques. The Israeli military released an aerial photo of the mosque it hit, saying it concealed rockets right next to another religious site and civilian homes.

Iraq

Iraqi police say gunmen have killed at least 33 people, including 29 women, in a raid on two buildings in a housing complex in Baghdad. Police officials say the gunmen showed up in four-wheel drive vehicles before storming the buildings in the Zayounah neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. They say at least 18 others were wounded. The buildings were apparently being used as brothels, anathema to the Islamic extremists.

Iraqi authorities say some 4,000 volunteers are being dispatched to an embattled city west of Baghdad to help bolster government forces fighting Sunni militants there. The vast majority of volunteers are Shiite who answered a call from the country’s top Shiite cleric to defend the country from the militants have seized control of much of northern and western Iraq. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province and one of the most active fronts in Iraq. Militants overran parts of Ramadi early this year before the government reasserted its control.

Syria

After more than three years of civil war in Syria, government troops are advancing to retake Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and possibly deliver a crushing blow to the rebellion against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Defeating the rebels would give Assad a major victory as he prepares to be sworn in for a third term this week. Assad’s gain would also be a loss for President Obama, who has called for the Syrian president to step down, citing mass atrocities against his own people, so new elections can be held. Obama recently proposed $500 million to aid more moderate rebels in southern Syria, a move that follows complaints by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other critics that the president has been too timid in supporting the rebellion.

Ukraine

A Ukrainian Interior Ministry official said at least 30 servicemen were killed Friday after pro-Russia rebels fired on them with missiles. Defense Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said the attack was on a forward base in a village near the Russian border and confirmed there had been heavy casualties. Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months against separatists in eastern Ukraine. In the last two weeks, however, they have cut the amount of territory held by the rebels in half and forced them out of their stronghold in the city of Slovyansk. The rebels have since regrouped in the eastern city of Donetsk and Ukraine has vowed to cordon the area.

A Christian university in Ukraine has been taken over by pro-Russian insurgents reports Christianity Today. Donetsk Christian University is now being used to house militants; several other public buildings in the city have been overtaken as well. Former university board member Sergey Rakhuba said, “They want to accommodate more soldiers, so that place becomes the number one target for the insurgency. If the Ukrainian army attacks, this Christian university would be destroyed.”

Germany

Germany’s government has asked America’s top spy chief stationed in the country to leave. It’s a punitive gesture usually reserved for adversarial nations in times of crisis and only very rarely for an ally, particularly a very close one. But allegations of American spying have seriously injured German trust. Germany let loose the diplomatic slap reminiscent of a Cold War rebuke, after news of two new possible U.S. espionage cases broke back to back in a week’s time. Two Germans, one working at a German intelligence agency, the other in the ministry of defense, are suspected of spying for the United States.

Earthquakes

At least seven small earthquakes shook central Oklahoma this weekend over the course of 14 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quakes ranged from magnitude 2.6 to 2.9 and were centered in the Guthrie, Jones and Langston areas, 15 miles to 30 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. No injuries or damage were reported. Those followed four other quakes, including a 4.3-magnitude temblor near Langston recorded shortly after noon Saturday. The Oklahoma Geological Survey has said the state is experiencing unprecedented earthquake activity.

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake triggered a small tsunami Saturday after it hit Japan’s northern coast, not far from the site of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. At least one person was injured. Japan’s Meteorological Agency says the quake struck 6 miles below the sea surface off the coast of Fukushima, northeast of Tokyo. An 8-inch tsunami reached the coast of Ishinomaki Ayukawa about 50 minutes after the quake. Eight towns devastated by the tsunami three years ago, including Rikuzentakata, Higashi Matsushima and Otsuchi, issued evacuation advisories to thousands of households along the northern coast, along with schools and community centers. All tsunami and evacuation advisories were lifted about two hours after the quake.

Wildfires

A fast-moving wildfire in southern Oregon expanded Monday, swallowing an unknown number of structures and forcing the evacuation of more than 100 residents. The fire started at around 2 p.m. local time Sunday in a residential area about an hour’s drive to the northeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Initially, the fire was just around 75 acres, but swelled Sunday thanks to an abundance of dry timber and brush. As of 1 a.m. local time Monday the fire had grown to more than 4 1/2 square miles. Some of those flames consumed structures in the area, but because of the intense flames fire crews couldn’t reach the affected areas to determine just how many buildings had been compromised. Unfortunately, weather conditions conducive to helping fight the blaze don’t appear to be on the way anytime soon, with no rain in sight.

A California man, Freddie Alexander Smoke III, has been accused by police of starting a massive wildfire at an illegal marijuana plot in northern California, according to the Associated Press. 37-year-old Smoke allegedly sparked the fire while delivering soil conditioner to the illegal grow site when the exhaust from his truck ignited dry grass. The so-called Bully fire has since grown to 4,000 acres and burned about 6 square miles of forest and six structures in Shasta County. Smoke was arrested Saturday and accused of recklessly causing a fire and with marijuana cultivation, both felonies. More than 1,000 firefighters, aided by aircraft, are battling the blaze in hot, dry conditions and on steep terrain. By Monday morning, the blaze was only 15 percent contained. The wildfire had prompted evacuations and road closures, but CalFire said all residents have been allowed to return home and all roads have been open to them.

Firefighters made progress Sunday battling a large wildfire that has burned thousands of acres of mountain wilderness in Washington state. The wildfire — the largest of numerous ones burning in the West — started July 8 in Mills Canyon in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which encompasses more than 4 million acres along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range. The fire has burned 34 square miles and is 25% contained. Residents of 37 homes were ordered to evacuate, and people in 48 others were told to be ready to leave. The fire, which is southwest of the central Washington town of Entiat, is being battled by 781 firefighters, and its cause has not been determined.

Weather

Just a day after a lightning strike killed one woman and injured seven others at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, a second lightning strike has apparently injured people in almost the same area on Friday. Eight hikers suffered a variety of injuries, including one woman who died at the scene,

Coastal flooding has increased dramatically along the East Coast in recent decades, a new study by Reuters has found, and it’s posing major challenges for local governments in many of the nation’s most densely populated cities. From Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Charleston, South Carolina, the number of days in which tidal waters met or exceeded NOAA flooding thresholds has more than tripled in many cities over the past four decades. The trend in coastal flooding roughly tracks the trend in rising sea levels over the past several decades. While the global oceans have risen about 8 inches over the past century, according to the recently-released U.S. National Climate Assessment, some areas along the nation’s coastline have seen sea level rise about twice that, thanks to subsidence. Subsidence occurs when the land sinks either naturally or due to natural resource extraction like water, oil or gas.

Signs of the Times (7/10/14)

July 10, 2014

Poll Finds Percentage of Pro-Life Voters at All-Time High

A newly released survey claims that Americans who identify as pro-life are at a record high. The poll by Rasmussen Reports says that 44 percent of voters are pro-life; previously American pro-life voters ranged between 35 and 43 percent of the population. Pro-choice Americans have decreased in number from 56 percent in March of 2013 to 48 percent currently. Others remain undecided on the issue. According to Life News, many Americans call themselves pro-choice, but actually have pro-life opinions when asked about abortion in general terms. “Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters now consider abortion to be morally wrong most of the time, up slightly from 49% in March but also the highest finding since August 2012. Thirty-two percent (32%) believe abortion is morally acceptable in most cases, while 16% are undecided,” the Rasmussen report said. Seventy-one percent of respondents who identified as Evangelical Christians were pro-life.

Court Rules Wheaton College Exempt from ObamaCare Mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that affirmed religious freedom for the Green family, founders and owners of Hobby Lobby stores is having positive implications for other faith-based organizations as well. The court ruled last Thursday that Wheaton College is now exempt from imposing the contraception According to Life News, the Court’s order states that Wheaton “need not use the form prescribed by the Government” under the HHS Mandate, and it prohibits the government “from enforcing against [Wheaton] the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review.” mandate that goes against the schools closely held religious beliefs.

Colorado Judge Strikes Down State’s Gay Marriage Ban

A Colorado judge on Wednesday struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, making Colorado the 16th state to invalidate a prohibition on same-sex marriages in the past year. But District Judge C. Scott Crabtree put his ruling on hold pending an appeal. The decision came in two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Colorado law, which was passed by voters in 2006. Crabtree ruled that the measure violates both the state and federal constitution. It is likely the ruling will be appealed by Attorney General John Suthers’ office, which defended the ban.

New York Approves Medical Marijuana

New York became the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for seriously ill or injured patients. Governor Cuomo and top state lawmakers gathered at the New York Academy of Medicine on Monday for the bill-signing ceremony. The governor’s signature started an 18-month clock for the state Department of Health to have the program up and running, which will allow state-certified doctors to prescribe the drug to patients with cancer, epilepsy and other serious diseases and conditions. The state will award five contracts to private marijuana growers, who will each be permitted to open up to four dispensaries to distribute the drug to certified patients. Cuomo said it will take about nine months just to grow the initial batches of marijuana.

Recreational Pot Goes on Sale in Washington State

Lines formed early outside pot shops Tuesday as Washington became the second state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining a fast-growing market that’s already generating tens of millions of dollars in taxes with no signs of slowing down. All that demand is expected to cause significant shortages and high prices at the Evergreen State’s privately run, tightly regulated shops. After 18 months of work, Washington’s Liquor Control Board released the names of 25 retail pot shops Monday, most of which expect to open this week. Those that are ready to open are not sure if there is enough supply to handle the immediate demand.

  • Karl Marx said religion was “the opiate of the masses.” Obama and liberal left excoriate religion even as they provide real opiate as a more controllable substitute. In their minds, a stoned citizen will follow them wherever they lead and not cause any trouble

Thousands Still Face Coverage Delays Months after ObamaCare Enrollment Deadline

Months after the deadline to enroll in a health insurance plan through ObamaCare has come and gone, thousands of Americans have found themselves without coverage due to backlogs or glitches in various enrollment systems. The Wall Street Journal reports that people in states like Massachusetts, California, and Nevada selected and paid for a private health insurance plan through state-run exchanges, only to find that they were not insured. Others have waited futilely for changes to their coverage brought about by marriage, childbirth or other “life events” to take effect. As a result, some say they have put off seeking medical treatment or have paid out of pocket for certain expenses. In Nevada, approximately 150 people have turned to litigation, filing a class-action suit against the state-run exchange and Xerox Corp., which helped set it up.

Obama Seeks Nearly $4 Billion for Immigration Crisis

President Obama is requesting almost $4 billion in emergency funding from Congress to confront an immigration crisis from a wave of unaccompanied children surging across the southern border of the United States, White House officials said Tuesday. The financial request, which is almost twice as much as officials had previously signaled might be necessary, would boost spending on border patrol agents, immigration judges, aerial surveillance, and new detention facilities. Nearly half of the money would be used to improve care for the children while they are moved through the deportation process. Congress will have its own ideas on how the $3.7 billion should be sent. And already there were signs from Republicans on Tuesday that the president’s proposal did not address all of their concerns.

Military Bases Housing more than 2,700 Unaccompanied Minors

More than 2,700 unaccompanied minors who came across the southern U.S. border illegally are now being housed and cared for at military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma, raising concerns about overburdening the facilities. “We’re proud to be able to support them in this regard, but it is a temporary mission,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. Kirby said the Pentagon has reached a mutual agreement with HHS to care for the children for 120 days, but there already is some dispute about that timeframe. In addition to the burden on military facilities, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a physician, has raised health concerns. In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gingrey cited concerns about swine flu and tuberculosis and asked the agency to “take immediate action to assess the public risk posed by the influx of unaccompanied children…”

Arizona’s Driver’s License Ban for Illegals Overturned by Court

An appeals court on Monday ordered Arizona to begin issuing driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants granted work permits under President Barack Obama’s deferred-action program, reversing Gov. Jan Brewer’s controversial policy. The unanimous decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Brewer’s policy to deny driver’s licenses to the young immigrants treats deferred-action recipients differently from other non-citizens who were allowed to apply for licenses, and concluded it is likely unconstitutional because it discriminates against some young immigrants.

Gun Sales Fall as Gun Control Stalls

Americans aren’t stockpiling assault rifles like they used to, which is why gun sales have fallen sharply from a year ago. Sales dropped 7.6% through the end of June, compared to the first half of last year. Gun enthusiasts simply aren’t as worried about new federal gun restrictions going into effect, the way they were in 2013, so there is a lot less urgency for people to run out and buy assault weapons while they still can. President Obama tried to pass a gun bill last year that would have restricted military-style semiautomatic rifles, but the legislation failed in the Senate. Gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Colt say that while rifle sales are dropping, sales of handguns are climbing.

Another School Stabbing – Do We Need Knife Control Laws?

Among many knife incidents: In April of 2013, the Cy-Fair campus of Lone Star College in Texas was terrorized by a lone knifeman who went on a stabbing spree, knifing 14 students in the bloody process. In October of 2013, 25 year old Chen Mingdong took a kitchen knife and stabbed his cousin’s wife and her four kids that ranged from 1 year old to 9 years old. Also in October of 2013, Kaiyu Lao, 21 and Zesen Shen, 18, were arrested for stabbing another 20 year old student at the Indiana University campus apartments early Sunday morning during a fight in the parking lot and three more people in the Cincinnati area were stabbed. In April 2013, 34 year old Vietnamese man named Kiet Than Ly entered a Smith’s store in Salt Lake City, Utah. He purchased a knife and started to leave the store. As he reached the parking lot, he pulled out the knife and began stabbing other customers. This past week, a student’s mother showed up at the Edouard Herriot primary school in Albi, France and stabbed a 34 year old teacher in front of students.

  • Clearly we need to immediately adopt knife-control laws to prevent such wanton violence.

Study: States that Raised the Minimum Wage had Stronger Job Growth

A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research attempts to undercut the argument that raising the minimum wage kills jobs. The study, which updates a Goldman Sachs analysis to include data from April and May, shows that the 13 states that increased their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have had stronger employment growth than the 37 states that didn’t. The study compared average employment during the first five months of 2014 with the last five months of 2013. CEPR acknowledges this analysis is far from scientific and draws no direct link between raising the minimum wage and payroll gains. Still, “it does provide evidence against theoretical negative employment effects of minimum wage increases,” CEPR researcher Ben Wolcott writes

Economic News

The plight of the long-term unemployed remains terrible – but it is improving somewhat. About three million people, or 30.4% of the nation’s unemployed, were out of work for 27 weeks or more in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although that’s far less than the seven million long-term unemployed in April 2010, it’s still much higher than any downturn since the BLS began keeping track in 1948.

Unemployment in the construction industry has fallen from 27.1% in February 2010 to 8.2% in June, its lowest since August 2008. Even at that rate, nearly two-thirds of the members of The Associated General Contractors of America report having a hard time finding qualified skilled workers, such as carpenters or equipment operators.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. That’s not far from a reading of 298,000 two months ago, which was the lowest since 2007, before the Great Recession began.

The Federal Reserve is leaning toward ending its extraordinary economic stimulus in October, minutes of the Fed’s June 17-18 meeting show. Citing an improving labor market and economy, Fed policymakers have tapered their government bond purchases in $10 billion increments at each meeting since December, cutting them to $35 billion a month from $85 billion. At that pace, the Fed would be buying $15 billion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities by its October meeting.

Ford and General Motors reported stronger sales in China during the first half of 2014. Ford’s China sales rose 35% to 549,256 vehicles this year through June, as the automaker dramatically increases its presence in the world’s largest auto market. GM’s China sales rose 10.5% to 1.7 million vehicles, more than the 1.46 million it sold in the U.S. during the same period.

Persecution Watch

The Christian pastor of a church in China has been sentenced to 12 years in jail. Zhang Shaojie, who pastors the Nanle County Christian Church, was found guilty of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and of fraud. Shaojie and 23 members of his church were detained last year after a land dispute with local authorities. Shaojie’s lawyer says that the pastor was “targeted by authorities who are trying to control the fast growth of churches.” The Chinese Constitution allows the right to freedom of religious belief, but that right is limited to worship within state-sanctioned religious bodies. Shaojie’s church is state-approved. According to Christian Today, a communist official said Christian worship has become “too excessive and too haphazard” in China.

A Kentucky woman has been fired from her position at U.S. Bank for telling clients to “have a blessed day.” Polly Neace, a bank teller for over 20 years, is now filing suit against the bank for unlawful termination. According to Christian Today, Neace had been warned by management several times before her termination; she received her first warning in 2011, along with a Code of Ethics violation. The violation read, “Effective immediately you will no longer discuss the subject of faith or religion with customers and co-workers alike.” Neace’s attorney Jeff Blankenshipsays that Neace has protection under the First Amendment. “The proof in the record has shown that Polly was discharged because she insisted upon the right to say ‘have a blessed day,'” he said.

Each year JP Morgan Chase sends its employees a survey asking questions related to management and other non-controversial issues. This year, the survey included very personal questions for the first time. Questions asked were: Are you a member of the LGBT community? Are you an ally of the LGBT community, but not personally identifying as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender)? Employees are alarmed by these social activist questions. If they answer no, they fear they would be open to criticism that may affect their employment. “This survey wasn’t anonymous. You had to enter your employee ID. With the way things are going…not selecting that [pro-gay] option is essentially saying ‘I’m not an ally of civil rights;’ which is a vague way to say ‘I’m a bigot.’ The worry among many of us is that those who didn’t select that poorly placed, irrelevant option will be placed on the ‘you can fire these people first’ list.” – JP Morgan Chase employee.

Middle East

Rockets continued to fall over central Israel on Wednesday and Israel carried out more airstrikes in Gaza, as the confrontation between Hamas and Israel showed no signs of abating. Israel’s military launched more than 750 airstrikes against targets in Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Tuesday through Thursday, killing at least 80 Palestinians, in a bid to halt a barrage of rocket fire that has pummeled southern parts of the nation in recent weeks. More than 200 Palestinians have been wounded. But it is not yet clear whether a full-scale ground invasion of the Palestinian coastal enclave by Israeli troops will take place. Israel is seeking to “retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas’ capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians,” its military said in a statement. Israel said that nearly 400 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel in the past three days. The Israeli Cabinet on Tuesday authorized the military to call 40,000 reserve troops. The dramatically improved range of Hamas’ rocket arsenal is allowing the militant group to reach deeper into Israel and expose a wider swath of the country to risk, Israeli officials and analysts say.

After three years of seesaw battles with the regime, Syrian rebels now face another daunting challenge: fending off radical Sunni militants who are taking over swaths of the country. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has gained notoriety in recent weeks after capturing city after city in Iraq. It’s goal: To create a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Iraq and Syria. Now, the crises in both countries are blending into a combined regional disaster as ISIS now controls land on both sides of the border — opening the floodgates for weapons and fighters between Syria and Iraq. ISIS also took over six Syrian oil and gas fields and a major pumping station that distributes oil from Iraq into Syria.

Ukraine

Ukrainian security forces encircled and shelled separatist strongholds Tuesday in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, continuing a swift offensive to retake the center of the pro-Russian insurgency. Explosions destroying three bridges on roads leading into the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk Monday may be a pro-Russian rebel attempt to hang on to one of the last major cities in their control. The rebels mounted new barricades on the streets of Donetsk Monday, preparing to make a stand in the city after losing the embattled town of Slovyansk in the worst defeat of their three-month uprising. Over the weekend, the Ukrainian Army drove the insurgents out of Slovyansk — and other towns previously occupied by rebel forces — and many fled to Donetsk, where they had previously declared independence as the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Iran

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Iran would need to significantly increase its uranium enrichment capacity, underlining a gap in positions between Tehran and world powers as they hold talks aimed at clinching a nuclear accord… ‘Their aim is that we accept a capacity of 10,000 separate work units (SWUs), which is equivalent to 10,000 centrifuges of the older type that we already have. Our officials say we need 190,000 centrifuges. Perhaps this is not a need this year or in two years or five years, but this is the country’s absolute need,’ Khamenei said in a statement published on his website late on Monday… Khamenei said the idea of shutting down the underground Fordow enrichment plant was ‘laughable’, his website said.

Iraq

The Islamic State extremist group has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad, where remnants of 2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled decades ago with the deadly nerve agent sarin are stored along with other chemical warfare agents, Iraq said in a letter circulated Tuesday at the United Nations. The U.S. government downplayed the threat saying the weapons were not intact and it would be difficult to use the material for military purposes.

Afghanistan

An Afghan official says that at least 16 people, including four foreign soldiers, were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack near a clinic in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media. The violence came as Afghanistan was mired in an electoral crisis after one of the candidates in the presidential elections, Abdullah Abdullah, refused to accept any results until millions of ballots are audited for fraud. Afghan officials released preliminary election results Monday showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency.

Nigeria

As violence rages in Benue state, 50,000 people have been forced out of their homes to survive. The refugees have fled the region to escape increasing violence between local farmers and the Fulani nomadic cattle herders; the conflict is occurring at the same time militant group Boko Haram is gaining power and influence in Northern Nigeria. Refugees now occupy abandoned buildings, as there are no official camps set up. Humanitarian groups are working to satisfy the needs of the masses of homeless; food, clean water, mosquito nets, cooking equipment, and toiletries are being distributed. Still, the spread of disease is a concern with many people in close quarters.

Weather

Powerful, fast-moving storms roared through much of the Northeast on Tuesday night, killing at least five people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Drenching rains and winds that reached 60 mph tore down trees and power lines, destroyed homes and even ripped a roof off a central New York restaurant. In rural Smithfield, N.Y., four people died when high winds turned at least four homes into rubble. Many more were damaged. Meteorologists say it may have been the deadliest tornado in New York state history. More than 70,000 people remained without power in the state early Wednesday.

In Maryland, a tree fell at a summer camp during a strong thunderstorm, killing one child and injuring six others. In Pennsylvania, more than 300,000 people lost power at the height of the storms. More than 135,000 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday morning. In Vermont, Green Mountain Power reported more than 13,000 power customers lost power.

Two bridges over the Mississippi River were shut down due to flooding. The Champ Clark Bridge at Louisiana, Missouri, closed at 5 p.m. Sunday, inconveniencing drivers who travel between Missouri and Illinois on U.S. 54. The next nearest bridge is in Hannibal, Missouri, 35 miles to the north. The river is expected to crest nearly 10 feet above flood stage in Louisiana on Tuesday, but it might not be until the weekend before water is off the road on the Illinois side of the crossing. The Quincy Memorial Bridge in Quincy, Illinois, shut down Monday morning. The impact there wasn’t as severe because Quincy has two bridges.

Typhoon Neoguri slammed into Japan’s southern main island early Thursday after lashing the Okinawa island chain, with three people killed as powerful winds and torrential rains battered the country. Officials have warned of the risk of flooding and landslides, after the storm forced local authorities to advise half a million people to seek shelter in Okinawa earlier in the week. Neoguri made landfall early Thursday near Akune City on the west of the island of Kyushu, which is home to 13 million people and lies next to the country’s biggest island of Honshu where major cities including Tokyo and Osaka are located. Rivers and creeks flooded in Honshu, with a mudslide swallowing a house and killing a 12-year-old boy who was inside.

Signs of the Times (7/7/14)

July 7, 2014

Hobby Lobby Case Not Just a Win, But an Important First Step

By a scant 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court ruled the Obama Regime cannot use the Obamacare Mandate to force a private, for-profit business like Hobby Lobby to pay for the taking of innocent human life. The mainstream media failed to report that Hobby Lobby was already voluntarily offering its employees over 90% of the contraception Obamacare demands in its benefits package before this battle began. This dispute was really about certain kinds of contraception methods — abortion and abortifacients — that result in the killing of innocent life. But at the heart of the matter was this question: is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution still constitutional? For decades we have seen our freedoms and liberties previous generations took for granted eroded by the federal government’s shift toward socialism — the pace of which has been greatly accelerated by the Obama administration, especially through ObamaCare.

  • Among other freedoms, the first amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from impeding the free exercise of religion.

Star Goalkeeper Tim Howard Says Christ is ‘Most Important Thing’ in His Life

Americans cannot stop talking about Tim Howard after the Tuesday’s World Cup match against Belgium. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the star goalkeeper kept hopes alive making a record-breaking 16 saves throughout the game. But it seems that Howard is not just a world-renown soccer player; he is also a faithful Christian. In an interview with Campus Crusade for Christ, Howard said, “The most important thing in my life is Christ. He’s more important to me than winning or losing or whether I’m playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus. All praise be to God.”

Amnesty Groups Burn, Tear, Impale U.S. Flag on July Fourth

In a clear demonstration of what’s really at stake in the current border crisis whipped up by President Obama’s open-border policies, members of La Raza and other pro-amnesty activists confronted legal Murrieta, California, residents on the Fourth of July as they attempted to stop a second effort by federal agents to dump busloads of illegal aliens in their town. Amnesty supporters burned a U.S. flag and tore and impaled flags on fences during their protest. On Friday, while the nation celebrated its independence from a tyrannical government that took advantage of citizens and suppressed their rights, the federal government once again bused in a throng of illegals they planned to inflict on the town. This time, residents were met with the pro-amnesty counter-demonstration, which included people dressed up in Aztec garb shouting, “White supremacists out!” and “F*** America!” reports Breitbart News.

  • These are people Obama supports which reveals his own attitude toward America

Colorado Teen Charged with Aiding ISIS Terror Group

FBI officials confirmed Wednesday an Arvada, Colorado woman has been charged with aiding an ISIS terror group. Nineteen-year-old Shannon Maureen Conley was arrested April 8 at the Denver International Airport after confirming to FBI agents her intent of waging Jihad, also known as a holy war. Agents claim she met a Tunisian suitor, identified as Y.M., online and planned to join Y.M. and the militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) in Syria where she would use her training from the U.S. Army Explorers to aid the Islamic cause against the governments of Iraq and Syria. Conley’s plans to marry her Tunisian suitor went against the wishes of her family. Church staff of Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada were the first to discover clues of Conley’s scheme.

Burger King Offers a Gay Burger

Burger King is once again showing its true colors. Literally. The company has recently released its “Proud Whopper” in the San Francisco market to honor the gay community. The Proud Whopper, as it’s called, comes wrapped in a rainbow colored wrapper with this inscription: “We are all the same inside.” “It showcases who we are as a brand,” says Fernando Machado, senior vice president of global brand management at Burger King. Burger King also was a sponsor of San Francisco’s gay pride parade. All Proud Whopper sandwich sales, Machado says, will be donated to the Burger King McLamore Foundation for scholarships benefiting LGBT high school seniors graduating in spring 2015.

Social Security Shutters Numerous Offices

Since 2010, Social Security has closed 64 field offices and 533 temporary offices, reduced hours and gotten rid of more than 11,000 employees in its remaining 1,245 field offices. That’s according to a report from the bipartisan staff of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, which held a hearing on Social Security’s downsizing last week. The committee pointed out that while the agency has been trying to move as many users online as possible, it made these closing decisions without considering that more than half of people 65 and older don’t have online access at home. Nancy Berryhill, deputy commissioner for the Social Security Administration, defended the online emphasis. “As customer expectations have changed, we need to balance those needs with the needs of those who prefer alternative options,” she said.

Economic News

A worrisome sign in last Friday’s generally encouraging employment report was a sharp rise in the number of part-time workers who prefer full-time jobs. The total jumped by 275,000 to 7.5 million, the Labor Department said. June’s total is the highest this year. Since the recovery began five years ago, the drop in the number of these part-time workers had been tracing the decline in the overall unemployment rate, but it has lagged so far this year.

An analysis by USA TODAY shows that living the American dream would cost the average family of four about $130,000 a year. Only 16 million U.S. households — around 1 in 8 — earned that much in 2013, according to the U.S. The median household income is about $51,000. Three-quarters of Americans polled by the Brookings Institution in 2008 said the dream was harder to attain. The report concludes, “it’s clear that though the American dream is still alive, fewer and fewer of us can afford to live it.

Persecution Watch

Open Doors is asking for prayers for Christians living in Muslim nations where they face discrimination and even death for their faith. They are asking in particular that Christians pray for the church in Sudan, following a church demolition, and in Nigeria where more Christians have been killed in attacks by insurgents.

Middle East

Palestinian militants vowed to take revenge on Israel Monday after at least seven Hamas members were killed in early-morning airstrikes in the deadliest exchange of fire since the latest round of attacks began weeks ago. The Hamas group, which rules Gaza, said its men were killed by an Israeli airstrike on a tunnel used by the militants. The men were involved in rocket attacks on southern Israeli communities, the Israeli military said. The attacks follow an announcement Sunday from Israeli authorities that they arrested six Jewish suspects in connection with the murder of an Arab teen whose death last week inflamed already heated conflicts in the region.

Clashes broke out Friday between Palestinians and Israeli security forces after the funeral of a Palestinian teenager abducted and killed in Jerusalem this week. More than 60 people were injured in fighting in parts of Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a group that said it was involved in evacuating injured Palestinians. It said the injuries mostly involved rubber bullets fired at the upper body and chest. Israeli police said 13 officers were slightly injured in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, where Palestinian protesters were throwing rocks at police.

Germany

Germany is demanding an explanation from the United States after the arrest of a German foreign intelligence service official who says he passed along secret documents to the Americans. The bust comes less than a year after reports that U.S. National Security Agency surveillance included Merkel’s cell phone. The Germans sought a no-spying pledge from the United States, but did not get one. In this latest incident, prosecutors say a 31-year-old German was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services, and that he allegedly handed over 218 documents from 2012 to 2014. German media, without naming sources, have reported he was an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who says he sold his services to the U.S.

Ukraine

Government troops have taken a rebel stronghold in east Ukraine Saturday. President Petro Poroshenko said in a statement that government troops took Slovyansk, a city of about 100,000 that has been a center of the fighting between Kiev’s troops and the pro-Russian insurgents, after a night of fighting. It was a rare significant success for Kiev’s forces in their struggle to quell the rebellion. Separatists claimed the army’s campaign had left the city “in ruins.” Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have retreated to the last major city under their control after a series of successes by the Ukrainian army earlier this week. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that rebels had abandoned the town of Kramatorsk, just south of Slovyansk, while the BBC reported that the cities of Artyomivsk and Druzhkivka had also been retaken by Ukrainian forces in another sign of the army’s increased traction in the east.

Afghanistan

Attackers set fire to hundreds of fuel tanker trucks in a parking lot on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Saturday, prompting angry drivers to block a major highway to demand reimbursement for their losses. Hundreds of other drivers stood by helplessly on Saturday morning, unable to salvage any property. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants were targeting fuel tankers belonging to NATO forces. Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said about 400 trucks caught fire late Friday and continued to burn through Saturday morning.

Nigeria

Sixty-three women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month in Nigeria escaped from their captors and have returned to their burnt village, a security source and a local vigilante fighting the militant group said. The hostages were seized from the Kummabza village in northern Borno state on June 18 after a four-day invasion of the village by Boko Haram insurgents. The militants killed 30 men and burned the entire village. The group is still believed to be holding over 200 schoolgirls abducted April 14 from their hostels in the town of Chibok — a case that drew international outrage and prompted a global campaign for their release.

Kenya

Twenty-nine people were killed in overnight attacks by gunmen in two counties on the Kenyan coast, where Al Qaeda-linked militants last month claimed responsibility for killing 65 people, the Kenya Red Cross said Sunday. Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants from Somalia claimed responsibility for the attacks. A group of about 15 gunmen raided the Malamandi village of Hindi and started shooting at residents. The gunmen also attacked the Gamba police station. The gunmen got to the police station by car-jacking a truck and killing its three occupants. Five police officers were wounded in the attack and one officer was killed

Somalia

Four people were killed Saturday when a car laden with explosives blew up near the parliament building in the Somali capital. The Somali terror group al-Shabab, which has recently targeted parliamentarians, claimed responsibility. Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has said it was responsible for the killing of a Somali lawmaker and his bodyguard in a drive-by shooting earlier this week.

Myanmar (Burma)

Authorities have imposed a curfew in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, following nights of deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Two people have been killed and 14 injured since rioting erupted Tuesday. The rioting began when a mob attacked a tea shop owned by a Muslim man accused of raping a Buddhist woman, and continued into the following night. Eight separate conflicts took place in the region over two nights, involving gangs of as many as 450 people, some armed with weapons including swords, firearms, knives, rods and “incendiary materials.” Myanmar has witnessed several outbreaks of violence targeting Muslims in recent years as the country emerges from decades of authoritarian military rule.

Earthquakes

At least two deaths were reported after a magnitude-7.1 earthquake rocked much of southern Mexico and Central America on Monday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor, which hit at about 7:23 a.m ET, was centered about 5 miles northeast of the town of Puerto Madero near the Guatemala border. At least two people were killed in the Guatemalan town of San Marcos. Cracks opened up in buildings, and there were landslides in the area, authorities said. The region of San Marcos had reports of 30 houses damaged. The same region was victimized by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in 2012 that killed 48 people.

Wildfires

Firefighters held back a fast-moving blaze that marched to the edge of a rural Northern California neighborhood on Saturday, saving about 40 homes during a busy holiday weekend that saw several destructive fires across the state. Tinder dry conditions and rising temperatures fueled the fire on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa, which quickly consumed about 8 square miles of rolling hillsides. The fire was just 15% contained. Firefighters who had been battling another blaze northwest of Lake Berryessa were being reassigned to attack the so-called Monticello Fire, which erupted Friday night near the Monticello Dam that forms the man-made lake. That fire was 70% contained after burning nearly 7 square miles and destroying two homes. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze. Further north, a fire tore through the tiny community of Collinsville along the Sacramento River on Friday, destroying eight homes and damaging three more, Meanwhile in Southern California, a fire near the mountain town of Julian that had destroyed two homes was 90% contained Saturday after burning about 220 acres. Four firefighters were injured.

Weather

Hurricane Arthur became the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. since Hurricane Isaac struck Louisiana on Aug. 28-29, 2012. Arthur is also the first hurricane of Category 2 or greater strength to make landfall in the Lower 48 since Hurricane Ike struck Texas on Sept. 13, 2008. In addition, Arthur made landfall earlier on the calendar than any other known hurricane in North Carolina history. The center of Arthur then crossed over the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina near Nags Head around 4:30 a.m. EDT on July 4. The peak reported land gust was 101 mph at Cape Lookout, North Carolina. A 4.48-foot storm surge (above normal tide levels) was reported in Oregon Inlet, North Carolina the morning of July 4.

Arthur then made its closest approach to New England during the late evening hours of July 4, with its center of circulation moving within 75 miles of Nantucket and Cape Cod. As much as 8 inches of rain fell in portions of Massachusetts. Wind damage was also reported in Massachusetts and Maine with wind gusts as high as 71 mph. Numerous trees were uprooted and over 4 inches of rain were reported in eastern Maine on July 5. Heavy rain continued in Maine through Saturday. As Arthur continued into eastern Canada, wind gusts reached 86 mph at Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

A wall of dust slammed Phoenix on Thursday evening and brought with it heavy rains and lightning, knocking out power to thousands. The wall of dust that enveloped parts of the city snarled traffic and grounded flights. The storm with wind gusts of up to 50 mph was the first of the yearly monsoon, or summer thunderstorm, season. A monsoon is a season of high temperatures, high winds and high moisture, resulting in potentially deadly weather. The term “monsoon” comes from the Arabic “mausim” meaning “season” or “wind shift.”

 

Signs of the Times (7/3/14)

July 3, 2014

Planned Parenthood Awards Clinic for Exceeding Abortion Quota

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has awarded one of its locations with an award certificate for its increase in the number of abortions performed. The Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic was congratulated “for exceeding abortion visits first half of fiscal year 2012 compared to first half of fiscal year 2013.” Life News previously reported that Planned Parenthood has abortion quotas; clinics are required to meet a certain number or they face scrutiny from the organization. Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood Center Director said, “If there was a shortage of the number of abortions done at a clinic, that clinic manager had to have an action plan explaining why they were short that month and what she was going to do to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again.”

  • Planned Parenthood claims they want abortion to be safe, legal, and RARE. If so, why do they have quotas?

Court Gave NSA Broad Leeway in Surveillance

Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information “concerning” all but four countries, according to top-secret documents as reported by the Washington Post. The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known. The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Poll Finds Obama ‘Worst President’ Since World War II

President Obama has topped predecessor George W. Bush in another poll, but not one he would like. In a new Quinnipiac University Poll, 33% named Obama the worst president since World War II; another 28% put Bush second from the bottom of post-war presidents. “Over the span of 69 years of American history and 12 presidencies, President Barack Obama finds himself with President George W. Bush at the bottom,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. Ronald Reagan topped the poll as the best president since World War II, with 35%. He is followed by presidents Bill Clinton (18%) and John F. Kennedy (15%).Obama received only 8% in the best presidents poll.

ObamaCare Data Problems Affecting Millions

The government’s health care fraud watchdog says the Obama administration has been struggling to clear up data discrepancies that could potentially jeopardize coverage for millions under the health overhaul. In a report Tuesday, the inspector general of the Health and Human Services department says the administration was unable to resolve 2.6 million so-called “inconsistencies” out of a total of 2.9 million such problems from October through December, 2013. The report says that most of the problems dealt with citizenship and income information supplied by consumers that conflicted with what the federal government had on record. It’s the first independent look at a festering behind-the-scenes issue that could turn into another health law headache for the White House.

Many Obamacare Enrollees Are Illegal Immigrants

A devastating new Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General report released on Tuesday reveals that the Obama administration has yet to determine whether 1,295,571 of the over 8 million Obamacare enrollees are U.S. citizens lawfully in the country. The finding, located on page 11 of the report, states that 44% of the remaining 2,611,780 application “inconsistencies” are related to verifying “Citizenship/national status/lawful presence.” Another 960,492 application inconsistencies were related to verifying whether subsidy applicants provided accurate income information. Moreover, the Inspector General report only covered the federal Obamacare exchanges to determine how the Obama administration resolved verification problems through December 2013. As for the 15 state-run Obamacare exchanges, the report says four–Oregon, Nevada, Vermont, and Massachusetts–are simply “unable to resolve inconsistencies.”

  • This was Obama’s plan all along to further entrench illegal immigrants into our welfare society

Obama: I Will Bypass Congress on Immigration

Conservatives railed at President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that he would take executive action to reform the U.S. immigration system after hopes of passing legislation in Congress officially died. Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the announcement was “sad” and “disappointing” and warned that unilateral action was not a solution. Boehner told Obama last week that his chamber would not vote on immigration reform this year, killing chances that a wide-ranging bill passed by the Senate would become law. Republicans have seized on the Central American surge to criticize the president’s immigration policies. Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith is warning Obama could face legal action is he goes too far on his own. “If the president insists on enacting amnesty by executive order,” said Smith, “he will undoubtedly face a lawsuit and will find himself, once again, on the wrong side of the Constitution and the law.”

Protesters Block Migrant Buses in California

Protesters on Tuesday blocked three busloads of immigrant families being transferred to a federal facility in Riverside County. More than 100 people waving American flags and holding signs that opposed “new illegals” waited in the hot sun for the three charter buses to arrive at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Murrieta, about an hour north of San Diego. The crowd blocked the street and forced the buses to make an unplanned detour to an undisclosed processing center in San Diego County. Tuesday’s scene provided a chaotic start to the federal government’s plan to help alleviate overcrowded facilities in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley by transferring immigrant families into Southern California. El Centro, Calif., is expected to receive a similar transfer of families Wednesday.

  • The “undisclosed processing center” is one of several detention camps set up over the past few years. Was this just in preparation for another illegal immigrant influx or for further detention roundups?

‘Sneak & Peek’ Warrants allow Police to Secretly Enter Homes without Notice

A little-known police tactic allows cops to covertly enter private residences, perform searches, seize property, and then leave quietly without notifying the homeowner. These searches, affectionately known as “sneak and peek” warrants, have been performed at a rapidly rising rate since 9/11. After seeking out a judge’s authorization, police are allowed to secretly break into private property without first announcing themselves or presenting the subject of the search with a signed warrant. Using this variety of warrant, officers intentionally wait until the subject is not present. The operations are performed covertly, and with the intention of masking the fact that any police activity took place. Often, the investigators leave the property undisturbed to avoid detection. After taking what they want and/or leaving wiretaps, cameras, or other planted devices, they exit quietly so as not to raise suspicions, according to policestateusa.com.

  • Some of these home invasions have resulted in the confiscation of legally owned guns

Facebook Experiments on Users

It was recently revealed that Facebook researchers performed a 2012 experiment in which the news feeds of nearly 700,000 Facebook users were manipulated to see if their emotions could be swayed by positive or negative updates from friends and family. The revelation triggered a torrent of outrage with many taking to Facebook and other social media to protest being the company’s guinea pigs. Facebook decided that users provided their consent when they agreed to the company’s terms of service. Had the researchers worked for a university, they would have been required to get consent from participants in a study. Andrew Ledvina, a Facebook data scientist from February 2012 to July 2013. Told the Wall Street Journal that, “Anyone on that team could run a test. They’re always trying to alter peoples’ behavior.” But Facebook can’t seem to bring itself to apologize for performing psychological experiments on its users, notes CNN. In her first public statement on the matter, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said that the outrage over the company’s controversial study was all a big misunderstanding.

  • Manipulating users’ emotions is reprehensible, but makes one wonder who else (besides our own government) is exercising illegal influence upon us.

Sexism Abounds in Technology Industry

In recent weeks, Google, Facebook and other major technology companies have released diversity statistics that show that women make up less than a third of their staffs. But it’s not just that men vastly outnumber women in the ranks and in the leadership of these companies. Women say they are subjected to sexist attitudes starting in computer science classes. Those attitudes persist throughout their careers as they are passed over for jobs and promotions. Some women end up leaving technology to pursue other fields. And fewer women are studying computer science. Many people blame technology’s growing gender gap on the industry’s “brogrammer” culture — a hybrid of “bro” and “programmer” that describes the frat-house attitudes and behavior of many male engineers and entrepreneurs.

Economic News

The labor market continued to gain momentum and defy a mixed economy in June as employers added 288,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Thursday. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1% vs. 6.3% in May. The economy has now gained 200,000 jobs or more in each of the past five months — the first such stretch since September 1999-January 2000. In June, businesses added 262,000 jobs, with professional and business services, retail and healthcare leading the broad-based gains. Federal, state and local governments added 26,000. The number of Americans out of work at least six months dropped by 293,000 to 3.1 million. Nevertheless, the long-term unemployed still make up 32.8% of all the jobless.

Persecution Watch

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians were forced to flee Qaraqosh, a historic Christian town near Mosul, when it was attacked by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) last week. The group has since announced the creation of a formal Islamic state – a caliphate – in territory under its control, intensifying the threat to the vulnerable Christian minority.

A Christian couple who converted from Buddhism have been hacked to death and their 12-year-old daughter’s eye gouged out in a savage attack in India. Elsewhere, in Bhubaneswar, the capital of India’s Orissa state, around 250 Christians have been left homeless after the authorities demolished their homes in Behera slum. A church building was also partially destroyed. A Barnabas Aid contact in India said that the 30 Christian families were not given time to vacate the area and were too poor to find alternative places to live. They lost most of their possessions as well as their homes.

Three Egyptian Christians have been sentenced to jail in separate cases: two charged under Egypt’s “blasphemy” law, the other accused of “disturbing the peace” by broadcasting information related to anti-Christian violence. The two blasphemy cases involve Kerolos Shouky Attallah (29), who was said to have defamed Islam by “liking” a Facebook page deemed offensive by Muslims, and Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour (25), a school teacher who was accused of insulting Islam during a school lesson. Kerolos was sentenced to six years in prison. Abdelnour is currently in exile. In the third case, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced on 18 June to five years in prison and given a fine of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information”. He was arrested on 4 December in Minya after reporting on the aftermath of anti-Christian violence for a Christian TV channel.

Middle East

The bodies of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped more than two weeks ago on their way home from religious school were found shot to death Monday. They were found in a city called Halhul north of Hebron in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with his security Cabinet to discuss how Israel will respond. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu said in a statement. Early Tuesday, Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in Gaza, saying it struck 34 targets across the Hamas-controlled territory. The military said the airstrikes were a response to a barrage of 18 rockets fired into Israel since late Sunday. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Defense officials said Thursday that Israel has begun sending troop reinforcements to its border with the Gaza Strip amid the intensifying rocket barrages.

Israeli police discovered the body of a Palestinian teen in a forest west of Jerusalem Wednesday, leading to clashes with Palestinians and fears that the crime may have been a revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli teens whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week. Hundreds of angry youths blocked the Holy City’s light rail and threw stones at Israeli security forces, who responded with rubber bullets. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the murder demanding that security forces apprehend the culprits quickly and reminding those who are rioting in response to the killing and those who might be quietly applauding it that Israel is “a nation of laws and everyone must act according to the law.”

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces began military operations in the east of the country Tuesday, marking a definite end to a unilateral ceasefire which had been in place for 10 days. The announcement came hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that his country would not renew a cease-fire with the separatists, vowing instead to “attack and liberate our land.” Violence flared Tuesday in Donetsk, one of the cities at the heart of the separatist unrest. About 160,000 refugees have fled the fighting in the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the United Nations says. Two-thirds have gone to Russia; about 50,000 are staying in Ukraine. The stream of refugees has become a torrent the past two weeks, even during the 10-day cease-fire.

Iraq

Iraq’s parliament met briefly Tuesday with a view to start forming a new government, and with the focus on whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can stay in power. Another looming question, though, is should this war-torn country be divided into three sectarian zones as a way to bring peace? Last month’s blitzkrieg by Sunni Islamic militants across Iraq’s north and west has fragmented this country into distinct regions – the Shiite majority in Baghdad and the south, the minority Sunnis in the north and the semi-autonomous Kurds in the northeast. The United States is pushing al-Maliki to form a unified government with all three groups, but some wonder if that is possible at this point.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan is responsible for the deaths of eight military personnel reports the Associated Press. The attacker allegedly attempted to enter an Afghan air force bus, but was stopped before he could board. In addition to the eight killed, 13 were wounded. The attack was the Taliban’s deadliest act of violence on the air force. It also marked the first attack of the insurgent group since the presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah’s motorcade was bombed in June; Abdullah survived.

Pakistan

The Pakistani Supreme Court has ordered government protection of religious minorities in the nation, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and others. Religious minorities face persecution and violence in the Muslim-dominated region, but Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani said this would no longer be allowed. Under Jilani’s ruling, the government will be required to form a National Council for Minority Rights designated to protect churches and other non-Muslim places of worship. Law enforcement will specifically be responsible for church protection. The ruling is is in response to the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar that killed 127 Christians last year.

Nigeria

A car bomb in a marketplace in Maiduguri, the northeast Nigerian city that is the birthplace of Boko Haram extremism, killed at least 56 people on Tuesday. Witnesses and officials blamed Boko Haram extremists who are accused of a series of recent bomb attacks in the West African nation. The group has attracted international attention and condemnation since its April abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from a northeastern town. Last week, explosions ripped through the biggest shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria’s central capital, killing 24 people; a medical college in northern Kano city, killing at least eight; and a hotel brothel in northeast Bauchi city that killed 10.

Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of people attended Hong Kong’s annual march for democracy Tuesday in what organizers said was the highest turnout for a decade. The march reflected growing dissatisfaction with the city’s leaders and the influence of Beijing. Some campaign groups vowed to hold overnight “sit-ins.” The July 1st rally commemorates the day in 1997 when the capitalist enclave and former British colony was returned to Communist Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that preserves liberties still restricted on the mainland, such as holding public protests. Police arrested more than 500 people holding an overnight sit-in after the rally. This year’s event follows an informal referendum by Occupy Central — a pro-democracy group — which drew almost 800,000 people, or one fifth of the city’s registered voters.

Wildfires

A rapidly-expanding wildfire, near the popular tourism area of Napa Valley, California, has burned nearly 6 square miles and has forced the evacuation of 200 homes. By early Wednesday evening, the Butts Fire in remote Pope Valley grew to 3,800 acres from 3,200 acres, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Authorities said none of Napa Valley’s major wine vineyards are threatened by the fire. More than 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze and hoped to get a better handle on it overnight. The blaze was 30 percent contained Wednesday night. Nine structures have been destroyed.

Weather

Wind gusts over 80 mph caused damage to trees and homes in Iowa and Nebraska during a severe weather outbreak Monday, before moving into the Chicago area. Dangerous winds scoured the region as tornado and flood warnings were issued. Several people were injured and police say a man in Fairfax, Iowa, just outside Cedar Rapids, died when a building collapsed. Hundreds of flights at Midway and O’Hare airports were canceled or delayed as the Chicago area was battered by two lines of storms Monday night. Chicago-area residents were struggling Tuesday with flooding of a major thoroughfare as well as power outages at hundreds of thousands of homes in the aftermath of violent thunderstorms that spawned torrential rains and hurricane-like wind gusts.

Four states in the U.S. are 100% in drought, all in the Southwest. California is the worst, with 100% of the state in severe drought and 36% in exceptional (i.e. historic) drought, according to the official Drought Monitor report. Nevada is second worst with 87% severe and 11% exceptional, with New Mexico at 86% severe and Arizona at 76% severe, but neither with any areas not yet in exceptional drought.