Signs of the Times (7/10/14)

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.

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