Signs of the Times (7/21/14)

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.

 

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