Signs of the Times (8/15/14)

More Unmarried New Moms Cohabiting

Nearly three in five births to unmarried women across the United States were to women living with their partner — marking the first time a majority of these births were to women in cohabiting relationships, according to a new analysis of federal data released Wednesday. The increase was sharp; the percentage of non-marital births within cohabiting relationships rose to 58 percent from 41 percent in just a few years, says the report. While the births in cohabiting relationships increased, the number, rate and percentage of births to unmarried women overall declined during the same period. In 2013, the total of 1,605,643 births to unmarried women was the lowest since 2005. The birthrate for unmarried women has steadily declined. The peak was 2007–08, with 51.8 births per 1,000 women, compared with 44.8 per 1,000 last year. That 14 percent decline was the steepest ever, the report says.

California School District Puts Pornographic Sex-Ed Book on Hold

The Fremont Unified School District quickly removed the book Your Health Today after angry parents went on the warpath. According to board meeting minutes, “after listening to feedback” from parents and other community members, use of the text was put on hold “pending further vetting of concerns expressed with some of its content and its use.” Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute, who took up the parents’ cause, says the book – which had been approved by the school board in late June – is totally inappropriate for 14-year-old ninth-graders. “What it promoted was so perverse, so outrageous, so objectionable that hundreds of parents who normally wouldn’t be involved signed petitions and have been just majorly communicating to the school district their outrage,” he told OneNewsNow. Dacus says the book deals with such subjects as bondage, sex toys, and other salacious subjects he preferred not to describe during the interview.

Another School Accommodates Gender-Neutral Restrooms

An Illinois public university is joining a growing list of more than 150 schools across the country that now offer gender-neutral bathrooms. Northwestern University says they’re responding to students with gender identity issues. But Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute says this is simply more of the liberal agenda that claims gender-confused students should not have to share bathrooms with those whose gender identity they don’t claim to share. Higgins says the reality is that significantly less than one percent of the population is dealing with gender-identity issues.

  • Liberal ‘progressives’ seek to indoctrinate our children with whatever goes against God’s moral code. Promoting gender confusion to impressionable youth is beyond reprehensible.

China Plans to Introduce Nationalized Christian Theology

China has announced its plans to nationalize Christian theology, a move that is has many Christians concerned for the future. Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs said, “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.” An article published in China’s state-run news website said that the national theology “will encourage more believers to make contributions to the country’s harmonious social progress, cultural prosperity and economic development.” Christian leaders believe that a nationalized theology would focus more on politics than religion.

Lawmakers Seek to Curb Military Surplus Program for Police

The startling scenes this week of heavily armed police clashing with protesters in a St. Louis suburb have galvanized a bipartisan push in Washington to challenge a controversial Pentagon program that gives away free military gear to local law enforcement. Concerns about the so-called “militarization” of local police have been simmering for some time. But the clashes in Ferguson, Mo., over the death of an unarmed black teenager illustrated precisely what lawmakers have been worried about – police using a “military response” to subdue civilian riots and protests, and potentially escalating the situation in the process. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned that the scenes from Ferguson resembled “war more than traditional police action.” The concerns over heavily armed police have brought together a complex cross-section of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats in the same way as recent controversies over drones and National Security Agency snooping.

ICE Faulted for Freeing Detainees in 2013

An investigation into the release of more than 2,220 immigration detainees in 2013 that drew outrage from Gov. Jan Brewer and other Arizona officials faults top Immigration and Customs Enforcement executives for poor planning and a lack of communication. But the investigation by the Office of Inspector General did not find evidence that the release of the detainees, among them more than 600 convicted criminals, was politically motivated, as Brewer and other critics have charged. Instead, the inspector general’s 42-page report made public Tuesday supports claims by ICE officials that they decided to release immigration detainees — including the convicted criminals — in late February and early March 2013 for budgetary reasons, as mandatory across-the-board cuts known as the sequester were about to kick in.

  • Not politically motivated? President Obama had passed along the word to all agencies to make sure the sequester cuts caused real pain. ICE did so to the detriment of our country.

U.N. Endorses Use of Untested Ebola Medicines

The use of unproven drugs to combat the deadly Ebola virus won support Tuesday from the World Health Organization, which cited deep concerns over “the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history.” The endorsement from the U.N.’s health care agency came after two American health care workers were treated with with an experimental Ebola drug. Officials warned, however, that the improvement they showed may not have been directly related to the drugs. On Monday, WHO convened a teleconference with a panel of experts to examine the role of experimental drugs in eradicating the virus. The panel determined that, if stringent ethical criteria are met, the drugs should be used. “These (criteria) include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community,”

WHO says 1,060 people have died since March in the outbreak, the vast majority of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. However, beds in Ebola treatment centers are filling up faster than they can be provided, evidence that an outbreak in West Africa is far more severe than the numbers show, an official with the World Health Organization said Friday. Officials estimate that Ebola kills about half of those afflicted with the disease.

Economic News

Consumers remained cautious in their spending last month, generating no growth in retail sales. The Commerce Department said Wednesday retail sales were virtually unchanged from June, ending a five month string of increases that have been getting smaller since April. Motor vehicles and parts sales fell 0.2%, pulling down the overall results. Sales fell at department stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliance stores, and Internet retailers. Among the retail categories posting better sales were building materials, food and beverage stores, health and personal care, clothing and restaurants.

U.S. home prices continued rising more slowly in the second quarter, staging their smallest annual gains in two years, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The median price for existing single-family homes increased 4.4% from a year earlier to $212,400. That’s close to half the annual appreciation in the first quarter. Prices rose in about 70% of the 173 metro areas in the NAR’s quarterly report, a small decrease from the first quarter. Forty-seven markets, or 27%, showed lower median prices from a year earlier. Four of the five most expensive housing markets in the second quarter were in California. San Jose’s median single-family home price was $899,500. The next four were San Francisco, $769,600; Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif., $691,900; Honolulu, $678,500; and San Diego, $504,200.

Japan’s economy suffered its worst contraction since 2011 in the second quarter as consumer spending on big items slumped in the wake of a sales tax rise. Japan’s GDP dropped by 1.7% as business and housing investment declined. Japan’s economy last suffered a hit of this magnitude after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. Japan’s consumption tax was increased to 8% in April in a bid to improve the country’s fiscal position. If needed, the government has the option to implement an additional increase to 10% by 2015.

Britain’s economy is growing faster than any other developed nation, but citizens wouldn’t know it by looking at their pay stubs. Latest official figures show total pay, including bonuses, shrank by 0.2% in the three months ended in June, even as unemployment continued to fall sharply. Thanks to a housing boom and consumer spending, the economy is motoring along: the Bank of England on Wednesday upped its growth forecast for 2014 to 3.5%. But that could be hampered if pay continues to falter and consumers tighten their pocketbooks.

Eurozone

The shaky economic recovery in the 18-country Eurozone ground to a halt in the second quarter, as the continent’s central pillars — Germany and France — were held back by weaker investment by business and by fears over the crisis in Ukraine. The German economy, the biggest among the countries that use the euro, shrank by a quarterly rate of 0.2% while no. 2 France showed zero growth for the second straight quarter. Italy, the No. 3 economy, shrank. The figures bring an end to the Eurozone’s paltry recovery from its longest-ever recession. Growth, which has been patchy across the region and dependent on Germany, lasted just four quarters. Economists say fears the Ukraine crisis may escalate are making companies in Europe hesitate to invest and consumers to postpone spending.

Middle East

A five-day extension of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas got off to a very shaky start, as talks for a longer-term solution to the conflict in Gaza continue in Cairo. Even as Egyptian and Palestinian officials announced that all sides had agreed to the five-day extension, violence flared up early Thursday morning as the Israeli military announced eight rockets were launched at Israel and that it had retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza. Gaza police told the Associated Press it recorded 17 Israeli strikes but that no casualties were reported.

The Islamist terror militia Hamas announced on Monday that it was ready to allow security forces from the Palestinian Authority to control the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, an apparent concession in negotiations taking place in Cairo to try and end the month-long conflict with Israel. The idea to allow 1,000 PA police officers to be deployed along the Egypt-Gaza border has been approved by Egypt, even as a Hamas official said his organization was also willing to allow the PA to oversee the reconstruction of the Strip, which would make it more likely that Israel would be able to approve the plan since the PA is more likely to accept Israeli security conditions. However, Israel is continuing to insist on the full demilitarization of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a more permanent cease-fire and officials warned that much discussion is still needed before an agreement can be reached.

The man chosen to head up the United Nations Human Rights Commission “investigation” into the casualties of the Israel-Hamas war is a Canadian professor named William Schabas. Professor Schabas is well known in Israel—because of his public calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Peres to be tried as war criminals. David Evans of the Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “This is the man that the UN thinks should head up an impartial investigation! What a disgusting, yet revealing, choice.” While the world paints Israel as the villain it promises billions to the terrorists who will only use the money for the next round of attacks on the Jewish people.

Iraq

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki on Thursday night said he agreed to relinquish his position, a move that came after days of crisis in which Mr. Maliki’s deployment of extra security forces around the capital raised worries of a military coup. While the country is not at peace, Mr. Maliki’s decision, nonetheless, appeared to pave the way for the first truly peaceful transition of power, based on democratic elections and without the guiding hand of American military forces, in modern Iraq’s history. In stepping aside Mr. Maliki agreed to end his legal challenge to the nomination of his replacement, which was made on Monday when Iraq’s president nominated Haider al-Abadi, a member of Mr. Maliki’s own Shiite Islamist Dawa Party. Mr. Maliki’s decision came after days of negotiations with his former Shiite allies, who urged Mr. Maliki to give up in the face of growing international opposition to his rule, including from the United States and Iran, and the sense among most Iraqi leaders that his removal was necessary to bring the country together in the face of an onslaught by Sunni militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The military has sent 130 additional military advisers to northern Iraq to plan for the evacuation of refugees under siege by Islamic militants, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday. The Marines and special operations forces have been sent to the city of Irbil in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to assess the humanitarian crisis in the Sinjar Mountains and to determine ways to end it. There were about 300 U.S. military advisers already in Iraq, as well as other troops there to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The plight of the refugees prompted President Obama to order both airstrikes against the Islamic State militants and humanitarian airdrops there last week. U.S. special operations forces concluded Thursday that a rescue of refugees trapped there was probably unnecessary because of the success of U.S. humanitarian airdrops and strikes on Islamic State militants. The U.N. on Wednesday declared the situation in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency” — a development that will trigger additional goods, funds and assets to respond to the needs of the displaced.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military’s effort there could take months but will be limited. He added that the effect of the airstrikes had blunted the momentum of the militant group, and shipping heavier arms to Kurdish allies will help solidify the gains. The survival of the refugees, including members of the Yazidi sect, has been assured for now, Dempsey said, but their fate and rolling back the gains the Islamic State has made — such as seizing the city of Mosul — will require the new Iraqi government to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds.

Syria

Syrian rebels could suffer their biggest setback of the war as government troops and Islamic militants are encircling the key northwestern city of Aleppo. Rebel commanders in Aleppo told the Journal that they are stocking up on food and other supplies to prevent the type of starvation-inducing siege that forced them to surrender the city of Homs earlier this year, and warn that losing Aleppo could be the death blow to the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that began in 2011. “We’re about to lose Aleppo and no one cares,” Hussam Almarie, a FSA spokesman, told The Wall Street Journal. “We won’t be able to recover the revolution if this happens.” The FSA rebels are encircled in Aleppo province by Syrian government forces on one side and the Islamic State group on the other side. On Wednesday, Syrian opposition activists told the Associated Press that Islamic State fighters captured the towns of Akhtarin and Turkmanbareh in the Aleppo countryside near the border with Turkey, dislodging other rebels in the process.

Ukraine

At least 94 people were killed and 116 others were injured during clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine over the past three days, officials in Ukraine said Thursday. Shelling hit nearly all districts of the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Thursday, city leaders said, signaling the latest developments in a city targeted for days by a Ukrainian military bent on retaking it. The shelling comes as 50,000 Ukrainian troops press forward with an offensive meant to rout pro-Russian rebel fighters from Donetsk. Ukrainian officials have said they expect to be able to fully recapture the city by Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24.

Under the watchful eyes of foreign observers and the International Red Cross, Ukrainian customs officers were set to begin inspecting a 262-truck Russian humanitarian aid convoy Friday under a complicated deal that allowed the trucks to cross the border at a site controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Ukraine had insisted that the goods — food, generators and medical supplies — be inspected and reloaded before being allowed to proceed to hard-hit areas of eastern Ukraine, particularly the besieged city of Luhansk. For several days, as the trucks wound their way from Moscow, Ukrainian officials expressed concern that the trucks might contain military equipment as a cover for a military invasion.

Earthquakes

At least two people were killed and eight injured in Ecuador after a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in the capital city of Quito set off mudslides and sent people rushing out into the streets on Tuesday. A cloud of dust engulfed portions of the city and cars were crushed by rocks and mud from collapsed hillsides. The government said two people were confirmed dead and eight injured in the Catequilla area, seven miles north of the capital near the country’s monument marking the Equator. There were no reports of widespread damage, but some roads were blocked by small landslides.

Weather

Detroit and its suburbs were inundated with record-shattering rainfall during the afternoon rush Monday, leaving hundreds of motorists trapped on flooded freeways and arterial roads. More than 1,000 cars were abandoned across the metro area overnight after dozens of high water rescues and evacuations for higher ground. Others opted to spend the night in their vehicles, trapped by floodwaters that submerged a countless number of roads across the area. Portions of the Ford Freeway (Interstate 94), the Chrysler Freeway (Interstate 75), Interstate 696, the Southfield Freeway, and the Lodge Freeway remained closed as of early Tuesday morning, hours after the last of the rain had moved out of the area.

Parts of Long Island was deluged by torrential rain early Wednesday morning, flooding major expressways just before the morning commute. Numerous roads were shut down, including parts of the Long Island Expressway, the Southern State Parkway, the Northern State Parkway, the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, the Sunrise Highway, Route 110, the Sagtikos Parkway and the Jericho Turnpike. Many cars were stranded in the flooding. At least two feet of water flooded the Bay Shore train station’s parking lot, and a parking lot at Long Island MacArthur Airport. Islip picked up a whopping 9.71 inches of rain in just two hours ending at 6:56 a.m. ET, including an incredible one-hour total of 5.34 inches between 4:56 and 5:56 a.m. ET. As of 8 a.m. ET, 13.08 inches of rain had fallen in Islip.

The heavy rain also spread into southern Connecticut, where cars were submerged off I-95 near Branford. The National Weather Service issued a rare “flash flood emergency” for areas near Baltimore Tuesday as rainfall lashed the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. More than 8 inches of rain fall in some areas, causing serious flash flooding and closing at least three major highways. The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, which carries Interstate 895 underneath the Patapsco River, was closed due to flooding Tuesday afternoon. A portion of Route 295 between the Baltimore Beltway and Westport, Maryland, was also closed. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has recorded 6.30 inches of rain Tuesday through 10 p.m., making it the second-wettest calendar day on record in the Baltimore area. The airport’s official observations reported 4.19 inches of rain in just two hours.

Brazil’s largest city could run dry in less than 100 days if the city’s government doesn’t act, Brazil’s Public Ministry said. Sao Paulo, a city of more than 9 million people, is facing one of its worst water shortages in years, brought on by the worst drought to hit Sao Paulo state in 84 years. The Cantareira watershed, which supplies 45 percent of the Sao Paulo metro’s population with water, is less than 100 days from running dry. According to weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman, rainfall substantial enough to help replenish the ailing reservoirs is unlikely to come until the southern hemisphere summer, which peaks December through February. But so far, the city’s water utility Sabep, which is owned and operated by Sao Paulo state, hasn’t drafted or enacted any water rationing plan, despite the demands and deadlines of federal prosecutors.

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