Signs of the Times (8/22/14)

Judge Orders Abortion Clinic to Shut Down

A judge in Ohio ruled last week that a late-term abortion practitioner must shut down his abortion facility. Martin Haskell, who owns the facility, has sued the Ohio Department of Health after it initially ordered Haskell to close down the business. According to the department, the facility does not meet the minimum medical safety standards required by Ohio law. Haskell was issued a stay, but then last week, Judge Jerry Metz ruled to uphold the Ohio Department of Health’s order. “Shutting down Haskell’s facility is a long-sought victory for the pro-life movement,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “As the self-proclaimed ‘poster child’ of partial birth abortion, Martin Haskell has endangered southwest Ohio children for the last 30 years. We are hopeful that this will be the final order that puts Haskell out of business in Sharonville.”

Supreme Court Orders Stay on Virginia Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court granted opponents of Virginia gay marriage a stay on Wednesday (Aug. 20), preventing same-sex couples from legally marrying in the commonwealth while the court continues litigation. The Virginia 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on July 28 to permit gay marriage, a decision that overturned the commonwealth’s gay marriage ban. The Supreme Court ordered the stay less than 24 hours before homosexual couples in Virginia were to have started applying for marriage licenses. The Supreme Court has made the same decision in January for the state of Utah.

Judge Strikes Florida’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Gay and lesbian rights advocates continued their undefeated run Thursday when a federal judge ruled Florida’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional — though he didn’t go so far to allow such marriages as to take place right away. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle noted in his ruling that his is now one of 19 federal courts that have struck down state laws that bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying. While most of the time those decisions were put on hold as appeals work their way through the system, they have all reached the conclusion. Like those other judges, Hinkle said the Florida ban — first put into law in 1977 and written into the state’s constitution after a 2008 referendum — violates the “due process” and “equal protection” provisions in the U.S. Constitution.

  • Voter referendums don’t matter anymore. America has become a country ruled by liberal courts and executive orders to further Satan’s anti-God, anti-family agenda

Teen Birth Rate Varies by Region/Race

More teens are having babies in the South and Southwest while the fewest are in the Northeast, according to new state-by-state breakdowns of federal data out Wednesday. Births per 1,000 teenagers (ages 15–19) range from a low of 13.8 in New Hampshire to a high of 47.5 in New Mexico, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics based on 2012 data, the most recent available for the states. In addition to the wide state variations, the same can be said for racial and ethnic breakdowns. Asian or Pacific Islanders had the lowest 2012 rate at 9.7, compared with Hispanic teens who had the highest rate at 46.3. Rates for the other groups are 20.5 for white, 34.9 for American Indian or Alaska Native and 43.9 for black teens.

  • We’d need to see the abortion rates to fully interpret this data, which would likely be much higher in the liberal Northeast.

Homeland Security Predicts Rise of ‘Anti-Government’ Violence

A leaked document from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis predicts increased “anti-government violence.” The document says the inspiration for violence is rancher Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville standoff with the Bureau of Land Management from earlier in the year. DHS’s seven-page report entitled Domestic Violent Extremists Pose a Threat to Government Officials and Law Enforcement points to the recent murders of two Las Vegas law enforcement officers as evidence that there is a “growing trend of anti-government violence compared to the previous four years and inspired by perceived government overreach and oppression” and the “perceived victory at Bunkervile” will “likely prompt more violence.” The report states, “After years of only sporadic violence from violent domestic extremists motivated by anti-government ideologies, I&A has seen a spike within the past year in violence committed by militia extremists and lone offenders who hold violent anti-government beliefs. These groups and individuals recognize government authority but facilitate or engage in acts of violence due to their perception that the United States Government is tyrannical and oppressive, coupled to their belief that the government needs to be violently resisted or overthrown.”

  • DHS is setting the foundation for heavy-handed militaristic response to domestic incidents as was demonstrated in the Ferguson, Missouri riots

U.S. Ebola Patients Released from Hospital

Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol have both been released from Emory University Hospital, after receiving an experimental Ebola treatments. Doctors said the release of the missionaries who contracted Ebola while serving in Liberia would pose no threat to the public, as they showed no more signs of the deadly virus. Bruce Ribner, director of the hospitals Infectious Disease Unit said, “After a rigorous course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others.” Doctors remain uncertain if the experimental treatments that Brantly and Writebol received are to be credited for their recoveries.

Americans Received $2 Trillion in Federal Benefits in 2013

The federal government paid out $2,007,358,200,000 in benefits and entitlements in fiscal year 2013 — accounting for well over half of all federal spending, as reported in the Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s Treasury Statement for fiscal year 2013. Most of the benefits paid out, 69.7 percent, went to nonmeans-tested programs that provide benefits to recipients who qualify regardless of their income. These include Medicare, Social Security, railroad retirement, unemployment compensation, veterans’ compensation, and workers’ compensation. In fiscal 2013, Americans received $1.399 trillion in benefits from these programs. Contributing most to the total were Social Security and Medicare, which totaled $1.252 trillion combined. Means-tested programs that have income limits include subsidized rental housing, food stamps, Federal Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, free and reduced lunch programs, Pell grants, Medicaid, and more. These programs totaled $608 billion. Other outlays by the federal government, which include defense, highways, public education, and government worker salaries, totaled $3.454 trillion, according to the Treasury statement. So the amount paid out in benefits accounted for 58.1 percent of all spending.

46 Million Americans Rely on Food Programs

The United States has allegedly been in the midst of an economic recovery for five years. Yet, one in seven Americans can’t afford basic nutrition, a new report from the non-profit Feeding America reveals. More than 46 million people rely on food programs, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, school lunch programs, senior citizens’ Meals on Wheels deliveries, or other food initiatives to supplement their daily diet, according to the study. Aid recipients are a “complex and growing mosaic that cuts across demographic lines,” including 12 million children, 7 million seniors, plus millions of working poor, military families, the unemployed, and young college graduates, National Geographic reported. From 1995 to 2008, the number of Americans who were food insecure remained fairly steady in the range of 10 to 12 percent of the population. However, in 2008, during the midst of the recession, the number spiked to 14.6 percent and government statistics reveal the level of hunger hasn’t declined since.

  • The welfare state hasn’t happened by accident. This is a well-planned and orchestrated strategy by the New World Order folks to gain control over the general population

Economic News

The Labor Department says weekly claims for jobless aid fell 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose 4,750 to 300,750. It remains close to levels that predate the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Employers added 209,000 jobs in July, the sixth straight month job gains exceeded 200,000. The economy has generated 244,000 new jobs a month since February. The recent hiring has encouraged more people to look for work, causing July’s unemployment rate to rise to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent in June.

Median household income has been on the rise for the past three years, climbing 3.8% to $53,891 in June, according to newly released data by Sentier Research. It’s another indication that the economic recovery is taking hold. However, median income still remains 3.1% below its June 2009 level of $55,589. Though many people are doing better nowadays, the gains are not spread evenly. After suffering deep declines early in the recovery, black households have seen their median income rise by 3.5% over the past three years. Hispanics, meanwhile, were not as fortunate recently — their income has remained essentially flat since 2011.

Bank of America Thursday agreed to pay $16.65 billion to resolve allegations it sold toxic mortgage-backed securities and other financial products in the lead-up to the financial crisis — the largest civil settlement ever between a single firm and the U.S. government. The deal requires the nation’s second-largest bank to pay $9.65 billion in cash, and also provide $7 billion for consumer relief, such as reducing mortgage payments for struggling homeowners.

Persecution Watch

Apparently it’s OK to sneeze in a Dyersburg, Tennessee high school classroom, but it’s not permissible to bless the sneezer. The sneeze happened in the classroom of business department teacher Eva Kindle, and 16-year-old student Kendra Turner responded by saying, “Bless you.” The teacher immediately called Turner to task, and Turner responded by citing the constitutional protections for free speech and religion. The teenager then found herself in in-school suspension. Allegedly, the teacher said there is no “Godly speaking” permitted by students. American Family Association issued an “Action Alert” on August 20 to support the student, urging the public to contact the high school and defend the student. AFA spokesman Randy Sharp says, “It certainly showed some animosity toward the Christian faith and then she directed that animosity at this student.”

Romanian Christians are familiar with persecution in their home country but they didn’t expect to encounter it in America. The Holy Resurrection Romanian Orthodox Church struggled to find a place to worship in California. After finding a place in the Rio Linda area of Sacramento, church members discovered their biggest stumbling block is city government. Brad Dacus, founder of Pacific Justice Institute, says one reason Sacramento gave for refusing permission was that they said there were too many churches already,” says Dacus, whose law firm is representing the church. “You know, it’s not the business of government to dictate how many churches we need.” Church members were shocked at the city’s attitude and observed that it reminded them of the hostilities they experienced in Romania, which had been ruled under Communism for almost 30 years during the Cold War.

Middle East

An Israeli delegation has been ordered home from talks in Cairo aimed at ending the conflict in Gaza, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday, shortly after the Israeli military blamed militants in Gaza for breaking a truce. By late Tuesday, the armed wing of Hamas — the Qassam Brigades — said on its website that it had fired 29 rockets into Israel in 20 minutes. The Israel Defense Forces, in response, launched airstrikes and ordered bomb shelters open within a 40- to 80-kilometer range of Gaza. At least three people, including one infant, have been killed, and 52 people have been injured since the breakdown of the ceasefire, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Hamas confirmed Thursday that three of its military commanders were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza, but said the chief of the militant group’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, escaped an assassination attempt that killed his wife and son. Israel struck some 110 targets in Gaza in response to Hamas firing more than 175 rockets and mortar shells toward Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Palestinian officials reported that more than 22 people have been killed since midnight on Thursday. The month-long Gaza war has so far killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers. Hamas carried out a deadly purge of suspected informants in Gaza, killing as many as 18 people suspected of providing information to the Israel Defense Forces. Two of those killed were women, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which called for an immediate halt to what it said were “extra-judicial executions.”

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

U.S. intelligence officials were analyzing Wednesday a video released by Islamic militants showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, focusing on identifying the surrounding landscape and the British accent of his executioner. The video — originally posted by ISIS to YouTube, which later took the video down — also shows an ISIS militant standing over a second man dressed similarly to Foley in an orange jumpsuit. The video identifies the second man as American journalist Steven Sotloff, and warns that he, too, could be killed. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013, and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.

America’s top defense officials left open the possibility of targeting fighters with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying during a news briefing Thursday that it was not enough to just hit the extremist group in Iraq. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of calling for U.S. military action in eastern Syria, an ISIS stronghold. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no,” Dempsey said during the briefing at the Pentagon.

Islamic State militants have taken to social media to threaten the United States with the group’s power. A chilling photo has circulated Twitter since Aug. 9; the photo features an Islamic State flag held in front of the White House with the caption, “We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets.” Connected to that photo is an image of a handwritten note written in Arabic that translates to, “Soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will pass from here soon.” The note is dated June 20, 2014. The Secret Service is taking the potential security breach seriously.

Islamic State in Nigeria

Officials now fear that militant group Boko Haram is on track to create an Islamic state in Nigeria reports Christian Today. The group’s acts of terrorism throughout Nigeria has gleaned worldwide attention; however, Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc across the country. The predominantly Christian Borno and Yobe states face particular danger of becoming Islamic caliphates. “The possible dangers for Nigeria and the region if this insurgency is not contained may have been underestimated, as has Boko Haram’s military capacity,” said Dr. Khataza Gondwe of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Boko Haram’s attack tactics are becoming more advanced as the group gains influence. 10,000 Gwoza residents have been forced out of their homes to escape the violence of the militants.

Syria

The death toll from three years of Syria’s civil war has risen to more than 191,000 people, the United Nations reported Friday. The high death toll is a reflection of the brutality of Syria’s conflict, which has transformed into a complex, multi-layered war where various factions are fighting against each other. It also reflects the recent surge in deadly attacks by the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group targeting rival militant groups, mainstream Western-backed Syrian rebels and Kurdish militiamen in northern Syria as it seeks to eliminate opponents and consolidate its hold on territory and resources.

Ukraine

Five troops were killed and two civilians died in the past 24 hours in rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine as government troops pressed to recapture more territory from pro-Russian separatists. Ukrainian troops have made significant advances into rebel-held territory this week in a conflict that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced over 340,000 people to flee their homes. Ukraine has accused Russia of arming and supporting the separatists since fighting began in mid-April, a charge Russia has always denied. AP journalists have seen a significant number of Russian fighters among the rebels, but Moscow says they are individuals who chose to go fight on their own. After more than a week of border delays, Russia sent a humanitarian aid convoy unauthorized into Ukraine on Friday in what the Kiev government called a “direct invasion” by military vehicles under the guise of delivering relief aid to the besieged eastern regions.

Russia

Russian officials have shut four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow, including the first to open in the city nearly 25 years ago in a possible retaliation against the U.S. for the economic sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. McDonald’s said the restaurants were closed Wednesday following a claim by Russia’s federal consumer agency of ‘sanitary violations.’ The fast food chain is one of the highest profile Western businesses in Russia, where it operates 400 restaurants across the vast country. The pressure on McDonald’s comes as tension between Russia and the West rises over Ukraine. The U.S. and Europe have applied sanctions against Russian banks, companies and officials, and Moscow has responded with a ban on imports of food from the West.

Somalia

The United Nations Development Program, the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency, spent tens of millions to make terrorism-battered Somalia safer, but never verified that the work was done, or even that its government partners had the capacity to do their jobs, according to a scathing internal auditors’ report. What the auditors found in examining the office’s operations were financial records in disarray, a tangled skein of bureaucratic lines of authority , special boards intended to oversee the accomplishment of projects meeting sporadically or never, and project reports that were “either poorly written or not prepared at all.”

Pestilence

A group of men broke into an Ebola treatment facility in Liberia, looting infected items and allowing quarantined patients to escape. Christian Today reports that over a dozen patients being treated for Ebola left the facility, prompting medical personnel to fear that the deadly virus will be able to spread throughout Liberia unhindered. The exact number of escaped patients is unknown; reports ranged from 17 to 20 people. Mattresses, sheets, medical equipment and various other objects were taken from the clinic; all of the items had been exposed to infected patients. According to health officials, the looters announced that “There’s no Ebola” while they stole the goods.

Liberia’s halting efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak spreading across parts of West Africa quickly turned violent on Wednesday when angry young men hurled rocks and stormed barbed-wire barricades, trying to break out of a quarantined neighborhood that had been cordoned off by the government. Soldiers repelled the surging crowd with live rounds, driving hundreds of young men back into the neighborhood, a slum of tens of thousands in Monrovia known as West Point.

Weather

Heavy rain in the Greater Phoenix area on Tuesday flooded streets and closed at least two major freeways. Dramatic scenes were playing out as motorists were pulled from partially submerged vehicles and a helicopter crew rescued stranded residents from a home surrounded by swift-moving waters. A small trailer park was evacuated in a town about 40 miles north of the metro area, and a north Phoenix high school temporarily relocated 12 classrooms of students because of flooding in portions of the building. Some residents in Black Canyon City, along Interstate 17 north of Phoenix, were evacuated. Earlier, Interstate 17 was flooded north of New River, stranding vehicles. At least one rockslide was reported about eight miles north of New River. A 13-mile stretch of I-17 northbound was closed from Loop 303 to Table Mesa due to flooding and mudslides. Parts of southern California and western Arizona were plagued by at least one damaging dust storm – also known as a haboob – that rolled through the area Thursday evening. Strong winds brought down trees and power lines while the dust snarled traffic and overturned a semi-truck near Imperial, California.

Severe weather left damage scattered all over Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon, but in the town of Philadelphia, Tennessee a possible tornado created a mess that will take a while to clean up. Homes were blown apart and trees were brought down by a supercell that hit towns in eastern Tennessee. Trees fell all over the streets and all over the railroad tracks. Twenty-two miles southwest of Philadelphia, the volunteer fire department building in Clearwater also sustained major damage to its roof during Wednesday’s storms.

Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris Wednesday in the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 39 people and leaving seven missing. Hillsides caved in or were swept down into residential areas in at least five valleys in the suburbs of the western Japanese city after heavy rains left slopes unstable. Hiroshima prefectural police said 36 people were confirmed dead and at least seven others were missing as of Wednesday night. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 15 people were injured, two seriously. Authorities issued warnings that additional rain could trigger more landslides and flooding. Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous, crowded Japan, where many homes are built on or near steep slopes. In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200 landslides a year, according to the land ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous decade.

Parts of Europe and the U.K. are being plagued by one of the coolest August spells in decades. Forecast high temperatures the next few days were expected to hold in the about 62-72 degree range (Fahrenheit) over a broad swath from England and Ireland to northern France, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria. A few parts of the Scottish Highlands may struggle to see highs reach 46 degrees, nearing monthly cold high temperature records.

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