Signs of the Times (8/28/14)

Muslim Leaders Denounce ISIS as ‘Crazy Criminals’

Muslim leaders gathered Monday on the steps of Dearborn City Hall to strongly condemn ISIS, saying the militant group in Iraq and Syria doesn’t represent Islam or Muslims. ISIS members are “crazy criminals who are abusing our religion,” said Imam Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. “You’re a bunch of gangsters … you’re not Islamic.” Organized by imams with the Michigan Muslim Community Council, the speakers included both Shia and Sunni leaders of different ethnicities and races, all united in saying ISIS doesn’t speak for them.

  • Michigan has the largest Muslim communities in the U.S. While most Muslims are peaceful, Islam does promote violence against infidels which ISIS has taken to the extreme.

Authorities Ignored Abuse of 1,400 Children in U.K.

A Christian organization in Great Britain says it’s watching closely as officials in that country confront a child abuse scandal involving more than 1,400 children. In Rotherham, at least 1,400 children were sexually abused, beaten and trafficked between 1997 and 2013. Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute in New Castle, says social workers warned authorities that something was wrong. “But they continually ignored the concerns that were raised,” says Hart, “and in one case a social worker was disciplined for raising concerns.” The Associated Press and BBC have reported the perpetrators were Pakistani, and political correctness trumped law enforcement action. Great Britain has seen an influx of Muslim immigrants in recent years, and those immigrants are demanding that they be allowed to live under Sharia law as well as the closing of all liquor stores and their own independent states within England, among other demands.

  • Tolerance and political correctness are severely hampering and undermining common sense as well as God’s law

Obama Bypassing Congress Again in Push for New UN Climate Change Rules

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.

  • Emperor Obama seldom allows the Constitution to get in his way

Obama & Special Interest Groups Plotting to Grant Amnesty to Millions

Even the liberal New York Times had to acknowledge it: “The process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of [Obama’s] presidency… has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.” The Times adds that Obama has “emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. [Obama] is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers… Administration officials have convened more than 20 so-called listening sessions this summer alone on executive options for revising immigration policy.” The Center for Individual Freedom notes, “It’s government of the elites, by the elites and for the elites.”

  • So goes the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history – hypocrisy of the highest order

Feds to Track ‘Hate Speech’ & Make Data Available to other Government Agencies

The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter. The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online, reports Fox News. “This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate,” the agency said. In addition, The National Security Agency’s surveillance machinery is also in the spotlight after a media report claimed that it is secretly providing data to almost two dozen U.S. government agencies via a powerful “Google-like” search engine. Details of the search engine, known as ICREACH, are revealed in classified documents obtained by The Intercept website from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The engine can reportedly share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations and Internet chats.

  • Big Brother is finding more and more ways to spy on the public despite the Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing free speech. The problem with ‘hate speech’ is how it’s defined and who defines it.

FBI Investigates Bank Hack Attacks

JPMorgan Chase and at least four other financial institutions were hacked recently in a series of coordinated attacks, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY. Investigators believe Russian hackers were the source of the attacks. What is less clear is whether the attacks were prompted by U.S. sanctions against the Russian government. The sophisticated cyberattack resulted in the loss of sensitive data. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the agency is “working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions.” Hackers broke into the networks of the banks, where they siphoned data, including account information.

Chinese Overwhelm Visa Program

The United States has exhausted its annual supply of EB-5 immigrant investor visas for the first time in the program’s history following a surge of applications from Chinese nationals. The State Department’s chief of visa control, Charles Oppenheimer, told lawyers at an industry conference earlier this week that no more spots will be available to Chinese for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Known as EB-5, the immigration program offers a green card to any foreigner willing to invest at least $500,000 and create 10 jobs in America. No more than 10,000 of the visas are allowed every year, and this will mark the first time the quota has been reached since the program’s inception in 1990.

Another U.S. Company Avoids U.S. Taxes by Merging with Foreign Company

Burger King announced that it agreed to merge with the Canada-based Tim Hortons donut chain. The deal, worth about $11 billion, will create the world’s third largest quick service restaurant company with about $23 billion in sales and more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries. The new global company will be headquartered in Canada, but each brand will be managed independently, with Burger King retaining its U.S. offices in Miami. The new base in Canada could allow Burger King (BKW) to reduce its U.S. tax bill — a recent report by KPMG found that total tax costs in Canada are about 46% lower than in the U.S. These so-called inversions allow companies to transfer money earned outside the U.S. to the parent company without paying additional U.S. taxes. As more companies have used inversions, President Obama and Congress have publicly criticized the moves because it cuts into U.S. tax revenue.

Many U.S. Companies Lower Taxes by Keeping Billions Offshore

Plenty of companies that do business abroad delay paying big bucks to Uncle Sam by leaving foreign profits abroad, indefinitely. As long as they don’t bring that money back home and reinvest it in the business, they don’t have to pay U.S. tax on it. Microsoft, for example, said that it lowered its tax bill by $29.6 billion last year by keeping $92.9 billion abroad, according to a regulatory filing by the company. Most experts say the problem is America’s corporate tax rate, which is 35% on most corporate income. That’s the highest rate among developed economies. Other major U.S. corporations that keep billions offshore include Apple ($111B), General Electric ($110B), Pfizer ($69B), Merck ($57B), IBM ($52B) and Johnson & Johnson ($51B).

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, a level that signals employers are cutting few jobs and hiring is likely to remain strong. The applications data is the latest sign that the job market is steadily healing. Average job gains since February have been the best in eight years.

Consumer confidence rose to a seven-year high in August for the second straight month. The Conference Board’s closely watched index of consumer confidence increased to 92.4 this month from 90.3 in July. Both the July and August confidence levels have been buoyed recently by a stock market rally, six straight months of 200,000-plus job gains and falling gasoline prices.

U.S. home prices in June showed their smallest annual gains since early 2013, extending a cooling trend in prices that began last fall. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, increased 8.1% in June from 12 months earlier. That’s down from 9.3% in the previous month and annual gains of 10% to 12% each month since March 2013.

Orders for long-lasting goods soared in July on strong demand for commercial aircraft while a closely watched measure of business investment plans fell. Durable goods orders increased 22.6% to $300.1 billion, the highest on records dating back to 1992. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft – – a good barometer of plans for business investment – declined 0.5%. Demand for transportation equipment rose 74.2% on huge orders for commercial aircraft. Orders for computers and related products fell 6.9%.

Of the roughly 4 million non-farm workers laid off from jobs they held at least three years from 2011 to 2013, 62% were working again by January 2014, according to a survey of displaced workers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Tuesday. Slightly more than half of those re-employed had jobs in their former industries, up from 47% in January 2012 and 44% in January 2010.

Middle East

After more than seven weeks of heavy fighting, Israel and Hamas have agreed to an open-ended ceasefire. The truce announced Tuesday puts off dealing with core long-term issues on both sides of a bitter conflict that killed around 2,200 people. But Israel agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza, open border crossings for more aid to pass through and extend the fishing limit off the coast to 6 miles. Both sides agreed to return to Cairo for further Egyptian-mediated talks. Israel said that Hamas, which holds power inside Gaza, finally accepted an offer that it had repeatedly rejected earlier in the war. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar led a “victory” celebration in Gaza City which saw thousands of Palestinians pouring in the streets to declare their defeat of Israel in the 51 day conflict. Meanwhile, Israeli officials from across the political spectrum expressed dissatisfaction with the cease-fire.

Persecution Watch

A Chinese pastor could receive a 10-year prison sentence for protesting China’s cross removal campaign. Huang Yizi is accused of “gathering to assault a state organ.” Christian Today reports Huang arranged a protest against the removal of a cross from Salvation Church in Wenzhou. In the July 21 protest, 1,000 church members formed a human shield around the church to prevent a crane from coming in and removing the religious symbol. The cross was later taken down on August 14. The pastor said he is willing to go to prison in order to defend his faith. “I have decided to sacrifice for my beliefs. I am serious. I have been prepared for the worst since I posted many messages opposing the authorities’ campaign to remove churches and crosses.”

Islamic State militants have revealed that an American woman is in their captivity and have demanded $6.6 million for her release. The woman’s name has not been released, but it is known that she was kidnapped last year while on a humanitarian mission in Syria. Islamic State militants are also holding American journalist Steven Sotloff ransom.

  • When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8b)

Middle East

Israelis on the Golan Heights were instructed by the IDF to keep their distance from the border with Syria Thursday as fighting raged between forces loyal to the Assad regime and rebel factions over the Quneitra crossing region. Jets flown by regime pilots bombed rebel positions near the border on Thursday as rebels, including a contingent from the Al-Qaida linked Al Nusra Front, apparently took control of the crossing, including territory just 200 meters from the Israeli guard post. The crossing is under the ostensible control of the UN, but reports Thursday indicated that rebels had taken a number of UN personnel hostage. “Our aim isn’t Israel right now,” said a spokesman for Western-backed rebel factions. “The matter of Israel – it’s not for now.” However, Islamist groups fighting with the rebels are reported to have a much different agenda, with the ultimate annihilation of Israel foremost on their minds.

Meanwhile, Jordanian security forces reportedly arrested 50 Islamist activists in a sweep this week for their alleged support for the Islamic State terror militia. The sweep brings to total number of suspected IS supporters in Jordan to 70 just this month, while Jordanian intelligence estimates another 1,600 of its citizens are fighting with IS in Syria and Iraq. Elsewhere, the UN accused IS of war crimes in a recent report that also included an accusation that the Assad regime had used chlorine gas against its opponents in the three year conflict.

Ukraine

Only hours before the presidents of Ukraine and Russia met face-to-face for the first time since June, Ukraine said its forces had captured 10 Russian paratroopers on its territory while Russia said the soldiers must have mistakenly strayed across an unmarked border. The soldiers from a Russian paratrooper division were captured Monday in the area of Amvrosiivka, near the Russian border in the Donetsk region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held one-on-one talks Tuesday saying afterwards that in a statement afterward that a “road map” for a possible cease-fire in eastern Ukraine would be prepared as soon as possible.

A town in east Ukraine came under shellfire by pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday, amid fears that they are launching a counter-offensive on government-held parts of the region. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared Thursday that “Russian forces have entered Ukraine” and called an emergency meeting of the nation’s security council to respond to what he said was a “sharp aggravation” in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian armed forces are battling separatist rebels. A top Ukrainian army officer said a “full-scale invasion” of his country was under way Thursday, as a U.S. official said up to 1,000 Russian troops had crossed Ukraine’s southern border to fight alongside pro-Russian rebels.

Syria

U.S. surveillance drone flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved. The initiative to plan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Syria was contained in the execution order that allowed for the airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. The militants, who call themselves the Islamic State, are operating in both Iraq and Syria and U.S. officials have said it would be difficult to defeat the threat without addressing the militants on both sides of the porous border between the two countries. “Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side — we have some insights into that but we certainly want more insights into that as we craft a way forward.”

Libya

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have carried out a series of airstrikes in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, U.S. officials said Monday, marking an escalation in the chaotic war among Libya’s rival militias that has driven American and other diplomats from the country. The Obama administration did not know ahead of time about the highly unusual military intervention, although the United States was aware that action by Arab states might come as the crisis in Libya worsened. The airstrikes appear tied to fear over the growing muscle of Islamist militias. The region’s monarchies and secular dictatorships are increasingly alarmed about Islamist gains from Libya to Syria and Iraq. And the airstrikes may signal a new willingness by some Arab states to take on a more direct military role in the region’s conflicts.

Nigeria

Boko Haram militants have taken over another Nigeria village in Yobe State; this time the Muslim extremist group has seized the Buni Yadi Town, storming the government headquarters and enforcing their own laws on residents. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Boko Haram executed two Buni Yadi residents for smoking in the town and killed another for dealing drugs. One man was punished with 80 lashes for cohabiting with a woman. Boko Haram is gaining influence in Nigeria as the group expands its reign across the nation. It is believed that the goal of the militants is converting Nigeria into an Islamic state.

Pestilence

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has taken an unprecedented toll on health care workers, infecting more than 240 and killing more than 120, the World Health Organization says. “In many cases, medical staff are at risk because no protective equipment is available – not even gloves and face masks,” the agency says in its latest update on the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The compassionate instincts of those who sometimes rush to aid “visibly ill” people without pausing to protect themselves also put health workers at increased risk, the agency says. Staffs also are overworked, stretched thin and exhausted, which can contribute to mistakes in infection control. The Ebola outbreak “continues to accelerate” in West Africa and has killed 1,552 people so far, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The total number of cases stands at 3,069, with 40% occurring in the past three weeks.

Earthquakes

A 5.7-maginitude earthquake hit Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano early Tuesday morning. It was the largest tremor in the latest seismic activity that started 10 days ago, but there’s no sign of en eruption, Iceland’s meteorological office said. Strong earthquakes also rocked the volcano Sunday, but the country’s meteorological office downgraded the alert level from red to orange. Despite the tremors, Iceland’s Meteorological Office said Sunday that there were “no signs of volcanic activity” at Bardarbunga.

Weather

Cristobal strengthened into a hurricane in the Atlantic on Monday, but the storm is not expected to make landfall in the United States. Before strengthening into a hurricane, Cristobal had serious impacts on the Caribbean, killing at least five people and dumping heavy rain, which produced landslides and flooding over the weekend. On the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, two Dominican men and two Haitians died when they were caught up in waterways swollen by Cristobal’s driving rains. One storm fatality in the tiny archipelago of Turks and Caicos.

Hurricane Marie, located several hundred miles off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is expected to maintain a west-northwest heading through mid-week, remaining safely offshore the Mexican Pacific coast. Marie is still a large hurricane but has weakened into a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. While not directly affecting land, large swells from a south-southeast direction will begin to impact Southern California beaches Tuesday and continue through Friday. While surfers are hoping for 30-foot waves, workers rushed to place sandbags to fortify beaches and protect against potential flooding in low-lying areas.

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