Archive for September, 2014

Signs of the Times (9/29/14)

September 29, 2014

American Public Supports School Prayer

Prayer and other forms of religious expression in public schools continue to have broad public support, according to a new survey released by Gallup. A solid majority of adults, 61 percent, favor allowing daily prayer in the classroom, while 37 percent are opposed. In addition, 75 percent are supportive of having prayer or other religious expressions as an official component of school graduation ceremonies, and 77 percent think public facilities should be made available to student religious groups after school. Those numbers have only dipped slightly since 1999, when 70 percent of adults supported school prayer, 83 percent supported religious components of graduations, and 78 percent wanted school facilities to be open to religious groups. Significant gaps exist not just between Christians and the non-religious, but also among different Christian groups, with Catholics much less likely to support religious expression in public schools.

  • But who cares what Americans want, certainly not the Obama administration which totally ignores ‘government by the people, for the people’

Southern Baptists Expel California Church for Supporting Gays

A church in California has been expelled from the Baptist denomination for its views supporting homosexuals. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee made the decision to disassociate with New Heart Community Church in a unanimous vote. Roger Oldham spoke for the committee saying, “We believe that, following the lead of Pastor Danny Cortez, New Heart Community Church has walked away from the Southern Baptist Convention’s core biblical values.” Charisma News reports that Cortez had officiated a gay wedding and supported the lifestyle of his homosexual son, but wished to remain a part of the Southern Baptist Church.

Las Vegas Parents Outraged over Kindergarten Sex-Ed Curriculum

Las Vegas area parents were angry and offended earlier this week when the Clark County School Board proposed changes to elementary school sex-ed curriculum that would expose five- to eight-year-olds to different sexual preferences such as homosexuality. Lessons would also teach kindergartners that “touching and rubbing one’s genitals to feel good is called masturbation.” “You want to teach my 5-year-old how to masturbate?” asked parent Julie Butler at a meeting held Monday to get community reaction to the proposals.

  • Public school indoctrination centers are determined to use sex to undermine God’s laws regarding sex and family structure

Obama Praises Muslim Cleric Who Backed Fatwa on Killing of U.S. Soldiers

President Barack Obama favorably quoted and praised on Wednesday in his speech before the United Nations a controversial Muslim cleric whose organization has reportedly endorsed the terror group Hamas and supported a fatwa condoning the murder of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.Obama in his remarks offered praise to controversial cleric Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and referred to him as a moderate Muslim leader who can help combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL or ISIS) radical ideology. However, Bin Bayyah himself has long been engulfed in controversy for many of his views, including the reported backing of a 2004 fatwa that advocated violent resistance against Americans fighting in Iraq.

U.S. Carbon Emissions Rise

U.S. emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide have risen 6% in the last two years despite the Obama administration’s efforts to curb global warming, federal data show. Reversing several years of declines, its emissions from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) rose 2.7% during the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2013, and 6% compared to 2012. This increase represents a setback for President Obama, who touted U.S. progress in cutting emissions at this week’s historic U.N. Climate Summit in New York, attended by representative from more than 120 countries. “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth,” he said, adding the U.S. is on track to meet his 2009 pledge to cut carbon emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Energy-related carbon emissions had fallen 13.4% from 2005 through 201, but given increases in the last 18 months, that decline since 2005 now stands at 10.7%.

  • Once again, the Liar-in-Chief misrepresents reality, sacrificing truth for political expediency. Most of the prior declines were a result of the recession which reduced manufacturing as well as gasoline consumption

Citing Climate Change, Obama Fences in Huge Pacific Area

Weeks after the White House was warned that a plan to vastly expand a maritime preserve and no-fishing zone in U.S.-controlled Pacific waters would harm the American fishing industry and geopolitically advantage China, the Obama administration has gone ahead anyway—with some concessions to make the environmental medicine, administered by presidential fiat, go down more smoothly. The concessions did nothing, however, to assuage congressional Republicans led by Rep.Doc Hastings of Washington state, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who accused the administration of taking “secret, unilateral action” to expand the preserve. He warned that “the economic consequences of this decision will be grave, further eroding the U.S. seafood industry and harming the well-being of the U.S. territories.” The decree that President Obama signed on Thursday boosted the size of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a 77,000-square-mile preserve south and west of Hawaii, to some 490,000 square miles of protected area around a group of U.S.-controlled islands.

  • The Emperor-in-Chief continues to employ executive orders to circumvent out constitutionally-mandated balance of powers that were meant to prevent this kind of unilateral action

DOD Planning to Let Illegal Immigrants Enlist

The Defense Department plans to let some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children enlist in the military — a policy that comes as the Army is effectively firing active-duty soldiers due to budget cuts, reports Fox News. The Military Times reports that a program — called the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, or MAVNI — which currently allows recruiters to search for foreign nationals with unique skills will be expanded to accommodate the new policy. The Defense Department now wants to let in some illegal immigrants who enjoyed a reprieve under a 2012 Obama administration policy. That policy applied to those who came to the country before they were 16 years old and spares them from deportation. The new program could become the first step in an effort to create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

  • Loyalty to U.S. interests and military discipline could be compromised by this program

Interest Payments Crowding Out Government Services

In 2014, federal, state and local governments paid more in interest than they did to protect citizens through police and fire services. Transportation budgets also received less funding than interest payments did. Now that governments are borrowing in part to pay interest on older loans, they could be forced to reduce vital services in order to pay for wasteful spending that occurred years ago. Government spending is on an unsustainable path and taxes will need to go up as interest rates rise, reports The road ahead simply cannot be maintained with the current fiscal realities and the economy will suffer as taxes rise to fund governments at all levels, Moneynews concludes.

Economic News

The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.5% in August after showing no gain in July. It was the best result since spending also expanded 0.5% in June. Helped by strength in wages and salaries, income rose 0.3% in August, slightly faster than a 0.2% July increase.

Subprime mortgage lending shouldered much of the blame for the last financial crisis. Now some observers are concerned that a recent jump in subprime auto loans could also mean disaster for markets. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the number of auto loans made to borrowers with credit scores below 660 has nearly doubled since 2009 – a much greater increase than in any other loan type. Other studies find repossessions climbing as well.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau., the nation’s poverty rate declined to 14.5% in 2013 compared to 15% in 2012. In total, there were an estimated 45.3 million people living at or below the poverty level last year. However, the Census Bureau notes that for the third consecutive year, the poverty rate did not represent a statistically significant change from the previous year’s estimate.

The Census Bureau also reports that the inflation-adjusted median household income in the U.S. was $51,939 in 2013, not significantly different from $51,759 in 2012. In 2013, real median household income was 8% lower than in 2007, the year before the Great Recession.

A brutal combination of falling stock and home prices has decimated wealth gains over the past decade. Net worth at the 50th percentile (median) totaled $56,335 in 2013, down 36% from $87,992 in 2003, according to a recent report from the Russell Sage Foundation.

The percentage of working-age Americans with a job is only 59%, relatively unchanged over the past five years and near levels not seen since 1984. The adult population increases by about 200,000 people each month, while the economy has only averaged a monthly gain of about 219,000 jobs in 2014. Wages and salaries as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product have been declining for over four decades, reports the USA Today.

An auto sales boom, the housing recovery and the oil and natural gas drilling frenzy are all forcing manufacturers to build or enlarge plants to supply these industries. Factory output is up 3.2% so far this year after rising 2.6% in 2013. Spending on non-residential structures — notably new and expanding factories — increased by 12.6% last month.

Multinational companies, which account for one out of every five U.S. private-sector jobs, reduced their U.S. employment by 875,000 from 1999 through 2012 while adding 4.2 million jobs abroad. By contrast, in the 1990s they hired 4.4 million Americans and 2.7 million people in other countries. Large multinationals are moving jobs overseas because they need to manufacture and sell products in countries like India and China, which have two to three times the USA’s GDP growth. The lower-skilled and semi-skilled jobs are much more subject to globalization and automation than the higher-skilled jobs. Multinationals, however, have been slashing higher-skilled jobs as well.

Education in Arab World on Hold

As school starts across the Arab world this month, hundreds of thousands of students from across the Middle East and North Africa won’t be going. Conflict, turmoil and even destruction have put these children at great risk. The situation is particularly dire in Iraq. There are 1.8 million Iraqis displaced inside and outside of the country since the Islamic State’s advance in June, and thousands have taken shelter in schools in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and elsewhere. Though the Islamic State has opened classrooms in Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — some parents are reluctant to send their children to school because of harsh new orders about education from the extremists. These include segregating students by gender, imposing strict dress codes and removing references to democracy and elections. Most of all, parents worry about the Islamic State’s brutality and what that means for their children.

Islamic State

President Obama acknowledged Sunday that U.S. intelligence officials “underestimated” the threat posed by the Islamic State and overestimated the Iraqi army’s capacity to defeat the militant group. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has taken control of large sections of Iraq and Syria. To defeat them, he acknowledged, would require a competent local ground force, something no analyst predicts will surface any time soon in Syria, despite U.S. plans to arm and train “moderate” rebels.

Just over two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama vowed “America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat” posed by ISIS, more than 50 countries have signed up, so far, to support the fight. They include new entrants Belgium, Denmark and Britain, which will all send fighter jets to Iraq to assist that nation’s government and the United States in the anti-ISIS military campaign. Even the foreign minister of Russia signaled Friday that his country is ready to back Iraq in fighting terrorists, “above all the Islamic State.” Most members of the anti-ISIS coalition have restricted their support to Iraq-focused efforts. A handful of Arab nations, however, have joined Washington in going after ISIS, from the air, in Syria.

The first female fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates led a strike mission last week against the terror group, the UAE ambassador to the United States said Thursday. Airstrikes carried out by a U.S.-led coalition struck an oil refinery in Syria held by the Islamic State group Sunday, shaking buildings and sending flames shooting into the air near the Turkish border. Explosions lit the sky “for two hours” at the refinery in the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad. On Sunday, U.S.-led coalition air raids targeted towns and villages in northern and eastern Syria controlled by the Islamic State group, including one strike that hit a grain silo and reportedly killed civilians.

The United States may be touting its strikes on ISIS targets in Syria, but one of the terror group’s fighters says the hits are trivial at best. In an exclusive interview with CNN, a Syrian ISIS fighter using the pseudonym Abu Talha said the militant group has been preparing for such attacks. “We’ve been ready for this for some time,” Abu Talha said. “We know that our bases are known because they’re tracking us with radars and satellites, so we had backup locations. We have revenues other than oil. We have other avenues, and our finances are not going to stop just because of oil losses.”


Seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed by tank fire Monday from pro-Russian separatists at the airport in the flashpoint city of Donetsk. Nine other soldiers were injured in the clash. In a separate incident, three civilians were killed and five injured in shelling overnight in Donetsk. Residential and administrative buildings were damaged as a result of artillery fire. Despite the ongoing violence in places such as Donetsk, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insisted last week that a ceasefire signed with rebel leaders more than three weeks ago was holding.


If you want a measure of the price Russia is paying for the Ukraine crisis, look no further than its free-falling currency. The ruble fell another 1.6% against the U.S. dollar Friday, extending a slump that has wiped nearly 16% off its value since the start of the year. Russia’s oil-dependent economy was already slowing down before Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted the West to impose successive rounds of ever tougher sanctions. The measures are aimed at restricting Russia’s access to Western finance, advanced energy technology and services, and arms. Russia’s biggest banks, energy companies and a handful of businessmen close to President Vladimir Putin have been targeted.


Ashraf Ghani was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan’s President, sealing the country’s first peaceful democratic transition of power. Ghani, a former finance minister, takes office after signing a power-sharing deal last week with his rival presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah. He succeeds Hamid Karzai, who experienced a rocky relationship with the United States during his 13 years in power that began after the fall of the Taliban. A senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that Afghanistan will sign a deal Tuesday to allow 9,800 American soldiers to remain in the country past the end of the year.

A reminder of the challenges facing Ghani and Afghanistan came a few miles away from the presidential palace in Kabul: A suicide bomber targeting a police checkpoint killed four police officers and three civilians Monday morning. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, three suicide bombers killed four Afghan police officers Monday at a district police headquarters in the eastern Paktia province.


Iran and six world powers made little progress in overcoming significant disagreements on uranium enrichment in the most recent round of nuclear talks, Iranian and Western diplomats close to the negotiations said on Friday.”A senior State Department official said gaps ‘are still serious’ with just eight weeks to go before a Nov. 24 deadline. ‘We do not have an understanding on all major issues, we have some understandings that are helpful to move this process forward and we have an enormous number of details still to work through,” the official told reporters. “We still have some very, very difficult understandings yet to reach, and everyone has to make difficult decisions and we continue to look to Iran to make some of the ones necessary for getting to a comprehensive agreement,” said the official.

Hong Kong

Police remain in a tense standoff in Hong Kong with tens of thousands of pro-democracy student demonstrators, recently joined by the like-minded Occupy Central movement, which has announced the formal start of a campaign of civil disobedience in the Chinese territory. Riot police in Hong Kong on Saturday moved in to arrest 50 students who occupied the premises of government headquarters during a night of scuffles to protest China’s refusal to allow genuine democratic reforms in the semiautonomous region. At least 29 people have been injured, police said. The scuffles erupted at the end of the weeklong strike by students demanding China’s Communist leaders organize democratic elections in 2017. Tension over Hong Kong’s political future has risen significantly since control of the former British colony passed to China in 1997. Hong Kong’s young people have become vocal supporters of full democracy in recent years, fueled by anger over widening inequality.

Key traffic arteries in Hong Kong remained blocked Monday after a forceful crackdown by police failed to dislodge pro-democracy protesters from the streets of the financial capital. Police fired volley after volley of tear gas at protesters on Sunday, an unusually heavy-handed response that appeared only to galvanize public support Irand draw thousands of additional demonstrators into the streets. Armed with top-of-the-line phones on some of

the world’s fastest mobile networks, Hong Kong’s young protesters are able to organize themselves at a lightning pace older generations of activists could have only dreamed of.


As of Sunday, the massive King Fire was 89 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Crews made progress toward putting the massive wildfire out for good as additional rain and high humidity aided their efforts. The 2-week-old blaze had burned almost 152 square miles of a heavily-forested region east of Sacramento. More than 4,800 firefighters remained on the scene as fire suppression and repair teams assessed the damage. The blaze, which has cost more than $53 million to fight, has destroyed about a dozen homes and nearly 70 other structures near Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. A man charged with starting the fire, Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, pleaded not guilty to arson. He remains in the El Dorado County jail on $10 million bail.


Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted shortly before noon Saturday, spewing large white plumes of gas and ash high into the sky and blanketing the surrounding area in ash. Thirty-six people are dead after rescue workers found their bodies near the peak of Mount Ontake, local authorities said Sunday. Rescuers are still combing the mountainside for more bodies. The mountain is a popular climbing destination, and at least 250 people were initially trapped on the slopes. Military helicopters plucked seven people off the mountainside earlier Sunday, and workers were helping others make their way down the slopes.

At least eight people are dead, five injured and 300 homes damaged after a shallow 4.9-magnitude earthquake rocked a remote village in Peru on Sunday. Most of the victims were killed after their crudely constructed homes collapsed. Rour of the dead are children, including a three-month-old baby. Landslides in the area have made it difficult for rescue personnel to reach those affected. The quake was centered 25 miles southeast of Cuzco in the farming town of Misca in the Paruro region and was a relatively shallow five miles deep.

A flurry of small earthquakes rumbling near the Mammoth Mountain Volcano in California, have been categorized as “volcanic unrest” by the United States Geological Survey. Nearly three dozen earthquakes ranging from magnitude 2.6 to 3.8 have swarmed the area, northeast of Fresno over the last two days. Mammoth Mountain is in an area called the Long Valley Caldera. The center of the caldera has been uplifting slowly over the last several decades and seismologists continuously monitor it.


Metropolitan Phoenix was hammered by an intense storm Saturday that left thousands without power and almost entirely obscured visibility throughout the city. Strong winds, thunder and a cascade of rain pounded the city, littering streets with downed trees and causing damage at the Phoenix airport. Enough rain fell to create flash flood conditions on I-17 at Durango Curve, forcing authorities to close a section of the interstate. As much as 1.59 inches of rain fell at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which broke the old daily rainfall record that was set in 1903. Throughout Phoenix, wind gusts exceeded severe limits, including the 67 mph wind gust recorded near Luke Air Force Base as well as the 71 mph wind gust recorded east of Peoria in Maricopa County. Flight departures and landings were halted at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for about an hour as wind gusts produced roof and window damage at one of the Terminals2.

Heavy rainfall in Florida flooded roadways on Friday afternoon, stranding several cars and even a school bus. As much as 4.41 inches of rain were recorded on Bannerwood Lane in Palm Coast, which is south of St. Augustine in northeast Florida. On Saturday morning, 9.08 inches of rain was reported in the previous 24 hours in the Palm Harbor area of Palm Coast. The heavy rain event may be the beginning of a long weekend of flash flooding, as heavy rain and thunderstorms remain in the forecast for much of Florida through Sunday.

Signs of the Times (9/26/14)

September 26, 2014

Embattled Evangelicals: ‘War on Religion’ Is Aimed at Us

These are anxious times for white evangelicals, according to two new surveys. At 20 percent of U.S. adults, they are statistically neck-and-neck with the “nones” — people who claim no religious brand. “Nones” now tally up to 19 percent in the 2014 American Values Survey, said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, which released the survey Tuesday. Evangelicals, said Jones, are on “the losing side of the culture wars, such as gay marriage, and they see that their share (of society) is shrinking and aging, adding to their sense of being embattled.” “They can no longer say confidently they speak for all people of faith.” Perhaps for that reason, white evangelicals, more than any other religious group, worry that the government will interfere with their religious liberty.

Another survey released this week — this one by the Pew Research Center – asked people what groups faced “significant discrimination” in American society. On a list of eight groups, gays and lesbians led with 65 percent of all surveyed saying this group was under the gun. Atheists were cited next at 59 percent. Thirty-one percent considered white evangelicals to be victims of “significant discrimination.” Yet, among themselves, 50 percent of white evangelicals see themselves as victims. That’s an unrivaled 19 percentage-point gap in social perception. About one in three white evangelicals say it has become more difficult to be a person of their faith in the U.S. today, according to the Pew survey, released Monday, (Sept. 22) . And about the same number say they think of themselves as a religious minority because of their beliefs. No other group comes close to this sense of unease.

  • Evangelicals are not generally perceived as being victims of discrimination, but rather as the perpetrators of hate crimes for daring to challenge the gay agenda. Tolerance is only a one-way street.

Obama Stretches Constraints He Created for Counterterrorism

After spending nearly six years of his presidency installing a series of constraints on U.S. counterterrorism operations, President Obama has launched a broad military offensive against Islamist groups in Syria that stretches the limits of those legal and policy enclosures, reports the Washington Post. The unfolding U.S. air campaign has employed weapons — including dozens of 3,000-pound Tomahawk missiles launched from U.S. warships — that have flattened targets in ways destined to test Obama’s doctrine requiring “near certainty” that no civilians be killed. The initial dimensions of the assault put the United States on a significantly different counterterrorism course than Obama envisioned last year, when he delivered a speech describing the nation’s security landscape as returning to pre-Sept. 11 normalcy. “There are a lot of lines that he’s drawn in the sand. Just about every one of which he seems to have crossed now,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor.

  • The presidential ‘amateur’ (as Bill Clinton refers to Obama) finally discovers that his ‘play nice’ policies toward Islamists only served to aid their evil expansion with Iraq and Syria devolving into chaos

70% of Families from Immigration Surge No-Shows at Follow-Up Appointments

An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments. The ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of Wednesday’s meeting and separately interviewed participants. Since only a few hundred families have already been returned to their home countries and limited U.S. detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, the 70% figure suggests the government released roughly 41,000 members of immigrant families who subsequently failed to appear at federal immigration offices.

  • Illegal immigration is out of control as the Obama Administration consistently fumbles the ball

Feds Expand Family Detentions despite Mounting Criticism

President Barack Obama’s administration is rapidly escalating the detention of undocumented adults with children from Central America in an effort to deport them as quickly as possible and deter more from coming. Immigrant-rights groups and some Democrats in Congress say the families are being held in detention facilities in remote locations where they are often denied access to legal representation. They say that many of the families are fleeing horrific violence in their home countries but that, in the rush to deport them, the government is violating their rights to seek asylum protection in the United States. On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed plans to open a new family detention facility in Dilley, Texas, southwest of San Antonio. The center will house as many as 2,400 people. The facility will be in addition to two other family detention centers the Obama administration has opened in the past several months, a 672-bed facility in Artesia, N.M., and a 532-bed facility in Karnes City, Texas. The new facilities are being opened in response to the unprecedented surge earlier this year of women and children from Central America crossing the border illegally and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol.

  • Yet another way Obama is countermanding his own policies, infuriating his liberal base as he comes to realize the fatal flaws of his laissez faire approach to illegal immigration

Obama Announces Executive Actions to Fight Climate Change at UN

President Obama announced a series of executive actions to fight climate change on Tuesday, during a speech to the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City. Obama ordered all federal agencies to begin factoring “climate resilience” into all of their international development programs and investments. The action is expected to complement efforts by the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the White House. Obama is also expected to release climate monitoring data used by the federal government to developing nations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also begin developing “extreme-weather risk outlooks” for as long as 30 days in advance to help local communities to prepare for damaging weather and prevent “loss of life and property,” partnering with private companies to monitor and predict climate change.

  • ‘Climate resilience’ joins ‘sustainable development’ and ‘Agenda 21’ as Trojan Horses to give globalists more control over society and government

Navajo Nation Signs $554 Million Settlement from U.S. Government

The Navajo Nation made history Friday when it officially announced a $554 million settlement from the U.S. government, putting an end to years of litigation. The landmark agreement stems from a 2006 lawsuit in which the nation says the U.S. mismanaged trust fund assets dating back to 1946. “It’s monumental. This is the largest trust responsibility award from the United States in the history of Indian country. It will never completely redress the wrongs done to prior generations, but it’s going to allow some opportunities for future generations,” said Dana Bobroff, deputy attorney general for the Navajo nation. According to the Department of Justice, the U.S. settled with 41 tribes for about $1 billion in April 2012. Since then, the government has focused on resolving other trust accounting and mismanagement cases.

Toxic Chemicals Dumped into U.S. Waterways

In just one year, American waterways were filled with 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals, according to a report conducted by the Environment America Research and Policy Center. The report, Wasting Our Waterways, cites the mid-Atlantic, Ohio River and South Atlantic-Gulf Coast watershed regions as the most polluted, with more than 20 million pounds of toxicity released into each of those waterways. Environment America, a non-profit advocacy group that relies on citizen donations and foundation grants to perform these studies, notes in the 72-page report that Indiana leads the nation in total releases with more than 17 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into its waterways in 2012, the most recent year in which data is available. And these are just the chemicals dumped legally which are monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Each company is required to declare how much toxic material will be dumped, The EPA then monitors each corporation to ensure they’re not exceeding their limit.

43% of Companies Had a Data Breach in Past Year

A staggering 43% of companies have experienced a data breach in the past year, an annual study on data breach preparedness reported. The study, released Wednesday, was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which does independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy. In addition, the absolute size of the breaches is increasing, said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of the credit information company Experian’s data breach resolution group, which sponsored the report. “Particularly beginning with last quarter in 2013, and now with all the retail breaches this year, the size had gone exponentially up,” Bruemmer said. He cited one large international breach few Americans have even heard about. In January, 40% of South Koreans—a total of 20 million people—had their personal data stolen and credit cards compromised.

Apple & Google Phones Shut Out the FBI

Apple and Google have won praise from privacy proponents for efforts to encrypt their latest smartphones in a way that would prevent law enforcement from accessing certain private data. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told reporters Thursday that the agency is talking to both companies to raise concerns that their privacy efforts could hinder criminal investigations. Comey said that he was “very concerned” that the companies were “marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.” Apple last week touted that “it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8,” Apple said. Google quickly followed suit, saying it already had such technology in phones running its Android operating system, but that “as part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on.”

Economic News

The nation’s gross domestic product grew at a 4.6% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the April-June period — up from the 4.2% previously estimated, the Commerce Department said Friday. The stronger growth estimate was largely due to brisker business investment. Such spending rose 9.7%, up from the 8.4% previously believed as companies built more factories and purchased more equipment.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits increased last week after falling sharply two weeks ago. Despite the rise, the level of applications remains near pre-recession levels. Weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Yet the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week to 298,500.

Orders for durable goods fell 18.2% last month on a seasonally adjusted basis. Excluding the volatile transportation category, orders were up 0.7%, the Census Bureau said Thursday. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft — a gauge of business investment plans — rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% after a 0.2% drop in July.

The dollar hit a two-year high against the euro, which swooned to $1.27 Wednesday. Strong U.S. housing data drove the dollar higher. The dollar also neared a six-year high against the Japanese yen, and gold swooned to $1,219.50, its lowest since January. The price of oil is one sign that the global economy is still weak. West Texas intermediate crude futures sunk to $92.66 a barrel.

Persecution Watch

Over 100 people were arrested on Sunday (Sept. 21) in a house church raid in China’s Guangdong Province. The Christian Post reports that nearly 200 police officer interrupted a church service, arresting congregants for “illegal gathering.” Most of the Christians were eventually released from authorities, but over 30 remain in custody. International Christian Concern (ICC) Regional Manager for Southeast Asia Sooyoung Kim said, “It is unbelievable that local authorities arrested over 100 church members, including children, in Foshan city. Even though most people have been released, the experience has been traumatizing.” The raid was part of a larger government campaign against church assembly in the nation; only churches approved by the government are permitted to worship. At the same time, many churches that have government approval are now being ordered to shut their doors.

Middle East

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began on Wednesday at sundown. As Jews observe the religious holiday, the ceasefire that was established between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding. Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed Tuesday that further talks would be postponed until the end of October. Previously, the opposing groups negotiated a ceasefire with an understanding that they would address Hamas’ demands for a water port, airport, and opened borders in and out of Gaza.

Islamic State

The United States and its allies are steeling themselves for what an American defense official described Thursday as a years-long fight against the so-called Islamic State, a revelation that came as airstrikes pummeled oil refineries in Syria used by the terror group to help fund its operations. U.S.-led airstrikes hit locations overnight in a remote area of eastern Syria where ISIS has been using mobile refineries to produce oil that brings in up to $2 million a day for the group. Even so, there are questions about just how much impact the destruction of the refineries will have on ISIS, which analysts have said has access to billions of dollars. “They seized about a third of a billion dollars from the central bank of Mosul (Iraq).” On top of that, he added, ISIS has garnered millions of dollars in ransoms from European governments for hostages and have traded much of their oil.

U.S. weapons for Free Syrian Army ended up with ISIS. As usual, we wind up arming those who turn against us. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says that some of the 600 tons of weapons the U.S. gave Syrian rebels last year ended up in the hands of ISIS. The Islamic Front last December attacked the compound of Brig. Gen. Samir Idris, who was then chief of staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, capturing two warehouses filled with weapons and equipment. After that development, the U.S. suspended all arms shipments to the FSA, who claim their primary enemy is the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many of the Islamic fighter groups that the Saudis had asked the U.S. to support later morphed into the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.


President Obama spoke by phone with his most fickle international ally Thursday: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The once-friendly relationship between the two leaders has been strained over the last year. Friction points included Turkey’s antagonism of Israel, its crackdown of social media, and the U.S. refusal to extradite a religious leader and opposition figure wanted to stand trial in Turkey. But with the threat posed by Islamic State militants, the on-again, off-again relationship between Obama and Erdogan is clearly on again. Turkey occupies a strategic position along Syria’s northern border, and U.S. officials hope the NATO ally could play a key role in stopping the flow of money and foreign fighters to the group also known as ISIS. Just two months ago Erdogan complained publicly that Obama never spoke to him anymore.


As the U.S. expands its war against the Islamic State, the Army is preparing to deploy a division headquarters to Iraq, the first division headquarters to go to Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno confirmed the Army “will send another division headquarters to Iraq to control what we’re doing there, a small headquarters.” It’s unclear how many soldiers will be sent, or how long they will deploy. Division headquarters average between 100 and 500 soldiers and deploy for one year.


Outgoing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai took one final swipe at the U.S. Tuesday, telling a gathering of Afghan government employees that the 13-year American-led military action had failed to bring peace to his country. “We don’t have peace because the Americans didn’t want peace,” said Karzai. “The war in Afghanistan is to the benefit of foreigners. But Afghans on both sides are the sacrificial lambs and victims of this war.” Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi told The Washington Post that while the president appreciates the efforts of U.S. troops and taxpayers to rebuild the war-torn country, he also believes that the U.S. did not do enough to confront Pakistan-backed militants in the country and that Washington and Islamabad “sabotaged” efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.


Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory and its support of separatist fighters confronting government forces in eastern Ukraine threaten to revive the Cold War and destroy a world order based on rule of law, world leaders said Wednesday at the UN. When Russia annexed Ukrainian territory and “poured arms into eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands,” President Obama said, it advanced “a vision of the world in which might makes right.” Russia’s actions in Ukraine have violated the U.N. founding charter of 1945, which set rules to prevent another world war, and the Paris Charter of 1990, which ended the Cold War, said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia, one of three small former Soviet republics that are NATO’s newest members.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko outlined a program of social and economic reforms Thursday that he said are aimed at preparing his country to apply for EU membership in 2020. Since he took office in June, Poroshenko has pursued a pro-European agenda despite opposition from Russia. “This program foresees about 60 reforms and special programs that will allow Ukraine to prepare for submitting in six years a bid for membership of the European Union,” Poroshenko said.


Nine years ago, Narendra Modi was barred from entering the USA because of his role as a Hindu nationalist in India. Next week, he gets the red carpet treatment and a meeting with President Obama at the White House because of his new role as leader of the world’s most populous democracy. Modi, who became prime minister of India in May, will get a warm reception because he is also a business-friendly leader of one of the brightest economies in a world struggling to pull out of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Modi’s U.S. tour will include a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday and an appearance at a Madison Square Garden reception for Indian Americans in New York on Sunday. More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the event. Modi has remained controversial because of his promotion of the Hindu faith, which the majority of Indians practice.

Floods that started in India and Pakistan Sept. 3 killed at least 450 people and left 700,000 homeless; now aid agencies are warning that millions of children are at risk of trafficking in the aftermath of the flooding. Christian Today reports that human traffickers will be looking to take children from parents that have lost their jobs as a result of the floods. “Out of desperation, families accept the offer, without realizing that their child – some as young as six years old – will be sold into the sex industry or into child labor,” said Sudarshan Sathianathan, of Tearfund.


The latest violent clash in China’s troubled Xinjiang region, described by authorities as a terrorist attack, was far more deadly than first reported, according to state media accounts. At least fifty people died Sunday, including 40 “rioters,” and 54 other people were injured, after a series of explosions rocked Xinjiang’s Luntai County. Six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary policemen were killed, and two rioters were captured alive, after what Xinjiang police called an “organized and serious” terrorist attack. Over 300 people have died in the past year in Xinjiang-related violence, according to Chinese state media. Officials blame overseas terror groups for fanning the frustrations and separatist ambitions of the Uighur minority. A mostly Muslim people, many Uighurs chafe at cultural and religious restrictions set by the ruling Communist Party, and resent the economic dominance of China’s majority Han ethnic group.


The exponential spread of the Ebola outbreak that has now killed almost 3,000 people in West Africa may have been checked in Guinea, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. But a dire lack of beds and community resistance in some areas are helping the disease to continue spreading, while efforts to straighten out muddled data are gradually revealing an epidemic even more deadly than it had appeared. The WHO said 2,917 people have died of Ebola out of 6,263 cases in the five West African countries affected by the disease as at the end of Sept 21. “The upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and most probably also in Liberia,” the WHO said. “However, the situation in Guinea, although still of grave concern, appears to have stabilized: between 75 and 100 new confirmed cases have been reported in each of the past five weeks.”


A strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck south-central Alaska Thursday morning, rattling the state’s largest city, Anchorage. There were no immediate reports of casualties or serious structural damage, but the quake rattled walls and nerves throughout a large section of the nation’s largest state. The epicenter was in the interior of Alaska 58 miles northwest of Willow, or about 79 miles northwest of Anchorage. The quake was strong enough to topple shelving and knock framed pictures off of walls in Anchorage:


Nearly 2,000 firefighters were added Tuesday, pushing the number of firefighters on the scene to nearly 8,000, in order to battle a massive Northern California wildfire that threatened thousands of homes and fouled the air 50 miles away in Reno, Nevada, which was blanketed by smoke. The King Fire east of Sacramento has scorched about 150 square miles. Fire crews increased containment to 55 percent Friday after several days of more favorable weather including rain on Thursday. The wildfire, which authorities believe was intentionally set on Sept. 13, has destroyed 12 homes and 57 outbuildings. It continues to threaten about 21,000 structures, more than half of them homes.


Tropical Storm Rachel became the 17th named storm of the 2014 Eastern Pacific hurricane season Wednesday night. This is now the third busiest eastern Pacific hurricane season on record, as measured by the number of season-to-date named storms. Rachel is forecast to curl north sometime this weekend, then northeast early next week. While Rachel may indeed curl back toward the Baja peninsula next week, it is expected to have weakened to a tropical depression or remnant low if it ever makes it to land.

A joint report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, warns that hundreds of millions of acres are projected to die in national parks and national forests alone by 2027. Climate scientist Jason Funk and former Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Stephen Saunders are the study’s lead authors. Using U.S. Forest Service data, they found three major stressors on Rocky Mountain forests: heat and drought, insects, and wildfires. Overall hot, dry conditions may be to blame for other trees dying and not reseeding themselves. Scientists say “background mortality” in old-growth forests has doubled in recent decades and continues to increase.

  • And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:7)

Signs of the Times (9/23/14)

September 23, 2014

Persecution Watch

The Pacific Justice Institute told a charter school in Southern California they may be violating the First Amendment after the school removed books with Christian content from their library. The books removed were by Christian authors and Christian publishers, which included Corrie ten Boom’s acclaimed “The Hiding Place.” PJI President Brad Dacus said: “It is alarming that a school library would attempt to purge books from religious authors. Indeed, some of the greatest literature of Western Civilization comes from people of faith. Are they going to ban the sermons or speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? What about the Declaration of Independence that invokes the laws of nature and nature’s God? We are calling on Springs Charter Schools to immediately reverse their ill-conceived and illegal book-banning policy.”

Christians in Pakistan are marking the one-year anniversary of the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar, an attack the killed 98 people and injured over 150. The bombing on September 22, 2013 was the worst attack on a church in Pakistan’s history reports Christian Today. The Pakistani government had promised the families of victims aid and financial compensation after the attack, but has been slow to make good on its pledge. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported that some of the injured were “forcibly removed” from hospitals after the attack because their families could not pay hospital bills without the promised government assistance. Christians in Pakistan still face persecution from extremists that the government has been unable to control.

CDC: Ebola Toll Could Reach 550,000 by January

The number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could rise to between 550,000 and 1.4 million by January if there are no “additional interventions or changes in community behavior,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Tuesday. The estimate was derived from a new forecasting tool developed by the CDC. The range of estimated cases to come is wide because officials say they think the current case count is highly under-reported. The official death toll from Ebola in West Africa has climbed to more than 2,800 in six months, with 5,800 cases confirmed as of Monday, the World Health Organization said.

The CDC estimates that if 70% of people with Ebola are properly cared for in medical facilities, the epidemic could begin to decrease and eventually end. Given that several countries and organizations have pledged to provide more support for the Ebola-affected countries, the CDC report suggests the higher projections of cases in the coming months might be avoided. A separate nine-month assessment published by WHO experts in The New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday says the fatality rate of this outbreak in West Africa is 71% and that the “current epidemiologic outlook is bleak.”

GAO Report Confirms that Obamacare Pays for Abortions

When he signed the Obamacare bill into law, President Barack Obama promised the American people that Obamacare would not pay for abortions — going as far as signing an executive order to that effect. A new Government Accountability Office report shows he misled Americans, reports The GAO report also found that nearly all of the insurance issuers sampled are not itemizing the required separate abortion surcharge on its bills – confirming that the Obama Administration is ignoring the law’s abortion accounting gimmick. GAO has found that in 2014, taxpayers are funding over a thousand Obamacare health plans that subsidize abortion on demand—even late-term abortion—in defiance of the Hyde Amendment that Obama publicly said he would honor.

U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms

A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines, reports the New York Times. It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars. This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for “a nuclear-free world” and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return. Supporters of arms control, as well as some of President Obama’s closest advisers, say their hopes for the president’s vision have turned to baffled disappointment.

  • Liberals are now realizing what conservatives knew years ago – Obama is a liar and a political opportunist beholden to special interests

Arab Bank Liable for Supporting Terrorist Efforts, Jury Finds

A federal jury on Monday found that Arab Bank was liable for knowingly supporting terrorist efforts that were connected to 24 attacks in the Middle East. The closely watched case, in New York City, was the first civil case brought against a bank under the Anti-Terrorism Act to go to trial, and the verdict was expected to have a broad impact on similar legal efforts to hold financial institutions responsible for wrongdoing by their clients, even if the institutions had followed banking rules. Arab Bank, a major Middle Eastern bank with $46 billion in assets, said that it followed compliance procedures, and that any transactions conducted on behalf of terrorists were executed in error.

Climate Crisis Protesters Target Wall Street

A day after over 100,000 people marched to warn that climate change is destroying the Earth, more than 1,000 activists blocked parts of Broadway in Manhattan’s financial district in a sit-in to protest what they see as corporate and economic institutions’ role in the climate crisis. Monday’s demonstration was planned as a more confrontational sequel to Sunday’s march, with many participants Monday deliberately risking arrest by obstructing traffic in the heart of the nation’s financial capital. Over 100 people were arrested Monday night after they refused to leave the intersection of Broad and Wall streets, police said. Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct. People marched in cities around the world on Sunday, calling for action against climate change. The protest was the largest about climate change in history.

Single Americans Now the Majority

Roughly 125 million Americans, or 50.2 percent ages 16 years or older, are single, up from 37.4 percent in 1976, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Edward Yardeni, a Wall Street economist and market strategist said the “remarkable” trend has “implications for our economy, society, and politics.” For example, he noted that singles are more likely to rent than buy. Less marriage also means fewer children, which shifts spending habits. He also said more single-person households exaggerate income inequality. “While they have less household earnings than married people, they also have fewer expenses, especially if there are no children in their households,” Yardeni wrote. Although the number of divorced, separated, or widowed singles has increased since the 1970s, the larger increase, from 22.1 percent to more than 30 percent, came from a growing number of singles who never marry, Yardeni found.

Student Homelessness Hits Another Record High

Approximately 1.3 million students enrolled in U.S. public preschools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools were homeless during the 2012-13 school year. That’s up 8% from the prior year, and the highest number on record, according to the National Center for Homeless Education, funded by the Department of Education. A lack of affordable housing is a big reason, forcing many families to live in the streets, shelters, motels or to double up with other families, said Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “This problem continues to get worse because in terms of government programs and support for homelessness, budgets have been cut in recent years, and there’s less affordable housing available,” said Rosen.

Treasury Cracks Down on Corporate Tax ‘Inversions’

The Treasury Department will crack down on so-called tax “inversions,” targeting companies that try to avoid taxes by moving their headquarters overseas. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the new rules would help close what he called a “glaring loophole in the U.S. tax code” in which U.S. companies acquire foreign businesses and then switch their citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The Treasury Department is still fleshing out the details on the new guidance, but it is putting companies on notice that deals that close on or after Monday’s announcement will be subject to the new tax rules.

Economic News

More than 20% of Americans laid off the past five years are still unemployed and one in four who found work is in a temporary job, according to a survey out Monday. The report underscores that despite a sharp drop in long-term unemployment recently, many people out of work at least six months are still struggling to recoup their former wages and lifestyles. Those idled for years face an even tougher road back to employment. Three million American workers remain jobless years after they were laid off during the recession.

A national survey says the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline has dropped another 9 cents over the last two weeks, to $3.37, bringing the decline to 34 cents over the last 13 weeks. Falling crude oil prices drove the declines, but the drop was also heavily impacted by a crash in prices of ethanol and the fact that winter-grade gasoline costs less to produce.

The auto industry sales recovery in recent years means millions of used cars, many coming off lease, are starting to flood the market. The result is a decline in used-car prices that zoomed sky-high after the recession. And the decline is leading to talk that new-car auto sales growth may be peaking. In recent years, used-car prices were so high that car shoppers found they could buy a new one for not much more. Now the pendulum is swinging back again.

Middle East

In a pre-dawn raid Tuesday, Israeli special forces stormed a basement hideout in the West Bank town of Hebron, killing two Palestinians suspected of the kidnapping and slaying of three Israeli teenagers in June. “We said we wouldn’t rest until we brought these killers to justice,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This morning we completed our mission.” The gruesome killings of the three Israeli teenagers triggered a crackdown on Hamas that escalated to the seven-week war in Gaza. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the militant group “praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance.”

Israel’s military said Tuesday it shot down a Syrian warplane over the Golan Heights amid what it described as growing tensions in the border area. Israel used a Patriot anti-aircraft missile to bring it down, the Israel Defense Forces said. The plane penetrated roughly a kilometer (more than half a mile) into Israeli airspace. The aircraft shot down was a Russian-made Sukhoi-24. Both the pilot and co-pilot ejected into Syria.

Islamic State

In a speech titled “Indeed Your Lord Is Ever Watchful” and released widely over social media Sunday, ISIL spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani urges members of the Muslim faith to take violent action against “disbelievers” by any means necessary. “O America, O allies of America, and O crusaders, know that the matter is more dangerous than you have imagined and greater than you have envisioned. We have warned you that today we are in a new era,” Adnani said. “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” Adnani exhorted.

The sudden, massive flood of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is unlike any other displacement in the 3½-year Syrian conflict. As many as 200,000 people have left the area surrounding the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in just four days as ISIS advances into the area. Most have gone into Turkey. But the unprecedented surge that broke loose Friday has slowed, as Turkey reduced the number of open crossings from eight or nine to just two. Processing the refugees is also taking time.

The U.S. military, along with Arab allies, launched the first airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria late Monday, as the war ordered by President Obama against the militant organization took on an urgent new phase. Fourteen airstrikes were carried out against ISIL targets. “The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” the Defense Department said. The attack started with 47 Tomahawk missiles launched from the sea, a senior U.S. military official told CNN.

American airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) have done little to roll back the militant group’s territorial gains in part because many Sunni tribes have chosen not to engage, The New York Times reported Monday. The United States air offensive has been successful in halting advances of the terrorist group but ISIS continues to hammer Iraqi government forces, with hundreds of soldiers having been killed in battle or mass executions. “Behind the government’s struggles on the battlefield is the absence or resistance of many of the Sunni Muslim tribes that all sides say will play the decisive role in the course of the fight — presenting a slow start for the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to drive out the militants,” the Times said.


Afghanistan’s two presidential contenders signed an unprecedented power-sharing agreement Sunday, ending a drawn-out political standoff and setting the stage for a U.S. troop commitment past this year. The agreement names Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who is believed to have received the most votes in a June runoff election, as president. His challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, will become chief executive. The deal ends political wrangling that began after a June runoff vote between two candidates. An independent election commission was assigned to audit the results after allegations of widespread fraud. The United States had urged the candidates to reach a power-sharing agreement in order to bring political stability to the country, which is battling a powerful insurgency and will need international assistance for years to come.


Warmer weather and strong, erratic winds could fan the flames of a massive blaze in Northern California that is already threatening thousands of homes. Firefighters are concerned that the sudden shift in weather could cause the blaze to grow rapidly, as it did last week when similarly strong winds caused the fire to double. The inferno, known as the King fire, is now 18 percent contained, according to Capt. Tom Piranio, a state fire spokesman. But the fire has burned some 87,000 acres – an area roughly the size of Atlanta – and has forced the evacuation of about 2,000 people. Information about the damaged homes has been limited because crews have not been able to get into those areas to survey the devastation, but it’s believed that about three dozen structures have been destroyed by the blaze.

The King fire in northern California is just one of at least nine sizeable wildfires CalFire is monitoring, as hot, dry conditions, and the historic drought, make potent conditions for fire starters. Earlier last week, the Bolles fire burned about 150 homes and buildings in Weed, California, while the Courtney fire in Madera County destroyed about 50 more.


With California locked in its third year of severe drought and with groundwater levels dropping, residents and farmers have been forced to drill deeper and deeper to find water. Porta-potties are popping up outside homes. Drinking water is being trucked in from faraway places. Girl Scouts are setting up collection points for residents to donate bottled water. This is the reality of life in East Porterville – a central California town where the wells are beginning to run dry. Gripped by a severe drought, water sources for residents aren’t replenishing, and that spells big problems for the future. In the Central Valley town of roughly 7,000 residents, some 290 families say their wells are already out of water. The town mostly consists of poor, Hispanic residents – people who simply can’t afford another setback. Elsewhere in Tulare County, many other homes are suffering dry wells, too, and the problem is spreading all over the Central Valley.

Surging floodwaters prompted authorities in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to urge residents to evacuate their homes early Monday morning. The Dark Canyon Draw in Carlsbad crested at 21.62 feet early Monday morning, just shy of its record crest of 22 feet set on August 23, 1966. The Pecos River, just east of the city crested just over 4.5 feet above flood stage, its highest stage since April 2004. Days of locally heavy rain wrung out from the remnant of Hurricane Odile have swamped parts of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. As of Sunday afternoon, one location near Carlsbad had measured 4.32 inches of rain since Sept. 18, roughly one-third of their average annual precipitation (13.41 inches).

Flash flood warnings were reissued Monday afternoon as a new round of heavy thunderstorms developed over the El Paso, Texas, metropolitan area, where flash floods earlier in the day turned deadly. By Monday night, numerous roads were flooded in the Las Cruces area. A National Weather Service employee measured 5.37 inches of rain in just over four hours over a part of the northeast El Paso metro northwest of Biggs Army Airfield. Incredibly, just about five miles away, El Paso International Airport only picked up around one-quarter inch of rain Monday morning.

The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season has fallen into a slumber heading into the final days of the season’s peak month. Through Sept. 22, only five named storms have formed so far this season. This is almost three named storms behind the average pace. The last Atlantic hurricane season with so few named storms through the first 22 days of September was 1997, a season which ultimately produced eight storms, three hurricanes, one of which was Category 3 intensity.

Signs of the Times (9/20/14)

September 20, 2014

Christian Schools Produce Better Citizens than Public Schools

An education think tank has released a new study that maintains Christian schools produce better citizens than public centers of education. The March 2014 research produced by Cardus Religious Schools Initiative at the University of Notre Dame says students in Christian schools don’t “foster an attitude of isolation” like some critic’s claim. The study found Evangelical Protestant students are more regular church attenders, get married earlier in life, have more children, divorce less and widely contribute more to the communities in which they live than public school students.

High School Cheerleaders Lead Stadium in Pre-Game Prayer

A group of high school cheerleaders in Tennessee were recently told that a longstanding tradition of praying before football games over the loudspeaker would be prohibited. Oneida High School had been pressured by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union to drop the public prayer, and the stadium observed a moment of silence in its place. At a recent game, Oneida cheerleader Asia Canada began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The rest of the cheerleading squad soon joined in reciting the prayer, along with the opposing team’s cheerleaders and all of the fans. The school has now decided that it will continue the practice of a student-led spoken prayer, though not over the loudspeaker.

ASU Admits Constitutional Error in Banning Crosses from Football Helmets

Arkansas State University football players will once again be permitted to place cross decals on their helmets after thousands contacted the school. The supporters argued that ASU’s previous orders to remove the crosses was religious discrimination and violated freedom of speech. Charisma News reports that 25,000 people e-mailed ASU demanding that the football players’ crosses be put back in place after the American Family Association (AFA) sent an Action Alert to its 1 million supporters. An ASU player also contacted Liberty Institute, which contacted ASU President Charles Welch.

  • Christians are beginning to fight back against increasing discrimination and persecution. Pray that there would be more laborers taking the risk to confront hate and intolerance

House Votes to Authorize Aid to Syrian Rebels in ISIS Fight

An unusual but overwhelming coalition in the House voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama, reflecting the tension and ambiguity of members wary of the ultimate path to which any war vote could lead. There was rare unity between House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, who strongly backed the training legislation and sought to portray it as a modest measure. And the opposition included the equally unlikely pairings of antiwar Democrats and hawkish Republicans. The Senate gave overwhelming approval on Thursday to the measure on the training and arming of Syrian rebels.

U.N. to Flood U.S. with Muslim Refugees

Under the “Refugee Resettlement Program,” whole Muslim communities from hostile nations are to be imported into the United States, circumventing whatever immigration laws that are still intact. This is made even more dangerous by how the organization determines who the refugees are and who aren’t. It’s the UN, driven largely by the world’s largest international body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is a modern day caliphate made up of 56 countries and the Palestinian terrorists, reports Vision to America. “With millions of Christians expelled, ethnically cleansed or worse from the Middle East you might think these were the refugees the US would welcome to our shores. You’d be wrong, Obama has opened the gates to a flood of terror-linked Muslim immigrants,” notes Still has Serious Security Issues

Despite efforts to protect patient information on the website, a new government watchdog report released Thursday says security issues are still a concern. According to the Government Accountability Office report, “weaknesses remained in the security and privacy protections applied to and its supporting systems.” The agency presented its findings to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In the report, the GAO makes six recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement security and privacy controls to protect sensitive material. The report also makes 22 recommendations to resolve technical weaknesses in security controls.

Home Depot Hack Exposes 56M Credit Cards

Home Depot says roughly 56 million payment cards may have been compromised in a massive cyber breach of the home improvement retailer’s payment network. The company released details of the incident on Thursday. It is the first time Home Depot has spoken to the magnitude of the breach, which is now confirmed to have been bigger than the infamous 2013 attack on Target — that breach impacted 40 million cards. Home Depot, which discovered the incident on Sept. 2, says customized malware is believed to have been present on its network from April 2014 up until this month. The company claims perpetrators used the unique software code to penetrate its payment systems and avoid detection. News of the incident broke in early September when security blogger Brian Krebs reported multiple banks found evidence that the retailer may have been penetrated. Before 56 million of its customers’ credit cards were compromised, Home Depot was slow to raise its defenses against hackers despite alarms from security experts as far back as 2008.

Economic News

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by a sharp 36,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, a sign that the job market is strengthening once again. The total number of people collecting benefits during the first week of September was 2.43 million, the fewest since May 2007. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, but only because some of those out of work gave up looking.

Employers added just 142,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, down from 212,000 in July. That followed a six-month streak of monthly job gains in excess of 200,000. However, increased hiring has yet to lift most Americans’ paychecks. Wage growth has barely outpaced inflation since the recession ended more than five years ago.

Consumer prices fell in August for the first time in 16 months as gasoline prices tumbled. The consumer price index dropped 0.2% after rising 0.1% in June, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Over the past 12 months, prices have risen 1.7%.Excluding volatile food and energy costs, price were unchanged, the first time so-called core prices have not increased since October 2010. Core prices are up 1.7% over the past year.

Construction of single-family homes fell 14.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 956,000 last month. New home construction fell in every region last month, led by the West where starts dropped nearly 25%. The Northeast was down 13%; the Midwest, 10% and the South, 11%.For the year to date, housing starts are up about 9% from a year ago but the single-family home category is only 3% higher. Most of the growth is in apartment buildings, where starts are up 22% from last year’s January-August period.

When it comes to retirement savings, the gap between the rich and poor is growing dramatically. America’s wealthiest saw the value of their median retirement savings grow by 24% between 2004 and 2013, while low-income households couldn’t even keep up with inflation as they watched their savings shrink by nearly 20%, according to the Federal Reserve’s inflation-adjusted data. Even more alarming: a growing number of low and middle-income households have no retirement savings at all.

Persecution Watch

Christians are on the run in Nigeria. What ISIS has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria, a Nigerian cleric says. For Rev Samuel Dali, recent territorial gains made by Boko Haram in the northeast, signal the end of his home and of the church in that part of the country, Africa’s most populous. ‘‘The news is really bad. When they attacked our hometown, we decided to vacate the place. In Michika and surrounding areas, soldiers were running away. Some of them were killed or wounded and lot of people were also running for their lives,” Rev. Samuel Dali, President of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, told World Watch Monitor as he was on the run, a few meters from the Cameroon border. ‘‘We have lost almost everything,” he said. “Most of our churches have been destroyed and our pastors are scattered all over. Our members have fled and some of them killed.”

A group of at least 28 Christians (including women and children) were recently arrested in Saudi Arabia while meeting at the home of one of the congregants. None of them have been heard from since. One of our closest allies in the Middle East is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has long been an ally and friend to the Saud family who rule the important oil-producing nation. Sadly, this means that our nation has long turned a blind eye to the many human rights abuses taking place within the Muslim nation – particularly crimes against Christians. This latest incident shows the dangerous climate of hate that Christians in Saudi Arabia have to deal with.

A Pennsylvania county council has voted 8-6 against posting the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in its chambers. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald had threatened to veto the measure, which he called “a movement by the right-wing evangelical Christians across the country basically to impose Christianity” in public buildings. Fitzgerald is a Democrat, as are the eight council members who opposed the display. All five Republicans on council voted for the display, as did Democrat Bill Robinson.

Airmen who enlist or reenlist in the United States Air Force will no longer be required to say the phrase “so help me God” as part of a required oath, the agency announced on Wednesday. The Air Force faced pressure to change the policy from the American Humanist Association, which threatened to sue them on behalf of an airman who was not allowed to reenlist because he would not say the phrase.

Middle East

On Tuesday evening, a mortar shell was fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. It was the first such attack since the end of Operation Protective Edge, but Hamas authorities announcing shortly thereafter that they had arrested a rogue cell of another terrorist organization. Hamas added that it wants to maintain the cease-fire for now, even as PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said the “danger of the split between the Gaza Strip and West Bank has increased in light of failure to end the dispute between Palestinian factions.” Meanwhile, a recent poll indicates that roughly half the Palestinian population supports a return to armed violence against Israel.

Islamic State

Islamic State fighters backed by tanks have captured 16 Kurdish villages over the past 24 hours in northern Syria near the Turkish border, prompting civilians to flee their homes amid fears of retribution by the extremists sweeping through the area. Kurdish civilians were fleeing their villages for fear that Islamic State group fighters “will commit massacres against civilians.” Earlier this week Kurdish fighters captured 14 villages from the Islamic State in other parts of Syria. Now, the Kurds have been force out of villages elsewhere.

France carried out its first airstrikes in Iraq Friday, hitting a logistics depot held by the Islamic State extremist group. The target in northeastern Iraq was “entirely destroyed” in the attack by Rafale fighter jets. It was the first public acknowledgement by a foreign country that it had added its military muscle to U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State.

The U.S. military’s top officer said Wednesday that almost half of Iraq’s army is incapable of fighting against the Islamic State militant group, while the other half needs to be rebuilt with the help of U.S. advisers and military equipment. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that U.S. assessors who had spent the summer observing Iraq’s security forces concluded that 26 of the army’s 50 brigades would be capable of confronting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Dempsey described those brigades as well-led, capable, and endowed with a nationalist instinct, as opposed to a sectarian instinct. However, Dempsey said that the other 24 brigades were too heavily populated with Shiites to be part of a credible force against the Sunni ISIS. Sectarianism has been a major problem for the Iraqi security forces for years and is in part a reflection of resentments that built up during the decades of rule under Saddam Hussein, who repressed the majority Shiite population, and the unleashing of reprisals against Sunnis after U.S. forces toppled him in April 2003.

A man who owns an upstate New York food store funded ISIS, tried to send jihadists to Syria to fight with the terrorist group and plotted to do some killing himself — by gunning down U.S. troops who had served in Iraq — federal authorities alleged Tuesday. More than 800 Australian officers raided dozens of properties in the suburbs of Sydney on Thursday, in an operation to thwart an apparent Islamic State terror plot to carry out random attacks on the public, police said. Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed to reporters that a senior group leader in the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was calling on supporters to carry out public beheadings. Fifteen people were detained in the raids, and nine were later released. Two people were charged with conspiracy to commit acts in preparation of a terrorist act.


Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says 49 Turkish hostages held by Islamic militants have been freed. The Turks, including diplomatic staff, were seized on June 11, when the Islamic State group overran Mosul and stormed the Turkish Consulate. Davutoglu said the group was released early on Saturday and had arrived in Turkey. It’s unclear how they were freed, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked Turkish intelligence officials in a statement on his website. Davutoglu described it as a late-night operation.


A series of car bombings targeting a Shiite mosque and markets in the Iraqi capital killed at least 20 people Friday, officials said, in the second straight day of attacks in Baghdad blamed on Islamic militants who have seized large parts of the country. In the day’s deadliest attack, a parked explosives-packed car detonated near the al-Mubarak mosque in central Baghdad’s mostly Shiite district of Karradah, killing eight people and wounding 18 others. Cars later exploded in two outdoor markets, one in the Shiite suburb of Nahrawan and the other in the Shiite district of Bayaa. The attacks together killed nine people and wounded 23. Friday’s attacks came a day after a series of deadly attacks in mainly Shiite areas in and around Baghdad that left dozens killed.


Hassan Rouhani won world leaders’ warm embrace a year ago when he arrived at the United Nations General Assembly in New York as Iran’s new president, speaking of reconciliation and offering a new era in relations between his nation and the West. But when Rouhani arrives next week for this year’s U.N. session, diplomats will be pondering a different question: What went wrong? A year after that auspicious beginning, tensions with the West are as high as ever, and 10 months of negotiations over the toughest issue in the relationship – Iran’s nuclear program – are at an impasse. Now Western leaders want to know Iran’s intentions and if Rouhani is even calling the shots in Tehran on the nuclear issue and overall foreign policy… But in recent months, signs suggest the staunchly anti-Western Khamenei is directly managing the negotiations. He appears determined to sharply increase the country’s uranium enrichment capability in seven years, and not roll it back, as the West demands. Rouhani, who has lost a series of domestic political battles to conservatives, has taken a harder line on the nuclear talks recently.


Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine agreed on a complete ceasefire and buffer zone early Saturday in talks in Belarus, Russia’s state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported. Both sides also agreed to move heavy weaponry back from the front lines of the conflict, which had been raging from April until a preliminary truce was reached two weeks ago. That ceasefire has been shaky and interspersed with fighting that is at times heavy. The new deal — hammered out at talks in Minsk by representatives of Russia, the Ukrainian government, rebel leaders and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — sets out nine provisions for a more lasting ceasefire, RIA Novosti said.


Boko Haram militants are likely behind another attack in Nigeria; this time, the group attacked a college, opening fire on students. Fifteen people were reported dead from the attack and another 35 were injured. The Christian Post reports that the militants stormed the school with two of the terrorists wearing explosive vests. When the militants started shooting, one of the vests detonated, killing the wearer instantly. Kano State police commissioner Adelere Shinaba said, “They were obviously suicide bombers.”


Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom — along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland — following a historic referendum vote. By 55% to 45%, a majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation. “We hear you,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said to those who voted for independence, adding this was an opportunity to change the way people in the United Kingdom are governed, and “change it for the better.” A “new and fair settlement” will be created for Scotland and for the other countries of the United Kingdom, he said. Independence activists still feel they won with Scotland to receive greater autonomy within the U.K.


People smugglers accused of causing the deaths of hundreds of migrants when they deliberately rammed and sank their boat in the Mediterranean must be found and punished, the U.N. human rights chief said Friday. Up to 500 people on board are thought to have died after the boat went down last week. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Egypt and other North African and European states to track down those responsible for this “atrocious incident” and hold them accountable. “All the countries in the Mediterranean must make a concerted effort to clamp down on the smugglers who are exploiting one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet and endangering their lives, virtually on a daily basis, purely for financial gain,” Zeid said.


At least eight Ebola aid workers and journalists were reportedly murdered and dumped in a latrine in a remote village in Guinea in a frightening example of the growing distrust locals have of foreigners coming to help stem the mushrooming health crisis. They were reportedly attacked by a large crowd, throwing stones, from the village of Wome. These deaths are believed to be the first resulting from resistance to international efforts to curb the Ebola outbreak in the region. Other aid teams have been forced to turn back by crowds in several locations, and a treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia was attacked and looted.

The cost of fighting the Ebola virus is beginning to have severe impacts on the economies of West African countries. Over 2,600 people have died, according to the latest WHO count. If Ebola is not contained this year, the costs of containmentt could increase by eight times its current estimate, according to a report published Wednesday by the World Bank Group. Ebola’s toll in Liberia alone could affect almost 5% of the country’s GDP this year, the World Bank said. The United Nations said this week that $1 billion in aid is needed to contain the Ebola outbreak. But a UN database tally of donations shows that many wealthy Western nations that verbally pledged support have donated paltry sums to fight the disease.

A massive toxic algae called red tide is killing sea turtles, sharks and fish in the northeast Gulf of Mexico and is threatening the waters and beaches that fuel Florida’s economy. This particular strain of red tide, called Karenia brevis, is present nearly every year off Florida, but large blooms can be particularly devastating. Right now, the algae is collecting in an area about 60 miles wide and 100 miles long, about 5 to 15 miles off St. Petersburg in the south and stretching north to Florida’s Big Bend, where the peninsula ends and the Panhandle begins. Red tide kills marine life by releasing a toxin that paralyzes their central nervous system. The algae also foul beaches and can be harmful to people who inhale the algae’s toxins when winds blow onshore or by crashing waves, particularly those with asthma and other respiratory ailments. “This red tide … will likely cause considerable damage to our local fisheries and our tourist economy over the next few months,” said Heyward Mathews, an emeritus professor of oceanography at St. Petersburg College who has studied the issue for decades.


Three wildfires are charring California, fed by high temperatures, wind gusts and dry foliage from the state’s worst drought in decades. The King Fire, the largest of the three, exploded in size by Friday, pushing more than 2,800 people from their homes. The latest round of evacuations comes as thousands of Californians have fled their homes in recent days, with more than 200“ structures across the state reduced to ash and hundreds of other homes and buildings still under threat from encroaching flames. As 10 wildfires raged across California, authorities accused one man Thursday of having deliberately set one of the larger fires that was burning nearly uncontrollably over 111 square miles, officials said.

The ten fires burning across the state are symptoms of an ongoing crisis in drought-plagued California. State fire officials have already responded to more than 4,800 wildfires so far this year, USA Today reports, 1,000 more than an average fire season, and peak wildfire season is only just now underway. However, the country as a whole is experiencing a relatively quiet wildfire year with 39,685 total wildfires compared to a ten-year average of 58,434, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.


Torrential monsoon rains worsened by a tropical storm flooded large swathes of the Philippine capital and nearby provinces Friday, leaving at least three people dead and displacing tens of thousands just days after the region was drenched by a typhoon. Authorities said more than 470,000 residents of Metro Manila and other provinces were affected in severely inundated communities. At least 37,000 people in the capital were displaced in one of the worst floods in the sprawling metropolis of 12 million in recent years. Over 2,700 people in nearby provinces were also displaced by the floods.

A slowly moving area of thunderstorms brought heavy rain and flash flooding to the Austin, Texas area, beginning early Thursday morning and continuing through the evening. The storms forced multiple water rescues and cut off power to about 7,000 customers, and have been blamed for the death of a Travis County sheriff’s deputy. Numerous roads were closed overnight Thursday in the city of Austin as rainfall totals of more than 4 inches were reported in some spots.

Signs of the Times (9/16/14)

September 16, 2014

Stay Extended on Indiana Same-Sex Marriage

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday continued the stay on same-sex marriage in Indiana until it is addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state of Indiana requested a stay last week on a federal appeals court decision upholding a lower court ruling that Indiana’s ban is unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages in Indiana have been on hold since June 27, when the 7th Circuit Court first issued an emergency order stopping weddings pending appeal. Days earlier, on June 25, same-sex marriages in Indiana briefly became legal after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young threw out the state’s ban, leading to more than 800 marriages in courthouses across the state. The legal status of those marriages is still uncertain.

Same-Sex Marriage Heats Up this Election among Evangelicals

As more states affirm same-sex marriage, U.S. evangelicals continue to wrestle with homosexuality, setting boundaries for what’s acceptable and what’s not, and setting the stage for a heated fall election season. This week, things got hotter. A new group called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality launched last weekand is collecting signatures from evangelicals who support same-sex marriage. Its advisory board includes author and speaker Brian McLaren, former National Association of Evangelicals vice president Richard Cizik, and former USAID faith adviser Chris LaTondresse. Cizik resigned from his NAE position over his support for same-sex civil unions.

“Our organization is not taking a theological position on the issue of the sacrament of marriage,” said spokesman Brandan Robertson. “We just want evangelicals to see that it is possible to hold a plethora of beliefs about sexuality and marriage while affirming the rights of LGBTQ men and women to be civilly married under the law.” Testing evangelical boundaries didn’t work well for World Vision earlier this year when it decided and then reversed its position on same-sex employees. The new marriage equality group is already facing challenges from evangelical institutions. An ad it placed with Christianity Today, World and Relevant magazines was rejected by all three evangelical mainstays.

  • Biblical principles continue to erode as Christians and Churches compromise God’s Word. Romans 1:26-27 is quite clear that homosexuality is sinful and vile.

President Obama to Assign 3,000 U.S. Troops to Right Ebola

President Obama on Tuesday announced an expansion of a $763 million U.S. plan to help West Africa nations fight the spread of the Ebola virus. About 3,000 U.S. military personnel will be assigned to lead the project. Working through the Defense Department, the United States will plan and construct treatment centers that could house up to 1,700 beds and supply the centers with medical equipment.. Washington has committed more than $100 million to combat Ebola, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Obama plans to call on Congress to approve an additional $88 million as part of a bill to fund the federal government.

U.S. ‘At War’ with Islamic State

The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war. “In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said. Kirby said “this is not the Iraq War” from a decade ago, “but make no mistake — we know we are at war with ISIL. The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq on Monday in what defense officials said is the start of an expanded action against Islamic State extremists.

French jets made their first reconnaissance sorties over Iraq Monday as part of a growing international push against the Islamic State. Administration officials say that ‘several’ Arab countries have offered to join the US in airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria amid a buildup of training and aid to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. However, Iran has rejected a U.S. appeal to join a global fight against Islamic State militants, the country’s top religious and political figure said Monday.

Muslims Are Already Killing Christians in America

In one of the recent murders almost totally ignored by mainstream media, a 19 year old Roman Catholic named Brendan Tevlin was shot to death by an African American Muslim named Ali Muhammad Brown in New Jersey. Brendan was a Eucharistic minister in the Catholic Church. The slaughter of this innocent Catholic was considered by Brown, a “just kill,” and that he was seeking vengeance for what is happening to Muslims in “Iraq, Syria, (and) Afghanistan.” Brown was driving his jeep, and he just had texted his mother that he was coming home, when he stopped at a red light, Ali shot Brendan 8 times in his jeep. As part of his jihad, Ali murdered 3 other Americans earlier this year, reports

ISIS wants to cross into the United States through the US-Mexican border, warns the Texas Department of Public Safety. “A review of ISIS social media messaging during the week ending August 26 shows that militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attacks.” A man, reportedly in Houston TX, was arrested and he was wearing an ISIS logo, Freedom Outpost also reports.

  • The Obama administration has not only been lax on illegal border entry, they have left it wide open to terrorists of all stripes to invade our soil and attack our country from within.

AG Holder Announces Plan to Combat American Militants

Attorney General Eric Holder announced a strategy Monday aimed at attempting to disrupt American extremists from joining terrorist groups, including those drawn to conflicts in Syria and Iraq. “We have established processes for detecting American extremists who attempt to join terror groups abroad,” Holder said in a video message on the Justice Department’s website. “And we have engaged in extensive outreach to communities here in the U.S. – so we can work with them to identify threats before they emerge, to disrupt homegrown terrorists, and to apprehend would-be violent extremists.’ ‘Holder said Justice was joining the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center to help local community leaders — public safety and religious leaders — identify those who may be seeking to join jihadist movements abroad.

  • Such detection schemes run the danger of sweeping up those dissidents the government seeks to silence

Obamacare Reduces Uninsured by 4 Million

The ranks of the uninsured declined as 4 million gained health insurance coverage through Obamacare, new government data released Tuesday found. There were 41 million Americans lacking coverage in early 2014, down from 44.8 million last year, according to the National Health Interview Survey, the first official government look at the uninsured after Obamacare policies kicked in on January 1. The uninsured rate fell to 13.1%, from 14.4%.The report found young adults had the largest drop in uninsured levels. The share decreased from to 20.9%, from 26.5%. Many of them gained coverage through public programs, such as Medicaid.

  • It remains to be seen whether the 1.3% drop in the uninsured rate is worth the cost and added government bureaucracy. A cost-benefit analysis is required, but don’t expect to see one anytime soon.

Wind Turbines Kill Fewer Birds than do Cats & Cell Towers

As wind power expands in the United States, critics often blame giant turbine blades for bird deaths. What’s billed as the most comprehensive analysis ever of these fatalities says birds face far greater threats. Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study released Monday by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc. “We estimate that on an annual basis, less than 0.1% … of songbird and other small passerine species populations in North America perish from collisions with turbines,” says lead author Wallace Erickson.

Economic News

Inflation at the wholesale level stayed low in August as the producer price index was unchanged, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The unchanged reading in August follows a 0.1% advance in July and a 0.4% jump in June. Wholesale prices have risen 1.8% in the 12 months ending in August.

A record 92.26 million Americans ages 16 and over did not have a job last month and the labor force participation rate stood at 62.8 percent, matching a 36-year low. The rate stood as high as 66.4 percent in December 2006 and January 2007, but began decreasing as the recession struck in 2007. Since the recession began, 6.9 million fewer Americans are now working or searching for work. Those who did not have a job and did not actively seek one in August are not considered to be in the labor force, along with retirees, students, and Americans collecting disability benefits (6 percent of U.S. adults are now collecting disability benefits).

Russia’s currency dropped to an all-time low against the dollar on Tuesday as investors fret about the fallout of economic sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine that consisted, among other things, in blocking off Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies. The ruble has lost over 2.7% in just two days.


Persecution Watch

A Christian “husband and wife who were fined $13,000 and told they could not discriminate against same-sex couples after refusing to allow a gay wedding [in their own house] on their New York farm have announced that they will ‘no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property. “‘Going forward, [Cynthia and Robert Gifford] have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property,” wrote Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney James Trainor. “A judge ruled earlier this month that the Giffords’ farm is a public accommodation because they rent their space out, and they therefore must abide by New York anti-discrimination law. Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business,”

Three elderly Italian nuns murdered in Burundi were laid to rest Thursday (Sept. 11) in a Xaverian cemetery in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid heightened calls for action about their death. Sister Lucia Pulici, 75, Sister Olga Raschietti, 82, and Sister Bernadetta Boggian, 79, of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary were gruesomely murdered the prior Sunday in their convent in the Kamenge area of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. The triple murders shocked Christians across the globe and ignited calls for the protection of sisters worldwide. The nuns were reportedly beaten and killed with a knife. At least one nun was decapitated.

Middle East

Some half million Gaza children made a delayed return to school Sunday after a devastating 50-day war with Israel that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and damaged hundreds of school buildings. The opening was delayed for two weeks because of damage to schools and the diversion of U.N. school buildings for use as temporary centers to house tens of thousands of displaced people. Some 50,000 people are still being housed in the U.N. schools, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency said. 26 Gaza schools were destroyed during the war, and another 232 sustained damage. Unlike in previous years the first week of instruction in government schools will be given over to providing psychological counseling and recreational activities to help the war-weary children transition to learning.


Ukraine and the European Union ratified a political and economic agreement Tuesday in a step leaders hailed as a “historic moment.” The EU Association Agreement includes free-trade provisions, although they will not come into force until January 1, 2016. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the Ukrainian people had “reversed the express train going East” toward Russia and thanked the EU for its support. Ukraine’s parliament also voted Tuesday in favor of legislation that would give “special status” to rebel-held parts of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and grant amnesty to the separatists.

Ukraine fended off an attack by pro-Russian rebels at a major airport Saturday as Moscow sent another convoy of aid into the country, underscoring the fragility of the cease-fire between the two countries. Ukrainian military leaders repelled separatists at Donetsk airport as another round of fighting erupted in the eastern part of the country Saturday, about a week after the cease-fire agreement was reached. A volley of rockets struck residential buildings near the airport but no casualties were reported. Heightening tensions further was Moscow’s decision to send a second convoy of trucks into Ukraine without its consent. Pro-Russian rebels released dozens of captive Ukrainian troops Sunday as part of a ceasefire deal. But despite the ceasefire, violence continued to flare Sunday in the volatile region.


Three members of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force were killed in an attack in Kabul on Tuesday, the coalition said. Two were U.S. military personnel, and the third was Polish. At least 13 Afghan civilians were also wounded in the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing targeting a convoy of foreign forces in the Afghan capital. The explosion took place on Kabul International Airport Road, near the Supreme Court compound. The explosion in Kabul came a day after a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against ISAF members in western Afghanistan on Monday. The latest violence comes as Afghanistan grapples with the messy fallout from its presidential election this year. Most NATO troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year as the U.S.-led war effort against the Taliban winds down.

North Korea

North Korea’s Supreme Court on Sunday sentenced a 24-year-old American man to six years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and trying to commit espionage. At a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, the court said Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, California, tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted to having the “wild ambition” of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea’s human rights situation. Miller, who waived the right to a lawyer, was handcuffed and led from the courtroom after his sentencing. The court ruled that it would not hear any appeals to its decision. Miller also falsely claimed to have secret information about the U.S. military in South Korea on his iPad and iPod. Miller is one of three Americans now being held in North Korea. During a brief interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang last week, Miller said he had written a letter to President Barack Obama but had not received a reply. The U.S. has repeatedly offered to send an envoy to seek the freedom of the detainees, but without success.

United Kingdom

The three main UK party leaders gave a joint promise Tuesday that Scotland will get extra powers if it opts to stay part of the United Kingdom in a landmark vote later this week. Opinion polls have put the pro-independence and pro-union camps neck-and-neck in the run-up to Thursday’s referendum. UK Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservatives, coalition partner Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats and Labour leader Ed Miliband have joined forces to beg Scotland to stay. In a pledge published on the front page of Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper, the three leaders say that if Scotland’s voters reject independence, work to devolve “extensive new powers” from the central government in Westminster will start Friday. The issue of spending on social welfare and health care, through the National Health Service, has been central to the pro-independence campaign. Questions over the economy and taxation have also been key.


The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has implored President Obama for help in managing her country’s rapidly expanding Ebola crisis and has warned that without American assistance the disease could send Liberia into the civil chaos that enveloped the country for two decades. In a letter on Tuesday to Mr. Obama, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf wrote that “I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us.” She urgently requested 1,500 additional beds in new hospitals across the country and urged that the United States military set up and run a 100-bed Ebola hospital in the besieged capital, Monrovia. Infectious disease experts have sharply criticized as inadequate the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, particularly in Liberia, a country founded by freed American slaves. Global agencies like the World Health Organization and the United Nations have also come under criticism for responding too slowly to the Ebola outbreak.


Thousands of people are being evacuated from the area around an active volcano in the Philippines after the country’s seismology agency issued an alert saying a hazardous eruption could happen “within weeks.” Mount Mayon, which towers over the city of Legazpi in the central Philippines, has shown “a noticeable escalation of unrest,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said. Authorities in the region of Albay responded Tuesday by launching efforts to relocate more than 10,000 people from a 6–kilometer (3.6 mile) radius around the volcano. The seismology agency said 39 rock falls, caused by breaches of a bulging lava dome at the volcano’s summit, had been detected Monday.


Nearly 1,500 firefighters Monday evening battled a rapidly spreading fire in the steep forests east of Sacramento, one of 11 major wildfires burning in California. Hot, dry weather has exacerbated conditions caused by a record drought. In addition to destroying homes and forests, the wildfires have been spewing unhealthy smoke into the air, prompting air-quality alerts in portions of the state sweltering under high temperatures and low humidity.

The King Fire in El Dorado County swept through an estimated 8,600 acres, a jump from the 3,900 acres reported earlier in the day, and containment dropped to 5% from 10% as the fire spread in the high heat. The fire is located in a canyon of the south fork of the American River, northeast of the community of Pollock Pines. The King Fire caused 160 mandatory evacuations. A wildfire near Mt. Shasta quickly damaged or destroyed 100 structures Monday. Fanned by high winds, the fire burned a Catholic church and damaged a lumber mill. Sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door to evacuate the town and nearby Carrick and Lake Shastina.

Hundreds of people have been issued mandatory evacuation orders after a fire was sparked Sunday afternoon near Bass Lake in Central California. In total, about 1,000 residents were pushed out of some 400 homes. Flames damaged or destroyed 21 structures. The fire started off a road outside of Oakhurst, a foothill community south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park, and made a run to Bass Lake. Stoked by winds, it quickly charred at least 320 acres. The fire was 20 percent contained as of Monday morning.

Further north, a wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced the evacuation of 133 homes. Residents of another 406 homes were being told to prepare to flee. The blaze started in a remote area Saturday, but exploded on Sunday when it reached a canyon full of thick, dry brush. It has blackened 4.7 square miles, and was just 10 percent contained.

A brushfire in Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest in Orange County exploded in size on Friday, growing from 300 to 1,300 acres in just a few hours on Friday. The Silverado Fire started in the backyard of a home in rural Silverado Canyon around 11 a.m. on Friday and quickly tore through the area’s drought-parched vegetation. Temperatures in the mid-90s were fueling the flames as they swept over the scenic, mountainous terrain. Evacuation orders for 200 homes in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon were lifted late Sunday as firefighters contained 50 percent of a wildfire after charring 1.5 square miles. Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries, many of them from heat exhaustion as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures.


Hurricane Odile roared into Baja California on Sunday night, packing fierce winds that shook buildings, blew out windows and knocked out power in the picturesque resort town of Cabo San Lucas. Wind gusts of up to 116 mph were measured in Los Cabos as the storm made landfall just before 11 p.m. local time. With maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, Odile is the strongest hurricane to make landfall anywhere in Baja California since modern records began in the mid-20th century. Hundreds of tourists hunkered down in hotels to ride out the storm. Earlier Sunday, the storm prompted Mexican authorities to evacuate residents in coastal areas and open shelters for up to 30,000 people. Despite the ferocity of the storm, so far, no deaths have been reported. Emergency officials reported that 135 people were treated for minor injuries from things like flying glass or falling objects, but there were no serious injuries. But Odile brought a different kind of tragedy – hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed in towns far inland.

The season’s first frost and freeze was seen for parts of the Rockies, Plains, Northwest, and Upper Midwest this week. Numerous record lows and record cold daytime highs were set as well. In addition to this frost and freeze threat, snow blanketed parts of the Rockies and High Plains, setting records in some locations. Roughly three dozen locations set daily record cool highs Thursday from the northern Rockies to the Great Lakes. It’s about two to three weeks early for temperatures to drop to 32 degrees or below in Billings, Montana (average date is Oct. 3) and Rapid City, South Dakota (average date is Sept. 27).

Signs of the Times (9/12/14)

September 12, 2014

Missouri Overrides Veto of 3-Day Abortion Waiting Period

Missouri lawmakers forced an extension of the state’s abortion waiting period into law late Wednesday night after Republicans used a rare parliamentary tactic to kill a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. The House voted 117-44 to overturn Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 1307. The Senate voted 23-7. The legislation extends the state’s current 24-hour waiting period. Missouri becomes only the third state in the nation with a three-day period, along with South Dakota and Utah. Opponents of the abortion waiting period legislation were concerned the 72-hour waiting period would make obtaining an abortion more difficult. Missouri has only one clinic that performs abortions, located in St. Louis.

Trail Life USA Draws 14,000 Members in Wake of Scout Boys Split over Gay Youth

Trail Life USA, the Christian alternative to Boy Scouts of America, launched in January; the organization has now attracted over 14,000 members in 47 states. The group formed after the Boy Scouts lifted its ban on openly homosexual youth in 2013. Mark Hancock, chief executive officer of Trail Life USA said, “… [W]e are adding a couple hundred members a week…We would have grown a lot faster if we weren’t so strict with our chartering requirements, but we’re building a strong foundation of troops that are aligned with the Christian principles we uphold. We are unapologetically Christian. Our values are drawn from the Bible.”

Survey Notes Changes in Nation’s Churches

The National Congregations Study’s latest look at the country’s churches, synagogues and mosques — the third wave of studies that began in 1998 — finds more congregations: Open their doors to gays and lesbians in active membership and in leadership; Show racial and ethnic diversity in the pews; Encourage hand-waving, amen-shouting, and dancing-in-the-aisles during worship; with more disconnecting from denominational ties doctrines and rules that might slow or block change. The study, released Thursday, draws on interviews with leaders at 1,331 nationally representative congregations and updates data from 1998 and 2006 studies. Non-Christian congregations were included in the study but there are too few for statistical analysis by topics. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic churches turned more sharply conservative during the years of the study focus. The percentage of Catholic churches permitting full-fledged membership for gays dropped to 53 percent, down from 74 percent of congregations. And those permitting gays in leadership roles fell to 26 percent from 39 percent.

  • Change is necessarily all good, with the liberalization of churches moving away from God’s Word.

President Obama Announces Strategy Against Islamic State

President Obama said Wednesday he is prepared to order airstrikes on Syrian territory as part of an expanded counter-terrorism plan to confront the Islamic State jihadist group that is operating in both Syria and Iraq. Obama, who began ordering airstrikes in Iraq last month, also told a national television audience he is urging Congress to approve money for training rebel forces in Syria. The president’s counter-terrorism strategy also includes: more airstrikes in Iraq; the deployment of 475 more U.S. military troops to assist the Iraq military, bringing the total number of American advisers to some 1,600; help from other countries; and an emphasis on having local ground forces battle the insurgent group that is also known as ISIL or ISIS. America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama said.

U.S. Public Supports Air Strikes Against Islamic State

Americans overwhelmingly view Islamic State terrorists as a serious threat to vital U.S. interests and, in a significant shift, widely support airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The nation’s increasingly hawkish mood will form part of the backdrop for a speech by President Obama on Wednesday, when he will outline his thinking on how to confront the threat from the Islamic State. Obama’s remarks will come a day after he confers with congressional leaders at the White House about the administration’s planning. Obama’s speech also comes at a critical moment in his presidency. He will address the nation at a time of record or ­near-record lows in public assessments of his performance. Only 43 percent of Americans say he is a strong leader, the lowest reading since he entered the White House. Just over half the country says his presidency has been a failure.

Arabs Give Tepid Support to U.S. Fight Against ISIS

Many Arab governments grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence. Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama’s expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists. As the prospect of the first American strikes inside Syria crackled through the region, the mixed reactions underscored the challenges of a new military intervention in the Middle East, where 13 years of chaos, from Sept. 11 through the Arab Spring revolts, have deepened political and sectarian divisions and increased mistrust of the United States on all sides, notes the New York Times. The tepid support could further complicate the already complex task Mr. Obama has laid out for himself in fighting the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: He must try to confront the group without aiding Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, or appearing to side with Mr. Assad’s Shiite allies.

  • If Obama hadn’t pulled completely out of Iraq and surrendered all the progress achieved there we would not have this ISIS crisis today.

Iranian Leaders Say Islamic State Created by U.S.

Iranian leaders have been saying for a long time, is made-in-the-U.S.A., a tool of terror intended by the world’s superpower to divide and conquer the energy-rich Middle East and to counter the growing influence of Iran in the region… Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has often said that he believes ISIS was created by the United States as a way to regain a foothold in Iraq and to fight President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, an ally of Iran. ‘We have evidence, we know,’ he told an audience of clerics last week, without elaborating. Ayatollah Khamenei reminded them that Al Qaeda – a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, Iran has said – and the Taliban were, in the eyes of Iranian intelligence, devised by the West as a counterweight to Iran. ‘There is no doubt that these movements are created by Western powers and their regional agents,’ Mr. Khamenei has insisted.”

Foreign Fighters Swell ISIS Ranks

On Thursday, the CIA made a startling announcement: The number of people fighting for ISIS is more than three times the previous estimates. Analysts and U.S. officials initially estimated there were as many as 10,000 fighters, including those who were freed from prisons by ISIS, and Sunni loyalists who have joined the fight as the group advanced across Iraq. But now ISIS, which calls itself the “Islamic State,” can “muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,” a CIA spokesman told CNN on Thursday. “This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity and additional intelligence,” the spokesman said. Numerous foreign fighters believed to have swelled the Sunni extremist group’s ranks in recent months. A CIA source told CNN on Thursday that more than 15,000 foreign fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria to join ISIS.

CO2 Levels in Atmosphere Rising at Dramatically Faster Rate

Levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record-shattering pace last year, a new UN report shows, a surge that surprised scientists and spurred fears of an accelerated warming of the planet in decades to come. Concentrations of nearly all the major greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, reflecting ever-rising emissions from automobiles and smokestacks but also, scientists believe, a diminishing ability of the world’s oceans and plant life to soak up the excess carbon put into the atmosphere by humans, according to data released Tuesday by the United Nations’ meteorological advisory body.

U.S. Threatened Massive Fine to Force Yahoo to Release Data

The U.S threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA’s controversial Prism program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss prompted Yahoo to become one of the first companies to join Prism, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms

Economic News

Consumers stepped up their purchases in August as retail sales grew at the fastest pace since April, the Commerce Department said Friday. Retail sales increased 0.6% in August. Excluding booming auto purchases, a volatile category, sales rose 0.3%.In August, sales at furniture, electronics and clothing stores rose, while department store sales declined. Americans are splurging on cars and SUVs after deferring such purchases during the economic downturn. Auto sales reached an eight-year high of 17.5 million last month.

More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the trend in benefit applications in the past month remained low. The Labor Department says that weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, the most since late June. Still, the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose just 750 to 304,000. The average is 7.1% lower than it was a year ago.

Outstanding consumer credit increased by a seasonally adjusted $26 billion in July, the most since November 2001, the Federal Reserve said Monday. Non-revolving debt, which includes student and auto loans, rose by $20.6 billion. Credit card debt increased $5.3 billion. Total credit increased at a 9.7% annual rate after rising 7.1% in June. In recent months, banks have eased their lending standards.

A series of recent economic indicators, including factory hiring, shows momentum building nationally in the manufacturing sector. New energy production through hydraulic fracturing has created ancillary opportunities for distressed regions of the country to renew themselves through affiliated manufacturing processes. Ohio’s unemployment rate in July was 5.7 percent, well below the national average of 6.1 percent. That’s a sharp reversal of the situation four years ago, when unemployment in Ohio hit 10.6 percent, significantly above the country’s overall jobless rate at the time.

There were 4.7 million total openings in July, a slight increase over June’s figures, but almost 800,000 more openings compared to January, according to the Labor Department’s Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover Survey. In even better news for job seekers, employers increased their hiring in July, signaling 13 straight months of 4.5 million or more hires, the longest such stretch since the recession ended. The quits rate, a measure of people who voluntarily left jobs but did not retire, stayed at 1.8% for the sixth month in a row.

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Federal Reserve found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation’s wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It’s substantially higher than the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing. At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That’s compared to 33.2% in 1989.

Persecution Watch

A bible college in Nigeria and other churches have temporarily closed after Boko Haram attacks in the area have killed more than 300 Christians in one week. Nigeria’s Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) President Samuel Dali sent an emergency prayer message out to supporters, saying that the church is threatened. Islamic extremists insurgents are trying to impose Islamic law throughout Nigeria. “Boko Haram violence has been getting worse every day, and our members are fleeing the area by the thousands,” Dali said. “Recent attacks in Borno and Adamawa states where are our churches are located have seen Boko Haram take over the Army base. As a result, about 350 Christians have been killed.”

Dozens of Christians arrested at a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia need America’s help, according to a key lawmaker who is pressing the State Department on their behalf. Some 28 people were rounded up Friday by hard-line Islamists from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the home of an Indian national in the eastern Saudi city of Khafji, and their current situation is unknown, according to human rights advocates. “Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy,” Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told “It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments.” Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va, told he will press the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh and the State Department to assist the arrested Christians.


Ukraine’s president promised Wednesday to introduce a bill to parliament as early as next week that would offer greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the pro-Russia east, where separatists have been battling government troops for almost five months. But Petro Poroshenko said the regions would remain part of Ukraine and rejected the idea of federalization, something both Russia and pro-Moscow separatists have continued to push for even after a cease-fire agreement took effect Friday. Poroshenko said that 70 percent of Russian troops on Ukrainian territory had been withdrawn since the cease-fire began. He also said that 700 Ukrainian prisoners had been freed from rebel captivity, and expressed hope that another 500 would be freed by the end of the week. Russia still has about 1,000 troops inside eastern Ukraine, a NATO military officer said Thursday. NATO also says 20,000 more Russian troops are aligned along the border


Inspectors have determined “with a high degree of confidence” that chlorine gas was used in attacks this year in northern Syria. A fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found “compelling confirmation” that a toxic chemical was used “systematically and repeatedly,” the group said in a statement Wednesday. The mission’s task did not include determining who was responsible for using chemical weapons. It was investigating claims that the Syrian regime used chlorine gas in the villages of Talmanes, Al Tamanah and Kafr Zita.


Afghanistan has been thrown into political turmoil after a months-long dispute between two presidential candidates prevented a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai being named. The country’s presidential election was held on April 5, and was followed by a runoff vote in June after the first result was inconclusive. The two contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have accused each other of fraud and manipulation. Despite pleas from Karzai and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to come to a resolution, the two opponents remain at an impasse, sparking concerns of bloodshed and instability in the fragile, war-torn country. It has significantly delayed what was to be Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power. This comes at a time as the Taliban have carried out deadly attacks on high-profile targets and fought heavily for control of the Helmand province. As the U.S.-led war effort against the Taliban winds down, most NATO troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year.


Iraqi officials say twin car bombs near pet and vegetable markets in Baghdad have killed 10 people. Two car bombs exploded simultaneously in the southeastern neighborhood of New Baghdad on Wednesday. The attack came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting Baghdad to press Iraq’s newly sworn Shiite prime minister to deliver more power to wary Sunnis in order to confront the Islamic State extremist group.


The Spanish region of Catalonia may briefly steal the referendum limelight from Scotland on Thursday, with demonstrations in Barcelona aimed at sparking momentum for those opposed to Spanish rule. The organizers of Catalan Way 2014, as Thursday’s mass demonstrations have been dubbed, have said they are targeting more than 450,000 people for the event and hope to “fill the streets to fill the ballot boxes.” About 55% of Catalans support independence from Spain, according to the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia.


A blast ripped through a fast-food restaurant next to a busy subway station in Chile’s capital on Monday, injuring at least 14 people in the most damaging of nearly 30 bombings or attempted bombings in Santiago this year. While no group claimed responsibility for the blast, many past bombings have been claimed by anarchist groups. Santiago is one of the safest capitals in Latin America, but Chileans have been shocked by at least 29 bombs that have been found across the city so far this year. Some have not gone off and none of the other bombs before this one caused any injuries.


The number of new Ebola cases is growing faster than the ability of health officials to handle them, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday. At least 2,400 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the outbreak has been concentrated. Cases have also been reported in nearby Nigeria and Senegal. WHO said it had recorded 4,293 cases in five West African countries as of Sept. 6th. But it still did not have new figures for Liberia, the worst-affected country, suggesting the true toll is already much higher. The WHO has said it expects thousands of new cases in Liberia in the next three weeks. The primary reason WHO is unable to contain the spread of Ebola is that they are able to successfully trace only 20-30% of contacts.


A strong earthquake hit off the coast of Sulawesi Island in eastern Indonesia on Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, and authorities said there was no threat of a tsunami. The magnitude-6.5 quake struck at a depth of 13 miles and was centered about 76 miles southeast of Mondayang, a town in northern Sulawesi. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.


Record-setting rains slammed the southwestern United States on Monday, turning roadways into rivers as flash floods washed away cars. Up to 200 children were briefly trapped in an elementary school in Moapa, Nevada, due to the waters. Flash flooding also washed a portion of Interstate 15 away near the community of Glendale, Arizona, taking many vehicles with it. No one has been injured but it has damaged so much of the highway that it may not be fixed until Wednesday. In Arizona, the governor declared an emergency Monday as flooding from the historic rains closed roads and schools in her state. A woman was killed after her car was submerged in floodwaters in Tucson. In Phoenix, the flooding left morning commuters stranded on Interstate 10. In just 24 hours, some areas around Phoenix saw more than 6 inches of rain. A typical year sees only about 8-9 inches of rain total. Tourists and truckers were told to prepare for another day of disruptive detours Wednesday around a closed stretch of busy Interstate 15 in southern Nevada that crumbled in chunks during intense flash flooding.

Heavy rains drenched Omaha on Tuesday, leaving high water on roads just in time for rush hour. To make matters worse, the city’s 911 call system went down. Tuesday afternoon, firefighters in Omaha had to rescue a woman and two infants from a car that was swamped by floodwaters in an underpass. Omaha recorded 0.96 inch of rain in a 10-minute span. In northwestern Missouri, tree and power line damage was reported in Fairfax. Law enforcement reported a tornado on the ground shortly after 7 p.m. near Maitland, Missouri. In Atchison County, Missouri, the city of Tarkio lost power just before 6 p.m. as winds with sustained speeds of 70 mph blew through. Reports of more than six inches of rainfall Tuesday afternoon and evening were relayed from Union County, Iowa, and more rain was expected to fall.

Flash flooding in the Memphis, Tennessee, metro area prompted dozens of water rescues, including the evacuation of an entire neighborhood to the north of downtown. Dozens of roads were flooded, stranding cars throughout the metro area. The county said more than 30 people were rescued from their vehicles near Mountain Terrace. Numerous roads were closed due to high water. Some of the worst flooding came when a creek burst its banks and flooded all lanes on Germantown Road at U.S. 70. Just south of the state border, DeSoto County, Mississippi, also suffered from flooding, and Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency Thursday night for the area.

September snow blanketed parts of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, northern Colorado and western Nebraska, downing trees and set early snow records in some locations, 11 days before summer officially ends. Thursday morning brought the earliest measurable snow on record to Rapid City, South Dakota, where 1.6 inches was officially measured at the National Weather Service office. Rapid City has now had two of its three all-time heaviest snowstorms and its record earliest snow all in a 19-month span since early April 2013. Snow piled up to 8 inches deep in the Black Hills near Custer, South Dakota. Farther west, the snow was even heavier in parts of northern Wyoming, where up to 18 inches was measured. Broken branches, downed trees and power outages littered streets in the city of Buffalo, Wyoming, where 7-8 inches of snow fell.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme during the run-up to the Great Tribulation

Signs of the Times (9/8/14)

September 8, 2014

Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana Gay Marriage Ban

Louisiana’s gay marriage ban was upheld in a decision Wednesday (Sept. 3). Federal judge Martin Feldman ruled that ban could remain in place, becoming the first federal judge to rule in support of a state ban since the Supreme Court renounced the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Feldman wrote, “Louisiana’s decision to neither permit nor recognize same-sex marriage, formed in the arena of the democratic process, is supported by a rational basis.” Feldman backed up his decision to uphold the ban with history writing, “The Court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid.” The U.S. District judge was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Abortion Industry Covering Up for Pedophiles

Life Dynamics and other pro-life organizations have exposed abortion mills for covering up crimes of pedophiles while performing abortions on underage girls. “[We] reviewed criminal cases in which men have been convicted of sexual relationships with minor girls,” said Life Dynamics founder Mark Crutcher. “During those trials it was revealed that child victims had been taken to an abortion clinic or a Planned Parenthood facility but no report was made, despite mandatory reporting laws. This allowed the abuse of the child to continue afterward.” Some of the girls were 6 to 8 years old, he reports, and abuse continued for several years until they became pregnant – and then the abuser took the girl for an abortion. It is a national scandal that this is allowed to go on, and the main reason that it does go on is because these pedophiles know that the worst thing that can happen to them is that the girl gets pregnant – but then all they have to do is take her to one of these places, and nobody will say anything.”

  • Evil perpetrated in darkness leads to more evil and more darkness

IRS ‘Lost’ Emails from 5 Employees Involved in Congressional Probes

The IRS said Friday that it has lost emails from five other employees involved in congressional probes into the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. The announcement comes after the agency said in June that it could not locate an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The revelation set off a new round of investigations and congressional hearings. On Friday, the IRS issued a report to Congress saying the agency also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, whose committee has been investigating the scandal, said the disclosure is yet another example of the Obama administration changing its story on the scandal. “The IRS’s ever-changing story is practically impossible to follow at this point, as they modify it each time to accommodate new facts,” Issa, R-Calif., said. “This pattern must stop.”

  • The IRS is becoming a domestic terrorist organization relying on proven cover-up strategies including the illegal destruction of evidence and outright lying. It’s time to rein them in and reform the tax code.

Obama Delays Immigration Action

President Obama has delayed action to reshape the nation’s immigration system without congressional approval until after the November elections, bowing to the concerns of Senate Democrats on the ballots, White House officials said on Saturday. The decision is a striking reversal of Mr. Obama’s vow to take action on immigration soon after summer’s end. The president made that promise on June 30, standing in the Rose Garden, where he angrily denounced Republican obstruction and said he would use the power of his office to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation. The president and his top aides have concluded that an immigration announcement before November could anger conservatives across the country, cripple Democratic efforts to retain control of the Senate, and severely set back any hope for progress on a permanent immigration overhaul, notes the New York Times. Immigration-reform advocates expressed their objections Saturday to President Obama’s delaying executive action to fix U.S. immigration policy, including cries of bitter disappointment and accusations that the president broke his promises and caved-in to election-year politics.

U.S. Offshore Wind Power Nears Takeoff

Long stymied by high costs and local opposition, offshore wind is finally nearing takeoff in the Untied States as 14 projects enter “advanced stages” of development, the Energy Department reports. Two of the projects — Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts and Deepwater’s Block Island off Rhode Island — have moved into the initial stages of construction while the others have obtained a lease, conducted extensive studies or obtained a power purchase agreement. Nine are located on the East Coast. These projects represent about 4.9 gigawatts of possible capacity, according to a new DOE report that was produced by Navigant Consulting. That’s a fraction of the 61 gigawatt capacity of onshore wind turbines, which meet nearly 4.5% of U.S. electricity demand in an average year.

Legal or Not, the Pot Business is Complicated

The tangle of rules and regulations that govern whether and how marijuana can be grown, bought and sold create complexity and ambiguity that cause major headaches for pot businesses — and enticing opportunities for those who want to exploit it. The nation hasn’t decided whether marijuana is a dangerous illegal drug or not much worse than tobacco or alcohol. According to federal law, it is an illegal narcotic like heroin, with “no currently accepted medical use.” But recent legalization pushes have made it legal — for medical use — in 23 states and Washington D.C. In Colorado and Washington State, it can be bought just for fun. Entrepreneurs and investors have to navigate laws that are different from state to state and sometimes from county to county.

Economic News

Experian Automotive says that in the first quarter of 2014, 24.9% of all new-car loans were 73 to 84 months long. Four years ago, less than 10% of loans were that long. Such lengthy terms have pulled the average new-car loan to 66 months. That’s an all-time record. Such loans have helped fuel new-car sales, which are up 9.2% through July, 2014. John Mendel, Honda’s top U.S. sales executive, told Automotive News that lengthy car loans are “a very, very short-term tactic” that’s “probably pulling people out of used cars into a new car that maybe they can’t afford.”

Greece’s economy is expected to expand in the third quarter for the first time in eight years, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Saturday. Samaras hailed what he said was an “unprecedented success” in getting the heavily indebted country out of its deepest ever financial crisis. Samaras said it is impossible to bring wages and pensions up to pre-crisis levels but promised raises for military and police personnel.

Japan says revised data show its economy contracted at an annual rate of 7.1% in April-June. The data released Monday showed business investment fell more than estimated earlier. The recovery of the world’s third-largest economy has slowed following an increase in the sales tax to 8% from 5% on April 1. The economy grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6% in January-March.

The pound sank to its lowest level in 10 months Monday after an opinion poll over the weekend showed supporters of Scottish independence gaining a slim lead for the first time. Scotland votes next week on the fate of its 307-year union with England, and the prospect of years of political and economic uncertainty is slamming the pound and hitting stock markets. Strong growth and rapid job creation had sent the British currency to a 6-year high of $1.71 as markets anticipated the first rise in interest rates since 2007. But politics has now come to the fore, and the pound has fallen nearly 6% from its peak.

Persecution Watch

Christians in India are facing threats as Hindu extremists have taken over village councils to pass laws restricting religions other than Hindu. The laws reportedly make Christian prayer, meetings, and literature illegal, and non-Hindu missionaries are now banned in 50 towns. Though India’s constitution guarantees citizens freedom of religion, state government authorities in Chhattisgarh have not intervened with the new laws. Authorities maintain that they are monitoring the situation. At the most extreme, Christians have been denied access to food and water, or evicted from villages. Aneesh Andrews, Methodist district superintendent for the area said, “In some places, the passing of the resolution has been followed by attacks on pastors and pulling down of village churches.”

Islamic State

President Obama escalated the American response to the marauding Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Friday, recruiting at least nine allies to help crush the organization and offering the outlines of a coordinated military strategy that echoes the war on terror developed by his predecessor, George W. Bush, more than a decade ago. In his most expansive comments to date about how the United States and its friends could defeat ISIS, a once-obscure group of Sunni militants that has now upended the Middle East and overshadowed Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama said the effort would rely on American airstrikes against its leaders and positions, strengthen the moderate Syrian rebel groups to reclaim ground lost to ISIS, and enlist friendly governments in the region to join the fight. The U.S. military launched airstrikes to protect a dam in western Iraq, the Pentagon announced Sunday, in another expansion of the air campaign against the Islamic State. However, defense experts say it could take years to destroy ISIS.

The Islamist militant group ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, which now prefers to be known simply as the Islamic State) is widening its control of territory in the Middle East. From northern Iraq and northern Syria, the militants are now reaching into south-east Turkey, where ISIS fighters have been seen in Mardin, one of the country’s historic Christian homelands. ISIS is also controlling Hassake, a main center of Christians in northern Syria. One of its aims is the complete elimination of a Christian presence in the territory they control.

Islamic State militants continue to wreak havoc across northern Iraq; reports now says that the terrorist group is selling Christian and Yazidi women to fighters, calling the women “spoils of war.” Hundreds of Yazidi women were captured weeks ago while stranded atop a mountain in Iraq; the Syrian Observatory for Human rights reports that 300 Yazidi women have been forced to convert to Islam and sold as wives for IS fighters. Assyrian Christian women have also been captured by militants and sold to fighters. The group sells the women for $1,000.

Middle East

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Hamas over the weekend, raising questions about the future of the Palestinian rivals’ unity government. The Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, and the militant group Hamas has controlled Gaza. The longtime rivals agreed to a unity government earlier this year, but Abbas accused Hamas of operating a shadow government in Gaza. The rift stands in stark contrast to Abbas’ statements in April on Palestinian reconciliation. Abbas, the founder of the Fatah political faction, said he was determined to end the division between Fatah and Hamas. He also said the new unity government will recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish state.


Residents of Ukraine’s embattled eastern cities reported new fighting two days after a cease-fire agreement between government troops and pro-Russia separatists, Russian and Ukrainian media report. Fighting has been reported near the Donetsk airport, where Ukrainian troops have been making a stand against separatists who have held the city since May. And shelling was reported east of the port city of Mariupol, where the Ukrainian volunteer Azov battalion has repelled repeated assaults by pro-Russian forces. The cease-fire had appeared to be holding for much of the day on Saturday, but shelling started late at night.


About 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Libya’s main cities, according to a United Nations report. Another 150,000 have fled the country. An Islamist-allied group called Libyan Dawn appointed a new government in Tripoli. Libyan Dawn took control of the capital in August. The elected government, which was chosen in June, has fled to escape the fighting. In Benghazi, a retired military general launched an operation against the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. “In comparison to typical armed forces, armed groups in Libya have received little training and do not operate with the appropriate discipline and command and control systems. Fighters appear often to disregard the likely impact on civilians, and sometimes on themselves, of their actions,” the UN report said.


On Thursday, a massive power outage stopped parts of Cairo’s subway, took TV stations off the air and ground much of the country to a halt for several hours. Officials offered no clear explanation for how the country suddenly lost 50% of its power generation. Blackouts sent pangs of frustration surging through Egypt last year, fueling anger toward former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in July 2013. They worsened this summer at the height of the sweltering heat, stemming from a range of factors: shortage of gas, poor maintenance of power plants, and state failure to pay debts to foreign oil companies. Egypt’s leadership said militants have attacked electricity pylons, contributing to the difficulties.


Somalia’s government has credible intelligence that Islamic militants are planning attacks following the death of their leader in a U.S. drone strike Monday, a top official said. Gen. Khalif Ahmed Ereg, Somalia’s national security minister, said targets including medical and educational institutions could be targeted. Ereg says the government is vigilant and prepared its armed forces to prevent such attacks. President Barack Obama confirmed Friday Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of al-Shabab, was killed by the U.S. airstrike. Godane had publicly claimed al-Shabab was responsible for the deadly Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya almost a year ago that left 67 people dead. Mortar shells struck a Mogadishu neighborhood a day after the al-Qaeda-linked militants named a new leader and vowed to avenge the death of the previous leader killed by a U.S. airstrike. The shells wounded five residents.


Four Assemblies of God pastors have died after contracting the Ebola virus, Charisma News reports. The pastors from Monrovia, Liberia are among over 1,900 Africans that have now died as a result of the virus. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit especially hard with the deadly disease; many now face food shortages as the crisis wears on. Dr. Rick Sacra, a SIM USA doctor and the third American to be infected with Ebola, has arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, to receive treatment for the virus. Sacra, 51, was treating pregnant women in Liberia when he contracted the disease. The missionary physician was flown into Offutt Air Force Base and was safely taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Officials in several states, especially Missouri, are reporting cases of respiratory illness, some severe enough to send kids to hospitals. In Kansas City, Mo., more than 300 cases of respiratory illnesses were reported last month. Ten states have contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help in investigating enterovirus — Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky. The number of hospitalizations reported could be “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases,” Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, told CNN. “I would call it unprecedented. I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” one doctor said.


A wildfire scorched hundreds of acres near Yosemite National Park in California, leaving one person injured and forcing the evacuation of 700 homes. The Bridge Wildfire in Mariposa County has burned 300 acres since it started Friday afternoon. It was 0% contained by early Saturday, fire officials said. Authorities directed evacuees to local Red Cross shelters.

Helicopters plucked about 100 hikers from atop Yosemite’s Half Dome peak and other parts of the national park after a wildfire spread rapidly Sunday to over 700 acres. The blaze, dubbed the Meadow Fire, began around noon Sunday in the park’s backcountry wilderness, east of Half Dome, a towering granite formation that is one of the park’s best known features.

Authorities say a late-night wildfire tearing through brush in an Oregon city forced the evacuation of more than 200 homes. The Corvallis Police Department said late Friday night that firefighters struggled against high winds and rough terrain as they fought the fire in the north. The 100-acre blaze had been burning out of control, but police Lt. Cord Wood said crews were gaining the upper hand by early Saturday morning. The residents of the 200-plus evacuated homes were being allowed to return, but they were being warned that they could still be forced to flee if the blaze flares up again.


Seasonal monsoon rains have claimed the lives of at least 355 people across Pakistan and India, and the situation could only get worse with more rain forecasted for the coming days. The heavy rain has sparked flooding, landslides and roof collapses across both countries, creating dangerous conditions in the Indian controlled area of Kashmir and far eastern Pakistan. In many neighborhoods in Srinagar, the water was about 12 feet deep, submerging entire houses. Officials believe most of these were killed when the roofs of their homes collapsed. They said the deluge has injured an additional 148 people. Also, about 30 people killed when a bus filled with those attending wedding washed away in a flooded stream. At least 300 federal rescue workers have joined thousands of state police and soldiers to rescue tens of thousands of people stranded across the region. Dozens of bridges have been damaged or washed away.

Fishing villages along the Mexican coast were dealt a serious blow Saturday by high surf, winds and rain from Hurricane Norbert. More than 1,250 homes in Comondú, Mexico were damaged by Norbert, after waves burst through a seawall and inundated a fishing village. Thousands of others were evacuated as Norbert approached. More than 2,000 people were evacuated in Comondú, Los Cabos and La Paz as of Saturday due to concerns over Norbert’s impact. Baja California Sur state Gov. Marcos Covarrubias urged people in vulnerable areas to evacuate and said travelers should stay off highways as the storm passed by.

Thousands remained without power Saturday in the metro Detroit area after powerful thunderstorms the previous night that left one man dead and frightened thousands in its path. DTE Energy reported 230,000 customers without electricity as of 9 p.m. Saturday, down from 385,000 at the height of the outage. Others attending church festivals around the region got a scare when high winds caused tents to collapse. DTE Energy said wind gusts as high as 75 mph downed more than 2,000 power lines across southeastern Michigan.

Moisture streaming north from former Hurricane/Tropical Storm Norbert brought flash flooding to several locations across southern California, southern Nevada, and Arizona on Sunday. Norbert’s moisture, in tandem with remnant moisture from ex-Tropical Storm Dolly and the residual moisture already in place from the North American Monsoon, have combined to enhance rainfall potential in the Desert Southwest Monday leading to flash flood warnings. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport received more than two inches of rain Monday morning during the initial round of heavy rain. Numerous water rescues were reported Monday morning in Phoenix.

Signs of the Times (9/5/14)

September 5, 2014

Federal Court Upholds Ten Commandments Monument

A Ten Commandments monument in North Dakota does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause as it serves more as a historical display than a religious one, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this past week. The monument had been donated over 50 years ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles and sits in Fargo’s Civic Plaza, a public location in the city. Since 2002, the Red River Freethinkers have been fighting against the presence of the monument, asserting that it serves as a government endorsement of Christianity. However, a number of residents disagreed with the notion, and petitioned for an ordinance that would grandfather in the monument. The City Commissioners soon adopted the ordinance, and also forbid any new monuments from being erected in the plaza.

“Blasphemy Challenge” Encourages People to Curse God

An internet challenge is calling upon people to post a clip of them cursing God or rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. The so-called “Blasphemy Challenge” is a way to promote atheism, according to supporters. Promoters are even sending free DVD documentaries against Christianity to teens who complete the challenge and post their video online. “It exposes the crock that is Christian doctrine,” one of the project’s organizers told Fox News. The challenge comes from Mark 3:29 when Jesus says, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Saudi King Warns the West: You Are Islamic State’s Next Target

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has warned that the West will be the next target of the radical Islamists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action. “If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks quoted by Saudi Press Agency on Saturday. “Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” said the king. The Islamic State (IS) group has prompted widespread concern as it advances in both Syria and Iraq, killing thousands of people and forcibly converting adherents of other faiths. Lack of action would be “unacceptable” in the face of the phenomenon, King Abdullah said.

Jihadists Steal Commercial Jets, Raise 9/11 Fears

The Algerian news site al-Fadjr said 11 aircraft went missing from Tripoli International Airport during fighting between militias. Intelligence agencies have warned the jets could be used in attacks in North Africa, and said one or more of the planes may be used to strike targets on Sept. 11 to mark the anniversary of terrorist attacks on the USA. The date also marks the second anniversary of the Libyan terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which killed four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Images surfaced online this week of militants posing with the jetliners taken when they overran Tripoli airport last month in a fierce battle that left much of the airport and its aircraft damaged.

Al-Qaeda Expands to Indian Sub-Continent

Al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari released a videotape Thursday announcing plans for a new wing of the terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent. “Our brothers in Burma, Kashmir, Islamabad, Bangladesh, we did not forget you and will liberate you from injustice and oppression,” he said, according to a translation from The Indian Express. Al-Zawahari calls on Indians to “break all borders created by Britain in India, unite under the credo of the one god.” The new organization, translated as Organization of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent, also released online manifestos. The group’s leaders are believed to be Pakistani nationals.

6,000 Missing on Student Visas

The Obama administration is unable to locate 6,000 foreign nationals who have entered the United States on student visas, raising concerns about the government’s ability to track potential terror suspects who may already be in the country. Peter Edge, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who oversees investigations into visa violators, told ABC News, “Some of them could be here to do us harm.” According to ABC News, U.S. immigration officials have had difficulty keeping track of the escalating number of foreign students entering the United States. In the past year alone, 58,000 students overstayed their visas. “They just disappear,” Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn told ABC News. “They get the visas and they disappear.” The news comes as Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to block British jihadists with passports from re-entering Britain as the threat of violence from the Islamic State intensifies.

Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails to US Government.

Despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant said Friday it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. Judge Loretta Preska, the chief of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. But she suspended the order temporarily amid complaints from international companies—and tech companies in the US—that argued that allowing US authorities to search and seize data held internationally was illegal. On Friday, however, she lifted that suspension after prosecutors successfully convinced her that her order was not appealable. The removal of the suspension legally requires Microsoft to hand over the email immediately, but so far they have refused to do so.

Large Race Gap in America’s Police Departments

In hundreds of police departments across the country, the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis of a government survey of police departments. Experts say that diversity in the police force increases a department’s credibility with its community. Disparities in the racial makeup of police departments and their communities are most pronounced in smaller Midwestern cities, like Ferguson, where minorities make up at least two-thirds of the population but the police force is 78% white. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week will launch a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department, according to two federal law enforcement officials.

Unshackled from Limits, Wealthy Political Donors Give Millions to Candidates

The Supreme Court did away with the limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees in April. Since the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, more than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle, according to campaign finance data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization. Among them are Las Vegas casino titans and New York hedge fund managers, Silicon Valley investors and Texas oil barons. Their ranks include well-known billionaires such as George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, and Charles and David Koch. Together, 310 donors gave a combined $11.6 million more by this summer than would have been allowed before the ruling. Their contributions favored Republican candidates and committees over Democratic ones by 2 to 1.

800,000 Suicides per Year Worldwide

Every 40 seconds someone in the world takes their own life, a global tally of more than 800,000 suicides a year, according to a landmark United Nations report on the subject. The research found that suicide killed more people each year than conflicts and natural catastrophes, accounting for more than half of the world’s 1.5 million violent deaths annually. The global rate was estimated at 11.4 per 100,000, Men are almost twice as likely as women to take their own lives — rising to as many as three times more male victims than female in some richer countries. On average, high-income countries had a slightly higher suicide rate — 12.7 per 100,000 people — than low- and middle-income nations, where the rate was 11.2. The most suicide-prone countries were Guyana (44.2 per 100,000), followed by North Korea (38.5), South Korea (28.9), Sri Lanka (28.8), Lithuania (28.2), Suriname (27.8), Mozambique (27.4), Nepal and Tanzania (24.9 each) and Burundi (23.1). The U.S. rate was 12.3 per 100,000.

Economic News

U.S. employers added 142,000 jobs in August as payroll growth fell significantly after six months of solid gains, the Labor Department said Friday. Last month’s increase breaks a string of six straight months of 200,000-plus gains. However, the unemployment rate fell to 6.1% from 6.2% in July, the Labor Department said. Some other labor market indicators in August were modestly encouraging. The number of Americans out of work at least six months fell by 192,000 to 3 million. The long-term unemployed still make up 31% of all the jobless. And the so-called underemployment rate — which includes discouraged workers who’ve stopped looking for jobs and part-time employees who prefer full-time work as well as the unemployed – fell to 12% from 12.2%.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose a bit more than expected last week, remaining at levels consistent with strengthening labor market conditions. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000 for the week ended Aug. 30, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in July to $40.5 billion, down $300 million from June, to its lowest level since January, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Growth in exports outpaced that of imports in July. Total exports of goods and services were $198 billion in July while imports totaled $238.6 billion. From July 2013 to July 2014, the U.S. trade deficit in goods and services has increased $1.1 billion. Exports were up $8.1 billion, or 4.3%, and imports were up $9.2 billion, or 4.0%.

About 7.1 million Americans were employed in construction-related occupations last year — and only 2.6% were women. That percentage has scarcely budged since the 1970s, while women have made gains since then in many other fields. Even in firefighting — where they historically were unwelcome — women comprise a greater share of the workforce at 3.5%. One factor, according the National Women’s Law Center, is pervasive denigration and sexual harassment of women at work sites.

Persecution Watch

Cuba’s communist government has increased its oppression of religious institutions, according to a Christian watchdog group, with reports of religious liberty violations almost doubling in the last six months. This year’s violations included government authorities beating pastors and lay workers, dragging politically dissident women away from Sunday services, and enforcing arbitrary detentions, church closures, and demolitions, Christian Solidarity Worldwide said. Todd Nettleton, with Voice of the Martyrs, agreed that government persecution is on the rise in Cuba. “It does seem like the government is paying more attention to the churches and making much of a concerted effort to control religious expression in Cuba,” Nettleton said. Cuba’s constitution claims to allow religious freedom, but that right, as well as others, are ignored if the government claims they conflict with communism, CSW said.

Boko Haram an the Islamic extremist group, has begun occupying churches in the country’s northeastern region, church officials there said. The militant group, which church leaders and analysts view as an African variation of the Islamic State, is also beheading men, forcing Christian women to convert to Islam and taking them as wives, officials said. “Things are getting pretty bad,” said the Rev. John Bakeni, the secretary of the Maiduguri Roman Catholic diocese in northeastern Nigeria. “A good number of our parishes in Pulka and Madagali areas have been overrun in the last few days.”

A Florida school district has decided to replace its use of local pastors as high school football chaplains and replace with the position with life coaches following a complaint from a prominent atheist organization. The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Orange County Public School District’s attorney this past March, stating that its use of pastors as chaplains amounts to “illegal religious activity.” “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes,” the letter states. In response to FFRF’s letter, last month, district attorney Diego Rodriguez sent out a memo to the superintendent and others, advising that it is unlawful for Christians or other religious representatives to serve as chaplain. “Having a team chaplain is not permitted as it is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” he wrote.

Middle East

Syrian rebels clashed with government troops on Monday in the Golan Heights, where Al Qaeda-linked insurgents abducted U.N. peacekeepers last week. The fighting was focused around the town of Hamidiyeh in Quneitra province near the disputed frontier with Israel, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides but did not have exact figures.

Israel came under fire Monday for claiming close to 1,000 acres of land in the Palestinian West Bank. Israel announced Sunday that the land in and around the Wadi Fukin valley, would become “state land,” clearing the way for the development of a new Israeli settlement. The affected land lies near Bethlehem and close to Bitar Ilit — one of the biggest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Farmers in the area have 45 days to appeal Israel’s decision to claim the land. “The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Monday.

  • The U.N. and the world in general takes the two-state solution as a given and then judges Israel from that position. However, they forgot to get God’s stamp of approval. Bethlehem is a Judeo-Christian city, not the Palestinian enclave it has become.

Islamic State (ISIS)

The fight in northern Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias. Should such military actions continue, they could signal a dramatic shift for the United States and Iran, which have long vied for control in Iraq. They could also align the interests of the Americans with their longtime sworn enemies in the Shiite militias, whose fighters killed many United States soldiers during the long occupation of Iraq.


Russian military forces have been spotted in both major rebel-held cities in eastern Ukraine, an official said Tuesday, prompting Ukraine to declare it now has to fight the Russian army, not just the separatists. The country’s defense minister said Ukraine’s armed forces are expanding their strategy from just fighting separatists to facing the Russian army in a war that could cost “tens of thousands” of lives. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have agreed on a plan to settle the conflict and called on Kiev to pull out its troops from the disputed areas and for rebels to stop their military operations, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine’s government and separatist leaders signed a ceasefire deal Friday following talks in Belarus, Donetsk separatists said, raising hopes of an end to the nearly five-month conflict that has wracked eastern Ukraine.


NATO members meeting this week in Wales agreed to create “a very high-readiness force” to deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine and other international conflicts, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday. He said this “spearhead” force would be able to “travel light, but strike hard if needed.” NATO will look at possible upgrades to infrastructure that could include airfields and ports, he said. With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for “changing military dangers and military threats.”

President Obama reassured the Baltic nations Wednesday that the United States and other NATO allies will protect them from the kind of Russian aggression on exhibit in nearby Ukraine. “We will defend the territorial integrity of every single (NATO) ally,” Obama told an audience in Tallinn, Estonia.. Obama used the speech to denounce Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, calling it a brazen assault on the territory” of that nation.


“Amid signs that Iran’s military is resisting efforts to open its nuclear program to deeper inspection, the Obama administration on Friday imposed sanctions on several Iranian organizations, including one run by the reclusive scientist who is widely believed to direct research on building nuclear weapons. In a statement, the White House said the sanctions were a continuation of its strategy to crack down on groups suspected of seeking to avoid or violate existing sanctions, even as ‘the United States remains committed’ to striking an accord by late November that includes ‘a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.’

North Korea

Three Americans being held in North Korea were allowed to speak to the media on Monday, and plead for their release. Kenneth Bae, Jeffrey Fowle, and Matthew Miller called on the White House to send a high-ranking official to negotiate their release, and delivered messages to their families back home. Fowle has been held captive by the North Korean government since around the time of his arrival in the country on April 29. He is accused of leaving a Bible in a nightclub, and is expected to face trial within a month for proselytizing. The atheist country has held Korean-American Kenneth Bae in prison for over 20 months—the longest North Korean imprisonment of an American since the Korean War. Bae was working in the country as a tour guide, but officials allege that Bae’s North Korean tour company was a front for Christian evangelical missions. North Korea alleged that Matthew Miller arrived in their country, tore up his tourist visa, and proclaimed that he is seeking asylum in the country. Miller refused to comment on whether that allegation is correct. He has been detained since April 10th.


Decades of sex-selective abortion have created an acute lack of women in certain parts of India. Traffickers capitalize on the shortage by recruiting or kidnapping women ensnared in poverty to sell as brides. It’s a cycle influenced by poverty, but one that ultimately is perpetuated by India’s disdainful attitude towards women evidenced by the increasing number of gang-rapes.


A creeping lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano moved within one mile of homes in lower Puna Thursday, prompting the mayor of Hawaii’s Big Island to declare a state of emergency for the county. Although the lava flow has been described as “very slow-moving,” scientists at Hawaii’s Volcano Observatory warned it could reach the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision in five to seven days. No evacuations were ordered as of Thursday evening, but the emergency proclamation will help streamline efforts if families do need to leave.


The Happy Camp Complex fire has burned more than 77,000 acres in California’s Klamath National Forest since it was ignited by a lightning strike Aug. 11. The fire is just 19 percent contained. It’s expected to grow further due to high winds and extremely dry conditions. Communities in Siskiyou County were forced to evacuate. Officials said they didn’t have an estimate for the number of homes in the evacuation area, but nearly 750 homes are threatened. Historically, September and October are the months where California sees the largest and most damaging wildfires, and conditions this year still remain critically dry.


Snow fell on the Labor Day weekend in parts of northern Alaska and Wyoming, providing a gentle reminder that summer is on its last legs. The National Weather Service in Fairbanks to issue the first winter storm warning anywhere in the U.S. since mid-June. Another winter storm warning was issued for Denali National Park, where up to 14 inches of total snow accumulated through Tuesday, potentially prompting closure of parts of the Denali Park Road. Barrow, Alaska, was blanketed by its first significant snowfall of the season Tuesday, turning the town into a winter wonderland just one day after Labor Day. Officially, 4.4 inches of snow fell Tuesday in America’s northernmost city, about 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle (2012 population: 4,346).

Some residents of the Midwest are laboring to clean up damage after severe storms struck parts of the Plains and Midwest on Labor Day, spawning at least two confirmed tornadoes and possibly several more. The National Weather Service in Gaylord, Michigan, confirmed two EF1 tornadoes in Kalkaska and Otsego counties, uprooting hardwood and softwood trees and tossing them onto houses. Thunderstorms exploded across portions of southern Kansas, northern Oklahoma, and western and central Missouri early Monday evening. Some of the storms were large, rotating thunderstorms called supercells. One of these supercells produced a tornado near Cedar Vale, Kansas.

As Hurricane Norbert bears down on Baja California, a hurricane warning has been issued for the western coast of the Baja Peninsula. In addition, tropical storm warnings have been extended farther north along the peninsula. Hurricane Norbert, the ninth hurricane of a busy eastern Pacific hurricane season, will eventually have some peripheral impacts in parts of the Southwest U.S.

The southwestern U.S. has at least a 50 percent chance of experiencing a decade-long drought this century thanks to global warming, and the region’s chances of a “megadrought” — one that lasts multiple decades — lies anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, according to a new study. Most of California already is in “exceptional drought,” the most severe drought category, according to the latest report from the Drought Monitor. Much of the rest of the region — especially across large swaths of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma — are in moderate or severe drought. What scientists call a megadrought could last three decades or more.

California is in the third year of one of the state’s worst droughts in the past century, one that’s led to fierce wildfires, water shortages and restrictions, and potentially staggering agricultural losses. The dryness in California is only part of a longer-term, 15-year drought across most of the Western USA, one that bioclimatologist Park Williams said is notable because “more area in the West has persistently been in drought during the past 15 years than in any other 15-year period since the 1150s and 1160s.”


Signs of the Times (9/1/14)

September 1, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Part of Texas Abortion Law

A federal judge ruled Friday that it is unconstitutional to force abortion clinics to become surgical centers in the state of Texas, effectively throwing out a key component of an anti-abortion law that would have forced the closure of a number of facilities. In making the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel wrote that forcing the clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-level surgical centers “imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion.” That part of the Texas law was scheduled to take effect on Monday; critics of the law say it would have required the closing of a majority of 19 abortion clinics. The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Medical Board filed a notice of appeal.

Federal Judge Rules Utah’s Anti-Polygamy Law Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Utah has issued a final ruling that strikes down parts of the state’s anti-polygamy law, in a lawsuit filed by a family that appears on the TV show “Sister Wives.” Kody Brown and his four wives sued Utah in 2011 after a county prosecutor threatened to charge them under the state’s bigamy law. Waddoups ruled that a provision in the law forbidding cohabitation violates the Browns’ freedom of religion. The ruling is a landmark decision and a victory for the Brown family. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in February that he intends to appeal.

  • Opening the door to same-sex marriage will continue to have deleterious ripple effects across the entire spectrum of marriage and family

California Catholic Colleges Forced to Provide Abortion Coverage

Some California Catholics now face a dilemma between standing strong on their faith and having health insurance that goes against their religious beliefs. In recent days, Gov. Jerry Brown has mandated coverage for abortions in insurance policies for two Catholic universities. Gov. Brown’s push to allow abortion coverage in health insurance plans targets Los Angeles-based Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University. David Luke, co-founder of Renew LMC, told the Catholic News Agency, “California Catholics are no longer safe to practice their faith within their own institutions. Gov. Brown’s decision demonstrates that, in California, tolerance does not extend to people of faith and moral conscience.”

‘Imminent’ Terror Attack Warning on US Border

Islamic State and al-Qaida terrorist cells are operating in a Mexican border town and are plotting to attack the United States with car bombs and improvised explosive devices, according to Judicial Watch, citing intelligence sources. A red alert has been issued by Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense to its agents to actively investigate all possible leads to what the government watchdog group says is “an imminent terrorist threat.” The terror groups have been confirmed as having operatives planning atrocities in Ciudad Juarez, a crime-ridden, drug-trafficking mecca situated across from El Paso, Texas, federal law enforcement, intelligence, and other sources told Judicial Watch. Officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaida groups are soon going to “carry out an attack on the border.”

NATO Summit ‘Most Important’ since Fall of Berlin Wall

Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s highest ranking military officer from 2009-13, and now dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said the Sept. 4-5 NATO Summit — taking place just outside the Welsh capital of Cardiff, in the town of Newport — is “clearly the most important one since the fall of the Berlin Wall because of the clear level of multi-crises” unfolding around the world all at once. Among the major areas of concern Stavridis identified Islamic State activities in Syria and Iraq, and along the Turkish border; the continuing fallout from the Arab Spring (in Libya and Egypt); the winding down of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan and the challenge of setting up a longer-term mission there; escalating concerns over cyber threats; territorial disputes in the South China Sea; the Ebola virus; ever-more forceful environmental catastrophes; and “many others. However, Stavridis said that the issue that will dominate summit discussions by Obama, German President Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and some 60 other leaders and senior diplomats will be what to do about “Russian adventurism” in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Cyberattacks: Perpetual State of Siege

The financial industry — indeed, most of the business world — works within a state of almost perpetual cybersiege at a level few consumers grasp. And the costs and dangers are growing for those who seek to protect their assets and their customers. “The constant barrage of attacks is real,” says J.J. Thompson, CEO of Rook Security, an Indianapolis-based firm. Online attacks are a fact of life for businesses today. American financial institutions are in the midst of a crime wave unlike any since the 1920s and the age of gangsters, says Tom Kellermann, a professor of cybersecurity at American University who also sits on the board of the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance. The attacks seem to be part of an international wave of nationalist cybercrime campaigns against financial institutions, which began this spring.

Economic News

Consumer spending unexpectedly fell in July as Americans paused after stepping up their buying the previous months. The Commerce Department said spending dipped 0.1% after surging 0.4% in June. Personal income increased 0.2% last month. Retail sales were flat in July. Although consumer confidence recently hit a seven-year high, Americans have been cautious in their purchases partly because of modest wage increases and higher food prices. Consumer spending is closely followed by economists because it makes up about 70% of the economic activity.

Job growth has accelerated this year, but women are falling a bit behind. Men have outpaced women since the jobs recovery began in 2010. That’s largely because they were hit much harder by job losses in manufacturing and construction during the 2007-09 Great Recession and benefited more as those sectors bounced back. But men have widened their lead in terms of job growth, in part because of a boom in oil and natural gas drilling. Women garnered 45% of all jobs gained over the past 12 months, down from half of all payroll additions in the previous year.

The clock is running out on Japan’s ambitious plan for economic revival as growth sputters and doubts grow over the government’s ability to deliver key reforms. A massive bond-buying campaign coupled with structural reforms and stimulus from the central government has failed to lift wages, bring more women into the workforce or boost exports. A sales tax hike spurred a massive contraction in the second quarter.

Russia’s currency has hit its lowest level ever against the U.S. dollar as the risk of new Western sanctions threatens more economic damage. The ruble slid 0.5% against the dollar Monday, taking its losses for the year to about 13%. The sliding currency will make life harder for Russians by raising the cost of imports, which could further fuel inflation that has already risen to about 7.5%.

Persecution Watch

Two public elementary schools in Texas have covered dedication plaques that referenced God with duct tape after receiving a complaint for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The Midlothian Independent School District confirmed that the plaques had been covered temporarily and will eventually be replaced with dedication plaques that do not reference religion. The plaques displayed at Mountain Peak Elementary School and Longbranch Elementary School read, “Dedicated in the year of our Lord 1997 to the education of God’s children and their faithful teachers in the name of the Holy Christian Church. Soli Deo Gloria.”

  • Typically, secularists want to rewrite history and ignore the faith and witness of their ancestors.

Middle East

After seven weeks of fighting, the conflict between Israel and Hamas has reached a lasting halt. Now both sides of the conflict have claimed victory. Israel and Hamas left many issues unresolved, which has led many to speculate that the over 2,000 lives lost were a far too hefty debt. Alex Fishman for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper observed, “Both sides did not exactly want this campaign, both sides made all possible errors dragging them into it, and both sides find themselves today returning to square one, where they were at the start of the warfare.”

Islamic State

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies have identified nearly a dozen Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant group that the Obama administration says poses the greatest threat to the United States since Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. As ISIS has seized large expanses of territory in recent months, it has drawn more foreign men to Syria, requiring more American and European law enforcement resources in the attempt to stop the flow of fighters, senior American officials said. ISIS has become more attractive to would-be militants because, unlike Al Qaeda, it has seized territory that it rules by strict Islamic law. Two American men have died fighting for ISIS. The Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood has written a letter to the leader of ISIS, asking to become a citizen of the Islamic State’s caliphate.

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners. Waterboarding often involves strapping a person down on a gurney or bench and pouring cold water over a cloth covering the face. It causes the sensation of drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a Justice Department memo in May 2005 about the CIA’s use of the technique. The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment.

Boko Haram militants claim that they are turning Nigerian into an Islamic caliphate. The Muslim extremist organization is in control of three known towns, and continues to gain power and influence in the region. The militants conquered Gwoza Aug. 6, destroying homes and killing many residents. Some survivors have fled to surrounding mountains, as well as bordering nation Cameroon. The exact number of Boko Haram members is unknown; however, militants are believed to be recruiting fighters in Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Some officials fear that Boko Haram are working with ISIS terrorists.


In a bluntly worded message Friday, NATO on Friday condemned Russian military action in Ukraine, saying its troops have “illegally crossed the border” as part of a “dangerous pattern over many months” to destabilize its neighbor. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission, was unsparing in his criticism of Russia, charging that its forces were directly engaged in military operations inside Ukraine, continued to supply separatists with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and rocket launchers and had fired on Ukraine from both Russian territory and within Ukraine itself. Russia has denied its troops have operated inside Ukraine, despite NATO’s release of satellite images on Thursday showing what the Western alliance said were Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery moving around in eastern Ukraine. Nearly 2,600 people have died in clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-back rebels since April. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that his country’s military would not interfere with the situation in Ukraine.


The civil war in Syria has forced 3 million people out of the country as more than a million people fled in the past year, creating a crisis that the U.N. refugee agency said requires the biggest operation in its 64-year history. Syria had a prewar population of 23 million. “The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.bout one of every eight Syrians has fled across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, the Geneva-based agency said. More than half of all those uprooted are children, it said.

Clashes erupted between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials said, as the international organization risked being sucked further into the conflict. Other U.N. peacekeepers were able to flee from a different encampment that that was also surrounded by rebels of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate. The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing — located on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan Heights — on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers. The Nusra Front also surrounded the nearby Rwihana and Breiqa encampments, where other U.N. peacekeepers were holed up.


Iraqi security forces, with the help of Shiite volunteers, broke a six-week siege by Islamic State militants on the northern Iraqi town of Amirli on Sunday, a day after U.S. airstrikes targeted the area. Fighting was still ongoing in surrounding villages. The community, located about 105 miles north of Baghdad, initially came under siege in June, but 15,000 Shiite Turkmen were able to hold off militants, who eventually surrounded the village in mid-July. The military was now disturbing aid to residents of Amirli, which is home to the Turkmen, an ethnic minority.


At least one person has died and hundreds of others have been injured as police in Pakistan clashed with protesters who attempted to march on the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad Saturday evening. More than 300 people were wounded in the clashes, medical officials said, as police battled protesters with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets near the premier’s official residence and the adjacent parliament building. The violence has raised the stakes in a political standoff, in which cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have led twin protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, alleging massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Backed by parliament and many political parties, Sharif has refused to step down. Pakistani anti-government protesters stormed the state TV building on Monday, forcing the channel briefly off the air as they clashed with police.


More than 1,552 people have died during the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. The official toll from the World Health Organization is considered to be a vast underestimate of the true number of lives lost from Ebola in 2014. WHO said the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than the rates currently reported. That suggests there could be up to 12,000 cases already. The largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases. So far, the outbreak is concentrated in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, though increasingly, cases are being reported in Nigeria. On Sunday, Congo declared an outbreak of the Ebola virus, after two patients tested positive for the disease. A man infected with Ebola traveled to Senegal, becoming the first recorded in that country on Monday.

Officials in St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana say a brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, has been detected in the parish’s water. The water system serves 12,577 people in the southern Louisiana towns of Reserve, Garyville and Mount Airy. Families can take simple steps to protect themselves from exposure to this amoeba, the most important being to avoid allowing water to go up your nose while bathing or swimming in a pool,” said Louisiana State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry. “It is important to remember that the water is safe to drink; the amoeba cannot infect an individual through the stomach.” St. John public school system turned off at water fountains at all schools. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs, and soil.

Millions of locusts blacked out portions of the sky in Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo, the scene a part of an ongoing plague that’s threatening the food supply of more than 13 million people, reports ABC News. The plague started back in April of 2012 and was largely limited to the rural, agricultural areas of the island nation. But last Thursday the locusts arrived in hordes in Antananarivo, a city of more than 700,000 people, attracted by unseasonably warm temperatures. The locust swarm is roughly the size of Japan, with the insects chewing up vital crops like rice and corn. “Locust infestations, if untreated, could wipe out food crops and livestock grazing lands — and with it a family’s ability to provide for itself,” the Washington Post reports. Around 500 billion locusts are eating around 100,000 metric tons of vegetation per day.


The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says a magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit 43 miles northwest of Fairbanks on Saturday night. The center says no reports of damage have been received about the earthquake. It adds that the earthquake hit at 7:06 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time and had a depth of 10 miles. The Fairbanks News-Miner reports that It was widely felt in the Fairbanks and North Pole areas and as far as Healy and Manley Hot Springs. The earthquake center says that on Aug. 13 a light earthquake with a magnitude of 4.4 struck the state’s Cook Inlet region. That quake, recorded at 10:04 p.m. Alaska time, was centered about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage at a depth of about 82 miles.

A 3.4-magnitude earthquake rumbled through northern California early Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake hit 5 miles southwest of Napa, the center of California’s famed wine country. It comes a week after a 6.0-magnitude quake — the strongest in northern California in a quarter of a century — struck the same area on August 24. The two earthquakes were a little over a mile from each other. There are no reports of damage so far. The previous quake injured dozens, damaged historic buildings in downtown Napa and turned fireplaces into rubble. It also caused at least $1 billion in property damage in Napa and other communities.

A magnitude-6 earthquake struck northern Pakistan on Sunday, authorities said, though there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. People felt the quake in Peshawar and Islamabad. Its epicenter was in the Hindu Kush mountains on the country’s border with Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan and the region, along an active continental plate boundary, is often hit by earthquakes. In September 2013, a magnitude-7.7 quake struck Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, killing at least 376 people.


Papua New Guinea’s Mount Tavurvur erupted Friday, spewing smoke and ash over the South Pacific nation and 60,000 feet into the sky. Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted. Residents of Rabaul town, the provincial capital, were advised to remain indoors to avoid falling ash. The volcano, one of the most active in the region, destroyed the town of Rabaul in 1994 when it erupted simultaneously with nearby Mount Vulcan.

A small fissure erupted near Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano on Friday, but no volcanic ash was detected by the radar system, officials in Iceland said Friday. As a precaution, they raised the aviation warning code to red, the highest alert level. The eruption took place in the Holuhraun lava field, north of Dyngjujoekull glacier. Sunday’s eruption was a “very calm lava eruption and can hardly be seen on seismometers.” The latest eruption is third such eruption to take place in the area since August 23. Activity has slowly been increasing in magnitude around the site for the past couple of weeks.


A pair of wildfires sparked by lightning three weeks ago in the Klamath National Forest in Northern California are now threatening as many as 250 homes near the rural town of Happy Camp. The two fires, which are the largest of about 20 that broke out in the forest Aug. 11, continued to grow after favorable weather conditions stoked the flames overnight. Originally located a few miles apart, the fires had merged by Saturday morning and together charred more than 90 square miles. The fires were only 15% contained by Saturday afternoon.


A massive landslide at a village in southwestern China killed at least 14 people Friday, and hundreds of rescuers remained on the hunt for survivors. Another 11 people were still missing and 22 left injured from the collapse of a mountainside on Wednesday night following three days of heavy rain. The official Xinhua News Agency said 77 houses collapsed or were buried in the landslide. The breaching of a small reservoir during the landslide also caused flooding that covered houses up to their roofs. State-run China National Radio cited villagers saying they had complained for years to authorities about weakening of the mountainside caused by past mining operations.

This summer of extremes has seen numerous records broken across the U.S. June saw a number of precipitation records fall in the Midwest and Plains, while July was one of the coolest months on record for many in the Midwest and South. August brought a taste of the heat. Flooding was also a big story for the month of August, but the August tornado count in the U.S. was the lowest since at least the 1960s. The official end of the summer saw severe thunderstorms dumping large hail, damaging winds and torrential rain in parts of Plains Sunday. Five camper trailers were blown over in Yellow Smoke Park, Iowa. Several roads were flooded and closed in the area and one dam on farmland had failed. Over six inches of rain had drenched Crawford County. In Sergeant Bluff, the winds had sent trees falling onto homes and pulled down power lines, while the rain caused street flooding. More than 6,000 customers across Iowa had lost power.