Signs of the Times (9/8/14)

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.

Ukraine

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.

Libya

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.

Egypt

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

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.

Pestilence

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.

Wildfires

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.

Weather

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.

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