Signs of the Times (9/26/14)

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.

Turkey

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.

Iraq

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.

Afghanistan

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.

Ukraine

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.

India

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.

China

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.

Pestilence

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.”

Earthquakes

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:

Wildfires

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.

Weather

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)

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