Archive for October, 2014

Signs of the Times (10/27/14)

October 27, 2014

Churches Urged to Join Forces against Abortion-Coverage Mandate

The president of the American Family Association is urging religious groups in California to fight back against a state mandate forcing them to cover elective abortions in their insurance plans. California’s Department of Managed Health Care has established new regulations that require all insurance plans in the state – even those provided by churches for their employees – to provide coverage of elective surgical dismemberment abortion. Since August insurers have been notifying their policyholders about the new change in coverage requirements, and several churches in the Golden State have been receiving the notifications from their insurance companies. “If Hobby Lobby can win on religious freedom grounds, it seems to me the churches can win if it has to go to the Supreme Court.” Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation are representing some of the Christian groups, their employees, and students of Christian schools.

Houston Mayor Accused of ‘Abuse of Power’ by Civil Rights Commissioner

An official with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is warning the mayor of Houston, Texas that her city’s actions are violating the rights of local pastors. Mayor Annise Parker, an open lesbian, directed city attorneys to subpoena five pastors as part of a lawsuit to which the pastors are not even party. U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow describes the subpoenas as “a blatant attempt to punish these pastors for expressing their religiously-based political views” and “an abuse of government power.” The lawsuit was brought after the City of Houston rejected a citizen-led petition drive to reverse a “bathroom bill” passed by the Houston City Council that favors homosexuals, lesbians and the transgendered. The five pastors supported the petition drive, and now some observers view Mayor Parker’s actions as bully-like intimidation tactics that are taking advantage of the legal process.

The Violence within Islam

When the news flashed last week that a man had shot and killed a Canadian soldier in front of the National War Memorial in Canada, what most people were wondering — but not saying out loud — was, “Is it another radical Muslim?,” writes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. None of them was born and brought up a religious Muslim. A profile Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in The New York Times reveals a troubled youth who converted to Islam, got radicalized, sought to go to Syria to fight in the jihad and finally ended up trying to wage his own version of it in Ottawa and died after killing a soldier. The man who ran over the soldiers in Canada last week reportedly converted to Islam only a year ago. The man who attacked NYC officers with a hatchet, also clearly disturbed, converted to Islam two years ago and posted an online video of jihadist rants. “These were unstable young men, prone toward radicalism and violence. They were searching for an ideology that would fit their disturbed worldview, and in the radical and jihadi interpretations of Islam, they found it,” Zakaria concludes. “This is just the beginning — there will be more attacks,” former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik told Newsmax.

  • While it is true that most Muslims are peaceful, that’s in spite of a religion whose holy book calls upon believers to wage war against infidels (i.e. non-believers). In contrast to Jesus’ advice to ‘turn the other cheek’ Mohamed calls for violence, a hallmark of satanic influence.

Ebola Update

An American nurse for Doctors without Borders, angry over her forced confinement to an isolation tent in a New Jersey hospital despite showing no signs of Ebola, is taking legal action against the state’s new regulations that require all aid workers from Ebola-stricken from West Africa to be quarantined for 21 days. Kaci Hickox, 33, was the first person pulled aside at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday under the new rules after her return from Sierra Leone, where she was working with Ebola patients. In a sudden reversal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that the state will release Hickox who had been confined in a hospital isolation tent upon arrival from West Africa despite showing no signs of Ebola. Christie said Monday that Hickox will be taken by private transportation to her home in Maine, at her request.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that all U.S. troops returning from West Africa undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine, senior Defense officials told Fox News — even as the White House fights those very policies in New York and New Jersey. The recommendation has fallen in the lap of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He is deliberating, and no final decision has been made. He finds himself caught between Obama and the military chiefs.

An “extraordinary number” of frightened Bellevue Hospital workers have taken a “sick-out,” including one woman who even tried faking a stroke to get out of being exposed to Ebola, after Dr. Craig Spencer was quarantined there with the virus, according to The New York Post. “The nurses on the floor are miserable with a ‘why me?’ attitude, scared to death and overworked because all their co-workers called out sick,” an unidentified source told the Post.

The U.N. health agency said Saturday that the number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases has risen to 10,141. Of those, 4,922 people have died. Those figures show about 200 new cases since the last report, four days ago. Even those grisly tolls are likely an underestimate, WHO has warned, as many people in the hardest hit countries have been unable or too frightened to seek medical care. A shortage of labs capable of handling potentially infected blood samples has also made it difficult to track the outbreak.

Higher Deductibles for Health Insurance

More employers are offering consumer-directed health plans, which usually come with high deductibles. In 2015, 81% of large employers will offer at least one of these plans, up from 63% five years earlier. Consumer-directed plans typically carry deductibles of $1,500 for individual coverage, more than three times higher than traditional policies, according to the National Business Group on Health. And these plans will be the only choice for a growing number of workers. The share of larger employers offering only consumer-directed policies is jumping to 32% for 2015, up from 22% this year. Deductibles are soaring for traditional insurance policies, too. Deductibles for individual coverage at all firms have jumped to $1,217, on average, up 47% over the past five years, according to the 2014 Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust report.

Hillary Clinton: Businesses Don’t Create Jobs

Speaking at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised her husband’s increase to the minimum wage and slammed trickle-down economics as a “spectacularly” failed system. She said millions of jobs were created after her husband raised the wage in the 1990s and after she herself voted to increase it when she was a U.S. Senator. In what seemed to be a preparation for a 2016 presidential run Clinton also told the crowd “don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

  • This is the heart of the socialist mantra – government is the key player in all aspects of life. This stands in stark contrast to the historic U.S. free market economic system.

Student Loans Deemed the Biggest Threat to U.S. Economy

What is the most dangerous threat to our economy, the answer is very simple: student loans. Suze Orman, financial analyst for CNBC, says “we have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt. About 10 million federal student loans are taken out annually, and then there are the insanely dangerous private student loans on top of that staggering number.” And while 6.7 million borrowers in repayment mode are delinquent, the sad fact is that many lenders aren’t exactly incentivized to work with borrowers. Unlike all other forms of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Moreover, lenders can garnish wages and even Social Security benefits to get repaid. Also, from 2007 to 2012, the government made $66 billion in profit on federal student loans? “We can all debate how our government should generate revenue to support federal spending programs, but doing it on the backs of young adults who need an education to compete in the increasingly competitive global workforce is just appalling.”

Economic News

The U.S. has the largest emergency stockpile of oil in the world. And now that the country’s oil production is booming, there’s questions if America needs to hold so much crude in reserve. Congress created the reserve in response to the 1973 oil embargo, which caused a supply shock and a recession. Currently, there’s enough oil in storage to meet the nation’s needs for 106 days. In contrast, most oil consuming nations have 90 days of oil supply in storage. The United States is now on track to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest energy producer next year. The talk of shrinking the oil reserve is a major shift from the political debates of the past years, when Americans were being squeezed by high gas prices.

Oil prices in the United States have tumbled to the lowest levels since 2012, and gas prices have fallen below $3 a gallon in many parts of the country. Gas now averages $3.07 a gallon nationwide, down from $3.60 in June and $3.30 a year ago. That’s billions of dollars of savings for U.S. households.

The Federal Reserve is expected to close a chapter in history this week and announce the conclusion of its massive stimulus program. Known as quantitative easing, the program is widely credited with driving investors back into stocks in the aftermath of the financial crisis. While there has been some chatter on Wall Street that the Fed would delay the expiration of stimulus due to concerns about weak growth and dangerously low inflation abroad, most analysts envision the central bank halting its bond purchases next month as previously signaled by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

European regulators revealed the results Sunday of an extensive health check of the region’s top 130 banks. All told, 25 banks failed the test, although 12 have already taken steps to shore up their finances. Italy suffered the worst count: 9 of the country’s 21 banks examined failed the test. Italy is Europe’s fourth-largest economy. Greece and Cyprus, southern European countries that required international bailouts, were next. In each country, three of four banks examined did not pass muster.

Persecution Watch

Iran’s regime conducted a raid on an Easter service and arrested Christians, subjected Christian converts to death threats and psychological abuse and shut down licensed churches, according to a UN report that will be submitted to world leaders on Tuesday. While persecution of religious minorities is nothing new in the Islamic Republic, the 28-page catalog of horrors compiled by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Right in the Islamic Republic of Iran, undermines the claim that President Hassan Rouhani has ushered in a new era of tolerance. “At least 49 Protestant Christians are currently detained, many for involvement in informal house churches,” the report states. Tehran has also cracked down on Christian community websites, blocking their reception. In addition, Christian converts have been expelled from Iranian universities.

Islamic State

Among those fighters are thousands of women fighting against ISIS, an unusual phenomenon in the Muslim world in which warfare is often associated with manhood. In April, Kurdish fighters created all-female combat units that have grown to include more than 10,000 women. These female fighters have played a major role in battles against ISIS, said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region.

A new report from The New York Times states that American James Foley and other ISIS captives were threatened with execution, tortured and starved ahead of their beheadings. After Foley, the militant group beheaded three other Western hostages — Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who wrote for Time magazine; David Haines, a British aid worker; and Alan Henning, a British taxi driver who traveled to Syria to deliver food and water to those affected by the country’s Civil War. A report from the Times in July alleged that by paying ransoms, European countries have influenced terror groups, including ISIS, to target people for kidnapping.

Syria

Building an opposition force in Syria capable of mounting offensive operations against Islamic State militants will take at least a year and require sustained U.S. support once the force is deployed, U.S. defense officials say. Developing offensive capabilities, which would allow fighters to retake land occupied by the Islamic State, requires longer training that could take up to 18 months.

Egypt

At least 27 Egyptian security personnel were killed in a car bombing in the country’s Sinai region. At least 28 other people were injured in the attack, which took place at a checkpoint in Karam al Qawadees in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuwaid district on Friday. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for an urgent meeting with the National Defense Council to discuss the security situation in North Sinai. In a televised statement Saturday, el-Sisi said new measures would be enforced in the border area between Sinai and Gaza to root out the problem, keeping it from becoming “a mass of terrorism and extremism that no one can get rid of.”

Iraq

A suicide car bomber driving a military Humvee struck a checkpoint manned by Iraqi troops and pro-government Shiite militiamen south of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 24 people. The bombing bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State group. The IS militants lost control of the town only the previous day, when Iraqi soldiers and the Shiite militia retook Jurf al-Sakhar from the Sunni extremist group. The Islamic State group had seized the town in July, as part of its blitz earlier this year that captures large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

Iran

An Iranian woman convicted of murder — in a killing that human rights groups called self-defense against a rapist — was hanged Saturday, state news agency IRNA reported. Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United Nations has said she never received a fair trial. Jabbari was convicted of murder after “a flawed investigation and unfair trial,” according to Amnesty International. Jabbari was held in solitary confinement without access to her lawyer and family for two months, Amnesty International said in a statement. She was tortured during that time, the group said.

  • Not only does Islam promote violence against non-adherents, it also enslaves women and endorses abuse

Afghanistan

A 10-year-old girl, brutally raped, confronts her attacker in court. The culprit — a cleric — tries to pass it off as “consensual sex.” A judge sentences him to 20 years and some $30,000 in fines. What’s extraordinary is that these scenes played out Saturday in a courtroom in Kabul, Afghanistan. The case is being hailed by women’s rights groups and activists as a watershed moment, in a country where women are still the targets of violence, despite reforms since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. “This case shows the level of cruelty that children in Afghanistan face,” said Horia Mosadiq, an Afghanistan researcher with Amnesty International. “This is not an isolated case.”

Nigeria

Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped at least 30 boys and girls from a village in northeast Nigeria during the weekend. The abductions appear to be the latest in a string of recent kidnappings by Boko Haram that dims hope for the anticipated release of 219 school girls ‎held by the group since April following a controversial ceasefire declared by Nigerian authorities. Heavily armed Boko Haram gunmen invaded the town of Mafa in Borno state Friday and Saturday and seized 30 boys and girls, local leaders said. The kidnappers also stole 300 cows from the farming community in the raid. Last Thursday, Boko Haram killed 17 people in the nearby village of Ndongo, which they looted and set ablaze.

Volcanoes

Residents living in the flow path of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano may soon have to evacuate. Hawaiian authorities urged residents to prepare for possible evacuations within three to five days. Lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has picked up speed and is quickly advancing on the remote town of Pahoa in the Puna district of the Big Island. By Saturday morning, the lava flow had continues to flow northeast at 10 yards per hour. The lava flow is 160-230 feet wide and is six-tenths of a mile from the town’s main road.

Weather

A strong storm system moved into the Northwest this past weekend, delivering damaging winds and heavy rains. Oregon suffered the brunt of the storm’s fury Saturday as wind gusts of up to 91 mph whipped areas of the state, downing trees, power lines and causing multiple power outages. As of Saturday evening, over 68,200 customers were without power in Oregon and Washington.

Authorities are assessing damage in Greece after heavy rain caused flash floods in Athens last Friday, uprooting trees. Significant flash flooding in the Greek capital resulted partly from the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, which passed over Bermuda and plowed over Europe earlier this week. Greek Authorities say that the flooding led to damage in several places including Peristeri, Ilion and Parama and swept away at least 250 cars. Emergency crews were called to pump water out of at least 800 homes and businesses.

Signs of the Times (10/24/14)

October 24, 2014

America’s Perpetual State of Emergency

The United States is in a perpetual state of national emergency. Thirty separate emergencies, in fact. Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 53 states of emergency — not counting disaster declarations for events such as tornadoes and floods, according to a USA TODAY review of presidential documents. Most of those emergencies remain in effect. An emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter on the 10th day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 remains in effect almost 35 years later. A post-9/11 state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush — and renewed six times by President Obama — forms the legal basis for much of the war on terror.

Tuesday, President Obama informed Congress he was extending another Bush-era emergency for another year, saying “widespread violence and atrocities” in the Democratic Republic of Congo “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.” Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will. In his six years in office, President Obama has declared nine emergencies, allowed one to expire and extended 22 emergencies enacted by his predecessors.

  • The balance of powers established in our constitution has dramatically shifted toward the Executive Branch of government giving the President unprecedented power to act unilaterally, which Obama has embraced enthusiastically. All of which gives the globalist New World Order the ability to enact its agenda at an accelerated pace.

Ebola Update

The first case of Ebola arrived in New York City on Thursday. A doctor who recently returned from West Africa, working with Doctors without Borders treating Ebola patients, had tested positive for the infection. Craig Spencer, 33, was taken to Bellevue Hospital after experiencing fever and other symptoms Thursday, less than a week after returning from Guinea, in West Africa. Spencer’s fiancé and two friends with whom he has been in contact are under quarantine. None of those people, in addition to an Uber driver with whom he rode, have symptoms. One contact has been hospitalized as a precaution. New Yorkers and others further afield took to social media to criticize New York City Ebola victim Dr. Craig Spencer for going out and about in the city – including on the subway, in an Uber car and visiting a bowling alley – despite reportedly feeling unwell, though apparently before full symptoms exhibited themselves.

The World Health Organization is sending additional medical experts to Mali to help handle its first confirmed Ebola case, a spokesman said Friday, as a senior WHO official announced accelerated vaccine trials. The World Health Organization is sending additional medical experts to Mali to help handle its first confirmed Ebola case, a spokesman said Friday, as a senior WHO official announced accelerated vaccine trials. Local authorities say they are monitoring 43 people who had contact with the infected child. Five more potential Ebola vaccines are to start clinical trials soon, WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny said at a news conference Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Texas nurse Amber Vinson, being treated for Ebola at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, is steadily regaining her strength and her spirits are high, her family said. Doctors can no longer detect the virus in Vinson’s body, and she’ll be transferred from isolation. The condition of Nina Pham, who, like Vinson, contracted Ebola after treating Duncan, has been upgraded from fair to good.

EU Agrees to 40% Cut in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

European Union leaders agreed early Friday to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the 28-nation bloc to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The deal was aimed at countering climate change and setting an example for the rest of the world ahead of key international climate negotiations next year. The agreement also requires climate-friendly, renewable energy to provide at least 27% of the bloc’s needs and demands that energy efficiency increase by at least 27% in the next 16 years. The decision makes the EU the first major economy to set post-2020 emissions targets ahead of a global climate pact that is supposed to be adopted next year in Paris.

  • The U.S. and other nations have pledged reduction goals in the past but have never come close to actually achieving the objectives. So-called called ‘climate change’ is actually an end-time phenomenon that human intervention will not cause nor mitigate

Obama Administration Misinformed Congress, Public on Immigrant Release

New records contradict the Obama administration’s assurances to Congress and the public that the 2,200 people it freed from immigration jails last year to save money had only minor criminal records. The records, obtained by USA TODAY, show immigration officials released some undocumented immigrants who had faced far more serious criminal charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault, drug trafficking and homicide. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it is “deeply troubling that ICE would knowingly release thousands of undocumented immigrant detainees – many with prior criminal records – into our streets, while publicly downplaying the danger they posed.” Immigration authorities detain an average of about 34,000 people a day and pays an average of $122 a day for each immigrant it keeps in detention.

Flood of Border Crossings Down to a Trickle

The migrant children and families from Central America crossing the Southwest border have gone back to being nearly invisible — at least for now. Customs and Border Protection said that the numbers of unaccompanied minors and of families with children apprehended crossing the border in September reached the lowest levels since the start of this year. The September numbers continue a significant decline seen through July and August, since a peak of crossings in June provoked intense national media attention. The Border Patrol apprehended 2,402 unaccompanied children at the border in September. That’s down 77 percent from June, when the Border Patrol apprehended 10,622 unaccompanied minors. The numbers of families with children apprehended also fell sharply, to similar levels.

Survey: 40% of U.S. Web Users Harassed Online

More than one-third of adult Internet users in the U.S. say they’ve personally experienced harassment online, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. The most common form experienced by users is being called an offensive name (27%) or having someone try to “purposefully embarrass them” (22%). As for the more serious forms of harassment, the survey found 8% of users have been physically threatened, while another 8% say they’ve been stalked. In most cases, users are targeted by someone they don’t know. Social media is the most common place for harassment online, finds Pew.

Americans Taking Fewest Vacation Days in Four Decades

A new study has found that U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013 and took less vacation time than at any point in the past four decades. American workers turned their backs on a total of 169 million days of paid time off, in effect “providing free labor for their employers, at an average of $504 per employee,” according to the study conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association. According to the study, in 2013 U.S. employees took an average of 16 days of vacation, compared with an average of 20.3 days as recently as 2000.

Economic News

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week after falling to a 14-year low the previous week. Despite the increase, weekly applications remain at historically low levels. The Labor Department says applications rose 17,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 283,000. That is the sixth straight week below 300,000. Applications have fallen 19 percent in the past year. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 3,000 to 281,000, the lowest in 14 years.

The Social Security Administration says the average yearly salary stands at $44,888.16. The current debt level of over $17.9 trillion would thus take more than 398 million years of working at the average wage to pay off. This means that even if every man, woman and child in the United States would work for one year just to help pay off the debt the government has piled on in their name, it still wouldn’t be enough. Even more incredible than the debt owed right now is what’s owed down the line from all the promises politicians have been making decade after decade. These unfunded liabilities come to an astonishing $116.2 trillion.

A drop in gasoline prices tempered inflation for the third straight month in September, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The consumer price index rose 0.1% after falling 0.2% in August. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 1.7%.So-called core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, were unchanged in August. Last month, gas prices fell 1% and airline fares were down 0.5% after tumbling 4.7% in August. Apparel prices also declined. Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs increased 0.7%, while vegetables rose 0.5%.

In the oil boom towns of North Dakota, Texas and Colorado there’s a big demand for new homes — but there’s no one to build them. That’s because construction companies keep losing skilled workers to the oil companies, which are offering big bonuses and six-figure salaries. Recruiters even loiter at truck stops and offer drivers $10,000 signing bonuses to take jobs driving for the oil companies. With so many carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other trade workers going to work for the oil services companies, builders have to rehire and train crews constantly.

Wealth inequality is greater than any time since 1929, new research from Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics reveals. “The share of wealth held by the top 0.1 percent of families is now almost as high as in the late 1920s,” the study reports. Wealth disparity was high in the beginning of the 20th century, fell from 1929 to 1978 and has increased since then. The bottom 90 percent of the population held 15 percent of total wealth in the late 1920s, rose to 35 percent in the mid-1980s, then fell to 23 percent in 2012 due to increasing mortgages and other debt.

China’s economy in the third quarter grew at its slowest pace in five years as it battles a slumping real-estate market and weak domestic demand and industrial production. Gross domestic product expanded by 7.3% in the third quarter versus the same period last year, according to government data, the weakest performance since the global financial crisis.

If sanctions, inflation and political risk weren’t enough, falling oil prices are pushing Russia’s already beleaguered economy toward recession. Russia, whose budget gets half its revenue from oil and gas exports, is losing billions of dollars in oil revenue due to the price drop. Cheap oil has further devalued Russia’s currency, with the official exchange rate falling almost 20% this year. The troubles in Russia — the world’s eighth-largest economy — could have global repercussions.

Persecution Watch

Christian pastors in Idaho have filed a lawsuit and asked the courts to temporarily restrain city officials from making them perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. Donald Knapp and wife, Evelyn, operate Hitching Post Wedding Chapel and have been required by city officials to perform same-sex marriages or else be jailed or fined. The Christian Post reports that Knapp’s penalty could be up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $1,000 per day that they refuse to officiate the weddings. After one week, that would amount to three years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The city of Coeur d’Alene says its non-discrimination ordinance requires the couple to perform the wedding ceremonies. “The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement.

Two Christian men in Kazakhstan have been given ten-day prison terms for distributing Christian literature after the authorities claimed the contents of one of the books incite religious hatred. Vyacheslav Cherkasov and Zhasulan Alzhanov were sentenced on 6 October, five months after the authorities confiscated Christian books that the two men were handing out near a market in Shchuchinsk, in the Akmola region. The book Jesus: More than a Prophet, which was among 252 Christian books seized by the authorities on 10 May, was found by officials who conducted “expert analysis” to contain “elements inciting religious hatred and discord.” It is actually a collection of testimonies written by Muslims who became Christians.

Middle East

A terror attack was carried out in Jerusalem Wednesday evening involving a car ramming into a crowd waiting at a light-rail station. The attack, carried out by a Palestinian man known to police as a member of the Islamist terror militia Hamas, killed three month old Chaya Zissel, a dual American-Israeli citizen and wounded her parents and five other people. The driver of the vehicle attempted to escape on foot but was shot by police and later died of his wounds. Rioting broke out in the eastern Jerusalem following the incident, and on Thursday morning masked Arabs attacked a Jewish kindergarten in the Ma’aleh Zeitim neighborhood with stones, before being chased away by police. The attacks against Israeli children in the capital was only the latest incident in an escalating spiral of violence which has flared over recent months.

Islamic State

ISIS militants have once again begun pushing for more territory as the terrorist group has launched 15 simultaneous attacks on land controlled by Kurdish forces. The group attacked several locations in northern Iraq Monday, as well as the Mosul dam, and the Sinjar mountain range. A senior official at the Ministry of Peshmerga said that the terrorists’ attack against the Sinjar mountain range was not successful. “ISIS failed in their attempt to control the village of Sharaf ad-Din after Peshmerga forces repelled the attack and managed to kill a number of ISIS militants,” the official said.

The Islamic State terrorist group is making an estimated $800 million per year in crude oil sales. The sales come from oil regions that the group has captured in Iraq and Syria. The report said that the crude oil is sold to black market traders. ISIS also sells the oil to middlemen who then take the oil to Jordan and other areas of Iraq that are not controlled by the militants. “Oil fuels ISIL’s war machine, notably including the military vehicles vital to its movements and fighting capabilities,” the report said.

Dizzy, vomiting and struggling to breathe, 11 Iraqi police officers were rushed to a government hospital 50 miles north of the capital last month. The diagnosis: poisoning by chlorine gas. The perpetrators, according to the officers: Islamic State extremists. The chlorine attack appears to be the first confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State on the battlefield. An Iraqi Defense Ministry official corroborated the events, and doctors said survivors’ symptoms were consistent with chlorine poisoning. Iraqi forces say two other crude chlorine attacks have occurred since the extremists seized vast tracts of Iraqi territory this summer.

U.S. airstrikes have reportedly killed 521 Islamic militants and 32 civilians in the past month. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 464 militants were members of ISIS and 57 militants belonged to the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The U.S. began its airstrike campaign against ISIS in Iraq in July; the airstrikes were expanded to Syria in September. The U.S. has been aided in the fight against the Muslim extremist group by Britain and France, as well as Arab allies.

In a new video, ISIS shows American-made weapons it says were intended for the Kurds but actually were air dropped into territory they control. At least one bundle of U.S. weapons airdropped in Syria appears to have fallen into the hands of ISIS, a dangerous misfire in the American mission to speed aid to Kurdish forces making their stand in Kobani. ISIS had broadly advertised its acquisition of a broad range of U.S.-made weapons during its rampage across Iraq. ISIS videos have showed its fighters driving U.S. tanks, MRAPs, Humvees.

Tunisia

Nearly four years after the Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia remains its lone success as chaos engulfs much of the region. But that is not its only distinction: Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State. Tunisians have approved a new Constitution by a broad consensus, and a second free election is to take place this month. The country has the advantage of one of the Arab world’s most educated and cosmopolitan populations, numbering just 11 million. But instead of sapping the appeal of militant extremism, the new freedom that came with the Arab Spring revolt has allowed militants to preach and recruit more openly than ever before. At the same time, many young Tunisians say that the new freedoms and elections have done little to improve their daily lives, create jobs or rein in a brutal police force. They view ISIS with pride and many point to the movement as the fulfillment of Islamic end-time prophecies.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s national government and separatists in the country’s east may have agreed to a cease-fire and peace talks six weeks ago, but you wouldn’t know that in Donetsk, the stronghold of the rebellion. Streets in this once-bustling metropolis are nearly empty because so many businesses are closed. Tanks and mobile rocket launchers operated by pro-Russian separatists regularly rumble down city streets. And the sound of artillery fire around the airport is so regular that people ignore it. The continued fighting raises doubts about whether negotiations can settle the bitter dispute over the future of eastern Ukraine between nationalists who want to preserve a united nation and ethnic Russians just as determined to separate and become part of the Motherland. The Ukrainian government estimates there are 1,000 rebels in Donetsk, though residents say they believe the number is higher.

Pakistan

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent news organisation based at City University, London, has found that only 12% of victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan could be identified as militants. In the report, released by the organization on Thursday, researchers also found that fewer than 4% of those killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda. The report said that out of the 2,379 known victims of drone strikes between June 2004 and October 2014, 704 have been identified. Only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group.

Nigeria

Boko Haram militants broke the established ceasefire with Nigerian troops on Sunday (Oct. 19), deflating hopes that the kidnapped schoolgirls would be returned to their families. The terrorist organization had agreed to a truce with the Nigerian government during negotiations in Saudi Arabia. The group had also promised to return nearly 200 girls who had been kidnapped from a school in Borno state on April 14. Charisma News reports Boko Haram has launched at least five attacks since the ceasefire was announced.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s top official has offered a controversial defense of Beijing’s plan for elections in the financial capital, warning that a free vote would give the city’s poorest residents too much power. The remarks by Chief Executive C.Y. Leung came in his first interview with foreign media since protests erupted late last month, led by student groups demanding the right to vote for any candidate of their choosing — not only those approved by Beijing. Leung’s comments are likely to strike a chord with the pro-democracy protesters, who often list Hong Kong’s massive wealth gap and out-of-control home prices as some of their top grievances.

Weather

The fog of uncertainty cast by rising seas is starting to lift from $25 billion worth of public projects planned in San Francisco. The City by the Bay has adopted a first-in-the-nation approach to assessing potential infrastructure risks posed by rising seas. The new policy will help officials incorporate sea level rise into decisions about building and upgrading everything from pipes to police stations to streets. Two or three more feet of sea level rise is forecast globally this century. The guidance was adopted last month by the city’s capital planning committee, a group of lawmakers and city officials formed nearly a decade ago to guide and prioritize byzantine capital spending by departments and agencies.

There were 45 reports of flooding in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island Wednesday night and Thursday. Vehicles were stuck in flood waters in Peabody and Lowell, Massachusetts. The Beverly (Massachusetts) Municipal Airport tallied 6.13 inches of total rainfall through mid-afternoon Thursday. Gardner (5.60 inches) and Brockton (5.03 inches), Massachusetts also topped the five-inch rain threshold. Strong winds were also reported throughout southern New England Wednesday, some of which downed numerous trees and left thousands without power. Winds gusted to 60 mph in Scituate and Hull, Massachusetts, and gusted to 54 mph at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

A heavy rain maker has set up in the Pacific Northwest, and it will continue to bring much needed rain and mountain snow through the weekend. An upper-level low, coupled with the jet stream, will pump moist air from the Pacific Ocean into Washington, Oregon and Northern California. On Friday, rain will taper off for much of the region, with the exception of Oregon and central Idaho, as the initial low weakens and diminishes. On Saturday, a second low pressure system will usher heavy rain into the Pacific Northwest. This second system is forecast to bring rain as far south as San Francisco and Sacramento, as well as snow over the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Friday, October 24 marks nine years since Hurricane Wilma made landfall in southwest Florida, a record hurricane-free streak for the Sunshine State. This is the longest stretch on record dating to 1851 that no hurricanes have made landfall in the state.

A series of powerful solar flares disrupted communications systems this week. The solar flare disrupted radio signals transmitted in the upper atmosphere, which includes some radar and plane systems as well as amateur radio. No high-energy particles were witnessed coming from the flare, meaning damage to satellites or the electrical grid is unlikely. NASA says the radiation burst didn’t pose a risk to humans.

 

 

Signs of the Times (10/20/14)

October 20, 2014

Students across America Toted Bibles for “Bring Your Bible to School Day”

Students across the United States will bring their Bibles to school last Thursday as part of a national initiative to encourage young people to share their faith with peers. According to The Blaze, ring Your Bible to School Day was sponsored by Focus on the Family in an effort to promote religious freedom and to teach students their constitutional rights. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco said, “Christian students don’t abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms at the schoolhouse gate. Their freedom to express their beliefs includes the right to bring their Bible to school, to read it during their free time, and to engage in other activities as part of ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day.’” The ADF also released a public memo, informing schools that students are permitted by law to carry a Bible and read it during non-instructional time. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has issued a memo advising county clerk employees of their constitutional rights of conscience to not be forced to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Supreme Court rules Texas can Enforce Voter ID Law

The Supreme Court early Saturday allowed Texas to enforce its photo identification law at the polls in the upcoming elections, reaching the opposite conclusion it reached in a similar Wisconsin case a week earlier. The justices also upheld new restrictions on voting in North Carolina and Ohio that did not include photo ID requirements. The law is the strictest in the nation, permitting only certain types of photo ID at the polls. It was enacted to cut down on in-person voter fraud. In all four of the voting cases that came before them, the majority of justices attempted to leave existing procedures in place. The Texas law had been used in several minor elections during the past year.

Court Overturns Arizona Marriage Amendment

On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick overturned Arizona’s marriage amendment that defined marriage as only the union of one man and one woman. Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) ways, “I pray that you will not lose heart. Just as the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion did not end the abortion debate, neither do the court decisions redefining marriage end our calling and obligation to promote and defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Five federal circuit courts of appeals have not yet ruled on marriage. Two of those circuits may uphold the marriage amendments. If a split in the circuits occurs, then it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue.

Same-Sex Marriage in Alaska, Wyoming to Proceed after Court Orders

Same-sex marriage in Alaska can move forward after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected the state’s request to delay enforcement. The one-sentence order from the justices denying a stay means gays and lesbians could soon legally wed. Less than an hour later, a federal judge in Wyoming did the same in that Western state. Barring any continued legal intervention, that would make Alaska and Wyoming the 30th and 31st states to allow same-sex marriage, up from 19 states at the beginning of the month.

Catholic Bishops Scrap Landmark Overture to Gays in Sign of Split

Catholic gay rights groups have reacted with disappointment to bishops scrapping their landmark welcome to gays this weekend, a move that showed deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families. The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals that stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week. Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops — whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion — also failed to pass.

Government Lied/Failed about Ebola Outbreak

The Washington Post notes, “When Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola two weeks ago, authorities said not to worry — he had no symptoms during his flights from Liberia to Dallas. They said the disease could be spread only by someone who was showing signs such as fever and only through bodily fluids such as vomit. They told passengers who rode with Duncan they couldn’t catch it because it isn’t transmitted through the air. And, they said, if a passenger is sick or has a fever, the person won’t fly. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is busy tracking 132 passengers who traveled this week on a Frontier Airlines flight with Amber Vinson, the second health-care worker who tested positive for Ebola after caring for Duncan, who died earlier this month. On Monday, the nurse went from Cleveland back to Dallas with a low-grade fever. And the next day, the plane took five more trips before Frontier Airlines was notified late Tuesday about Vinson. Ever since Duncan set foot on American soil on Sept. 20, medical personnel seemed to take one misstep after the other.

Obama Appoints Ebola Czar without Health/Medical Experience

The appointment of longtime Democrat operative Ron Klain as Obama’s Ebola “czar” makes absolutely no sense. Klain doesn’t have a medical background or, really, any background in dealing with a public health crisis of Ebola’s magnitude. The last time we heard Klain’s name in the public sphere sas during the Solyndra solar debacle. Klain was Biden’s Chief of staff at the time, and when there was concern about Solyndra’s viability, Klain used his clout to help push the taxpayer-backed loan forward anyway. That was because the man behind Solyndra was billionaire Obama donor George Kaiser, who was the largest shareholder in the company. Kaiser was able to restructure Solyndra’s oan before it went bankrupt so that private investors like himself got paid first during bankruptcy proceedings with taxpayers footing the bill, according to dailysurge.com

Ebola Update

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed. The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States. Dozens of Dallas residents who had contact with the only U.S.-diagnosed Ebola fatality were headed back to schools, work and their communities Monday after their 21-day monitoring period concluded without any signs of the virus. In a related case, a health care worker who may have handled a specimen from Duncan was reported to be in quarantine on a cruise ship in the Caribbean which returned to Galveston Saturday. After voluntarily isolating herself in her cabin, she remained symptom-free and her lab tests looked good.

  • As of Friday, eight confirmed cases of Ebola have been or are being treated in the United States, and one U.S. citizen died abroad, having never returned to the States.

Though the Obama administration has insisted travel bans are not necessary, even countries outside of Africa are beginning to start such travel bans, with Colombia and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Wednesday adding their names to a growing list of nearly 30 countries that block travelers from virus-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The West African nation of Senegal is free of Ebola, the World Health Organization declared Friday, congratulating the country on the diligence that enabled it to repel the threat. Senegal had only one case, a man who had entered the country by road from Guinea. Nigeria is also officially free of Ebola, the World Health Organization said Monday. WHO Country Director Rui Gama Vaz hailed the country’s containment of the disease as a “spectacular success story.” The last case in Nigeria tested negative for Ebola 42 days ago, twice the disease’s maximum incubation period. The disease continues to spread rapidly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

An alarmed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in late September asked nations around the world to quickly help raise $1 billion to fight the deadly virus Ebola. As of last Friday, only $100,000 has come in — from Colombia. Other countries have pledged a total of $20 million for the special fund that Ban set up. Corporate donors have been slow to respond as well. As of last week, companies have pledged nearly $19 million in cash and “in kind” contributions to support Ebola relief. The World Health Organization estimates the virus has killed 4,493 people in seven countries.

Obama says US is “One of the Biggest Muslim Nations”

President Barack Hussein Obama gave an interview a few days ago with the French television channel Canal+. In that interview, Obama echoed the words of his former DHS advisor Mohamed Elibiary when he said that Americans should be better educated about Islam, noting that the US could and should be regarded as a Muslim county. Obama called the US “one of the biggest Muslim nations.” Though Obama’s claims are completely false (the US has only 4.5 million professing Muslims or 1.5% of the population), it is nonetheless a purposeful tactic to make Muslim numbers appear bigger than they really are. Jerusalem Online reports: “Since there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, the number of Muslims in the US is approximately 0.3% of the world Muslim population. By comparison there are between approximately 6 million Jews in the US, who account for approximately a third of the world’s Jewish population.”

Economic News

Home building’s off-and-on recovery switched back on last month as construction starts rebounded from a late summer slump. Housing starts rose 6.3% from August as builders began construction of single-family homes and apartment buildings at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.02 million. That tops August’s revised rate of 957,000 but trails July’s updated rate of nearly 1.1 million — the highest for any month this year. Home builders’ average annual rate was nearly 1.8 million homes a month during the national building boom from 2000 through 2006.

Over 48 million Americans live in poverty, according to a special report by the Census Bureau last Thursday. Government programs such as food stamps do help some people, especially children, but even so 16% of American children are living in poverty, according to the supplemental report. The official poverty line was $23,283 last year for a family of four. Food stamps and tax credits helped keep more than 13 million people out of poverty. Social Security put almost 27 million Americans out of poverty. Conversely, out-of-pocket medical expenses are putting about 11 million people into poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

  • The real issue for the poor is employment. Although government benefits are lifting millions of people out of poverty, they are not putting people in the workforce.

A casual glance at the job market makes it appear that things are a lot better. The unemployment rate was 7.2% a year ago. Now it’s 5.9%.But there’s a dark side to this recovery: Millions of people are still unemployed or underemployed. Part-time jobs remain a big problem. Over seven million Americans want full-time work, but can only find part-time hours. There are 54% more part-time workers now than when the recession began in December 2007. Some job seekers want work, but see such dim chances of employment, they stopped looking for a job four weeks ago or more. The current number of such ‘discouraged’ workers is about 700,000, almost double what it was when the recession began. At the start of the recession, 17% of all unemployed people were out of work for six months or longer. In September, almost a third of the unemployed population was jobless for half a year or more.

Persecution Watch

Charges against 55 Pakistani Christians who were falsely accused of blasphemy have been dropped after a written compromise was agreed between the Muslim accuser and the believers involved. The accusation of blasphemy was made against a group of Christians in a small village in Tehsil Samandri district, Faisalabad, on 3 September following a dispute with a gang of Muslims over the use of land for a graveyard. Thirteen Christians, including a twelve-year old boy, were arrested; they have now been released. The Christians were originally charged under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which refers to defiling the name of Muhammad and carries the death penalty. Remarkably, following the intervention of Barnabas-funded Christian lawyers, this charge was later overturned in a rare move by police. The accused Christians were instead charged with violating a place of worship or cemetery (section 297 of the Pakistan Penal Code), which does not carry the death penalty. On 30 September, Barnabas Aid received confirmation that this charge has now also been dropped.

A further bloody attack by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram has targeted two villages in northern Cameroon, killing 17 Christians. Meanwhile, the true extent of the intense suffering of those displaced by the group’s violence in the region has been revealed in a recent report. The villages of Tourou and Ladamang, in the Mayo Tsanaga area, were attacked. Among more than 40 civilians who lost their lives were a Christian worker, the son of a pastor and 15 other Christians. Many believers saw their belongings looted. Meanwhile, a Christian leader reported about the misery of the thousands of people made homeless in northern Cameroon because of Boko Haram’s violence.

Islamic State

The U.S. Air Force dropped 27 bundles of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies around the besieged Syrian town of Kobani overnight Sunday in an effort to resupply Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants there. The increased number of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in the Syrian city of Kobani reflects more targets of opportunity, not a change in the campaign against the vicious Islamist group, a Pentagon spokesman said. The strikes are helping Kurdish fighters on the ground push back ISIS militants in the Syrian town, according to sources there. Airstrikes in Syria shifted Saturday from the besieged city of Kobani toward the oil facilities that fund Islamic State fighters.

Also on Monday, Turkey’s foreign minister announced his country would let Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq use Turkish territory to enter Syria and reinforce fighters in Kobani. The help is desperately needed, Kobani officials say. Even though defenders control some 70% of the city, Kobani is cut off and ISIS forces continue to shell it with mortars from the east and south. The Turkish decision to allow Iraqi Peshmerga to enter Syria through its territory could provide an influx of much-needed ground forces to help.

Nigeria

Nigeria has reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram that includes the release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, Nigerian officials said Friday. The deal came Thursday night after a month of negotiations with representatives of the group, said Hassan Tukur, principal secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan. “We have agreed on the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, and we expect to conclude on that at our next meeting with the group’s representative next week in Chad,” Tukur said. Officials provided few details about the release.

Hong Kong

Pro-democracy demonstrators seized back part of Hong Kong’s bustling Mong Kok district Saturday after a night of scuffles. Spurred on by police attempts to reopen part of the district to traffic, the protesters’ numbers increased overnight, swelling to around 9,000, according to Hong Kong police. Amid the tussling, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, the government negotiator, announced Saturday that talks with pro-democracy protesters will take place Tuesday, with Lingnan University President Leonard Cheng as moderator. On the streets, meanwhile, the situation remains highly volatile, with the protests continuing through the weekend. Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive has said the city’s pro-democracy movement is “out of hand” and being influenced by “external forces” from outside the city.

Mexico

The recent disappearance of 43 students and the discovery of mass graves containing the remains of 28 charred human bodies offer an alarming reminder that violent crime persists in Mexico. That’s despite the federal government’s insistence that the security situation is improving as it attempts to bolster the country’s international image. DNA tests show the bodies in the graves found near Iguala are not a match for the missing students. The discovery increases the death toll in a nation where thousands go missing each year and dozens of clandestine graves are routinely uncovered. . The National Geography and Statistics Institute estimated 41,563 crimes per 100,000 residents were committed in 2013, up from about 35,139 in 2012. Among the most frequent offenses: street crimes, robbery while riding public transportation and extortion. In the USA, violent and property crimes were estimated at 3,246 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.

Weather

Hurricane Gonzalo hit Bermuda late Friday as a powerful Category 2 storm, with winds estimated at 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. The wind was measured at 83 mph on one spot on Bermuda; the airport measured 74 mph, with gusts of 96 mph. Bermuda’s power company, confirmed in a tweet that approximately 30,600 customers — 85% of its customers — were without power due to Gonzalo. Over 6,000 remained without power by Monday morning. Early Saturday morning, the Gazette reported that “barely a road” on the island was passable because of downed trees and other debris. Bermuda closed its schools and international airport and suspended all public transportation, including ferries. Authorities evacuated two hotels along Bermuda’s southern coast Thursday. Guests either flew out or were placed in another hotel. The remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo are set for a collision course with the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

At least six people were killed in mudslides after the remnants of Tropical Storm Trudy dumped heavy rain on southern Mexico over the weekend. The town of Ometepec picked up 15.91 inches of rain in 24 hours. This region is home to some very steep mountain ranges so this kind of rain inevitably leads to landslides and debris flows, which can be deadly. At least one pedestrian bridge over the Solteco River in Guerrero was destroyed. Several other rivers in the region overflowed, causing damage to structures, roads and crops. Houses in Santo Domingo and Santa Maria Armenta were flooded. Many state highways and streets were impassible because of mudslides.

After menacing Hawaii for days, the closest Hurricane Ana got to Hawaii was about 70 miles southwest of the island Niihau, leaving the state soaked but largely unscathed. The islands rode out the storm with no reports of any serious problems. There have been no reports of injuries, deaths or significant damage from the storm. Preparations for the storm began last week, with residents stocking up on bottled water, shelters opening and various events being canceled.

 

Signs of the Times (10/16/14)

October 16, 2014

David’s Tent” Offers 24/7 Praise and Worship Outside White House for 50 Days

Christians from all 50 states will gather in Washington D.C. throughout the next month as the third annual “David’s Tent” event stretches for 50 days of music and worship. David’s Tent is based off of the book of Chronicles when King David sent up a tent outside his palace to house the Ark of the Covenant. The event, held at the White House Ellipse began Sept. 15 and will conclude Nov. 4. Bands from across the country come to lead worship around the clock for 50 days. In addition to music, there is also prayer and scripture reading. “What we have introduced this year at David’s Tent is Ezra’s Platform, an area where people can come and read aloud from God’s Word. Within our first 10 days, we proclaimed all the way through from Genesis to Revelation; now we’re reading it again day and night, alongside songs of worship,” founder Jason Hershey said. The organizers of the event obtained the proper licenses to hold event, which Hershey said is a miracle itself in today’s time of religious oppression.

Conservative Bishops Slam Vatican’s Gay Overture

Conservative Catholic bishops distanced themselves Tuesday from a document showing an unprecedented opening toward gays and divorced people, saying it doesn’t reflect their views and vowing to make changes to the final version. The provisional document produced at the halfway point of a two-week meeting on family life said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with “precious” support. It said the church must welcome divorced people and recognize the “positive” aspects of civil marriages and even Catholics who live together without being married. The document was remarkable both in what it said and what it didn’t say: Gone were assertions of Catholic doctrine present in most church documents that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” and that couples who cohabitate are living in sin. In their place were words of acceptance and welcome. Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.

  • The great falling away (2Thess. 2:3) is pitching itself off the cliff with increasing alacrity. Perhaps Malachy was right about this Pope being the last one before the Tribulation and the glorious Second Coming

City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court. “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.” ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

  • ‘Free’ speech is increasingly being compromised. Soon it will only allowed if it’s politically correct.

Nebraska Schools Avoiding Terms “Boys” & “Girls”

A school system in Lincoln, Nebraska is asking teachers to make their classrooms more gender-inclusive by avoiding the words “boys” and “girls.” “Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention,” a handout from Lincoln Public Schools stated. Instead, teachers have been told to creatively refer to their students. Examples include telling all students that like milk to line up, followed by students that prefer juice. When addressing the whole class, teachers are encouraged to invent a classroom name such as “purple penguins” the handout said. The teachers were told to “Always ask yourself, ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?'”

  • How can these people not see how ridiculous and absurd this is?

California Churches Forced to Provide Abortion Coverage

The California Department of Managed Health Care is requiring employers, including churches and other religious organizations, to provide elective abortions in their insurance policies. In response to the mandate, Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a complaint on behalf of seven California churches, according to Charisma Magazine. “Forcing a church to be party to elective abortion is one of the utmost-imaginable assaults on our most fundamental American freedoms,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “California is flagrantly violating the federal law that protects employers from being forced into having abortion in their health insurance plans. No state can blatantly ignore federal law and think that it should continue to receive taxpayer money.”

Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics to Stay Open

Late Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a terse, unsigned statement, that parts of the Texas abortion facility safety standard law could not be enforced. This will allow the 14 abortion clinics to reopen that were closed earlier this month by a decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling noted that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anton Scalia would have allowed the law to be enforced. “This decision by the Supreme Court places the profits of abortion businesses that cannot meet minimum safety standards above the lives of women,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “We have seen first-hand through our investigations in Texas the conditions and practices that endanger women every day. We take some hope in the fact that this ruling is only temporary. We remain confident that the Texas law will be upheld once all the evidence is presented.”

Ebola Update

A second hospital worker who helped care for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has tested positive for the disease, prompting local officials to warn Wednesday that more cases are “a real possibility.” The unidentified health care worker, who was described as a woman who lived alone without pets, reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. At an early morning news conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he could not rule out more cases among 75 other hospital staffers who cared for Duncan and were being monitored by the CDC.

A Texas doctor has apologized for what he calls mistakes in how his hospital handled Ebola, as schools close out of fear that they’re vulnerable to the virus. Also on Thursday, officials are considering barring 76 hospital workers who treated an Ebola patient from boarding airplanes. The second Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola flew a day before it was known that she might be suffering from the virus and should not have been cleared to fly. She reported to the CDC that she had a fever, she said, but was told she could go ahead and continue her travel. Now, 132 passengers on her flight are wondering if they were exposed.

New cases of Ebola could reach 10,000 per week by December as the virus outbreak races out of control in West Africa, a World Health Organization official said Tuesday. WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward also said the death rate, which had been estimated at about half of those who become infected, has risen to about 70%.The disease is expanding into more areas of those countries. New strategies such as handing out protective equipment to families and setting up very basic clinics is a priority. Over the last month there have been about 1,000 new cases per week.

Ebola May be Droplet-Borne Transmitted

It is highly unlikely that Ebola has mutated to become airborne. It is, however, droplet-borne — and the distinction between the two is crucial. Airborne diseases are far more transmittable than droplet-borne ones. Droplet-borne means that the disease-causing germs are so small they can live dry, floating in the air for extended periods, thus capable of traveling from person to person at a distance. Chickenpox, measles and tuberculosis are droplet borne diseases. Droplets of mucus and other secretions from the nose, mouth and respiratory tract transmit the diseases, including influenza and smallpox. When someone coughs, sneezes or, in the case of Ebola, vomits, he releases a spray of secretions into the air. This makes the infection droplet-borne. Some hospital procedures, like placing a breathing tube down a patient’s air passage to help him breathe, may do the same thing. Some hospital protocols are not accounting for this form of transmission.

Study Links Ohio Earthquakes to Hydraulic Fracturing

Fracking caused hundreds of earthquakes along a previously undiscovered fault line in Ohio. That’s the conclusion of research by scientists at Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. (ISTI) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), who published their findings in the most recent issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters (SRL). “There were earthquakes where there had not been any in the past records,” ISTI’s Paul Friberg, a seismologist and paper co-author, told weather.com. “Not just 10 earthquakes, but about 500 much smaller ones that could only be observed using an advanced data processing technique.” Though many of the quakes were positive magnitude — as in a magnitude of 0.1 or greater — they were all more than two miles below the surface, making them too deep to be felt. Based on similar conclusions drawn in Pennsylvania, Ohio put in place new monitoring requirements for fracking operations; they must inspect areas for fault lines before beginning work.

Pentagon Withheld Information about Chemical Weapons during Iraq War

American troops were exposed to chemical weapons multiple times in the years following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while the Pentagon kept their discoveries of the expired or degraded weapons secret from investigators, fellow soldiers, and military doctors, according to a New York Times report. American troops reported finding approximately 5,000 chemical warheads, shells, or aviation bombs in the years following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On at least six occasions, soldiers were wounded by those weapons, which had been manufactured before 1991. In all, the paper reported that 17 U.S. soldiers and seven Iraqi police officers were exposed to chemical agents during the war. The Army, further, reportedly admitted to The Times that it had not followed its guidelines for treating soldiers exposed to chemical weapons in the years following the invasion. It vowed to identify troops and veterans who had been exposed and follow up on their cases.

  • This shocking report indicates that Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq after all, but the Pentagon did its best to hide the truth. Turns out Bush was right after all.

FBI Chief: Citizens Should Be ‘Deeply Skeptical’ of Government

“I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power,” FBI Director James Comey told CBS News’ Scott Pelley in an interview for “60 Minutes” that will air on Sunday. “You cannot trust people in power. The Founders knew that,” he said. “That’s why they divided power among three branches, to set interest against interest.” His comments come in light of numerous leaks since last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealing that agency’s extensive telephone and Internet surveillance programs. He also commented that cell phones introduced last month by Apple Inc. designed to avoid surveillance by law enforcement had “gone too far.”

  • Trust of government continues to sink due to increasing reports of corruption and prevarication

Economic News

Retail sales fell 0.3% in September as consumers backed off on purchases of cars, home goods and clothing, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Excluding autos sales fell 0.2%. After surging up 10.4% in August, auto sales fell 0.8% in September. Clothing and accessories stores saw sales drop 1.2%. Electronics purchases helped offset the decline with sales up 3.4%, possibly affected by the release of the new iPhone. Apple says it sold more than 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, a record for a new model, in the three days after the phones went on sale. Overall sales are up 4.3% in the past 12 months.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 14-year low last week. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000, its lowest level since 2000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Employers added 248,000 jobs in September, yet average hourly pay fell a penny to $24.53. Wage growth has barely kept pace with inflation, limiting how much Americans can spend. Meanwhile, the U.S. producer-price index booked a surprise drop of 0.1% last month versus August. It was the first decline in more than a year.

Benchmark West Texas sank 4% to $82.32 a barrel – a 28-month low – extending an autumn slide that cast more clouds over the energy sector but brightened the outlook for consumers who’ll benefit by a continued slide in gasoline prices. The key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are undercutting other exporters’ prices and maintaining production or even boosting output as global demand is slowing and North America oil production surged. U.S. gasoline prices averaged $3.19 a gallon Monday and have dropped 21 cents in the past month. Prices are likely to drop an additional 20 cents or more by early November.

Persecution Watch

Ward Melville High School in New York has reversed its decision to ban students from forming a Christian community service club. The Long Island school had previously denied Students United in Faith from gathering, but after a public outcry, the club will meet like other school clubs do. Club members joined with the Liberty Institute to fight the school’s ban.

Islamic State

Fierce U.S. airstrikes killed “several hundred” Islamic State fighters in and around the besieged Syrian city of Kobani, helping to swing some of the momentum back to the ethnic Kurds who have been battling the militants for months. Other sources fear the Islamic State fighters could be waiting out the airstrikes and preparing their next ground offensive.

The U.S. has a “winning strategy” to defeat ISIS, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told CNN’s Kyra Phillips in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. He added that he “can’t foresee” sending “large ground combat forces into Iraq.” ISIS has inched closer to the Iraqi capital Baghdad this week and continued fighting in strategically important Anbar Province. Is it possible that ISIS could gain control of Baghdad? “I don’t see that happening,” he said. “I’m confident we can assist the Iraqis to keep Baghdad from falling.”

Ukraine

Russian-backed separatists continue to fire on Ukrainian government forces and appear to be preparing a new advance Mariupol, a front-line city near the Russian border, a top commander of the Ukrainian National Guard said Wednesday. “Today there was more shelling on Mariupol and gun fights, but this time it was from the Berdyansk side also,” said Andriy Klos, chief of staff of the Azov Brigade, an all-volunteer unit defending the first major city west of the Russian border along the Sea of Azov. “So I think the (rebels’) area is expanding,” he said in an interview with USA TODAY. The continued fighting illustrated the fragile nature of a cease-fire between the Ukrainian national government and pro-Russian rebels who are seeking to separate from Ukraine.

North Korea

With that unique haircut, and familiar wide smile, North Korea’s young dictator resurfaced Tuesday in the traditional style of his tightly controlled nation. The only clue to Kim’s almost 40-day absence from public view was the walking cane he leaned on. Kim’s absence sparked rumors of a serious illness or possibly a coup. Analysts in South Korea said Tuesday that Kim remained in full control of the nation.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong police tightened their grip on the city Wednesday as officers dragged away dozens of pro-democracy activists, tore down barricades and removed concrete slabs that protesters have been using for more than two weeks as they call for genuinely free elections in the South China city. During a night of clashes near the city government’s headquarters, a group of officers appeared to lead a man to a dark corner, where they kicked and beat him for four minutes, according to video aired Wednesday by Hong Kong television channel TVB. Outraged viewers said this would only serve to fuel expanded protests. Hong Kong’s leader, the city’s embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said Thursday that he was ready to participate in talks with pro-democracy protesters.

Earthquakes

A powerful 7.4-magnitude quake shook the Pacific coast of Central America on Tuesday, causing some damage and killing at least one person in El Salvador. The quake was deep (43 miles) but close to El Salvador’s shoreline — about 38 miles from the municipality of Intipuca. There was light structural damage to the local hospital, and rescue crews responded to at least 12 collapsed homes. A woman was killed when an electrical utility pole fell on her.

Weather

Hurricane Gonzalo was moving through the Caribbean Tuesday morning as a Category 2 storm, disrupting travel across the region after causing structural damage to homes in Antigua. Antigua and the Leeward Islands took the brunt of the storm on Monday, when Gonzalo was still a Tropical Storm, downing trees and ripping roofs off of homes on the island nation of some 80,000. Winds, which gusted up to 88 mph, damaged a luxury hotel on the west coast of Antigua, killing at least one person, injuring 12 others. Now major Hurricane Gonzalo is set for a collision course with Bermuda on Saturday, just days after Tropical Storm Fay brought down trees and power lines and damaged homes on Antigua.

An avalanche following a blizzard in central Nepal has killed 25 with some 70 people still missing along or near the popular Annapurna trail. The route is about 100 miles northwest of the Nepalese capital of Katmandu and was filled with international hikers. October is traditionally peak hiking season because the weather is normally clear and the air is cool. Because of local festivals, there were also many Nepalese residents on the trails at the time of the disaster. The blizzard was the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days ago.

After 48 hours and more than two dozen tornadoes spawned in the south-central U.S., two people have been killed and thousands were still without power across multiple states Wednesday from Arkansas to Illinois to Florida.

Signs of the Times (10/13/14)

October 13, 2014

Judge Overturns Alaska’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

In 1998, Alaska became the first of two states to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. On Sunday, a federal judge overturned the 16-year ban, saying the Constitution guarantees equal protection to all. The judge’s ruling makes Alaska the latest state where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry. An appeal will take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which last week ruled against Idaho and Nevada in similar cases. At least 27 states now allow same-sex marriage — an increase of at least 13 states since the beginning of the month.

Americans Want More Religion in Politics

A growing number of Americans who say that religion should play a greater role in politics, according to the findings of a recent study by the Pew Research Forum’s Religion & Public Life Project. The study found that almost three-quarters of the American public — 72% — believes that religion’s influence is waning in public life, the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past 10 years. And many Americans say that trend is a bad thing. Nearly a third of Americans say they want houses of worship to back particular candidates, despite IRS rules against it. That’s an increase of 8 percentage points since 2010. An even higher percentage – nearly half of all Americans – said churches and other religious institutions should openly express their views on social and political issues, an increase of 6% since 2010. The findings of the Pew study contradict what seemed to be a trend toward increased secularization in American social and political life, surprising political ‘experts.’

  • It no longer matters what citizen voters want. Government and courts now dictate moral issues.

Health Plans Shifting Rx Costs to Patients

Even with insurance, some patients are struggling to pay for prescription drugs for conditions such as cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis or HIV/AIDS, as insurers and employers shift more of the cost of high-priced pharmaceuticals to patients. Increasingly, health plans — even those offered to people with job-based coverage — require hefty payments by patients. In some plans, patients must pay 20% to 40% or more of the total cost of medications that insurers deem to be specialty drugs. The trend is controversial, prompting a civil rights complaint in Florida, legislative action in a few states and debate over how to slow the rapid rise of spending on prescription drugs without hurting consumers or stifling development of new treatments.

68,000 Unaccompanied Children Crossed Border in 2014; Terrorists Too?

A new report released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicates that 68,541 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children have been taken into custody so far in 2014. According to The Blaze, the agency claims this is a 77 percent increase from 2013. “Without a doubt, we had a setback this summer, with the unprecedented number of unaccompanied children and others who crossed a narrow area of our southern border in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. While there is concern about the growing number of unaccompanied children crossing the border, some call for greater border security to protect the nation from terrorists. On Fox News, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) claims roughly ten ISIS terrorists entered the country through the Mexican border, which DHS denies.

Asset Seizures Fueling Police Spending

Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles and travel. The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents offer a sweeping look at how police departments and drug task forces across the country are benefiting from laws that allow them to take cash and property without proving a crime has occurred. The law was meant to decimate drug organizations, but The Post found that it has been used as a routine source of funding for law enforcement at every level. Of the nearly $2.5 billion in spending reported in the forms, 81 percent came from cash and property seizures in which no indictment was filed, according to an analysis by The Post.

  • The looming police state is arming itself with government surplus tanks and weaponry as well

Power Outages Increasing in U.S.

In the past 20 years, major power outages caused by extreme weather quintupled from about five to 20 a year in the mid-90s to 50 and 100 today in the USA. Add the ever-increasing demand on our electrical system from the array of electronic devices we plug in, as well as the greater potential for extreme weather as a result of climate change, and blackouts could increase even more. Over the past month, a search online for power outages produced more than 27,000 results. From Alabama to Northern California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, storms and disasters left thousands of people in the dark. Nearly one in four U.S. adults endured a power outage lasting 12 or more hours in the past two years, according to a recent Harris Poll survey.

Risk of EMP Blast Increasing

Experts say that the risk of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) knocking out the U.S. power grid it’s a question of when not whether. EMPs can occur naturally due to solar flares or they can result from a nuclear weapon exploded in the atmosphere twenty miles above the U.S. NASA estimates that there is about a 12% chance of a catastrophic solar flare hitting the planet over the next decade. Elliott Management Corp. recently advised its investors that the risk of an EMP incident is “head and shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence.” According to former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, recently declassified EMP studies is a “dire threat’ that would bring “civilization to a cold, dark halt.”

  • An EMP blast would go a long way to bring about the worldwide devastation symbolized in Revelation’s trumpet and bowl plagues

Obama Warns of Crippling Cyber Attack Potential

President Barack Obama believes cyber terrorism is one of the biggest threats to national security and says the White House is bracing for a possible doomsday scenario if hackers can successfully penetrate government and business computer systems, the Fox Business Network reported. The president shared his thoughts on cyber terrorism last week, during a fundraising tour in New York City and a stop in Greenwich Conn., according to people who attended the events. The president noted that hackers “could steal $100 million” in a relatively short time and might be able to someday “take down the banking system” if the nation’s cyber security doesn’t improve. The president is worried that cyber criminals could literally wipe out the identities of millions of people through some breach of government systems and that could lead to massive chaos. The president’s remarks come as JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank by assets, disclosed a massive cyber-attack in which hackers obtained the names and addresses of 76 million households. The bank said the hackers didn’t obtain more sensitive information, and were not able to access the personal accounts of customers.

Leaked Snapchat Images a Wake-Up Call to Users

The vast haul of Snapchat images obtained by hackers in a breach discovered last week should serve as a massive wake-up call to consumers, warns an expert, noting that users may have been lulled into a false sense of security. “More clearly needs to be done to remind Snapchat’s millions of users – many of whom are teenagers – of the dangers of sending intimate images that may later leave them humiliated or embarrassed if shared with unauthorized parties,” wrote Oxford, U.K.-based computer security expert Graham Cluley. The leak, dubbed “the Snappening,” could involve up to 200,000 images, according to media reports, which say that the collection may contain images of child pornography. The files were reportedly posted online via fake website viralpop.com, which installed malware on computers trying to download the images.

Economic News

Stocks ended a bloody, turbulent week with a broad-based slump Friday, sending the tech-heavy Nasdaq to its worst weekly losses in 30 months and eviscerating what remained of the Dow Jones industrial average’s 2014 gains. The Dow, down 335 points Thursday in its worst single session performance of the year, fell another 115.15 points to 16,544.10, falling below January’s 16,576.66 open. Nasdaq stocks suffered far worse, tumbling 102.10 points, 2.3%, to end at 4276.24, a four-month low. With Thursday’s 2% rout, the Nasdaq ended with its worst weekly performance since May 2012 and first consecutive, two-day slide of at least 2% since 2011.

A recent study from the American Association of University Women that controlled for college major, occupation, age, geographical region, hours worked and more, showed there is still a 7% wage gap between male and female college grads a year after graduation. “We reviewed men and women who have made exactly the same education and career choices and still found a gap,” said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the AAUW. The 22% wage gap generally reported in the media “is an aggregate of all men and women in the workplace,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. It doesn’t take into account variables like education level, total hours worked, type of work and job tenure.

Persecution Watch

Under the guise of “zero tolerance”, gun hating private community Lakes of the Four Seasons (LOFS) has fired a seasonal landscaping employee of 21 years because he was a gun owner. And no, wasn’t carrying a gun while working, nor did he have a gun in his car on LOFS property. He innocently acknowledged that he believed in the 2nd Amendment and kept a gun at home.

  • Christians, conservatives and gun owners are the chief targets now in the U.S.

Ebola Update

Liberia’s United Nations peacekeeping mission has placed 41 staff members, including 20 military personnel, under “close medical observation” after an international member of its medical team was diagnosed with Ebola this week — the second mission member to test positive for the deadly disease. Three more people are under observation in a Madrid hospital, boosting the number currently being monitored for Ebola symptoms to 16. A nursing assistant infected with the virus remains stable.

A health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week, has tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test, authorities said Sunday. The health care worker reported having a fever Friday night and was hospitalized, isolated and referred for testing. The nurse was involved in Duncan’s second visit to the Dallas hospital when he was admitted for treatment, and she was wearing full protective gear, officials say. The CDC confirmed Sunday that the Dallas nurse tested positive for Ebola. The CDC is blaming a “breach” in protocol for the first transmission of the Ebola virus in the USA between a health worker and Duncan. However, it’s unclear how that breach happened.

The Dallas hospital where the first Ebola patient in the United States spent his final days could be investigated by the state’s health department after records show that his temperature reached 103 degrees when he first arrived at the hospital, only to be sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and Tylenol. The documents show that a nurse recorded early in Duncan’s first hospital visit that he recently came to the U.S. from Africa, though he denied having been in contact with anyone sick. There was no indication in the paperwork that he was asked any follow-up questions about his travels. However, he had lied about having no contact with Ebola victims.

Middle East

The United States is promising $212 million in immediate assistance to the Palestinians as part of an international effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip after this summer’s 50-day war. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says people in Gaza “need our help desperately — not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now.” He announced the new money at a donor conference for the Palestinians in Cairo. The Palestinians are seeking $4 billion in international aid.

Islamic State

More than 24,000 Iraqi civilians have been injured or killed by ISIS so far this year, according to a United Nations report on the human rights violations of the ISIS. The report said that ISIS militants have killed about 8,493 Iraqi civilians. Another 15,782 have been injured. The actual numbers could be much higher,” the report states. “Additionally, the number of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of violence, such as lack of access to basic food, water or medicine, after fleeing their homes or who remained trapped in areas under ISIL control or in areas of conflict are unknown.”

Despite airstrikes and international outrage against ISIS militants, the terror group is overrunning Iraqi forces and slowly marching on toward a province on Baghdad’s doorstep. And as alarming developments piled up over the weekend, Iraqi forces threatened to flee if the U.S. military does not intervene. Leaders in Iraq’s western Anbar province appealed Saturday for help from U.S. forces on the ground to halt the relentless advance of ISIS fighters. Sabah Al-Karhout, the president of Anbar Provincial Council, said the council has intelligence that ISIS has dispatched as many as 10,000 fighters to Anbar from Syria and Mosul in northern Iraq. The council’s deputy head, Falleh al-Issawi, told CNN that it had asked the central government to intervene immediately to save the province from imminent collapse — and to request the deployment of U.S. ground forces there. That would be a significant shift, since the Iraqi government has until now been adamant that it does not want U.S. forces on the ground. President Barack Obama has also previously ruled out the use of U.S. ground troops.

In a new publication, ISIS justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology, an interpretation that is rejected by the Muslim world at large as a perversion of Islam. “One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar — the infidels — and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law,” the group says in an online magazine published Sunday. The title of the article sums up the ISIS point of view: “The revival (of) slavery before the Hour,” referring to Judgment Day.

Iraq

A series of car bomb attacks in Iraq’s capital killed 38 people in Shiite areas Saturday, authorities said, after Islamic militants killed a journalist working for a local television network in a Sunni province. The attacks come as Iraq faces its greatest challenge since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops, as militants from the Islamic State group now hold vast swaths of the country and neighboring Syria. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet Sunni insurgents frequently target Shiite population they deem as being heretics. That includes the Islamic State group, which now holds a third of the country in its control.

Russia/Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered 17,600 troops near the Ukrainian border to return to their bases, state-run media reported. The troop buildup near the Ukrainian border has been widely interpreted as a threat to invade eastern Ukraine. If the troops do indeed leave the border area, the withdrawal could mark a removal of that threat. So far, NATO has not confirmed whether the troops have actually began to withdraw. The conflict between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military has cost more than 2,500 lives.

Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents have killed 14 Afghan National Security forces, including two policemen, in northern Afghanistan. About 180 Afghan security forces were traveling in a convoy Sunday when more than 200 Taliban fighters attacked them in a very remote part of Sar-e-Pul province. The Taliban captured six soldiers, 17 others were injured, and 23 Taliban insurgents were killed in the fighting. Also on Sunday, a suicide attack in Wardak province killed 14 people, including nine civilians. A car full of explosives blew up near an Afghan National Army vehicle. Two other vehicles with civilians were also destroyed in the blast, and six people were injured.

Hong Kong

Rowdy scenes erupted at the main Occupy Central protest site in Hong Kong on Monday after hundreds of people opposing the pro-democracy occupation tried to tear down protest barricades. Police formed a human chain to separate the protesters and people intent on breaking up their three-week long occupation of the Admiralty district, near the city’s financial center. Dozens of men, some wearing surgical masks, were seen jostling with protesters and demanding that police remove the barricades and clear the roads. They were heard screaming at protesters, accusing them of damaging their livelihoods. Among them were taxi drivers and other transportation industry workers.

Weather

Severe storms ripped through the South overnight Sunday, killing at least one person in Arkansas and damaging homes and property in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. More severe weather is forecast for Monday. A tornado watch — meaning conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop — is in place for much of Arkansas and parts of Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi. In Texas, thousands of homes and businesses lost electricity as thunderstorms soaked northern parts of the state. Most of the outages are concentrated in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,

A day after the deadly Cyclone Hudhud ravaged parts of India’s eastern coast, residents are furiously scrambling to find supplies to stay alive. Basic necessities are being sold at twice or thrice the normal price as local store owners attempt to cash in on desperate citizens in a country where as many as 50,000 mud hut residences were destroyed by the storm. At least eight people have been killed. Hudhud brought winds as high as 127 mph as it passed near Visakhapatnam, uprooting hundreds of trees and bringing down power lines. Authorities say it is too early to know the full extent of damage, partly because communications are out for many areas.

Just days after Typhoon Phanfone left three American servicemen dead on Japan’s Okinawa Island, Typhoon Vongfong battered its shores once again with ferocious winds and drenching rain before weakening overnight on Sunday local time. At least 35 people were injured in the storm. Authorities told 150,000 people to evacuate on the island of Kyushu as Vongfong approaches. 53,000 households in Okinawa and more than 50,000 in Kagoshima experienced blackouts as of Sunday morning. Authorities also advised the evacuation of 90,000 households in Okinawa and 2,700 in Kagoshima Prefecture due to the possibility of flooding and mudslides.

Typhoon Vongfong battered Kyushu and Shikoku, Japan, on Monday with ferocious winds and drenching rain. Dozens have been injured and at least one fisherman is missing. One American is among the injured, according to some Japanese media reports. Heavy rain was falling in Tokyo on Monday, leaving thousands without power and causing extensive travel delays at the end of a three-day national holiday. Conditions are expected to deteriorate there overnight. Authorities issued landslide warnings and told at least 820,000 residents across the country to evacuate. At least 68 people have been injured nationwide.

After spending six hours as a hurricane, the tropical cyclone called Fay was downgraded back to a tropical storm Sunday evening. Fay, briefly the fifth hurricane of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, is quickly moving away from Bermuda after striking it directly as a strong tropical storm. Tropical Storm Fay passed over Bermuda early Sunday morning with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just shy of hurricane status. Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport clocked a wind gust to 82 mph at 6:34 a.m. EDT Sunday. Major flooding was reported in the airport’s terminal building and flights were delayed Sunday, though airport runways were open. Hundreds of trees were uprooted and power poles were downed.

A landslide in northwestern China buried a dormitory for highway construction workers as they slept inside, killing 19 and injuring two others, officials said Saturday. Landslides are common in China’s mountainous regions, where road construction and deforestation have stripped the soil of vegetation. The risk of mudslides increases without tree roots holding the soil in place when heavy rains fall.

Signs of the Times (10/10/14)

October 10, 2014

Ninth Circuit Court Ignores Voters on Marriage

On Tuesday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Idaho and Nevada’s voter-approved marriage amendments that protected marriage as only the union of one man and one woman in those states. “Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes at the heart of two foundational institutions that have made our nation truly exceptional: a democratic system that allows for self-governance of the people and the family,” notes Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. “By fundamentally undermining the right of the people to vote to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the Ninth Circuit Court has not only usurped their authority, but has taken another step to deny every child the best opportunity to have a mother and a father. Laws may change, but what will always remain is that the definition of marriage that has been ordained since the beginning of time is what is best for men, women, children, and our society as a whole. Center for Arizona Policy is committed to continuing to defend this timeless truth.”

Justices Uphold North Carolina’s Voting Restrictions

For the second time in two weeks, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a state law restricting voters’ access to the polls. The latest ruling affects North Carolina, scene of a tight Senate race that could help decide which party wins control of that chamber for the final two years of President Obama’s term. The justices reversed a federal appeals court’s decision that would have allowed same-day registration and counted votes cast mistakenly in the wrong precincts. Those were among several other procedures eliminated by the state Legislature last year in what critics called the most restrictive voting law in the nation. Just last week, the justices sided with Ohio against voting rights groups that had challenged the state’s cutbacks in early voting days, evening hours and Sunday voting.

Courts Strike Down Voter ID Laws in Wisconsin and Texas

The Supreme Court on Thursday evening stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election. Three of the court’s more conservative members dissented, saying they would have allowed officials to require identification. Also, a federal trial court in Texas struck down that state’s ID law, saying it put a disproportionate burden on minority voters. The Wisconsin requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, is part of a state law enacted in 2011 but mostly blocked by various courts in the interim. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting” and would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters. Thursday’s ruling from Texas, issued after a two-week trial in Corpus Christi, found that the state’s voter ID law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote.

  • We need a photo ID license to drive a car, voting is a lot more important. But liberals covet the illegal immigrant vote, so once again political motives triumph over common sense.

U.S. State Department Gives Grants without Oversight

The U.S. State Department has been handing over billions of dollars in grants for foreign projects — ranging from cultural exchanges to “climate change” activities — without adequate oversight or adequate assessment of the risks involved, and sometimes without knowing whether the money was actually spent, according to the department’s Inspector General. Moreover, these money-management problems have been going on for years, despite specific warnings, according to the watchdog IG’s office. It says it has designated State’s oversight of grants, contracts and “interagency agreements” (where State spends money on another department’s behalf) as one of the department’s “major management challenges” every year since 2008. The alert cites around 20 critical audits and inspections in the past two years alone — not to mention a previous management alert last March on “contract file management deficiencies,” which identified some $6 billion worth of contracts where files were “incomplete or could not be located at all.”

  • Government, in general, is the most inefficient and often corrupt institution in the country, which is why we need less of it, not more

Twitter Sues U.S. Government

Twitter, the world’s largest microblogging platform, on Tuesday sued the U.S. government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say publicly about the government’s national security requests for user data violate the firm’s First Amendment rights. With its lawsuit, the San Francisco-based firm is seeking to go further than five other technology companies that earlier this year reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure at a time of heightened concern about the scale of government surveillance. “It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of U.S. government officials by providing information about the scope of U.S. government surveillance — including what types of legal process have not been received,” Ben Lee, a Twitter vice president, said in a post online.

Many States Plan to Cancel Health Care Policies

More than a dozen states plan to cancel health care policies not in compliance with ObamaCare in the coming weeks, affecting thousands of people just before the midterm elections. “It looks like several hundred thousand people across the country will receive notices in the coming days and weeks,” said Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The policies are being canceled because states that initially granted a reprieve at the request of President Obama are no longer willing to do so. In coming weeks, 13 states and the District of Columbia plan to cancel such policies, which generally fall out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act because they don’t offer the level of coverage the law requires. Virginia will be hardest hit, with 250,000 policies expected to be canceled. Many of those forced out of their current plans and into ObamaCare may not be able to keep their doctors. They also could face higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, making ObamaCare an election issue on the eve of voting.

Developing Nations More Optimistic than U.S. & EU

People in Asia, Africa, Latin America and even the Middle East are more optimistic about their children’s future than Americans or Europeans, according to a new study. “Asians are particularly optimistic about the next generation’s financial prospects,” according to the Pew Research Center’s report. Ninety-four percent of Vietnamese, 85% of Chinese, 71% of Bangladeshis and 67% of Indians think today’s children will be better off than their parents. Africans and Latin Americans are also mostly optimistic. Middle Easterners tend to believe their children will be worse off (41% vs. 35% who think they’ll be better off), but they’re not as pessimistic as Europeans and Americans, where “pessimism is pervasive,” according to the report. Sixty-five percent of Europeans and Americans believe today’s children will have worse standards of living as adults than their parents. The malaise is even worse in Japan, where 79% say young people will be worse off than their parents.

Life Expectancy in USA Hits a Record High

Life expectancy in the USA rose in 2012 to 78.8 years – a record high. That was an increase of 0.1 year from 2011 when it was 78.7 years, according to a new report on mortality in the USA from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The news is a little better for women, a little worse for men. Life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years. That difference of 4.8 years is the same as in 2011. Those life expectancy estimates are for people born in 2012 and represent “the average number of years that a group of infants would live if the group was to experience throughout life the age-specific death rates present in the year of birth,” the report says. The average life expectancy for a person who was 65 years old in 2012 is 19.3 years – 20.5 years for women and 17.9 years for men.

Economic News

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to nearly its lowest level since before the 2007-09 recession. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 in the week ended Oct. 4th. The data adds to the view that some strength is building in the U.S. economy. Still, Federal Reserve officials remain concerned about persistently low rates of inflation and are not seen in a rush to hike interest rates.

The federal budget deficit fell sharply in 2014 — its fifth consecutive annual decline. That’s according to an estimate Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office. The deficit for fiscal year 2014, which ended on Sept. 30, will come in at roughly $486 billion, the CBO said. The Treasury Department will report the official number in a few weeks. The 2014 number is $195 billion less than a year earlier. And as a share of the economy, the deficit dropped to 2.8% of GDP from 4.1% last year. The deficit is the gap between how much the government spends and how much it takes in over the year. It borrows to make up the difference.

The biggest reason for the deficit slide: An improving economy and higher taxes. Revenue grew by 9% over the prior year, or by $239 billion. That growth was fueled largely by a 7% jump in income and payroll tax receipts combined. Corporate tax revenue rose by 18%. Spending, meanwhile, only grew by 1% over 2013. The bulk of that growth came from mandatory spending, which Congress doesn’t vote on annually. Spending on Social Security benefits went up 5% and Medicare spending rose 2.7%. Medicaid spending jumped nearly 14%, primarily because of health reform provisions that went into effect in January 2014.

Wage growth is picking up more rapidly than government reports show, according to new data from top payroll processor ADP, suggesting that the economic recovery may be more robust than believed. Hourly pay for private-sector workers was up 4.5% in the third quarter compared to a year ago, a new ADP report reveals, much higher than the 2% annual growth reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ADP data show that annual wage gains accelerated from about 2% in early 2013 to nearly 3% in last year’s second quarter. Pay increases have risen steadily since.

The International Monetary Fund trimmed its forecast for global economic growth on Tuesday, underscoring the widening divide between the accelerating U.S. recovery and stagnation or a slowdown in the euro zone and Asia. The disparity is likely to take center stage as 188 central bankers and foreign ministers gather at the IMF ‘s fall meeting in Washington this week. U.S. officials are withdrawing stimulus programs as job growth picks up while other nations are ramping them up, increasing currency volatility and sowing international tension.

The Justice Department is preparing a fresh round of attacks on the world’s biggest banks, again questioning Wall Street’s role in a broad array of financial markets. With evidence mounting that a number of foreign and American banks colluded to alter the price of foreign currencies, the largest and least regulated financial market, prosecutors are aiming to file charges against at least one bank by the end of the year, according to interviews with lawyers briefed on the matter. Ultimately, several banks are expected to plead guilty.

Persecution Watch

At least nine Christians have been killed by Boko Haram militants as the Islamist group, which has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, has been targeting villages in neighbouring Cameroon. There have also been reports of forced conversions on pain of death. In Tourou village, Moskata village and other surrounding villages, one church and five Christian homes have been burned down. Two other churches have been looted or vandalized and eight have been forced to close because of the security situation.

Students at a Long Island, New York high school have been denied permission to create a Christian community service club. For two consecutive years, educators at Ward Melville High School have blocked about twenty students from attending Students United in Faith, according to a Charisma News article. Last year, Ward Melville High School reversed its decision to ban the faith-based club after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Institute and law firm McDermott Will & Emery outlining the illegality of its decision. However, once again this year, as SUIF came up for renewal, Ward Melville officials denied its request to be recognized as a club on campus. “This is not a complicated issue,” Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Litigation Director, said in a statement. “Simply put, public schools cannot discriminate against religious clubs and must treat them the same as other student clubs on campus.”

The Human Rights Commission in Lexington, Kentucky has a chilling message for Christian business owners who refuse service to LGBT organizations: leave your religion at home. On Tuesday, a Lexington Human Rights Commission hearing examiner issued a recommended ruling that the owner of a T-shirt company violated a local ordinance against sexual-orientation discrimination. The examiner concluded that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals broke the law in 2012 by declining to print shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization subsequently filed a complaint. The examiner ordered Adamson to attend “diversity training” and ordered the T-shirt company to service LGBT customers – no questions asked.

  • A private company should be able to establish its own business practices and policies and let a free market system sort out whether it survives or not. However, under secular socialism such rights are taken away by the government and its representatives

Pestilence Update

Nigeria — Africa’s most populous country — is officially Ebola-free, the health ministry said, even as the deadly virus rages on in neighboring countries, where lockdowns and quarantines are common and death rates are rising. As the United States and Spain deal with their first diagnosed cases of Ebola and fears that the virus could spread, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending researchers to Lagos to study how Nigeria was able to contain the disease. No new cases have been reported there since Aug. 31, the CDC said. Nigeria’s “extensive response to a single case of Ebola shows that control is possible with rapid, focused interventions,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.

Three more people were put under quarantine for possible Ebola at a Madrid hospital where a Spanish nurse became infected, authorities said Tuesday. More than 50 others were being monitored as experts tried to figure out why Spain’s anti-infection practices failed. The nurse, part of a special team that cared for a Spanish priest who died of Ebola last month, was the first case of Ebola contracted outside of West Africa. Airports in the United States will begin taking the temperatures of arriving passengers this weekend who have flight itineraries originating from West African countries where Ebola is concentrated.

Three days after a fatal case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever was diagnosed in Uganda, 99 people have been quarantined in four different locations across the East African country, as field epidemiologists and surveillance officers continue to closely monitor all people who got into contact with this first victim. More than 60 health workers form the bulk of people under quarantine after they were identified as having contact with a 30-year old male health worker who died September 28 of Marburg — an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever.

Migrants Drowning in Mediterranean Doubles

In a desperate search for a better life, more than 3,000 migrants have died in the past year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The neighboring countries of Syria and Iraq already hosting 3 million refugees are at the forefront of the refugee crisis in the Middle East. According to Christian Today, Amnesty spokesman Nicolas Beger said: “As the EU builds its walls higher and higher, migrants and refugees are increasingly taking to the Mediterranean waters in a desperate bid to reach safety and sanctuary in Europe. Tragically they are increasingly paying the highest cost, losing their lives at sea.” The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe is calling on churches, governments, European institutions and people across Europe for a commitment to prevent such catastrophes. “Facing these challenges requires renewed commitment to share the responsibility to protect and to ensure legal and secure access to Europe for those in need of protection,” CCME General Secretary Doris Peschke stated.

Islamic State

Warplanes sent by the U.S.-led coalition on Tuesday struck positions held by Islamic State militants near a Syrian border town that beleaguered Kurdish forces have been struggling to defend. The airstrikes began late Monday and came as Kurdish forces pushed Islamic State militants out of the eastern part of Kobani, where the jihadists had raised their black flag over buildings hours earlier. The U.S.-led coalition has launched several airstrikes over the past two weeks near Kobani in a bid to help Kurdish forces defend the town, but the sorties appear to have done little to slow the Islamic State group, which captured several nearby villages in a rapid advance that began in mid-September. A wave of coalition airstrikes on Wednesday helped blunt an Islamic State offensive on Kobani, but the battle is not over according to the Pentagon. “Air power alone is not going to be enough to save Kobani,” Rear Adm. John Kirby said Wednesday.

The assault has forced some 160,000 Syrians to flee and put a strain on Kurdish forces, who have struggled to hold off the extremists. Hundreds more civilians fled Kobani on Monday as the jihadists advanced. If ISIS takes Kobani, they would control a complete swath of land between its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, and Turkey — a stretch of more than 62 miles. Turkey’s foreign minister said Thursday that it was not “realistic” to expect his country to conduct a military ground operation on its own against Islamic State militants. The new U.N. envoy to Syria said Friday that at least 500 civilians remain trapped in Kobani, warning that they were likely to be “massacred” if it falls to the extremists.

The Islamic State militants who have rampaged across northern Iraq are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages resisting their rule. The Sunni militants want to seize the dams to bolster their claim they are building an actual state; the dams are key to irrigating the country’s vast wheat fields and providing Iraqis with electricity. More ominously, the Islamic State has used its control over water facilities — including as many as four dams along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to displace communities or deprive them of crucial water supplies. And they are increasingly selling oil from captured wells on the black market, raising over a million dollars a day according to CNN.

Iran

The massive blast at an Iranian nuclear plant earlier this week remains shrouded in mystery, but it cleared up one thing, according to those who track the Islamic Republic: The nuclear weapons program Tehran has long denied is real. The massive blast night rocked buildings more than 10 miles away, and before-and-after satellite images published by Israel Defense showed startling destruction at a facility Iran has repeatedly barred international inspectors from entering. “[The] images indicate that a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion,” Israel Defense analyst Ronen Solomon said. “The explosion wiped several testing units off the face of the earth while inflicting collateral damage on adjacent buildings.” Iran, which initially denied an explosion took place, was forced a day later to own up to a blast.

  • Did anyone but the Obama administration seriously think Iran had given up their nuclear ambitions?

Nigeria

Boko Haram, the extremist Islamic group, reportedly beheaded seven people Monday in Nigeria in revenge attacks, which were described by one resident as the way butchers “slaughter goats.” The gruesome killings appear to be in direct response to recent resistance from villagers and the country’s military, AFP reported. These locals have joined forces with the government in a push to defeat the terror group and appear to be scoring a few victories. About 15 fighters for Boko Haram died in the past few weeks, The Christian Post reported.

Yemen

Two suicide bombers struck in Yemen on Thursday — one targeting a gathering of Shiite rebels in the country’s capital and the other hitting a military outpost in the south — in attacks that killed at least 50 people, officials said. The bombings underscore Yemen’s highly volatile situation amid a Shiite rebel blitz that has stunned the nation and reshaped the country’s political landscape. At least 30 people died when a suicide attacker set off his explosives Thursday in central Sanaa, targeting a gathering of supporters of the rebel Shiite Houthis, who overran the capital in an offensive last month. The second bombing took place on the outskirts of the southern port city of Mukalla in Hadarmout province when a suicide car bomber rammed his car against a security outpost, killing at least 20 soldiers and wounding 15. Hadarmout is one of several strongholds of al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch, considered by Washington to be the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, but both bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida, which has for years staged suicide bombings against army troops, security personnel and government facilities.

North Korea

With Kim Jong Un still out of sight, North Korean officials have gone on a publicity blitz — making a rare move to take questions at the United Nations, arranging human rights talks with the European Union, and taking a high-level trip to South Korea. The overtures come at a time when its human rights record has received increased scrutiny. Pyongyang’s charm offensive has raised questions of what the regime seeks and what could be happening in the country’s inner circle. While Ri Tong Il, the North Korean deputy ambassador declined to respond to questions about Kim’s health on Tuesday, he gave some clues to what may be behind the country’s rare willingness to take reporters’ questions. Citing over 40 different sanctions against North Korea, he said: “This is the most brutal sanction throughout the world. No country… has been living under these sanctions.” Kim Jong Un failed to show up Friday for a key political anniversary in Pyongyang. North and South Korea exchanged fire Friday after gunners in the North targeted balloons carrying leaflets critical of the country’s reclusive regime

Earthquakes

A strong, shallow earthquake shook southwestern China overnight, killing at least one person, damaging buildings and prompting thousands to camp outside as aftershocks continued to strike the area, officials said Wednesday. The earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.0 hit the Weiyuan city area of Yunnan province at 9:49 p.m. when most residents would have been in their homes. At least 324 people also injured, eight of them seriously.

A 6.2-magnitude quake struck Tuesday northeast of San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The earthquake was about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep. The epicenter of the quake was off shore, between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico. There were no immediate reports of damages.

Wildfires

Mandatory evacuations were in effect overnight for those in danger because of a Northern California wildfire, which has already destroyed five homes and is threatening 1,000 more. The Applegate Fire — centered in Placer County, about 40 miles northeast up Interstate 80 from Sacramento — had burned 420 acres and was 20% contained as of late Thursday afternoon. Evacuation orders have gone out to those living on dozens of roads in the area, and three evacuation shelters — two in Auburn and one in Colfax — have been set for those with nowhere else to go. The blaze has also affected I-80, which had one lane open eastbound in the hardest hit area as of late Thursday afternoon.

Weather

As California’s long-term drought continues to worsen, crops are dying and the ground is turning into dust. If that dust is blown into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an already-dwindling snowpack could melt even faster, and that’s terrible news for a thirsty state. Dust-covered snow can absorb more sunlight, which in turn causes it to heat up and melt faster, according to National Geographic. On the other hand, dust is one of a few particles that can seed clouds and pull more precipitation from them, according to a study performed by Kim Prather, an atmospheric chemist at the University of California-San Diego. But clouds have to be present for the dust-seeding, and there haven’t been many of those lately in California.

Super Typhoon Vongfong became the strongest tropical cyclone of 2014 and fifth super typhoon (150 mph max sustained winds or higher) of the year after intensifying rapidly overnight Monday into Tuesday, U.S. time. Maximum sustained winds had tailed off a bit Wednesday, but were still an estimated 165 mph, solidly the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. Just days after Typhoon Phanfone left three American servicemen dead on Japan’s Okinawa Island, Super Typhoon Vongfong is pushing toward the island for a second assault. With the center of Vongfong expected to pass within 100 miles of Okinawa on Friday, military bases are preparing for major impacts to their base.

A year after Cyclone Phailin made landfall in India’s Odisha state and took 44 lives, millions in the area are bracing for the impact of another massive threat.​ Tropical Cyclone Hudhud picked up strength as it crossed the Andaman and Nicobar islands on Wednesday. As Hudhud continues its west-northwest course, the Indian Meteorological Department has issued a cyclone alert for the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, both on the eastern coast of India.

Rising sea levels are causing more frequent high-tide floods even on completely clear days on the East and Gulf Coasts, says a report out Wednesday from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In the next 15 years or so, many towns and cities could see a tripling in the number of high-tide floods each year. In 30 years, a whopping tenfold increase is possible. “Several decades ago, flooding at high tide was simply not a problem,” said Melanie Fitzpatrick, a report co-author who is a climate scientist at UCS. “Today, when the tide is extra high, people find themselves splashing through downtown Miami, Norfolk and Annapolis on sunny days and dealing with flooded roads in Atlantic City, Savannah and the coast of New Hampshire,” she said.

 

Signs of the Times (10/6/14)

October 6, 2014

‘Pulpit Sunday’ Challenged Government Speech Restrictions

Nearly 1,500 pastors nationwide participated in an effort Sunday that sought to challenge government restrictions against political speech from the pulpit. The effort, called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, was organized by the Pulpit Initiative, a project of the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As the seventh annual event of its kind, ADF is encouraging pastors to “speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit.” Pastors from all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands committed to preach Sunday about Biblical marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. ADF says that in doing so, “they will exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit. Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

Abortion Clinics Must Close Immediately after Fifth Circuit Allows Enforcement of Texas Law

Two years ago, there were over 40 abortion facilities operating in Texas with very little oversight. Last Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that could result in the immediate closure of 13 abortion facilities, leaving only seven open. A spot-check conducted by Operation Rescue early Friday morning of several facilities that are in known non-compliance with the law shows that some have already shut down while others continue to operate. The ruling blocks a stay issued by a lower court on enforcement of Texas’ HB2 until the State’s appeal of the lower court’s decision can be heard.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court refused to get involved in the national debate over same-sex marriage Monday, leaving intact lower court rulings that will legalize the practice in 11 additional states. The unexpected decision by the justices, announced without further explanation, immediately affects five states in which federal appeals courts had struck down bans against gay marriage: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah. It also will bring along six other states located in the judicial circuits overseen by those appellate courts: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. Lower court judges in those states must abide by their appeals court rulings.

The action eventually will bring to 30 the number of states where gays and lesbians can marry. Appeals courts in Cincinnati and San Francisco are considering cases that could expand that number further, presuming the Supreme Court remains outside the legal fray. Most court-watchers had predicted the justices would hear one or more cases this term and issue a verdict with nationwide implications by next June. But the justices, perhaps sensing that the country is headed toward legalizing gay marriage without their involvement, chose to deny states’ appeals.

  • Cowardly Supreme Court justices have shirked their responsibility to God and country

Atheist ‘Churches’ Expand

The Sunday Assembly Atheist organization, better known as the “Atheist Church,” has reportedly doubled in size. The group held “church planting” event on Sunday (Sept. 28) that led 35 towns around the world to form new Atheist Churches simultaneously. Before the event, there were 28 Atheist Churches worldwide. According to The BLAZE, 16 of the new Atheist congregations launched in the U.S. The Sunday Assembly was launched by British comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones in January 2013. Jones says that 10 more congregations are expected to launch by the end of 2014, with 15 more set to open in early 2015. The Atheist Church’s website says, “The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that celebrate life. Our motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.”

  • Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

Homeschooling an Act of Defiance that Frightens the State

“To government, homeschooling resembles a weed that spreads and resists control. To homeschooling parents, it is the flowering of knowledge and values within children who have been abandoned or betrayed by public schools. A great tension exists between the two perspectives. Homeschooling’s continued growth has only heightened it,” writes Wendy McElroy in FreedomsPhoenix.com. The federal government has reacted by attempting to increase its control over homeschooling by pushing for increased regulation of homeschool curricula. But education is generally the prerogative of individual states. Nevertheless, the federal government can often impose its will by threatening to withhold federal funds from states that do not comply with its measures. “But homeschooling parents cannot be threatened by a withdrawal of money they don’t receive. As it is, they are paying double. They pay taxes to support public schools from which they draw no benefit and they pay again in homeschooling money and in terms of lost opportunities such as the full-time employment of both parents.” The federal government is also hindered by not being able to play the “it’s for the children” card that justifies so many intrusive policies because “homeschooled children routinely display better development than public school students.”

University of California First to Establish Gender-Neutral Restrooms

The University of California will be designating restrooms for transgender students at its 10 campuses, the first known university to make such a move. University of California President Janet Napolitano has also established a policy that allows transgender students to have the names that they wish to be called put in campus records, even before students legally change their names to reflect upon their gender identities. The decision is part of an effort that school is making to become friendlier to the LGBT community. Charisma News reports that all of the single restrooms at the university will be converted to gender-neutral areas.

UN Fears Ebola Could Go Airborne

The longer the Ebola epidemic continues infecting people unabated the higher the chances it will mutate and become airborne, the UN’s Ebola response chief has warned. Organizations battling the crisis in West Africa warned that the international community has just four weeks to stop it before it spirals “completely out of control.” The largest outbreak of Ebola virus has infected over 3,400 people and infected nearly 7,500 people in five countries in Africa since December. Another American Ebola patient arrived in the United States on Monday, reminding the nation that the virus killing thousands of people in West Africa, will likely continue crossing U.S. borders. Finding the right passengers to screen is not easy because travelers typically take flights that connect through other countries.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the United States with Ebola, remained in critical condition Monday and was “fighting for his life” at a Dallas hospital. The CDC also said that only 10 of the nearly 50 people thought to have had contact with Duncan carried even a moderate risk of contracting the disease and that none of them had shown any symptoms as of Sunday. Duncan was infected with the virus in Liberia last month after helping take a woman with Ebola to the hospital. After becoming ill, Duncan went to the hospital on Sept. 25, but was only given antibiotics and sent home. It was only after his condition worsened and he returned to the hospital three days later that doctors diagnosed him with Ebola and admitted him. Like all travelers leaving Liberia, Duncan was examined at the airport and showed no signs of the virus when he flew to Dallas last month to visit his fiancée, Louise Troh, and her family in her Dallas apartment.

ISIS Threatens to Attack U.S. with Ebola

ISIS threatened the United States and their allies with spreading the Ebola virus within those countries if they continue to wage war on the organization inside Syria and Iraq. “Followers and soldiers of the Islamic State are mostly suicide bombers and all of them are ready not only to carry Ebola, but to drink Ebola if they were asked to carry and spread it in the United States” ISIS claimed. “The process of spreading disease is not difficult, it is easily transported in a bottle in your bag and take them from Africa to America and open in a air-conditioning duct or put it in the public drinking water by elevator doors,” ISIS warned.

JPMorgan Chase Says More Than 83 Million Accounts Were Compromised in Cyberattack

A cyberattack this summer on JPMorgan Chase compromised more than 76 million household accounts and 7 million small-business accounts, making it among the largest corporate hacks ever discovered. The latest revelations, which were disclosed in a regulatory filing on Thursday, vastly dwarf earlier estimates that hackers had gained access to roughly 1 million customer accounts. The new details about the extent of the hack — which began in June but was not discovered until July — sent JPMorgan scrambling for the second time in just three months to contain the fallout.

  • Lack of timely notice is equivalent to aiding and abetting the hackers

Hackers’ Attack Cracked 9 Other Financial Firms in Major Assault

In addition to the JP Morgan breach, about nine other financial institutions — a number that has not been previously reported — were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers, reports the New York Times. The hackers are thought to be operating from Russia and appear to have at least loose connections with officials of the Russian government. It is unclear whether the other intrusions, at banks and brokerage firms, were as deep as the one that JPMorgan disclosed on Thursday. The identities of the other institutions could not be immediately learned. The breadth of the attacks has left Washington intelligence officials and policy makers far more concerned than they have let on publicly. Some American officials speculate that the breach was intended to send a message to Wall Street and the United States about the vulnerability of the digital network of some of the world’s most important banking institutions.

Economic News

Much of the economy’s overall payroll growth has been in low-wage restaurant, retail and health care jobs. A large pool of unemployed workers let businesses fill many of them with college graduates in recent years, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. Around 66% of U.S. jobs created last year required a high school diploma or less. Lower-skill jobs are still expected to increase, rising 7.9% for those requiring only a high school diploma and 10.9% for those open to people lacking one.

Middle class income is back to where it was in 1995 — but people are paying more for many things, including college, homes and gasoline. In 1995, middle class household income was $51,719. In 2013, it was $51,939, showing no growth over eighteen years. With inflation, the middle class has fallen seriously behind. Over the same period, college tuition is up 61%, housing costs have risen 13% while gasoline is up 94%.

If you own a General Motors vehicle, it’s worth the few seconds it takes to go on the company’s website to check if your car has been recalled. GM announced additional recalls Saturday, bringing its 2014 count to about 30 million vehicles. GM is under fire after disclosing a fatal ignition switch flaw in February. CEO Mary Barra testified in front of Congress this spring to explain how the problem was overlooked for a decade. The company has been reviewing all of its older vehicles for issues. CEO Mary Barra said last month the company is mostly done with that process. More than 1 million General Motor cars with a defect tied to at least 23 deaths are still on the road today.

Middle East

Israeli soldiers guarding the northern border were on high alert Monday following an attempted infiltration from Lebanese territory Sunday afternoon. The infiltrators were turned back by the IDF, with Lebanese media reporting that a Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) soldier was wounded in the incident. Meanwhile, the Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah engaged fighters from the Al-Nusra Front Sunni terror militia in eastern Lebanon Sunday, with unconfirmed reports of dozens of casualties on both sides. The large-scale offensive by Al-Nusra into Lebanon’s historic Bekaa Valley was ongoing Monday, closely monitored by Israel and other regional powers.

Sweden’s new prime minister said Friday that his government will recognize a Palestinian state, a move that drew praise from Palestinian officials. In a declaration listing his government’s priorities, Social Democratic leader Stefan Lofven told lawmakers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved through a two-state solution requiring “mutual recognition” and a will from both sides to co-exist peacefully. “Therefore Sweden will recognize the state of Palestine,” Lofven said.

  • Secularists cannot understand the Middle East dynamic because they factor God out of the equation. Ultimately, it is a conflict between God and man, Jesus and Satan. The only real issue is which side we choose to support in a battle whose end result is a foregone conclusion.

Islamic State

At least seven Christian villages in northern Iraq have been liberated following a push by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim captured territories captured by ISIS (the Islamist militant group now calling itself Islamic State). The villages, located west of Erbil in the Nineveh plain, were liberated earlier this month after clashes between Kurdish Peshmerga troops and ISIS fighters. The Kurdish military has said that many of the houses were booby-trapped by the jihadists before they retreated. The freed villages are near to the cities of Bartallah and Qaraqosh. The Iraqi and Kurdish militaries in the region are being supported by US-led airstrikes against ISIS targets. The Islamist militants now control around one third of Iraq’s territory and are continuing to advance on Baghdad and to take ground in central and eastern Iraq.

However, ISIS fighters pounded the Syrian city of Kobani with tanks and heavy artillery Monday as the extremist group came closer to capturing the key city on the border with Turkey. The fall of the city would carry huge symbolic and strategic weight, giving ISIS sway over an uninterrupted swatch of land between the Turkish border and its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, 62 miles away. ISIS managed to close in on Kobani despite airstrikes by the United States and allied forces over the weekend and on Monday. The Turkish military, which has bulked up its defenses along the border in recent days as the fighting has flared, blocked people fleeing the fighting from crossing the border.

In their most recent display of terrorism, ISIS militants have beheaded seven men and three women. The beheadings were reportedly intended to scare civilians away from resisting the terrorists’ advances. The U.S. is continuing its campaign of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but BBC News reports the terrorists are adapting to the raids. The group appears to be taking itself off the grid by avoiding the use of cellphones that serve as targets for strikes. The terrorists have also reportedly ditched the use of heavily armored trucks in favor of small motorcycles.

Iran

A large majority of US House of Representatives members wrote Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concern Thursday over Iran’s ‘refusal’ to work with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. With a November deadline fast approaching for Tehran and world powers to reach a deal on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, 354 of the House’s 435 members warned that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been frustrated in its efforts to glean more information about the ‘potential military dimensions’ of Iran’s atomic efforts. ‘We believe that Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement,’ wrote the lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner and several Democrats. ‘We remain deeply concerned with Iran’s refusal to fully cooperate with the (IAEA),’ they added. ‘The only reasonable conclusion for its stonewalling of international investigators is that Tehran does indeed have much to hide.

On Friday, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) released its updated analysis of the the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA). The Iranian government reported a 4.6% spike in GDP for the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-June 21), compared to the same period last year. According to the Central Bank of Iran, this is the first time the Iranian economy has experienced positive growth in more than two years. These new statistics directly controvert assertions made by U.S. officials in the aftermath of the signing of the JPA that despite the sanctions relief provided under the agreement Iran would be even deeper in the economic hole after six months. “Clearly the scope of sanctions relief provided to the Iranian regime far exceeds initial estimates. Unfortunately in light of these gains, the regime has not been compelled to soften its hardline stance in nuclear negotiations,” reports UANI.

  • Iran has little motivation to retreat from their nuclear program and will continue to develop it in secret as it pulls the wool over Western eyes

Syria

A suicide bomber has killed at least 41 children and 48 people total in Syria; the attack occurred near a school in the Ekrima neighborhood of Homs. Officials say that the death toll will likely increase, as numerous people were critically injured in the attack. The Christian Post reports that a car bomb and a suicide bomber caused the explosions. It is believed that the school children were targets of the attack for belonging to the same religious organization as President Bashar al-Assad. The attack against the children was one of the most severe since the war began three years ago. The U.N. high commissioner reports that the war has caused over 191,000 deaths and over three million people have been forced out of their homes. Nine million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid.

Somalia

Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has abandoned its last major stronghold of Barawe, after an assault by Somali and African Union forces, residents and military commanders said. The militants pulled out of the city late Saturday under the cover of darkness after the opposing forces camped for three days on the outskirts of the port city located 130 miles south of Mogadishu. Abdikadir Mohamed Nur, the governor of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, said that their troops, with the support of AMISOM forces, are in full control of Barawe. Al-Shabaab put up no resistance during the siege, he said.

Hong Kong

Bolstered by a massive rally overnight, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists were defiant on the eighth day of protests Sunday in the face of attacks by opponents and government warnings to clear the business district streets they have occupied to press their demand for reforms. “Democracy now! Democracy in Hong Kong!” thousands chanted as speakers from the movement seeking wider political reforms for this former British colony urged them to persist in their campaign. “We are not seeking revolution. We just want democracy!” said Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old student leader. “We hope there will be no violence.” The night passed peacefully despite fears that police would act to clear out the protesters. Hong Kong went back to work on Monday after nine days of pro-democracy protests that paralyzed parts of the South China financial hub. A few hundred demonstrators still occupied parts of the city, but the number of protesters fell sharply Monday. The civil disobedience movement nevertheless looked set to continue as authorities have made no concessions and talks floundered.

Korea

With Kim Jong Un out of sight for a month, three North Korean officials popped down to South Korea for a last-minute visit Saturday. The three officials told South Korea that Pyongyang is willing to hold a new round of high-level meetings between late October and early November, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement Saturday. “Within my memory … there was never ever such a high-level visit. Never,” said North Korean analyst Andrei Kankov, from Seoul’s Kookmin University. Kankov said two of the three visitors “are essentially number two and number three in North Korean official hierarchy.” It was a sudden “charm offensive,” Kankov said.

Meanwhile, the North Korean dictator has been conspicuously absent even from important state events, and Pyongyang officials have said Kim is “suffering from discomfort.” The last times he was seen publicly, he had gained weight and developed a limp. North Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), the country’s most powerful group of officials, has stopped taking orders from Kim Jong-un. amid unsubstantiated reports that the dictator has been overthrown.

Wildfires

As the wildfire season winds down with cooler fall weather, 2014 is shaping up as the weakest wildfire season in over ten years. The 41,348 wildfires that consumed 2,915,948 acres is substantially less than the ten-year average of 61,971 fires and 6,757,095 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Weather

Typhoon Phanfone moved away from Tokyo, Japan, and out to sea Monday, but not before killing at least one person, forcing the evacuations of thousands, sparking landslides and disrupting travel for thousands of others across the island nation. Six U.S. servicemen at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan, were taking photos of 12 to 15 foot waves on the northwest coast of the island Sunday when three were overtaken by the waves. At least one of the airmen died in the incident. Search efforts were ongoing Monday by air and sea for the two U.S. airmen who were still missing. A 21-year-old surfer, who was a college student, was also reported missing just south of Tokyo off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. Elsewhere, in the city of Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture, two men went missing after heavy rain triggered mudslides in the area.

Typhoon Vongfong barreled into Guam and the Mariana Islands early Monday local time, threatening to do “devastating” damage to the area, but so far, only reports of power outages and flooding have trickled out of the area. The eye of the typhoon passed over or near Rota between 3 and 4 a.m. local time Monday. Rota, home to around 2,500 people, lies 45 miles northeast of Guam and is part of the northern Mariana Islands. Rota island officials stated there were no injuries or deaths. Up to 70 percent of Rota lost power during the storm. Utility crews were still working to restore power across the island Monday.

Tropical Storm Simon is weakening rapidly after earlier becoming the eighth major hurricane and sixth Category 4 hurricane of the 2014 Eastern Pacific hurricane season. Simon continues to churn northward several hundred miles off the Baja California coast and will continue to weaken early this week. Simon has begun its expected right turn, now moving toward the north. That curvature will eventually take Simon into Baja California by about Wednesday, but only after weakening markedly over colder water.

Signs of the Times (10/3/14)

October 3, 2014

Supreme Court Delays Action on Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court passed up its first opportunity to re-enter the national debate on same-sex marriage Thursday, delaying a decision on whether to hear any new cases on the issue. The justices are considering state bans on same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin that have been overturned in lower courts. They must decide whether to hear any of those cases or let the latest court rulings stand, which would legalize gay marriage in 11 additional states. If the court ultimately agrees to hear one or more cases, oral arguments would be held early in 2015 and a ruling rendered before the court adjourns in June. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage, and the high court ruled last year that the federal government cannot deny benefits to such couples. It sidestepped the remaining state laws by taking no position on the merits of California’s ban, which had been struck down by lower federal courts. Since those decisions were handed down, six additional states have legalized gay marriage, and federal and state judges in 14 more states have overturned marriage bans.

New York Fusion Center Declares Liberty Groups as ‘Extremist Threats’

The New York State Intelligence Center — a known Fusion Center with the stated purpose to, “collect, evaluate, analyze, and disseminate information and intelligence data regarding criminal and terrorist activity relevant to New York State” — issued a Counter Terrorism Bulletin last June identifying Oath Keepers in addition to other liberty related groups as “far-right extremist group and/or a threat to law enforcement” reports FreedomOutpost.com. Oath Keepers released a statement which said, “On August 11, 2014, the New York Oath Keepers sent out correspondence to both the Governor and the Superintendent of the New York State Police clearly pointing out the New York State Intelligence Center’s faulty logic and misstatements of fact that were used to politically demonize the New York Oath Keeper organization whose clearly stated nonpartisan mission is simply to encourage our Military and Law Enforcement Officers, and others, to honor their oaths to the United States and New York State Constitutions…. A month and a half has passed, and neither the Governor nor the Superintendent of the New York State Police has seen fit to even reply to our original correspondence.”

  • The secular socialistic government seeks to marginalize and demonize any and all Christian and/or conservative groups that actually support our country. Patriotism is now criminal and heretical in this New World Order.

CDC Confirms First Ebola Case in the U.S.

An unidentified patient in a Dallas hospital has been diagnosed Ebola hemorrhagic fever — the first case diagnosed and confirmed on U.S. soil. The individual traveled from Liberia to the United States on Sept. 19 and 20. When the individual landed in the U.S., there were no symptoms — it was not until around Sept. 24 the individual began to feel ill with nonspecific symptoms. The person was hospitalized on Sunday, Sept. 28. The CDC and a Texas state laboratory confirmed the diagnosis of Ebola on Tuesday. Health officials plan to follow up with anyone the patient had contact with to ensure that they have not fallen ill. Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas ignored CDC protocol when they initially sent home the patient currently being treated for Ebola even after he acknowledged spending time in West Africa, according to a Dallas Morning News report.

Three Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedics and several emergency room workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital are off work and under observation after making contact with the patient being treated for Ebola. In addition, five students may have had contact with the Ebola patient. Residents at the apartment complex where the patient was living say they have received very little information from health officials. Four days after the Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola, the apartment where he stayed has not been sanitized, a cleaning crew contracted to do the job said Friday. Four other people are still living there. They have been legally quarantined after not complying with requests to stay indoors. Ebola is only spread through “direct contact by someone who’s sick with the virus, and it’s only spread through body fluids,” the CDC said. It is not an airborne disease, like the common cold or influenza, and it cannot be transmitted while a person shows no symptoms.

Obama has Skipped 58% of Intelligence Briefings

A new report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) reveals that Obama has skipped 57.9% of his daily intelligence briefings, known officially as Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB), in the 2,079 days of his presidency to date. The shocking report comes less than 48 hours after Obama’s appearance on “60 Minutes” in which he blamed the lack of preparedness for ISIS’s rapid rise on his intelligence team, calling out Director of National Intelligence James Clapper by name. Many commenters were struck in particular by his choice of pronouns, referring to “they” rather than “we,” or even more fittingly “I,” in explaining away this security lapse.

  • Obama is still in denial about the terrorist threat from Islamic groups that he thought he could coddle

Navy Morale Way Down Due to Obama Policies

In a survey of 5,536 Navy personnel, only 27% say morale is “good” or “excellent,” a freefall from past responses, where strained troops still managed to keep their spirits up. Almost half of enlisted troops said they “distrust senior leaders” — an opinion shared by 40% of officers. Almost half of enlisted troops said they “distrust senior leaders” — an opinion shared by 40% of officers. Frustration with “excessive political correctness,” is high. Obama’s promotion of sexual liberalism and religious censorship are tearing apart the fabric of America’s fighting force. Sexual assaults and suicides are through the roof since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, notes the Family Research Council. “Now, four years later, the administration is scratching its head at the sky-high suicides and sexual attacks.”

  • The decline of morale in the Navy reflects the decline in morality in our country and is symptomatic of the malaise spreading across all walks of life in the U.S.

U.S. Troops Head to Africa to Fight Ebola

About 1,400 soldiers will head to Liberia this month to help support the fight against the Ebola virus that is spreading across West Africa, a Pentagon official said Tuesday. The Army’s 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., will provide about 700 of those soldiers, while the other 700 will be mostly combat engineers culled from Army units across the force. The soldiers will be among the total 3,000 U.S. troops whom the Pentagon plans to send into West Africa this fall. The U.S. military mission will include building 17 100-bed hospital facilities and a health care facility for infected physicians and health care workers. U.S. troops will not provide direct care to patients infected with the Ebola virus.

Tapes Reveal Slack Oversight of Wall Street

Secretly taped sessions involving bank examiners at the New York Federal Reserve were played on NPR radio earlier this week. What these tapes depicted were bank regulators who were timid and equivocating, deferential in the extreme to the bank they were supposed to keep in line, especially after Wall Street’s flagrant disregard for law and ethics led to the financial crisis that crippled the world economy. The New York Fed is the lead regulator for the main Wall Street banks and even has supervisors embedded in the offices of Goldman Sachs and others. What emerges in the tapes is that the team embedded in Goldman is the very definition of regulatory capture — when regulators become more oriented to the institution they are supervising than to representing the public interest. These sessions were taped by a member of that Fed team, Carmen Segarra, who was fired after seven months on the job and is suing the Fed, claiming it was her refusal to go along with this timorous form of bank supervision that led to her dismissal.

  • Why are we not surprised? Even with more and more government regulation, flouting the law is routine for major banks and multinational corporations. All it takes is money.

Wall Street Still Hires Mostly White Men

Perhaps it’s no surprise, but first-year bankers at Wall Street’s biggest firms are a very white and male bunch. An analysis by the data-driven recruiting firm Vettery found that nearly two thirds of entry-level bankers hired this year are white. Over three quarters — 78% — are male. This year, about 29% of new hires are Asian and 7% as Hispanic or black, numbers identical to the class of 2013 hires. The industry’s overall numbers are largely unchanged from recent years despite diversification advocacy. Sallie Krawcheck, once dubbed Wall Street’s leading lady, pointed out that banks went into the financial crisis “white, male and middle aged” and came out “whiter, male-er and middle age-er.”

Greenish Slime Clogging Up Rivers Worldwide

A greenish alga called Didymo — short for its scientific name Didymosphenia geminata — is spreading like a virus in freshwater rivers, lakes and streams throughout the world, leaving river bottoms and rocks coated in thick, tangled mats of gooey slime. Largely unknown until the 1990s, the alga species also known as “rock snot” was discovered on western Canada’s Vancouver Island in 1988. By the mid-2000s, it began appearing further south — popping up in Tennessee in 2005 — and now it has spread to Europe, Asia and New Zealand. It has caused huge headaches for boaters and fishermen, forcing local governments and environmental groups to conduct costly and difficult cleanups. And when Dydimo populations explode in huge algal blooms, they can deplete a river’s oxygen, suffocating the rest of the fish and crustaceans living there. The burning of fossil fuels has created a big increase in nitrogen compounds in the atmosphere, which are used by organisms that live in the soil. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which have been increasingly used by farmers around the world in recent decades, also favor its growth.

California Bans Plastic Shopping Bags

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, on Tuesday, following the lead of more than 100 California cities and counties. The plastic bag ban marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed bans on plastic bags in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle. The does not apply to non-food retailers such as clothing and electronics shops, nor does it apply to the plastic bags provided at grocery stores for produce and meat. Environmental groups and local governments say plastic bags have been a vexing source of pollution. Because they don’t easily decompose, they end up littering parks, rivers, beaches and oceans. Plastic debris can accumulate in the ocean and ends up in the bellies of fish and other marine life. Some opponents of the legislation favor an approach that encourages recycling plastic bags instead of banning them. The fight between environmentalists and manufacturers is not over, as plastic bag makers vow to take their opposition to the ballot box.

Economic News

The labor market rebounded sharply in September as employers added 248,000 jobs, but wage growth remained weak despite a tightening supply of workers. The unemployment rate fell to 5.9% from 6.1%, lowest since July 2008, the Labor Department said Friday. August’s initially disappointing job gains were revised to 180,000 from 142,000. July’s count was revised to 243,000 from 212,000, boosting gains for the two summer months by 69,000. That brings total payroll gains for the year above 2 million.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell further last week as the number of newly-jobless Americans seeking aid remained near prerecession levels, the Labor Department said Thursday. Seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits in the week ending Saturday were 287,000, down from the previous week’s revised total of 295,000. The closely-watched four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly volatility, held below 300,000 for the third straight week. That marks the longest interval under that level since 2006.

Home prices rose in July but at a slower rate, as the real estate market’s rebound continues to cool off. National home prices were up 5.6% annually, down from a 6.3% gain in June according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. The pace of price gains has slowed for seven straight months. But the slower pace of growth may be healthier for the market than the double-digit price gains recorded last year, said Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist.

With crude oil prices plunging to near two-year lows and likely to remain tepid through year’s end, consumers in all but a handful of states could soon pay $3 a gallon or less for gasoline, the lowest pump prices since 2010. Rising global oil production, ample inventories, slackening demand and a U.S. dollar trading at multiyear highs have wreaked havoc on the global oil markets in recent weeks. Third-quarter crude prices are down 13%.

The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the value of the greenback against a basket of foreign currencies, has climbed to its highest level in over four years. The dollar has long been the world’s top business currency and viewed as a “safe bet” among investors. But the recent run up is partly because traders believe the American economy is improving, especially relative to other parts of the world. This will compel the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, which is generally seen as a good thing for a country’s currency.

At the same time, things aren’t looking too good in Europe, so the European Central Bank is starting to do some stimulating of its own. Those measures have resulted in a weaker Euro. The Japanese Yen has also struggled because of the country’s ongoing economic problems.

More Americans moved to Texas in recent years than any other state: A net gain of more than 387,000 in the latest Census for 2013. And Austin was the fastest growing major city. Jobs is the No. 1 reason for population moves, with affordable housing a close second. Texas is also one of seven states without an income tax.

Persecution Watch

Following attacks on three towns in Nigeria’s Kaduna state last week that killed 46 Christians, church leaders said the Muslim Fulani assailants seem driven to rid the area of Christianity and use the land to graze their cattle. Two pastors were among 31 Christians killed just after midnight on Sept. 17 in Karshin Daji, where 15 others were injured and 15 houses burned down.

An Oklahoma Muslim convert is being investigated for connection to ISIS after beheading a co-worker and stabbing another. Alton Nolen, 30, attacked the women at the plant after being fired from the workplace. The brutal attack ended when company COO Mark Vaughan shot Nolen. Workers at the plant had recently complained that Nolen was attempting to convert them to Islam. The FBI is now investigating the case, to determine is Nolen has connections to ISIS or if he acted on his own.

Middle East

The Palestinians are pushing a United Nations resolution that makes stiff demands against Israel and could put the Obama administration in a difficult position should it come to a vote. The draft resolution calls on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem by November 2016 as part of a new push for Palestinian independence and full U.N. recognition. The resolution has not yet been shared with all of the Security Council’s 15 members. If it does, it would be the first time that the U.S. has to consider such a forceful draft Security Council resolution. Several Arab diplomats have told Fox News that they expect U.S. opposition to the text. They say, however, that if Washington vetoes the resolution it will isolate the United States in world opinion. Despite the longtime U.S. position supporting Israel, the Obama administration nevertheless issued a striking rebuke of Israel on Wednesday, warning that plans for a controversial new Israeli housing project in East Jerusalem would distance Israel from “even its closest allies” and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.

Islamic State

A day after Britain’s military launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, Australian aircraft started flying over Iraq in support of allied operations Wednesday. The Australian mission Wednesday consisted of inflight refueling and electronic surveillance in support of the United States and others. The United States could use more help. The airstrikes have already cost it close to $1 billion, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, a military think tank. That number will only rise as costly munitions continue to be deployed.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) According to Kurdish fighters, 50 Islamic State members had been killed during the past day of fighting while the rest fled across the border to Syria or moved east towards their stronghold of Mosul. Over the past twenty-four hours, airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition have given cover to the Kurds as they began a push to retake a swath of land, including Rabia, snaking across the ever-important Northern Iraq-Syria border, the Islamic State’s last position on the border. Airstrikes also targeted an unfinished hospital where 30 militants are holed up, Alamo-style. Surrounded by 1,500 Kurdish troops, these are the remnants of an alleged 400-man force Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, had sent to Rabia.

Islamic State militants are reportedly within a mile of Baghdad despite battling Iraqi forces and U.S.-led airstrikes, and there is “immense fear among everybody,” the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq said Tuesday. “We are at a crisis point,” Canon Andrew White, vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad, told Sky News. “People know ISIS are coming nearer.” “They said it could never happen, and now it almost has. Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi army could do,” the posting said, referring to President Barack Obama. “Well, you only need to be here a very short while to know they can do very very little,” the posting said.

Iraq

President Obama’s former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, says if the White House had listened to his advice on U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the country’s security situation may not have unraveled. He writes in his upcoming autobiography, due out next week, that his views were shared by other military commanders in the region and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Panetta worries that in the deterioration of Iraq’s security has potentially wiped out gains in the fight against terrorism. “In my view, the ISIS offensive in 2014 greatly increases the risk that Iraq will become al-Qaeda’s next safe haven. That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre-9/11,” he writes. “After all we have done to decimate al-Qaeda’s senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East.”

Ukraine

At least 10 people were killed Wednesday when shells fell on a school in Donetsk on the first day of classes and on a nearby bus stop, despite a three-week cease-fire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists. Both sides were fighting for control of the airport and several districts in the key rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine. At least 68 people have been killed since the uneasy truce was reached on Sept. 5. The shells were apparently fired from a multiple-launch rocket system. A report on the web site of the pro-Kiev regional government of Donetsk blamed the shelling on a “volley of fire” from pro-Russian militants.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan and the United States signed a security pact on Tuesday to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year, ending a year of uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghanis as they take over responsibility for the country’s security. Afghan, American and NATO leaders welcomed the deal, which will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends Dec. 31. President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who was sworn into office a day earlier, told the assembled crowd that the agreement signaled a fundamental shift for the positive in the country’s relations with the world. “This agreement is only for Afghan security and stability,” he said. “These agreements are in our national interest. The Bilateral Security Agreement will pave the ground for Afghanistan to take control, “he added.

Two suicide bombers in the Afghan capital targeted two buses carrying Afghan army troops on Wednesday, killing seven and wounding 21 people. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks. Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marked China’s National Day holiday on Wednesday with another show of defiance toward the city’s pro-Beijing government, but there were no immediate signs authorities would try to disperse the pro-democracy demonstrators. Student leaders of the protests vowed that if Hong Hong’s leader doesn’t resign by Thursday they will occupy several important government buildings, a scenario that raises the stakes for both sides because such a move is not likely to be tolerated by authorities. The throngs of protesters calling for democratic reform on Hong Kong’s streets were noticeably smaller Friday, after Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying agreed to talks with the demonstrators, although he repeated his refusal to accept their call for his resignation. However, brawls and scuffles broke out in several areas of Hong Kong Friday as people opposed to the continued occupation of key business areas clashed with pro-democracy protesters determined to maintain their blockades. The violent incidents put in jeopardy talks to solve the crisis, the three main campaign groups warned Friday evening.

Mali

Nine United Nations peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in Mali on Friday, a U.N. spokesman said. Their convoy was attacked near Menaka, in the country’s eastern Gao region, by heavily armed men on motorcycles. The nine dead were from Niger. The United Nations does not know who is responsible. The deadly attack comes just over two weeks after five United Nations peacekeepers from Chad were killed and three others were injured when a UN vehicle struck a homemade bomb in northern Mali. Several other attacks have also killed or injured U.N. peacekeepers in the Kidal region. The U.N. mission is there to guard against militant Islamists who in early 2013 threatened to move on the West African nation’s capital, Bamako. More than 8,000 military personnel and nearly 1,000 police were deployed under the peacekeeping mission as of the end of August.

Weather

A derecho, or long-lived severe weather system with damaging straight-line winds, moved through Arkansas, North Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, tearing roofs off houses, downing huge trees and knocking out power for hundreds of thousands. At least one tornado was spotted near Lake City, Arkansas, according to local reports. Power was still out for some 180,000 customers in Texas Friday morning. Wind gusts reached speeds as high as 83 mph in the town of Wills Point, east of Dallas. At least one person was struck by lightning. Another person suffered minor injuries after a roof blew off at Arlington Baptist College. There was major damage to the Fort Worth Stockyards, a popular tourist attraction with restaurants and clubs. A wall appears to have collapsed and piles of bricks were crushing several vehicles. Two apartment complexes suffered structural damage. Reports Thursday night indicated that cars have crashed into trees blown down by the storms on Interstate 30 in Arkansas and 40,000 are without power Friday morning.

The horrors of Superstorm Sandy were a clear sign to New Yorkers that something must be done to protect Manhattan and other nearby areas from the rising seas. To plan for expected sea-level rise and future storms, a rebuilding task force has proposed building a $335 million wall around Manhattan to keep the water out. The project, titled “The Big U,” is one of six federally-funded projects that are expected to waterproof the region. This isn’t going to be some big concrete wall like the one that used to divide Germany – the Big U will have far more style than that. The plans are to hug the Lower Manhattan coastline with all kinds of “social infrastructure,” that will serve multiple uses. Bigger parks will slope upwards as high as 20 feet to block rising seas, the report said. Shops and plaza that resemble the current High Line will also be built along the Big U.