Signs of the Times (10/3/14)

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.

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