Signs of the Time (12/8/14)

Florida Capital Gives Satanic Temple Space for Holiday Display

A holiday display by the Satanic Temple will be permitted inside the Florida capitol building after the group threatened to sue after its display was rejected last year. The display features Satan as an angel descending into Hell with the words, “Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.” The display will be one of five displays on the first-floor rotunda of the building for the Festivus celebration. It joins a nativity scene and a menorah, as well as secular displays.

Atheists Bully Town to Eject Christ from Christmas Parade

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the nation’s premiere hate groups, threatened expensive legal action because a community allowed Christ to be mentioned in public This time, the victims are the residents of a small town called Piedmont, Alabama, and the crime scene was the annual Christmas parade, reports Godfather Politics. But this particular assault on religious freedom by the FFRF was a revenge attack. Earlier this year, the FFRF and Piedmont tangled over prayers at football games. Following their usual strategy, the FFRF bullied Piedmont into officially cancelling prayers at the start of games. But the people of Piedmont wouldn’t back down and crowds began a new tradition of gathering to pray out loud without official sanction. The atheists then set their sights on the Christmas parade after the parade committee chose the theme of “Keep Christ in Christmas.” FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel complained that the sentiment of ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas’ does not qualify as a secular celebration. Fortunately, the townsfolk of Piedmont aren’t the sort to back down from a fight. While the city felt forced to officially not have a parade theme, that didn’t stop people from contributing religious-themed floats or from printing up and carrying a whole lot of signs with “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

Minnesota Schools to Allow Transgender Students to Play Sports on Teams of Sex They Identify With

Minnesota passed a new policy that will allow transgender high school students to play on the sports team of the sex with which they identify. According to the policy, “When there is confirmation of a student’s consistent and uniform gender-related identity…the student will be eligible to participate in MSHSL activities consistent with the student’s gender identification for the balance of the student’s high school eligibility.” The new set of rules has prompted concerns and criticism about safety and privacy from parents and officials. Some are concerned that larger biological males who identify as females could potentially harm smaller girls.

  • God made it very easy to identify males from females – this kind of confusion is typical of Satan’s corruption of Biblical order

Multistate Coalition Sues over Obama’s Immigration Orders

Texas is leading a 17-state coalition suing over President Barack Obama’s recently announced executive actions on immigration, arguing in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the move tramples key portions of the U.S. Constitution. Many top Republicans have denounced Obama’s order, which was designed to spare millions living illegally in the United States from deportation. But Texas Gov.-elect and current Attorney General Greg Abbott took it a step further, filing a formal legal challenge in federal court in the Southern District of Texas. His state is joined by 16 other mostly conservative states, largely in the south and Midwest, such as Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana and the Carolinas. They aren’t seeking monetary damages, but instead want the courts to block Obama’s actions.

Tensions Spike as AG Holder Takes on Cleveland Police

The Obama administration on Thursday issued a report accusing the Cleveland police department of using excessive and deadly force against citizens in violation of their constitutional rights, the latest development in a growing national debate over the fairness of local police tactics, especially in minority communities. According to the Justice Department report, Cleveland police engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force — including shooting residents, striking them in the head and spraying them with chemicals. The Justice Department and the city agreed to establish an independent monitor to oversee changes in the police department, including better training and supervision of officers. And the Justice Department urged Cleveland civic leaders to hold police accountable for their improper actions when necessary. Attorney General Holder’s announcement came amid growing public anger over the decision that no criminal charges will be filed against the officer in

the Garner chokehold case on the heels of another grand jury’s decision not to charge white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s shooting death. Both decisions triggered nationwide protests. After a season of high-profile police shootings that did not result in indictments, critics have come to challenge the largely internal reviews, saying the process all but guarantees the officers’ actions will be uniformly deemed justified.

Protesters March in Phoenix

What started as a crowd of 40 or 50 people walking along a sidewalk carrying signs grew to several hundred people emboldened by their growing ranks. Protesters decrying police brutality marched in downtown Phoenix on Friday night, at times pausing to lie down in the middle of streets lined by police officers in riot gear. The scene mimicked the unrest that has played out in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere following the deaths of unarmed Black men at the hands of White officers. In Phoenix this week, drug suspect Rumain Brisbon, a 34-year-old father of four, was fatally shot by an officer who says he mistook a pill bottle Brisbon was gripping in his pocket for the butt of a gun. “I’m hoping some change comes from tonight,” protester Leandra Swanner said. “I hope police realize protesters aren’t anti-police; they are anti-brutality.

Chokehold Protest Turns Violent

A peaceful protest in the university town of Berkeley, Calif., Sunday night over police killings of black men was overtaken by a group vandalizing police cars and stores and briefly shutting a local highway. It was the second day of violence. On Saturday masked protesters smashed windows and threw objects at police. Some protesters broke business windows while others implored them to stop the violence, CNN reported. A police officer received hospital treatment for a shoulder injury, while another sustained minor injuries after some of the protesters threw rocks and other projectiles. Several businesses on University Avenue were looted and damaged. About 300 people were taking part in the fourth day of protests in the city after a grand jury decided that a Staten Island, N.Y., police officer would not face charges in the July death of Garner, 43, a black asthmatic who died after apparently being put in a chokehold.

Poll: Race Relations Worse Under Obama

Many hoped the election of the first black president would improve race relations in America, but six years into the administration of Barack Obama, a new poll shows them worsening. According to a Bloomberg Politics poll, 53 percent believe race relations have worsened under Obama, 36 percent think they are unchanged, and only 9 percent believe they have improved. 45 percent of black people surveyed believe race relations have gotten worse, while 56 percent of white people do. 64 percent of whites and just 4 percent of blacks either agreed or strongly agreed with the Ferguson Grand Jury decision.

Flu Shot Bad Match for This Season’s Virus

A sampling of flu cases so far this season suggests the current flu vaccine may not be a good match for the most common seasonal flu strain currently circulating in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced. The U.S. health agency issued an advisory to doctors noting that flu virus samples the agency took from Oct. 1 through Nov. 22, showed that just under half were a good match for the current influenza A (H3N2) component contained in flu shots for the 2014-2015 season. According to the CDC, flu activity has been low but is increasing and influenza A (H3N2) viruses appear to be the predominant strain, with cases having been detected in almost all U.S. states. Flu seasons dominated by influenza A (H3N2) strains tend to have higher overall hospitalization rates and more flu-related deaths, especially among older people and very young children compared with flu seasons dominated by the influenza A (H1N1) virus or influenza B viruses.

Corporations, U.S. Join Forces to Aid African Farmers

President Barack Obama is counting on an unusual mix of taxpayer dollars and investments from profit-hunting agribusiness giants such as DuPont to feed the globe’s growing population. For the plan to work, small-scale Ethiopian farmers will need to greatly increase their paltry yields of corn and other crops. That will be no small achievement in a country where farmers typically plow by hand or with oxen and still plant their crops by tossing the seed willy-nilly out on the ground instead of placing it in rows. DuPont’s Iowa-based seed business, DuPont Pioneer, and the U.S. Agency for International Development are testing a new approach to improve the production of corn among the millions of poor, small-scale farmers who dominate African agriculture. The plan, part of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative, is to give farmers bags of non-biotech hybrid seed and train them on how to properly plant the seeds and apply chemical fertilizers.

Utah to Seize Own Land from Federal Government

In three weeks, Utah plans to seize control of 31.2 million acres of its own land now under the control of the federal government. In an unprecedented challenge to federal dominance of Western state lands, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012 signed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act,” which demands that Washington relinquish its hold on the land, which represents more than half of the state’s 54.3 million acres, by Dec. 31. So far, however, the federal government hasn’t given any indication that it plans to cooperate. We’re going to move forward and use all the resources at our disposal,” said state Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the legislation. Mr. Ivory also heads the American Lands Council, which advocates the relinquishing of federal lands to the control of the states.

Mishaps at Nuke Repository Lead to $54M in Fines

New Mexico on Saturday levied more than $54 million in penalties against the U.S. Department of Energy for numerous violations that resulted in the indefinite closure of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository. The state Environment Department delivered a pair of compliance orders of more than 30 state-permit violations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The orders and the civil penalties that come with them are just the beginning of possible financial sanctions the Energy Department could face in New Mexico. The focus has been on a canister of waste from Los Alamos that ruptured in one of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s storage rooms in February. More than 20 workers were contaminated, and the facility was forced to close, putting in jeopardy efforts around the country to clean up tons of Cold War-era waste.

Huge L.A. Fire Shuts Down 2 Freeways

A massive fire at a Los Angeles construction site the size of a city block shut down sections of two major freeways for hours early Monday. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze, which broke out about 1:10 a.m. and could be seen for miles. “This is a historic fire, what we as firefighters would call a career fire. It’s huge,” Fire Department spokesman David Ortiz told NBC News. The fire, which shut sections of the 110 and 101 freeways, was being fed by wood framing at a planned seven-story luxury apartment complex. Fire officials said two other buildings were also damaged, including several floors of a 16-story office tower. The fire started at the Da Vinci apartment complex, billed on its website as providing a “world class resort apartment home.” Construction has been underway for more than two years. The structure appeared to be “completely lost.”

Economic News

Employers added 321,000 jobs in November, a healthy showing that echoes other positive economic data recently. The unemployment rate remained unchanged from last month at 5.8 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. However, the Labor Force Participation rate is at a 36-year low. This means that over 92 million Americans are NOT working at all – almost 1/3 of the entire nation.

A Federal Reserve survey of economic conditions across the country released Wednesday reported healthier consumer spending in many regions, likely as a result of lower gas prices, as well as gains in hiring. Two sectors with many low-wage workers, retail and leisure and hospitality, were among the biggest gainers, adding 50,000 and 32,000 jobs, respectively, including many seasonal employees.

Stocks rose Friday — with the Dow and S&P 500 notching record highs — after November’s jobs gains blew way past estimates. The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 0.3%, a gain of 59 points, to its new closing high of 17,958.79. Climbing 0.2%, or about 3 and a half points, was the S&P 500. Its new high is 2,075.37.

Japan’s Takata Corp. is struggling with one of the worst safety recall crises in decades. More than 16 million cars have been recalled worldwide due to defective air bags made by Takata. Five deaths have been linked so far to defective air bag inflators that can explode with too much force, shooting metal and plastic shrapnel at the vehicle occupants. More than 130 others have been injured. Reports of exploding air bags first surfaced in the mid-2000s. Honda announced the first U.S. recall for faulty Takata bags in a nationwide action in 2008. About 5 million of the 8 million U.S. vehicles being recalled are Honda products. Tokyo-based Takata declined to meet a deadline Tuesday set by U.S. regulators to expand into a nationwide recall the ongoing regional recalls of the suspect air bag inflators by 10 of its automaker customers. The current recalls are limited to regions where high humidity is thought to increase the chances of degradation of the propellant used in the inflators.

Six Guantanamo Bay Detainees Transferred to Uruguay

The U.S. government said early Sunday that it had transferred six detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for over 12 years to Uruguay for resettlement as refugees. All six men had been detained as suspected militants with ties to Al Qaeda, but had never been charged. A Pentagon statement on Sunday identified the men as four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian. They are the first Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be sent to South America. They had been cleared for release since at least 2010 but they could not be sent home and languished as the U.S. struggled to find countries willing to take them. Among those transferred is 43-year-old Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was on a long-term hunger strike at Guantanamo to protest his confinement. He was at the center of a legal battle in U.S. courts over the military’s force-feeding of prisoners who refuse to eat.

Middle East

Syrian state television said on Sunday that Israeli jets had bombed targets near Damascus International Airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon, reports the Jerusalem Post. A Lebanese TV correspondent reported that Israel struck 10 crucial intelligence-linked locations in Syria that belong to Iran. The IAF has struck Syria several times since the start of the three-year conflict, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for their longtime foe Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. “The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport,” state television said, adding that there were no casualties.

Afghanistan

The U.S. will keep a larger force in Afghanistan for the first few month of 2015 than it initially planned to, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday. During a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said that up to 10,800 troops will remain in the country at the start of next year; a previous announcement called for 1,000 fewer troops. Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday in order to assess the nation as the United States begins the drawdown of its forces in the New Year. Kabul has seen an uptick in Taliban attacks in recent weeks.

Syria

The main al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria is extending its control over a swath of territory that was until recently held by the collapsing moderate opposition, jeopardizing U.S. plans to form a new rebel force to fight extremists. Since routing two of the biggest Western-backed rebel movements last month from the province of Idlib, Jabhat al-Nusra has been steadily consolidating its position as the single most powerful military force in northwestern Syria. The group has overrun towns and villages throughout the province, secured supply routes into neighboring Turkey and potentially paved the way for the establishment of an Islamic “emirate” — a competing entity to the “caliphate” declared last summer by the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq.

Pakistan

Key al Qaeda figure Umar Farooq was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials told CNN. Farooq was believed to be in charge of al Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also served as a spokesman for al Qaeda. The attack took place when two missiles struck a compound in Datta Khel, killing Farooq and four suspected militants.

Yemen

Al Qaeda militants killed American hostage Luke Somers and a South African captive in Yemen during a raid conducted by U.S. forces to rescue Somers, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday. President Barack Obama ordered Friday’s raid because “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger,” he said. “Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours,” the statement said. “I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.” Unfortunately, during the botched raid, the militants with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also killed South African hostage Pierre Korkie, according to his employer, the relief group Gift of the Givers. Korkie was to be released on Sunday, the group said in a statement. On Friday, a team of local leaders was finalizing arrangements to reunite Pierre Korkie to his wife and children, the statement reads.

United Arab Emirates

The State Department is warning American citizens traveling or living in Abu Dhabi to keep “awareness” levels high after the slaying of an American teacher last week. The security warning from the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council reminded Americans to be “vigilant” of their surroundings and encouraged them to vary routines and schedules. The warning comes after Abu Dhabi police on Thursday detained a woman in connection with the stabbing death of kindergarten teacher Ibolya Ryan, whose body was found Monday in the bathroom of the Reem Island mall in the United Arab Emirates.

Weather

At least twenty-two people were left dead Sunday, more than 1,500 homes were destroyed, trees were mowed down and power knocked out in entire coastal provinces as Typhoon Hagupit lashed the Philippines. More than one million people fled to emergency shelters and to safer ground before the typhoon made its first landfall in the eastern Philippines late Saturday. As of Sunday morning U.S. time, Hagupit had sustained winds of about 100 mph and was slowly slogging to the northwest at 8 mph. Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, slammed into Eastern Samar and other island provinces, before weakening Sunday, leaving no major destruction, the Associated Press said. The strong storm comes barely one year after Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the island nation. Schools, government offices and stock markets closed Monday as a weakened Typhoon Hagupit approached the Philippines capital after lashing outer provinces.

Record rains fell in California last week, but they’re not enough to change the course of what scientists are now calling the region’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years. Modern measurements had already shown the drought has been drier than the 1930s dustbowl. New research going back further than the Viking conquests in Europe still can’t find a drought as bad as this one. By working with California’s exceptionally old trees, researchers from University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were able to reconstruct a chronology of drought in southern and central California. They identified 37 droughts that lasted three years or more, going back to the year 800. None were as extreme as the conditions we’re seeing now.

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