Signs of the Times (2/2/15)

U.S. Funding of Planned Parenthood Costs Taxpayers $2 Million/Day

The U.S. government spends on the average almost $2,000,000.00 every day giving money to Planned Parenthood – the number one killer of unborn children in the world. Joseph Parker, Director of Outreach & Intercession, says, “Now, even if our national budget was balanced, this would be a major travesty and tragedy. Yet our Government is deep – extremely deep in debt. And it still manages to give almost two million dollars a day to Planned Parenthood as they continue to destroy the lives of innocent children in incredible numbers. This action is clearly in disobedience to the Word of God that states very clearly “Thou Shall not Kill” Exodus 20:13. The correct translation of these words says “You shall not take innocent life.” You don’t hardly get any more innocent than an unborn baby. Yet, sadly our government ‘finds’ money, and gives it to people who are slaughtering our innocent children.”

Marines Remove ‘God’ after Atheist Complaint

“An Army recruiting station in Phoenix, Arizona, has been ordered by higher ups to remove a sign on display outside of its entrance that read, ‘On a mission for both God and country.'” reports The Blaze. The removal of the signboard came on Friday just hours after it was brought to the attention of a commanding officer after an atheist’s complaint, though it had reportedly been on display since at least October. A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command told the Army Times that the text was placed on the signboard by local personnel and that headquarters would have never permitted it.

  • The more America removes God from its institutions, the more God’s hand of protection is removed from our country’s wellbeing

Senate Approves Keystone Pipeline Bill

The Senate passed legislation Thursday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a looming veto showdown with the White House. The legislation passed on a 62-36 vote, after lawmakers spent weeks considering amendments. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month, though there are slight differences that have to be ironed out before the bill can go to President Obama’s desk. The vote nevertheless marked the first time the Senate has voted to approve the controversial Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline. Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans to back the measure. The bill authorizes construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline, which would carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries.

Obama Seeks to End Sequester Cuts, Raise Spending Caps

President Obama called for an end to “mindless austerity” on Thursday as he announced his desire to end “sequester” spending cuts in his budget for 2015. The across-the-board cuts, agreed to by both parties, have been in effect since 2013, after lawmakers were unable to produce a more strategic deficit-cutting plan. Members of both parties have problems with the cuts, which indiscriminately affect both domestic and defense programs. Obama’s proposed $74 billion in added spending — about 7 percent — would be split about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he’s sought before to reverse the sequester spending cuts, Obama’s pitch in this year’s budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines in federal deficits. Republicans promise to produce a balanced budget blueprint this spring.

Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. The poll found that 83 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents, say that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, global warming will be a very or somewhat serious problem in the future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.

  • Climate change is an end-time phenomena that no amount of politics or policies will circumvent, producing floods (Daniel 9:26b) and super-sized hailstones (Rev. 8:7, 11:19, 16:11)

Obama Proposes a $3.99 Trillion Budget

President Obama unveiled a $3.99 trillion budget Monday that is “designed to bring middle class economics into the 21st Century”. The proposed budget “invests in helping working families make their paychecks go further, preparing hardworking Americans to earn higher wages, and creating the infrastructure that allows businesses to thrive and create good, high-paying jobs,” the White House said in a statement. To pay for new tax credits and other programs involving education, child care, paid leave, and new road and bridge construction, the budget calls for tax hikes on wealthier Americans by closing certain loopholes. Congressional Republicans said the president’s proposals — many of which leaked out in advance of Monday’s announcement — involve too many tax hikes and high-spending programs. Recent presidential budget proposals are as much political documents as accounting ones, often declared “dead on arrival” in Congress by opposing political parties. The bipartisanship has yielded a series of budget bills funding the government temporarily.

Measles Cases in California Soar

There are 91 cases of measles in California as of last Friday, up from 59 the week before. While the total is still small, the jump was a startling 54 percent in just more than a week. Most cases — 58 — are linked to an outbreak at Disneyland in mid-December. Health officials said 40 of the cases were employees or parkgoers, while 18 of the cases were secondary infections. One parent of a 6-year-old has asked school officials to bar any children who have not been vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). “Fortunately, there is no need to exclude any students from a Marin County school at this time as there is no evidence for school-based exposure,” the county public health office said in a statement.

In a development that could dramatically widen the scope of a measles outbreak that began last month at Disney parks in California, Arizona health officials said Wednesday that up to 1,000 people in that state may have been exposed to the highly infectious disease. Arizona is now second to California in the number of cases. Measles has also been confirmed in five other states — Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Nebraska — as well as Mexico. So far, most of the people infected hadn’t gotten the measles-mumps-rubella — or MMR — vaccine, officials said. As officials in 14 states grapple with a measles outbreak, the parents at the heart of America’s anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for the public-health crisis.

Economic News

The U.S. economy gained steam last year, but it closed out the year with a big disappointment, raising more questions about 2015. America’s economy grew only 2.6% in the final three months of the year, down from 5% in the previous quarter and much lower than economists’ estimate of 3.3%. Overall for 2014, U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity rose 2.4%. That’s the highest mark in four years, according to the Commerce Department, but economists and policymakers want to see growth this year of a lot closer to 3%.

North Dakota lawmakers are now expecting billions less in tax revenue during the next two and a half years due to falling oil prices. A report from Legislative Council downgrading revenue projections by $5.5 billion points mostly to the impact of oil tax exemptions the Legislature previously failed to reform. During the 2013 legislative session multiple bills to eliminate the exemptions in exchange for lower top rates were rejected. Now plunging oil prices are expected to invoke those triggers causing a multi-billion swing in the state’s expected revenues.

Russia’s central bank reversed course Friday and slashed interest rates to 15% from 17% as the nation grapples with a weak economic outlook caused in part by sanctions from the West over its actions in Ukraine and plunging oil prices. Late last year, the Bank of Russia dramatically raised rates 6.5% in attempt to stop a slide in its ruble currency. The ruble has shed about half of its value in recent months as oil prices have plummeted below $45 a barrel.

Islamic State

ISIS militants have launched an attack on the oil-producing northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The extremist group has previously held areas on the outskirts of Kirkuk but not the central city. There had been recent speculation that ISIS might attack Kirkuk to force Kurdish troops to divert their efforts away from Mosul, ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq, about 100 miles to the northwest. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have moved in around the outskirts of Mosul recently, backed by airstrikes by the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS, forcing the Sunni extremist group onto the defensive. Two purported ISIS fighters interviewed for a news agency working in ISIS-held territory have given the same reason for the militants’ retreat from the Syrian city of Kobani: the constant pummeling by coalition airstrikes.

For ISIS it is a new dynamic, experts say: demanding high value prisoners in exchange for hostages. Three of the prisoners ISIS apparently wants back are women — a failed suicide bomber, an alleged bomb maker and a woman tied to the head of ISIS. The fourth is a child. Each of the prisoners is symbolically and strategically important for the terror group. Many countries have a strategy of not negotiating with terrorists. But this new approach by ISIS is putting governments to the test. Duncan Bullivant, a UK-based risk consultant, says swapping prisoners for hostages is still better than paying for release of prisoners, as some European countries do. “The payment of cash ransom can been seen as the direct funding of terrorist organizations.” As Japan mourns following the apparent beheading of its journalist by ISIS, thousands of miles away, an anxious Jordan still awaits the fate of its captured pilot.


At least 26 people were killed and dozens more wounded, including civilians, during a series of militant attacks on army and police positions in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula. At least 36 additional people were wounded in the assaults, which involved car bombs and mortar rounds in the town of Al-Arish, in North Sinai. Suspected militants carried out consecutive attacks on the headquarters of the North Sinai security directorate in Al-Arish, a nearby army base, a hotel and several security checkpoints. The country’s most active Jihadist group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, said via Twitter that it was behind the assaults. In November, the Sinai-based group pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has seized swaths of Syria and Iraq.


A gunman killed three U.S. contractors and wounded a fourth Thursday evening at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said. A local Afghan was also killed in the attack at about 6:40 p.m. on the military side of the airport. An Afghan air force official told Reuters the shooter was an Afghan soldier. The Taliban subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters reported. In the past several years, more than 142 members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Taliban insurgents have been killed in so-called green-on-blue insider attacks by Afghan security forces. The shooting was the first of its kind since U.S. and NATO forces ceased their combat mission a month ago.


A bomb blast ripped through a mosque in Pakistan belonging to members of the Shiite minority sect of Islam just as worshippers were gathering for Friday prayers, killing 35 people and wounding dozens more, officials said. Another 50 people were severely wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted religious institutions of Shiites, whom they do not consider to be true Muslims. While Karachi has been the site of repeated bombings blamed on militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, the northern part of Sindh province has generally been much more peaceful. But recent years have seen a trend of extremist organizations increasingly active in the central and northern part of the province, according to a new report by the United States Institute of Peace. But recent years have seen a trend of extremist organizations increasingly active in the central and northern part of the province.

Nearly 300 Muslim students have reportedly attacked a Christian boys’ school in Pakistan in response to the Charlie Hebdo caricatures that mocked the prophet Muhammad. The students were armed with iron bars and sticks and four people were injured in the attack; there were no fatalities. The Christian Post reports that the attack occurred at Panel High School in Bannu. Muslim students scaled the walls and attacked the Christians inside the school.


Six months ago Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, was detained by the Iranian government, along with his wife and two others on July 22, 2014. The 38-year old Californian, now held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, has been in an Iranian jail longer than any other Western journalist. His Iranian wife and journalist, Yeganeh Salehi, and the others detained with him have been released. Jason Rezaian was formally charged in late December, though his family is still unclear precisely what he has been charged with. “Because they haven’t given us any information, haven’t told us what the charges were or what the evidence against him was, we don’t know why he was detained,” his wife Ali Rezaian says.


A bomb exploded on a bus near Damascus’ medieval city center on Sunday, killing at least seven people, including Lebanese Shiite pilgrims. Another 20 people were wounded in the blast, which occurred near the Damascus citadel and the centuries-old Hamidiyeh bazaar. Rocket fire from nearby rebel-held towns routinely strikes Damascus, but bombings are rare in the heavily policed city center.

Saudi Arabia

A U.S. defense contractor confirmed Sunday that two of its American employees were shot at in Saudi Arabia, marking the second time in less than four months that the company’s staff has been targeted. Both employees were injured but are in stable condition at a local hospital. Friday’s shooting is likely to deepen the sense of unease among the Western expatriates working in the kingdom, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants.


Nigerian troops Sunday repelled Islamic extremists who attacked from four fronts on Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria, with several civilians killed by aerial bombs and grenades and mortar shells on the ground. Terrified residents fled homes shaking from five hours of heavy artillery fire and streamed in from the outskirts of the besieged city of 2 million, already crowded with another 200,000 refugees from the fighting. For weeks Boko Haram has been closing in on Maiduguri, the group’s spiritual birthplace, and if it were able to plant its Islamic State-style flag there, even briefly, it would give them a major boost as the group loses ground in remoter areas. Its third attack in a week on Maiduguri came as Chadian forces launched a winning offensive to regain control of border areas, acting on behalf of an African Union directive to help fight the spreading Islamic uprising by Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram extremists.


Artillery fire killed at least 13 civilians in the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Friday amid fierce fighting between pro-Russia separatists and government troops as hopes for a break in hostilities were dashed when an attempt to call a new round of peace talks failed. Full-blown fighting between the Russian-backed separatists and government forces erupted anew earlier this month following a period of relative tranquility. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations says his country soon will ask the world body’s member states to formally recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. Ukraine’s parliament also declared the Russia-backed separatist republics in the east to be terrorist organizations.


An outbreak of the plague has killed dozens in Madagascar, and experts fear those numbers could go up. At least 119 cases were confirmed since late last year, including 40 deaths, the World Health Organization said. Cases were confirmed in at least 20 districts and the capital. And the disease is taking an alarming turn. “The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide,” the WHO said.

Hong Kong

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, in the first major rally since mass protests last year. Holding yellow umbrellas, the symbol of last year’s Occupy protests, the demonstrators chanted, “No fake universal suffrage. I want genuine universal suffrage.” The protesters oppose the Chinese government’s decision that candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong chief executive will be vetted by a largely Beijing-controlled nominating committee. The final election plan must be approved by a two-thirds majority in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council before submitting to authorities in Beijing. But pro-democracy legislators, who hold 40% of the seats, have said they would veto the screening proposal.


As yet another winter storm moves from the Midwest into the Northeast, some areas could see more than a foot of snow. Early Monday morning, about 69 million Americans were under winter advisory or warning. More than 4,500 flights have been canceled nationwide Monday. The storm dumped 18 inches of snow across the Chicago area, making it the sixth snowiest storm on record there. Daily snowfall records have been broken in several locations, including Milwaukee (10.4 inches), South Bend, Indiana (14.7 inches), Grand Rapids, Michigan (8 inches). Snow overspread much of the rest of New York state and New England, and over 6 inches of snow had already piled up in a few areas as of Monday morning. Some parts of the hard-hit northeast could receive another foot or more atop the remains of two other recent snowfalls.

A year ago, California experienced its third-driest January in records dating to 1895. Fast forward a year later and we are seeing a repeat of record or near-record dry conditions in parts of the state. In San Francisco, no rain has fallen at the downtown observation station or the airport this January. With no rain in the forecast to close the month, it appears that San Francisco will see its first January without rainfall since records began downtown in 1850. This comes on the heels of last January, which went down as the driest on record for the city. Sacramento is also on track to see its driest January on record with one-hundredth of an inch of rain so far.

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