Signs of the Times (2/23/15)

Signs of the Times (2/23/15)

Study Shows Places with Pro-Life Laws have Better Maternal Mortality Rates

When lawmakers press for pro-life laws, abortion advocates derisively label the protection of unborn children a “war on women.” But a new study indicates locations that have pro-life laws protecting unborn children have better maternal mortality rates than places where abortion is legal. These kinds of studies are not new — as previous reports from Ireland and Chile, for example, have shown that those pro-life nations have better maternal mortality rates than nations with legalized abortion. The new study, conducted in 32 Mexican states and published in the open access version of the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open) challenges the notion that abortion is better for women’s health. It confirmed that Mexican states with less permissive abortion laws exhibited 23% lower overall maternal mortality and up to 47% lower mortality from complications of abortion.

Failing Grade for Church in America

The church in America has been given a failing report card. In the book, Churchless, researcher George Barna and David Kinnaman take a look at the rising population of adults who do not attend church. Based on two decades of Barna Group interviews with thousands of churchless men and women, the book outlines a profile of the unchurched and the cultural context that has led to the trend away from church. According to the data, “in the 1990s, 30% of the American population was unchurched. Today, two decades later, that percentage has risen to more than four in 10 Americans (43%).”

Al-Shabaab Threatens Malls in Canada, UK, and U.S.

Terror group Al-Shabaab has released a video calling for attacks on shopping malls in Canada, the UK and the United States. In the propaganda video released Saturday, the al Qaeda-linked terror group talks about its September 2013 attack on a mall in Kenya. The brazen siege, which went on for days, left more than 60 people dead at an upscale mall in Nairobi. In its new video, it calls for similar attacks on malls in the three Western countries. Al-Shabaab identified specific malls. Mall of America said it’s aware of the video listing it as a potential target. U.S. officials said they’re aware of the threats and urged mall shoppers to be vigilant. After the siege at a Kenyan mall two years ago, the FBI started staging mock attacks in U.S. shopping centers during off hours to test their readiness, an official said.

Fatal Flaw in 911 System

In an era when your mobile phone can tell Facebook, Uber or even video games where you’re located – with amazing accuracy – 911 operators are often left in the dark. Your chance of 911 getting a quick fix on location ranges from as low as 10% to as high as 95%, according to hundreds of pages of local, state and federal documents obtained and reviewed by USA TODAY. In California, more than half of cellphone calls didn’t transmit location to 911 from 2011 to 2013, and it’s getting worse. Last year, about 12.4 million, or 63%, of California’s cellphone calls to 911 were unable to pinpoint location automatically. In Texas, two-thirds of cellphone calls in a sample of calls from major cities – including Austin and Houston – reached 911 without an instant fix on location from 2010 through 2013. In their reports and letters to the FCC, police and fire chiefs, 911 operators, emergency room doctors and others raised concerns about the problem worsening as more calls shift to the cellphone network, which now accounts for at least 70% of all 911 calls.

Deal Reached in West Coast Dockworkers Dispute

Negotiators reached a tentative contract covering West Coast dockworkers on Friday evening, likely ending a protracted labor dispute that snarled international trade at seaports handling about $1 trillion worth of cargo annually. The breakthrough came after nine months of negotiations that turned contentious in the fall, when dockworkers and their employers began blaming each other for problems getting imports to consumers and exports overseas. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who heralded the tentative deal in a conference call with reporters, says that normal operations were slated to resume on the docks starting Saturday night. But he’s not sure how long it will take to clear a cargo backlog that has left produce rotting because it couldn’t be loaded on ships and retailers frustrated at not receiving needed shipments.

Oil Refinery Workers on Strike

Workers at the nation’s largest oil refinery have joined a strike that now includes more than 6,500 workers. The United Steelworkers union says the nation’s oil producers aren’t taking seriously the safety concerns of its 30,000 members. The two sides have been engaged in negotiations for a nationwide contract that covers more than 200 production facilities, including 65 refineries. Those talks fell apart on Friday, and no further negotiations have yet been scheduled. All told, workers at 15 refineries and other production facilities are now on strike.

Economic News

Americans’ total household debt, including mortgages, credit cards, and auto and student loans, rose $117 billion in the last quarter of 2014 to reach $11.8 trillion. Two types of loans are increasingly delinquent. The percentage of auto loans that were more than 90 days overdue rose to 3.5 percent from 3.1 percent the previous quarter. Lenders have been taking on riskier borrowers over the past year. Delinquency on student loans also rose during the last quarter, to 11.3 percent from 11.1 percent the previous quarter.

The number of immigrants who arrived in the United States since 2000, both legally and illegally, is nearly twice the number of new jobs created over that period. A report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), based on Census Bureau data, discloses that 18 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. since 2000 but just 9.8 million jobs were added over those 14 years. As a result the labor force participation rate of native-born Americans aged 16 to 65 has been in decline. The rate was 77 percent in December 2000 and 72 percent in December 2014.

Home care workers are joining a nationwide movement to raise the wages of low-paid Americans with meetings and rallies in more than 20 cities the next two weeks. The campaign, which kicks off Monday in Carson City, Nev., was inspired by protests by fast-food and retail workers during the past two years that helped spark minimum-wage hikes in many states and prompted Walmart to boost its pay floor last week. Home care aides joined some of those rallies, but this is their first independent push.

Greece will propose modified reform measures today, after the country and its European creditors agreed Friday to a four-month extension on the country’s bailout. The deal, hammered out in talks in Brussels, hinges on Greece proposing reform measures by today and the country’s creditors accepting the plan. Until then, Greece, beset by 25% unemployment and a shrinking economy, won’t receive the next installment of its 240 billion euro ($273 billion) rescue package that has kept the country afloat since it nearly went bankrupt in 2010.

Venezuela might be the world’s worst economy. With 68% inflation, the highest across the globe, Venezuela comes in just ahead of war-torn Sudan and heavily-sanctioned Iran. U.S. companies like Ford and Pepsi are quickly losing profits there due to inflation. U.S. airlines have drastically reduced their flights to the capital, Caracas. Some European airlines have already stopped flying there altogether. Venezuela is getting crushed by low oil prices. There are severe food shortages at grocery stores across the country because the government can’t pay to import food. Venezuela’s currency is losing value faster than any other in the world. The country owes $11 billion in debt payment this year. Some experts see Venezuela defaulting in October, when the country must pay $5 billion.

Middle East

Arab governments are privately expressing their concern to Washington about the emerging terms of a potential deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, according to Arab and U.S. officials involved in the deliberations. The direction of U.S. diplomacy with Tehran has added fuel to fears in some Arab states of a nuclear-arms race in the region, as well as reviving talk about possibly extending a U.S. nuclear umbrella to Middle East allies to counter any Iranian threat. The major Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, have said that a final agreement could allow Shiite-dominated Iran, their regional rival, to keep the technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons, according to these officials, while removing many of the sanctions that have crippled its economy in recent years.

  • The weak Iranian negotiations by the Obama administration are fueling fears of a nuclear buildup throughout the Middle East

Islamic State

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has crude, stomach-turning tactics when it comes to dealing with its enemy, but experts say that its moneymaking methods are highly sophisticated, especially for such a new terror group. ISIS makes between $1 million and $2 million each day from oil sales, numerous sources tell CNN. The oil comes mostly from refineries and wells that ISIS controls in northern Iraq and northern Syria. A 2014 New York Times investigation found that since 2008, al Qaeda and its affiliates had received $125 million from ransoms, including $66 million in 2013. Some of that has gone to ISIS which is now reaping rewards on its own from several countries who deny paying ransoms. ISIS is also making money through looting and selling stolen artifacts and antiquities. ISIS is also profiting from organ sales on the black market, perhaps taken from some of the people they’ve slaughtered. The latest Islamic State video posted online shows captured Kurdish soldiers paraded in cages through crowded Iraqi streets to wild applause.

As ominous music plays, the ISIS flag flutters, child fighters wield weapons and graphic images of beheadings flash across the screen. At first, it seems like one of the notorious, slick jihadist recruitment videos flooding the Internet. But the tone quickly shifts. There are images of Syrian children crying, dead bodies lying on the floor and dire warnings: “You will discover hell on Earth” and “You will die alone far from home.” The video campaign, which started this month, is the latest volley in a fierce battle being fought online between the French government and jihadist groups. What’s at stake is nothing less than the lives of the country’s youth, CNN reports.

Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Saturday that his country is not on the verge of collapse and that Russian-backed separatists continue to attack Ukrainian soldiers despite a recent cease fire agreement. Yatsenyuk also told Fox News there is ‘no doubt’ Russian President Putin wants to take over the country, as fighting continues in the country despite a cease-fire, Yatsenyuk’s comments come about one week after European leaders brokered a cease fire in the roughly 10-month conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the eastern region of the country. A top European Union official said Thursday that the 28-member bloc will provide armored cars and satellite imagery to monitor the cease fire but is undecided on whether to commit troops to a proposed United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission. Meanwhile, Ukrainian military and separatist representatives on Saturday night exchanged dozens of prisoners. Roughly 140 Ukrainian troops and 52 rebels were exchanged. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia’s “land-grabbing” in the Ukraine, despite a cease-fire deal, might push the U.S. and its European allies to impose new sanctions to punish Moscow.

Afghanistan

President Barack Obama may change the United States’ plan to withdraw virtually all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, his new defense secretary said Saturday during a visit to the central Asian nation — an indication that the White House is considering extending the U.S. troop presence there beyond that year. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made the comment in a news conference in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has previously called on Obama to “re-examine” the withdrawal plan to ensure his country has the support it needs to maintain security gains. Carter arrived in Afghanistan’s capital on Saturday during his first foreign trip since being sworn in as defense secretary four days ago.

Iran

With only weeks left to the deadline to reach a first-stage nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that ‘significant gaps’ remained and warned that America was ready to walk away from the talks if Tehran doesn’t agree to terms demonstrating that it doesn’t want atomic arms. Kerry spoke after the Iranian Atomic Energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz added their muscle to the talks for the first time to help resolve technical disputes standing in the way of an agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions relief for the Islamic Republic. But Kerry warned against undue optimism. Salehi’s and Moniz’s presence is no ‘indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided,’ he said. The talks have missed two previous deadlines, and President Barack Obama has said a further extension would make little sense without a basis for continuing discussions.

South Sudan

At least 89 boys, some as young as 13 years old, were abducted by an armed group in South Sudan, the U.N. children’s agency said Saturday. The abductions took place near Malakal in the northern part of the country, UNICEF said. Armed soldiers surrounded the area and searched house to house in the community of Wau Shilluk in Upper Nile State, taking boys older than 12 by force. In the past year, 12,000 children — mostly boys — have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed forces and groups in South Sudan. “Despite renewed promises by both government and opposition forces that they will stop using child soldiers, both sides continue to recruit and use children in combat,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Nigeria

Nigerian troops retook the strategic northeastern town of Baga — where hundreds were viciously killed in a Boko Haram attack last month — on Saturday, the West African nation’s top military spokesman said. Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade said that “a large number of terrorists … drowned” in Lake Chad and others were killed in the fighting to take the fishing town. Lake Chad touches four countries — Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon — all of which have been targeted in recent weeks by Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group blamed for ongoing horrific attacks, abductions and other abuses.

Yemen

Yemen’s former president left the capital after Shiite rebels who surrounded his house let him go under international and local pressure, aides close to him said Saturday. The aides said former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left Sanaa and later arrived in Aden. They say Hadi later plans to leave the country to receive medical treatment. Hadi has been under house arrest for several weeks following a coup by Shiite Houthi rebels. The rebels earlier captured the capital, Sanaa, in September. The aides say the rebels let Hadi go after pressure from the United Nations, the U.S., Russia and local political parties.

Environment

An alarming number of emaciated sea lion pups are washing up on Southern California shores, leaving scientists baffled. California rehabilitation centers have taken in almost 500 of the marine mammals since Jan. 1, National Geographic reported. Shawn Johnson, a veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, told NatGeo, “They’re extremely emaciated, basically starving to death.” It is unclear why the pups are in such dire shape, Yahoo News said, but the National Marine Fisheries Service (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries) believes the declining availability of sea lion prey may be a key component. “The prey source is just too far away for the mothers to go out, get food and come back and wean the pups.” California sea lions play a vital role in nature since they act as indicators of ocean health, Nat Geo says. Experts say the unusual warmth of ocean waters may be what is driving sea lion prey further out to sea. California sea lions feed on fish and squid.

Weather

A widespread winter storm impacted parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast with snow and ice Friday and Saturday. The final bout of light freezing rain and snow from Pandora will push off of the Northeast coast during the morning hours on Sunday, from parts of New Jersey to the New York City area and Southern New England. Freezing rain and sleet were reported from Pandora Friday, which created slippery conditions from Missouri to Alabama. Ice accumulations up to 0.25 inch were reported Friday night and early Saturday in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, including Charleston. Even heavier ice accumulations of up to one inch were reported in eastern Tennessee, which combined with gusty winds caused significant damage. Snow totals of over 20 inches have been reported in West Virginia. A few other states have seen a foot or more of snow from Pandora, including southern Illinois, Maryland and Virginia.

Winter Storm Quantum will spread snow and ice from the Rockies to parts of the South Sunday through Monday. Heavy snow up to three inches an hour fell across parts of Colorado’s Front Range on Saturday as people faced another blast of winter weather that could bring two feet or more to some areas by the beginning of next week. Quantum was glazing over roadways in the South and the Rockies Monday morning, spawning accidents as drivers leave for the morning commute and leaving one dead.

At least 20 people have died from hypothermia in the latest blast of arctic air known as The Siberian Express, The Weather Channel says. The toll includes nine people in Tennessee, six in Pennsylvania, two in Illinois and one each in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Ice coverage on the Great Lakes reached 85.4 percent on Feb. 18, marking the second winter in a row that ice coverage has exceeded 80 percent, the most since 1973.

The warmth that led 2014 to become the hottest year on record has continued into 2015, with last month ranking as the second-hottest January on record globally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday. Three agencies ranked 2014 as the warmest year on record by a slim margin. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, with the exception of the blockbuster El Niño year of 1998. There hasn’t been a record cold year set since 1911 while, during the same period, there have been 19 record-warm years, according to a Climate Central analysis.

  • You have to wonder home much the globalists (Sustainability, Agenda 21, New World Order folks) are cooking the books in order to use global warming as the mechanism to attain their goals

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