Signs of the Times (3/9/15)

University Kills Free Speech to Protect Inclusiveness – Bans American Flags, But then Overturned

The University of California at Irvine, recently voted to ban flags from hanging in their main lobby. The reason that the student government chose to ban the flags? Apparently, flags are “offensive.” Here’s the language from the bill banning flags: “Flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy,” the bill reads. The legislation argues that flags may be interpreted differently; the American flag, for example, can represent “American exceptionalism and superiority,” as well as oppression. “The American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism,” the bill continues, arguing that “symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.” “Freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech,” the bill reads. However, members of the executive cabinet of the Associated Students of UC Irvine met Saturday in an emergency session to reverse the flag ban.

  • Political correctness and ‘tolerance’ taken to their extreme absurdity. Shows how the younger generation has been indoctrinated with anti-American fervor

Army Eases Ban on Transgender Soldiers

The Army issued a directive Friday that protects transgender soldiers from being dismissed by mid-level officers by requiring the decision for discharge to be made by the service’s top civilian for personnel matters. The Army’s new policy is the latest indication that the military’s ban on transgender troops may be eased or even lifted. Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told troops he was “very open-minded” about transgender troops, adding that nothing but a person’s ability to serve should keep them from serving. Troops with gender dysphoria, a recognized medical condition, are currently barred from serving in the military for medical reasons.

Black Teen killed by Wisconsin Police Officer Prompts Protests

The shooting death of a 19-year-old unarmed black male by a white Wisconsin police officer prompted protests Saturday chanting now familiar refrain, “Black Lives Matter.” Authorities said that Tony Robinson assaulted Officer Matt Kenny before he was shot in his apartment Friday night. Kenny forced his way inside the apartment after hearing a disturbance, while responding to a call, police said. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said that Kenny was injured during the incident, but did not go into detail. It was unclear whether Robinson was alone at the time. “He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept,” Koval said of Robinson. The department said Kenny was not wearing a body camera. The series of protests and vigils continued peacefully on Sunday as the stunned city processed another shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer Friday night.

Selma Marchers Close Down Bridge

On the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, an unexpectedly large crowd made a series of at least three unplanned marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, transforming the four lanes of the bridge into a mass of barely moving humanity. Overwhelmed early by a crowd that swelled to more than 70,000, according to Alabama state troopers’ estimates, police essentially tossed in the towel after several attempts to remove people from the bridge were unsuccessful. On Monday, an anniversary march from Selma to Montgomery is set to begin in the morning and culminate with a rally at the Alabama Capitol Friday afternoon.

U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence against Women

The evidence of worldwide violence against is ubiquitous, notes The New York Times. The gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi sets off an unusual burst of national outrage in India where rape has been rampant. In South Sudan, women are assaulted by both sides in the civil war. In Iraq, jihadists enslave women for sex. And American colleges face mounting scrutiny about campus rape. Despite the many gains women have made in education, health and even political power in the course of a generation, violence against women and girls worldwide “persists at alarmingly high levels,” according to a United Nations analysis that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to present to the General Assembly on Monday. About 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced violence in their lifetime, whether physical, sexual, or both, the report finds. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex, it says.

Top Senate Democrat urges Clinton to Address Private Email Controversy

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee urged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give a full explanation of why she used a private e-mail account for official correspondence during her four years as America’s top diplomat. Clinton, thought to be the near-unanimous frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has kept mostly silent on the private e-mail story, which was first reported by the New York Times last Monday. Her use of the account may violate federal rules requiring officials to keep all their communications on official accounts for record-keeping purposes. Fox News is reporting that Hillary Clinton secretly used multiple private email accounts in an attempt to avoid scrutiny from public agencies that might have otherwise sought to review her email

CIA Reorganization Focuses on Cyber-Espionage

The Central Intelligence Agency has announced a sweeping reorganization, introducing a new Directorate dedicated to cyber-espionage and establishing ten new cross-directorate ‘mission centers’. The CIA’s new cyber-division will be called the Directorate of Digital Innovation. It joins the four existing Directorates: Support, Science and Technology, and Operations and Analysis, under the new organization plan. Analysis is reverting to its traditional name, having been renamed “Directorate of Intelligence” previously, while Operations used to be known as the “National Clandestine Service.” Additionally, agency director John Brennan announced the establishment of ten new “mission centers,” gathering CIA officers from across different Directorates to concentrate on specific subjects, regions or targets. The 9/11 Commission criticized the CIA for not sharing intelligence that might have helped stop the 2001 attacks, and recommended a number of intelligence reforms. The new “mission centers” will put together operatives from the five Directorates to follow urgent threats and “fill information gaps”, Brennan explained.

Flu Season Winding Down

Flu season is beginning to tail off, but thousands of Americans still are grappling with the illness blamed for killing nearly 100 children. Six states — including Connecticut, New Jersey and Oklahoma — still are reporting high flu-like illnesses, down from 11 states the week before. New York City and 30 states now are seeing only minimal activity, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Flu activity across the country has been at elevated” levels for 15 consecutive weeks, the CDC reported Friday. A typical flu season lasts 13 weeks. A flu virus that hits the elderly and young particularly hard and a vaccine that wasn’t a good match for the dominant strain this year, known as H3N2, has been driving the deadly flu season. The vaccine was only 19% effective. Overall flu hospitalization rates are at 53.5 per 100,000 people, but for those who are age 65 and older, the rate was 266.1 per 100,000, the highest on record.

Economic News

While most of America welcomed the news Friday that U.S. unemployment is at a 7-year low, Wall Street freaked out. The Dow tumbled 279 points Friday and the S&P 500 shed 1.4%. It’s not that investors don’t like good news. More people back at work means more Americans are likely to shop and spend more. That’s a positive for the economy…and stocks. But there’s just one problem for Wall Street: All this strong news about the economy means the Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that the Republican-controlled Congress won’t allow the government to default as the Treasury Department quickly approaches its so-called “debt ceiling.” McConnell’s promise came two days after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Capitol Hill that the government loses its authority after March 15 to borrow money to cover approved congressional spending and that his agency would have to resort to “extraordinary measures” as a short-term solution. The nation’s debt currently stands at $18.1 trillion, up from $11.9 trillion in 2009, when the recession ended

Facing stubbornly stagnant wages, President Barack Obama has obtained commitments from more than 300 employers as well as local governments in 20 regions of the country to train and hire high technology workers in an effort to drive up higher-income employment. T According to the White House, the average salary for workers with high-tech skills is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job. The White House said Obama is to announce the program, called TechHire, during a speech Monday to the National League of Cities.

Europe is just now instituting the massive monetary stimulus launched years ago by the United States, Britain and Japan. The European Central Bank started buying bonds issued by governments in the eurozone Monday, marking the beginning of a one trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) program aimed at countering deflation by boosting inflation and reviving the economy. The ECB, and national central banks in the eurozone, are creating new money to buy bonds at a monthly rate of 60 billion euros. Bonds have surged in anticipation of the ECB’s arrival in the market. The Euro currency, however, has slumped 10% against the dollar in 2015 to trade at an 11-year low of $1.09.

Cyber crooks apparently are now eyeing the loyalty cards dangling on key fobs. We’re seeing more warnings that cyber crooks will go after whatever moves — or has a password that you might use somewhere else. Late last year, American Airlines and United Airlines began notifying customers through e-mails that hackers stole usernames and passwords from a third-party source. Some customers lost miles as a result. Hilton Honors loyalty program warned last year that hackers managed to access some accounts and cash out some rewards points.

Persecution Watch

At a conference addressing Christian persecution, particularly in the Islamic State by Muslim terrorists, Father Gabriel Nadaf reported, “Across the Middle East, in the last 10 years, 100,000 Christians have been murdered each year. That means every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith.” It is now reported that 2014 was the worst year in modern history for global persecution of Christians. In its book, “Dabiq,” ISIS identifies its No. 1 enemy as Christianity. The cover photo depicts a black ISIS flag flying over the Vatican and declares that the terrorist army will “break the cross.”

  • Islamist militants are under the influence of Satan’s anti-Christ spirt, which is rapidly increasing its impact as the run-up to the Tribulation accelerates, just as the Bible prophesies in 1John 2:18.

Middle East

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will not cede any territory due to the current climate in the Middle East. Netanyahu’s comments, which came as he sought to appeal to hard-liners ahead of national elections next week, rejected a key goal of the international community and bode poorly for reviving peace efforts if he is re-elected. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant,” read a statement released by his Likud party. The international community has long pushed for the creation of a Palestinian state on lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

Islamic State

The Islamic State ­appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group’s strength and erode its aura of invincibility among those living under its despotic rule, reports the Washington Post. Rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, aggressive and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines, and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image as a fearsome fighting force drawing Muslims together under the umbrella of a utopian Islamic state.

Iraqi security forces backed by coalition airstrikes have pushed the Islamic State out of a town near a large base where U.S. military advisers are located, officials announced Friday. A combination of Iraqi armed forces and tribal militias retook a police station and three bridges over the Euphrates River in the town of al-Baghdadi. The bridges have been held by militants since last September. The statement said Iraqi security forces also pushed militants from seven villages northwest of al-Baghdadi in the largely Sunni Anbar province. The coalition has launched 26 airstrikes since Feb. 22 to support the offensive against the militants in the area. It also provided surveillance and intelligence support.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s leader has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a new audio message Saturday. In the recording, a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigerian terrorist group that has killed thousands, vowed to follow Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to SITE Intel Group, a U.S.-based organization. Lesser-known terrorist groups in more than a dozen countries have also pledged support.

Nigeria

Two blasts killed more than 10 people on Saturday in a busy marketplace in Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria. The first explosion came from a suicide bomber in a tricycle taxi who blew himself up outside a fish market and killed at least 10 people. About an hour later a second explosion rocked the area. The second blast happened at the Post Office shopping area, close to the fish market. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions but they have all the hallmarks of the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group. It has increased suicide bombings and village attacks recently as forces from Nigeria and Chad have driven the insurgents from a score of towns along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Hundreds of troops from Chad and Niger launched a ground and aerial offensive against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday.

Ukraine

The United States will deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian National Guard, U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “What we’ve got laid out is six United States companies that will be training six Ukrainian companies throughout the summer,” he said. The current plan is for US forces to stay six months, he said, and noted there have been discussions about how to increase the duration and the scope of the training mission.

Closer economic ties with Europe, not conflict, is the best way to counter pro-Russian separatist movements in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, Moldova’s foreign minister said. “What’s important is for Ukraine to move forward with European integration and to continue to reform itself according to international norms,” Natalia Gherman said in an interview with USA TODAY. An opinion poll being presented at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington Monday says a clear majority of Ukrainians would accept neutrality between the European Union and Russia. The poll found wide differences on some questions between Ukrainians in different regions of the country, reflecting a split between the mostly Ukrainian-speaking north and west, which lean toward Europe, and the mostly Russian-speaking east and south, which lean more toward Russia.

Russia

After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, the Washington Post reports. The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl — just a few hours after he was killed — that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia. More than 80 percent of Russians now hold negative views of the United States, according to the independent Levada Center, a number that has more than doubled over the past year and that is by far the highest negative rating since the center started tracking those views in 1988.

Russian law enforcement officers have detained four suspects from the North Caucasus in the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, Russian officials said Saturday. Two of them — identified as Anzor Kubashev and Zaur Dadayev — were arrested on suspicion of involvement in planning and carrying out the attack. They were from the southern region of Russia’s restive North Caucasus area. According to state news agency RIA Novosti, two more men were arrested later on Saturday. Both men were arrested in the southern republic of Ingushetia. Some of Nemtsov’s opposition colleagues expressed skepticism over the announcement and urged a thorough investigation to determine who ordered the killing, suspecting President Vladimir Putin was behind the elimination of his primary opponent.

Iran

Over the course of a dozen years, ever since atomic sleuths from the United Nations began scrutinizing Iran’s nuclear program, hundreds of inspections have uncovered a hidden world of labs and sprawling factories, some ringed by barbed wire and antiaircraft guns, others camouflaged or buried deep underground. Yet despite that progress, Iran has so far managed to evade a central question – whether it knows how to build an atom bomb. The United States and its allies are also discussing whether a final deal should compel Tehran to reveal the depth of its atomic knowledge. That inner debate, as one European official put it, turns on ‘whether to force Iran to explain its past’ – especially before 2003, when American intelligence officials believe Iran operated a full-scale equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Forty-seven Republican senators warned Iran’s leaders on Monday that any nuclear deal needs congressional approval in order to last beyond President Obama’s term, in a stark letter aimed at re-asserting lawmakers’ role as talks near a key deadline. In an open letter to Iranian leaders, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and 46 other Republicans said they wanted to educate Iran about the U.S. Constitution. Namely, they pointed out that without congressional approval on a deal, all Tehran would be left with is a “mere executive agreement” between President Obama and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they wrote, “and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Mali

Three people were killed and 12 wounded in a rocket attack early Sunday on a U.N. base in Mali’s northeastern city of Kidal, said the United Nations mission in Mali. More than 30 rockets and shells hit the U.N. base in Kidal at about 5:40 a.m. Sunday, said the U.N. mission. The attack killed a U.N. soldier and two civilians and an additional 12 people were wounded. The rocket attack was launched from a spot about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the camp.

Japan

Four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, nearly a quarter-million Japanese still live in temporary or interim housing. Hundreds of square miles of forests, farmland and townships remain uninhabitable because of radiation. Endless rows of thick vinyl bags filled with contaminated soil litter the countryside — but represent just a fraction of the land that must be scraped up and hauled away before residents can return. Radiation levels remain as much as 10 times above normal in areas surrounding the plant, and scores of towns and villages remain off-limits despite a massive cleanup effort. As Japan marks the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster, officials concede that recovery throughout the region is lagging.

Weather

An over one-month snow siege has parts of New England threatening or already blowing past all-time records. This is now the second snowiest season on record. In the last 21 years with 105.7 inches. The annual average is 43.5 inches. Providence has now tallied its second snowiest season with 73.5 inches. Even the awful 1977-1978 season was less snowy (70.2 inches) in the Rhode Island capital than this season. Wintry weather will be limited to a few light snow showers over parts of the Great Lakes and interior Northeast through Monday. Accumulations, if any, should be minimal.

The last of the bitter cold air over the Great Lakes and Northeast areas was felt on Saturday morning as more record lows were broken. Warmer temperatures, however, are well underway. Kansas City reached 70 degrees, while 50s and 60s moved as far north as South Dakota and Montana. Daily record highs were set Sunday in Williston, North Dakota (54), Grand Forks, North Dakota (48) and Idaho Falls, Idaho (57).

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme as prophesied in the Bible (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 11:9, 16:11)

 

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