Signs of the Times (3/20/15)

House Speaker Boehner Committed to Passing Bill to Ban Abortions after 20 Weeks

In exclusive comments to LifeNews.com, Speaker John Boehner says House Republicans are committed to bringing the pro-life bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks back to the House floor for a vote. Republican leaders in the House had planned to hold a monumental vote on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks based in part on the compelling scientific evidence showing unborn babies feel intense pain at that point, if not earlier. However, several Republicans who have pro-life voting records and voted for the bill the last time around, publicly led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, sabotaged the bill by objecting to the provision allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest. Knowing they may not have the votes to pass the bill, and seeking to avoid a massive onslaught from the media over the issue of rape, GOP leaders pulled the bill to rework the language. According to multiple pro-life sources LifeNews has spoken with, new language is still in the works and those responsible for crafting a second version of the bill are taking their time to ensure it’s done right.

Presbyterian Group Changes Marriage Definition to Include Same-Sex Couples

The country’s largest Presbyterian denomination has changed its definition of marriage to include gay couples — though not explicitly. Presbyterian Church (USA) approved an amendment to its constitution after most of its 171 presbyteries — or governing bodies — voted for it, PC (USA) said Tuesday. Before, the definition said marriage was between “a man and a woman.” The new definition says, in part, that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” Not all members supported the decision. But the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which says it supports “a fully inclusive church,” welcomed the news Tuesday night.

  • ‘Inclusive’ and ‘tolerance’ are the buzzwords under which God’s Word is being supplanted. However, Christians are painfully learning that there is no tolerance or inclusiveness for those who adhere to Biblical principles. Romans 1:26-27 clearly classifies same-sex unions as sinful.

‘I Am a Christian’ Ad Blocked on Facebook for Offensive Content

An advertisement for the movie “I Am a Christian” about Meriam Ibrahim’s life was reportedly blocked on Facebook this week. The Washington Times reports that film marketers received a notice from Facebook that the ad could not be shown due to its offensive content. The ad said, “Are you a Christian? We challenge you to change your profile picture to this ‘I Am A Christian’ photo for one week! Change your picture now, and challenge your friends to do the same. Stand up and declare Yes, I Am A Christian!!!” Facebook refused the ad and responded that it went against the company’s policies. “Text must present realistic and accurate information in a neutral or positive way and should not have any direct attribution to people,” Facebook said.

FEMA says No Emergency Funds for States that Don’t Plan for Climate Change

Federal funds from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) that help communities brace for emergencies will stop being provided to states if they ignore threats posed by climate change in their disaster planning, FEMA announced Wednesday. States publish reports every five years or so detailing their vulnerability to natural disasters, such as floods, storms and wildfires, and how they plan to protect themselves and recover after them. Such plans are needed in order to qualify for a share of nearly $1 billion in Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants provided every year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But those plans rarely consider climate change impacts in detail — an omission that could see states become ineligible for the grants after new guidelines take effect early next year.

  • Heavy-handed federal policy will continue to strip states of their independence in support of globalist goals

Broad Alliance Forms to Fight Obama’s Tech Policies

Some conservatives and liberals are becoming unlikely allies on what they see as the worst of the Obama administration’s technology policies. Those include the expansion of U.S. government spying on electronic communication and President Obama’s recent push to either weaken or ban encryption. This new, ad-hoc alliance is part of an emerging consensus among lawmakers, privacy advocates and tech companies worried that federal law enforcement practices are a growing threat to both privacy and economic growth. Over 200 bipartisan members of the House have signed onto a bill designed to overhaul the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. That law, among other things, weakened privacy protections for electronic communications more than 180 days old. Other, similar laws that have made it easier for the government to obtain private electronic data. As various federal courts have interpreted these laws differently over the years, federal law enforcement agencies — especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks –have stepped in to assert broad authority to spy on U.S. citizens. Foes say the broad surveillance violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which was written by America’s founders to prevent the “unreasonable search and seizure” of private property.

Federal Judge Accuses Obama Administration of Misleading Him

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sharply scolded a Justice Department attorney at a hearing on President Obama’s immigration executive actions, suggesting that the administration misled him on a key part of the program. The judge suggested he could order sanctions against the administration if he finds they indeed misrepresented the facts. At issue is whether the DOJ misled the judge into believing that a plank of the Obama program — giving deportation reprieves to thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — would not go forward before he made a ruling on a request to halt it. In fact, federal officials had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves before that date and granted them work permits under the program. Obama’s executive actions would spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. Many Republicans oppose the actions, saying only Congress has the right to take such sweeping action. Twenty-six states led by Texas joined together to challenge them as unconstitutional. Hanen on Feb. 16 sided with the states, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking Obama’s actions.

The Not-So-Transparent Obama Administration

The Obama Administration has once again set the record for throwing roadblocks against releasing information under the U.S Freedom of Information Act according to a recently released analysis by the Associated Press. The federal government took longer than ever to turn over requested files in the relatively few instances it actually provided them; more times than ever said it couldn’t find the documents; and refused a record number of times to turn over files to the media and individuals who legitimately requested them.

Premera Health Insurance Hack Affects 11 Million People

A large American insurer said Tuesday that hackers broke into its computer systems last year, exposing the data of 11 million people. Premera Blue Cross, based in the Pacific Northwest, said hackers “may have” accessed millions of health profiles that included Social Security numbers, birthdays, emails, physical addresses, bank account information, clinical information and detailed insurance claims. The data breach affects so many people, because criminals accessed computers housing data about current and past customers, dating back to 2002. The company also has lots of affiliates and related firms. Premera Blue Cross operates in Washington State and Alaska. Its affiliate Vivacity provides workforce wellness services. Connexion Insurance Solutions caters to individuals and small businesses. All were affected by the hack. Premera said it was initially infiltrated on May 5, 2014 — but it didn’t discover what happened until January 29 this year.

2,000 Migrating Snow Geese Fall Dead from Idaho Sky

Avian cholera is suspected of causing 2,000 migrating snow geese to fall dead from the sky in Idaho, wildlife experts say. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says staff and volunteers collected the dead birds over the past several days at wildlife management areas near the towns of Terreton and Roberts. Avian cholera, which can cause convulsions and erratic flight, spreads so quickly in infected birds that some with no previous signs of illness can die while in flight and fall out of the sky. Health experts say humans are not at a high risk of infection from the bacteria that causes avian cholera. Authorities said the geese, known for their distinctive white bodies and black wingtips, were migrating from the Southwest and Mexico to breeding grounds on Alaska’s north coast.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve indicated Wednesday that it is clearing the road for a rate hike this year, but probably not until the fall. The Fed’s goal is to protect against inflation while maintaining full employment. The employment part of the equation has moved closer to the neighborhood the Fed hoped. The unemployment rate in February was 5.5%, down from a high of 10% in October 2009. The number of total unemployed, however, still remains high. There seems to be little sign of inflation, which had fallen 0.1% the 12 months ended February if you include food and energy. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose 1.6%. Markets surged after the news since analysts feared a rate hike as early as June.

Americans filed slightly more initial claims for unemployment benefits last week the Labor Department said Thursday. First-time claims totaled 291,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis for the week ending March 14, up 1,000 from the previous week’s figure. The four-week moving average is 304,750, up about 2,000 from the previous week’s revised average. Claims averaged more than 417,000 a week in 2008 but only 308,500 a week last year. Economic growth is indicated when claims are below 375,000 economists say.

Over the last 22 weeks, U.S. drillers have taken over 46% of their drilling rigs out of service, which is the largest and quickest decline in U.S. history. Meanwhile, the U.S. is awash with oil and traditional storage is chock full. The fracking boom is suddenly going bust which is just what OPEC wanted.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party swept to victory in the country’s election Wednesday, with nearly all the votes counted. Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of the 120 seats in the country’s Knesset, or parliament, leading the center-left opposition Zionist Union, which appeared to have won 24 seats, giving Likud a strong position to try to form a coalition government. Netanyahu lagged in pre-election polls, and exit polls showed the parties deadlocked. During the campaign, Netanyahu sharply veered to the political right in a bid to woo far-right voters. His hardline policies on issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, settlement construction on contested lands and Palestinian statehood led to clashes with President Obama and the international community.

However, Netanyahu backtracked Thursday from a clear campaign statement that as long as he was the leader of Israel there would be no independent Palestinian state. “I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu told MSNBC in an interview. The White House described its commitment to Israeli and Palestinian states existing side by side in peace as a “bedrock” principle of U.S. policy in the region. President Obama told Netanyahu in a phone call on Thursday that his Administration “will need to reassess our options following the prime minister’s new positions and comments regarding the two-state solution.”

Netanyahu has been a strident critic of U.S. talks with Iran on curbing that country’s nuclear program. Back in power, he may work with fellow critics in the Republican-controlled Congress to undermine any agreement the U.S. reaches with Iran on the grounds that Iran can’t be trusted to halt a program that could produce nuclear weapons. In addition, Peace talks have stalled under Netanyahu, who declared on the eve of the election that he would oppose the creation of a Palestinian state during a new term. If he keeps his word, that hardline stance will be a roadblock to U.S. efforts to revive peace talks aimed at creating an independent state for Palestinians. Over U.S. objections, Netanyahu has allowed construction within existing settlements on land claimed by Palestinians as part of a future state. Because of their many policy differences, Obama and Netanyahu have as bad a personal relationship as any U.S. and Israeli leader ever.

  • President Obama’s ploy to secretly fund Netanyahu’s opponents in the election failed miserably under the weight of heavy Judeo-Christian prayers

Islamic State

ISIS militants kidnapped 20 foreigners working at a Libyan hospital, then released them — under the condition, if they want to live, that they stay put so they can treat members of the Islamist extremist group, a hospital official said. About 30 ISIS gunmen stormed Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte on Monday while a bus was waiting to take the workers to Tripoli, Libya’s capital. The kidnappings came days after people of Filipino, Austrian, Czech, Ghanaian and Bangladeshi descent were taken from Libya’s Al-Ghani oil field, an operation that Libya’s internationally recognized government blamed on “ISIS militias.”

Tunisia

Four people were arrested Thursday in connection with a shooting attack on a museum in Tunisia that left 23 people dead. At least eighteen foreigners and five Tunisian nationals were killed in a shooting attack at the country’s leading museum Wednesday, the country’s Interior ministry said. Almost 50 people were wounded. The attack happened at the Bardo Museum which is adjacent to the country’s parliament in the capital Tunis. The three attackers dressed in military-style clothing may have taken hostages inside the museum, according to the AP. Tunisia has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists since mass protests ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Yemen

At least 48 people were killed in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Friday as suicide bombers targeted two mosques crowded with worshippers. As many as two hundred people may have been injured in the attacks. The suicide bombers targeted mosques frequented by Shiite rebels, who have controlled the capital since September. The attacks took place during midday prayers, when the mosques would have been filled with the observant. On Thursday, the international airport in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden was forced to close as forces loyal to Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, waged gunbattles with security forces loyal to the current president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That incident left 13 people dead. The Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, now control at least nine of Yemen’s 21 provinces. Diplomats from the United States and several European nations fled Yemen in February amid embassy closures resulting from deteriorating security conditions.

Nigeria

At least 45 people, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed by gunmen in central Nigeria on Sunday, police have confirmed. The perpetrators are suspected to be from the Fulani community, a group of nomadic cattle herders made up of mostly Muslims who are involved in an ongoing land dispute with local Christian farmers in the region. A resident of Egba village who was able to flee said that the attackers also burnt down almost all the houses in the area. The long-running conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in recent years. A fresh outbreak of violence last year forced an estimated 50,000 people to flee in Benue state, contributing to the significant displacement in northern Nigeria already caused by Boko Haram.

Iran

Suspected for years of plotting to dismantle the U.S. electric grid, American officials have confirmed that Iranian military brass have endorsed a nuclear electromagnetic pulse explosion that would attack the country’s power system. American defense experts made the discovery while translating a secret Iranian military handbook, raising new concerns about Tehran’s recent nuclear talks with the administration.

Ukraine

Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine threatened Wednesday to abandon a cease-fire following changes to a law granting their regions self-rule. Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky said in a statement that legislation giving areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions special status has been weakened by the amendments. “We agreed to a special status for the Donbass within a renewed Ukraine, although our people wanted total independence. We agreed to this to avoid the spilling of fraternal blood,” the statement said. A law on granting autonomy to eastern territories was approved by parliament Tuesday, but with a number of changes that have drawn sharp criticism from Moscow-backed rebels and Russia alike.

Many people in Crimea and Russia this week are celebrating the anniversary of Moscow’s fast-track annexation last year of the contested Black Sea peninsula. One year after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to secure what Ukrainian and Western observers say was a sham referendum — which was followed by a March 18 decree formally absorbing the region — most locals apparently still approve (publicly, at least) of their new master. The day-to-day reality, though, is not so rosy: In Crimea, a sense of international isolation is deepening. The local economy is suffering. A political crackdown continues. That’s on top of concerns over rising inflation — which in January was said to have represented the world’s second-highest rate — for even the most basic goods, like food. Western nations have refused to recognize the annexation and have pulled out of the region. Only a handful of countries — among them Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan — believe Crimea belongs to Russia.

Italy

Italy needs more help from Europe to deal with the African refugees who have flooded Italy’s shores in an attempt to flee violence and poverty at home. The African migrants board flimsy smugglers’ boats in Libyan port cities in an attempt to reach Europe via Italy’s Mediterranean islands, particularly the island of Lampedusa, which is less than 200 miles from Tripoli. More than 3,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean enroute to Europe in 2014. After several tragic incidents in which the overcrowded boats capsized and migrants drowned, Italian authorities stepped up patrols and rescues. Since January, Italian officials say more than 8,000 migrants have reached Italy’s shores and have included refugees from Syria, Palestinian territories, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa. Italy’s navy and coast guard over the last 16 months have “saved more than 140,000 of these desperate people from death at sea,” Ambassador Claudio Bisogeniero said.

Vanuatu

Thousands of people left homeless by a fierce cyclone remained stuck in shelters across Vanuatu on Friday, waiting for relief. Australian and French troops arrived on the South Pacific nation’s hard-hit island of Tanna, where shaken residents were still waiting for help after their villages were flattened by Cyclone Pam’s 168 miles-per-hour winds last Saturday. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, citing figures from Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office, upgraded the number of confirmed deaths to 13 from 11. Still, given the immense power of the storm, the relatively low death toll is a testament to the residents’ experience in dealing with cyclones. In many villages, people found shelter in special structures built with sturdy walls that can withstand heavy winds. Some relief supplies have been starting to get there, but the more organized and the larger relief efforts will start Saturday.

Weather

The Northeast will usher in the first day of spring much the same way they’ll remember Winter 2014-15: watching the snowflakes fly. Winter Storm Ultima will bring another shot of snow to the region, leading to travel advisories and some early school dismissals. Travel is expected to be slowed by the snowfall, but roads shouldn’t see much accumulation, if any at all, in most areas. The first weekend of spring will be a soggy one for many in the Southern Plains and the South.

While balmy hints of spring melt piles of snow in the eastern U.S., the impending end of winter marks the peak season for Arctic sea ice. But this year, that winter maximum area is currently on track to hit a record low since satellite records began in 1979. Sea ice extent is crucial to the Arctic’s ecology and economy, affecting wildlife habitats, weather patterns and shipping lanes. Sea ice is a key part of the habitats of animals like polar bears and walruses, as well as fish and other creatures that live below it. When it is missing, it can make it difficult for some of the animals to find food.

The winter of 2014-15 was the warmest on record worldwide, according to the state of the climate report released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday. NOAA says that December through February was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average for all land and ocean areas. This tops the previous warmest winter of 2007 by 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Of course, they fail to mention that record keeping only goes back to 1880, a mere blip on history’s timeline

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