Signs of the Times (4/27/15)

Suicides Increase Dramatically on South Dakota Reservations

Cries such as, “Yahweh, help us!” are increasingly being heard on the Pine Ridge Reservation as suicide rates skyrocket. At 150 times the national average, the tragedy is beginning to gain national attention. Between December and March, more than 200 teenagers from the Oglala Sioux tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota either committed suicide, or tried to. “This is beyond anything we’ve ever seen; it’s almost like ‘serial suicides,'” states Ron Hutchcraft of RHM Ministries. “This is not just a psychological issue: this is a spiritual battle with spiritual forces.” Pine Ridge was the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. Following this dark moment in history came generations of oppression, substance abuse, extreme poverty, and domestic abuse. Infant mortality is 300 times the national average. Ninety-seven percent of the Pine Ridge population is living below the national poverty line. At least 60 percent of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with Black Mold.

  • While the darkness is deepest on the Pine Ridge Reservation, other Native American reservations are not far behind (as my Two Sons series of novels brings to light, especially books two and five). Much prayer and spiritual warfare is needed.

Major Earthquake in Nepal

At least 3,800 people are dead after a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal Saturday, which collapsed homes and brought down centuries-old temples while triggering avalanches in the Himalayas. Another 6,300 people were reported injured. Tens of thousands Nepalis weathered terrifying aftershocks, slept in the streets and hunkered down as teams worked to dig out survivors. It was the worst earthquake to strike the country in more than 80 years. The most intense effects were felt in the capital, Kathmandu, as well as the densely populated Kathmandu Valley. Several powerful aftershocks were felt in the hours following the main quake.

The earthquake also shook several cities across northern India, and was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, Lhasa in Tibet, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Saturday’s catastrophic earthquake occurred because of two converging tectonic plates: the India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north. Nepal was rocked by a 6.7 aftershock on Sunday as relief workers, doctors and supplies arrived to help with the devastation. The quake triggered an avalanche that killed 17 people with many more missing on Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. The United States is sending a disaster response team and $1 million in aid to Nepal.

Supreme Court to Hear Same Sex Marriage Arguments Tuesday

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in highly anticipated cases about the right of same-sex couples to marry. Just two years ago, the high court struck down part of the federal law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The 2013 United States v. Windsor decision did not address the validity of state marriage bans. But lower courts judges across the country, with few exceptions, said the ruling compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying. The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as October, just over one-third of the states permitted same-sex marriage. Now, same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The cases before the court come from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, all of which had their marriage bans upheld by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati in November. That appeals court is the only one that has ruled in favor of the states since the 2013 decision.

Hillary: “Religious Beliefs…Have to be Changed” to Accommodate Abortion

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a feminist tone on Thursday. She told attendees at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.” She added, “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced.” Lastresistance.com notes, “What’s most important to politicians like Hillary Clinton is making sure women and girls have access to doctors who will willingly murder an unwanted, unborn or partially born child. At some point, they’ll just erase this arbitrary distinction between partially born and born.”

  • The so-called Gay Agenda is actually a subset of a larger Humanist agenda to stamp out religious (most especially Christian) influence on society by making core beliefs illegal and subject to prosecution.

Russian Hackers Obtained Obama’s Unclassified Emails

Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year, indicating that the breach was significantly more intrusive than originally admitted. The New York Times reported Saturday that while the hackers did not appear to have breached more carefully guarded servers that contain Obama’s BlackBerry messages, they did manage to obtain access to email archives of people with whom Obama communicated. Officials did not tell The Times how many emails were obtained, but admitted that the unclassified system often contains highly sensitive information that includes schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, and debates about policy and legislation.

780,000 Chemical Weapons being Destroyed in Colorado

Workers have begun destroying a massive stockpile of American chemical weapons stored at a former Army munitions depot near Pueblo, Colorado’s ninth-largest city. The workers are blasting the artillery rounds open with explosives and neutralizing them with solvents. The work is being conducted under heavy security and strict safety precautions, which include constant monitoring for leaks, armed guards on random patrols and video monitoring by independent observers. About 780,000 shells and mortar rounds filled with mustard agent are stored at the military-run Pueblo Chemical Depot, and all of them must be destroyed under a 1997 international law. Chemical weapons were once stored across the USA, including in Oregon and Utah, but the United States has been destroying the stockpile for years. Most were incinerated, but community concerns in Pueblo delayed destruction until the military could develop new techniques to reduce the risk of mercury contamination from the smoke.

Baltimore Protest of Black’s Death turns Violent

Six hours into a remarkably peaceful protest of the death of a black man in police custody, a confrontation outside Camden Yards baseball park suddenly turned violent Saturday night as demonstrators clashed with fans who had turned out for a ballgame. Before the melee was over, six unoccupied police cars had been damaged by protesters and police in riot gear and on horseback moved methodically to push the demonstrators from a key downtown intersection. For hours, the police had kept their distance as nearly 1,000 people angered by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody marched from the downtrodden neighborhood where he lived and died to the more upscale Inner Harbor area and City Hall. A confrontation occurred at three bars with sidewalk cafes, where words were exchanged, items were tossed, and tables and trash cans were toppled. A bottle shattered a restaurant window. Several helicopters circled Camden Yards as some of the protesters threw cans and plastic bottles in the direction of police officers.

HIV Outbreak in Indiana

The number of new HIV infections in a rural Indiana county has grown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The institute is working with state health leaders to control the “severe outbreak,” which has spread among users of a prescription opioid called Opana. The outbreak has been ongoing since mid-December. As of Friday, 142 people have tested positive for HIV, with 136 confirmed cases and six more with preliminary positive test results, all in rural Scott and Jackson counties. This is a huge number of cases for an area that has a population of only a few thousand people. Dr. Joan Duwve, the chief medical consultant with the Indiana State Department of Health, spoke at length about how communities all along the Ohio River in her state and in Kentucky and West Virginia have seen a huge problem with prescription drug abuse, particularly in areas where there “is not a lot to do.” Many family members, across generations, live in the same house and will use the drugs together as “a community activity,” Duwve said. And this has led to more needle sharing, which spreads infection.

Persecution Watch

Persecution of Christians in China reached its highest level in more than a decade last year as the government cracked down on church growth perceived as a threat to Communist Party power, reports the China Aid Association. CAA recorded 572 cases of religious – mainly Christian – persecution last year, a 300 percent increase over the previous year’s 143 cases. The number of people affected in those cases jumped from 7,424 to 17,884 people including more than 1,592 church leaders, compared with 800 the previous year, “The increase in government-sanctioned persecution against religious practitioners and human rights lawyers and advocates reflects the overall political transformation that is occurring within the Communist Party in China (CPC), namely an orchestrated effort to consolidate power and suppress dissent and any perceived threats to the Chinese government, including the growth of religion in China.”

The owners of an Oregon bakery learned Friday that there is a steep price to pay for following their Christian faith. A judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) recommended a lesbian couple should receive $135,000 in damages for their emotional suffering after Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to make them a wedding cake. As a result – Aaron and Melissa Klein could lose everything they own — including their home. The Oregonian reports the recommended penalty is not final and could be raised or lowered by State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. Within hours of the ruling, the Family Research Council facilitated the establishment of a GoFundMe account to help the Kleins raise the money the need. In less than eight hours, more than $100,000 was raised.

Economic News

Lower fuel cost has been a windfall for the nation’s airlines. But their passengers got virtually none of the savings. The four major carriers saved a combined $3.4 billion on fuel in the first three months of the year according to their financial reports. That allowed all of them to post record first quarter profits. Fuel is the largest expense category for airlines. But the average fare paid to fly American (AAL), United (UAL) and Southwest (LUV) airlines in the quarter fell only 66 cents. The reason that fares have remained high in the face of lower fuel cost is that demand for travel is strong. The four airlines, which account for the overwhelming majority of U.S. air travel, filled about 81% of their seats.

Global military spending totaled $1.78 trillion in 2014, down slightly from the year before. Military expenditures in North America, Western and European countries continued to slowly decline, while spending rose in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. The United States accounted for more than one-third of military spending worldwide. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $610 billion on its military last year, several times the $216.4 billion budget of second place China. While U.S. military spending has declined from its 2010 peak, spending remains at historically high levels.

Middle East

Palestinians committed three terror attacks against Israeli security forces in the Jerusalem vicinity over the weekend, just a day after the country celebrated Independence Day. A Palestinian drove his car into a group of police officers on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, moderately wounding a policewoman and lightly wounding two others. Arabs began rioting in the area after the attack, and the unrest spread to other neighborhoods in the capital. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was on his way to the scene of the attack when Arabs pelted rocks at his car. In another incident, a Palestinian terrorist was shot at the A-Zaim checkpoint in northern Jerusalem on Friday night after he tried stabbing security forces manning the post.

The Israeli military conducted airstrikes Sunday night in the area between Israel and Syria, targeting a group of militants allegedly trying to plant a bomb on the Israeli border. The Israel Defense Forces said the airstrikes were carried out in the occupied Golan Heights against four militants who crossed into the area from Syria. “A group of armed terrorists approached the border with an explosive device, which was intended to be detonated against IDF forces,” the Israeli military said. The airstrikes prevented the bombing, and killed three of the attackers. It was not immediately known to what militant group the men belonged.

Eight months after last year’s Israeli-Palestinian war, about 100,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are still homeless, the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) said in a report this month. During the seven-week conflict, nearly 2,200 Palestinians died, roughly 70% of them civilians, according to the United Nations; 71 Israelis died, five of them civilians. The U.N. estimates that 178,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Gaza’s tiny and teeming enclave of 1.8 million people. The war wrecked hundreds of factories and businesses. Unemployment in Gaza now stands at almost 45%. The plight of the homeless reflects a painfully slow post-war reconstruction effort hampered by ongoing economic embargoes of the territory by Israel and Egypt, promised aid from donor nations failing to arrive and political conflicts among the Palestinians. The war erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June by two men with links to Hamas. That prompted an Israeli crackdown in Gaza, from where Hamas fired rockets at Israel. The United States and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Islamic State

France and Australia will strengthen their cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group and other terrorism. Monday’s announcement follows a meeting between French President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Paris, as France hosts an international conference of anti-terrorism experts. In a joint statement, the leaders said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, “constitutes a great threat for the world’s safety and for our two countries,” the Associated Press reported. The leaders said they will step up dialogue and intelligence-sharing to fight extremists and people who become radicalized online.

Yemen

Aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen struck targets in several cities on Sunday, including the capital, security officials said, as fighting raged across the country. Fierce street battles in the central city of Taiz killed some 20 civilians and wounded dozens. The continued airstrikes and combat between rival factions on the ground underline how a negotiated peace remains elusive in the Arab world’s poorest country. They also come despite a Saudi announcement last week saying coalition operations would scale down and shift to focus on diplomacy, humanitarian and counter-terrorism issues.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the Persian Gulf Saturday to conduct what a U.S. defense official called routine maritime security operations, days after U.S. warships were deployed to the Yemeni coast to counter an Iranian convoy. The American ships had been deployed to the region to dissuade the Iranian convoy, which included armed ships, from docking in Yemen, where Iran has been supporting and arming the Houthi rebellion. The Iranian ships turned away from Yemen on Thursday, but were still in international waters off the coast of Yemen on Saturday. The U.S. has walked a fine line as it looks to quell the situation in Yemen. It has sought to reassure Gulf allies like Saudi Arabia that are engaged in a proxy war with Iran in Yemen, but it is also looking to keep tensions with Iran to a minimum as American diplomats work to secure a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

Italy

Italian authorities say they have rescued 274 migrants from a migrant vessel in the Mediterranean, while more than 300 rescued a day earlier arrived in a port in Sicily. Saturday’s rescue took place off the Libyan coast. Meanwhile, 334 migrants who were rescued on Friday were dropped off in the Sicilian port of Augusta, including 46 women and 42 children. The incidents show the flow of migrants trying to reach Europe in rickety boats has continued unabated following last Sunday’s deadly capsizing of a migrant ship that is believed to have left at least 800 dead.

Environment

Scientists may finally know what is wiping out the world’s population of bees: an addiction to plants containing a lethal insecticide. Bees prefer to forage plants containing neonicotinoids, or insecticides chemically related to nicotine, which is leading to their declining numbers, a new study out of the United Kingdom recently published in the journal Nature says. The neonicotinoid class of insecticide is widely used as a green alternative to other pesticides and was deemed to be a low threat to useful insects, Chemistry World reports. However, as time went on, researchers began to notice a ‘colony collapse disorder,’ or the interference with a bee’s ability to effectively communicate and navigate, Chemistry World says. These actions are imperative to a colony’s survival. With research like this coming to light, the bees are garnering the protection of the Environmental Protection Agency, which has resolved to stop issuing permits allowing the use of neonicotinoids. Lowe’s Home Improvement stores are working with its growers to eliminate the use of these harmful pesticides in bee-attractive products, NBC News reported.

From the Hudson River Park to the East Village to a neighborhood in Queens, New York City has been plagued with a string of coyote sightings in recent months. At least four coyotes have been spotted around Manhattan so far this year. Three of the animals were captured in Manhattan and released in Bronx parks with established coyote populations. There have been no reports of aggression so far, but in general coyotes have been known to go after people and pets. Two attacks also occurred in New Jersey’s Bergen County, where one of the animals tested positive for rabies.

Earthquakes

An extreme increase in seismic activity throughout the Central and Eastern United States can likely be contributed to human activities, the U.S. Geological Survey revealed Thursday.   Industrial operations and wastewater disposal deep underground are contributors to man-made earthquakes, the USGS said. Oklahoma has seen a particularly troubling rise in earthquakes in the same area where state geological survey researchers say wastewater disposal has spiked. In neighboring Texas, Southern Methodist University and federal researchers concluded the increase in earthquake activity was likely another result of wastewater disposal. States are already taking steps toward solving the problem, including Kansas, which recently called for reduced wastewater disposal in particular regions.

Weather

Storms left damage in multiple states Friday afternoon and evening, knocking out power to thousands of Texans while ripping roofs off some houses. Earlier in the afternoon, Louisiana State Police said at least two semi-trucks were toppled by strong gusts on Interstate 10. There were 11 reported tornadoes on Friday. Seven of those reports came in Kansas, while three were in Texas and one in Louisiana. Multiple tornadoes were reported late Sunday as a major storm system swept across north-central Texas.

Severe thunderstorms capable of producing large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes and flooding rainfall will persist into Monday from east Texas into the northern Gulf Coast states. A line of severe t-storms is moving through east Texas with the main threats being damaging straight-line winds, flooding rainfall, and brief tornadoes. This line will move into far western Louisiana this morning. Widespread trees were downed early Monday in northern Trinity County, Texas. Trees were also downed blocking roads in Huntsville, Texas. Almost 32,000 customers were without power in Texas due to Sunday and Sunday night’s storms.

Coast Guard rescue teams were racing the clock Monday in the search for at least five people missing in Alabama’s Mobile Bay since a storm late Saturday tore through a sailboat regatta. At least two people were killed. More than 40 people have been pulled from the bay by rescuers and “good Samaritans,” the Coast Guard said. Rescuers have searched thousands of square miles since a line of thunderstorms roared through the area with wind gusts of up to 70 mph

 

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One Response to “Signs of the Times (4/27/15)”

  1. Summing up | Serve Him in the Waiting Says:

    […] already heard it, and don’t forget that if you have trouble keeping up with so much, the Lion of Judah blog is fantastic at weeding through it all and giving you a synopsis of the most important stuff from […]

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