Archive for May, 2015

Signs of the Times (5/27/15)

May 27, 2015

After a two-week hiatus for travel and family, Signs of the Times is back.

Ireland Votes for Same-Sex Marriage

Considerable surprise has been expressed around the world about the fact that traditionally conservative and Catholic Ireland approved same-sex marriage in a referendum May 22 by a majority of nearly two to one. The fact is, Ireland is no longer a Catholic country in the old sense. Much of the state’s urban population is what we call here “cultural Catholics” — that is, they like to have baptisms and funerals in the local Catholic church, but are no longer regular mass-goers, notes Conor O’Clery, a former foreign correspondent for the Irish Times. “And the true believers who still make up a sizable portion of the population no longer feel obliged to obey the edicts of the bishops, who last Sunday opposed the “yes” vote from the pulpits. The reasons can be found in the universal disgust at the revelations in the past two decades of widespread clerical sexual abuse of children and the cover-up by bishops.”

  • Catholicism has never truly represented what real Christianity is all about, imposing man-made structure that interferes with believers’ personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Boy Scouts President Calls for Lifting of Ban on Gay Leaders

Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, called for the organization’s ban on gay adult leaders to be lifted this week. Speaking at the Boy Scouts annual meeting, Gates said that it was time for the change to occur to prevent “the end of us as a national movement.” Fox News reports the ban will not be lifted immediately, but Gates hopes to revise the policy in the near future. However, local chapters will be able to decide individually to allow homosexual leaders in the troops.

  • The Boy Scouts organization’s existence is already threatened because of earlier policy decisions to allow gay scouts. Lifting the ban on gay leaders would only serve to drive the last nail in the coffin. Even as our government and courts promote the gay agenda, parents are not so easily swayed.

United Methodists: Practicing Homosexuality Doesn’t Contradict Christian Doctrine

The United Methodist Church leadership has voted to submit a proposal to the 2016 General Conference that would remove “prohibitive” language about homosexuality from the United Methodist Book of Discipline, concluding that homosexuality doesn’t contradict Christian doctrine. The proposal removes homosexuality and the performance of same-sex weddings from the church’s list of chargeable offenses. Under the proposal, United Methodist pastors would be able to perform same-sex marriages in churches. Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor of Charisma, disagrees. She says pastors are supposed to teach people the “difference between the holy and profane.” “If we’re going to condone the practice of homosexuality, what’s stopping us from allowing pastors to commit adultery without rebuke?” she wrote in a column for Charisma. “Why not let drunken revelers lead kids’ church? Why not give greedy thieves and extortioners the responsibility for church finances?”

  • The end-times “falling away” that the Apostle Paul cites in 2Thessalonians 2:3 not only refers to Christians abandoning the Church but also to the Church abandoning Biblical principles

Senate Fails to Pass Patriot Act Extension

The Senate blocked reauthorization of the Patriot Act early Saturday, and left for Memorial Day recess without a clear plan to reauthorize the bill before it expires May 31. Senators rejected both a two-month extension of the bill the National Security Agency uses to justify its bulk collection of phone data, and a reform bill that would make phone companies responsible for keeping the data. The House overwhelmingly passed the reform bill, the USA Freedom Act, but won’t be back in session until June 1. The Senate will return from recess and resume debate on the bill a week from Sunday, just hours before the Patriot Act expires. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is running for president, and largely responsible for preventing the Senate from agreeing to even a 24-hour extension of the bill, lauded the delay. “I am proud to have stood up for the Bill of Rights,” he tweeted Saturday. “But our fight is not over.”

Obama Loses Immigration Court Battle

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied a request from Justice Department lawyers to allow President Barack Obama’s controversial immigration actions to go into effect pending appeal. The decision is a victory for Texas and 25 other states that are challenging the Obama administration’s actions, which were blocked by a District Court judge in February. Tuesday’s decision means that while the issue is appealed, eligible undocumented immigrants will be unable to apply for the new programs aimed at easing deportation threats. At issue is the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that permits teenagers and young adults who were born outside of the United States, but raised in the country, to apply for protection from deportation and for employment authorizations.

Obama Releases 2,300 Regs Before Memorial Day

The Obama administration released its spring regulatory agenda last Friday, including its costliest regulation to date, just as Americans were getting ready to celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend. The Spring 2015 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan includes more than 2,300 regulations. This is not the first time the ‘transparent’ Obama administration has released its regulatory agenda right before a major holiday, when such things might go unnoticed. The Daily Caller notes that the most recent edition contains what could be the most expensive regulation in U.S. history, which is a proposed change to the ozone pollution standards by the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the EPA’s proposal, the national ambient ozone standard will be reduced from 75 parts per billion to 65 to 70 parts per billion. This reduction, the EPA claims, will result in significantly fewer asthma attacks each year and help prevent 750 to 4,300 premature deaths, but will cost billions to implement.

Ferguson Protesters Now Protesting Over Not Getting Paid

At least some of the protesters who looted, rioted, burned buildings and overturned police cars in Ferguson, Missouri, last year were promised payment of up to $5,000 per month to join the protests, reports Newsmax. However, when the Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), the successor group to the now-bankrupt St. Louis branch of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), stiffed the protesters, they launched a sit-in protest at the headquarters of MORE and created a Twitter page to demand their money, the Washington Times reports. The Kansas City Star estimates that the Ferguson riots, characterized as a spontaneous eruption of anger over the shooting of unarmed black criminal Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, cost the county $4.2 million.

Hackers Steal Tax Info from 100,000

Thieves hacked into an Internal Revenue Service online service and gained access to information from more than 100,000 taxpayer accounts, the agency said Tuesday. The criminals used personal data obtained from other sources, including Social Security numbers, street addresses and dates of birth, to get into the IRS “Get Transcript” service. The service has been temporarily shut down. The thieves gained access to tax returns and other tax information on file with the IRS. The IRS said that the hack occurred from February through mid-May. The IRS first detected unusual activity last week. The IRS’ main computer system that handles tax filings wasn’t compromised.

Hacking Breaches Expensive for Large Companies

The average cost of a computer breach at large companies globally was $3.79 million, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Ponemon Institute in conjunction with IBM. For U.S.-based companies, the average cost was much higher, $6.5 million. Those costs included abnormal turnover of customers, reputation loss, diminished goodwill and paying for credit reports and aid to customers whose information was breached. Globally these costs have risen 23% since 2013. In the United States it’s up 12%. Simply investigating breaches in and of itself is expensive, costing global companies on average just shy of $1 million per breach, the survey found.

Economic News

Federal tax revenues hit an all-time record of $1.891 trillion in the first seven months of the fiscal year, but the federal government still ran a deficit of $262.7 billion, according to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement. Interest on federal debt amounted to $192 billion over the seven months, and is projected to cost $431.5 billion for the full fiscal year — more than the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior and Labor combined.

Consumer prices rose by just 0.1% in April as gasoline costs fell after two months of increases. Core prices, excluding food and energy, were up 0.3% in April and 0.8% over the past year. The average price of a gallon of regular gas heading into the weekend stood at $2.74, the high point so far this year. Existing home sales unexpectedly fell in April by 3.3% due to low housing supplies and higher prices after reaching an 18-month high the previous month.

The U.S. and Israel have the worst inequality in the developed world, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD found that the gap between rich and poor is at record levels in most of its 34 member countries. But the U.S. and Israel stood out from the pack. In the U.S., the richest 10% of the population earn 16.5 times the income of the poorest 10%. In Israel, the richest 10% earn 15 times that of the poorest.

In 2013, 9.6 million Americans over the age of 60 — or one of every six older men and women — could not reliably buy or access food at least part of the year, according to an analysis from researchers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Illinois, using the most recent data available. Across the country, the rate of food insecurity — the academic term for a disruption in the ability to maintain a basic, nutritious diet — among seniors has more than doubled since 2001, according to the National Council on Aging.

Persecution Watch

A new decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals holds that New York’s state government has the right to ban “Choose Life” license plates on the grounds that such a statement is “patently offensive.” The Children First Foundation (CFF), an organization promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion, submitted a design for a “Choose Life” license plate, which featured a drawing of two children’s faces in front of a yellow sun. The “patently offensive” category in U.S. speech is typically related to public obscenity laws, and allows for limitations on things like the public display of pornography or other materials that blatantly violate community standards.

  • The affirmation of life over death is offensive? No, it’s just an excuse to marginalize Christianity using any means available, not matter how ludicrous it might be.

A federal judge ruled this week that city commissioners in Rowan County, North Carolina must immediately cease opening government meetings with prayers specific to one religion as a lawsuit regarding the prayer tradition continues its way through court, reports the Christian Post. Three Rowan County residents argued that their constitutional rights were being violated because the majority of the county commission’s prayers were Christian in scope.

  • A prayer that is not specific to a religion is not a prayer

A United States Marine was convicted at a court-martial for refusing to remove a Bible verse on her computer – a verse of Scripture the military determined “could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.” Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling is being criminally prosecuted for displaying a passage of Scripture from the Old Testament on her computer: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Sterling, who represented herself at trial, was convicted in a court-martial at Camp Lejune, North Carolina after she refused to obey orders from a staff sergeant to remove the Bible verses from her desk. She was found guilty of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer. Sterling is now unemployed and looking for work, a process made more difficult because of the bad conduct discharge from the military. Liberty Institute is now working to restore this Christian Marine’s good name and expunge the charge.

  • The absurdity of the all-out war against all things Christian is astounding

Middle East

At least one rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel late Tuesday afternoon, causing air raid sirens to sound and residents to run for shelter. Sirens blared on Tuesday throughout many populated areas in the south, including the port cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon and smaller towns that border Gaza. Israel said that at least one rocket exploded near the city of Ashdod. No injuries were reported. Although there has been relative quiet along the Israel-Gaza border since last summer’s war with Hamas, there have been several terrorist attacks and an incident of rocket fire.

  • As terrorist incidents against Israel ramp up once again, will the media note that it is the Palestinians who initiated the violence? Of course not. The liberal anti-Judeo/Christian media will continue to blame Israel.

Islamic State

An ISIS ship filled with “mercenaries, weapons and ammunition” was attacked by a Libyan air force plane Sunday morning, the chief of the air force told CNN. The attack took place off the coast of Sirte after Libya received information that the ship was allegedly bringing fuel for ISIS. The fuel was destined for electricity stations in Sirte, which ISIS controls. It’s not known exactly where the ship or the fuel came from.

Islamic State extremists have seized more than half of Syria after taking full control of the town of Palmyra. Militants then executed captive fighters and residents by the dozens, with many children executed as well. Previously, the Islamic State was able to seize Ramadi because the Iraqi military “showed no will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in an interview that aired Sunday. Close to 55,000 people have fled Ramadi since ISIS captured the city, a United Nations agency said.

American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded. But American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians, reports the New York Times. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup. But many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy the Islamic State. A persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters free movement on the battlefield.

Iraq

Iraq’s government announced Tuesday that its military had launched a counterattack aimed at driving the Islamic State terror group out of the western part of Anbar province just days after militants captured the city of Ramadi. Iraqi state TV announced the start of the operation, which was backed by Sunni and Shiite paramilitary forces, but did not provide further details. The possibility of a large-scale counteroffensive has has sparked fears of potential sectarian violence in the Sunni province, long the scene of protests and criticism against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Iraq’s operation to recapture areas under the control of Islamic State extremists faced a setback Wednesday as ISIS unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province.

Lebanon

Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant and political organization, says it is nearly halfway through its stated goal of clearing al Qaeda-linked militants from the mountainous border between Syria and Lebanon. But there’s still a tough fight ahead, according to Hezbollah officials who took CNN on a rare tour of recaptured territory. Reporters were shown mountainous bases that Hezbollah officials said had been held merely a week ago by al Qaeda-linked militants, the Nusra Front, which Hezbollah says threatens Lebanon’s wider security. The maneuvers come amidst threatening statements by Hezbollah that it continues to plan offensive actions against Israel despite being fully engaged in Syria’s multifaceted conflict.

Afghanistan

An all-night siege in an upscale neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed Taliban attackers. No civilians or security personnel were injured or killed. The attack took place in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of downtown Kabul, home to many embassies and foreign firms. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized Twitter account. They referred to the target as “belonging to the occupiers,” reiterating the insurgents’ message that foreign installations are specific targets in the Afghan capital.

Nigeria

Boko Haram militants hacked 10 people to death in a Friday raid on a village in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa state, a local government administrator said Monday. Dozens of Boko Haram insurgents stormed Pambula-Kwamda village in Madagali district, which the military recently declared free of the militant group, and killed 10 residents. The attackers, armed with machetes, stormed the village shortly before dawn, while residents were still asleep. Also, the Fulani, a nomadic Muslim group, attacked three villages in central Nigeria over the weekend, leaving 23 people dead, police said Tuesday.

The U.N. children’s agency reports an “alarming spike” in suicide bombings by girls and women used by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. It says women and children carried out three-quarters of the 26 suicide attacks reported in 2014 and the 27 seen in just the first five months of this year. UNICEF said Tuesday that kids are “being used intentionally by adults in the most horrific way.” It’s not known how many thousands of children and women have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, with new abductions reported every week. UNICEF estimates 743,000 children have been uprooted by the nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising, with as many as 10,000 separated from their families in the chaos.

Kenya

Al Shabaab gunmen attacked Kenyan police vehicles near Somalia’s border, injuring at least five officers and burning five cars, police said on Tuesday. Two officers were critically injured and three others sustained minor injuries in the attack in Garissa County. Two of the attackers were killed. Al Shabaab has carried out several attacks in Kenya in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia. In a separate incident Tuesday morning, suspected al-Shabab militants ambushed a vehicle carrying four passengers in Lafey in the northern county of Mandera, wounding at least one person before seizing the vehicle and driving it toward Somalia.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia signaling a further break in relations between the once-close partners. Russia is so desperate to hide its military involvement in Ukraine that it has brought in mobile crematoriums to destroy the bodies of its war dead, say U.S. lawmakers who traveled to the war-torn country this spring. The U.S. and NATO have long maintained that thousands of Russian troops are fighting alongside separatists inside eastern Ukraine.

China

China is building the world’s greatest economic development and construction project ever undertaken: The New Silk Road. The project aims at no less than a revolutionary change in the economic map of the world. It is also seen by many as the first shot in a battle between east and west for dominance in Eurasia. The ambitious vision is to resurrect the ancient Silk Road as a modern transit, trade, and economic corridor that runs from Shanghai to Berlin. The ‘Road’ will traverse China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Germany, extending more than 8,000 miles, creating an economic zone that extends over one third the circumference of the earth. The plan envisions building high-speed railroads, roads and highways, energy transmission and distributions networks, and fiber optic networks. Cities and ports along the route will be targeted for economic development.

The buildup of Chinese naval power in the South China Sea and recent groundbreaking on two island lighthouses are elevating tensions between the U.S. and China over the disputed region. The release of a new white paper, “China’s Military Strategy,” indicates China plans to broaden its influence over the South China Sea. The paper notes that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be adding “open seas protection” to “offshore waters defense” in its naval mission. An editorial in the state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times said conflict between China and the U.S. will be unavoidable if Washington doesn’t stop harassing Beijing for building islands and military facilities in disputed parts of the South China Sea.

Volcanoes

After three decades of silence, a volcano on the largest of the Galapagos Islands erupted Monday, sending smoke, ash and lava into the air. The Wolf volcano, which sits on Isabela Island’s northern tip, began erupting before dawn, 33 years since its last eruption. The Galapagos, which form an archipelago, are provinces of Ecuador. Wolf is 70 miles from the only populated area of the island.

Earthquakes

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit Las Vegas Nevada last Friday causing several roads to close due to damage, but not injuries or fatalities were reported.

Weather

Rainfall broke records and river banks, and killed a firefighter early this week in Texas and Oklahoma, as emergency crews scrambled to pull residents from floodwaters. The storms washed away hundreds of homes in Texas and Oklahoma. Damaging thousands of structures and stranding thousands on inundated roads. Widespread flooding continues in the Houston metro area, with stretches of major freeways still flooded. Numerous vehicles are submerged on flooded roads and stuck in gridlocked traffic. At least eighteen people have died in Oklahoma and Texas over the past three days. Firefighters answered 2,300 calls for help Tuesday. Flood-ravaged Houston is in the middle of another round of locally heavy rain Wednesday morning following the deluge of up to 11 inches of rain Monday and Tuesday. As floodwaters slowly recede in Texas, more bodies surface — many found in vehicles swept away by raging currents. At least 13 people remain missing.

A dam near Dallas was on the brink of collapse Wednesday following the heavy rains and deadly flooding. Officials warned residents and farmers to get to high ground as they worked frantically to pump out lake water and ease pressure on the earthen structure on Padera Lake about 25 miles southwest of Dallas. Officials expected the dam to fail sometime Wednesday and send a wall of water down Highway 287 in Ellis County.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

Signs of the Times (5/8/15)

May 8, 2015

Millions Observe National Day of Prayer

Americans in the nation’s capital and at thousands of venues nationwide participated in the 64th annual National Day of Prayer on Thursday. In Washington, a national observance on Capitol Hill today featured members of Congress, Senate Chaplain Barry Black, Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and National Day of Prayer Task Force Chair Shirley Dobson. The theme of this year’s event was “Lord, hear our cry.” Washington also is playing host to Friday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, featuring Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The Gideons Distribute Two Billionth Bible

The Gideons International has just surpassed the two billion mark in distributing Bibles and New Testaments since the Association began doing so in 1908. The distribution of the first one billion Bibles and New Testaments by Gideon members spanned 93 years (1908 to 2001). This second billion was attained in less than 14 years (2002 to 2015). “It is more than just a number,” said International President Dr. William E.G. Thomas. He added, “We are placing Bibles because they save souls. Behind every number is a face, behind every face a story, behind every story a priceless soul that could live throughout eternity.” The Gideons currently distribute over 80 million Scriptures annually, and the numbers are growing, especially in places like Brazil, India, and Asia. Through the efforts of over 300,000 members in 200 countries, territories, and possessions, The Gideons share more than two Scriptures every second of every day—in over 90 languages.

Huckabee/Walker: We are Moving Rapidly toward Criminalization of Christianity

Mike Huckabee announced his presidential run Tuesday (May 5). The Republican candidate is not shy about his Christian faith and said in a recent conference call that the United States is “moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity.” Though the statement was criticized by liberals, Huckabee said at the Faith and Freedom gathering that he stands by his words. “Let me be clear tonight: I’m not backing off because what I’m saying is true,” he said. Charisma News reports Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker expressed a similar view of Christianity in the U.S. “We should be standing up for religious freedom,” he said at the event held on last Saturday.

Government Presses Charges against Church for Pro-Life Signs

In another sign that the American government is moving in the direction of the oppressive governments of Europe, city officials in Virginia began exerting legal pressure on a local church because they were putting up anti-abortion signs. Government bureaucrats sent a letter to Valley Church of Christ in Virginia, notifying them that someone had complained about a couple of pro-life signs posted outside the church. Officials told them that they had 10 days to remove the signs or face criminal charges. The attorney representing the church said that the charges could result in thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year in prison. In England churches and citizens can be fined/imprisoned for saying/writing things that the government deems offensive… like speaking out against abortion or homosexuality. Many observers believe it is only a matter of time before the USA begins imposing similar restrictions on speech and Christians/conservatives will likely be the first to suffer the consequences, reports Eagle Rising.

Read more at http://eaglerising.com/18232/government-presses-charges-against-church-for-pro-life-signs/#cBQBri91lIbGIGqq.99

Human Traffickers Target Nepal Earthquake Survivors under Guise of Rescue Effort

Young women in Nepal are facing an increased human trafficking risk in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. The Guardian reports that human traffickers are posing as relief workers and attempting to lure the women into “jobs” at brothels. According to the UN and local NGOs, between 12,000 and 15,000 girls are trafficked in Nepal each year. A crisis like the earthquake increases the risk of trafficking. The Guardian spoke to a Nepali trafficking victim who escaped after police raided the brothel where she was forced to have sex with 20 to 30 men a day.

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Texas Attack

The Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday for the attack outside a Texas art show showcasing cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. A security guard in the patrol car was wounded in the leg. Police killed the attackers, identified as Phoenix residents Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Soofi, 34.The statement from the group said: “We tell … America that what is coming will be more grievous and more bitter and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what will harm you, God willing,” the Associated Press reported. It is the first time ISIL, which controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for an attack on U.S. soil. It was not clear if Islamic State leaders had any knowledge of the attack before it took place Sunday night at the Mohammed Art Exhibit event. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the attack as “more insulting to our faith than any cartoon.”

ISIS Warns it has Terror Cells in Place in 15 States

A grim online warning from a self-described American jihadist said that the ISIS terrorist group has scores of “trained soldiers” positioned in 15 states, awaiting orders to carry out more operations like that in Texas. The warning, which was posted on a file-sharing site, could not be verified, but was signed by Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki. That name matches the moniker of a shadowy American known to have joined a terrorist group in Pakistan several years ago and who has appeared in propaganda videos before. The chilling threat named five of the states where is claimed ISIS has terror cells in place. “Out of the 71 trained soldiers 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday, we are increasing in number,” read the warning. “Of the 15 states, 5 we will name… Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California, and Michigan.”

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Iran Nuclear Bill

A bill that would give Congress a voice in any nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran passed the Senate overwhelmingly Thursday afternoon. The measure withstood months of tense negotiations, White House resistance, the indictment of one of its sponsors and a massive partisan kerfuffle over a speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just as an accord was coming together, reports the New York Times. Republican infighting prevented a debate of significant amendments to the bill, leaving some members deeply unhappy that they were unable to weigh in further on a matter that many said was the most significant of their careers. But in the end, a bipartisan accord that seemed nearly impossible in the upper chamber just a few months ago came together by a convincing margin.

Court Rules NSA Program Illegal

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of Americans’ phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, is not legal under the Patriot Act. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held in the case, which was brought by the ACLU, that the telephone metadata collection program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” The program gathers up bulk telephone records to enable targeted searches based on telephone numbers or other identifiers associated with terrorist organizations. The Court said, “If Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, unambiguously. Until such times as it does so, however, we decline to deviate from widely accepted interpretations of well-established legal standards. ”

Ariz. ‘Dreamers’ Celebrate Court Decision on In-State Tuition

A group of students who came to the U.S. as young undocumented immigrants gathered at Phoenix College on Wednesday to celebrate a Superior Court judge’s order that makes them eligible for in-state tuition at community colleges in Maricopa County. Judge Arthur Anderson ruled Tuesday that students eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals have lawful presence in the U.S. and that the Maricopa County Community College District has both the authority and obligation to grant in-state tuition to all DACA recipients (so-called Dreamers) in Arizona. Anderson’s ruling is expected to pave the way for other community-college districts and universities in Arizona to follow suit.

Hillary Clinton Calls for Path to ‘Full and Equal Citizenship’ for Illegal Immigrants

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that any immigration overhaul must include a path to “full and equal citizenship,” drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans who have promoted providing a limited legal status. Clinton’s remarks during her first campaign stop in Nevada underscored Democrats’ efforts to box-in Republican presidential candidates who have opposed a comprehensive bill including a pathway to citizenship. Congressional Republicans have said the changes must be made incrementally, beginning with stronger border security.

Scientific Community Blasts Chinese Researchers for Altering a Human Genome

Researchers in China have, for the first time, changed the genome of human embryos, sparking an outcry from the scientific community. Opponents are calling for a moratorium on such experiments until they can be proven safe and society has time to determine ethical guidelines. Scientists hope gene editing can one day be used to eradicate certain diseases, but the ease and affordability of the new technique have allowed research to run ahead of a full understanding of the implications. Two well-known journals, Science and Nature, refused to publish the research paper because of ethical objections. Scientists hope to use the new technology, known as CRISPR, to repair or delete specific disease-causing genes. But the method may cause unintended and unpredictable harmful mutations which would permanently alter the germ line of future generations.

U.S. Doctor Declared free of Ebola Discovers the Virus in his Eye

American doctor Ian Crozier was treated for Ebola in Atlanta last year and was declared free of the virus in his blood. About two months after being released from the hospital, he experienced a piercing pain in his left eye, he told The New York Times. The pressure in his eye elevated while his vision decreased. After repeated tests, doctors discovered the virus was still living in his eye. His case has left doctors stunned and highlighted the need for eye checkups for Ebola survivors. Despite the presence of the virus in the eye, samples from tears and the outer eye membrane tested negative, which means the patient was not at risk of spreading the disease during casual contact. Doctors gave him a steroid shot above his eyeball and had him take an experimental antiviral pill that required special approval from the Food and Drug Administration. His eye gradually returned to normal, but it’s unclear whether it was as a result of the steroid shot, pill or his body’s immune system.

Economic News

Milder weather helped the labor market shake off a winter chill in April as employers added 223,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 5.4%, lowest since May 2008. Businesses added 213,000 jobs on strong advances by professional and business services, health care and construction. Federal, state and local governments added 10,000. Mining employment continued to decline, falling by 15,000, as energy companies shed workers because of low crude oil prices.

Some other signs were more encouraging. A broader measure of joblessness — which includes discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs and part-time employees who prefer full-time work as well as the unemployed — slipped to 10.8% from 10.9%.And the number of Americans out of work at least six months fell by 38,000 to 2.5 million. They now make up 29% of all those unemployed.

Wage growth, sluggish throughout the recovery, ticked up a bit. Average hourly earnings increased 3 cents to $24.87 an hour. Over the past year, pay is up 2.2%, in line with previous tepid advances.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 4,250 to 279,500, the lowest level since May 2000. The total number of people receiving benefits was 2.23 million, the lowest figure since November 2000. These new lows indicate that employers are holding onto workers despite sluggish economic growth since the start of 2015.

The U.S. trade deficit in March jumped to the highest level in more than six years as a small increase in exports was swamped by a flood of imports from autos to cellphones. The deficit rose to $51.4 billion, the largest trade gap since October 2008 and more than 43 percent higher than the February imbalance, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Exports were up 0.9 percent to $187.8 billion, while imports increased 7.7 percent to $239.2 billion. The trade deficit is the short-fall between exports and imports. Exports have been hurt by an increase in the value of the dollar against other major currencies over the past year. For the first three months of this year, the trade deficit was 5.2 percent higher than the same period a year ago. A larger trade deficit acts as a drag on growth because it means more U.S. producers are losing sales to foreign competitors.

It may be time to redefine retirement. A new survey of American workers from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 82% of the respondents expect to keep working past the age of 65, or maybe not retire at all. Across all ages, many workers worry that they will be unable to save enough to last their lifetime. Outliving investments and savings was the top retirement concern for 44% of all respondents.

Persecution Watch

Just three months ago, over the course of just a few hours a mob of hundreds of Muslim radicals destroyed 69 churches, killed ten people and injured hundreds more. Today, the Christians living in the area are trying to move on, preaching the Gospel and forgiving those who’ve done them such great harm. One woman had this to say, “My prayer is that they would come to know Jesus and that the Lord would touch them even in a dream. I want God to do to them what He did to Paul the Apostle when he persecuted Christians. God touched him on his way to Damascus. I want those men to experience the same touch from God!” Her husband concurred with his wife and added, “The Lord is training us; He’s building us. There cannot be increase without hardships. If you want to go to the next level you have to go through hardship.”

The Fairfax County Public Schools School Board voted Thursday night to add “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination policy in spite of massive opposition from parents and the area’s religious community. Police were summoned to control a standing-room-only crowd as board members approved the controversial measure. Critics argued it would allow boys who identify as girls to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice — and vice versa. Parents also had concerns about the possibility of transgender teachers. The district said they were mandated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to add “gender identity” to the policy — or else risk losing federal funding.

A Georgia principal says he was fired for praying at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting. Dr. Michael Lehr served as the principal of Manchester High School for three years before he was given notice that his contract would not be renewed. Christian News Network reports Lehr had filled in to a lead a FCA meeting only two days before he received the notice of termination. Lehr says he did not receive a reason for the termination and could not think of another reason that he would be fired. Students and parents have expressed their concern that Lehr would be fired for praying at a meeting that was not held during school hours.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eked out a government coalition less than two hours before the extended deadline set by President Reuven Rivlin. The premier hopes to expand the coalition in the coming days. The new coalition has the bare minimum of 61 seats out of the Knesset’s 120 necessary to form a majority. Netanyahu expressed a desire to expand his coalition beyond 61 seats in order to give his government more stability. Under the current situation, unanimity will be required to pass laws, and the defection of just two MKs would cause the collapse of the entire government. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the new government, saying that it “will be one of war which will be against peace and stability in our region. This government will set its sights on killing and reinforcing settlement activities.”

Iran

U.S. Navy warships began accompanying British-flagged commercial cargo vessels through the Strait of Hormuz Monday, something they’ve already been doing with US-flagged vessels, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren announced Monday. The accompanying of U.S. and British ships follows the seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel by Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships last week. The new military operation offers armed protection from potential harassment by Iran’s navy. A U.S. official said if it becomes necessary, U.S. warships are prepared to escort U.S. commercial vessels throughout the entire Gulf. Iran on Thursday released a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship that its navy seized last week, allowing it to leave Iranian waters. All the ship crew members were safe and healthy. As a result, the U.S. Navy said Thursday that they will no longer accompany U.S. and British flagged cargo vessels through the Strait of Hormuz given there have been no further incidents with Iran.

Sunni Arab leaders are warning the United States that Iran’s role in arming and funding Shiite allies in the Middle East is fueling support for extremist groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda by those who fear Tehran is gaining power in the region. These leaders are pressing the Obama administration to more aggressively support Saudi Arabia and its allies in pushing back Iranian influence in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, in part, as a means to drain support for Islamic state and al Qaeda. Both are Sunni-based terrorist organizations. They say Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military operations in Yemen, which are targeting an Iranian-allied militia, should serve as a model for confronting Tehran and its allies going forward.

Yemen

A senior commander in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been killed in a U.S. drone strike, according to an online video statement from an AQAP spokesman. A U.S. official confirmed that al-Ansi was dead. The senior commander was well known for giving a lengthy statement after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, claiming AQAP was responsible for the attack. Al-Ansi urged all would-be jihadists to wage war at home, when possible, as opposed to traveling abroad.

Shiite rebels from Yemen fired rockets into Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, killing at least three people and reportedly capturing five soldiers. The attack is the first time the rebels, known as Houthis, have targeted a civilian area in Saudi Arabia since airstrikes on their positions in Yemen began on March 26. The Houthis, who have overtaken Yemen’s capital Sanaa and a number of other cities, captured five Saudi soldiers in unclear circumstances, the AP reported. Residents in the southern Yemeni city of Aden said a Houthi advance had forced hundreds of families to flee.

Ukraine

Fighting has again shaken a nearly three-month ceasefire deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, leaving five Ukrainian troops dead in a 24-hour period, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. Twelve other Ukrainian service members were injured in the fighting in separatist areas of eastern Ukraine. The violence happened despite a ceasefire that was agreed to in mid-February for Ukrainian forces and rebels who hold territory in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, near the border with Russia. It’s an extension of a conflict that the United Nations says has killed more than 6,000 people since last year and forced A1.6 million people from their homes, including more than 600,000 who sought refuge in other countries.

Afghanistan

An Afghan judge sentenced four men to death Wednesday in the mob killing of a woman accused of burning the Quran in March. Eight other suspects received 16-year sentences. Judge Safiullah Mujadidi said the sentences in the cases of the 19 police officers charged in the incident will be announced early week. The mob killing was recorded in a video that resonated around the globe. Her tearful father, Nadir, told CNN affiliate TOLOnews she was a religious teacher who taught the Quran to children. He said there was no way his daughter would burn pages of the holy book, which has been cited as the motive for the horrific attack.

United Kingdom

With almost all the results in, British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party have claimed an outright majority in Parliament, with 330 seats out of 650, and can form a new government. As the dust settled Friday, three party leaders resigned, including opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. What this means for the UK is that the Conservatives get to govern alone after five years in a coalition. The Conservatives have said they’ll push forward with reforms to tackle the huge UK deficit and rein in spending on the welfare state as well as holding a national referendum on continued EU membership by 2017.

Cuba

The Obama administration approved the first ferry service in decades between the United States and Cuba on Tuesday, potentially opening a new path for the hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars in goods that travel between Florida and Havana each year. Baja Ferries, which operates passenger service in Mexico, said it received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to operate a ferry to Cuba. Approvals also were received by Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, United Caribbean Lines Florida in the Orlando area and Airline Brokers Co. of Miami.

Chile

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that she has asked all her Cabinet ministers to submit their resignations and she will decide who stays and who leaves in the next 72 hours. Bachelet is faced with the lowest approval ratings of her political career, and recently acknowledged that corruption scandals have rocked her administration. Chile’s corruption is among the lowest in South America. But trust in politicians and the business elite has been eroded amid a recent bank loan scandal involving Bachelet’s son, as well as a campaign financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company.

Environment

For the first time since record keeping began, carbon dioxide levels have surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) globally, according to newly published data for March. CO2 emissions are the main driver of climate change and have risen more than 120 ppm since pre-industrial times. The planet has warmed 1.6°F over that period. Concentrations will likely remain above that mark until May when blooming plants in the northern hemisphere start to suck CO2 out of the air. The only solution to reducing the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is to cut emissions sharply. A new analysis suggests global warming could directly threaten 1-in-6 species with extinction if polluting practices continue unabated — up from about 3 percent today. Several studies have collectively revealed a strong relationship between the amount of climate pollution that human activity pumps into the atmosphere, and the number of extinctions it’s ultimately projected to cause.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake rattled the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, generating a small tsunami near the epicenter, bringing down power lines and cracking walls, but causing no widespread damage or injuries. A tsunami estimated under 3 feet high was seen in the harbor of Rabaul, a town near the epicenter of the 7.5-magnitude quake.

Weather

Subtropical Storm Ana formed off the coast of the Carolinas late Thursday night. It’s the first named storm of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The center of Subtropical Storm Ana is about 160 miles south-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A slow crawl toward the coastal Carolinas is likely into the weekend where the most direct impacts are expected with bands of locally heavy rain, some strong wind gusts, minor coastal flooding and isolated beach erosion.

Thunderstorms drenched the Plains Monday, flooding roads and submerging cars in Texas’ south plains and Kansas. Nearly 3 inches fell in Manhattan, Kansas in a matter of hours. Over 4 inches of rain were reported just northwest of Manhattan. That’s a new record for Manhattan; the last time the city saw near that amount of rain was in 1908. Lubbock, Texas, saw 3 to 4 inch per hour rainfall rates that forced officials to close roads. Severe storms produced a tornado outbreak that wreaked havoc across the Great Plains Wednesday, destroying multiple homes, causing several injuries and prompting the governor of Oklahoma to prepare a state of emergency. Water rescues continued into the pre-dawn hours Thursday morning in Oklahoma City after violent storms spawned tornadoes and dumped record rainfall. The worst of the storms appeared to have hit southwest of the city. About 10 homes were destroyed in Amber and 25 were destroyed in Bridge Creek. No deaths have been reported, but at least 12 people were injured in Oklahoma. Storms that could produce more powerful tornadoes could rake the Plains on Friday and Saturday.

A significant late-season snow storm is setting up in the central and northern Rockies for Mother’s Day weekend. This could affect travel in the region. A closed upper-level area of low pressure will move into California late this week and then will slide eastward this weekend, potentially producing significant mountain snows across the central Rockies. Cooler temperatures will develop in the Southwest late this week and then in the Rockies and portions of the northern Plains this weekend. High temperatures will be as much as 20 degrees below average.

Signs of the Times (5/4/15)

May 4, 2015

War on Christianity: Churches to Lose IRS Exemptions?

Churches that oppose same-sex marriage will lose their tax exemption said President Barack Obama’s lawyer, the sitting Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Verrilli, Jr., on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, during questioning by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Samuel Alito, Jr. Solicitor General Verrilli, using a public office to defend same-sex marriage on behalf of the United States, was asked by Justice Alito if religious institutions could be at risk of losing their tax-exempt status due to their beliefs about Biblical marriage. Verrilli’s reply was, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

  • The loss of IRS tax exemptions will become the weapon the federal government will use to force churches to toe the line on ungodly issues as the “beginning of sorrows” run-up to the Tribulation rolls onward

House Votes Down D.C. Pro-Abortion ‘Discrimination’ Law

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives struck down a law that pro-abortion groups want very badly. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act was all about cramming the abortion agenda down Americans’ throats, starting in Washington, D.C. The Left portrays the proposed law as protecting pro-abortion workers from discrimination in hiring because of their political views. The truth of the vaguely worded law was actually aimed at religious freedom. As written, the law could be (and would be) interpreted as requiring pro-life groups to hire pro-abortion workers. Nancy Pelosi tried to frame the debate as an issue of “states’ rights” (which she generally opposes) and Republicans meddling in “reproductive rights.” The vote to reject the law was 228-192. Rep. Diane Black said, “Congress has a constitutional duty to ensure that our laws are upheld in the District of Columbia and we would be shirking our duties as legislators to allow this discriminatory ‘nondiscrimination’ act to go unchallenged.”

Aid Slow to Reach Remote Nepal Earthquake Victims

Nepal shut its only international airport in Kathmandu to large planes carrying aid on Sunday because of damage to the main runway from last week’s devastating earthquake. With help still not reaching some isolated villages a week after Nepal’s devastating earthquake, a top international aid official said Saturday that more helicopters were needed to get assistance to the farthest reaches of this Himalayan nation. Many mountain roads, often treacherous at the best of times, remain blocked by landslides, making it extremely difficult for supply trucks to get to the higher Himalayan foothills. More than 130,000 houses were destroyed in the quake, according to the U.N. humanitarian office. Near the epicenter, north of Kathmandu, whole villages were in ruins, and residents were in desperate need of temporary shelters against the rain and cold. The magnitude-7.8 earthquake killed more than 7,200 people, with the death toll continuing to rise as reports filter in from isolated areas. The U.N. has estimated the quake affected 8.1 million people — more than a fourth of Nepal’s population of 27.8 million. With its sewage system badly damaged and carcasses rotting in the rubble, experts say Nepal faces a race against time to ensure that the devastating earthquake does not also trigger a public health disaster.

May Day Rallies Turn Ugly

Police say black-clad May Day marchers hurled wrenches and rocks at officers and hit police with sticks as a Friday night march through a Seattle neighborhood turned violent and injured three officers. Police responded with pepper spray and pepper balls, eventually arresting 15 people. Protesters damaged several dozen vehicles. The march was just one of several May Day demonstrations done to support workers’ rights and other causes in Seattle on Friday. Others were peaceful, including a Black Lives Matter March and an immigrant and workers’ rights event, organized by the group El Comite.

Tensions Still High in Baltimore Even after Six Officers Charged

While jubilation appeared to be the mood in Baltimore’s streets on Friday after an announcement that charges would be filed against six city officers in the death of Freddie Gray, tensions still flared after the 10 p.m. curfew started Friday night. Arrests were made near City Hall as law enforcement announced that the only people permitted to be out on the streets would be credentialed members of the media. According to Baltimore police, there were 38 protest-related arrests and 15 curfew-related arrests Friday night. The developments came a few hours after representatives for the family of Gray expressed satisfaction at Friday’s announcement by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby that charges would be filed against six city officers she says are responsible for the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody. All six officers posted bail and were released Friday night. Among the charges: failure to find probable cause, illegal arrest, failure to seek or render medical aid, gross negligence and misconduct.

2 Gunmen Dead at Muhammad Cartoon Exhibit in Texas

Two Muslim gunmen were killed after they opened fire Sunday in a parking lot outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas. Garland’s city government issued a statement saying that as a Muhammad Art Exhibit event was coming to a close at the Curtis Culwell Center, “two males drove up to the front of the building in a car” and started shooting at a security officer. “Garland police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed,” the statement posted online said. The security officer, a Garland Independent School District employee, was shot in the lower leg and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. None of the approximately 200 people attending the event were hurt. A search for explosives continued Monday as police searched the Phoenix home of the radical roommates. The exhibit was placed on lockdown and attendees later moved to a nearby high school. A group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted the Muhammad Cartoon Exhibit and $10,000 cartoon contest.

ER Visits Unexpectedly Up under Obamacare

Three-quarters of emergency physicians say they’ve seen ER patient visits surge since Obamacare took effect — just the opposite of what many Americans expected would happen. A poll released Monday by the American College of Emergency Physicians shows that 28% of 2,099 doctors surveyed nationally saw large increases in volume, while 47% saw slight increases. Such hikes run counter to one of the goals of the health care overhaul, which is to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by getting more people insured through Medicaid or subsidized private coverage and providing better access to primary care. A major reason that hasn’t happened is there simply aren’t enough primary care physicians to handle all the newly insured patients, ER doctors say.

Superstorm Sandy Victims Told To Pay Back $24 Million in Aid

As some survivors still struggle to get back on their feet more than two years after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Northeast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has notified 3,600 families in five states that they’ll have to pay back a combined $24 million in emergency funding that was doled out to help with recovery from the massive storm, according to the Telegraph. On average, that’s more than $6,000 per family. A FEMA audit was conducted recently and determined that there was $24 million in overpaid funds. There is hope for the families being sought out by FEMA, however. New Jersey congressman Frank Pallone has proposed legislation that would waive debts from FEMA overpayments. FEMA also sent out 90,000 debt letters after Hurricane Katrina, but Congress passed a law six years after the disaster that allowed the agency to waive that debt.

Iowa Declares State of Emergency over Bird Flu

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency Friday to battle the rising toll that bird flu is taking on the state’s poultry industry. The avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, officials say. So far, 21 sites spanning 10 Iowa counties have cases that are presumed or confirmed positive for avian influenza. Once the virus is found at a site, all birds must be killed to prevent spread of the disease. Nationally, producers are having to kill more than 21 million turkeys and chickens because of the virus.

Economic News

Home prices took off in 2012 and went on a tear in 2013. And while the double-digit growth has slowed somewhat, prices are still heading higher. In February, prices rose 4.2% from the year prior, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Index.

Since the end of 2010, rental prices have surged at nearly twice the pace of average hourly wages, according to data from the Labor Department. More than one in four U.S. renters now have to use at least half their family income to pay for housing and utilities, up 26% since 2007.

The share of Americans underwater on their mortgages has declined to just over 4 million (or 8% of borrowers), nearly 30% fewer underwater borrowers than last year. 29% of underwater borrowers are seriously delinquent on their mortgages.

The Eurozone purchasing managers’ index was 52 in April, down slightly from 52.2 in March, but still above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. Greece’s manufacturing sector hit a 22-month low of 46.5. France also remained in contraction.

Persecution Watch

Two Jewish residents of Paris were assaulted on the street Friday by a gang of about 40 people, prompting police to warn Jewish business owners in the neighborhood to be extra vigilant. The attack occurred on Boulevard Voltaire in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. The victims were described as being in their 20s. JSS News said police had launched an investigation and warned the many Jewish business owners in the Right Bank area to take precautions. The attack, the latest in a series of anti-Semitic assaults, was associated with two anti-Israel groups.

Thousands of Migrants Rescued Sunday in Mediterranean

Italian ships rescued 3,690 migrants in just one day from smugglers’ boats on the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, the Italian Coast Guard said Sunday. The agency said 17 different rescue operations were carried out Saturday after smugglers took advantage of calm seas and warm weather to move the migrants out of Africa on motorized rubber dinghies and fishing boats. Some of the migrants were being brought Sunday to ports in Sicily while others were expected to reach Calabria, in the south of the Italian mainland, on Monday, as temporary shelters for those rescued were reaching full capacity on the Mediterranean island. While there was no issue with the weather, the smugglers often use include aging vessels that sometimes begin leaking shortly after leaving Libya. The boats are crammed with too many people as traffickers try to maximize earnings off the migrants, who pay hundreds of euros (dollars) for the passage between the Mediterranean’s southern shore and Italy. The relentless flood of migrants is continuing this year after 170,000 were rescued at sea by Italy in 2014 — a 277 percent increase over the numbers in 2013.

Israel

Israel’s ceremonial president Reuven Rivlin said Monday that an outbreak of violent protests by Ethiopian Jews has “exposed an open, bleeding wound in the heart of Israeli society” a day after thousands of people clashed with police in Tel Aviv. The protesters shut down a major highway, hurled stones and bottles at police officers and overturned a squad car. They were ultimately dispersed with tear gas and water cannons. More than 60 people were wounded and 40 arrested. Simmering frustrations among Israel’s Ethiopian community boiled over after footage emerged last week of an Ethiopian Israeli in an army uniform being beaten by police. Ethiopian Jews begin migrating to Israel three decades ago. Many complain of racism, lack of opportunity, endemic poverty and routine police harassment. Sunday night’s violence was the second such protest in several days, and demonstrations are expected to continue. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Monday with the beaten soldier and community leaders.

Syria

A Syrian group opposed to the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad, says airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition has killed 52 civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called the alleged killings a “massacre” committed under the “pretext” of targeting ISIS militants. The observatory also leveled a fresh charge against the al-Assad regime on Sunday, saying helicopters dropped explosive barrels on a neighborhood — and that medical sources believe the barrels contained chlorine gas. At last 40 people suffered from suffocation, the group said. Both attacks allegedly took place Saturday. The London-based organization said U.S.-led coalition airstrikes hit a village northeast of the city of Aleppo. The dead include seven children and nine women, the observatory said, adding that 13 more civilians were unaccounted for, so the death toll could rise.

Yemen

The State Department has reportedly deemed any mission to rescue U.S. government assets in war-torn Yemen too risky. The Wall Street Journal reported that any attempted evacuation in the country where an Al Qaeda affiliate is active would put hundreds of stranded Americans and any U.S. military assets involved at risk. Usually the U.S. evacuates citizens when commercial methods of transport are cut off, the WSJ says. However, the State Department made clear that no such operation was in the works for Yemen, where airports have been bombed and seaports are closed to commercial traffic.

Kenya

The world’s largest refugee camp is becoming a scene of not only chronic misery but a new and growing confrontation between a Kenyan government threatening to shut it down and occupants vowing to stay. The government announced April 11 that it wanted the camp closed within three months because it was used as a staging ground by al-Shabab terrorists for the deadly university attack in Garissa earlier this month that killed more than 140 students and staff. Mohamed Kuno, believed to be the mastermind behind the university attack, was a headmaster at a madrassa, or Islamic school, in the Dadaab camp. But the 350,000 refugees — mostly Somalis who have fled civil war, terrorism and famine — say they won’t willingly leave the peace and security of Dadaab. The United Nations has spoken out against the move.

Environment

The Atlantic Ocean is teeming with life, but for the first time researchers have discovered dead zones in these waters — areas low in both oxygen and salinity — off the coast of Africa. Fish can’t survive in the dead zones, and researchers don’t yet fully understand how microorganisms will react. In 2014, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico measured more than 5,000 square miles — huge, but down from the previous year’s 5,800 square miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Earthquakes

For the second time in less than a month, a small earthquake jangled nerves early Sunday when it struck on the west side of Los Angeles. No damage or injuries were reported. The quake measured 3.9 on the Richter Scale and was centered near the communities of View Park and Windsor Hills, adjoining neighborhoods in the Baldwin Hills, a mostly unincorporated area near Inglewood and Culver City, California. It was felt widely across a swath that included Santa Monica and the area around Los Angeles International Airport.

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake struck Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was felt across multiple states early Saturday afternoon. People in Lower Michigan, as well as in Ohio, Indiana and the Chicago area reported feeling the brief tremor. The quake caused damage to several structures in cities southeast of Kalamazoo, including damaged chimneys, broken windows and plaster and downed brick cornices. While the earthquake itself wasn’t very powerful, the location is uncommon, with this 4.2-magnitude earthquake is the strongest in Michigan since 1947

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently released a map highlighting the future risk for man-made earthquakes, and up to eight states have an increased chance to see ground shaking. In particular, a new corridor spanning from north Texas to southern Kansas stands out as the most vulnerable. Azle, Texas, which had no recorded quakes for 150 years, felt 27 tremors from November 2013 to January 2014. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex continues to feel regular earthquakes. As Science Magazine reports, earthquakes hit areas of Kansas bordering Oklahoma 192 times in the last two years; the same counties were only hit twice in the preceding 35 years. The scientific community has already reached a consensus that oil and gas operations, more specifically underground wastewater injections (fracking), are causing the swarm of earthquakes down the middle of the country.

Weather

For much of this week, even into the Mother’s Day holiday weekend, scattered severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes will flare up each afternoon and evening in parts of the nation’s heartland. Severe storms broke out in parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest Sunday. Hail up to the size of ping-pong balls fell in Minneapolis, and spotty wind damage was also reported in the Twin Cities area. Golfball-size hail was reported on the south side of Lincoln, Nebraska. A tornado was reported over open country about 20 miles south of Lincoln Sunday evening. There were no immediate reports of major structural damage or injuries from any of Sunday’s storms.

The eastern two-thirds of the nation will finally see some longer-lasting warm temperatures for most of this week. The warm-up is already underway in parts of the Northeast and Great Lakes, and it will stick around for much of the week ahead. Instead of taking a sharp southward dip in the eastern U.S., the polar jet stream has flattened out, tracking more west-to-east across the northern Great Lakes, eastern Canada and northern New England.

Severe storms struck New South Wales and Queensland, Australia Friday, setting off fatal flash floods. At least six people died Friday, five of whom died in vehicles stranded by floodwaters. Rain began late on Wednesday and continued through Friday with more than 9 inches of rain measured, with the majority falling on Friday. Fast-moving floods triggered over 30 water rescues.

Signs of the Times (5/1/15)

May 1, 2015

Supreme Court Justices Skeptical about Redefining Marriage

Supreme Court justices appeared divided Tuesday during historic arguments over the constitutionality of gay marriage, with Justice Anthony Kennedy returning to a familiar role as the court’s pivotal vote. Chief Justice John Roberts — who shocked conservatives with his swing vote to uphold Obamacare — this time seemed to lean more closely to conservative justices. The arguments unfurled inside a packed courtroom on Tuesday while supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage rallied outside. Many questions on Tuesday centered around the definition of marriage and whether the decision to authorize or ban gay marriage should be left to voters in individual states or decided by the judicial system. At the start of arguments Roberts joined other conservatives concerned with the fact that marriage has been defined between a man and a woman for a long time. “This definition has been with us for millennia,” he said. The Supreme Court justices are expected to make their decision regarding same-sex marriage in late June.

A large and vocal group of Christian leaders have written a letter pledging to stand against any decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States. The group promises civil disobedience and to present a united front to the ever growing assault on traditional marriage and Christianity. Some of the more well-known signers include; Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Franklin Graham, James Dobson and it was co-written by Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, who told Todd Starnes, “We’re sending a warning to the Supreme Court and frankly any court that crosses the line on the issue of marriage.”

Daughters of Lesbians Tell Supreme Court ‘The Kids are Not Alright’

Children of gay parents are speaking out as the Supreme Court considers the legalization of same-sex marriage in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Charisma News reports two daughters of women filed a “friend of the court” brief stating that their childhood living situation caused them harm. Heather Barwick and Katy Faust wrote, “While we love and cherish our mothers, we feel it’s imperative that we bring to the court’s attention the impact that redefining marriage will have on children like us. We oppose gay marriage on the grounds that it violates children’s rights and cannot provide children with the most foundational building blocks for child development—a mother and father living with and loving them.” Brandi Walton, who was also raised in a homosexual household, wrote a column published in The Federalist, that gay marriage harms children. “I knew from a young age that living with two women was not natural,” Walton wrote, in the piece called “The Kids Are Not Alright.” “I could especially see it in the homes of my friends who had a mom and a dad. I spent as much time with those friends as I possibly could.”

GoFundMe Shuts Down Second Christian Account

Another GoFundMe page was removed this week— this time, one for a Christian florist who could lose her business after she refused to be the florist for a same-sex wedding. This is the second Christian page GoFundMe has removed, according to Christian News Network. The first page that was taken down was Sweet Cakes by Melissa Klein, a business that was ordered to pay $135,000 in “emotional damages” to two lesbian women. The bakery owners had also refused to serve the wedding. A spokesperson for GoFundMe said that its decision “to remove the ‘Arlene’s Flowers’ campaign was based on a violation of GoFundMe’s terms. The subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.” In response, Franklin Graham announced that he is letting people donate to the Klein family through Samaritan’s Purse, Fox News reports.

  • A double-dose of intolerant anti-Christian discrimination. Religious freedom for Christians is rapidly disappearing as the end-time anti-Christ spirit increases its influence.

Persecution Watch

Eight men who were executed in Indonesia this week reportedly prayed the Lord’s Prayer just before they were killed. According to Christian Today, Pastor Karina de Vega heard the prisoners singing “Bless the Lord O My Soul” and “Amazing Grace” as they were lined up for execution by firing squad. The eight men refused to wear blindfolds. “They were praising their God,” Vega told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was breath-taking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God.” The eight men were all convicted of drug trafficking. Two of the men, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were sentenced to death just 72 hours before. The Australian government, in response, warned Indonesian President Joko Widodo to reconsider the “cruel and unnecessary” sentence.

A mob of over 60 Hindu activists attacked two Christian schools in the city of Hazaribagh, in India’s north-eastern Jharkhand state, on April 21. Carrying flags and shouting slogans, they demanded to know why the schools did not have a statue of Saraswati, Hindu god of learning.

Doniyor Akhmedov was stopped by police in Uzbekistan’s Ahangaran District on March 16 after he gave a Christian leaflet to a passer-by on the street. Immediately detained, he was held for 15 days and issued a fine of 40 times the minimum monthly wage for undertaking “illegal missionary activity”.

Aid Reaches Nepal as Death Toll Tops 5,000

International aid finally reached some remote earthquake-affected areas in Nepal on Wednesday, as the death toll rose to more than 6,200 four days after the disaster struck. But help has yet to reach other areas cut off by landslides following Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 quake. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator on Tuesday released $15 million to help aid organizations provide immediate assistance. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters on Tuesday that the death toll could reach 10,000. The United Nations estimates that 8 million people in 39 districts have been affected. More than 130,000 houses were destroyed in the capital Kathmandu. The European Union said Friday that 1,000 of its citizens, mostly tourists, remain unaccounted for following the earthquake in Nepal. The U.S. says about 500 Americans are also missing.

Weather is only making things worse in Nepal: a large storm rumbled over the mountainous terrain Tuesday afternoon producing local flooding. Heavy snow in the region also caused an avalanche and mudslide Tuesday in the isolated village of Ghodatabela, leaving 250 people missing. The quake pushed areas near the city of Kathmandu 3 feet higher in elevation and made Mount Everest slightly shorter.

Race Riots in Baltimore

Hundreds of protesters filled the front of Baltimore’s City Hall again on Thursday, giving voice to frustration over the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man in police custody, as the department turned over its investigative findings to prosecutors. The latest development comes amid a disputed allegation that a prisoner sharing a police van with Gray, who died of spinal injuries while in police custody, told officers that Gray appeared to be intentionally trying to injure himself, based on what he heard inside the van. Investigators believe Freddie Gray suffered serious head injuries while he was in a police transport van, although they have not concluded how the injuries occurred. On Friday morning, six Baltimore police officers have been charged with several counts, including one who was charged with second-degree murder, in the high-profile death of Freddie Gray. Warrants were issued for their arrest.

Two People Shot in Ferguson as New Protests Break Out

At least two people were shot in separate incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, on late Tuesday and early Wednesday as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in support of protests in Baltimore. Police are having a difficult time investigating because of the rocks being thrown at them. At this point police are not sure if the (shootings are) linked to the protest or not. The renewed tensions in Ferguson follow rioting in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Gray is the latest black man to die after an encounter with police. Similar deaths over the last year include Michael Brown in Ferguson; Eric Garner in New York; and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Demonstrations against Police Brutality Spread across the U.S.

From coast to coast, marchers are taking to the streets to support Baltimore protesters and complain that police brutality is a problem in their own towns, CNN reports. Demonstrations have unfolded in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Washington, and Ferguson, Missouri. Protests are planned Thursday in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Demonstrations in Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and Oakland, California, are on tap for Friday, which is also May Day or International Workers Day — often used to call attention to issues affecting the working class and minorities. Frustrated by what they consider an unsatisfying trickle of answers, those angry over the death of Freddie Gray plan protests from coast to coast Friday.

Obamacare State Exchanges Struggling Financially

Nearly half of the 17 insurance marketplaces set up by the states and the District under President Obama’s health law are struggling financially, presenting state officials with an unexpected and serious challenge five years after the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act. Many of the online exchanges are wrestling with surging costs, especially for balky technology and expensive customer-call centers — and tepid enrollment numbers. To ease the fiscal distress, officials are considering raising fees on insurers, sharing costs with other states and pressing state lawmakers for cash infusions. Some are weighing turning over part or all of their troubled marketplaces to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which is now working smoothly.

DOE’s Green Energy Loans Fail to Make a Profit

The Energy Department’s green energy loan program is now expected to lose money despite earlier media reports that such loans would net the government a profit. The Government Accountability Office says the DOE’s oft-touted $28 billion loan program will cost taxpayers $2.21 billion over the lifetime of the loans. The costs to taxpayers for green loans has risen about $500 million as “the result of loan guarantee defaults” from companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar. The fees DOE has collected have not been sufficient to cover all of its administrative expenses for the program because the “fees on the current loan guarantees were too low to cover ongoing monitoring costs, the GAO reported. This stands in sharp contrast to media reports from last year suggesting the DOE’s green loan program would net taxpayers $5 billion based on Obama administration (inflated) estimates.

Clinton Foundation Reportedly Failed to Disclose Identities of 1,100 Donors

A charity tied with the Clinton Foundation reportedly failed to reveal the identities of at least 1,100 donors, in the latest detail to emerge about the group’s finances following days of intense public scrutiny. The Canada-based Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership is suspected of being a potential gateway for anonymous Clinton Foundation donations from foreign business leaders because Canadian law prohibits charities from disclosing individual donors without their permission. The Washington Post reports the partnership sends much of its money to the Clinton Foundation. Two of the partnership’s most-known donors – the group’s founder and mining executive Frank Giustra and another miner Ian Tefler – are featured in a tell-all book “Clinton Cash” for their roles in deals that resulted in Russia being in control of many of the world’s uranium deposits in what Bloomberg News calls a money-laundering scheme.

Mobile News Rising as Print Decline Continues

For news publishers, it’s becoming a mobile world. More readers are coming from mobile devices than computers for 39 of the top 50 digital news sites, influencing publishers’ decisions on a wide range of editorial and advertising strategies, said a new Pew Research Center study released Wednesday. Growth in mobile ad spending outpaced all other platforms, explaining publishers’ determination to tailor their content for the small screen. Mobile ad spending rose 78%, accounting for 37% of all digital ad spending. However, visitors using computers “tend to spend more time per visit” than mobile visitors. Newspaper ad revenue fell 4% last year to $19.9 billion — less than half of what it was a decade ago — but local TV news revenue grew 7% to about $20 billion. Newspapers’ weekday and Sunday circulation fell about 3% from 2013 to 2014.

Economic News

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits plunged 34,000 to 262,000 — the lowest level since April 2000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

U.S.-based crude hit a 2015 high of $59.63 on the final trading day of April after declining to $45 last year from a 2014 high of $108 a barrel. Oil has rallied 20%-plus this month, according to Reuters, for its best monthly gain since May 2009.

The economy slowed significantly in the first quarter as cold weather, a strong dollar and shipping snags dampened activity. Gross domestic product — the value of goods and services produced in the U.S. — expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2% in first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That’s down from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of last year. Consumer spending, which makes up more than two thirds of economic activity, also slowed, growing 1.9% compared with 4.4% in the fourth quarter. Business investment fell 3.4% after increasing 4.4% in the previous quarter. Exports dropped 7.2% as manufacturers lost sales to other countries with more favorable currency exchange rates.

Eurozone consumer prices stopped falling in April, further easing fears that a slide into deflation could derail the currency area’s fragile economic recovery. The European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat said Thursday that this was the first time since last December that prices haven’t fallen compared to a year earlier.

The gender gap appears to be closing when it comes to CEO pay. So far, 21 of the 22 current female CEOs in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have reported their latest compensation and they were paid an average of $18.8 million during their latest fiscal years, according to a USA TODAY analysis. That far exceeds the average $12.7 million paid to the 455 current male CEOs in the S&P 500 that have reported compensation data for the same time period. However, the proportion of female CEOs remains low, about 4.5% of all CEOs in the S&P 500.

The majority of H&R Block clients who received federal help to pay for their health insurance in 2014 got an unwelcome surprise when it came to their refund. Sixty-one percent of those filers saw their refunds reduced by an average of $729 — or a third of the group’s overall average of $2,195, the consumer tax services provider said Monday. The reason for the decline: they’d underestimated what their 2014 household income would be when they signed up for insurance on a health exchange back in 2013. The lower your income, the higher your federal subsidy. Filers who remained uninsured for more than three months in 2014 were subject to a penalty. The average penalty paid was $178 among its affected clients, H&R Block said.

Germany

German police overnight thwarted a terrorist plot by a radicalized couple, a plan they suspect involved bombing a bicycle race near Frankfurt. German prosecutors and police said that a man and a woman had been arrested in the Frankfurt-area town of Oberursel on suspicion of planning a Boston-style attack. Prosecutor Albrecht Schreiber said police recovered a pipe bomb ready to be used, 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition, a gun, the essential parts of a G-3 assault rifle and 3 liters of hydrogen peroxide, which becomes explosive at high concentrations and has been used in multiple terror plots in the West, including the 2005 London bombings. The couple had ties to radical Islamist circles in the Frankfurt area.

Iran

A U.S.-flagged ship was recently intercepted by an Iran Revolutionary Guard naval patrol, the U.S. Navy revealed to CNN Tuesday. The incident occurred last Friday when four Iranian naval vessels surrounded the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington in the Strait of Hormuz. The episode came ahead of an encounter Tuesday in which Iran Revolutionary Guard patrol boats fired shots at a commercial cargo ship and then intercepted the vessel. The crew of the Maersk Tigris container ship is “safe and under the circumstances in good spirits. The U.S. Navy has dispatched one maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe and monitor the situation. The Navy will accompany ships in and around the Persian Gulf following threats and harassment from Iranian patrol boats, a Defense Department official said Thursday.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 93 suspected terrorists with ties to ISIS Tuesday, including two who were allegedly planning a car bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. Other potential targets for some of those arrested included residential compounds and prisons. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press there have been five ISIS-related attacks across the kingdom in recent months that have killed 15 civilians and security personnel. But he said Saudis have largely ignored ISIS’s calls to take up arms against their government and attack the Shiite minority, security forces and foreigners living in the kingdom.

Nigeria

Nigerian troops rescued an additional 160 women and children from Boko Haram within days after they found hundreds of other hostages, the military said Thursday. Earlier, Nigerian troops rescued 200 girls and 93 women Tuesday in the Sambisa Forest in the northeastern part of the country, the Nigerian Armed Forces announced on its official Twitter account. The forest is a stronghold for the militant Boko Haram group and is not far from Chibok where 200 girls abducted in April 2014. However, girls rescued from Boko Haram terror camps in Sambisa Forest on Tuesday are “not the Chibok girls,” Nigerian Army spokesman Sani Usman said. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has been kidnapping females for years and has hundreds in their custody.

Ukraine

Separatist rebels in the east of Ukraine have resumed the use of rocket launchers that should have been withdrawn under a February peace deal, Ukrainian military officials said Tuesday. The army said in a statement that rebels fired Grad rockets Monday evening at the government-held town of Avdiivka, which lies on the fringes of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk. There has been a recent uptick in clashes along the front separating government and rebel forces. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Ukrainian presidential administration, said one soldier had been killed and 14 injured during the past day’s unrest.

Mexico

Murders in Mexico fell for a third straight year in 2014 — the most pronounced declines occurring along the U.S. border — a sign the country is slowly stabilizing after gruesome drug wars. There were 15,649 people murdered in Mexico in 2014, a 13.8% reduction from the previous year and down from a peak of 22,480 in 2011. Five of the six Mexican states that border the USA reported a combined drop of 17.7% in the number of homicides. The reduction in homicides does not mean Mexico has completely solved its security problems. Maureen Meyer, senior associate for Mexico at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Mexicans still face extremely high levels of kidnappings, extortion and other violent crimes. American travelers have also been attacked. The U.S. State Department issued a warning April 13 that said U.S. citizens continue to be victims of carjackings, robberies and other violent crimes.

Earthquakes

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake was recorded in Papua New Guinea on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. There no immediate reports of damage or loss of life. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves were possible within 186 miles of the epicenter of the quake, which was was centered about 70 miles from Papua New Guinea’s capital, Kokopo. Earthquakes are common in this area.

Volcanoes

Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted yet again Thursday, forcing officials to evacuate nearby residents from their ash-covered homes once more. The hot ash and rocks shot more than 2.5 miles into the air, disrupting clean-up for thousands of nearby villagers. The first eruption occurred last Wednesday, and the first round of evacuations followed. Now, residents are on the move again. The eruptions at Calbuco are the first in more than four decades. More than 4,500 people have been evacuated since the Calbuco roared back to life April 22, sending ash about 11 miles into the sky.

Landslides

A massive landslide in a remote province in northeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 52 people, a provincial official said. The stricken area in Badakhshan province is cut off from the rest of the country, covered in snow and is only accessible from the air, significantly hampering any rescue efforts. Badakhshan is one of the poorest and least developed regions of Afghanistan, and regularly suffers huge landslides when the snows begin to melt in spring. Tuesday’s landslide struck early in the morning in the province’s Khawahan district, near the border with Tajikistan

Weather

As we wrap up April and head into May, a pattern change in the atmosphere is about to bring not just a tease of warmth, but finally some longer-lasting warm temperatures for most of the eastern two-thirds of the nation. The warm-up is already underway in the Northeast and Great Lakes, as the stubborn, deep pocket of cold air aloft that had been plaguing the region for days now shifts farther into the north Atlantic Ocean. Highs are in the 60s and a few 70s over much of the Great Lakes and Northeast.

The water level on Nevada’s Lake Mead dropped below 1,080 feet Tuesday for the first time in since it was filled 78 years ago Hoover Dam was built along the Colorado River. Southern Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado River. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is slated to complete a third water intake dubbed the “third straw” this summer to keep the water flowing to communities that need it even if water levels keep falling. The National Park Service says the intake for the “third straw” will be at 860 feet. The second intake would be usable until the lake level falls to about 1,000 feet.

Soil moisture is a critical indicator of drought. For decades, ground observations have done the heavy lifting but they’re few and far between. That’s why NASA spent $1 billion to launch a soil moisture monitoring satellite earlier this year. After months of calibration, the satellite, dubbed the Soil Moisture Active Passive mission or SMAP, has sent back the first global view of soil moisture. The shifts in soil moisture from week to week or year to year is important information for people working in fields and forests. It provides a key measure of drought and an indicator for forecasting out river flows, reservoir levels, wildfire season severity and crop irrigation availability.