Archive for July, 2015

Signs of the Times (7/29/15

July 29, 2015

Geneticist Says Evidence Confirms Biblical Adam and Eve

A respected molecular geneticist explores the historicity of Adam and Eve in a newly-released documentary, explaining that modern findings in the field of genetics confirm the Bible’s teachings that all humans descended from an original couple created by God. Dr. Georgia Purdom earned a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University and has published papers in a number of scientific journals, including the Journal of Neuroscience and the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Formerly a biology professor, Purdom is now a researcher and speaker for the Christian apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis. “One of the most compelling genetic evidences for an original human couple created by God is mitochondrial DNA research done by creation geneticist, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson,” she advised. “He clearly shows that the common human female ancestor of us all (biblical Eve) lived within the biblical timeframe of several thousand years ago,” she said in an interview with Christian News Network. “A historical Adam and Eve and original sin are the foundation of the gospel,” she said. “The bad news, sin and death, begins in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned.”

Pope Francis: “Koran And Holy Bible Are The Same”

On Monday the Bishop of Rome addressed Catholic followers regarding the dire importance of exhibiting religious tolerance. During his hour-long speech, a smiling Pope Francis was quoted telling the Vatican’s guests that the Koran, and the spiritual teachings contained therein, are just as valid as the Holy Bible., reports conservativebyte.com. “Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths. This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is respect each other’s’ beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by. We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now. No longer shall we slaughter our neighbors over differences in reference to their God.”

  • In addition to the one-world government Satan is working toward (see Revelation 13), there will also be a unified religion under the ‘false Pope’ in which all of humanity will be coerced into worshipping the anti-Christ. Pope Francis is laying the groundwork.

Justice Scalia: Americans Will Be Detained In FEMA Camps

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made headlines nationwide this week after bluntly telling law students at the University of Hawaii that internment camps to detain Americans would eventually return. Acknowledging that the infamous Supreme Court-approved internment of Japanese-Americans in wretched camps during World War II was wrong, the conservative-leaning justice followed up by adding that “you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” There have been countless reports about internment facilities all across the United States set up under the aegis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — so-called “FEMA camps.” In 2006, a Halliburton subsidiary was even handed a $385-million contract to build a vast network of “detention centers” for the Department of Homeland Security. Last year, FEMA just ordered $1 billion in coffin liners, millions of ready-to-eat meals and body bags, reports truthandaction.org. Congress and the president have even approved a statute to legalize the indefinite detention of Americans without charges, trial, due process, or any other constitutionally guaranteed rights, reports the organization.

Third Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Released

The latest Planned Parenthood video has been released by the Media Research Center (MRC). The third (of possibly ten total) Planned Parenthood undercover videos focuses on a former procurement technician, Holly O’Donnell, as she details the work that was expected of her in a lab called StemExpress, which partners and shares profits with Planned Parenthood. Shortly after being hired to ‘draw blood’ she quickly realized that she was in a situation far more nefarious when doctors began dissecting the individual parts of a recently aborted baby and then casually discussing how to maximize their profits from it. Using tweezers, the trainer explained “This is the head, this the arm…” and shortly after, O’Donnell blacked out when she began to dig through the parts. Planned Parenthood has repeated claimed that it does not profit from the trafficking of baby body parts. This video is proof of the contrary, as documents are revealed to show that first trimester babies are being sold for $550. Holly O’Donnell outlines for the viewers exactly how most of the staff were not concerned with preserving the “specimens.”

Legislators Seek to Defund Planned Parenthood

Several legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood of federal tax dollars are in the works after two undercover videos appear to show doctors affiliated with the group discussing the exchange of organs and other body parts from aborted fetuses. In the days after the videos went public, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, also a GOP presidential contender, announced he would move to strip some of the roughly $500 million in taxpayer money given to Planned Parenthood each year. On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., introduced a measure aimed at the same goal. Some states have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood.

Sex Trafficking in U.S. Increasing

More than 3,500 U.S. sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year. Under federal law, anyone under 18 years of age induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking — regardless of whether the trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion. According to a 2014 study by the Urban Institute, some traffickers in Atlanta make more than $32,000 a week. The study also cited research findings from 2007 that Atlanta’s illegal sex industry generates around $290 million a year. A big part of Atlanta’s draw is the airport, which is the busiest in the world.

  • These were just the reported cases. Many more go unreported. Still more are older than eighteen. Slavery still exists in the U.S.

Heroin Becoming an Epidemic in U.S.

Heroin deaths are spiking in the U.S. Concerned lawmakers have proclaimed it to be an epidemic and a significant public health issue. Between 2012-13, the number of U.S. drug overdose deaths resulting from heroin spiked from 5,900 to 8,200, said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy Center. “I’ve been with [the] DEA almost 30 years, and I have to tell you, I’ve never seen it this bad,” Jack Riley, acting deputy administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said at a House judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

More Black Babies Aborted Than Born in New York City

Black lives matter? Apparently not for blacks in New York City. A “Pregnancy Outcomes” report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reveals in 2013, more black babies were aborted than born in the city. A chart on page 7 shows 24,108 “non-Hispanic black” babies were born while 29,007 faced “induced terminations” — or abortions. Abortions among the “non-Hispanic black” demographic were by far the highest among any racial group.

Surge of Syrian Refugees into U.S. Stirs Security Concerns

Syria’s bloody civil war has brought the largest number of refugees and asylum-seekers to the United States in a decade, and thousands more are expected. But with the influx comes mounting concerns over whether the Obama administration can properly vet them, and keep out those with terror ties seeking to exploit the system. Lawmakers are worried that not only is Syria the headquarters of the Islamic State, but that the country’s state of chaos makes screening refugees that much harder. “The vast majority of Syrian refugees do not have ties to terror groups,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the Homeland Security Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee, said at a recent hearing. “However, we have been reviewing the current security vetting procedures for a number of months, and I have a number of concerns, not the least of which is the lack of on-the-ground intelligence necessary to identify terror links.”

  • More and more sleeper cells and ‘lone wolves’ are gathering in the U.S. – domestic terrorism will rise significantly in the months/years ahead.

Thousands of Migrants Swarm the Eurotunnel

A man died as more than 1,500 migrants tried to storm the tunnel that links Britain with France for the second successive night Tuesday. Many suffered injuries. On Monday, more than 2,000 migrants, desperate to reach England, tried to enter the terminal, causing delays for travelers. The man is the ninth person to die near the terminal since June. The tunnel, also known as the Chunnel, runs 31 miles from a point near Calais, in northern France, to Folkestone, in southeastern England. Calais has long been a gathering place for migrants trying to find a way into the UK. Eurotunnel, which operates the route, said it has intercepted more than 37,000 migrants since Jan. 1, and handed them over to law enforcement officials.

The British government, which has announced up to $11 million to improve fencing near the tunnel, was holding an emergency meeting about the crisis Wednesday. But French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the problem extends beyond France and Britain. “If we want to solve this problem in Calais, if we want to prevent the networks of smugglers from driving vulnerable men, women and kids to Calais, we need to work on this from the migrants’ countries of origin and follow their path which leads to European territory.”

Persecution Watch

A Michigan man is suing Ford Motor Company after the company fired him for calling homosexuality “immoral.” The Christian Post reports Thomas Banks, a contract engineer, was terminated without warning in August 2014 after Ford updated its policies to become more LGBT friendly. When Banks stated his opinion against the changes, he was swiftly fired for “harassment” without permission to discuss the matter with officials.

A Washington state pharmacy must stock the morning-after abortion pill despite the owner’s claim that the pill is against his religious beliefs. A federal appeals court ruled last week that Ralph’s Thriftway must stock Plan B despite his religious beliefs.

The Boy Scouts of America voted Monday to allow gay leaders. This could mean troops based at churches may end up in court if they ban gay Scoutmasters. The ‘gay agenda’ is being ramrodded through our court system to make moral opposition a crime.

An ordained pastor’s volunteer credentials have been revoked by the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for refusing to sign a statement promising to never tell inmates that homosexuality was “sinful.” The Liberty Counsel is now defending David Wells, arguing that the pastor should be able to explain what the Bible says about sexuality.

Economic News

Consumer confidence plunged in July as global turmoil rocked financial markets. The Conference Board’s index of consumers’ perceptions fell to 90.9 from June’s 99.8. The reading for June was revised down from 101.4. The closely watched measure of Americans’ attitudes hit a 7-½-year high of 103.8 in January, but has been volatile in recent months. Strong job growth generally has buoyed consumers this year but the Greek debt crisis and China’s stock market plunge have hurt U.S. stocks in recent weeks. In July, the share of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell to 14.7% from 17.9%. And those expecting more jobs tumbled to 13.1% from 17.1%.

China’s Shanghai Composite index shed 8.5% on Monday, a severe decline that raises questions about the government’s ability to prevent a crash. Beijing managed to stabilize markets with a dramatic rescue in late June and early July, intervening in a number of ways to limit losses for investors. But the rout has now resumed: Monday’s slump was the biggest daily percentage decline since 2007. The vast majority of companies listed in Shanghai, including many large state-owned firms, fell by the maximum daily limit of 10%.

The U.S. dollar is getting too strong for some countries. Early warning signs suggest another emerging currency crisis. Brazil’s currency, the real, hit a 12-year low Monday. Currencies in Southeast Asia are at their worst points since the region’s last financial crisis in the late 1990s. Mexico and South Africa’s exchange rates are at their lowest levels ever compared to the dollar. A large scale currency crisis could be a real hit to the global economy. China’s stock market plunge might just be the beginning of the troubles for emerging markets.

Oil has plunged nearly 20% this month alone and it briefly dipped below $47 a barrel on Tuesday. That leaves it flirting with the March lows, which was the weakest price since 2009. The latest selling has been fueled by the same dynamics that caused oil to tumble from $100 last summer. The American energy revolution has created a massive supply glut and the tepid global economy is depressing demand. American drivers can expect these dynamics to persist, keeping energy prices cheap for some time. Thousands of U.S. gas stations will have sub-$2 gasoline prices by December, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

Once a staple of the American workplace, the annual raise is turning into a relic of the pre-crisis economy as companies turn to creative — and cheaper — ways to compensate their employees. More businesses are upping their spending on benefits such as one-time bonuses, health care and paid time off, according to a recent government survey. Many are rolling out perks such as free gym membership, commuting subsidies, even pet health insurance. Often, those benefits are being provided in lieu of higher salaries. It’s one of the main reasons many Americans feel the recovery remains elusive, as stagnant wages mean rising rents and college tuition take a bigger bite out of the family budget.

The average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. is rising, even as consumers snap up more new vehicles — a paradox attributable to substantial increases in reliability. The typical car on the road in the U.S. is a record-high 11.5 years old, according to a new IHS Automotive survey. Yet Americans are buying cars at an annualized rate of more than 17 million vehicles, marking a high not seen since before the Great Recession. Many consumers are buying new vehicles while not scrapping old cars that are still running fine. U.S. vehicle owners bought 42% more cars than they scrapped in 2014, according to IHS.

Islamic State

Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border. The plan would create what officials from both countries are calling an Islamic State-free zone controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents, which the Turks say could also be a “safe zone” for displaced Syrians. But the plan faces the same challenges that have long plagued American policy in Syria. While the United States is focused on the Islamic State, both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority.

Pakistan

Pakistani police have killed the leader of an al Qaeda-linked militant group that has repeatedly carried out deadly attacks on the country’s Shiite Muslim minority in recent years, authorities said Wednesday. Malik Ishaq, the head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was killed during a shootout after armed men on motorcycles ambushed a police convoy that was transporting him. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is known for targeting Shiites in Sunni-majority Pakistan, including a series of bombings in early 2013 that left more than 160 people dead in Balochistan province. Ishaq was detained by authorities soon after those attacks. In the clash with police early Wednesday, the motorcycle-riding attackers freed Ishaq and two of his sons in the ambush, but police responded with gunfire that killed the terrorist leader, both of his sons and 12 others.

Yemen

Just hours into a five-day humanitarian ceasefire, dueling sides of the Yemeni conflict are accusing each other of breaching the peace deal. According to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, Houthi rebels started artillery shelling almost immediately after the truce went into effect at midnight Sunday. The source said Houthi militias shelled several areas in the central city of Taiz, including “many residential areas.” But the Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry accused a Saudi-backed coalition of violating the ceasefire, saying two airstrikes struck Hajjah and Saada provinces. One person was killed and seven injured in the Hajjah strike on a medical center, which is used as a shelter by Houthi rebels.

Somalia

A suicide attacker drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into the gate of the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Sunday, killing at least 15 people. The Al-Shabaab terror group took responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting Western diplomats. The luxury hotel houses the diplomatic missions for several nations, including China. The bomb destroyed part of the hotel and caused damage to nearby structures. The attack follows a series of Al-Shabaab assaults July 10 on two Mogadishu hotels and a stadium housing peacekeepers.

Kenya

Christians have come under repeated attacks in North Eastern Province in Kenya at the hands of Al-Shabaab militants who have killed hundreds. Christians have suffered many attacks and there are weekly, if not daily threats. Many Christians who are too scared to sleep inside Garissa town. Each Sunday brings with it new threats from Al-Shabaab. Garissa’s Christians are told that if you worship here, you’ll die. In spite of the threats that arrive before every Sunday mass, Josepth Allesandro, the Bishop of Garissa says he would never consider leaving his congregation. He along with his fellow bishops and nuns, have been a constant in this community.

Earthquakes

A 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit southern Alaska Tuesday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake’s epicenter — about 150 miles from Anchorage — was located on the western edge of the of Cook Inlet, near the Chigmit Mountains. According to USGS, it is about 45 miles southwest of Redoubt Volcano.

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands late Sunday night. The quake occurred 58 miles east-southeast of Yunaska Island, in the Fox Islands — which are in the middle of the Aleutians. There was no immediate reports of injuries or of a tsunami warning.

Wildfires

Several large wildfires are burning across the parched West as the week begins, including a blaze that has injured multiple firefighters. A fast-moving wildfire that began Saturday afternoon has injured four people and burned through 1,500 acres in Northern California. The fire also threatens 150 homes in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Three firefighters and a U.S. Forest Service member were injured battling the inferno. The fire crew’s position was overrun by flames, burning their engine. Steep terrain and general inaccessibility is hindering firefighting efforts. The fire was just 15 percent contained as of Sunday night.

Weather

A wall of dust, known as a haboob, triggered by monsoon season thunderstorms rolled through the Phoenix area Tuesday night. A cluster of showers and thunderstorms southwest of Greater Phoenix produced outflow winds of about 30 mph that kicked up dust and sent it rolling north into the Valley of the Sun. The brunt of the haboob appeared to hit the East Valley, where Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport reported visibility as low as 3/4 of a mile. According to the National Weather Service, Phoenix experiences an average of about three haboobs a year during from June through September.

California’s historic drought appears to be matched by severe dry spells on three other continents. Brazil, North Korea and South Africa are bearing the brunt of much lower-than-average precipitation, wreaking havoc on millions of peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Brazil’s worst drought in 50 years is impacting a fifth of that country’s 200 million people, including those in the megacities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero. Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is now running on emergency reserves of water and has started rationing because of the lack of precipitation. What little water is left in the rivers and reservoirs is just about unusable in its current state. In Africa, drought continues to intensify in the equatorial region and remains entrenched in South Africa, which is seeing its worst dry spell in two decades. The country has been forced to import corn (maize) this year, rather than export it as it usually does. The drought in North Korea is extremely difficult to track or verify, because of the lack of accurate information that comes out of the reclusive nation. The country said it is undergoing its worst drought in a century, and the U.N. is warning of mass starvation since many of the areas affected by the dry conditions produce staple food crops.

Evacuations were ordered for residents in Pasco County, Florida, threatened by the rising Anclote River, as severe storms continued to slam Florida. Residents of the Anclote River Estates neighborhood and elsewhere in the Elfers area were ordered to evacuate and the Red Cross established an evacuation center for those affected at First Presbyterian Church of Port Richey. Late Sunday night, officials confirmed that more than 300 homes had been evacuated in the area.

In the dead of summer, a time when attention-getting storms are typically tropical and the atmosphere is otherwise stagnant and steamy, a storm system straight is winding up north of the U.S.-Canada border. It whipped up a wild combination of snow showers and straight-line thunderstorm winds of 90-100 mph on Monday. The storm then produced extremely strong non-thunderstorm winds on Tuesday in the northern Plains, including gusts in excess of 70 mph in Montana and North Dakota.

Residents in at least four European countries will be cleaning up after being blasted by damaging winds from an unseasonably strong low-pressure system and several lines of severe thunderstorms associated with it Friday and Saturday. At least three people have reportedly been killed and 15 others injured by the stormy weather. Trees were felled across much of the Netherlands as winds gusted over 50 mph. In Amsterdam, a peak gust of 63 mph was recorded. The same high winds that battered the Netherlands also moved into Germany, hitting the northern half of the country especially hard.

Signs of the Times (7/25/15)

July 25, 2015

Another Planned Parenthood Video Shows Doctor Haggling Price of Organs

A second video featuring a Planned Parenthood doctor allegedly selling aborted baby organs has surfaced online. Fox News reports the video was released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the same pro-life advocacy group that posted a similar video showing a Planned Parenthood executive seemingly explaining how abortionists can remove specific organs without “crushing” them so they can be sold. In the new video, Planned Parenthood official Dr. Mary Gatter is heard talking about prices of organs, and settles at $100 for “intact tissue.” CMP project lead David Daleiden said the video proves Planned Parenthood was acting illegally. Others have criticized the videos released by CMP for heavy editing. Planned Parenthood insists that they only donate tissue to medical research legally and with patient consent.

Obama First President to Visit Kenya

Obama will be presented with a long wish list by locals hoping the U.S. president is bringing lots of gifts on his trip to Kenya this weekend — everything from increased American investment to an end to travel advisories to help combating youth unemployment, corruption, terrorism and human rights violations. At the top of Obama’s itinerary in Kenya, the birthplace of his father, is an address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday, which President Uhuru Kenyatta said will highlight the “progress and potential” of the country. Still, huge economic problems persist. The situation for youth unemployment is dire: Kenya’s unemployment rate is estimated at 40%. The United Nations Development Program estimates the rate for those under 35 — about 80% of the population — is even higher. Kenya’s well-developed tourism sector with its safari parks — a lure for those wanting to see lions and giraffes in the wild — has been hurt in recent years by violence, down 17%. A 2013 terrorist attack at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi left 67 people dead in a four-day siege by al-Shabab militants, a Somali-based group linked to al-Qaeda. The group attacked again this past April, killing nearly 150, mostly students, at a northeastern Kenyan university.

Kenyan Pastors Warn Obama Not to Push for Gay Rights during Visit

About 700 Kenyan pastors are urging President Obama not to push the gay agenda during his visit to the country. Christian Today reports the pastors are led by Bishop Mark Kariuki, head of the Kenya Evangelical Alliance, a network of 38,000 churches and 10 million Christians. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, as well as over 30 other African nations. Homosexual activity carries a punishment of prison time in Kenya; some offenses can result in a 21-year sentence. Bishop Kariuki said that Kenya is 82 percent Christians and most civilians do not support gay rights.

Another Healthcare Data Breach

Following close on the heels of the massive data breach at health insurer Anthem, the parade of hackings at major health care providers continues with the recent announcement of a data breach at UCLA Health System affecting 4.5 million people. The hacking appears to have gone on undetected since September of 2014 until its recent discovery. The compromised information is a treasure trove of personal data for identity thieves. It included names, Social Security numbers, medical records, ID numbers and addresses. The stolen data was totally unencrypted making the threat to the people whose data was in the UCLA Health Systems computers more serious. Medical identity theft is a bad problem that is only getting worse. While the financial liability of credit card identity theft is limited by federal law to $50, the majority of victims of medical identity theft paid an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime.

Hack of Connected Car Raises Alarm over Safety

In an article published Tuesday, Wired magazine reports on how it engaged two hackers to see if they could take control of a Jeep Cherokee from the comfort of their living room while writer Andy Greenberg sat nervously at the wheel while the SUV cruised the highway at 70 mph. The security experts, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, accessed the Jeep’s computer brain through its Uconnect infotainment system and rewrote the firmware to plant their malicious code. Once in, the duo began blasting hip-hop through the stereo system, turned the AC to maximum and, ultimately, killed the transmission and brakes. Greenberg was unharmed in the demonstration, which took place on a highway in St. Louis, but eventually wound up stranded in a ditch. But the experiment highlights a concern that often isn’t addressed head-on in the growing excitement over the prospect of roads dominated by either autonomous or heavily driver-assisted vehicles.

Many Urban Roads in Poor Condition

More than one-fourth (28%) of urban interstates, freeways and arterial routes with at least two lanes were paved in “poor” condition in 2013, according to the report from TRIP, a non-profit transportation research group. The poorly maintained roads cost the average motorist $516 per year in added maintenance, the report estimated. Among places with at least 500,000 people, the cities with the greatest share of damaged roads are San Francisco (74%), Los Angeles and Long Beach (73%) and Detroit (56%). The highest costs for maintenance, fuel and tire wear from bad roads totaled $1,044 per year for motorists in San Francisco. Among cities with 250,000 to 500,000 people, the worst roads are in Flint, Mich. (54%); Antioch, Calif. (52%); and Santa Rosa, Calif. (49%).”The deteriorating condition of our nation’s urban roads threatens the health of the nation’s economy, reducing the efficiency of a region’s businesses and employers,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director for transportation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Economic News – Domestic

Sales of new homes dropped 6.8% from May to June, due largely to sliding sales in the West. New single-family homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000 in the U.S. in June. The price of new houses also dropped to a median $281,800., down from May’s median of $282,800. The survey also showed that May’s home sales were revised significantly downward, to 517,000, from 546,000.

U.S. retail sales fell 0.3% in June compared to May. That’s a red flag because economists had expected consumers to open up their wallets after a cold shaky winter. Retail sales for April and May were also revised down. The majority of America’s economic growth comes from consumer spending. Retail sales were negative or flat in just two of the first six months last year. This year, so far, sales have been negative or flat in four out of six months.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid plunged last week to the lowest level in nearly 42 years, evidence that employers are holding onto their staffs and hiring at a steady pace. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 26,000 to 255,000, the lowest level since November 1973. One reason for the drop, however, is that auto plants and other factories close briefly in July to prepare for next year’s models. Applications have been below 300,000, historically a very low level, since March.

Oil prices tumbled below $50 a barrel Wednesday for the first time since April as bloated U.S. inventories and the prospect of increased Iranian crude shipments fueled concerns about swelling supplies even as demand is waning. The Obama administration’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran would lift sanctions and could allow that country to ship significantly more oil, adding to a recent surge in supplies from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Also contributing to Wednesday’s oil-price decline was the U.S. dollar hitting a nearly four-month high as speculation grew that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as September. A stronger dollar can hurt demand abroad because it makes U.S. oil more expensive for buyers paying in foreign currencies.

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law is supposed to lift workers out of poverty and move them off public assistance. But there may be a hitch in the plan. Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Social Security’s Disability Insurance trust fund will run out of reserves next year without congressional action, trustees said, urging U.S. lawmakers to address the nation’s unsustainable entitlement programs. Beyond 2016, continuing income will be sufficient to pay 81 percent of scheduled disability payments, trustees said in an annual report released in Washington on Wednesday. “Social Security as a whole as well as Medicare cannot sustain projected long-run program costs under currently scheduled financing,” the trustees said in a statement released with the report. One solution mentioned is Congress shifting funds from the larger Social Security retirement fund to shore up the disability fund.

  • Here we go, shifting chairs on the Titanic as the ship of state begins to sink under the heavy debt load and entitlement obligations.

Economic News – International

Japan’s debt will be three times the size of its economy by 2030 unless the government acts now to control spending, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Japan’s debt is already at about 245% of its annual gross domestic product — or more than 1 quadrillion yen ($11 trillion). The IMF has repeatedly urged Japan to control its gigantic debt. The country is still recovering from a decades-long deflationary period, during which Tokyo borrowed ambitiously to fund programs aimed at boosting growth. Going forward, the IMF says the world’s third-largest economy needs to strike a balance between growth and debt reduction.

Many Greeks blame their economic plight on austerity-minded Germans. s this economically distressed nation faces even more austerity measures, many citizens are taking their frustration out on hard-nosed Germany. The hashtag #BoycottGermany has been trending in the country since Germany took the lead in demanding tough bailout terms that have hiked taxes and slashed pensions. Tourist agencies report vacation cancellations to Germany. In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, a dealership selling German cars was spray-painted with disparaging slogans. Lidl Hellas, a German supermarket chain operating here, took the unusual step of vowing to absorb the 10-percentage-point increase in taxes, in part to avoid a backlash.

After years of getting richer, millions of Russians are now sliding back into poverty. During 15 years of Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia saw its official poverty rate drop steadily to 11% in 2014. That trend has been reversed — 16% of Russians are now officially poor. And with no end in sight to the crisis in Ukraine, the misery is unlikely to ease soon. The number of Russians living on less than 9,662 rubles ($169) a month — the official poverty line — surged to nearly 23 million at the end of March, according to official data. That’s three million more than last year, when the combination of Western sanctions and tumbling oil prices triggered a sharp recession. A collapse in the value of the ruble sent inflation soaring — prices rose by an annual rate of 16% in the first quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, wages fell 14% in May and 7% in June.

Middle East

The leaders of Iran and the US both made high-profile speeches this week in an attempt to sell the recently sighed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal regarding the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program to skeptical segments of their domestic audiences. The main point made by Khamenei’s speech, released on the Supreme Leader’s official YouTube page this week, is that the deal does not interfere with the Islamic Republic’s ability to annihilate Israel. The statement built on previous comments Khamenei and other senior officials that the deal would not compel Iran to stop supporting terrorist groups around the Middle East. Although the comments directly contradict assessments of the agreement made by senior US officials, US President Barak Obama gave his own speech at a veterans’ event in Pittsburg Tuesday in which he re-iterated earlier warnings about “dishonest” arguments against the deal and assured his audience that the deal represents the best possible plan moving forward.

Islamic State

Turkish fighter planes bombed Islamic State positions in neighboring Syria for the first time in a predawn attack Friday, a significant expansion of the battle against the extremist group, the Turkish government announced. In another sign of Turkey’s new aggressive stance against the Islamic State, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Friday that his country has agreed to allow U.S. aircraft use of the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey “within a certain framework” to launch airstrikes against the militants. Erdogan also said that Friday’s airstrikes were just the “first steps” in combating the Islamic State. On Saturday, Turkish jets struck camps belonging to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The strikes in Iraq targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, whose affiliates have been effective in battling the Islamic State group. The strikes further complicate the U.S.-led war against the extremists, which has relied on Kurdish ground forces making gains in Iraq and Syria.

Many Christians who fled ISIS violence in Iraq last year are becoming hopeless as they face a long term future in refugee camps. Christian Today reports one camp in near Irbil houses 1,700 Syriac Catholic families living in cramped tents and trailers. The refugees live with no money and few possessions. They rely on overseas and church aid for survival.

Syria

The leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria with a history of attacks against U.S. targets was killed in a U.S. airstrike on July 8, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. Muhsin al-Fadhli, who led the Khorasan Group in Syria, was killed when the vehicle he was riding in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, was destroyed by a drone strike. The group’s sophisticated bomb-making acumen has been a particular concern of military officials. Al-Fadhli had deep roots with al-Qaeda, having been one of the few operatives who had received advance notice of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A new report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims that over 1,000 children have been killed in airstrikes during the nation’s ongoing civil war. An additional 1.5 million people have been wounded for life in the airstrikes that have been carried out by Syria’s government. The Christian Post reports the children are extremely vulnerable in the conflict. An attack in Aleppo left children “burned beyond recognition” in May, as barrel bombs were used.

Afghanistan

After suffering setbacks and heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban in 2014, Afghan security forces came into this year with what Afghan and Western officials acknowledge were relatively modest goals: hang on till the end of the fighting season without major collapses, reports the New York Times. But with months of heavy fighting still ahead, 2015 is already shaping up to be worse for the Afghan Army and the national police, even as President Obama is set to begin deliberating this year on whether to follow through with a complete withdrawal of the United States military assistance mission here in 2016. The forces are struggling just to maintain a stalemate. After a casualty rate last year that the previous American commander called unsustainable, the numbers this year are even worse: up more than 50 percent compared with the first six months of 2014.Several Afghan officers described desertion as such a problem that soldiers and police officers in some critical areas have simply been barred from returning home on leave, keeping them on the front lines for months straight.

Cameroon

Nine students were burned to death and at least 14 others were killed when suspected Boko Haram militants from Nigeria attacked the Cameroonian village of Kamouna. Christian Today reports 80 militants overpowered the few troops in the area and attacked, burning homes and buildings, and killing civilians. Resident Bachirou Ahmad claimed that some people living in Kamouna had asked the government for greater protection after a nearby village was raided, but additional troops were not sent.

Russia

Vladimir Putin has fired 110,000 government officials at a stroke. The Russian president signed a decree last week limiting the number of staff employed by the Interior Ministry to just over one million. That requires massive layoffs that will bring total headcount down by 10%.Administrative staff will bear the brunt of the cuts at the ministry, which controls the Russian police, paramilitary security forces and the road traffic safety agency. Putin took a pay cut of 10% in March, shortly after demanding every government department — except defense — reduce spending.

Earthquakes

Authorities in Pakistan say an earthquake that jolted the country early Saturday has killed three people. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-5.1 quake rocked Islamabad and elsewhere in northwest Pakistan at 2 a.m. The tremor was so strong that people came out of their homes and started reciting verses from the Quran. T Pakistan and the Himalaya region, along an active continental plate boundary, is often hit by earthquakes. In September 2013, a magnitude-7.7 quake struck Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, killing at least 376 people. The roofs of three homes caved in because of the earthquake in a village on the outskirts of Abbottabad, killing three people.

Volcanoes

Eruptions of ash at five volcanoes shrouded the skies over parts of the Indonesian archipelago Wednesday, forcing three airports to close. Mount Raung on Java island blasted ash and debris up to about 6,560 feet into the air after rumbling for several weeks. Ash erupted also from Gamalama and Dukono mountains on the Moluccas islands chain, Sinabung volcano on Sumatra island and Mount Karangetang on Siau island. A total of more than 13,000 people have been evacuated due to the volcanic eruptions since last month, mostly from around the slopes of Sinabung in Tanah Karo District. Jember and Banyuwangi airports closed late Tuesday and Bali’s international airport was closed for several hours on Wednesday.

Wildfires

A fast-moving wildfire in Glacier National Park torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park’s most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. Visitors left their vehicles along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and were shuttled out by officials Tuesday. The two-lane road that carries thousands of vehicles on peak days in July and August was shut down for 21 of its 50 miles. Park officials were helping tourists retrieve their cars Wednesday, while rangers searched the backcountry for any remaining hikers after the blaze doubled in size overnight to more than 3 square miles. Some worried tourists have canceled their trips at the height of the park’s busiest season.

A wildfire grew rapidly in Northern California Wednesday, covering hundreds of acres in just a few hours and forcing evacuations. The Wragg Fire started around 2:30 p.m. local time and quickly jumped to cover 1,000 acres by Wednesday evening. Cal fire rescued three hikers and ordered evacuations around Cold Canyon and the Canyon Creek Campground. Additional evacuations were ordered for the Qual Ridge community and Mix Canyon area of Solano County. Part of Highway 128, a shortcut into Napa Valley, was also closed. Gusty, erratic winds combined with low humidity were making it tough for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze. Residents of about 50 of the 200 homes evacuated from of a wildfire burning near Northern California’s Napa Valley wine country were allowed to return home Thursday night. Calmer winds help contain the blaze. The blaze has charred 10 1/2 square miles.

Environment

New research from the University of British Columbia offers a sad look at what is happening to marine life around the globe. The Sea Around Us project found that the world’s monitored seabird populations have fallen nearly 70 percent since the 1950s. That marks a loss of around 230 million birds in 60 years. Researchers believe that the dramatic population decrease is due to several alarming factors such as oil and plastic pollution, environmental changes brought on by climate change and the overfishing that has wiped out much of their food supply. According to Science Daily, “Seabirds are particularly good indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we’re having.”

Like a scene straight out of a horror film, a Turkish lake known for its salinity turned a deep shade of red recently. The country’s Tuz Gola – nicknamed “Salt Lake” by the locals – turned red because of a large Dunaliella salinas algae bloom. The lake is Turkey’s second largest, spanning more than 600 square miles. Because the lake is losing water, the salinity is getting higher and higher, which kills off a lot of the plankton that normally eat this red algae. As the lake dries out, it becomes a walkable salt flat, the New York Daily News said. Toxic algae can pose a threat to local residents if it gets into the drinking water supply, as it did for some Ohio towns during a bloom at Lake Erie last year.

Nothing seemed unusual Wednesday when the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma, picked up what appeared to be rainclouds over western North Texas. Nothing unusual … except the clouds weren’t rain. What the radar was picking up was bugs, lots and lots of them. Grasshoppers and beetles were flying between the ground and 2,500 feet, covering an area of about 50 miles. Meanwhile, drivers on the Savanna-Sabula Bridge near Sabula, Iowa, encountered thousands of mayflies which covered cars and the bridge on Saturday. There were so many that a snowplow was called in to clear the roadway.

Weather

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says this year’s El Niño is triggering a higher likelihood for above-normal rain, with higher amounts expected come winter. Wildfires could exacerbate the situation. Such blazes accelerate flood risk because scorched soil doesn’t retain as much water as healthy soil, meaning runoffs occur more easily. This year has seen an above-average number of fires burn areas on the West Coast — about 1,000 more fires than usual in California alone — where El Niño rains would have a significant impact. This year’s El Niño is forecast to be a record-setting one by the National Weather Service. An El Niño is a weather phenomenon marked by warmer Pacific Ocean temperatures that produces severe weather throughout the world. A warmer ocean transfers more water vapor into the air which, when shaken loose by storms, results in heavier and more concentrated precipitation.

Heavy rain drenched cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast Friday, and authorities continued to search for two teens missing in heavy seas along the state’s Atlantic coast. Seas are rough off Florida’s Atlantic coast due to a storm system that also dumped more than 8 inches of rain in parts of Pasco County through Friday night. In Tarpon Springs, a public works yard was under water and vehicles were stuck in 2 feet of water on MLK Jr. Drive west of U.S. 19. Flooding was also reported on the east coast of Florida in St. Augustine Friday evening. Several cars were stranded and water was up to the doors of cars on side roads in the area.

California’s historic drought could spell drastically reduced production and much higher prices for lettuce in the not-too-distant future. Often called the “salad bowl of the world” for the amount of lettuce it grows; the state is responsible for more than two-thirds of the nation’s lettuce production every year. California’s Salinas Valley also produces a huge share of the nation’s artichokes, broccoli, strawberries, mushrooms, spinach and celery. Because the Salinas relies entirely on water from a deep groundwater basin, it’s been shielded from the drought’s harshest impacts – till now. The valley’s aquifers are in a state of “long-term overdraft” as a result of the drought resulting in falling groundwater levels. While farmers there are experiencing few problems now, “they’re standing over a ticking time bomb according to a report by the California Water Foundation.

Fed-up police in the Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador have become so desperate about the lack of good weather in recent weeks that they have issued a plea to locate the missing season. “SUMMER was last seen in early August of 2014,” said a press release from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC). “When last seen, SUMMER was described as being between 20-30 degrees Celsius (68-86 degrees Fahrenheit), blue skies with a bright and warm source of light in the sky. There have been sporadic sightings of this bright object, but these sightings have been rare since May 2015.” Local meteorologist Ryan Snoddon of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said that it has been the worst summer in more than 20 years.

Signs of the Times (7/21/15)

July 21, 2015

Poll: Only 39% Support Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Opinion

Far less than half of Americans support the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, according to a recent AP poll. This is significant, because the mainstream media has reported or implied that a majority of Americans believe that the federal government should force all states to comply with the Court’s redefinition of marriage. Altogether, 39 percent approved of the high court’s decision while 41 percent disapproved. An additional 18 percent neither approved nor disapproved.

  • Our liberal, socialistic courts don’t care what people think as they aggressively promote their secular humanism agenda

Poll: Christians Feel Under Attack

Organized religion is losing influence in the United States — and Christianity is under attack. That’s according to the latest Fox News national poll released Tuesday morning. By a 53-10 percent margin, voters feel organized religion is losing rather than gaining influence in the country. In addition, those who see religion as losing influence are four times as likely to say that’s a bad thing as to feel it’s a good thing (73-18 percent). Meanwhile, 56 percent of voters say Christianity is under attack in the U.S. Forty-two percent disagree. The poll finds that among white evangelical Christians, a large 81-percent majority says Christianity is under attack, and more than two-thirds feel religion is losing influence in the country (67 percent). The numbers are almost as high among Protestants. Among Catholics: 54 percent say Christianity is being attacked and 50 percent say religious influence is waning. Republicans are 45 percentage points more likely than Democrats to feel Christianity is under attack (80 percent vs. 35 percent).

  • The anti-Christ spirit is mounting its last gasp, end-time attack (1John 2:18, 22), with many Christians falling by the wayside (2Thessalonians 2:3)

Poll: Voters say Supreme Court Too Liberal

In the wake of two major rulings, a Fox News poll finds a major shift in how voters feel about the U.S. Supreme Court, with a record number now saying it is too liberal. In addition, majorities think the justices should be term limited, and Americans should be able to vote them off the high court. A 45-percent plurality says the Supreme Court’s decisions are “too liberal.” That’s up 19 percentage points since 2012. The latest Fox national poll, released Tuesday, finds just 16 percent feel the court is “too conservative,” down 5 points from 21 percent in 2012. A third of voters say the court’s decisions are “about right” (34 percent). That’s an 11-point drop from 45 percent in 2012. Much of the shift comes from Republicans: 72 percent feel the Supreme Court’s decisions are too liberal, up 33 points from 39 percent in 2012. That same sentiment is up 12 points among independents and 10 points among Democrats. Many voters want the power to change the court. By a 62-34 percent margin, they think Americans should be able to vote justices off the Supreme Court.

  • The coming one-world government (Revelation 13:5-7) will evolve from a liberal (socialistic) foundation to a toxic dictatorship: And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. (NKJV)

Three Ways to Prepare For the Dark Days Ahead

In a CharismaNews.com article, Mark DeJesus notes: Resistance to the Kingdom of God is intensifying, and it will not be long before being a Christian in our culture will be heavily opposed. So what do we do to prepare for what’s ahead? 1) Face your fears instead of avoiding them or justifying them. The Bible teaches that in the last days, men’s hearts will fail because of fear (Luke 21:26.) The intensity of the times will wipe people out, because they do not carry a realm of peace within from God that overcomes storms. 2) Quit being so easily offended and forgive daily. Our culture is training us to avoid offending someone at all costs; causing everyone to tiptoe around relationships, and no real change takes place. If we can have a heart that is “un-offendable” then we can have solid relationships and get the job done for the Kingdom of God. 3) Learn to love people like you have never loved them before. Jesus said that in the last days the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). God is calling the church to walk in a higher level of love than it ever has. This has nothing to do with watering any message down, but loving people with an intensity that demonstrates the goodness of God. We never have to water down truth or compromise core values of the Kingdom of God.

Administration Tightens Grant Rules for Religious Groups that Refuse Abortion Counseling

Religious groups that refuse abortion counseling no longer can get grants to help human trafficking victims unless they ensure the counseling is provided by a third party, under new guidelines by the Department of Health and Human Services. In guidance quietly posted online in June, the agency said groups competing for grants must offer “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care,” which includes abortion counseling and referrals. If groups don’t offer the services, they must propose an alternative approach to remain competitive for a grant. That has at least one anti-abortion advocate contending the new policy may violate the federal Weldon Amendment, a law saying federal money can’t be awarded if it’s being used to discriminate against healthcare entities that won’t provide or refer women for abortions. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, which stages a big anti-abortion march in Washington every January, called the policy change “legally questionable.”

Obama Looks to Ban Social Security Recipients from Owning Guns

The Obama administration wants to keep people collecting Social Security benefits from owning guns if it is determined they are unable to manage their own affairs, the Los Angeles Times reported. The push, which could potentially affect millions whose monthly disability payments are handled by others, is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws that prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the United States illegally, and others, according to the paper. The language of federal gun laws restricts ownership to people who are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease” – which could potentially affect a large group within Social Security. If Social Security, which has never taken part in the background check system, uses the same standard as the Department of Veterans Affairs, then millions of beneficiaries could be affected, with about 4.2 million adults receiving monthly benefits that are managed by “representative payees.”

Congress Begins Review of Iran Deal

The 60-day period for the US Congress to review the recent agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s renegade nuclear program began on Sunday when the full text of the agreement, including provisions kept secret from the public, was delivered to offices on Capitol Hill. Already Sunday morning, lobbying by the Obama Administration on behalf of the deal was in full swing, with the President himself addressing the issue during his weekly radio broadcast in which he said, among other things, that “dishonest arguments” against the JCPOA could be expected. “If Congress doesn’t pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate,” added Secretary of State John Kerry.

Economic News

A higher percentage of children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession in 2008, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. About 22% of children in the U.S. lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared with 18% in 2008, the foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported. The highest ethnic groups are blacks (39%), Native Americans (37%) and Hispanics (33%). Caucasians children are the least likely to live in poverty (14%).

The good news is foreclosure starts (a first notice of loan default or notice that a lawsuit has been filed regarding the ownership of a property) are at a 10-year low. The bad news is it’s taking forever to get those bad, crisis-era loans through the system. In New Jersey, a state with a consistently high foreclosure rate, foreclosures completed in the first half of 2015 took an average of 1,206 days from the notice of default to the bank sale or repossession of the home.

Gold plunged to its lowest level in five years on Monday, triggered by heavy selling overnight and signs Chinese demand may be weaker than expected. Gold bugs have been scared off recently by expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. That has boosted the dollar, which is up 8.5% against a basket of six major currencies this year. That in turn puts pressure on commodities like gold as it makes them more expensive to holders of other currencies. Other dollar-denominated metals also fell Monday, with platinum shedding 2%.

On average, families spent $24,164 for college in the 2014-2015 academic year, according to the annual How America Pays for College report from Sallie Mae. That’s a 16% increase from the previous year. The figure includes tuition, room and board, books, transportation and all other college-related expenses.

Greece’s banks were closed since June 29 after the country flirted with bankruptcy, defaulting on debts to the International Monetary Fund as its second bailout deal expired. The banks reopened Monday but still have a daily cash withdrawal limit of 60 euros ($65) and a weekly cash limit of 420 euros ($455). No one knows when those restrictions on cash withdrawals will be lifted.

Islamic State

Promising cheap relief from the scorching Iraqi summer heat, a suicide bomber with an ice truck lured more than 100 people to their deaths Friday. ISIS claimed responsibility on Twitter for the bombing in Khan Bani Saad, making it one of the single deadliest acts of terror the group has claimed. The duplicitous plot was carried out on the eve of Eid al-Fitr — a joyous Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Throngs of shoppers crowded the open-air market when, according to two local police officials, a man in a truck pulled up and announced he was not only selling ice, but offering a discount because of the holiday.

Nigeria

At least 64 people died and an estimated 70 were injured when two female suicide bombers targeted an open air prayer ground in the capital of Yobe State in northeast Nigeria, as worshippers gathered to mark the end of the Ramadan fast. An elderly woman and a girl aged around ten detonated devices at screening areas as people were being searched before entering the prayer ground. Meanwhile, on 16 July, 50 people were killed and 58 injured in two explosions in a market in Gombe City, Gombe State. One was caused by a female suicide bomber; the other device had been planted in the market. The latest bombings have fueled debate on the merits of banning the hijab in Nigeria, as has occurred in Chad and northern Cameroon following suicide bombings in those countries. The hijab makes it easier to hide a bomb. However, the country’s foremost Islamic organization, Jama’atu Nasril Islam, has expressed opposition to a ban.

Turkey

An apparent suicide bombing ripped through a rally Monday in the Turkish border town of Suruc, leaving at least 31 people dead and wounding more than 100 others. The explosion occurred at midday at the Amara Cultural Park in Suruc, where a group had gathered calling for more help to rebuild the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. Suruc is about 6 miles from the border and Kobani, the Syrian city that was the scene of intense fighting between Syrian rebels and Kurdish forces and ISIS. A Turkish official speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity said the government thinks the ISIS attack is “retaliation to the Turkish government’s fight against terrorism.”

Iran

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to endorse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal regarding Iran’s renegade nuclear program, starting a 90-day countdown until many of the economic and political sanctions designed to motivate Iran to abide by the agreement will likely be removed, pending a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Saturday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the agreement won’t change Iran’s approach to the United States and it would continue supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. Israel’s leader says an “aggressive and confrontational speech” by Iran’s supreme leader shows that any expectations a nuclear deal would soften the militancy of the Islamic Republic were misguided. Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Iran doesn’t “even try to hide the fact” that it will use a looming lifting of sanctions to further arm regional militant groups and to oppose American and Israeli interests around the Middle East.

Iraq

An Iraqi military operation to retake the key Sunni city of Ramadi from Islamic State militants is gaining momentum. Iraqi forces have been repeatedly humiliated in battles by the vastly smaller ranks of Islamic State fighters. That has prompted critics of the administration’s limited presence in Iraq to push for more U.S. forces in Iraq, including teams that could accompany Iraqi combat forces to help call in more precise airstrikes against the militants. But Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his senior field commanders here do not require additional U.S. forces or the need to deploy advisers in the field with Iraq’s combat forces for the offensive to succeed.

Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed establishing a regional hub in his country that could be used by the United States and other allies to battle the growing threat from Islamic State militants throughout the area, U.S. military officials said Sunday. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned it is too early to determine whether U.S. resources or a troop commitment would be required if the United States decides to pursue the offer. The Obama administration has been wary of any large or lengthy commitments of U.S. troops in the region. Ghani described it as a regional hub that could include a number of countries involved in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

A NATO airstrike hit two Afghan military checkpoints on Monday in a restive province east of the capital, Kabul, killing seven Afghan troops in what an Afghan official describes as an accident due to bad coordination. The incident happened as coalition helicopters were flying over an area in Logar province where clashes were underway between Afghan troops and Taliban fighters. Insurgents fired toward the helicopters, prompting a response that destroyed one army checkpoint. A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, said the coalition is aware of an incident in Logar and is investigating it.

Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is not over. It’s easy to think that it might be. If you walk around the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, or Lviv in western Ukraine, or even in Mariupol, just a 20-minute car ride from the front lines in Shyrokyne, it’s hard to feel the war. Life is still going on as normal. The war here is mostly contained to a buffer zone a few miles wide on either side of the approximately 200-mile-long (320km) front line. The fighting was practically nonstop, creating a constant background din of small arms and artillery fire. Day and night you could hear the buzz of separatist drones orbiting overhead. Soldiers get nervous if an hour or so goes by without the sounds of combat.

North Korea

North Korea’s government said Tuesday that it had no interest in pursuing a nuclear agreement of its own with the U.S. as long as Washington pursued what Pyongyang described as “provocative” U.S. policies. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said North Korea is different from Iran because it already has nuclear weapons. North Korea’s nuclear program is a major regional concern, with the country having conducted atomic weapons tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled since early 2009, and outside analysts believe the North has built a small but growing nuclear bomb arsenal.

Cuba

The Cuban flag will rise in Washington, D.C., for the first time in five decades on Monday in the latest step toward normalized relations between the two countries. The flag-raising will be part of a daylong series of events commemorating the opening of a full Cuban embassy in Washington, about two miles north of the White House. Since 1977, the building has served as a Cuban “interests section,” where officials process visas and conduct basic consular services. The U.S. State Department has not announced when it will conduct a similar ceremony in Havana to convert the U.S. Interests Section there into a full embassy.

Earthquakes

A small earthquake shook residents of the San Francisco Bay Area awake early Tuesday morning. The magnitude 4.0 tremor was centered near the East Bay city of Fremont, California, about 17 miles north of San Jose. The shaking was felt by approximately six million residents from as far south as Watsonville, California, through downtown San Francisco and into areas as far north as Vallejo and Fairfield, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A pair of aftershocks, magnitudes 2.7 and 2.6, struck after the initial 4.0 earthquake. Some things fell off shelves, but no damage was reported.

Environment

Nearly one-fifth of the raw groundwater used for public drinking water systems in California contains excessive levels of potentially toxic contaminants, according to a decade-long U.S. Geological Survey study that provides one of the first comprehensive looks at the health of California’s public water supply and groundwater. One of the surprises in the study of 11,000 public supply wells statewide is the extent to which high levels of arsenic, uranium and other naturally occurring but worrisome trace elements is present. Public-water systems are required to bring many contaminants down to acceptable levels before supplying customers. But the findings highlight potential concerns involving the more than 250,000 private wells where water quality is the responsibility of individual homeowners.

Four years after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, strange things still are happening to the plants and animals living there. Recent years have brought reports of deformed fruit and mutant butterflies. Daisies growing there have deformed centers with some flowers growing face to face. That makes the recent decision to allow seven thousands residents to return there difficult to understand. However, it’s unclear how many residents actually will go back to live there permanently.

Weather

The first half of 2015 was the warmest first six months on record for the globe, according to a pair independent analyses from government scientists released Monday. Global temperatures from January through June 2015 exceeded 2010 as the warmest first half of any year, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

  • Records only go back to the 1880s, so it’s difficult to draw concrete conclusions. However, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme. (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:11)

At least three people are dead after severe thunderstorms caused dangerous flash flooding in the Midwest late Los Angeles, San Diego and over a dozen other California cities have already set all-time rainfall records for the month of July. Rain continues to fall, adding further to the already unprecedented mid-summer rainfall, which one National Weather Service meteorologist called “super historic.” A bridge collapse in Southern California late Sunday afternoon forced the indefinite closure of Interstate 10. Officials say it may be days before it’s fixed. The scary situation developed late Sunday in the deserts east of Palm Springs, California, where the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 were washed away by floodwaters near the town of Desert Center.

Saturday evening into early Sunday morning. North of Ripley an estimated 4 inches of rain fell in an hour and a half. Authorities performed water rescues in Hillview, Illinois, after a levee breach trapped four people in two homes Sunday morning. The Southwest was hit with a barrage of severe weather Saturday afternoon. Lightning strikes forced the closure of Long Beach area beaches. An Alaska Airlines flight bound for Virginia made an emergency landing at LAX Airport when the aircraft was struck by lightning. Nearly 16,000 Southern California Edison customers were left without power during Saturday’s storms. A rockslide struck a tour bus Saturday afternoon in San Bernardino County, California, disabling the vehicle. No injuries were reported. San Diego recorded 1.03 inches Saturday, breaking the city’s rainfall record for the entire month of July – not just for a day in July, but the whole month’s total. Authorities in Arizona closed U.S. Route 60 in both directions Saturday night due to heavy flooding in Wickenburg. Heavy rain caused debris and rocks to fall onto several roads in and around Kingman. Some northwest Arizona locations reported 2 inches of rain in just one hour Saturday afternoon.

Several storms hit the Midwest late Friday night into Saturday morning, bringing dangerous hail to South Dakota and leaving at least 225,000 without power. Numerous hail-related injuries were reported in Webster, South Dakota. The injuries were caused by car windows broken from golf ball size hail damage. Residents also reported many downed trees, overturned campers and at least two fires from downed power poles. Wind gusts that reached 92 mph near Waubay, South Dakota. As the squall line moved from Minnesota into Wisconsin a 70 mph wind gust was measured in Eau Galle.

More than 2 feet of rain were reported in parts of Kōchi, Wakayama, Nara and Mie prefectures in the central part of Japan. Typhoon Nangka made landfall late Thursday, lashing the country with heavy rainfall before petering out over the Sea of Japan early Saturday. Many rivers went out of their banks. In a testament to Japan’s soggy climate, the 72-hour rainfall wasn’t even a monthly record for that location, despite a recordkeeping period that only goes back 39 years. The same was true of most of the other locations that saw 20 or more inches of rain from Nangka.

Signs of the Times (7/18/15)

July 18, 2015

Planned Parenthood Sells Aborted Baby Body Parts

A video purportedly shows a Planned Parenthood executive sipping a glass of wine in a Los Angeles restaurant while casually explaining how they sell body parts from aborted babies. The undercover video was filmed in July 2014 by the Center for Medical Progress, an advocacy group that reports on medical ethics. They dispatched two actors posing as representatives of a human biologics company to a business lunch with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services. The video shows Nucatola describing in graphic detail how abortionists are able to harvest organs from aborted babies based on the parts that are needed, reports Todd Starnes on Fox News. “Planned Parenthood’s criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts reaches to the very highest levels of their organization,” said David Daledien, who lead the undercover project, a nearly three-year-long investigation on illegal trafficking of aborted fetal parts. “Elected officials must listen to the public outcry for Planned Parenthood to be held accountable to the law and for our tax dollars to stop underwriting this barbaric abortion business.” Planned Parenthood, of course, issued a statement denying they’ve done anything wrong and accused the Center for Medical Progress of releasing a heavily edited video. Speaker John Boehner announced today that committees in the House of Representatives will take a look at the Planned Parenthood abortion business after the shocking expose’ video.

Court Rules against Nuns in Contraception Coverage Case

A federal appeals court in Denver ruled on Tuesday against a group of Colorado nuns who challenged a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception. Though religious groups are already exempt from covering contraceptives, the plaintiffs – the Little Sisters of the Poor as well as four Christian colleges in Oklahoma – argued the exemption doesn’t go far enough because they must sign away the coverage to another party, making them feel as though they had a hand in providing contraceptives. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The court ruled that because the Little Sisters of the Poor had the option of signing a form that would transfer covering contraceptives to a third-party, they failed to show that the ObamaCare mandate placed a burden on their right to exercise freedom of religion.

Boy Scouts Vote to End Ban on Gay Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Committee has unanimously voted to remove the organization’s ban on gay leaders. Next, the BSA’s National Executive Board will vote on the policy change at a meeting on July 27. If passed, the change will take effect immediately. The Washington Times reports the National Executive Board is widely expected to vote to remove the ban. According to the proposed policy, individual troops will be able to “choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own,” whether gay or straight. The vote was not a surprise, as BSA National President Robert Gates said in May that modern-day society and “increasing legal challenges” made the ban on gay leaders unsustainable.

Iran Nuclear Deal Fuels Middle East Arms Race, Boosts Russia’s Influence

The newly announced Iran nuclear deal and the negotiations leading up to it already are fueling an all-but-declared nuclear arms race in the Middle East, according to current and former government officials who say the situation also creates an opening for Russia to exert more influence in the region. “We have given Iran the path it has been seeking for almost 35 years. The other states in the region are not going to sit idly by, which is why in effect the nuclear arms race is already underway,” former U.N. Ambassador and Fox News contributor John Bolton said, adding that Iran and other nations have used civilian nuclear energy programs as cover for covert enrichment programs. In the last six months, Russia has struck three significant nuclear deals with long-time U.S. Middle East allies, effectively capitalizing on regional distrust of Iran.

  • Obama just opened the nuclear door to a host of Islamist anti-U.S. countries allied with Russia, just as prophesied in Ezekiel 38

Israel Continues to Warn Against Nuclear Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed grim determination Wednesday that the deal announced the day before in Vienna regarding Iran’s renegade nuclear program “is not the last word.” Adding that there was still a chance to stop the deal by lobbying the US Congress, he said “We brought the Iranian issue to the attention of world public opinion. If it weren’t for Israel’s efforts, Iran would’ve gained possession of a nuclear weapon a long time ago. We are not bound by this agreement and we will continue to oppose it. This agreement is bad on all counts…when we read the agreement, the picture becomes even bleaker because we discover more absurd things in it.”

Obama Offers Israel More Aid

President Obama has offered to increase U.S. military aid to Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement. According to the New York Times, Obama broached the subject in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. White House officials said that Obama told Netanyahu that he was prepared to hold “intensive discussions” on bolstering Israel’s defense capabilities. The paper reported that Netanyahu denied to discuss the subject with the president, leading U.S. officials to believe he wants to wait and see what Congress has to say about the deal. Lawmakers have up to 60 days to review the agreement.

  • What a joke: put Israel in greater danger and then offer more aid as though that would make things even.

Tens of Thousands of Rape Kits go Untested across USA

In the most detailed nationwide inventory of untested rape kits ever, USA TODAY and journalists from more than 75 Gannett newspapers and TEGNA TV stations have found at least 70,000 neglected kits in an open-records campaign covering 1,000-plus police agencies – and counting. Despite its scope, the agency-by-agency count covers a fraction of the nation’s 18,000 police departments, suggesting the number of untested rape kits reaches into the hundreds of thousands. Testing can yield DNA evidence that helps identify suspects, bolster prosecutions and in some cases exonerate the wrongly accused. The records reveal widespread inconsistency in how police handle rape evidence from agency to agency, and even officer to officer. Some departments test every rape kit. Others send as few as two in 10 to crime labs. Decades of promises from politicians, and more than $1 billion in federal funding, has failed to fix the problems. The roughly $1,000 cost to analyze each kit is among the hindrances for police.

  • An appalling lapse of responsibility due to budgetary constraints and misogynistic attitudes

Another “Lone Wolf” Terrorist Attack in U.S.

A heavily armed gunman first shot from inside a vehicle Thursday, then got out of the vehicle and continued to shoot at a Navy reserves facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four U.S. Marines. The FBI identified Mohammod Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, as the shooter. Police haven’t said whether the gunman was killed by officers or shot himself. Abdulazeez was a naturalized American citizen from Kuwait. Federal prosecutors said on Thursday they were investigating the incident as possible “domestic terrorism.” Abdulazeez was a practicing Muslim who reportedly showed signs of becoming increasingly devout in recent weeks. The Islamist State has called upon supporters worldwide to conduct ‘lone wolf’ attacks against Western infidels. Dozens of Twitter accounts spewing jihadist bile have placed Mohammad Abdulazeez’s bearded face as their main images as he becomes the poster-child for ‘lone wolf’ attacks.

  • These incidents are going underreported as terrorist attacks because of ‘political correctness’

Persecution Watch

Two churches were attacked in separate incidents in India on Sunday 28 June. A week earlier, a homemade bomb made to look like a football was deliberately left in the playground of a Christian school in Kolkata injuring a former student when it exploded. The bomb exploded when some young people were cleaning the area in preparation for a football match in the playground later that day. In India’s northern Haryana state, in Bhiwani district, a group of suspected Hindu radicals pelted stones at a church in the early hours of Sunday 28 June and destroyed its cross. On that same Sunday, a mob of around 30 suspected Hindu radicals attacked a church in Adoni, Kurnool, in Andhra Pradesh state. Pelting the building with stones, they shouted Hindu slogans at the Christians. Although police arrived at the scene in time to protect the pastor and his wife from further attack, they did not register a complaint against the assailants.

A potential massacre of Christians at worship in a packed church in Jos, Plateau State was prevented on Sunday morning, July 12. A security guard spotted a bomb at the entrance to the church and threw it away just as it was about to explode.

Economic News

The outbreak of avian flu caused the cost of eggs to nearly double last month for producers. Wholesale prices for chicken eggs jumped 84.5% in June, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The spike comes amid otherwise tame inflation across the rest of the economy. The producer price index, which measures the costs of goods and services before they reach consumers, increased just 0.4% in June. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have actually fallen 0.7% due to lower oil and gasoline costs. Wholesale gas prices rose 4.3% last month but are down 30.3% from a year ago, keeping inflation firmly in check.

Of the 11 million black children living in the country, 38%, or nearly 2 out of every 5 black children, live in poverty, a Pew Research analysis of Census data found. Pew defined poverty as a family of four with two children that has income of less than $24,000 a year. While the overall number of children living in poverty in the United States has declined from 16.3 million in 2010 to 14.7 million in 2013, the differences by race and ethnicity are stark. In 2013, one out of every three Hispanic children, or 30.4% of the 18 million Hispanic children in the country, lived in poverty compared to 1 out of every 10 white children and 1 out of every 10 Asian children.

After years of breakneck growth, China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, is now ‘slumping’ – relative to past explosive growth but still much greater than U.S. growth. China’s gross domestic product expanded by 7% in the second quarter, compared to the same period last year. Markets dropped in China after the numbers came out — stocks lost 3% in Shanghai and 4.2% in Shenzhen. China’s central government has already cut interest rates three times this year — most recently, just two weeks ago. Experts say the rate cut came earlier than expected, as a defense against a large stock market plunge over recent weeks.

Eurozone

After anti-austerity protesters clashed with police nearby, Greece’s parliament early Thursday accepted harsh terms demanded by creditors to receive nearly $100 billion in the country’s third bailout in five years. The measure passed overwhelmingly, 229-64, despite three dozen defections from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ ruling Syriza party. However, the International Monetary Fund believes the Greek bailout deal could work. The IMF clashed with Greece’s Eurozone creditors Tuesday, saying Greece needs monumental debt relief. “Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far,” the fund said in a new report. It said European countries would have to either “very dramatically” extend the grace periods on Greece debt, or concede to deep upfront cuts. The fund then went even further and said Europe might be forced to just hand Greece some cash. Much of Greece was ablaze Friday, as authorities suspected arson in more than 50 fires that might be linked to protests over austerity measures forced on Greeks by European creditors as the price for a new $96 billion bailout.

  • Debt relief will become the new mantra for many debt-burdened countries. But that “relief” always comes at somebody else’s expense, that is we the taxpayers who fund profligate governments living beyond their means.

Middle East

Terrorists in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel Thursday morning, prompting retaliatory strikes by the Israeli Air Force on terror infrastructure. No casualties were reported by either side. In related news, Israeli security announced on Wednesday that they have arrested five suspects for alleged involvement in the killing of 25-year-old Danny Gonen and wounding his friend in a shooting attack near the West Bank community of Dolev on 19 June. Meanwhile, a female Palestinain terrorist stabbed an IDF soldier in the back near the community of Nahliel on Wednesday. The soldier was reported in stable condition with light-to-moderate wounds and his attacker was taken into custody.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led an outraged chorus of rejection Thursday following a 2-1 decision by a panel of judges at the International Criminal Court ordering prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to consider opening a full criminal investigation into the 2010 Mavi Maramara flotilla incident, despite her having closed the file seven months ago. “At a time when in Syria Assad slaughters hundreds of thousands of his own people, when Iran sends hundreds to death, and Hamas in Gaza uses children as human shields, the court has chosen to deal with Israel for cynical political reasons,” Netanyahu said. “In the face of this hypocrisy, our soldiers will continue to guard us from the front and we will defend them in the international arena.”

Islamic State

An ISIS-affiliated militant group claims it carried out a missile attack Thursday on an Egyptian navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea. A statement from the group, which is based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, claimed it used a “guided missile” to target the ship near Rafah, on the border with Gaza. The group, which calls itself the State of Sinai, released several photos that appeared to show a projectile flying toward and then striking a military ship, causing a huge explosion. The Egyptian army said a military vessel caught fire following a firefight between security forces and suspected militants near Rafah on Thursday. Egyptian army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Samir said in a statement that there were no casualties in the incident, which happened when the military was patrolling the area for “terrorists.”

The Islamic State appears to have manufactured rudimentary chemical warfare shells and attacked Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria with them as many as three times in recent weeks, according to field investigators, Kurdish officials and a Western ordnance disposal technician who examined the incidents and recovered one of the shells. The development, which the investigators said involved toxic industrial or agricultural chemicals repurposed as weapons, signaled a potential escalation of the group’s capabilities. Chemical weapons, internationally condemned and banned in most of the world.

Iraq

An attack by the Islamic State group on a crowded marketplace in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province has killed 115 people, including women and children, in one of the deadliest single attacks in the country in the past decade. At least 170 people were injured in the attack. The mostly-Shiite victims were gathered to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended Friday for Iraqi Shiites and a day earlier for Iraqi Sunni Muslims. Police said a small truck detonated in a crowded marketplace in the town of Khan Beni Saad Friday night. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on Twitter accounts associated with the militant group.

Nigeria

At least 60 people have been killed in bomb blasts that hit two different parts of northeastern Nigeria in less than 24 hours, officials said Friday. The deadly attacks struck a region where violence blamed on the Islamic militant group Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people in recent weeks. On Thursday, at least 48 people were killed and 58 others were wounded in two simultaneous bombings that ripped through a market in the city of Gombe, capital of Gombe state, a Red Cross official said. One of the blasts was caused by a female suicide bomber, the other by a bomb hidden at the market. The following morning, two suicide bombers killed at least 12 people in the northeastern Nigerian town of Damaturu, in Yobe state.

France

Four terror suspects detained by French intelligence agents were plotting to behead a senior military staffer at a military site in southern France, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office said Thursday. The suspects planned to film the scene with a GoPro camera. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday that the suspects, ages 16 to 23, were arrested in four parts of France at dawn Monday on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against “military installations.” One of them is a former sailor in the French navy.

Wildfires

A wind-driven wildfire swept over a jammed Southern California freeway — the critical corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas — Friday afternoon, setting several cars and tractor-trailer trucks ablaze, and burning several homes. Two people suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation. Television video showed several vehicles burning at El Cajon Pass on Interstate 15, packed with vacationers and commuters. The high-desert freeway was closed in both directions. Twenty vehicles were destroyed and ten others damaged when the fire crossed the freeway’s southbound lanes. A Michigan man said he and his family were able escape before their car was consumed by flames. “I just grabbed my kids and ran up the hill.” The so-called North Fire began in chaparral just off the interstate, near the junction with State Route 138, about 2:30 p.m. PT. Fanned by 40-45 mph winds, it had spread to 3,500 acres by 6 p.m. and was headed toward Baldy Mesa, Oak Hills and Phelan. Residents were under mandatory orders to evacuate.

Wildfires today threaten more of the world’s forested areas, and for a longer period of time each year, than they have in more than three decades, according to a new study that blames climate-driven changes like rising global temperatures and worsening droughts. Released July 14 in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study found that wildfire seasons worldwide are nearly 20 percent longer today than they were 35 years ago, having lengthened across more than 25 percent of the Earth’s forested surface, on every continent except Australia. In the U.S., wildfires have consumed over 5.5 million acres, the second highest total in the past 10 years.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme with floods in some areas and severe drought in others, with substantially more wildfires due to higher temperatures

Weather

A tornado carved through Cameron, Illinois, Thursday night, causing ‘significant damage’ in the town of around 600 people. Access to the town was blocked off to everyone but emergency responders as crews conducted search and rescue efforts overnight. However, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries. Thousands remained without power in Warren County Illinois after the storms. There were nine reports of tornadoes during Thursday’s severe weather. Friday also brought ferocious storms, including reports of tornadoes and strong winds in South Dakota, where a 97-mph gust was measured near Clear Lake. Two other South Dakota locations gusted to at least 90 mph. An unspecified number of people were injured by flying glass in a hailstorm near Webster, South Dakota. The storms organized into a squall line that has produced structural damage in Watertown, Minnesota, near the Twin Cities; radar showed strong evidence of a tornado there around midnight Friday night.

A multi-day severe weather outbreak on Monday and Tuesday produced nearly 900 reports of severe weather that knocked out power for hundreds of thousands and left at least three dead and several missing in Kentucky. Three people died, while five others remain missing. The flooding damaged or destroyed 150 homes in the area. The situation prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency in Kentucky; at least six counties in West Virginia were also operating under an emergency declaration. Monday’s storms produced 504 reports of severe weather, making it the most active severe weather day in the U.S. so far this year. Roads now are lined with empty foundations, where trailers or homes once stood. Cars were flipped upside down and trees uprooted. Fifteen people were treated at a local hospital and released. Rescue crews combing the hilly Appalachian terrain Tuesday were hampered by more heavy rains, swarming mosquitoes, soupy humidity and knee-deep mud.

Signs of the Times (7/14/15)

July 14, 2015

Iranian Nuclear Deal Reached

A landmark agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions has been reached in Vienna. The deal was confirmed by European Council President Donald Tusk and by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top foreign affairs official, early Tuesday. The deal reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility. The deal caps uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent and limits the stockpile to 300 kg, all for 15 years. Tusk said the “breakthrough” deal brought an end to a 13-year standoff. “If fully implemented, the agreement could be a turning point in relations between Iran and the international community, paving the way to new avenues of cooperation between the EU and Iran,” he said. “Geopolitically, it has the potential to be a game changer.”

The agreement, a focal point of U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, appears set to reshape relations between Iran and the West, with its effects likely to ripple across the volatile Middle East. The accord is expected to face fierce opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, led by the United States, was “a bad mistake of historic proportions.” Netanyahu said, “Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons. Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted,” Netanyahu said. “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world.” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon added his worry that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey would soon pursue their own nuclear arsenals to counter Iran, adding to Israel’s strategic challenges in the region.

While U.S.-led world powers held talks with Iran in Vienna to curb Tehran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month, according to German intelligence sources. Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of a deal.

  • That anyone still questions whether Iran will live up to the terms of an agreement is astonishing. They have proven over and over again that they will lie, cheat, stall and even steal to get what they want.

Greece Agrees to New Bailout Deal

After 17 hours of tense talks, Greece agreed to a deal Monday with its European creditors to rescue it from the brink of financial ruin. The announcement in Brussels early Monday followed marathon talks through the night by European finance ministers and Eurozone leaders aimed at preventing Athens from bankruptcy and exiting the Euro currency zone. European Council President Donald Tusk said the deal was “unanimously reached” by the 19 countries that use the euro currency and that Greece would now be able to “get back on track.” However, the deal is still tentative because the Greek parliament needs to approve it by Wednesday. And other eurozone parliaments, notably Germany’s, also need to vote on the deal, worth about up to 86 billion euros ($95 billion) over the next three years. The complex agreement, reached after 17 hours of negotiations, requires Greece to quickly adopt dramatic pension cuts and tax increases, and plan to sell off virtually all of its assets to help reduce its enormous debts. It also offers no debt relief that Greece had hoped to receive.

  • Unfortunately, this latest bandaid is just prolonging Greece’s (and the Eurozone’s) debt-infused agony

Pedophiles Want Same Rights as Homosexuals

Using the same tactics used by “gay” rights activists, pedophiles have begun to seek similar status arguing their desire for children is a sexual orientation no different than heterosexual or homosexuals. Critics of the homosexual lifestyle have long claimed that once it became acceptable to identify homosexuality as simply an “alternative lifestyle” or sexual orientation, logically nothing would be off limits. “Gay” advocates have taken offense at such a position insisting this would never happen. However, psychiatrists are now beginning to advocate redefining pedophilia in the same way homosexuality was redefined several years ago. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. A group of psychiatrists with B4U-Act recently held a symposium proposing a new definition of pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders of the APA. B4U-Act calls pedophiles “minor-attracted people.”

The organization’s website states its purpose is to, “help mental health professionals learn more about attraction to minors and to consider the effects of stereotyping, stigma and fear.” In 1998 The APA issued a report claiming “that the ‘negative potential’ of adult sex with children was ‘overstated’ and that ‘the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from childhood sexual abuse experiences.” Some believe that pedophilia has already been granted legally protected status by the Federal Government. The Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act lists “sexual orientation” as a protected class; however, it does not define the term. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has stated that all alternative sexual lifestyles should be protected under the law.

  • Here we go again. Pandora’s Box has been opened just like Satan wanted and now pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, et. al. are now in play.

Ohio Judge Declines to Marry Same-Sex Couple — Citing Christian Beliefs

A Toledo Municipal Court judge who refused to marry a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs said that he will seek an advisory opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court on whether he can “opt out of the rotation” for performing marriages. “On Monday, July 6, I declined to marry a non-traditional couple during my duties assignment. The declination was based upon my personal and Christian beliefs established over many years. I apologize to the couple for the delay they experienced and wish them the best,” Judge C. Allen McConnell, a Democrat, said in a statement, according to Toledo News Now.

Obama Administration to Begin Redistributing Housing

The Obama Administration is making a move to put poor people into neighborhoods they could never afford without government help. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Final Rule issued by HUD is made possible by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Texas Housing v. Inclusive Communities. In that ruling, a divided court said that federal housing law can be used to challenge zoning laws, lending regulations and other laws that could affect minorities. HUD Secretary Julian Castro said, “Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child’s future. This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.” The Washington Post notes, “The new rules, a top demand of civil-rights groups, will require cities and towns all over the country to scrutinize their housing patterns for racial bias and to publicly report, every three to five years, the results. Communities will also have to set goals, which will be tracked over time, for how they will further reduce segregation.”

  • Don’t be surprised when HUD erects tacky low-rent housing in existing higher-priced neighborhoods. Soon we’ll have government-forced integration of neighborhoods coming to communities across the country.

Obama Administration Revives ‘Death Panels’

Six years after end-of-life planning nearly derailed development of the Affordable Care Act amid charges of “death panels,” the Obama administration has revived a proposal to reimburse physicians for talking with their Medicare patients about how patients want to be cared for as they near death. The proposal, contained in a large set of Medicare regulations unveiled last week, comes amid growing public discussion about the need for medical care that better reflects patients’ wishes as they get older. The new proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services would not require Medicare patients to sign any order or even to talk with their physicians about end-of-life care.

President Barack Obama Commutes Sentences of 46 Drug Offenders

President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 drug offenders, saying in a video posted online Monday that the men and women were not “hardened criminals” and their punishments didn’t match the crimes they committed. Obama said the move was part of his larger attempt to reform the criminal justice system, including reviewing sentencing laws and reducing punishments for non-violent crimes. With Monday’s announcement, Obama has commuted more sentences than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. The move brings the number of Obama’s commutations to nearly 90. Most of those have been for federal prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses who were slapped with long sentences mandated under guidelines set during a drug-and-crime wave in the 1980s. Under current sentencing guidelines most of those prisoners would have already finished serving time.

Economic News

The oil market experienced turbulence on Tuesday after Iran and global powers reached an historic deal that would remove sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. Sanctions have long restricted Iran’s oil production and exports, and the country is eager to regain its status as a global energy power. Experts have warned that the deal could lead to a flood of new oil supply from Iran — the country has 30 million of barrels of crude in storage and ready for sale. Oil prices were already falling as a final deal neared, dropping to their lowest point in almost three months in early July. Commodities markets were also pressured by financial turmoil in Greece and China.

Islamic State

At least 45 Islamic State fighters died after eating a fast-breaking Ramadan meal in the Iraqi city of Mosul Tuesday, Haaretz reported. According to Saeed Mamozeny, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party, 145 ISIS fighters took part in the iftar meal, the traditional evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Shortly afterwards, 45 members were reported dead. The spokesman also said that they have not determined if the cause was food poisoning or deliberate poisoning. Mosul, once with a population of over 1 million, was captured last June by Islamic State fighters. It is the largest city in the group’s self-declared caliphate. ISIS has reportedly suffered casualties as a result of poisoned food in the past. In November, the Times of Iraq reported that Free Syrian army militants had infiltrated an ISIS camp, posed as cooks and poisoned their lunches. Dozens of ISIS fighters subsequently died.

Iraq

The U.S.-led coalition launched an intense wave of airstrikes to support a major Iraqi offensive to retake Ramadi, a key Sunni city that had fallen under Islamic State control, the coalition said Monday. It is the second time Iraq’s government has announced an offensive to retake the city, which fell to the militants in May, dealing a major setback to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. The coalition said it launched 29 airstrikes in the vicinity of Ramadi on Sunday, targeting militant staging areas and vehicles, according to U.S. Central Command. The airstrikes marked a new level of intensity in the air campaign, which started almost a year ago, and suggested improvements in coordinating strikes with Iraqi ground forces. U.S. personnel are barred from directing airstrikes from battle zones. Two U.S.-trained Iraqi brigades will participate in the offensive.

Afghanistan

On Sunday night, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hailed last week’s peace talks with Taliban officials as a major achievement since the fall of the hardline Islamist regime nearly 14 years ago. But the violence is far from over. An hour before Ghani spoke, just before the evening call to prayer during this holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a suicide car bomb killed 33 people and wounded 10 in the southeast of the country. The attack – close to a U.S. base in Khost city that was once used by the CIA – was one of the deadliest this year. Twelve children were among those killed, the United Nations said. On Monday, two small explosions rocked a busy neighborhood in Kabul – also shortly before the evening prayers, as people were shopping to celebrate the Eid-al-Fitr holiday this weekend marking the end of Ramadan. The Taliban has stepped up its attacks since the talks were held last Tuesday night in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. On the day of the discussions, the militants staged two suicide attacks in Kabul — one against a NATO-led forces and one aimed at Afghan intelligence. In the days after, there has been a wave of attacks in the northern provinces of Faryab, Baghlan and Takhar – part of an ongoing push this year by the Taliban to seize northern areas.

Yemen

The United Nations says at least 142 civilians have been killed in Yemen and another 224 were injured over the past 10 days, sending the total civilian death toll in more than three months of violence above 1,600 while 3,829 civilians have been injured. Air strikes and ground fighting have continued despite a U.N.-brokered truce between Shiite rebels known as Houthis and Yemen’s internationally backed exiled government and its allies.

India

At least 27 people were killed and dozens injured Tuesday in a stampede during a Hindu religious bathing festival on a river bank in southern India. An additional 34 people were hospitalized with injuries. The stampede was triggered by some pilgrims who were trying to retrieve their shoes, which had fallen off in the rush to the river bank. The stampede occurred in Andhra Pradesh state as tens of thousands of people pushed forward to bathe in the Godavari River on the first day of the Pushkaralu festival, said Arun Kumar, a state administrator.

Wildfires

A spate of wildfires is scorching parts of Washington state, devouring more than 16,000 acres. In at least one case, strong winds have forced multiple lighting fires to morph into one. The Rimrock/Wagon Road fire in central Washington has torched more than 10,000 acres and was 0% contained as of Saturday evening. Evacuation orders were given for homes in the Rimrock Meadows community.

Overall, wildfires have consumed close to 5 million acres of land in the U.S. so far this year, well above the 10-year average of 2.9 million acres. Last year, only 1 million acres had burned by July 14th. Of the 40 large (over 100 acres) wildfires currently burning in the U.S., 20 of them are in Alaska. The Northwestern U.S. has 15 active large wildfires.

Weather

Day two of a multi-day severe weather outbreak slammed into the Midwest and Ohio Valley Monday, and meteorologists warned another 24 to 36 hours of damaging storms were ahead. Over 190,000 people lost power across a dozen states by Monday evening. That number could rise as a second wave of damaging winds forms later Monday into Tuesday. The first wave of wind damage began as a cluster of storms Sunday afternoon over North Dakota. The storms congealed into a squall line over northern Minnesota and continued rolling southeast Monday. Tornadoes and additional swaths of widespread wind damage reached across a large part of the Midwest, Ohio Valley and Mid-South on Monday. Additional severe weather will spread south and east Tuesday into areas usually well into the summer doldrums by now.

A prolonged heat wave in Spain has been blamed for the death of one person over the weekend and for injuries to as many as 11 others. The Madrid emergency service told the Associated Press that its crews have been called out to help with more than 140 cases of heat stroke since June 25. Meteorologists said temperatures would continue to rise as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit until at least July 16, adding that this heat wave has been “unusually long.” Spain is experiencing is part of a massive heat wave that has swept across Europe in recent days, and promises to continue this week.

Former Typhoon Chan-hom has weakened to a tropical storm and is back over water after briefly making landfall near Shanghai Saturday. A late eastward jog spared China’s largest city from the worst-case scenario, but Chan-hom is already blasting parts of South Korea with gusty winds as it moves toward that country. Top sustained winds are estimated to be 60 mph. Chan-hom made landfall in Zhoushan city, Zhejiang Province at 4:40 p.m. local time Saturday with sustained winds of 74 mph and a gust to 110 mph. Around 1.1 million people were evacuated from coastal areas. The country’s railway service said more than 100 trains between the region’s cities are canceled through Sunday and over 600 flights were canceled on Saturday. At least one person is dead and dozen were injured in the wake of Typhoon Chan-hom. Dozens of homes were destroyed. In Ningbo, 135 miles south of Shanghai, the room of a hotel collapsed under heavy rain.

Signs of the Times (7/11/15)

July 11, 2015

Oklahoma Governor Keep Ten Commandments Monument on Capitol Grounds

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol will stay there despite the state’s Supreme Court ruling it violated the Constitution and must be removed. Fallin and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reconsider the 7-2 decision that was handed down last week after a challenge from the ACLU of Oklahoma on behalf of three plaintiffs. Lawmakers have also filed legislation to let people vote on the issue.

Kansas Governor Protects Pastors from Lawsuits over Gay Weddings

The governor of Kansas has issued an executive order that protects pastors from lawsuits that could emerge over refusal to officiate gay weddings. The order from Gov. Sam Brownback comes after the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States. In a statement, Brownback said, “We recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected. The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right. Today’s Executive Order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.”

Oregon Allows 15-Year-Olds to Get Sex-Change Operations without Parents’ Consent

A policy allowing 15-year-olds in Oregon to undergo a sex-reassignment surgery without the knowledge or consent of parents was passed in January, without gleaning media attention. Fox News reports the policy is the first of its kind in the U.S. and allows transgender children to seek cross-sex hormone therapy, puberty-suppressing drugs and sex changes all paid for by the state. The policy was passed by Oregon’s health Evidence Review Commission (HERC), who believe that allowing children with gender identity disorder access to the therapies, drugs and surgeries will reduce the number of suicides in the state. Lori Porter of Parents’ Rights in Education said, “For a life-altering decision like that to be done unbeknownst to a parent or guardian, it’s mindboggling.”

Kenyans Warn Obama: Don’t Bring Abortion or Gay Agenda Here!

When he visits his father’s homeland in Africa later this month, President Obama is expected to run into vocal opposition over his administration’s high-profile promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. Obama’s trip to Kenya, his first as president, is scheduled to take place four weeks after the White House was bathed in rainbow colors to mark the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex marriage is a right. At a pro-family demonstration at the parliament in Nairobi Monday, organized by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, participants called on the American president not to raise the subject during his visit. Irungu Kangata, a lawmaker in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance party, said: “We are telling Mr. Obama when he comes to Kenya this month and he tries to bring the abortion agenda, the gay agenda, we shall tell him to shut up and go home.”

OPM government data breach impacted 21.5 million

Government investigators now believe that the data theft from the Office of Personnel Management computer systems compromised sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, of roughly 21.5 million people from both inside and outside the government, officials said Thursday. In a second major OPM breach, hackers obtained information from the security clearance applications — known as SF-86’s – of 19.7 million people. Another 1.8 million were non-applicants comprised mostly of spouses and partners of applicants. OPM had initially said the hackers obtained the files of 4 million people. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. Resigned Friday. The hackers also took 1.1 million fingerprints, a theft that poses an unprecedented danger. The thieves could create physical copies, then break into the fingerprint-locked devices of U.S. diplomats and government agents.

Terrorism Fears Rise after Missile Hacking Incident

German-owned Patriot missiles stationed on Turkey’s Syrian border have been briefly hacked, according to reports in the German media. The nature of the technology hack, and the culprits, are unknown. The American-made anti-aircraft missiles were stationed in Turkey by Germany to protect their Nato ally, The Local reported. According to civil service magazine Behorden Speigel, the missile system carried out “unexplained” commands. It reports that the missiles are susceptible to hacking in the “digital space”, as commands are broadcast from the command centre to the missile in real time.

More Than 347,000 Convicted Criminal Immigrants at Large in the U.S.

According to a “ICE Weekly Departures and Detention Report” obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies, there were 168,680 convicted criminal immigrants who had final orders of removal but who remained at large in the U.S. Another 179,018 convicted criminal immigrants with deportation cases pending also remained at large. While the vast majority were not in custody, only a relative few were detained — 6,220 criminal immigrants facing final deportation orders and another 7,680 convicted criminal immigrants with immigration cases pending. In 2013 the Obama administration released 36,007 criminal immigrants who had nearly 88,000 convictions. Those convictions included 193 homicide convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions, 303 kidnapping convictions, and 1,075 aggravated assault convictions.

  • Trump may be over the top about illegal immigration, but he’s correct that there is a very serious problem with criminals being allowed to roam free

Several U.S. Cities see Homicide Rates Surge

After seeing years of decline in violent crime, several major American cities experienced a dramatic surge in homicides during the first half of this year. Milwaukee, which had one of its lowest annual homicide totals in city history last year, has recorded 80 murders so far this year, more than double the 39 it tallied at the same point last year. Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis have also seen the number of murders jump 33% or more in 2015. Meanwhile, Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, has seen the homicide toll climb by 19%. In all the cities, the increased violence is disproportionately impacting poor and predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In parts of Milwaukee, the sound of gunfire has become so expected that about 80% of gunfire detected by ShotSpotter sensors aren’t even called into police by residents.

U.S. Army to Cut 40,000 Troops over Next Two Years

The U.S. Army is planning to cut more than 40,000 troops over the next two years, a senior U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News Tuesday. eneral Martin Dempsey announced at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing Tuesday that dwindling resources was a major factor in the decision to cut the number of active troops from 490,000 to 450,000. In addition to the troop cuts, 17,000 Army civilian employees will be laid off.

Persecution Watch

Reports have emerged of houses owned by Christian families in Jerusalem being marked with graffiti including the name of the Islamic State (IS) terror militia and warning the occupants to take seriously threats that if they do not leave Jerusalem by the end of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan they will be massacred. The graffiti comes a week after flyers purportedly placed by IS operatives and containing the ultimatum were first discovered. “ISIS has been making claims and threats towards Jerusalem since November last year and unfortunately, many Palestinians have embraced this ideology and its goal to “liberate Jerusalem” at any cost,” said a Facebook post by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a leader in the Arab Christian community who has advocated for Arab Christians to support the Jewish State. “The continuous incitement for violence towards Jewish people and the recent attacks, ambushes, stabbings and drive-by shootings by Palestinians, is the result.”

Economic News – Domestic

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since late February. But the increase likely reflected temporary auto plant shutdowns rather than any underlying labor market weakness, economists say. The number of people filing applications for unemployment benefits rose by 15,000 to 297,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That is the highest weekly total since 327,000 applications were filed in the week of Feb. 28. Even with the recent increases, benefit applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, remain at levels reflecting a labor market that has been posting solid employment gains.

One year after announcing a massive round of job cuts impacting 18,000 employees, Microsoft is wielding the axe again. Microsoft announced another round of layoffs on Wednesday, cutting up to 7,800 jobs. Most of the cuts are connected to the company’s phone business. The job cuts are tied to Microsoft’s big gamble to become a larger player in the smartphone market. Last year, it completed its acquisition of Nokia’s handset business after partnering on the Lumia line of smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

The number of publicly listed U.S. stocks peaked at a record 7,562 during the summer of 1998, according to the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index. Today, there are just 3,812. Simply put, there are more companies disappearing than entering the stock market. Not only do investors have fewer options to invest in, but it directly impacts American jobs. “We’re shrinking the stock market. Unless we figure out how to create a lot more startups and a lot more IPOs, the economy is going to continue to generate jobs at lower rates than it should,” said David Weild, former vice chairman at Nasdaq. However, the collective value — known as market capitalization — of the stock market has risen tremendously since the 1990s.

The American financial system is at risk. That’s the message from the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday released its first check-up on the U.S. financial system since 2010. The IMF believes the U.S. is safer than it was before the financial crisis. However, new threats to the system — like big banks that have grown even bigger — have formed over the past few years and efforts to safeguard the system have not been finished. “New pockets of vulnerabilities have emerged, partly in response to the continuing search for yield,” the IMF’s executive summary reads. “Large and interconnected banks dominate the system even more than before,” the IMF warns. There’s also worry over the shadow banking industry. These non-banks, which include hedge funds, asset managers and insurers, now account for more than 70% of assets and contribute to systemic risk.

Economic News – International

The Greek government has formally requested a third international bailout to help pay its debts, and prevent economic collapse and ejection from the euro. The Greek government proposes that the new rescue package run for three years and promised to introduce fresh economic reforms in exchange for the money. Greece has already received two massive bailouts worth roughly 240 billion euros ($265 billion), but needs more. The latest bailout program ended last week. Greece then missed a big debt payment to the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first developed economy to default to the fund. Finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Saturday will decide whether a reform plan submitted by Greece to its creditors is sufficient to secure Athens a third bailout and prevent it from dramatically crashing out of Europe’s euro-currency bloc.

Greeks who voted against harsh austerity measures just last weekend accepted the government’s about-face on a new bailout plan with resignation Friday, saying it’s better than the economic misery they’ve been living with for the past few weeks. Banks remain closed with strict limits on ATM cash withdrawals, and the country’s largest industry — tourism — has been severely curtailed. Unemployment levels have surged in recent months, and the nation’s economy has contracted by 25% since the crisis began.

In a flurry of new moves to halt a stock market slide, China’s government told state-owned companies to buy shares, raised the amount of equities insurance companies can hold and promised more credit to finance trading. Hundreds of companies have announced a halt to trading in their shares after emergency measures announced last weekend failed to stop a slide that has caused China’s main market index to decline by more than 30% since early June. Auto sales in China — the world’s largest vehicle market — are suddenly sputtering as concerns mount over the country’s stock market plunge.

Global poverty has fallen by half over the past decade. However, 71% of the world’s population remain low-income or poor, living off $10 or less a day, according to a new Pew Research Center report. The global middle class nearly doubled over the decade to 13% in 2011, but it still represents a small fraction of the world’s population. “The world has made tremendous strides in pulling people out of poverty, but most of the growth has been only one step up the economic ladder,” said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director at Pew. People “are potentially one financial shock away from slipping back into poverty.”

Middle East

Israeli security agencies released a gag order Thursday on the case of Avera Mengistu, a 26-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli resident of Ashkelon who is believed to be held hostage by the Islamist terror militia Hamas in Gaza. Another unnamed Israeli citizen is also believed to be held in Gaza. Mengistu crossed into Gaza, September 8, 2014, and was not a soldier. Israel believes Hamas is holding Mengistu with intention of using him as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

Iran

Efforts to wrap up a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers by Friday have hit a new snag over arms embargoes against Tehran that is dividing the U.S. and its negotiating partners. Just as the two sides were moving closer to a nuclear agreement, Iran this week demanded that conventional weapons and missile embargoes be among the sanctions lifted in return for curbing its nuclear program. That demand complicates the talks because the United States, Britain, France and Germany oppose such a move, but Russia and China want the embargo lifted so they can sell ballistic missiles and other weaponry to Iran. Diplomats agreed to extend until Monday terms of a temporary deal that set conditions for talks to continue.

  • What a surprise, new demands that further stall the negotiations while Iran continues to move toward nuclear weapons

Syria

More than 4 million Syrians have fled the violence in their homeland to seek refuge in neighboring countries, the United Nations said Thursday. At least 7.6 million other people have displaced inside Syria, the U.N. refugee agency said. That means more than half of all Syrians have been driven from their homes by the war, which has killed well over 200,000 people. Turkey is hosting the highest number of Syrian refugees at more than 1.8 million, followed by Lebanon with 1.17 million, and Jordan with 629,000. The grim numbers make Syria’s lengthy civil war the worst crisis that the U.N. refugee agency has had to deal with in nearly 25 years. The Syrian refugee population is the highest on record since the number of people who fled Afghanistan reached 4.6 million in 1992.

Afghanistan

The government of Afghanistan held talks this week with the Taliban in an attempt to work toward a peace process for the war-ravaged nation, officials said. The Afghan government described the meeting as “the start of the first ever official peace talks” between the two sides. U.S. and Chinese officials also attended the discussions Tuesday at a hilltop resort in Pakistan. “The participants agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation process,” the Pakistani government said in a statement Wednesday. The next meeting is expected to take place after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hafiz Saeed, a former Taliban leader now thought to be ISIS’ leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said Saturday. Saeed killed with 30 other insurgents in a strike on their compound in the Achin region of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province. In addition, another leader of the Islamic State in Afghanistan — and former Pakistani Taliban spokesman — was killed in a separate U.S. drone strike. Shahidullah Shahid died Tuesday in the attack in Nangarhar Province, eastern Afghanistan. Another 24 militants were killed in the strike. Among the dead were deputy ISIL commander Gul Zaman and his deputy Jahanyar. Last year, Shahid was fired as Pakistani Taliban (TTP) spokesman after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, which controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists are offering to free more than 200 young women and girls kidnapped from a boarding school in the town of Chibok in exchange for the release of militant leaders held by the government, a human rights activist has told The Associated Press. The activist said Boko Haram’s current offer is limited to the girls from the school in northeastern Nigeria whose mass abduction in April 2014 ignited worldwide outrage and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls” that stretched to the White House. The new initiative reopens an offer made last year to the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan to release the 219 students in exchange for 16 Boko Haram detainees. The recent slew of Boko Haram bloodletting — some 350 people killed in the past nine days — is consistent with past ratcheting up of violence as the militants seek a stronger negotiating position. The 5-week-old administration of President Muhammadu Buhari offers “a clean slate” to bring the militants back to negotiations.

Kenya

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility Tuesday for a nighttime attack on two homes in northeastern Kenya’s Mandera County. The attack killed at least 14 people and injured 11 others. The compound primarily housed quarry workers. An explosive device — something other than a hand grenade — was used to blow open a gate to the compound. The attackers then entered and started shooting. Local security forces responded within 10 minutes, and as their vehicles approached, the attackers dispersed into the bush and surrounding villages. Some may have crossed the border into Somalia, the home base for this Islamist terrorist group.

Volcanoes

Indonesia Mount Raung sent an explosive eruption of ash into the air Friday, putting people who live near the volcano on high alert. The ash spewing from the volcano on Indonesia’s main island of Java caused widespread chaos for vacationers as airports closed and international airlines canceled flights to tourist hotspots, stranding thousands. The eruption forced authorities to close five airports due to the risks posed by volcanic ash, though two airports on Lombok island reopened Friday afternoon.

Wildfires

An area the size of Connecticut has burned in Alaska this year, the state said. That’s 3.1 million acres, a loss that comes during one of the hottest periods in decades. The state set a new record for the earliest day with a temperature above 90, when the mercury hit 91 in the town of Eagle on May 23 — 30 degrees hotter than the average high temperature in May. Apart from charred landscape, smoky air is affecting even Alaskans who don’t live close to where a fire is raging. The air quality has been so bad that advisories to avoid the outdoors have been issued. There were 152 new fires in a single weekend in late June. Though lightning caused most of the blazes, humans caused 17 of the 67 newest fires.

Thousands of people in Canada have fled their homes as hundreds of wildfires burn, sending thick smoke as far south as Colorado, officials said Wednesday. More than 13,000 have evacuated in Saskatchewan. Evacuation orders affect 60 communities, the government of Saskatchewan said on its website, adding there are 113 active fires. Fifteen homes in Montreal Lake had been destroyed by fire. Firefighters will soon get help from the military. As many as 1,400 troops will be trained in firefighting and sent to the hotspots. Several hundred had been deployed Wednesday.

Weather

Typhoon Chan-hom made landfall on the Chinese coast as a Category 2 storm, just under 200 miles from Shanghai in Zhoushan, state media reported. Nearly a million people were evacuated ahead of the storm’s landfall. So far no injuries or deaths have been reported in the country. The provincial flood control bureau said 28,764 ships had been ordered back to port by late Friday. The country’s railway service said more than 100 trains between the region’s cities were canceled through Sunday.

In rivers across the western U.S., the region’s historic drought and severe heat are addig up to lethal conditions for the fish that live in them. Salmon and trout, especially, are feeling some of the biggest impacts from the drought, according to a survey released Wednesday of more than 50 rivers in Oregon, California and Washington by the Wild Fish Conservancy. Nearly three-fourths of the rivers had temperatures that reached above 70 degrees, the threshold considered potentially deadly for salmon and trout. Low river flows from the record low winter snowpack, which normally feeds rivers through the summer, combined with record hot weather have created a “perfect storm” of bad conditions for salmon and trout. The entire West Coast saw record low snowpack last winter, leading to low rivers this summer. All three states had record high temperatures for June.

Even if the world manages to limit global warming to 2°C — the target number for current climate negotiations — sea levels may still rise at least 6 meters (20 feet) above their current heights, radically reshaping the world’s coastline and affecting millions in the process. That finding comes from a new paper published on Thursday, July 9, in Science that shows how high sea levels rose the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high. That was about 3 million years ago, when the globe was about 3-5°F warmer on average.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26, Rev. 8:7, 11:19, 16:11)

Signs of the Times (7/7/15)

July 7, 2015

Most Americans Don’t Believe the U.S. is a Christian Nation

The majority of Americans believe that faith in God is an important component of being a true American, but that the U.S. is not a Christian nation, a new study has found. Data compiled by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 69 per cent of Americans agreed with the statement that a belief in God is an “important part of being truly American”. This view was more popular among older people, held by 77 per cent of seniors in comparison to 52 per cent of young adults. That viewpoint was more widely held among Republicans (81 per cent) than Democrats (63 per cent). However, most Americans do not believe that America is a Christian nation. Around 59 per cent said that it isn’t, though 45 per cent agreed that it once was. Just 35 per cent said that it is currently a Christian nation, pointing to the decline of religion across the U.S.

90% of Evangelicals Disagree with Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling

A new survey from the Barna Group indicates that nine out of 10 Evangelical Christians do not agree with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. The survey also found that seven out of 10 practicing Christians opposed the ruling. About half (49 percent) of the general population agreed with the ruling. The Barna Group defined Evangelical Christians as those who said “they have made ‘a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today. Practicing Christians were defined as “self-identified Christians.

Entire Staff of Tennessee County Clerk’s Office Resigns Over ‘Gay Marriage’ Ruling

The entire staff of a county clerk’s office in Tennessee has resigned following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling declaring that all 50 states must legalize same-sex “marriage.” Three women who work at the Decatur County office announced their resignations this past week because of their Christian convictions. A number of area residents called or visited the office on Thursday to express their support of the women. “These three ladies stood upon their beliefs and they stood upon their morals,” resident Scott King said. “Too often we as Christians don’t do that. It’s time we followed the lead of what they showed us.”

Oregon Declares War on Christian Faith

In one of the most egregious anti-Christian acts committed by a state official in recent memory, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian not only upheld the ridiculous $135,000 fine levied against Aaron and Melissa Klein for declining to bake a cake for a lesbian commitment ceremony, but he ordered the Kleins to “cease and desist” from making any public comments about their religious convictions relative to this case. The fine itself is unconscionable, as the amount of $135,000 was determined by tallying up the alleged emotional damages experienced by the lesbian couple. The list of 178 purported damages suffered by the two lesbians includes ‘mental rape,’ adding that they had suffered a ‘loss of appetite’ and ‘impaired digestion,’ which remarkably led to ‘weight gain.'” If anyone here was “raped,” it was the Kleins (by the government) not this couple (by the Kleins), notes OneNewsNow.com.

  • Are these people so blind that they do not see the ridiculousness of these absurd accusations? Yes, because the “god of this age” (Satan) has indeed blinded them (2Corinthians 4:3-4)

Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016

Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected, reports the New York Times. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back. The rate requests, from some of the more popular health plans, suggest that insurance markets are still adjusting to shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act. It is far from certain how many of the rate increases will hold up on review, or how much they might change. But already the proposals, buttressed with reams of actuarial data, are fueling fierce debate about the effectiveness of the health law.

The Internet has Run Out of Addresses

The regional organization tasked with assigning IP addresses in North America, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, is now wait-listing all applicants because it has almost exhausted its supply of IP addresses under the current protocol. IP addresses are the unique numerical labels that identify any device connected to the Internet. Under the current protocol, Internet protocol version 4 (IPv4), addresses are designated by four series of numbers ranging from 0 to 255, like 69.171.224.0. But this protocol has been in use since the early days of the Internet, and almost all of the 4.3 billion possible labels of IPv4 are already in use. A new protocol that was developed in the 1990s, Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6), has already been deployed in response. IPv6 consists of eight groups of both letters and numbers — like 2a03:2880:f022:6:face:b00c:0:2 (the IPv6 address for Facebook’s servers). It provides roughly 340 trillion trillion trillion (or 340-undecillion) unique combinations, an almost limitless number of addresses. IPv6 is already installed in most devices, and most websites have made themselves accessible through IPv6, but Internet service providers (ISPs) have been slow to adopt the new protocol.

The Digital Doctor is the Next Wave in Health Care

In today’s digitally focused world, there are some cases where a trip to the doctor can be easily replaced with the download of an app or the power of a text message. The health care industry is in the midst of a technological boom, a transition which physician Bob Wachter, author of The Digital Doctor, says is necessary – but no one has gotten it completely right yet. “There are many things that patients can do to help themselves … if armed with good algorithms and good backup plans,” he said. “But the trick here is that you need to draw a line, and know how to tell when a patient needs to see a human, versus when they do not.” Investment in digital health startups was more than $2 billion in 2014, says Ahmed Albaiti, founder and CEO of Medullan, a digital health innovation lab in Boston. RockHealth, CBInsights and McKinsey & Company say they’ve found more than 2,000 startups with the key words “digital health” and “new health care technologies.” Among the hundreds of companies focused on digital technologies, CVS Health is one of the latest businesses looking to bolster its image as a digital health care powerhouse. CVS Health recently opened up its Digital Innovation Lab, a warehouse-size space where innovators and entrepreneurs can come together, test new products and hash out ideas with each other.

Greece Voters Reject EU Bailout Terms

Greek voters handed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras a decisive vote of confidence Sunday. With nearly all the votes counted, 61% responded to his appeal to vote “no” in a referendum on whether to accept bailout terms that required more austerity in the beleaguered country without any promise of debt relief. By voting “no” in a referendum called with little more than a week’s notice, Greek voters affirmed their choice last January in parliamentary elections that brought Tsipras’ Syriza party to power on a dual pledge to stick with the euro but reject further austerity policies after five years of deflation and recession. Greece’s economic collapse is on par with America’s Great Depression and similar to a country at war. Greece’s economic output — known as GDP — has fallen 25% since 2008. Stock markets and oil prices fell across the globe Monday in reaction to the ‘no’ vote.

The “no” vote puts the ball back in the court of EU officials, particularly German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who must find a way to provide Greece with aid to avoid a full-fledged default or to pull the plug and effectively eject Greece from the euro. A belated acknowledgment by the International Monetary Fund last week that Greece’s debt is unsustainable and will need to be restructured could help pave the way for some concessions on the EU side to reach a quick agreement. Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s embattled finance minister, has defiantly resigned his post decrying “debt bondage.” However, the resignation could help Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reach an agreement with creditors. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to present new proposals to European leaders Tuesday

  • Debt relief is the new mantra of indebted nations. However, somebody always winds up paying for the unchecked borrowing and the money printing that has artificially kept economies afloat

Economic News

The U.S. trade deficit widened in May, fueled by a drop in exports that could heighten concerns over weak overseas demand and a strong U.S. dollar. The Commerce Department reported on Tuesday that the trade gap grew $1.2 billion to $41.9 billion. Exports fell $1.5 billion, or 0.8 percent, to $188.6 billion in May, led by a drop in overseas sales of U.S.-made capital goods.

States are mounting an uneven fiscal recovery from the Great Recession, with energy-rich states leading and Northeastern states with big pension obligations lagging, a new study shows. Alaska, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Florida are on the most solid financial footing, according to rankings of the 50 states released Tuesday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois are at the bottom.

One common state burden is the commitment to pay out huge sums in pensions. Some states may struggle financially because they used pensions and entitlements to pay general expenses. In Illinois, ranked No. 50, the government used funds set aside for future pensions to pay more urgent bills. When the pensions came due, Illinois tried to cut them. A judge ruled this past May that Illinois’ pension cuts were unconstitutional. But that left the state with no plan to deal with a growing list of debts.

The U.S women’s World Cup team are champs. But they’re being paid far less than men on losing teams. The women’s team won $2 million from FIFA for winning this year’s tournament. Last year, the German men’s team collected $35 million after winning the 2014 World Cup. In fact the 16 men’s teams that were eliminated in the first round of last year’s World Cup each got $8 million, or four times as much as the championship women. The U.S men’s team, which finished 11th, won $9 million.

China’s stock markets are in trouble. The Shanghai Composite Index has fallen over 25% since mid-June. The turmoil in China’s stock market is so bad that some companies are calling it quits. Over 700 Chinese companies have halted trading to “self-preserve,” according to the state media. That means about a quarter of the companies listed on China’s two big exchanges — the Shanghai and Shenzhen — are no longer trading

Many economists now believe that the global banking system is on the verge of collapse having once again built up their portfolios with ‘toxic assets.” But this time, the collapse will be greater than in 2007, they say, because they’ve already used up their arsenal of low interest rates and debt-driven stimulus.

Middle East

The Islamic State’s affiliate group in Egypt claims it fired three Grad rockets Friday in southern Israel. The Telegraph reports ISIS said the rocket launches were retaliation for Israel’s support of Egypt’s armed forces Wednesday after the militants attacked army checkpoints in northern Sinai. An Israeli military spokesman said that two rockets were fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and exploded inside the country and didn’t cause any casualties. Islamic militants unleashed a wave of simultaneous attacks on Egyptian army checkpoints Wednesday, killing at least 64 soldiers.

Islamic State

Islamic State militants have released a video that apparently shows a mass execution within the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The video shows militants from the group executing soldiers in an amphitheater in Tadmur—the Arabic name for the city that includes the historic Palmyra ruins— and blowing up a prison. ISIL said the men were soldiers captured in the city of Homs. Stills from the video show the killers as young men, possibly as young as 13 or 14, in front of an audience of several hundred men in civilian clothes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that ISIS killed 20-25 men in the public execution and around 200 people in the area when it won the city.

U.S.-led coalition forces conducted 16 airstrikes Saturday and early Sunday against key ISIS buildings and transit routes in the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, a U.S. Army official said. The U.S.-led coalition often targets ISIS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were rare in their intensity. “The significant airstrikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Raqqa is the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic caliphate declared a year ago by the Islamic State group in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Iran

World powers seeking a nuclear deal with Iran in Vienna will continue negotiating past a second deadline on Tuesday — after missing a previous one last week. European Union representative Federica Mogherini said “this does not mean we are extending our deadline” because negotiators are interpreting the deadline “in a flexible way,” taking the time they need to finalize the agreement. The talks have been “difficult” and “tense,” she said, according to The Jerusalem Post. Delegations from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany have been working with Iran to seal an agreement on curbing Iran’s disputed nuclear program and lift international sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. The talks are meant to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

A $150 billion windfall Iran would get after a deal to curb its nuclear program is raising new alarms in Congress that it will use the money to boost terrorist funding across the Middle East. James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, calls Iran the world’s “foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” citing Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria and Houthi insurgents in Yemen. Yet the Obama administration argues that a nuclear deal with world powers and increased revenue would reduce Iran’s isolation, potentially leading to a more constructive Iranian foreign policy. There’s hope that success on the nuclear deal “could lead to other openings with Iran on other issues that could possibly have a positive benefit in terms of their behavior and conduct on a whole range of other security matters in the region,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

  • It is ludicrous to believe that handing Iran what they want will lead to a more peaceful, compliant relationship. Iran is determined to annihilate Israel and eliminate all infidels.

Afghanistan

Two suicide attacks rocked areas in and around Kabul on Tuesday, one of them targeting coalition forces and another an Afghan government building, authorities said. No coalition forces died as a result and that “all personnel and equipment have been recovered.” It was not immediately clear if any such forces suffered injuries, or how many of the attackers died. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombings, according to a Twitter post by spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Such violence is hardly unprecedented in Afghanistan, which has been wracked by years of unrest. The Taliban had ruled the Asian nation until U.S.-led forces ousted them from power after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for helping harbor al Qaeda. The group never went away, though, remaining a disruptive and sometimes deadly force. President Barack Obama had announced his intention to pull out all but 5,500 troops by year’s end. But a senior Obama administration official said in March that Obama was reconsidering that drawdown at the request of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Nigeria

A bomb killed 25 people at a local government building in north-central Nigeria Tuesday, a state governor said — marking the latest in a series of recent deadly attacks in a country where the government is battling the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The bomb — “most likely carried by a suicide bomber” — exploded at a local government council’s office in the Sabon Gari section of the city of Zaria. Thirty-two other people were injured and being treated at a hospital. The Nigerian military on Saturday said “scores” were killed when six Boko Haram suicide bombers staged coordinated attacks Friday in a village near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Friday’s suicide attacks came the same day as reports of a fierce gun battle between Nigerian troops and Boko Haram on the outskirts of Maiduguri. A Wednesday raid on the fishing village of Kukawa left 97 people dead. The same day, Boko Haram militants stormed two nearby villages and opened fire at a mosque during evening prayers. Local lawmaker Mohammed Tahir told CNN 48 people were killed in that attack.

France

Over the past three years, France has deported 40 foreign imams for “preaching hatred.” A quarter of those have taken place since the January terror attacks in Paris, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday. The minister vowed to clamp down on mosques and preachers inciting hatred after a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss during an attack on a gas factory last week. Any “foreign preacher of hate will be deported,” said Cazeneuve, adding that several mosques were being investigated for inciting terrorism and if found to be doing so, “will be shut down.”

  • The U.S. needs to follow suit. We have hate crime laws, so why aren’t they being implemented against hate-mongering Islamists but only against Christian bakers and florists?

Wildfires

All over the West, wildfire danger is high and hundreds of fires are actively burning in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. As temperatures soar in the Northwest, firefighters are being dealt a very difficult hand in the battle against several large blazes burning across multiple states. With so many areas already under severe, long-term drought, any fire that’s sparked immediately becomes a huge danger to grow into a huge inferno. All over the state of Washington, fire crews have been stretched to the brink as they attempt to extinguish dozens of wildfires currently burning. Over 80 active wildfires were burning in Oregon as of the weekend. Firefighters have their hands full as at least 20 large wildfires continue to burn in Alaska.

A large grass fire is threatening to burn structures in the town of Vacaville, and at least 100 people have been forced from their homes as a result. The so-called Lake fire, the largest of the Golden State’s active blazes, had burned through more than 31,000 acres of land as of Sunday morning. A wildfire has grown to nearly 18,000 acres in rough terrain south of Lake Tahoe.

Overall, there are 22 large wildfires (over 100 acres) actively burning in Alaska as of Tuesday morning, having already consumed 400,000 acres. Another 17 large wildfires are burning in Washington and Oregon, destroying over 46,500 acres. Nationally, 29,374 wildfires have burned 3,111,481 acres through Monday, July 6th. This is the most in four years at this point, greater than the 10-year average of 2,339,310 acres, due to the extreme heat of early summer and the drought in the west.

Weather

The torrid heat wave in the Northwest, now in its second week, will continue for a while this week. Seattle tied its record streak of five straight 90-degree-plus highs Sunday. Boise, Idaho, tied its all-time record streak of 100-degree-plus highs on July 4, a string of nine straight days. Portland, Oregon, set a daily record high Sunday (96 degrees) and has seen 95-degree-plus heat the first five days of July. More record highs are expected over the next several days in Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho before a cooling trend starts by the end of the week. One of the Big Four Ice Caves near Granite Falls, Washington, partially collapsed Monday night due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, killing one person and injuring four others.

Dangerous storms moved into the Kansas City area Monday night, bringing heavy rain, lightning and even reported tornadoes. There were no immediate reports of major damage, but photos showed trees snapped and power lines down in Eudora, Kansas. Torrential rains were another signature of Monday’s storms. The National Weather Service said 6 inches of rain was reported in Platte County, Missouri, as well as flooding in downtown Wichita. Flood watches are in effect in several areas Tuesday from the Ohio Valley to the mid-Mississippi Valley, Ozarks, southern Plains, Rockies and even parts of the Great Basin and Sierra. In 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, there had been 104 reports of flash flooding.

A heat wave blasting through Europe smashed the German record, the 104.5-degree temperature recorded Sunday in Kitzingen the hottest in the nation since record keeping began in 1881. Kitzingen is a town of about 20,000 people in southern Bavaria. Europe has experienced extreme heat since last week, with scorching temperatures saddling England, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain and other nations. Britain last week saw a record high for a July day.

Signs of the Times (7/3/15)

July 3, 2015

Texas, Other States Resist Complying With Gay Marriage ‘Edict’

While a host of state officials across the country have expressed sentiments ranging from disappointment to outrage over the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage — stripping the issue from state control — some officials are not accepting the decision without a fight. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton characterized the decision as “a judge-based edict that is not based in the law.” In a statement on Friday, Paxton said “no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment.” Paxton has issued an opinion that Lone Star State county clerks “retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.” And state judges “may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections.” Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell says there is “nothing in [the] decision that makes the court’s order effective immediately” and contends that “therefore, there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana.”

  • Not only is the Supreme Court ruling a violation of religious freedom but it also violated states’ rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution

Bible Belt Clerks Resisting Gay Marriage Ruling

A county clerk in Kentucky is defying the U.S. Supreme Court and refusing to recognize same-sex “marriage” in her county. Citing her conscience and religious beliefs, Kim Davis tells OneNewsNow she will not sign a marriage license for homosexuals in Rowan County. “And so to not be considered discriminatory, I have chosen to not issue marriage licenses at all,” says Davis, 49, a Democrat who took office in January. In Mississippi, meanwhile, Circuit Clerk Linda Barnette has resigned her office rather than issue marriage licenses to homosexuals in Grenada County. Barnette told OneNewsNow that she is a Christian and was expecting what has happened – the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Mississippi law in its June 26 decision. “That’s just against my beliefs as a Christian and a follower of Christ,” she says. “And I think my final authority is in the Bible, and I just in good conscience couldn’t issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.”

Supreme Court: Obama Can’t Make Religious Groups Obey Birth Control Mandate

Some Roman Catholic religious charities in Pennsylvania will not be forced to follow the federal government’s birth control coverage mandate— at least, temporarily. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the religious organization, including Catholic Charities, could be exempt from the mandate while the case is being litigated. The HHS mandate requires that businesses, including religious ministries, provide birth control coverage or pay IRS penalties, The Christian Post reports. In response to the interim decision, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called the order a success. “Every time a religious ministry has taken this issue to the Supreme Court, the government has lost and the religious plaintiffs have been granted relief,” said Becket Fund Deputy General Counsel Eric Rassbach.

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules Ten Commandments Statue Must be Removed

An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit religion. The court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.” The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay. It prompted calls from several GOP lawmakers for impeachment of the justices who said it must be removed. Attorney General Scott Pruitt argued that the monument was historical, not religious, in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following Gay Marriage Ruling, Calls to Revoke Church Tax-Exemptions

No more than 48 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage for all 50 states, there are already calls to revoke the tax-exempt status for churches: “The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.” Writes Mark Oppenheimer in Time Magazine. Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy notes that, “Churches provide untold benefits to our community. They feed our hungry, care for our sick, and give hope to the weary. And now, because many churches believe in marriage between a man and a woman, they face losing their tax-deductible status. This is only the beginning of the choppy waters ahead.”

  • Christians and churches are in the crosshairs. Persecution is ramping up as the end-time anti-Christ spirit stirs the pot.

Planned Parenthood Plans More “Mega Centers”

According to a horrifying new report released by Americans United for Life, Planned Parenthood is hard at work opening more “mega center” abortion clinics across the country. These massive abortion facilities are thousands and thousands of square feet in size. They are the abortion industry’s version of a big box store. “These butchers want to completely corner the market on killing innocent babies. They are using the tactics of big business to expand their murderous empire and establish an abortion monopoly,” reports Operation Rescue. Despite the American public’s growing opposition to abortion, Planned Parenthood believes they can increase revenues by increasing the number of abortions they conduct in these massive factory-like killing centers. In just the past ten years, Planned Parenthood has increased their number of abortions by roughly 200 per day.

  • Government sponsored infanticide should be prosecuted as a hate crime

Obama Administration Scales back Deportations in Policy Shift

The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials. In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the majority of the United States’ 11.3 million undocumented immigrants can stay in this country, with agents narrowing enforcement efforts to three groups of illegal migrants: convicted criminals, terrorism threats or those who recently crossed the border. While public attention has been focused on the court fight over President Obama’s highly publicized executive action on immigration, DHS has with little fanfare been training thousands of immigration agents nationwide to carry out the revised policies on everyday enforcement. “We are making it clear that we should not expend our limited resources on deporting those who have been here for years, have committed no serious crimes, and have, in effect, become integrated members of our society,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

Six Black Churches Burned since Emanuel AME Shooting

Six predominantly black churches in the South have caught fire less than two weeks after the shooting at Emanuel AME church left nine people dead. The Washington Post reports three of the church fires are being investigated as arson. Officials are working with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine who set the fires that were deemed arson and if there is any connection between them. Currently, authorities said there is no evidence that suggests the fires are linked.

FBI Investigating 11 Attacks Internet Infrastructure

The FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California’s San Francisco Bay Area dating back a year, including one early Tuesday morning. Agents confirm the latest attack disrupted Internet service for businesses and residential customers in and around Sacramento, the state’s capital. In Tuesday’s attack, someone broke into an underground vault and cut three fiber-optic cables. The attacks date back to at least July 6, 2014. “When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing,” FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said. “We definitely need the public’s assistance.”

Economic News

Employers added 223,000 jobs in June as the labor market posted a third straight month of solid gains after a winter downturn. The unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 5.3%, the lowest since April 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Wage growth slowed in June after showing signs of a pickup the previous month. Average hourly earnings were unchanged at $24.95 in June and are up 2% over the past 12 months, in line with the sluggish gains so far in the six-year-old recovery.

Greece

Greece’s midnight deadline passed Tuesday for repaying $1.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund and other international creditors, deepening a financial crisis that threatens the Mediterranean nation’s membership in the European Union. Despite an eleventh-hour effort by Greek lawmakers Tuesday to secure a new two-year debt deal before the deadline, European finance ministers reviewing Greece’s proposal concluded their conference call without offering a bailout extension. After the deadline passed (at 6 pm ET), Greece joined Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia in being in arrears to the IMF.

Greece is in the midst of the worst brain drain in modern history, experts say. The country is hemorrhaging talent, as professionals in medicine, engineering and academics flee for a better economic climate and more stable employment. The pain has been particularly severe in the health care sector of Greece: Many of the country’s doctors have left or are making plans to do so.

Middle East

At least 20 Egyptian security force personnel have been killed and 30 others injured in ongoing clashes ignited by militants’ attacks on checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula. The terrorist group ISIS, in statements posted to Twitter, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Seventy terrorists simultaneously attacked five Egyptian checkpoints on the Sinai Peninsula, but soldiers killed 22 of the attackers. The Sinai borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Israel to the east.

The vehicle of an IDF brigade commander was attacked with stones as he drove on a road in the West Bank Friday morning, prompting him to fire warning shots which were ignored before he shot at his attackers, killing one. “The commander reacted exactly as expected given that the incident presented an immediate risk to life,” an IDF source said, adding that the rock attack was a planned ambush. The incident was the latest outbreak of violence in recent days and came despite a massive show of force in the West Bank and Jerusalem by military and police units.

The United Church of Christ adopted a resolution at its synod in Cleveland, Ohio Tuesday evening to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The leadership of two other mainline Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church of Salt Lake City and the Mennonites in Kansas City, are scheduled to vote this week on similar resolutions by Wednesday. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement reacting to the UCC move, calling it “immoral” and adding “People of faith and religion should work to facilitate peace and not try to hurt the side [Israel] aspiring for peace.”

Iran

Iran took possession of a 13-ton hoard of gold — worth nearly $500 million — held up by sanctions after working out a deal on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna, the country’s central bank chief told Iranian media. Valiollah Seif, who heads the Central Bank of Iran, said the transfer is evidence the talks are having some success. The State Department said the timing was unrelated to the current talks but rather stems from an interim agreement reached in November 2013. That deal suspended sanctions on trade with Iran in gold and precious metals starting January 2014.

U.S. and Iranian negotiators in Vienna agreed to extend the deadline from Tuesday night to July 7 as they remained far apart on key issues. Even if a deal can be reached by the new date, differences in the interpretation of the latest interim agreement show the obstacles of executing an accord. The deadline was extended ‘to allow more time for negotiations to reach a long-term solution’ on the Iran nuclear issue, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. The differences in the White House and Iranian interpretations of the Lausanne deal could be a sign of danger ahead even if a deal is reached. Olli Heinonen, who spent 27 years as a weapons inspector for IAEA said that the final deal is likely to be much more specific than the framework agreement but that ‘going back to the history (with Iran) we have seen differences in views and interpretations in the past.'” Iran took a hard stance Friday on two of the biggest demands of world powers in a final nuclear deal Thursday, rejecting any extraordinary inspection rules and warning that if the U.S. and other countries re-impose sanctions after the deal is done, it will ramp up enrichment of bomb-making materials.

  • Even if Iran signs a deal it is extremely unlikely that they will adhere to the agreement finding ways around it anyway they can. It’s an exercise in futility as Iran continues to work toward nuclear weapons.

Syria

Aleppo, the largest city of Syria, is embattled on four fronts, and is expected to fall soon to ISIS. Hassake has suffered severe attack in recent days and three-quarters of its population has fled. Even the capital Damascus is in danger. All three cities had significant Christian communities, but facing the prospect of death, kidnapping or forced conversion to Islam, a new wave of Christians has left their homes to seek safety they know not where. In Kobane, many Christians are in hiding in the city while others are trapped at the Turkish border after they fled their homes in fear.

Columbia

Two explosions rocked Colombia’s capital on Thursday, injuring at least eight people. The blasts took place outside the offices of the Porvenir pension fund management company. Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas described the explosions as “terrorist acts” and said the government was offering a reward of up to 100 million pesos (about $38,000) for information about who was responsible for them. The first blast, which occurred in the financial district, injured seven people. The second blast, in an industrial area of the city, left another person wounded

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake and several strong aftershocks hit western China Friday, killing several people and damaging or destroying thousands of buildings. The 6.4-magnitude quake struck in the morning hours Friday in Pishan county in the Hotan region of Xinjiang in far western China. At least four strong aftershocks, all over 4-magnitude, have since impacted the area. The Associated Press reported that at least six people were killed and that 3,000 structures were damaged or collapsed. Medical teams, tents and more than 500 military members were en route to impacted areas.

Wildfires

The multitude of fires in Alaska is a glimpse of things to come as the climate warms, This summer, a number of factors have lined up to make Alaska a tinderbox. A dry winter left little snow on the ground and record heat in May, with the state’s average temperature running 7.1°F above average, melted what little snow there was. Similarly warm conditions stretched across a large portion of western Canada in late May and set the stage for extreme wildfire conditions. Over the period of June 18-24, the Bureau of Land Management lightning network recorded more than 71,000 lightning strikes in Alaska, igniting a large swath of fires. As of July 2, 356 wildfires are burning in western Canada and another 297 are active in Alaska. For the year-to-date, wildfires have burned 3.2 million acres in western Canada and 1.8 million acres in Alaska. Both numbers are well above the long-term average and in the case of Alaska, are in record territory for the amount of acreage burned for this time of year. The Canadian fires are sending a smoky haze over the central United States.

Weather

Widespread severe storms hammered millions in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast Tuesday night, and as the strong winds brought down trees and power lines, tens of thousands lost power. In eastern Pennsylvania, a state of emergency was declared in Whitehall Township near Allentown due to the storms. Nany large trees are down as well as flooded streets. Damage to homes was also reported, but there were no reports of injuries. Severe weather left damage in the capital city of Florida as well. As many as 50,000 homes and businesses lost power in Tallahassee Tuesday night. Several residents suffered property damage due to falling trees