Signs of the Times (7/3/15)

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

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