Signs of the Times (7/14/15)

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.

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