Signs of the Times (7/21/15)

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.

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