Signs of the Times (8/7/15)

Alabama Becomes 3rd State to De-Fund Planned Parenthood

Alabama has become the third state to de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business in the wake of five videos exposing how the abortion giant sells the body parts of aborted babies for research. Governor Robert Bentley announced on Twitter today that Alabama would also be cutting all state taxpayer funding to the abortion company. The state follows Louisiana, which is revoking a contract with Planned Parenthood using state Medicaid dollars, and New Hampshire, which zapped $650,000 in state taxpayer funding.

Poll: Religious Liberty a Priority over Gay Rights

A national poll done by Caddell Associates shows almost three-quarters of Americans (71%) desire “a commonsense solution that both protects religious freedom and gay and lesbian couples from discrimination.” Thus far, however, protection from such “discrimination” typically has come at the cost of religious freedom and freedom of conscience. When asked which was more important – protecting religious liberty or protecting homosexual rights – voters by a 4-to-1 margin (31% to 8%) chose religious freedom. Caddell also asked respondents whether it should be up to the federal government to determine what constitutes legitimate religious beliefs. Only 11 percent agreed and a massive 79 percent disagreed.” Indeed, even two-thirds of those on the ‘left’ of the segmentation disagreed,” Patrick Caddell said.

Cuba Sees Christianity Boom as Bibles Pour into Communist Nation

Cuba is experiencing a Christian revival, as tens of thousands of Bibles pour into the communist-ruled nation. Christian Today reports that 83,000 Bibles were sent to Cuba last month alone by the International Missions Board. Additionally, the American Bible Society has set a goal of sending one million Bibles to Cuba by 2017. So far, 60,000 copies have been distributed in the nation. According to the American Bible Society website, Christianity is booming in Cuba. “With a population of 11 million, a literacy rate of nearly 100 percent and an unprecedented growth in Christianity thanks to social, economic and political reforms, many Cubans are seeking guidance and hope found in God’s Word. As a result of this unprecedented spiritual and cultural shift, demand for Bibles has outpaced supply.” Only recently did Bible distribution become legal in the nation.

Chinese Government Continues to Crackdown on Churches

Religious tension is mounting in China as the government continues to crackdown on Christian churches. China began a campaign in 2013 to take down the prominent red crosses that sit atop many Chinese churches. According to ABC News, authorities in Zhejiang province have been instructed to take down every cross from the 4,000 or so churches in the province within a two-month timeframe. China’s semiofficial Christian associations have warned that the very effort to stamp out any enemies may create more enemies where there were none to begin with. The increasing severity of the cross campaign is thought to be due to the leadership of President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping who came to power in 2012.

  • Satan never learns. Persecution has always backfired, resulting in a wider, stronger spread of Christianity

Victory in Sudan: Two Pastors Facing Death Penalty are Freed

Two South Sudanese pastors who were facing death or life in prison have been freed. Rev. Yat Michael and Rev. Peter Reight were arrested on six charges, including “offending Islamic beliefs,” promoting hatred and undermining the constitutional system, according to Christian Today. Christian Solidarity Worldwide confirmed the men’s freedom on Wednesday. In a hearing on Wednesday, Michael was convicted of inciting hatred and Reith was convicted of breaching public peace. Both were released on time already served.

Al Qaeda Branch Calls for New Attacks against the U.S.

Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which officials have called the terror group’s most dangerous affiliate, has issued two threatening new communiques praising recent lone-wolf style attacks against the West and calling for more of them. “We urge you to strike America in its own home and beyond,” says a letter attributed to Ibrahim al-Asiri, the master bomb-maker with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Intelligence officials say Asiri was a key player in the 2009 Christmas Day bomb attempt in which a passenger from Africa almost managed to detonate a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound plane that he’d hidden in his underwear. Asiri was also behind the placing of bombs in printer cartridges aboard planes headed for the United States that were intercepted before they reached their targets.

Most States Waiving Work Requirements for Food Stamps

Most states still are waiving work requirements for those on food stamps, raising concerns that despite an improving job market the Obama administration is fostering government dependency, all at the expense of taxpayers. Forty-four of the 50 states have to some degree eased work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. “The explosion of enrollment on SNAP of able-bodied adults without requiring work is a recipe for long-term dependency, and is hurting the country’s economic recovery,” said Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, Josh Archambault. Supporters of waiving work requirements counter that there still aren’t enough jobs out there.

  • Increasing dependency on government is a key strategy of the one-world government folks, giving them control to implement their socialist-humanist agenda

Sixteen States ask Obama Admin to Put Power Plant Rules on Hold

The campaign to stop President Barack Obama’s sweeping emissions limits on power plants began taking shape Wednesday, as sixteen states asked the government to put the rules on hold while a Senate panel moved to block them. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the charge against the rules, banded together with 15 other state attorneys general in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy requesting that the agency temporarily suspend the rules while they challenge their legality in court. The EPA and the White House both said they believe the limits are legal and have no plans to put them on hold. But by submitting the formal request, the attorneys general are laying the groundwork to ask the courts to suspend the emissions limits instead.

Infant Mortality Rate Hits Record Low, although Racial Disparities Persist

The USA’s infant mortality rate hit a record low in 2013, falling to 5.96 deaths per 1,000 live births, or about 23,400 deaths, according to a CDC report issued Thursday. While health officials cheered those new numbers, they noted that the USA still lags behind other nations and that mortality among black babies is far higher than among whites. Infant mortality in the USA has dropped 13% since 2005. Infant mortality rates are considered one of the strongest measures of a country’s health, because they reflect women’s well-being, overall access to health care, quality of health care, social and economic conditions, and public health practices. However, the USA ranks last among 26 high-income countries for infant mortality, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,   below even former Eastern Bloc countries such as Hungary and Poland. And infant mortality among blacks — 11.1 deaths per 1,000 births — remains more than twice as high as among whites, according to the CDC study.

Deadly Infections from Medical Scopes go Unreported

Reports of superbug outbreaks linked to a specialized type of medical scope continue to climb, but government efforts to assess the public health risk are stymied: No one knows how often the infections occur — or where. Duodenoscopes, which are run down the throat to treat intestinal problems, have been tied to scores of infections and more than a dozen deaths at hospitals in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and other cities. Indiana’s health department recently notified federal officials of two more scope-related infections that have not been disclosed previously. But for every duodenoscope-related illness that’s reported, countless others go uncounted, an ongoing USA TODAY investigation finds. Many suspicious illnesses in duodenoscope patients never come to the attention of federal authorities, including cases identified by the newspaper in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and other states. So federal health officials know the cause of the problem — bacteria can lodge in the scopes’ recesses and move from patient to patient — but they can’t discern its prevalence or the magnitude of the threat it may pose.

Hacker’s RollJam Device can Steal Your Car Keys & Open Your Garage

A proven electronic code system that’s kept millions of cars and garages safe from thieves soon may be rendered useless by a hacker’s device — assembled from about $20 in parts. Your car key uses what’s known as “rolling code.” Every time you press the button, a new, randomly generated code is sent over a radio frequency to your car, which has a synchronized code generator that recognizes it and then burns it so it can never be used again. The key and the car then create new codes for the next time around, and the process repeats. White-hat hacker Samy Kamkar, who last week cracked GM’s OnStar smartphone app security and demonstrated his ability to illicitly unlock and start a car over a cellular network, has developed a device made from $20 worth of parts that he calls the RollJam, which intercepts the codes and can then use them to access the car or garage.

Persecution Watch

Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012 when he was arrested while visiting family members and helping to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht, has become the poster child for the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on Christians. Despite the high level of visibility his plight has received, he and three other US citizens being held by the Islamic Republic, as well as the extreme persecution suffered by Christians in Iran, are not being considered in the ongoing debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s renegade nuclear program. Abedini’s imprisonment is one of many issues raised by a recent report by Amnesty International accusing Iran of massive human rights abuses.

Economic News

The economy added a solid 215,000 jobs last month in a development that could help give the Federal Reserve the evidence it needs to raise interest rates in September for the first time in nearly a decade. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, was unchanged at 5.3%, the Labor Department said Friday, as the modest rise in employment was offset by an increase in the labor force as some Americans on the sidelines resumed their job searches. Businesses added 210,000 jobs on strong advances by retail, health care, professional services and leisure and hospitality. Federal, state and local governments added 5,000.

America has millions of jobs openings — more than any point since 2000. There were 5.3 million job openings in America in May, according to the most recent data from the Labor Department. That’s better than the meager 2.1 million job openings at the depth of the recession. However, the high number of job openings raises red flags because it means companies aren’t finding the right people to fill the jobs. It signals a persistent problem in America’s economy: the skills gap. So far this year, for every job opening, about 30 people apply on average. Of those applicants, less than 20% meet the qualifications for the job, according to Corporate Executive Board, a research group. Experts say that job training programs in the U.S. remain lackluster compared to the country’s global peers in Europe and Asia. “Employers want “ready-now” people, they say, but may be setting the bar too high.

The U.S. trade deficit increased in June as solid consumer spending pulled in more imports, while the strong dollar restrained exports. The Commerce Department said Wednesday the trade gap jumped 7% to $43.8 billion in June, up from $40.9 billion in May. Imports increased 1.2% to $232.4 billion, while exports edged lower to $188.6 billion from $188.7 billion.

Middle East

A Christian tourist from France visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tuesday, pulling an Israeli flag out of his bag as he stood near the al-Aksa Mosque. The man was immediately attacked by four Moslem men and severely beaten before being rescued by Israeli police. His attackers were also arrested, but police said the tourist might face charges of incitement to violence.

Islamic State

Syrian activists say the Islamic State group has seized a key town in central Syria following clashes with President Bashar Assad’s forces. The town of Qaryatain lies southwest of the historic town of Palmyra, which the extremist group seized in May. The capture of Qaryatain, a heavily populated town, allows the IS group to link up areas under its control in and around Palmyra with areas in the eastern countryside of Qalamoun north of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the IS group seized the town Thursday after three suicide bombers targeted army checkpoints at the entrance the day before, setting off a fierce battle. Up to 500 people are unaccounted for, but the observatory has confirmed that at least 230 people have been taken hostage.

Egypt

Egypt received a show of international support on Thursday as it inaugurated a major extension of the Suez Canal which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes will power an economic turnaround in the Arab world’s most populous country. The former armed forces chief, who led a military takeover two years ago but ran for president as a civilian last year, told a ceremony attended by French, Russian, Arab and African leaders that Egypt would defeat the terrorism that dogged the project. “Work did not take place in normal circumstances, and these circumstances still exist and we are fighting them and we will defeat them,” Sisi said after signing an order allowing ships to cross the New Suez Canal. “We promised a gift to the world and we accomplished it in record time – an additional artery for prosperity and for connecting civilization to enhance the movement of international trade,” he said, as the first vessel passed through the canal.

Afghanistan

A bomb hidden in a truck exploded in the center of the Afghan capital, killing seven people and wounding about 400, police and health officials said Friday. The pre-dawn blast was near a Defense Ministry compound, but all of the victims were civilians, including women and children. Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullha Mayar about 400 people were hurt, mostly after being hit by flying glass. The blast comes after the United Nations said Wednesday that a growing number of women and children are getting hurt or killed in Afghanistan’s war against the Taliban and other insurgents. The number of women casualties rose by 23 percent and children by13 percent over last year.

Saudi Arabia

A bomb ripped through a mosque in Saudi Arabia used by Interior Ministry special forces in the southwestern city of Abha on Thursday, killing 17 people, according to the official Saudi Al-Ekhbariya news channel. A Saudi Interior Ministry official told the Associated Press that the bomb targeted police trainees as they were in the middle of prayer. Ekhbariya said at least 10 of the dead were members of the security forces. The attack was likely perpetrated by the Islamic State group, whose local affiliate has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in recent months.

Pakistan

Two Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed four militants in a troubled tribal region near the Afghan border. The officials said Friday two missiles hit a militant hideout in the village of Datta Khel in North Waziristan, where the military has been carrying out a major offensive against local and foreign militants since June last year. The officials say the apparent target of late Thursday’s strike were members of the Haqqani militant network. The U.S. has been using drone strikes to kill militants for several years now, but U.S. officials rarely comment on the covert drone program run by the CIA.

Mali

Four Malian soldiers, two Islamic extremists and at least one foreigner are dead after a shootout at a hotel near an army camp in central Mali Friday. Armed jihadists attacked the hotel and then exchanged gunfire with Malian soldiers trying to protect the Hotel Debo in the town of Sevare, about 9 miles from Mopti in the country’s central region. Smoke was seen rising from the town after the attack at the hotel, frequented by personnel from the country’s United Nations peacekeeping mission. Attacks by extremists on Malian army positions have moved into central and southern Mali this year. Mali’s north fell under the control of Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led military intervention in 2013 scattered the extremists, though the region remains insecure.

Bangladesh

A group of attackers hacked a Bangladeshi blogger to death Friday in his apartment in the capital of Dhaka, authorities said. The killing of the secular blogger, who uses the pen name Niloy Neel, was at least the fourth this year targeting those who posted online pieces critical of Islam. Neel wrote posts condemning the recent killings of three other bloggers in his country. He also routinely posted on women’s and minority rights, communal violence and the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh.

Pestilence

Millions of locusts have descended on farmlands in southern Russia, devouring entire fields of crops and causing officials to declare a state of emergency in the region. Officials say at least 10% of crops have already been destroyed, and the locust feeding frenzy is far from over, threatening to devastate the livelihoods of local farmers. Russian news broadcasts are linking the plague to climate change, connecting the phenomenon to recent flooding amid higher than average temperatures. Officials say the locust swarms are moving fast across southern Russia, sometimes too fast for the authorities to keep up, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

Environment

The ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico is much larger than expected. Measuring in at 6,474 miles, the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone this year covers an area roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. A dead zone is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life. These areas are also referred to as hypoxia areas and occur when there is nutrient runoff, largely due to the fertilizer used in nearby fields. This accelerates algae growth, which compromises the oxygen levels in the water when they decompose. In 2002, the NOAA reported that the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone spanned 8,497 square miles. Though the size of this year’s dead zone is significantly smaller, it is still three times larger than the reduction goal set by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force.

Wildfires

Fifty-two large (over 100 acres) wildfires are burning in the U.S. as of Friday morning. Most of these are in California (16, 170,000 acres), Oregon (8, 35,000 acres), Washington (7, 56,000 acres), Idaho (5, 2,700 acres) and Arizona (8, 13,500 acres). So far this year, over six million acres of land has been consumed by wildfires, up 50% over the ten-year average.

Hundreds of people who were forced to leave their Northern California homes because of a massive wildfire began to trickle back to their neighborhoods on Thursday. Many found their houses destroyed. About 43 homes were destroyed as the blaze swept through nearly 109 square miles of dry brush.

Weather

On the heels of a hot finish to July across much of the southern U.S., another string of hot days is on the way. In many spots, the heat will only worsen by this weekend. If 100-degree heat was not bad enough, high levels of humidity will make it feel even more uncomfortable. Little relief is expected at night as cities like Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi, may struggle to fall below 80 degrees.

A heat wave that has already killed dozens and sickened thousands in Japan reached another torrid milestone Thursday as the nation’s capital, Tokyo, suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day of extreme heat. Tokyo reached 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit Friday, marking its eighth straight day of highs at or above Japan’s “extreme heat” threshold of 95 F. An analysis of Japan Meteorological Agency data, conducted by The Weather Channel, confirmed that the previous record was just four consecutive days. The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s official tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital.

Heavy rain of up to 20 inches and 110-120 mph winds threaten Taiwan on Friday as Typhoon Soudelor makes landfall. Once the most powerful storm of 2015, Soudelor has weakened but is expected to hit with the strength of a Category 3 hurricane Friday night (local time). Earlier in the week, the U.S. commonwealth Saipan and other islands took a direct hit from what was then a super typhoon, resulting in a “state of disaster” in Saipan.

Torrential monsoon rains in the aftermath of cyclone Komen continue to cause flooding in India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, leaving hundreds dead and millions displaced. In India, at least 178 are dead due to the heavy downpours and related accidents. Late Tuesday, flooding under a bridge derailed two trains traveling in Madhya Pradesh, killing dozens of the 230 people estimated to be on board.

The world’s glaciers are losing ice at a faster pace so far this century than at any time since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago, according to a new study that says glacial melt is a worldwide phenomenon and will continue even if the world stopped warming any further than it already has. The study, published last month in the Journal of Glaciology and conducted by the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, states, “The observed glaciers currently lose between 1.5 to 3 feet of its ice thickness every year – this is two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century,”

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

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