Signs of the Times (11/3/15)

Government Rules Transgender Student Must Have Access to Locker Room

The U.S. government on Monday found that a Chicago suburban high school district discriminated against a transgender student and gave the school a month to provide full access to girls’ locker rooms or lose federal funding. After an investigation stemming from a 2013 complaint by the ACLU, and months of negotiations, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found Township High School District 211 was violating federal non-discrimination rules. The district says transgender students may use their gender-identified locker room if they change and shower privately. The government said a separate changing place was discriminatory because it subjected the student to stigma and different treatment.

  • Circular logic: if they must change and shower privately they’re already receiving ‘different treatment’

Department Of Defense Shifts Focus To Climate Change

Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress. To reduce the national security implications of climate change, combatant commands are integrating climate-related impacts into their planning cycles, officials said. The ability of the United States and other countries to cope with the risks and implications of climate change requires monitoring, analysis and integration of those risks into existing overall risk management measures, as appropriate for each combatant command, they added.

  • Climate change is the foundation for the one-world government folks to enforce compliance under the banner of “sustainability” – now even U.S. Defense mechanisms are being put in place to do so

Vaccines Used To Deliver Covert Birth Control

In the vaccine research community, it’s an open secret that the Rockefeller Fund, the UN, and other groups have been backing the development of vaccines that function as agents of population control. This work has been going on for decades by incorporating anti-fertility hormones in vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis given in a one-shot combination in countries like Africa. “Population reduction is a stated and very specific goal of Agenda 21 and the United Nations, and other like-minded organizations and NGOs that are aligned with it,” writes Jon Rappaport in Technocracy News.

Higher Premiums Likely to Slow ObamaCare Signups

The Obamacare increases for 2016 have been released. Premiums will increase 3 times faster than officials claim, reports truenews.com. Every state is different. Every insurer is different. New Mexico residents, for instance, can expect increases of 8 to 40 percent for the second-lowest cost silver plan. But for people in other states, including Arkansas the cost will increase less than 4 percent. Overall the average increase is 20.3 percent, according to analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation, instead of the 7.5 percent originally asserted. Enrollment on the federal and state exchanges began anew Sunday for the third year.

While the law’s expanded coverage has reduced the uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent, the gains will be harder in 2016. Costs are going up on the private, taxpayer-subsidized coverage sold through HealthCare.gov and state insurance exchanges, and many of the more than 10 million remaining uninsured Americans are skeptics. A sharp increase in fines, however, may sway at least some fence-sitters. In 2016, the penalty will rise to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is higher. This year, the fine is the greater of $325 or 2 percent of income. However, many are trapped in what’s called the “Medicaid gap.” They cannot get health insurance through HealthCare.gov because the law prevents people below the poverty line from using the insurance exchanges. So the private insurance alternative is closed to them, even as their states refuse to expand public coverage.

National Debt Nearly Doubles under Obama

President Obama is expected to sign into law a two-year budget deal this week. According to The Washington Times, the deal with Congress will suspend the debt limit to allow the Treasury to borrow about $1.5 trillion. By the end of Obama’s presidency, the national debt will be nearing $20 trillion. In 2009, when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. “Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”

Corporations Shield Themselves from Class-Action Lawsuits

Nine words inserted in the fine prints of consumer and employment contracts are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found. These buried, seemingly innocuous words specify that the corporation “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, corporations have devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices. Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

California Turning to Desalinization to Solve Water Crisis

Three years of historically dry winters in the Sierra Nevada forced Californians to kill a lot of lawns and cut per-person water use by a quarter this summer, just to get by. Not content to wait and see if the next few winters offer a reprieve, Santa Barbara is among the coastal cities ready to pay up and tap an eternal source: the sea. Santa Barbara is retrofitting a desalination plant that was built in response to a lesser drought, and then abandoned in 1991. Technological advances, population growth and drought all make now the time for this new source, said Joshua Haggmark, the city’s water resources manager. Critics say desalination takes too much energy when the region could solve its problems through conservation.

Newest Ethanol Plant Makes Fuel from Husks

DuPont opened what it calls the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant, which uses corncobs, husks and stalks to produce what eventually will be 30 million gallons of ethanol annually. “This facility is a game-changer,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said. “We envisioned new biofuels from new technologies that were cleaner, greener and more efficient. You achieved those goals.” DuPont said the company plans to sell most of the green biofuel in California to help the state meet its low-carbon fuel standard. Cellulosic ethanol is 90% cleaner than gasoline. The company wants to replicate the Nevada biorefinery, which will employ 85 full time and about 150 seasonally, worldwide. It has licensed the technology in China and was hosting potential customers from across the globe at Friday’s ceremony.

Economic News

On Monday, the ISM Manufacturing Index — the official thermometer of the U.S. manufacturing sector since 1915 — declined for a fourth straight month. Demand has cooled as the global economy slows down, especially in China. It came in with a reading of 50.1. That’s just above the red flag zone. Anything below 50 would signal a manufacturing contraction. Manufacturing is often seen as a leading indicator of U.S. recessions. It’s an alarming sign when it starts to look weak for too long.

China’s all-important factory sector continued to contract for a third straight month in October, according to an official survey. The government’s purchasing managers’ index hit 49.8 in October, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Any number below 50 represents a deceleration in the manufacturing sector. A separate survey conducted by Chinese media group Caixin showed manufacturing PMI at 48.3 in October. That index has now been below 50 for eight consecutive months. The official government manufacturing gauge is heavily weighted toward large enterprises, while the Caixin survey places greater emphasis on smaller firms.

Migrant Crisis

Afghanistan will take back all its citizens to be deported from Germany as the European country struggles to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees and other asylum seekers who have arrived there this year, a Kabul official said. Afghans currently make up the second largest nationality, after Syrians, arriving in Europe. So far this year, an estimated 120,000 Afghans have left the country, legally and illegally, according to authorities. The International Organization of Migration says more than 76,000 Afghans have traveled to Europe so far in 2015. Last week, Germany’s interior minister complained of an “unacceptable” influx of Afghans from relatively safe areas of their country, and warned that many of them would have to return home.

German government officials have compelled a small town with just 102 people to take in approximately 750 migrants from Syria and other countries, The New York Times wrote Saturday. Sumte, a small town at the western fringe of the former East Germany, was informed earlier this month by its municipal government that it had been assigned to accept over a thousand of the asylum seekers that have poured into Germany over the course of 2015. The number was so high that Mayor Christian Fabel first thought it was a joke, but after a storm of local protest, the figure was lowered to 750, not out of sympathy but because it was believed a thousand would overwhelm the town’s sewage system.

Middle East

Israeli security forces remained on high alert throughout the country Tuesday following a string of attacks Monday evening that left several Israelis wounded and several Palestinian terrorists dead. Another possible attack was averted Tuesday morning when security forces arrested a Palestinian man at the Gilboa West Bank crossing and discovered a pipe bomb and knife in his possession, arresting him on the spot. The incident occurred several hours after two Palestinian terrorists attempted to stab a soldier outside of the crossing, leading to one being shot dead and the other being arrested. Also on Monday evening, four Israelis, including two senior citizens, were wounded in two separate stabbing attacks in Rishon Lezion and Netanya. Suspects in both attacks were arrested.

Islamic State

The Obama administration has authorized the deployment of U.S. military advisers into Syria in a significant expansion of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, the White House said Friday. President Obama approved a contingent of no more than 50 special operations forces to enter northern Syria where they will work with local rebels fighting the Islamic State. The Islamic State has maintained a grip on large swaths of Iraq and Syria despite more than a year of bombing by the U.S.-led coalition, and the move is an effort to invigorate ground operations. The United States is also in talks with Iraq about bolstering special operations forces in that country. The new Syria deployments are a testament to the tug between the president’s war doctrine and his war reality: after vowing to end two wars, he now faces the prospect of leaving office with ground forces deployed in three combat zones.

The cause of the crash that killed all 224 people aboard a Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula early Saturday has yet to be determined, but officials say there is no evidence to support the claim by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State that it brought down the plane. The Russian Transport Minister quickly dismissed the claim, saying it “cannot be considered reliable,” Interfax News reports. Mohamed Samir, Egypt’s army spokesman, also disputed the claim. The Metrojet flight, carrying 217 passengers and seven crewmembers, was en route from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg when it dropped off radar screens 23 minutes into the flight. It is believed to be the deadliest air accident in the history of Russian aviation. The co-pilot told his daughter ‘the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired’ before the airliner took off, according to his wife. The airliners broke apart at high altitude and scattered mangled bodies and plane parts over a wide swath of Egyptian desert, Russia’s air transport chief said Sunday. A Metrojet official on Monday said neither a mechanical failure nor human error could have caused the crash of its passenger plane in Egypt. A U.S. infrared satellite detected a mid-air ‘heat flash” over the Sinai desert at the same time a doomed Russian plane crashed in the area.

  • Russia recently began bombing ISIS in Syria, so retribution seems likely

Afghanistan

The Department of Defense spent $43 million to build a natural-gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost roughly $500,000, the lead oversight team monitoring U.S. spending in Afghanistan has found. The discovery came as part of a broader investigation into allegations of criminal activity within the DOD’s premiere program to kick-start the Afghan economy. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction told FoxNews.com, that the spending is “outrageous.” At issue is spending by the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations which ended in March 2015. But most alarming, according to Sopko, is the DOD’s failure to answer questions about the $800 million program.

Somalia

At least nine people were killed and 10 injured when Islamic extremists attacked a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, a police official said Sunday. The attack started at dawn when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle laden with explosives at the gate of the Sahafi Hotel and then gunmen on foot shot at people in the hotel. Al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist rebels waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack on a website associated with the group. Fighters from the al-Qaeda linked group infiltrated the hotel after the blast, taking some hostages.

Turkey

Turkish voters handed a surprise victory Sunday to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party, with preliminary results showing his long-ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) clinching a majority in parliament. With nearly all the votes counted, results published by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed the AKP securing at least 316 seats in Turkey’s 550-seat parliament, surpassing the 276 needed to form a single-party administration. Sunday’s vote represents a significant shift from the June election, in which the AKP lost its governing majority for the first time in 13 years and could not form a coalition. The party’s gamble to hold another election five months later appears to have paid off for Erdoğan, who was not on the ballot.

Earthquakes

Three minor earthquakes shook central Arizona on Sunday night and were felt by many residents in the Phoenix area. The first quake, a magnitude-3.2, was reported just before 9 p.m. local time Sunday. Then came the largest of the three tremors, a 4.1-magnitude quake, at 11:29 p.m. Twenty minutes later, a 4.0 temblor was reported. Each of the three earthquakes was centered near Black Canyon City, located about 45 miles north of Phoenix. No injuries or damage were reported, according to AZFamily.com, but residents were surprised by the shaking. Although nearby states are no stranger to large earthquakes, it’s rare for Arizona to experience earthquakes as large as the ones that shook residents Sunday night. The United States Geological Survey’s database shows just 6 prior earthquakes of magnitude 4 of greater have been centered in Arizona since record-keeping began.

Weather

Another round of storms and strong winds moved across Texas on Saturday, with two people still missing from earlier flash floods in the Austin area. Two people already were known to have died – in Austin and near San Antonio – when they were swept away by flood waters. Tornadoes were reported south and east of Houston on Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service. There were reports of overturned mobile homes and possible injuries. Power outages in the Houston area topped 25,000. As much as 13 inches of rain fell in coastal Texas spawning major flash flooding across Houston and nearby communities Saturday. Six people have been reported dead. The weekend’s rains in Houston left the city with a raw sewage problem that collected on downtown streets. The storms that pummeled Houston on Halloween caused more than 2 million gallons of sewage to spill into the bayous creating a horrible stench.

The heavy rains moved east across the Gulf Coast states Saturday and Sunday. Flash flood watches were posted over parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The storms moved across the Southeast on Monday, triggering floods and other storm damage and one death. Early Sunday morning, a strong storm left damage in Henry County, Alabama, including to school buildings in the town of Headland. The Headland High School auditorium’s roof was torn off by the storm

The coast of Yemen, an area unaccustomed to dealing with the devastation of tropical systems, has taken a direct hit from the powerful and dangerous Cyclone Chapala. As Chapala made landfall Tuesday, it dumped enormous amounts of rainfall on the arid coast – as much as a decade’s worth, according to some reports. This caused major flooding and swamped entire towns. In the coastal town of Mukalla, currently under al Qaeda control, thousands fled their homes, fearing rockslides and flooding, Reuters reported. Before hitting the mainland, Chapala sideswiped the Yemeni island of Socotra on Sunday. At least three people were killed and more than 200 were injured. “The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” Socotra Island Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafain said. Cyclone Chapala became the strongest tropical system so far south in the Arabian Sea on record. A cyclone is the same type of storm as a hurricane or typhoon. They’re known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

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