Signs of the Times (11/10/15)

Campus Stabber’s Manifesto: Praise for Allah & Plan for Beheading

A handwritten manifesto carried by a California college student whose stabbing spree Wednesday left four wounded bore names of his targets, a vow “to cut someone’s head off” and as many as five reminders to “praise Allah,” law enforcement authorities told FoxNews.com, while insisting that neither terrorism nor religion appear to be motives in the attack.

  • Federal officials are going to ridiculous extremes to deny attacks are not terrorism and especially not due to Islam. If it were a Christian attacker the script would be reversed.

Appeals Court Rules against Obama Immigration Plan

President Obama’s executive action preventing the deportation of an estimated 5 million people living illegally in the United States suffered another setback Monday after a federal appeals court upheld a federal judge’s injunction blocking the measure. The 2-1 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans further dims the prospect of implementation of the executive action before Obama leaves office in 2017. Appeals over the injunction could take months. Republicans had criticized the plan as an illegal executive overreach when Obama announced it last November. Twenty-six states challenged the plan in court. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen granted the temporary injunction preventing the order’s implementation this past February, agreeing with the states that legalizing the presence of so many people would be a “virtually irreversible” action that would cause the states “irreparable harm.”

$1B Project to Digitize U.S. immigration Yields Just 1 Form

The government has spent more than $1 billion trying to replace its antiquated approach to managing immigration with a system of digitized records, online applications and a full suite of nearly 100 electronic forms. A decade in, all that officials have to show for the effort is a single form that’s now available for online applications and a single type of fee that immigrants pay electronically. The 94 other forms can be filed only with paper, reports the Washington Post. This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats, according to documents and interviews with former and current federal officials.

  • The government once again proves inept at getting things done, excelling only at wasting taxpayer dollars

FEMA Scandal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency can’t adequately account for more than 70 percent of the money spent on fuel for New York in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, a federal audit released on Friday found. FEMA spent $6.37 million for 1.7 million gallons of fuel as a gasoline shortage crippled the New York City area after the October 2012 storm, according to the audit from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. But the audit found “incomplete and questionable” documentation for $4.56 million of that spending. Additionally, $1.81 million worth of fuel went to recipients outside the scope of work that FEMA established for the crisis, the audit found. As a result, FEMA can’t be sure any of that fuel went to approved power restoration or emergency public transportation work in New York, the audit said. The unaccounted fuel deliveries occurred because FEMA didn’t comply with federal regulations requiring the agency to provide proper documentation accounting for its work, the audit found.

  • Just another federal agency pouring our hard-earned taxes into a black hole. Federal waste is a major contributor to our bloated federal debt

U.S. Military Proposes Sending more Forces to Europe to Deter Russia

U.S. military officials have proposed sending more troops to Europe to deter the threat of aggression by Russia and have stepped training exercises aimed at countering possible interference with troop transfers by Moscow. The Wall Street Journal reports that proposals for the deployment of multiple U.S. brigades in Europe were made over the weekend at the Reagan National Defense Forum. The U.S. Army currently has two infantry brigades based in Eastern Europe, totaling approximately 7,000 soldiers. One other brigade rotates in and out of Europe on a regular basis. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Journal that he would like to send attack helicopter units and artillery brigades to Europe as well as more rotating brigades.

Congress Calls for Obama to Increase ISIS attacks

Top congressional lawmakers expressed little doubt Sunday that ISIS is responsible for the recently downed Russian jetliner and called for heightened security and a revamped U.S. foreign policy to prevent a similar attack on an American passenger jet. The calls for a more aggressive response were made by Capitol Hill Democrats and Republicans, including leaders in intelligence, foreign policy and homeland security. Texas GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that the Obama administration’s tepid efforts to destroy the Islamic State terror group in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East is in large part to blame for the airliner tragedy.

  • As Iraq and Afghanistan fade out of the headlines, Russia and ISIS become the new battleground

U.S. Launches Unarmed Ballistic Missiles Over Western States

The U.S. Navy said it launched a second — and final — missile in a planned exercise Monday afternoon from a submarine off the Southern California coast. The second test launch of the Trident II missile was from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean, the Navy said. The blast-off took place to far less fanfare than Saturday night’s launch, which provoked residents from San Francisco to Mexico to take to social media, posting photos of an eerie-looking bluish-green plume smeared above the Pacific which authorities say was due to the gases expelled in the atmosphere from the Trident’s motor. Speculations were wide-ranging, including rumors of an otherworldly alien UFO.

  • Some say this was a message to China over their increasing militarization of the China Sea near Japan

Greenhouse Gas Levels Rise to Record High

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere hit another record high in 2014, a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report said Monday. The increase in gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide is fueling climate change and making “the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations,” the WMO said. The WMO is the United Nations’ weather agency. The report found that concentrations of carbon dioxide — considered the most dangerous greenhouse gas because of its long life cycle — reached 397.7 ppm in 2014 and that in the Northern Hemisphere it “crossed the symbolically significant 400 ppm level” in the spring of 2014. PPM stands for parts per million. The last time carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm was millions of years ago, according to the journal Nature Geoscience. A 2009 report in the journal found evidence of CO2 levels of 365 ppm to 415 ppm roughly 4.5 million years ago.

  • No humans or greenhouse gases around to blame 4.5 million years ago

Fast-Food Workers Strike, Seeking $15 Wage

Fast-food workers demanding a $15 an hour wage walked out in dozens cities at 6 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off a year-long campaign to muster the political power of 64 million low-wage workers in next year’s presidential election. The protests, which will take place in 270 cities, mark the workers’ largest show of force in the three years since they launched a series of rallies to call for higher pay and the right to unionize. Tens of thousands of workers and supporters were expected to take part in Tuesday’s demonstrations. In contrast to their nine previous walkouts, the workers are putting an emphatic political stamp on Tuesday’s activity. They’ll parade to local city halls in the late afternoon and the daylong offensive is expected to culminate with a protest by several thousand workers at the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee Tuesday night.

Gender Pay Gap Analysis

Yet another study has found overwhelming evidence that men get paid more than women. The pay gap exists even when male and female workers have the same job with the same qualifications. Overall, American women earn just 74 cents for every $1 a man earns, PayScale found after looking at data from over a million people. The study found that there’s no industry where women earn the same or more than men and there’s no state where women earn more than men. And, the gap gets worse the higher up the job ladder you go. In America, women are more likely to be social workers, secretaries and nurses, while men are more often employed as managers, engineers and IT workers, higher paying jobs. PayScale found American women earn 97 cents to the $1 men earn even when everything — job title, industry, experience, location and whether they have kids — is equal.

Economic News

Global trade growth is slowing sharply in 2015 and could spark another recession. “Growth rates of global trade observed so far in 2015, have, in the past, been associated with global recession,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Monday. World trade is expected to grow by just 2% this year. The average rate of growth for 2003-2012 was 5.6%. Imports into emerging markets are falling sharply, with China accounting for nearly one third of the drop, the OECD said.

The jobs report released by the Labor Department last Friday shows that the number of part-time workers who would rather have full-time jobs has fallen by more than 1 million to 5.7 million in the past 12 months. It’s the lowest number since 2008The rise in part-time workers has been one of the most unsettling trends of the Great Recession and the years since. Most of these workers were doing it not out of choice but because they hadn’t been able to find full-time work. Part-time workers — defined as people working under-35 hours a week — are five times more likely to live in poverty than full-time workers. They are far less likely to have health insurance and other benefits.

The U.S. shale oil boom lured tons of prospectors in recent years. Oil companies of all types and sizes loaded up on massive amounts of debt to fund rigs and fancy new drilling equipment. The problem is the companies were banking on oil prices closer to $100 oil when they took on the debt. Now oil is around $45 and no one is expecting prices to hit $100 any time soon. “There are going to be a lot of defaults,” R. Matthew Freund, chief investment officer of USAA Investments, told CNNMoney.

Migrant Crisis

According to the United Nations, 744,000 migrants have fled to Europe so far this year — more than 218,000 in October alone. Last month’s surge was more than in all of last year. And with the violence in the Middle East escalating, the crisis is not likely to ease. The European Union expects 3 million refugees to have arrived to its shores by 2017. The migration is already putting a strain on Europe’s finances. Governments are pouring money into rescue operations and border protection, as well as housing, health care and other services provided to the refugees.

Breitbart reports that a convicted terrorist has been caught trying to smuggle himself into Europe by posing as an asylum seeker, in a stark event proving correct those who warned of terrorists taking advantage of the European Union’s lax border controls. Ben Nasr Mehdi, a Tunisian who was first arrested in Italy in 2007 and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for plotting terror attacks with an Islamic State-linked group, was caught trying to re-enter the country.

  • With thousands of Muslim immigrants being taken in by the U.S. it seems almost certain that a few of them are terrorists posing as migrants

Middle East

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that they haven’t given up hope for peace in the Middle East, despite a changing political and diplomatic environment that seems to make such an accomplishment impossible for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. “I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to protect itself and defend itself against terror and destruction. But neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors who want to make peace with it.”

Israeli authorities said they targeted a Hamas facility in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack. On Sunday, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip and hit an open area in southern Israel, according to the IDF. The attack was followed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since last year’s devastating war, and the movement has been attempting to clamp down on numerous smaller armed groups operating in the territory.

Islamic State

A leader in an ISIS-affiliated Egyptian terrorist group has been killed, Egypt’s state media reported Monday. Gharabali was killed in a shootout with security forces at a checkpoint in the El-Marg district in northeastern Cairo, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Officers were attempting to carry out an arrest warrant against Gharabali. The terrorist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for downing the Russian Metrojet flight last month.

If the Islamic State indeed destroyed the Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula, it would shatter whatever expectation there was that the group could be confined and ultimately defeated within Iraq and Syria, notes the Washington Post. The incident raises concerns that the threat from the Islamic State has dramatically expanded, and it points to the potentially deadly role of insurgents around the world who have allied themselves with the militant group. Analysts say it shows that the Islamic State has learned how to turn its affiliates into operational arms. There have been arrests of Islamic State operatives in Kosovo and Albania in recent months for allegedly planning attacks in Europe, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

Egypt

British tourists stranded at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, were hoping to come home Friday, but many will be stuck here for at least a few more days. Airlines from several countries canceled flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh beginning Wednesday, stranding thousands of tourists, after a Russian jetliner crashed last weekend shortly after taking off from the airport, killing all 224 people on board. British and U.S. officials have said in recent days that they believe a bomb may have brought the airliner down. An unnamed crash investigator told France 2 television station that the voice recorder aboard the flight captured the sound of an explosion that wasn’t associated with engine failure. The United States appears to be increasingly confident that a terrorist bomb brought down the Russian passenger jet that broke apart over Egypt. One official said it was “99.9% certain.”

Syria

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has determined that mustard gas was used over two months ago in a Syrian town. An official from that group said it raises new concerns about the deployment of such chemical weaponry in the country’s bloody, messy war. The report doesn’t assign blame among the many groups, including ISIS, warring in Syria. “It’s very serious because mustard gas is a known chemical weapon,” the OPCW official said. “It’s obviously very, very dangerous and extremely toxic, so it’s a new level of concern.”

Jordan

A Jordanian police officer opened fire Monday at a police training compound in Amman, killing five people — including two American contractors — and raising worries about the spread of terrorism to a stable U.S. partner in the Middle East. Seven people were also wounded, including two Americans. The training center in eastern Amman is used principally to train Palestinian security personnel, though other nationalities are also trained there. Mohammed Momani, a spokesman for Jordanian government, said Tuesday that the attacker opened fire in a canteen. The family of the police officer, whose motives are under investigation, say he was not an extremist, the Associated Press reported.

England

The ‘Million Mask March’ through central London organized by hacker collective Anonymous erupted in violent scenes Thursday night, with three police officers taken to the hospital, a police car set ablaze and 50 people arrested, police said. Metropolitan Police commander BJ Harrington condemned the violence as “completely unacceptable” and praised his officers for their restraint “in the face of hostile provocation.” Six police horses were also injured. About 2,000 police officers were called into action, with mounted officers forming a barrier against a densely packed crowd on The Mall. The protest’s anti-capitalist theme was outlined in a YouTube video promoting the event, which it promised would be “the biggest global protest in the history of the world. There is no reason a select few can acquire so much while the majority suffers when we have the technology that would let every man, woman and child on Earth life better than the 1%,” the video said. “Installing a humanitarian-based, open-source government will ensure equality for all.”

Spain

Catalonia’s parliament on Monday voted to draft a plan to gain independence from Spain by 2017, putting itself on a collision course with the country’s central government. The Barcelona-based regional parliament for northeastern Catalonia passed the motion, which was proposed by pro-secession parties Together for Yes and the far left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy by 72 votes to 63. The motion announced “the start of a process toward the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” and a “process of democratic disconnection not subject to the decisions by the institutions of the Spanish state.”

China/Taiwan

China’s Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou staged their historic, but short meeting Saturday on neutral territory in the Southeast Asian city state of Singapore. Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949 when Mao Zedong led Communist forces to victory and the Nationalists, led by Chiang Kaishek, fled to Taipei, where they set up a rival government which claimed to be the legitimate government of the island and the mainland. Over the decades Taiwan has developed into a vibrant democracy, but it has never declared full independence. That’s partly because some politicians, especially in Ma’s party, adhere to the so-called One China policy and partly because China has threatened violence to regain the “rebel” island if it every tries to formally split with the mainland.

Myanmar

The ruling political party in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) conceded defeat Monday to opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi in the nation’s first free general election in a quarter of a century, according to early reports. The National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi’s party, is expected to win most of the votes. Partial results released by the country’s electoral commission showed the NLD on track to win the largest number of seats in Myanmar’s parliament. But Myanmar’s military will retain 25% of the seats in parliament regardless of the vote’s outcome and has barred Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s president, setting the stage for ongoing conflict. It is hoped that the success of open elections in Myanmar will reverberate across more restrictive nations in the surrounding area (e.g. Thailand and Laos).

Environment

Two people are dead and at least 13 are missing after two dams holding back mining waste were breached and a wave of mud swept through the Bento Rodrigues district of Mariana, Brazil, Thursday afternoon. Witnesses say the town, which has a population of 620 people, was completely flooded, reports BreakingNews.com. Officials said that four people were injured by the flood and only around ten of the village’s approximately 200 houses were left standing, leaving most of the population without shelter. Hundreds of people who survived the collapse are staying in a gymnasium that has been turned into a makeshift shelter. Others were sent to local hotels. Guilherme de Sa Meneghin, public prosecutor for the State of Minas Gerais said there would be a criminal investigation into why there was no alarm system in place.

Earthquakes

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck in Chile, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake hit about 47 kilometers southwest of Ovalle, Chile. The city is about 400 miles north of Santiago. No immediate damage has been reported, according to The Associated Press. The quake shook Santiago, causing office buildings to sway. Chile’s emergency services office first alerted, but later discounted, the possibility of a small tsunami.

Weather

Following up a snowy start to November across parts of the West, another round of early season snow has moved into the region. Up to 10 inches of snow was measured in parts of the Reno, Nev., metro area as of late Monday night. This storm system is spreading east across the northwest just in time to start this week and, as it progresses east, the threat may shift from snow to severe weather across parts of the Plains and Midwest. A southward dip in the jet stream is setting the stage for cold air to filter down into the West. Blizzard warnings have been posted for parts of the High Plains.

Additional heavy rain and flash flooding will target parts of the Gulf Coast and Southeast Coast through Tuesday, including rain-weary parts of the Carolinas. Friday night into Saturday, Texas and Louisiana were already affected by this latest lashing of heavy rain. Over the past few weeks, torrential rain has triggered destructive flash flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana, in particular.

A huge sinkhole has swallowed more than a dozen cars in an IHOP parking lot in Meridian, Mississippi. Local TV station KSLA quoted witnesses as hearing a series of booms before power went out and the sinkhole, which is about 50 feet wide and 600 feet long, opened up. WTOK said that the city, which lies near the Alabama border and has a population of about 40,000, has received 3 inches of rain this weekend and nearly 10 in the last two weeks.

Unprecedented back-to-back cyclones have hit the Arabian Sea. The second cyclone in a week is heading toward the Arabian Peninsula, just days after the first storm brought heavy rains, winds and flash flooding to the area. Cyclone Megh made a direct hit on Socotra Island Sunday and could hit mainland Yemen one week after Cyclone Chapala, the second-strongest cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, dumped enormous amounts of rainfall on the arid coast.

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