Signs of the Times (12/4/15)

Islamic Terrorists Kill 14 in San Bernardino

Federal investigators believe there is a “very serious” possibility that Tashfeen Malik, one of two shooters who murdered 14 people and wounded 21 others in San Bernardino, Calif. Wednesday, radicalized her husband and co-assailant, county restaurant inspector Syed Farook, Fox News has learned. Investigators also believe that the couple had planned a second attack after the shooting at a social service center for the disabled when they were killed in a shootout with local authorities approximately two miles away. a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that the two met and became engaged after Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia in September 2013. Malik, a Pakistani citizen, applied for a K-1 visa at the American embassy in Islamabad in May 2014 and Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia that July to bring her to the U.S. Both listed their religion as Muslim. Investigators believe that on at least one of those trips to Saudi Arabia, one or both members of the couple made contact with suspected Al Qaeda terrorists.

Wearing black tactical gear and wielding assault rifles, Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, sprayed as many as 75 rounds into a room at the Inland Regional Center, where about 75 of Farook’s co-workers had gathered Wednesday morning. Among the weapons found were three rigged-together pipe bombs at the social service center, each equipped with a remote-control detonating device that apparently malfunctioned; more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition and multiple pipe bombs in the rented SUV where they died; and 12 pipe bombs, tools for making more, and over 3,000 additional rounds of ammunition at a family home in the nearby town of Redlands.

  • Obama and the mainstream media continue to try and spin this tragedy as another gun rampage

ISIS Adherents Praise San Bernardino Massacre

ISIS extremists began celebrating the mass shooting in San Bernardino hours after the massacre, creating the hashtag #America_Burning, Vocativ discovered. The Islamic State, however, did not take credit for the shootings in the ghoulish postings. Vocativ deep web analysts discovered the sickening ISIS posts on web forums where the extremists frequently share information. “California streets are full with soldiers with heavy weapons. The Unites States is burning #America_Burning #Takbir.” But the hashtag was primarily used on Twitter where one ISIS extremist taunted the United States with a tweet that read “Let America know a new era #California #America_burning.” Another ISIS supporter posted in reference to the shooting on Twitter, “God is the greatest. May god spread fear in the homes of the Crusaders.”

Unprecedented Support for ISIS in the U.S.

Support for ISIS in America has reached an unprecedented level with several thousand U.S.-based sympathizers and more terrorism-related arrests in 2015 than any year since 9/11, according to a report by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. While the U.S. only saw 15 arrests for ISIS related activities in 2014 that number has more than tripled with at least 56 people being charged in the U.S. so far in 2015. The report noted that the average ISIS recruit is male and around 26 years old. It identified at least 300 Americans who actively support ISIS on social media and spread propaganda on the terror group’s behalf, with Twitter being the preferred platform. In addition to those supporters, the FBI has previously said that they also have 900 open investigations into homegrown violent extremists, a majority being ISIS related. The hardest task for federal law enforcement tracking these threats is prioritizing those they think are actually at risk of carrying out attacks over those that only engage in propaganda.

Swedish Village Descends into Open Warfare as Citizens Fight Back against Muslim Invaders

A small Swedish village has descended into open warfare after furious locals clashed with migrants in a chilling warning of the dangers associated with mass migration, reported the Express UK on November 29. Outraged protestors threatened children and hurled stones at sheltered housing in apparent retaliation for vandalism and burglaries carried out by newly arrived Muslim refugees. Meanwhile aid workers helping the refugees say they have been terrified by racist attacks which have left them too scared to leave their homes. Sweden is at the heart of Europe’s migrant crisis, with 10,000 asylum seekers arriving in the sparsely populated Scandinavian country every week. In Tärnsjö outraged locals say the problems began when 20 refugee families arrived and were linked to a crime wave in the village. Villager Tobias Willhall said: “The immigrants have caused all kinds of trouble for us. I have friends whose storage spaces have been burgled by immigrants and bicycles have been stolen.

Illegal Immigrants Sue Oregon over Denial of Driver’s Licenses

A group of illegal immigrants is suing the state of Oregon to overturn a voter-approved initiative that denied them driver’s licenses. The lawsuit, brought by five illegal immigrants, comes after Oregonians passed Measure 88 last year with a strong two-thirds majority. Thirty-five of Oregon’s 36 counties voted against licenses for undocumented residents, as did every congressional district in the state, most of which are represented by Democrats. But the lawsuit alleges Measure 88 is unconstitutional because it “arbitrarily” denies driving privileges based on membership in a “disfavored minority group.” It alleges Oregon voters were motivated by “animus toward persons from Mexico and Central America.”

More Than 179,000 Criminal Illegal Immigrants Roaming Free in U.S.

More than 179,000 illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes, including violent ones, continue to roam free across the United States, with reports indicating that these illegal immigrants commit new crimes “every day,” according to lawmakers and the director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, also known as ICE. Sarah Saldana, ICE’s director, disclosed to Congress on Wednesday that the agency is apprehending and removing fewer illegal immigrants than in past years. Somewhere around 179,029 “undocumented criminals with final orders of removal” from the United States currently remain at large across the country and are essentially untraceable, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who disclosed these numbers during a Wednesday hearing.

Corporate America Hiding Hacks

The backbone of America — banks, oil and gas suppliers, the energy grid — is under constant attack by hackers. But the biggest cyberattacks, the ones that can blow up chemical tanks and burst dams, are kept secret by a law that shields U.S. corporations, reports CNN. You could live near — or work at — a major facility that has been hacked repeatedly and investigated by the federal government. But you’d never know. A CNNMoney investigation has reviewed public documents issued by regulators that reveal widespread problems. There are plenty of examples, and all “posed a serious or substantial risk” to portions of the electrical grid, these documents say. In early 2013, hackers attacked several natural gas pipelines in the Midwest. Last year, a hacker got into the network that controls industrial equipment at a public utility — but the Department of Homeland Security won’t even say where it is in the United States.

Record 185K Gun Background Checks

More Americans had their backgrounds checked purchasing guns on Black Friday than any day in the on record, according to data released by the FBI. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 185,345 requests on Nov. 27. This was an approximate 5% increase over the 175,754 background checks conducted on Black Friday 2014. Licensed sellers deny sales to failed background checks based on a variety of factors including criminal backgrounds, domestic violence convictions or restraining orders.

China’s Renminbi Is Approved by I.M.F. as a World Reserve Currency

The Chinese renminbi was anointed as one of the world’s elite currencies on Monday, a milestone decision by the International Monetary Fund that underscores the country’s rising financial clout as the world’s second largest economy. The move will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power. Just four other currencies — the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen — have that I.M.F. designation. The I.M.F. designation, an accounting unit known as the special drawing rights, bestows global importance. Many central banks follow this benchmark in measuring their reserves, which countries hold to help protect their economies in times of trouble. By adding the renminbi to this group, the I.M.F. effectively says that it considers the currency to be safe, reliable and freely usable.

  • This additional reserve currency further weakens the U.S. dollar’s domination of world finance, a chief goal of the one-world government proponents

Global Corporate Defaults Climb to 6-Year High

Standard & Poor’s reports that companies have defaulted on $95 billion worth of debt so far this year, with 2015 set to finish with the highest number of worldwide defaults since 2009. Strategists are warning that corporate defaults will only continue to skyrocket as the Federal Reserve prepares to hike rates and oil and commodity prices remain stalled, the Financial Times reported. “The amount of debt owed by U.S. companies relative to the size of their profits has been increasing, according to Alberto Gallo, macro credit strategist for RBS. Corporate defaults occur when a borrower misses the payment on a bond, exchanges distressed debt for new notes, or files for bankruptcy protection.

Economic News – Domestic

Employers added 211,000 jobs in November as the labor market turned in a solid showing for the second straight month, likely cementing a decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month for the first time in nearly a decade. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, was unchanged at 5%, the Labor Department said Friday. A rise in employment was offset by an increase in the labor force. Businesses added 197,000 jobs., led by construction, professional technical and services, and health care. Federal, state and local governments added 14,000. Also encouraging is that job gains for September and October were revised up by a total 35,000.

Wage growth slowed a bit after picking up sharply the previous month. Average hourly earnings rose 4 cents to $25.25 and are up 2.3% over the past 12 months. Pay increases have averaged a sluggish 2% for most of the recovery but economists are expecting an acceleration in the months ahead as employers boost pay to compete for fewer available workers in a tightening labor market. That would spur higher inflation snd give the Fed confidence to nudge up interest rates.

The Federal Reserve is cutting its lifeline to big banks in financial trouble. The Fed officially adopted a new rule Monday that limits its ability to lend emergency money to banks. In theory, the new rule should quash the notion that Wall Street banks are “too big to fail.” Under the new rule, banks that are going bankrupt — or appear to be going bankrupt — can no longer receive emergency funds from the Fed under any circumstances. If the rule had been in place during the financial crisis, it would have prevented the Fed from lending to insurance giant AIG (AIG) and Bear Stearns.

Online shopping is surging in popularity. Total digital sales in the U.S. topped $11 billion over the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to Adobe. Even with all the concerns about the strong U.S. dollar making American goods expensive, foreigners were still shopping. Overall, non-U.S. buyers represent about 5% of online sales during the big U.S. shopping days after Thanksgiving.

The national average gasoline price was $2.04 on Tuesday, according to AAA, down more than 25% from a year ago. Nearly two out of every three gas stations nationwide have gas below $2 a gallon. The national average could break the $2 mark for the first time in almost seven years by this weekend, depending on the outcome of the OPEC meeting later this week.

Aa lot of America still is massively in debt, especially in the lower rungs of the income ladder. Wealthy families have been able to pay off a lot of their debt in recent years, but poorer families have not. The situation is so bad that Morgan Stanley says the middle class is “eroding.” It’s a trap they just can’t get out of. Wages aren’t growing for those at the bottom, making it hard to pay off debt. In Europe, the amount of debt people have increases as their income rises. The poor don’t carry a huge debt load, the researchers found. It’s the exact opposite in the U.S. The lower middle class and poor came into the Great Recession with a lot of debt and they haven’t been able to pay it down since.

The Dow dropped 252 points on Thursday after the European Central Bank shocked investors by failing to deliver the dramatic stimulus moves they expected (see below). The move also rocked the normally quiet fixed-income industry. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield surged to 2.328%, its biggest one-day move since July 2013, according to Dow Jones.

Economic News – International

The European Central Bank on Thursday cut interest rates by 10 basis points to minus 0.3% and extended its massive bond-buying program as it attempts to inject life into the Eurozone’s creaking economy. President Mario Draghi said the central bank’s 60 billion euros ($64 billion) asset-purchase plan would be extended until at least March 2017. He also said it would be broadened to include regional and local debt. The rate cut is intended to push the region’s bank into making more loans and so support economic recovery. In the third quarter, GDP slipped across the economies of the 19 nations that use the euro currency to 0.3% from 0.4% three months earlier.

  • A negative interest rate means the debtor does not have to repay the full amount of the loan. This is the opposite of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s plan to increase rates from the current 0% for inter-bank loans.

China’s all-important factory sector continues to lose steam, with manufacturing activity slumping to a three-year low in November, as concerns grow over the economy. The official purchasing managers’ index hit 49.6 in November, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, down from 49.8 the previous month. Any number below 50 represents a deceleration in the manufacturing sector. The data underscores growing worries over the health of China’s economy, the second-largest in the world.

Middle East

A public opinion poll published last week conducted by the Watan Center for Studies and Research, found that 48% of the Palestinians interviewed believe that the real goal of the recent “intifada” against Israel is to “liberate all of Palestine.” In other words, approximately half of Palestinians believe that the goal of the “intifada” should lead to the destruction of Israel. As the current Palestinian campaign of terrorism against Israel is about to enter its third month, it is still not clear to many what the Palestinians are trying to achieve. The Palestinians cannot even agree on a name for their campaign. Some are referring to it as an “intifada,” while others are describing it as a “Habba Jamahiriya” (i.e. “flurry”). The Palestinians also have not been able to agree on the motives behind the stabbing, shooting, firebombing and car-ramming attacks.

Islamic State

The U.S. is sending more special operations forces to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling ISIS, as well as capture or kill senior leaders of the terror network in Iraq and Syria. A U.S. official told Fox News that approximately 200 troops would be sent to Iraq within the next few weeks part of a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” announced by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. A second U.S. official told Fox News that capturing senior ISIS leaders would also be an important component of the new assault force’s mission to learn more about the group’s structure and any affiliates. The U.S. military conducted similar operations in Iraq to take out senior Al Qaeda leadership.

British Royal Air Force Tornado fighter jets conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the country’s defense ministry said Thursday. The bombing campaign came shortly after Prime Minister David Cameron held a vote in the House of Commons late Wednesday on whether to support the operation. Lawmakers backed the government by 397-223. The warplanes struck six targets near Omar inside Syria’s eastern border with Iraq where the militant group, also known as ISIL, has extensive oilfields, the ministry said. Germany on Friday became the latest nation to agree to a request from France to join an international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria. The U.S. Air Force has fired more than 20,000 missiles and bombs in the air war against the Islamic State, depleting its stocks of munitions and prompting the service to scour depots around the world for more weapons and to find money to buy them, according to records obtained by USA TODAY. The Air Force efforts come as the Pentagon has stepped up airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State claims to be more than a militant group, selling itself as a government for the world’s Muslims that provides a range of services in the territory it controls. But that statehood project is now in distress, perhaps more so than at any other time since the Islamic State began seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, according to a range of interviews with people who have recently fled. Under pressure from airstrikes by several countries, and new ground offensives by Kurdish and Shiite militias, the jihadists are beginning to show the strain, notes the New York Times. Some fighters have taken pay cuts, while others have quit and slipped away. Important services have been failing because of poor maintenance. And as its smuggling and oil businesses have faltered, the Islamic State has fallen back on ever-increasing taxes and tolls imposed on its squeezed citizens.

Yemen

Hundreds of al Qaeda fighters seized two major cities in Yemen after hours of clashes, part of the terror group’s effort to expand its presence in southern regions of the war-torn country. According to three senior security officials in Abyan, al Qaeda militants on Wednesday took over Zinjbar, the capital of Abyan province, and Jaar after fierce clashes with groups loyal to Yemeni President Abdurabu Hadi amid the absence of the armed forces in the province. Abdulatif Said, the head of pro-government committees, said their forces evacuated during the fierce clashes and that both Jaar and Zinjibar are now in the control of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda destroyed the headquarters for the popular committees in Jaar and killed at least 4 senior popular committee commanders.

Ukraine

The United States has delivered more than $260 million in non-lethal military equipment to help the government of Ukraine in its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency, but some of the U.S.-supplied gear meant to protect and transport Ukrainian military forces is little more than junk, reports the Washington Post. “If the Americans are going to send us equipment, don’t send us secondhand stuff,” said one Ukrainian special forces commander. The decaying state of U.S.-supplied equipment on Ukraine’s front lines has bred distrust and lowered morale among Ukrainian troops, soldiers said. Experts said the low quality of the gear also calls into question the U.S. government’s commitment to a war that is entering its second year, with well-equipped Russian-backed separatists still firmly entrenched in Ukraine’s eastern region.

Turkey

Turkey has begun a defacto blockade of Russian naval vessels, preventing transit through the Dardanelles and the Strait of Bosphorus, between the Black Sea and Mediterranean. From the Black Sea, and from the Mediterranean Sea, there is a small cluster of ships under the Russian flag, just sitting and waiting. In addition, shipping inside the Black Sea from Novorossiisk and Sevastopol in the direction of the Bosphorus, no Russian vessels are moving. This is part of the Turkish response to trade sanctions imposed by Russia over the downing of a Russian warplane, escalating the tensions between these two countries.

Environment

China is dealing with a blanket of smog in Beijingso thick that authorities Tuesday ordered schools to keep students indoors. A day after Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Paris with other world leaders at a climate change conference, Beijing grappled with its fifth consecutive day of air pollution. The smog blocked views across the capita and, closed highways because of low visibility. China, which emits 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year, is the largest producer of emissions in the world, according to Reuters. China’s president said Monday that his country would “strive to achieve” reductions in its emissions “as soon as possible.”

Nearly a third of the world’s cactus species are on the brink of extinction, according to a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. During a study that examined 1,478 species, 31 percent were determined as endangered due to factors like conversion of wilderness areas to farming and ranching, urban development, and the harvest of cactus seeds and plants for trade and private collection. “We show that cacti are among the most threatened taxonomic groups assessed to date … demonstrating the high anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity in arid lands,” the report stated. The report pinpointed endangering hotspots all across the Americas, ranging from the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul and parts of Uruguay to the Mexican states of Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Oaxaca, and Puebla.

Weather

Thursday’s storm in the Pacific Northwest brought locally damaging winds, some snow and locally heavy rain to parts of Washington, Oregon, California, and it’s only the first in a parade of Pacific storms extending through the week ahead. At least a few wind gusts exceeded 100 mph from this latest Northwest wind event. Mount Lincoln in the Sierras of California reported a gust to 106 mph, with sustained winds as high as 74 mph. Squaw Peak in southern Oregon recorded a wind gust of 107 mph, with sustained winds of 80 mph. The greater Reno area had reported just over 5,000 power outages around midday Thursday, most of the power had been restored by Thursday evening. Winds were strong enough to partially blow off a metal roof from a structure near Montague, California. In Brookings, Oregon, the National Weather Service relayed reports of down fences, blown in window panes and other minor damage.

Torrential rain has triggered massive flooding for the second time in about two weeks in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu. Thousands have been forced to leave their homes, schools and offices due to the floodwaters. In addition, a regional airport in the area was closed for a second day Thursday and the main train station was also shut down because of heavy flooding. At least 269 people had been killed in the state since heavy rains started in the beginning of November. Chennai, formerly known as Madras, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu and India’s fifth largest city, picked up 10.04 inches of rain Tuesday, then another 9.92 inches Wednesday, smashing the previous 24-hour December rain record with 13.6 inches total.

Fifteen hours of intense, steady rainfall led to major flooding in the San Martin region of Peru left at least 1,000 people homeless in recent days. Water levels at the Huallaga, Huayabamba, Tonchima and Saposoa rivers rose rapidly, damaging some 2,000 homes nearby. “From 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Wednesday), we have registered some 5,000 families affected by the rains,” a Nuevo Chimbote civil defense official told Peru Reports. “Their mat roofs cannot withstand torrential rainfall.” Among the structures damaged by the floods were four schools and two health centers. As many as 39 schools were damaged by flooding in San Martin in February.

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