Signs of the Times (12/7/15)

FBI Finally Admits San Bernardino Massacre was Terrorism

A day after federal officials revealed that a woman who took part in the mass shootings in San Bernardino had pledged support for the Islamic State, that extremist group reported over its official online radio service that the man-and-wife team who killed 14 were supporters of the organization. “Two followers of Islamic State attacked several days ago a center in San Bernardino in California,” the group reported on its Al-Bayan daily broadcast, according to Reuters. U.S. officials reported Friday that Malik had pledged support for Islamic State terrorist group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a posting on Facebook immediately before she and her husband opened fire on a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino Wednesday. Farook reportedly had contacted at least two foreign terrorist organizations before he and Malik went on their rampage. In addition to killing 14 people, most of them Farook’s co-workers at a county agency, 21 were injured.

San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook shared ISIS’ ideology, wanted to see the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and was fixated with Israel, Farook’s father told an Italian newspaper. “My son said that he shared [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] Al Baghdadi’s ideology and supported the creation of the Islamic State,” said Farook’s dad, also named Syed Farook, who lives in Corona, Calif., with another son who is a Navy veteran. “He was also obsessed with Israel.” “I told him he had to stay calm and be patient because in two years Israel will not exist anymore,” the elder Farook told La Stampa.

Obama Addresses Nation About ISIS

President Barack Obama on Sunday issued his most passionate denunciation yet of ISIS, vowing to “destroy” the group in a relentless, strong and smart campaign that is consistent with the nation’s values. But the speech — intended to reassure a nervous nation — didn’t announce an overhaul of a policy that critics have branded insufficient to take on the evolving threat. Obama, speaking in the symbolic surroundings of the Oval Office, unequivocally told millions of television viewers in prime-time that last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, was a terrorist attack by a couple who had gone down the “dark path of radicalization” and embraced a “perverted” form of Islam. Obama said. “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.”

A new intelligence report commissioned by the White House says that the ISIS terror group will grow in numbers and gain ground unless it suffers significant losses in Iraq and Syria, reports Fox News. The findings sharply contradict previous statements by President Obama and other White House officials that the Islamic State has been “contained” by a program of U.S.-led airstrikes and the deployment of approximately 3,500 U.S. forces to train and otherwise aid moderate Syrian rebels and Kurdish fighters.

  • Obama weak response to Islamic terrorism has allowed ISIS to flourish and yet he still does not respond with anything but empty words

ISIS Confirms Strategy of Creating “No-Go” Zones

In a recently uncovered manifesto, ISIS brags that it has been using Western refugee programs to sneak terrorists into Europe with the aim of creating no-go zones. Perhaps even better described as Sharia-dominant mini-caliphates, Da’esh’s intent is to use the areas as bases from which to launch attacks such as the November 13 Paris massacre and the jihadist killings in San Bernardino, reports minutemennews.com. In the 99-page manifesto entitled Black Flags from Rome, the social-media-savvy Da’esh boasts, “There were small armies of the Islamic State within every country of Europe by late 2014, and the intelligence agencies didn’t even know about it!” Three of the Paris attackers have been confirmed as coming into France among the Syrian refugees.

At Least 22 Islamic Terror Training Camps in U.S.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate 1,000 ISIS-tied individuals in the United States, there are at least 22 paramilitary Islamic communities in the US that they know of, but are not doing anything about, reports FreedomOutpost.com. The groups are operated by Jamaat al-Fuqra, a Pakistan-based group, who main front group is Muslims of the Americas. Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, a Pakistani cleric, heads up the group in Islamberg, New York. The communes operated by the organization are in mostly remote areas of California, Georgia, South Carolina, New York, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee and other states. The Clarion Project reported on these camps: “The organization says it has a network of 22 “villages” around the U.S., with Islamberg as its main headquarters in New York. Clarion Project obtained secret MOA footage showing female members receiving paramilitary training at Islamberg. It was featured on the Kelly File on FOX News Channel in October.”

Homeland Security Unveils New Terror Alert System

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday his department will unveil a new national alert system in the coming days to reflect the “new phase” of the terror threat. Johnson said the new alert system will reflect the current security environment when “not having a specific credible piece of intelligence specifying a plot isn’t the end of the story.” A much-maligned color-coded terror alert system was put in place following the September 11, 2001, attacks and phased out in 2011 under Johnson’s predecessor. It was replaced by the two-tier National Terror Advisory System that has such a high threshold it has never been used.

Senate Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

In a historic vote Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a reconciliation bill that guts major portions of Obamacare and bars Planned Parenthood from receiving Federal tax dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. This would effectively defund Planned Parenthood to the tune of nearly $500,000 each year. The final vote was 52-47. “The pro-life movement, including Operation Rescue, has fought for years to halt public funding to the nation’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood. With this victory in the Senate, and guaranteed passage in the House, we have achieved an unprecedented political victory!” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “Operation Rescue understands that the bill will be vetoed by President Barack Obama, a radical abortion supporter. However, if a Republican President is elected next November, there is now every confidence that a similar bill will finally accomplish the defunding goal. This makes the next presidential election of critical importance for those who oppose tax funding of abortion businesses or abortion itself.”

Supreme Court Declines to Review Laws Banning Assault Weapons

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semiautomatic high-capacity assault weapons that have been used in some of the nation’s most deadly recent mass shootings. The justices decided not to reconsider a lower court’s decision in a case from the city of Highland Park, Ill., near Chicago. But seven states — Maryland, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — have similar bans, and all of the prohibitions remain in place. The court’s action Monday continues a pattern in which the court has avoided all cases that might clarify the second amendment’s rights to bear arms. Gun rights advocates say cities and states continue to put unreasonable restrictions on the constitutional right. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said the court should review the ban, which “flouts” the court’s Second Amendment jurisprudence. They criticized lower court decisions that have allowed jurisdictions and impose what Thomas called “categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.”

Gun Violence Actually Declining in U.S.

Premeditated mass shootings in public places are happening more often, some researchers say, plunging towns and cities into grief and riveting the attention of a horrified nation. In general, though, fewer Americans are dying as a result of gun violence — a shift that began about two decades ago, reports the Washington Post. In 1993, there were seven homicides by firearm for every 100,000 Americans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2013, that figure had fallen by nearly half, to 3.6 — a total of 11,208 firearm homicides. The number of victims of crimes involving guns that did not result in death (such as robberies) declined even more precipitously, from 725 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 175 in 2013. This decline in gun violence is part of an overall decline in violent crime. According to the FBI’s data, the national rate of violent crime has decreased 49 percent since its apex in 1991.

Climate Change Deal Reached

Negotiators from 195 countries agreed Saturday on a blueprint deal aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming, a significant but far from conclusive step in the multinational effort to keep climate change in check, reports CNN. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted on its website a copy of the draft agreement, which officials have been working on intensively for some time. Officials will now work through next week at the COP21 conference in Paris to craft a complete, final agreement.

Obama Administrations Demands Syrian Refugees be Given Food Stamps

In a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the state of Georgia’s social service agency, Obama gave an ultimatum: issue food stamps to Syrian refugees or face dire consequences for disobeying federal laws. According to Breitbart, Jessica Shahin, associate administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at the USDA, said in the letter that if an applicant follows the proper procedure in applying for the welfare benefit, the state must issue the food stamps. “Refusing to accept applications based on a household’s national origin is in violation of these vital requirements. FNS would like to clarify that all refugees, including Syrian refugees, are considered qualified aliens and are able to receive SNAP,” she wrote.

Syrian refugees arrive in Texas despite lawsuit

Two Syrian families are scheduled to arrive in Texas on Monday, despite the state’s efforts to block the resettlement. A family of six is slated to settle in Dallas and a second family of six in Houston. Nine other refugees are expected to arrive in Houston on Thursday. Last week Texas withdrew a request for an immediate order blocking the refugees’ arrival, but the state is moving forward with a lawsuit arguing that the Refugee Act of 1980 requires the federal government to consult with governors and mayors before relocating refugees. Texas argues that Syrian refugees in the United States will nearly double the cost of federal resettlement programs over the next two years, which will largely be borne by the states.

Economic News

The crash in oil prices has OPEC so divided that the only thing the cartel can agree on is not to agree at all. In a surprise, OPEC failed to reach an official decision Friday on how much oil to produce. The lack of an official quota followed a marathon meeting in Vienna and effectively leaves output steady at 30 million barrels a day. Ultimately, OPEC leader Saudi Arabia decided not to answer desperate pleas from less affluent members like Nigeria and Venezuela to cut production. This non-decision does nothing to resolve the massive supply glut weighing heavily on prices. “The cartel is basically broken,” said Matthew Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, which tracks global crude shipments.

America has added 12 million jobs since the recession ended in June 2009. Unemployment has fallen from a peak of 10% down to 5%, and even wages are finally starting to go up. Yet America’s central bank still looks like it’s in crisis mode, notes CNNMoney. Interest rates are at historic lows near 0%. They have been that way since December 2008 when the Federal Reserve was doing everything it could to jumpstart the economy, banking sector and housing market in the recession. Today, the economy is no longer in a state of emergency, and many argue interest rates shouldn’t be either. The job market’s strength, especially in the face of a global economic slowdown, is why the Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates on December 16. It would be the Fed’s first rate increase in nearly a decade.

Thanks to low gas prices, more Americans are buying big, gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs. Sales of both jumped 10% this year, according to sales tracker Autodata. That’s nearly twice the increase in overall vehicle sales. Meanwhile, sales of some fuel efficient cars have plunged, even as the industry is on pace for record sales this year. Sales of Toyota (TM)’s Prius, the hybrid that pioneered that market, are down 12% this year, while sales of the Chevrolet Volt, one of the first mass market plug-in electric cars, are down 23%. The sales shift to SUVs and trucks has trimmed the average mileage of all vehicles sold in the U.S., according to Michigan’s TRI. The average in November was 25 mpg, down about 1 mpg from the record high reached in August 2014, before gas prices started to slide.

Islamic State

The Russian military produced an impressive array of evidence that clearly shows that ISIS oil is being smuggled into Turkey on an industrial scale. The evidence included photographs taken by satellite and during aerial reconnaissance missions. There is no way in the world that a endless parade of trucks carrying ISIS oil could have marched through Turkish border checkpoints without the cooperation of the central government. This explains the ramp-up in tensions between Russia and Turkey after Turkish forces downed a Russian military plane bombing ISIS.

ISIS buys bombs and pays fighters with the billions of dollars it makes from the oil fields, mineral mines, and banks under its control. ISIS also imposes taxes on the people living inside its territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS raked in $2 billion in 2014, reports CNNMoney. It ditched Al-Qaeda’s old model of relying on rich donors in the Arabian Gulf. Instead, the Islamic State is a “self-funded powerhouse.” Soldiers earn $400 to $1,200 a month, plus a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 for each child, according to the Congressional Research Service. Highly skilled engineers and technicians can make upwards of $1,500 a month, according to an investigative team of UN researchers.

When ISIS took over Iraq’s second largest city last year, it stole nearly $450 million from Mosul’s central bank. That included unknown, vast quantities of gold bullion, according the International Business Times and several military experts keeping track of ISIS. ISIS believes the global economy’s current system of paper money is a disaster. A video produced by the ISIS propaganda media unit condemns the rise of bank notes like the U.S. dollar, which started as “a mere claim to gold” and are now “a worthless piece of paper.” For ISIS, only pure gold currency will do — even though economists say an ISIS gold currency is doomed because the population would most likely want to hoard gold rather than use it as currency.

Yemen

Officials said the governor of the province of Aden in southern Yemen and six of his bodyguards were killed in a massive explosion Sunday that was claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate. Gov. Gaafar Mohamed Saad was traveling to his office when his convoy was hit in the Rimbaud area of the city. An affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement that referred to Saad as a “tyrant,” and said a bomb was hidden in a parked car along the convoy’s route. Saad was appointed governor in October after playing an important role in liberating Aden from Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Chad

A deadly attack took the lives of at least 27 people in Chad, Africa. A local market on the island of Koulfoua, in was struck, injuring at least 90 people. A Chad police spokesman said three female suicide bombers carried out Saturday’s attack. The Lake Chad region straddles the borders of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. The area has been attacked repeatedly by the Boko Haram militant group, and the region is under a state of emergency. As many as 17,000 people have been killed in the area since 2009, when Boko Haram began fighting authorities in a bid to impose Islamist rule in Northern Nigeria.

Iraq

RUN Ministries reports that, “We were just told that six children have died over the past several days because of the cold weather in northern Iraq. Thousands who survived the terror of ISIS are sleeping in open fields, struggling to endure frigid temperatures because they’re still without shelter or even a blanket.” Thousands more are arriving daily. RUN provides heavy-duty blankets to these refugees at a cost of $12 each. Go to runministries.org to help RUN rush emergency aid to persecuted Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in northern Iraq.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s fractious opposition won a crushing victory in legislative elections Sunday over President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party as the country’s voters rejected the socialist revolution created by the late leader Hugo Chávez. The National Electoral Council said early Monday that preliminary results gave the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition at least 99 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly compared with 46 for Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Twenty-two seats were too close to call. If those projections hold true, the Democratic Unity coalition would have the two-thirds super-majority needed to rewrite laws, call an assembly to rewrite the constitution, and start a recall referendum against Maduro.

Environment

What used to be one of the richest cities in Peru is slowly being destroyed by the same mine that supported it economically for decades. A massive open-pit mine is slowly swallowing Cerro de Pasco in the Andes, one of the highest cities in the world. More than a mile wild, the pit is as deep as the Empire State Building is tall and has been causing widespread lead poisoning in residents for decades, according to Vice.com. “The center of the city once had foreign consulates and historic homes,” Congresswoman Gloria Ramos Prudencio told National Geographic. “For many years, we were Peru’s second city. The tajo (pit) took all that. These days, even the neighborhoods built in the 1960s to get away from the pit are falling into it.”

Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for smog on Monday, urging schools to close and invoking restrictions on factories and traffic that will keep half of the city’s vehicles off the roads. The red alert — the most serious warning on a four-tier system adopted a little over two years ago — means authorities have forecast more than three consecutive days of severe smog. Readings of PM2.5 particles climbed toward 300 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday and are expected to continue rising before the air begins to improve with the arrival of a cold front on Thursday. The World Health Organization designates the safe level for the tiny, poisonous particles at 25.

Volcanoes

Sicily’s Mount Etna had one of its biggest eruptions in the last two years Thursday morning, spewing lava and ash into the air that even produced some lightning. Etna hasn’t seen a full eruption of this size in two years, but it came as little surprise to scientists that have observed increased seismic activity nearby for the past month. More than 25 percent of Sicily’s population lives on the slopes of Etna.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake has shaken Tajikistan, sending shockwaves to other Central Asian nations. Authorities in Tajikistan nor in Kyrgyzstan would immediately comment on the possible damage. The quake shook buildings in cities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The U.S. Geographical Survey said the epicenter of the 7.2- point earthquake was located in the east of Tajikistan, 75 miles from the nearest village.

Weather

A fierce, wet Atlantic storm soaked parts of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland with flooding rain, storm surge flooding and winds locally over 100 mph during the weekend. A peak gust of 112 mph was clocked atop Aonach Mòr in the north of Scotland. Shap, located just outside of Lake District National Park in the north of England already picked up 6.06 inches of rain from Storm Desmond as of midday Saturday. Nearby Keswick measured 5.58 inches in that same 24-hour period. Authorities in Britain have closed roads, evacuated homes and issued severe flood warnings as stormy weather hits the country. Britain’s army was called in to help put down sandbags and evacuate people from their homes Sunday. Many rivers burst their banks in the central England county of Cumbria, where the city of Carlisle and hundreds of homes have been submerged. Northants Fire reports that at least 76 people have been rescued by the boat squad in Carlisle. Alerts for heavy rain or flooding were also posted in southern Norway and southwest Sweden. Eik Hove, Norway, had picked up 7.91 inches of rain over 48 hours through Saturday evening.

It has not felt much like December so far across parts of the United States, but by next week practically nobody will feel like December in the Lower 48 states as above-average temperatures take over virtually the entire country. Although parts of the Northwest and Midwest saw some wintry weather to start the month, it may be quite some time before the next widespread, significant winter storm threatens the Lower 48 states.

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