Signs of the Times (12/18/15)

More Uncovered Infiltration of Islamic State in U.S.

The owner of a Rochester pizza shop, who was one of the first Americans accused of recruiting for the Islamic State, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to trying to find recruits for the terrorist network. Mufid Elfgeeh, 31, pleaded guilty to two criminal charges — one for recruiting a Rochester-area man and one for recruiting a man living in Yemen — but also acknowledged that he tried to recruit a second Rochester-area man. A naturalized citizen originally from Yemen, Elfgeeh admitted that he worked with two would-be recruits to persuade them to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State as it fought to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. He also shipped money to the Yemeni recruit.

A 30-year-old Maryland man faces a series of terror-related charges involving his alleged receipt of nearly $9,000 in wire transfers in recent months from Islamic State terror group contacts in Egypt and Syria, federal authorities said Monday. Mohamed Elshinawy of Edgewood, Md., is accused of receiving the payments in small amounts between March and late June and was allegedly instructed to use the funds for “operational purposes,” according to court documents. Elshinawy allegedly sought to disguise the scheme as an eBay business for selling printers. “Mohamed Elshinawy received money he believed was provided by ISIL in order to conduct an attack on U.S. soil,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said.

  • Just as the San Bernardino terrorist received wire transfers, so too are many other “sleeper cells” that are now entrenched within the U.S.

Feds Don’t Know Where Thousands of Potential Terrorists Are in U.S.

The Obama administration doesn’t know the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who had their visas revoked over terror concerns and other reasons, a State Department official acknowledged Thursday. The admission, made at a House oversight hearing examining immigrant vetting in the wake of major terror attacks. Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said the U.S. has revoked more than 122,000 visas since 2001, including 9,500 because of the threat of terrorism. Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, pried at that stat, pressing the witness about the present location of those individuals. “I don’t know,” she said. The startling admission came as members of the committee pressed administration officials on what safeguards are in place to reduce the risk from would-be extremists.

  • Obama’s weak stance on immigration and terrorism has already allowed terrorists to establish a strong presence within our borders

Syrian Immigration to U.S. over 100,000 since 2012

A proposal to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States has ignited a bitter debate in Washington, but more than 10 times that number of people from the embattled country have quietly come to America since 2012, according to figures obtained by FoxNews.com. Some 102,313 Syrians were granted admission to the U.S. as legal permanent residents or through programs including work, study and tourist visas from 2012 through August of this year, a period which roughly coincides with the devastating civil war that still engulfs the Middle Eastern country. Experts say any fears that terrorists might infiltrate the proposed wave of refugees from United Nations-run camps is dwarfed by the potential danger already here. “The sheer number of people arriving on all kinds of visas and with green cards, and possibly U.S. citizenship, makes it impossible for our counterterrorism authorities to keep track of them all, much less prevent them from carrying out attacks or belatedly try to deport them,” said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Demand for Guns Soar in Sweden due to Muslim Invasion

An influx of 190,000 unskilled and unemployed migrants are expected this year in Sweden — equivalent to 2% of Sweden’s current population. The number is as if 6.4 million penniless migrants who did not speak English arrived in U.S. in a single year. And the Swedes are preparing: demand for firearms licenses is increasing; more and more Swedes are joining shooting clubs and starting vigilante groups, reports Vision to America. According to police statistics, there are 1,901,325 licensed guns, owned by 567,733 people, in Sweden. Add to this an unknown number of illegal weapons. To get a gun permit in Sweden, you need to be at least 18 years old; law-abiding; well-behaved, and have a hunting license or be a member of an approved shooting club. In 2014, 11,000 people got a hunting license: 10% more than the year before.

  • Sweden is considered a model European country and is now an indicator of where the Muslim invasion of the EU is headed

Seeking Action on Guns, White House Turns to Governors

Even as he prepares to take action on gun violence on his own executive authority, President Obama is turning to another source of potential source of executive action: the nation’s governors. The White House is in talks with governors and other state and local officials as part of a bottom-up strategy to better enforce gun laws at both the state and local level. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Vice President Biden has been leading the talks, which are focused on “steps they can take to try to reduce gun violence in their communities.” The state-and-local approach to guns is another example of a strategy that’s been a unique part of the “fourth quarter” of the Obama presidency. Unable to get his policies through Congress, he’s increasingly using aggressive outreach to states and cities to raise the minimum wage, require paid time off, expand preschool programs and offer more affordable college options.

On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, released a report outlining 28 things governors and other state and local executives can do to better enforce gun laws already on the books. Sometimes governors can do things the federal government can’t. Unlike federal law, Connecticut law already requires a permit to purchase or own a firearm — giving the executive branch the authority to issue or deny a permit. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said last week that authority could allow him to issue an executive order banning people on the federal terror watch list, known as the “No Fly” list, from buying a gun.

At Liberty University, Guns and God go Hand in Hand

At Liberty University, the conservative Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, talk these days in hallways, cafeterias and arenas flows easily from God to guns, reports the Washington Post. University President Jerry Falwell Jr. kick-started the conversation with a fiery call for the campus community to take up arms to deter terrorist threats following the mass shooting in San Bernardino. Many students, faculty members and administrators said they agreed with his views. Hundreds said they planned to take free classes from Liberty police on gun safety, a step toward obtaining a state permit to carry a concealed weapon. “It’s not about Christians waving guns around,” one student said. “It’s about protecting yourselves from some people who want to kill you.” “The day they take our guns away is the day we lose our religious freedom as well,” a training officer said. Then police led the crowd in prayer before starting a lesson on muzzle and trigger-finger discipline. With 14,000 students in Lynchburg this fall and 66,000 more connected from afar via computer, Liberty is one of the largest universities in the country and is known as an innovator in online education.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Undermines U.S. Interests

Once shrouded in secrecy, President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is now becoming public, and what we’re discovering is absolutely frightening, reports the Conservative Tribune. Chapter 11 of the deal allows foreign investors the rights to acquire American land, businesses, ports, natural resources, infrastructure and other property. Chapters 28 and 29 give foreign investors the ability to work around U.S. courts and sue the United States before a dispute tribunal if they feel U.S. law violated their “rights” under the deal. Whereas the U.S. government previously had unfettered power to protect its national security interests as it deemed necessary, the TPP agreement reverses this power. As a consequence, other countries could maintain that U.S. security interests violate the deal and they could then insist the United States pay billions of dollars in damages.

  • Disarming the masses is a key strategy for the socialistic one-world government cabal in order to prevent resistance and rebellion when they impose their draconian anti-Christ laws

House, White House Agree on New Budget Deal

House Republicans announced a deal Tuesday night between the GOP-led Congress and the White House on a trillion-dollar, year-end tax and spending package to fund the government through fiscal year 2016. Capitol Hill lawmakers have worked overtime on the legislation, passing one temporary-spending resolution and needing a second after missing their initial Dec. 11 deadline, when the government technically ran out of money. With temporary financing of federal agencies expiring Wednesday at midnight, congressional leaders planned to approve a stop-gap bill preventing a government shutdown through next Tuesday, giving lawmakers time to finish the long-term spending legislation. The legislation includes increases in domestic and defense spending. And it increases the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars by extending numerous, popular tax credits without paying for them. It also includes their proposal to lift a four-decade-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

The House passed a bill Thursday to provide $622 billion in tax breaks for businesses, families and individual taxpayers. The bill includes a permanent extension of the child tax credit and a delay in taxes that help pay for Obamacare. All but a handful of Republicans voted for the bill while a majority of Democrats voted against it. However, more than 70 Democrats joined with Republicans to approve the legislation. The tax and spending package is the last major legislation that Congress will pass before it adjourns for the year. It was the first big budget compromise negotiated under new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

  • As it stands now, the budget bill will fully fund Planned Parenthood, despite Republicans holding a solid majority in the House.

Obamacare Premiums, Deductibles Soaring

Consumers buying health insurance through federal and state exchanges will see their monthly premiums for the popular silver-level plans jump by an average of more than 11%, while also likely facing higher deductibles, a new analysis of exchange data by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows. These increases will hike the cost of health insurance especially for customers who don’t receive federal subsidies to buy insurance, which may also limit the number of people insured under the Affordable Care Act. Average health insurance premiums for silver plans rose to nearly $300 a month for a 27 year old male, while deductibles were up 8%.The increases are even more dramatic in the gold-level plans, which have higher premiums but require consumers to pay less out of pocket for their care. These plans’ premiums increased nearly 14%, but deductibles dropped just under 1%. A lot of the insurers said they’d priced plans too low and claims exceeded premiums for a lot of them, so there’s been an adjustment, reported the RWJ Foundation.

Cutting the Cord: Streaming Up, Pay-TV Down

Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu are already nearly as popular as traditional pay-TV services from cable and satellite, according to a recent survey from Clearleap, a digital-video tech firm that helps content companies such as HBO, the NFL and Verizon deliver streaming video to multiple screens. More than seven out of 10 (71%) of the 1,111 adult U.S. consumers in Clearleap’s survey from earlier this year said they had used a streaming service, either currently or previously. Slightly more consumers (79%) said they currently subscribed to pay TV. Among those ages 18-29, more than 70% use a streaming service, but only 64% have a pay-TV subscription. And one-fourth of them (26%) have never had pay TV. More than half (58%) of those under the age of 30 have watched streaming video on their laptops, and more than one-third (39%) watch on their smartphones. About 30% use Internet-connected TVs and tablets, while 22% use video game consoles to stream video.

New EU Privacy Rule Could Cost U.S. Firms Billions

U.S. tech firms that don’t adequately warn users in Europe how their information is going to be used could face fines in the billions of dollars under a new European privacy protection directive. The directive requires tech companies clearly inform users what information about them is being collected and how it will be used, and get their consent to that use. It has been in the works for several years and will replace a patchwork of laws from the 1990s. The new directive will also give E.U. residents the legal right to require companies to correct any information about them that is outdated or incorrect. Users also will have the right to have their information deleted. For example, if they choose to delete their Facebook account, Facebook would have to also delete all the information it had collected about them. A sticking point of recent discussion has been the penalties companies would pay if they were found to not be in compliance with E.U. requirements. The European Commission proposed 2% of a company’s global revenue as a fine, while the European Parliament has asked for 5%.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate on Wednesday from a range of 0% to 0.25% to a range of 0.25% to 0.5%. The rate hike is a small one, but it will affect millions of Americans, including investors, home buyers and savers. Savers should eventually see a little more interest on their deposits at the bank, but big banks didn’t make any increases Wednesday. Mortgage rates will gradually rise. Big banks will start charging more interest for loans tomorrow. The move was widely expected. It is a sign of how much the economy has healed since the Great Recession. The central bank believes the U.S. economy is strong now and no longer needs crutches and that the move “marks the end of an extraordinary period” of low rates designed to boost the recovery from the Great Recession.

Gold prices tumbled 2.5% on Thursday to $1,049.60 an ounce — the lowest level since October 2009. It was gold’s worst day in nearly two months. The precious metal is down 11% so far this year. The latest blow to gold was sparked by the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates which lessens the chances of severe inflation. The rate hike also sent the U.S. dollar sharply higher on Thursday as it signals Fed confidence in the health of the American economy. None of that is good for gold, which tends to rise when people are worried about inflation or the stability of the economy.

Falling gasoline prices left inflation unchanged in November but a key measure edged higher, the government said Tuesday. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items, increased 0.2%. Core prices are up 2% over the past year, the largest rate in 18 months. Gasoline prices fell 2.4% amid oil’s crash. Food prices dipped 0.1% and apparel declined 0.3%. Those were offset by increases of 0.4% in medical care prices, 0.2% in rent, and 1.2% for airline fares.

American drivers have an average of $540 more in their pockets this year thanks to low gas prices. That savings comes as gas prices averaged about $2.40 a gallon in 2015, down from an average of $3.34 a gallon last year. Gas is currently at a nationwide average of $2.01 a gallon — its lowest price in nearly seven years. Since most U.S. households have two drivers, many are saving twice as much — about $1,100 per household.

Several local officials in China’s Northeast region admitted they had faked economic data in the past few years to show high growth when the real numbers were much lower, the China Daily website reported. Officials in the region acknowledged they had overstated data ranging from fiscal revenue and household income to GDP, according to the report.

Persecution Watch

In Northern Ireland (once the mainstay of Protestant Christianity), an evangelical preacher is now on trial for saying something that other people find offensive. In a sermon from May of 2014, Pastor James McConnell told congregants at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle “Islam is heathen. Islam is satanic.” The prosecutor on the case, David Russell, told the court this past week that the case had “nothing to do with religion or freedom of expression.” No, instead Russell argued that Pastor McConnell was guilty of characterizing “the followers of an entire religion in a stereotypical way. And that’s grossly offensive and that’s not protected from saying it from a pulpit.”

  • Russell is wrong. This case has everything to do with religious freedom and freedom of speech. It is indicative of how the end-time anti-Christ spirit is stirring up delusional hostility against all things Christian

Middle East

A day after US Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israeli policies in an interview with The New Yorker, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who are at fault for the current diplomatic stalemate. “It is time that the international community understands that the reason there are no negotiations and no progress toward peace is not because of Israel, it is because of the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said in Beersheba. “Repeated, multiple polls in the Palestinian Authority have demonstrated that 75 percent of the [Palestinian] public rejects the two-state solution and about 80 percent condone stabbing attacks [targeting Israelis],” he said.

Eleven people were wounded by a vehicle ramming attack on a bus stop at the entrance to Jerusalem Monday afternoon including a child who lost a leg and is otherwise in stable condition. The Palestinian driver of the vehicle was shot dead by police on the scene as he attempted to get out of his wrecked vehicle while holding an axe which he apparently intended to use to attack other people.

Islamic State

American-led airstrikes killed at least 180 Islamic State fighters as local Kurdish forces­ scrambled to repel a bold, multi-pronged assault by the militants, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday. At least four coordinated attacks by more than 300 heavily armed militants kicked off the most intense fighting that northern Iraq has seen this year, illustrating the extremist group’s continued potency despite a year-long air campaign by the United States and its allies. It is an indication of the challenges that Iraqi forces and their U.S. backers will face as they seek to reclaim Mosul and other areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria.

Four ISIS suicide bombers killed seven Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and injured five others early Wednesday in two locations near Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. At the same time, ISIS fighters launched dozens of mortar rounds on a training camp in Bashiqa near Mosul, where Turkish forces have been training Sunni Iraqi troops. Turkish fighters are training for an offensive they hope will recapture Mosul, the largest city that ISIS controls in Iraq. The area is a key location near the Mosul Dam, which controls a large portion of the water and power supply to northern Iraq.

Iran

UN experts issued a report to the Security Council Tuesday declaring that the recent test launches by Iran of medium-range ballistic missiles violated UN sanctions. The report follows a request by the US, UK, France and Germany in October to take action on Iran’s ballistic missile activities. “This council cannot allow Iran to feel that it can violate our resolutions with impunity,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told a recent council meeting. Meanwhile, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down an investigation into allegations of Iran’s past work towards building nuclear weapons, declaring that the time has come to stop looking for evidence of past illegal actions by Iran and instead focus on cooperation with the Islamic Republic under the auspices of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which Teheran has still not ratified or given any signs that it intends to do so.

Pakistan/Afghanistan

Violence continues unabated along the Afghan-Pakistani border that Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters routinely cross, analysts say. Just this past Sunday, a bomb exploded in remote Parachinar, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens more. Police arrested two Taliban suspects after the attack. This year, Pakistani authorities have hanged more than 300 people on terror-related crimes and other offenses, according to Amnesty International. The Pakistani military has succeeded in clearing militant sanctuaries in the northwest and forced some Taliban to flee. But the police force and the judicial system remain very weak. The oversight of religious schools that teach extremism and mosques that preach militancy is practically non-existent. Some critics say the government has used the death penalty to target political opponents instead of just extremists.

Yemen

United Nations-mediated peace talks between envoys for Yemen’s government and Shiite Houthi rebels began in Switzerland on Tuesday as a cease-fire also took effect. The talks would seek to “pave the way for a return to a peaceful and orderly political transition.” Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country and the United Nations estimates over 5,800 people are estimated been killed in the conflict. Iran-backed Shiite Houthi militiamen are fighting to oust Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is backed by a coalition of fellow Sunni partners including Saudi Arabia. The United States supports the coalition.

Cuba

Under an agreement announced Thursday — the one-year anniversary of the historic shift in relations between the United States and Cuba — airlines can begin operating regularly scheduled commercial flights between the two nations. Thomas Engle, the U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for transportation affairs, said there could be up to 110 round-trip flights a day under the new agreement. That includes 20 flights a day between the U.S. and Cuba’s capital city of Havana, and 10 a day between the U.S. and nine international airports spread across the island. Engle said the U.S. was pushing for unlimited flight opportunities, but the Cubans wanted to establish a limit due to concerns their airports could not handle such a high volume of passengers.

Environment

Residents in Flint, Michigan, have been getting sick, and the water is so tainted that it even damaged car parts at a General Motors plant. The problem with the water supply, officials said, is lead. In 2014, Flint switched its water supply to the Flint River and studies of the city’s children have revealed dangerously high blood lead levels. GM had to truck in water because the Flint River water was corroding the engines while they were assembled. Mayor Karen Weaver declared an emergency in hopes that state and federal assistance will put a stop to this “man-made disaster.” The emergency declaration allows the city to use millions in state funds for items like water filters, and also to reconnect Flint to the Detroit water system. Now, it’s up to county commissioners to approve the measures needed to bring clean water back to the city.

  • But nobody seems to be investigating how the Flint River became so contaminated

Weather

Earth’s hottest period was before humanity existed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). People’s main disagreement over global warming was never regarding whether the climate changes. The main contention has been whether humans are the main cause of that change. An Aug. 12, 2014 article posted on climate.gov titled, “What’s The Hottest The Earth’s Ever Been,” stated, “Earth’s hottest periods—the Hadean, the late Neoproterozoic, the PETM—occurred before humans existed.”

  • It’s a bit reckless to assume that humanity is the cause of global warming (or climate change as it is now called) given this historical record. However, the socialistic one-world government cabal is pushing this issue as a foundational reason for global governance

According to preliminary data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), at least 1,426 record daily highs were tied or broken across the U.S. during the first 13 days of December. Temperatures soared up to 25 degrees above average into Thursday.

A winter storm was responsible for more than 150 flight cancelations at Denver International Airport on Tuesday morning. To the north, Interstate 80 eastbound was closed from Rock Springs, Wyoming, to Rawlins on Tuesday morning. The storm brought a foot of snow or more to the ski resorts. Huge snowfall totals – as much as 26 inches, through Monday morning – were reported in Idaho’s higher elevations. Nearly two feet of snow fell on parts of western Montana, and the wintry weather led to at least 90 accidents statewide on Monday.

Powerful Typhoon Nona (also known as Cyclone Melor) made landfall in the Philippines Monday after undergoing a last-minute spurt of intensification. Nona reached its peak intensity (145 mph estimated sustained winds) before its eye scraped ashore in northern Oriental Mindoro Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated in the central Philippines, where the fierce storm is lashing coastal areas with heavy wind and rain. At least 17 people been killed by Typhoon Melor as it battered the Philippines, cutting power to large areas. More than 132,000 homes were damaged by the typhoon, according to the Philippine government. Of those 109,000 or so houses, more than 23,000 were classified as totally destroyed. Floodwaters up to 45 inches deep were observed on some streets in Pasay City, part of the National Capital Region. A small number of roads have been reported blocked by mudslides and landslides nationwide. Before the storm hit, nearly 750,000 people were evacuated into safer areas.

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