NY Couple Ordered to Complete “Re-education” About Marriage
The New York couple, who were sued for their refusal to host a same-sex marriage ceremony on their property, were fined $13,000 and ordered to attend “re-education training classes” to counter their religious beliefs on marriage as a sacred union between a man and woman. CNSNews reported that after an appeals court ruled the Giffords were guilty of ‘sexual orientation discrimination,’ it fined them $10,000, plus $3,000 in damages and ordered them to attend “re-education training classes designed to contradict the couple’s religious beliefs about marriage.” “All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs, especially in our own backyards,” ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton, who argued before the court on behalf of the couple. “The government went after both this couple’s freedom and their ability to make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property.”
- Not only were they punished and fined for their faith as expressed on private property, they must now undergo forced indoctrination into the religion of secular humanism. A portent of our future?
Grand Jury in Texas Indicts Activists behind Planned Parenthood Videos
A Houston grand jury investigating criminal allegations against Planned Parenthood stemming from a series of undercover videos on Monday instead indicted two of the anti-abortion activists who shot the footage. In a stunning turn of events, the grand jury declined to indict officials from the abortion provider, and instead handed up a felony charges of tampering with a government record against Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden and center employee Sandra Merritt. The case sprang from a series of dramatic undercover videos in which Center for Medical Progress employees posed as prospective buyers of fetal tissue, and captured several employees of Planned Parenthood and its contractors appearing to discuss practices banned by law. However, when the videos were released online last year, Planned Parenthood claimed selective editing had created a misperception. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson didn’t provide details on the charges, including what record or records were allegedly tampered with and why Daleiden faces a charge related to buying human organs.
- Did we really expect the government to allow anyone to threaten their poster child for secular humanism?
One Killed as Feds Bust Oregon Militia Occupation
Authorities say they have arrested Ammon Bundy, the leader of a group of protesters holed up at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon for more than three weeks. The FBI and Oregon State Police moved in to arrest members of the armed group about 4:25 p.m. PT Tuesday along Highway 395. Shots were fired and one individual “who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased,” said a joint FBI-OSP release. Bundy Ranch, on its Facebook page, said in a post Tuesday evening that Arizona resident Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, author of the novel Only by Blood and Suffering, was shot and killed during the encounter. Another person received non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital. He was subsequently arrested and taken into custody. Six others were also arrested. Bundy, head of an anti-government group, had been holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Jan. 2, when he and followers seized its headquarters south of Burns as part of a long-running dispute over public land use in the West. A small group of holdouts continued the tense standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday, one day after eight more people abandoned the site as federal, state and local authorities tightened their grip on the armed occupation. Eleven occupiers have been arrested.
The FBI released video Friday from one of their airplanes showing Finicum driving a white truck. He was pursued and ultimately confronted and killed by Oregon State Police officers. The FBI said Finicum behaved recklessly and made a motion toward a gun in his coat pocket. Finicum went overnight from militia member to martyr and meme. Hours after federal authorities shot the 55-year-old Arizona rancher Tuesday during the arrest of several anti-government protesters who had occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon, Finicum’s image went viral on far right-wing websites. Outrage continued to build Wednesday on social media sites amid questions about the circumstances of Finicum’s death and whether he had his hands raised in surrender when he was shot. Other voices on social media and in the press, however, praised the FBI’s actions, saying that the armed protesters brought violence on themselves.
Cheap Oil Undermines Climate Accord
Barely a month after world leaders signed a sweeping agreement to reduce carbon emissions, the global commitment to renewable energy sources faces its first big test as the price of oil collapses, reports the New York Times. Buoyed by low gas prices, Americans are largely eschewing electric cars in favor of lower-mileage trucks and sport utility vehicles. For the climate accord to work, governments must resist the lure of cheap fossil fuels in favor of policies that encourage and, in many cases, require the use of zero-carbon energy sources. But those policies can be expensive and politically unpopular, especially as traditional fuels become ever more affordable. “This will be a litmus test for the governments — whether or not they are serious about what they have done in Paris,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
- The one-world government cabal will counter this problem by instituting carbon-based taxation to push their sustainability agenda as the means to institute further globalization
Flint Residents Protest Bills for Undrinkable Water
Flint, Michigan residents can’t use their tap water for drinking or bathing because of lead-contamination fears, but the city continues to bill them for the water anyway. It feels like a slap in the face,” said Claudia Perkins-Milton, 63, whose most recent bill was about $99. “The only thing the water’s good for is flushing the toilet. That’s it.” She was among about 100 residents who protested Monday in front of Flint’s city hall. Many residents say they’ve been buying their own bottled water for months and are outraged that they continue to be billed. Flint residents pay some of the highest water bills in all of Michigan. Free bottled water and filters have been offered from city fire stations as concerns of contamination persist. Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo are to announce Tuesday the donation of about 176 truckloads of water to help people affected by the water crisis in Flint. The water crisis in Flint, has exposed the danger that lead could potentially leach into the drinking water of millions of Americans from old pipes which are very costly to replace.
Researchers Strive to Prevent the Spread of the Zika Virus into the United States
Nearly 4,000 babies with a birth defect called microcephaly have been born in Brazil to mothers infected with the Zika virus. These babies have small heads and abnormal brain development, and so far, 46 have died in there. “It really is an unprecedented event,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The concern is not just for babies. Zika has also been linked in Brazil to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes paralysis. So far, there have been about 20 cases in the continental United States. All of those patients had traveled abroad to Brazil or other affected areas. The disease has not yet spread beyond those travelers, according to the CDC. On Wednesday, a Danish hospital reported their first case of Zika. Airlines are starting to offer refunds to passengers who have booked flights to countries in central and south America caught up in the Zika virus outbreak. The World Health Organization on Thursday said it was convening an emergency committee next week to decide if the Zika virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency. WHO estimates that there could be 3 million to 4 million cases of Zika virus in a 12-month period in the Americas, WHO official Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri said Thursday, calling the growth “explosive.”
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Although it was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and is common in Africa and Asia, it did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil. Few of in the West have immune defenses against the virus, so it is spreading rapidly. Millions of people in tropical regions of the Americas may have had it. Zika is spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes species, which can breed in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap and usually bite during the day.
A 15-year-old refugee boy has been arrested and accused of stabbing a social worker to death in western Sweden. The victim, a 22-year-old woman, was attacked Monday at the center in the town of Molndal, near Gothenburg. The alleged attacker was restrained by other residents until police arrived. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that many Swedes fear that such attacks could happen more frequently because of the influx of refugees. “We’re dealing with more incidents like these since the arrival of so many more refugees from abroad,” he said. Sweden accepted approximately 160,000 asylum applications last year, becoming a popular destination for refugees fleeing turmoil in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. However, the country recently introduced temporary border checks in an effort to control the flow of new arrivals. Sweden’s interior minister said Thursday that his country is preparing to expel 80,000 asylum seekers over the course of the next year.
Economic News – Domestic
Gross domestic product expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just 0.7% the last three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Friday. The economy grew 2.4% for all of 2015, in line with last year’s pace and a bit higher than the tepid 2.2% average during the post-recession recovery. Growth slowed substantially in the fourth quarter as businesses dialed back stockpiling and investment, the trade gap widened, and even consumers reined in their spending a bit. The main culprits in the fourth quarter were a weak global economy and low oil prices, which have hammered manufacturers’ exports and business spending throughout 2015.
At the end of its two-day meeting Wednesday, the U.S. central bank acknowledged that the U.S. economy lost momentum at the end of 2015. “Economic growth slowed late last year,” the Fed’s committee said in its statement, noting that the job market had improved nonetheless. In a widely expected decision, the Fed’s committee also decided not to raise its key interest rate. Just a month ago, in December, the Fed raised rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
Orders for long-lasting goods fell sharply in December as weakness abroad and low oil prices continued to weigh on manufacturers. Orders for manufactured durable goods such as autos, computers and electrical equipment tumbled 5.1%, far more than the 0.7% decline economists expected. And November’s flat reading was revised to a 0.5% drop. Orders for capital goods excluding aircraft and defense — a proxy for business investment – fell 4.3%. Economists expected a 0.2% slide. A weak global economy, particularly China’s slowdown, has hurt manufacturers the past year and strengthened the dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas.
U.S. home prices increased at a faster clip in November, the gains fueled by solid hiring growth, historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of houses on the market. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.8% from a year ago, up from a 5.5% pace in October. Home values nationwide are now just 4.8% below their July 2006 peak prior to the so-called Great Recession. Four metro areas — Dallas, Denver, San Francisco and Portland Oregon — have already matched or eclipsed their all-time highs.
Many experts thought U.S. oil production would fall off a cliff along with the crash in crude prices. In reality, it hasn’t even come close to killing American production. The U.S. pumped 9.35 million barrels of oil a day in October, according to the latest government statistics available. That’s up from 9.13 million barrels in October 2014. The Energy Information Administration estimates U.S. production slipped to 9.24 million in December. That’s hardly an all-out collapse. The 70% plunge in oil prices since mid-2014 has been fueled by an epic supply glut. The oversupply has largely been created by skyrocketing U.S. output, which surged from just 4.6 million barrels per day in October 2005 to a high of 9.69 million last year.
Economic News – International
The Bank of Japan on Friday introduced a negative interest rate policy, a move aimed at boosting a stumbling economic recovery and warding off deflation. Markets jumped on the intervention. Tokyo’s central bank hopes that by imposing a 0.1% fee on selected current account deposits — effectively a negative interest rate — commercial banks will be encouraged to make more loans and so stimulate economic growth. Japan’s economy is forecast to grow just 1.1% in 2015 and 1.7% in 2016.
The U.S. crackdown on Swiss banks suspected of helping American clients evade taxes by hiding income offshore has imposed more than $1.3 billion in penalties on 80 banks in settlements involving more than 34,000 accounts that held as much as $48 billion. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the penalty total Wednesday as prosecutors disclosed the final non-prosecution agreement with Swiss banks. Along with paying the penalties, 80 Swiss banks agreed to cooperate with any related criminal or civil proceedings. The settlements also require the banks to provide information about accounts in which U.S clients held any interest, cooperate in U.S. treaty requests for data from the accounts and close accounts whose owners failed to disclose the holdings to the IRS.
China stocks resumed their freefall on Tuesday, taking heavy losses even after the government pumped huge amounts of cash into the economy. Global markets have suffered from extreme volatility to start 2016. Swings have been fueled by plummeting crude oil prices and increasing uncertainty over global growth amid China’s economic slowdown. In 2015, China posted its slowest annual growth in 25 years. Beijing has worked to calm growth concerns and market turmoil, injecting cash ahead of the major Lunar New Year celebration in early February.
Russians are waking up to the harsh reality that the economic crisis is nowhere near over, despite what President Vladimir Putin has been telling them. There have even been several protests against the economic crisis — a rare sight in a country where demonstrations don’t happen very often. Ordinary Russians are suffering because of the devastating impact of low oil prices and Western sanctions. Real wages fell 9.5% in 2015, with an average Russian earning just over 30,300 rubles ($385) a month last year, official data show. At the same time, prices are rising fast. Inflation hit 12.5% in 2015. The ruble has plunged since the start of the year, hitting an all-time low of 85 rubles per dollar on Thursday.
The West Bank settlement of Beit Horon was targeted by two separate Palestinian terrorists on Monday evening, with two Israeli women stabbed and homemade pipe bombs thrown at a grocery store, although they did not explode. The two attackers were shot dead by a security guard, while Hadassah University Medical Center released a statement Tuesday morning confirming that one of the victims, 23-year old Shlomit Krigman, had died from her wounds. The other victim, whose name was not released, remains hospitalized in stable condition at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Police said the terrorists infiltrated the community by jumping over the perimeter fence, attacking the first people they found inside.
Since declaring its caliphate in June 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has conducted or inspired over 60 terrorist attacks in 20 countries other than Iraq and Syria, where its carnage has taken a much deadlier toll; those attacks outside Iraq and Syria have killed at least 1,160 people and injured more than 1,700 others. The deadly tentacles of ISIS have spread quickly, from the terrorist group’s epicenter in Iraq and Syria to points around the globe.
At least 120,000 people in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor are starving while ISIS continues to besiege the city. Fierce battles continue around the strategic city in northern Syria between regime forces and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to human rights groups. Hundreds of combatants and civilians have been killed over the past week, and Russian aircraft have been dropping supplies to beleaguered army units. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is battling to retain a foothold in the area. It still controls the military airport to the south, but ISIS claims to have overrun several regime-held districts at the beginning of the week, taking advantage of a sandstorm that grounded military aircraft. But in the last few days, Russian and possibly Syrian warplanes have carried out airstrikes against ISIS areas, while the already desperate situation of civilians has worsened.
Seeking “revenge,” Russian forces stormed a Syrian town on the border with Turkey hunting for the attacker who claimed he shot and killed the pilot of a downed Russian jet, state media reported Monday. A Turkish F16 fighter jet shot down the Russian aircraft near the Turkish border north of Latakia, Syria on Nov. 24, a senior U.S. official tells Fox News. Soon afterwards, Turkish citizen Alparslan Çelik said in a video that he killed the pilot on the ground because Russia had been dropping bombs minutes before the jet was downed. Russia claims special forces rescued the other man on the jet, a navigator. State media report the gunman is in the town of Rabia, in Latakia province, which Syrian government forces recently recaptured from rebel fighters.
A suicide bomber blew himself up and another attacker opened fire outside a Shiite mosque in the predominantly Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Friday, killing two people and injuring at least seven others, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. The bomber blew himself up as security personnel engaged him. The gunman was arrested and was wearing a vest with explosives. This would be at least the fourth deadly attack on a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia — a kingdom where 85% to 90% of the citizens are Sunni — since May. The previous three were claimed by ISIS, the Sunni Islamist terror group, or one of its affiliates.
Vietnam’s communist regime ended an unprecedented internal power struggle Thursday by deciding to stick to the status quo over a more reform-minded challenger.” I didn’t expect to be elected,” General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (pronounced Noo-yen Foo Chong) told a news conference after Vietnam’s Communist Party ended its five-yearly congress by re-electing its 71-year-old chief for a second term. “I am very surprised by that because I am quite old. I am the oldest member in the leadership of Vietnam. I myself asked to be retired but due to responsibility tasked on me by the party I had to accept,” he said. He made it clear that one-party rule with a collective leadership, which he heads, was here to stay.
Boko Haram militants attacked the Nigerian town of Chibok on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people. The Christian Post reports that six suicide bombers carried out the attack at a weekly vegetable market. The dead include 15 civilians and one soldier, though the death toll may rise. Chibok’s hospital is overwhelmed after the attack. A number of people are fighting for their lives and the hospital has a shortage of blood. Chibok is the town from which over 200 Christian schoolgirls were kidnapped in April 2014. Most of the girls remain slaves of Boko Haram.
Two Nigerian pastors have been abducted this month in Kogi state, as kidnapping cartels that have plagued the central state the past three years directed their aim at Christian leaders. In a departure from numerous kidnappings of high-profile business and government leaders in Kogi state since 2013, gunmen abducted pastor David Onubedo of Deeper Life Bible Church on Monday night (Jan. 25) in Okene after a Bible study, according to local reports. Pastor David Onubedo’s captors are reported to have contacted his wife and the leadership of the church to demand 50 million naira (US$249,000) for his release. The kidnappers of the Pastor Ayo Raphaeare also demanding 50 million naira (US$249,000) for his release. Organized crime syndicates have carried out numerous kidnappings in the oil-rich Bayelsa state in 2015, where widespread poverty is a stark backdrop to well-off people involved in oil-production activities. Many kidnappings are aimed at those in the industry.
U.S. relations with Cuba continue to thaw, with the latest example being new federal trade rules that go into effect Wednesday. The most visible change in the regulations is the ability of U.S. businesses to sell directly to Cuba’s state-run companies. The rules also create an opening for U.S. citizens to organize a variety of events on the island, from research conferences to sports competitions; ease restrictions on U.S. business owners to travel on fact-finding missions; and make it easier for U.S. airlines to work with their Cuban counterparts to expand commercial flights between the countries.
Venezuela’s capital Caracas has now been ranked as the most murderous city on Earth, according to a new study by Mexican think-tank the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. The report calculates that Caracas’s 3,946 homicides in 2015 gave it a truly terrifying annual homicide rate of 120 per 100,000 residents. To put that in context, the United States — easily the most murderous of Western developed nations — has a rate of 4.7, according to the United Nations’ most recent comparative study in 2013. Meanwhile, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and most of Western Europe had rates that year of around one murder per 100,000 residents, that U.N. study shows. Venezuelans are already suffering from economic catastrophe and an authoritarian government that, instead of listening to its many critics, accuses them of “fascism.” Economic woes include inflation that the IMF predicts will hit 720% this year, and widespread shortages of everything from bread to birth control to cancer medicines.
Despite making progress addressing some of the world’s environmental issues, toxic air has worsened considerably, as revealed by the Environmental Protection Index (EPI). According to the EPI’s findings, air pollution has become a growing global problem, particularly in countries with rapidly developing economies such as China and India. More than half of the world’s population, which amounts to over 3.5 billion people, live in a nation where the average exposure to air pollutants exceeds the levels found safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). Air pollution has worsened so much over time that it is now attributed to 10 percent of all deaths, according to a release from Yale. People living in East Asia and the Pacific region make up about one-third, or 1.3 billion, of those exposed to air pollutants, reports the EPI. In India and Nepal, almost 75 percent of the population breathes toxic air.
Early Monday morning, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake rattled part of the Mediterranean region, including northern Morocco and southern Spain as far inland as Seville. Hundreds of properties across the region were damaged, closing some schools and businesses for the day. Power outages have also been reported in the Spanish city of Melilla, located in northern Africa, as well as other areas. No immediate fatalities or injuries have been reported. The quake began just before 5:30 a.m. Central European Time Monday, with an epicenter in the Alboran Sea, just more than 100 miles east of the Strait of Gibraltar. A 5.3-magnitude aftershock struck the region as well.
Several rounds of shaking were reported from southern New Jersey up into Connecticut Thursday afternoon, and officials have confirmed the initial round of shaking came from a sonic boom in southern New Jersey. Some residents in the area said it felt like multiple earthquakes, while others thought they seemed more like sonic booms. According to the Earth Institute, there were at least three earthquake tremors in New Jersey, and they were gathering information from their seismometers. Minutes later, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the shaking at 1:24 p.m. EST was from a sonic boom near Hammonton, New Jersey, but did not provide any details on the subsequent tremors. The sonic booms were caused by military fighter jets conducting tests, officials said.
The death toll from the massive snowstorm in the U.S. northeast has climbed to 36 (mostly snow shoveling and traffic accidents) with reports of numerous roofs collapsing under the heavy snow. A pregnant teen was one of almost a dozen people who died as a result of shoveling snow. In Montgomery County, Maryland, the roof of Shiloh Christian Fellowship Church, built in 1951, completely collapsed on Monday. A Maryland woman was plucked from her snow-buried car Monday after being trapped for three days. Winter Storm Jonas left Washington D.C. with over 2 feet of snow, cementing cars in place— but that hasn’t stopped the city from enforcing their parking bans. Since Jonas’s arrival on Friday, the District has handed out over $1 million in parking tickets, according to NBC Washington. The District announced that they will continue to ticket and tow abandoned or parked vehicles lining any snow emergency route.
A lone supercell thunderstorm Saturday in northern California produced a hailstone that tied a state record – and was in the shape of a star, no less. According to the National Weather Service office in Sacramento, this star-shaped hailstone measured 3 inches in diameter from opposite ends of the star, tying the state record hailstone size, which was first set on September 2, 1960 in San Diego County. Wet hailstones moving slowly through a thunderstorm’s updraft – a current of upward-moving air in a thunderstorm – can collide with smaller hailstones, stick together and freeze, forming a lumpy, rather than smooth, large hailstone.
- And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent (about 75 pounds) Revelation 16;21