Signs of the Times (2/26/18)

Abortion Clinics Closing at Record Pace

Abortion clinics are closing at a record pace across the country as they fail to meet new health and safety requirements and the demand for their business drops, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Since 2011, at least 162 abortion clinics have shut or stopped doing abortions; 21 new abortion clinics opened in that same time period, the report states. While abortion activists blame the closures on laws that require basic health and safety protections for patients, the report indicates that many factors are involved, including the lack of business and fewer doctors willing to do abortions. These numbers, coupled with plunging national abortion statistics, point to the fact that fewer women actually want abortions. As modern technology shows clear pictures of unborn babies in the womb, and as more pro-life groups offer women alternatives to abortion, more women have access to the education and resources to choose life for their unborn babies.

Six States Sue Federal Government Over Obamacare

Six states filed a new lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska filed in the Northern District of Texas takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee assessed to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. The lawsuit says nothing in the Affordable Care Act’s language provided clear notice that states would also have to pay the fee. “This notice was not even provided by rule but was ultimately provided by a private entity wielding legislative authority,” the suit says. The suit seeks an injunction against the federal rules that say states are responsible for the fee. It also asks that states be refunded for what they’ve already paid. The suit says the fee is projected to allow the federal government to collect between $13 billion and $15 billion from states over the next decade.

Court Orders Clinton & Aides to Testify

Trouble continues to mount for Democrat presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as her top aides, as a federal judge just issued a major ruling in a lawsuit against her. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has ordered Clinton’s top aides and State Department officials to testify under oath about whether Hillary’s private email server setup was deliberately put in place to assist her in avoiding open records laws, according to Newsmax. The judge actually ordered the State Department to work together with Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group behind a lawsuit focused on special arrangements for Clinton aide Huma Abedin, to devise a plan for depositions and discovery in the case, to occur no later than April. Judicial Watch sued the State Department years ago in an effort to obtain any public records regarding Abedin’s simultaneous employment at the State Department as Clinton’s top aide, as well as with the Clinton Family Foundation and an affiliated consulting firm.

Planned Parenthood to Spend Over $1 Million Promoting Hillary Clinton

Planned Parenthood will be sinking even more money into promoting Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. The abortion giant announced Thursday that it will spend over $1 million on television and Internet-based advertising to push her campaign. Earlier this year, the Planned Parenthood abortion business spent six figures on a huge ad buy in Iowa. Now they have launched a multi-platform, seven-figure ad campaign in Michigan, Virginia and Texas ahead of the March 1st “Super Tuesday” primaries. “Hillary Clinton is the only candidate in this race who has made women’s health and rights a priority,” said Deirdre Schifeling, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

  • I wonder what proportion of that money comes from federal government (i.e. taxpayer) funding?

No Hate Crime Charges for Black Suspects Who Brutally Beat Marine Corps Veteran

Bronze Star Marine Corps veteran Christopher Marquez was the victim of a brutal beating at a Washington D.C. McDonald’s when several African American individuals approached Marquez at the fast-food restaurant, asking him if “black lives matter.” As Marquez was leaving the fast-food chain, he was struck with a firearm, beaten, and robbed. Marquez was beaten so badly that he didn’t even remember exactly where the attack took place. The Marine is calling the incident a “hate crime” but the Justice Department and the mainstream media have failed to acknowledge that this is exactly what it was.

  • It appears hate crimes can only be perpetrated by whites, especially Christian Caucasians

Migrant Update

Norway is ready to abandon the Geneva Convention if Sweden collapses. The border will be closed by force, and Swedish refugees will be rejected without the possibility to seek asylum. “We are prepared for the worst,” says Prime Minister Erna Solberg. There is such an imminent danger that the asylum system in Sweden will break down, that Norway must have an emergency legislation in place in case it happens, Solberg believes. Therefore, she has crafted a law that will allow for Norwegian authorities to reject asylum seekers who do not come directly from a conflict area. This means that asylum seekers who want to come to Norway from Russia, but also from the other Nordic countries, will be denied the right to seek asylum, which otherwise is anchored in the UN Refugee Convention.

A dispute over how to shelter 160,000 refugees in Europe got deeper Tuesday when Poland said its population is unable to live with people from the Middle East. EurActiv Greece reports. The Dutch EU presidency, helped by Germany, Italy and Greece, is trying to convince Eastern European countries to join an EU-wide plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees seeking shelter in Europe. But the leaders from the Visegrad (V4) countries — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — are opposed to the idea. “Central and Eastern EU countries do not have the experience to live with citizens from North Africa or the Middle East,” said a Polish diplomat contacted by EurActiv. The Polish position echoes comments by Slovakia, whose Prime Minister Robert Fico said that Muslims cannot be integrated in mostly Christian European societies.

Longing for refuge in Germany but stuck in limbo in Greece. That could be the fate of masses of new migrants to Europe, the United Nations warned. Reluctance of some European countries to take refugees and discussions in Germany to limit the number there have had little effect on the tide of humanity arriving from the East. Three times as many migrants have arrived so far this year than by the same time last year in Greece — by far their main gateway to Europe. More than 100,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year. Last year, it took until June to reach that sum.

Zika Update

Federal and state health officials are investigating 14 new reports of potential sexual transmission of the Zika virus, including several cases involving pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed Tuesday. In at least two of these U.S. cases, infection was confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who recently had returned from one of the approximately three dozen countries where the virus has now spread. Four other women have tested positive for Zika in preliminary lab tests but are awaiting final confirmation. The CDC said the eight other cases remain under investigation. The state of Florida announced Wednesday that three pregnant women who had traveled outside the United States tested positive for Zika virus.

Organizers of the 2016 Olympics are facing an uphill task in their bid to convince the international sports community that the Games will be spared the effects of the rapidly spreading Zika virus. While Olympic organizers have devoted much energy to reassuring athletes and potential visitors, their position is not helped by the current realities of Rio life. Fatima Teresa Goncalves dos Santos, a Rio businesswoman, told USA TODAY Sports how she contracted Zika last year, less than two miles from the Olympic Park where most of the sports will be staged. Medical experts say Zika enhances the risk of a mother’s baby being born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in the child having an abnormally small head and suffering from seizures and impaired brain development. However, the Zika virus may cause more extensive birth defects throughout the body than scientists previously thought, according to a new study released Thursday. The new study associates the virus with damage to tissue outside the central nervous system for the first time. For those who are not pregnant, Zika usually results in a brief period of discomfort, including rashes, itching and joint pain.

  • For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)

Economic News

The fragile condition of the U.S. economy received an upgrade on Friday when the government said it grew at a 1% pace between October and December. That’s up from an initial estimate of just 0.7% and should ease fears the U.S. is on the verge of slipping into a recession. However, the economy remains under pressure from anemic global growth and a super-strong U.S. dollar that is slamming manufacturing.

Orders to U.S. companies for long-lasting manufactured goods advanced in January at the strongest pace in 10 months. Moreover, a key category that tracks business investment surged by the largest amount in 19 months. The bigger-than-expected gains could be a sign of better days ahead for the nation’s beleaguered manufacturers. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods, items ranging from autos and appliances to steel and machinery, rose 4.9% last month. That represented a rebound from a 4.6% plunge in December. Demand in a category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans rose 3.9% in January, reversing a 3.7% fall in December. It was the biggest advance in this category since June 2014.

  • Investors and economists pay too much attention to one-month swings. If we average the January and December numbers, durable goods rose 0.3% over the two months, continuing to indicate an economy growing slowly.

The metals market has finally stopped melting down — at least for the moment. After crashing to crisis levels late last year, raw materials that serve as key barometers of global growth are suddenly showing signs of life. Iron ore has skyrocketed 31% since mid-January, while copper and aluminum — key construction components — are up 7% since then. That’s a big relief because the collapse in industrial metals had been setting off global recession alarm bells. The precipitous drops raised fears about just how bad things were in China — the world’s biggest consumer of these materials.

Halliburton is cutting 8% of its workforce, or roughly 5,000 positions, the Houston energy company told CNNMoney on Thursday. It’s the latest evidence of the crisis confronting the U.S. oil industry as crude prices have crashed to seven-year lows. “Our industry has turned down faster than anyone ever expected,” Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar and President Jeff Miller said in a memo to employees obtained by CNNMoney. The execs said it’s now clear that business opportunities will be “much worse than anticipated” coming into the year.

China’s Shanghai composite index plunged more than 6% Thursday — its biggest one-day drop in a month — amid ongoing fears about the health of the world’s second largest economy. The benchmark dived 6.4% to 2,741.25, days before finance ministers from the Group of 20 major rich and developing economies meet in Shanghai. Investors are hoping the G20 meeting on Friday and Saturday will spur moves to shore up global growth.

Middle East

Iran’s new cash-incentive plan for “martyrs” who strike in Jerusalem is proof the Islamic Republic intends to spend billions reaped in the recent nuclear deal on terrorism, Israeli officials told FoxNews.com Thursday. Already identified as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, Iran will now pay the equivalent of $7,000 “to every family of a martyr of the intifada in Jerusalem,” Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon said Wednesday at a news conference in Beirut. “This demonstrates again Iran’s role in encouraging terror,” Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry told FoxNews.com. “Following the nuclear agreement, Iran continues being a major player in international terror.” The Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Fathali, unveiled the new scheme to benefit the families of terrorists involved in the ongoing uprising in Jerusalem, which began on Sept. 13, 2015. So far, 32 Israelis and one Palestinian have been murdered, and 357 people injured. The latest figures issued by Israel show 188 stabbings, 75 shootings and 39 vehicle attacks. More than 160 Palestinians have been killed during the same period by Israeli security forces and armed members of the Israeli public, with most reportedly shot while carrying out attacks.

  • Virtually all of the Palestinian deaths were because they initiated ‘lone wolf’ attacks against Israelis

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday that the risk is growing of a shooting war between Russia and Turkey, which would be difficult for NATO to stay out of. “We are always referring to Syria as a proxy war among regional actors,” Mogherini said. “This risks to become something bigger than this. I’m not thinking of a cold war. No, we risk a hot war among different actors than the one we always think of. Not necessarily Russia and the United States, but Russia and Turkey.”

The Canadian Parliament passed a historic motion Monday which formally condemned the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. The Conservatives, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper who attended the session to cast his vote against BDS, joined the Liberals in overwhelmingly supporting the motion in a vote of 229 for and 51 against, Canada’s CIJ news reported. The motion states that, “given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.” “We must fight anti-Semitism in all its forms,” Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dionadded. “We must oppose the boycott, divest, sanctions campaign in our communities and continue to speak out forcefully against them.”

  • At least one country in North America hasn’t abandoned our spiritual ancestor

Islamic State

A video purportedly made by supporters of the Islamic State makes direct threats against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for combating terrorism on their Internet platforms. The 25-minute propaganda video was released by a group calling itself “the sons of the Caliphate army.” In it, photographs of both technology leaders are targeted by bullets. The video was spotted by Vocativ deep web analysts on the social media service Telegram, which is used by ISIS. The extremist group says it’s responding to growing efforts by Facebook and Twitter to suspend accounts and remove posts that the social media services say incite violence and promote terrorism. The group claims that they hacked more than 10,000 Facebook accounts, more than 150 Facebook groups and more than 5,000 Twitter profiles. “Many of these accounts have been given to supporters,” the video says.

Seeking to bolster its effort to counter ISIS messaging on social media, the Obama administration is assembling something of a high-tech dream team to battle the terrorist group online. At a meeting conducted at the Justice Department on Wednesday, executives from Apple, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, MTV and Buzzfeed offered their input to top counter intelligence officials, according to an industry source familiar with the meeting. Nick Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the group the administration is making strides in combating ISIS on social media, where the terrorist army has inspired potential lone wolf assailants to carry out attacks.

Syria

The United States and Russia brokered a temporary cease-fire between forces loyal to the Syrian government and Western-backed rebels trying to overthrow it that is scheduled to begin at midnight Friday, local Damascus time. The 5-year-old war in Syria has killed about 470,000 people and displaced 11 million, creating a refugee crisis in Europe. The agreement, called a “cessation of hostilities,” should stop the fighting between those parties and allow aid groups to deliver humanitarian supplies and services to areas that have been besieged by government forces backed with Russian airstrikes. The agreement does not apply to the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, or the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front terrorist groups. It also does not impact airstrikes against those two militant groups conducted by Syria, Russia and the U.S.-led coalition. Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday that the agreement has already allowed five or six Syrian communities to receive 114 trucks carrying assistance and that 80,000 people now have supplies for a month that they did not have a week ago.

North Korea

The United States submitted a draft resolution Thursday to the U.N. Security Council to impose “a major upgrade” in sanctions against North Korea following the reclusive nation’s recent nuclear weapons test and rocket launch. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the proposed sanctions for the first time would require all cargo going in and out of North Korea to be inspected and are meant to hold North Korea accountable for its actions. The move comes after the U.S. and China — North Korea’s chief ally — agreed on the draft resolution following more than a month of discussions. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test last month, claiming it tested a hydrogen bomb, and fired a long-range rocket over Japanese airspace on Feb. 7 in what was widely condemned as a test of missile technology banned by previous U.N. resolutions.

Nigeria

The world’s deadliest terrorist group is not in the Middle East. It’s in Nigeria, where the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram and other forces killed more than 4,000 Christians in 2015. That tally was a 62 percent increase from the previous year, according to Open Doors. In response, Nigeria’s largest confederation of Christian churches is, for the first time, jointly endorsing a commitment to revive the Church in the country’s north, before it collapses from a decade of violence that has killed thousands of Christians and driven away more than 1 million.

India

Christians in India have called on the government to intervene in the increasing tension and persecution they are experiencing from Hindu extremists. Christian Today reports that the Tirunelveli District Pentecostal Churches Federation in the state of Tamil Nadu has called on India’s government to address the “steadily increasing attacks on Christians.” Although India is supposedly a secular state, the Christians claim that they are being targeted by “Hindutva” adherents who are antagonistic toward Christianity and attack Christian churches. “Though we’re being targeted, we’ve never retaliated and done anything that would undermine the tranquility of society as Christianity is all about love, compassion and brotherhood,” said R. Babu Paul Dinakaran, district secretary of the Federation. “However,” Dinakaran continued, “heads of a few Hindutva outfits are encouraging their cadres to orchestrate attacks against us.”

Weather

Winter Storm Petros hammered the Midwest and Great Lakes regions with heavy snow and strong winds that left at least one person dead and caused lots of travel problems. More than 15 inches of snow fell in parts of Indiana, with over a half foot in Michigan, Illinois, northern Arkansas and eastern Missouri as of early Thursday morning. The combination of snow and strong winds has caused power outages in the St. Louis metro and parts of central Illinois. Tens of thousands were without power in Missouri and Illinois as the powerful system made its presence felt, dumping more than a foot of snow. South of Chicago, as many as 50 vehicles were stuck overnight Wednesday in heavy snow along Route 17 in Grant Park. The snow and wind from Winter Storm Petros was caused by the same low pressure system that has brought severe thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes to the South and East Coast. A Coast Guard ship overturned in large waves Thursday while attempting to rescue passengers aboard a fishing boat that ran aground off Long Island.

Large tornadoes hammered the South on Tuesday, reducing homes to rubble as emergency crews rushed to pluck residents trapped by the destructive storms. Three people have died as a dangerous, multi-day round of severe weather swept through the South. There were at least 18 reported tornadoes on Tuesday. In Louisiana, at least two people were killed at a trailer park in Convent where dozens of trailers were destroyed by a likely tornado. For the second time in as many weeks, a large tornado left major damage in Escambia County, located in the far western portion of the Florida Panhandle. A tornado outbreak stretched Wednesday into another day of destruction and tragedy as the storm system shifted into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, killing four more people in Virginia. The storm system has spanned hundreds of miles and more than a dozen states. As of Thursday morning, survey teams from the National Weather Service have confirmed 26 tornadoes in this outbreak, and crews will likely confirm more on Thursday. Fifty-two tornadoes have been reported by citizens and the media.

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