Signs of the Times (5/9/16)

National Day of Prayer Speakers Decry Moral Decline

Speakers at this year’s National Day of Prayer observance decried what they saw as America’s moral decline, in particular the acceptance of same-sex marriage. Dallas pastor and broadcaster Tony Evans and other speakers on Capitol Hill Thursday (May 5) took particular aim at last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, encouraging the faithful to actively promote their own views. “Everybody else is coming out of the closet, we might as well come out too,” Evans said. “Was it not shocking to the nation when on June 26, 2015, the very definition and meaning of marriage that has endured for 5,000 years in every civilization on Earth was redefined, weakened and undermined?” asked Shirley Dobson, outgoing chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Evans said the “chaos” facing the country is the result of a disregard for God. “What we are experiencing today is the passive wrath of God,” he said.

Boycott Taking a Toll on Target over Transgender Bathroom Policy

The boycott of Target in response to its transgender bathroom policy is hitting the retail chain hard financially. Several pro-family groups stated that the Target policy places women and children at risk by allowing men to enter the women’s restroom. The American Family Association began a petition to boycott Target until the policy is changed, which has garnered over 1.1 million signatures in less than two weeks. Wall Street took notice. Target’s stock has fallen nearly 7 percent since the new policy was announced, from $83.98 on April 19 to $78.13 as of May 5. That represents about a $3.5 billion drop in the retail giant’s overall stock value. The company’s brand perception has taken a hit as well. USA Today reported that the percentage of people stating they would shop at Target has dropped from 42 percent to 38 percent since April 19. Todd Starnes with Fox News reports that the retailer now plans to meet with American Family Association, the sponsor of the boycott petition. The AFA has offered that one solution to the problem would be for Target to add unisex restrooms to its store locations, while maintaining separate ones for males and females.

Obama Says LGBT Rights Supersede Religious Freedom

On Sunday night, at a Democratic National Committee-sponsored event in New York City billed as an “LGBT gala,” Obama took to the podium and warned Christians across the country that their religious freedom means nothing in the face of gay rights, reports the Conservative Tribune. “We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions,” the POTUS said. “But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.” Obama patronized Christians and Christian groups about their “genuine concerns,” but ultimately suggested that the issue was being pushed by Republicans who were simply using the concerns to acquire more votes. He called for the LGBT community to remain vigilant and assured them he would continue to fight for “progress.”

  • All of which means Obama is fine with pedophiles and rapists using the transgender bathroom policy to legally pursue their victims

North Carolina Sues U.S. Government Over Bathroom Law

North Carolina filed a lawsuit Monday against the federal government in a fight for a state law that limits protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration filed the lawsuit seeking to keep in place the law that mandates people use the bathroom of their gender at birth rather than the one they identify with. The U.S. Justice Department said last week the law violated the civil rights of transgender people. The Justice Department had set a deadline of Monday for McCrory to report whether he would enforce the law that took effect March 24. The governor said the Justice Department denied him enough time for a reasonable response. It’s the federal government being a bully,” McCrory said on Fox News Sunday. McCrory’s defiance could risk funding for the state’s university system and lead to a protracted legal battle.

Alabama Chief Justice Faces Removal over Fight to Block Gay Marriage

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore — ousted from office more than a decade ago over a Ten Commandments display — now faces removal from the bench over his effort to block gay marriage from coming to that state after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission on Friday filed ethics charged against Moore, saying that the state chief justice abused the power of his office and displayed disrespect for the judiciary. The charges largely stem from a Jan. 6 administrative order Moore sent to probate judges telling them an Alabama order and law banning same-sex marriages remained in effect. The Court of the Judiciary will decide whether Moore is guilty of violating judicial ethics. If found guilty, he could face removal from office.

Atheists Sue U.S. House Chaplain, Demand to be Guest Chaplain

Last week, the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain, who denied a request for an atheist invocation,” reports LawNewz.com. “The current House Chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy, has imposed requirements for guest chaplains that discriminate against the nonreligious and minority religions, and has explicitly refused to allow Plaintiff Dan Barker, who actually met the requirements, to serve as guest chaplain because Barker is nonreligious,” the lawsuit, filed in D.C. District Court, states. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is an organization that pushes for separation of church and state. Barker, ironically a former Christian pastor, claims via the lawsuit that he’d met with Conroy’s assistants so he could be a guest chaplain, and do an invocation. He apparently met all the requirements, even getting sponsored by Congressman Mark PocanBut after Conroy allegedly voiced doubts about Barker, and months passed without confirmation, the Chaplain’s office told Barker they didn’t think his requests were ‘genuine.’ The lawsuit said the formal denial came in December, after an 18-month process.

Obama’s Executive Order 16303 May Lead to Martial Law

President Obama recently signed Executive Order 16303 and many people are outraged because this little-known executive order could be the trigger that leads to more government control… and possibly even martial law, reports Minutemen News Alerts. Here’s what the Washington Post warned: “Executive Order 16303 (National Defense Resources Preparedness) states that, in case of a war or national emergency, the federal government has the authority to take over almost every aspect of American society. Food, livestock, farming equipment, manufacturing, industry, energy, transportation, hospitals, health care facilities, water resources, defense and construction – all of it could fall under the full control of Mr. Obama. The order empowers the president to dispense these vast resources as he sees fit during a national crisis.” The worst part? Obama can choose when and where to use this new power… it’s not restricted by Congress in any way… so he could decide to use it whenever he so decides.

 FBI Reports that No One was Murdered in Sandy Hook

Recently released FBI crime statistics curiously show that no murders occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, despite earlier reports that numerous schoolchildren and faculty members were murdered during a school shooting rampage in December of that year, reports RedFlagNews.com. On December 14, 2012, the world watched in horror as the corporate media reported the deaths of 20 students and 6 staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown at the hands of a deranged 20-year-old. Internet sleuths immediately took to the web to stitch together clues indicating the shooting could be a carefully-scripted false flag event to galvanize future support for gun control legislation. Two years later, and scores of politicians and gun control groups have cited the Sandy Hook incident as a pretext to curtail Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

London Elects First Muslim Mayor

The Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan won the election Friday, becoming London’s first Muslim mayor. Khan received 44.2% of first preference votes to Conservative Party candidate Zac Goldsmith’s 35.6%. Second preference votes have now been counted with Khan passing the crucial 50% mark to secure victory, according to the BBC. The 45-year old son of Pakistani immigrants becomes the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital city. Khan, a human rights lawyer before entering politics, says he wants to make London “fairer and more equal.” Khan has said he never hid the fact that he dealt with “some pretty unsavory characters” during his work as a human rights lawyer and during three years as the chairman of the human rights organization Liberty.

Austin Voters Reject Uber, Lyft Plan for Self-Regulation

Despite an $8-million-dollar campaign by ride-hailing companies, Austin-area voters on Saturday rejected a proposal by Uber and Lyft to self-regulate their drivers and mandated stricter rules on the companies, including fingerprint background checks and emblems on cars. Uber and Lyft had threatened to pull their operations from Austin should their proposal fail. The election was being closely watched across the USA as other cities, including Los Angeles and Miami, grapple with how best to regulate the ride-hailing companies. Results showed 56% of voters opposed the initiative favored by the companies, and 44% were for it. Saturday’s vote culminates a two-year battle here between the companies and city leaders. Lyft officials released a statement Saturday night restating their intent to shut down operations in the Texas capital by Monday. Uber said it would stop operations in Austin by 8 a.m. Monday.

Zika Update

Zika virus concerns have forced the Pirates-Marlins series out of Puerto Rico, with the two games instead shifted to Miami this month. Major League Baseball and the players’ union made the announcement Friday. Pittsburgh and Miami will meet May 30-31 at Marlins Park. The union had asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to relocate the games after several players expressed fears about getting and possibly transmitting the Zika virus.

Economic News

About 42 million borrowers have about $1.3 trillion in student debt, up from roughly $826.5 billion in 2010, which includes federal loans and private loans from the six biggest lenders, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. The average debt for a college graduate in 2015 was about $35,000. About a quarter of students graduate with excessive debt, but those who hurt the most are low-income students and students who take out loans but don’t graduate. As a general rule, if a student’s annual income is more than their student debt total, they shouldn’t have trouble paying the loans back in 10 years or less. The rising cost of tuition and fees is partly because of a decrease in state funding for higher education, experts say.

China’s exports shrank 1.8% in April compared to the same month a year ago, an indication that the nation’s economic slump continues. Imports into China didn’t fare any better in April, down 10.9% to $127.2 billion. They were down 13.8% in March. China’s Communist Party leaders have been trying to foster more domestic consumption to keep the economy growing at a healthy rate, decreasing the dependence on exports. Even though China’s overall economic growth is at a seven-year low, it still is growing at a rate that would be the envy of many nations: 6.7% in the first quarter. And it managed to rack up a $45.5 billion trade surplus in April, including $18.1 billion with the U.S.

Islamic State

After months of un­expectedly swift advances, the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State is running into hurdles on and off the battlefield that call into question whether the pace of recent gains can be sustained, reports the Washington Post. Chaos in Baghdad, the fraying of the cease-fire in Syria and political turmoil in Turkey are among some of the potential obstacles that have emerged in recent weeks to complicate the prospects for progress. Others include small setbacks for U.S.-allied forces on front lines in northern Iraq and Syria, which have come as a reminder that a strategy heavily reliant on local armed groups of varying proficiency who are often at odds with one another won’t always work. The fight is now entering what Pentagon officials have called a new and potentially harder phase, one that will entail a deeper level of U.S. involvement but also tougher targets. In an attempt to ramp up the tempo of the war, the U.S. military is escalating its engagement, dispatching an additional 450 Special Operations forces and other troops to Syria and Iraq, deploying hundreds of Marines close to the front lines in Iraq and bringing Apache attack helicopters and B-52s into service for the air campaign. The extra resources are an acknowledgment, U.S. officials say, that the war can’t be won without a greater level of American involvement.

A top U.N. envoy in Iraq said Friday more than 50 mass graves have been found in Iraq territory that was once held by the Islamic State. The most recently discovered graves found in Ramadi in April might contain the remains of up to 40 people. The Iraqi military re-captured parts of Ramadi from the Islamic State in December 2015. It had been held by the extremist group since May of last year. Mass graves have also been found near Sinjar, Anbar and Tikrit.

Iraq

Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holding demonstrations and sit-ins for months to demand an overhaul of the political system put in place by the U.S. following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. On Saturday, hundreds of his supporters stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and broke into the parliament building. So far, a majority of Iraqi political blocs have rejected replacing the cabinet created on the basis of party affiliation or ethnic or sectarian with a cabinet of technocrats sought by al-Sadr and protesters who argue this is the only way “to enact genuine reforms, get rid of a powerful patronage system and achieve success in fighting corruption.”

Iran

Iran said on Monday that its latest ballistic missile test showed the weapon displayed pinpoint accuracy at a range of 1,250 miles, a distance that puts it in range of Israel and several other Middle East nations. Iran has asserted the missiles are for defense only. Two months ago, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles, one of them with the phrase “Israel should be wiped off the Earth” written on it in Hebrew. Iranian officials say the phrase was added by workers on the ground and was not a decision made by higher-level officials. Iran has rejected claims that missile tests violate the nuclear agreement it reached with the U.S. and other nations or a United Nations resolution, describing its missiles as conventional armaments for “legitimate defense” and not designed for carrying nuclear warheads. The nuclear deal, which took effect in January, does not directly address missile restrictions. The U.N. Security Council lifted its ban on such testing when the deal was struck, but passed a resolution that “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles … including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Afghanistan

Two members of the international Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan were killed Saturday in an attack on a base in southern Afghanistan, NATO announced. Two Afghans wearing the uniforms of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) opened fire Saturday morning at an ANDSF compound. Other Resolute Support members returned fire and killed the shooters. After international forces wrapped up their combat mission at the end of 2014, Resolute Support was created with a coalition of international troops serving in a training and advisory role.

Kenya

Kenya announced that it will close all refugee camps, a move that would displace more than 600,000 people living there, the government announced Friday. The decision includes Dadaab, the largest such camp in the world. It’s home to more than 300,000 people on the Kenya-Somalia border. The government is shutting down the camps because of “very heavy” economic, security and environmental burdens. Kenya announced the closure of refugee camps last year for the same reasons but backed down in the face of international pressure. Government officials are not clear where they expect the refugees to go, other than somewhere into Somalia and out of Kenya. Most of the residents in Dadaab come from Somalia, which has been torn by civil war.

North Korea

North Korea will not deploy nuclear weapons unless the communist nation’s enemies use them first and will attempt to normalize relations with countries viewed as its enemies, leader Kim Jong Un said Sunday. “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes,” Kim said at the Workers’ Party of Korea congress in Pyongyang. Kim added that the North “will faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearization.” Kim opened the first formal gathering of his party in more than three decades on Friday by celebrating the “great success” of his nuclear weapons program. The congress is viewed as Kim’s formal coronation as leader of the nation of 25 million people, most of whom live in poverty. The congress has also served as a launch vehicle for his five-year plan to improve the battered economy by emphasizing increased agricultural and manufacturing production and involvement in the global economy.

Philippines

At least 10 people died across the Philippines in election day violence on Monday, May 9, as gunmen attacked polling stations, ambushed vehicles and stole vote-counting machines, police said. However, authorities described the violence as isolated incidents and that the overall conduct of the elections – which saw tens of millions of people cast their votes for president and 18,000 other positions – was peaceful. In the worst attack, 7 people were shot dead in an ambush before dawn in Rosario, a town just outside of Manila known for political violence. In Guindulungan, Maguindanao, where warlord-politicians have their own private armies, a voter was shot dead inside a polling station. A bystander was also killed when a grenade was launched at a market in Cotabato as people were casting their votes. In the nearby town of Sultan Kudarat, a stronghold of the nation’s biggest Muslim rebel group, 20 men forced their way into a voting center and carted away the voting machines. In the northern province of Abra, infamous for politicians killing each other, armed supporters of rival mayoral candidates shot at each other, leaving one person dead and two wounded.

Earthquakes

Multiple small earthquakes in the past two months beneath the surface of Mount Saint Helens suggest it may be recharging magma. These tiny quakes that started March 14 have been happening at depths of one to four miles beneath the surface of Mt. St. Helens, which last erupted on May 18, 1980. In the past eight weeks, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network has recorded more than 130 earthquakes, with many more too small to be pinpointed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the federal agency that monitors volcano activity. The magma chamber is likely stressing the crust around and above it as the system slowly recharges, the agency said. The pressure drives fluids through cracks, producing the small quakes.

Wildfires

The massive wildfire that forced almost 90,000 people to evacuate in Alberta is growing and approaching the neighboring province of Saskatchewan, Canadian officials said. Dry and extremely windy conditions are fueling the blaze, which has scorched more than 602 square miles and ravaged the city of Fort McMurray, destroying over 1,600 structures. Alberta is “tinder dry,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said. Fort McMurray has been devastated. Besides the fire damage to structures, the power grid has been damaged, and the water is currently undrinkable. The smoke from the fire has reached all the way down into Iowa. The Alberta government said the massive blaze in the province will cover more than 494,211 acres by Sunday and will continue to grow because of high temperatures, dry conditions and high winds. Fire officials expect to fight the Canada inferno for months to come. Containment remains at 0% Monday morning. Several bits of good news are on the horizon: The weather is starting to cooperate. The blaze is headed to sparsely populated areas. And firefighters from across Canada are suiting up to join the battle.

A wildfire that started Thursday afternoon has shrouded Lake Hattie Township, Minnesota, and some surrounding areas with smoke, causing an air quality rating of “unhealthy” to be issued for the locality. Spurred by fire-friendly conditions, the fire continued to impact the area into Saturday morning. Temperatures rocketed into the 90s in northern Minnesota, including the earliest 90s on record in Duluth. The fire has burned about 450 acres about five miles northwest of Lake George in the Paul Bunyan State Forest. Thursday’s wildfire was the second of a trio of blazes ignited in the North Star state.

Weather

Severe weather impacted the Plains states on Sunday just a day after five tornadoes were confirmed to have hit Colorado on Saturday. One twister touched down north of Wray, Colorado, Saturday evening, leaving five people with minor injuries and causing damage to some buildings and other structures. Residents and travelers were urged to not travel north on Highway 385, which had to be closed down due to downed fences and loose livestock. Earlier Saturday, a tornado caused some minor injuries and left about a dozen motorhomes damaged in nearby Morgan County.

At least two brief tornadoes were reported in northwest Kansas Sunday afternoon. There are no reports of significant damage at this time. Sunday evening, NWS confirmed a large and extremely dangerous tornado was spotted 5 miles southeast of Codell. Golf ball-sized hail was also reported. A brief tornado was reported near Marlow early Sunday evening. Street flooding was reported in the city of Lawton. Large hail and strong winds impacted the Abilene, Texas, area Sunday afternoon. Wind gusts up to 60 mph were reported near Abilene. Hail as large as baseballs were reported in Hawley.

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