Signs of the Times (5/12/16)

Johns Hopkins Chief Psychiatrist Says Transgenders are Counterfeits

CNS News reports that Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and former psychiatrist–in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has studied transgendered people for 40 years, said it is a scientific fact that “transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men.” All such people, he explained in an article for The Witherspoon Institute, “become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they identify.” Gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex— “belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder,” said McHugh. He stressed that the cultural idea that “one’s sex is fluid and a matter of choice” is extremely damaging, especially to young people.

Over 100 United Methodist Clergy Come out as LGBT

Over 100 United Methodist clergy members have come out as LGBT as part of an effort to convince the UMC to rethink their stance on gay marriage and the LGBT community. The Huffington Post reports that the leaders of the United Methodist Church are scheduled to meet in Portland to consider around 1,000 legislative petitions in favor of embracing the LGBT community in the UMC. More than 100 pastors, deacons, elders, and other leaders in the UMC released a letter right before this meeting, proclaiming their solidarity with the LGBT community and revealing their own affiliation with it. The UMC’s official stance regarding gay marriage is that UMC clergy are not authorized to perform gay marriage ceremonies, and members of the LGBT community cannot be ordained in the church.

  • Moral corruption continues to increase as a definitive sign that the ramp up to end-time tribulation is accelerating (2Timothy 3:1-7)

Report Reveals Facebook Suppresses Conservative News

Widely-used social media site Facebook has been accused of bias concerning which news stories the site prioritizes. “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users,” reported the website Gizmodo. Charisma News cites a 2014 Pew Research Center poll that revealed 61 percent of millennials, 51 percent of Generation X-ers, and 39 Percent of Baby Boomers “got news about politics and government in the previous week” from Facebook. Facebook tailors news stories to each user, based on location, pages that user has liked, and things the user has posted.

  • Not surprising that another liberal social media site suppresses conservative news – but what is surprising is that so many people look to Facebook for their news. That’s truly appalling and another sign of the dumbing down of America.

U.S. Special Forces Wage Secretive ‘Small Wars’ Against Terrorists

President Barack Obama is increasingly calling upon Special Operations forces to carry out so-called “small wars” across the Middle East and Africa to challenge both ISIS and al Qaeda in places where the U.S. maintains a footprint beyond Syria and Iraq, reports CNN. In his first trip overseas since taking command of U.S. Special Operations a month ago, Gen. Raymond Thomas told a Middle Eastern audience recently that “complex” fails to adequately describe the current security environment. That complexity is leading the Obama administration to expand the use of small teams of Special Operators in various terror hotspots. Although much of the U.S. response is clearly focused on Iraq and Syria — Special Ops forces are being asked to prevent both ISIS and al Qaeda from gaining a stronger foothold in places like Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The military characterizes many of the operations as “advising and assisting” local forces with intelligence and overhead surveillance to help identify targets. But in reality there are also many instances of the U.S. conducting direct attack operations on terror targets, says CNN.

FBI chief says Fewer Americans Traveling to Join ISIS

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday the power of the Islamic State’s brand is dwindling in the U.S. as fewer Americans are traveling to fight alongside the extremist group in the Middle East. Comey said the FBI found that 6 to 10 Americans tried to join ISIS every month in 2014 and the first half of 2015. However, that number has dwindled down to one per month since last summer in a sustaining downward trend, he said. “There’s no doubt that something has happened that is lasting, in terms of the attractiveness of the nightmare which is the Islamic State to people from the United States,” he told reporters. The FBI chief did acknowledge Wednesday that the group’s ability to inspire “troubled souls” remains a persistent concern. The FBI still has “north of 1,000” cases in which agents are trying to evaluate a subject’s level of radicalization and potential for violence.

U.S. Installs European Missile Defense Shield, Russia Protests

The U.S completed the installation of a new ground-based missile defense system in Romania Thursday, sparking fresh tensions with Russia, which quickly blasted the system as a threat to its security. The system, to be operated by NATO, is getting up and running nearly a decade after the U.S. first announced plans to do so, only to encounter pushback from Russia. The U.S. has long insisted that the shield is directed against rogue states like Iran and not intended to target Moscow’s missiles, but Russian officials have slammed the move as an “attempt to destroy the strategic balance” in Europe. “The United States’ Aegis ashore system is declared certified for operations,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday at an official ceremony. “Missile defense is for defense,” he added. “It does not undermine or weaken Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.” Russia has described the U.S. anti-missile shield in Europe as a “threat” and says it is taking “protective measures” to guard against it, the country’s state news agency TASS reported.

Obama Administration Deception Revealed in Promotion of Iran Nuclear Deal

The White House is scrambling to contain the damage caused by one of President Obama’s closest aides who boasted of manipulating social media, journalists and friendly interest groups to sell the Iran nuclear deal. In addition, the Obama Administration is now facing new questions about a portion of missing tape in which a State Department official acknowledges misleading the press on the Iran negotiations, reports Fox News. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes’ comments to The New York Times Magazine have sparked outrage in Washington’s political and policy circles, especially re-igniting the debate over whether the White House oversold the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued a scathing statement Monday saying the article “exposed how the White House manipulated and, in some cases, manufactured facts to sell the reckless Iran nuclear deal to the American people.” Now, the administration is facing further questions over a block of missing tape from a 2013 State Department briefing where top spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked by Fox News about an earlier claim that no direct, secret talks were underway between the U.S. and Iran – when, in fact, they were. In that exchange, Psaki acknowledged misleading the press, saying: “There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”

Summit Meeting in London Targets Pervasive Corruption

Leaders from around the world gathered in London for the one-day meeting aimed at fighting corruption hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The summit aims to get leaders of nations, business and civil society to agree on measures to expose corruption, punish perpetrators, support the people affected and to “drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists,” the British government said. “Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many problems we need to tackle in our world,” Cameron said at the meeting. Britain announced Thursday that it will lead a new international network to stamp out corrupt practices. At least 18 countries have signed up to partner with each other to share best practices. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told an international summit here Thursday that corruption is as great an enemy as extremism. “I’ve been shocked by the degree to which I find corruption pandemic in the world today,” Kerry said.

Prescription Painkiller Overdose Deaths Rapidly Increasing

Someone in the U.S. dies from an overdose of opioid pain medication every 19 minutes. There is no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently. The majority of those deaths result from prescription opioid medications, such as hydrocodone, OxyContin and Percocet, reports CNN. It has become so common that specialists even have a profile for the most typical victim: non-Hispanic Caucasian male, mid 30s. Initial diagnosis: back pain due to trauma, surgery or degenerative arthritis. And, most remarkably, average time from first prescription to time of overdose death: just 31 months. As of 2011, 75% of the world’s opioid prescription drugs are prescribed and swallowed up in the U.S. which makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, leading to the most common cause of preventable death in America today.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Drugs are cheaper than a multidisciplinary approach to treating pain, and cost savings are what insurance companies like to hear. For decades, certain pharmaceutical companies misled the FDA about the risks of opioid dependence in an effort to sell more of the drugs, and three top executives from Purdue Pharma even pleaded guilty to those criminal charges. Most of the blame, however, belongs on the shoulders of the American doctors themselves, writes Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. Doctors have doled out long-term opioid prescriptions “in the same way they write antibiotic prescriptions for viral illnesses. In both cases, they don’t work. In both cases, they can cause colossal harm.”

Middle Class Continues to Shrink in U.S.

America’s once-mighty middle class is shrinking all around the nation, reports CNN Money. The share of middle-income households declined in 90% of the country’s 229 metro areas between 2000 and 2014, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday. Overall, some 51% of Americans lived in middle class households in 2014, down from 55% in 2000. There’s no one reason why the middle class is shrinking, said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director for research at Pew. One of the main causes? Rising income inequality, driven by factors including globalization, the decline of unions, the outsourcing of jobs and advancements in technology. The middle class are also seeing their incomes shrivel. Pew defines the middle class as those having incomes ranging from two-thirds to double the national median, based on household size. Nationally, the middle class had a median income of $72,919 for a three-person family in 2014, down from $77,898 in 1999.

Economic News

Overall, earnings for the entire Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index are on track to contract 5.4% in the first quarter, the third consecutive quarter of negative growth. Even though 72% of the 451 companies in the big-cap index have topped analysts’ lowered expectations, investors are beginning to exhibit big-time jitters about the overall economy, with the Dow Jones index falling 217 points Wednesday — its biggest one-day drop in three months.

The Labor Department says the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February 2015, more sobering news for the labor market after a disappointing April jobs report. Applications for jobless aid rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000. Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. Despite last week’s increase, they remain low. They have come in below 300,000 for 62 straight weeks, longest streak since 1973.

Who exactly owns the $19 trillion-plus of U.S. debt? China’s share of the debt is sizable — about 7% — but it’s hardly the largest holder of U.S. government bonds, according to CNN Money. The top holders by far are U.S. citizens and American entities, such as state and local governments, pension funds, mutual funds, and the Federal Reserve. Together they own the vast majority — 67.5% — of the debt. Foreign nations only hold 32.5% of the total. China holds $1.25 trillion while Japan has $1.13 trillion of U.S. debt.

America had around 5.75 million job openings in March. That’s just shy of the all-time high, 5.78 million openings, set last July, according Labor Department data published Tuesday. Since November, the number of job openings has increased for five straight months. These high numbers of openings are a sign that business owners can’t find the skilled workers qualified to fill the jobs they have open.

Gasoline prices dropped below $2 across most of the nation early in the year when crude dropped to $30 a barrel. In some isolated cities, the price fell to very close to $1. But now, the pendulum has swung the other way, as oil has moved above $45. Gas prices have risen very close to $3 for a gallon of regular in several of California’s largest cities. The average price for a gallon of regular across the country is $2.21 as of Monday morning. That is up from $2.04 a month ago.

Persecution Watch

A nighttime assault on a village in Christian-majority eastern DR Congo has left at least 17 dead, slashed with axes and machetes. It is suspected that the attack, which took place last Tuesday (3 May), was carried out by Ugandan Islamist group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). ADF rebels have been accused of carrying out numerous bloody attacks on the mostly Christian population in this area for years. Three days later (6 May) a local source asserted that the death toll had risen to as many as 34 as those seriously wounded succumbed to their injuries.

A Christian from Pakistan’s Punjab province has been accused of blasphemy after allegedly watching anti-Islamic lectures on his mobile phone. Local Muslims are calling for the man to be killed. The incident has also affected the wider Christian population of a village in Mandi Bahauddin District in the Punjab province. Many have been forced to flee for fear of attack and Muslims are refusing to buy goods from them or sell goods to them, leaving them in desperate need of food. Normally the Christians would work in the fields and houses of local Muslims, but this has been stopped. They have also been banned from buying items from shops in the village. “They have boycotted us,” local Christians said, “and left us in a desperate situation.”

Last Monday (2 May), yet another church was burnt down in north-west Tanzania, however the church has refused to stop meeting. The church’s minister, Fortunatus Bijura, said, “Those who think that destroying our church means we won’t pray, they are wrong … We have a big tree near the church and will continue meeting there for prayers.” This is the third arson attack on a church in the area since January. Since 2013, there have been over 13 such attacks on churches in the area and no-one has yet been held accountable for them. Tanzania is 35% Christian, 35% Muslim and 30% African traditional religions. The attacks on Christians appear to be linked to two Islamist groups – “Uamsho”, which ostensibly seeks to create an Islamic state with strict sharia enforcement on Zanzibar but has also been active on the mainland, and a group calling itself “Muslim Renewal”. The latter claims to have links to Somalia.

Israel

Masked terrorists stabbed two elderly Jewish women in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem Tuesday morning. Police said they’d arrested two suspects but have not concluded their investigation into the incident. The two victims were reportedly recovering at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The Islamic State (ISIS) terror organization is planning to launch a massive attack against Israel from the Sinai Peninsula, the German Bild newspaper reported on Sunday. The Sinai based Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, a terrorist organization which has pledged allegiance to ISIS in Syria, is training hundreds of terrorists, who are reportedly waiting for the order to attack Israel. Israel has dramatically bolstered security on its border with Egypt as result of ISIS’ buildup.

Islamic State

A top Islamic State commander in Iraq’s Anbar province was killed last week by a coalition airstrike, the Pentagon said Monday. Abu Wahib and three others were killed when their vehicle was struck on May 6 in Rutba, according to the Associated Press. Wahib’s death is “another blow” to the group’s leadership “that will further degrade its ability to operate,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. Wahib was a former member of al-Qaida in Iraq and has appeared in Islamic State execution videos.

Iraq

Two more car bomb blasts targeting civilians in two Baghdad neighborhoods killed at least 22 people Wednesday. One blast hit Kadhimiya and the other went off in a Sunni district in western Baghdad. The bombings came hours after at least 64 people were killed and at least 87 injured in a car bombing in a market in a mainly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad earlier Wednesday. The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack — one of the worst in the Iraqi capital in recent times — which it said targeted Shiite militiamen.

Philippines

The Philippines’ newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, is a law-and-order advocate who has said he wouldeuse death squads to execute criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay. A series of crude remarks have earned the 71-year-old mayor of Davao, the Philippines’ third largest city, nicknames like “the Punisher,” the “Donald Trump of the East” and “Duterte Harry.” The latter a nod to the vigilante detective made famous by Clint Eastwood in the movie Dirty Harry. His unrepentant, tough-on-crime position has won him legions of supporters attracted to the irreverence of a political maverick. “Tough talking and no nonsense but with a soft spot for the poor, women and children,” is how Duterte’s office’s website describes the man who will preside over 100 million people in a growing Southeast Asia economic powerhouse that is also one of the United States’ closest allies in the region.

Brazil

Brazil’s Senate on Thursday voted in favor of an impeachment trial for President Dilma Rousseff, a move that suspends her from office and sends the country deeper into political and economic disarray less than three months before the Rio Olympics. The vote passed 55-22 after more than 20 hours of debate by senators. Vice President Michel Temer, a member of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, now takes over until a trial later this year renders a verdict. Rousseff is accused of breaking public spending accounting rules. The political chaos, on top of a severe economic downturn that has gripped Brazil, is not expected to directly affect the Olympic Games, which open Aug. 5. However, the turmoil is an embarrassment since the president plays host at the opening ceremony. In addition, massive demonstrations for and against Rousseff like those that have occurred this year could disrupt travel by visitors attending Olympic events. And then there’s also the Zika virus to contend with as well.

Haiti

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the massive earthquake in Haiti, nearly half a billion dollars to develop hundreds of new, permanent homes for the thousands of displaced residents. The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti is just six, according to the Huffington Post. The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But the investigation by the Huffington Post shows that far less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said. NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success. In their defense, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title systems.

Earthquakes

A shallow magnitude-5.5 earthquake struck the mountainous region of Tibet on Wednesday, injuring 60 people, collapsing houses and damaging bridges and roads, authorities said. The quake region is near Tibet’s border with Qinghai province to the north. Serious injuries were sustained by six of the casualties, according to a statement on the website of the Dingqing county government. It gave no estimates for numbers of collapsed houses or damaged roads and bridges. The China News Service reported that the earthquake had set off several landslides.

Wildfires

While a massive wildfire continues to scorn Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Canada, another wildfire burning more than 4,000 miles away in the Amur region of Russia has called for a state of emergency. The fire has grown large enough that its massive smoke plume can be seen from space. In just 24 hours, nearly 25,000 acres were scorched and dozens of homes have been lost in the spreading wildfires, according to the Siberian Times. “Ninety-nine percent of all fires in the Amur region, the Trans-Baikal region and Buryatia are caused by people who set fire to grass,” said Ivan Valentik, Head of the Federal Forestry Agency. Valentik added that the long-time tradition of burning dried grass ahead of sowing season is against the law.

Weather

A round of severe weather swept across the Plains Monday night, killing at least two people in Oklahoma and wiping out homes in multiple locations of the Sooner State. The storms spawned a reported 23 tornadoes and more than 90 hail reports. “Major damage” west of Interstate 35 was also reported. There were another 16 reports of tornadoes Tuesday, along with roughly another 150 reports of large hail and damaging winds mainly in three clusters: Kentucky, parts of north and central Texas, and parts of Nebraska and northern Kansas. A tornado Tuesday afternoon near Mayfield, Kentucky, injured ten, but the injuries were non-life threatening. Early Wednesday morning, hail accumulated to a depth of 1 foot or more in parts of the Omaha metro, prompting snow plows to be called out.

As of Wednesday, Washington D.C. has experienced a record 15-straight days of measurable precipitation since data began to be reported back in 1871. The old record was 10-straight days.

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