Signs of the Times (5/24/16)

Obama to Hospitals: Do Abortions and ‘Sex Changes’ or Lose Federal Funding

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the final rule for Obamacare’s Section 1557 last Friday, requiring healthcare providers receiving federal funds to perform “gender transition” services and abortions, or face termination of government aid, along with possible referral to the Department of Justice for legal action. HHS states the rule “will help to advance equity and reduce health disparities by protecting some of the populations that have been most vulnerable to discrimination in the health care context.” It encompasses any health program or activity, any part of which gets HHS funding, which would mean hospitals accepting Medicare and doctors who accept Medicaid, and any HHS-administered health program, as well as health insurance marketplaces and issuers that take part in those marketplaces. Ken Klukowski, attorney with First Liberty Institute and Breitbart News legal editor said, “It is an unconstitutional assault on the First Amendment that the Obama administration is forcing their rejection of biological fact onto people whose faith teaches that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ refer to what they have meant for thousands of years, and that God purposefully created them that way.”

Obama Appoints Transgender “Man” to Faith-Based Council

“President Obama has appointed a transgender man to a prominent faith advisory position, sparking a flood of outrage from conservatives,” reports WorldNetDaily.com. His recent announcement named Barbara Satin to be a member of the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a choice commentator Tim Brown at Freedom Outpost scorched as a “mentally sick transgender man.” Obama’s statement said Satin was the assistant faith work director for the National LGBTQ Task Force. Peter LaBarbera, head of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, told OneNewsNow, “Obama is obsessed with promoting homosexualism and now transsexuality. He’s engaged in a war on normal for the last eight years, and it looks like he’s trying to do as much as he can to promote sexual and gender perversions as he can before he leaves office.’

Black Pastors Call Out Obama For Insulting African-Americans

The Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP) is challenging Obama on his illegal transgender mandate. They recently issued a statement, asserting: “The Obama administration’s assertion that single-sex bathrooms are discriminating against gender-confused individuals in much the same way that blacks experienced discrimination in the United States is a ‘gross insult’ to all who fought for equality for African-Americans.” Rev. Bill Owens, president of CAAP, said, “There is simply no relation between the struggles that Black Americans have faced and the desire of a tiny minority group to violate the dignity and privacy of women and girls.” Further, Owens says Obama and Loretta Lynch’s illegal mandate is “an affront to the Black Community and a theft of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.” And, “Black Pastors will not allow the homosexual and transgender communities to rob Black Americans of their battle for civil rights!”

Target Hit Hard over Transgender Bathroom Policy

According to Breitbart News “Target’s stock has fallen 20 percent – from $84 per share to $67 per share – since it imposed the pro-transgender policy on its customer base of families. In comparison to other major retailers, Target’s stock has dropped three and four times more than the stock of its competitors, as of Monday. That loss has chopped roughly $10 billion from the overall shareholder value of the company, according to a chart produced by Yahoo.com.” Over 1.25 million people have signed a pledge to boycott Target on the American Family Association website. AFA’s reason for boycotting is to see Target reverse their policy and send a message to other companies that it’s bad business to embrace this LGBT political agenda over common sense and safety.

Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Bill that would Criminalize Abortion

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday vetoed a bill that would criminalize abortion procedures in the state. The decision to veto the bill, which likely would have opened up the state to lawsuits from abortion rights supporters, comes at a time when Fallin is considered a possible running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. “The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'” Fallin, a Republican, said in a statement. Liberty Counsel, an evangelical group, called Fallin’s veto a “despicable betrayal.” “As one who proclaims to be pro-life, her actions run counter to her words,” Mat Staver, the group’s founder and chairman, said in a statement.

Judge Blasts Obama Attorneys for Lying

US District Judge Andrew Hanen has been at the center of the illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty issued by Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah. On Thursday, Judge Hanen issued a scathing rebuke of Department of Justice attorneys for being “intentionally deceptive” regarding violations of a court order that no executive amnesty take place because it is unconstitutional, reports FreedomOutpost.com. The DOJ “has now admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts,” he wrote in his opinion. “It has admitted that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements … This court would be remiss if it left such unseemly and unprofessional conduct unaddressed. Such conduct is certainly not worthy of any department whose name includes the word ‘Justice,'” Judge Hanen added pointing to the administration’s violation of a federal court order and approving of thousands of amnesty applications. He ordered the attorneys to under ethics training.

Wave of Robo-Calls Shutting Down Schools Across the Nation

A wave of automated, threatening calls directed at schools across the nation forced authorities to lock down buildings or evacuate students. The calls were reported in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Ken Trump, a national school security expert, said Monday’s nationwide bomb hoaxes have the hallmarks of swatting — highly disruptive hoax threats that are intended to trigger massive police response. Trump said swatting incidents have “skyrocketed” nationwide in the past two years. In the United Kingdom, at least 21 schools received bomb threats as well.

Facebook Makes Changes after Bias Investigation

Facebook is making changes to how it selects the most important news articles for subscribers on the giant social network after its internal investigation found no evidence of “systematic” bias. But they admitted that they could not rule out the possibility of rogue employees committing “isolated improper actions or unintentional bias.” They further admitted that but admitted that employees play a bigger role than previously acknowledged in determining what news is highlighted in the trending topics section. Facebook made the announcement after meeting last week with several prominent conservatives, including top Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota, who chairs the Senate commerce committee. Thune sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding to know how Facebook chooses trending topics after Gizmodo reported that Facebook’s news curators suppressed conservative articles and news outlets in the “Trending Topics” feature that highlights the most popular news on Facebook. Thune said: “The seriousness with which Facebook has treated these allegations and its desire to serve as an open platform for all viewpoints is evident and encouraging and I look forward to the company’s actions meeting its public rhetoric.”

Immigration Backlash Behind British Push to Leave the E.U.

For many in the U.K., Europe doesn’t represent a prosperous and peaceful continent. It is seen as the source of a mass influx of Eastern European immigrants across open borders that residents say has transformed British cities beyond all measure. “This used to be the posh part of Peterborough. Look at it now,” David Jackson, a 41-year-old teacher, said as he ruefully surveyed the scene on Lincoln Road, the commercial heart of the city’s multiethnic immigrant communities. “Romanians pissing in the park. Lithuanians out on the street drinking, doing drugs. Even the rats here are on heroin.”  If Britain does vote to leave the E.U. on June 23, analysts say, a powerfully emotional backlash against decades of immigration in cities such as Peterborough will be the primary driver.  Advocates for a British exit have hammered the point, arguing that getting out of the E.U. is the only way for the country to control its borders, because the 28-member club guarantees its citizens freedom of movement.

Economic News

Sales of newly built homes rose to the fastest pace in more than eight years in April while prices also increased, a sign of steady demand running up against limited supplies across the housing market, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday new home sales jumped 16.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 619,000 units, the highest level since January 2008. The percent increase was the largest since January 1992. With supplies tight, the median price for a new home increased 9.7 percent from a year ago to a record $321,100. New home sales represent around 10% of all home sales in the U.S.

More than 31% of auto borrowers have negative equity in their vehicles – meaning they owe more on their loans than their cars are worth. That’s up from 23% five years ago, and a record high. A whopping 29% of car loans now stretch out as long as six to seven years. That’s triple the level in 2010, and also a record high. Leasing now accounts for a record 33.6% of purchases, up from around 24% a half-decade ago, according to Money and Markets Newsletter.

U.S. companies are sitting on a record $1.8 trillion in cash and investments. One problem, though. They also are on the hook for $6.6 trillion in debt. U.S. companies only hold 28 cents in cash for every dollar they must repay in debt, the lowest cash-to-debt ratio since the financial crisis wound down in 2009. It’s even uglier situation if you exclude the 1% richest companies, The other 99% of the less fortunate companies only have 15 cents in cash for every $1 in debt they owe.

On May 11th, Portugal was fully powered by renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydropower. This amounted to a total of 107 hours with no need to resort to any source of non-renewable energy, particularly the production of thermal power plants to coal or natural gas. And Portugal was still able to export a significant amount of electricity. Portugal has been very proactive when it comes to renewable energy. Portugal has a population of over 10 million and it’s a little larger than Maine at 35,603 square miles.

A South African bank became a victim of a bank heist 10,000 miles away, after a group of criminals stole $13 million out of cash machines on another continent using fake South African credit cards. The thieves used around 1,600 forged cards to withdraw the money from 1,400 individual cash machines across Japan. It took the group just over two hours to steal the money from the Standard Bank, withdrawing the maximum amount of 100,000 yen ($913) in 14,000 individual transactions. The thieves used a network of ATMs run by Seven Bank across Japan.

Middle East

The Palestinian Authority rejected a suggestion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold direct talks in Paris under the auspices of the French government minutes after he made it Monday afternoon in a joint press conference with visiting French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Valls is in Israel to brief leaders on a summit scheduled for 3 June in Paris to discuss a new French initiative on promoting an agreement between the two sides. Representatives from 20 countries, but not Israel or the Palestinian Authority, are set to attend the conference, which is designed to set up a more substantial conference later in the year. Israeli officials have expressed concerns that the conference will result in Israel having untenable demands dictated to it while the PA has welcomed the idea and has continuously refused Israeli offers of direct negotiations.

Islamic State

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to live television early Monday to announce the start of an operation to recapture the city of Falluja from ISIS. Abadi’s overnight announcement came hours after Iraq’s military implored residents of ISIS-held Falluja to flee their homes ahead of the operation to wrest the metropolis from the terror group. Abadi said Iraqi security forces would provide safe passage for civilians to leave the city during the operation. Iraqi planes have dropped thousands of leaflets — safe passage cards — on Falluja, which has been under ISIS control since January 2014. Human Rights Watch warned last month that ISIS was barring civilians from leaving Falluja and that residents faced starvation due to food shortages and exorbitant prices after an extended siege. The U.S. military launched airstrikes and provided guidance to Iraqi government forces in their push to recapture the city of Fallujah from Islamic State fighters Monday,

Iraq

Anti-government protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday, heightening concerns about political stability at a critical time in Iraq, Reuters reported. Iraqi security forces fired weapons in the air and used tear gas as hundreds of protesters breached the walls and rushed toward the prime minister’s office and the parliament building. Iraqi security forces fired weapons in the air and used tear gas as hundreds of protesters breached the walls and rushed toward the prime minister’s office and the parliament building, according to the Associated Press.  Some protesters had been wounded. The violence caused Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to impose a curfew in Baghdad. It was the second such protest in less than a month and comes amid growing violence in the capital. A spike in bombings attributed to the Islamic State has killed scores in recent weeks.

Syria

At least 161 people were killed and scores injured in a series of bombings in Syria on Monday, state media reported. The attacks — seven bombings altogether — targeted civilians in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh for the first time in the country’s five-year war, raising fears of more violence among residents living in government bastions who have enjoyed relative quiet. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. The wave of explosions also underlined the inability of world powers to jumpstart Syrian peace talks in Geneva as the violence worsens and reaches new areas. The official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that 45 people were killed in twin bombings at the main entrance of the bus station in Jableh and in another attack on a city neighborhood. In a fourth bombing, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of Jableh National Hospital’s emergency department, SANA reported. In Tartus, the news agency reported that 33 people were killed and 47 others wounded when a suicide bomber and a car bomber attacked a crowded bus station and another bomber blew himself up.

Afghanistan

Afghan authorities confirmed Sunday that the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Mansour was killed at 3:45 p.m. local time Saturday. The National Directorate of Security said in a statement that, “The attack happened on the main road while he was in his vehicle.” President Obama authorized the strike in a remote area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It was carried out my multiple unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. Special Operations Forces. Officials said there was no collateral damage in the aftermath of the strike. The U.S. drone attack represents another escalation in U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan and signals a new willingness to target senior Taliban leaders on Pakistani soil, analysts and officials said Sunday. It is believed to be the first time that the U.S. military directly targeted the top leader of the Afghan Taliban. The killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansour sets off a succession struggle and puts further pressure on a group riven by factional struggles.

Iran

The Iranian military warned that it could destroy the “Zionist entity” Israel within eight minutes if the Ayatollah issues the command. “If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes,” Ahmad Karimpour said Thursday. Karimpour is a senior adviser of Iran’s elite Al Quds military unit. Khamenei has repeatedly stated his goal to destroy the State of Israel, which he refers to as the “Zionist entity,” and says that the Islamic Republic has been increasing its military and nuclear capabilities notwithstanding the nuclear deal that it concluded with the Six Global Powers, led by the Obama administration, in the summer.

Vietnam

President Obama lifted a decades-long American arms embargo on Vietnam Monday and touted a new friendship with the United States’ former enemy. “Just a generation ago, we were adversaries and now we are friends,” Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War. Other signs of cooperation between the former combatants include new business sales, more military cooperation, research programs involving universities in both countries, and cultural exchanges that include the introduction of the U.S. Peace Corps to Vietnam, Obama said. The lifting of the arms embargo is seen as an effort to shore up the communist country’s defenses against an increasingly aggressive China.

China

What China calls the “Golden Shield” is a giant mechanism of surveillance that blocks tens of thousands of websites deemed inimical to the Communist Party’s narrative and control, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even Instagram, reports the Washington Post. China is trumpeting its vision of “Internet sovereignty” as a model for the world. Confounding Western skeptics, the Internet is nonetheless thriving in China, with nearly 700 million users, putting almost 1 in 4 of the world’s online population behind the Great Firewall. China is the world’s leader in e-commerce, with digital retail sales volume double that of the United States and accounting for a staggering 40 percent of the global total. Last year, it also boasted four of the top 10 Internet companies in the world ranked by market capitalization. After two decades of Internet development under the Communist Party’s firm leadership, China says they have struck the correct balance between “freedom and order” and between “openness and autonomy.” As it pursues a broad crackdown on free speech and civil society, China has tightened the screws on virtual private network (VPN) providers that allow people to tunnel under the Firewall.

Volcanoes

Seven people were killed and two others were critically injured after Mount Sinabung erupted in Sumatra Saturday. All of the victims of the eruption were working on their farms in the village of Gamber in Simpang Empat subdistrict, 2.5 miles away from the slope. This area is referred to as the “red zone,” and has been declared off-limits by government authorities for safety reasons, reports the Bangkok Post. Despite repeated warnings and government efforts to deter people from farming there, some still return to the area. The blast shot volcanic ash as high as 2 miles into the air and that ash tumbled down the slopes as far as 3 miles westward into a river.

Weather

A deadly cyclone struck Bangladesh’s southern coast on Saturday, killing at least 24 people and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes. Local media say the deaths were caused by the collapse of houses in Bhola, Chittagong and Patuakhali districts. Cyclone Roanu crossed the southern coastal district of Cox’s Bazar and weakened after triggering rains. Dozens of villages were submerged by floodwaters.

India recorded its highest-ever temperature last Thursday when the heat in the town of Phalodi, in the western state of Rajasthan, shot up to a burning 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit). It was the second day in a row the town experienced temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest temperature ever was recorded at 56.7 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit) in Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913.

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