Signs of the Times (7/5/16)

NJ Governor Vetoes Bill to Send $7.4 Million to Planned Parenthood

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill last Friday that the New Jersey legislature approved which would have sent $7.5 million to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. Christie has repeatedly cut funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business, slashing millions in taxpayer funds. Christie, who is pro-life, vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times before he ran for re-election in a state that is not known as a bastion of conservatism. Now he’s vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood a 6th time. The state defunded the abortion giant after it was found engaging in fraudulent Medicaid activity in New Jersey. The U.S. Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services uncovered a consistent problem with New Jersey-based family planning clinics run by the Planned Parenthood abortion business. A government audit found that they were improperly billing Medicaid for services that did not qualify as family planning.

St. Louis Planned Parenthood Sends 60th Patient to Emergency Room

Less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified certain abortion safety laws, a medical emergency at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in St. Louis, MO, has illustrated how women have been left in jeopardy by the nation’s High Court, reports Operation Rescue. It happened on Saturday, July 2, 2016, a heavy abortion day. Paramedics were photographed by pro-life activists as they removed a Planned Parenthood patient from the abortion facility and loaded her into an awaiting ambulance. Abortion workers and an armed security guard attempted to conceal the incident by holding up large brown tarps. This medical emergency represented the 60th time since 2009 that ambulances have been dispatched to the St. Louis Planned Parenthood to render aid to patients that Planned Parenthood was not equipped to provide.

FBI Recommends that No Charges should be Filed against Hillary Clinton

FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday that he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state but that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” handling classified information. “Although we did not find clear evidence” of intentional misconduct, he said, “There is evidence that they were extremely careless of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Comey said neither the Department of Justice nor the White House knew what he was going to announce Tuesday. The decision helps remove what was arguably the biggest threat to her presidential campaign going forward – a criminal referral that could have led to an indictment – just weeks before her party’s national convention in Philadelphia where she is set to seal her nomination as the Democrat standard bearer. In the wake of the report, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump stepped up his criticism of her email actions and said she belongs in “jail.”

White House Reveals Civilian Death Count from Drone Strikes

President Barack Obama’s administration estimated Friday that between 64 and 116 civilians have died during the years 2009-2015 from U.S. drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same time span, the administration said between 2,372 and 2,581 militants had been taken out by drones. The information was released as part of an effort by Obama to introduce more transparency into a controversial military tactic that he has defended as necessary to fight terror. Human rights groups, however, were unsatisfied by the government’s disclosed figures, which came in far lower than independent estimates of civilian causalities. The numbers released Friday included deaths outside established war zones. The administration didn’t specify which countries were included, though the military and CIA are believed to have carried out strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and various countries in Africa.

California Governor Signs Six Stringent Gun Bills

Gov. Jerry Brown signed six stringent gun-control measures Friday that will require people to turn in high-capacity magazines and mandate background checks for ammunition sales, as California Democrats seek to strengthen gun laws that are already among the strictest in the nation. The state’s move to tighten them further comes amid years of gridlock at the federal level, which spawned a tense clash in Washington last week as Democrats camped out on the floor of the U.S. House and shouted down Republicans. The bills angered Republicans and gun-rights advocates who say Democrats are trampling on 2nd Amendment rights, creating new restrictions that won’t cut off the flow of guns to people intent on using them for nefarious purposes.

Bangladesh Terrorist Attack by Islamic State

The deadly hostage takeover of a bakery in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka on Friday is the latest in a series of grisly attacks linked to Islamic extremists since 2013. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault on Holey Artisan Bakery in the city’s upscale diplomatic zone that left at least 22 civilians dead and dozens held hostage. 20 people who were unable to quote from the Quran were pulled aside and hacked or knifed to death. Police officials later stormed the cafe in an intense standoff Saturday morning, killing six assailants and rescuing 13 captives. Earlier Friday, the group said one of its operatives hacked to death a Buddhist and a Hindu temple worker, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors extremist activity. The deaths are the latest in a series of dozens of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-linked murders, often by hacking or stabbing but sometimes by shooting, mostly targeting writers, activists, foreigners and religious minorities in the majority Muslim country.

Deaths from Heart Disease, Cancer Down in U.S.

According to the CDC, heart disease is still the number one cause of death among people in the U.S., followed by cancer. However, the adult death rates were down 1% in 2014. Over the years, the data has shown a significant decrease in deaths from heart problems and cancer. Fewer people smoke, and medications have improved. The statistics also showed life expectancy increased for black men, Hispanic people and non-Hispanic black men. However, life expectancy declined for non-Hispanic white women.

New Panama Canal a Big Boost for LNG Exporters

Exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas stand to benefit substantially from the $5.4 billion expansion of the Panama Canal which opened last week. The expansion will lead to much shorter travel time and much lower costs for shipments from the Gulf Coast to big markets in Asia and South America. Wider and deeper navigation channels and larger locks mean the canal can accommodate 90% of the world’s LNG tankers, including vessels that hold as much as 3.9 billion cubic feet of the fuel, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Before the expansion, the canal could handle only much smaller ships, representing only 6% of the LNG fleet.

Economic News

America now has more untapped oil than any other country on the planet. That’s according to a new report from Rystad Energy that estimates the U.S. is sitting on an incredible 264 billion barrels of oil reserves. Thanks to the shale oil boom, the U.S. is now sitting on more oil reserves than Russia, which Rystad estimates as having 256 billion barrels of untapped oil. The next-richest countries in terms of oil after that are: Saudi Arabia (212 billion), Canada (167 billion), Iran (143 billion) and Brazil (120 billion). More than half of America’s untapped oil is shale oil, according to Rystad. Shale oil is the previously-unreachable crude that, thanks to fracking and new technology, has reshaped the global energy landscape and vaulted the U.S. into the upper echelon of global oil producers. The findings suggest the U.S. could shoulder even more of the weight of global oil production in the future, especially as prices recover.

An unusual flurry of minimum wage increases took effect Friday in Maryland and Oregon, as well as in 13 cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Louisville, Ky. The initiatives will boost minimum pay to as much as $13 to $14.82 an hour in parts of California. The pay for low-wage workers is now rising far more rapidly than their higher-earning counterparts. Meanwhile, employer advocates are taking an increasingly aggressive stance against the raises, running ads to argue they’re hurting businesses and jeopardizing summer job opportunities for teens.

The British pound slumped again Tuesday amid renewed concerns about the ramifications of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union. The pound was down 1.3% to $1.3139 in intraday trading, the weakest in 31 years. The declines were related to fears over how Brexit will affect U.K. property prices. A weaker pound makes the U.K. a relatively more attractive destination for American tourists arriving with dollars to spend but makes it more expensive for U.S. companies and employees based there.

Murray Energy Corp., the largest privately held coal miner in the U.S., has warned that it may soon undertake one of the biggest layoffs in the sector during this time of low energy prices. In a notice sent to workers this week, Murray said it could lay off as many as 4,400 employees, or about 80% of its workforce, because of weak coal markets. The company said it anticipates “massive workforce reductions in September.” The law requires a 60-day waiting period before large layoffs occur. The American coal industry, especially in Appalachia, has languished as cheap natural gas replaces coal as fuel for power plants. World-wide demand for coal has also slumped, and new environmental regulations are making many coal mines unprofitable to operate.


Israel’s Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan slammed Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for what he said was their partial responsibility for the wave of Palestinian terror attacks which is fanned by incitement posted on Facebook and other social media outlets. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday, Erdan said that “part of the blood of the murdered is on Facebook’s hands,” and demanded that the social media network take action to combat the terrorism incited its website. “Facebook has become a monster,” the Israeli minister charged. “The discourse of the younger [Palestinian] generation on the web, all the incitement and lies, it all occurs on this platform.”

The Israeli military struck a series of militant sites in Gaza early Saturday in response to a rocket attack that hit a kindergarten in the Israeli border town of Sderot. No injuries were reported on either side but damage was caused to buildings. The exchange comes amid an escalation of violence in the West Bank following a pair of fatal attacks against Jewish settlers that has sparked Israel’s largest military surge in two years. The military said its airstrikes targeted four training sites belonging to Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Late Friday, a rocket from Gaza struck an empty kindergarten, marking a rare successful hit of a civilian target in Israel. Rocket attacks have been sporadic since Israel and Hamas waged a deadly 50-day war in the summer of 2014.

The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard declared Friday that there are tens of thousands of missiles in Lebanon ready to strike Israel. “Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles that are ready to hit Israel to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes,” Gen. Hossein Salami was quoted as saying, according to the Reuters news service. “Today, the grounds for the annihilation and collapse of the Zionist regime are (present) more than ever,” he said..

Islamic State

The terrorist attack in Bangladesh Friday highlights the resiliency of the Islamic State and its ability to pull off high-profile assaults around the world, despite losing territory in Iraq and Syria. The terror attacks like the one in Bangladesh and earlier this week in Istanbul show that the group has established cells around the world — and is still capable of deadly attacks. “ISIS has tens of thousands of individuals that are scattered not just in the Middle East but also to West Africa, to Southeast Asia, and beyond,” CIA Director John Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations last week. The Islamic State has established a presence in Bangladesh, a predominately Muslim country, as it has in other parts of the world, said Patrick Johnston, a terrorism analyst at Rand Corp. The group has been able to build its presence in places like Bangladesh by exploiting local grievances and weak governments, Johnston said.

Two ISIS senior military commanders died last week in a U.S. airstrike, including the man that the United States says oversaw the terror group’s 2014 offensive to capture the all-important Iraqi city of Mosul, the Pentagon said Friday. The June 25 airstrike near Mosul killed ISIS’ deputy minister of war, Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, and Hatim Talib al-Hamduni, a military commander in the area. “These deaths are the latest in coalition efforts to systemically eliminate ISIL’s cabinet wherever they hide, disrupting their ability to plot external terror attacks and hold onto the territory they use to claim legitimacy. The international coalition fighting ISIL, working with local, capable, and motivated forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria, continues to make sustained progress in our campaign to deal ISIL a lasting defeat.”


At least 149 people were killed Sunday in a suicide bombing in central Baghdad claimed by the Islamic State, the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital this year, officials said. Among those killed were at least 15 children, 10 women and six policemen when a bomber’s pickup truck laden with explosives went off outside a crowded shopping center, wounding 192 other people. The bombing was the first major Islamic State terror attack in Baghdad since U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured Fallujah, a city about 35 miles west of the capital, in a major defeat a week ago for the terror organization.

Saudi Arabia

Three suicide attacks in 24 hours — that’s how Saudis will remember the end of Ramadan, a month that has seen the wider region plunged into a wave of terror-related violence. The attacks — including one in Medina, one of the holiest sites in Islam — follow massive jihadi assaults from Turkey to Iraq that have been been tied to ISIS. Analysts believe events in Saudi Arabia could also be the work of the terror group. Two of the attacks failed but four people were killed in the third, all of which appear to be coordinated — targeting both Saudi security forces and Western interests. The deadliest attack occurred in Medina, where four people were killed and another person was wounded. The city is a major spot in Islam because that’s where the Prophet Mohammed is buried.

A suspected suicide bomber carried out an unsuccessful attack early Monday near the U.S. consulate in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. The attacker died and two security men were wounded with minor injuries, according to the interior ministry. The attacker detonated his suicide vest when security guards approached him near the parking lot of a hospital. The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia confirmed to the Associated Press that there were no casualties or injuries among the consular staff. The U.S. consulate was the scene of an attack in 2004, when five employees and four gunmen were killed. The Saudi wing of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for that attack.


A Taiwan warship mistakenly launched a supersonic “aircraft carrier killer” missile toward China Friday, hitting a fishing boat and killing the boat’s captain in an incident China called “a serious matter.” A spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense apologized on behalf of the military. The ministry has also asked the Navy to provide assistance and compensation to the family of the victims. The missile, the “Hsiung Feng III,” ripped through the fishing boat but did not explode. Relations between Taiwan — officially the Republic of China — and the People’s Republic of China have been increasingly tense since the landslide election of Tsai Ing-wen, whose party has traditionally leaned in favor of formal independence from China.


The Olympic Games are just 31 days away — and Rio de Janeiro is in crisis. Violence is on the rise and police officers are at loggerheads with the government after claiming they’ve not been paid for months. The state’s police officers vented their anger last week with a sign saying “Welcome to Hell” outside Rio airport. “Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe,” the sign said. Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes told CNN that the state was doing a “terrible” job in regard to security in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

A group of Brazilian scientists have detected a drug-resistant bacteria growing off of some of Rio de Janeiro’s most stunning beaches, one month before the city is due to host the 2016 Olympic Games. According to lead researcher Renata Picao, the “super bacteria” entered the city’s waterways when sewage coming from local hospitals got channeled into the bay. The news comes as Rio prepares to host hundreds of thousands of athletes and tourists during next month’s Summer Olympics. Among the beaches flagged were Flamengo and Botafogo, which border the bay where Olympic sailors are scheduled to compete. German Paralympic sailor Heiko Kroger believes the super bacteria may have caused a severe skin infection in one of his teammates during recent training.


A wildfire in northern California has prompted the evacuation of 1,650 people and threatens 2,600 structures in the Sierra foothills. The blaze, dubbed the Trailhead Fire, started Tuesday afternoon and grew to more than five square miles Saturday as it rapidly swept through inaccessible terrain and climbed out of a steep canyon along the middle fork of the American River. The blaze now covers 3,218 acres and is located in El Dorado and Placer counties, about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento. It threatens hundreds of homes, businesses, and other structures. Although mandatory evacuations were lifted in Placer County Friday night, residents in adjacent El Dorado county continue to be evacuated.

Firefighters on Sunday battled a wildfire burning in steep, inaccessible terrain in central California, threatening at least 300 homes in or near a gated community, one day after a fast-moving brush fire in San Bernardino burned five homes and injured at least three people. The central California fire has grown to 2.8 square miles since it began Friday afternoon, Phil Neufeld, a spokesman for the Kern County Fire Department said Saturday. It is 20 percent contained. The blaze is among 12 wildfires burning in California.


Dry weather in New England has heightened the risk of black bear encounters, prompting wildlife officials to issue precautions. Black bears have been spotted from Maine to Maryland rummaging through garbage cans and backyard grills, and even plundering through birdfeeders for a bite to eat. The recent dry weather has caused a scarcity of the berries and other plants they generally feed on in the woods. More than 200 complaints have been received by the Warden Service in Maine, which has the largest black bear population in the eastern U.S.


Heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of the Plains and Midwest over the weekend, with Missouri and Kansas both reporting high water. In addition to flooding in Wichita, flash floods were also confirmed in the Kansas cities of Hesston, Newton, McPherson and Moundridge. 2 to 6 inches of rain fell along parts of the I-70 corridor in eastern Kansas and Missouri as of Sunday morning.

The dearth of named tropical cyclones in the tropical northern Pacific Ocean in 2016 has now set a pair of records immediately following one of the most hyperactive years in 2015. There hasn’t been a single named storm of at least tropical storm intensity in the North Pacific Basin since Hurricane Pali became a January oddball just north of the equator and well southwest of Hawaii. Most impressive is the lack of a single tropical storm, much less a typhoon (the term for a hurricane in the western North Pacific Basin), west of the international date line since mid-December 2015, in the world’s typically busiest tropical cyclone corridor. This has now set a new record for the longest stretch without at least a single tropical storm in the western North Pacific basin in 66 years of record-keeping. By the end of June 2015, there had already been nine tropical cyclones in the northwest Pacific basin, including three super typhoons of Category 5 equivalent intensity.

Catastrophic floods have taken over 200 lives in China and Pakistan this weekend after days of heavy rain. In China, 186 have been killed and another 45 people have been reported missing by the nation’s flood and drought relief headquarters. Nearly 1.5 million people have been evacuated or are in need of aid in Hubei. Almost 9,000 houses have collapsed or are seriously damaged and more than 710,000 hectares of crops have been affected, causing direct economic losses of 50.6 billion yuan ($7.6 billion), the provincial civil affairs department said. In Pakistan, heavy monsoon rains and flash floods have claimed at least 30 lives and washed away a mosque and several houses in Ursoon.

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