Signs of the Times (8/3/16)

Newspaper Rejects Ad Because it Includes the Word ‘Christian’

A Tennessee newspaper has caused a stir for refusing to run an advertisement placed by a Christian store. FoxNews.com reports that Lois McGinnis and her family own Cedar Springs Christian Store in Knoxville. The McGinnis family owns two store locations, but recently decided to close the second location. McGinnis called the local newspaper, the News Sentinel, to place a going-out-of-business ad. When McGinnis opened the newspaper the day the ad was scheduled to run, it wasn’t there, so she called the newspaper office. The employee whom she spoke with explained to her why the paper hadn’t run her ad: “She said our ad did not run because it contained an offensive word,” McGinnis told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. “I asked what that offensive word was and she said the offensive word was ‘Christian.’”

  • This is but a harbinger of the times to come when being Christian is not just offensive to secular America, but a hate crime

Satanic Temple Pushing for After School Satanist Clubs

The Satanic Temple is promoting an after school program called the After School Satan Club that they hope to establish in public schools this school year. According to The Washington Post, members of the Satanic Temple hope that their after school program will compete with the Christian program, the Good News Club, that is allowed in public schools. Members of the Satanic Temple who are proponents of the program say that the purpose of the club would not actually be to worship the devil, but rather to promote rational thinking. Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder, says that “Satan” is just a “metaphorical construct” that represents the rejection of tyranny of the human mind. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Christian clubs were allowed in public schools because to exclude them would be to violate the right to free speech. Proponents of the satanist clubs hope to capitalize on this precedent.

  • Freedom of speech is paramount, but this development shows how well a non-metaphorical but real Satan continues to undermine the One True God and the One True Savior.

Illinois Gov. Signs Bill Forcing Christian Doctors and Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

Abortion is now the official state-preferred choice for Illinois women in unexpected pregnancies, after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1564 into law Friday afternoon, reports LiveNews.com. Rauner, a Republican, held veto power over the legislation, but he went against the wishes of his own party in approving the legislation. “We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for siding with pro-abortion Democrats by signing SB 1564 and expanding abortions in Illinois,” Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life said in a press release. “This radical bill is a direct assault on the consciences of medical professionals and the missions of community supported pregnancy help centers.

ISIS Recruiting Citizens to Commit Homeland Terrorism

Believing he was answering a holy call, Harry Sarfo left his home in the working-class city of Bremen last year and drove for four straight days to reach the territory controlled by the Islamic State in Syria. He barely had time to settle in before members of the Islamic State’s secret service, wearing masks over their faces, came to inform him and his German friend that they no longer wanted Europeans to come to Syria. Where they were really needed was back home, to help carry out the group’s plan of waging terrorism across the globe, reports the New York Times. Sarfo told the Times that ISIS has ‘loads of people’ living in European countries and waiting for commands to attack the European people. The operatives belonged to an intelligence unit of the Islamic State known in Arabic as the Emni, which has an external operations branch, dedicated to exporting terror abroad. Interrogation records show that operatives are selected by nationality and grouped by language into small, discrete units, tasked with plotting their own attacks.

DC Police Officer Charged with Aiding ISIS

A Washington, D.C. metro transit authority police officer was charged on Wednesday with trying to provide material support to ISIS — the first time a law enforcement officer has been charged with an ISIS-related crime. Nicholas Young, 36, who has served with the department since 2003, was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents. Young allegedly sent mobile-based gift card IDs to a law enforcement source last week with the understanding that the cards would be used by overseas ISIS fighters to communicate, according to a copy of the indictment viewed by The Washington Post. Young has been monitored by the FBI since September 2010, The Post reported.

Navy Ship to be Named after Renowned Pedophile

The Navy is set to name a ship after the late homosexual rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification obtained by USNI News. The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). Harvey Milk was the first homosexual activist elected to public office in the United States and was assassinated in 1978. Milk, who served in the Navy at a time it was illegal for homosexuals to do so often bragged about being a pedophile. Milk was “a sexual predator who preyed upon teen boys”, notes the American Family Association.

Migrant Update

A record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum in one of the 28 member states of the European Union, Norway or Switzerland in 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency. The previous 700,000 high water mark was set in 1992 around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1985, Europe has received about 11.6 million asylum applications, the analysis showed. About half of all applications in 2015 came from just three war-torn countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Since 2012, Germany has emerged as the primary destination for asylum seekers in Europe, receiving 442,000 asylum applications in 2015 alone. Hungary was second with 174,000 applications and Sweden third with 156,000 asylum requests.

Zika Update

For the first time, the Zika virus has prompted public health officials to warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to a part of the continental United States, in the wake of a growing outbreak of the disease in South Florida. For the first time, the Zika virus has prompted public health officials to warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to a part of the continental United States, in the wake of a growing outbreak of the disease in South Florida. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to women who are pregnant to avoid unnecessary travel to the affected area, which is just north of downtown Miami.

The Zika epidemic that has spread from Brazil to the rest of Latin America is now raging in Puerto Rico — and the island’s response is in chaos. Infections are skyrocketing and many residents fail to protect themselves against bites because they believe the threat is exaggerated. Federal and local health officials are feuding, and the governor’s special adviser on Zika has quit in disgust, reports the New York Times. There are about 5,500 confirmed infections on the island, including 672 pregnant women. But experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they believe that is a radical undercount. Tests on donated blood, the most reliable barometer of the epidemic’s spread, show that almost 2 percent of the donors were infected in the last 10 days.

Economic News

Manufacturing activity grew at a slower pace in July as low oil prices and a weak global economy amplified by the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote continued to hamper the industry. An index of factory activity dipped to 52.6 from 53.2 in August, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday. A reading above 50 means the sector is expanding; below 50 indicates contraction. Although sluggish, manufacturing activity nevertheless expanded for the fifth straight month after a string of declines. A weak global economy has clobbered manufacturers’ exports, while a strong dollar has magnified the effects by making U.S. goods more expensive for overseas customers. Meanwhile, low oil prices have dampened drilling activity and the related production of steel pipes and other materials.

Consumer spending grew at a healthy pace for the third straight month in June. Personal spending, which measures how much Americans pay for everything from cars to haircuts, rose 0.4%, matching May’s rise, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. In April spending increased 1.1%, the biggest jump in almost seven years. Household consumption makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Personal income, including wages and salaries, gained a moderate 0.2% in June, and has risen steadily in recent months as employee earnings have picked up. The personal saving rate fell to 5.3% from 5.5% in May, a sign that consumers are becoming less cautious.

Crude oil prices plunged 4% on Monday, sliding to $39.86 a barrel Monday. It’s the first time the price has been below $40 a barrel in nearly four months. It rose slightly on Tuesday to go just above $40. Oil prices are now down more than 22% since topping out above $51 a barrel in early June. The price had peaked at $107 in June 2014. The recent selling has been driven by a realization that the epic oil glut remains largely intact — and some U.S. oil companies may make it worse by starting to drill more. Not only is there an historic oversupply of crude, but gasoline inventories are now at record highs, despite the fact that it’s summer driving season.

Islamic State

U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes in Libya Monday, targeting Islamic State forces near their stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, the Pentagon announced. Libyan’s interim government requested the attack, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. The Islamic State has established a presence in war-torn Libya and in Afghanistan. They have been struck by U.S. warplanes in support of local ground forces in both countries. In February, an airstrike in Libya killed 49 fighters from the Islamic State. Additional airstrikes will continue as forces aligned with the Libyan Government of National Accord continues to take ground from ISIS, Cook said.

According to the group IntelCenter, which tracks acts of terrorism, there has been a significant attack directed or inspired by ISIS every 84 hours since June 8 in cities outside the war zones in Iraq, Syria, Sinai in Egypt and Libya. CNN’s tracking of attacks supports that conclusion. More than half of those attacks have been beyond big cities in places “not traditionally under threat of terrorist attacks,” says IntelCenter. This rash of random, low-tech but deadly attacks has fueled public unease in Europe and eroded faith in governments to tackle the threat of terrorism or discern who might turn to violence.

Syria

Dozens of families and some opposition fighters started leaving besieged rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Saturday after the government opened safe corridors for civilians and fighters who want to leave. The government had completely closed the main road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo on July 17, effectively besieging the 300,000 people living there. Earlier this week, Syrian President Bashar Assad offered an amnesty to rebels who lay down their arms and surrender to authorities in the next three months. Opposition activists denied reports that Aleppo residents were leaving rebel-held neighborhoods of the city, saying that state media was attempting to falsely suggest that civilians were fleeing the area in large numbers.

A Russian helicopter was shot down Monday after delivering aid to the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing all five people on board, Russian state media reported. It was the biggest single loss of life for Russia in Syria since Russian warplanes started carrying out airstrikes in September 2015 in the country ravaged by war for the past five years. Video footage showed dozens of men cheering around the flaming wreckage, some of them taking photographs with their phones and others yelling, “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”). An empty rocket pod lay next to the wreckage, raising questions about whether the helicopter was carrying aid. Rescuers in Syria said Tuesday a helicopter dropped barrels filled with toxic gas, seriously injuring dozens of people, not far from where a Russian transport helicopter was shot down the day before, Reuters reported.

Afghanistan

The United States has spent more than $17 billion to provide weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment to Afghanistan’s struggling defense forces, even as the number of Afghans enlisted in these services dips amid a resurgence in Taliban-backed violence, according to new figures published by a government oversight body. The United States has spent nearly $13 billion to arm the Afghan National Army as of May 31, 2016 and another $4.2 billion on weapons for the Afghan National Police, according to figures from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The latest tally of U.S. expenditures for these forces comes amid a new surge of violence in Afghanistan caused by the Taliban, which President Obama said had been “toppled” on Monday. As the United States continues to send great amounts of taxpayer aid to the war-torn country, the strength of its security forces have reached new lows, casting doubt on the ability of American and allied forces to completely hand off security control of the country, reports Fox News.

Iran

The Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran in January to settle a decades-old legal dispute just as the Iranians were releasing four Americans detained by Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal, citing U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation, said wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currency were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane. The money was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the administration reached with Iran to resolve a 37-year-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. The legal wrangling was being arbitrated before the international tribunal in The Hague. According to the Journal, senior U.S. officials denied the payment was a quid pro quo for the release of the prisoners. They said the timing was coincidental. Republican lawmakers are fuming say the transaction has put more Americans at risk of being taken hostage.

Ethiopia/Zimbabwe

In Ethiopia, up to ten million people are in danger of starvation. Two failed rainy seasons followed by catastrophic flooding have destroyed crops across large parts of a country in which the persecution of Christians is growing. The present famine is the worst it has been in the past fifty years. In Zimbabwe, over four million people are in critical danger of starvation. Approximately 11.5 million of the population live off the food they grow themselves, but drought has caused between 95% and 100% crop failure. Many families are reduced to one meal a day, sometimes less; children are too weak from hunger to go to school; unable to get jobs, hardly anyone has money to buy what scarce food there is. Barnabas Aid has been helping in the region since the food crisis of 2008-9, working through local churches to reach the most needy and vulnerable Christians in both Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

  • Just $13.50 will help feed a family of five for a month. Donate here

Nigeria

A U.N. humanitarian convoy under military escort came under Boko Haram gunfire during an ambush in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, the United Nations and Nigerian military said Friday. Three humanitarian staff members and two soldiers were injured. The convoy was returning to Maiduguri late Thursday after making delivery of much-needed food supplies to a camp of 24,000 impoverished people displaced by Boko Haram raids in the town of Bama. Several relief groups were part of the convoy. The attack prompted a temporary suspension of U.N. humanitarian assistance missions in the area pending a reevaluation of the security situation, a UNICEF statement said.

Earthquakes

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean early Saturday. The quake occurred at a depth of 117 miles some 19 miles south-southwest of the uninhabited island of Agrihan in the U.S. territory, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A barely noticeable wave of about two inches was recorded in Saipan, the largest of the islands. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands lies about 5,800 miles south-southwest of California’s Pacific shore. The quake was felt in the neighboring territory of Guam.

Environment

Southern New England’s lobster population has gotten so low that fishermen may need to start throwing back smaller lobsters just to keep the species from being wiped out. The region’s historic lobster fishery may be facing new restrictions because of a population decline that hasn’t been seen before. As the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission looks for ways to help preserve the species, the group released a report suggesting the lobsters could be preserved by increasing the minimum harvesting size, and the commission’s lobster board may take action on the population decline Thursday. New England lobster fishing is one of America’s oldest industries, and it was worth more than a half-billion dollars last year. But the catch south of Cape Cod has plummeted as ocean temperatures have risen. The lobster catch sank to about 3.3 million pounds in 2013, down from a peak of about 22 million in 1997. The fishery commission’s report states that management strategies can do only so much if environmental conditions persist.

Wildfires

The deadly wildfire burning south of Monterey, California, the Soberanes Fire, has grown to more than 43,000 acres, larger than San Francisco. According to the latest CalFire incident report updated Monday morning, there are more than 5,000 firefighters battling the blaze that is now 18 percent contained. Fifty-seven homes and 11 structures have been destroyed, while another five structures were damaged from the fire. Some 2,000 structures remain threatened. The fire claimed the life of Robert Reagan, a 35-year-old father of two daughters from Fresno County, last week after his bulldozer overturned on steep terrain while he worked to combat the fire. CalFire said the fire continues to “burn in steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain” and they estimate that it will continue to burn until the end of August. Authorities have determined that an illegal, abandoned campfire caused the massive wildfire.

More than a dozen homes have reportedly been destroyed by the Roaring Lion wildfire near Hamilton, Montana, that has scorched more than 4,400 acres and forced evacuations. Authorities say the number of homes destroyed has risen to 14 and Ravalli County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Monday. According to an incident report, about 500 homes have been evacuated or warned they may have to evacuate. The fire, which broke out around 2 p.m. Sunday about five miles south of Hamilton, quickly grew to 2,000 acres within a period of seven hours. The fire grew so rapidly that the initial attack team had no chance of containing the wildfire. Authorities expanded evacuation orders to over 700 homes Monday.

Weather

After battling a major wildfire that made world headlines in May, Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Canada, is drying out after facing a natural disaster of another kind — flash flooding. The fire in May, fueled by dry conditions and high winds, destroyed about 10 percent of the buildings in the city and forced the evacuation of 88,000 people. Now, after a weekend of heavy downpours, the community is reeling once again after being inundated with so much water that flooding occurred in parts of the city. More than 3 inches of rain fell, with the majority falling within two hours Sunday morning, according to CTV. In fact, more rain fell on Sunday than Fort McMurray’s average rainfall for the entire month of July. The heavy rains led to residents still recovering from the devastation of fire waking up to flooded basements, sewer backups and flooded parking lots. Power outages were also reported across the city.

Monsoonal rains swept through the Phoenix metro area Tuesday afternoon, causing major flooding, which led to water rescues and the evacuation of several schools, but no deaths or injuries. Some areas in the Phoenix metro picked up two or more inches of rain within an hour. The Phoenix Fire Department said officials made numerous water rescues amid the heavy rains, including one man forced to climb atop his vehicle along Interstate 17. The highway was closed in both directions at Indian School Road due to flooding. Flooding also caused additional closures and delays on Interstate 10. Both highways were open again by Wednesday morning. A flash flood deluged Yarnell, Arizona, on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 2, and then receded as quickly as it hit, leaving a thick coating of mud everywhere. The rushing waters were highly localized, as heavy rains fell on the slope blackened by June’s Tenderfoot Fire, and, with no vegetation to slow the flow of rainwater and hold the soil in place, the water gushed right through town, covering Highway 89 in several inches of slippery, black mud.

A state of emergency was declared in Ellicott City, Maryland after major flooding destroyed much of its downtown area. A torrent of floodwaters swept through Ellicott City, Maryland, Saturday night sweeping cars away, damaging buildings, and prompting water rescues. One fatality had been confirmed and at least two people were still missing as of Saturday morning. Gas leaks also occurred in downtown Ellicott City along Main Street. Natural gas service had been turned off in the downtown area and it is unclear how long it will be before it is restored. There is extensive structure damage to multiple businesses, residential areas, along with sidewalks and streets. Ellicott City, an affluent unincorporated community of 65,800 people and famous for its historic downtown, is about 12 miles west of Baltimore. Video from the scene shows cars being swept away in roads that look like rivers.

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