Signs of the Times (8/29/16)

New Wave of Islamic Terrorist Sent to Attack Europe/UK

Increasing numbers of terrorists have been sent by ISIS using fake documents to sneak into Europe in order to carry out terror attacks. The alert came as the EU’s top law enforcement officer who revealed that increasing numbers of jihadists are using fake documents to sneak into Europe. Others were exploiting the “industrial scale” production of false documents by criminals to obtain EU passports and move freely over the continent. Britain was also warned Monday of a rising threat from Islamic State fighters sent “on mission” from Syria. Europol’s director Rob Wainwright said ISIS had taken a “strategic decision” to send its fanatics to attack the continent in an attempt to distract attention from battlefield defeats in its heartland.

Black Pastor Blasts ‘Black Lives Matter’ Over Abortion

Clenard Childress, senior pastor for New Calvary Baptist in New Jersey, says that the Black Lives Matter movement needs to separate itself from Planned Parenthood. In a column in LifeNews.com, he said, “There has never been a stranger paradox than the announcement that Planned Parenthood is in collaboration with ‘Black Lives Mattes,’ the epitome of oxymoronic examples. Black Lives Matter is partnering with an institution which was designed with the hope of completely eliminating African American people. Some would call this genocide, for this same organization is responsible for over twenty million African Americans missing by sanctioned murder in America.”

  • Previous studies have shown that a higher proportion of black babies are aborted than for whites

Fewer Americans Believe in God, More Leaving the Church

A new study has revealed that more and more Americans are leaving church, and one of the reasons is lack of belief in miracles. A Pew Research Center study revealed that half of Americans who have left church say they no longer believe in God. The number of people in the country who don’t believe in God is also increasing the study says. These so-called “nones” say they left church and stopped believing in God for a number of reasons, some of which include not liking organized religion, “common sense,” and believing science trumps miracles. Many respondents mentioned ‘science’ as the reason they no longer believe in religious teachings. Other reasons people cited for leaving church and not believing in God included “Learning about evolution when I went away to college, “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things,” and “Because I think religion is not a religion anymore. It’s a business…it’s all about money.”

  • Science doesn’t refute religion, it reveals how God’s creation functions

Christian Business Wins Court Battle Over Employing Transgender

The Christian owner of a Michigan funeral home has won a legal battle which allowed him to maintain the right to fire an employee who failed to comply with the funeral home’s policies. The Christian Institute reports that Thomas Rost, a devout Christian who believes God has called him to minister to grieving families through his business, came under fire after he dismissed an employee who began dressing as a female, though the employee was biologically a male. Rost’s funeral home has a gender-specific dress code, and since being hired in 2007, Anthony Stephens had complied with it. However, in 2013, Stephens decided to dress like a female and insisted he be called Aimee. Rost told Stephens he was free to dress how he wished at home, but had to comply with the dress code while at work. Stephens refused, and was therefore dismissed. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission brought the case against Rost’s funeral home, alleging that Stephens was dismissed unfairly. Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization defending Rost, stated, “The government must respect the freedom of those who are seeking to serve the grieving and vulnerable. They shouldn’t be forced into violating their deepest convictions.”

Judge Allows 3 at N.C. University to Choose Restrooms

A federal judge temporarily ruled Friday that the University of North Carolina can’t block two transgender students and an employee from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder partially granted a preliminary injunction to the students and the employee in response to their lawsuit challenging a state law that decreed restroom use was limited to biological gender. The injunction applies only to the plaintiffs, the judge said. But he indicated he also expects them to succeed in their claim that the law known as state House Bill 2 violates the federal Title IX law, which bars sex discrimination in schools. His decision represents a win for the American Civil Liberties Union and Justice Department, which had sued to block the law. His final decision on the law won’t come until after a November trial.

Fentanyl in Pain Relievers Killing Many Americans

Synthetic fentanyl showing up in the street drug supply is an enormous game changer,” says Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues, a group that helps track drug trends for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It means anybody who purchases illegal drugs can unknowingly be taking fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.” All it takes is a dose of fentanyl the size of three grains of sand to kill. Fentanyl is an opioid. Its effect on the body is exactly like heroin, or any other opiate-based medication. But fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl powder is cheap and easy to obtain on the dark web, experts warn, making it attractive to those manufacturing it into pill form mixed with other drugs. Those counterfeit drugs are sold on the street, and are usually labeled as something less potent. Even forensic scientists can’t tell whether some of the pills sold on the street are counterfeit or not just by looking at them. Those who take fake prescriptions likely have no idea if fentanyl is inside, or how much. Pills found in Prince’s Minnesota home were reportedly marked as hydrocodone, but when tested the pills turned out to have fentanyl in them.

Cheaper Takata Airbags Known to be Dangerous

In the late 1990s, General Motors got an unexpected and enticing offer. A little-known Japanese supplier, Takata, had designed a much cheaper automotive airbag, the New York Times reports. G.M. turned to its airbag supplier — the Swedish-American company Autoliv — and asked it to match the cheaper design or risk losing the automaker’s business. But when Autoliv’s scientists studied the Takata airbag, they declined, pointing out that the Takata airbags relied on a dangerously volatile compound in its inflater, a critical component that causes the airbag to expand. Today, that compound is at the heart of the largest automotive safety recall in history. At least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 have been injured by faulty inflaters made by Takata. More than 100 million of its airbags have been installed in cars in the United States by General Motors and 16 other automakers.

  • Once again, corporate greed supersedes safety (as in the VW electronic cover-up of high emissions)

Obama Creates Largest Ocean Reserve by Decree

President Obama, with the stroke of a pen, created the world’s largest ocean reserve on Friday off Hawaii, days after designating a massive federal monument in Maine – moves that have angered local lawmakers who accuse the president of disregarding the impact on residents. Obama used a presidential proclamation to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by over 400,000 square miles. The preserve now stretches 582,578 square miles, the world’s largest marine protected area. “The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species … [and] will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems,” the White House said in a statement. But the decision drew sharp criticism from the fishing industry and even fellow Democrats, as it will drastically expand the area where commercial fishing and drilling is banned.

The announcement came after Obama used his executive authority to create the National Park Service’s newest national monument at Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine. The new monument was created as part of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. The White House said the monument will protect 87,500 acres and will bolster the forest’s resilience against the impact of climate change. The monument’s creation, though, was opposed by state lawmakers and critics who warn it will hinder efforts to rebuild a forest-based economy in the region.

Health-Care Exchange Sign-Ups Far Short of Forecasts

Enrollment in the insurance exchanges for President Obama’s signature health-care law are less than half the initial forecast, pushing several major insurance companies to stop offering health plans in certain markets because of significant financial losses. As a result, the administration’s promise of a menu of health-plan choices has been replaced by a grim forecast: Next year, more than 1 in 4 counties are at risk of having a single insurer on its exchange, said Cynthia Cox, who studies health reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation. The success of the law depends fundamentally on the exchanges being profitable for insurers — and that requires more people to sign up, notes the Washington Post. In February 2013, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 24 million people would buy health coverage through the federally and state-operated online exchanges by this year. Just 11.1 million people were signed up as of late March. The law requires every American to get health coverage or pay a penalty, but the penalty hasn’t been high enough to persuade many Americans to buy into the health plans. Even those who qualify for subsidized premiums sometimes balk at the high deductibles on some plans.

America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Ready to Go

The turbines stand like sentinels off the coast of this tiny island, each rising twice as high as the Statue of Liberty. Workers attached the final 240-foot-long blades just days ago, turning the nation’s first offshore wind farm into a reality, reports the Washington Post. When residents look out at the altered horizon from their gray-shingled houses, some see progress, the birth of a promising industry, a way to ditch the 1 million gallons of diesel fuel that Block Island burns each year for power. Others see an expensive eyesore, a boondoggle that they contend will enrich private investors while burdening the state’s ratepayers and doing little to improve daily life here. One group went even to federal court in an unsuccessful effort to stall the project. America’s inaugural foray into offshore wind power is modest compared with the sprawling developments that have existed in Europe for decades. The five-turbine, 30-megawatt project, which is set to start operating this fall, will feed into New England’s electrical grid via underwater cables and provide enough energy to power about 17,000 homes.

Zika Update

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended screening the entire US blood supply for the Zika virus, it announced Friday, noting that screening donated blood is already underway in Florida and Puerto Rico. The new recommendation applies “across the board to anyone collecting blood,” explained Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. This includes very large blood collection establishments, such as the American Red Cross, and some very small establishments, such as academic centers, he said. The Red Cross said it will phase in universal testing. Currently, it is conducting Zika tests in five southeastern states and will expand testing to four additional states in the south central and southwestern US over the next two weeks.

Persecution Watch

When Pope Francis visited Cuba in September 2015, many thought the milestone event could signal a breakthrough in the campaign to promote religious freedom in the Caribbean island nation. But now the memory of that papal visit seems to have been forgotten as Cuba’s communist regime has launched a renewed crackdown on the Christian faith with reports of churches destroyed, pastors imprisoned, religious leaders’ personal property seized and Christians violently stopped from worshipping. In its latest report, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says the Cuban regime has launched a major crackdown against churches and has seized and demolished at least 1,400 church buildings. The regime is justifying its action by claiming that the churches are unregistered, and therefore, illegal. The report cites more than 1,000 cases of religious freedom violations, including the “destruction of church property, arbitrary detention and other forms of harassment, in particular seizure of religious leaders’ personal belongings.”

Economic News

American consumers boosted spending at a slower pace in July, while their incomes accelerated slightly. Spending grew 0.3% in July following a 0.5% increase in June, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Spending on durable goods such as autos rose by a solid 1.6%, but spending for nondurable goods fell. The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an anemic annual rate of 1.1% in the April-June quarter, marking a full year in which growth has limped along at an annual rate of 1.2%

The economy has been mired in a funk since late last year, but there’s cause for optimism: Business startup activity has returned to near pre-recession levels. About 550,000 new businesses were launched each month last year, on average, up from 466,000 in 2013, according to figures released this month by the Kauffman Foundation based on Census Bureau and Labor Department data. That’s the highest level since 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the number of business startups with one additional employee – a subset that better captures firms that contribute significantly to economic growth — is also rising. There were 398,000 additional-employer businesses that were a year old or younger last year, up 7% from 2014 and the most since 2008, according to the Labor Department.

Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, signaled Friday that a rate hike is still on the table later this year. “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months,” Yellen said in a speech in Jackson, Wyoming. But Yellen was vague on timing. The Fed’s committee next meets in late September. It also has a meeting in early November, however, it’s unlikely the Fed would raise rates right before the U.S. elections.

Uber may be the most valuable privately held company in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s making money. The company lost at least $1.27 billion in the first half of this year, according to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg reported that Uber’s head of finance Gautam Gupta shared the losses during a call with shareholders on Friday. Uber is said to have lost $520 million in the first quarter, and $750 million in the second quarter of 2016.

Islamic State

A suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Monday killed at least 45 pro-government recruits, officials said. Over 60 wounded were being taken to three area hospitals. The men were at a staging area near two schools and a mosque when a pickup truck suddenly accelerated through the building’s gate as a food delivery arrived, exploding amid the crowd, witnesses said. Yemen is embroiled in a civil war pitting the internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi rebels aligned with ISIS.

ISIS has released a video online showing five young boys killing five prisoners. The video identifies the children, dressed in camouflage and holding handguns, as British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek. The men they kill were Kurdish prisoners, according to the video. Authorities in the region say ISIS is increasingly using children to commit acts of terrorism, exploiting them through propaganda and sending them out to kill. The terrorist group maintains an army of child soldiers, stolen from their families and indoctrinated to their cause. The children have been as young as seven years-old.

  • The sheer depravity of ISIS abundantly demonstrates their evil roots and reveals that their god is Satan

Syria

A helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on a funeral wake for children in the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least 16 people, Syrian monitoring groups said. The wake was being held Saturday in the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Bab al-Nayrab, the same area where 15 people were killed in a barrel bombing Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. Barrel bombs — oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel and dropped by aircraft — killed more than 3,000 civilians in Aleppo 2014, according to a report last year by Amnesty International. The human rights organization said barrel bombs are a common tactic of the Syrian government, which has been fighting rebels in a civil war since 2011.

Turkey

Kurdish militants on Friday attacked a police checkpoint in southeast Turkey with an explosives-laden truck, killing at least 11 police officers and wounding 78 other people, the state-run news agency said. The attack struck the checkpoint some 50 meters (yards) from a main police station near the town of Cizre, in the mainly-Kurdish Sirnak province that borders Syria. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack which was the latest in a string of bombings targeting police or military vehicles and installations. Authorities have blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, for those attacks.

Iran

Dangerous confrontations between Iranian and American warships in the Persian Gulf are up more than 50 percent in 2016 compared with this time last year, according to a U.S. defense official – despite the highly touted nuclear accord, as well as a recent $1.7 billion U.S. payment to Tehran. The latest incidents of provocative Iranian behavior flared in the Persian Gulf earlier this week, including one filmed by the U.S. Navy. The video showed four Iranian gunboats from its Revolutionary Guard Corps coming within 300 yards of USS Nitze, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Through the first six months alone of 2016, there were 26 dangerous confrontations that U.S. military officials called “unsafe and unprofessional.”

Iran has deployed the Russian-supplied S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system around its Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility, Iranian state media reported on Monday. Iranian state TV on Sunday aired footage of deployment of the recently delivered missile system to the nuclear site in the central Iran. ‘Our main priority is to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities under any circumstances,’ Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) air defense force told state TV.

  • Iran wants to be prepared when the world learns of their duplicity in developing their nuclear weapons

France

Mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis, France’s highest administrative court ruled Friday. The Council of State’s ruling suspends a ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, and could affect cities around the country that have prohibited the full-length swimsuit commonly worn by Muslim women. More than 30 French towns have banned burkinis, which cover the whole body except for the face, hands and feet. Officials say the ban on the burkini was a response to growing terror concerns. Human rights activists argue that such measures are illegal, and that pushes to outlaw the garment are Islamophobic.

Philippines

Lifeless bodies lying on the streets of the Philippines are a visceral sign of new President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, reports CNN. So far more than 1,900 people have died. Of those more than 700 have been killed in police operations since Duterte took office in late June, according to police statistics. Many of the unsolved deaths are attributed to vigilantes. Duterte’s tough talk on the country’s drug and crime problems won him the election and, 60 days on from his inauguration, he remains extremely popular. A Senate inquiry is underway into the police and the extrajudicial killings. Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told the committee there was no shoot to kill order, but people are happy with what the police are doing, despite mistakes by officers. But for all the plaudits, there are families heartbroken, jails swamped, rehab centers overwhelmed.

Bangladesh

Police killed three suspected militants, including the alleged mastermind behind the attack which left 22 people dead at an upscale bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, authorities said on Saturday. The alleged planner, Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Chowdhury, was killed during a police house raid in the district of Narayanganj, said counterterrorism official Monirul Islam. Bangladesh police chief A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said the militants belonged to Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, a banned Islamist group in Bangladesh.

Environment

The nation’s creeks and streams may be tainted with hard drugs. A new study found amphetamines polluting water sources in Baltimore, CNN reports. Researchers who tested samples from six streams around the Maryland city found them tainted with “amphetamine concentrations are high enough to alter the base of the aquatic food web.” The drugs got there after they were flushed down the toilet by users either purposefully or through excretions. Limited filtering systems at wastewater treatment plants or “leaks in the sewer” enable the release of the drugs into the environment. Any living presence in those streams from moss to water bugs—and the creatures that eat them like fish and birds are at risk. A 2014 study found that meds flushed into the environment could be causing a global wildlife crisis, reported the Guardian.

Earthquakes

As strong aftershocks continue to rattle central Italy days after a large magnitude 6.2 earthquake, officials are losing hope of finding additional survivors, with the death toll rising to almost 300. The aftershocks damaged the devastated town of Amatrice even further. On Friday, the biggest aftershock, measured by the U.S. Geological Survey as a 4.7, shook the town at 6:28 a.m. local time. The town’s mayor, Sergio Pirozzi, said the aftershocks damaged two major roads, which may isolate the town at a time when rescue crews and aid workers are using the streets to get in and out of town. That severe aftershock was preceded by more than 50 tremors overnight and was followed by another nine in the next hour — part of the nearly 1,000 aftershocks that have rocked Italy’s central Apennine Mountains since the original 6.2-magnitude quake early Wednesday.

Weather

Heavy rains pounded the Kansas City metro area Friday night, prompting water rescues and closing roadways. A slow moving line of storms developed north of the Kansas City metro area and inched into downtown dropping two to five inches of rain. The Kansas City Fire Department assisted with water rescues in multiple parts of the downtown area. A flash flood emergency was in effect – the first ever by the National Weather Service Kansas City office. Thousands of Indianapolis residents were in the dark Friday morning as a round of damaging storms rolled through the city, knocking down trees and power lines. These storms came just two days after a round of severe weather spawned a handful tornadoes in the Hoosier State.

In India, heavy monsoon rains over the past week led to flooding as the mighty Ganges River overflowed its banks, submerging large parts of the Hindu holy town of Varanasi. Thousands of devotees were kept away by floodwaters, which also swamped nearby Allabahad. More than 200,000 people in Uttar Pradesh state have been evacuated and are living in relief camps after floodwaters entered homes in some 800 villages across large swaths of the state. Rainfall is common during India’s monsoon season from June through September, but rainfall this season has been particularly heavy after two years of drought across the northeastern states of India.

 

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