Signs of the Times (10/19/16)

40 Days for Life – 286 Babies Saved from Abortion

The total number of babies saved by the 40 Days for Life campaign continued to rise into the hundreds during the second week of its current campaign. Steve Karlen, the North American campaign director, confirmed for LifeSiteNews that the number had risen to 244 by Friday. And on Sunday, 40 Days for Life reported on its website that the total had grown to 286 as of Tuesday morning. The pro-life outreach has 367 locations in each of the 50 U.S. states and in 23 other countries worldwide. More than 12,000 lives have been saved across the world since the first coordinated vigil was held in 2007. The current vigil continues through November 6. 40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. The visible, public centerpiece of 40 Days for Life is a focused, 40-day, non-stop, round-the-clock prayer vigil outside a single Planned Parenthood center or other abortion facility. A community outreach program is also conducted through carefully targeted news stories, talk shows, editorials and opinion pieces in the community.

Scientists Create Offspring By Creating Eggs In Lab From Scratch

For the first time, scientists have created viable mammalian eggs from scratch in the lab – and used them to produce healthy offspring, reports Technocracy News. Experts say the breakthrough could one day offer new hope to women who have lost their fertility – as a result of cancer treatment, f or example. However, it is likely to be many years before the technique – so far performed in mice – is reliable and safe enough for humans. In the experiments, the Japanese team used stem cells both obtained from embryos and generated from mature cells taken from the tips of mouse tails. The latter were used to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells which have the properties of embryonic stem cells, including the ability to transform into a multitude of different tissues. Both kinds of stem cell were exposed to specific cocktails of chemicals and biological signals to coax them to develop into eggs. A number of the eggs were eventually fertilized using a standard IVF technique and the resulting embryos produced healthy, fertile offspring. The success rate was low – just 11 out of 316 two-cell embryos ended up delivering live births. This is the first report of anyone being able to develop fully mature and fertilizable eggs in a laboratory.

  • Not quite “from scratch” since existing stem cells were employed. Scary nonetheless.

Planned Parenthood Celebrates its 100th Birthday and its 7 Million Abortions

On Sunday, Planned Parenthood celebrated what National Right to Life dubs the “saddest birthday ever.” The nation’s largest abortion provider turned 100 on October 16. As it commemorated its birthday, pro-lifers memorialized the seven million babies’ lives Planned Parenthood has taken – just since 1970. And the number rises daily. In its 100th year, Planned Parenthood has already added another quarter million babies to its death toll. Thus, celebrating 100 years of its own life means celebrating over seven million deaths and counting, reports liveactionnews.org. Hillary Clinton congratulated Planned Parenthood and reiterated her promise to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who will support Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that has resulted in 59 million abortions on unborn babies over the last four and a half decades.

More Than 1 Million to Lose Obamacare Plans

A growing number of people in Obamacare are finding out their health insurance plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise, NewsMax reported Sunday. At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they have now, according to state officials contacted by Bloomberg. That’s largely caused by Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and some state or regional insurers quitting the law’s markets for individual coverage. Sign-ups for Obamacare coverage begin next month. Interviews with regulators and insurance customers suggest that plans will be fewer and more expensive, and may not include the same doctors and hospitals.

Judge Orders IRS to Clean Up their Tea Party Mess

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to finally clean up the tea party targeting mess, giving the tax agency less than a month to decide on a handful of applications that are still pending more than three years after officials first admitted they were targeting the conservative groups and subjecting them to intrusive scrutiny. The IRS also must file a brief detailing the steps it has taken to prevent further targeting and to make sure the tea party groups don’t face any more fallout from the stigma of having been singled out in the first place, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said in an order issued last Friday. Judge Walton also said that four other groups that had withdrawn their applications amid the unconstitutional targeting can resubmit and the IRS must decide on those, too, by Nov. 11.

Attack on Somalis in Kansas Thwarted, Feds Say

Three men face domestic terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to bomb an apartment complex occupied by Somali immigrants in southwest Kansas, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday. The men had talked about filling four vehicles with explosives and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, to create a large explosion. About 120 Somali immigrants live in the complex, CNN affiliate KWCH reported, and acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said one of the apartment units served as a mosque. The trio, members of a militia group that called itself The Crusaders, wanted to “wake people up,” the DOJ said. They were stockpiling weapons and planned to release a manifesto after the explosion.

200 Nations Endorse Climate Deal

Representatives from nearly 200 member countries of the Montreal Protocol agreed on a deal to reduce emissions of powerful greenhouse gases at a summit Saturday in Kigali, Rwanda. The landmark deal will reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the world’s fastest-growing greenhouse gases, the UN Environment Program said in a statement. HFCs are considered potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning instead of other ozone-depleting substances. “The amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer endorsed in Kigali today is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius, a target agreed at the Paris climate conference last year,” the UN agency said. According to the agency, the agreed reduction in HFCs could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming by the end of this century.

Police Chief Group Issues Apology to Minorities

The head of a major international law enforcement organization on Monday apologized for “the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.” International Association of Chiefs of Police President, Terrence M. Cunningham, struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging the deep-seated, generational mistrust between minorities and the police. Cunningham, speaking at a meeting of the group in San Diego, said law enforcement’s history is “replete with examples of bravery, self-sacrifice and service to the community.” But Cunningham said at the same, “the history of policing has had darker periods.” “There have been times when law enforcement officers because of the laws enacted by federal, state and local governments have been the face of oppression to far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as “ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans,” Cunningham said.

Will the U.S. Elections be Hacked?

The Obama administration is accusing Russia of hacking US political organizations. States are reporting attempts — in one case successful — to breach voter registration databases. The public is understandably concerned about the integrity of next month’s election. But election officials and cyber experts say it’s virtually impossible for Moscow or some other outside group to influence the election outcome. Hackers could create mischief — some say “chaos” — but the election system is resilient enough to withstand shocks, so the ‘experts’ say.

  • Hackers have proven that they can gain access to almost every cyber system, including those of the White House and the NSA which have more protection than the widespread polling places.

Economic News

The U.S. dollar recently hit its highest point since early March, rallying on the rising hopes that the Federal Reserve will finally raise interest rates in December. It’s up 3% against a basket of currencies since late September, surpassing the level seen after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Wall Street investors now place a 64% chance of a Fed rate hike in December, which is among the highest odds seen all year. A rate increase in the U.S. would be the first in a year and a reflection of a healthy economy. That would be good news for the dollar, which tends to rise on signs of American economic strength.

The price of crude oil has increased to over $50 per barrel, its highest level in more than a year after a report showed a surprising drop in U.S. stockpiles. A government report showed U.S. stockpiles of crude oil unexpectedly fell by 5.2 million barrels last week. Investors were expecting a rise of 2.1 million barrels. Investors bullish on oil are hoping the unexpected drop is signal that the global oil glut is easing. Oil prices have crashed over the past two years as the world’s biggest producers have sought to defend their market share and refused to cut production. Low prices have hurt oil-producing nations, forcing them to slash spending. The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel finally agreed to slash production in September.

Israel

Israel has suspended ties with UNESCO, the UN body in charge of preserving culture an”d history, after a draft decision that Israel says ignores Judaism’s ties to the religion’s holiest site. The draft decision notes the importance of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — but makes no mention of why the city is significant to Christians or Jews. A subsidiary body of UNESCO’s Executive Board passed the resolution Thursday in Paris. It refers to Jerusalem’s holiest site — known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary — only by its Muslim name. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the move as absurd, saying: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”

Islamic State

Iraq’s military says it has inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul, as Iraqi-led forces close in on the city in the long-awaited battle to recapture it from the terror group. Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the offensive, Iraq’s military said it had inflicted losses and made advances in the Hamdaniya district. The battle for Mosul — the largest city under ISIS control and the terror group’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq — represents “a decisive moment in the campaign” to defeat ISIS, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. Having already lost key cities — such as Tikrit and Ramadi — Mosul is the militant group’s last bastion of power in the country. Freeing Mosul would be the beginning of the end of ISIS in Iraq.

As ISIS awaits one major assault in Mosul, Iraq, the self-declared caliphate has lost its control of a symbolic stronghold in north Syria. The Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-backed faction, on Sunday took back the town of Dabiq from ISIS, Turkish state media and a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization, said it received reports that groups of ISIS fighters had withdrawn from Dabiq overnight. Now the Free Syrian Army operation will seek to clear the town of mines, booby-traps and IEDs.

Turkey

A would-be suicide bomber, suspected of being a member of ISIS, was shot and killed by anti-terror forces during a shootout in the Turkish capital of Ankara, state-run Anadolu agency reported. The suspect was shot after ignoring demands to surrender. “Scores of explosives” were found in the suspect’s home in the Ankara neighborhood of Etimesgut, Anadolu reported. Authorities had warned of potential terror attacks in the capital Monday, with the warning coming as coalition forces mount a major offensive against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, authorities arrested 20 ISIS suspects in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Wednesday. The suspects were rounded up in coordinated raids in four locations across the province.

Afghanistan

Two Americans were killed and another three were injured in a rare attack on foreign troops in the Afghan capital Wednesday, U.S. and Afghan officials said. A gunman fired on international advisers at an ammunition depot near Camp Morehead, a training site for Afghan commandos, about six miles south of Kabul. The attack, which took place near the entrance of the base, killed one U.S. service member and injured another. One U.S. civilian was also killed, and two more were wounded in the assault, a statement from the NATO-led coalition said. The gunman, which the Afghan Defense Ministry said was wearing an Afghan army uniform, was killed after international troops responded with gunfire. The Americans were at the depot as part of the NATO training mission for Afghan security forces.

Iran

ran said on Wednesday it would accept no US “interference” after Washington demanded the release of a dual national and his 80-year-old father given 10 year sentences for espionage. The State Department demanded the immediate release of Siamak and Baqher Namazi, both Iranian-American dual nationals, after their sentences were announced on Tuesday. But foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told Iranian media: “The government and the Iranian people give no importance to the statements and interference of American officials and their efforts to divide the ranks of the Iranian people. The American threats only add to the wall of mistrust Iranians have regarding the United States. Both were jailed for 10 years for “espionage and collaboration with the American government”, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi announced on Tuesday. Three other Iranian-American dual nationals — Farhad Abd-Saleh, Kamran Ghaderi and Alireza Omidvar — were also sentenced to 10 years on the same charges, along with a US resident from Lebanon, Nezar Zaka.

Somalia

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, reports the New York Times. Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993. American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. America’s role in Somalia has expanded as the Shabab have become bolder and more cunning. The group has attacked police headquarters, bombed seaside restaurants, killed Somali generals and stormed heavily fortified bases used by African Union troops. In January, Shabab fighters killed more than 100 Kenyan troops and drove off with their trucks and weapons. The group carried out the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall, which killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 175 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more. About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes. The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations. Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities. The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations, reports the New York Times.

Environment

A filthy brown sea, a slurry of mud, debris, chemicals and waste, has overtaken miles of rural counties in North Carolina. Hundreds of hog and poultry farms may have been inundated last week as the Neuse, Lumber and Tar rivers roared over their banks, a rampage powered by the deluge of Hurricane Matthew. The carcasses of several thousand drowned hogs and several million drowned chickens and turkeys were left behind. An incalculable amount of animal waste was carried toward the ocean. Along the way, it could be contaminating the groundwater for the many people who rely on wells in this part of the state, as well as threatening the delicate ecosystems of tidal estuaries and bays. The extent of the damage will not be known until the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality conducts tests in the coming weeks.

Wildfires

A fire sparked Monday morning in southern Colorado quickly grew out of control, forcing some residents to flee as homes reportedly burned. The so-called Junkins fire has claimed nearly 16,000 acres in Custer and Pueblo counties, according to an incident report. The fire grew rapidly due to windy conditions; just north of Custer County, in the town of Florence, winds gusted above 40 mph Monday morning. The wildfire in southern Colorado has destroyed five homes, and hundreds of people remain under evacuation orders, authorities said Tuesday. The fire has scorched more than 25 square miles,

A wildfire was burning out of control in western Nevada near Lake Tahoe and destroyed 22 homes, authorities said Saturday. No injuries have been reported. The Little Valley Fire has scorched at least 2,000 acres and was zero percent contained Friday, according to local officials. It also has destroyed more than a dozen outbuildings. Five-hundred structures remain threatened. Firefighters struggled with wind gusts that hit up to 87 mph.

Weather

A rare occurrence shook the West Coast Friday, when two confirmed tornadoes tore through Tillamook County, Oregon. One of the twisters lashed the town of Manzanita, Oregon, in the morning, leaving substantial damage in its wake. A second tornado was spotted in Oceanside. The storm damaged several buildings in town and took down trees, power lines around the city. Prior to Friday, there had been only 4 tornadoes on record since 1950 in Tillamook County. The last occurred on Sep. 18, 1997. Trees and power lines snapped Saturday as another powerful storm bearing the remnants of a Pacific typhoon hit the Northwest with a second punch. Tens of thousands of people were without power in Oregon and Washington on Saturday as the storm made landfall after gathering intensity off the coast. The National Weather Service said winds gusted above 50 mph in the Portland area.

Hurricane Nicole made a direct hit on Bermuda Thursday as the strongest hurricane to affect the Atlantic archipelago in 13 years. The storm pummeled the island, snapping trees, flooding homes and peeling off some roofs. “There has been significant flooding in areas around the island and some severe road damages,” said National Security Minister Jeff Baron. Nicole is expected to maintain its strengthen into Sunday before weakening once again. It will likely become a “post-tropical” cyclone by midweek. However, this system poses no direct threat to any additional land areas. Large swells generated from Nicole’s winds will continue to reach parts of the U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada over the next few days. These swells will create dangerous surf conditions and rip currents.

Typhoon Sarika slammed into the northeastern Philippines early local time Sunday, leaving at least three dead and some 15,000 displaced. The storm isolated villages with flooding, downed trees and knocked out power. The typhoon forced more than 15,700 villagers to flee their homes in five northern provinces and take refuge in 132 emergency shelters. The typhoon left more than 246,000 without power and telephone service in Catanduanes, the Philstar reports. More than 400 people had to be evacuated and sea and air travel was suspended as a safety precaution. The Philippines is now bracing for another onslaught from Super Typhoon Haima, which is expected to hit the country’s northern island of Luzon on Wednesday night local time with winds over 160 mph.

Flooding in Vietnam triggered by heavy rains over the weekend killed 24 people and left four others missing, disaster officials said Monday. Nearly 3 feet of rain fell in some areas on Friday and Saturday, submerging 125,000 homes in the region. The flooding temporarily disrupted the North-South Highway and damaged buildings, crops and fish farms. About 150,000 people have been displaced by the flooding.

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