Signs of the Times (11/25/16)

Town Renames Good Friday to be Culturally Sensitive

“Whenever you hear a liberal talking about cultural diversity and sensitivity it normally means something insensitive is about to happen to Christians,” writes Todd Starnes of Fox News. The latest case in point: Bloomington, Indiana – the home of Indiana University. Mayor John Hamilton recently announced that are renaming two paid holidays for city workers — in an effort to respect “differing cultures.” Columbus Day will henceforth be known as “Fall Holiday” and Good Friday will be known as “Spring Holiday.” Mayor John Hamilton told Fox 59 the name change will “better reflect cultural sensitivity in the workplace.” “It was not necessary and just stands to divide rather than unite when it comes to Good Friday,” the Herald Times noted in a staff editorial.

Electors Revolting & Threatened as Demands for a Recount Rise

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is now nearing 2 million votes, with many calling for a recount in several states. As of Wednesday afternoon, Clinton leads Trump by 1.82 million votes, 63,964,956 to 62,139,188 (a difference of 1%).  Clinton lost the Electoral College solidly, and the climbing popular vote spread doesn’t change anything about who will hold power in Washington. Green Party nominee Jill Stein launched a bid Wednesday to seek a vote recount in three key Rust Belt states as pressure builds among liberals to challenge election results. The Stein campaign said it needed to raise over $2 million by Friday to pay for recounts. That goal was reached by early Thursday morning, and the campaign has now increased the target to $4.5 million.

The New York Daily News is reporting that six electors, from states in which Donald Trump won the majority of the vote, have pledged to cast their votes against Trump.  Some of these same electors are trying to encourage their counterparts to do the same. However, the chances that something like this could ‘unseat’ Trump are still slim. With 270 electoral votes needed to win, Donald Trump’s 290 electoral votes gave him a good margin of victory.  And the state of Michigan has not yet awarded their 16 electoral votes, and still remains too close to call, although Trump is in the lead. If Trump fails to win Michigan — an unlikely outcome, as he leads Clinton by more than 11,000 votes — Clinton would still need at least 22 electors to disregard their states’ popular vote and pick her over Trump. Alternatively, Trump could be prevented from winning the Electoral College if he — in addition to losing Michigan — saw at least 21 electors abstain from voting altogether.

Texas electors are not bound by law to vote for Trump. They’ve signed an affidavit with their Party saying they would vote the way the state’s people voted, but legally, they’re allowed to vote however they want. Texas doesn’t have a law against faithless electors, because they’ve never had a problem with electors not voting with the will of the people. Some Democrats are desperately trying to get electors to vote for Hillary. Electoral College members have been deluged with death threats from embittered Democrats who want electors to break ranks, reports Constitution.com. One Texas elector is receiving a myriad of messages threatening death or physical harm if he doesn’t vote the “right” way. “At first everyone was kind of enchanted by it. Now all the electors are starting to get beaten down. There are some electors who have been threatened with harm or with death,” elector Alex Kim told NBC5.

U.S. Jews Persecuted More than Muslims

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: Hate Crime Statistics, 2014, there were 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. in 2014. Of the 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes, 57 percent of the victims were Jewish. That amounts to approximately 648 instances where Jewish individuals, businesses or institutions were targeted. About 16% of the crimes showed anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias, amounting to approximately 184 instances where Muslim individuals, businesses or institutions were targeted. The results in 2015 were much the same as in 2014. In 2015 the number of anti-religious hate crimes rose from 1,140 in 2014 to 1,402 and 52% of the hate crimes were committed against Jews, with 22% showing anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias with 13% anti-Christian. The anti-Muslim proportion was higher, but still well less than half of the anti-Jewish hate crimes.

Nick Cannon: Abortion and Planned Parenthood Inflict “Genocide” on Black Americans

Nick Cannon – rap artist, comedian, and host of America’s Got Talent – is a name familiar to many pro-life people. His 2005 video told about the amazing story of how he was almost aborted before birth, but then his teenage mother chose life at the last moment. Now Cannon says the Planned Parenthood abortion business is perpetrating a genocide against black people because it targets black communities with abortion clinics. Cannon raised concerns recently about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s ties to Planned Parenthood, calling their work a “real genocide” on the black community. Iit’s real genocide, and it’s been like that for years,” Cannon said during an interview with New York City’s “The Breakfast Club”. “I come from a long line of community leaders and I’ve always thought that to who much is given, you’re responsible for that, much is required,” he said, referring to Luke 12:48. “So I use my platform to tell the truth at the end of the day.”

Trump Denounces Alt-Right

President-elect Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he did anything to “energize” the alt-right movement through his presidential campaign and sought to distance himself from it, even though many of the movement’s leaders have sought to tether their political views to Trump’s rise. “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump told a group of New York Times reporters and columnists during a meeting at the newspaper’s headquarters in New York. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why,” he added. Trump denounced the alt-right, a far-right political movement that is rife with white nationalist, anti-Semitic and racist ideologies.

Trump Softens Stance on Climate Change

President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity. The statement marks a softening in Trump’s position on U.S. involvement in efforts to fight climate change, although he did not commit to specific action in any direction. During the campaign, he vowed to “cancel” the US’s participation in the Paris climate agreement and stop all US payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change. “I think there is some connectivity… It depends on how much,” Trump said Tuesday in a meeting with New York Times reporters, columnists and editors. He has previously called climate change a “hoax” invented by the Chinese.

  • Whether caused by human activity or not, climate change is an end-time phenomenon (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Trump Appoints Two Pro-Life Women

President-elect Donald Trump has named another pro-life advocate to a key position involving pro-life policies. After selecting pro-life Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general, Trump has named pro-life Governor Nikki Haley as his United Nations ambassador. Haley has a long record of supporting pro-life legislation and signing it as governor of the state of South Carolina. The United Nations appointment is important as pro-abortion nations are pushing the United Nations to make abortion a so-called human right. Previously, the Obama administration had joined those other nations to push abortion on an international level. As UN Ambassador, Governor Haley could help stop that effort and work to ensure that unborn children are respected in that International body. President-elect Donald Trump also named another pro-life advocate to his cabinet. He has chosen Michigan school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos as his education secretary. DeVos was the chair of the Michigan Republican Party and finance chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation are strong supporters of pro-life organizations like Michigan’s Foundation for Traditional Values and Right to Life of Michigan. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Ben Carson is mulling over an offer from Trump to be Secretary of HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).

Trump Foundation Admits Violating Ban on ‘Self-Dealing’

President-elect Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has admitted to the Internal Revenue Service that it violated a legal prohibition against “self-dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families, reports the Washington Post. The admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. In one section of the form, the IRS asked whether the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump — the foundation’s president — or a member of his family or a Trump-owned business. The foundation checked yes. Another line on the form asked whether the Trump Foundation had engaged in any acts of self-dealing in prior years. The Trump Foundation checked yes again. Such violations can carry penalties including excise taxes, and the charity leaders can be required to repay money that the charity spent on their behalf. During the presidential campaign, The Post reported on several instances in which Trump appeared to use the Trump Foundation’s money to buy items for himself or to help one of his for-profit businesses.

U.S. Issues Europe Travel Alert

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Monday urging U.S. nationals to exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets in Europe in the coming weeks, a day after French security services thwarted an ISIS-linked plot. French authorities arrested seven people after anti-terror raids in Strasbourg and Marseilles on Sunday. The eight-month-long investigation foiled a “new terrorist attack that had been planned for a long time on our soil,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said during a news conference in Paris. Strasbourg is home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe, with 2 million people expected to visit after it opens Friday. French media reported the market was a potential target of the cell. In 2000, the Strasbourg Christmas market was the target of a thwarted plot by al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

Federal Judge Issues Injunction Against Obama Labor Regulation

The Obama administration received a crushing blow on Tuesday after a Texas federal judge issued a nationwide injunction against one of the president’s top regulatory initiatives enacted by the Labor Department. Texas U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama appointee, ruled that implementation of the controversial overtime regulation is to be postponed immediately, despite rapidly approaching deadlines. The regulation – which sought to expand mandated overtime requirements for salaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually, up from $23,660 – was set to begin on December 1. A preliminary injunction preserves the status quo while the Court determines the department’s authority to make the Final Rule as well as the Final Rule’s validity. Twenty-one state attorney generals and dozens of business groups fought the overtime rule, contending the act itself was illegal with cost increases that would hurt employers. Judge Mazzant further noted that he’s not the first judge to file an injunction against an Obama administration executive initiative, citing a Fort Worth, Texas judge’s decision to block an Education Department rule back in August.

Dakota Pipeline Protests Turn Violent

A New York woman seriously hurt protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline faces multiple surgeries and could lose an arm. Protesters and law enforcement gave conflicting accounts about what might have caused the explosion that injured her. Sophia Wilansky, 21, was listed in serious condition and was undergoing surgery at a Minneapolis hospital. Wilansky’s father said his daughter was hurt when law enforcement threw a grenade. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office maintains authorities did not use concussion grenades or any devices that produce a flash or bang during a clash late Sunday and early Monday near the camp along the pipeline route in southern North Dakota where protesters have gathered for months. The sheriff’s office suggested in a statement Monday that an explosion heard during the skirmish might have been caused by small propane tanks that authorities said protesters had rigged to explode.

Economic News

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says in a new report that the poor — who were hit hard by the financial crisis — have been left behind in the global recovery. The group found that the bottom 10% of earners in developed countries saw their real incomes fall by 16.2% between 2007 and 2010. The incomes of the top 10% fell by only 4.6% over the same period. The recovery has also produced unequal results. Between 2010 and 2014, the incomes of the bottom 10% have risen by only 1.6% compared to the 5.2% growth rate enjoyed by the highest earners. The end result is more income inequality. The wages earned by the top 10% had recovered to pre-crisis levels by 2014, while the poorest earned 14% less than they did before the crisis.

Mortgage rates have pushed past 4% for the first time this year. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.03%., from 3.94% last week. Rates have been moving higher since Donald Trump was elected president. The interest rate on the U.S. government’s 10-year Treasury note has climbed to 2.38% on Wednesday from 1.85% on Election Day. Treasury notes serve as a benchmark for various types of credit, including mortgages. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet in December and is expected to increase the federal funds rate, which is the short-term interest rate it uses to lend money to financial institutions.

Europe

Donald Trump’s surprising election victory in the U.S. should have come as no surprise to Europe. Across the continent, parties of the center-left that have dominated politics for decades — and that have given Europe its reputation for generous social welfare systems — now find themselves beaten, divided and directionless. Hillary Clinton and U.S. Democrats are just the latest members of a beleaguered club. In Germany and Britain, once-mighty center-left parties have been badly diminished, locked out of their nations’ top jobs for the foreseeable future. In Spain and Greece, they have been usurped by newer, more radical alternatives. And in France and Italy, they’re still governing — but their days in power may be numbered. The rout of the center-left has even extended deep into Scandinavia, perhaps the world’s premier bastion of social democracy. Overall, the total vote share for the continent’s traditional center-left parties is now at its lowest level since at least World War II.

Russia

The flood of so-called “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation. Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia, reported the Washington Post (itself strongly biased against Trump).

France

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins says that five men arrested recently in two French cities were planning a terror attack in France as early as next week, and that they were receiving their orders from an Islamic State group member based in Iraq or Syria. Molins spoke to reporters Friday, the day after anti-terrorism authorities took the unusual step of holding the men in custody without charge beyond the normal maximum period, relying on a recent anti-terrorism measure. The five were arrested in Strasbourg and Marseille.

Israel

Dry weather and heavy winds are fueling the spread of a large wildfire in northern Israel that has forced thousands to evacuate. At least eight neighborhoods in the city of Haifa had been evacuated by early Thursday afternoon. Over 60,000 people have been evacuated, the Jerusalem Post reports. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested assistance from Greece, Croatia and Russia in battling a rash of wildfires across the country which started earlier this week and have rapidly spread. Fire officials suspect that many of the fires were deliberately set (terrorism), while others appeared to be accidental. Several homes and businesses had been destroyed and thousands of residents remained evacuated Thursday as weather forecasts called for more winds and little hope of rain to assist the firefighters. A wildfire roared through parts of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes as the country’s leaders raised the possibility that Arab assailants had intentionally set the blaze. By Friday, 12 people had been detained in connection to the fires. “Every fire that was the result of arson or incitement to arson is terror in every way and we’ll treat it as such. Anyone who tries to burn parts of the State of Israel will be severely punished,” Netanyahu stated.

Islamic State

When the Islamic State seized control of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014, they gave Christians, as “People of the Book”, four options: leave, convert to Islam, pay a protection tax or be killed. The vast majority fled – an estimated 120,000 in a few short weeks that summer. But those left behind were subjected to torture, forced conversion, sexual slavery and even crucifixion, according to testimonies collected from Iraqi refugees in Jordan by the religious freedom charity ADF International. While Iraqi and Kurdish forces and militias, with U.S. and U.K. air support, are embroiled in the push to liberate Mosul from ISIS, many Christians from the city and its surrounding villages are too traumatized by their experiences to countenance returning. Some say they feel betrayed by neighbors who supported ISIS, and are no longer sure whom they can trust. Instead, many have applied for asylum in Western countries such as Sweden, Canada and Australia.

Uganda

Uganda’s High Court has described the Bridge International Academies (BIA) — which is funded by the likes of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — as unsanitary and unqualified, and has ordered it to close its doors in December because it ignored Uganda’s national standards and put the “life and safety” of its 12,000 young students on the line. The Director of Education Standards for the Ministry, Huzaifa Mutazindwa, told CNN that the nursery and primary schools were not licensed, the teachers weren’t qualified and that there was no record of its curriculum being approved. “The Ministry does not know what is being taught in these schools which is a point of concern to (the) government,” Mutazindwa said. The low-cost education provider, which has 63 campuses across Uganda, is allowed to remain open until December 8 to allow students to sit for exams and finish third term. BIA — which runs more than 400 nursery and primary schools across Africa — has continuously denied the allegations that have been made by the government. BIA suggested that the opposition against BIA was because the campuses competed against local state-run and private schools.

Mexico

Investigators have found 32 bodies and nine human heads in clandestine graves in a municipality in southern Mexico where rival drug gangs have been engaged in a wave of extortion, kidnappings and turf battles, authorities said Thursday. Soldiers and police found the graves on Tuesday at an outlaw camp in Guerrero state after receiving a tip that people were being held at the site located near a mountain in the municipality of Zitlala. They said they rescued a kidnap victim and discovered 12 bodies and human remains in coolers. On Thursday, officials announced that further excavations of the site had found the additional human remains. Residents of the community of Tixtla, Guerrero found nine decapitated bodies on Monday along a highway. Guerrero has seen an upsurge in gang-related violence.

Earthquakes

Residents living in and around Usulutá, El Salvador were shaken by a major earthquake in the afternoon hours on Thursday. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 6.4 miles below ground at 12:45 p.m. local time. The earthquake struck approximately 100 miles from Usulutá – a city in El Salvador with a population of roughly 72,000. Civil Protection authorities in El Salvador tweeted at 1:10 p.m. local time that no damage had been reported as a result of the earthquake.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan on Tuesday, injuring several while also generating 4.6-foot tsunami waves that hit the coast. The temblor struck at 5:59 a.m. local time Tuesday morning (3:59 p.m. EST) 23 miles east-southeast of Namie, Japan, at a depth of 7 miles. Several strong aftershocks, including at least three with a magnitude greater than 5 were reported in the wake of the 6.9 quake. At least 14 people were injured by the quake, some with broken bones, the Associated Press reported, but otherwise widespread damage was averted. The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which leaked radiation after the 2011 Japanese quake, reported no issues or damage.

Weather

Central America may have mostly dodged a Thanksgiving day bullet, as Hurricane Otto, now a tropical storm again, passed over Nicaragua and Coast Rica with minimal damage and is now headed out into the Pacific. Nearly 15,000 people were evacuated from Nicaragua and Costa Rica ahead of the hurricane. Tropical Storm Otto is now in the eastern Pacific Ocean pulling away from Nicaragua and Costa Rica after a historically late-in-season hurricane landfall on Thanksgiving Day near the town of San Juan de Nicaragua in southern Nicaragua. Maximum sustained winds were 110 mph at landfall, making Otto a Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Otto was the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record this late in the year. Otto’s landfall in Nicaragua was the latest in a calendar year that a hurricane has made landfall in that country. It’s also the farthest south a hurricane has made landfall on record in Central America. Otto is now over 100 miles west of the Costa Rica Pacific coast, as of Friday morning. Earlier, three deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Otto in Panama as the storm moved toward Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Civil defense officials in Panama said Tuesday that two people died in landslides and a child was killed when a tree collapsed on top of a car outside a school in Panama City. The landslide occurred just west of Panama City and trapped nine people. Seven people were rescued. Costa Rica ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from its Caribbean coast ahead of the storm.

 

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