Signs of the Times (3/11/17)

Pope Signals He’s Open to Married Catholic Men Becoming Priests

Pope Francis has said he is open to married men becoming priests to combat the Roman Catholic Church’s shortage of clergy. In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, Pope Francis said the lack of Catholic priests was an “enormous problem” for the Church, and indicated he would be open to a change in the rules governing eligibility for the priesthood. The option would allow men who are already married to be ordained as priests. But single men who are already priests would not be allowed to marry, according to the Pope. Protestant married priests who convert to Catholicism can continue to be married and be a Roman Catholic priest.

Kentucky Passes Religious Freedom Bill

The state of Kentucky has passed a bill to protect the right to religious expression in public schools. The impetus for the bill was due to a censorship issue that occurred around Christmastime. School officials censored the scene from the beloved “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in which the character Linus talks about the true meaning of Christmas. The state senate easily passed the religious freedom bill in a 31-3 vote. The bill also passed the House easily in a 81-8 vote. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Matt Bevin, who is known for his Christian faith. “Even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that schools can include the Bible and other religious stories and elements as part of the educational process, there was confusion in Kentucky over this play,” Sharp said. “And so what this law does is reaffirm what the Constitution says.”

Conservatives Revolt Against ObamaCare Repeal Bill

Congressional conservatives vowed Tuesday to introduce their own legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, escalating their fight against GOP leaders’ long-awaited health care overhaul bill just hours after it was released. Lawmakers from the right flank of the Republican Party railed against the new legislation, which key committees will address Wednesday. Signaling turbulence ahead for party leaders, the lawmakers said they’ll revive a 2015 repeal bill that already passed the Republican-controlled Congress. Republican congressional leaders joined with the Trump administration to defend the plan on the table as a positive starting point. On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee became the first panel to approve the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, nearly a full day after debate began.

Conservatives derided the new bill as Obamacare Lite, Obamacare 2.0 and even RyanCare. Conservatives pushed back on various aspects of the plan, including a new system of tax credits that would replace the existing subsidies; a short-term continuation of the Medicaid expansion; and a new surcharge insurance companies would be allowed to impose for coverage that lapses. They also said the wealthy would benefit because the bill would eliminate two surcharges on the those with incomes over $200,000 ($250,000 for couples) that are being levied to help pay for Obamacare subsidies and other provisions. The most glaring weakness of the GOP bill is that it will likely leave millions uninsured, critics said.

FBI Probes 300 Refugees in U.S. for Terrorism

“More than 300 people … who came here as refugees are under an FBI investigation today for potential terrorism-related activities,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week. A total of 1,000 counter-terrorism investigations involving ISIS or individuals inspired by the terror group are currently under way, congressional sources confirmed to Reuters. Sessions said the nations affected in the revised travel ban are state sponsors terrorism or safe havens for terrorists. Iran, he explained, “has been designated as a state sponsor of terror,” Libya “is an active combat zone, with hostilities between the internationally recognized government and its rivals,” Somalia has provided “safe havens” for terrorists, Sudan, too, is “a state sponsor of terrorism,” Syria likewise has held that designate since 1979, and Yemen “is the site of an ongoing conflict between the incumbent government and the Houthi-led opposition.”

Illegal Border Crossings Decrease by 40% in Trump’s First Month

The number of people illegally crossing the U.S. southern border has dropped 40 percent in President Trump’s first full month in office, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported that the number of illegal border crossings dropped from 31,578 to 18,762 persons. Kelly said border agents usually see a 10 to 20 percent increase in illegal immigrant apprehensions from January to February. Kelly said, “Since the administration’s implementation of executive orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years.”

New Health Care Act Would Dispense with Addiction Mandate

The Republican healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would strip away what advocates say is essential coverage for drug addiction treatment as the number of people dying from opiate overdoses is skyrocketing nationwide. Beginning in 2020, the plan would eliminate a requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services in states that expanded it, allowing them to decide whether to include those benefits in Medicaid plans. The proposal would also roll back the Medicaid expansion under the act which would affect many states bearing the brunt of the opiate crisis, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Insurance giant Anthem lent its support to parts of the Republican health care bill, but said changes must be made as soon as possible for the Obamacare market to survive.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban for Syrian Family

A federal judge on Friday blocked President Trump ‘s administration from enforcing his new travel ban against a Syrian family looking to escape their war-torn homeland by fleeing to Wisconsin. The ruling is the first by a judge since Trump issued a revised travel ban on Monday. The Syrian man filed a new complaint on Friday afternoon, alleging the new order is still an anti-Muslim ban that violates his freedom of religion and right to due process. U.S. District Judge William Conley said there were daily threats to the Syrian man’s wife and child that could cause “irreparable harm.” He issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement against the family. The order doesn’t block the entire travel ban. Legal challenges against the revised travel ban mounted Thursday as Washington state said it would renew its request to block the executive order. It came a day after Hawaii launched its own lawsuit,

DOJ to Send Out More Judges to Attack the Backlog

The Justice Department is reportedly sending 50 judges to immigration detention centers across the U.S. to hear more cases and cut down on the massive backlog of immigration cases. The court will be in session from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Judges will be asked to volunteer for one or two month deployments at detention centers. If the amount of volunteers is inadequate, the department would assign judges, Reuters reported. Immigration courts have a backlog of more than 550,000 cases, according to the Justice Department. The judges will be sent to detention centers in Adelanto, Calf., San Diego and Chicago

Fallout from Wikileaks CIA Hacking Dump Reverberates Worldwide

The fallout from WikiLeaks’ disclosure of alleged CIA hacking secrets stretched around the world Thursday, as Chinese officials accused the U.S. of “stealing secrets” and German prosecutors continued to investigate claims about a major American cyber-spying base in Frankfurt. While stateside investigators hunted the source of the leaks — a trove of more than 8,000 documents that WikiLeaks claims is the ‘entire hacking capacity of the CIA’ — foreign officials were examining what the release revealed about the CIA’s interests abroad. Routers produced by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE were named as devices targeted by CIA hackers, Reuters reported, prompting a rebuke from Beijing. Thousands of miles away, federal prosecutors in Germany were looking into WikiLeaks-derived allegations that the CIA operated a hacking hub out of the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. One of the more startling revelations divulged by WikiLeaks is an alleged CIA ability to turn Samsung smart televisions into microphones, technology the anti-secrecy website says was developed in tandem with Britain’s intelligence services. South Korea-based Samsung released a statement Wednesday saying it was “urgently looking into the matter.” FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that Americans should no longer have the expectations of complete privacy.

  • At this point, we have to assume that we are all being watched wherever we are. But that’s no big deal if we’re living righteously. Besides, God is watching us too, and He even knows our thoughts, so live right, trust in God and don’t worry about the rest.

 ‘Day Without a Woman’ Closes Some Schools

Several schools in at least four states were closed Wednesday so teachers can participate in “A Day Without a Woman” strike in which organizers are urging female workers to stay home. The gender equality demonstration, which comes on the same day as International Women’s Day, was organized prior to President Trump’s election. It was inspired by women’s protests in other countries. Critics say it is meant to denounce his presidency and bring politics into the classroom. The strike was created by the organizers of the historic Women’s March on Washington in January, which drew hundreds of thousands in protest of Trump. Among the groups supporting Wednesday’s demonstration are Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org and Amnesty International, according to the Women’s March website. President Donald Trump paid tweeted tribute to women on International Women’s Day Wednesday morning, saying, “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.”

Indiana School Show ‘Gender Expression’ Video without Parents’ Permission

Indiana parents are furious after eighth graders at Lincoln Junior High School were exposed to a classroom lesson on sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity issues – without being notified in advance by the school district. The 12-year-olds were required to watch a video titled, “LGBTQ: Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities.” They were also required to answer a questionnaire with all sorts of probing questions. Among the questions: 1. What is sexual orientation? 2. What is gender? 3. At what age do kids start being exposed to gender stereotypes? 4. What is an LGBTQ ally? 5. What is gender expression? 6. What is ‘coming out’? 7. Name at least three resources that you can use to support you if you come out? 9. What are two things you can do to show support of the LGBTQ community. Plymouth Schools Superintendent Dan Tyree defended the one-day lesson — and said they haven’t received a single complaint.

  • Children’s indoctrination centers (aka public schools) promote the religion of secular humanism in any way they can. Christian parents need to remove their children from the public school system.

Persecution Watch

The disturbing spate of bomb threats against Jewish centers and schools across the country is not letting up. A new wave of threats was just reported in Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The number of total reported threats? An astounding 140 since January, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In response, all 100 US senators have signed a letter urging President Trump to step up security at Jewish community centers, day schools and synagogues.

Seven Christians were killed in the North Sinai town of Al-Arish in just over a month — all targeted by Al Wilayat Sinai, a local affiliate of ISIS waging a low-level insurgency on the peninsula. Over 500 Christians from Al-Arish have arrived to the city of Ismailia, 200 km away, since the Hakims were attacked on February 21. The Coptic Orthodox Church said an unspecified number of families fled to other provinces across Egypt. It is unclear how many others are left behind. Egypt’s Christians make up 10% of the population.

Economic News

President Trump’s first full month was a big one for jobs, CNN reports. The U.S. economy added a robust 235,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7%. Unemployment peaked at 10% in 2009, after the financial crisis. Last year the economy averaged about 190,000 new jobs per month. The economy is showing other signs of strength: Consumer and business confidence is high and stocks are at record levels. Wage growth continued showing signs of progress after persisting at a sluggish pace for years until 2016. Wages grew a solid 2.8% in February compared with a year ago.

The largest job growth in February came in the construction industry, which added 58,000 jobs  — and 177,000 jobs in the last six months. Manufacturing added 28,000 jobs in February, for an increase of 57,000 jobs over the past three months. Solid job gains almost certainly clear the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week. Fed leaders like Chair Janet Yellen said a rate hike in March would be appropriate if the economy stayed on track, and it did.

The U.S. debt clock is actually spinning backwards since Donald Trump moved into the White House Jan. 20. On inauguration day, the debt stood at $19.947 trillion. Since then it has reversed by $68 billion, or 0.3 percent, for the first time in at least 10 years, reports WorldNetDaily.

Syria

U.S. Marines have arrived in northern Syria with artillery to support U.S.-backed local forces fighting there. Military commanders have discussed for weeks the possibility of putting artillery forces into the area, with the goal of accelerating the capabilities of the U.S.-backed Arab and Kurdish forces there. A similar deployment last year near Mosul, Iraq involved several hundred Marines equipped with artillery guns that fire shells to provide covering fire for advancing forces. The Marines deployed from ships in the Persian Gulf region. This is the second major expansion of U.S. ground forces in northern Syria in days. The U.S. had also deployed approximately 100 Army Rangers in and around Manbij, Syria.

Twin blasts Saturday near holy shrines frequented by Shiites in the Syrian capital Damascus killed at least 40 people and wounded 120, most of them Iraqis, according to Syrian and Iraqi officials. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Islamic State militants have carried out similar attacks before against Shiite shrines in the Syrian capital and elsewhere. Extremist Sunni groups, such as ISIS, view Shiites as apostates and consider shrines a form of idolatry.

Afghanistan

Gunmen wearing white lab coats stormed a military hospital in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens more in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. The attack on the 400-bed military hospital, which is located near two civilian hospitals in Kabul’s heavily-guarded diplomatic quarter, set off clashes with security forces that lasted several hours. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, says there were “more than 30 killed and more than 50 wounded” in the attack. Waziri said a suicide bomber had detonated his payload and another attacker was shot dead, and that one member of the security forces was killed and three wounded.

South Korea

In a historic ruling Friday, South Korea’s Constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil, worsened an already-serious national divide and led to calls for sweeping reforms. It was a stunning fall for Park, the daughter of a dictator who rode a lingering conservative nostalgia for her father to a big win in 2012, only to see her presidency descend into scandal. The unanimous ruling opens her up to possible criminal proceedings. Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed early from office since democracy came in the country in the late 1980s.

North Korea

Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, said the isolated nation of North Korea is closer than people realize to developing a nuclear missile that could cross the ocean and strike the U.S. North Korea has provoked the world by firing ballistic missiles in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution prohibiting the country from doing so. And those tests have sparked global fear that North Korea could soon attack foreign countries with nuclear weaponry. In a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Gary Samore, former Obama White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, testified on the global nuclear weapons environment. He called North Korea’s mission to achieve a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile the “most significant and the most immediate” of new nuclear threats.

Wildfires

Deadly wildfires burning across four Plains states have nearly doubled in size overnight Tuesday, jumping from 625 square miles to more than 1,000. High winds are helping to fan the blazes, which broke out on Monday and have forced thousands to evacuate and contributing to the deaths of six people. Parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle were the hardest hit by the wildfires In Kansas, wildfires have burned over 600,000 acres of land and killed one person. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said late Tuesday that the heaviest damage is in Clark County, where 548 square miles have burned. That fire started in Oklahoma before moving into the Kansas ranching community. In the Texas Panhandle, three fires have burned more than 195 square miles of land and killed at least four people. In Oklahoma, numerous residences and secondary structures were burned by a wildfire estimated to be 185,000 acres in size near Knowles and Gate. In northeastern Colorado, a fire has burned more than 45 square miles of land and destroyed three homes. Nearby residents were warned to be ready to evacuate if the fire advances toward them. The Kansas grass fires have killed thousands of cattle, devastating farming and ranching communities. Oklahoma continues to be ravaged by wildfires with 14 large ones (over 100 acres) currently burning, having already consumed over 755.000 acres.

Alligator Alley, a portion of Interstate 75 southwest Florida, remained shut down Wednesday due to smoky conditions from a large wildfire in Picayune Strand State Forest. Alligator Alley, a major east-west route acorss southern Florida, runs between Naples on the southwest coast and Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic Coast. At least two homes have been lost in eastern Collier County. Several nearby communities RV parks were evacuated. As the inferno grew, thick smoke clouds covered the area, pushing over the beach and into the Gulf of Mexico at times. The Lee Williams Road fire has burned at least 6,000 acres of land and was 30 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon. A portion of Interstate 75 in southwest Florida, was reopened Wednesday after smoky conditions from the large wildfire finally began to ease

Weather

There have been 37 reports of tornadoes with more than 450 reports of severe wind and hail, stretching from Oklahoma and Arkansas northward into Minnesota and Wisconsin earlier this week. As of early Wednesday morning, 28 tornadoes have been confirmed but surveys continue. A dozen injuries were reported in Oak Grove, Missouri, after an EF3 tornado touched down and tracked nearly 12 miles at ground level. In Trimble, Missouri, multiple homes were damaged by an EF2 tornado. Significant damage occurred north of the Kansas City metro area Monday evening near Trimble, Plattsburg and Lathrop in Missouri from an EF2 tornado with estimated winds around 132 mph. Six EF1 tornadoes were also confirmed in Missouri. Farther north in Minnesota, hail up to 4 inches in diameter was measured in the town of Cokato from the same storm system. Many cities ravaged by tornadoes in the Midwest recently will be covered in snow by this weekend or early next week.

High winds across parts of the Great Lakes prevented firefighters from fighting a blaze that left at least five people dead in Michigan on Wednesday. The strong gusts, which reached more than 80 mph in some areas, also knocked down trees and power lines throughout the region, interruped traffic and caused massive power outages. The blaze consumed an eight-unit apartment building in Detroit, Michigan which was home to males overcoming substance abuse and mental issues. Also in the Detroit area, more than 400,000 DTE Energy customers lost power by mid Wednesday afternoon. “We’re having the most severe high wind event I can remember in my 50 years in Michigan today, with sustained winds of 40-plus mph at multiple locations, and some gusts over 60 mph,” said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for wunderground.com.

Tropical Cyclone Enawo made landfall March 7 in Madagascar in what turned out to be the island’s strongest landfall in 13 years. Just prior to landfall at 11 a.m. local time March 7, the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. Three people were killed by Enawo. Damage caused by the cyclone also left 500 people homeless. More than a foot of rain drenched the town of Sambava near where the center of Enawo moved inland.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: