Posts Tagged ‘gns’

Signs of the Times (1/2/16)

January 2, 2016

Founder of Pro-Abortion Feminist Group Becomes Pro-Life

In October, a violent mob of Femen abortion activists attempted to desecrate an Argentine cathedral and threw stones and bottles at Catholics praying the rosary in front of the church. Feminists from Femen also showed their hostility by hurling objects at Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela as he attempted to enter a local Catholic Church before Mass in Spain. But now, the founder of the Brazilian chapter of Femen has become pro-life and is apologizing for her actions, reports lifenews.com. Sara Fernanda Giromin Winter is reportedly upset with how the feminist movement “uses women as objects” and “covers up pedophilia in its ranks.” While Sara’s own religious beliefs are not clear, she did apologize to Christians and referred to feminism as “a religious sect.” Winter is now pro-life. Sara aborted her first child, but gave birth to her second, a son. It was he who helped her change her attitude on abortion. In October she repented and asked for forgiveness. She also implored “women who are desperate to abort” to “think carefully about it.” Sara was “very sorry I did it” and said “I don’t want the same for you.”

Obama to Announce New Executive Action on Guns

President Barack Obama is expected to announce in the coming days a new executive action with the goal of expanding background checks on gun sales, people familiar with White House planning said. Described as “imminent,” the set of executive actions would fulfill a promise by the President to take further unilateral steps the White House says could help curb gun deaths. Plans for the action are not yet complete, and those familiar with the process warn that unforeseen circumstances could delay an announcement. But gun control advocates are expecting the new actions to be revealed next week, ahead of Obama’s annual State of the Union address, set for January 12. The National Rifle Association said that Obama’s “gun control agenda was rejected by Congress. Now, he is doing what he always does when he doesn’t get his way, defying the will of the people and using executive action.”

New California Law Allows Seizure of Guns Without Notification

Gun-safety legislation going into effect in California on January 1st will allow authorities to seize a person’s weapons for 21 days if a judge determines there’s potential for violence. The new law provides family members with a means of having an emergency “gun violence restraining order” imposed against a loved one if they can convince a judge that allowing that person to possess a firearm “poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself or another by having in his or her custody or control,” reports the Washington Times “The law gives us a vehicle to cause the person to surrender their weapons, to have a time out, if you will,” Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michael Moore told a local NPR affiliate. “It allows further examination of the person’s mental state.” “It’s a short duration and it allows for due process,” he continued, adding: “It’s an opportunity for mental health professionals to provide an analysis of a person’s mental state.”

190 Muslim Workers Fired over Prayer Dispute in Colorado

About 190 workers, most of them immigrants from Somalia, have been fired from a Colorado meat packing plant after walking off the job during a dispute over workplace prayer. The workers walked off their jobs at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan. Jaylani Hussein with the Council on American-Islamic Relations says that depending on the season, the Muslim workers prayed at different times of the day. The workers say that earlier in the month, the plant’s policy towards allowing them to pray on the job was changed, which made some of them unable to pray at all. Cargill said their attendance and religious accommodation policy had not changed. “While reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day,” the company said. “Prayer is the first priority to every Muslim. We can sustain without a job, but we cannot sustain without prayer,” according to Khader Ducal, who is assisting the Somali workers file for unemployment.

Jihadists Collaborating in North Africa

Many of the extremist groups in North Africa are affiliates of Al Qaeda, which has had roots in North Africa since the 1990s. With the recent introduction of Islamic State franchises, the jihadist push has been marked by increasing, sometimes heated, competition. However, analysts and military officials say, there is also deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money, reports the New York Times. Their threat has grown as Libya which has become a hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa. As Africa’s jihadists come under the wing of distant and more powerful patrons, officials fear that the reach of the Islamic State will further expand.

Terrorism Update

An ex-convict seeking to prove he was worthy of joining the Islamic State terror group planned to carry out a New Year’s Eve attack at an upstate New York bar using a machete and knives provided by an FBI informant, federal authorities announced Thursday. Emanuel Lutchman, 25, of Rochester, was charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists, prosecutors said. Officials said he was caught in an FBI sting involving three paid informants. Lutchman is a self-professed convert to Islam who claimed to receive direction from an overseas ISIS member. Lutchman was arrested Wednesday.

Police in Turkey detained two suspected Islamic State extremists thought to have been planning suicide bombings during New Year celebrations in the country’s capital of Ankara Wednesday. The state-run Anadolu Agency said the two Turkish nationals were detained during a raid on a house in Ankara. The news agency said police seized suicide vests and that the suspects planned to detonate the vests at two locations. Police in Germany said Friday a New Year’s Eve terror alert that closed two busy Munich train stations was prompted by the threat of suicide attacks linked to ISIS. The stations were evacuated on Thursday evening and service stopped for around eight hours.

A 10th person arrested in connection with the terror attacks in Paris last month was charged on Thursday with terrorist murder and participation in activities of a terrorist group. The Belgian national identified only as Ayoub B., who was born in 1993, was detained Wednesday after police searched an address in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, where several of the attackers in the Nov. 13 assaults lived. The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said that no weapons or explosives were found in Wednesday’s raid, but around 10 cellphones were seized. Officials in Brussels on Wednesday canceled their annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display due to fears of a terrorist attack.

Migrant Update

After taking in more asylum seekers per capita than any other nation in Europe, Sweden’s welcome mat now lies in tatters. Overwhelmed by the human tide of 2015, the center-left government is deploying extraordinary new border controls and slashing benefits in an unmistakable signal to refugees contemplating the long trek to Sweden in the new year: Stay out. “We’re willing to do more than anyone else,” said Swedish Migration Minister Morgan Johansson. “But even we have our limits. Those limits can be readily seen in a tent camp where dozens of migrants are bedding down in the frigid Nordic winter and at the train station where many new arrivals are turned back within minutes of setting foot on Swedish soil, reports the Washington Post. In 2015 Sweden received 155,985 applications for asylum, up from around 10,000 in 2014. The country’s dramatic shift threatens to wreak havoc all the way down Europe’s migrant trail in 2016

Microbead ban signed by President Obama

President Obama has signed a bipartisan bill that prohibits selling and distributing products containing microbeads. The bill is intended to protect the nation’s waterways. A microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters and is used for the purpose of exfoliating or cleansing. These tiny plastic beads have become ubiquitous in hundreds of products ranging from body scrubs to toothpastes. They provide an exfoliating sensation for users and are designed to wash down drains. But because they are made of plastic, microbeads do not dissolve and may pose a threat to the environment. Microbeads have contributed to a greater increase in microplastic polluting the planet’s oceans and lakes, researchers say.

Economic News

U.S. markets finished 2015 mostly in the red: The Dow was down 2.2%. The S&P 500 ended the year down 0.7%. It was the worst year for those two indexes since markets collapsed in 2008. The Nasdaq finished 2015 up 5.7%. However, it had double digit gains in the three years prior. Volatility thrashed investors left and right in 2015. The three big concerns this year were falling oil prices, China’s economic slowdown and the seemingly never ending speculation about when the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates. Greece’s debt crisis, the European Central Bank’s stimulus plan and fears of a broader slowdown in emerging markets kept investors on their toes too.

More Americans requested unemployment benefits last week, but the level remains near historic lows. The Labor Department said applications for jobless aid jumped 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000. The less volatile 4-week average climbed 4,500 to 277,000. Despite the increase, jobless claims have stayed below the key level of 300,000 for nearly 10 months. Any figure lower than that threshold typically corresponds with monthly job gains in excess of 200,000.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude inventories rose by 2.6 million barrels last week. That was a lot worse reading than expected. Analysts had predicted crude stockpiles would decline. “At 487.4 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories remain near levels not seen for this time of year in at least the last 80 years,” the agency said in a statement. The global oil glut is rising, as OPEC countries keep pumping record levels of oil in order to defend their market share. Slowing demand from China and other countries and abnormally warm temperatures in the eastern U.S. are making the situation even worse. U.S. oil producers are suffering. Their production costs are higher than those of producers in the Middle East, and they are getting squeezed by the collapsing prices.

The low oil prices are good news for consumers taking advantage of cheap gasoline. Consumers reaped a windfall from cheap gasoline in 2015. And that’s likely to continue in 2016, due to a global crude oil glut that’s expected to ease only marginally. Unleaded regular gas averaged $2.40 a gallon this year, about 94 cents less than in 2014 and the lowest since 2009, AAA said Thursday. Each driver saved an average $550 in fuel costs compared to 2014, a bonanza that helped power increased consumer spending. On Thursday, the national average was $2 a gallon, the lowest on New Year’s Eve since 2008, according to AAA.

Single-family house prices in nearly 40% of 401 metro areas were at or above their pre-recession peak in the third quarter, according to an analysis of CoreLogic Case-Shiller home-price data by Moody’s Analytics. Moody’s projects nearly half of the regions will be at or above that milestone at the end of 2016. Nationally, home prices are still about 12% below peak – up from a nearly 30% deficit in early 2012. Areas that are already 15% to nearly 50% above their pre-recession pinnacles include Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Bismarck, N.D.

Middle East

Two people died Friday and at least seven were injured when a masked gunman dressed in black opened fire in a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel, police said. The motive behind the shooting wasn’t immediately clear. The shooter remains at large. The police are investigating if the shooting was criminal or terrorist. The shooting follows more than three months of lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

Islamic State

Along the vast, zigzagging perimeter of the Islamic State’s self-styled state, the militants are steadily being pushed back as the forces­ ranged against them gain in strength, reports the Washington Post. A war seen by the United States as primarily aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks in America is being prosecuted for very different reasons by the diverse assortment of Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni fighters battling in both Iraq and Syria, often in pursuit of competing agendas. In northern Iraq and Syria, Kurds are busily carving out the borders to new Kurdish enclaves. Shiite militias, now the most powerful force in Iraq, are extending their reach deep into traditionally Sunni areas of northern Iraq. The Syrian government is focusing its energies on reclaiming land seized by its opponents during the five-year-old rebellion against it, while deeply divided Syrian rebels in turn are fighting a two-front war to hold their ground against both the government and the Islamic State.

  • What a mess.

Iraq

After retaking most of the key city of Ramadi from ISIS militants, Iraqi leaders say they are setting their sights on an even bigger prize: Mosul Iraqi forces have driven ISIS jihadists out of the heart of Ramadi, which the Sunni extremist group seized in May. Significant pockets of ISIS resistance remain in Ramadi, still controlling as much as 25% of it as of Tuesday, local tribal leaders said. The Iraqis say roughly 1,000 families remain trapped in Ramadi’s eastern districts, some of which is still controlled by ISIS. The government believes they are being used as human shields. But that didn’t stop Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi from visiting the shattered city and raising the national flag. Next year “will be the year we drive ISIS out of Iraq,” he declared.

Iran

The United States on Wednesday accused Iran of carrying out rocket tests near American warships and commercial traffic in the Strait of Hormuz last week. The accusation raises new tensions between the two nations following a landmark nuclear deal to limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval vessels fired “several unguided rockets” about 1,500 yards from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, the USS Bulkeley destroyer and the FS Provence, a French frigate, on Saturday. Commercial sea traffic was nearby at the time, but the missiles weren’t fired in the direction of any ships. Much of the oil from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait passes through the narrow strait, which runs between Iran and Oman, connecting the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world.

Pakistan

At least 26 people were killed in a blast Tuesday in the northern Pakistani city of Mardan, police said. Several other people were injured in the attack. The explosion took place at the city’s National Database and Registration Authority offices — where Pakistanis get ID cards and passports. Police believe a suicide bomber drove his motorcycle into the office building. Shortly afterward, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban — the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan Jamaat ul Ahrar — claimed responsibility.

Saudi Arabia

— Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday it had executed 47 prisoners convicted of terrorism charges, including al-Qaida detainees and a prominent Shiite cleric who rallied protests against the government. The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is expected to deepen discontent among Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority and heighten sectarian tensions across the region. Meanwhile, the execution of al-Qaida militants convicted over deadly bombings and shootings in Saudi Arabia raised concerns over revenge attacks. Islamic scholars around the world hold vastly different views on the application of the death penalty in Islamic Shariah law. Saudi judges adhere to one of the strictest interpretations, a Sunni Muslim ideology referred to as Wahhabism.

Environment

Smog-choked residents of New Delhi welcomed the new year on Friday by largely complying with dramatic new driving restrictions designed to pull millions of cars off the roads and improve air quality. The temporary measures allow private vehicles to operate only on alternate days. Additional traffic cops were deployed to ensure only cars with odd-numbered license plates were on the roads Friday. Violators face a 2000 rupee ($30) fine if caught. Vehicles with even-numbered plates will be allowed to operate on Saturday. The World Health Organization released data on air quality levels in 1,600 cities around the world, and Delhi was found to have the highest concentration of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, also called PM2.5.

India’s capital city, which is home to more than 20 million people, averaged PM2.5 readings of 153, compared to 14 in New York and 20 in Los Angeles. Beijing, which receives the bulk of bad-smog headlines, clocked in at 53. PM2.5 particles are exceedingly small, but go deep into the lungs and cause chronic health problems. Scientists say coal-fired power plants, vehicles, construction dust, crop burning and cooking fuel use all contribute to high pollution levels in Delhi.

Earthquakes

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake centered north of Oklahoma City hit Friday morning, the latest in a series of quakes that’s prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators. The quake occurred at 5:39 a.m. in an area 3 miles northeast of Edmond and 16 miles north-northeast of Oklahoma City. There were no immediate reports of injury or damage. Oklahoma has become one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, with the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 or greater skyrocketing from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 800 in 2015. Many of the earthquakes are occurring in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater — a byproduct of oil and gas production — into the earth.

Weather

The next series of storms to impact the West Coast will be a bit different than what the region has experienced in recent months. This go around, even Southern California can expect a decent helping of much-needed rain. For parts of the Cascades, Siskiyous and Sierra, as well as parts of the Four Corners and Desert Southwest, expect hefty amounts of snow to pile up into the coming week. Dairy producers in Texas and New Mexico have estimated that the number of animals that died during the recent Winter Storm Goliath will climb to more than 30,000. Winds created drifts as high as 14 feet and pushed animals into fenced corners where they suffocated, according to The Associated Press.

December’s record-shattering mild spell, which peaked during Christmas Week, is finally coming to an end as more seasonable air occupies the eastern half of the U.S. to start 2016. More than 2,000 record daily highs and more than 2,000 record-warm daily lows were tied or broken during the final nine days of 2015, beginning Dec. 23. As a result, most areas east of the Rockies did not have a white Christmas. Savannah, Georgia, tied its daily record high of 80 on Dec. 31st. Key West also set a record high temperature for New Year’s Eve by reaching 84 degrees. Tampa had an eighth consecutive day of record heat with a record-tying high of 83.

Record flooding along some tributaries after torrential post-Christmas weekend rain has sent the Mississippi River to levels not seen since the Great Flood of 1993, and that excess water will continue to flow downstream triggering flooding in the Lower Mississippi Valley into mid-late January. At Cape Girardeau, Missouri, about 115 miles south-southeast of St. Louis, the Mississippi River has risen above the previous record flood crest there from the Great Flood of 1993, with a broad crest this weekend potentially rising to over a foot above that August 8, 1993 crest. Floodwaters all over Missouri, southern Illinois, eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, have already pushed thousands of residents from their homes, leaving at least 20 dead, affecting about 17 million residents. “This is probably one of the earliest we’ve seen flooding on the Mississippi River,” said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi.

From the top of the world to near the bottom, freakish and unprecedented weather has sent temperatures soaring across the Arctic, whipped the United Kingdom with hurricane-force winds and spawned massive flooding in South America, reports the New York Times. The same storm that slammed the southern United States with deadly tornadoes and swamped the Midwest, causing even greater loss of life, continued on to the Arctic. Sub-tropical air pulled there is now sitting over Iceland, and at what should be a deeply sub-zero North Pole, temperatures on Wednesday appeared to reach the melting point — more than 50 degrees above normal in some locations. Residents of Iceland braced for conditions to grow much worse as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded blasts through the North Atlantic. This rare “bomb cyclone” arrived with sudden winds of 70 miles per hour and waves that lashed the coast. Thousands of miles south, in the center of Latin America, downpours fueled by the Pacific Ocean’s giant El Niño pattern have drenched regions of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In what’s described as the worst flooding in a half-century, more than 160,000 people have fled their homes. 2015 is set to go down as the warmest year in recorded history (from the late 1800s).

 

Signs of the Times (8/31/13)

August 31, 2013

Public Wants Obama to Clear Syria Military Plans with Congress

Nearly 80% of Americans think President Obama should seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Syria, according to a NBC News poll published on Friday. The tough poll numbers for the White House come one day after members of Obama’s national security team provided 26 lawmakers with an unclassified briefing to detail some of the intelligence that they say shows regime loyalists linked to Syria President Bashar Assad was responsible for an Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus that left hundreds dead.

The British Parliament also voted on Thursday to reject taking limited military action against Syria, despite the UK government releasing intelligence that shows the regime have deployed chemical weapons 15 times against the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said his country could go ahead with a strike on Syria. U.N. weapons inspectors have left Syria ahead of schedule amid high anticipation of an imminent U.S. attack. President Obama said any U.S. response to Syria’s chemical arms attack would not involve sending U.S. troops on the ground.

  • As a candidate, Barack Obama blasted George W. Bush for waging the Iraq war without key European allies; now President Obama finds himself on the verge of pursuing a go-it-alone approach in Syria, after British lawmakers rejected military action.

Syria Launches Cyber Attack on U.S.

The latest disruption to U.S. media outlets dealt out by the Syrian Electronic Army may be a precursor for warfare in the digital age. One aspect of the frontal assault that ought not be overlooked is the timing: The SEA, which supports strongman President Bashar al-Assad, knocked down websites of the New York Times, Huffington Post and Twitter, a few hours after US officials indicated the US may launch missile strikes against the Syrian government. A self-described operative of the SEA told ABC News in an e-mail exchange: “When we hacked media we do not destroy the site but only publish on it if possible, or publish an article [that] contains the truth of what is happening in Syria. . . . if the USA launch attack on Syria we may use methods of causing harm, both for the U.S. economy or other.”

Obama Announces New Gun Control Measures

Striving to take action where Congress would not, the Obama administration announced new steps Thursday on gun control, curbing the import of military surplus weapons and proposing to close a little-known loophole that lets felons and others circumvent background checks by registering guns to corporations. Four months after a gun control drive collapsed spectacularly in the Senate, President Obama added two more executive actions to a list of 23 steps the White House determined Obama could take on his own to reduce gun violence. One new policy will end a government practice that lets military weapons, sold or donated by the U.S. to allies, be reimported into the U.S. by private entities, where some may end up on the streets. The White House said the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to be reimported since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.

Obamacare Rate Hikes May Be Large

Health insurance policy holders across the country can expect letters from their providers notifying them of “staggering” rate increases, some even approaching 300%, according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens. Weber noted that officials in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky say they expect rates to increase by averages of 35% to 80% or more. But at least one major health insurance provider has notified policy holders that their premiums may skyrocket due to Obamacare.  One Kentucky family received a letter from Humana stating that its premium would increase by nearly 300%. “It’s not Humana’s fault, they are being forced to go along with the program, what bothers me is that we were told our premiums would go down and that we could keep our policies. It looks like we were lied to,” said Andrew Mangione, a senior AMAC executive.

Fast-Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay

Workers at McDonald’s and other fast-food chains conducted strikes and walkouts in nearly 60 cities Thursday, hoping for super-size wage hikes that for many would boost their hourly pay to $15 from the current federal minimum $7.25. The pre-Labor Day protests, which follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. Targeted fast-food chains include McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, whose chains include KFC and Taco Bell. Workers are also seeking the right to unionize.

43% Pay No Taxes

A little more than 43% of U.S. households — or 70 million homes – will end up owing no federal income taxes for 2013, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That’s down from recent years because of an improving economy and the expiration of various tax cuts that were passed after the 2008 financial crisis. The households with zero income tax liability are not evenly distributed across income groups. The majority this year — nearly 67% — have incomes below $30,000. An estimated 798,000 households in the nonpayer group make between $100,000 and $200,000 a year; 48,000 have incomes between $200,000 and $500,000; 3,000 make between $500,000 and $1 million; and just 1,000 nonpayer households bring in more than $1 million. That’s less than 1 million high income total nonpayers versus the 70 million low-income nonpayers.

  • 57% are paying taxes to keep the 43% afloat in our welfare-oriented economy

Economic News

White House efforts to reach common ground with Senate Republicans on fiscal matters appear to have failed Thursday, with a key senator saying there is no “common ground.” The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and the Obama Administration is looking for a long term deal to replace the government-wide spending cuts known as sequester that cut federal programs this year largely without distinction.

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate in the second quarter, faster than initially estimated, as American companies exported more and consumers imported less than the government had calculated last month. The Commerce Department said consumer spending climbed 1.8%, non-residential investment spending moved up at a 4.4% rate, and federal government spending fell 1.6%.

A big jump in home values has pulled 3.2 million homeowners above water on their mortgages in the past year. At the end of June, 12.2 million homeowners with mortgages — 23.8% — remained underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. That’s down from 15.3 million a year ago. The sizable drop in underwater borrowers correlated with a robust jump in home prices, which were up 12.1% for the 12 months ended in June.

In Detroit, America’s biggest bankrupt city — currently more than $18 billion in debt and home to 70,000-plus vacant structures — there is another problem: Tens of thousands of stray dogs roam the streets. As many of Detroit’s residents struggle to get by, many of its dogs have been abandoned.

Persecution Watch

During the last two weeks a total of seven Christians have been murdered and 17 kidnapped in violence directed at Christians by Muslim Brotherhood extremists. Hundreds more have been injured. Additionally, the rampage has resulted in the destruction or damage of 212 privately-owned Christian shops and homes and 95 church buildings. Orphanages, schools and Bible book stores have also been destroyed or damaged. Many Christian families have lost everything and escaped with only what they were wearing. In the wake of the unprecedented violence targeting Egypt’s Christian community,

International Christian Concern (ICC) is alarmed by the latest series of events that continue a pattern of egregious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Iran. Three Christians, Ebrahim Firouzi, Sevada Aghasar, and Masoud Mirzaei, were arrested on Wednesday, August 21, and detained without charges. On Sunday, August 25, an appeals court in Tehran rejected an appeal in the case of American Saeed Abedini, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison because of his religious beliefs.

Middle East

Iranian lawmakers and commanders issued stark warnings to the United States and its allies on Tuesday, saying any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel fanned by ‘the flames of outrage.’ The warnings came against a backdrop of rising momentum among Western governments for a military intervention in the Syrian conflict over what the United States, Britain, France and others have called undeniable evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used banned chemical weapons on civilians last week, killing hundreds.

Israeli leaders issued calm reiterations Thursday of their position that Israel is not involved in the Syrian crisis but will respond fiercely if attacked, providing a sharp contrast with the hysterical ranting of Iranian and Assad regime officials that Israel would be annihilated if Western forces attack the regime in the near future.

Syria

People in the Syrian capital of Damascus have been insulated from the civil war that has consumed whole cities and left nearly 100,000 people dead. But no longer. Residents of Damascus are fleeing the city, as well as other areas, for the nation’s borders as the U.S. and its Western allies prepare possible military strikes over alleged chemical weapons attacks by the regime of Bashar Assad. But Russia warned the West against intervening militarily in the Syrian conflict without the approval of the UN Security Council, saying such action would violate international law. Iran said that they will work with Russia in ‘extensive cooperation’ to prevent any military action against Syria.

Iraq

A coordinated wave of bombings tore through Shiite Muslim areas in and around the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, part of a wave of bloodshed that killed at least 66 people and wounded many more, officials said. The blasts, which came in quick succession, mainly targeted residents out shopping and on their way to work. The attacks are the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has left thousands dead since April, marking the country’s worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. Coordinated waves of car bombs have hit Baghdad repeatedly each month, sometimes as often as twice per week.

Egypt

Egyptian security forces arrested a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader on suspicion of inciting violence after last month’s ouster of then-President Mohamed Morsy, state-run media reported Thursday. Mohamed El-Beltagi was arrested in Giza province, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported. The Egyptian military and other security forces have arrested a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders since the ouster of Morsy, who belonged to the brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. In many cases, those arrested have been accused of inciting violence. This month, hundreds of people — citizens as well as members of security forces — were killed. Many of the deaths occurred when the military used force to clear two pro-Morsy sit-in sites in Cairo, and when violence raged after pro-Morsy supporters staged demonstrations two days later.

Nigeria

Suspected Islamist extremists killed at least 44 villagers this week in continuing attacks in an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria, The Blaze reports. According to an official from the National Emergency Management Agency, the attackers hit Dumba village in Borno state before dawn Tuesday and slit their victims’ throats — a new strategy since gunfire attracts security forces. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attackers gouged out the eyes of some victims who survived. Dumba is near the fishing village of Baga, where security forces in March gunned down 187 civilians in retaliation for an attack by extremists. It is difficult to get information from the area under a state of emergency, with cell phone and Internet service cut. Borno is one of three northeastern states under a state of emergency declared May 14 to crack down on the Boko Haram terrorist network. Since 2010, more than 1,700 people have been killed in attacks by Islamic insurgents, according to an Associated Press count.

Yemen

U.S. drone strikes in Yemen on Friday killed six militants, including two senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Qaed al-Thahab, the top AQAP leader in the country’s Baitha province and described as a “high-profile target,” was among those killed. The sources said eight missiles were launched by two unmanned drone planes targeting vehicles.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Alaska’s Aleutian Islands with a jet-like rumble Friday that shook homes and sent residents scrambling for cover. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the earthquake, which occurred in a seismically active region. The quake was followed by multiple aftershocks, including one measuring magnitude 4.9. The earthquake didn’t trigger a tsunami warning. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the primary earthquake was centered 67 miles southwest of Adak, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Shaking lasted up to one minute.

An earthquake hit a mountainous area in southwestern China Saturday morning, killing at least three people injuring 10 others. The quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale shook several counties, including the scenic Shangri-La and Deqen counties in Yunnan province, and Derong county in Sichuan province just to the north. The quake also destroyed 600 residential units and damaged 55,500 others. More than 9,000 residents were forced to relocate. China’s mountainous areas in its southwest are prone to earthquakes.

Wildfires

The giant wildfire burning at the edge of Yosemite National Park has not only destroyed buildings and threatened water supplies, electricity and sequoias, it has also unleashed a smoky haze that has worsened air quality more than 100 miles away in Nevada. The plume from the Rim Fire in California triggered emergency warnings in the Reno and Carson City area. Schoolchildren were kept inside for the second time in a week, people went to hospitals complaining of eye and throat irritation and officials urged people to avoid all physical activity outdoors. The Rim Fire, so far, has burned through 301 square miles, destroyed 23 structures and threatened water supplies, hydroelectric power and giant sequoias. On Wednesday night, authorities said the blaze was 30 percent contained.

Weather

Monday was once more a day for record-breaking heat in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The temperature at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport topped out at 97 degrees, shattering the old record of 94, set in 1948.  on Tuesday. Chicago tied its hottest day of the year, so far (96).  Des Moines, Omaha, and Pierre, S.D. (each 99 degrees) narrowly missed the century mark. Rapid City, S.D. and North Platte, Neb. (101) weren’t so lucky. On Thursday, daily record highs were broken or tied in McCook, Neb. (105), Goodland, Kan. (101) and Omaha, Neb. (98). From Oklahoma City to Chicago, we expect much of the Midwest to roast in the mid-upper 90s to low 100s on Friday. Despite spring flooding, some parts of the Midwest are in danger of returning to drought conditions.

Meanwhile, the southwest monsoon season continues in earnest with flash floods all over Arizona and Nevada. Las Vegas reported its highest dew point temperature ever recorded – 75 degrees F – with 100% humidity.

Tropical Storm Kong-Rey battered Taiwan on Thursday, dumping more than 19 inches of rain on the heavily populated west coast and causing widespread flooding. Particularly hard hit in Taiwan were the large west coast cities of Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung, where flooding in some areas reached second-story levels. In Tainan, officials evacuated 29 residents from a nursing home and cancelled some train services. Kong-Rey is the second major storm to hit Taiwan this month. Last week, a severe tropical storm dumped up to a meter (39 inches) of rain on the southern part of the island. High winds caused the cancellation of scores of international flights and in conjunction with the rain led to the disruption of high speed rail service between the capital of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The flattening over the past 15 years of a rise in the world’s average surface temperature springs from a natural cooling pattern in the eastern Pacific Ocean, climate scientists reported Wednesday. That leveling off fed part of the skepticism toward global warming predictions in recent years, but researchers behind the new report see this “hiatus” as a pause in an inevitable climb. For now, the “hiatus” in global warming has left average surface temperatures lodged about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the past century.

  • Records only go back to the late 1800s, so it’s impossible to say what normal is; now that data shows a leveling off, global warming alarmists are forced to admit it but with an excuse of course; nevertheless, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme as Biblically prophesied

 

Signs of the Times (7/30/13)

July 30, 2013

North Carolina Lawmakers Pass New Abortion Restrictions

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have passed new restrictions on the state’s abortion clinics, CBN News reports. The bill also mandates that a doctor be physically present during abortions, including those induced by drugs. The law’s passage comes as new polls show that most Americans favor restricting abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, rather than the 24-week mark established under current law. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 56 percent support those limits. Another 10 percent of those surveyed would prefer to outlaw abortion in the United States altogether or limit it earlier than 20 weeks after fertilization. More than half — 54 percent — say they oppose state laws that make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate compared to 45 percent who support such legislation. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found similar results. Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Pope Francis on Gays: `Who am I to judge?’

Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. When someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives but forgets.

  • Yes, God forgives and forgets – but only if that person repents which means to ‘turn away’ from their sin. Gay priests should not be allowed to continue in their ministry. The (last?) Pope’s watered down Gospel is yet another sign that the end-times draw nigh.

Majority Would Support Gay Marriage in All 50 States

A slight majority, 52 percent, of Americans support making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Forty-three percent say they would vote against it. The demographic grups who were most supportive of a national policy redefining marriage to include couples of the same gender were liberals (77 percent), those with no religious affiliation (76 percent), Democrats (70 percent), young adults aged 18 to 34 (69 percent), those who rarely or never attend church (67 percent), Catholics (60 percent) and those who live in the East (62 percent) and West (57 percent). The demographic groups that had a majority opposing the referendum were those who attend church weekly (73 percent), conservatives (67 percent), Republicans (66 percent), Protestants (58 percent), those aged 55 and older (58 percent), and Southerners (51 percent). Women were more supportive (56 percent) than men (48 percent), and whites were slightly more supportive (54 percent) than non-whites (51 percent). “Public opinion on gay marriage has reached a tipping point, whereby the majority now clearly supports it,” Gallup wrote. “Nevertheless, the issue remains highly divisive, as large majorities of left-leaning, nonreligious, and younger Americans endorse it, while right-leaning, religious, and older Americans still oppose it

  • Lawlessness will abound in the end-times (Matt. 24:12, 2Thess. 2:7, 2Tim. 3:1-5) – gay marriage is but one form of it

UN Advocating Gay Agenda

Fox News reports: “Amid a surge of anti-gay violence and repression in several countries, the United Nations’ human rights office on Friday launched its first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals. Called Free & Equal, it’s an unprecedented effort by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the U.N.’s own member states.”

One-Third of Recently Married Met Online

According to a major study published recently by the National Academy of Sciences, 35% of those recently married met online. Researchers also reported that relationships that began on the Internet appeared to be happier and more enduring than traditional unions. But sociologists say it’s too soon to conclude that online relationships are stronger and more fulfilling.

  • Seems counterintuitive, even a bit creepy, but the digital age is redefining many aspects of society

FBI Arrests 150 in Child Prostitution Sting

In announcing the FBI’s latest crackdown on child prostitution, officials Monday described a dark underside of society that has grown through Internet sites that provide pimps easy access to johns in hotels, motels, at truck stops and just about anywhere else. The nationwide operation over the weekend resulted in 150 arrests, with 105 children between the ages of 13 and 17 rescued. Overall, the three-day undercover Operation Cross Country took place in 76 cities and involved 230 law enforcement units. It was the largest such sweep to date, he said, with 28 searches and 129 seizures of cash, drugs, vehicles and firearms.

Deadly Epidemic: Prescription Drug Overdoses

A growing epidemic of overdoses of prescription painkillers is leading to a record numbers of deaths, especially among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined, and since 2008, prescription drug-induced deaths have outstripped those from automobile accidents, according to the CDC. The CDC’s latest figures show that 16,500 people died from overdoses tied to common narcotic pain relievers — such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana and methadone — in 2010. Of those, 40% were women. “Women are dying at rates that we have never seen before,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said. In the past 11 years, deaths from overdose increased more than 400% among women, compared with a 265% rise among men.

Health Care Costs Slowing

Health care costs rose last year at the slowest rate in the last 50 years, the White House announced Monday, citing statistics aimed at bolstering the case for the 2010 health care law. The 1.1% increase in personal consumption spending over the 12 months ending in May was due to decreases in hospital and nursing home services, according to a statement from Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Hospital readmissions rates dropped from an average of 19% to 17.9% for Medicare patients since the passage of the 2010 health care law, Krueger said. Monday’s announcement follows a recent study the Department of Health and Human Services that showed that for Americans who receive health insurance through their employers, premiums rose 3% from 2011 to 2012, the lowest increase since 1996.

IRS Workers Want Out of Obamacare

The federal employees who will be responsible for administering Obamacare for the American people don’t want it for themselves. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents workers at the Internal Revenue Service, is asking its members to write letters to Capitol Hill saying they are “very concerned” about legislative efforts requiring IRS and Treasury employees to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Obamacare’s insurance subsidies are technically tax credits, falling under the authority of the IRS. The effort by the Treasury Employees Union comes two weeks after representatives of three large labor unions fired off a strongly-worded letter to congressional Democrats, complaining that Obamacare would “shatter … our hard-earned health benefits” and create “nightmare scenarios” for their members.

Four in Five Americans Face Economic Hardship

Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press point to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend. The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession.

Economic News

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was up 12.2% compared to a year ago, slightly better than the 12.1% rise in April. It was the biggest year-over-year jump in prices since March 2006, near the peak of the housing bubble. Just a year ago, the index showed a 12-month decline in prices. But they have increased every month since June 2012, and each month the increase has been greater than the month before.

Just over half of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings for the second quarter and some sectors are performing better than others. Banks and other financial companies have been the standouts. Mining and chemical companies have fared the worst. Earnings are also contracting in the technology industry. Overall, earnings growth is projected to slow for a third straight quarter, estimated at 4.5% vs. 5.2% in the first quarter.

A flurry of merger activity Monday shows the megamerger is back, and more companies are starting to get traded like so many baseball cards. A potent cocktail of surging corporate cash piles and companies hungry for growth is fueling an uptick in merger-and-acquisition activity. The question is whether these deals might cause problems for the economy, such as higher prices or a wave of layoffs, as they did three decades ago.

Fast food workers will walk off work in seven cities across the country this week, continuing their campaign to garner higher wages and the right to unionize. Dozens of workers asking to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour and the right to organize without retaliation protested outside of McDonald’s and Wendy’s locations across New York City on Monday. The rallies will move to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan the rest of the week.

Persecution Watch

Organizations representing Nigerian Christians called on the United States to officially recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group at a press conference on Thursday in the nation’s capital, the Christian Post reports. Leaders from the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) made their case, sharing that they have tried to get the Islamic jihadist militant organization in Africa to be labeled a terrorist group by meeting with members of Congress, drawing up petitions and working with other organizations, including several American groups. Pastor Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN, said it was a question of universal human rights. For years, the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram has been targeting Christian communities, schools and churches in the predominantly Muslim northern region of Nigeria.

Middle East

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni had dinner with chief Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Saeb Erekat and US Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington Monday evening, kicking off the latest round of negotiations which the two sides both pledged to continue for at least nine months. Livni and Erekat were joined at the dinner by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Fatah official Muhammad Shtayyeh, while Kerry was joined by Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and other State Department officials. “This is part and parcel of creating mutual trust between [us and the Palestinians],” Livni told Israel Radio Tuesday morning. She also praised Kerry’s “enthusiasm and determination to help both sides.”

President Obama on Friday afternoon ordered another waiver of congressional restrictions on direct funding of the Palestinian Authority, clearing the way for more U.S. aid. In the one-page order, Mr. Obama said he was taking the action due to the “national security interests” of the U.S. The move comes as the administration is preparing to host renewed direct talks in Washington between Palestinians and Israelis for the first time since 2010. The president in March directed about $500 million to be sent to the Palestinian Authority, also waiving the restrictions set by Congress. At the time, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he was seeking to move another $200 million to the Palestinians. Some lawmakers oppose the aid, both because of sequestration budget cuts and the Palestinian Authority’s ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.

Egypt

Scores of protesters angry at Egypt’s military-backed government and the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi died in late-night clashes in the volatile nation’s capital Saturday. Medics in a Brotherhood field hospitals put the death toll at 66, with another 61 on life support and thousands more wounded. A wounded protester getting medical treatment at a field hospital said he saw men in plainclothes fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators with shotguns. “Police forces were standing behind them,” he added.

Syria

The Syrian regime says it has taken over a rebel stronghold in Homs, inflicting a strategic and psychological blow to rebels in the country’s 2-year-long crisis. The area in western Syria is crucial because it connects the capital, Damascus, to the Mediterranean coast. A regime capture of Homs could be a key turning point in the bloody war, which has killed more than 100,000 people.

Iraq

As violence and political turmoil tear through a war-wrecked Iraq, military experts are warning Congress that Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cells are regrouping and working together not only in Iraq but in the entire region to undo a decade of U.S.-led progress. Iraq’s parliament speaker painted a grim picture of a crumbling country that is taking another beating by terrorists. “The situation is grave,” Osama al-Nujaifi said during a press conference. Speaker Al-Nujaifi believes recent spikes in sectarian violence coupled with political instability are fueling concerns that the country could be pushed into another civil war.

A wave of over a dozen car bombings hit central and southern Iraq during morning rush hour on Monday, officials said, killing at least 47 people in the latest coordinated attack by insurgents determined to undermine the government. The blasts, which wounded scores more, are part of a months-long surge of attacks that is reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed more than 3,000 people since April, including more than 500 since the start of July.

Libya

More than a thousand prisoners escaped during a riot at Kuayfia Prison near Benghazi Saturday and remain on the run. They escaped while a group of the prison’s 4,000 inmates were engaged in “civil disobedience.” The escapees are serving sentences for a range of crimes, including murder, drug dealing and crimes of morality. They were able to escape because the prison did not have enough security equipment to secure either the staff or the facility, officials said.

Pakistan

Prison guards say they were totally overwhelmed when dozens of Taliban militants attacked their jail in northwest Pakistan, freeing over 250 prisoners on Tuesday. The militants killed more than a dozen people, including six policemen, six Shiite Muslim prisoners and two civilians. Authorities are searching for both the militants and the prisoners who escaped.

Tunisia

Thousands of protesters chanting anti-government slogans joined a funeral march to lay to rest an assassinated Tunisian opposition politician on Saturday, a display of the anger threatening the survival of a government once seen as a model in the region for the transition to democracy. Adding to the tension, a bomb exploded in the early morning underneath a car at the port in Tunis outside a police station. Though there were no injuries, the rare attack helped deepen the sense of unease in this North African country, where two opposition politicians have been shot dead in the last six months.

Somalia

A bomber detonated a minivan laden with explosives outside a Turkish hospital in Somalia’s capital on Saturday, killing at least one person and wounding more than three others. The bomber also died in the attack at the Al-Shifa hospital in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter saying they were targeting a group of Turkish diplomats. Al-Shabab, which has links with al-Qaida, has been carrying out guerrilla attacks in Somalia since the group was expelled from the capital by African Union troops in August 2011. It has long been threatening Turkish workers and aid agencies in Somalia accusing them of spreading secularism in Somalia.

Nigeria

Multiple explosions at a bar and entertainment area in a Christian quarter of Nigeria’s northern and mainly Muslim city of Kano killed at least 24 people. The blasts were blamed on suspected members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram network. Nigeria is fighting an Islamic uprising by extremists based mainly in the northeast, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Kano city and state are in the northwest and not part of that emergency. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” wants to impose Islamic law in all of Nigeria,

Weather

Folks in the Midwest must be wondering where summer went, with record-low temperatures blanketing the region this weekend and another unusually cool day expected Monday. Chicago saw a high of just 65 at O’Hare on Saturday, breaking the daily coolest-high record of 69 set in 1981. Up the road a bit, Milwaukee tied its 1981 record-cool high of 64. Sunday morning brought even chillier temperatures, with numerous daily record lows broken from the Dakotas all the way to the Ohio Valley. For Sioux City, Iowa, it was the coolest July morning since 1995, with a low of 44. Sunday afternoon in Concordia, Kan. was unlike any other July day in the history books, there.  The daytime high was only 62 degrees, topping the previous record coolest July daily high of 63 degrees.

Heavy rains that caused power outages and flash floods in western North Carolina were blamed for the deaths of a 10-year-old girl and 48-year-old man who were swept away while swimming in a rural creek. Parts of Catawba, Lincoln and Cleveland received up to a foot of rain Saturday as a result of a slow-moving rain system. The county and the cities of Hickory and Newton – where dozens of streets were underwater Saturday afternoon – were among the communities declaring local emergencies as a precursor to seeking state and federal aid.

Philadelphia has set a record for one-day rainfall as strong storms rolled through the region, causing flash flooding, power outages and airline cancellations. The National Weather Service says 8.02 inches of rain fell in the city Sunday, shattering the previous record of 6.63 inches set during Tropical Storm Floyd on Sept. 16, 1999. The deluge caused a power outage at Philadelphia International Airport, where some sections of Terminal A were still without power Monday. The soaking rains also flooded roads and caused traffic headaches.