Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), considered one of the United States’ top nuclear experts. ISIS made the estimate in a new report published on Thursday by USA Today. ”Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.” David Albright, president of the institute and a former inspector for the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the estimate means that Iran would have to eliminate more than half its 19,000 centrifuges to extend the time it would take to build a bomb to six months. The Obama administration has said Iran is probably a year away from having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. Requests for comment on the ISIS report from the National Security Council and the State Department were not answered. In the report, Albright said negotiations with Iran should focus on so-called “breakout” times, or the time required to convert low-enriched uranium to weapons-grade, according to USA Today. Albright, who has testified before Congress, said the negotiators should try to find ways to lengthen the breakout times and shorten the time that inspectors could detect breakout. ISIS’ analysis is based on the latest Iranian and United Nations reports on Iran’s centrifuge equipment for producing nuclear fuel and its nuclear fuel stockpiles. Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium has nearly doubled in a year’s time and its number of centrifuges has expanded from 12,000 in 2012 to 19,000 today. Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican whose Senate Banking Committee is considering legislation to tighten Iran sanctions, said the report shows that Iran is expanding its nuclear capabilities under the cover of negotiations. ”The Senate should move forward immediately with a new round of sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring an undetectable breakout capability,” he told USA Today. The White House has said new sanctions legislation should wait while current negotiations – scheduled to resume officially in Geneva next month – are moving forward. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his country has no interest in nuclear weapons but that producing nuclear fuel is Iran’s right. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has said Iran will not ship its nuclear stockpile to a third country. Iran has refused to let international inspectors into its nuclear facilities to verify they are being used for peaceful purposes, access required under international agreements it has signed. On Wednesday it was reported that a prominent Iranian lawmaker has claimed that Tehran does not need any more 20 percent-enriched uranium. “Tehran reactor fuel has been supplied and currently no need is felt for production of 20 percent-enriched uranium,” the lawmaker, Hossein Naqvi Hosseini, was quoted as saying. He added that “Tehran is ready to convert its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel rods and remove concerns over its non-peaceful use.” The comments come a week after Iranian negotiators met with representatives of the so-called P5+1 – the United States, China, Russia,France, Britain and Germany. During the two-day session in Geneva, the first round of talks between the sides since the election of Rouhani, Iran presented what it described as a breakthrough proposal that would include snap inspections of its atomic sites. The proposal was described by the White House as “useful”. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it showed a “level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before.” Western negotiators described the talks as the most detailed and serious to date. ISIS estimated in October of 2012 that Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb within 2-4 months. The new estimate is based on an analysis of the latest reports by Iran and the IAEA. ISIS considered various scenarios, including if Iran decided to build a covert enrichment plant like it has under a mountain in Fordow, near the city of Qoms, that was designed for optimal efficiency and minimal time to enrich enough uranium for bomb making. Such a facility built with current Iranian technology could produce enough material for a bomb in a week, according to the ISIS report. ”If they did that and they were caught it would be a smoking gun of a nuclear weapons program,” Albright said, according to USA Today. ISIS has in the past produced satellite imagery which proves that Iran was making alterations to the Parchin complex, a military site that the IAEA says was possibly used to test conventional explosive triggers for a nuclear blast. Iran has refused to give the IAEA access to sites, documents and scientists involved in what the agency suspects were efforts, mostly in the past but possibly ongoing, to develop nuclear weapons. Arutz Sheva 7
Cold water and nude beaches don’t necessarily mix well. Add to the equation a very conservative society and the idea of a nude beach seems rather ambitious, if not impossible. In a surprisingly creative tourism push, officials in north east Gangwon Province are aiming to set up South Korea’s first nude beach, with the first clothes to be shed in 2017. It’s an effort to boost tourism to the peninsula’s east coast beaches, which lose out every year to the west coast in luring summer visitors from the capital Seoul. Although the east coast has more beautiful, sandy beaches, the water tends to be colder, the season shorter and the distance from Seoul is greater than the beaches to the west. The massively popular annual mud festival is also held on the west coast.
“This is part of our plans to create beaches with specific purpose, like a beach for families, a beach for couples, a beach for pets, and yes, a nude beach,” said an official from the municipality’s Pan-East Sea Division at a seminar on Tuesday, according to the Korea Times. Calls by CNN to officials were not answered on Thursday. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the first time the subject has been broached by government officials. And in the past it’s the public that’s shuttered the idea. Gangwon Province tried to launch a female-only nude beach in 2005, while Gangneung City also deliberated, but ultimately scrapped, a nude beach idea due to public outcry. The same happened to a Jeju Island proposal in 2009. More
Four Iranian Christians were reportedly sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine for communion, a shocking punishment meted out even as a new United Nations report blasted the Islamic republic for its systematic persecution of non-Muslims. The four men were sentenced Oct. 6 after being arrested in a house church last December and charged with consuming alcohol in violation of the theocracy’s strict laws, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. They were among several Christians punished for their faith in a nation where converting from Islam to Christianity can bring the death penalty. According to a new October UN report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, such persecution is common, despite new President Hasan Rouhani’s pledge to be a moderate. “At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013,” Shaheed wrote. “In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported.”More
The government says the rate of violent crime in America went up 15 percent last year and the property crime rate rose 12 percent, signals that the nation may be seeing the last of the substantial declines in crime of the past 20 years. Last year marked the second year in a row for increases in the crime victimization survey, a report that is based on household interviews. The 2012 increases were driven by a rise in crimes that were not reported to police, a category frequently involving less serious offenses. Simple assaults also rose. The rate of property crimes increased due to a rise in theft. Other crime categories – rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft – showed less change. My Way News
A Washington state middle school boy was arrested Wednesday and faces an attempted murder charge, after he brought 400 rounds of ammunition, multiple knives and a handgun to his school, police said. The 11-year-old was booked into a juvenile detention facility after the incident that caused the lockdown of Frontier Middle School, Vancouver Police said. The school, in Vancouver, Washington, was locked down for about two hours. Parents received letters alerting them of the situation, said Kris Fay, a spokeswoman for the Evergreen School District. There were no injuries. Police did not say who was allegedly being targeted. This incident comes on the heels of several school-related violent incidents around the nation. On Monday, a math teacher was killed and two students wounded by a boy who then killed himself in a Nevada school. On Wednesday, a math teacher was found dead in the woods northeast of Boston, and her 14-year-old student is accused of killing her. CNN
MEDAN, Indonesia — A volcano in western Indonesia erupted on Thursday, unleashing a column of dark volcanic material high into the air weeks after villagers were returning home from an earlier eruption, officials said. The explosion at Mount Sinabung, located in North Sumatra province, shot black ash 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) into the air, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, said National Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. He said villages, farms and trees around the 2,600-meter (8,530-foot) -high rumbling volcano were covered in thick gray ash, prompting authorities to evacuate more than 3,300 people. Most were from two villages within 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) of the mountain in Karo district. No lava or debris spewed from the volcano, and nearby towns and villages were not in danger, but authorities warned tourists to stay away from the danger zone located 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the crater, Nugroho said. Last month, more than 15,000 people were forced to flee when the volcano rumbled to life after being dormant for three years, belching ash and smoke and igniting fires on its slopes. The volcano’s last major eruption in August 2010 killed two people and forced 30,000 others to flee. It caught many scientists off guard because it had been quiet for four centuries. Mount Sinabung is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. Huff Post
Delaware is considered the sixth most dangerous state in America by the FBI statistics for rape, robbery, murder and aggravated assault. In Delaware, the city of Wilmington is the crime leader and considered one of the most (if not the most) violent cities in the United States for its size (71,000). Judy Johnson Park is considered the most dangerous park in the city. It would be safe to say that holding a revival service at night in Judy Johnson Park would appear not to be the best of decisions. But when God leads, Pastor Daniel and Sara Day and their congregation at SkyPointe Church in Wilmington, follow. SkyPointe Church is an active two-year-old church planted by First Assembly of God in Wilmington. SkyPointe, which now averages 100 on Sundays, benefited from matching funds through AGTrust and training through Church Multiplication Network. On Sept. 27-29, Daniel Day says SkyPointe held a three-day revival service—two of the days in a large tent at Judy Johnson Park and the final day at the church’s facilities a half-mile down the road in Wilmington. He says even though the police tried to dissuade him from hosting the revival at the park due to the constant violence, he felt God was orchestrating events. More ”You hear on the news about people being shot and raped in that park all the time,” Day says, “but the choice of location was really a matter of prayer. I drive by that park every day, and I couldn’t get away from the feeling that God wanted us to be there.” More
A number of Israel’s top political and military leaders convened in Herzliya on Thursday for the Jerusalem Post’s second annual Diplomatic Conference with Noam Tibon, the commander of the IDF Northern Corps, speaking last to address issues facing Israel from a security perspective. Tibon noted that Syrian civil war is no longer an internal war, but rather a war that has scene many factions, groups and countries sending fighters to take various sides in the conflict, including Iran and Hezbollah. He added his belief that Syrian President Bashar Assad “is continuing to struggle inside Syria against the rebels.” Though the IDF is “not taking any sides,” Tibon hilighted Israel’s ongoing decision to offer humanitarian aide to those suffering from the Syrian conflict. He also spoke about the IDF’s monitoring of weapons transfers between Hezbollah and Syria and promised that the “IDF will do everything in its power to prevent it.” Drawing on his 30 years of experience serving in the IDF, Tibon discussed the ongoing threat of terrorism and how it has changed over the years. More
VIENNA – The U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to inspect sensitive sites and meet important officials – including a mysterious military man – in Iran as part of an investigation into suspicions that Tehran may have worked on designing an atomic warhead. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran meet on Monday for the 12th time since early 2012, with the IAEA hoping to resume its long-stalled inquiry into alleged nuclear bomb research by Iran, which denies such work. Both sides signaled a desire to achieve progress after their last discussions about a month ago. This was the first meeting since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, raising hopes of a thaw in relations with the West. The IAEA talks are separate from – but closely linked to – broader negotiations between Tehran and six world powers on the decade-old nuclear dispute that could descend into a new Middle East war if it is not settled. While the powers are pressing Iran to curb its enrichment of uranium, which can have both civilian and military uses, the IAEA is investigating allegations that it has also sought the know-how for turning such material into a nuclear missile. More
Universal Studios Hollywood announced it was shelving its Bill & Ted Halloween Horror Nights show, which critics had charged with being homophobic. The show featured Superman, who was “turned gay” by being sprinkled with “fairy dust,” according to reports. The Superman character then displayed a series of gay stereotypes meant to be played for laughs. ”After thoughtful consideration, Universal Studios Hollywood has made the decision to discontinue production of the Halloween Horror Nights’ “Bill & Ted” show for the remainder of its limited run,” Universal Studios Hollywood said in a statement. GLAAD expressed concerns to NBCUniversal about the show Tuesday and referred to it as “anti-gay” in a story on its website. The organization praised the decision to pull the show. ”NBCUniversal has taken quick and strong action regarding this matter and also started a productive dialogue around future ‘Bill & Ted’ programming to ensure that all park visitors can have an enjoyable experience,” GLAAD Spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “This decision falls in line with NBCUniversal’s history of including groundbreaking and positive depictions of LGBT people across its brands.” THR
Paul Crouch Sr., founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network, has been hospitalized. TBN posted the following message on its Facebook page Tuesday night about Crouch, 79: “Please join us in praying for Dr. Paul Crouch, who is currently in the hospital. Prayers for complete healing and quick recovery in Jesus name.” The Christian Post is reporting the hospitalization is due to heart problems. Crouch was hospitalized in 2011 for congestive heart failure. TBN, the world’s largest religious network, began in 1973 when Crouch and his wife, Jan, launched a single UHF station in southern California. The network reaches every major continent today, via 78 satellites and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates worldwide. More
Religious groups opposed to gay marriage rallied Wednesday at the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to reject a measure that would grant same-sex couples the right to marry in Illinois. The gathering came one day after gay marriage supporters sought to press legislators to vote on a measure that would make Illinois the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The proposal is stalled in the House after passing the Senate last spring. Those opposed disputed the suggestion that gay marriage in Illinois is an inevitability in the face of shifting public opinion in favor, calling on lawmakers to uphold the tenants of Christian teaching and keep marriage between one man and one woman. The lobbying efforts from both sides played out even as action on a gay marriage bill looks unlikely during the legislature’s fall veto session. Police estimated that 2,500 people packed the Capitol rotunda and grounds, where they sang “God Bless America” and held signs declaring “Marriage is sacred.” They were led in prayer by Monsignor Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Springfield, which a day earlier denied entry to a downtown church by gay rights supporters planning to pray for measure’s passage, saying it amounted to blasphemy. While Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has led efforts to block passage of the gay marriage bill, the Roman Catholic Church also received help from a coalition of African-American clergy members led in part by Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago. Trotter said upholding traditional marriage is about protecting the country’s “moral fiber” and called on Christians to “report for duty” in the effort to prevent gay marriage from becoming a reality in Illinois. “We stand here today because we understand that if we don’t stand for something we will fall for anything,” Trotter said. “It is very clear to us that what could happen in this place is definitely against the word of God and the will of God.” More
Syria’s state news agency says a blackout has hit much of the country following an attack that damaged the gas pipeline that supplies power stations in southern Syria. SANA quoted the electricity minister as saying maintenance crews are working to restore power. Earlier Wednesday, reports claimed two mortars fell in central Damascus, killing five. A Syrian minister blamed the attack on the gas pipeline on “terrorists,” a term the government uses to refer to those trying to topple President Bashar Assad. It was not immediately clear how extensive Wednesday’s blackout is, and whether every corner of the country was affected. Damascus and southern Syria have been struck by several major power outages over the course of the country’s civil war. Many rebel-held parts of the country have been without power for months. In the past the country has reportedly been alsodisconnected from the internet. More
The Air Force Academy is considering dropping the phrase “so help me God’ from its honor oath after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a complaint. The Academy’s Honor Review Committee met Wednesday to review the oath in response to the MRFF complaint, said Public Affairs Director Maj. Brus Vidal. “They considered a range of options and some of those options will be presented to Academy leaders and, ultimately, the Academy Superintendent for a decision,” he said. The current version of the Academy’s oath reads: “We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God.” Last week, the Colorado Springs Independent newspaper published a photograph of a poster at the academy which included the oath. The newspaper then forwarded the photo to MRFF President Mikey Weinstein. Weinstein, a frequent critic of Christianity in the armed forces, wrote a letter to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. Weinstein said she responded 68 minutes later. “The Prep School poster has been taken down,” she wrote in an email reply posted by the Independent. “We are assessing the situation and have many mission elements, to include Prep School leadership, the Honor Review Committee and other entities on base, working to put together a way ahead that is respectful to all perspectives.” More
Тhe European Union has voted through EUR 2.7 B in new cash contributions from national treasuries after senior officials warned of the threat of chaos and unpaid EU bills. MEPs approved the additional EU funding on Tuesday evening during an extraordinary meeting of Parliament’s Budgets Committee. “The amending budget is needed because revenue from import duties collected at the EU’s external borders is far lower than was forecast by Eurostat (and endorsed by the EU member states) and thus had to be replaced by a higher GNI contribution,” according to a statement of the European Parliament press office. The additional budget will take the cost of Brussels overspends and shortfalls to over EUR 12 B this year and is likely to fuel anger at a summit of Europe’s leaders on Thursday. More
The scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent $4.2 billion in child tax-credit checks to illegal immigrants the year the agency began targeting conservative groups, according to a new report from Watchdog.Org. The IRS sent illegal immigrant families $1,000 checks totaling $4.2 billion through the federal government’s Additional Child Tax Credit program in the year 2010, when the agency’s improper targeting of conservative and tea party groups began. The child tax credit program was created in 1998 with a $400 cap and now has a $1,000 cap that was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, signed by President Obama. Republicans claim that the Obama administration is taking advantage of the program to provide checks to ineligible illegal immigrants. More
The National Security Agency recorded information about more than 124 billion phone calls during a 30-day period earlier this year, including around 3 billion calls from U.S. sources, according to a tally from top-secret documents released by multiple news outlets. Documents revealing details about the NSA’s Boundless Informant program show that information regarding billions of phone calls and computer communications was collected by the agency from across the world. Boundless Informant “allows users to select a country on a map and view the meta data volume and select details about the collections against that country,” according to the Guardian, which first reported on the top secret program earlier this year. Multiple leaked screenshots of the Boundless Informant program show that information on around 124.8 billion phone calls were collected in just 30-days this year, according to documents released by the Guardian and other news sites. The documents provide a window into the sheer volume of data being collected by the NSA as late as March of this year, according to the Guardian. Critics of the NSA’s multiple data collection programs, which include PRISM, argue that innocent Americans run the risk of having their personal communications monitored. Its defenders maintain that the program has been a key tool in the fight against terrorism. It is unlikely that the NSA examined the content of all of these calls, though it seems possible that the security organization could single out any of the snatched calls and other communications. The sheer extend of the NSA’s data collection effort were compiled from the multiple sources and organized on Wednesday by members of intelligence website Cryptome, which regularly publishes government documents and other information. More
PHILIPPINES – As the magnitude 7.2 earthquake ended on Oct. 15, residents of Sitio Kumayot in Barangay Anonang heard an explosive sound like a thunderclap. Villagers watched in horrified disbelief as the ground cracked open and, with smoke and the stench of sulphur spreading, one side started to rise. The emerging wall of rock and earth missed by a hairline the toilet of baker Menecia Bautista Aparecio, 43. “We will be living forever in fear, being so close to the fault line,” said Aparecio, who fears returning to her home and now bakes her “pan Bisaya” or “pan kinamot,” a local bread, in the village chapel. The rock face, about three meters high and two kilometers long, raised fears among villagers that more cracks would appear on the ground and swallow them up. Scientists, who may declare a 300-meter permanent danger zone around the fault, described the appearance of the ground rupture as a “eureka” moment in their search for what they have long suspected was an active earthquake fault in the area. Government scientists said the appearance of the yet unnamed fault, which does not exist on the country’s map of fault lines, triggered the powerful earthquake in Central Visayas. “We are 100 percent sure that this is the generator (of the earthquake),” Teresito Bacolcol told GMA 7 as he noted that the rock face appeared near the quake’s epicenter at the boundary of Sagbayan and Catigbian towns. “When we saw (the fault), eureka! This is it.” Bacolcol led a team from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), which inspected the rock face last Monday. “We recommend that no structures should be built on top of a fault and within the five-meter buffer zone on both sides of the fault,” Phivolcs director Renato Solidum told The STAR. He also urged the local government of Bohol to revise its land use policy around the fault.
Geologists from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) found “ground zero” or the fault that triggered the devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake. The discovery on Monday confirmed the existence of a previously unknown fault in western Bohol. The Oct. 15 earthquake claimed around 200 lives and caused major infrastructure damage, including Spanish-era churches in Bohol and Cebu. Immediately after the earthquake, Phivolcs said the tremor was caused by the movement of the East Bohol Fault. The epicenter, first reported as Carmen town, was later adjusted to the general area between Sagbayan and Catigbian towns in north central Bohol based on the distribution of aftershocks. Geologists found a 5-kilometer surface rupture that extended from barangay Anonang in Inabanga town to barangay New Anonang in Buenavista town. “That fault motion caused the earthquake,” Renato Solidum, director of Phivolcs told ABS-CBN News Channel’s Talkback yesterday morning. The ground rupture pushed the ground upward from two to three meters, cutting through mountains, roads and possibly settlement areas. Phivolcs teams are still studying the extent of the fault line which could extend 100 kilometers or longer.
Meanwhile, aftershocks recorded by Phivolcs indicate a general distribution from north Bohol to the offshores of Dalaguete, Alcoy and Boljoon towns in southern Cebu. The data was plotted on a map by Jessie Alaivar Floren, a private Geographic Informatino System expert in Cebu. Aside from structural damage, residents in southern Cebu towns of Alegria and Badian and Carcar City have complained that ground water turned to “milo” brown. “The earthquake may have disturbed the clay-limestone land formations in these areas, affecting their water table and underground water channels,” said Jun Lucero, senior geologist of the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). Lucero told Cebu Daily News that they are now checking reports of possible liquefaction in several areas in Cebu and Bohol. Severe liquefaction could result in the sinking or submersion of lands, he said. Areas near the river and those reclaimed from the sea are more prone to liquefaction, Lucero said. Structures in reclaimed areas, he said, should have stronger foundations and must use materials that can withstand strong ground shaking and liquefaction. Extinction Protocol
Israeli warplanes on Tuesday destroyed a shipment of missiles that were to be delivered to Hezbollah near the Lebanese-Syrian frontier, according to the Kuwait newspaper Al-Jarida.BThe paper’s story, which quotes a senior Israeli official, has not been confirmed by any other news source. There was also no word on whether the attack took place on Lebanese or Syrian soil. The report seems a bit far-fetched in that it involves a senior Israeli official leaking classified information to a Kuwaiti paper with no confirmation so far coming from the Israeli press. Amir Rapaport, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and the Editor-in-Chief of the Israel Defense magazine told the The Jerusalem Post that he believes there was no attack. Israel has reportedly launched at least three attacks against convoys that were said to be delivering arms to the south Lebanon-based Shi’ite organization. The Kuwaiti daily also reported last Friday that Israel has information on the location of long-range missiles transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and is considering taking military action to destroy the weapons. More
An Ohio pastor says he was savagely beaten after Sunday’s church service by a man one local outlet called a “self-described militant atheist,” who left him with a broken nose, cuts, stitches and bruises. Rev. Normon Hayes of the Bridge Community Church in North Hampton, Ohio, says he feared for his life during the attack, which unfolded inside the house of worship. The 57-year-old preacher apparently drew the ire of James Maxie, 28, after asking the man’s girlfriend after the service if Maxie was abusing her, Dayton’s WHIO-TV reported. “I questioned his girlfriend in his presence if she felt safe,” Hayes told the station. “He was very, very upset that I’d even suggest that he would hurt her. Then he turned around and hurt me very badly.” Tensions had apparently already been building that morning. The pastor said that before the attack it seemed as though Maxie was looking for a fight. The Daily Mail reported Maxie made comments about Adolf Hitler before service began and “heckled” Hayes while he was at the pulpit. Exactly what was said about Hitler is not known. More
Numerous studies have shown that church attendance in America is on the decline. Considering this dynamic, people of faith may be asking themselves what’s behind increasingly-emptying pews and how they can get involved to reverse the trend. In the new book, “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore,” authors Thom and Joani Schultz provide some answers — and four possible solutions — to the growing problem. Among them, the husband and wife duo believe that the church needs a renewed sense of hospitality, more openness to the sharing of divergent ideas, true and elevated humility and a focus on God’s providence in the modern-era. TheBlaze interviewed Thom Schultz last week to learn more about his theories on the subject. While some of the purported causes are predicated upon social and cultural trends, he also pointed to problems within the practice of the Christian faith — issues that will require believers to work diligently to reverse the trend. More
With 20 percent of all American households on food stamps, amounting to 23.1 million households and 47.6 million individuals in July, a little-known across-the-board cut in food-stamp benefits is scheduled to go into effect in November. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, the benefit increase granted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help people adversely affected by the recession is scheduled to expire Nov. 1. The USDA projects that the average monthly food stamp payment of approximately $272 per household will decline in November by $36 for a family of four. The USDA projects that the average monthly food stamp payment of approximately $272 per household will decline in November by $36 for a family of four.
Will the resulting drop in benefits prompt riots? For the past two years, austerity riots have swept across many countries in the European Union. On Nov. 14, millions of workers went on strike across Europe to protest against cuts in government spending, as labor unions coordinated general strikes in Spain and Portugal, while calling for workers in Greece and Italy to walk out in sympathy with the protest. The Guardian in London reported the European Day of Action and Solidarity was designed to send a message to government leaders urging them to abandon programs of increasing tax rates implemented while cuts were made in social welfare benefits. The European Trade Union Confederation organized the European Day of Action and Solidarity with the slogan “For Jobs and Solidarity in Europe. No to Austerity.” More
Ashley Madison, a dating site that facilitates hook-ups between married couples, could be here in Singapore by next year. The launch of the controversial site, which works like a match-making site — except it is targeted at married couples — was reported by My Paper. The site boasts users from all over the world, from countries such as Mexico, Hong Kong, Brazil and Spain. The site is ranked among the top 2,000 sites in the US. The Canada-based site has courted controversy since its founding in 2001 with its colourful and bold advertising campaigns. The slogan on its main page is ‘Life is short. Have an affair.’ Its marketing efforts have often hit road blocks, mostly because of the nature of the site. In 2009, Ashley Madison tried to buy $200,000 CAD worth of advertising on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) streetcars. If it had been approved, the streetcars would have ads on them featuring the site’s slogan. The offer was shot down after five of the six TTC commissioners sitting on the advertising committee voted to reject it. In 2010, the site made an US $25 million offer to buy the naming rights of New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey, US. The stadium’s proposed new name was AshleyMadison.com stadium. The naming rights eventually went to an insurance company, MetLife, in 2011. More
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno shocked many Tuesday when he stated that just two Army brigades were currently combat-ready as a result of the financial toll taken by sequestration and other cuts in military spending, but a retired U.S. Air Force general says severe problems can be seen throughout all service branches. “The Air Force, at one time, grounded a third of all their squadrons because of the cost savings driven by sequestration. That means their readiness is declining in almost dramatic terms,” said retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom McInerney, who served as both assistant vice chief of staff and commander in chief of U.S. Air Forces Europe during his time in uniform. “The Navy is cutting down their steaming hours or flying hours and the Marine Corps the same thing,” he told WND. “They’re all about a third in decreased readiness, which permeates the whole force and you atrophy gradually. Without a doubt, the sequestration has had a huge impact, negative impact, on U.S. military readiness.” Sequestration was the default result of the 2011 Budget Control Act that was passed to resolve that summer’s debt-ceiling showdown. Lawmakers were supposed to come up with areas to trim spending but failed to reach any consensus. As a result, sequestration kicked in, with President Obama and Democrats demanding half of the cuts come from military spending in exchange for some trimming in entitlement spending. The military’s sequestration cuts followed closely on the heels of another major drop in funding. The combination of actual cuts and reductions in planned spending increases totals roughly $1 trillion over 10 years. The Defense Department, like all government agencies, have been known for extravagant spending at times, but McInerney said the rules of sequestration prevent officials from prioritizing the spending reductions, so critical programs are suffering. “It doesn’t give the Department of Defense the reprogramming authority that they would like, so much of it cuts across the board. It’s a straight-line salami slice. If you’re able to go into certain areas where you can delay certain modernization or do certain things, that enables them to keep their readiness up. They don’t have that tool right now, but that’s what they need,” he said. More
Lawsuits against Christians – sometimes even churches – have become common when they refuse to support non-Christian events, such as same-sex weddings. But now those defendants have started to fight back, filing lawsuits against state officials who are trying to coerce them to violate their faith. WND reported in May when a Washington state florist sued Attorney General Bob Ferguson for allegedly trying to violate the state and federal constitutions’ religious freedom provisions. And this week the Christian Institute in the United Kingdom profiled an Iowa couple suing their state’s Civil Rights Commission for the same reason. “They have filed their own complaint saying that if the commission forces them to go against their beliefs and host gay weddings this would be a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act,” the Institute reports. At issue is a claim against the Mennonite couple, Dick and Betty Odgaard, who own and operate the Gortz Haus Gallery, an old church building that is used for a variety of private events. Homosexuals Lee Stafford and his partner, identified only as Jared, claim the Odgaards, devout Mennonites, turned them away from their facility when they wanted to hold a “gay wedding” there, and that violates their rights. They complained to that same Iowa Civil Rights Commission. More
Owners of individual health-insurance policies already have received more than 1 million cancellation notices, according to a compilation of news reports. But the pain likely won’t end there. Health-policy expert Bob Laszewski has concluded that about 16 million Americans will lose their current plans because of Obamacare. Laszewski explained that about 19 million Americans are in the individual health insurance market. “Because the Obama administration’s regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent about 85 percent of those, 16 million, are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal,” he said. The 16 million, he said, will receive letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll to avoid a break in coverage . “Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases, he said. Blue Cross in New Jersey, alone, is dropping more than 800,000 customers due to Obamacare. In a letter earlier this month to customers who purchase insurance on the individual and small-employer markets, the insurance giant explained that their health-insurance plan would no longer exist next year because it does not cover all the essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. More
HIV-infected girl in remission sends whisper of AIDS cure
Doctors are touting a medical breakthrough after a girl born with HIV has gone into extended remission, saying that they’ve never seen such a recovery and opening the doors to the question: Have scientists and researchers finally discovered a cure for AIDS?
Critics in the medical field say not so fast — it’s too soon to tell. continue
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