Signs of the Times (11/27/20)

November 27, 2020

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Abortions in U.S. His All-Time Low in 2018

Americans have another reason to give thanks this week. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows abortions have once again hit an all-time low as more babies are being saved from abortion than ever before. The new CDC report covers the year 2018 and confirms America’s abortion decline continues. The report indicates the number of babies killed in abortions has declined 1.4% from 2016-2018 and the abortion rate — the percentage of women having an abortion or choosing life for their baby — has declined 2.% as more women opt against abortion. Since 2009, the number of babies killed in abortions has dropped 21.8% and the abortion rate has declined 24.2 percent.

Texas and Louisiana Can Defund Planned Parenthood, Appeals Court Rules

A federal appeals court on Monday delivered a major win to the pro-life community in Texas and Louisiana when it ruled that officials in the two states can cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed earlier decisions and gave the green light for Texas and Louisiana to pull Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Eleven of the court’s 16 justices signed the majority opinion. The ruling could also affect Mississippi, which is within the Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction.

Court Allows Tennessee to Enforce Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as prohibit the procedure if it’s based on the race or gender of the fetus. Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee enacted the so-called “reason bans” earlier this year as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure. The law gained national attention because it banned abortion as early as six weeks. The law was immediately blocked by a lower federal court just hours after Lee signed it into law. However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision will allow the state to enforce the reason bans while abortion rights groups continue their court battle against that law.

Senate Confirmed Trump’s 227th Judge This Week

The U,S. Senate may be holding a lame-duck session, but that hasn’t slowed down the Republican effort to confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees. The Senate this week confirmed the 227th federal judge nominated by President Trump. That includes 168 district judges, 53 appeals court judges, three U.S. Supreme Court justices and three members of the U.S. Court of International Trade. The 53 appeals court judges are the most of any president in a single term since President Carter. The 227 total of confirmed judges are more than any Republican president in a single term in modern history, outpacing Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and Nixon.

  • President Trump’s enduring legacy will be the placement of conservative judges throughout the judiciary, swinging the pendulum back from its recent liberal slant.

Deaths From Terror Attacks Down 59% Since 2014

Deaths caused by terrorist attacks around the world have fallen by more than half in just the last five years, declining again in 2019, according to an annual analysis released Wednesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a prominent Australian think tank. Overall for 2019, the survey recorded 13,826 terror-related deaths, down 15% from the year before and down 59% from 2014. Keys to the decline include the steady withering of the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq and “increased counter-terrorism coordination at both the state and international level” around the world.

Thanksgiving Sees Millions of American Going Hungry

Thanksgiving Day saw millions more Americans in need of food amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Food banks have consistently seen a 60 percent increase in demand compared to this time last year, and continue to require more food and resources to provide to people in need,” reports the Feeding America organization. They estimates that 15 million more people live in food insecure homes in the U.S. this year than before the pandemic.

Thanksgiving Travel Down 60% But Still Almost a Million/Day

While travel appears to be significantly down from years prior, roughly 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Wednesday. That was a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago, but the more than 1 million people screened at airports Wednesday was the largest since the start of the pandemic.

Native Americans Want Their Land Back, Deface 4 Historical Monuments

Nearly 400 years after the Pilgrims landed in America,, the descendants of the very tribe at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday are still fighting to reclaim their lands — a fight that ironically hinges on whether or not the tribe meets the federal government’s definition of “Indian.” The words “land back” were spray-painted on statues and buildings in multiple cities. The LANDBACK campaign is an Indigenous movement against white supremacy and for Indigenous food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water.

Portland Police Arrest 3 for Thanksgiving Day Vandalism Spree

Three people were arrested in Portland after police say they caused “thousands” of dollars’ worth of damage vandalizing at least 10 businesses in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day, police said. According to authorities, callers reported seeing a group of people who were dressed in black clothing and breaking windows and spray-painting graffiti. Grocery stores, banks, an auto service center, a package distribution and mailing center, and local business storefronts were damaged.

NYC Employs Covid Checkpoints to Catch & Fine Holiday Travelers

New York’s statewide 14-day holiday quarantine mandates that travelers quarantine, or take a test showing they’re negative. Violations of self-quarantine will be enforced in New York City and may carry fines of $1,000 to $2,000, the mayor’s office has said. NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito that they will conduct spot checks when out-of-state buses drop riders off at the curb, and will also check cars with out of state licenses plates. Test-and-trace teams will also be on the ground to help direct people to testing sites while providing “education” about quarantine at various ‘checkpoints.’

Supreme Court Blocks Limits on Religious Services in NY

The Supreme Court placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions Wednesday night, temporarily blocking recent rules in New York that severely restricted gatherings at houses of worship in areas hit hardest by COVID-19. The court’s new, more conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s limits on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to 10 or 25 worshipers in hard-hit regions appeared to violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the court’s majority opinion said.

Trump Officially Allows Biden’s Transition to Begin, But Won’t Concede

The Trump administration cleared the way Monday for President-elect Joe Biden to begin his official transition, allowing Biden’s team to get access to briefings, office space, secure computers and other government services needed for the transfer of power. The announcement from Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, marked a formal recognition by President Donald Trump’s administration that Biden won the Nov. 3 election, even though the president has refused to concede and continues to make allegations of voter fraud. Murphy’s letter to Biden came hours after Michigan’s four-member elections board voted to certify Biden’s win in that state by 154,187 votes. And on Friday, Georgia’s Republican governor certified his state’s results after a hand recount, which ended with Biden ahead of Trump by about 12,000 votes.

UK Vaccine May Have Significant Advantage, But Test Data Flawed

A third COVID vaccine candidate is reporting strong results—and this one would be easier to transport and store than the first two. AstraZeneca says interim results show that its vaccine is up to 90% effective, slightly less than the 95% reported by Pfizer and Moderna. But while its highest rate is lower than those of the first two, the vaccine made by AstraZeneca—and developed by Oxford University—appears to have a key advantage. It does not need to be shipped and stored at sub-zero temperatures and thus could more easily kept at hospitals and doctors’ offices. AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company with its headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom and Södertälje, Sweden.

  • AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Wednesday acknowledged a dosing error that is raising questions about preliminary results of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who got two full doses. In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62% effective. Combined the vaccine appeared to be 70% effective.

D.C. Council Approves Bill Allowing Children to Get Vaccinated Without Parents’ Consent

A bill passed by the D.C. Council on Tuesday would allow children as young as age 11 to obtain vaccinations without their parents’ consent. Under the legislation, if a doctor determines that a minor is capable of informed consent, they would be able to seek government-recommended vaccinations even if their parents object. They also could get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus — which is recommended for older children but opposed by some parents because the virus is sexually transmitted and they object to their teenagers having sex.

Coronavirus Drug Combo, Baricitinib plus Remdesivir, Gets Emergency Approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday issued emergency approval to a drug combo to treat moderate to seriously ill coronavirus patients. The combo, rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib plus Gilead’s remdesivir, was authorized to treat hospitalized patients 2 years or older requiring oxygen. The FDA said the drugs cut patients’ time to recovery in a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-sponsored trial. “The odds of a patient’s condition progressing to death or being ventilated at day 29 was lower in the baricitinib plus remdesivir group versus the placebo plus remdesivir group,” the FDA stated.

COVID-19 Antibodies Last at Least 6 Months Says New Study

Researchers from the University of Oxford tested 12,000 frontline workers for COVID-19 antibodies. None of the 1,246 workers who had antibodies got sick. David Eyre, an infectious disease consultant at Oxford and one of the study authors, said on Twitter “it’s very unlikely, at least for 6 months,” that people can become reinfected with COVID-19. This study mirrors the recent results of research from Iceland. Scientists measured the levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the blood of approximately 30,000 study participants, including 1,200 who tested positive for the virus and recovered. They found 91.1% of those who had recovered from COVID-19 had antibodies against the virus months after infection.

Danish Study Says Masks Make Only a Slight Difference Against Covid-19

The first large, randomized controlled trial of its kind showed no statistically significant difference in COVID-19 cases between people who wore masks and those who did not. The Danish study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a “recommendation to wear a surgical mask when outside the home among others did not reduce, at conventional levels of statistical significance, incident [COVID-19] infection compared with no mask recommendation.” Among 6,000 participants in Denmark, half were told to wear masks and half were not. The researchers found 42 of the participants who were told to wear masks contracted COVID-19, while 53 in the control group got the disease. The authors concluded the difference was not statistically significant.

Most COVID Spreaders Are Asymptomatic

Most COVID-19 infections are spread by people who show no symptoms at all—another reason why it’s good to wear masks and take other simple precautions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC and others estimate that 59% of all infections are transmitted from people who are not exhibiting symptoms, the agency says. The CDC explains that 24% of coronavirus transmitters are asymptomatic, 35% pre-symptomatic, and 41% were experiencing symptoms when they transmitted the infection.

Covid-19 Cases/Hospitalizations/Deaths Continue to Rise in U.S.

The 7-day average number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached a new record on Tuesday of 175,521, up from 34,596 on 9/11 and much higher than the previous peak of 66,692 on 7/19. The 7-day average number of deaths rose to 1,623, up from 702 on 10/10, and higher than the summer peak of 1,229 on 8/1, but still below the spring peak of 2,228 on 4/16.  

  • More than 2,100 people died in the U.S. because of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since May. Deaths have been steadily rising since October but hadn’t surpassed 2,000 in a day since May 6, when more than 2,300 people died.
  • The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to rise, hitting a record for the 17th straight day Thursday with more than 90,400 admissions, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
  • Only Iowa and Hawaii have seen their 7-day average new cases decline in recent days. The other 48 states are continuing to rise or remain at a high peak level as of Wednesday, 11/25.
  • Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer for Phoenix-based Banner Health, said that their hospitals will get above 125% of their licensed bed capacity starting about Dec. 4, and that will continue to be the situation for some extended period of time, likely through mid-January.

U.S. Sees Huge Spike in COVID Cases in Children

The US has just seen its largest single week increase in coronavirus cases in kids. There were 144,145 new cases among children 17 and under from Nov. 12 to 19—”by far the highest weekly increase since the pandemic began,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday. That total marks a 28% increase over the previous week ending Nov. 12, which saw 112,000 new COVID-19 cases among children which was also a new record. Almost 1.2 million U.S. children tested positive as of Nov. 19, representing 11.8% “of all cases in states which report cases by age.

  • When it comes down to where children are safest during the coronavirus pandemic, CDC Director Robert Redfield says schools are the best place to be. At a coronavirus task force briefing held at the White House on Thursday, Redfield said evidence shows that students are contracting the respiratory illness from family gatherings and local events rather than schools. “The truth is, for kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school.”

COVID Blamed for Thousands of Non-Virus Deaths Among Elderly

Almost 100,000 long-term care U.S. residents have died in the coronavirus pandemic, and advocates for the elderly say tens of thousands more are succumbing to neglect by overwhelmed staffs and deterioration from isolation imposed as protection from COVID. Stephen Kaye, professor at the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed data from 15,000 facilities, finding that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, there is another who died prematurely of other causes. Those “excess deaths” beyond the normal rate of fatalities in nursing homes could total more than 40,000 since March, he said.

Europe Sees Dip in New Covid-19 Cases

European officials announced a modest gain in the continent’s battle against the virus. New cases of COVID-19 decreased to 1.8 million cases last week, down from over 2 million the week before. Dr Hans Henri Kluge, World Health Organization regional director for Europe, credited adherence to “risk-reducing behavior.” Still, an average of 4500 lives are lost to COVID-19 in Europe every day, Kluge said. He described further lockdowns as a last resort and said that if mask use reached 95%, lockdowns would not be needed.

Plans for Covid Passports Already Underway – Precursor to Mark of the Beast

Before the COVID vaccine is even approved, it is becoming mandatory for travel, reports Liberty Counsel. “This week the CEO of one international airline said that the company planned to deny their services to anyone that didn’t provide proof that they had taken the COVID-19 vaccine. TicketMaster (a large online event ticket vendor) is building the technology to require all participants of certain events to submit health documents (tests or vaccine) or potentially a phone app of movements and questions. But China took this even one step further; they want every traveler to have their own QR code so this communist nation can decide who can travel internationally, enter buildings, or be forced into isolation.”

  • The ‘Mark of the Beast’ (Revelation 13:16-17, 14:9-11) will be an indelible mark or chip on/in the hand or forehead which will be required to “buy or sell,” that is to survive. The vaccine passport is not quite there yet, but the groundwork is being established.

California Ratcheting Up Covid Restrictions

California’s residents—at least 94% of them—are going under curfew starting Saturday night. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that from then until at least Dec. 21, those living in the 41 counties that are in the state’s purple tier (the strictest level of lockdown due to coronavirus numbers) must be home between the hours of 10pm and 5am, with some exceptions.

  • In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, public health officials said infections are skyrocketing, with approximately one out of every 145 people infected with the virus. That estimate was at 1 in 880 residents two months ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • A reinstated ban on outdoor dining in Los Angeles County can go into effect Wednesday, a judge ruled, after a restaurant industry group had tried to block the restriction. The rule will limit restaurants in the nation’s most populous county to takeout and delivery.

Contact Tracers Overwhelmed, Giving Up in Some Areas

Early in the pandemic, public health workers all over the United States launched efforts to trace outbreaks back to their origins, whether at busy restaurants or crowded meatpacking plants. But with the virus now spreading rapidly in much of the country, overwhelmed state and local health officials are scaling back those contact tracing efforts, or even abandoning them altogether.

GOP Poll Watcher and Fraud Expert Says PA Election Process Broken

Gregory Stenstrom, a Navy veteran and forensic computer scientist, testified Wednesday before the State Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, about an election process in Delaware County he described as being “forensically destructive.” “In all cases the chain of custody was broken,” the GOP poll watcher said. “It was broken for the mail in ballots, the drop box ballots, the election day USB card flash drives.” Not one procedure defined by the Delaware County Board of Elections and Election Process Review was followed. “We have multiple other witnesses who saw it, including Democrat poll watchers.”

Pennsylvania Judge Halts Vote Certification Process

President Trump‘s legal fight over the Nov. 3 election scored a rare win Wednesday when a Pennsylvania state court sided with Republicans contesting the state results. The judge halted further certification of the state’s election results. The win, though far from reversing the projected nationwide win for presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden, kept alive Trump‘s claims that widespread mishandling of ballots tainted results in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona.

Republican AG Certifies Georgia Recount Victory for Biden

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday that Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden won the state’s 16 Electoral College votes, confirming results from an audit that was released Thursday. Raffensperger called himself a “passionate conservative” and a “proud Trump supporter.” “Like other Republicans, I’m disappointed our candidate didn’t win Georgia’s electoral votes,” he said. “Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” Mr. Raffensperger said. “As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct.”

LGBT Group Urges Biden to Strip Accreditation of Christian Schools, Colleges

The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group is urging the future Biden administration to help pull the accreditation of Christian colleges and schools if they don’t have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Under a current law known as the Higher Education Opportunity Act, accrediting agencies are told to ensure their standards “respect the stated mission of the institution of higher education,” including a school’s “religious” mission. HRC says the language “could be interpreted to require accrediting bodies to accredit religious institutions that discriminate or that do not meet science-based curricula standards.” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls such a recommendation “sinister.” “I’ve not seen any document like this before – the Human Rights Campaign is effectively calling for religious colleges and schools to be coerced into the sexual revolution or stripped of accreditation,” Mohler said

ICE Arrests 154 Illegal Immigrants Who Failed to Self-Deport

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has rounded up 154 illegal immigrants who’d promised the government they would self-deport within a few months but turned around and defied that promise. One had been defying his promise for more than 20 years, said Tony Pham, acting director of ICE. One had been defying his promise for more than 20 years, said Tony Pham, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said the goal was to send a message to “thousands” of others who are still defying their promise that ICE hasn’t forgotten about them, and may go looking for them.

Judge Orders Trump Administration to Stop Expelling Unaccompanied Migrant Children

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has barred President Donald Trump’s administration from deporting any more migrant children who arrived to the U.S.-Mexico border by themselves, chipping away at a policy that U.S. border officials have been using for months to quickly remove more than 200,000 migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a preliminary injunction last Wednesday ordering the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to stop expelling unaccompanied migrant children using an emergency order published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That policy has allowed U.S. border and immigration officials since March to hold migrant children in custody in holding facilities or hotels in border states like Texas and Arizona and then quickly expel them to Mexico or other countries, without the possibility to seek asylum.

Pandemic Yields Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The coronavirus pandemic is driving U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level in three decades. Driven largely by a steep drop in air and automobile travel, the nine percent reduction in 2020 emissions projected by a private research organization would put the nation back on track to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord, although President Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the agreement.

Economic News

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge. The Labor Department’s report said jobless claims were up from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to roughly 225,000. They shot up to 6.9 million during one week in March. The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits is now 6.1 million, up from fewer than 1.7 million a year ago, but declining from a high of over 12 million in the spring.

About 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance Dec. 26 when two coronavirus aid programs expire. They include 4.6 million workers who will have exhausted their 26 weeks of state jobless benefits and received an additional 13 weeks under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. About 3 million of those who lose PEUC checks are eligible for an additional round of “extended benefits” for up to 20 weeks from 18 states whose unemployment rates are high enough to trigger the relief. An additional 7.3 million workers will lose their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – benefits doled out to workers who traditionally aren’t covered by jobless aid, including the self-employed, independent contractors and workers caring for sick relatives.

Following a quarter of modest improvement in corporate spending, the Coupa Business Spending index suggests that businesses are continuing to adjust to the new normal and are beginning to return to pre-COVID spending levels, albeit at a slower rate than in the previous quarter. Though still cautious about the global economic outlook, businesses are spending more in areas related to remote work, such as technology, shipping and freight, and contingent workforce support.

The surging coronavirus infections have once again initiated a round of consumer stockpiling. Grocery stores are seeing toilet paper completely bought out. At Kroger, customers can purchase a maximum of two items when it comes to products like bath tissue, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap. Giant, a grocery chain in the Northeast, recently put a limit of one on purchases of larger toilet paper and paper towel sizes and four on smaller toilet paper and paper towel sizes. H-E-B in Texas has instituted limits of two on purchases of disinfecting and antibacterial sprays, while other stores have limited toilet paper and paper towels to two.

Home sales rose again in October, at their highest pace in 14 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. But a record low inventory of available homes and a greater number of luxury homes sold have pushed the median home price up to a record $313,000, almost 16% more than a year ago.

Apple Inc. has agreed to a $113 million settlement with more than 30 states that accused the iPhone maker of concealing issues with batteries by throttling phone performance with a software update in 2016. “Big Tech companies must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. The investigation was backed by Republican and Democratic officials from 33 states plus the District of Columbia.

Amazon has added 427,300 employees over the past 10 months, bringing its global work force to more than 1.2 million, up more than 50 percent from a year ago. Such rapid growth is unrivaled in the history of corporate America. It far outstrips the 230,000 employees that Walmart, the largest private employer with more than 2.2 million workers, added in a single year two decades ago.

Airstrike on Iranians in Syria Blamed on Israel, 8 Killed

At least eight members of a pro-Iranian militia were killed in airstrikes attributed to the Israel Air Force, a leading Syrian rights group said Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian opposition organization based in Britain, said those killed belonged to “pro-Iranian militias and Lebanese Hezbollah” and the dead were “non-Syrian nationalities.” Iranian military advisers and Iranian-armed militias have been in Syria for several years propping up the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, with Iran and Hezbollah attempting to entrench themselves near the border with Israel.

Yemen Rebels’ Missile Strikes Saudi Oil Facility

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they struck a Saudi oil facility in the port city of Jiddah early Monday with a new cruise missile (most likely Iranian supplied), just hours after the kingdom finished hosting its virtual Group of 20 summit. The kingdom acknowledged the attack hours later. Videos of an explosion at a Saudi Arabian Oil Co. facility in Jiddah had circulated on social media all day and a satellite photo confirmed damage at the site. A projectile struck a fuel tank at the Jiddah distribution station and ignited a fire.

Israel Announces ‘Green Passports’ for Covid-19 Recoverees

The head of Israel’s national coronavirus program, Prof. Nachman Ash, announced the introduction of what the ministry is calling a “green passport” for Israeli residents that will be issued to those who have recovered from the virus and tests show that they have antibodies in their system to protect them. Ash also said that in the coming days the ministry will distribute over a million serological tests so that Israelis can be tested for antibodies to show they are not at risk of being infected or passing on the infection. The green passport will then allow them to travel freely around the country and possibly for traveling abroad. He warned the nation Thursday that despite the expected arrival of millions of doses of vaccine, the pandemic will be with the country for at least another year.

U.S. Imposes Sweeping Sanctions On Iran

The United States on Wednesday imposed broad sanctions targeting Iran, blacklisting a foundation controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and taking aim at what Washington called Iran’s human rights abuses a year after a deadly crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. The sanctions announced by the U.S. Treasury Department, which also targeted Iran’s intelligence minister, are the latest action to reinforce the “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran pursued by President Trump’s administration. They come little more than two months before Trump is supposedly due to hand over power to Joe Biden.

237 Nigerian Christians Murdered in Fulani Militant Attacks Since July

Haruna Kuye, the community leader of a predominantly Christian village in southern Kaduna State, Nigeria, and his teenage son, Destiny Kuye, both Christians, were killed when armed men entered their home in the early hours of November 17. Fulani militants are suspected of carrying out the brutal attack in Mazaki village, in the Zangon Kataf local government area. Mr. Kuye’s wife and daughter were both also injured in the attack. The latest attack raises to at least 237 the death toll from Fulani militant attacks on Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt communities since the beginning of July.

Turkey Cracking Down On Foreign Christian Workers

In recent years, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has become increasingly oriented toward a radicalized form of Islam. Once a staunch ally of the United States and Europe and a respected member of NATO, the country is now pursuing a more aggressive stance toward neighboring countries and has cracked down fiercely on dissenters, journalists, and politicians who oppose Erdogan’s hard line politics. At the same time, the Turkish government’s hostility towards Christianity has become increasingly obvious in recent years as the government harasses and restricts foreign Christian workers, reports the Family Research Counsil.

Wildfires

A wildfire raging in a small community on the California-Nevada border destroyed dozens of buildings and killed at least one person. The Mountain View Fire ignited during high winds on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, it had burned more than 32 square miles in Mono County, California. Evacuation orders were issued in the communities of Walker, Coleville and Topaz. A map of the fire area showed at least 90 buildings were destroyed. The fire was 20% contained and forward progress was stopped.

Weather

Eight deaths are being blamed on Tropical Cyclone Gati, the first hurricane-strength system to hit Somalia in recorded history. Several buildings were destroyed in Hafun. Streets and houses were flooded in Hafun and in the cities of Hurdiya and Bosaso. Flooding is expected to continue with as much as 8 inches of rain forecast this week. That area of northern Somalia typically gets about 4 inches of rain a year.

Thousands of people across Central America face a lack of drinking water, food and basic supplies after back-to-back hurricanes slammed the region, destroying homes, hospitals and other critical infrastructure and piling one disaster on top of another. Countries hit by Eta were still assessing damage and beginning the recovery process when Iota struck. Eta caused widespread flooding and landslides that left at least 130 people dead and dozens of others missing or presumed dead. At least 19 deaths have so far been blamed on Iota in Nicaragua and Honduras.

A powerful storm blew through Texas days before Thanksgiving causing roofs to collapse, damage to buildings and multiple power lines down. A tornado hit Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday night, causing significant damage. Police said some buildings collapsed and at least three apartment complexes were destroyed. At least three people were hospitalized with minor injuries. At least 75 families in Arlington were displaced following the tornado.

Signs of the Times (11/18/20)

November 18, 2020

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.. (1Peter 4:7-10)

Atheist Complaint Stops School from Filling Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

A Kansas middle school has discontinued its participation in the popular Operation Christmas Child project following allegations from the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation that involvement of a public school is unconstitutional. Liberty Middle School in Pratt, Kan., previously participated in Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse that involves volunteers around the world packing shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children in need. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian ministry, impacts around 10 million children annually during each year’s Operation Christmas Child.

Moderna Reports Good Results for Its Vaccine

A week ago, Pfizer reported excellent early results on its COVID vaccine. Now, a second major contender also is reporting data, and the results are even better. Moderna announced Monday that preliminary results suggest its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective. The U.S. might have two highly effective vaccines available on a limited basis by year’s end. However, it could be spring before both are widely available to most Americans. Moderna developed its vaccine with the Vaccine Research Center, which is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna co-founder and chairman, says the company’s innovations enable it to “keep the vaccine under refrigeration conditions for up to 30 days,” enabling broad distribution. The Moderna vaccine was developed with funds from President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program.

Pfizer Results Get Even Better, Will Seek Emergency Use Approval

More good news from Pfizer and BioNTech, its German partner in the race to produce a coronavirus vaccine: They’re expecting to seek an emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration “within days.” A final analysis of their late-stage vaccine trials showed that the vaccine proved 95% effective, even in older age groups. This surpasses preliminary results reported last week showing a 90% efficacy rate. The observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%.

58% Now Say They Will Get Vaccine

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they are now willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new Gallup poll released Tuesday. That is up from a low of 50% in September. In contrast, 49% of Republicans say they would be willing to be vaccinated, while 69% of Democrats would be. In addition, 61% of men are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine – up 5 percentage points from a September poll, while 54% of women say they would be willing to be vaccinated – an increase of 10 percentage points since September.

Anti-Vaxxers Positioned as Threat to National Security – Mark of the Beast?

Anti-vaxxers will be positioned as a threat to national security. Strong-arm tactics will be employed to force compliance, such as being placed on “no-fly” lists by airlines, no school for kids, no access to commercial institutions, etc. This could become the Mark of the Beast if it prevents people from buying and selling based on a digital marker placed on/in the wrist or forehead to indicate whether a person has been vaccinated or not. (Revelation 13:17-17, 14:9-11)

Coronavirus Continues to Surge Across U.S.

The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to 158,265 up from 35,046 on 9/11. The previous two peaks were 66,692 on 7/21 and 31,709 on 4/10. Hawaii is the only state showing a decline in cases. Deaths have begun to climb as well, lagging new cases by 2-3 weeks. The seven-day average of deaths per day has risen to 1,155 on 11/17, up from 697 on 10/6. This is lower than the two previous peaks which were 1,229 on 8/1 and 2,228 on 6/16.

  • The mortality rate is substantially lower during this surge than during the previous two peaks in the summer and spring.

Tougher Covid-19 Restrictions Enacted by Many States But Not Florida

Thirty-six states – plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – now require people to wear face coverings in public statewide. Iowa, Utah and North Dakota joined the list in recent days, and Maine, Ohio and West Virginia strengthened their mandates last week.

  • California on Monday became the latest state to reimpose sweeping restrictions amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. Many businesses will need to roll back their indoor operations once again. Churches, restaurants, and gyms must halt indoor operations, while retail establishments can remain open at 25% capacity, covering 41 of 58 counties for 94% of the state’s population.
  • Starting Thursday, Ohio residents must stay home between the hours of 10pm and 5am, with some exceptions, for at least three weeks. The curfew, issued by Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday, will exempt people who work during those hours, and will still allow people to carry out essential activities involving things like food, repairs, health and medical needs, and more. However, dining out is among the activities prohibited during those hours, and violators could face a misdemeanor charge that carries with it a $750 fine and 90 days behind bars.
  • Under rules announced by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in-person high school and college classes are suspended for three weeks along with eat-in dining at restaurants and bars. Casinos, movie theaters and some other businesses will temporarily close.
  • New York City will close public schools as virus cases rise. The nation’s largest school system and return to all-remote learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed not to lock down the state again despite the widespread upturn in coronavirus cases. “The governor will not lockdown and hurt families who can’t afford to shelter in place for 6 weeks. Especially not for a virus that has a 99.8% survival rate,” a spokesperson for Mr. DeSantis.

38% of Thanksgiving Celebrations to Include More than 10 People

Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center conducted a national survey about how Americans plan to spend the holidays. According to the results, about two-in-five Americans (38%) still plan on attending gatherings with more than 10 people. And about a third of the respondents said they will not be requiring people to wear masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against Thanksgiving celebrations that include anyone other than those living in your immediate household in order to prevent further outbreaks.

Winter Snowbirds Flock to Arizona Despite Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping the annual influx of visitors from coming to Arizona from the north, and there’s little preventing travelers from bringing the virus with them. Sky Harbor International Airport is busy, Arizona’s sunny weather makes it a popular spot for people who are choosing to travel, and Trip Advisor just named Sedona and Scottsdale as top Thanksgiving destinations. The state of Arizona is also under pressure to revive an industry whose downturn is estimated to have lost the state $10 billion in travel-related spending so far this year. While some other airports have started offering rapid COVID-19 testing, Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix is not one of them. The state of Arizona recommends winter visitors quarantine for 14 days, but it’s not a requirement, and arriving visitors have no travel forms to fill out, as they do in some other states.

Weddings Sparked Several Covid-19 Outbreaks

Yet again, a wedding reception held in defiance of coronavirus guidelines has fueled an outbreak. The Washington state nuptials were held in Ritzville on Nov. 7, when receptions were allowed with a limit of 30 attendees. This one had more than 300. At least 17 guests tested positive after the wedding and authorities are urging more of the attendees to get tested. At least three other weddings have turned into superspreader events: a Maine wedding in early August has now been linked to at least 177 cases and seven deaths (30 of the 55 guests ultimately tested positive); a Long Island wedding last month is linked to dozens of cases; and an Ohio wedding held Oct. 31 is one of the latest linked to an outbreak. Almost half of the 83 guests at that wedding tested positive, including the bride and groom and two of the couple’s grandparents who had to visit the emergency room for severe symptoms.

More Than 120 Church Leaders Call for a Review of U.K. Ban on In-Person Services

More than 120 church leaders in the United Kingdom are asking for a judicial review of the United Kingdom’s decision to ban in-person worship services as part of a lockdown amid COVID-19. According to a statement from the group, the “measures involve a direct and serious interference with the independence of religious organizations and freedoms of religious people,” The Christian Post reports. Amid another wave of increasing coronavirus infections in the country, the country ordered a national lockdown lasting until Dec. 2. Under the order, bars, restaurants, and non-essential retail stores and gyms are closed. Places of worship are to be closed for services and only remain open for private prayer. Schools and workplaces will remain open.

UN World Food Program Warns of Devastating Famines in 2021

The UN World Food Program was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, and the head of that agency is warning of the potential for absolutely devastating famines around the globe in 2021.  The COVID-19 lockdowns that were instituted all over the world this year created tremendous hardship in many wealthy countries, but in poorer nations the economic devastation has created alarming waves of hunger.  There was hope that things would get better when lockdowns were being lifted, but now a new round of lockdowns is being imposed, and many experts are warning about what this could mean for those living in deep poverty in 20 countries over the next three to six months.

California Judge Rules Gov. Newsom Overstepped Authority with Mail-In-Ballot Order

A California judge has ruled that Gov. Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order requiring vote-by-mail ballots sent to all registered voters. The ruling put a permanent injunction on Newsom, prohibiting him from changing existing law under the California Emergency Services Act. However, The ruling does not affect the results of the 2020 general election. Judge Heckman said that Newsom’s action could set a precedent that would allow governors to abuse emergency authority to amend statutory law or create new statutory law during a state of emergency.

General Services Administrator in Middle of Election Dispute

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy is the government official whose responsibility is to Presidential election result, a process known as “ascertainment” that would allow the official presidential transition to begin. As the only obstacle between President-elect Joe Biden and the formal start of the presidential transition, Murphy is struggling with the weight of the disputed presidential election being dropped on her shoulders, feeling like she’s been put in a no-win situation, according to people who have spoken to her recently. Facing mounting pressure from both sides, and even death threats, the sources say Murphy is working to interpret vague agency guidelines and follow what she sees as precedent. Sources told CNN she will base her decision on what she sees as the precedent set by the 2000 election, where there was not a clear winner for more than a month. Murphy, a Trump appointee with a lengthy career as a congressional aide and at GSA, has declined interview requests and the GSA declined to comment.

Trump Campaign Loses Several Election Fraud Lawsuits

Last Friday, nine cases challenging Joe Biden’s election win in key states were denied or dropped. The Trump campaign lost six cases in Montgomery County and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania over whether almost 9,000 absentee ballots should be thrown out. The Trump campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona seeking a review by hand of all ballots because it wouldn’t change the result. Poll-watchers in Michigan lost their case to stop the certification of votes in Detroit, and a judge rejected their allegations of fraud.

  • President Trump’s campaign on Monday denied reports that they withdrew a central part of its lawsuit seeking to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania. Ahead of a Tuesday hearing in the case, the Washington Post claimed that Trump’s campaign dropped the allegation that hundreds of thousands of mail-in and absentee ballots—682,479, to be precise—were illegally processed without its representatives watching. The remaining claim in the lawsuit centers on disqualifying ballots cast by voters who were given an opportunity to fix mail-in ballots that were going to be disqualified for a technicality.

Thousands of Uncounted & Wrongly Counted Ballots Found in Georgia

Just days after a recount was ordered in Georgia, thousands of ballots that had previously been uncounted on election night were discovered in Floyd County. The batch of 2,631 ballots were from early voting. According to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, election officials failed to upload the votes to a ballot-scanning machine and had apparently left the memory card in the machine. According to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, election officials failed to upload the votes to a ballot-scanning machine and had apparently left the memory card in the machine. However, those ballots are not enough to change the outcome in Georgia. On Wednesday second Georgia county found a batch of thousands of votes that had not been counted on election night. Of the uncounted votes, 1,577 were for President Trump, 1,128 went to Joe Biden, 43 went to Libertarian Jo Jorgensen with seven write-ins.

  • Then on Thursday, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party said. “One of our monitors discovered a 9,626 vote error in the DeKalb County hand count. One batch was labeled 10,707 for Biden and 13 for Trump. The actual count for the batch was 1,081 for Biden and 13 for Trump,” reports Todd Starnes

President Trump Pays $3 Million for Recount in Two Wisconsin Counties

President Donald Trump’s campaign has paid $3 million for a recount of two heavily Democratic Wisconsin counties, saying Wednesday that they were the site of the “worst irregularities.” Trump paid for the recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties overnight Tuesday and planned to submit the required paperwork to trigger the recount on Wednesday, the campaign said in a statement. In the two counties Trump chose for the recount, Democrat Joe Biden received 577,455 votes compared with 213,157 for Trump. Biden won statewide by just 20,608 votes.

Pro-Trump Rally Results in Skirmishes/Arrests in DC

Tens of thousands of people clad in red, white and blue rallied and marched in support of outgoing President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Saturday afternoon to protest “voter fraud” in the 2020 presidential election. As night fell, skirmishes between the Million MAGA March protesters and counter-protesters broke out across the city. At least 20 people had been arrested as of Saturday evening on a variety of charges, including assault and weapons possession, One stabbing was reported, two police officers were injured and several firearms were also recovered by police. Police have arrested a suspect in connection with fireworks that were thrown at a D.C. restaurant, hitting Trump supporters after Saturday’s march.

Trump Fires Homeland Security Cyber Chief Who Called Election Secure

The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber chief, who presided over an elaborate election security effort guarding against foreign interference and fraud, was ousted by President Donald Trump on Tuesday as part of a continuing post-election purge of top national security officials. Trump announced the dismissal in two tweets Tuesday night. The dismissal of Christopher Krebs, director of DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, follows the agency’s declaration that the general election was the most secure in U.S. history. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the agency reported Thursday in an assessment joined by a coalition of election security groups, including the National Association of State Election Directors.

Seniors Turning to Pot for Health Issues

Marijuana is fast becoming a favorite medication among older Americans, a new study finds, with cannabis being used to ease pain, sleep disturbances, and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression. Among more than 550 patients surveyed, 15% had used cannabis within the past three years, and 50% of users said they used it regularly, mostly for medical purposes. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego reported that for 61% of the patients, cannabis use started after age 60.

Joe Biden’s Cancer Charity Spent $3 Million on Salaries, $0 on Research

Joe Biden’s cancer charity spent more than $3 million on salaries and zero on cancer research and grants during a two-year period, according to tax filings reviewed by the New York Post. The Biden Cancer Initiative was founded by Joe Biden and wife, Jill, after Joe’s oldest son, Beau, died in 2015 from brain cancer. The charity took in $4.8 million in contributions in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and spent $3 million on payroll and nearly $1 million on travel and conference expenses. Gregory Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative and former Pfizer executive, reportedly received $429,850 during the 2018 fiscal year, and Danielle Carnival, former chief of staff for Obama’s Cancer Moonshot Task Force, was paid $258,207 in 2018. The charity suspended operations in 2019 when Biden began running for President.

FAA Lifts Ban on Boeing 737 Max

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday cleared Boeing’s 737 Max to fly again after grounding the jet for nearly two years due to a pair of crashes that killed 346 people. Agency Administrator Steve Dickson said last week the FAA was in the final stages of reviewing changes to the Max that would make it safe to return to the skies. False assumptions, mismanagement, rushed deadlines, miscommunication and outright deception led to the failure to catch the design flaws of the 737 Max that led to the crashes, a 238-page report from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released in September found.

Millennials Now Becoming the ‘Sandwich Generation’

Millennials, age 24 to 39, graduated from college just as the Great Recession of 2007-09 was upending the economy, setting back their careers and salaries. They took on hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt. And now, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re suddenly becoming the largest contingent of the “sandwich generation,” the cohort of adults providing financial and other support to both children and elderly parents. For years, the sandwich generation featured middle-aged Americans — Gen Xers and baby boomers. With the oldest millennials turning 40 next year, that group already has started to age into the financially-crunched ‘sandwich’ predicament as their boomer parents reach their 60s and 70s.

Economic News

An estimated 11 to 13 million renter households are at risk of eviction, according to Stout, an investment bank and global advisory firm. It predicts there could be as many as 6.4 million potential eviction filings by January 1, 2021 if the CDC moratorium on evictions is lifted. The emergency CDC order, which went into effect on September 4th nationwide, temporarily prohibits new and previously filed evictions from occurring in an effort to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus. But the order is set to expire at the end of the year and faces legal challenges. Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of the tenant’s back rent will be due come January 1.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated last Thursday that the U.S. economy will need more stimulus from both the government and the central bank to get through the crisis. The Bank of England warned earlier this month of a douple-dip recession for the UK economy as the country re-entered national lockdown. The European Union is facing a similar fate. “In large part because of a significantly better containment of the virus, most Asian economies are performing better than their Western counterparts,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics.

Retail sales increased by only 0.3% to $553.3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in October, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. That’s down from a revised 1.6% in September, causing economists to worry about “a difficult winter.” Economists at Morgan Stanley noted that retail sales are still up 8.5% from the same month last year and stand at $26 billion above their pre-pandemic February levels.

Low interest rates have helped fuel a boom in the US housing market: Last quarter Americans’ mortgage debt climbed to a record high of nearly $10 trillion, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Tuesday. Between July and September, mortgage debt increased by $85 billion to a total of $9.86 trillion, a record high. And though mortgage debt is now much higher than it was during the housing boom ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, it’s notable that the share of borrowers with credit scores above 760 points is far higher than it has been in the past.

About 300 companies that received as much as half a billion dollars in pandemic-related government loans have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of government data and court filings. Many of the companies, which employ a total of about 23,400 workers, say the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program weren’t enough to keep them going as the coronavirus and lack of additional stimulus payments weighed on their businesses. The total number of companies that failed despite getting PPP loans is likely far higher. The Journal only analyzed the big borrowers from the program.

The Trump administration is asking oil companies to identify where they would like to drill on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it races to open the pristine wilderness to development and lock in drilling rights before the Biden administration takes over.

U.S. To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan, Iraq

The United States on Tuesday announced that it will reduce its troops’ presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 each by January 15 of next year. “By January 15, 2021, our force size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2,500 by that same day,” Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said during a live press conference. The United States has around 4,500 troops currently in Afghanistan and over 3,000 in Iraq.

Rockets Fired By Iranian Militia Strike U.S. Embassy Complex in Baghdad

Three rockets, apparently fired by an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, landed in the U.S. Embassy complex within Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone late Tuesday, amid rising tensions with Iran in the supposed waning days of the Trump administration. A U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of a formal statement, said initial reports indicated there had been no injuries to U.S. personnel or damage to American facilities. Another rocket reportedly landed elsewhere in the zone, and the Iraqi army said in a statement that another three fell outside the area, killing a young child and wounding five Iraqi civilians.

Israel Strikes Iranians in Syria, 10 Reported Killed

The Israel Air Force attacked multiple targets in Syria early Wednesday in response to the discovery of bombs planted on the Israel-Syria border by an Iran-backed military squad. On Tuesday, the IDF said its troops had discovered and neutralized several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) “which were placed by a Syrian squad led by Iranian forces.” In response, overnight, IDF fighter jets struck military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds force and the Syrian Armed Forces. During the strike, storage facilities, headquarters and military compounds were struck. In addition, Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries were also struck. The initial death toll included 5 Iranians, 3 Syrians and 2 others, possibly Lebanese or Iraqis. There were also multiple injuries.

IDF Pounds Hamas after Rocket Attacks from Gaza

The Israeli Defense Forces bombed several terror targets in the Gaza Strip last Sunday morning in response to rocket attacks on Israeli cities earlier in the night. Gaza-based terrorists fired two rockets. One rocket was fired to the Ashdod area but did not set off an alarm or cause damage, probably landing in the sea. The second rocket set off alarms in the Ashdod area. An Iron Dome defense battery engaged the rocket. In response, IDF tanks and helicopters struck Hamas underground infrastructure and military posts in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority Announced Restoration of Ties with Israel

A senior Palestinian official announced Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is restoring ties with Israel. The Hamas terrorist group in Gaza denounced the move as a betrayal of “national values and principles.” The PA’s announcement means it will again engage in security coordination with Israel after ending such cooperation six months ago. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had announced the cessation in coordination in response to Israel’s plans to officially extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. But those annexation plans have been put on hold since economic cooperation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

At Least 20 Killed, Church Desecrated by Islamic Militants in Congob

More than 20 people were killed in an attack by suspected Islamist militants in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo on October 30. At least 15 of the 21 dead were women, local witnesses said. Members of the jihadi militia group Allied Democratic Forces are suspected of carrying out the assault on Lisasa village in which a church was desecrated, a health center looted and homes set on fire. A number of people were also abducted. The attack happened days after jihadists killed at least 18 people in Baeti village in North Kivu province. A church and a number of homes were burned during the raid, which the Islamic State claimed was carried out by its members. The ADF is believed to have close ties to the Islamic State.

Peru’s Interim President Resigns Midst Massive Protests

Manuel Merino announced his resignation Sunday after Peru’s Head of Congress Luis Valdez said that all of the legislature’s political parties agreed to ask for the “immediate” resignation of Merino during an emergency Congress session. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Lima, Peru, on Saturday for the sixth consecutive day, protesting the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra over corruption allegations and the appointment of interim president Merino. Multiple lawmakers also resigned following the protests. Peruvians watched in hope as the nation’s third president in just over a week was sworn into office Tuesday. In Lima, many were cautiously optimistic the elder statesman Francisco Sagasti could steer the nation back to stability.

China Signs Huge Asia Pacific Trade Deal with 14 Countries

China has just joined forces with fourteen countries across the Asia Pacific region to sign a huge free trade deal nearly a decade in the making. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership covers 2.2 billion people, or nearly 30% of the world’s population. The deal includes several of the region’s heaviest economic hitters aside from China, including Japan and South Korea. New Zealand and Australia are also partners, as are Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The deal would eliminate tariffs and quotas on 65% of the goods that are traded in the region.

Earthquake in Nevada is Second of the Year

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Nevada is the second earthquake this year. The epicenter of the quake was at the southwest corner of the state in a town called Mina, close to its border with California. A series of aftershocks lingering around the 3.0 magnitude level followed the first earthquake. No damage or injuries were reported.

Wildfire in Reno Destroys a Dozen Buildings

A dozen buildings were damaged or destroyed by a wind-fueled wildfire that burned through a neighborhood in southwest Reno, Nevada, Tuesday. The blaze, dubbed the Pinehaven Fire, burned about 2.3 square miles in the Caughlin Ranch area. Evacuation orders remained in place overnight. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it broke out in high winds that ushered in a cold front. A gust of 77 mph was recorded in the area Tuesday afternoon.

Study Says World Beyond Tipping Point on Climate Change

Even if human-caused greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to zero, global temperatures may continue to rise for centuries afterward, according to a scientific study published last week. “The world is already past a point of no return for global warming,” the study authors report in the British journal Scientific Reports. The only way to stop the warming, they say, is that “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide have to be extracted from the atmosphere. If we want to stop this melting process we must do something in addition [to reducing carbon emissions]. For example, suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it underground, and make Earth’s surface brighter,” the report said.

Strong Midwest Storm Knocks Out Power to Over 750,000

More than three-quarters of a million homes and businesses were left without electricity Sunday when strong winds and severe thunderstorms blasted through the Midwest and into the East. One person was killed by a falling tree. The high winds were being whipped up as a vigorous jet-stream disturbance drove a strong cold front through the Midwest and Northeast. Gusts as high as 79 mph were measured just off the Lake Erie shoreline. Chicago’s Midway Airport measured a gust to 69 mph.

Second Hurricane in Two Weeks Strikes Nicaragua

For the second time in two weeks, Nicaraguans are digging out of the destruction left by a major hurricane. Hurricane Iota slammed ashore Monday just 15 miles from where Hurricane Eta made landfall on Nov. 3. The storm has weakened but it could still cause deadly landslides as it plows into Honduras. With sustained winds of 155 mph, Iota ripped roofs off of buildings and shredded trees. Torrential rains flooded streets. At least four deaths were being connected to the storm.

Hurricane Iota Record 30th Storm of 2020

Iota is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. It’s also the ninth storm to rapidly intensify this season, a dangerous phenomenon that is happening increasingly more often.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (11/13/20)

November 13, 2020

As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

Pfizer Reports Positive Results for Early Covid-19 Vaccine

Pfizer says early data suggest its COVID-19 vaccine works well. The company said Monday that its vaccine appears to be 90% effective in preventing infections, without serious side effects. These are early results, however, and the numbers could drop as the late-stage study continues. Still, the numbers are better than expected. Pfizer is on track to seek an emergency authorization from the FDA to produce the vaccine by the third week of November. By then, half of the 44,000 people in its study will have been monitored for two months after receiving a second dose. If all goes well, the company has said it could make enough doses to immunize up to 20 million people by the year’s end.

Ely Lily’s Antibody Drug Approved for Emergency Use

On the same day Pfizer announced its big news on the coming coronavirus vaccine, more positive news from the pharmaceutical industry: Eli Lilly’s experimental antibody drug has been given the green light by the FDA. Bamlanivimab, the first such drug to help the immune system fight COVID-19, is now allowed for emergency use. t’s the first treatment authorized for those with earlier-stage infections who are not hospitalized, filling what the Wall Street Journal calls a “gap in treatment.” The one-time IV treatment can be given to anyone 12 and up with mild to moderate symptoms that have not required hospitalization, but who are at high risk of moving to more severe symptoms.

Covid-19 Cases, Hospitalizations & Positivity Rate at Record Levels

New confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases rose above 163,000 Thursday just eight days after the country had its first 100,000 day. Over the past week, there has been an average of 134,078 cases per day, an increase of 72 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Case numbers are spiking across most of the United States, leading to dire warnings about full hospitals, exhausted health care workers and potential lockdowns. Deaths, though still well below their peak spring levels, averaged more than 1,000 per day in mid-November.

  • U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations surpassed 60,000 for the first time Tuesday, continuing a steady rise that has seen hospitalizations more than double in less than two months, the COVID Tracking Project reported Wednesday. Almost 62,000 Americans were hospitalized due the COVID-19 on Tuesday. The previous record for hospitalizations was 59,780 on April 12, after which the number began a gradual decline that reached 28,608 on Sept. 20. Since then, however, the number has been rising steadily, almost by 50% in the last two weeks.
  • The country’s test positivity rate averaged 8.7% over seven days as of early Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s above a summer’s highest seven-day average of about 7.9% in mid-July. The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, has suggested that communities’ positivity rates should be below 5% to comfortably have schools open. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has said test positivity rate is the statistic she watches the closest, because it is “the most sensitive indicator” of how the coronavirus situation is unfolding at any particular time and place.

Biden’s Science Advisor Calls For Immediate Nationwide Lockdown

If Joe Biden is ultimately inaugurated in 2021, the odds are increasing that one of his first acts will be to invoke a national lockdown. Dr. Michael Osterholm, who serves as director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is the latest scientist to join Joe Biden’s “special coronavirus transition advisory team.” A nationwide lockdown would drive the number of new cases and hospitalizations down to manageable levels while the world awaits a vaccine, Osterholm told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. “We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments,” he said. “The problem with the March-to-May lockdown was that it was not uniformly stringent across the country.”

  • Americans are less likely to comply with another coronavirus lockdown than they were in the spring, with more than half saying in a new poll that they’re very unlikely to stay home this time around, according to a new Gallup Poll released as record numbers of cases skyrocket nationwide.

Secret Service and Campaign Officials Infected with Coronavirus

More than 130 Secret Service officers are said to be infected with coronavirus or quarantining in the wake of President Trump’s campaign travel. The spread of coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to a series of campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election. In addition, a growing numbers of prominent Trump campaign allies and White House officials have fallen ill in the wake of campaign events.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Takes 4 Coronavirus Tests, 2 Positive, 2 Negative

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Thursday he took four coronavirus tests on the same day, with two showing positive results, while the other two were negative. Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD,” Musk said in a tweet, possibly referring to Becton Dickinson and Co’s rapid antigen test. When asked by a Twitter user if he showed any symptoms, Musk said he had symptoms of a “typical cold.”

Public School Enrollment Plummets as Private Schools Gain

Ongoing and renewed shutdowns of public schools across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in severe public school enrollment declines. Families are increasingly turning away from public schooling and toward private education options during the pandemic—a trend that is likely to continue even after the virus fades, experts say. According to a recent Gallup poll, the rate of homeschooling has doubled since last year to nearly 10 percent of total students, while the rate of children enrolled in a district school declined seven percent to 76 percent of the overall US K-12 student population. Private school options make up the other 14%.

Judge Rules for Trump Campaign in Pennsylvania Vote Challenge

President Trump scored a legal victory Thursday in one of several cases in Pennsylvania in which his campaign is challenging the results of the presidential election. Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ordered that the state may not count ballots in which the voter failed to provide proof of identification by Nov. 9. The judge ruled that Kathy Boockvar, the secretary of the commonwealth, lacked the authority to overrule the state legislature and extend the deadline to Nov. 12. On Friday, a hearing is scheduled to take place regarding thousands of ballots the Trump campaign claims should not have been counted because they lacked required information.

  • Another batch of around 4,000 mail-in-ballots ballots from Arizona’s Maricopa County went 53% for Biden and 43% for Trump on Thursday, reports the Arizona Republic. Biden’s lead of 11,343 votes in the state is now larger than the estimated number of ballots still to be counted.

Pennsylvania Says 10,000 Mail-in Ballots Arrived After Election Day

Pennsylvania election officials announced Tuesday only about 10,000 mail-in ballots arrived during the three days after Election Day, a number that is too little to make up for President Trump’s roughly 47,000 vote deficit currently in the keystone state. The conflict over the late-arriving ballots was at the center of a case pending before the Supreme Court, where Republicans — and the Trump campaign — hope the justices take up the dispute. It’s unlikely that the high court would agree to hear the case when the number of late-arriving ballots would not change the state’s election results.

USPS Worker Admits to Fraudulent Allegations, Then Recants Again

The United States Postal Service worker who claimed a postmaster in Erie, Pa., told employees to backdate ballots that were mailed after Election Day has admitted he made up the allegations, sources told the Washington Post. The claim was investigated by the USPS Office of Inspector General and the sources say the worker admitted it was false and signed an affidavit recanting. But the worker himself is on YouTube refuting the Post story, telling that he was “coerced” into signing the affidavit. His allegations are key to a Trump lawsuit about election fraud in Pennsylvania.

GOP Declares 11,000 Election Fraud Incident Reports

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and White House Communications Director Kayleigh McEnany announced Tuesday that the RNC has secured 11,000 fraud incident reports. Of those reports, more than 500 people have signed sworn affidavits documenting fraud. Upon threat of perjury, these individuals have sworn under oath to the veracity of the voter or election fraud they witnessed or experienced. In Wayne County, MI, 234 people have signed sworn affidavits testifying to what appears to be pervasive election fraud. Relatives reported that their deceased family members are showing up on voting records as having voted.

  • Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver says, “One of my former employees who is a law professor was fraudulently registered to vote in Michigan under her maiden name, at her parents’ address, as a Democrat. She lives in Virginia, has been married for many years and is a registered Republican. It appears many other women were also falsely registered under their maiden names.”

Trump’s Own CISA Organization Declares Election Was Most Secure in History

Election 2020 “was the most secure in American history,” according to a joint statement from a group of top government security and election officials. The statement from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security declared in no uncertain terms, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” It went on to reference the “many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation” before reasserting the officials’ “utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections.” CISA was formed by Trump himself in 2018, and Christopher Krebs, a Trump appointee, has been at its head since its inception. Another Trump appointee, Bryan Ware, was the assistant director for cybersecurity at CISA—but he resigned Thursday, and a source says the White House asked for his resignation earlier this week. His resignation letter makes it clear he did not want to leave. The Federal News Network says it appears a “house cleaning” may be underway, with Trump continuing to clear out anyone who’s not a loyalist.

Record Number of Women Elected to U.S. Congress

At least 135 women have been elected so far — 103 Democrats and 32 Republicans — to serve in country’s 117th Congress, according to data updated Tuesday by the Center for American Women and Politics. That breaks the previous record of 127 women set in 2019 and represents another step in the right direction, CAWP Director Debbie Walsh said in a statement. That’s almost 25% of the total number of positions.

Pope Francis Vows to Eradicate Sexual Abuse after McCarrick Report

Pope Francis pledged Wednesday to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse and offered prayers to victims of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a day after the Vatican released a detailed report into the decades-long church cover-up of his sexual misconduct. The Vatican report blamed a host of bishops, cardinals and popes for downplaying and dismissing mountains of evidence of McCarrick’s misconduct starting in the 1990s. In particular, it blamed St. John Paul II for having appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington in 2000, and making him a cardinal, despite having commissioned an inquiry that found him guilty of sexual misconduct. Pope Francis defrocked the 90-year-old McCarrick last year after a separate Vatican investigation found he sexually abused adults as well as children.

Federal Reserve Chief Says Economy We Once Knew is Over

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the economy to a screeching halt, and while it has started its long road to recovery, the economy we knew is probably a thing of the past, said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday. “We’re recovering, but to a different economy,” Powell said during a virtual panel discussion at the European Central Bank’s Forum on Central Banking. The pandemic has accelerated existing trends toward increasing use of technology, telework and automation, he said. While technological advances are generally positive for societies over the long term, Powell said, on a short-term basis they create disruption. As markets adjust to the new normal the pain isn’t shared evenly, especially for lower-paid workers and those in jobs requiring face-to-face interactions.

Economic News

Improvement in the job market since April has come largely from workers on temporary layoff who have been called back to work. But the number of those who have lost their jobs permanently is rising. Since April, the number of jobs permanently lost has risen from 2.6 million to 4.5 million in October. This includes those whose employers have gone out of business, have cut back on staff permanently or have had temporary jobs come to an end.

The number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits inched down last week to the lowest level since March but still remained significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department, which cover the week ending Nov. 7, show that 709,000 workers sought aid last week, about four-times the pre-crisis level. Still, it’s well below the peak of nearly 7 million in late March, when states first implemented lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Nearly 3.6 million Americans were out of work for at least 27 weeks in October, a stunning jump of nearly 50% from September, according to the jobs report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They now account for one-third of the unemployed, up from less than one-fifth a month earlier.

New York’s historic Roosevelt Hotel shut down last month, the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic that has upended the city’s tourism and retail markets. Many more hotels and retail properties in the nation’s biggest cities across the country are struggling. In the New York area, the owners of 43 hotels were delinquent on loans. Another 30 owners of shopping malls and storefronts in the greater Chicago area were also delinquent on loans.

A survey issued by the American Medical Association late last month found the average revenue in medical practices has dropped by 32%, making it difficult for some medical practitioners to keep going. Revenue reductions were 50% or greater for nearly 1 out of 5 physicians through August with subsequent months likely making the situation even worse.

Iran’s Enriched Uranium Stockpile Is 12 Times Nuclear Accord’s Cap

Iran is continuing to build up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and now holds roughly 12 times the amount permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement, the United Nations Atomic Agency said in a new report. The findings underscore the challenge the incoming Biden administration faces in persuading Iran to fully return to the 2015 nuclear deal: The stockpile of low-enriched uranium, when further refined, can be used to fuel a nuclear weapon. Iran is also taking steps to potentially accelerate its production of low-enriched uranium.

Egyptian Helicopter Crash Kills Six Americans

Eight soldiers, including six Americans, were killed Thursday when a helicopter belonging to an international peacekeeping force crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Israel’s 669 aerial rescue unit responded to a call for help and evacuated one US soldier who survived the crash, flying him to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba where he was listed in critical condition. Although Islamist terrorists are very active in the region, the Multinational Force and Observers said that “at this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident.”

Massacre in Mozambique by Islamist Militants

Three days of savage violence afflicted northern Mozambique from November 6-8, reports Barnabas Aid. In Muatide village, a soccer field became a killing ground, when more than 50 people were beheaded and then chopped into pieces by ferocious Islamist militants. In Nanjaba village, gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed into the community, setting homes on fire, beheading villagers and abducting women. Northern Mozambique has been afflicted by Islamist extremist violence for the past three years. Christians, moderate Muslims and anyone else who rejects the jihadists’ ideology is a target. When residents from the village of Quisanga returned to their homes after fleeing to the bush to escape a massacre, they found bags of body parts hanging in the trees.

54 Ethnic Amharas, Mostly Christian Women, Children and Elderly, Massacred in Ethiopia

Survivors of a massacre at a school in the western Oromia region of Ethiopia reported that at least 54 ethnic Amhara, most of whom are thought to have been Christians, died, according to a body count made after gunmen opened fire on a gathering of about 200. Around 60 armed terrorists identified themselves as the Oromo Liberation Army. “This senseless attack is the latest in a series of killings in the country in which members of ethnic minorities have been deliberately targeted,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa. The Oromo Liberation Front is a political party established in 1973 by Oromo people in Ethiopia who believe that they constitute a separate nation. The movement is the culmination of over 70 years of uncoordinated resistance by Oromos against Ethiopian central government.

Guatemala’s President Prohibits Planned Parenthood from Operating in the Country

Interior Minister Oliverio García Rodas resigned from his position after he initially approved an agreement between Guatemala and Planned Parenthood. Guatemalan President Dr. Alejandro Giammattei issued a statement after Rodas rescinded the agreement. “I recognize life from its conception, and therefore, in my government, I will not tolerate any movement that violates what is provided in our political Constitution of the Republic, that goes against the values with which I was raised and that conflicts with my principles as a doctor, I am a faithful defender of life and I am empathetic in stating that I will not endorse in my government the creation, registration, or start-up of any organization that goes against life.

Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to Ceasefire, Russia to Deploy 2,000 Peacekeepers

Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement early Tuesday to halt fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions. Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a 1994 truce ended a separatist war in which an estimated 30,000 people died. Sporadic clashes occurred since then, and full-scale fighting began again on Sept. 27. Several cease-fires had been called but were almost immediately violated. Christians in Armenia have called the conflict genocide at the hands of Islamic Azerbaijan.

UN Votes To Crack Down On Somalia’s Al-Shabab Extremists

The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to prevent the sale or shipment to Somalia of components of improvised explosive devices if there is “significant risk” they may be used to manufacture the often deadly devices that are increasingly being used in attacks by al-Shabab extremists. The resolution, adopted by a 13-0 vote with Russia and China abstaining, reaffirmed the arms embargo on Somalia and banned the resale or transfer of any weapons or military equipment sold or supplied to help develop Somalia’s National Security Forces and security sector. Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab remains the most active and resilient extremist group in Africa, controlling parts of southern and central Somalia and often targeting checkpoints and other high-profile areas in the capital, Mogadishu. It has fired several mortars this year at the heavily defended international airport, where the U.S. Embassy and other missions are located.”

Norway Criminalizes Private Criticism of LGTBQ People

Norway’s parliament has voted to expand the protections that the LGBTQ community has enjoyed in that nation since 1981 by expanding the definition of “hate speech” that can land a person in prison. Norway already was among the most liberal countries in Europe, but homophobic crimes have risen, a recent report said. So parliamentarians agreed to expand their penal code. Now those found guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to a year in prison for private remarks, and a maximum of three years for public comments. Opponents of the change pointed out it could be used to criminalize free speech, even in private.

Earthquakes

An earthquake rattled southern New England on Sunday morning, but there were no reports of major damage. The quake, with a magnitude of 3.6, was felt in most of Rhode Island, all of eastern Massachusetts and parts of southern New Hampshire. The earthquake, centered a few miles off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts, in Buzzards Bay, struck at 9:10 a.m.

Wildfires

South America’s Pantanal region, the world’s largest wetland, has been hit by the worst wildfires in decades. The blazes have already consumed about 28% of the vast floodplain that stretches across parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. The fires have destroyed unique habitats and wrecked the livelihoods of many of the Pantanal’s diverse indigenous communities. But their damaging impact reaches far beyond the region. Wetlands like the Pantanal are Earth’s most effective carbon sinks — ecosystems that absorb and store more carbon than they release, keeping it away from the atmosphere. At roughly 200,000 square kilometers, the Pantanal comprises about 3% of the globe’s wetlands and plays a key role in the carbon cycle.

Weather

Knee-deep floodwaters covered streets and roadways across South Florida on Monday as Tropical Storm Eta lashed the state. The storm made landfall in the Florida Keys at 11 p.m. Sunday, but by then Eta had lashed the state with rain for most of the day. The National Weather Service said it had a report of 18 inches of water standing in an intersection in Miramar. Trees were down in several locations, including in Key Largo. Tropical Storm Eta later dumped torrents of blustery rain on Florida’s west coast as it moved over Florida for the second time, making landfall north of the heavily populated Tampa Bay area Thursday morning. Eta is the record-breaking 12th named tropical system to strike the continental U.S. this season. 

The death toll from Hurricane Eta in Central America has climbed to more than 100 and it continues to rise. Rescuers are still digging through mud and debris where a landslide unleashed by the remnants of the storm buried a village in Guatemala. More than 100 people remain missing in Quejá, about 125 miles from the capital, Guatemala City.

Meanwhile, subtropical storm Theta formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday night, making 2020 the most active hurricane season on record with 29 storms so far. And with weeks to go until the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season, yet another storm looks to be forming south of Puerto Rico and there’s a 70% chance it will become the 30th named storm.

Tens of thousands of people were without power Wednesday across the Midwest as a potent storm system brought severe weather and several inches of snow that caused hundreds of crashes across Minnesota. A new daily record for snow was reported on Tuesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where 5.5 inches of snow fell. The snowstorm was part of a frontal system heading eastward, which caused severe weather for locations to the south. Tornado warnings were issued across portions of Wisconsin and Illinois as a line of severe thunderstorms roared through the region. Major damage was reported in Racine County in Wisconsin, where downed trees and power lines littered neighborhoods. 

The death toll continued to rise Thursday evening in North Carolina as torrential rainfall caused flooding that inundated homes and businesses, washed out roads and bridges and forced dozens of rescues and evacuations. At least seven deaths were blamed on the weather, including three people who were caught up in floodwaters at a campground. While the heavy rain has subsided, the National Weather Service in Raleigh warned that flooding remains a threat as rivers, including the Haw, Neuse, Tar and Cape Fear, continue to rise. Flood warnings were in effect Friday morning for more than 30 counties. Water continued to flood homes and roadways. A 5-mile section of Interstate 95 in Johnston County remained closed.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (11/6/20)

November 6, 2020

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1Thessalonians 5:1-9)

The Slow Slog to 270 Electoral Votes Mired in Slew of Lawsuits

Republican lawyers filed a barrage of lawsuits in closely contested states including Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania after Election Day seeking to challenge Democratic votes. The Biden campaign, however, says it is ready to “successfully repel” legal action. Both parties asked supporters for more donations Wednesday to fund all the legal action. President Trump does not have plans to concede the election but has called for recounts in several states. Biden sits at 264 electoral votes in states where races have been called by several media outlets while Trump has 214 in called races. President Trump has also charged that extensive fraud has marred the election which he believes will be uncovered by many of the lawsuits.

  • The Republican National Committee has legal teams on the ground in four battleground states and announced Friday there are numerous incidences of “voting irregularities.” Legal teams for the RNC are in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The Nevada Republican Party sent a criminal referral late Thursday to the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation into cases of voter fraud. “Thousands of individuals have been identified who appear to have violated the law by casting ballots after they moved from Nevada,” the organization said.
  • Democratic nominee Joe Biden edged ahead of President Donald Trump in the all-important battleground of Pennsylvania for the first time Friday. Biden leads the president by more than 6,000 votes as of Friday morning, a difference of just 0.1% which has triggered a recount.
  • Thousands of military ballots have yet to be counted in Georgia, which some say could give a boost to President Trump’s numbers in the state, even as Democratic nominee Joe Biden pulled slightly ahead Friday morning by 0.02% in the race to claim the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Michigan Postal Worker Alleges Election Fraud

A postal worker in Michigan alleges that he was ordered to backdate late mail-in ballots to make them valid, according to a Project Veritas investigation. “We were issued a directive this morning to collect any ballots we find in mailboxes, collection boxes, just outgoing mail in general, separate them at the end of the day so that they could hand stamp them with the previous day’s date,” the postal worker said. The employee of the Traverse City Post Office identified his boss as Jonathan. Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe called Jonathan to ask questions, but Jonathan hung up.

Other Significant Election Results

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth in a 59-41% vote as of early Wednesday morning. Only small amounts of drugs are decriminalized. Possession of larger amounts is still a felony. The “Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act” will transition Oregon’s drug policy from a punitive, criminal approach to “a humane, cost-effective, health approach.” “People suffering from addiction are more effectively treated with health care services than with criminal punishments,” the bill reads. “A health care approach includes a health assessment to figure out the needs of people who are suffering from addiction, and it includes connecting them to the services they need.” Oregon will now offer addiction services funded by marijuana tax revenue, which is more than $100 million a year in the state. 

  • It appears that Republicans will retain a majority in the Senate while the Democrats will hold onto their majority in the House of Representatives.
  • The conventional wisdom about abortion and gender took a major blow on Election Day when 13 new pro-life women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives – doubling the number of women in the chamber who oppose legalized abortion.
  • New Mexico has elected an all-women-of-color slate to the U.S. House of Representatives, for the first time in the state’s history, and the second time in U.S history. The first U.S. state to have an all-women—of-color House delegation was Hawaii in 1990.
  • Alabama voters Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that could lead to the removal of racist language from the state Constitution. The 1901 Constitution was framed to disenfranchise Blacks and poor whites, and includes language that bans interracial marriage and requires public schools to be segregated.
  • The state of Mississippi will fly a new state flag with a magnolia in the center and the phrase “In God We Trust” after voters approved the design Tuesday. It will replace a Confederate battle flag-themed banner that state lawmakers retired months ago as part of the national reckoning over racial injustice.

Pre-Election Polls Prove Faulty One Again

For a second straight presidential election, Trump outperformed many of the public opinion surveys. On the eve of Tuesday’s election, an average of the national surveys indicated Biden with a whopping 7.2 percentage points. As of Wednesday morning Biden was edging Trump by just 1.6 percentage points in the national popular vote. The president carried battleground Florida and its 29 electoral votes over Biden. At last check, his margin of victory stands at 3.4 points. But an average of the final public surveys on the eve of the election that was compiled by Real Clear Politics indicated the former vice president with 0.9 point edge. Veteran GOP pollster Neil Newhouse explained that “there are a bunch of folks out there who don’t trust polls and therefore opt out of polls. They don’t want to disclose to others who they support.”

Protests Across the Country Continue as Election Remains Unclear

Police and protesters across the country battled Wednesday night and into Thursday morning as the nation holds its breath waiting for an outcome in the presidential election. In Minneapolis, nearly 200 people were detained and in Portland, the Oregon National Guard was deployed to quell the unrest. Police in Minneapolis arrested hundreds of people Wednesday night as they blocked a highway to demonstrate in favor of progressive causes. Protesters in New York harassed outdoor dinners, set trash cans on fire and spit on police as they chanted anti-police slogans.

Buddhists, Christians, Jews & Muslims Gather for Prayer

A more peaceful gathering occurred in New York City Wednesday, where Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths prayed and sang together in post-election solidarity outside a Manhattan church. “We are here together as we figure out how to make a just and loving democracy—no matter the outcome of this election,” said the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, pastor of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village.

Facebook/Twitter Label Trump Tweets as Misleading

Facebook and Twitter on early Wednesday warned social media users that President Donald Trump’s claims regarding the election results are potentially misleading, including his claim that he had won the election. After the president falsely claimed in a speech around 2:30 a.m. ET that he had won the race and alleged fraud on the behalf of his opponents, Facebook labeled a video feed featuring those comments: “With votes still being counted, no clear winner has been determined at this time. Final results may be different from initial vote counts, as ballot counting will continue for days or weeks. Source: Bipartisan Policy Center.” 

Economy Rated Most Important Factor for Voters

CNN exit polls show that COVID-19 wasn’t the top issue for Americans this election year, with only 1 in 6 voters citing the pandemic as most important to their vote. In comparison, one-third of voters named the economy as their most critical issue and 1 in 5 cited racial equality. About 1 in 10 each cited health care policy and crime and violence as their top issue. The polled voters were fairly evenly split on whether the country’s economy is doing well, more than half said the coronavirus pandemic has caused them financial hardship. However, more voters said they are better off today than four years ago (around 4 in 10) than say they are worse off today (2 in 10).

U.S. Postal Service Fails to Deliver Mail-In Ballots on Time

The U.S. Postal Service failed to comply with a court-ordered deadline Tuesday to sweep mail-processing facilities in more than a dozen states for missing election ballots that could number in the hundreds of thousands. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington ordered the sweep Tuesday morning after the Postal Service said its delivery performance had dropped over the past five days and could not say whether more than 300,000 ballots received in its facilities had been delivered. The Postal Service said in its update to Sullivan that it was unable to conduct the sweep because it would have “significantly” disrupted its Election Day activities. Instead, the agency said, it would continue its preplanned daily review process in its 220 facilities nationwide that process ballots and would try to deliver any remaining ballots. Timely delivery of the ballots has been a concern and voting rights activists worry the loss of ballots, especially in battleground states, could alter the results of the presidential election. 

  • More than 150,000 ballots were caught in Postal Service processing facilities and not delivered by Election Day, agency data showed Friday. The ballots that didn’t reach election officials in time included more than 12,000 in five of the states that have yet to be called for either President Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Record 121,888 Covid-19 Cases Recorded in U.S. in One Day

A fall surge of COVID-19 seems to be in full effect, as the United States surpassed 100,000 new daily cases for the first time on Wednesday and then again Thursday. Wednesday’s one-day record count of 102,831 was the first U.S. daily total to break 100,000, then shattered by Thursday’s count. So far this month, 20 states have hit record highs for new Covid-19 cases. Worldwide, 1,000,000 coronavirus cases were reported in less than 36 hours — a rate of 7.8 cases every second.

  • The U.S. is now averaging 895 deaths a day, and the number is rising rapidly. The U.S. reported 1,210 deaths Thursday, the third day in a row the nation lost more than 1,000 people
  • Hospitalizations have shot up by 260% in the last month in New Mexico and health officials added they expect to run out of general hospital beds “in a matter of days.” Idaho is seeing a record number of daily cases and hospitals are also running out of space for COVID-19 patients.
  • An election judge supervisor who tested positive for COVID-19 and was aware of the test result still worked at a Missouri polling place and has since died, health officials say. The election official worked at a suburban St. Louis polling site in St. Charles County, where nearly 2,000 people voted on Tuesday.

Third Wave of Cases Surges Higher Than Previous Two Peaks, But Deaths Lower

According to the New York Times, America’s first peak of 7-day average of Covid-19 cases occurred on April 10 at 31,709 new confirmed cases per day. The second summer peak occurred on July 19 with a 7-day average of 66,692. As of Thursday, the third peak (and still climbing) reached 91,878. Deaths, however, tell a different story. The first 7-day average peak occurred on April 16 at 2,198 deaths per day. A second peak occurred on August 1 at 1,229 deaths/day. As of Thursday, the 7-day average deaths per day has risen to 847 from a low of 697 on October 10.

  • A rough measure of the death rate at each of the three peaks can be estimated by dividing the 7-day average (from the New York Times graph) of cases/day by the 7-day average deaths per day. This gives us a death rate of 6.9% in the spring, 1.8% in the summer and currently 0.9%. So we can conclude that the infection rate is increasing but the death rate is substantially lower now, a result of further mutations of the coronavirus strain.

Surging Covid-19 Cases Prompt States to Issue New Restrictions

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued orders earlier this week to force all restaurants and bars to keep a log of every customer, including name, phone number and time of visit. On Friday, new coronavirus restrictions in Massachusetts began, including a statewide face mask mandate, closure of some businesses, and limits to indoor and outdoor gatherings. In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills issued a mask mandate regardless of whether people can physically distance from others. In Connecticut, new measures are going into effect Friday, which will place new limits on restaurants, religious ceremonies and event spaces. The governor also announced Thursday tightened restrictions around private gatherings, which will extend through the Thanksgiving holiday season. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced new restrictions taking effect Sunday, including a stay-at-home advisory that will last from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights and will begin at 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Navajo Nation late Wednesday announced two additional weekend-long curfews, citing a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Europe Continues to Expand Covid-19 Restrictions

New Covid-19 restrictions are in place in Austria, Greece and Sweden. Germany imposed a partial shutdown Monday, with Italy, France, Kosovo and Croatia also implementing tighter measures. England went back into lockdown on Thursday, though schools and universities are expected to stay open. 

Denmark to Kill 15 Million Minks to Curb Covid-19

Denmark says it plans to kill all farmed mink in the county, at least 15 million animals, rather than take any chances with a mutated version of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen warned Wednesday that according to a government report, a version of the virus spreading from minks to humans weakens the body’s ability to produce antibodies, threatening the effectiveness of future COVID vaccines. “The virus has mutated in mink. The mutated virus has spread to humans,” Frederiksen said. She said the mutated virus has been found in at least 12 people. “It is very, very serious,” she said. “Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.” Authorities say almost half the 783 human COVID cases in northern Denmark are related to mink.

Cases of Coronavirus in Children is Escalating

While children represent only 11.1% of all coronavirus cases in the United States, that number is steadily growing, according to a report released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Over 61,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week – the highest since the pandemic began. Nearly 200,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29. Over 853,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

Cough Droplets Can Travel Well Beyond Six Feet New Study Shows

A new study suggests that a person coughing can disperse droplets well beyond six feet, the current norm for social distancing. The new study was published on Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids. The researchers — from Singapore’s Agency of Science, Technology and Research — used numerical models to simulate the trajectory of droplets expelled by a person who suddenly coughs outdoors. The study suggests that at wind speeds of 2 meters per second — or about 4 miles per hour — the travel distances for droplets around the sizes of 100 micrometers can reach 21.6 feet at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t the first time a model has suggested that a cough can travel farther than six feet. In May, separate research out of Cyprus that also published in the journal Physics of Fluids found that a light breeze could carry some droplets as far as 18 feet.

Blacks Less Likely to be Violent-Crime Victims than Whites, Hispanics

Violent crime against Black Americans has dropped 43% over the past 14 years, and they are now less likely to be victims of violent crime than White or Hispanic people, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the Justice Department. “If you look at this data, it refutes the idea that crime is out of control in Black communities but also the racial justice narrative that Whites are murdering us,” said Wilfred Reilly, who teaches political science at Kentucky State University and is also a Black man. The analysis found that violent crime against Black people dropped faster than violent crime against White people (24%) and Hispanic people (18%) from 2005 to 2019. By 2019, 18.7 Black people per 1,000 were victimized by a violent crime that year, compared with 21 Whites and 21.3 Hispanics per 1,000 people of those ethnicities, respectively.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 638,000 jobs in October as payroll growth roughly held steady despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and Congress’s failure to provide more aid to unemployed Americans and struggling businesses. The unemployment rate fell from 7.9% to 6.9%, the Labor Department said Friday. Although last month’s employment gains were large by historical standards, the increases have slowed for four straight months since peaking at 4.8 million in June. The nation has recovered only 12 million, or 55%, of the 22 million jobs wiped out by the pandemic. Recovering the rest could take several years, economists say, as states begin to hunker down again as Covid-19 cases rise once again.

Another 751,000 Americans claimed first-time jobless benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s down slightly from the prior week. On top of that, 362,883 workers not eligible for regular state benefits, such as the self-employed or gig workers, claimed aid under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Added together, first-time claims stood at 1.1 million last week without seasonal adjustments, largely unchanged from the level of the past few weeks. Meanwhile, continued jobless claims, which count workers who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 7.3 million, down by about half a million from the prior week, a slower decline compared with previous weeks.

The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low near zero Thursday and signaled its readiness to do more if needed to support an economy under threat from a worsening coronavirus pandemic. The economy in recent weeks has weakened after mounting a tentative recovery from the deep pandemic recession in early spring. Several Fed officials have expressed concern that Congress has failed so far to provide further aid for struggling individuals and businesses.

In a major win for gig economy companies, California voters passed a costly and controversial ballot measure to exempt firms like Uber and Lyft from having to classify their gig workers in the state as employees rather than as independent contractors. Backed by more than $200 million from Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Uber-owned Postmates, Proposition 22 was the costliest ballot measure in California’s history.

Pet food and supplies chain Pet Valu will close its 358 locations and its office in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Liquidation sales are expected to begin “in the coming days.” With stores throughout the Northeast and the Midwest, Pet Valu blamed a “severe impact from COVID-19.”

Despite Peace Deal, UAE, Bahrain & Sudan Continue Anti-Israel Voting at UN

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan stuck to their old anti-Israel voting patterns this week at the United Nations despite the recent advancements in peace deals the three countries made with Israel. On Monday, all three nations voted to adopt a resolution that referred to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif, one of seven resolutions passed that singled out or condemned Israel at a committee of the United Nations General Assembly. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the resolution an “audacious attempt to rewrite history.” He said the UN voted on “the annual ‘Palestinian package’ of resolutions” that single out Israel for condemnation.

Four Dead, Fifteen Wounded in Vienna Terrorist Attack

Four victims have been confirmed dead following a terror attack in Vienna in which at least one shooter fired at people enjoying a night out in the city on the eve of a national lockdown. The death toll includes two men and two women, in addition to the one shooter. Fifteen others, including a police officer, were seriously injured, seven of whom suffered life-threatening injuries. The shooter was a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, who had a previous terrorism conviction. He was shot and killed by police, according to Austrian security officials. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the man—who was carrying an assault rifle and wearing a fake suicide vest—was a “radicalized” Islamic State “sympathizer,” based on videos found in his home. The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the deadly attack in Vienna.

Military Strikes on Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh Raise Specter of Another Armenian Genocide

The scale and ferocity of the current Azeri-Turkey offensive, including raining Israeli-made cluster bombs down on innocent civilians even as they sheltered in church buildings, has intensified the justifiable concern among Armenian Christians of a rising threat of ethnic cleansing from their historic Christian land.  On November 1, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas in the region, with associated loss of civilian life and destruction of infrastructure, “contravenes international humanitarian law” and “could be a war crime.”

Weather

Hurricane Eta destroyed homes, knocked down trees and caused flooding and a deadly mudslide along Central America’s Caribbean coast as it came ashore late Tuesday afternoon, packing heavy rain and sustained winds of 140 mph. Eta made landfall just south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua at around 4 p.m. EST. It hovered just offshore for hours, pummeling the region with winds and rain. Nicaragua’s National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention tweeted that about 30,000 had evacuated to shelters. Eta continued to bring devastation to Honduras, Nicaragua and other parts of Central America on Thursday, even after weakening to a tropical depression. Flooding drove hundreds of people from their homes, and torrential rain — between 7 and 14 inches in some places — caused deadly mudslides. More than 50 deaths are being blamed on the storm, including at least 37 people who were killed by landslides in Guatemala.

A decade ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished a sprawling sand dune that snaked along the 7.7-mile Gulf of Mexico coastline on Grand Isle, Louisiana. With a hard-packed clay core known as a burrito levee, it’s the primary defense between storm surge and the homes, businesses and infrastructure that serve tourists and residents alike on the narrow barrier island about two hours south of New Orleans. But multiple hits by tropical systems this year – three hurricanes and two tropical storms made landfall in Louisiana – stripped away the sand along a 2,000-foot-long stretch of the structure, ripped through the heavy fabric that covers the burrito and breached the levee in several places. But rising sea levels mean storm surge is becoming an even bigger threat. And coastal Louisiana, where land is disappearing at the same time seas are rising, is widely considered to be ground zero.

Much needed rain is finally coming to fire-ravaged western states, but it will come with very strong winds leading the big weather system that will bring rain and snow as well as a large temperature drop. Much needed rain is finally coming to fire-ravaged western states, but it will come at a cost, with strong winds leading the big weather system that will bring rain and snow. Much of Nevada and portions of eastern California will see winds pick up Friday morning and continue through the afternoon, at times gusting up to 50 mph. This is a concern because gusty winds, dry conditions and low humidity levels increase fire danger.

Signs of the Times (11/2/20)

November 2, 2020

“Oh Lord, You’re beautiful, Your face is all I seek, for when Your eyes are on this child, Your grace abounds to me. Oh Lord, please light the fire, that once burned bright and clear. Replace the lamp of my first love, that burns with Holy fear. I want to take Your word and shine it all around. but first help me to just live it Lord. And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown. For my reward is giving glory to You.” (Keith Green)

More Than 95 Million Americans Have Already Voted as of Monday Morning

More than 95 million Americans have voted nationwide with one day left until Election Day as of Monday morning, according to a survey of election officials. These votes represent more than 45% of registered voters nationwide and are a modern-day record for early turnout. Eighteen states and Washington, DC, have seen more than half of their registered voters cast ballots already. Nationwide, the 95.5 million ballots already cast represents 70% of the more than 136.5 million ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.  

Judges Appointed by Trump Uphold Voting Limits Prior to Election Day

An analysis by The Washington Post found that nearly three out of four opinions issued in federal voting-related cases by judges picked by President Trump were in favor of maintaining limits on voting rules in the 2020 campaign. The pattern shows how President Trump’s success installing a record number of judges in his four years in office has played a critical role in determining how people can vote this year and which ballots will be counted. The liberal Washington Post considers this a bad thing, but this is why conservatives support Trump regardless of his character flaws.

Texas Supreme Court Denies Republicans’ Petition to Throw Out Over 100,000 Ballots

On Sunday, the Supreme Court of Texas denied a request by the state’s Republicans to reject over 100,000 ballots cast through curbside voting in Harris County, Texas. These efforts follow an October 22 decision by the Texas Supreme Court denying a GOP bid to shut down curbside voting — also know as drive-thru voting. The petition claims that drive-thru voting is an illegal expansion of curbside voting, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

D.C Businesses Board Up, ‘Non-Scalable’ Fence Around White House

D.C. business owners are boarding up buildings ahead of potential protests over the election, and the White House is expected to put up a “non-scalable” fence. The fence reportedly will stretch around the Ellipse and Lafayette Square. Protests over police brutality and racism in the summer turned violent at times in the District as fires were set and buildings were damaged and looted. Police Chief Peter Newsham said Thursday that he is unaware of any “credible threats of violence” ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, but that the “entire” department will be on duty and time off will be restricted for the following days.

Police Pepper-Spray Voter Turnout Marchers in North Carolina

Saturday’s “I Am Change” march to a polling place in Graham, North Carolina, ended with multiple arrests and injuries following a police crackdown on the demonstration. “You have created this chaos; we will not stand down,” said Rev. Gregory Drumwright, the primary organizer of both marches, as law enforcement issued a disperse order. “We have a legal right to occupy this ground, and I have a legal right to occupy this ground until 2 p.m., and I will stay here and demonstrate our legal rights.”  Drumwright had received a permit prior to the event to occupy the area in front of the courthouse until 2pm. The march was a get-out-the-vote event.

Counter-Protesters Attack Trump Supporter at Beverly Hills Rally

The Beverly Hills Police Department declared an unlawful assembly Saturday after counter-protesters attacked a Trump supporter at the USA Freedom Rally in Beverly Hills, California which featured several Republican California congressional candidates. A group of counter-protesters, mostly clad in black, the hallmark of Antifa, marched from Roxbury Park to the site of the USA Freedom Rally. “A couple of the members got into a violent attack on a pro-Trump member, a police spokesman said. “A couple of the members got into a violent attack on a pro-Trump member

NYPD Arrests 10 After Cops and Anti-Trump Protesters Clash in Manhattan

New York City police made 10 arrests Sunday following a violent clash with anti-Trump protesters in Manhattan. About 300 anti-Trump demonstrators had gathered at Madison Square Park to confront pro-Trump caravans crisscrossing the New York region ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election. Protesters said they were angry that a reporter had been arrested, but an NYPD spokeswoman said no one with NYPD press credentials had been arrested. The anti-Trump group marched to the West Side Highway, before dispersing after concluding the Trump caravans were likely avoiding Manhattan.

Portland Police Declare Riot after Protesters Break Multiple Windows

Police in Portland, Oregon, declared a riot Saturday night after officers observed protesters damaging multiple businesses, the Portland Police Bureau said. Police in Portland, Oregon, declared a riot Saturday night after officers observed protesters damaging multiple businesses, the Portland Police Bureau said. According to police, members of the group threw objects at police and pepper sprayed members of the community. Police say they also shattered windows at several businesses, including two phone stores, a coffee shop, a computer store, a community bank, a hotel, a restaurant, a financial office and two realty offices.

Trump Supporters, Protesters Clash at Robert E. Lee Monument in Virginia

A political rally on Sunday led to confrontations between Trump supporters and protesters at a Robert E. Lee monument in Virginia. Police said the mobile political rally, which dubbed itself as a “Trump Train,” entered Richmond on Sunday afternoon. Police said there was a confrontation as the rally passed the statue at Monument and Allen avenues. Protesters attempted to block the convoy as it tried to round the monument. Some of the demonstrators were aggressive toward the drivers and their vehicles, according to the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.

Trump Supporters Shut Down Blue State Highways, Surround Biden Bus

Pro-Trump supporters clogged freeways in at least three historically Democratic strongholds Sunday in support of the president days before Tuesday’s election. In Cheesequake, N.J., a video posted to Twitter showed hundreds of vehicles on a congested Garden State Parkway as people in a pro-Trump convoy stopped, blocked the highway, got out and waved “Trump 2020” and pro-police flags. A line of cars with pro-Trump flags also shut down the highway between Seaford and Montauk in Long Island. A similar lineup was also seen on New York State Route 25. A Daily Beast reporter in Maryland witnessed another caravan of Trump supporters in wheels. The same scene was also reported Sunday in Pasadena, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. The groundswell of support comes after Trump supporters in trucks surrounded a Joe Biden campaign bus in Texas, prompting staffers to call 911 on Friday. The vehicles formed a so-called “Trump train” while waving flags and honking horns as the bus traveled on Interstate 35, bound from San Antonio to Austin.

Dispute Over Trump Yard Sign in Kansas Leaves 3 Shot

Three people were shot Sunday in Kansas during a confrontation between multiple people and a man who believed they had stolen several of his lawn signs supporting President Trump. When officers responded to the scene in North Topeka at 11 p.m., they found one person had been shot several times inside a car that had crashed. That individual was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. Two other victims also showed up at the hospital with gunshot wounds in connection with the case, police said.

Twitter Restores NY Post’s Account After Censoring Report on Hunter Biden

Twitter said Friday evening that it restored the New York Post’s ability to tweet following a change to the policy that the social media giant used to justify restrictions placed on the Post’s account. Earlier this month, Twitter blocked users from sharing New York Post articles involving Hunter Biden’s emails that reflect poorly on the presidential campaign of his father, Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden. Twitter prevented its users from sharing and sending the articles via direct message as well, and prevented users who had done so from continuing to tweet — including the New York Post. Earlier Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s decision to block the newspaper from publishing on his platform at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, citing the company’s hacked materials policy. “We didn’t want Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” Mr. Dorsey said at a Senate Committee hearing.

Supreme Court Sides with Black Lives Matter Activist

The Supreme Court overturned a ruling Monday against Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson, who led a protest in Louisiana that caused brain damage to a police officer. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Mckesson could be held liable for negligent conduct that occurred at his protest, but the high court disagreed in a 7-1 opinion. The case stemmed from Mckesson organizing a demonstration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2016 against a local police shooting of Alton Sterling. When police moved to arrest protesters gathered along the highway, one demonstrator threw concrete at an officer, causing him to lose teeth and suffer brain trauma. That unnamed officer sued Mckesson, moving to hold him liable for the negligent conduct in organizing the protest which resulted in the assault — even though the actual individual who threw the concrete remains unidentified.

California Regulates Thanksgiving With Big Brother Protocols

In addition to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s unconstitutional orders that discriminate against churches and places of worship, he has now released onerous government restrictions on Thanksgiving gatherings. The mandatory restrictions for Thanksgiving gatherings include: No more than three households, including hosts and guests; The names and contact information of guests must be recorded so they can be “contact traced; Must be held outside; no more than two hours; Guests may use restrooms only if they are sanitized between use; Six-foot distancing in all directions; Everyone should frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer; Food and drink must be in single-serve disposable containers; No food or drink on the table other than your plate and cup; Masks must be worn and removed only briefly to eat or drink; Masks can also be removed for urgent medical needs (an asthma inhaler, medication or light-headedness); Singing, chanting and shouting are strongly discouraged, but if they occur, a face covering must be worn; The singing should be quiet; Instrumental music is allowed but no wind instruments.

  • Big Brother Newsome has overstepped constitutional freedoms so severely that he has moved beyond socialism to totalitarianism.

Britain/Belgium/France/Austria Institute Second Covid-19 Lockdowns

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a “circuit break” lockdown in England for the month of November as the nation struggles to contain the coronavirus. The lockdown will commence Nov. 5 and end Dec. 2, when the country will return to the tiered system based on the latest data. Residents will be allowed to leave their homes only for essential reasons, such as education, work, shopping and exercise. All non-essential businesses will be closed.  Pubs, bars and restaurants will close for general service, but can still provide takeaway services. Schools, colleges and universities will remain open.

  • Meanwhile in Europe, hard-hit Belgium imposed a partial lockdown in an attempt to gain control of the virus’ spread. In France, authorities ordered another four-week lockdown that began Friday, and Austria planned to shut hotels and restaurants in a second shutdown.

Thanksgiving in Canada Leads to Coronavirus Spikes, U.S. Next?

Three weeks after Canadians celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday, the country is seeing a national spike in cases. Several cities and provinces have shattered single day records for coronavirus infections, and Canada’s top doctors say the holiday — held on October 12 — is partly to blame. Canada is now experiencing a stubborn second wave of Covid-19, despite widespread mask-wearing mandates. Will the U.S. suffer the same fate, as Americans begin making plans for their holiday that is quickly approaching? Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, warned that while family gatherings may seem harmless, they are a prime example of how the coronavirus can spread.

New Study Says Immunity to Covid-19 Lingers for Months

A new study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that 90% of people who recover from COVID-19 have immunity for at least 5 months. While that contradicts a British study published Tuesday that said antibodies decline more than 26% within three months, the American scientists said they found just the opposite conclusion. Professor Florian Krammer, a virologist at Icahn who lead the study team, said in a statement that “more than 90% of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralize the virus, and the response is maintained for several months.” The drop off in antibodies noted in other studies likely came from the initial immune system response, with the plasma blasts that launch the initial attack against pathogen invaders waning after a while.

  • Following the science is difficult when studies contradict one another as they have with masks.

Study Links Vitamins A, D & E to Fewer Colds

People who get enough vitamin A, D, and E may be less likely to complain of coughs and sore throat, though it’s not clear the nutrients are the reason why, new research suggests. The study, of over 6,100 U.K. adults, found that those who consumed more of the vitamins were less likely to have “respiratory complaints” — like coughs, “chest” infections, trouble breathing, and sore throat. Vitamin A and E from food or supplements were tied to a lower likelihood of respiratory woes, as was vitamin D from supplements.

  • Several other studies have linked Vitamin D to less severe Covid-19 symptoms

Archbishop Vigano, Technocracy News & Dr. Mercola Reveal Totalitarian ‘Great Reset’

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, says in a letter to President Trump that, “A global plan called the Great Reset is underway. Its architect is a global élite that wants to subdue all of humanity, imposing coercive measures with which to drastically limit individual freedoms and those of entire populations. In several nations this plan has already been approved and financed; in others it is still in an early stage…The purpose of the Great Reset is the imposition of a health dictatorship aiming at the imposition of liberticidal [i.e. destructive to liberty] measures, hidden behind tempting promises of ensuring a universal income and cancelling individual debt. The price of these concessions from the International Monetary Fund will be the renunciation of private property and adherence to a program of vaccination against Covid-19 and Covid-21 promoted by Bill Gates with the collaboration of the main pharmaceutical groups. Beyond the enormous economic interests that motivate the promoters of the Great Reset, the imposition of the vaccination will be accompanied by the requirement of a health passport and a digital ID, with the consequent contact tracing of the population of the entire world. Those who do not accept these measures will be confined in detention camps or placed under house arrest, and all their assets will be confiscated.”

  • Technocracy News also reports that the World Bank is throwing its full weight behind the Great Reset. “For decades, the global elite hid their plans behind environmental extremists, but now they have fully revealed themselves as being the master architects from the very beginning. The World Bank, IMF and Bank for International Settlements are in a coordinated tryst to reform the planet.”
  • Dr. Joseph Mercola also clearly delineates “the threats we face from Technocracy, aka Sustainable Development, aka the Great Reset, aka the Global Green New Deal… Two of the last pieces of the totalitarian takeover will be the transition to an all-digital currency linked to digital IDs. With that, enforcement of social rules will be more or less ensured, as your finances, indeed your entire identity, can easily be held hostage if you fail to comply.”

27 Missing Children Found in Virginia

During a five-day operation dubbed “Operation Find Our Children,” deputy U.S. Marshals located 27 missing kids in Virginia. The Justice Department coordinated the effort with the Marshals Service’s regional Fugitive Task Force; special agents, police officers, and detectives from multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; employees of the Virginia Department of Social Services; and a team of medical professionals and experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “The U.S. Marshals Service is leading the way in a nationwide effort to rescue and recover missing and exploited children, and aid in the prevention of human trafficking,” a press release states. Since 2005, the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children. This year, more than 440 other children have also been found in operations in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and other states.

Economic News

Last week, stocks had their worst week since March, when the market tumbled under the first wave of coronavirus infections and lockdowns. All three major indexes recorded their second straight month of losses. The Dow fell 6.5% on the week while the S&P 500, the broadest measure of Wall Street activity, dropped 5.6%.The tech-heavy Nasdaq finished down 2.5% on Friday, for a drop of 5.5% on the week. Stocks are up Monday midst pre-election uncertainty.

More than half of the 140,000 gas stations in the U.S. now are selling gas for just under $2 a gallon. And gas that cheap will soon be coming to many consumers in the rest of the nation. The last time that more than half the stations sold regular gas for less than $2 a gallon was June 18. Crude oil prices have been dropping due to concerns about a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two owners of a combined 130 or so malls across the US have filed for bankruptcy, signaling that the pandemic and shifting consumer habits continue to rattle the retail industry. CBL Properties and PREIT filed for Chapter 11 on Sunday and both will continue operating while they navigate the restructuring process.

FIC Restaurants, the company that owns the Friendly’s chain in the northeastern U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Sunday, becoming the latest in a series of casual dining companies to falter amid the pandemic. The move comes amid a flurry of bankruptcy filings for restaurant chains, including most recently the companies that own Ruby Tuesday and California Pizza Kitchen. Restaurants that rely heavily on sit-down dining have generally fared poorly amid restrictions on their capacity and fears of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues.

12,000 Muslims Protest on Temple Mount Against France’s Macron

Some 12,000 Muslims participated in a mass protest last Friday at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, chanting slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron. While Friday prayers at the third holiest site in Islam typically draw large crowds, last Friday was the Mawlid holiday, which marks the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. The holiday, coupled with outrage over Macron’s comments on Islam, are thought to be the cause of the massive turnout. Macron said in a speech that Islam was a faith “in crisis all over the world” and that the time had come for reforms to the religion. Protests over Macron’s remarks have taken place across the globe, with mass protests held in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan.

Voter Data Copied by Iran in Effort to Influence Election

Voter registration information in at least one state was recently accessed from abroad as part of an Iranian hacking campaign targeting next week’s White House race, U.S. officials said Friday. The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency conclude that the data was copied by the same culprit responsible for intimidating emails purportedly sent recently by the Proud Boys. Voter information copied from the state election site was subsequently used in a propaganda video to voter email accounts.

Navy SEAL Team Rescues American Hostage in Nigeria

An American hostage has been rescued in Nigeria by SEAL Team 6 in a daring raid. Without suffering any casualties, the elite commandos parachuted into Nigeria and rescued Philip Walton, 27, who had been taken hostage by armed men last week. Walton was kidnapped in Niger, where he lives. “We had to get him before any potential trade or sale,” one U.S. official said. President Trump tweeted out a show of support, calling the SEAL team members “brave warriors,” and saying that “our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation.”

Nineteen killed at Kabul University in Afghanistan

Gunmen stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, sparking an hours-long gun battle and leaving at least 19 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school. The ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, also said there were three attackers involved in the assault, all of whom were killed in the ensuing firefight. The attack came as the insurgents are continuing peace talks with the U.S.-backed government. Those negotiations, taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, aim to help the U.S. finally withdraw from America’s longest war, though daily bloodshed continues and an Islamic State affiliate has launched attacks on Shiites in the country.

Weather

Slow-moving Hurricane Eta, which rapidly intensified overnight, is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, strong winds and nearly 3 feet of rain. It could lead to catastrophic flooding and landslides across Central America. Sustained winds from Eta strengthened to 110 mph Monday morning. Eta’s center is expected to approach the northeastern coast of Nicaragua Monday afternoon, and make landfall early Tuesday. The storm will also deliver heavy rainfall with estimates of 15 to 25 inches, and isolated amounts up to 35 inches in Nicaragua and Honduras.

  • Eta is the 28th named storm of the active 2020 hurricane season and ties the record for the number of named storms in a single season set back in 2005.

Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines province of Catanduanes early Sunday as the strongest landfalling typhoon on record. The powerful storm swept away about 13,000 shanties and houses in Catanduanes with its 16-foot storm surge. At least 16 people were killed in Catanduanes and nearby Albay province. Three people are still missing. As many as 390,000 people were displaced by the typhoon, which knocked out power to 125 cities and towns. The Philippines Red Cross told the BBC 80 to 90% of the buildings in the Catanduanes town of Virac were damaged by the storm.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

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Signs of the Times (10/30/20)

October 30, 2020

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2Corinthians 10:4)

35,000 Lift up Jesus in ‘Let Us Worship’ Rally on National Mall in DC

The National Mall in Washington DC was overflowing with love for the Lord, Sunday night, during the “Let Us Worship” tour led by praise leader Sean Feucht. More than 35,000 people gathered on the iconic grassy lawn to pray for a spiritual awakening and that hearts will turn toward Jesus Christ. The event opened with Feucht thanking all the attendees for coming out during the cold, rainy weather to lift up America during these challenging times. A sea of worshippers sang and danced while some held signs and flags that read “Jesus 2020” and “Jesus Matters.”

Senate Confirms Amy Comey Barrett for Supreme Court

The U.S. Senate confirmed Amy Comey Barrett Monday to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court by a 53-48 votes, largely along party lines. She was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas Tuesday morning at a socially-distanced, mostly masked White House Rose Garden Ceremony, in contrast to the event announcing her nomination which was packed, unmasked and led to many cases of Covid-19. In her first week on the job, Justice Barrett could already be weighing in on some big issues, including Republican appeals to shorten the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in two battleground states, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

  • Dozens of other voting rights lawsuits are still working their way through lower courts. And Justice Barrett could soon find herself weighing in on any post-election disputes or ballot-counting issues. Beyond the election, some of the big cases that await Barrett include a ruling on whether the Manhattan DA will get access to President Trump’s financial documents and tax returns; a case on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban; the Affordable Care Act; a religious liberty case involving LGBTQ+ rights; a decision on whether undocumented immigrants can be excluded from tallies used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives..

Philadelphia Erupts in Protest After Fatal Police Shooting of Black Man

A police vehicle was set on fire, one police officer was run over by a truck, businesses were looted, and at least 30 officers were injured Monday night in Philadelphia after a 27-year-old Black man died during a police shooting earlier in the day. Walter Wallace Jr. was shot dead in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood after police responded to a call about a man with a knife around 4pm. Video taken by a bystander shows officers confronting Wallace and ordering him to drop the knife; as he approaches them from behind a car, at least one officer appears to order him to drop the knife. They then both fired at Wallace multiple times from several feet away. A police spokesperson says an officer drove Wallace to a local hospital, where he died. Wallace’s family says he suffered from mental health issues and had been on medication.

  • Nearly a dozen people – including a 15-year-old – were shot overnight after looting and rioting in Philadelphia erupted for a second straight night despite pleas for peace from the family of a Black man whose police-related death sparked the unrest. CBS Philly reports that one neighborhood was being called a total loss after looting and violence.
  • The  Pennsylvania National Guard arrived in Philadelphia on Friday to bolster protections after four days of rioting.

Breonna Taylor Grand Jurors Say Officers Should be Charged

More Louisville police officers should face criminal charges for their roles in the March 13 attempted drug search that ended in the death of Breonna Taylor, two grand jurors said Wednesday. And both jurors said they agree with the effort of Taylor’s mother to have a special prosecutor appointed to review the case. Those were some of several complaints the jurors made Wednesday against Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his office for their handling of the case. It was the first time the grand jurors spoke publicly. In the seven months since Taylor, a Black emergency room technician, was fatally shot by Louisville police officers, her name has become a rallying cry for racial justice, with protesters, politicians, celebrities and star athletes demanding the officers who shot her be fired and criminal criminally charged.

‘Boogaloo Bois’ Staged Attack on Minneapolis Police Precinct

Federal charges of plotting to incite a riot and committing an act of violence to spark a riot have been brought against a Texas man claiming to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, a militant extremist group, with prosecutors claiming the man opened fire on a Minneapolis police precinct as part of a plot to foment unrest amid protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In a federal criminal complaint released Friday, and as detailed in an attached affidavit, Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, traveled to Minnesota at the end of May to organize, participate in, and engage in a riot, and committed “an act of violence in furtherance of a riot.” FBI Special Agent Jason Bujold said in the affidavit that Hunter claimed to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, which the complaint describes as a “loosely-connected group of individuals espousing violent anti-government sentiments” and that the group’s name “references a supposedly impending second civil war in the United States and is associated with violent uprisings against the government.”

Black Coalition Accuses Planned Parenthood of Racial Discrimination

Abortion-industry giant Planned Parenthood is engaged in illegal racial discrimination targeting black communities, charges the National Black Pro-Life Coalition in a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The group contends Planned Parenthood has “targeted” black woman and babies. “Systemic racism and abortion intersect at the door of Planned Parenthood, an organization that has targeted black women and their babies for almost five decades,” said Catherine Davis, president of Georgia-based Restoration Project. “These intentional actions violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made it illegal for recipients of federal assistance to discriminate on the basis of race.” Overwhelmingly, Planned Parenthood abortion businesses are located in or near black communities. Abortion has been grown into the leading cause of death for blacks, resulting in a 1,8 fertility rate that is less than the required number 2.1 to replace the population.

Family Attacked by Rioters at Jews For Trump Rally

A family of seven ‒ including four kids ‒ were pepper-sprayed by violent rioters on Sunday while participating in a “Jews For Trump” rally in New York City on Sunday. The New York Police Department said 11 people were taken into custody after the rally descended into chaos and violence Sunday afternoon. Six people were charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of government administration and harassment, while a seventh person was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. A convoy of hundreds of cars draped with American flags and “Trump 2020” banners rolled slowly through Manhattan and Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. The caravan traveled from Coney Island to the Trump Tower in Manhattan before heading to a rally in a Brooklyn park. A member of the family that was pepper-sprayed said that the unprovoked attack happened while the family was driving down Fifth Avenue with the car windows down and Trump flags displayed. The man, who wished to remain anonymous fearing his family could be targeted, said a car pulled up next to them and unleashed pepper spray into their vehicle. The man said the attacker chased him down the avenue trying to pepper-spray him again. His mother flagged down an officer and the suspect was arrested. 

Coronavirus Fatality Rate Down Despite Surge in Cases

Deaths from COVID-19 are ticking up slightly in the U.S. alongside record highs for recorded cases. Roughly 800 people are dying from the virus per day in the U.S., according to the seven-day rolling average. It’s a far better picture than the 2,200-plus who died during the spring crush in the Northeast and 1,200-plus who were victims of the “Sun Belt surge” in mid-summer. But the average daily death toll is up 12% compared to two weeks ago. The good news is the share of people who are dying after testing positive for the virus is down to 2.6% from 3.4% in late July and about 6% during April to May.

  • Recent case and fatality figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that although Covid-19 cases are spiking in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and other European countries, deaths are not rising at the same rate. Research shows that at the end of June, the fatality rate was just below 3% in the UK. By August, it had dropped as low as about 0.5%. It now stands at roughly 0.75%.

U.S. Experiences Most Weekly Cases of Covid-19 This Past Week

The U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases this past week, the most since the pandemic began. It’s not just a few areas driving the surge, as was the case early on. Half of U.S. counties saw new cases peak during the past month. Almost a third saw a record in the past week. 90,728 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 29, the highest daily total yet recorded. And daily hospitalizations have been rising steadily for more than a month, from 28,608 on Sept. 20 to more than 44,000 on Tuesday. Cases are increasing in 49 states, with only Virginia, Louisiana and Hawaii maintaining recent levels. Deaths are increasing in 28 states. However, deaths lag cases by 2-3 weeks, so we may still see a rise in the death rate during this third wave.

  • New cases in Arizona increased to 1565 Thursday, the highest in over a month. The daily death toll, however, is holding steady. Yavapai County jumped to 44 new cases reported Thursday, the highest in well over a month. The trend line has increased from 8 per day on 9/23 to 23 per day on 10/30.

Increases in Covid-19 Cases Only Partially Due to Increased Testing

The fall Covid-19 surge keeps growing, with 29 states setting new records this month for the most new daily cases since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And it’s not just due to more testing. The average number of daily new cases this past week is up 21% compared to the previous week, according to JHU. But testing has increased only 6.63% over the same time frame, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Lockdowns Declared as Covid-19 Cases Surge In Europe

Across Europe, hospitals are filling up at an alarming pace that harks back to the darkest hours of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring. France announced a new nationwide lockdown. In Germany, hospitalizations have doubled in the past 10 days. In Belgium, all nonessential hospital work has been postponed to deal with an influx of new Covid-19 patients, whose numbers have nearly doubled in the past week, matching levels seen in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

Covid-19 Immunity Declines After Three Months

A study of hundreds of thousands of people across England suggests immunity to the coronavirus is gradually wearing off — at least according to one measure. Researchers who sent out home finger-prick tests to more than 365,000 randomly selected people in England found a more than 26% decline in Covid-19 antibodies over just three months. The study was published Monday by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, a market research company. At the beginning of the study, in June, 6% of those who took the tests had IgG antibody responses to the coronavirus, they reported. By September, just 4.4% of them did. Antibodies are the proteins your body naturally generates to fight infection. IgG is one type. Other research teams have found that other types of antibodies may persist longer than IgG does.

U.S. Judge Overrules Texas Governor’s Exemption for Masks at Polls

A federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.

Pa. Court Rules Mail-In Ballots Count Even if Signatures Don’t Match

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that election officials must accept mail-in ballots even if the signatures on them don’t match those on file for a voter. The justices said nothing in the state’s laws required signatures to be verified, so if election officials are satisfied with the vote save for the signature, they cannot reject it. “We, therefore, grant the Secretary’s petition for declarative relief, and direct the county boards of elections not to reject absentee or mail-in ballots for counting, computing, and tallying based on signature comparisons conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third- party challenges based on such comparisons,” Justice Debra Todd wrote in the opinion for a unanimous court.

Supreme Court Rules Wisconsin Can’t Extend Time for Mail Ballots

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Wisconsin’s absentee ballot deadline won’t be extended. In a win for Republicans, the high court sided with an appeals court that put the six-day extension on hold. The extension had originally been issued by a lower court judge who sided with Democrats and civil rights activists who wanted any ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted as long as they were received by Nov. 9. The SCOTUS justices voted 5-3, split along party lines, to reject the extension, meaning ballots must be in the hands of election officials by Election Day. Wisconsin is a key battleground state, one that was pivotal in Trump’s 2016 victory.

Supreme Court Allows North Carolina Extension of Mail-In Ballot Counting

The Supreme Court’s latest decision on the election is a win for Democrats: North Carolina can count ballots received up to nine days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3, the high court ruled Wednesday. Republicans and the Trump campaign filed two separate appeals asking the justices to reinstate a deadline of just three days after Election Day; the State Board of Elections had, without legislative approval, extended that deadline amid the coronavirus pandemic, and a federal appeals court earlier this month allowed it to stand. The SCOTUS decision was 5-3

Federal Court Disallows Extension of Mail-In-Ballot Date in Minnesota

A  federal appeals court ruled less than a week before Election Day that absentee ballots arriving after Nov. 3 in Minnesota must be separated and may not be counted at all, depending on future court proceedings. The Thursday ruling adds a layer of confusion to a federal court’s Oct. 12 decision to extend the state’s deadline for counting absentee ballots seven days after Nov. 3 as long as ballots are postmarked on or before Election Day. The majority opinion said the extension “likely violates Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution because [State Secretary Steve Simon] extended the deadline for receipt of ballots without legislative authorization.” Simon said the ruling was a “tremendous and unnecessary disruption to Minnesota’s election” and that the state is trying to make voters aware of the decision as quickly as possible.

State Judge Rules Michigan Can’t Ban Guns at Polling Places

A Michigan judge on Tuesday struck down Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s directive banning the open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray said it appears the directive amounted to an administrative rule under state law, and Benson did not follow the proper procedure to create a new rule. He issued a preliminary injunction against her directive. “It is important to recognize that this case is not about whether it is a good idea to openly carry a firearm at a polling place, or whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the secretary of state’s … directive,” Murray wrote in his decision. Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, quickly issued statements saying they will appeal the decision.

Political Consultant Caught Coercing and Bribing Voters

A political consultant in San Antonio, Texas, was caught on a hidden camera in a Project Veritas undercover investigation coercing and bribing voters to vote Democrat, violating Texas and federal law. In an exchange in a video published Tuesday, Raquel Rodriguez examines an elderly woman’s ballot and convinces her to change her vote from Republican Sen. John Cornyn to Democratic challenger MJ Hegar. After the voter “corrects” her ballot, Rodriguez presents her with a shawl as a gift. Rodriguez said she has a gift budget of $2,500 and also she gives voters rosaries, diabetic socks and wallets. “That’s illegal. I could go to jail,” Rodriguez acknowledges to the Project Veritas journalist.

Twitter Censors U.S. Border Chief for Celebrating Wall Construction

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan on Wednesday was locked out of his Twitter account for celebrating the success of the U.S. southern border wall, Twitter is already under intense scrutiny for censoring conservative voices on the platform, including the suppression of a New York Post story two weeks ago that alleged Hunted Biden attempted to profit off of his father’s position. The New York Post is still locked out of its Twitter account. Morgan in his post touted the wall’s progress: “@CBP $ @USACHEQ continue to build new wall every day.  Every mile helps stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It’s a fact, walls work.” Twitter said the post was ‘hateful.’

  • Whether or not the post was hateful, Twitter is foisting its opinions on its users by making moral judgments about which posts meet its world view.

New Poll Reveals 30% of American Women Under 25 Identify as LGBT

A shocking new private poll shared by one of the country’s leading data scientists claims that 30% of American women under 25 identify as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender, reports LifeSiteNews. Since the poll is limited to women under 25, it doesn’t reflect changes to women’s sexual preference later on in life, while they’re still able to have children. “What’s behind this is primarily cultural. We have become an anti-natalist society,” suggests Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative. “And further, we have become a society that no longer values the natural family.” Eric Levitz, in a New York Magazine article about the gender gap between Trump and Biden supporters, calls attention to the continuing rise of “singledom” — a preference for non-married life — among young women in the United States: “Neither the societal shift away from traditional gender roles nor the downstream cultural consequences of that shift are anywhere near complete. As Rebecca Traister has incisively argued, the growing prevalence of singledom among America’s rising generation of women is one of the most potent forces in contemporary politics. In 2009, for the first time in history, there were more unmarried women in the United States than married ones.”

An ‘Unprecedented’ Ransomware Healthcare Assault Is Underway

Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. healthcare system designed to lock up hospital information systems, which could hurt patient care just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking, the AP reports. In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with cyberattacks that involve ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up. Security experts say it has already hobbled at least five US hospitals this week, and could potentially impact hundreds more.

The top official of the Republican Party of Wisconsin said Thursday that hackers stole $2.3 million during a crucial phase of the presidential campaign. Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the loss was attributed to a phishing attack that has been reported to the FBI.  The attackers gain access to accounts and removed the money.

Economic News

The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., increased at a record 7.4% in the July-September period over the second quarter as consumer and business spending roared back from severely depressed levels during the pandemic in the Spring. The third-quarter GDP was still about 3.5% below its pre-virus level in late 2019.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 40,000 last week to 751,000, the lowest since March, but it’s still historically high. Rising coronavirus cases in nearly every state, along with a cutoff in federal aid, are threatening to weaken the economy in the coming months. As temperatures fall, restaurants and bars will likely serve fewer customers outdoors.

Even as the housing market booms, the outlook for the construction of shops, office buildings, hotels and other commercial structures has grown bleaker. Seventy-five percent of commercial contractors say their projects have been postponed or canceled during the pandemic, with the work-at-home movement drastically lowering need for more office space while the reduced travel also cutting the need for hotel rooms.

57% of U.S. shoppers are considering restocking emergency supplies now due to growing fears of a “potential second wave of COVID-19,” which could lead to another round of bare store shelves. Hygiene products topped shoppers’ stockpile lists again, with 67% grabbing toilet paper and 57% searching for hand sanitizer. Canned goods (54%), disinfecting wipes (53%) and paper towels (52%) are also products consumers have stocked up on or plan to stock up on for the upcoming season.

80,000 of the bus industry’s 100,000 employees have been furloughed this year as travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. The American Bus Association estimates private buses provide 600 million passenger trips a year, second only to commercial flights.

IHOP will close nearly 100 restaurants in the next six months, the pancake house and breakfast chain’s parent company, Dine Brands Global, revealed in its third-quarter earnings report Wednesday. Ihop has sought to ramp up its take-out and delivery business due to closures and capacity restrictions in dining rooms as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Boeing said Wednesday that it expects to cut its workforce to about 130,000 people by the end of next year, or 30,000 fewer than it began with in 2020. That is a far deeper cut to its workforce than the 19,000 jobs the company said it planned to trim just three months ago. Boeing has been whipsawed by a drop in revenue after its 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 following two deadly crashes, and then a pandemic that has caused air travel to plunge and left airlines with more planes than they need.

Amazon is adding 100,000 seasonal jobs across the U.S. and Canada as the holiday season approaches. Amazon pays a minimum wage at $15 an hour, and full-time employees receive benefits including health, dental, and vision insurance, as well as a 401(k) with 50% company match. Amazon added 100,000 people in September for their warehouses to keep up with a surge of online orders. Additionally, the company brought aboard over 33,000 people for corporate and tech roles.

Another Terrorist Attack in France Kills Three

A knife attack at a church in Nice, France, has left three people dead and several others injured, with the mayor of the city declaring it has all the signs of a terror attack. The attack took place around 9am at the Notre-Dame basilica in Paris. Initial reports say that one female victim had her throat slashed inside the church, while a second female victim was killed in a nearby bar where she’d fled to. The third victim, a male, was reportedly stabbed to death. There are also unconfirmed reports that one of the victims was beheaded at the scene, which police have called “a vision of horror,” per the Guardian. Mayor Christian Estrosi says one of the victims was the church’s caretaker, and that the suspect, who was shot and detained by police, had repeatedly chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). This attack follows a beheading of a teacher a couple of weeks ago for showing caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

Al Qaeda’s Propagandist Killed in Afghanistan, Violence Escalates

Afghanistan claimed Sunday it killed a top Al Qaeda propagandist on an FBI most-wanted list during an operation in the country’s east, showing the militant group’s continued presence there as U.S. forces work to withdraw from America’s longest-running war amid continued bloodshed. The reported death of Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin al-Masri, follows weeks of violence, including a suicide bombing by the Islamic State group Saturday at an education center near Kabul that killed 24 people. Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as peace talks in Qatar between the two sides take place for the first time despite peace talks.

U.S. Seizes Iranian Missiles, Slaps Iran-Related Sanctions On 11 Entities

The United States revealed on Thursday it had seized Iranian missiles shipped to Yemen and sold 1.1 million barrels of previously seized Iranian oil that was bound for Venezuela, in the Trump administration’s latest move to increase pressure on Tehran. The Treasury Department and State Department jointly slapped sanctions on a combined 11 different entities and individuals for their involvement in the purchase and sale of Iranian petrochemicals.

U.S. Warns Iran Over Missiles Shipped to Venezuela

The United States warned Iran that it will destroy potential Iranian long-range missile shipments delivered to the Maduro regime in Venezuela. “The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is not acceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted,” said Elliott Abrams, the State Department Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela. “We will make every effort to stop shipments of long-range missiles, and if somehow they get to Venezuela they will be eliminated there,” added a senior administration official. The officials provided no information that such shipments were imminent.

China Killing U.S. Citizens with Fentanyl, Expert Claims

Well-known China expert Gordon Chang has concluded that China is killing Americans “deliberately” with its export of fentanyl. Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Chang says that China has been pushing fentanyl into the U.S. for years, and last year fatal drug overdoses hit a record 70,980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of that total, more than 36,000 were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, he said. Cocaine and methamphetamine fatalities were also up, largely because they were mixed with fentanyl. Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution has called it the “deadliest” drug epidemic in American history. China has been “the principal source of the fentanyl flooding the U.S. illicit drug market—or of the precursor agents from which fentanyl is produced, often in Mexico,” Felbab-Brown says.

Christian Armenia & Muslim Azerbaijan Accept U.S. Brokered Cease Fire

Fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region continued Sunday, but Armenia and Azerbaijan reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their decades-old conflict and agreed to a third attempt to establish a cease-fire after four weeks of hostilities. The agreement on a truce began at 8 a.m. Monday was announced in a joint statement by the governments of the United States, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two previous Russia-brokered cease-fires, including one last weekend, frayed immediately after taking force, with both sides accusing each other of violations. Most experts don’t expect the ceasefire to hold.

  • The Family Research Council requests, “Please continue to pray with us for an end to the ongoing fighting between Muslim forces from Azerbaijan and the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, a tiny enclave largely comprised of Armenian Christians. As an ancient Christian community, it is concerning to see these Armenians attacked by regional antagonists with few international allies willing to speak up on their behalf.”

Earthquakes

At least 14 people are dead and hundreds injured after a major 7.0 earthquake collapsed buildings and a tsunami sent water rushing through streets in parts of Turkey and Greece. Much of the damage and destruction was in Izmir, which is Turkey’s third-largest city, with a population of about 4.5 million. Residents were warned not to enter damaged buildings, and to stay off roads so emergency crews and rescue personnel could quickly access affected areas. There had been at least 107 aftershocks. The initial quake was centered in the Aegean Sea between Samos and the western coast of Turkey.

Wildfires

Hundreds of thousands of customers were without power in northern and central California Monday after the nation’s largest utility conducted its largest shutoff of the year to prevent wildfires. This latest “public safety power shutoff,” or PSPS, is the fifth wildfire safety outage this year by the company and the largest. PG&E said this shutoff impacts targeted portions of 36 counties. Customers in 17 tribal communities are also impacted by power cuts. The shutoffs come as the state faces what could be the strongest wind event of the year.

Wildfires that gravely injured two firefighters and drove tens of thousands of residents from their homes in Southern California continued to grow overnight Monday. The Silverado Fire spread to almost 17.5 square miles early Tuesday. It was only 5% contained. More than 90,000 residents in Irvine and Lake Forest were ordered to leave their homes. Another 20,000 people had to flee from Yorba Linda, Brea and Chino Hills when the Blue Ridge Fire, erupted in the Santa Ana Canyon late Monday. An evacuation warning also was issued in part of Los Angeles County early Tuesday. The Blue Ridge Fire quickly spread to more than 12.5 square miles. At least two homes were damaged. The Blue Ridge Fire has spread to more than 12.5 square miles. At least two homes were damaged. Improving weather conditions helped firefighters in Southern California gain ground overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday on the pair of fires.

Weather

Hundreds of thousands of people remained in the dark in Oklahoma Wednesday morning after a winter storm coated trees with as much as an inch of ice that snapped powerlines, snarled traffic and left people stuck in elevators. In some places, power poles were snapped in half by the weight of the ice. Oklahoma City’s fire department responded to 676 emergency calls in a 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m. Wednesday. The system, named Winter Storm Billy by The Weather Channel, is also leaving parts of Texas frozen. About 45,000 power outages were being reported in the Panhandle region. The National Weather Service in Amarillo said snow and ice covered trees and roads.

More than 2 million homes and businesses were still without power Thursday evening after Zeta, which came ashore Wednesday in Louisiana as a strong Category 2 hurricane, wreaked havoc across seven states Thursday. The storm ripped off roofs, knocked down power lines and trees and flooded streets as it roared through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia early Thursday. Heavy rain and winds also pounded eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas throughout the day. At the height of the outages, more than 2.6 million homes and businesses were without power. In Georgia alone. At least six people died in the storm. The storm made landfall about 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday in Louisiana near Cocodrie in Terrebonne Parish and moved over New Orleans with howling winds and driving rain.

  • Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 season. It’s the 11th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this season, which is a record for the country.
    • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (10/23/20)

October 23, 2020

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1Peter 4:12-14)

National Prayer Summit Online Broadcast – October 30-31, 2020

“The National Prayer Summit is a unified Kingdom movement, serving as a catalyst for authentic revival. Through prayer and mobilizing the Body of Christ, this is the time for our voice to be heard!” says the website.  Speakers include Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, Rick Joyner, Alveda King, David Herzog, James Goll, Patricia King, Che Ahn, Bobby Conner, Rebecca Greenwood, Mario Murillo, Robby Dawkins, Charles Ndifon, Aaron Winter, Michael and Jessica Koulianos, Sharell Barrera, Mario Bramnick. Worship will be led by Rick Pino, Jackie Baker, Torrey Marcel-Harper and Robert & Eleanor Roehl.

  • You must register to participate, but it is free – click here

200 Million Christians Persecuted for Their Faith Each Year

Each year more than 200 million Christian believers around the world suffer for their faith—especially in many parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, reports InTouch Ministries. Where oppressive governments make Christianity illegal, churches are bombed and defaced, and followers of Jesus face imprisonment, torture, or even death for their beliefs. It’s not uncommon for the faithful to risk their life attempting to escape such regimes.

  • Please pray for the persecuted body of Christ around the world.

Pope Francis Calls for Gay Civil Unions in 2019 Interview

Pope Francis called for civil unions for same-sex couples in a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome. In “Francesco,” the 83-year-old pontiff endorses laws allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, according to Catholic News Agency. “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Francis says in the film, according to news agency. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” In 2003, the Vatican’s top theological body — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — disavowed “legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

  • Questions swirled Thursday about the origins of Pope Francis’ bombshell comments, with all evidence suggesting he made them in a 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages.

Franklin Graham Says Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples Theologically ‘Unthinkable’

Evangelist Franklin Graham said Thursday that Pope Francis’ endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples is “unthinkable in light of the Word of God.” “For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post. “If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.”

Senate Judiciary Advance Barrett Nomination Despite Democrats’ Boycott

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett at its executive business meeting despite a decision by Democrats to boycott the meeting in protest of approving the nomination before Election Day. Barrett was approved to move out of the Judiciary Committee for a full Senate vote by 12-0, with no Democrats present. 

Excess U.S. Deaths More Than ‘Underreported’ Covid-19 Deaths Says CDC

The coronavirus pandemic has led to at least 80,000 more U.S. deaths than the official death toll records, according to a report on excess mortality released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country’s tally of confirmed coronavirus deaths stood at about 220,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. But the CDC analysis found that, by early October, nearly 300,000 more people across the country had died than would be expected in a typical year. The hidden fatalities are believed to be people who died of covid-19 without being diagnosed, or who died of other causes because they were unwilling or unable to seek medical care during the outbreak, reports the Washington Post.

Covid-19 Cases/Hospitalizations Continue to Increase in U.S.

The U.S. recorded over 71,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking the highest single-day increase since July, reports FoxNews.com (the New York Times reported 75,064, almost the highest ever). Thirty-two states reported rising Covid-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 41,000 people were hospitalized across the country, according to the Covid Tracking Project. This is the highest level of nationwide hospitalizations since Aug 20. The number of people hospitalized has increased by 40% over the past month with 38 states showing increases in hospitalizations. Deaths are also creeping upward – the 7-day average of deaths has climbed to the highest level in over a month with 24 states showing increased deaths which tend to lag reported new cases by 2-3 weeks.

  • All public school instruction in Boston will be remote starting Thursday, following a rise in Covid-19 cases. The statement cited a 5.7% seven-day Covid-19 positivity rate for the city of Boston, up from last week’s rate of 4.5%. There are now 445 cases of Covid-19 in 84 Michigan schools. Among colleges and universities in Michigan, there are 5,358 coronavirus cases. All University of Michigan undergraduate students are now under an emergency stay-in-place order, after data shows that Covid-19 cases among Michigan students represents more than 60% of all local cases.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its definition of “close contact” to an individual infected with the coronavirus on Wednesday to include multiple, brief exposures adding up to over 15 minutes within 24 hours.

Europe Continues to See Increases in Elderly Covid-19 Cases

Europe is deep in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, and a particularly worrying trend is beginning to emerge: More older people are becoming infected. Over the summer months, the continent saw infection clusters popping up mostly among younger people who were venturing out into bars, restaurants and other public spaces. However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned that more older people are now becoming infected. According to the ECDC’s latest situation report, at least 13 countries in Europe saw new infection rates among people aged 65 or over rise to what ECDC defines as “high” last week. Covid-19 infection rates among over-65s in some Eastern European countries are now more than double what they were during the first wave.

  • Greece recorded 865 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday — its highest daily case count since the pandemic began. The Greek government announced a local lockdown for the region of Kastoria in Northern Greece.

No Vaccine is Now Expected Before Election Day

Hope that a vaccine might be available before Election Day faded this week as two frontrunner candidates have now said late November is the earliest they could apply for authorization for their vaccines. Two other candidates are on hold while possible side effects are investigated.

  • The Trump administration announced a partnership Friday with CVS and Walgreens to provide a coronavirus vaccine, when there is one, to nursing home residents at no cost.

Counter Protesters Beat Pro-Trump Demonstrators

A rally called to promote free speech and denounce big tech censorship turned ugly Saturday in San Francisco, when hundreds of alleged Antifa counter-protesters showed up to berate and attack demonstrators. The conservative group Team Save America organized the event to protest Twitter, which it argues censors free speech. They planned to rally at United Nations Plaza before moving the protest to Twitter’s headquarters a few blocks away. But the event quickly devolved into a shouting match and violence as hundreds of counter-protesters stormed the scene. Video shows one counter-protester punching Philip Anderson, an organizer of the event, knocking one of his teeth out. “This is what happens when you lose free speech,” Anderson said over boos as the crowd threw objects at him. Another protester who was wearing a Trump 2020 shirt was attacked and knocked to the ground.

50 Million People Have Already Voted in U.S. – Record Turnout Expected

With less than two weeks until Election Day, more than 50 million people have already voted, and experts predict historic turnout rates for this election, perhaps as high as 62%. The 2016 election saw a turnout rate of 60.1% of eligible voters while 58.6% voted in 2012. The U.S. saw the lowest rates of eligible voter turnout at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Just 6.31% of eligible voters turned out in 1792. The elections of 1820, 1789 and 1816 also saw rates below 20%.

Postal Workers Interfering with Mail-In Voting

A postal employee in Florida was charged late Monday with stealing mail and interfering with the right to vote after authorities say they caught her pilfering a mail-in ballot, political flyers and other mail. The mail was discovered stashed in Crystal Nicole Myrie’s car late last week, prosecutors said Tuesday. She’s the third U.S. Postal Service employee to be accused of diverting mail ballots in the last few weeks. A postal employee in Kentucky was fired after more than 100 mail ballots were discovered in a dumpster, and an employee in New Jersey was charged with stealing mail after nearly 100 ballots were discovered dumped from his route.

Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

Judicial Watch announced Monday that a September 2020 study revealed that 353 U.S. counties had 1.8 million more registered voters than eligible voting-age citizens. In other words, the registration rates of those counties exceeded 100% of eligible voters. The study found eight states showing state-wide registration rates exceeding 100%: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The study collected the most recent registration data posted online by the states themselves. This data was then compared to the Census Bureau’s most recent five-year population estimate

Justice Department Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Google

Lawmakers in the House and Senate on Tuesday welcomed the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google that claims the tech behemoth used its power to preserve its monopoly via its search engine. “Today’s lawsuit is the most important antitrust case in a generation,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said in a statement. “Google and its fellow Big Tech monopolists exercise unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans, controlling everything from the news we read to the security of our most personal information. And Google in particular has gathered and maintained that power through illegal means.” The DOJ suit alleges that Google has used its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost profits. A Google spokesperson said, ” People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

Big-Tech Influencing Upcoming Election, Exhibits Bias Against Conservatives

Big tech companies “have the power” to decide the presidency, warns Brent Bozell, the founder of the watchdog Media Research Center. Bozell, whose MRC publishes Newsbusters and CNSNews. “Remember this statistic, they asked young people, where do they get their news? They didn’t say ABC News. They didn’t say the New York Times. Sixty-eight percent said Facebook. That’s how powerful these tech companies are today. Much more powerful than the traditional news media.” Bozell cited findings of an organization he founded called CensorTrack, which monitors social media bias against conservatives. He noted that Facebook broke its own policies recently to try and suppress the New York Post Hunter Biden stories, censoring the initial story even before it was fact-checked. His organization has documented “over a hundred examples of deliberate and a bias against conservatives.”

Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Can’t Be Found

Court-appointed lawyers said Tuesday that they have been unable to find parents of 545 children who were separated at the U.S. border with Mexico early in the Trump administration, the AP reports. The children were separated between July 1, 2017, and June 26, 2018, when a federal judge in San Diego ordered that children in government custody be reunited with their parents. Children from that period are difficult to find because the government had inadequate tracking systems. Volunteers have searched for them and their parents by going door-to-door in Guatemala and Honduras. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered an end to the practice under a “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute every adult who entered the country illegally from Mexico.

Nearly 1 Million Immigrants a Year Now Deciding to Leave the U.S.

The rate of growth of the immigrant population in the U.S. has slowed under President Trump to an average of 200,000 a year, down from more than 600,000 a year under President Barack Obama, according to a report released Thursday by the Center for Immigration studies. It’s not just that fewer people are coming. Nearly 1 million immigrants appear to have left the country each year, in what is known as outmigration. Steven A. Camarota, the CIS demographer who wrote the report, said the most likely cause is a “Trump effect” — the president’s policies have blocked some migrants from arriving and convinced others to depart. Even with the slower rate of net migration, the immigrant population was almost 45 million on July 1, 2019, or nearly 14% of the total of 328 million. That is the highest rate of immigrants since the 1910 census.

Economic News

The U.S. budget deficit breached $3.1 trillion in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the economy, new government data shows. The federal government’s record-shattering deficit was the result of a huge increase in spending by Congress and the White House to try to prevent the recession from deepening. The White House said Monday that the government spent $6.55 trillion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, nearly double what it brought in through tax revenue.

With stimulus negotiations stalled, shortfalls in tax revenues leave states facing layoffs and reductions in services. States’ tax revenues have dropped more than 6% (about $30 billion) from March through the end of August compared to 2019. Alaska has seen the biggest decline (31%) with Oregon next (22%) followed by Hawaii (19.4%), Florida (16.5%) and Texas (10.6%).

More than 6 million households failed to make their rent or mortgage payments in September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses may have eased slightly but are still running at historically high levels. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits tumbled by 1 million to 8.4 million. The decline shows that some of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs or are finding new ones. But it also indicates that many jobless Americans have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts an additional three months.

Sixty-three percent of workers who lost jobs because of the outbreak have changed their industry and 4% have changed their field or overall career path, according to a Harris Poll survey this month for USA Today, but the pandemic is limiting participation in job-training programs.

Across the nation, mothers have had to make the difficult choice to slash work hours or quit jobs as they strain under childcare and homeschooling obligations. Even when childcare is available, many say they can’t afford it or worry about exposure to the virus.

Gap Inc. said Thursday that it will be closing 220 of its namesake stores — or one-third of its store base — by early 2024. That will result in 80% of its remaining Gap stores being in off-mall locations. As part of its restructuring, Gap Inc. said it also plans to close 130 of its Banana Republic stores in North America over the next three years.

Sudan Latest Arab Nation to Recognize Israel

Sudan on Friday agreed to be the latest Arab nation to recognize Israel and normalize relations, President Donald Trump announced in a new diplomatic coup for him days before U.S. elections, reports NewsMax. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed an accord at the White House last month to normalize relations with Israel but Sudan is arguably more significant as an Arab nation that has been at war with Israel. Trump announced the agreement by Sudan’s year-old civilian-backed government moments after he formally moved to end the nation’s designation of a state sponsor of terrorism, which was a major goal for Khartoum. “We are expanding their circle of peace so rapidly with your leadership,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Albania Joins Global Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism

The Albanian Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution joining global efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The parliament unanimously voted to approve the definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), becoming the second majority-Muslim country to adopt it after Kosovo. The definition describes hate speech and other acts that discriminate against the Jewish people or the state, their properties or religious objects. The New York-based Combat Anti-Semitism Movement called Albania’s act a “landmark decision” and urged other countries to join it.

Iran the Source of Alleged Proud Boys Threatening Emails

Federal authorities concluded that Iran was behind a string of threatening emails targeting Democratic voters in swing states, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The email senders claimed to be members of the Proud Boys, a fringe right-wing group. Director of National Intelligence Dan Ratcliffe confirmed the Iranian efforts during a press conference Wednesday evening. Ratcliffe said that “we have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump.” The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political group, helped the Iranian misinformation go viral on social media, garnering more than 12,000 retweets by amplifying the false claim that the Proud Boys were trying to intimidate Democratic voters.

U.S. Sanctions Iran Over Election Interference

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday slapped new sanctions on five Iranian entities for what it called “brazen attempts” to interfere with the U.S. election. The Treasury named the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force, the Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and International Union of Virtual Media as key actors in an effort to spread disinformation ahead of the November 3 U.S. presidential election. The groups have worked to “sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters,” the Treasury said.

Hamas Uses Secret Cyberwar Base in Turkey

Hamas has been using a secret headquarters in Istanbul for cyberwarfare and counter-intelligence purposes, UK’s The Times reported on Thursday. The headquarters, Western intelligence has learned, were set up about two years ago and are separate from the Islamic terror group’s official offices in the same city, which deal mainly with coordination and funding, according to the British report. Turkey granted citizenship in August to members of a Hamas terrorist cell so that they could use the country as a base to launch attacks not just against Israel, but targets around the world as well, The Telegraph in London reported at the time. Turkey has become increasingly hostile towards Israel under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has close ties to radical Islamic organizations.

1,300 Prisoners Escape From Congo Jail After An Attack Claimed By ISIS

At least 1,300 prisoners escaped from a jail in the Democratic Republic of Congo early on Tuesday, the United Nations said, after an armed assault for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Amaq, the Islamic State’s official news outlet, said that ISIS fighters had attacked the Congolese prison. The assault in Beni, in the country’s northeast, targeted the Kangbayi central prison and the military camp defending it, the city’s mayor, Modeste Bakwanamaha, told news agencies on Tuesday morning. The mayor said that just 100 of the prison’s inmates, who had numbered more than 1,400, remained, though 20 others later returned. “Unfortunately, the attackers, who came in large numbers, managed to break the door with electrical equipment,” the mayor said to Reuters.

Grisly Beheading Of Teacher In Terror Attack Rattles France

For the second time in three weeks, terror struck France, this time with the gruesome beheading of a history teacher in a street in a Paris suburb. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” and urged the nation to stand united against extremism. The teacher had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, authorities said.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake prompted a tsunami warning Monday for a nearly thousand-mile stretch of Alaska’s southern coast, with waves over 2 feet at the nearest community as the threat subsided. The quake was centered in the North Pacific Ocean about 67 miles southeast of Sand Point, a city of about 900 people off the Alaska Peninsula.

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit southwest Iceland on Tuesday, shaking buildings in the capital, Reykjavik. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The Icelandic Meteorological Office said the quake struck at 1:43 p.m.  and was centered near Krysuvik, about 22 miles south of Reykjavik.

Wildfires

The largest wildfire ever recorded in Colorado is 57% contained as of Friday, 10/23. The Cameron Peak fire, raging in the mountains west of Fort Collins and Loveland, has burned more than 323 square miles. Several rural areas around the fire remain under mandatory evacuation orders, and parts of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, as well as portions of Rocky Mountain National Park, were closed. Almost two dozen hikers and three digs were airlifted to safety after a wildfire broke out in a recreation area in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

  • Vast areas of national forest from areas west of Denver all the way to the Wyoming border were closed Wednesday as Colorado faces historic wildfires that may get worse due to windy weather. “The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing on our Forests this year is historic,” Forest Supervisor Monte Williams said in a statement. Officials said the impacted counties are currently experiencing a “severe drought,” with a high occurrence of human-caused wildfires and limited capacity for the response due to multiple ongoing blazes.
  • The East Troublesome fire exploded in size overnight Wednesday, forcing an entire town to evacuate as it grew at a rate of about 10,000 acres per hour. The blaze grew from about 30 square miles in size to more than 196 square miles in about 10 hours. The East Troublesome fire is now the fourth-largest wildfire in state history. Evacuations started Wednesday afternoon and expanded late into the evening to include the entire town of Grand Lake, Colorado. The town of a few hundred people rests in the Rockies at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, about 30 miles northwest of Boulder, Colorado.
  • The East Troublesome Fire, grew at a slower rate Thursday but still expanded by about 80 square miles as it moved across Rocky Mountain National Park and jumped the Continental Divide. In all, the blaze has burned more than 265 square miles, making it the second-largest fire in state history behind only the recent Cameron Peak Fire. Five people were reported missing, cars jammed roadways and evacuees filled at least one local hotel Thursday night as a wildfire raging in northern Colorado edged closer to the mountain resort town of Estes Park. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for the community’s downtown area, and voluntary evacuations were recommended for several other. Several communities in nearby Grand County also remained under mandatory evacuations. The Red Cross is assisting about 7,300 evacuees from the two wildfires.

Weather

An early-season snowstorm dumped a record-breaking amount of snow across Minnesota on Tuesday, knocking out power to thousands and leading to hundreds of accidents. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office for the Twin Cities said that 7.9 inches of snow fell at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, which broke a previous daily record of three inches set back on Oct. 20, 1916.

A storm system moving across the Central High Plains will bring more snow from the Northwest through the northern and central Rockies and into the Upper Midwest. This region has just seen record-breaking snow for the month of October in recent days, and more is on the way. Gusty winds over 35 mph and a widespread 6-12 inches are expected from this system, making for dangerous road conditions at times.  

Signs of the Times (10/15/20)

October 15, 2020

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears… The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” (Psalm 34:4,7-9)

Nashville ‘Worship Protest’ Under Investigation

Christian worship leader Sean Feucht hosted a “worship protest” Sunday evening that is now under investigation by health officials after it drew thousands of people who appeared to be largely without masks. Nashville officials said Monday morning that organizers did not apply for a permit to host the event and that the Metro Public Health Department is investigating what happened. However, the worshippers say that have a right to gather in protest without permits and ignore mask mandates just as Black Lives Matter protesters have been allowed to hold protests without facing charges (except for any ensuing violence).

Committee Thwarts Democratic Attempt to Halt Barrett Nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a party-line 10-12 vote, shot down a Democratic attempt to stop Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination from moving forward Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday “we have the votes” to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats have complained that Barrett’s nomination is being rushed through in order to confirm her to the high court before Election Day when both the Senate majority and White House are up for grabs. The full Senate would start to consider her nomination on Oct. 23. Barrett repeatedly told her the Senate confirmation hearing that her religious views would not affect her decisions on the bench.

Presidential Debate Cancelled, Replaced with Competing Town Halls

Americans will hear from Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Thursday after all, though not in a debate, and on separate channels with different hosts. The president and his Democratic challenger will each hold town halls Thursday evening after the second presidential debate was canceled when Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate. Both Town Hall events start at 8 p.m. EDT. Biden is in Philadelphia on ABC with George Stephanopoulos and Trump is in Miami with Savannah Guthrie on NBC, which has come under fire for its decision to host the competing Town Hall in the same time slot making it difficult for viewers to see both live.

Kamala Harris Quarantining, Melania & Barron Trump Have Recovered

Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, canceled campaign trips to key battleground states through Sunday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for COVID-19. The positive tests late Wednesday included a flight crew member, who doesn’t work for the campaign, and the senator’s communications director. Melania Trump reported that she and Barron have now recovered from COVID-19 and tested negative. This was the first notice that 14-year old Barron had also contracted the virus, although Melania said he had been asymptomatic.

WHO Official Urges Halt to Lockdowns Which Devastate the Poor

The World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19 has urged world leaders to stop using lockdowns as the primary control method against the spread of the coronavirus. “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” David Nabarro told The Spectator in an interview aired on Oct. 8. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Nabarro pointed to the collateral damage in tourism and small businesses and farm that lockdowns are having worldwide, especially among poorer populations… Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer… It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year.”

Coronavirus Cases Increasing in Europe Forcing New Restrictions

Rising infections in Europe led governments in France and Britain to impose new measures to contain the coronavirus. Fears are rising in Europe as the new outbreaks cause record daily highs in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. France slapped a 9 p.m. curfew on many of its biggest cities and Londoners face new travel restrictions as governments take increasingly tough actions. The new restrictions are not as strict as the full lockdowns imposed during the spring, but will stunt or even reverse the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession, experts say. European markets fell broadly Thursday in response.

Covid-19 Cases Also Rising in U.S.

States including Alaska, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin reported more new cases during the seven-day stretch that ended on Wednesday than in any other week since the virus arrived in the country. As of Thursday morning, the nation is now averaging 52,345 new cases a day, up 16% from the previous week, a trend that concerns health experts as we head into the cooler months. Since Sunday, 21 states have hit their peak 7-day average of new cases since the pandemic began. Thirty-five states are showing increases in new Covid-19 cases greater than 10% over the last week compared to the week prior. Only three states — Louisiana, Kentucky and Vermont — are showing decreases in new cases greater than 10% this week compared to the week before. The remaining 12 states — Hawaii, California, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts and Maine — are holding steady. Overall deaths are holding steady.

  • Stocks fell on Wall Street Thursday, extending the market’s pullback this week as optimism that Congress will deliver another round of stimulus for the economy wanes and new data show another weekly surge in the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid. President Trump pushed for a Congressional stand-alone bill that would immediately send $1,200 checks to each U.S. citizen.

First U.S. Covid-19 Patient Confirmed to be Reinfected

A patient was confirmed to have been reinfected with the coronavirus. The 25-year-old Nevada man first tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-April, with symptoms including sore throat, cough, headache, and GI issues that started March 25. He recovered by April 27, testing negative twice in May. But on May 28, just two days after his second negative test, he came down with a fever, cough, and dizziness. He tested positive again in early June. This is just the fifth confirmed case of reinfection across the globe. It’s difficult to confirm reinfections, because doctors must have nasal swabs from both infections so the genomes of the virus samples can be compared, and that can only be done in very advanced hospitals and labs.

6 Feet of Social Distancing Not Enough

One of the biggest misconceptions from the beginning of the pandemic is that standing 6 feet away from others ensures your safety. Not so, say experts, who point to evidence that the virus can remain in the air for hours and travel distances much greater than 6 feet. University of Nebraska researchers found that the virus can be infectious in distances much farther than the 6 feet social distancing guidelines, reports Newsmax Health. “Under certain conditions, particularly indoors and in areas with poor airflow around un-masked people infected with COVID-19, the virus can be transmitted via an airborne route via so-called aerosols,” Dr. Benjamin D. Singer, a critical care physician at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, told USA Today. “These particles can hang in the air and transmit over distances greater than 6 feet.”

NYC Back Under Lockdown With Fines to be Assessed

As New York City went back under lockdown amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, the city issued more than $150,000 in fines during the first weekend of the new restrictions. Authorities gave out 62 tickets to people, businesses, and religious gathering places that violated rules having to do with gathering size, masks, or social distancing. A restaurant and at least five houses of worship in the city’s “red zones” where COVID-19 infection rates are highest, could each face up to $15,000 in fines for large gatherings, which NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week was the upper end of the penalties. Penalties for those who refuse to wear masks were to be as high as $1,000. Most of the surges are being seen in Brooklyn and Queens, often in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods due to what officials say are large gatherings and a lack of social distancing.

Trump/Police Supporter Killed at Denver Rally

One person was shot and killed, and a local news station’s private security guard was in custody Saturday evening after protests between opposing groups turned violent in Denver’s Civic Center Park, city police said. The man who was shot was part of a pro-police “Patriot Rally.” “Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa,” the Denver Police Department wrote in a Twitter message, responding to earlier rumors. A KUSA producer also was initially in custody, but has since been released. “The incident occurred after a man participating in what was billed a ‘Patriot Rally’ sprayed mace at another man. That man then shot the other individual with a handgun near the courtyard outside the Denver Art Museum,” the Denver Post reported. 

Portland Protesters Topple Roosevelt, Lincoln Statues in Columbus Day Rage

Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday night in a declaration of “rage” toward Columbus Day. After toppling the statues, the crowd began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society. Police later declared the event a riot and ordered the group to disperse. Protest organizers dubbed the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” in response to Monday’s federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a polarizing figure who Native American advocates have said spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas. Historians have said Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans.

  • Generational Resistance, which promoted Sunday night’s “Day of Rage” in Portland, said its ultimate goal is to “decolonize society by working to abolish colonial systems rooted in racism,” a report in the Oregonian newspaper said.

Florida Police Rule Nevan Baker’s Hanging Death a Suicide

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is calling for an investigation after Florida police ruled the death of a Black man found hanging from tree as a suicide. The family of the man also wants more information. Nevan Baker, 22, was found just after 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 5 after police were called to a Orlando park by a person who reported seeing a man hanging from a tree. The police department has said it has “exhausted all leads” in the case and found no evidence of foul play. However, Crump says Baker’s “hands were tied, teeth missing and face bruised. We demand transparency and a comprehensive investigation so we know exactly what happened!”

FBI, DHS Say Hackers have Gained Access to Election Systems

Hackers, possibly nation-state actors, have penetrated U.S. government networks and accessed election systems, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said in a joint alert. The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, explained there is no evidence so far that the integrity of elections data was compromised. Hackers got access via a combination of vulnerabilities – what CISA calls “vulnerability chaining.” It is a commonly used tactic and in this case targeted federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial government networks, critical infrastructure, and elections organizations. The hackers targeted a Virtual Private Network (VPN) vulnerability and a flaw in Netlogon, a Windows protocol to authenticate users. 

Half-Million Mail-In Ballots Rejected in 2020 Primaries

There is growing concern that hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots for the November election could be rejected because of voter error. According to NPR, more than half a million absentee ballots were rejected from the 2020 primaries for various reasons: voters not signing the envelope in which their ballot was mailed, voters mailing them back too late, etc. During the 2016 election, more than 300,000 mail-in ballots were rejected, an election in which the number of ballots filled out by mail was far lower than what’s expected to be this year. The analysis found that younger voters and voters of color are more likely to have their ballots rejected for the above-mentioned reasons.

  • Several bags of undelivered mail were found awaiting trash pickup outside the home of a US Postal Service worker in Pennsylvania, a report said. The discovery, which was made Sunday at the home in Baldwin, Pennsylvania, is under investigation by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General
  • More than 15 million people have voted already, with three weeks to go before Election Day. Based on that trend, more than half of the votes cast in the election may come before Nov. 3.

Appeals Court Approves Order Limiting Texas Ballot Drop-Off Locations

In a ruling issued late Monday, a federal appeals court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that limited counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location. Earlier, a federal judge issued an order Friday night barring enforcement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 proclamation that limited counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said Abbott’s order placed an unacceptable burden on the voting rights of elderly and disabled Texans, who are most likely to request a mail-in ballot and to hand-deliver those ballots early to ensure that they are counted. These voters are also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the judge said.

  • A federal appeals court in Wisconsin overruled a lower court’s decision to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots by six days, doling out a win to the state’s GOP-led Legislature, which fought hard against the rule change.

California Orders GOP to Get Rid of Unofficial Ballot Boxes

California’s chief elections official on Monday ordered Republicans to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes from churches, gun shops, and other locations and Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned that those behind the “vote tampering” could face prosecution. Republicans refused, saying they are taking advantage of California’s liberal ballot collection law that allows anyone to collect ballots from voters and deliver them to county election offices. “As of right now, we’re going to continue our ballot harvesting program,” California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas said. With more than 1.5 million votes already cast in California, state Republican Party leaders on Wednesday said again that they will not comply with an order from the state’s chief elections official to remove the unofficial ballot drop boxes.

Microsoft Takes Down Massive Hacking Operation

Microsoft has disrupted a massive hacking operation, taking down the servers behind Trickbot, an enormous malware network that criminals were using to launch other cyberattacks, including a strain of highly potent ransomware. Microsoft said it obtained a federal court order to disable the IP addresses associated with Trickbot’s servers, and worked with telecom providers around the world to stamp out the network. The action coincides with an offensive by US Cyber Command to disrupt the cybercriminals, at least temporarily. Microsoft acknowledged that the attackers are likely to adapt and seek to revive their operations eventually. But, the company’s efforts reflect a “new legal approach” that may help authorities fight the hackers going forward.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000, evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession. The economy is still 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring.

A majority of registered voters in the U.S. said they’re better off now than four years ago, despite the riots and coronavirus pandemic, according to recent polling from Gallup. Fifty-six percent of voters said they and their family are better off now than four years ago, compared to 32% who said they were worse off. The 56% figure compares similar questioning in prior election years: 45% in December 2012, 47% in October 2004, 38% in October 1992, and 44% in July 1984.

The International Monetary Fund predicted on Tuesday that the world’s economy will shrink by 4.4% in 2020, a less severe contraction than it forecast in June. The improvement is driven by a stronger than expected bounce in the United States and Europe after lockdowns lifted, as well as China’s return to growth. However, the organization downgraded its outlook for 2021. The IMF now sees a 5.2% increase in global output next year, down from 5.4% in its previous report. Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also lowered its forecast for 2021.

San Francisco experienced a 43% year-over-year decline in sales tax revenues during the pandemic, which has been credited to a mass exodus from the expensive city with its excessive homelessness, high taxes and proximity to numerous wildfires.

Because the IRS has been so short-staffed due to the pandemic, it’s estimated that the agency has yet to look at 2.5 million hard copy tax returns for 2019, which means many filers could end up waiting a long time to receive their refunds.

Donations to nonprofit organizations, including big names like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, are dropping as Americans give less due to pandemic-fueled job losses and fears of getting laid off. 

Slightly more than half of Americans in a recent poll from Sports and Leisure Research Group say they already have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials. The chief reason: fears of a resurgent pandemic, which could lead to disruptions such as new restrictions on businesses. Grocery stores across the United States are stocking up on products to avoid shortages during a second wave of coronavirus.

Food prices continue rising during the coronavirus pandemic, jeopardizing food security for tens of millions worldwide. On Thursday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said world food prices rose for the fourth consecutive month in September, led by surging prices for cereals and vegetable oils.

Delta Air Lines posted massive quarterly losses — and the company is warning investors “it may be two years or more” for air travel demand to return to normal. The airline posted a $2.1 billion operating loss in the third quarter, larger than forecast by Wall Street analysts. Analysts expect total losses among all U.S. airlines to top $10 billion for last quarter. Business travel, the more lucrative part of the airline’s bookings, has been slower to recover than leisure.

Saudi Arabia Using its Media to Push Positive Messages Towards Israel

The changing Arab attitudes towards Israel that are taking place in the Middle East are being noticed, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia, which Arab states look to for its leading role in setting public opinion across the region. Although the government in Riyadh has not commented directly on the historic Abraham Accords, which its neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates used to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the media in Saudi Arabia has changed its attitude towards Israel dramatically. Recent changes show a softening Saudi tone towards not just Israel, but also the Jewish religion. At the same time, relations between the Kingdom and the Palestinian Authority are deteriorating.

Israeli Defense Forces Cross Border to Blow Up 2 Syrian Army Posts

Israel sent a clear warning to Syria with a cross-border raid that destroyed two military posts. Israeli soldiers crossed the Syrian border earlier this week to blow up two military posts. The IDF carried out the raid in a so-called demilitarized zone between the countries. The strike was intended as a warning to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that encroachment by his forces into the Golan Heights would not be tolerated.

Two Americans Held Hostage By Iran-Backed Forces In Yemen Freed In Trade

Two Americans held hostage by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen were freed on Wednesday as part of a U.S.-backed trade that returned more than 200 of the group’s loyalists to the fractured Middle East country, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. A Royal Oman Air Force plane carrying the two Americans and the remains of a third flew out of Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital of Sana’a, hours after the jet and a companion flight brought the militants back to the country following years stuck in Oman.

Six Nigerian Christians Killed in Fulani Militant Attack

Six people were murdered, including the acting village head, and three seriously injured in an attack by armed Fulani militants on 5 October in Wereng, a beleaguered Christian village in Plateau State. The heavily armed attackers, who were wearing police uniforms according to eyewitnesses, sporadically fired their guns as they stormed the small community around 9.00 pm, causing a number of villagers to flee their homes. According to an eyewitness, the militants specifically identified and pursued the acting village head, Chungyang Mwadkon, shooting him dead as he fled from them. Three people injured in the raid remain in a critical condition in hospital and it is “not known if they will survive”, according to local reports.

Chinese Officials Demand Churches Replace Crosses with Nation’s Five-Pointed Star

Persecution of Christians in China by the Chinese Communist Party has continued to rage on with officials removing crosses from the rooftops of hundreds of churches, religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports. Two Chinese Christian Councils in a county managed by the prefecture-level city of Jiujiang in Jiangxi Province ordered over 70 affiliated churches to replace all cross symbols from their official seals with China’s five-pointed star. Jiujiang’s Religious Affairs Bureau also ordered official churches to remove Chinese characters for “Christianity” from church seals. A Three-Self venue director explained how the cross was inscribed on its church seals as “the symbol of our faith,” but “the government replaced it with the five-pointed star to show its power.”

Wildfires

The devastating wildfire season in California that’s seen a record number of acres burn may get worse this week as hot, dry conditions with intense winds threaten to spark more flames. A newly sparked wildfire in California forced the evacuation of dozens of people Wednesday night. A newly sparked wildfire in California forced the evacuation of dozens of people Wednesday night, as the state faces another round of dangerous fire weather. About 50 homes were under a mandatory evacuation order. More than 8,500 wildfires have burned over 6,406 square miles in California this year, mostly since mid-August.

Drought

Deep drought strengthened its grip on the southwestern states in the U.S. Five states have its entire landmass under some level of drought. The worst is Utah with 87% of the state in extreme to exceptional drought. Arizona is next at 78% with Colorado at 59%, Nevada at 58%, and New Mexico at 54%. Northern California where the severe wildfires have mostly been is also having severe drought condition, but the southern part of the state is mostly drought-free.

Weather

Thousands of Louisianans who fled or were displaced by back-to-back hurricanes Laura and Delta remain scattered in hotel rooms and other temporary housing as election day approaches. People who won’t be in their home parish on election day have two options: vote early in person or cast a ballot by mail. About 7,000 residents of Lake Charles have not been able to return to their homes since they were damaged by Hurricane Laura six weeks ago. Many of these homes had their repair work ripped apart by Hurricane Delta’s winds last weekend. These property owners are having to file a second insurance claim for damage to their property which can be a difficult process. Insurance in coastal states is tricky to begin with, and even in a single storm can be difficult to navigate. Homeowners often have separate windstorm insurance, commonly called a hurricane policy, that covers damage from named storms. The extra coverage can be required by banks and mortgage companies, depending on where a home is located.

Signs of the Times (10/9/20)

October 9, 2020

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

President Trump “Feels Perfect” and Says ‘We Have a Cure’

President Trump said Friday that he feels “perfect” and that he is no longer taking any medication for COVID-19, just a week after his diagnosis. Speaking during a “rally” on Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show, the president said he met with his team of doctors at the White House earlier in the day. “I’m free, I feel perfect,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not taking anything. It wiped out the virus.” He singled out the antibody cocktail made by Regeneron as particularly effective for his treatment of the virus. Mr. Trump said the drug “fixed me.” The president claimed of the medication he received, “We have a cure. More than just a therapeutic, we have a cure.” Trump also promised to make it free to all Americans.

  • REGN-COV2 is an experimental drug developed by the American biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It is an artificial “antibody cocktail” designed to produce resistance to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. It consists of a mixture of two monoclonal antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987.

Kamala Harris Says SCOTUS Nominee Barrett’s Faith Not a Factor

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris said Thursday that questions about Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s faith should not be part of Judge Barrett’s confirmation process in the coming weeks. “One’s faith should never be the basis of supporting or rejecting a nominee, so absolutely not,” Ms. Harris told KPNX-TV in Phoenix. Judge Barrett is President Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At the VP  debate on Wednesday, Ms. Harris said she and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden are both people of faith.

Jews in Brooklyn Protest Government Shutdown of Synagogues

Hundreds of Orthodox Jews took to the streets in Brooklyn, New York – angry over government orders to shut down synagogues and houses of worship. “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion,” Councilman Kalman Yeger told Boro Park News. Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio have implemented strict guidelines – limiting houses of worship to no more than 10 people. Non-essential businesses have also been ordered to close. The Orthodox community is enraged and accuse government leaders of targeting their faith group. Early on during the pandemic, Mayor De Blasio personally oversaw the disruption of a Jewish funeral. The protesters marched in the streets and burned their facemasks – chanting, “Jewish Lives Matter.”

NY Times Admits ‘Insurrectionary Anarchists’ Behind Riots and Looting

A photographer who expected to find white supremacists and people angered by racial injustice behind the looting that has plagued American cities since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day instead found “insurrectionary anarchists” bent on revolution, according to a member of the New York Times editorial board. The photographer, Jeremy Lee Quinn, concluded the protests were not spontaneous outbursts of anger toward social injustice or police brutality. Instead they were strategically organized via social media by anarchists bent on tearing down the social structure and replacing it with an anarchist society.

Michigan Supreme Court Strikes Down Governor’s Emergency Powers

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30. The Democratic governor extended the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration by executive order April 30 after the Republican-controlled Legislature advanced a bill that would not have renewed the original declaration. Whitmer cited the Emergency Management Act of 1976 (EMA) and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 (EPGA) as authority, with two lower courts subsequently dismissing legal challenges to her actions. But the Michigan Supreme Court Friday ruled that Gov. Whitmer did not possess the authority under the EMA to re-declare a state of emergency or disaster based on the pandemic and that the EPGA was an “unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.” The court’s ruling would not take effect for at least 21 days and the emergency declaration and orders would remain in place until then.

FBI Says Michigan Militia Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Whitmer

Six men were arrested on federal charges and accused of plotting with a militia group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Seven other men from the militia group were charged by the state. The men, who the F.B.I. said espoused anti-government views, had talked about taking Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, hostage since at least the summer, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court and unsealed on Thursday. They had surveilled Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, and they indicated that they wanted to take her hostage before the presidential election in November. The F.B.I. said it had learned so much about the group by intercepting encrypted messages and because it had undercover agents and confidential informants working with the group. At least one of the six ringleaders arrested Thursday is a self-proclaimed anarchist who has expressed disdain for Trump, calling him a ‘tyrant.’

WHO Now Estimates Coronavirus Death Rate is Only 0.13%

Lost in the reporting of the World Health Organization’s new estimate that about 760 million people – more than 20 times the confirmed cases – have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide is the impact on the estimated survival rate. If, indeed, 760 million have been infected at some point during the outbreak and the number of confirmed deaths is about 1 million, the infection fatality rate is only 0.13%, reports WND. That’s just a slight bit higher than the 1% death rate from the flu. The WHO’s estimate in March of a 3.4% death rate (26 times higher than 0.13%) sparked panic worldwide, fueling the lockdowns.

  • Either WHO’s estimate of the number of infections is way off, or the death rate is much lower than they have postulated.

FDA Guidelines Mean No Vaccine Before Election Day

The Trump administration has signed off on FDA guidelines for a thorough coronavirus vaccine review, which is likely to delay authorization until after Election Day. Though officials had initially blocked the guidelines, a senior administration official tells the Journal that the White House approved them without changes on Tuesday—two weeks after they were received. The FDA then issued the guidelines, which require a vaccine to lower the rate of COVID-19 in study participants by 50% or better compared with a placebo, as well as a two-month observation of anyone given the vaccine. President Trump wasn’t happy. “New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job!” Trump tweeted.

Covid-19 Cases/Hospitalizations Increasing in U.S.

Over the past week, cases have been trending upward in 21 states, with only 8 decreasing or staying at the same level. Overall in the U.S., the 7-day average of new cases rose to 47,049 on 10/8 from 34,596 on 9/13. Deaths continue to trend slightly downward, but tend to lag new cases by 7-14 days. And hospitalizations across the country have also begun to rise, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Wisconsin is opening a field hospital at the state fair park in response to an alarming surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations that is overwhelming hospitals, Gov. Tony Evers announced.

22% Increase in Arizona Deaths, More Than Underreported Covid-19 Deaths

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a 22% increase in Arizona deaths through August. When the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services through August are subtracted, Arizona deaths are still up by nearly 10% over the first eight months of the previous year, the data shows. That means Covid-19 deaths are underreported or deaths from other causes have increased.

CDC Says Virus Droplets Can Linger for Hours in Close Quarters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its webpage Monday saying there is evidence that in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation, the virus can sometimes be spread by tiny droplets that can linger in the air for hours and infect people who are farther than six feet apart.

Young People Most Infected Now, Passing it On to Seniors

Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 incidence was highest among older Americans. According to the CDC, researchers found that between the months of July and August, people in their 20s now have the largest number of confirmed cases compared to other age groups. The repercussions of this trend appear to be that young people precede infections rates in the over 60 age group by 4 to 15 days, according to the report. This older age group is more likely to suffer serious complications such as hospitalization and death from the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci pleaded for young Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19 to take responsibility and follow safety guidelines so that they do not spread the disease to vulnerable people.

Over 80% of Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients Experience Neurological Symptoms

While respiratory issues are a well-documented symptom of coronavirus, researchers have found that over 80% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience some type of neurological manifestation as well. In examining 509 patients admitted to a Chicago hospital network, researchers found that 419 of them presented a neurological issue at some point during the course of their COVID-19 infection. “The most frequent neurologic manifestations were myalgias, headaches, encephalopathy, dizziness, dysgeusia [impaired sense of taste] and anosmia [loss of smell],” the authors wrote in their study, which was published Monday in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. “

More Covid-19 Cases in White House/Joint Chiefs

An internal FEMA memo reveals “34 White House staffers and other contacts” have been infected by coronavirus in recent days. The head of the White House security office is gravely ill with COVID-19 and has been hospitalized since September, a White House official confirmed. A growing list of White House officials have also tested positive for the virus, including senior White House aide Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. In addition, most of the nation’s top military leaders have been quarantining after coming in contact with a senior officer with COVID-19, according to the Pentagon. The military’s top two officers, along with service chiefs from the Army, Navy and Air Force, are in quarantine after meeting last week with the infected No. 2 officer of the Coast Guard. A second officer, Marine Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, has also tested positive and is experiencing mild symptoms.

Pandemic Fatigue’ Complicates Efforts to Thwart New Outbreaks

In both Western Europe and the northeastern United States, governments were able to dramatically reduce cases with broad measures that were effective but economically bruising. Now, as cases surge once again, officials are seeking more targeted closures, trying to navigate a course between keeping the virus in check while not constraining the economic recovery. Further complicating things is ‘pandemic fatigue’ – people are simply fed up after months of limitations in their daily lives.

  • France has placed cities on “maximum alert” and ordered many of them to close all bars, gyms and sports centers on Saturday. Italy and Poland have expanded their mask wearing rules. The Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency, and German officials fear new outbreaks could soon grow beyond the control of their vaunted testing and tracing abilities. A targeted lockdown in Spain is being challenged in the courts.

White Texas Officer Charged With Murdering Black Man

A white Texas police officer was arrested on Monday night and charged with the murder of a Black man who was “walking away” from a disturbance outside a convenience store last weekend, authorities said. The Texas Rangers charged Wolfe City officer Shaun Lucas for the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Jonathan Price. Lucas was booked into the Hunt County Jail, where his bail was set at $1 million. Lucas shot Price after responding to a disturbance call on Saturday night “for a possible fight in progress,” officials said. The officer tried to detain Price “who resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away,” according to the Rangers’ statement. Lucas then tased Price before shooting him with his service weapon. Price, described as a “pillar of the community,” was trying to break up a domestic feud between a man and a woman at the gas station.

Protests in Kansas City Over Police Kneeling on Pregnant Black Woman

Protesters upset by social media videos of Kansas City police arresting a pregnant Black woman have now occupied the lawn in front of City Hall for more than five days. Video footage shows an officer kneeling on the back of a pregnant woman during an arrest after a gathering at a gas station.

Protesters in NYC Called “Knuckleheads’ and ‘Spoiled Brats’ by Police

A group of about 100 demonstrators stepped off around 9:30 p.m. Monday from Fulton Street near the South Street Seaport in New York City, to protest the fatal police shooting of Texas man Jonathan Price. Two dozen “knuckleheads” and “spoiled brats” were busted during the overnight demonstrations according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Postal Worker Dumps 1,875 Pieces of Mail Including Ballots

A 26-year-old postal worker from New Jersey faces federal charges after 1,875 pieces of mail, including ballots, were found discarded in dumpsters. Nicholas Beauchene faces charges of delay, secretion or detention of mail and obstruction of mail. Beauchene had resigned from his job with the postal service and admitted to dumping the mail, but he did not say anything during his first court appearance, which was held Wednesday via Zoom. He was released on $25,000 bail.

Texas Indicts Netflix for ‘Cuties’ Lewd Depictions of Underage Girls

Netflix has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas for allegedly promoting “lewd visual material” of a child in its controversial film “Cuties.” In addition, several members of Congress have written to Attorney General Bill Barr asking for prosecution of Netflix for “child pornography.” Child pornography under federal law is defined as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).

President Trump Approves a $1.8 Trillion 2nd Stimulus Offer

President Trump has signed off on a roughly $1.8 trillion stimulus offer to be presented to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, marking the highest topline dollar figure the administration has put on the table to this point. The $1.8 trillion figure is up from a $1.6 trillion offer from earlier this week, though it remains below the $2.2 trillion in the bill passed last week by House Democrats. Pelosi has been unwilling to go below $2 trillion in negotiations up to this point, and passage of a second stimulus bill prior to the election remains doubtful, becoming a political football.

Economic News

On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that for fiscal year 2020, which ended September 30, the U.S. deficit hit $3.13 trillion — or 15.2% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) — thanks to the chasm between what the country spent ($6.55 trillion) and what it took in ($3.42 trillion) for the year. The debt for 2020 exceeded the total economic output of the country, and is more than triple what it was in 2019.

  • When the pandemic winds down, the U.S. economy will be so indebted and feeble that it will lead to a severe economic depression.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week to a still-high 840,000, with job losses remaining elevated seven months into the pandemic recession. The number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits dropped 1 million to 11 million, reflecting that some have used up their 25 weeks of benefits as well as others going back to their previous jobs.

Hundreds of thousands of women — nearly eight times more than the number of men — dropped out of the U.S. labor force last month. Half of the women who dropped out were in the prime working age of 35-44. Women have been hit harder by this recession than by previous downturns. Industries that employ a lot of women, such as hospitality and leisure, are faring worse during the pandemic. Women also are more likely to take on care responsibilities in the home, with increased homeschooling and home care.

The wealth of the world’s billionaires reached a new record high in the middle of the pandemic as a rebound in tech stocks boosted the fortunes of the global elite. Billionaire wealth increased to $10.2 trillion at the end of July, up from a previous peak of $8.9 trillion in 2017. According to the latest Federal Reserve data, the top 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion (or 30.4% of all household wealth in the U.S.), while the bottom 50% of the population holds just $2.1 trillion combined (or 1.9% of all wealth).

An additional 88 to 115 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, in 2020 because of the pandemic and resulting economic recession, according to a report from the World Bank released Wednesday.

New York City’s economy is crashing. Nearly 6,000 business closures has resulted in a 40% eruption in bankruptcy filings across business districts of all five boroughs this year, reports Bloomberg. In addition, nearly 90 percent of New York City bar and restaurant owners couldn’t pay their rent in August, heightening the continued crush the coronavirus shutdown has inflicted on Gotham’s economy, reports the NY Post.

Hobbled by the pandemic and facing the same long-term challenges as other casual dining chains, Ruby Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Wednesday. The company will permanently close 185 restaurants that had shut their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. That leaves the company with 236 operating locations which they hope to keep going after restructuring their debt.

U.S. Issues Additional Sanctions Against Iranian Banks, Europe Objects

The Trump administration on Thursday imposed a new round of economic sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Tehran in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. The measure imposes penalties against 18 Iranian banks and comes days before a United Nations arms embargo on the country is set to expire. The action could effectively lock Iran out of the global financial system, further cratering its already collapsing economy. It was the United States’ latest round of sanctions against Iran after the Trump administration’s attempt last month to unilaterally restore international economic penalties that much of the rest of the world has refused to enforce. Europe objected to these measures because they would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Iran whose economy is collapsing and Covid-19 cases are increasing.

Trump Says He Plans to Have U.S. Forces in Afghanistan ‘Home by Christmas’

President Donald Trump said Wednesday night that he wants all U.S. forces in Afghanistan home by Christmas, a faster timeline than one laid out by his own national security adviser. “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump tweeted. The president has repeatedly pledged to end American involvement in “endless wars” in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Afghanistan is the site of the U.S.’s longest war, and 5,000 American troops are currently serving there. The U.S. signed a landmark agreement with the Taliban in February that called for the departure of all foreign military forces next year.

Christians in Chad Under Great Duress from Muslim Majority

The Muslim majority dominates Chadian society, and discrimination against Christians is the norm. Chad has a long history of Muslims oppressing Christians, including Muslims raiding non-Muslims to seize them as slaves. Poor and uneducated Christians are still vulnerable to exploitation. Being the poorest section of society, Christians are the most severely affected by the multiple disasters afflicting Chad this year. “Chad is facing multiple humanitarian crises in 2020,” according to a UNICEF report a month ago – and things have only got worse since then. Flooding now affects 19 of the country’s 23 provinces and nearly 400,000 people. Christians in many rural areas have lost their homes and also their harvests. Covid-19 lockdown was particularly damaging for those who earned their living from their own small businesses. A deadly outbreak of measles and another of meningitis earlier in the year are now in decline, but the viral disease chikungunya spiked in September.

Death Toll Soars as Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Escalates

Everything from rockets to missiles to munitions continues to demolish Nagorno-Karabakh — the hotly fought-after land parcel bordering Christian-dominant Armenia and Muslim-majority Azerbaijan. And there is little reprieve in sight, with both countries accusing each other of having triggered the renewed clashes. While internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan, the region is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians — sometimes referred to as Armenian “separatists.” Yet caught in the crossfire are the civilians not only inside the enclave’s capital of Stepanakert but also those living in the surrounding mountains and villages as potent, long-range weapons rain down from both sides. The number of casualties is not known but are called ‘soaring.’

Chinese Communist Party Rewrites Gospel Story

Communist party officials in China have rewritten one of the Bible’s most powerful accounts of Jesus Christ’s grace and divinity by blasphemously claiming the Savior stoned to death the woman caught in adultery.  The well-known New Testament account in John’s Gospel (8:3-11) is completely altered to depict Jesus Christ as a devious murderer, and self-proclaimed “sinner”, in a “professional ethics and law” text book used in Chinese vocational secondary schools. In 2018, the CCP unveiled its new five-year plan to “sinicise” (i.e. make Chinese) Christianity, with the intention of selectively reinterpreting Christianity and Scripture. Authorities erased the words Bible, God and Christ from classic children’s stories in August 2019, and some churches in Henan province were forced to take down the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping as part of the government’s escalating crackdown on Christianity.

Wildfires

The deadly wildfires that have raged across California this year have burned more than 4 million acres or 6,250 square miles —more than twice the previous record, and an area greater than the size of Connecticut. There have been more than 8,200 wildfires this year in the state. The fires have killed 31 people and destroyed over 8,454 structures as of Monday morning.

Weather

Hurricane Delta is a Category 3 storm, and it’s expected to make landfall along the Louisiana and Texas coast today, Friday, 10/9. Delta will become the 10th named storm to make landfall in the US this season, setting the record for the most in one year. The cities to be directly impacted include: in Louisiana, Lake Charles, Lake Arthur and Baton Rouge; in Texas, Beaumont/Port Arthur.

Hurricane Delta roared out of Mexico and back into the Gulf on Thursday, a havoc-wreaking Category 2 storm that was gaining strength as it set its sights on the beleaguered Louisiana coast. Hurricane Delta toppled trees and knocked out power in the resort areas of Cancun and Cozumel as the storm made landfall early Wednesday morning on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Delta came ashore around 5:30 a.m. local time with pouring rain and sustained winds up to 110 mph. Civil defense official Luís Alberto Vázquez said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but Hurricane Delta damaged homes and other buildings and knocked out electricity to thousands in parts of Cancun and Cozumel.

Nine people have died in France and neighboring Italy after the storm brought torrential rainfall and major flooding on both sides of the border. Several people are missing, including two firefighters whose vehicle washed away when a road collapsed. The storm moved across southeastern France and Northern Italy overnight Friday into Saturday. Bridges were knocked out, roads blocked and communities left isolated. Floods washed away or damaged over 100 houses and destroyed roads and bridges surrounding the city of Nice on the French Riviera after almost a year’s average rainfall fell in less than 12 hours. Italian firefighters rescued 25 people trapped on the French side of a high mountain pass due to the flooding.

Signs of the Times (10/2/20)

October 2, 2020

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

DC Prayer March Exceeds Expectations

Attendance at Franklin Graham’s Prayer March this past weekend exceeded many people’s expectations of just a few hundred people. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 100,000 to 200,000 people. People began spontaneously singing various hymns, and later Michael W. Smith led the crowd in worship songs. Corporate prayer was held at a various spots near the National Mall. Vice President Mike Pence unexpectedly showed up and joined the proceedings. VP Pence reminded the crowd about America’s deep religious heritage. He thanked the audience for their prayers, and urged them to keep praying for our leaders in public office, for our men and women in uniform in the military and law enforcement, for our doctors and nurses, for those grieving and for our country.

Wisconsin Court Grants Important Win for Parental Rights

A court in Wisconsin ruled this week officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District cannot intentionally hide from parents information regarding their children’s chosen gender identities in schools. Dane County Court Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction against the school district. Remington’s decision comes months after a lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous group of parents whose children are enrolled in MMSD schools. The parents disputed guidance put forward by the district in April 2018 advising faculty and staff members to assist students in their gender transitions at school without notifying their parents.

Only 6% of Americans Adhere to a Biblical Worldview

A study by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that just six percent of Americans adhere to a biblical worldview. The findings, released in the American Worldview Inventory 2020, also found Millennials held the lowest number of biblical worldview holders, at just two percent. In the mid-1990s, 12% of Americans adhered to a Biblical worldview. The survey’s definition of a biblical worldview consists of believing that absolute moral truths exist and that such truth is defined by the Bible; that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins; and that God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules it today; that salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; that Satan is real; that a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.”

President and First Lady Test Positive for Covid-19

President Trump announced Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump tweeted news of his test results just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks had come down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. A statement issued by Trump’s doctor said that both he and his wife were well and that would continue their duties. White House officials said Trump was “feeling mild symptoms” on Friday morning.  White House chief of staff Mark Meadows conceded that people knew of Hope Hicks’ positive diagnosis before Marine One took off for New Jersey on Thursday afternoon for a fundraiser.

President Trump Condemns ‘All White Supremacists’ After Debate Refusal

President Donald Trump condemned “all White supremacists” Thursday evening after refusing to do so at Tuesday’s presidential debate and in the days since. “I condemn the KKK, I condemn all White supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys. I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. But he again appeared to equate violence by far-left groups with White supremacists, who his own FBI director says are the largest top domestic terror concern, reports Fox News.

Covid-19 Cases Increasing Again in U.S. But Deaths Declining

In the U.S., the 7-day average number of new Covid-19 cases increased to 43,439 on October 1, up from 41,862 on 9/23 and the recent second-wave low of 34,595 on 9/12. 30 states had increases in the number of Covid-19 cases this week, but only 11 states had increased number of Covid-related deaths. The 7-day aver number of deaths declined to 712/day on 10/1 from 878 on 9/15.

  • More than 25% of COVID-19 tests came back positive in some Midwestern states last week, as the region experiences an increase in infections and hospitalizations. Last week, North Dakota’s positive test rate averaged 30% while South Dakota saw 26% of its tests coming back positive. Meanwhile, more than 27% of COVID-19 tests received by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services last Sunday were positive. Health experts say that positive test rates for COVID-19 should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days before reopening the economy.

NYC Threatens Fines Over No Masks While Mississippi Drops Ban

For the first time since early June, New York state reported more than 1,000 new cases last Saturday. In New York City, “COVID-19 cases continue to grow at an alarming rate in eight neighborhoods in the city, outpacing the citywide average by 3.3 times over the past 14 days,” the NYC health department said Sunday. Positive coronavirus tests in New York City recently went above 3%, causing Mayor Bill de Blasio to threaten $1000 fines for those who do not wear masks in public. Nine zip codes have seen a rise in coronavirus cases, including Brooklyn, Queens, and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

  • Mississippi became the first state in the union to lift a mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as cases fall. Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4. Gov. Tate Reeves Reeves, a Republican, has chosen to extend the mandate several times since then. However, on Wednesday, he said the declining number of confirmed virus cases and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions.

Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Tapes Released Friday

Roughly 20 hours of grand jury recordings in the controversial Breonna Taylor decision were released Friday, allowing the public to see what evidence was presented by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office in the high-profile case. The recordings, released at 11:40 a.m. Friday, cover the grand jury’s sessions Sept. 21-23 and are parsed into 14 audio files, with witnesses’ personal information redacted because of concerns of threats that have been made to officials and officers. No written transcripts have been released. The tapes include officers’ testimony that they knocked on Taylor’s door multiple times and announced the police presence before entering, according to the Associated Press.

  • The development comes on the heels of a grand juror filing a motion Monday demanding that the transcript be released. “The full story and absolute truth of how this matter was handled from beginning to end is now an issue of great public interest and has become a large part of the discussion of public trust throughout the country,” the attorney for the juror, who has remained anonymous, wrote in the filing. With the release, “the truth may prevail.”

104 Drivers Have Plowed Into Protesters in U.S.

Amid thousands of protests nationwide this summer against police brutality, dozens of drivers have plowed into crowds of protesters marching in roadways. There have been at least 104 incidents of people driving vehicles into protests from May 27 through Sept. 5, including 96 by civilians and eight by police. Witnesses, law enforcement and terrorism experts said some of the vehicle incidents appear to be targeted and politically motivated; others appear to be situations in which the driver became frightened or enraged by protesters surrounding their vehicle.

  • “A prolonged confrontation between Black Lives Matter and pro-Trump demonstrators outside Los Angeles turned violent Saturday, as someone drove a car through the pro-Trump group. The driver has been charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon,” NPR reported. “Police say the driver in Saturday’s incident was a member of the so-called ‘Caravan for Justice,’ which organized the Black Lives Matter protest.”

$20 Million Settlement for Family of Maryland Black Man Killed by Police

The family of a black man fatally shot by a Maryland police officer reached a $20 million settlement with the county of Prince George’s County. It is believed to be one of the nation’s largest one-time settlements involving someone killed by police. Authorities say Green was shot six times with his hands cuffed behind his back in a police cruiser by Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr., who is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder.

Texas Sheriff Arrested for Evidence Tampering in Black Man’s Shooting

A Texas sheriff who starred in Live PD was arrested Monday and charged with evidence tampering in the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man who died in police custody last year. Police use of force against the 40-year-old was captured on footage for Live PD, but that footage was ultimately destroyed. Authorities say Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody destroyed or concealed audio and video footage showing what prosecutors say was likely the clearest view of Ambler’s final moments. He was killed after a 22-minute car chase that started when he failed to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic; he was restrained and tased multiple times, despite telling officers he had a heart condition and couldn’t breathe.

Authorities in Florida Crack Down on College Parties

Police officers in Tallahassee, home of Florida State University’s sprawling campus, responded to more than a dozen calls for in reference to large crowds last weekend. One gathering at an off-campus apartment complex on Dixie Drive involved more than 1,000 people gathered outside. The apartment complex is about two miles from the FSU campus. Police dispersed the crowds without any reported violence. The massive party came as nearly 1,500 students have tested positive for the coronavirus since testing began August 2.

Public School Enrollment Rapidly Declining

As parents nationwide tread through a wildly different education landscape this year, many are disappearing from the rosters of their local public schools. Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami and Broward County schools in Florida are all reporting enrollment declines and missing large numbers of children in the youngest grades. The numbers are important because enrollment equals money for classrooms and teachers. Lower-income parents with poor internet connectivity or fewer computers and tablets, or those who can’t support their very young children’s online learning, may be opting out altogether. Many teenagers have chosen to work rather than return to school virtually — a trend that’s particularly prevalent among low-income Latino families. Higher-income parents, meanwhile, have the means to explore other options, such as homeschooling, joining a learning pod with a privately hired teacher, or enrolling in private school.

Federal Judge Halts USPS From Implementing Cost-Cutting Changes

A federal judge halted the U.S. Postal Service’s move to dismantle mail-sorting machines, remove mailboxes and slice employee overtime across the United States. Last month, New Jersey joined New York City and state and three other jurisdictions’ lawsuit claiming the Trump administration was trying to undermine the fall election. The Trump administration said it’s simply trying to reform a deeply-indebted agency with longstanding financial problems. But Democrats say the actions taken by DeJoy, an ally of President Donald Trump and a major Republican donor, are a blatant attempt to interfere with a mid-pandemic election whose results may be decided through the mailbox rather than the ballot box.

  • Some of the U.S. Postal Service’s 630,000 workers are quietly resisting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s changes, which came in the middle of a pandemic and a push to expand voting by mail. As the controversial new procedures snarled post offices and stirred fears of how it would manage mail ballots, the carriers, sorters and other workers began to bend the rules to make sure important mail was delivered on time, reports the Washington Post.

Mail-In Ballots Already Having Issues

As the election nears and more people than usual are opting for absentee ballots due to the pandemic, voters in one New York City borough have flagged an error that officials are now scrambling to remedy. Multiple voters in Brooklyn have reported that the absentee ballot they received was OK, with the correct identifying information like name and address, but that the return envelope has someone else’s name and address. If a voter with this mislabeled envelope seals it and signs their own name on it, as required before submitting, it would invalidate their vote.

  • The Colorado secretary of state sent postcards to non-citizens and dead people urging them to vote. In North Carolina and Virginia, some people received multiple ballots. In Pennsylvania, they’re going to accept ballots whose voter signatures don’t match. In New Jersey, Paterson’s municipal election results were trashed by a judge over rampant fraud. Twenty percent of the ballots were fraudulent.
  • The Center for Voter Information, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partner organization to the Voter Participation Center, sent absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters in August. Of the 2.2 million applications mailed, 500,000 had return envelopes directed to wrong election offices. “We are not aware of any of our ballot applications going to pets or deceased people, as some have alleged,” local election officials said.

Judge Postpones Trump’s Ban on Tik Tok Downloads

A federal judge on Sunday postponed a Trump administration order that would have banned the popular video sharing app TikTok from U.S. smartphone app stores around midnight. The ruling followed an emergency hearing Sunday morning in which lawyers for TikTok argued that the administration’s app-store ban would infringe on the company’s First Amendment rights and do irreparable harm to the business. President Trump declared that TikTok was a threat to national security and that it must either sell its U.S. operations to U.S. companies or be barred from the country. He also banned China’s WeChat app from App Stores, but over the weekend, that ban was postponed by a California judge as well who said the Trump administration offered “scant evidence” to support its belief that the Chinese apps were a threat to national security.

President Trump Reduces Refugee Limit to Record Low

President Donald Trump’s administration said late Wednesday the United States will admit a record low of no more than 15,000 refugees over the coming year, the maximum who can be admitted over the next 12 months barring a change in administration. This is a further cut from 18,000 last year and down dramatically from more than 100,000 under previous president Barack Obama. Refugee advocates had pleaded with the Trump administration to raise admissions in the face of global conflicts and fresh instability due to the pandemic. But the State Department said the United States wants to help displaced people “as close to their homes as possible” until they can go back.

NY Diocese Largest in U.S. to File for Bankruptcy over Sex Abuse Lawsuits

A Roman Catholic diocese in New York City’s suburbs has become the largest in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy to protect itself from a wave of lawsuits filed over past sexual abuse by clergy members. The Diocese of Rockville Centre filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday. It is the eighth largest diocese or archdiocese in the U.S., serving more than 1.4 million Catholics on Long Island. “The financial burden of the litigation has been severe and only compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bishop John Barres, the spiritual leader of the diocese said. The diocese started an independent compensation program in 2017 to provide settlements for victims of past sexual abuse and has so far paid more than $62 million to about 350 survivors under the program.

Big Tech Censorship Escalating

Liberty Counsel reports that During a three-month period in 2019, YouTube deleted more than 4 million channels for violating its vague “community guidelines.” In addition, more than 500,000 comments were deleted off YouTube because they were labeled as “hate speech.” Now YouTube announced it will ban “language that goes too far,” whatever that means. “Nowhere is Big Tech’s double standard clearer than in the situation of Rich Penkoski, a pastor in West Virginia. He had more than 225,000 Facebook followers when his page was shut down for a year for discussing statistics about people involved in LGBT behaviors… Facebook shut down the pastor’s page as he was encouraging a young woman who was struggling with suicide. Because of Facebook’s actions, the conversation abruptly ended. He was not able to find out her fate. Yet at the same time, Facebook continued to allow death threats to come to the pastor’s personal page. This shows how violence toward Christians and conservatives is allowed, but the truth is not. Shocking censorship like this is escalating,” notes Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Ransomware Attacks Against Schools/Hospitals Escalating

Successful ransomware attacks are on the upswing in recent weeks. At least 12 school districts have been hit this month and data was stolen and published in 5 of those 12 cases. So far this year, over 1,200 individual schools, universities and colleges have been impacted by ransomware. Hartford, Conn., public schools postponed the first day of classes after it fell victim to a ransomware attack. Fairfax County public schools in Virginia were also recently hit by a ransomware attack, and this week a Nevada school district didn’t pay the demanded fee so data about staff and students were made public. This past summer, the University of California, San Francisco said it paid $1.14 million to a ransomware group. In that instance, breached files included student applications with social security numbers.

  • A large international hospital chain was attacked by ransomware Sunday leading to patients being rerouted and a switch to paper-based systems in some cases. The ransomware attack affected Universal Health Services’ (UHS) digital networks in the U.S., including hospitals located in California, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Washington D.C. s a result, the Company suspended user access to its information technology applications related to operations located in the United States. A patient with a life-threatening condition died in Germany on Sept. 11 after University Hospital Düsseldorf suffered a similar cyberattack.

Economic News

Another 837,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, on a seasonally adjusted basis., the Labor Department said Thursday. About 58 million people have sought benefits over the past six months. That was slightly fewer from the prior week, although last week. The weekly figures have trended down since peaking at 6.2 million in early spring but remain historically high. Continued claims, which count workers who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at 11.8 million. The number of unemployed people classified as permanently losing their old jobs climbed by 345,000 in September to a six-year high of 3.8 million, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. employers added a disappointing 661,000 jobs in September as Sunbelt states resumed business reopenings that were disrupted by COVID-19 spikes over the summer, offsetting persistent layoffs by struggling firms that have exhausted federal aid. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% from 8.4% in August, the Labor Department said Friday. But that’s because the labor force — which includes people working and looking for jobs — shrank by about 700,000. Overall, the economy is still recouping the 22.1 million jobs that were lost, which could take several more years given the current pace.

The pandemic has produced the most unequal recession in modern history, dealing a blow for those at the bottom, a Post analysis shows. Job losses from the pandemic overwhelmingly impacted low-wage, minority workers. Seven months into the recovery, Black women, black men and mothers to school-aged children are taking the longest time to regain their employment.

Millions of Americans are at risk of having their power or water cut off as CARES Act protections put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus recession expire. Many Americans have fallen severely behind on their bills. In Indiana, for example, the number of households at least 120 days late on their electricity payments has quadrupled since the same period last year.

Retail store closings in the U.S. reached a record in the first half of 2020 and the year is on pace for record bankruptcies and liquidations as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates industry changes, particularly the shift to online shopping. In New York City, nearly 6,000 business closures has resulted in a 40% eruption in bankruptcy filings across all five boroughs this year, reported Bloomberg.

U.S. airlines plan to start furloughing tens of thousands of workers Thursday, after Congress and the White House failed to agree on a new economic relief package. United and American began furloughing more than 30,000 workers starting Thursday, which marks the end of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Israel Locks Down Again, Bans Hasidim Gatherings for Sukkot

Jerusalem police officials warned leaders of several ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem that they will not tolerate traditional large gatherings that are expected to take place during the Sukkot holiday. Jerusalem District Police officials spoke with representatives of various Hasidic sects in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of the capital after news reports showed the construction of venues to host thousands during the holiday next week. A biblical precept during Sukkot is for Jews to live in temporary dwellings called a sukkah, and several sects are planning to host events where a thousand or more people are expected despite government health restrictions limiting groups to 20 people outdoors during the current coronavirus lockdown in Israel. Police made it clear that there will be significant enforcement of the violations.

  • The solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which annually sees Israeli life grind to a halt, begins on Sunday in a nation already under a sweeping coronavirus lockdown. A second nationwide lockdown since the pandemic began, is attempting to contain one of the most severe outbreaks in the world. Israel, with a population of just 9 million, is reporting more than 7,000 new cases a day, raising fears its hospitals could be overwhelmed.

Iran’s Currency Sees A New Record Low Midst Severe Sanctions

Iran’s currency dropped Thursday to its lowest value ever at 300,000 rial for each dollar amid severe U.S. sanctions against the country. The rial has tumbled from a rate of around 262,000 in mid-September, a 12% drop. Iran’s currency was at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. U.S. sanctions have caused Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, to fall sharply. Following President Trump’s decision more than two years ago to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal, the U.S. unilaterally reimposed crippling trade sanctions on Iran.

Venezuela And Iran Flout U.S. Sanctions With Fuel Flotilla

The first vessel in an Iranian convoy of ships bringing desperately needed fuel arrived in Venezuela, demonstrating both nations’ determination to undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the governments in Tehran and Caracas. The Iranian tanker Forest entered Venezuelan waters early on Monday, according to tanker-tracker data collected by Bloomberg. It’s heading to El Palito refinery port, said union leader Ivan Freites. It’s one of three vessels bringing hundreds of thousands of barrels of the fuel.

Azerbaijan, Armenia Fight Over Disputed Region

Fighting broke out on Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed separatist region, as two military helicopters were shot down and casualties in the area were reported. Air and artillery attacks between the two counties broke out around the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian region inside Azerbaijan which declared independence in 1991. Armenia’s government declared martial law and a total military mobilization after a similar action by authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hong Kong Arrests 86 for Protesting on China’s National Day

Hong Kong police arrested at least 86 people for unauthorized assembly on China’s National Day holiday after crowds gathered on the streets of a popular shopping district and other areas chanting pro-democracy slogans. Those arrested included four district councilors, police said, People chanted “Disband the police” and “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time,” a popular pro-democracy slogan that has been banned by the Hong Kong government for alleged secessionist sentiments.

Environment

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in a Texas county Sunday after the presence of a deadly brain-eating amoeba was detected in a city’s water supply and tied to the death of 6-year-old boy earlier this month. Residents of Lake Jackson are advised to boil their water before use after Naegleria fowleri was found in their water system. Abbott on Sunday declared a disaster in Brazoria County, saying that three of 11 water tests in the county found N. fowleri, “posing an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life.”

Earthquakes

An earthquake swarm of 600 small temblors rattled areas around a reservoir in Northern California on Tuesday, the second time in three days that multiples quakes struck the area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quakes all took place along the northern edge of the Calaveras Reservoir in Alameda County, located about 6 miles northeast of Milpitas. The USGS said a 2.7 magnitude quake struck at 8:16 a.m. local time, followed by a 3.0 temblor about 10 minutes later and a 1.3. magnitude quake in the same area. Two 3.4 magnitude earthquakes struck hours apart in the same area in Northern California on Sunday. The region is located along the volatile “Ring of Fire” seismic fault system that circles the Pacific Ocean.

A swarm of earthquakes, the largest a magnitude-4.9, rattled Southern California near the Mexico border Wednesday evening but no damage or injuries were reported. More than 80 quakes centered in remote Imperial County struck between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Many of the other quakes were of magnitude 3.0 and above. The zone is a network of small faults connecting the larger Imperial fault and the huge San Andreas fault.

Wildfires

Weather conditions Friday, including low humidity, dry ground conditions, gusty winds and high temperatures, meant firefighters in Northern California faced one of their hardest days yet fighting a ferocious wildfire leveling homes, schools, businesses and wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. While about two dozen major wildfires are burning statewide, the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties remained the biggest concern. The blaze has already scorched more than 93 square miles of land, roads and other infrastructure and destroyed nearly 600 buildings. The fire was only 6% contained as of Friday morning. More than 2,500 personnel were working in 24-hour shifts to contain the blaze, but the heavy smoke has grounded aircraft. About 80,000 people remained under evacuation orders Friday morning. Meanwhile, smoke hanging in the air was once again pushing air quality to unhealthy levels in the Bay Area, especially to the north and east. Homes and beloved Napa Valley wineries were reduced to rubble earlier in the week by the fast-spreading Glass Fire.

The Zoog Fire as of Friday had destroyed 159 homes and businesses and burned over 87 square miles of land in Shasta County further to the north. At least four people have died.  The Zoog and Glass fires are part of a historic outbreak of wildfires across California this year. Thirty people have died in the fires, since Aug. 15 when dozens of large fires were sparked by lightning. Flames have consumed about 3.9 million acres of land – more than 6,000 square miles – obliterating the previous record for wildfires in California.

Weather

Parts of Switzerland, Austria, and Germany were surprised by unseasonably early snowfall overnight Saturday, after a sharp drop in temperatures and heavy precipitation. The Swiss meteorological agency said Saturday that the town of Montana, in the southern canton (state) of Valais, saw almost 10 inches of snowfall — a new record for this time of year. In parts of Austria, snowfall was recorded as low as 1,805 feet above sea level.

Meanwhile, the southwestern U.S. continued to bake in high temperatures and severe drought that has yielded historic numbers of wildfires in California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah.