Signs of the Times

June 13, 2019

­­We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2Corinthians 4:8-10)

Bakery Awarded $11M over Wrongful Student Protests

The owners of an Ohio bakery who sued for libel after being targeted by student protests won Friday an $11 million verdict against Oberlin College. A Lorain County jury ordered Oberlin to pay $11 million in compensatory damages to Gibson’s Bakery, a local fixture since 1885 that was beset by protests and racism allegations after three black students were arrested for shoplifting the day after the 2016 presidential election. “The jury saw that Oberlin College went out of their way to harm a good family and longtime business in their community for no real reason, and the jury said we aren’t going to tolerate that in our community anymore,” Owen Rarric, an attorney for the Gibsons, told Legal Insurrection. “The verdict sends a strong message that colleges and universities cannot simply wind up and set loose student social justice warriors and then wash their hands of the consequences,” said Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson, who runs the conservative Legal Insurrection website.

Vermont & Illinois Governors Sign No-Limits Abortion Bill

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Monday a sweeping no-limits abortion bill, creating a “fundamental right” to the procedure as a bulwark against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Mr. Scott, a pro-choice Republican, posted a statement saying that the legislation, H. 57, “affirms what is already allowable in Vermont — protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider.” Meanwhile, Vermont Right to Life executive director Mary Beerworth said the governor had endorsed “unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy” by signing the bill, which prevents the state from interfering with or restricting abortion access. On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law allowing abortions for any reason up to birth and forcing every state insurance plan to cover them. The law would erase criminal penalties for performing abortions and allow non-doctors to do them. The legislation also would repeal the partial-birth abortion ban, abortion clinic regulations and conscience protections for medical workers.

Trump Bans Fetal Tissue Research by Government Scientists

The Trump administration Wednesday banned government scientists from conducting fetal tissue research, handing pro-lifers a major victory and capping a contentious debate within the Department of Health and Human Services. “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” an HHS statement read. Any future research “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted,” the statement said. The department also said it is ending a contract with the University of California, San Francisco, that involved fetal tissue research. Some scientists had said fetal tissue research was necessary to find cures, although other scientists said such research was unethical and that alternatives existed. It was not a total victory for pro-lifers. HHS allowed current contracts with about 200 outside projects that use fetal tissue to continue, according to Politico.

Alabama Passes Controversial Castration Law

Males convicted of a sex offense against a child under the age of 13 in Alabama will be forced to undergo chemical castration in the month before they’re released from custody. Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed into law the bill passed by the state legislature on May 30. The effects—an inability to perform sexual acts and limited sexual interest—are reversed once treatment stops, but it’ll be up to a court to determine when this might happen. Any offenders who stop treatment on their own will be found in violation of parole and returned to custody. Randall Marshall of the ALCU of Alabama instead believes the law may be a form of cruel and unusual punishment. “It’s not clear that this actually has any effect and whether it’s even medically proven,” and “when the state starts experimenting on people, I think it runs afoul of the Constitution.” GOP Sen. Cam Ward says it will likely apply only to a small group of offenders as most people convicted in such cases are not considered for parole.

Michigan Muslim Rally Spews Hatred of Israel & U.S.

The “Quds Day” rally in Michigan last week was tailor-made for anti-Israel hate-mongers and those who despise America. Speakers at the anti-Israel rally in Dearborn, Michigan referred to U.S. presidents past and present as “criminals” and “terrorists,” calling the Jewish state a “cancer.” “Not only will we witness the liberation of Palestine, but we are going to play an active role in it with our own hands,” claimed one of the speakers. Another one praised the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which seek Israel’s destruction. Dearborn is home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.

Tariffs on Mexico Suspended after Negotiated Deal

President Donald Trump said Friday he will not place tariffs on Mexico Monday as previously threatened because Mexico has agreed to take new measures to stop the flow of illegal migrants into the United States. “The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” the president tweeted. “Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border.” Trump had threatened 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports unless officials there figured out a way to crack down on the flow of Central American migrants. In a major victory, Mexico has agreed to send more than ten times as many troops to the border.

Migrant Update

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told Congress Tuesday that 90% of asylum seekers skip their hearings after being released into the United States. McAleenan’s testimony also painted a grim portrait of a border crisis that shows no signs of easing, with Border Patrol overwhelmed and underfunded. The secretary described authorities as hamstrung by laws that limit how long they can keep migrants in custody. “Currently due to a single district court order, we cannot obtain effective immigration enforcement results for the families arriving at our border — they cannot be held for longer than 21 days and do not receive rulings from immigration courts for years,” he said.

  • Mark Morgan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told GOP senators that migrants from Central America are “renting babies” to make it easier to get across the U.S. border.
  • More illegal immigrants were apprehended crossing the southern border in May (144,000) than in any calendar month since 2006. The surge in arrests was the “worst case scenario,” according to a top immigration analyst who has now believes more than 1 million illegal immigrants will enter the United States this year.
  • An analysis of United States Census Bureau statistics revealed that nearly 300,000 “anchor babies” – children born to illegal aliens in the U.S. – add to the U.S. population annually, with about 20 percent of all births in America being born to legal or illegal immigrants.
  • California will become the first state in the country to pay for some adults living in the country illegally to have full health benefits. The agreement in the state legislature means low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 25 living in California illegally would be eligible for California’s Medicaid program, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Texas Governor Signs ‘Save Chick-fil-A’ Bill

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law, a new provision that supporters say defends the fast-food restaurant and protects religious freedoms. Opponents have argued it discriminates against the LGBT community. The new law stops the government from taking unfavorable action against a business or person for contributions to religious organizations. The bill was fast-tracked in the GOP-controlled legislature and originally was introduced after the San Antonio City Council blocked Chick-fil-A from opening a location in the city’s airport because of reported donations to organizations that protest gay marriage and other LGBT issues.

SCOTUS Rejects Challenge to ‘In God We Trust’ on U.S. Money

The Supreme Court rejected a case Monday brought by an atheist who wanted to scrub “In God We Trust,” the U.S. motto, from the nation’s currency, claiming it was an entanglement of state and religion. Michael Newdow, an activist who previous challenged reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, had now set his sights on U.S. money, but lost at the district, circuit and now Supreme Court levels. On behalf of a group of atheists, Newdow argued America’s money lacked a reference to God until 1864, when it was added in. He said that amounted to an endorsement of religion. The justices rejected his petition without comment.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenges to Silencer Laws

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request to take up a challenge to a federal law requiring the registration of some firearms including silencers. Challengers in the case believe the Second Amendment protects such firearm accessories. An appeals court had held that a silencer is not a “bearable” arm protected by the Constitution. The case comes as a silencer was used during the recent Virginia Beach massacre and President Donald Trump suggested he’d look into restrictions on gun silencers. The Trump administration had also urged the court not to take up the issue. The order was issued without comment or recorded dissent.

Man Fatally Shot, 25 Officers Hurt in Memphis

Armed officers and an angry crowd faced off after a Tennessee man was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals in a working-class Memphis neighborhood, leaving more than two dozen police officers injured. People in the crowd threw rocks and bricks, with 25 officers suffering mostly minor injuries during the tense clash Wednesday night in the Frayser community in north Memphis. Officers cordoned off several blocks near the scene. By 11 p.m., officers had used tear gas and most of the crowd dispersed. The U.S. Marshals Service said multiple officers encountered a man who was wanted on multiple warrants outside a home who then rammed his vehicle into the officers’ vehicles several times. The officers fired, striking and killing the individual. The NAACP tweeted that they were “closely monitoring the reports of riots” after the shooting.

Self-Inflicted Deaths at All-Time High in U.S.

According to a shocking new report from the Commonwealth Fund, the suicide rate in the United States is the highest that it has ever been before.  It’s the same story with death rates from drug overdoses and alcohol.  All three death rates are at an all-time record high. Since 2005, drug overdose deaths are up 115 percent, alcohol deaths are up 37 percent, and suicides are up 28 percent. Young adults (Millennials) were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol or suicide over the past decade

  • Some states have been hit far harder than others, according to the report. The highest drug death rates were all in northern Appalachia. “When we look at what’s going on in mid-Atlantic states — West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania — those are the states that have the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country,” David Radley, a senior scientist for the Commonwealth Fund, said. Rates in those states are at least double the national average of fatal drug overdose rates. West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rates, fueled mostly by the opioid epidemic. In addition, the New England states also have extremely high drug overdose death rates.
  • For suicide and alcohol deaths it is a completely different story. People died at higher rates of suicide and alcohol in Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oregon and Wyoming. The suicide rate in rural America is 45% greater than in large urban areas, according to a study released last fall by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Farming in the occupational group, along with fishing and forestry, with the highest rate of suicide deaths. Farmers’ net income has fallen 50% since 2013 and is expected to drop to a 12-year low this year, the US Department of Agriculture reports.

Economic News

U.S. employers hired the most people ever in April. The Labor Department said that businesses filled 5.9 million jobs in April – 4.2% more than in March and the most since records began in December 2000. However, taking population growth into account, new hires reached 3.9% of the total workforce compared to the record of 4.3% reached in January 2001.

With mortgage rates falling to the lowest level since September 2017, total mortgage applications surged 26.8% last week, led by an increase in refinancing, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said Wednesday. Applications to refinance mortgages jumped a whopping 47% from the prior week to the highest level since 2016. Mortgage applications to buy a home also perked up, increasing 10% after several weeks of lackluster showings as house shoppers also responded to falling rates.

According to a study that was recently conducted by the Federal Reserve, the percentage of wealth controlled by the top 10 percent of U.S. households has shot up from 60 percent in 1989 to 70 percent today. The study also found that the share of wealth among the richest 1% increased to 32% from 23% over the same period. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated for ordinary Americans.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is currently just $30,533, remaining virtually flat recently. As the cost of living has risen faster than our incomes have, more Americans have been squeezed out of the middle class with each passing month.

If the Strait were to be closed because of the threat of ongoing attacks, it would be a massive blow to the world’s economy. Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections. Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. In that case, benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

The automation wave is expected to dramatically reshape the US economy in the 2020s. This disruption will impact the labor force and cause tremendous job losses, reports Technocracy News. By 2030, automation could eliminate 20% to 25% of current jobs — equivalent to 40 million displaced workers, hitting the bottom 90% of Americans the hardest. In the next 10.5 years, automation is set to eliminate millions of jobs in the warehouse and logistics space, as well as increase the demand for small to medium-sized automated warehouses.

U.S. net oil imports (after accounting for exports) have shrunk to less than 3 million barrels per day, compared with more than 12 million in 2005. All of that American oil is keeping a lid on prices — despite US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Oil prices plunged into a bear market last week.

Persecution Watch

Christians are fleeing for their lives in northern Burkina Faso after twin attacks by Islamist extremists on 9 and 10 June left at least 29 people dead, according to Barnabas Fund contacts. Nineteen people were murdered in the town of Arbinda on Sunday 9 June and reports are coming in of a further ten slaughtered in nearby Namentenga province the next day. Arbinda had now lost in total no less than 100 people within six months. The entire population of Christians in the area have fled for their safety. Local Barnabas Fund contacts said that 82 pastors and 1,145 Christians, of 151 households, were fleeing from different locations in northern Burkina Faso. The latest attacks are the fifth and sixth in just the past six weeks. The four previous atrocities left a total of 20 dead. The Islamist militants’ murderous rampage began on 28 April in Silgadji.

China’s Orwellian-like network of surveillance cameras now includes churches. Most churches within the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement in one major Chinese city, Huai’an, have government-mandated surveillance cameras that allow the communist government to monitor the congregation’s every move, reports ChristianHeadlines.com. Within the Huaiyin district of Huai’an city, 155 of the 170 Three-Self churches have government-mandated cameras that are connected to a network allowing the government to watch Christians, Bitter Winter reported. The Religious Affairs Bureau pressured us into installing them,” a member of the church told Bitter Winter. The cameras are part of a massive network of cameras across China that allow the government to monitor citizens. There are an estimated 176 million surveillance cameras across China, The Atlantic reported. That number could reach 450 million by 2020.

It appears that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not the only social media sites that are censoring Christian, conservative and pro-life content. Pinterest, a popular website for sharing images, crafts, recipes and do-it-yourself projects, blocked content from Live Action by placing it on a list with pornography sites and other objectionable content, according to a whistleblower at the company. Live Action’s pins typically include inspirational messages to pregnant mothers, ultrasound images of unborn babies and information about abortion procedures and Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in America.

Israel

The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast that was held again last week is a prayer movement initiated and chaired by Knesset Member Robert Ilatov, and co-chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Each year the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast brings together government leaders and Christian leaders from around the world to gather in Israel’s capital city to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This year’s breakfast was truly the “gathering of the nations” said ICEJ President Juergen Buehler, “With over 800 delegates from 60 nations the breakfast is growing quickly which is evidence of the hand of the Lord on the event.”

A rocket was fired into Israeli territory from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday morning before being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and prompting retaliatory strikes by IDF aircraft. The incident came a day after large numbers of incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons were sent into Israeli territory from the Strip, igniting several large fires which burned crops and forests inside Israel.

A fire that has raged since Wednesday night in the hills of Itamar in Samaria is believed to have been caused by arson. So far, 1,700 acres of farmland and pastures have been burned. “This is the fourth fire to break out in four days, endangering residents and families, destroying years-worth of work by farmers,” said Iyar Segal, a resident of the Itamar hills. “We expect the Civil Administration, the IDF and police to arrest the arsonists with a strong hand, and to assist the farmers and residents.”

  • Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran is only 6 to 8 months away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Islamic State

It has been months since the Islamic State was expelled from its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, but the brutal terrorist outfit continues to wreak havoc in the lands it once deemed its “caliphate.” The Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate affirmed last week that more than 6,100 acres of agricultural crops were incinerated in less than two weeks in 136 separate incidents, with the at-risk area spanning almost 120,000 acres of Iraqi land. ISIS has claimed responsibility for numerous blazes in recent weeks, justifying their targeting of wheat crops as retaliation against those refusing to pay them taxes.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen

A missile fired by Houthi rebels struck the arrivals hall of an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, injuring 26 people, a Saudi official said. Eighteen people were treated at Abha International Airport for minor injuries and another eight were taken to hospital. According to Houthi-run Saba News, a strategic guided cruise missile was used in the attack. The airport, which services flights within Saudi Arabia, as well as to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, suffered material damage. The war in Yemen began in early 2015 when Houthi rebels — a minority Shia group from the north of the country — drove out the internationally-recognized government and forced its president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to flee. The crisis quickly escalated into a multi-sided war, with neighboring Saudi Arabia leading a coalition of Gulf states against the Houthi rebels. The coalition is advised and supported by the US, among other nations.

Iran

U.S. Navy ships rushed to the aid of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday after an apparent attack left at least one in flames and forced evacuations less than 20 miles from the coast of Iran. No nation or group claimed responsibility for the attack, the second on oil tankers in the region in a month. The incident is likely to increase steadily rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Oil prices spiked more than $3 to over $62 a barrel. Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency said Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 21 sailors from the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and 23 from the Bermuda-owned Front Altair and evacuated them to the nearby Iranian port of Jask. Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei expressed “concern and sorrow” over the incident and warned nations not to duped by others that benefit from instability in the region.

  • There is no place in the world more important for the global supply of oil than the Strait of Hormuz. The channel, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, is the only way to move oil from the Persian Gulf to the world’s oceans. If the Strait were to be closed because of the threat of ongoing attacks, it would be a massive blow to the world’s economy.

China

Vietnamese officials say China is intentionally mislabeling its products as “made in Vietnam” to avoid American tariffs, and have ordered offices to more aggressively examine products’ certificates of origin. Chinese firms first export products to Vietnam, then change the labeling on packages before exporting the goods to the United States, Japan or Europe, they said. “Dozens” of products have been identified, Hoang Thi Thuy, a Vietnamese Customs Department official, told state-run media, and goods like textiles, fishery products, agricultural products, steel, aluminum, and processed wooden products were most vulnerable to the fraud. The Customs Department exposed a company called INTERWYSE for trying to rebrand 600 Chinese-made speakers and phone chargers with a “Made in Vietnam” label.

Hong Kong

About one million people jammed Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday in an unprecedented protest to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial. Sunday’s outpouring was widely expected to raise the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing. Lam had yet to comment on the rally, which followed weeks of domestic discontent growing official concern from the U.S., European Union and foreign business lobbies that the changes would dent Hong Kong’s vaunted rule of law and freedoms. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was unswayed by one of the biggest protests in the territory’s history. Lam announced Monday that a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China for the first time will not be scrapped despite widespread opposition. Protests continued in the following days, and Hong Kong police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had massed outside government headquarters Wednesday, throwing bricks. At least 72 people have been injured. Amid the chaos, government officials delayed the opening of debate on the bill Thursday.

Botswana

Botswana became the latest country to decriminalize gay sex on Tuesday in a landmark case for Africa when the High Court rejected as unconstitutional sections of the penal code punishing same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison. Jubilant activists in the packed courtroom cheered the unanimous decision in the southern African nation that is seen as one of the continent’s most stable and democratic. The ruling came less than a month after Kenya’s High Court had upheld similar sections of its own penal code in another closely watched case. More than two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws criminalizing gay sex, often holdovers from colonial times. Earlier this year, the southern African nation of Angola decriminalized same-sex activity and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mali

Unknown assailants killed at least 95 people and 95 more are missing in an ethnic Dogon village overnight in the latest massacre to destabilize central Mali, a government official said Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, though tensions have been high since an ethnic Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a larger massacre in an ethnic Peuhl village in March. Youssouf Toloba, who leads the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou, has denied that his fighters carried out the March bloodshed that left at least 157 people dead. Some Peuhl leaders, however, vowed to carry out reprisal attacks. Intercommunal violence has risen steadily in central Mali over the last several years, exacerbated by the presence of Islamic extremists who have moved south from their strongholds in the arid north, notes the USA Today.

Poland

President Trump on Wednesday said Poland has agreed to base about 1,000 U.S. troops on its soil, further solidifying the American-Polish relationship in the face of Russian mischief in Eastern Europe. Polish President Andrzej Duda said the final number of U.S. troops in his country will be decided by Mr. Trump, who earlier suggested up to 2,000. “The Polish government will pay for this,” Trump said in a joint press conference with Mr. Duda in the White House Rose Garden. Trump suggested that the troops would be transferred from foreign bases such as those in Germany rather than from the U.S.

Australia

The killing of four people in northern Australia has caused shock in the country most often held up worldwide as an example of effective gun control. At least four people were killed in the city of Darwin and several injured when a gunman opened fire with a pump-action shotgun late Tuesday night in several different locations. A suspect was apprehended soon afterward, and has been identified as 45-year-old local Ben Hoffmann, who was on parole at the time of the shootings. It is the worst spree shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which resulted in the country radically overhauling its gun laws. Authorities are now trying to piece together how the alleged Darwin shooter acquired his weapon and any motivations he may have had for the shootings.

Environment

Slimy, stinky sargassum is fouling Florida beaches, annoying tourists and being blamed for killing some marine life as it makes its way on shore in what may be unprecedented amounts. “Sargassum was something that was really unique and deserving of protection,” Brian Lapointe, a sargassum expert at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, told the Florida Keys Free Press. “All of a sudden, global change is going on and sargassum is becoming harmful. Now it’s the largest harmful algal bloom on Earth.” Sargassum creates a vital habitat for marine animals. But now it’s too “much of a good thing” as the large blooms make the water “anoxic and putrid.”

The 8.5 million pound boulder that crashed down onto a Colorado highway just before the Memorial Day weekend is not going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday that his administration has decided to leave the boulder that crashed onto Highway 145 between Cortez and Telluride where it is and give it the name “Memorial Rock,” the Denver Post reported. The boulder that is the size of a house is one of two boulders that crashed on May 24 from a 1,000-foot ridge above the two-lane highway, leaving an 8-foot trench across both lanes. Instead of blowing up the boulder as the state typically does in similar situations, the state will divert the highway around the massive rock that has now become a new landmark.

Earthquakes

There have been more than 700 earthquakes recorded in the Fontana area since May 25, ranging from magnitude 0.7 to magnitude 3.2, recorded Wednesday at 5:20 p.m., according to Caltech staff seismologist Jen Andrews. Scientists are quite “concerned” about the huge earthquake swarm that has been shaking southern California in recent weeks, and tar is literally bubbling up through the streets in one section of Los Angeles.  None of this means that a major seismic event is imminent, but it’s certainly not a good sign either.

Weather

Flooding across much of North Carolina last Saturday left three people dead, closed numerous roads and damaged buildings on the Duke University campus. The three victims were killed when their car flipped over into Rockdam Creek. Roads became rivers, high-water rescues were underway, and states of emergency were being declared in parts of the Southeast on Sunday after more than a month of rain fell in a day with more on the way. Parts of central Georgia saw 6 inches of rain in a 24-hour period that ended early Sunday. The westbound lanes of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina border were closed Monday afternoon after a rockslide that was triggered by heavy rains.

The western U.S. is sweltering under an unusually intense June heat wave, with temperatures soaring to near-record highs from Oregon to Arizona. Heat warnings and/or advisories were in effect Tuesday for a number of major metro areas in the West, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Francisco. On Monday, normally mild San Francisco soared to a brutal high of 100 degrees, the first time that city has ever hit the century mark in June.

More than 88,000 people were evacuated this week in southeastern China because of heavy rains and flooding that left at least 49 people dead and 14 missing. Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Jiangxi province where storms brought strong winds, hail and floods. Heavy rain was forecast to continue until June 12.

Hail the size of tennis balls hammered Munich and southern Germany on Monday, injuring several people and damaging cars, businesses and homes. The large hail was a rare sight for local residents.

  • 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

June 7, 2019

­­But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psalm 37:9-11)

Pope Changes the ‘Lord’s Prayer’

Pope Francis reportedly approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father. Instead of saying, “Lead us not into temptation,” Catholics will say, “Do not let us fall into temptation,” The Guardian reports. The pope said he thought the English translation of the prayer was not correct. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he said. “I am the one who falls. It’s not Him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen… A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”

Trump Bans Fetal Tissue Research by Government Scientists

The Trump administration Wednesday banned government scientists from conducting fetal tissue research, handing pro-lifers a major victory and capping a contentious debate within the Department of Health and Human Services. “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” an HHS statement read. Any future research “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted,” the statement said. The department also said it is ending a contract with the University of California, San Francisco, that involved fetal tissue research. Some scientists had said fetal tissue research was necessary to find cures, although other scientists said such research was unethical and that alternatives existed. It was not a total victory for pro-lifers. HHS allowed current contracts with about 200 outside projects that use fetal tissue to continue, according to Politico.

Illinois Bishop Bans Communion for Abortion Votes

An Illinois bishop who calls an abortion bill passed by the state legislature “extreme” issued a decree Thursday that no lawmakers who supported it will be able to receive communion for “promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion.” Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton, both Catholics who pushed for The Reproductive Health Act, a sweeping abortion rights bill that repeals several restrictions on abortions, have been banned from partaking in the sacrament of communion at Mass in the Springfield diocese. The bill, approved last Friday, is awaiting the governor’s signature. Bishop Thomas Paprocki said pro-abortion lawmakers who supported the bill that removes waiting periods, spousal consent and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions, are promoting a position that is “inconsistent with being a good Catholic, a faithful Catholic.”

  • Parents who object to their daughter’s abortion would be required to pay for it and could be held liable under a pro-choice bill that passed the Illinois House Wednesday. The bill, H.B. 25, liberalizes the state’s abortion laws and declares abortion a “fundamental right.” The bill also repeals language that explicitly protected parents from being forced to pay for their daughter’s abortion if they didn’t give consent.

Christianity Trending in Country Music

Country music stars are putting their faith in new songs that focus more on the church pew than the bar stool, reports USA Today. While religion has always been deeply entrenched in the genre, a slate of Christianity-infused tracks are receiving radio play this year, and they’re being belted from award show stages by top stars, from Blake Shelton to Carrie Underwood to George Strait to Little Big Town. At least seven high-profile songs reference God or his son or wade into the spirit of Christianity. “It is noteworthy,” country music historian Robert K. Oermann said. “It is not common that there’d be this many at the same time.”

ISIS Planned to Send Terrorists into U.S. Via Mexico

A chilling confession from a captured ISIS fighter has shed light on how the terrorist group intended to exploit the vulnerabilities of the U.S. border with Mexico, using English speakers and westerners to take advantage of smuggling routes. Seized ISIS fighter Abu Henricki, a Canadian citizen with dual citizenship with Trinidad, last month said that he was sought out by the violent insurgency’s leadership to attack the U.S. from a route starting in Central America, according to a study by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and published in Homeland Security Today. The attacks were described to Henricki as designed to “cripple the U.S. economy,” and he was said to have been informed that he would be issued false identification and passports and would be maneuvered from Puerto Rico to Mexico and then to the United States.

Michigan Rally Spews Hatred of Israel & U.S.

The “Quds Day” rally in Michigan last week was tailor-made for anti-Israel hate-mongers and those who despise America. Speakers at the anti-Israel rally in Dearborn, Michigan referred to U.S. presidents past and present as “criminals” and “terrorists,” calling the Jewish state a “cancer.” “Not only will we witness the liberation of Palestine, but we are going to play an active role in it with our own hands,” claimed one of the speakers. Another one praised the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which seek Israel’s destruction. Dearborn is home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.

Judge Dismisses House Suit, Allows Border Wall Funding

Washington, D.C., district court Judge Trevor McFadden threw out House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s emergency border wall funding reallocation, saying that the matter is fundamentally a political dispute and that the politicians lack standing to make a legal case. Trump had declared a national emergency this past February over the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, following Congress’ failure to fund his border wall legislatively. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats then filed suit in April, charging that Trump was “stealing from appropriated funds” by moving $6.7 billion from other projects toward border wall construction. McFadden, a Trump appointee, suggested Democrats were trying to circumvent the political process.

ICE to Ramp Up deportation of Illegal Immigrant Families

Families no longer will be considered off-limits for deportation, acting ICE Director Mark Morgan told reporters Tuesday. Morgan, who has been at the job for a week, said the lack of consequences is fueling the current border crisis, which he called the worst he’s seen in decades of immigration law enforcement. He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement must find a way to change the incentives that leave immigrants thinking that if they bring a child and pose as a family, they will gain lax treatment, quick entry into the U.S., and face virtually zero chance of being removed any time soon. Ousting illegal immigrant families has long been a goal of hard-liners within the Trump administration, who say short of stopping them from coming, making sure they go home somewhat quickly after they are ordered out of the country is the only way to stem the surge.

  • Mark Morgan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told GOP senators that migrants from Central America are “renting babies” to make it easier to get across the U.S. border.

DHS Reports Citizenship Approvals Rose in 2018

Homeland Security reached a five-year high in approvals of citizenship applications last year, and swore in more people as naturalized citizens as well, according to the new statistical report released Friday night. Those numbers contradict the criticisms of congressional Democrats who had complained about backlogs building at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Homeland Security branch that handles legal immigration. There has been a 61 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 in approved asylum applications.

  • More illegal immigrants were apprehended crossing the southern border in May (144,000) than in any calendar month since 2006. The surge in arrests was the “worst case scenario,” according to a top immigration analyst who has now believes more than 1 million illegal immigrants will enter the United States this year

$19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Bill Approved by Congress

A long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster aid bill was approved by Congress and signed by President Trump who called it a “great.”  The bill that will send money to states and territories hit by hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters. The bill specifically addresses disasters that have occurred since 2017 including Hurricanes Maria, Florence and Michael and wildfires in California. It also covers volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and an earthquake in Alaska. It was held up for months as Trump and Democrats fought over aid for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory, which was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, will receive about $1.4 billion. More than $42 billion has previously been allocated to Puerto Rico for disaster relief, abut only $12.6 billion of that has been spent, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

One-Third of Homeless Young Adults in Arizona has been Trafficked

An Arizona State University study about sex and labor trafficking among homeless young adults in Arizona reveals that one-third of them have been trafficked. For the past five years, the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research has  conducted the Youth Experiences Survey, or YES, to gather data about human exploitation among homeless and runaway young adults ages 18 to 25. Of 179 homeless youths surveyed over two weeks in July 2018, one in three participants reported experiencing sex or labor trafficking and about a quarter of the participants reported experiencing both — results consistent with data gathered in years past. The average age of the victim’s first sex-trafficking experience was sixteen. Labor traffickers use violence, threats and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many industries.

Fifty-Two People Shot in Chicago Last Weekend

Chicago’s police chief on Monday decried a “despicable level of violence” during a weekend in which 52 people in the city were shot, eight of them fatally, and two people were stabbed to death. Police believe most of the shootings were gang-related. The weekend was the city’s most violent one yet in 2019. The shootings happened on one of the warmest and sunniest weekends of the year in Chicago. The city often sees an increase in violence in warmer weather. Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the department increased the number of uniformed officers on the street – targeting areas where police expected gang members to retaliate for previous shootings. He said he believes that effort helped police seize 92 illegal firearms, nearly twice as many as the department seizes in a typical warm-weather weekend.

Los Angeles’ Homelessness Rising Despite Huge Spending

Despite spending millions on housing and one of the strongest economies in decades, the number of homeless people in the nation’s most populous county showed a dramatic increase in a new official count released Tuesday. Los Angeles County’s homeless count rose 12% to 58,936, a reversal from the previous year when the number dropped by 4%. Though voters approved two massive bond measures to build more units as thousands live on city streets in tents, cars or in the open, officials say higher rents and a tight housing market are forcing more into homelessness. The state is short more than 500,000 affordable housing units for low-income renters, based on a California Housing Partnership Corp. study.

U.S. Farmers Grappling with Worst Crisis in 30 Years

American farmers already plagued by years of low prices and a trade war with China are now grappling with record Midwest rain that will likely prevent a large portion of this year’s crop from even getting planted. The troubles have created the worst farm crisis since the 1980s, when oversupplies and a U.S. grain embargo against the Soviet Union forced thousands of farmers into bankruptcy. While some farmers have been shutting down or selling to larger competitors for years amid thinner profits, analysts say 2019 will bring a more dramatic shakeout. “This is more than a cyclical thing,” says Gary Schnitkey, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. “It’s a series of events that we’ve never seen come together. … It’s going to be a blow to everyone’s financial position.”

Economic News

Hiring was weak in May as employers added 75,000 jobs, bolstering the Federal Reserve’s case for cutting interest rates as soon as this month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 178,000 job gains. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 50-year low of 3.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. The weak jobs report bolstered the Federal Reserve’s case for cutting interest rates, a possibility that provided a lift to stock markets this week.

According to a study that was recently conducted by the Federal Reserve, the percentage of wealth controlled by the top 10 percent of U.S. households has shot up from 60 percent in 1989 to 70 percent today. The study also found that the share of wealth among the richest 1% increased to 32% from 23% over the same period. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated for ordinary Americans.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is currently just $30,533, remaining virtually flat recently. As the cost of living has risen faster than our incomes have, more Americans have been squeezed out of the middle class with each passing month.

Tariffs on Mexican goods of 5% are set to begin June 10. They would gradually climb to 25% on October 1 if Mexico doesn’t take steps “to dramatically reduce or eliminate” the number of migrants, President Trump said on Thursday. Such a strategy would hurt American shoppers, the economy and stocks, experts say, just as U.S. growth is slowing and the threat of more tariffs on Chinese imports looms larger. From produce to cars, a wide variety of Mexican goods would become more expensive for American shoppers. President Trump could decide over the weekend to delay the tariffs, a top White House aide said, as negotiators from the two countries reported progress in talks that resumed in Washington on Friday.

New Jersey, it seems, is the last place where people want to spend their golden years. Almost 67% of all New Jersey moves were outbound last year, according to a survey from United Van Lines. A third of people who left New Jersey also cited retirement as a primary reason for their decision to pack up and go. Maine and Connecticut round out the top three states people are moving away from due to retirement. On the other hand, the Sun Belt is a hot destination for those entering their golden years. The survey says New Mexico is the top destination for retirees, followed by Florida and Arizona.

The automation wave is expected to dramatically reshape the US economy in the 2020s. This disruption will impact the labor force and cause tremendous job losses, reports Technocracy News. By 2030, automation could eliminate 20% to 25% of current jobs — equivalent to 40 million displaced workers, hitting the bottom 90% of Americans the hardest. In the next 10.5 years, automation is set to eliminate millions of jobs in the warehouse and logistics space, as well as increase the demand for small to medium-sized automated warehouses.

Israel

The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast was held again this past week and is a prayer movement initiated and chaired by Knesset Member Robert Ilatov, and co-chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Each year the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast brings together government leaders and Christian leaders from around the world to gather in Israel’s capital city to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This year’s breakfast was truly the “gathering of the nations” said ICEJ President Juergen Buehler, “With over 800 delegates from 60 nations the breakfast is growing quickly which is evidence of the hand of the Lord on the event.”

A fire that has raged since Wednesday night in the hills of Itamar in Samaria is believed to have been caused by arson. So far, 1,700 acres of farmland and pastures have been burned. “This is the fourth fire to break out in four days, endangering residents and families, destroying years-worth of work by farmers,” said Iyar Segal, a resident of the Itamar hills. “We expect the Civil Administration, the IDF and police to arrest the arsonists with a strong hand, and to assist the farmers and residents.”

Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is willing to get direct talks going with Iran without any preconditions, but will continue to increase pressure on the Islamic republic unless it ends its malignant activity around the world, including its support for Hezbollah. Pompeo’s comments carried new weight because there is no U.S. diplomatic footprint. Switzerland represents American interests in Tehran. The secretary of state said he had discussed Iran with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, although there was no clear indication that any direct talks between U.S. and Iranian officials are on the horizon.

  • Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran is only 6 to 8 months away from developing a nuclear weapon.

North Korea

A senior North Korean official who had been reported as purged over the failed nuclear summit with Washington was shown in state media on Monday enjoying a concert near leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Yong Chol has been North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and the counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since Kim Jong Un entered nuclear talks with the U.S. early last year. He traveled to Washington and met President Donald Trump twice before Kim’s two summits with Trump. Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been at a standstill since February, when the second summit between Trump and Kim broke down over what the United States described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Sudan

The death toll from Monday’s attack on the sit-in of Sudan’s pro-democracy protesters has risen to 100, after 40 bodies were recovered from the River Nile. The demonstrators have demanded that the Transitional Military Council, which has ruled the country since troops ousted longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April, make way for a civilian-led interim body. Eyewitnesses said that the police and RSF shot at protesters on Monday. Several videos showed security forces beating people with sticks. The internet has been blocked in places across the country. After April’s coup, the military council and opposition groups agreed on a three-year transition to democracy. But on Tuesday, the head of Sudan’s ruling military council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, called for national elections within nine months.

Mexico

Mexican drug cartels have established headquarters throughout the U.S. and are one of the country’s greatest criminal, national security and public health threats, according to government watchdog, Judicial Watch. “The Mexican cartels have left a trail of blood using intimidation and terrorist acts of ruthless violence,” the report says. Veteran Drug Enforcement Administration senior agent Derek Maltz says, “The cartels engage in beheadings, car bombings, dissolving humans in acid, mass murders, torture, bombings and political assassinations,” Maltz told Judicial Watch. “Their actions are consistent with the behaviors of traditional terrorists and they have infiltrated the highest levels of the Mexican government with bribes and corruption.”

Cuba

The Trump administration on Tuesday ended the most popular forms of U.S. travel to Cuba, banning cruise ships and a heavily used category of educational travel in an attempt to cut off cash to the island’s communist government. Cruise travel from the U.S. to Cuba began in May 2016 during President Barack Obama’s opening with the island. It has become the most popular form of U.S. leisure travel to the island, bringing 142,721 people in the first four months of the year, a more than 300% increase over the same period last year. That now appears to be over, with an estimated 800,000 cruise passenger bookings affected. “Cruise ships as well as recreational and pleasure vessels are prohibited from departing the U.S. on temporary sojourn to Cuba effective (Wednesday),” the Commerce Department said. U.S. national security adviser John Bolton declared Cuba part of a “troika of tyranny” along with Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Australia

the killing of four people in northern Australia has caused shock in the country most often held up worldwide as an example of effective gun control. At least four people were killed in the city of Darwin and several injured when a gunman opened fire with a pump-action shotgun late Tuesday night in several different locations. A suspect was apprehended soon afterward, and has been identified as 45-year-old local Ben Hoffmann, who was on parole at the time of the shootings. It is the worst spree shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which resulted in the country radically overhauling its gun laws. Authorities are now trying to piece together how the alleged Darwin shooter acquired his weapon and any motivations he may have had for the shootings.

Earthquakes

Southern California’s Jurupa Valley has recently been rattled by a “swarm” of small earthquakes. Since May 25, 432 quakes have hit the area that only spans a few square miles northwest of Riverside, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported Monday. The quakes have measured 0.8 to 3.2 in magnitude and only a few have been significant enough to be felt. There’s no need to panic, according to seismologists and geophysicists. Since there are no major faults nearby, this swarm is likely due to small cracks or a weak area in the Earth’s crust.

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake rattled southeast Albania early Saturday, injuring at least four people and damaging more than 100 homes. The quake struck 7 miles southeast of Korce around 6.30 a.m. local time Saturday at a depth of 6 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Korce is home to 75,000 residents and is 100 miles southeast of Tirana, the Albanian capital. Earthquakes are common in Albania. Daily quakes are recorded but most are too weak to be felt.

Environment

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil reached records levels in May, according to satellite data. Some 459 square miles of the rainforest were cleared last month. That’s up from the 351 square miles of rainforest that disappeared last year, and more than double the amount two years earlier. The 2.1-million-square-mile Amazon is the largest rainforest on Earth. It is crucial to oxygen production and stripping carbon from the atmosphere. Critics blame the surge in deforestation on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has weakened environment controls and encouraged mining and farming to expand in the region.

Carbon dioxide – the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming – peaked again at record levels last month. Levels at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory averaged 414.8 parts per million in May, surging past yet another climate milestone.  This level hasn’t been seen in human history and is also higher than at any point in millions of years. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increases every year, and the rate of increase is accelerating, scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday. The 2019 peak value was 3.5 parts per million higher than the 411.3 ppm peak reached in May 2018; this is the 2nd-highest annual jump on record.

Wildfires

A fast-moving wildfire in Grant County, Washington — the state’s first major blaze of the season — has grown to more than 7.8 square miles and prompted the evacuation of about 25 homes in several rural towns. The so-called 243 Fire sparked around 11 p.m. Monday night in dry grass and sage north of Beverly, about 145 miles southeast of Seattle. Fueled by winds that gusted to 15 to 20 mph, the wildfire that broke out on the east side of the Columbia River near the Wanapum Dam, and grew to more than 7.8 square miles within a matter of hours on Tuesday. As of Friday, the fire has burned 20,380 acres and is 65% contained.

  • So far this year, the number and extent of wildfires in the U.S. has been way below normal due to above average rainfall. There have been 15,063 wildfires compared to the ten-year average of 26,911 through June 7. These wildfires have consumed 332,791 acres compared to the ten-year average of 1,415,399 acres.

Weather

If $700 million in international aid money isn’t sent to Somalia soon, more than 2 million people may starve to death this summer due to severe drought, a United Nations emergency relief coordinator says. U.N. Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock says the money is urgently needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops in the African country. Of a Somali population of 15 million people, more than 3 million are struggling just to meet minimum food requirements. What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years. Lowcock also said the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $45 million to cover food shortages, water and daily necessities in Somalia as well as parts of Kenya and Ethiopia affected by droughts, but a lot more funding is desperately needed.

Officials in the South are preparing for more heavy rains Friday, a day after storms in Louisiana and Oklahoma killed at least one person and left homes and other buildings damaged, cars overturned and streets flooded. Fourteen campers and two dogs had to be rescued along the Buffalo River in Searcy County at Grinders Ferry. In Arkansas, residents were urged on Friday to evacuate in the Lollie Bottoms area in Faulker County as floodwaters threaten the Lollie Levee along the Arkansas River. In Oklahoma, police had responded to nearly two dozen high-water rescues in Oklahoma City in a little more than an hour Thursday morning.

A trio of levee breaches on the three major rivers have prompted evacuations in Arkansas and Missouri as historic flooding continued. “These levees were not built to sustain this high a flow for this long, and we are seeing problems and there more than likely will be more,” said Laurie Driver, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District. “This flood event could last for two, three weeks, maybe a month,” said Nathan Spicer, emergency management specialist in Little Rock.

Signs of the Times

May 31, 2019

­­Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:31-32, 36)

200 ex-LGBTs Rally to Proclaim the Freedom They’ve Found in Jesus

Ex-homosexual and ex-transgender men and women from around the country gathered in the Nation’s Capital last weekend for the Second Annual “Freedom March” where they proclaimed the freedom they’ve found in abandoning homosexual and transgender practices. “Look at this! This is Amazing! They say we don’t exist!” declared author and documentary producer M.J. Nixon, a Freedom March co-founder. Former transwoman Jeffrey McCall kicked off the rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument, explaining that nobody here was forced to change: “It was the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ that fell on all of us.” One testimony after another from the racially diverse group of mostly millennials spoke about their personal conversion to Jesus and the freedom they have found from lives dominated by active homosexuality or gender dysphoria.

Religious, Conservative Wives are Happiest Notes New York Times

Last weekend, the New York Times caused an uproar of anger on social media after they published an op-ed article that claimed the happiest American wives identify as religious conservatives. “It turns out that the happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives, followed by their religious progressive counterparts,” the New York Times Opinion wrote in a tweet. The study was conducted by three professors, W. Bradford Wilcox professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, Jason S. Carroll a professor of marriage and family studies at Brigham Young University, and Laurie DeRose an adjunct lecturer in the sociology department at Georgetown University. The report found that 73% of wives “who hold conservative gender values and attend religious services regularly with their husbands have high-quality marriages.” On the other hand, only 55% of secular progressive wives in the United States say that they have high-quality marriages. The report also found that women in “highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.”

Abortion Is a ‘Disturbingly Effective Tool’ for Eugenics, Justice Thomas Warns

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas cited lessons from the history of the American eugenics movement Tuesday in warning that abortion can be a “tool” to eliminate entire segments of the population.  “A growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion,” Thomas wrote. Thomas cited the widespread use of abortion of female babies in Asia, the worldwide use of abortion of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, and the abortion ratio within the American black population compared to that of the white population. The reported nationwide abortion ratio – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births – among black women is nearly 3.5 times the ratio for white women,” he wrote. “With today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, Indeed, the individualized nature of abortion gives it even more eugenic potential than birth control, which simply reduces the chance of conceiving any child.”

Louisiana Passes Heartbeat Abortion Bill

A bill banning abortions in Louisiana once a fetal heartbeat is detected secured final passage in the Legislature here Wednesday just days after a federal judge blocked a similar law in Mississippi. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill Thursday, making Louisiana the fourth state to enact laws banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally considered about six weeks. Current Louisiana law prevents abortions after 20 weeks. Edwards said he expects the fetal heartbeat law to be challenged in court. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio are the other states that have approved a fetal heartbeat abortion law, while this spring Alabama passed a law that bans almost all abortions. Missouri’s governor signed a bill banning abortion after eight weeks.

Supreme Court Allows Block on Indiana Abortion Restriction to Stand

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that a provision of an Indiana law which said the state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by race, sex or disability should remain blocked. The court, however, did say it would allow part of the law that requires clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains to take effect. The fact that the court decided not to take up the more controversial provision of the Indiana law suggests that there is not a current appetite on the court to move aggressively to question the court’s core abortion precedents of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. The law was signed in March 2016 by then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It was blocked last year from going into effect by the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last Abortion Clinic in Missouri Receives Temporary Reprieve

The license for the last abortion clinic in Missouri was set to expire on Friday until Judge Michael Selzer issued a last minute restraining order preventing the facility license of the troubled Planned Parenthood abortion facility in St. Louis from expiring. Judge Selzer ruled that Reproductive Health Services Planned Parenthood may remain licensed and operating until June 4, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. when he will hear arguments in Planned Parenthood’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Planned Parenthood sued the state Department of Health and Senior Services earlier this week, accusing it of unlawfully refusing to renew the St. Louis clinic’s license, over demands to interview physicians for the investigation. Missouri Governor Mike Parson defended the investigation into the facility and urged the judge not to intervene. If the license is allowed to lapse, Missouri would become the only state in the country without a licensed abortion provider.

Supreme Court Leaves Transgender Student Bathroom Policy in Place

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling in favor of a Pennsylvania school district policy that allows some transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. The plaintiffs were students who say the policy violates their privacy rights and constitutes sexual harassment in violation of Title IX, a federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds. In court papers, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that “forcing a teenager to share a locker room or restroom with a member of the opposite sex can cause embarrassment and distress.” Lawyers for the school district say that they made the decision to allow transgender students to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity because the district “Believes that transgender students should have the right to use school bathroom and locker facilities on the same basis as non-transgender students.”

Federal judge Blocks the Use of Defense Funds for Border Wall

A federal judge blocked President Trump from tapping into Defense Department funds to build parts of his U.S.-Mexico border wall. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California blocked the administration from moving forward with specific projects in Texas and Arizona, saying Trump couldn’t disburse the funds without congressional approval. The lawsuit that prompted the ruling was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. Construction on the projects affected by the ruling Would have begun this past week, according to the ruling. The ruling does not prevent the Trump administration from using funds from other sources to build the projects. “The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” wrote Judge Gilliam, a Barack Obama appointee.

Private Group Begins Construction of Border Wall

A group that raised millions of dollars in a GoFundMe campaign says it has broken ground on a project to build its own stretch of border wall on private property. We Build the Wall, a group founded by a triple amputee Air Force veteran, said in a series of social media posts Monday it had started construction on private property in New Mexico. A half-mile stretch of wall on the site is nearly finished, Kobach said, costing an estimated $6 million to $8 million to build. The new stretch of private wall will connect two 21-mile sections of existing fencing. “Border Patrol told us it’s the No. 1 most important mile to close. The tough terrain always left it off the government list,” advisor Steve Bannon said. The Democratic mayor of Sunland Park, the New Mexico town in which the property is located, issued a cease-and-desist order Tuesday telling the private group building a half-mile of border wall to stop construction, saying the wall’s 18-foot height violates a city ordinance on the size of fencing, which can only be a maximum of 6 feet high. However, the city approved permits Thursday to continue building the wall.

Record Number of Migrants Arrested at Border Wednesday

Border Patrol set a record early Wednesday morning, apprehending 1,036 migrants attempting to illegally cross the southern U.S. border near El Paso, Texas, snapping the previous high of 424 set last month, NBC News reported. A majority of the migrants were coming from Central America’s Northern Triangle – El Salvador (76), Guatemala (515), and Honduras (135) – and traveling in the largest group ever apprehended. Families comprised 934 of the people, while 63 children and 39 single adults traveled alone, per NBC News, citing two U.S. officials and a document it had obtained. As Congress struggles to act on immigration and President Trump builds the wall through national emergency funding re-appropriated from Defense budgets, large-scale migration has continued to grow. March and April reported over 100,000 undocumented immigrants, illegally and legally crossing the border – the highest total in 12 years – and a DHS official expects that number to exceed 120,000 in May.

Migrant Children Being Held Too Long

Many of the nearly 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children who are being held in Border Patrol facilities have been there beyond legally allowed time limits, including some who are 12 or younger, according to new government data obtained by The Washington Post. Some unaccompanied children are spending longer than a week in Border Patrol custody despite federal law and court orders that require transferring children to more-hospitable shelters no longer than 72 hours after they are taken into custody. One government official said about half of the children — 1,000 — already have been in custody for longer than the allowed maximum, and another official said that more than 250 children 12 or younger have been in custody for an average of more than six days.

Youths Represent Much Higher Proportion of Migrants

Nearly 169,000 youths have surrendered at the southern border in the first seven months of this fiscal year, and more than half are ages 12 and under, according to federal records and officials familiar with Customs and Border Protection statistics. Minors now account for nearly 37 percent of all crossings — far above previous eras, when most underage migrants were teenagers and accounted for 10 percent to 20 percent of all crossings. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything near this,” said John Sandweg, an acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Obama administration. Migrants say they are coming to the United States because droughts are frying Central American harvests, they can’t pay their bills, and gangs are recruiting children. Families are increasingly heading to the desert dunes of Arizona’s southwest corner because they sense the U.S. government’s focus is on the Texas border along the Rio Grande and because Arizona has less space for detention beds, meaning they are more likely to be released quickly.

Guatemalan Migrant Smuggling Operation Busted

Homeland Security agents and Guatemalan authorities busted a significant smuggling organization Wednesday, arresting nine people who were involved in transporting thousands of illegal immigrants from across the globe through Latin America and into the U.S. The bust was the first fruit of a new cooperation agreement signed this week between the U.S. and Guatemala, authorizing the two countries to pool information and resources to go after the smugglers who are fueling the illegal immigrant surge. The organization had assets of $10 million, and facilitated smuggling of people from Guatemala, elsewhere in Central America and South America, and even from terrorist-connected countries such as Somalia and Pakistan.

Measles Outbreak Continues to Spread

This year’s U.S. measles epidemic has now surpassed a 25-year-old record, and experts say it’s not clear when the wave of illnesses will stop. U.S. health officials on Thursday reported 971 cases so far this year. That eclipses the 963 measles illnesses reported for all of 1994. Measles was once common in the U.S. but gradually became rare after vaccination campaigns were started in the 1960s. The vast majority of this year’s cases have been in New York City. But measles has also been reported in at least 26 states.

Toxic Parents Causing Drop in Youth Sports Participation

Youth sports have long been seen as a right of passage in American childhood – from Little League baseball to Pop Warner football – but participation levels are dropping nationwide because kids say it’s no longer fun for them. The culprit? A pressure cooker environment created by overly invested parents, according to health professionals and many youth sports organizations, reports Fox News. The out-of-control behavior of some parents, both on the sidelines and in the home, is fostering a culture that emphasizes winning and perfectionism over physical activity and enjoyment – one that experts say is toxic for children.

Economic News

U.S. home prices rose just 3.7% in March, the lowest growth rate in roughly seven years, according to the latest S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index. Las Vegas experienced the highest level of year-over-year growth at 8.2%, followed by Phoenix at 6.1% and Tampa at 5.3%.Cities along the Pacific Ocean were the hardest hit. Home prices in Seattle fell 11.4%, San Francisco slid 9.9% and Los Angeles fell 6.7%.

America’s population is aging and Millennials are having fewer kids than older generations did. That poses a risk to the U.S. economy. Home-building and auto sales will not be the boom industries that they typically have been in a strong economy. Investors need to prepare for earnings growth to slow, bond yields to keep falling and for returns in general to be lower. There will be an ever-increasing proliferation of AI and robotics in the economy to compensate for a lack of workers, experts say.

Medical debt contributes to two-thirds of all bankruptcies, according to the American Journal of Public Health. And a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times poll showed that of the 26% of people who reported problems paying medical bills, 59% reported a major life impact, such as taking an extra job, cutting other household spending or using up savings. Eighteen churches in the U.S. have been able to pay off $34.4 million of medical debt since the start of 2018.

All across America, U.S. farmland is being gobbled up by foreign interests. Today, nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors, reports NPR. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities. So, when we refer to “the heartland of America”, the truth is that vast stretches of that “heartland” are now owned by foreigners, and most Americans have no idea that this is happening.  These days, a lot of people are warning about the “globalization” of the world economy, but in reality, our own soil is rapidly being “globalized”.

Every American auto factory depends on Mexican parts to build its cars or trucks. That’s why President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican imports of up to 25% by October is rattling the US auto industry and driving down the stock market. The tariffs could raise costs in the United States by tens of billions of dollars in the auto industry alone. The tariffs are meant to force Mexico to mitigate the flow of illegal immigrants across Mexico to the U.S.

Reports of Chinese threats to escalate its trade dispute with the Trump administration to include rare earth minerals has, once again, shined a spotlight on U.S. dependency on China for elements used in hundreds of hi-tech products and military equipment. America’s rare earth mineral dependence is a long-standing issue. Starting in the 1990s, China began ramping up its rare earth production, dumping tons of low-priced minerals on the global market and driving U.S. miners out of business. Now, U.S. rare earth mineral production is virtually non-existent and China controls roughly 90 percent of global trade. The U.S. gets about 80% of its rare earth minerals from China. Everything from smartphones to flat screen TVs to green energy to electric car batteries rely on a group of seventeen rare earth metals.

Britain

Britain’s embattled leader Theresa May resigned her premiership Friday, although she will stay on as caretaker prime minister for now. The resignation comes amid a barrage of criticism over her failed efforts to steer the nation out of the European Union in a manner acceptable to increasingly rebellious lawmakers. Her last official day as prime minister will be June 7, after which her Conservative Party will start a process to replace her that could take several weeks or more. She will play a caretaker role until the new leader is chosen. Britain elects a party, not a candidate, meaning that there will be no immediate change to the party that is in power.

North Korea

North Korea has executed five officials for their part in the failed second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a South Korean newspaper. Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the U.S., was executed by firing squad in March for being “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader”, according to the Chosun Ilbo. The paper also claimed that four other North Korean Foreign Ministry officials were executed that same month because of the breakdown of the February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, but did not provide details. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, told reporters in Berlin that he had seen the reports and the U.S. was “doing our best to check it out.”

Middle East

The self-rule Palestinian Authority (PA) has never developed into a state as envisioned under accords reached with Israel in the 1990’s, due in large part to Palestinian terror that forced Israeli governments to freeze the process. Nevertheless, PA officials continue to press various countries to recognize the PA as a state of Palestine. Even as the PA tries to sway countries from attending the U.S.-led economic conference in late June in Bahrain, which is aimed at increasing prosperity among Palestinian civilians, the Palestinian officials have also included a call to recognize the non-existent Palestine. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu had previously stated that he would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state, but has back-pedaled, stating that the PA leadership encourages terror and is not a peaceful partner.

Israel

Over 1,000 fires raged across Israel over the past week or so, and in at least some of the cases, arson-terrorism is suspected. Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed “incendiary balloons launched by Hamas” for fires near the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. Starting on Thursday, May 23rd, wildfires began spreading rapidly in numerous locations throughout Israel, destroying houses and land, and wiping out entire communities. The lush rains of the winter and spring brought forth a great harvest, yet the recent heat wave has completely dried out grasses and underbrush, making it susceptible to instant wildfires. Many communities and families were evacuated from their homes and villages due to the rapid spreading fires. The authorities are working hard to get the fires under control but strong winds and soaring temperatures are creating an atmosphere for the fires to spread even more rapidly. Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Egypt, Russia and other neighbors for helping battle Israel’s wildfires.

On Friday morning, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a brutal stabbing attack near Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City. A 50-year-old Israeli was in critical condition, while a second 18-year-old victim remains  in moderate condition. The 19-year-old suspect was shot and killed by security forces on the scene. The stabbing occurred just hours before weekly Friday prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits at the top of the Jewish Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslims are expected for prayers on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. Across the Middle East, rallies are set to take place Friday to mark Quds Day, an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan during which demonstrators call for the destruction of the State of Israel. On Sunday, Israel marks “Jerusalem Day,” when it celebrates the reunification of the Old City during the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself after Netanyahu failed to form a government ahead of a midnight deadline, despite his Likud party winning the largest number of seats in April 9 elections. The move prevents Israel’s president from being able to call on an alternative candidate to attempt to form a government. New elections have been scheduled for September 17th. Israel is in uncharted political terrain. Mr. Netanyahu is Israel’s first prime minister-elect to be unable to form a coalition after an election, and the first to force another one by dissolving a Parliament sworn in just a month previously. His aura of invincibility, formed over a decade in office, has been seriously dented.

Iran

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Muslim nations to confront recent attacks in the region that the U.S. and its allies have blamed on Iran with “all means of force and firmness.” Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments at a meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom beginning Thursday. Al-Assaf said the alleged sabotage of boats off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels require the region to “make more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups” sponsored by Iran. Iran has denied being involved in the attacks.

Iran will not negotiate with the United States over its nuclear and missile programs, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, after President Hassan Rouhani signaled talks with Washington might be possible if sanctions were lifted. Washington withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal signed with Tehran in 2015, and it is ratcheting up sanctions in efforts to shut down Iran’s economy by ending its international sales of crude oil. One month after the Trump administration said it would tighten its ban on Iran’s oil sales, the country’s direct crude buyers have all but vanished, traders and executives in the Islamic Republic say.

Saudi Arabia

The Trump administration will push through $8.1 billion in new weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies, arguing that “Iranian aggression” presents a national security emergency which gives the president authority to bypass congressional objections. The move prompted fierce criticism from Democrats and at least one high-ranking Republican. Pompeo further inflamed the debate by claiming that Congress had blocked the sales for more than a year – an assertion that sparked a viral outcry. Opposition to the arms transfers was bipartisan, as lawmakers expressed growing concerns about the Saudi regime’s conduct in the Yemen war and the state-sponsored killing of outspoken critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Syria

Airstrikes and fighting in Syria’s last rebel-held province have left a trail of damage visible from space. In satellite images from May 20 and May 26, swathes of fields in northwestern Idlib appear blackened, the neat lines of city streets and blocks become blurs of debris, and plumes of smoke dot the landscape. Escalating military operations in northwestern Idlib province are creating a “humanitarian disaster,” despite the international organizations’ efforts to provide aid, the United Nations warned on Tuesday. In recent weeks, violence there has lead to the death of 160 civilians, the displacement of 270,000 residents and attacks on healthcare facilities, schools and markets.

Japan

A man wielding two long-blade knives stabbed 17 schoolgirls and two adults Tuesday morning at a bus stop in a suburb southwest of Tokyo, according to the police. Five of the children who were stabbed, along with about 15 other students, ran to a convenience store less than 100 feet away to hide. One of the girls, an 11-year-old, and a 39-year-old man died in the assault, and the attacker fatally stabbed himself. It was a shocking event for a country where violent crime is rare and the kinds of mass shootings that have devastated schools across the United States have never occurred because of strict gun-control laws. Officials at Caritas, the Roman Catholic school in Kawasaki that the children attended, said they had received no warning and did not know the attacker.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s adoption of so-called 21stCentury Socialism, championed by the late Hugo Chavez, has led to one of the most stunning economic collapses in nearly a half-century. People are eating out of trashcans, hyperinflation has made mounds of money utter worthless, groceries are now a luxury due to short supplies and high costs. Venezuelans of all walks of life have resorted to prostitution in exchange for common goods. Even children have been forced into prostitution in order to buy groceries. Basic medicines are scarce. Hospitals are reportedly working in 19th-century conditions, with basic items like soap, being in short supply. Hungry citizens are breaking into zoos, slaughtering the animals for meat. Outside of war, there hasn’t been anything like Venezuela’s economic fall in modern history.

Latin America

The rising number of people being murdered across Latin America and the Caribbean is so high that the life expectancy in some of those countries is dropping, a new study reports. Unlike the rest of the world where homicide rates have generally dropped, statistics in some Latin America countries show that the murder rate has skyrocketed in recent years. So much so, that Latin America now accounts for about a third of the world’s homicides, according to a new study from the Australian National University. The study shows that more than 2 million people aged 15-19 (mostly males) in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) were killed between 2005 and 2015. The two most populated countries – Mexico and Brazil – account for the highest number of homicides in absolute numbers, however in El Salvador and Honduras in 2015 had a staggering rate of 109 and 64 homicides per 100,000 people, respectively. The study shows that Honduran males are the hardest hit, losing six years of life expectancy due to homicides when compared to developed countries. The study concludes that the LAC region is the most dangerous in the world.

Volcanoes

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) reported that the latest eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily began on the night of May 29. Starting off by producing a thick column of ash rising from the New Southeast Crater, it gave way on May 30 to a far more lava-heavy display in the area, featuring two fissures blenching out lava. This sort of eruption involves a collection of gas escaping from the magma within the volcano’s conduit, a roughly vertical pipe that’s a bit like a volcano’s esophagus. This is technically known as a Strombolian eruption style, named after Stromboli, another beautiful and reliably hyperactive Italian volcano found within the volcanic Aeolian Islands, which are all just north of Etna itself.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake hit off the coast of El Salvador early Thursday, sending frightened residents running out of their homes in the predawn hours. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6. Its epicenter was about 17 miles (28 kilometers) south-southeast of La Libertad, a suburb of the regional capital, Santa Tecla, and it was recorded at a depth of 65 kilometers (40 miles). Seven aftershocks of between magnitude 4.1 and 5.0 were recorded. Power was knocked out in at least some areas, but no injuries were reported.

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook the Amazon jungle in north-central Peru Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of deaths or major damage. The quake, at a moderate depth of 71 miles struck at 2:41 a.m., 50 miles southeast of the village of Lagunas and 98 miles east-northeast of the larger town of Yurimaguas. In the capital, Lima, people ran out of their shaking homes.

Weather

There’s never been a wetter 12 months in the Continental United States than the period that recently ended, reported the National Weather Service, which has been keeping such records for 124 years. The continental U.S. is also free of severe to exceptional drought for the first time in the two decades the US Drought Monitor has been keeping track. The continental U.S. averaged 6 inches of precipitation above average during the one-year period, with an average of 36.2 inches tallied across the lower 48 states.

  • Flooding in eight states along portions of the Mississippi River is the longest-lasting flood since the “Great Flood” of 1927, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. The flooding is due to relentless, record-breaking spring rainfall. During the historic flood of 1927, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes as millions of acres of land and towns went underwater. This year’s flood rivals that one: For example, In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river went above flood stage on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood status ever since. The weather service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Mississippi first rose above flood stage in early January, and has been above that level ever since. If this record-long stretch extends well into June, it would break the record from 1927.
  • Farther north, the Mississippi River at the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois saw its longest stretch above major flood stage ever recorded, even surpassing that of 1927. As of Tuesday, more than 370 river gauges were reporting levels above flood stage in the central U.S. Heavy rain added to the floodwaters in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Wednesday, a day after the historic flooding turned deadly with a victim pulled from a submerged van. A levee along the swollen Arkansas River breached early Friday in Dardanelle, Arkansas, prompting a flash flood warning and forcing some evacuations. The National Weather Service says rain is expected throughout Arkansas over the next few days.

Wednesday marked the 13th consecutive day with at least eight reported tornadoes. That beats the record of 11 days set in June 1980. The National Weather Service has received more than 500 reports of tornadoes in the past 30 days. More than 235 tornadoes have been confirmed since May 17, according to U.S. Tornadoes. Ten people have been killed with hundreds of homes and businesses damaged.

  • The Midwest has been hammered by scores of tornadoes and heavy storms, leaving at least nine dead and a trail of damage from the high winds and flooding.At least a dozen communities suffered damage late Monday and early Tuesday as storms raced through the area. Many homes were destroyed and an apartment complex was decimated. Some of the most widespread damage occurred in the Dayton, Ohio, metro area and in Celina, Ohio, about 60 miles north-northwest of Dayton. Search and rescue crews worked through the night pulling people from collapsed homes. Despite multiple injuries, only one death had been reported. Iowa and Minnesota also experienced tornado strikes, but damage was minimal. Tornadoes hit the Kansas City area on Tuesday, injuring at least a dozen people and damaging many homes.
  • Residents in parts of the New York City area, including the borough of Staten Island, had a frightful hour or so Tuesday night when powerful storms in the area triggered a rare tornado warning that sent people scurrying for cover. Parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were under tornado warnings Tuesday. Storms marched through the Northeast Thursday, spawning two tornadoes, critically injuring a person, downing trees and causing damage in Virginia and Maryland.
    • 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

May 23, 2019

­­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. (1Peter 4:12-13)

University Settles Christian Bias Lawsuit

A lawsuit that charged officials at the University of Colorado branch in Colorado Springs illegally discriminated against the members of a Christian club has been settled with a formal change to the school’s policies and a payment of more than $20,000 to the students. Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom revealed on Tuesday that UCCS settled a lawsuit that was triggered when they refused to grant registered status ot a student group. “As part of the settlement, the university agreed to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay over $20,500 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and update its policies to ensure that a student club may require its leadership to promote the purposes of the club and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission,” the ADF reported.

College Tells Protesting Students: Chick-fil-A Is Staying

A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. Chick-fil-A is on pace to become the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S. based on sales. The student government association had passed a resolution criticizing the company’s donations to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The resolution said the school’s “values of diversity and inclusion and Chick-fil-a’s values regarding the LGBT+ community are mutually exclusive.”

Google Engineer Says Tech Giant Discriminates Against Conservatives

In an open letter distributed Tuesday, a Google software engineer described a company culture of left-wing “outrage mobs” who use the tech giant’s anonymous bias-reporting channels to shut down conservative social and political thought. Mike Wacker, writing on Medium, warned that if “left unchecked, these outrage mobs will hunt down any conservative, any Christian, and any independent free thinker at Google who does not bow down to their agenda.” He claimed that in March, the company offered him a severance package to leave, with an implied threat that it would find a pretext to fire him if he refused.

Democratic Governor Is Set to Sign an Abortion Ban into Law

The conventional wisdom that says pro-life laws are a Republican-only issue may be challenged soon in Louisiana, where a Democratic governor has signaled support for a heartbeat bill banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy. It wouldn’t be the first time Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has bucked his party’s platform. Last year he signed a bill prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks. In 2016, he signed a bill requiring a 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion. Both are being challenged in court. The nation has 23 Democratic governors. Edwards is the only one who is pro-life, according to The Times-Picayune.

Vermont Governor to Allow No-Limits Abortion Bill to Become Law

A spokeswoman for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he will allow a sweeping no-limits abortion bill to become law, although it may do so without his signature. The pro-choice Republican governor has ruled out a veto of H. 57, meaning that he will either sign it or allow it to become law with no action. “It will become law,” spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley told multiple Vermont news outlets. The bill would give Vermont the most expansive abortion law in the nation, making abortion a “fundamental right,” allowing the procedure until birth, and forbidding state agencies from interfering with access to “reproductive health services.”

Wisconsin Governor Threatens to Veto Several Pro-Life Bills

Multiple pro-life measures have recently made their way through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly, but Democrat Gov. Tony Evers is threatening to veto all of them. Like several states, Wisconsin is currently considering a range of pro-life legislation. The Assembly has passed bills to require basic medical care for infants who survive attempted abortions, a ban on aborting specifically due to a child’s race, sex, or disability, and one cutting the remainder of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding that was significantly reduced, but not eliminated completely, under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. “We shouldn’t be limiting the right for women to make their own healthcare decisions,” wrote Evers, who defeated Walker last November.

Nevada Passes National Popular Vote Bill to Void Electoral College

The Nevada Senate approved Tuesday a National Popular Vote bill on a party-line vote, sending the legislation aimed at upending the Electoral College to the governor. Assembly Bill 186, which passed the Senate on a 12-8 vote, would bring Nevada into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement between participating states to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. If signed as expected by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada would become the 16th jurisdiction to join the compact, along with 14 states and the District of Columbia. The compact would take effect after states totaling 270 electoral votes join. With Nevada, the total would reach 195. While the effort has been billed by organizers as bipartisan, Democrats have embraced the NPV in the aftermath of President Trump’s 2016 victory, which saw the Republican win the electoral vote but not the popular vote.

San Francisco Has Become a ‘Train Wreck’

The Washington Post took a lengthy look at San Francisco and painted a bleak picture of the once desirable location, which has gone from an affordable city that attracted artists and musicians to an area dominated by tech companies, growing wealth, and small businesses getting priced out of the market. Mom and pop restaurants and shops that have been there for decades are being forced to close their doors because of the astronomically high real estate prices. Thousands of people are living on the streets, which has created a public health crisis in this ‘sanctuary city.’ At the same time, tech executives are taking in millions of dollars a year and are widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor even more. Marc Benioff, a lifelong San Francisco resident who founded and now chairs Salesforce, called the 2019 version of his beloved city “a train wreck.”

Migrant Update

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Thursday that “100%” of illegal immigrant families in the new border surge are being released into communities, rather than being held and deported. He said within a month or two, they are also granted work permits, giving them a foothold to live and remain in the U.S. while their cases proceed through the immigration courts — a process that averages two years, and stretches even longer in some overwhelmed regions. Mr. McAleenan said that system rewarding unauthorized migrants who jump the border with exactly the thing they seek is responsible for the record-breaking numbers.

250 People Have Died Worldwide from Taking Selfies

Some 259 people worldwide have died while taking selfies, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges in New Delhi, scoured news reports on selfie deaths that occurred from October 2011 to November 2017. They found that the most selfie deaths occurred in India, followed by Russia, the US and Pakistan. Most of the victims were men (about 72%) and under the age of 30. Researchers attributed India’s high number to the country’s enormous population of people under 30, which is the world’s largest. Although women generally take more selfies than men, researchers found that men were more likely to take risks — like standing at the edge of a cliff — to capture a dramatic shot.

Economic News

The Trump administration is preparing to announce another round of aid to farmers hurt by the trade war with, people familiar with the plan said, a package of assistance that could exceed $15 billion. The aid plan is largely modeled on the program the administration put in place last year after China slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, though the payments this time will be more generous. The administration is considering payments of about $2 per bushel to soybean growers, 63 cents per bushel to wheat growers and 4 cents per bushel to corn growers to compensate for losses from the trade war.

The Wall Street Journal explains that millennials financially lag behind baby boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment. Americans born between 1981 and 1996 have failed to match every other generation of young adults born since the Great Depression. They have less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates and fewer children, according to new data that compare generations at similar ages. Student loan debt and a lack of affordable homes are weighing on purchase plans of first-time homebuyers. With nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population holding student loans — nearly double the 2004 level — the share of Americans with housing debt has fallen to just over a quarter from 33% in 2004.

With short-term interest rates rising broadly across the economy the past few years, a small but growing share of customers are moving their cash to online banks that pay higher yields on savings and money market accounts. In the past 24 months, 21% of Americans have transferred their money to an online bank that pays at least 2% interest, according to a NerdWallet online survey of 2,012 adults for USA TODAY earlier this month. Before that, only 6% of Americans had their savings account at an online-only bank, such as Ally, E-Trade or Discover. Fourteen percent of consumers polled by Bankrate April 30-May 5 were earning more than 2% on their bank savings, up from 6.3% in July.

Ford Motor Co. said on Monday it will eliminate about 10% percent of its global salaried workforce, cutting about 7,000 jobs by the end of August as part of its larger restructuring in a move that will save the No. 2 automaker $600 million annually. The cuts include both voluntary buyouts and layoffs, and freezes open positions as well. About 2,300 of the affected people are employed in the United States. “To succeed in our competitive industry, and position Ford to win in a fast-changing future, we must reduce bureaucracy, empower managers, speed decision making, focus on the most valuable work and cut costs,” CEO Hackett said.

Britain’s second biggest steel maker collapsed on Wednesday, putting about 5,000 jobs at the company directly at risk, and threatening another 20,000 at suppliers. The company was seeking a government bailout, but talks ended without agreement. The High Court ordered the company into compulsory liquidation. The company blames uncertainty over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as the root cause of its problems.

Middle East

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has officially announced that it will boycott a conference in Bahrain next month that is touted as an economic precursor toward introducing the U.S. Trump administration’s diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians, known as the ‘deal of the century.’ The White House announced that it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity. “The Palestinian issue and national rights are not up for sale, and economic initiatives and imaginary promises to the world will not cover the evil face of the ‘deal of the century,’ which is intended to eradicate the Palestinian issue,” said a PA statement released on Thursday. The summit gained traction on Wednesday with the endorsement of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Leaders of Palestinian Christian communities in the West Bank are calling on the Palestinian Authority to investigate vandalism attacks on churches near Ramallah and Bethlehem. The Church of God in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah, was burglarized and damaged last Friday while the Saint Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem was also vandalized on the same day. “We feel we’re being deliberately targeted because we’re Christians,” a Christian woman from Aboud told The Jerusalem Post. “When you see two attacks on a church and monastery in one week, this makes you wonder whether there’s some kind of a scheme against Christians.” A fire which gutted the Jerusalem studios of Daystar, one of the world’s largest Christian broadcasters, was officially confirmed by Israeli police Tuesday morning to have been the result of an arson attack.

Iran

President Trump warned Iran early on Monday not to threaten the United States again or it’ll face its “official end,” shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight. The tweet came just hours after a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the US Embassy, causing no injuries. Top Trump administration officials told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. military deployments in the Middle East were purely defensive and not aimed at provoking a war with Iran, amid growing concerns in Congress about a possible military conflict.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Trump administration’s decision to deploy B-52 bombers and other military resources to the Persian Gulf had succeeded in preventing a possible strike on U.S. interests. . The Pentagon on Thursday presented plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said Wednesday. The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces.

Europe needs to join forces with the United States by continuing to squeeze and pressure Iran to force the rogue regime back to the negotiating table, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Newsmax TV. “The good news is those [U.S.] sanctions are working,” Grenell said. “The bad news is that means Iran is on the hunt for more money because this regime needs money to spread its terror. So, what we’re trying to do in Europe is really articulate to European governments that they’re gonna have to really crack down.” Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday. Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah hard. The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, but U.S. sanctions are curtailing Iran’s ability to support its most powerful regional proxy.

Syria

The US State Department issued a warning to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria on Tuesday, saying the US is closely watching the regime’s military operations against a rebel enclave in northwest Syria and is looking into allegations that Assad’s troops have used chemical weapons in recent days. “Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “We are still gathering information on this incident but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” she added.”

Ukraine

Ukrainian TV star and President-Elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought to capitalize on his huge popularity Monday by dissolving the country’s parliament minutes after he was sworn in as president. Zelenskiy, who won 73% of the vote last month in his landslide victory, slammed parliament as a hot-bed of self-enrichment and promised to stop the war in the east against Russian-backed separatists. The president’s bold move to dissolve the parliament, called the Supreme Rada, followed the failure of a majority of lawmakers to use parliamentary ruses to hamper Zelenskiy’s plans. Zelenskiy’s victory reflected Ukrainians’ exhaustion with widespread corruption and the country’s political elite.

Brazil

A gang of gunmen reportedly attacked a bar in the capital of Brazil’s northern Pará state Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people. The G1 news website said police reported that seven gunmen were involved in the attack, which also wounded one person. The news outlet said the attackers arrived at the bar on one motorcycle and in three cars. Much of Brazil’s violence is gang related. Rio de Janeiro experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also with police that often kill innocent bystanders.

Australia

Running on a climate-change platform, the left-wing Australian Labor Party lost a supposedly “unlosable” election on Saturday to the conservative Liberal/National Party Coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once praised fossil fuels while holding up a chunk of coal on the floor of Parliament. Matt McDonald, associate professor at the University of Queensland, said on ABC.net: “Voters feared climate policy more than climate change.” The election results were unexpected, but they also represented the latest in a string of defeats around the world for parties pushing the 2015 Paris climate accord, green energy, fuel taxes and carbon pricing.

Environment

Chinese foam manufacturers are releasing an ozone-destroying chemical into the air that goes against an international agreement meant to fix the ozone layer, scientists announced in a study Wednesday. The chemical is a chlorofluorocarbon known as trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), which the world agreed to phase out starting in 2010. But just in the past six years, emissions of CFC-11 have increased by around 7,000 tons each year, and the source is eastern China, the study suggests. Located up in the stratosphere, the ozone layer acts like a sunscreen, blocking potentially harmful ultraviolet energy from reaching our planet’s surface. Without it, humans and animals can experience increased rates of skin cancer and other ailments such as cataracts.

Almost one-quarter of the ice in the West Antarctic ice sheet has been classified as “unstable,” according to a new study released this week. This is due to the huge volume of ice that’s melted from the ice sheet over the past 25 years. Some areas are losing ice five times faster now than they were in the early 1990s. “In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts,” said study lead author Andy Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. The ice has thinned by some 400 feet in some places, the study said. The ice sheet and its glaciers are melting from underneath as warming sea water – overheated due to man-made climate change – chews away at it from below.

  • As we’ve been saying for years, extreme weather (including global warming) is a sign that the end-times are upon us (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11), the period Jesus calls the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), preceding the Tribulation and His Second Coming.

Weather.

Last year has been the “wettest 12-month period in recorded history” for the lower 48 states, moving closer to being drought-free, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With a wet 2019 so far, the Mississippi River flooding has been ongoing for three months or longer in some locations, making it the longest-lasting flood there since the Great Flood of 1927, the worst flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River. And there is no end in sight for the flooding, with more rain and storms continuing to hit the central states.

A surprisingly strong, late-spring snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow around Colorado Springs on Tuesday and up to 6 inches in the Denver metro area, which broke a 128-year record for the lowest high-temperature for the date at 39 degrees. The wintry onslaught was particularly hard on trees that buckled and broke under the weight of wet snow landing on freshly sprouted leaves. In Colorado Springs, three greenhouses at one nursery collapsed.

Flooding along Lake Ontario has prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency in all eight of the counties that border the state’s 326-mile lake shoreline. Cuomo also activated 200 members of New York National Guard and placed another 200 on standby. Cuomo deployed 20 sandbaggers, more than 1 million sandbags, hundreds of pumps and more than 5,000 feet of Aquadam, which are water-filled tubes used to create barriers and control water to prevent flooding.

Strong storms rumbled through north-central Texas early Saturday, bringing hail and damaging winds. Heavy damage was reported in Abilene from a likely tornado. There was structural damage to hundreds of buildings and several utility poles were down. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Damage was also reported near San Angelo, Texas, from a possible tornado, with many power lines down. A tornado touched down near Ballinger, Texas, damaging a high school, a baseball stadium and a water tower. Severe thunderstorms continued to rumble across parts of the U.S. Sunday, damaging buildings in Louisiana after spawning reports of tornadoes through north-central Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Saturday, blowing an entire home onto a road in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Classes were canceled Monday at school districts across Oklahoma as the southern Plains prepared for another day of severe storms after more than four dozen reports of tornadoes across five states over last weekend.

Heavy rains flooded homes, closed roads and prompted water rescues in the Southern Plains Tuesday morning as more than 30 tornadoes were reported across Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. A flash flood emergency was in effect for several communities in northeast Oklahoma Wednesday, including the Tulsa area. Interstate 40 was closed in both directions just west of Oklahoma City for several hours because of flooding at Six-Mile Creek. A violent tornado ripped through Jefferson City, Missouri, Wednesday, causing multiple injuries and ‘catastrophic’ damage to buildings. The Missouri Department of Public Safety said first responders were going door to door in an effort to rescue any residents, and urged people to stay out of areas with damage. There were no confirmed fatalities, but multiple people remain injured. The police received calls from many people saying they were trapped in their homes. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma Wednesday as waters from the Arkansas River continued to rise. All told, seven people have died this week from the severe storms.

Signs of the Times

May 17, 2019

­­From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalm 61:2-4)

More States Advancing Anti-Abortion Bills

State governments are on a course to virtually eliminate abortion access in large chunks of the Deep South and Midwest. Ohio and Kentucky also have passed heartbeat laws; Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature just passed one. If a new Mississippi law survives a court challenge, it will be nearly impossible for most pregnant women to get an abortion there. Or, potentially, in neighboring Louisiana. Or Alabama. Or Georgia. The Louisiana legislature is halfway toward passing a law — like the ones enacted in Mississippi and Georgia — that will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy. The states hope that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will approve, leading to the end of the constitutional right to abortion.

  • Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the controversial Alabama abortion bill into law on Wednesday. The law will make nearly all abortions in the state illegal and make performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison unless the mother’s health is at risk, with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest. Televangelist Pat Robertson said the law has “gone too far” and was “ill considered.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vowed to sue. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared abortion is a “constitutional right,” in response to the total abortion ban in Alabama. The statement prompted swift rebukes demanding to know exactly where the constitution makes abortion a right.

House Passes LGBTQ ‘Equality Act’

Democrats on Capitol Hill passed legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. If signed into law, the Equality Act would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. And it would effectively obliterate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law stops the government from encroaching on a person’s religious liberty. Under the Equality Act, some Christian leaders say that churches may come under attack for discriminatory beliefs and practices. The law could force churches to be forced to host events and other celebrations against their beliefs. In addition, Natasha Chart, board chair of the Women’s Liberation Front, teamed up with Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America to warn that, “Under this bill, men and boys [who identify as women and girls] will take away women’s small business grants and hard-won spots on sports teams; they will be allowed to live in women’s domestic violence shelters and use our locker rooms.”

Parents Keep 700 Students Home to Protest LGBT Elementary Curriculum

Two days after a California school board approved new curriculum that includes LGBT history, parents of more than 700 students kept their children home in protest. The Rocklin School District Board approved the curriculum on May 1 by a vote of 3-2, requiring students in kindergarten through fifth grades to learn about the contributions of key LGBT figures in history and social studies curriculum. The board’s action was in response to a new state law requiring schools to include the contributions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” in history lessons. Unlike sex-ed, there is no opt-out for parents in the law. “We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin had said earlier in the week. “However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children.”

Charter School ‘Liberates’ Children at Gay Pride Event

Central Park School for Children in North Carolina held a week-long celebration of gay pride where they are urging boys and girls to liberate themselves, reports Todd Starnes. Recently, the charter school hosted a Pride and Liberation Event for boys and girls in grades K through 8. The children will be learning all about the LGBTQ movement – from drag queens to something called queer history. The Raleigh News & Observer reported the pride and liberation event was in response to bullying at the school. Journalist A.P. Dillon first reported about the school’s activities after someone sent her emails written by administrators. “The e-mail also said that they didn’t want teachers to tell this to the parents until they had actually rolled it out. So parents were going to be getting blindsided so I decided that I would go ahead and publish this,” Dillon said.

Texas County Votes 5-0 to Keep Courthouse Crosses

A small Texas town is rejecting demands from an atheist organization to remove crosses from the county courthouse, and it’s getting the support of the state attorney general’s office, too. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in late April to officials in Coldspring, Texas, asserting that four white crosses on the sides of the building violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. But last week the San Jacinto County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to keep the crosses on the courthouse, KPCR-TV reported. More than 600 residents attended the commissioners’ meeting. The population of Coldspring, Texas, is about 900. The Texas Attorney General’s office applauded the commissioners’ decision and pledged its legal support if FFRF files suit.

VP Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates to Be Ready for Persecution

In a commencement speech delivered at Liberty University last Saturday, Vice President Pence told thousands of students that they should “be ready” for an increase in personal attacks on their faith. In a bid to encourage and equip young Christians to live out their calling in our modern secular culture, Pence warned that, increasingly, believers will be asked to “tolerate things” that go completely against their personal faith and spiritual convictions. “You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture,” he explained, noting that it has become “acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith.” Pence noted that “some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” referencing the left’s blatant double-standards.

Migrant Update

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 but given current trends which show a steadily increasing number of children and families attempting to sneak in, Homeland Security says it will exhaust its money to deal with the border situation well before then. “The problem we face is huge, short term fixes will not cut it, and we need sustained investment and additional emergency support at the Southwest border to overcome the humanitarian and security crisis. The president’s budget will do that,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said.

The Trump administration unveiled a multi-tiered plan to pay for construction of a Mexico border wall. The government intends to begin awarding the latest tranche of contracts Thursday, drawing on $2.5 billion from the Defense Department, primarily from budgets for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, the Justice Department said in a court filing Wednesday. That amount is all that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is currently prepared to give President Donald Trump for the project, according to the filing. An additional $600 million will come from the Treasury Department’s Forfeiture Fund. A federal judge in Oakland, California, is scheduled Friday to hear a request by the Sierra Club to block Trump from diverting taxpayer funds for the project.

The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to send up to 400 workers to the southern border to assist with the rising number of Central American migrants, but officials say the move shouldn’t affect air travel as the summer travel season gets underway. TSA officials do not plan to include people who conduct security screenings at U.S. airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is primarily responsible for securing the southern border and processing the record numbers of migrants crossing it, has already received help from thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops. Now, the Trump administration is seeking volunteers from across the federal government to help with the ever-growing number of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

President Trump proposed a new immigration system Thursday that gives preference to high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers. However, the plan deals only with legal immigration, not the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. or the roughly 3.6 million “Dreamers” who were illegally brought into the country as minors. Developed by senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, the plan is designed to create a “merit-based” point system for people seeking to enter the U.S., moving away from the mostly family-based immigration system in place today. The plan is certain to face resistance from lawmakers who believe it is more of a campaign document than a legislative proposal.

Google Top Stories Discriminates Against Conservatives

Google’s Top Stories box provides users with articles from left-leaning news organizations such as CNN 62.4 percent of the time — with only 11.3 percent coming from outlets that are considered conservative, according to a study by Northwestern University researchers. The researchers conducted an “algorithm audit” of the Google Top Stories box using data from late 2017 to determine the tech giant’s role in shaping which news its audience consumes. The Top Stories box – which is the three highlighted articles that appear with images at the top of any Google search – is among the most prominent real estate on the Internet. The researchers analyzed 30 “hard news” stories per day over a 30-day period, resulting in 6,302 links to various articles. The results indicate that liberal publications were prominently featured in Google’s Top Stories box — with CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, combining for a whopping 23 percent of Top Stories appearances during the sample period. Links to liberal CNN appeared in 10.9 percent of searches, while The New York Times made up 6.5 percent. By comparison, link to Fox News articles only appeared in 3 percent of the researchers’ searches.

Run, Hide, Fight

In an era where mass shootings are all too common, “run, hide, fight” has become a mantra. When faced with an active shooter, proponents say adults and students should try to escape the area or protect themselves. And as a last resort, they’re advised to counter the gunman, reports CNN. Whether they were acting on training or instinct, two students in the past two weeks chose the last option. Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at a classmate who pulled out a gun at their suburban Denver school, while 21-year-old Riley Howell knocked a gunman off his feet at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The heroic actions of both students cost them their lives. But some experts say they acted appropriately, giving others around them time to run for cover and preventing the shootings from escalating.

U.S. Birthrate Lowest in 32 Years

America’s fertility rate and the number of births nationwide are continuing to decline. The number of births for the United States last year dropped to its lowest in about three decades, according to provisional data in a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2017 to 2018, the birth rate dropped 7% among teenagers aged 15 to 19; 4% among women 20 to 24; 3% among women 25 to 29; and 1% among women 30 to 34, according to the report. The birth rate rose 1% among women aged 35 to 39 and 2% among women 40 to 44. Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017, according to the report. The data shows that the total fertility rate for the United States last year was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 2% from 2017 and a record low for the nation, and well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 required to maintain overall population stability.

The Stress and Strain of Motherhood Increasingly Difficult

Economic, cultural and even technological changes have dramatically altered the landscape of motherhood in recent decades, piling on new pressures and needs, reports the USA Today. In 1975, more than half of mothers stayed home with their kids. Today both parents work in 70% of families with children. Childcare costs on average $12,350 to $13,900 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In some cities, it’s double that. Dads are taking on more parenting responsibilities than ever, but surveys show it’s still unequal in more than half of households even when both parents work full-time. Nearly half of grandparents live more than five hours from their grandkids. Moms in 2016 spent 14 hours a week outside work on childcare, up from 10 hours a week in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media is pervasive, and research shows mothers who frequently compare themselves to others on social media feel more depressed, less competent and less positive about their co-parenting relationships.

Hospitals Not Protecting Mothers During Childbirth

The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. Authorities estimate that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives. Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, a USA TODAY investigation found.

71% of American Youth Unqualified for Military

Seventy-one percent of young people are ineligible to join the military, according to 2017 Pentagon data. The reasons: obesity, no high school diploma, or a criminal record. Steve Doster, Pennsylvania State director of Military Readiness for Council for a Strong America, says, “This is a very real risk to our national security.” The problem isn’t just a military one, though: It’s an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn’t eligible for a lot of other jobs either. The 29 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified become prime targets for all recruiting: military, college and jobs. According to a recent RAND report, 52 percent of employers in Pennsylvania find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education.

E-Scooters Replacing Dockless Bikes in U.S. Cities

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Americans took nine million trips on dockless bikes in 2018. They took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters. The NACTO micromobility report said there were about 44,000 dockless pedal bikes deployed throughout the U.S. at the end of 2017, but almost all of them are now gone. “Most dockless bike share companies retooled their fleets to focus on e-scooters, and new e-scooter-focused companies emerged. There are now tens of thousands of e-scooters on the ground in U.S. cities,” the report said.

Economic News

China said Monday it will slap tariffs on more than 5,000 U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to raise duties on Chinese goods. China’s Ministry of Finance said the new tariffs would impact $60 billion in U.S. imports and would range from 5% to 25%. The tariffs will take effect June 1, which would give the two sides time to resume trade negotiations that broke off last week without reaching a new deal. The tariffs will impact a wide range of U.S. products, including coffee, beef, salmon, flowers and some fruits and vegetables.

In a significant step toward congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the U.S. agreed to lift the tariffs in 48 hours in return for tough new measures to prevent Chinese steel from entering the U.S. via Canada or Mexico. The deal avoids quotas on steel from the two countries, which Canada and Mexico had opposed.

As lawmakers trade fire over contempt votes and impeachment, there’s been no progress toward reaching a budget agreement or extending the federal government’s ability to borrow before September, when the money runs out. That’s raising the ugly prospect of more than $100 billion in mandatory cuts as well as an unprecedented default on U.S. debt. The latest sign of the dysfunction gripping Congress came this week, when Republicans and Democrats continued to flounder in months-long negotiations over disaster aid for states recently hit by hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, typically a subject that can easily win bipartisan consensus but has instead repeatedly fallen apart over unrelated issues.

Some disturbing data: Global exports are absolutely crashing and have now fallen to the lowest level since 2009; Auto sales in Europe have fallen for seven months in a row; U.S. auto loan delinquencies have reached the highest level since the last recession; U.S. credit card delinquencies have hit the highest level in eight years; Overall, 59 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck according to a recent survey by Charles Schwab.

Europe

Less than two weeks before pivotal elections for the European Parliament, a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades, reports the New York Times. European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Fringe political commentary sites in Italy, for instance, bear the same electronic signatures as pro-Kremlin websites, while a pair of German political groups share servers used by the Russian hackers who attacked the Democratic National Committee. The activity offers fresh evidence that despite indictments, expulsions and recriminations, Russia remains undeterred in its campaign to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions.

Middle East

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip participated in riots and violent confrontations with Israeli troops guarding the border fence on Wednesday afternoon to mark “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” as the Palestinians refer to the anniversary of Israel’s birth on May 15, 1948. Several incendiary balloons were also sent over the border into Israel, sparking large fires which destroyed crops, trees and buildings inside Israel. Large demonstrations were also held in PA administered cities in the West Bank and in Israeli-Arab villages and among Arab students in some universities.

Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States. The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Saudi Araba said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday, in the latest U.S. response to what Washington sees as a growing threat from Iran. The decision further bolsters U.S. defenses and comes after the Trump administration expedited the deployment of a carrier strike group and sent bombers to the Middle East following what it said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran on U.S. interests. The Patriot defense system is designed to intercept incoming missiles. Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated sharply in recent weeks over new U.S. sanctions and Iran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment programs.

Iran

The U.S. military put its forces in Iraq on high alert and the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees Wednesday to leave the country immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. It comes as some U.S. allies have expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claims that Iran poses a growing threat. The Trump administration has made applying “maximum pressure” on Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposed crushing economic sanctions and boosted the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. In recent days, unease that Washington and Tehran could be headed toward military confrontation has mounted. President Trump sought to put the brakes on a brewing confrontation with Iran in recent days, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began searching for ways to defuse the tensions.

Niger

Islamic militants ambushed and killed government soldiers near Mali this week. The bodies of 11 Nigerien soldiers missing since Tuesday’s ambush have been discovered, bringing the death toll to 28. Niger and other countries in the Sahel have been facing a growing militant threat from several Islamist groups. The Islamic State group has said it was behind the ambush. They are most active in neighboring Mali, but they often stage cross-border raids. The soldiers had been in pursuit of militants who attacked a high security prison.

Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed a pastor and five congregants at a Roman Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso in West Africa last Sunday, the authorities said, in the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists. Congregants were leaving the church around 9 a.m. local time in the town of Dablo, about 124 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, when about 20 men circled them and opened fire, leaving at least six dead. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though violent Islamic extremism has been increasingly destabilizing the country.

North Korea

North Korea disclosed on Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades, amid growing concerns the country is dangerously short on food. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said that only 2.1 inches of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year, the lowest amount since 1982. The current conditions, described by KCNA as “extreme drought”, are expected to continue at least until the end of May. North Korean media outlets called on citizens on Thursday to find new sources of water. Earlier this month, United Nations food agencies said in a joint assessment about 10 million people in North Korea, about 40 percent of the population, were facing “severe food shortages” after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is confirming efforts in Norway to mediate between the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan opposition has said Maduro used past negotiations to play for time and was not sincere about making concessions. Maduro says he is open to dialogue and that the opposition had been trying to seize power by force. Guaidó says any diplomatic process aimed at resolving the Venezuelan crisis must lead to the end of Maduro’s government, its replacement by a transitional administration and free and fair elections. The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say, surpassing the fall of the Soviet Union. And Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s. Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, poor governance, corruption and the misguided socialistic policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and left much of the population in great distress dealing with extreme shortages of food and medical supplies. Many are fleeing the country.

Cuba

In the midst of a growing economic and food shortage crisis – in which Cubans are having to line up for hours to purchase basic food supplies in supermarkets – the Cuban government has introduced comprehensive rationing of staple products. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that the rationing would immediately begin nationwide, forcing cashiers to limit product quantities such as cooking oil, powdered milk, sausages, peas, chicken, eggs, rice, beans and soap it can sell to individual shoppers. General food stores in the nation of 11 million are owned and operated by the Communist government, and every citizen has been issued a ration book to purchase fundamental needs – a system that was introduced after the revolution sixty years ago. Those who run in more affluent circles are permitted to purchase more than the average Cuban. Cuba depends on importing more than 65 percent of its food products

Environment

Trash is everywhere on Earth, all the way from the top of Mount Everest to the very bottom of the ocean. Now, giant mounds of it are even washing up on the shores of otherwise pristine tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Tasmania. A mind-boggling 400 million pieces of trash – that’s 260 tons – were recently discovered on the beaches of the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, a chain some 1,300 miles northwest of Australia.  The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes, according to the study. Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos, a group of 26 tiny islands that are a territory of Australia. Plastic is abundant in and near the world’s oceans: Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere hit a new milestone over the weekend. Data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed that carbon dioxide levels surpassed 415 parts per million on Friday. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have skyrocketed far higher than any levels in the last 800,000 years, data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California – San Diego show, and levels have not been this high for millions of years. “This is the first time in human history our planet’s atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2,” said Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist. In the 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels didn’t surpass 300 ppm.

  • CO2 levels millions of years ago were higher than 2019 levels, and Earth’s temperatures were also much higher, notes the USA Today.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Residents in the area reported that the quake shook homes, rattled furniture, knocked items off shelves and tables and cut off power. The epicenter of the quake was about 28 miles northeast of Kokopo, in New Britain province. The city is on a smaller island northeast of the main island and about 495 from the A​ tsunami alert was issued for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands but was later cancelled. capital of Port Moresby.

On Wednesday evening, Israelis in Jerusalem reportedly felt the ground shake during an earthquake that qualified as “minor” on the Richter scale. The earthquake registered as a 4.5 magnitude, according to a report by Arutz Sheva based on data collected by Geophysical Institute of Israel. According to the Geophysical Institute, the quake’s epicenter was in the ocean between Hadera and Haifa, several hundred miles away from the Israeli coast.

Wildfires

Mexico City residents have been warned to stay inside as the city is enveloped in a cloud of hazardous wildfire smoke, and meteorologists in the U.S. predict the haze could reach parts of the U.S. by the end of the week. The pollution is from several recent and current fires in the city and outlying areas. Smoke from the blazes is also hovering over the western Gulf of Mexico. Mexico City’s environmental commission said the city’s air is polluted with high levels of ash and other solid particles that can cause respiratory problems and other illnesses with prolonged exposure. There have been several fires in or near the city in recent days, including 13 brush fires, four fires on empty lots, two house fires, a forest fire and a blaze at an industrial warehouse. Meanwhile, fires in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero have contributed to the crisis. At least 14 fires are burning out of control in Oaxaca, fueled by hot weather and high winds.

Weather

As the swollen Mississippi River continued to rise in the South over last weekend, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide emergency amid continuing torrential downpours and storms. In an effort to relieve stress on New Orleans levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré spillway about 28 miles north of the city on Friday. The opening marks the first time the spillway has been used twice in a single year and only the 14th time it has been opened since it was built in the aftermath of a historic flood that swamped New Orleans in 1927. “Regional rainfall caused the Mississippi River to rise 6 inches in the past 24 hours with more rain expected through the weekend,” the Corps explained. The Upper Texas Coast and the Gulf Coast of western Louisiana has received “tremendous rainfall” last week, “300-600% of normal. Flooding caused about two dozen cars from a Norfolk Southern freight train to derail Saturday near Hillsdale, Mississippi. High winds and severe thunderstorms downed trees and damaged buildings in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, after a night of flash flooding in New Orleans that led to more than 200 calls to police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Recent rainfall has already-high water levels surging in the Great Lakes, contributing to flooding along the lakeshores in parts of Ohio and Michigan, and New York is expected to follow suit. Areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline are “at the precipice of a disaster,” according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as forecasts for additional rain threaten to push water levels past flood level. Over last weekend, New York state deployed more than 800,000 sandbags, hundreds of pumps and 920 feet of temporary dams in eight counties along Lake Ontario in preparation for potential flooding.

A line of storms moving across northern Illinois and central Indiana Thursday damaged buildings and a small airport near Chicago and brought down trees and power lines in central Indiana. A tree fell on a city bus near downtown Indianapolis Thursday evening as severe storms hit the area. Almost 50,000 homes and businesses were without power in central Indiana. Hail the size of tennis balls was reported by storm spotters in Vermillion County, Indiana. Several aircraft were reportedly damaged and windows were broken out of a building Thursday afternoon at the Sandwich Airport, about 60 miles west of Chicago.

Severe storms, with large hail, damaging winds and ground-hugging tornadoes, are expected to hammer major parts of Tornado Alley from Texas to South Dakota Friday in the first round of violent, unsettled weather expected to last into next week.

Signs of the Times

May 10, 2019

­­For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

‘Fearfully, Wonderfully Made’ Shown in Times Square

Over last weekend, thousands of tourists and native New Yorkers saw a live 4-D ultrasound of a third-trimester baby on huge video screens in Times Square, despite efforts to censor the images. In January, when the New York legislature passed one of the most radical pro-abortion laws in the country – one allowing an abortion even while the baby was in the process of being born – activists on the floor and in the gallery started cheering when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. On Saturday, Focus on the Family showed New Yorkers who those lawmakers were cheering about killing when the ministry broadcast a live 4-D ultrasound of a late-term unborn child in Times Square. Leading up to “Alive from New York,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said that the national advertising giants that control the screens in Times Square censored the event. Undeterred, Daly rolled out a backup plan, which they implemented on Saturday, bringing their own big screens on flatbed trucks into the heart of Times Square where over 200,000 people saw the broadcast. Research finds more than half of abortion-minded women change their minds if they see an ultrasound of their unborn child.

One Man’s Vigil Saves Many Babies

John Barros is a 64-year-old man. He’s had cancer and recently suffered a stroke. But none of that has stopped him from standing outside an abortion clinic in Orlando, Florida for the last 9 years, reports LifeSiteNews. “I don’t have the power to turn a heart that is dead set on ending their baby’s life,” he says. “I do not have that power. But what I preach here [is] God uses his word to literally plow up some very hard ground in open people’s lives and they choose life.” Among other things, he hands out brochures, prays, sings hymns, and sidewalk counsels women arriving at the clinic. “The main thing is to let them know that you love them and that you’re there for them,” he says. Barros, who first stood outside the clinic 15 years ago, estimates that between 20 and 30 girls a month turn away from abortion and choose life. Barros’ church supports what he does and extends a helping hand to the women he helps turn away from abortion.

Georgia Governor Signs Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol in Atlanta, and marks the beginning of what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle over the law’s constitutionality. The legal showdown is exactly what supporters are looking for. Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country, energized by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme, are pushing abortion bans in an attack on the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus. ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean Young said, “Under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional,” Young said in a recent interview. Tuesday, he said the ACLU would challenge Georgia’s new abortion restriction in court.

Iowa’s Governor Signs Bill Cutting Abortion Funding

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her signature Friday to a state budget containing two measures denying taxpayer funds to two left-wing social priorities: gender-reassignment surgery and the abortion lobby’s influence over sex education. Reynolds signed the almost $2 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year on Friday evening, The Gazette reported. Among its provisions are language to exclude any organization involved in abortions from receiving state sex education grants (which stands to deprive Planned Parenthood of the Heartland of just over $260,000), and to state that the Iowa Civil Rights Act does not require state or local governments to fund gender-reassignment surgery.

Pope Issues ‘Ground-Breaking’ Abuse Regulation

Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by their superiors to church authorities, in a groundbreaking new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks. The new church law provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior. The law makes the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 religious sisters mandated reporters. That means they are required to inform church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes. It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy.

Twitter Excelling at Censorship

When the head of Twitter’s public policy department told the Senate that he’d do more on conservative censorship, making it worse wasn’t what most leaders had in mind! Unfortunately, that’s exactly what seems to be happening — to pro-lifers, Trump supporters, and even popular parody accounts. Three weeks ago, Carlos Monje Jr. was apologetic for the mistakes Twitter had made. A month later, he has a lot more to be sorry for, reports the Family Research Council who documented numerous Christian and conservative accounts that have been frozen or taken down, most without any explanation.

Trump Vindicated in Court on ‘Return to Mexico’ Asylum Policy

President Trump won a surprise victory before a usually antagonistic appeals court Tuesday when judges ruled he could continue his “Return to Mexico” policy that allows the government to make some illegal immigrants seeking asylum wait in Mexico while their cases are being heard. The policy, which the administration officially calls the Migrant Protection Protocols, had been one of the administration’s Hail Mary attempts to try to control the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America. Many of those are lodging asylum claims and counting on lax U.S. policies to earn them a foothold here, even if they don’t deserve asylum under the law. The goal was to make them wait in Mexico — effectively denying them that foothold — while their cases are being heard. A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been a roadblock to much of the president’s immigration agenda, sided with him, ruling that the law allows the Return to Mexico policy to proceed, and finding it’s particularly necessary given the surge of migrants.

Migrant Update

ICE has already released 168,000 illegal immigrant family members into the U.S. this fiscal year, and the number is likely to surge as the border situation deteriorates, a top deportation official told Congress on Wednesday. According to the results of a pilot program, a staggering 87% of released families are skipping their court hearings, leaving judges to order them deported in absentia — and the government is ill-equipped to track them down. Nearly 110,000 were nabbed at the southwestern border in April, including nearly 100,000 caught by the Border Patrol trying to sneak into the U.S. The other 10,000 were encountered when they showed up at ports of entry demanding to be let in, despite lacking permission.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a new program to let local police cooperate in turning over illegal immigrants even if the officers are limited by sanctuary city policies. The Washington Times reported that under the program, police won’t be involved in asking about legal status or citizenship, but will have permission to detain someone for up to 48 hours to give ICE a chance to take custody.

Shooters Kill One, Injure Eight in Colorado School

Two students are in custody after opening fire on their classmates at a Denver-area charter school Tuesday, police say. Sheriff Tony Spurlock says the suspects—one adult and one juvenile—were taken into custody within two minutes of reports of shots being fired at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, the Denver Post reports. Authorities say an 18-year-old man was killed and eight other students were injured. The suspect in custody has been named as Devon Erickson, 18. Spurlock says the injured students are all age 15 or older. Authorities say the suspects had at least one handgun, but have not commented on a motive. The Post reports that a Honda sedan with the words “(expletive) society” on the door and a pentagram with the numbers “666” on the hood was towed from the Erickson family home Tuesday night. The social media posts by the suspect in the shooting included opposition to “Christians who hate gays,” criticism of President Trump, and support for the left-wing Occupy Democrats. Five months before Tuesday’s fatal shooting, a district official urged the school’s administration to investigate allegations of violence, sexual assault and campus bullying that an anonymous parent feared could lead to “a repeat of Columbine.”

1.1 Million Americans Lost Health Insurance Coverage in 2018

The number of Americans without health insurance increased again in 2018, the second consecutive year that figure has risen after several years of declines under Obamacare, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey shows. An estimated 30.4 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2018, up from 29.3 million in 2017, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.  That means about 1.1 million more Americans lost insurance coverage last year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the health law’s individual mandate that required people get health insurance or pay a penalty. However, a strong economy means more low-income people likely moved from Medicaid coverage to health insurance through a job. The CDC survey also said the number of Americans in high-deductible plans reached an all-time high, covering 45.8% of people with private health insurance in 2018. In 2010, 25% of people with private coverage had high-deductible plans.

Alcohol Consumption Increasing Worldwide

Global alcohol use continues to rise, a new study reports, and is expected to keep growing in the years ahead. In fact, just in the past 27 years, the total volume of alcohol people consumed globally each year increased by 70% – from 5.5 billion gallons in 1990 to 9.4 billion gallons in 2017. That’s a result of increased population along with increased alcohol consumption. Consumption is growing in low- and middle-income countries, while the total volume of alcohol consumed in high-income countries has remained stable. “Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe,” said study author Jakob Manthey of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. “However, this pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries such as China, India, and Vietnam.”

Fifteen States call Pornography a Public Health Crisis

From Idaho to Pennsylvania, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have adopted resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis. This week the Arizona Senate approved a measure urging the state to prevent exposure and addiction to porn. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar measure in 15 states, including South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia, and the Republican Party added it to its national platform. Legislators link pornography to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unplanned pregnancies. Several Arizona Democrats said issues such as measles, opioid addiction, homelessness and suicide deserve more action than pornography. Some in the adult entertainment industry say blaming pornography for those social issues is “compete fear-mongering.”

Alzheimer’s Could Bankrupt Medicare

About 5.8 million Americans now have the Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As our population ages, that number will soar to at least 13.8 million by 2050, a 138% rise. s many as 1 in 3 people who live to be 85 in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s disease. “We are really in an epidemic,” says Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan neurologist, driven largely by baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), who are growing older and coming to an age when the disease most commonly strikes. The average person with Alzheimer’s disease will live four to eight years after diagnosis. It’s the most expensive disease in America – with care costing more than cancer and heart disease, the Alzheimer’s Association reports. The average cost to Medicare for a single person with dementia in 2018 was $27,244. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will cost $290 billion this year alone. But by 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion annually. “We really see this bankrupting Medicare at some point,” says Jennifer Lepard, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter.

Economic News

The U.S. trade deficit edged up by 1.5% in March, but the gap with China continues to narrow amid an ongoing trade dispute. The goods trade deficit with China decreased $1.9 billion to $28.3 billion in March, as imports continued to fall. The gap with China is down about 12% compared to the first three months of last year — before Trump began imposing tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to pressure Beijing to come to the negotiating table. Seeking to close that gap even further, President Donald Trump raised tariffs on some Chinese goods Friday. Overall, the U.S. monthly trade deficit in goods and services grew to $50 billion, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. American companies imported more from abroad than they exported, a trend driven by the strong economy.

China and the United States were moving towards an agreement to end a months-long trade war when, suddenly, it all fell apart this week. Now as negotiators scramble to resurrect the deal, revelations are emerging that indicate both sides appeared to think they had the other over a barrel. As a result, they pushed for more, setting the stage for a rapid escalation in tensions which undid session after session of hard-fought negotiations, notes CNN. President Trump says China “broke the deal” and imposed $200 billion new tariffs on Chinese goods, sending markets plummeting. Trump accused Beijing of attempting to run out the clock on his administration in the assumption it will be dealing with a Democratic administration after 2020. The Chinese government threatened to retaliate. A deal may still result from these talks, but it will be far harder than anyone expected only a month ago.

Between global warming, electric cars, and a worldwide crackdown on carbon, the future looks treacherous for Big Oil. The rise of Tesla and electric vehicles poses a severe threat to the oil industry. Passenger vehicles are the No. 1 source of demand for oil — and tomorrow’s transportation system may no longer rely on the gas station, but a charging station. However, the timing and severity of oil’s demise depends on how many electric vehicles will be on the road, how seriously governments take global warming and a confluence of other factors. Rapidly evolving technology and shifting political winds could hasten the arrival of Big Oil’s woes well before Wall Street’s current estimate of at least several decades.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “massive attacks against terrorist elements” in Gaza were launched after militants in the coastal enclave fired nearly 900 rockets towards Israel. Three Israelis were killed and about 250 were injured. Israel responded with airstrikes on 260 targets across Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Twenty-three Palestinian militants were killed in the airstrikes, with 60 more wounded. The UN said it is working with Egypt to try to restore a ceasefire and says both sides are putting at risk efforts to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza. A fragile calm returned to southern Israel Monday morning as the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and along with the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, declared a cease-fire at 4:30 AM. Hamas, which has ruled by force in Gaza for more than a decade, reportedly receives “tens of millions of dollars” from Iran each year, according to The Telegraph. Saudi journalists and intellectuals threw their support behind Israel, accusing Hamas of acting on behalf of Iran in retaliation for tightened U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Syria

Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes on Monday intensified a week-long bombardment of Idlib province, targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as tens of thousands of residents fled toward the border with Turkey, activists and monitors in the rebel-held region said. The aerial campaign has killed about 100 civilians and put at least 10 hospitals out of service. It has raised fears that Syrian government forces, supported by Russia and Iranian-backed fighters, are preparing an all-out offensive in Idlib — the last area in the country controlled by rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The airstrikes represent the latest and fiercest challenge to a pact brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year that was designed to avert all-out conflict in the northwestern province.

Iran

The United States is deploying a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East, a warning to Iran that attacks to U.S. interests will be met with “unrelenting force,” national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday. The move comes amid the Trump administration’s strategy to isolate Iran’s regime and strangle its economy. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said. Bolton’s statement followed rocket attacks from Gaza against southern Israel Sunday. Iran supplies the rockets that Hamas uses. A defense official said there were “clear indications” that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.

Iran’s president announced on Wednesday that the nation would stop complying with some parts of the nuclear accord it signed with world powers as President Donald Trump’s administration declared new economic sanctions on Tehran, reviving a crisis that had been contained for the past four years. The escalation of threats caught the United States’ allies in Europe in the crossfire between Washington and Tehran. And while the announcement by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord that was negotiated by world powers, it put it on life support. The declaration came on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s complete withdrawal from the agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Rouhani said Iran will start keeping excess uranium and “heavy water” from its nuclear program inside the country – as opposed to selling it internationally – in a move that effectively amounts to a partial breach of the deal. He also set a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear accord. If the new terms aren’t met, he threatened to resume higher uranium enrichment.

North Korea

For the second time in less than a week, North Korea launched suspected short-range missiles Wednesday, according to South Korea’s military. State media in North Korea said that on Saturday the nation held a short-range ballistic missile test as part of a regularly scheduled defensive military exercise. On Saturday, North Korea fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington. The firing Saturday comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the U.S. mainland. Experts believe that the North has viable shorter range nuclear armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons. During the diplomacy that followed the North’s weapons tests of 2017, Kim Jong Un said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs. These short-range projectiles don’t appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium.

The three new missiles North Korean tested over the past week are eerily familiar to military experts: They look just like a controversial and widely copied missile the Russian military has deployed to Syria and has been actively trying to sell abroad for years. Following the test launches, President Trump said he remains confident in negotiations with Kim Jong Un and that a nuclear deal is still possible. However, the Justice Department announced the seizure Thursday of the Wise Honest. The ship was detained by Indonesia last month with two dozen crew members on board. U.S. officials say payments for maintenance and equipment for the ship were made unwittingly in American dollars through U.S. banks.

Libya

The U.N. health agency says 443 people have died and 2,110 have been wounded in violence in Libya’s capital since the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli last month. With the number of people displaced by fighting approaching 60,000, the World Health Organization said in a tweet Wednesday that it is working to coordinate ongoing health services for them. The U.N. mission in Libya “is also deeply concerned about increased cases of arbitrary arrest and abduction of officials, activists and journalists” and is calling for their immediate release. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday the U.N. is very concerned about reports that airstrikes a day earlier hit a migrant detention center in Tajoura in eastern Tripoli

Pakistan

A bombing outside one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people, including five police officers, and injured at least 20 other people, officials said, raising new concerns about militant violence targeting a moderate and nonviolent strand of Islam. The bombing took place Wednesday morning in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, near the shrine of an 11th-century Sufi saint, Abul Hasan Ali Bin Usman, more popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri. Police officials said the bombing destroyed a van carrying police commandoes who were providing security at the shrine. Investigators said it was a suicide bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Attacks by armed militiamen and locals on Ebola clinics have escalated as the spread of the disease intensifies. The attackers maintain that the harrowing contagion is a scheme brought in from the outside According to World Health Organization data, since January 2019 there have been 130 attacks that have caused 4 deaths and 38 injuries, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of those, 97 attacks impacted health personnel and 44 incidents impacted health facilities. Dozens of individual medical professionals have been targeted by community criminals, including leading epidemiologist Richard Mouzako who was shot dead earlier this month as the attackers screamed that “Ebola doesn’t exist.” The hemorrhagic fever has now been classified as the second worst Ebola epidemic; having claimed more than 1,000 lives in the African country since August, second to the 2014 eruption that killed more than 11,000 people across the continent and even infiltrated to victims in the United States.

Environment

Up to 1 million of Earth’s 8 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within a matter of years, because of humans, scientists warned Monday. The losses are a direct result of human activity and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, according to a global assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. More food, energy and materials are being supplied, but they all come at the expense of nature, the report said. The worst impacts, in order of severity, have come from changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasion of alien species, the report found.

Britain has now gone one week without using any coal to generate electricity, and while that might not sound like much, it’s the longest the country has gone without coal power since the world’s first coal plant fired up in London 137 years ago. National Grid ESO, which supplies power to England, Scotland and Wales, took coal power off the grid on May 1, although for now at least, coal-fired power plants will still be relied upon as backup during periods of high demand for energy, the Guardian reported. The move is a big step toward Britain’s goal of phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2025.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck in eastern Papua New Guinea early Tuesday morning local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter of the strong quake was near Bulolo, about 41 miles northeast of Lae, the country’s second-largest city. It was also felt in the capital city of Port Moresby, about 160 miles away. The fire department in Lae said no one had yet called in to report damage or injuries so far following the quake. The USGS-linked Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami after the quake.

Weather

As of May 6, flooding has killed 43 people so far in 2019, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service (NWS). Most of those deaths have occurred in the central United States where copious amounts of precipitation has fallen in the first four months of the year and triggered both river flooding and flash flooding. The flooding death toll this year has easily surpassed the 31 people killed by tornadoes in 2019 through May 6. That follows the long-term trend of flooding being one of the most deadly weather events annually, even though it doesn’t typically garner as much attention as tornadoes and hurricanes do. Flooding has killed an average of 87 people annually over the last 30 years (1989-2018), according to NOAA. Only heat has been deadlier, on average, over that three-decade period. This year’s death toll from flooding through early May is also already at half its annual average.

A line of powerful storms that has triggered deadly flash flooding and destructive tornadoes in several states continued its trek across the South Thursday. Possible tornadoes were reported in Huntsville, Alabama, and McComb, Mississippi. There were reports of damaged buildings and trees down in both areas. Several roads in Jackson, Mississippi, were underwater Thursday morning and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency warning for the area. Rescues were underway Thursday morning for motorists stranded by flash flooding in Greenville, Mississippi. Buildings were reportedly inundated and roads impassable in Washington County, in western Mississippi. More than 86,000 homes and businesses across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi were without power Thursday evening. Dozens of motorists became stranded Thursday night in Houston. More than 111,000 Texas homes and businesses were without power Friday morning. A stretch of Interstate 10 was temporarily shut down in downtown Houston Thursday evening because of flooding and 30 to 40 people were rescued after becoming stranded at another stretch of the highway on the eastern side of the city. The Houston fire department urged motorists Friday to stay off the roads to avoid more flash flooding from the lingering storm system.

Signs of the Times

May 3, 2019

­­Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1Timothy 2:1-2)

White House Hosts Third National Day of Prayer Service

About one hundred people—religious leaders, Trump administration officials, and their guests—celebrated the “power of prayer” at the White House Wednesday. The president welcomed representatives of various faiths, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus. “Today we give thanks for this magnificent country and we proudly come together as one nation under God,” Trump said at the start of the service. The President and Melania Trump hosted the service in the White House Rose Garden where the president asked for prayer for Venezuela and called for the protection of religious freedom amid the recent string of attacks on houses of worship across the United States and all over the world. The President made mention of several incidents on houses of worship in the U.S. including the arson of three historically black churches in Louisiana and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue last year. Among his guests were rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who survived the San Diego synagogue shooting last week. The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 when President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress declaring it a day of observation when citizens can “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” This is the third consecutive year that the White House has hosted a National Day of Prayer service.

Trump Issues Religious-Freedom Protections for Those Forced to do Abortions

The Trump administration has finalized another set of administrative protections for religious Americans’ conscience rights on a range of fronts, President Donald Trump announced Thursday morning during remarks to observe the National Day of Prayer. “Earlier this week I took action to ensure that federal employees can take paid time off to observe religious holy days,” he announced. “And just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities.” According to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services, the final rule “ensures that HHS implements the full set of tools appropriate for enforcing” laws that exempt healthcare workers from “having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.”

Prominent Clergy, Scholars Accuse Pope Francis of Heresy

Prominent clergymen and scholars including Fr. Aidan Nichols, one of the best-known theologians in the English-speaking world, have issued an open letter accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. They ask the bishops of the Catholic Church, to whom the open letter is addressed, to “take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation” of a pope committing this crime. The authors base their charge of heresy on the manifold manifestations of Pope Francis’ embrace of positions contrary to the faith and his dubious support of prelates who in their lives have shown themselves to have a clear disrespect for the Church’s faith and morals. “We take this measure as a last resort to respond to the accumulating harm caused by Pope Francis’s words and actions over several years, which have given rise to one of the worst crises in the history of the Catholic Church,” the authors state. Many of these heretical statements touch on questions of marriage and the family and are to be found in Amoris Laetitia, but there is also a new claim made by Pope Francis in 2019 – namely, that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”

Late-Term Abortions in NYC Far More than Homicides

More babies died from abortion at 21 weeks’ gestation or over in 2015 than there were people killed by homicide in New York City, new figures reveal. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and published by the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reveal that the number of abortions at or after 21 weeks was 1,485 while the number of homicides was 352. While the figure of 1,485 is shockingly high, these abortions at 21 or more weeks’ gestation account for only 2.3 percent of the 63,610 abortions carried out in America’s abortion capital. And these numbers are only likely to get higher, as New York recently passed some of the most extreme abortion legislation in the world, removing abortion from the penal law and allowing it up to birth in some cases.

Students Win ‘Bible Ban’ Case as School Rewrites Policy

Parents of students who were banned from handing out Bibles during lunch at a Pennsylvania high school reached an agreement with the school district Monday that changes language in the student handbook. The students at Cumberland County High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa., said in January the principal was preventing them from handing out Bibles during any moment of the school day, including during lunch. The Independence Law Center then filed suit on behalf of the parents of the students, claiming the school’s policy was a violation of constitutionally protected free speech. The students are part of a group called the Christians in Action Club, or Bible Club. A federal judge issued an injunction against the school district in February, allowing the students to hand out Bibles. Under the agreement reached between the parents and the Mechanicsburg Area School District, the district agreed to delete a portion of the student handbook that banned any speech that “seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.” The district also agreed to pay the parents’ attorney fees. The judge signed off on the agreement.

School Stops Saying ‘God Bless America’ after Atheists Complain

A Pennsylvania school stopped saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeaker after a parent complained and an organization comprised of atheists and agnostics got involved. Sabold Elementary School in Springfield, Pa., had a custom of allowing users of the loudspeaker to say “God Bless America” after the morning Pledge of Allegiance. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, acting on a complaint from a parent, wrote the superintendent March 25 and argued the action was unconstitutional. An FFRF press release said saying the phrase “sends a message to its students that the school is endorsing and compelling belief in God.” The FFRF also says the Pledge itself is unconstitutional due to its incorporation of “under God.”

American School Children Forced to Praise ‘Blood of Martyrs’

In a frightening display at a Philadelphia Muslim school, young children performed songs calling for the “liberation” of land that belongs to Israel with the “blood of martyrs.” While the sight of even the youngest children singing about terrorism and violence against Israelis has become commonplace in videos from Gaza, seeing a similar display from children in the United States is chilling, reports United With Israel. “children to praise so-called “martyrs” and “liberate” land that belongs to a sovereign nation, Israel, makes the prospect of Israel-Palestinian peace even more remote.

Persecution of Christians in Middle East a Growing Problem

A new report details the pervasive persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East, The Guardian is reporting. The report, commission by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, says the persecution sometimes amounts to genocide. It noted millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes in the region.  Many of them have been killed imprisoned, kidnapped and discriminated against. “The overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians,” the report said. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.The report noted “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.” And the report added: “The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide.”

Palestinian Christian Village Attacked by Fatah-Linked Mob

Residents of the predominantly Christian village of Jifna, north of Ramallah in an area of the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority, were attacked  late Sunday following a personal dispute between a female resident of the village and the son of an individual tied to the Fatah faction, which dominates the PA. The woman reportedly filed a complaint with the PA police after she said she and her children were assaulted while driving through the village, leading to an apparent revenge attack on the entire village by a mob led by the father of the accused and including several men with weapons. Women and children were terrorized by the shooting, and houses were targeted with Molotov cocktails and rocks.

Shooter Attacks Jewish Temple in Poway, CA

One woman was killed and three others were wounded when a man entered a synagogue during Passover services Saturday at the Chabad of Poway temple and opened fire with an AR-style assault weapon shortly before 11:30 a.m. Poway is about 25 miles northeast of San Diego. Officials are calling it a hate crime. The suspect, 19-year-old John Earnest, turned himself in and is being questioned by authorities. San Diego Sheriff William Gore said that Earnest posted a “manifesto” online which details the shooter’s hateful motivations and his reasons for targeting members of the Jewish faith. Earnest is also under investigation in connection with an unsolved mosque arson case. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a veteran, murdered in Saturday’s shooting attack on a Chabad synagogue in the San Diego area, sacrificed her own life in order to save that of the synagogue’s rabbi by standing in front of him. After Earnest fired at least eight rounds into a California synagogue, he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets, authorities say.

Army Veteran Charged with Plotting Terror Attacks in LA Area

A 26-year-old former US Army soldier who served in Afghanistan has been charged with plotting terror attacks in the Los Angeles area, the Justice Department said Monday. Mark Steven Domingo allegedly sought to detonate improvised explosive devices containing nails this past weekend at a rally in Long Beach that was organized by a white nationalist group. On March 2, Domingo posted a video online professing his Muslim faith and wrote, “America needs another Vegas event,” referring to the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 in which more than 50 people died. He was arrested Friday night after he took receipt of what he thought were pressure cooker bombs. Domingo allegedly wanted to “seek retribution for attacks against Muslims” and also considered attacks on Jewish people, churches and law enforcement. He is accused of targeting “Jews as they walked to synagogue, police officers, a military facility, and crowds at the Santa Monica Pier.”

More States Enacting Red Flag Gun Laws

If someone is suicidal or an imminent threat to others, should a local judge be able to temporarily take away that person’s guns? Colorado is the 16th state to say “yes,” while another 21 have taken at least some steps toward adopting a so-called red flag law. Such laws are now on the books in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Maine and Pennsylvania could be next. Gun violence is again in the spotlight with two high-profile shootings in the past week, one at a synagogue and one at a college campus. The laws are opposed by the National Rifle Association which says they hinder the right to due process. Red flags in the run-up to the homicides in Tennessee that left seven people dead should serve as a “wake-up call” for the state, says a prominent defense attorney who reviewed the case. Michael Lee Cummins, the suspect in the Tennessee deaths, had a lengthy criminal history in Sumner County, including previous convictions for aggravated assault, domestic assault and attempted aggravated arson.

Military Sexual Assaults Rise by Almost 38%

Sexual assaults in the military rose nearly 38% from 2016 to 2018, according to survey results obtained by the USA TODAY. That spike in crime within the ranks comes after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate it. The report, released Thursday by the Pentagon, surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel in 2018. Based on the survey, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact – an increase over the 14,900 estimated in the last biennial survey in 2016.Unwanted sexual contact ranges from groping to rape. Enlisted female troops ages 17 to 24 were at the highest risk of being assaulted. More than 85% of victims knew their assailant. Alcohol was involved in 62% of the total assaults. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting Secretary of Defense, said in a statement Thursday he had reviewed the latest data and said, “We are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other. This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on.”

Rapists Seldom are Incarcerated in U.S.

The vast majority of sexual perpetrators escape prison time. Out of every 1,000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will never be incarcerated, according to an analysis of Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation data conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Most rapes aren’t even reported. Even when sexual assault or abuse is reported, legal experts say the variations in sentencing guidelines from state to state and judges’ ability to deviate from those guidelines make sentencing inconsistent. For example, Shane Piche admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl who rode the school bus he drove. Michael Wysolovski admitted to keeping a teenage girl in sexual captivity for more than a year. Last Thursday, two separate judges in two separate states ruled neither would be going to prison, with plea deals requiring them to register as sex offenders, and incarceration limited to time served.

Executives of Opioid Manufacturer Found Guilty of Racketeering

The billionaire founder of the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics and four other top executives were found guilty on Thursday in a scheme involving bribes and kickbacks to physicians who prescribed large amounts of a fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need the painkiller. After 15 days of deliberations, a jury in Boston federal court reached a first-ever conviction of a drug company CEO in the federal government’s fight to combat the opioid crisis, finding the Arizona-based company’s founder and former chairman John Kapoor guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges. Racketeering charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The landmark conviction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts marks an initial victory on the legal front in the government’s efforts to fight the rising number of opioid overdoses. Many similar lawsuits are being filed against opioid manufacturers in many cities and states.

Florida Votes to Ban Sanctuary Cities Statewide

Lawmakers in Florida approved a bill to ban sanctuary cities in the Sunshine State, and all that is left is for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign it into law. The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday the measure passed in both the House and Senate. The bill stipulates state and local law enforcement agencies will be required to comply with federal “immigration detainers,” which are used when a suspected illegal alien is in custody. There are hundreds of sanctuary cities and counties across the United States in Democrat-controlled areas. Republicans and members of the law enforcement community have pushed back on them, and the Trump administration has flirted with withholding certain federal funds to jurisdictions that refuse to enforce immigration laws. President Donald Trump recently announced the plan to send detained illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities, a plan that is now underway.

Migrant Update

President Trump will send Congress a supplemental budget request this week demanding more money ($4.5B) to secure the border amid the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis, the acting Homeland Security secretary told Congress on Tuesday, setting up a massive battle with Democrats. The president will also send a legislative package asking for changes to the law to allow for faster deportations of illegal immigrants, closing loopholes that migrants are exploiting to gain an illegal foothold in the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border may have influenced the country’s recent crackdown on migrants, USA Today reports. Migrants from Central America have found “immigration checkpoints all along the highway” leading through Mexico, according to the newspaper, and migrant caravans were raided and the travelers arrested last April. Humanitarian visas that allow migrants to live and work in Mexico were cut off, and bus operators were recently ordered to stop carrying migrants. Local police in the southern states in Mexico have begun preventing migrants from entering town centers, and local citizens are no longer offering food, water, or clothing to migrants. Maureen Meyer, from the non-partisan Washington Office on Latin America’s director for Mexico and migrant rights, said that Trump’s threats to close the border, end foreign aid to Mexico and suspend NAFTA negotiations, along with his decision to cut of multiple Central American countries from foreign aid, has had a great impact on Mexico.

From the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to the Southern California coast, the Trump administration continues  separating migrant families at rates that alarm immigration attorneys and advocates, even though a federal judge barred family separations as a systemic policy. Separations have slowed significantly since a federal judge in San Diego ordered the administration to halt the practice in June 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw allowed separations Advocates at the Young Center’s Harlingen, Texas, office said one in every five families they see at migrant shelters have been separated at the border for questionable reasons. Officials at Al Otro Lado, which advocates for immigrants in California, said dozens of families are separated each day throughout the San Diego metro area. in rare, specific circumstances, and the Trump administration has exploited those openings at a worrying clip, according to groups that work with migrants along the border.

Thousands fleeing conflict or poverty in Nigeria, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Haiti and Cuba have traveled across oceans, through the jungles and mountains of South America or up through Central America. It’s a a route that – so far – ends here: the steamy, crumbling Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. Some say they’ve given up hope of reaching the United States and just want papers that will allow them to work in Mexico – but northern Mexico, where wages are higher. The government is not prepared to grant that, so it keeps them in Tapachula, waiting – perhaps for an asylum ruling, perhaps residency status, but most likely perpetual homelessness.

Economic News

Hiring was strong for the second straight month in April and unemployment fell to a new 50-year low,  easing concerns that a slowing global and U.S. economy could dampen job growth. Employers added a booming 263,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, lowest since December 1969. Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $27.70, keeping the annual gain at 3.2%.Pay increases generally have topped 3% since last year as employers compete for a shrinking supply of workers.

Economies at the heart of Europe are growing more quickly than expected, boosting hopes that a global slump has been avoided. First quarter growth in the 19 countries that use the euro was 0.4%, double the rate posted in the final quarter of 2018. The results are the latest piece of evidence to suggest that the world’s largest economies are in better shape than many analysts feared. The US economy grew at a better than expected rate of 3.2%.

President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to work together on a $2 trillion infrastructure package — but put off for later the difficult question of how to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was “good will in the meeting” and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi added: “We did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold.”

The national average price of gas continues its customary spring climb as Memorial Day approaches, hitting $2.90 on Friday, up 20 cents from a month ago and 8 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA. In California, the average price of gasoline soared over $4 per gallon. Nationally, the average is “knocking on the doorstep” of hitting $3 for the first time since October 2014.

Britain

Knife-related homicides took 285 lives in England and Wales from March 2017 to March 2018 – a record since data collection began in 1946. The data, from the Office for National Statistics, doesn’t include Northern Ireland and Scotland. Unlike the U.S., where guns are tied to so many deaths, only 4% of homicides in Britain last year were from shootings; 39% were from “sharp instruments,” the top weapon. The stabbing deaths have led police leaders, youth workers and victims’ families to call for action over what Prime Minister Theresa May has described as a public-health emergency and a “cancer” affecting British society: violence by its youth.

  • The end-time surge in violence by our youth growing up within our culture of death will only get worse as rider of the red horse is loosed upon the earth to “take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.” (Revelation 6:4)

Middle East

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion to accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming Mideast peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians, reported the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Tuesday. Salman reportedly asked Abbas: “How much money does the Palestinian Authority and its ministers and employees need?” Abbas replied with an answer of $1 billion annually, to which the Saudi crown prince replied: “I will give you $10 billion over 10 years if you accept the deal of the century.” Abbas rejected the offer, saying it would “mean the end of my political life.” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said last week that the so-called “deal of the century” will be released after the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which starts on May 5 and concludes on June 4.

Syria

Fighting in northwestern Syria has displaced nearly 140,000 people since February, the UN said on Wednesday, as the Assad regime and its ally Russia have stepped up their bombardment program. “Since February, over 138,500 women, children and men have been displaced from northern Hama and southern Idlib,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Sri Lanka

Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to veil their faces under an emergency law ordered by President Maithripala Sirisena that bans all kinds of face coverings that may conceal people’s identities. The law takes effect Monday, eight days after the Easter bombings of churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people in Sri Lanka. Dozens of suspects have been arrested but local officials and the US Embassy in Colombo have warned that more militants remained on the loose with explosives.

Venezuela

Clashes between anti-government protesters and law enforcement officers erupted in Caracas on Tuesday after the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, called for the population to rise up against the president, Nicolás Maduro. The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first declared himself interim president in January, expressed immediate support for his latest move. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that U.S. military action “is possible” in Venezuela to bolster opposition leader Juan Guaido’s bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro. Pompeo’s remarks appeared to mark an escalation of the Trump administration’s rhetoric on Venezuela. Pompeo and other officials, including President Donald Trump, have said that “all options are on the table” but focused mostly on economic sanctions and other diplomatic tools. Pompeo on Tuesday said Maduro was ready to flee Venezuela but changed his mind after Russia persuaded him to stay. Maduro and Russian officials denied Pompeo’s account. The stepped-up U.S. pressure comes a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a popular uprising and claimed the support of the military. President Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and discussed a range of issues, including nuclear weapons, a three-party arms control agreement and the conflict in Venezuela.

  • It should be noted that Venezuela has by far the largest oil reserves in the world, hence the greater involvement of the world’s major powers.

China

China is continuing to modernize its armed forces in order to transform its military into a major global power and using espionage to steal cutting edge technology for military purposes, according to a newly released Pentagon report. “China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches,” the Department of Defense report said. The report also details the growth in China’s defense budget and its military capabilities, saying “China’s defense budget has nearly doubled during the past 10 years.”

Japan

Japanese Emperor Akihito announced his abdication at a palace ceremony Tuesday in his final address, as the nation embraced the end of his reign with reminiscence and hope for a new era. Akihito, 85, took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father’s name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. Akihito’s reign ends at midnight Tuesday, after which his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the throne as new emperor.

Earthquakes

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Arizona was the largest of several quakes that registered in the region on Saturday morning. The Arizona Geological Survey said the Duncan and Safford areas experienced a sequence of shallow quakes at 10:01 a.m. Each year, Arizona has hundreds of earthquakes that people don’t feel.

4.8-magnitude quake struck just below the U.S.- Mexico border near Alberto Oviedo Mota, Baja California. The perceived shaking in Alberto Oviedo Mota was listed as very strong with the potential for damage listed at moderate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The shaking was felt in Yuma, Arizona.

Weather

Deadly flooding from heavy rains and snow melt plagued areas from Michigan to the South this week, damaging homes and sending the Mississippi River in one spot to levels not reached in 157 years. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Thursday for Wayne County after this week’s heavy rains left widespread flooding. In other areas throughout the Midwest and the South, flooding has made roads impassable and forced the closure of two Mississippi River bridges in Quincy, Illinois, and Louisiana, Missouri.

The Mississippi River surged above levels reached in the historic 1993 flood in Davenport, Iowa, causing a levee to give way, inundating the city with more than 6 feet of water. The breech forced some residents to seek shelter on their rooftops, while others were evacuated by boats. Several businesses were forced to close as the flood waters rose, and city workers scrambled to reinforce the levee with sandbags.

A rash of severe storms lashed the Plains Tuesday, spawning at least three dozen suspected tornadoes that left a trail of damage across northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. More than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power early Wednesday in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Storms pounding Central Arkansas knocked down trees, ripped off roofs and flipped tractor-trailers on Thursday. In addition to Arkansas, the spate of storms caused damage in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into northeast India Friday as a Category 4-equivalent storm, uprooting trees, downing power lines and sweeping away thatched homes. “There were the roadside food carts, store signs all flying by in the air,” one witness reported. In the popular tourist beach city of Puri, the main highway in and out was made impassable by fallen trees and electricity poles. Nearly 1.2 million people had been evacuated Thursday in northeast India as the storm approached. Initial reports say seven have died, but the toll is expected to rise as the storm continues to batter India.

Signs of the Times

April 27, 2019

­We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2Corinthians 4:8-9, NKJV)

Miraculous Healing of Boy Thrown Off Balcony

A 5-year-old boy who was thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America miraculously suffered no brain damage, his family pastor said. The boy fell nearly 40 feet after a stranger “looking for someone to kill” picked him up and threw him off earlier this month. Now, the boy is showing “zero evidence of brain damage” Mac Hammond, a pastor at the family’s church, said. No spinal cord injury, no nerve damage, no internal injuries that were life-threatening. The boy did sustain many broken bones. The boys parents said in a statement that prayers were working and that “God’s hand is working.” The family’s statement also said Jesus “saved our son’s life and is healing him in the most miraculous ways.”

Faith-Based Film Breakthrough Opens Top 3 in Box Office

The faith-based film Breakthrough reached hit status its opening weekend, landing in the Top 3 and grossing more than $11 million. The PG-rated movie tells the story of a boy who was thought dead after he plunged through an icy pond and didn’t have a pulse for 45 minutes. But when his mother began praying at the hospital, his heart started beating again. Even mainstream critics also liked Breakthrough– a rare feat for a faith-based film. Bilge Ebiri of The New York Times liked it, writing, “You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

Number of Americans Attending Church Plummets

A new Gallup report found that only half of Americans say they belong to a church or other religious body, down from 69% two decades earlier. Most of the decline is tied to the rise of the so-called “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation. Gallup found that the share of Americans who claim a religious identity declined from 90% to 77% in recent decades. At the turn of the century, Gallup said, 73% of religious Americans belonged to a house of worship. That’s dropped to 64% today. The poll found that 68% of “traditionalists” — which Gallup identifies as those born before 1945 — are part of a church or other religious body. That percentage has declined from 78% two decades ago. Just 42 percent of millennials are members of churches, on average, according to the report.

Many Catholics Leaving the Church Over Sexual Abuse Scandal

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is at a crossroads. As millions of devout followers filled the pews this Easter season to celebrate the religion’s most important holiday, others have either quit the church or are considering doing so because of the church’s handling of the decades-long sex abuse crisis that’s resulted in young children being raped and abused by priests who were often protected by their superiors. Seven months after a damning grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that 1,000 children had been abused at the hands of more than 300 priests, and as state attorneys general across the nation investigate the church, a Gallup poll published in March found that 37% of U.S. Catholics are considering leaving the church because of the sex abuse crisis and the church’s handling of it. That’s up significantly from 2002, when just 22% of Catholics said they were contemplating leaving their religion after The Boston Globe published an explosive series that initially exposed the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

  • Catholicism opened itself up to destruction from the inside out due to its non-Biblical practices

7,819 Suspects Named in Boy Scout ‘Perversion Files’

The Boy Scouts of America “perversion files” contain the names of a staggering number of suspected pedophiles and their victims, an attorney revealed Tuesday. Jeff Anderson, represents former Scouts who say they were abused. The files show that there were 7,819 suspected perpetrators and 12,254 victims between 1944 and 2016. The number of suspected abusers and victims was revealed during a trial in January. Anderson said the alarming thing is not just the number, but “the fact is that the Boy Scouts of America has never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public.” He said that the names of the suspects were not given to the public or the police, meaning that while they may have been banned from Scouting, they would have been free to gain access to children elsewhere. More than 200 individuals have come forward with new allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Boy Scouts of America in recent weeks as a trio of law firms seek to uncover unidentified child abusers.

U.S. History Textbook Portrays Trump as Mentally Ill, Racist

A new high-school American history textbook depicts President Donald Trump as mentally ill and castigates both him and his supporters as racist. Published by Pearson Education, “By the People: A History of the United States” will be used by many Advanced Placement students beginning in 2020, reports Todd Starnes. In the final section, titled “The Angry Election of 2016,” the book states Trump’s “not very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters.” The textbook further states that Clinton supporters “also worried about the mental stability of the president-elect and the anger that he and his supporters brought to the nation.” Starnes said a Pearson spokesman defended the textbook, arguing it underwent “rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity.”

Kansas Supreme Court Rules Right to Abortion in State Constitution

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against a ban on dismemberment abortion today, arguing that a right to abortion exists in the state constitution. According to National Public Radio (NPR), “The landmark ruling now stands as the law of the land in Kansas with no path for an appeal. Because it turns on the state’s Constitution, abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the Roe v. Wade case that established a national right to abortion is ever reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.” Mary Kay Culp, Executive Director of Kansans for Life, told LifeSiteNews that her next task in defending the unborn child would be amending the Kansas Constitution. In a press release, Culp stated that the Kansas Supreme Court had created the “broadest right” to abortion in the USA.

Judge Will Block Trump’s Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood

A federal judge appointed by pro-abortion President Barack Obama plans to keep taxpayer funding flowing to Planned Parenthood by blocking a new pro-life rule from the Trump administration. Pro-abortion attorneys general in 20 states and Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit, arguing that the rule would hurt Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and violate the Affordable Care Act. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane of Oregon said he plans to block the Trump administration from enforcing the rule, which takes effect May 3. He criticized the rule as a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy,”

Trump Withdraws U.S. From UN Arms Treaty

President Donald Trump on Friday announced at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting that the United States will drop out of an international arms treaty signed in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama but opposed by the NRA and other conservative groups. The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the treaty in April 2013 and the United States, the world’s No. 1 arms exporter, voted in favor of it. Trump told members of the gun lobby that he intends to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was never ratified by the U.S. Senate. The NRA has long opposed the treaty which regulates the $70 billion business in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. The lobbying group argues it would undermine domestic gun rights, a view the Obama administration rejected. Trump’s action drew an immediate rebuke from some international human rights groups.

Court Ruling Upholds Off-Shore Drilling Ban

Environmental groups are cheering the indefinite delay of President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to expand oil and gas drilling off much of America’s shoreline, a program that’s a linchpin of his “energy dominance” agenda. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal Thursday that the recent court decision blocking drilling in the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic oceans could suspend the agency’s plan to open up as much as 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf for energy exploration over the next five years. A federal judge in Alaska last month threw out Trump’s 2017 executive order reversing drilling bans imposed by President Barack Obama in dozens of canyons in the Atlantic and vast parts of the Arctic to protect polar bears, walruses, ice seals as well as Alaska Native villages that depend on the animals.

Migrant Update

American high schools are churning out nearly 100,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” a year, according to a new study Wednesday that shows just how extensive the network of illegal immigrant families is in the U.S. The Migration Policy Institute’s research is the first in more than a decade to try to capture the size of the emergent Dreamer population, which is defined as illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as juveniles, lacking any immediate claims to legal status. MPI’s numbers show the population has grown, from about 65,000 a year in 2003 to 98,000 graduating each year now.

The Rand Corp. released a report Monday which estimates that Central American migrants paid as much as $2.3 billion to be smuggled into the U.S. in 2017. Rand made its calculations based on high and low estimates for migrants’ payments and then calculations of how many people actually made the journey. They limited their study to those from the Northern Triangle: the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Rand identified four types of operators in the human smuggling trade, ranging from independent operators who offer their own services such as driving or guiding, all the way to formal networks run by a single kingpin who can monopolize a route of traffic. The formal networks, the organized smuggling cartels, are the most notorious. Homeland Security officials say those cartels either operate in coordination with, or are the same as, drug smuggling organizations. Yet Rand said it’s likely the less-formal networks and independent operators are the ones making the most money from human smuggling.

Central American migrants hoping to reach the U.S. are finding a much tougher trek than those in previous caravans, meeting unwelcoming townsfolk and a surprise raid. Mexican police and immigration agents detained hundreds of Central American migrants Monday in the largest single raid on a migrant caravan since the groups started moving through the country last year. Police targeted isolated groups at the tail end of a caravan of about 3,000 migrants who were making their way through the southern state of Chiapas with hopes of reaching the U.S. border. As migrants gathered under spots of shade in the burning heat outside the city of Pijijiapan, federal police and agents passed by in patrol trucks and vans and forcibly wrestled women, men and children into the vehicles. As many as 500 migrants might have been picked up in the raid, according to Associated Press journalists at the scene.

Driver Speeds into Pedestrians at California Shopping Center

A driver is in custody after speeding toward a crowd of pedestrians Tuesday, injuring eight, in what may be an intentional act, police say. The crash took place around 6:40 p.m. local time in Sunnyvale, Calif., near a shopping center. Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said preliminary investigations show the driver — who is in custody — might have intentionally sped toward the pedestrians. Witnesses say that the vehicle didn’t try to veer away or slow down. New evidence shows that Isaiah Joel Peoples also targeted the crowd based on race The driver believed the people he assaulted were of the Muslim faith, police said.

Lost Angeles Continues its Reign As Nation’s Smoggiest City

California’s reign as the U.S. state with the worst air pollution continues as Los Angeles is again the nation’s smoggiest metro area, according to a report released Wednesday. LA isn’t alone when it comes to smog-choked cities in California: seven of the nation’s top 10 smoggiest cities are in the Golden State, including San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento. The top six are all in California. Los Angeles has had the worst smog for 19 years of the 20-year history of the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report. Phoenix ranks seventh, Houston eighth and New York City tenth.

New York City to Require Buildings to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Buildings in New York City larger than 25,000 square feet will be required to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 under an ordinance approved last Thursday by the City Council and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday. The buildings have to cut emissions by 80% by 2050. Buildings that fail to meet the targets could face fines of $268 for each ton of emissions exceeding permitted limits. The first of its kind law exempts or sets more lenient limits for houses of worship, single-family homes, hospitals, rent-controlled housing, New York City Housing Authority complexes, city buildings and power plants.

Measles Continues to Spread in U.S.

Measles cases in the United States have surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000. As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 626 individual cases of measles confirmed in those 22 states. This includes illnesses reported by state health departments to the CDC through April 19 and therefore does not include cases reported since then. President Donald Trump said Thursday that, “They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.” Previously, he had indicated concerns about vaccinations. More than 1,000 students and staff members at two Los Angeles universities were quarantined on campus or sent home this week in one of the most sweeping efforts yet by public health authorities to contain the spread of measles in the U.S.

Economic News

The US economy grew at a much better than expected rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The top-line number is a pleasant surprise in a quarter marked by a government shutdown, severe weather, Boeing’s troubles with the 737 Max, fears of an escalating trade war and the gradual fading of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts. The annual rate of 3.2% beat the 2.1% estimates and is a pleasant surprise in a quarter marked by a government shutdown, severe weather, Boeing’s troubles with the 737 Max, fears of an escalating trade war and the gradual fading of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts. Growth was driven in part by higher inventories, especially in the manufacturing industry, which can indicate that businesses are stockpiling goods rather than selling them.

U.S. stocks climbed past their all-time closing highs on Tuesday, as stocks continued to rally from their December lows. The S&P 500 reached 2933.68 points, breaking through the historical closing high of 2,930.75 points that it set in September. The Nasdaq nearly hit 8121 points, beating the 8,110 point all-time best close it hit in August. Stocks were driven higher Tuesday by stronger shares in the consumer goods, heath care and technology sectors.

Home sales are struggling to rebound after slumping in the second half of last year, when a jump in mortgage rates to nearly 5% discouraged many would-be buyers. Spring buying is so far running behind last year’s healthy gains, down 5.4%. On a year over year basis, existing home sales have now fallen for 13 months in a row.

African swine fever is plaguing China’s pork production. The disease is killing multitudes of animals, hitting the global pork supply chain, and driving up prices worldwide. China is one of the biggest producers of pork in the world, with around half of the meat’s global output. China’s pork production has fallen 10% this year. China normally accounts for 49% of global pork consumption. To meet China’s insatiable demand for pork products, the country is turning to imports, which are expected to hit a record high in 2019, driving up prices.

Sri Lanka

Ten civilians — including six children — are dead, along with six suspected terrorists, after a shootout between police and alleged militants in eastern Sri Lanka late Friday, authorities said. At least two suspected terrorists are on the run following an explosion that witnesses told CNN turned the house “into fire.” Police are investigating the possible relationship of the civilians to the suspected terrorists. Easter Sunday bomb blasts at three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka killed at least 359 people (including several Americans) and wounded at least 500. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the Muslim extremist group, National Thowheed Jama’ath, was behind the attacks. “The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, told the country’s parliament. The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the bombings “in retaliation” for mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand last month.” Some of the terrorists are still at large and may have more explosives.

A human rights activist noted that over the previous eleven Sundays, many church services had been harassed and disrupted. In addition, public anger is rising over reports that intelligence officials had warned of possible attacks. The chief of national intelligence had warned officials on April 4 about potential attacks from information gleaned from an ISIS informant and had provided the names of suspects five days later, the Guardian reports, but no action was taken.

Iran

The Trump administration told five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran. The other nations are China and India. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the administration will not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on May 2. It was not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to U.S. sanctions on May 3 if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.

North Korea

Two months after his second denuclearization summit with President Donald Trump broke down because of disputes over U.S. sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held his first ever face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders met Thursday on Russky Island in eastern Russia, near the port city of Vladivostok. They pledged to boost ties and defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Putin said North Korea was ready to denuclearize if given security guarantees. Putin called for the resumption of six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. He stressed the need for multilateral cooperation to support Pyongyang. The six-way talks would include the two Koreas, plus China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. Kim told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he believes the United States acted in “bad faith” at the Hanoi summit

Russia

Russia has launched its new Belgorod submarine, which is designed to carry devastating underwater nuclear drones. Moscow’s development of nuclear-powered drones has been closely watched in recent years, amid concern that Russia could be adding a “doomsday” weapon capable of unleashing tidal waves to its arsenal. The Russian Navy said the submarine designed to carry Poseidon drones is set to enter service next year. The Poseidon can target coastal areas with a heavy nuclear weapon, causing a devastating tsunami wave. President Vladimir Putin has said its tests have been successful. The world got its first glimpse of Belgorod from images of the massive vessel’s stern captured during the launch ceremony in Severodvinsk.

Earthquakes

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Monday about 38 miles northwest of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The quake occurred at 5:11 p.m. local time and knocked down a four-story building in Porac town. Sixteen people died and about 20 people were rescued, some with injuries. At least eight people were killed in Pampanga province. Some tall buildings are leaning against each other in Manila. Hundreds of employees dashed out of office buildings, some wearing hard hats. Video captured water from a swimming pool at the Anchor Skysuites in Manila cascading down the side of the residential skyscraper. At Clark International Airport, seven people suffered minor injuries when a part of the ceiling at the check-in lobby collapsed. Flights were canceled and the airport was shut down.

The central Philippines were rocked by a second quake Tuesday of 6.4 magnitude. Tuesday’s quake was centered near Tutubigan in Eastern Samar province, about 350 miles southeast of Manila, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from the new quake that struck at 1:37 p.m. local time.

Environment

Last Monday was Earth Day, the 49th time the day was celebrated. What has transpired over the past year? Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide jumped by 1.7% in 2018, reaching 33.1 metric gigatons, the highest levels ever recorded. March 2019 marked the 411th consecutive month with global temperatures above average. Earth’s glaciers lost up to 369 billion tons of ice and snow. One to five species normally go extinct annually. Scientists estimate species are disappearing now at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate, with multiple extinctions daily. Earth saw 39 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018. The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018 of any country, with 16. The Camp Fire was the costliest and deadliest wildfire in California’s history, killing 85 people and destroying more than 18,500 buildings.

  • End-time degradation of the planet will continue to ramp up, fulfilling Biblical prophesies of extreme weather, famine, disease (pestilence), powerful earthquakes and the loss of flora, fauna and wildlife on both land and sea (Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-18)

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the world’s second-largest reservoir of fresh water sitting on the world’s largest island. It contains enough water to refill the Great Lakes 115 times over. A new study finds that the melting Greenland Ice Sheet added a quarter inch of water to global sea levels in just the past eight years. The research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, casts the transformation of the Greenland Ice Sheet as one of the profound geological shifts of our time. Greenland, according to the study, has lost 4,976 gigatons of water since 1972. More worryingly, the paper finds that Greenland lost about half of that ice—roughly 2,200 gigatons—in the years between 2010 and 2018. Greenland’s demise seems to be accelerating.

Weather

Storms tearing across Texas early Wednesday dumped heavy rain on the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, stranding motorists in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton and flooding a parking garage at Dallas’ Love Field Airport. Images posted to social media show cars submerged by at least 3 to 4 feet of water. In Midland, tennis ball-sized hail was reported early Wednesday. Nearly 22,000 homes and businesses were without power. Storms continued to march across the South Thursday after leaving behind significant damage and killing at least five people in Texas and Louisiana.

Heavy rains pounding South Africa this week have triggered flash flooding and mudslides that have killed at least 60 people, injured dozens more and prompted hundreds of evacuations. Extensive damage had been “inflicted on public and private infrastructure” throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal, including Durban, Times Live reported. The extent of damage to infrastructure includes flooded and blocked roads, collapsed buildings and perimeter walls, blocked storm-water drains and sewer lines, flooded buildings and households, as well as power outages due to electrical cable damage.

At least 17 people are dead and five hospitalized after a landslide in Colombia. The landslide happened early Sunday morning in Rosas, a community in the rural southwestern Colombian state of Cauca. At least eight houses were destroyed, and a portion of the Pan-American Highway was blocked by the landslide. Unusually heavy rains were widespread across much of Colombia over the past month.

Mozambique residents are beginning the slow recovery process a day after Tropical Cyclone Kenneth slammed into the southern African nation, destroying homes, knocking out power and killing at least five people and destroying 3,500 homes. The powerful storm made landfall early Thursday at the northern end of Mozambique’s Quirimbas National Park, north of the city of Pemba, home to some 200,000 people. Four ships sank off the coast of Palma town, but no deaths were reported. The Category 4-equivalent storm also caused flooding and landslides in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Comoros where local authorities reported at least three deaths and more than 1,000 homes destroyed. Two others were killed on Ibo, a tourist island located north of Pemba in Quirimbas National Park and home to about 6,000 people, where 90 percent of homes were flattened. The tropical cyclone comes a little more than a month after the country was dealt a devastating blow by the deadliest and costliest storm in its history — Tropical Cyclone Idai, which killed more than 700 people, displaced tens of thousands and wiped away homes in the central city of Beira.

Signs of the Times

April 19, 2019

­Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 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. (Romans 8:35-37)

Nearly 2000 Churches in France have been Desecrated

While French authorities believe the blaze that destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral was accidental, it has brought attention to the surge of attacks on Christian symbols in Europe. Nearly 2,000 Christian houses of worship in France have been desecrated in the past two years, according to police. In Germany, there were four such incidents in March. Some French politicians have attributed the church desecrations — averaging more than two a day — to “militant secularism.” But in virtually every attack across Europe, writes Raymond Ibrahim for the Gatestone Institute, “authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals.” “In those rare instances when the Muslim (or “migrant”) identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues,” he writes. The German website PI News noted that, “Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols. There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators.” Authorities avoid at all costs blaming migrants, the website said, many of them Muslim.

Discrimination Against Christians/Jews Up, Muslims/Gays Down

Discrimination against Jews and Christians has surged in the United States in the last few years, even as reported attacks against Muslims and gays has gone down slightly, according to a new survey by Pew Research. The share of Americans saying Jews face discrimination in the U.S. has increased substantially since late 2016,” the report said. “Today, 64 percent of Americans say Jews face at least some discrimination – a 20-percentage-point increase from 2016; the share saying Jews face ‘a lot’ of discrimination has nearly doubled, from 13 percent to 24 percent. The report also said 50 percent of Americans believe evangelical Christians face some discrimination, up from 42 percent just a few years ago. Among Muslims, 56 percent say they face a lot of discrimination, down from 57 percent. Among gays and lesbians, 42 percent say they face a lot of discrimination, down from 43 percent.

Banks Shutting Down Accounts of Christian Organizations/Churches

Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona said Monday on YouTube that Bank of America shut down all the bank accounts of his church. “They’re supposedly going to send us a cashier’s check in like two weeks for all the money that was in our church bank account but in the meantime, they just took all our money away,” Anderson said. Anderson has attracted controversy over the years due to his fundamentalist preaching on homosexuality. Enrique Tarrio, who is the Chairman of the Proud Boys fraternal organization, had his personal Chase bank account shut down abruptly as well. The Proud Boys, despite simply being a fraternal organization that believes in Western culture, have been smeared as a white-nationalist hate group, despite Tarrio being black. Conservative commentator Martina Markota had her business account closed by Chase Bank as did conservative activist Joe Biggs, although that decision was later reversed after widespread outrage.

  • Hold on to your faith, folks, because homegrown persecution of all things Christian is just ramping up.

Since “Unplanned” Movie Released, 94 Abortion Clinic Workers to Quit

Abby Johnson’s powerful conversion story is moving hearts inside the abortion industry. Chuck Konzelman, who is a co-writer/co-director of “Unplanned,” the new film detailing Johnson’s life, said 94 abortion workers have reached out to them in the past few weeks because they are thinking about quitting. Johnson quit her job at Planned Parenthood a decade ago after watching an ultrasound-guided abortion and seeing the unborn baby fight for its life. Now, she runs a ministry called And Then There Were None, which provides support for abortion industry workers who want to quit.

NC Gov. Vetoes Care for Babies Born Alive after Failed Abortion

North Carolina Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation Thursday morning that would require abortionists to provide basic medical care to newborns who survive failed abortions, just days after the measure cleared the state legislature. The North Carolina Senate approved Senate Bill 359 on Monday and the state House approved it on Tuesday. It requires infants born alive after attempted abortions to be guaranteed the “same claim to the protection of the law that would arise for any newborn, or for any person who comes to a hospital, clinic, or other facility.” Violators would be guilty of a Class D felony and face a fine of up to $250,000. “Laws already protect newborn babies, and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients,” Cooper claimed. “This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other health care providers for a practice that simply does not exist.”

Teen Girls Stage School Walkout Over Transgenders Boys in Bathroom

Students in Council Bluffs, Iowa, staged a walkout at Abraham Lincoln High School over bathroom privacy, with the protest being sparked by a girl who stated that her privacy was violated by a biological male who “recently began to identify as a girl” using the female bathroom. She was joined by about twenty other high school girls who left the school at 10:30 AM and began “chanting for privacy in restrooms, saying they don’t want boys transitioning into being girls to be in the restroom with them.” The 20 girls demanding privacy were confronted by nearly 40 students of mixed gender chanting in favor of state law, which requires schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with.

More Than 10,000 Illegals in U.S. from Terrorist Countries

More than 10,000 illegal aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are living in the United States, according to federal data. The countries of origin include Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan, said the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). The illegal aliens either have been ordered deported or have pending deportation orders, despite remaining in the U.S. Of the 10,000 from terror-sponsoring countries, about 6,000 are from Iran. California, a “sanctuary” state that shields illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities, has the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran. A total of more than 1.7 million illegal aliens remain in the U.S. despite having been ordered deported or having pending deportation orders. IRLI Executive Director Dale Wilcox said many of these could be part of terrorist sleeper cells, “We saw on 9/11 the damage that only 19 sleeper-cell terrorists could cause.”

Minneapolis’ Somali Community the Terrorist Recruitment Capital in U.S.

More men and boys from a Somali American community in Minneapolis have joined – or attempted to join – a foreign terrorist organization over the last 12 years than any other jurisdiction in the country. FBI stats show 45 Somalis left to join the ranks of either the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency al-Shabab, or the Iraq- and Syria-based ISIS combined. And as of 2018, a dozen more had been arrested with the intention of leaving to support ISIS. Both numbers are far higher than those of alleged terrorist wannabes who left or attempted to leave the country from other areas of the country where Muslim refugees have been resettled. In the case of the Somalis, it’s no longer just the men. Early last year, a female was apprehended by authorities on charges of supporting providing material support to Al Qaeda and arson.

Court Rejects White House Bid to Block California ‘Sanctuary’ Laws

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Thursday that most of three California sanctuary laws limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities can continue to be enforced, rejecting the bulk of a suit brought by the Trump administration. The judges upheld the most contentious law, Senate Bill 54, which prohibits police and sheriff’s officials from notifying immigration authorities when immigrant inmates are released from prison. In the opinion, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote: “We have no doubt that makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult.” However, he added that the law “does not directly conflict with any obligations” placed on state or local governments by federal law “because federal law does not mandate any state action.” The court also upheld a California law, Assembly Bill 450, mandating that employers alert employees of any upcoming federal immigration inspection share the inspection results with employees who may not be authorized to work in the U.S. Judge Smith, who was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush, ruled that the state law “imposes no additional or contrary obligations that undermine or disrupt the activities of federal immigration authorities.”

Trump Administration Settles Lawsuit to Reunite Children

The Trump administration settled a federal lawsuit on Friday that could pave the way for thousands of Central American families to reunite with their families in the U.S., according to federal court documents. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, challenged the ending of the Central American Minors program, which helped minors from  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras gain entry into the U.S. for refugee resettlement. The program, which was started in 2014, was ended under President Donald Trump in 2017. The program’s ending left 2,714 children in limbo as they had already been approved for the program but had not yet gained entry into the U.S. The settlement allows the government to continue processing these minors and, if approved, would allow them to reunite with family in the U.S. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge.

Visa Overstays a Bigger Immigration Crisis Than Mexico Border

Visa overstays have a more significant impact on immigration than illegal border crossings, The Atlantic reports. Robert Warren, the former director of the statistics division of Immigration and Naturalization Service, and currently a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, found that visa overstays outnumber border crossings by a 2 to 1 margin. visa overstays have outnumbered illegal border crossings every year for the past seven years. The Center for Migration Studies found in a report that about 515,000 people arrived in this country illegally in 2016, and that about three-fifths of those, 320,000, overstayed their visas, while the rest entered by illegally crossing the border. The Atlantic notes that this number is a small fraction of the over 50 million people who legally enter the U.S. with valid visas.

Migrant Update

Yuma, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, declared a state of emergency Tuesday, saying it cannot handle the crush of illegal immigrants the government is being forced to release onto its streets. Mayor Douglas Nicholls said the migrants are being released by the Border Patrol into his community faster than they can leave, and local shelters are already at capacity. He warned of mobs of people “roaming the streets looking to satisfy basic human needs,” clashing with citizens looking to protect their own property. The move was designed to draw the attention of the country to what locals said was an untenable situation and to beg for solutions from the federal government, which has been at a political stalemate over what to do.

At least 13% of the federal prison population and nearly 30% of those in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service are illegal immigrants, according to new 2018 numbers released by the Justice Department Wednesday. All told, nearly 60,000 people in Justice Department custody were known or suspected to be aliens. Of those, about 38,000 were held in prison, accounting for about 21% of the overall population. Nearly two-thirds were confirmed to be illegal immigrants and most of the rest are still under investigation for their status. Only a tiny fraction of the aliens had legal status.

Some illegal immigrants who are about to be deported must be held without bond as their deportation cases play out, Attorney General William Barr has ruled. Barr concluded that illegals who fit certain criteria after applying for asylum will not be eligible for release during the deportation process. The decision reverses a ruling dating back to 2005 that allowed bond to be instituted if the deportation subjects could demonstrate a legitimate fear of either persecution or danger should they leave the United States. In most cases, those migrants are released into the U.S. as they await an asylum hearing — a process that generally takes years.

The Trump administration wants to open two new tent facilities to temporarily detain up to 1,000 parents and children near the southern border, as advocates sharply criticize the conditions inside the tents already used to hold migrants. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a notice to potential contractors that it wants to house 500 people in each camp in El Paso, Texas, and in the South Texas city of Donna, which has a border crossing with Mexico. Each facility would consist of one large tent that could be divided into sections by gender and between families and children traveling alone, according to the notice. Detainees would sleep on mats. There would also be laundry facilities, showers, and an “additional fenced-in area” for “outside exercise/recreation.” The notice says the facilities could open in the next two weeks and operate through year end, with a cost that could reach $37 million.

A militia group near the U.S.-Mexico border detained hundreds of people this week, New Mexico’s attorney general said. “My office has been informed that this week, an armed group has detained nearly 300 people at gunpoint near Sunland Park, New Mexico,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a written statement. “These individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.” Migrants were held by the United Constitutional Patriots group and then handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol. The New York Times reported that a spokesman for the militia group said their actions were legal, “comparing the detention of the migrants to ‘a verbal citizen’s arrest.'”

Measles Accelerates to Second-Highest Level in U.S. in 25 Years

The number of measles cases in the United States made its biggest jump of the year, with 90 new cases reported in just one week, according to numbers released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With 555 total cases, 2019 now has the second-highest number of measles cases in the United States in 25 years — and the year isn’t even half over. Measles isn’t just rising in the United States. The World Health Organization reported Monday there were more than 110,000 measles cases worldwide in the first three months of 2019 — an increase of nearly 300% from the same period last year. The actual number of measles cases is likely higher, as WHO estimates that less than 1 in 10 cases globally are reported to the agency. About 1 out of every 1,000 children who gets measles will develop encephalitis or swelling of the brain, according to the CDC. This can lead to convulsions and leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.

‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws Sparking Controversy

Colorado became the 15th state on Friday to adopt a “red flag” gun law, allowing firearms to be seized from people determined to pose a danger — just weeks after dozens of county sheriffs had vowed not to enforce the law, with some local leaders establishing what they called Second Amendment “sanctuary counties.” The law didn’t receive a single Republican vote in the state legislature, and has led to renewed efforts from gun-rights activists to recall Democrats who supported the measure. In a fiery and lengthy statement on Facebook on Friday, Eagle County, Colo., Sheriff James van Beek slammed the law as a well-intentioned but “ludicrous.” Van Beek charged that the law treats accused gun owners like “criminals,” discourages individuals from seeking mental health treatment, and ignores the reality that “a disturbed mind will not be deterred by the removal of their guns.”

The Number Of Children Per Household Is Shrinking

The Royal Bank of Canada notes that almost all countries are set to experience a decline in the number of children per household in the 2000 – 2030 period. More specifically, looking from 2015 out to 2030, Euromonitor expects developed markets to have a ~20% decline in the number of children per household and developing markets a ~15% decline. In fact, as the Canadian bank points out, it was as recently as 2012 when the number of couples without children globally surpassed the number of those with children.

Economic News

The “retail apocalypse” seemingly is only getting worse with store closures this year reportedly already exceeding the total for 2018. Coresight Research, which tracks store openings and closings, said Friday retailers have announced 5,994 store closures and 2,641 store openings as of early April. That compares to 5,864 closures and 3,239 openings for the full year 2018. The number of closures indicates that traditional retailers are struggling to respond to shoppers’ increasing shift online even as they’re working hard to reinvent their businesses.

Under President Trump’s new tax law, 60 of America’s biggest corporations paid $0 in federal taxes in 2018, despite earning billions of dollars in profits, reports Fox Business. Amazon Opens a New Window. , Netflix Opens a New Window. , General Motors Opens a New Window. , Chevron, JetBlue, IBM and U.S. Steel were all among the companies that avoided taxes last year using a diverse array of loopholes and tax breaks, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think-tank. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act kept intact most of the tax breaks that allow profitable companies to zero out what they owe.

One of the central features of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a drop in the corporate income tax rate, from 35% to 21%. Even though plenty of companies never paid that full rate because of various exemptions, the decrease still took a big bite out of corporate tax collections. They plunged from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $264 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $149 billion in 2018, when the new rules went into effect, and they haven’t bounced back. As a share of the U.S. economy, corporate taxes fell from 1.33% in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 0.77% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Those were both down from about 2% in 2000. As a result of both the business and personal income tax cuts, households making between $500,000 and $1 million will see their after-tax income rise by an average of 5.2%. Households making less than $50,000 (the median income is $61,372 in the U.S.) see only a 0.6% increase.

Middle East

ImageSat International (ISI) released a series of images on Sunday showing extensive damage to a Syrian military base that Syria’s official state news agency SANA attributed to an Israeli airstrike on Friday evening. ISI’s photos show several destroyed structures, including a hangar and a number of other buildings, near Masyaf in the Hama province. This area has been identified in the past as a breeding ground for Iranian troops and the Lebanon-based terror proxy, Hezbollah. Following the strike, the buildings were identified as missile production facilities. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a report announcing that a number of Iranian fighters and pro-Iranian troops were killed in the attack. In addition, 17 people were also reported injured. Iran has attempted to establish a military stronghold on Israel’s doorstep. The Jewish state has identified Iranian entrenchment in Syria as a red line it will not tolerate, and has backed up the position with hundreds of strikes in Syrian territory over the past two years, many of which have targeted Iranian forces.

Islamic State

The number of suspected foreign ISIS fighters being detained by U.S.-backed forces in Syria has now surpassed 2,000, with a small number claiming to be US citizens, three U.S. officials told CNN. The foreigners are among the more than 9,000 ISIS fighters being held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, with the majority of those being Syrian and Iraqi nationals. An additional 60,000 of what the US government refers to as ISIS “affiliates” are staying in make-shift camps where the SDF has a security presence. “These are women and children who have chosen to stay, or were coerced to stay as part of the ISIS caliphate that remained,” a senior US defense official told CNN.

ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Afghanistan, noted for their brutality in a brutal land, pose the top threat for spectacular attacks in the United States, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. The group known as ISIS-K, like al-Qaeda, which plotted the 9/11 terror attacks from Afghanistan, also has designs on striking targets in Western nations. ISIS-K has hundreds of fighters and has shown increasing effectiveness in its tactics and recruiting in Afghanistan, said Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee who recently visited Afghanistan. Inspiring, financing and directing attacks abroad is a key goal. A chief worry: a terrorist recruit, for example, driving a truck through a crowd in the United States, the intelligence official said, citing the type of assault the group aspires to. About 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, half of them assigned to counter-terrorism missions, including combating ISIS-K militants.

North Korea

President Donald Trump said relations with Kim Jong Un remain “very good” and he opened the door Saturday for a third summit, hours after the North Korean leader said he’s willing to meet as long as the U.S. offers acceptable terms for a deal by year end. Kim said he wouldn’t welcome a repeat of the Hanoi summit in February, when Trump walked out without securing a nuclear disarmament deal. While Kim hailed his relationship with Trump, he also said the U.S. has been making unilateral demands and should abandon that approach. “They want to see the U.S. make the next move — that the steps that they took, such as returning war remains and shutting down missile sites, are even more grounds to demand the U.S. to relieve sanctions,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy. Kim also asked that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be pulled from negotiations. The Kremlin announced Kim will visit Russia this month, offering President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to emerge as a broker in the long-running nuclear standoff.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected and directed a “new tactical guided weapons firing test” Wednesday, according to a report from the country’s state media. The report, from news agency KCNA, did not state exactly what kind of weapon was tested, nor its potential range. No missile launch was detected by US Northern Command and Strategic Command, according to US Department of Defense officials. “The development and completion of this weapons system will be a great historic event in strengthening the combat capability of the People’s Army,” Kim said, according to KCNA. However, U.S. intelligence officials do not believe North Korea successfully launched a fully operational new weapon. Their initial that assessment is North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, rather than a fully operational new weapon.

Yemen

President Trump formally vetoed a measure that would force his administration to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The veto, the second of Trump’s presidency, overrode a bipartisan measure earlier this month that would have stopped the U.S. from providing logistical, intelligence and targeting assistance to Saudi Arabia in the conflict with Yemen. The resolution served as a rebuke to Trump and Saudi leaders and highlighted a growing unease with America’s role in the grisly conflict, which has left thousands of civilians dead and millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation. Currently, the U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms, but no troops, to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. The war in Yemen is a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as the two regimes battle for influence in the region.

Northern Ireland

The dissident republican group the New IRA was most likely responsible for the fatal shooting of a journalist during overnight rioting in the city of Londonderry, police in Northern Ireland said Friday. The Police Service of Northern Ireland said 29-year-old journalist and author Lyra McKee died after she was shot during rioting in the Creggan area. A gunman also fired a number of shots at police during the unrest Thursday evening. “We believe this to be a terrorist act,” Hamilton said. “We believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans.” A murder investigation has been launched but there have been no arrests. There has been an increase in tensions in Northern Ireland in recent months with sporadic violence, much of it focused in Londonderry. The New IRA is a small group of republicans who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army’s embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as “The Troubles” that claimed more than 3,700 lives. I

Venezuela

Underpaid, underfed and humiliated by the autocratic turn their country had taken, the armed forces were the linchpin of the Trump administration’s strategy to get the ruling government to step aside. Some U.S. officials predicted they would flip en masse within days. That hasn’t happened. Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on President Maduro, which has enabled him to stay in power despite the poor economy, high inflation and drop in oil revenue. Even as thousands of people can’t find basic necessities, and many risk their lives to leave the country, Maduro tenaciously clings to power.

Cocaine trafficking from Venezuela to the United States is soaring, even as the country collapses. And U.S. and other regional officials say it’s Venezuela’s own military and political elite who are facilitating the passage of drugs in and out of the country on hundreds of tiny, unmarked planes. The number of suspected drug flights from Venezuela has risen from about two flights per week in 2017 to nearly seven in 2018, according to one U.S. official. This year, the same official has seen as many as five nighttime flights in the sky at once. Officials involved in combating the deadly trade describe a tremendously profitable courier system for the Venezuelan government.

Earthquakes

Between 2008 and 2017, Southern California was hit by 1.8 million earthquakes, 10 times more than previously thought, said a new study. Seismologists at the California Institute of Technology found approximately 180,000 earthquakes had been recorded during that time. Data showed the region experiences 495 quakes a day, or roughly one every three minutes. However, the reason these quakes are just being discovered is they’re too small to notice. Researchers say the temblors are tough to find because seismic data also includes background noise such as building construction and shaking from traffic. Researchers used an array of powerful computers to scan the earthquake catalog and verify the new earthquakes.

Weather

At least three people died Thursday as severe thunderstorms that marched across the southern U.S. spawned tornadoes, knocked trees into homes, blew over cars and caused roads to flood. The line of severe weather damaged homes, made travel difficult and left tens of thousands of customers without power as it moved from Texas and Louisiana into Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. There were reports of nine tornadoes in Mississippi. By Friday morning, the storms were moving through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida on a trek east. There is a strong risk of damaging winds from the storms that will sweep through Virginia and the Carolinas later Friday. Nearly 100,000 homes and businesses across five states were without power early Friday.

More than 100 people are dead in India and Pakistan after powerful storms unleashed dust, lightning, hail, rain and high winds. The Times of India reported that at least 64 people had died during severe thunderstorms in India. Most of those died from lightning strikes or electrocution. Homes were damaged, trees uprooted and power lines knocked down in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan states. There was also reported damage to crops by heavy rains and hail. In Pakistan, at least 39 people were killed and 135 injured in torrential rainfalls. At least 80 houses were damaged, and there were several reports of roofs and walls collapsing, with the worst of the impacts in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Signs of the Times

April 12, 2019

­Surely, He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (Psalm 91:3-6)

Antimicrobial Resistance a Growing Threat

Global leaders met at the United Nationals General Assembly in New York Wednesday to address what experts are calling one of the biggest threats to global health: antimicrobial resistance, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites become resistant to the drugs typically used to treat people infected by them. There are now many infections that cannot be treated at all, the panel said. Superbugs are killing about 33,000 people in Europe every year. Drug-resistant bacteria are expected to kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if nothing is done to solve the problem. These superbugs developed because antimicrobials are overprescribed and people buy them over the counter in certain countries. In addition, people don’t finish courses of treatment and the antibiotics are overused in veterinary practices. Another large-scale use of antimicrobials — mostly antibiotics — has been in farming, to promote animal growth. Antimicrobials are overprescribed and people buy them over the counter in certain countries. Drugs are shared, people don’t finish courses of treatment and antibiotics are overused in veterinary practices. Another large-scale use of antimicrobials — mostly antibiotics — has been in farming, to promote animal growth.

Pope Benedict Criticizes Vatican Handling of Abuse

An open letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict that blames the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis on homosexuality and the sexual revolution of the 1960s is drawing deep criticism from Catholic theologians in the U.S. who call it divisive and “embarrassingly wrong.” “Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms,” Benedict writes in a lengthy treatise released Wednesday in his native Germany. “Pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.” James Bretzke, a theology professor at Marquette University, calls the pedophilia claim puzzling, saying pedophilia has never been accepted by “anyone anywhere close to the cultural mainstream.” Benedict says expanded access to pornography helped fuel the crisis. At about the same time period, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that left the church ill-equipped to combat the trend, he added. “In various seminaries, homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries,” writes Benedict, who ceded his reign to Pope Francis six years ago.

Ohio Passes Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Ohio lawmakers just passed a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, part of a nationwide crusade to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of abortion rights. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine promptly signed the abortion ban, which is one of the nation’s strictest. The so-called “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence and is seen as a credible threat to the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, which opened the floodgates to abortion on demand. Arkansas, North Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia have passed versions of the heartbeat bill, and the legislation is pending in 11 other states.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds KY ‘Ultrasound’ Abortion Law

Pro-lifers in Kentucky won a victory Thursday when a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s law requiring abortionists to give women the opportunity to view ultrasound images of their children before abortion. Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said, “We applaud the decision by the Sixth Circuit, which affirms the commonsense notion that patients should be well equipped with relevant information before making important medical decisions.” Enacted in 2017, Kentucky’s Ultrasound Informed Consent Act requires abortionists to perform ultrasounds prior to committing abortions, display and explain the images, play the audio of any fetal heartbeat, and offer women the opportunity to view the images. It does not force women to view them.

North Dakota Bans ‘Dismemberment’ Abortions

North Dakota’s governor signed a bill Wednesday outlawing a grisly abortion procedure in which an unborn baby is dismembered, limb by limb, until the uterus is empty. The signature by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum made North Dakota the 11th state to ban a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute. Most similar laws, though, have been blocked in court. The law includes an exception for a medical emergency. It goes into effect when a court allows its enforcement or when the U.S. Supreme Court “restores to the states authority to prohibit abortion.”

Pennsylvania School Board Okays “In God We Trust” in Schools

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board in Greencastle, PA has voted unanimously to allow the national motto “In God We Trust” and other documents from U.S. history to be displayed in foyers and other public areas of the district’s primary, elementary, middle and high schools. Teachers can also place the motto in their classrooms, as well, along with copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The board also said it decided to display the motto and documents because they serve patriotic, historical, educational and solemnizing purposes.

“Unplanned” in Top Ten Again

The pro-life movie “Unplanned” finished in the top 10 at the box office for the second weekend in a row, overcoming an “R” rating and what the film’s supporters have called a media blackout. So far, it’s earned more than $12 million, doubling the $6 million production budget. “Unplanned” is centered on the life of former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson who later became pro-life. “It’s a little surreal, if I’m honest, to watch someone play out the worst version of yourself in a film. But it’s also just a good reminder that God can literally use anything from our past and use it for His glory and use it for His Kingdom,” she said.

FDA Mounts Aggressive Push to Regulate Stem-Cell Clinics

The Food and Drug Administration has launched a nationwide crackdown on stem-cell clinics, issuing letters of warning and threatening civil actions that could shut them down if they refuse to comply with FDA regulations. On Wednesday, the FDA sent correspondence to 20 clinics around the country, putting them on notice that they must seek FDA review and approval for their procedures. The regulatory crackdown is a paradigm change for more than 700 stem-cell clinics nationwide that have largely gone unregulated by federal authorities for over a decade. The FDA has filed civil actions against two clinics, one in Florida and another in California, in a bid to force them to comply with FDA regulatory regimes applied to major drug manufacturers. That would likely be unsustainable for small practices. Advocates for regenerative stem-cell medicine charge that Big Pharma’s influence is behind the crackdown, suggesting the FDA is being used to clear out potential competitors. They describe stem-cell therapy as a minimally invasive procedure best regulated by local medical boards.

Pentagon’s Transgender Policy Takes Effect Friday

A Pentagon policy set to go into effect Friday bars from service anyone requiring treatment for dissatisfaction with their gender identity. Implementation of the policy concerning the medical condition known as gender dysphoria was pushed by President Donald Trump and blasted by Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the policy “had no place in our country.” It had been delayed by court challenges. Currently serving troops who have been treated will be allowed to continue serving. Transgender troops must serve in their sex at birth, and must file for waivers for use of showers, bathrooms, physical fitness and other standards, according to the policy.

Mainstream Media Changes Their Tune on Border Crisis

Months after repeatedly dismissing and mocking President Trump’s claim of a national emergency at the Southern U.S. border, the mainstream media are grappling with reality, with no less than The New York Times declaring the border crisis at “breaking point.” The Washington Post’s editorial board said “there is no crisis” at the border and called Trump’s national emergency declaration “untethered from truth and reality” and a “make-believe emergency.” Fast forward, the same media outlets are now scrambling to accurately portray the border crisis, no longer fearing to quote top officials and their data, and declare that the southern border is at a “breaking point” amid a surge in the number of illegal immigrant crossings. The Times story claims that a “breaking point” has been reached in America’s immigration system, which is no longer able to cope with the unprecedented levels of illegal immigration. “The country is now unable to provide either the necessary humanitarian relief for desperate migrants or even basic controls on the number and nature of who is entering the United States,” the story notes. The Post also ran  article titled “U.S. has hit ‘breaking point’ at border amid immigration surge, Customs and Border Protection chief says.”

Judge blocks Trump’s Wait-in-Mexico Asylum Policy

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop its new policy of sending asylum-seekers who jumped the border back to Mexico to wait while their cases proceed, ruling Monday that the plan was likely illegal. Known informally as the “wait-in-Mexico policy,” and officially as the Migrant Protection Protocols, the plan was a major part of the administration’s moves to try to stem the flow of immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally. Judge Richard Seeborg, an Obama appointee to the bench, said not only does the policy violate immigration law, but Mexico is so dangerous that making asylum-seekers wait there — even if they’re not from Mexico — is untenable. He gave the government until Friday to appeal, and then his ruling will take effect. Any appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the court President Trump regularly bashes, arguing it is biased against him.

Border Update

A caravan-size influx of migrants is flooding across the border each week in just a single sector, a top Border Patrol official told lawmakers Tuesday — the latest indicator of the growing migration crisis on the southern border. Karisch said his sector has apprehended people from 50 different countries, including China, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Romania. “People are traveling across hemispheres to attempt to illegally enter the U.S., using the same pathways as the Central Americans,” he said. Karisch noted that Border Patrol has apprehended more families illegally crossing the border in the first five months of fiscal 2019 than during all of fiscal 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended more than 76,000 migrants across the border in February and said it was on track to apprehend more than 100,000 in March.

President Trump said on Wednesday he would have to mobilize more of the military at the U.S. border with Mexico after listening to stories about migrants crossing the border. The president said some of the people crossing the border were ending up dead from the journey on Americans’ ranches. “Also, they come in and raid their houses, and it’s very dangerous,” Trump said, referring to locals affected by the influx of migrants. There are currently about 5,000 active-duty and National Guard troops near the border. In February, Trump deployed an additional 3,750 U.S. troops to the country’s southwestern border to support Customs and Border Protection agents. Later that month, Democratic governors of states including Wisconsin, New Mexico and California withdrew their National Guard troops, saying there was not enough evidence of a security crisis to justify keeping them there.

Aging Population & Declining Birthrate Creating Shrinking Workforce

The Congressional Budget Office foresees the American labor force rising by only 0.5 percent a year over the coming decade, about one-third as fast as from 1950 to 2007. That is a crucial reason that economic growth is forecast to remain well below its late 20th-century levels. There are now 2.8 workers for every recipient of Social Security benefits, a rate on track to fall to 2.2 by 2035, according to the program’s trustees. In 1940, the ratio was 159.4 workers per recipient, shrinking to 5.1 in 1960, and 3.4 in 2000. Population growth in the United States has now hit its lowest level since 1937, partly because of a record-low fertility rate “I believe our biggest threat is our declining labor force,” said Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, a Republican, in his annual budget address this year. “It’s the root of every problem we face.

Congress Approves Colorado River Drought Plan

A plan to address a shrinking supply of water on a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West was approved by the U.S. House and Senate Monday. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating the Colorado River drought contingency plan. They aim to keep two key reservoirs from falling so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower. Mexico has promised to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if the U.S. legislation is approved by April 22. Arizona and Nevada would keep water in Lake Mead when it falls to certain levels. The cuts eventually would loop in California if Lake Mead’s level drops far enough. State water managers and federal officials have cited a prolonged drought, climate change and increasing demand for the river’s flows as reasons to cut back on water usage. The agreement runs through 2026.

Number of Suicidal Children’s Visits to ER Doubles

The number of children and teens in the United States who visited emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts doubled between 2007 and 2015, according to a new analysis. Researchers used publicly available data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnoses increased from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015. The findings come as no surprise to child psychiatrists. One reason for the increase in depression and suicidal behaviors is more stress and pressure on kids, said Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Parents and caregivers are also more stressed, Beresin said, adding that rates of suicides have increased in all age groups over the past 20 years and that the stress is passed down to children and teens.

U.S. Leads In Healthcare Costs, But Not Healthiness

Health care costs are growing faster than the rest of the global economy, according to the World Health Care Organization (WHO). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 34 predominantly rich countries, leads the world in healthcare expenditures, and the U.S. spends the most per capita of these wealthy countries. A third of the  OECD countries spend more than $2,000 per person each year on health care. The 12 countries with the highest health care costs, spend about twice that amount. The differences between countries is staggering, ranging from $8,047 per person in the U.S. to just $541 in the OECD country with the lowest health care expenses per capita (Turkey). Despite spending the most, the U.S. ranks 37th out of 185 countries in overall health, according to WHO.

Middle Class Shrinking Worldwide

Middle-income households are disappearing in developed countries around the world, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD warned that this could have serious consequences for nations’ economic growth and social fabric. The middle class has been under stress for years, helping fuel the rise of progressive Democrats in the United States, who are seeking to increase taxes on the rich to provide a stronger safety net — including universal health care. But while many presidential candidates point to Europe as a model, the OECD report shows that problems exist there too. The share of people in middle-income households in developed countries fell from 64% in the mid-1980s to 61% by the mid-2010s. However, the declines were larger in several countries, including the United States, Israel, Germany, Canada, Finland and Sweden. In the United States, just over 50% of the population is middle class, much smaller than most other developed countries. The report considers households earning between 75% and 200% of the median national income as middle class. Costs are going up faster than inflation in the world’s richest economies — making it harder for the middle class to keep up. Home prices, in particular, have been growing more than a third faster than median household income in recent decades. The middle class spent 32% of their budgets on housing in 2015, compared to 25% in 1985.

Thousands of Amazon Employees Listen to Alexa Conversations

Amazon employs a global team that transcribes the voice commands and feeds them back into the software to help improve Alexa’s grasp of human speech so it can respond more efficiently in the future, Bloomberg reports. Amazon reportedly employs thousands of full-time workers and contractors in several countries, including the United States, Costa Rica and Romania, to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours. The audio clips they listen to were described as “mundane” and even sometimes “possibly criminal,” including listening to a potential sexual assault. In response to the story, Amazon confirmed to CNN Business that it hires people to listen to what customers say to Alexa. But Amazon said it takes “security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously” and only uses “requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.”

  • A judge has ordered Amazon to turn over Echo smart speaker recordings from a home where police say two women were murdered, according to HLN (a national news network that airs news by day and mysteries and investigations by night).

Persecution Watch

Authorities arrested a suspect Wednesday in Louisiana believed to be responsible for the fires that destroyed three predominately black churches in 10 days in St. Landry Parish, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy, is in custody in connection with the fires which occurred at three black Baptist churches in the same parish.

Economic News

In another sign that the economy is cooling off, employers posted fewer job openings in February, after a year of mounting demand for workers. The number of postings declined by 538,000, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, down from 7.1 million in January. However, the job openings rate is still higher than it was at this time last year. The biggest drops came in the hospitality and food services sector, potentially an indication that leisure spending is weakening.

Consumer prices for U.S. shoppers increased by 0.4% in March, the biggest increase in more than a year, according to a new report from the Labor Department. This was more than expected, but core CPI up just 0.1%, below forecasts. The increase was boosted by increases in the costs of food, gasoline and rents. In the 12 months through March, the CPI increased 1.9 percent, relatively tame, supporting the Federal Reserve’s decision to stop raising interest rates.

U.S. gas prices are rising and could reach more than $4 a gallon in some states due in part to the recent flooding in the Midwest. As of Tuesday, the national gas price average reached $2.74 this week, up more than 28 cents compared to a month ago. West Coast states are seeing the fastest increases, with California leading the pack. A gallon of gas there averages $3.81. Ethanol, the biofuel added to gas to reduce emissions, is made with Midwest corn. Widespread flooding last month knocked out nearly 13 percent of the country’s ethanol production capacity.

California has the highest tax rates in the U.S. but legislators are looking for new sources of revenue. As Californians grapple with that 13.3 percent income tax,  lawmakers in Sacramento are looking at a range of other revenue sources such as levies on water, soda and tires. Members of the legislature’s Democratic supermajority argue that these new taxes are vital to shore up the state coffers and to provide crucial services such as repairing crumbling infrastructure, cleaning up toxic wells and fighting obesity. Overall, the California Tax Foundation has added up more than $6.2 billion worth of tax increase proposals pending in the state legislature. But the state’s minority Republican leaders bemoan these new proposals, arguing that the new charges would only worsen the state’s mounting affordability and housing challenges.

  • Socialism is running amok in California and Californians are leaving the state in droves. Soon, there won’t be enough workers to fund the taxation black hole.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the United States would impose tariffs on $11 billion of products from the European Union, a day after the U.S. Trade Representative proposed a list of targeted products as retaliation for European aircraft subsidies. While the size of the tariffs is small compared with the hundreds of billions the U.S. and China are taxing in their trade war, it suggests a breakdown in talks with the European Union over trade at a time when the economy is already slowing sharply. The U.S. and EU have been negotiating since last year about how to avoid tariffs that President Donald Trump has wanted to impose to reduce a trade deficit with countries like Germany.

Britain

After marathon, late-night talks, European Union leaders agreed to delay Britain’s departure from the EU, known as Brexit, by six months. The last-minute extension until Oct. 31 was announced early Thursday in Brussels following an emergency summit. Britain was due to leave the EU on Friday. The delay is intended to give British Prime Minister Theresa May more time to get her Brexit deal through Parliament. It has been rejected three times already.  It also prevents, for now, Britain leaving the bloc without a formal exit deal.

Israel

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his seat for an unprecedented 5th term as his Likud party won 35 seats in the 21st Knesset and parties winning sufficient seats to form a majority government pledged to support his continued premiership. The Blue and White party led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz also won 35 seats, but has insufficient support from smaller parties to form a majority. However, Netanyahu’s victory comes amid mounting corruption accusations over the past year which are still under investigation.

Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, will not be allowed into the United States. The American government denied Barghouti’s entry on Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. While BDS’ stated goal is to “isolate” Israel culturally and economically, the movement and its adherents frequently face accusations of anti-Semitism based on their rhetoric and their single-minded focus on the world’s only Jewish state for condemnation, ignoring the host of nations with far worse human rights records, including several that have large Palestinian populations, like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Barghouti is a staunch critic of economic normalization between Israeli and Palestinian businesses, and supports the “armed struggle against Israel” according to the Meir Amit Center.

Islamic State

The U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not over, despite a declaration of victory against the group’s last remaining stronghold in eastern Syria last month. In the week following the March 23 victory declaration by Syrian and Kurdish partner forces, the coalition conducted 52 strikes in Iraq and Syria, “While the completion of territorial liberation is a major milestone, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners in Iraq and Syria to deny ISIS the opportunity to re-emerge,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson told ABC News. The Islamic State has amassed a war chest of as much as $300 million and continues to exploit a string of revenue streams that are likely to enable the group to finance a covert network in Iraq, Syria and further afield despite the complete physical collapse of its so-called caliphate.

Iran

President Trump announced Monday the U.S. will formally designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a foreign terrorist organization.” This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” Trump said in a statement that described the IRGC as “the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.” Iran warned last weekend that if the U.S. went ahead with the designation, Tehran would retaliate by designating the US military as a terrorist organization in return.

Libya

Clashes between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated on Monday as the death toll from days of fighting rose to at least 51, including both combatants and civilians, and the city’s only functioning airport said it was hit by an airstrike. The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Hifter who last week launched the push on Tripoli, acknowledged striking the Mitiga airport, barely five miles east of the city center. Hifter’s forces have clashed with rival militias which support the U.N.-backed government that controls Tripoli and the western part of the country. The escalation has threatened to plunge the fractured North African nation deeper into chaos and ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The U.N. said the latest fighting has displaced some 3,400 people and blocked emergency services from reaching casualties and civilians.

Sudan

Sudan’s military arrested President Omar al-Bashir, ousting him from power in the wake of escalating protests against his 30-year rule, the defense minister announced Thursday. He said the military will rule the country for the next two years with an emergency clampdown. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup, leading an alliance of the military and Islamist hard-liners. He was condemned by the international war crimes tribunal for atrocities in Darfur. Tens of thousands of Sudanese converged throughout the day at the protest movement’s main sit-in outside the military’s General Command Headquarters, cheering, singing and dancing after word emerged in the morning that al-Bashir would be removed. But the announcement that finally came appeared to confirm the fears of many protesters that the military would shrug off demands for a civilian transition. Defense Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf announced that the military also suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country’s borders and airspace and imposed a night curfew for one month.

Afghanistan

The Taliban announced Friday the start of their spring offensive despite talking peace with the United States and ahead of a significant gathering of Afghans meant to discuss resolutions to the protracted war and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country. Insurgents carry out daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces and NATO troops, inflicting many casualties, including civilians. Most recently, a Taliban attack near the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on Monday. At least 16 people were killed and 30 injured when a bomb ripped through a vegetable market in Quetta in southwestern Pakistan early Friday. Eight of the dead were Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority group that has repeatedly been the target of Sunni extremists. The Taliban now hold sway over half the country after a relentless 17-year war, America’s longest. The U.N.’s annual report earlier this year said civilian deaths hit a record high last year. Still, preparations are underway for Afghan-to-Afghan talks starting next week in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military style weapons, less than a month after mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch left 50 people dead and dozens wounded. A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives after an accelerated process of debate and public submission. The bill needs only the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday.

Earthquakes

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island Friday evening. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the powerful quake struck around Friday 6:40 p.m. local time at a depth of 10.5 miles. The epicenter of the quake is located beneath the sea about 149 miles from Kandari City. No cities have been impacted, according to reports.

Weather

Winter Storm Wesley continued to wreak havoc on Minnesota and the Dakotas Friday morning, closing schools and government offices, knocking out power to thousands and prompting a state of emergency in Minnesota. For a third straight day, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed government offices Friday in most of the state’s 66 counties. About 30,000 people remained without power across South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa as of 7 a.m. Friday. Jackson County in Minnesota reported more than 100 power poles had been knocked down by high winds. Blizzard warnings continued Friday morning in parts of South Dakota but were expected to expire by 1 p.m. local time.

At least 10 people have died in Rio de Janeiro after a torrential downpour caused flooding. Torrents of water gushed down streets, sweeping up cars and uprooting trees after rains that began around rush hour Monday evening. Schools were closed Tuesday and people urged to avoid non-essential travel. City officials said 6 inches of rain fell in just four hours Monday night, more than the average for the whole month of April. The botanical garden neighborhood, a tourist destination, was one of the most badly hit areas, receiving 9 inches in a 24-hour period. Firefighters in that neighborhood wadws through knee-deep water pulling a small boatload of children evacuated from a school bus on a flooded street.

Global warming’s ripple effects are creating never-before-seen changes in the Arctic’s biophysical system and beyond, according to a new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. The results showed transformations in the growing seasons for plant life, an increase in precipitation, accelerated ice melt and glacier shrinking, among other far-reaching changes. Warmer temperatures are causing plants to bloom at different times, confusing bees and affecting pollination. The study found that average temperatures in the Arctic had increased about 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1971. Another new study by the University of Zurich shows that our planet’s glaciers are melting away at a pace of 390 billion tons of ice and snow per year. The world’s seas have risen about an inch in the past 50 years just due to glacier melt alone.

  • Extreme changes in the weather are prophesied in the Bible for the end-times (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)