Signs of the Times (4/10/21)

April 10, 2021

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Supreme Court Again Blocks California Covid Restrictions on Religious Activities

The Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote on Friday blocked yet another state’s Covid-19 restrictions on religious services, over protests from California officials that the limits affecting some Bible study sessions did not impinge on religious rights. The unsigned order for the high court majority also revealed the deep ideological fissure, with conservatives (including the three appointees of former President Donald Trump) in control and liberals dissenting bitterly. Chief Justice John Roberts also dissented, although he did not sign the statement by the three justices on the left, written by Justice Elena Kagan.

Judge Rules Christian Student Group Can Require its Leaders to Be Christians

A Christian student group at a college in Michigan will not be punished for requiring leaders in the group to agree to a statement of faith, a judge ruled Monday. The group, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Wayne State University, had initially had their official student club status revoked in October 2017 because of the requirement, The Christian Post reports. The college called the group’s policy for leadership positions “discriminatory.” Without official club recognition status, InterVarsity could not reserve meeting rooms for free or apply for certain campus funding. The group filed a lawsuit in March 2018 against WSU’s board of governors, board members and administrators. This week, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Robert H. Cleland ruled that the actions of the university “strike at the heart” of the First Amendment and are “obviously odious to the Constitution.”

Biden’s Budget Proposes 16 % Increase in Spending on His Domestic Priorities

The Biden administration is proposing a 16 percent increase in federal spending on domestic priorities including education, fighting climate change and reducing poverty as part of a $1.52 trillion funding request the White House sent to Congress on Friday. The request, which comes on top of President Biden’s plans to seek trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending, is for the fiscal year beginning in October. It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or spending on so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, all of which will be included in a formal budget request the White House will release later this spring. But it lays out Mr. Biden’s priorities and shows his willingness to use the power — and purse-strings — of the federal government to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment by the government in the nation’s most pressing domestic problems.

  • The rapidly rising federal debt will now rise even faster until it implodes and causes economic disaster.

Biden Announces Gun Control Executive/Legislative Actions, Cites ‘Public Health Crisis’

President Biden on Thursday announced a set of executive actions and legislative proposals on gun control, saying that gun violence is “a public health crisis” and the administration’s actions do not contravene Second Amendment rights. “Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “These are phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake from what we’re talking about.” Biden also declared that “no amendment is absolute.”

  • Apparently he believes the Constitution can be twisted to be anything he wants it to be. And Biden ignores the impact of the ‘defund-the-police’ movement on the rise of ‘gun violence’.
  • Biden is asking the Justice Department (DOJ) to propose within a month a rule to stop “ghost guns,” which are “kits” people can buy legally to assemble a functioning firearm that does not have a serial number. Biden is also asking the DOJ to propose within 60 days a rule on braces used for handguns, which make them more accurate; to propose action on “community violence intervention”; to publish suggestions for “red flag” legislation; and is asking his administration to issue a report on gun trafficking. In addition, Biden called on the Senate to “immediately pass three House-passed bills to close loopholes that allow gun purchases, purchasers, to bypass the background checks.”

Gun Rights Groups Say Biden’s Gun Orders Are Tyrannical

One of the largest gun rights groups in the country said it is preparing to fight a slew of executive actions from the Biden administration, claiming they’re “tyrannical” and that they will “spare no expense” in defeating them. “Gun Owners of America is wholeheartedly opposed to the unconstitutional gun control threatened today by President Biden—restrictions such as the attacks on homemade and brace equipped firearms and so-called ‘Red Flag’ Gun Confiscation Orders,” GOA said. GOA’s statement suggested that Biden’s executive action would indeed violate the Constitution and are not “phony arguments.” The National Rifle Association stipulated that Biden’s “actions could require Americans to surrender lawful property and push states to expand confiscation orders.”

  • Ultimately, it will be up to the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality.

Arizona’s Governor Signs Bill Protecting State Gun Laws from Federal Legislation

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a gun rights law this week that preemptively protects gun owners in the state from any federal gun control laws that are passed. The Second Amendment Freedom Act was signed two days before President Biden announced several executive gun control actions. The bill doesn’t change any current state laws. State Rep. Leo Biasiucci, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said, “If the federal government does anything that tries to infringe on our Second Amendment in the state of Arizona, we’re not going to comply.”

110 Million Now Vaccinated in U.S. but States Ordering Falls Short & 40% of Marines Say No Thanks

The number of people in the U.S. who have now received at least one dose of vaccine is now over 110 million, representing 41% of the eligible population and 33% of the total population. But hundreds of thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses are going unordered by states, spurring calls for a new allocation approach. States have different explanations for not ordering their full allocations each week, including difficulty matching first and second doses. But experts say nothing should be left on the shelves amid outbreaks, putting pressure on the White House to make the most of an expanding supply while avoiding the appearance of favoring some states over others. In addition, nearly 40% of U.S. Marines are declining Covid-19 vaccinations, the first military branch to disclose service-wide numbers on acceptance and declination. About 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive vaccines.

Women and People Under 40 Suffer Most Vaccine Side Effects, Moderna More than Pfizer

Women and people under 40 years old are more likely to experience side effects from COVID-19 vaccines, an expert told The Post on Friday. “Women and younger people have more local reactions — a sore arm, a day of not feeling so well, or aches and pains,” according to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert from Vanderbilt University. More people who received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine reported side effects than recipients of the Pfizer shot, according to a recent study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in the online journal JAMA. Almost 70% of those who received the Moderna vaccine said they experienced an adverse reaction at the injection site such as pain or swelling, while about half reported side effects like chills or fatigue. About 74% of Moderna recipients reported an adverse reaction following a single dose, with 82% reporting side effects after the second dose, compared to 65% of Pfizer recipients after the first dose and 68% after the second.

European Union: COVID-19 Vaccine has ‘Clear Association’ with Brain Blood Clots

Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other nations have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over concerns it is linked to blood clots. The manufacturer denies any link, but an official with with the European Union’s agency in charge of evaluating medicines believes there is a “clear association” between the two. Marco Cavaleri, the chairman of the the European Medicines Agency team evaluating the vaccine, said that in his opinion, “we can now say it, it is clear that there is an association (of the brain blood clots) with the vaccine.”

Johnson & Johnson Unable to Meet Orders Due to Loss of 15 Million Doses

Vaccine maker Johnson & Johnson will not be able to deliver 24 million doses by the end of April as the company had previously promised. Fifteen million doses had to be scrapped due to contamination in a subcontractor facility. Next week, the government will supply only 700,000, rather than 5 million, doses of its single-shot vaccine. To date, the J&J vaccine has contributed far less to the climbing U.S. vaccination rate than have the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Covid-19 Cases in U.S. Rising Again, Daily Deaths Keep Dropping

There has been a 12% increase in the daily number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. over the past two weeks. The seven-day average is now around 68,000 new cases per day. The daily number of deaths, though, continues to decline, down 25% over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations, however, are up 7%. Cases continue to soar in five states (New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) who account for 43% of all new U.S. cases. Michigan is averaging more than 6,600 cases a day over a week now against 1,350 daily cases five weeks ago. Many other states (like Arizona) are experiencing slight but continued increases in new cases.

UK Variant Now the Most Dominant Strain in U.S.

The coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain of coronavirus in the United States, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. Studies have suggested that the UK variant is more contagious than the original strain, is possibly more dangerous and associated with a higher risk of death.

UK Variant Causing Covid Resurgence in Europe

The highly contagious UK B.1.1.7 variant has fueled an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in parts of Europe. The difference between previous surges and another possible surge now is the people most affected now are the younger individuals. “We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand new virus,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously.” The people who are now getting hospitalized by large numbers are people in their 30s and 40s.

Iran Declares New Lockdown over Fourth Wave of Covid-19

Iran on Saturday began a 10-day lockdown amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, state TV reported, a worrisome trend after more than a year of the country battling the Middle East’s worst outbreak. Iran’s coronavirus task force, charged with determining virus restrictions, ordered most shops closed and offices restricted to one-third capacity in cities declared as “red-zones.” The capital Tehran and 250 other cities and towns across the country have been declared red zones. They have the highest virus positivity rates and the most severe restrictions in place. Over 85% of the country now has either a red or orange infection status, authorities said.

Brazil Covid Cases/Deaths Surging with No End in Sight

An already bad COVID situation is worsening in Brazil, which on Tuesday reported it blew past the 4,000-death mark for the first time, reporting 4,195 deaths in the past 24 hours. “If Brazil keeps the current pace, the country will probably reach 5,000 daily deaths in April,” a researcher at Brazilian health institute Fiocruz said. (The U.S. one-day peak was 4,476, and our population is about one-third bigger). President Jair Bolsonaro remained staunchly against imposing any quarantine measures, which he says would cause economic hurt worse than that of the virus. Epidemiologist Ethel Maciel says that “at the rate we’re vaccinating”—an estimated 8% to 9% of Brazilians have gotten at least one shot—”the only way to slow the extremely fast spread of the virus is an effective lockdown for at least 20 days.”

One-Third of Covid Survivors Left With Neurological Symptoms Months Later

A major study published Tuesday suggests as many as one in three people infected with Covid-19 are left with longer term mental health or neurological symptoms. Researchers found that 34% of coronavirus survivors received a diagnosis for a neurological or psychological condition within six months of infection, according to the research published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry. The most common diagnosis was anxiety, found in 17% of those treated for Covid-19, followed by mood disorders, found in 14% of patients. “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after Covid-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors,” said Maxime Taquet.

Disinfectant Probably Isn’t Needed, CDC Says Due to Low Transmission Probability

The run on Lysol and other disinfectants may finally be over. Disinfection to reduce transmission of COVID-19 at home is probably not needed unless someone in your home is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within 24 hours, the CDC says in new guidance. There is a less than a 1-in-10,000 chance of catching COVID-19 from surfaces, according to a Monday update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the amount of germs on surfaces and, in most situations, removes most virus particles on surfaces, the CDC  says. 

More States/Countries Moving Toward Vaccine Passports

Starting next week, California will require that large groups can only meet if they demand participants show COVID vaccine passports or a recent negative test. This started in New York, then spread to Nevada and Hawaii. Now every state is under pressure from the Biden-Harris administration to enact vaccine passports, preferably digital. Your right to travel, shop, dine or attend public events is threatened by these digital vaccine passports.” Twenty-one nations have enacted vaccine passports or have announced specific plans to do so. In addition, 29 airlines or representative parent companies are testing the “Travel Pass Initiative” to launch this spring. Also, 22 cruise line companies are mandating that their passengers receive a COVID vaccine before boarding their ships.

  • “This is the high-tech equivalent of the Nazi demand of ‘Papers, please,’” writes Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

Texas Bans COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order barring so-called “vaccine passports” that would require Texans to show proof of vaccination before using a service or making a purchase. Abbott’s move follows a similar order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who cited privacy concerns as a reason for doing so. According to Abbott, the order exempts nursing homes and long-term care facilities. So-called “vaccine passport” systems have been proposed in several countries and some airlines have floated the idea. New York state started rolling out its “Excelsior” system that would require New Yorkers to show proof of vaccination at major events, although it is reportedly plagued by errors.

Immigrant Surge at Border Continues to Accelerate

Border officials encountered 172,000 migrants at the border in March, a 71% increase from February and the latest indicator of the extent of the crisis at the southern border. Of the 172,000 migrants encountered, the majority were single adults, and included 18,890 unaccompanied children — a 100% increase from the already high numbers encountered in February, and the highest number on record. While single adults and family units can be returned via Title 42 public health protections, the administration has not been applying it to unaccompanied children. Meanwhile, Mexico has been refusing to take back family units with children under the age of seven. In March, 103,900 individuals were expelled under Title 42, representing 60% of total encounters. However, many migrants are released directly into the interior. U.S., even as pictures have emerged of packed facilities for migrant children.

  • President Biden last month downplayed the surge in migrants coming to the southern border, saying surges happen “every year” — but while that is the case, the numbers released Thursday show that the current surge is dwarfing anything in recent memory.

Biden Administration Spending $60M per Week to Shelter Unaccompanied Minors

The Biden administration appears to be spending at least $60 million per week to care for the more than 16,000 migrant teenagers and children in shelters operated by Health and Human Services, and those costs are expected to rise significantly over the coming months, according to an analysis of government data obtained by The Washington Post. With a record number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border over the last several weeks, HHS quickly filled the beds in its network of permanent shelters, where capacity has been reduced by covid protocols. The administration has raced to set up at least 10 large emergency facilities in convention centers, converted oil worker camps and military bases.

1,370 Children in San Antonio Expo Center where Child Abuse Allegations have Surfaced

On March 29, 500 male children between the ages of 13 and 17 were taken to the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio. As of Monday, that number had skyrocketed to 1,370. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on President Biden to shut down the facility after the Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services received complaints of child abuse taking place there. Abbott said this included allegations of sexual assault, a failure to separate children infected with COVID-19 from others, children not eating, and an insufficient number of staffers.

  • Meanwhile, VP Kamala Harris has gone 17 days without a news conference since being tapped as the point person for the border crisis.

NY Sets Aside $2.1 Billion Coronavirus Relief for Undocumented Immigrants

New York lawmakers struck a deal this week to establish a $2.1 billion coronavirus relief fund for undocumented immigrants and other unemployed workers who were ineligible for federal aid during the pandemic. The fund, which was announced as part of a broader $212 billion state budget agreement, will offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants who lost their jobs during the virus-induced crisis. In order to qualify for the money, individuals must prove they are New York residents who were ineligible for unemployment benefits and stimulus checks due to their immigration status. They will also need to demonstrate that they lost income during the pandemic. Other illegal immigrants who are unable to show the same level of verification will be eligible to receive $3,200 – the same amount that many Americans received from the three stimulus checks approved by Congress this year and last. 

Supreme Court Justice Thomas Suggests Big Tech be Regulated Like Utilities

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that Big Tech firms could be regulated like utilities in a 23-page opinion to the Supreme Court’s rejection of a lawsuit over Trump’s blocking of certain Twitter users from commenting on his posts before his account was taken down. “Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties,” Thomas wrote Monday. Thomas wrote that modern technology isn’t easily addressed by existing laws and regulations. He warned that the Supreme Court may “soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

YouTube Purges Anti-Mask Video with Health Experts on COVID-19

YouTube has purged a video of a panel discussion hosted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with health experts from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford whose advice informed his decision to ease COVID-19 restrictions last year. The Google-owned video platform didn’t like the fact that the experts thought children didn’t need to wear masks. A YouTube representative said the position on masks violated YouTube’s “COVID-19 medical misinformation” policies. The panel members at the forum in March were former White House coronvirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University, Oxford epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, Harvard professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford.

  • This is outright censorship. Apparently, ‘follow the science’ only applies to science YouTube agrees with.

Economic News

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000 from 728,000 the previous week, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.

For the week ending March 27, 3.7 million people were receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. If you include supplemental federal programs that were established last year to help the unemployed endure the health crisis, a total of 18.2 million are receiving some form of jobless aid the week of March 20.

$5 billion in stimulus funds have been tabbed ​for reducing homelessness in the U.S. The Biden Administration aims to get 130,000 people off the streets and into a shelter of some sort. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said in an announcement that the money, allocated under the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, could be used for rental assistance, affordable housing development and sheltering people in hotels.

Homeowners across the U.S. saw their property tax bill get significantly more expensive last year. Total property taxes levied on single-family homes in 2020 were $323 billion, up 5.4% from the year before, the biggest average increase in four years. The average property tax for a single-family home was $3,719, up 4.4% from $3,561 in 2019.

The S&P 500 stock index hit another all-time high Wednesday. The S&P 500 index tracks the largest 500 companies. Smaller companies are not faring as well during the pandemic.

U.S. and Iran Began Indirect Nuclear Talks in Vienna

Efforts to bring the United States back into the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program stepped up a gear Tuesday as Iran and the five world powers still in the accord met in Vienna while the United States is due to start indirect talks with Tehran. Following the closed meetings of the signatories to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Russia’s delegate, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that the initial talks were successful. “The restoration of JCPOA will not happen immediately. It will take some time,” he wrote. At the meeting, participants agreed to establish two expert-level groups, one on the lifting of sanctions and one on nuclear issues, which were “tasked to identify concrete measures to be taken by Washington and Tehran to restore full implementation of JCPOA,” Ulyanov tweeted. Through intermediaries, Iran agreed to join the U.S. in working with the two working groups.

Jordan Foiled ‘Malicious Plot’ Against King Abdullah, Prince Arrested

A senior Jordanian official on Sunday accused the country’s former crown prince of conspiring with foreign elements in a “malicious plot” that threatened national security. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters that the plot had been foiled at the “zero hour.” “Then it was clear they moved from design and planning into action,” Safadi said. He says some 14-16 people are under arrest. Safadi spoke a day after Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of King Abdullah II, was placed under house arrest, in a rare public clash between top members of the long-ruling family. The unprecedented incident has raised concerns about stability in a country seen as a key Western ally in a volatile region. The former ‘crown prince’ has pledged support for the King and was subsequently released from house arrest.

Netanyahu Chosen to Form Israel’s Next Government

After President Reuven Rivlin held a round of consultations on Monday with all parties elected to the 24th Knesset, he announced early Tuesday afternoon that he had selected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government. At the end of the round of consultations, 52 Members of Knesset (MK) nominated the prime minister and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. Forty-five MKs recommended head of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid and seven MKs nominated chair of Yamina Naftali Bennet.

Republicans Delay Renewal of U.S. Aid to Palestinians

Two Republicans have thrown a roadblock in front of the $75 million the Biden Administration wants to give to the Palestinian Authority, saying there must be a quid pro quo from the Palestinians, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.      Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden’s team in the past two weeks announced a series of foreign aid grants to the Palestinians totaling almost $300 million. Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, used their authority to temporarily block $75 million that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had allocated for the Palestinian Authority. The two called out the Biden Administration for not ensuring that the Palestinians are complying with U.S. anti-terror legislation that conditions the transfer of funds to the Palestinians on not using it for endorsing terrorism. “The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people,” they said.

Militants Attack, and 1.8K Prisoners Escape in Nigeria

Militants armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades launched a series of coordinated attacks overnight in southeastern Nigeria, targeting a prison where more than 1,800 inmates then managed to escape, authorities said Monday. The attacks began around 2am in the town of Owerri in Imo state and lasted for about two hours, according to local resident Uche Okafor. Gunmen also assaulted various other police and military buildings. Anti-government separatists have been active in that part of the country for some time. The coordinated attacks come less than two weeks after another wave of violence in southeastern Nigeria, when at least a dozen security officers were killed during attacks on four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles.

Ten Killed In Suicide Bomb Attack In Somali Capital

At least 10 people were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber struck makeshift kiosks in the Somali capital, hitting hours after al Shabaab Islamist militants attacked two National Army bases outside the city, the government said. “A suicide bomber blew up himself under trees where poor mothers sold tea, milk and (narcotic leaf) khat,” Information Ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar told Reuters, adding that more people were wounded in the attack. There was no immediate comment from the al Shabaab, which had earlier claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Bariire and Awdhigle army bases.

Environment: Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest in Over 3 Million Years

The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is now higher than it has been in at least 3.6 million years, federal scientists announced Wednesday. At that time, sea levels were as much as 78 feet higher, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, Greenland was mostly green, and Antarctica had trees. Overall, levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane – the two most important greenhouse gases – continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane has caused the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere to rise to levels that cannot be explained by natural causes, the scientists say. 

  • 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)

Environment: Wastewater Pond Threatens Neighborhood with 20-Foot Wall of Polluted Waters

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads with a 20-foot wall of polluted waters. Officials in Florida evacuated homes and closed off a highway Saturday near the large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton. Residents who live a mile north and a half-mile south of the pond received an alert via text saying to leave the area immediately because the collapse was “imminent.” The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said a break was detected Friday in one of the walls of a 77-acre pond that has a depth of 25 feet and holds millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant.

  • Officials hope that pumping more than 30 million gallons of wastewater out of the reservoir into the Tampa Bay ecosystem will relieve pressure on the walls and reduce the chance of an uncontrolled major breach. Of course, that will increase pollution levels in the bay. With pumps still belching out millions of gallons of wastewater, Manatee County officials have approved a plan they hope will be a permanent solution to the Piney Point phosphate ponds that forced evacuations over catastrophic failure fears. The wastewater remaining in the three retention ponds at Piney Point would be treated and pumped deep into the underground Floridan Aquifer.

Earthquakes

At least seven people are dead after a strong earthquake rattled Indonesia’s main island of Java. At least two other people were seriously injured. More than 300 houses sustained damage from mild to severe. The magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck off of Java’s southern coast at 2 p.m. local time Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered about 27 miles south of Gongdanglegi Kulon in East Java province, at a depth of 51 miles.

An explosive eruption rocked La Soufrière volcano Thursday on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent less than a day after volcanologists warned of the potential of such a disaster and as island officials rushed to evacuate the thousands of people most at risk. The eruption shot a plume of ash nearly 5 miles into the sky. Ashfall reached the country’s airport on the opposite end of the island nation. A second eruption occurred Friday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths. Authorities urged those living in the so-called “red zone” closest to the volcano to “leave immediately.” Cots, tents, and respirator masks poured into the eastern island on Saturday for the thousands of people who evacuated their homes under government orders.

A 4.0 magnitude earthquake jolted the Lennox area of Los Angeles County early Monday morning, according to the United States Geological Survey. Lennox is an unincorporated area just a few miles east of Los Angeles International Airport. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Wildfires

A lightning-caused fire that began on Friday about 60 miles east of Yuma burned more than 2,100 acres and was 50%contained as of Sunday evening, according to fire officials. The Gila Fire began at about 7:15 a.m. April 2 along the Gila River bottom just north of Interstate 8 in Dateland, the Bureau of Land Management said in an update on Inciweb. As of about 7 p.m. Sunday it was measured at 2,130 acres. No structures in the area were threatened as of Sunday, however, some powerlines were, the bureau said.

Weather

Torrential rain from a tropical system has caused landslides and flooding that has left 113 people dead and dozens more missing in Indonesia and neighboring East Timor. At least 70 people died in Indonesia and 21 died in East Timor over last weekend. Early Monday, the system strengthened into Tropical Cyclone Seroja in the Savu Sea off of Kupang in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province. It was moving southwest well off the northwest Australia coast.

Severe weather tore through the South on Friday, felling trees, flooding rivers and threatening homes as the system moved east. The community of Orange Beach, Ala. saw their car windshields shattered by hail the size of baseballs, and quarter-sized hail pelted Texas’s Dallas-Fort Worth area. WJTV confirmed that a tornado touched down in Rankin County, Mississippi. Nearby, trees and powerlines fell on a mobile home and vehicle at Lake Harbor and in neighboring Louisiana. At least one person is dead and seven injured in Lousiana after severe weather ripped across the South Friday. Six homes and six trailers were destroyed. The area was hit by multiple rounds of storms that went on to damage other parts of the state as well. Buildings were damaged in an eastern Tennessee town during severe weather late Thursday afternoon. A tornado passed through Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, shortly after 4 p.m. The storm produced a tornado that was rated EF0 intensity with winds of 80 mph. A school, community center and a nursing home were damaged.

Signs of the Times (4/3/21)

April 3, 2021

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Over 500 Preborn Babies Saved in 40 Days for Life’s Spring Prayer Campaign

Organizers of 40 Days for Life are announcing that they know of more than 500 preborn children who were saved from abortion during the spring campaign, which ran from February 17 through March 28. 40 Days for Life began in Texas in 2007, and today reaches 1000 cities in 63 countries. It is a targeted campaign of prayer, fasting, and an around-the-clock peaceful vigil outside abortion facilities.

Secretary of State Blinken Says Killing Babies in Abortions is a “Human Right”

President Biden’s Secretary of State thinks killing innocent unborn children in abortions is somehow a “human right” even though abortions take human lives. In his remarks on the State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken promised that the Biden administration would start promoting abortion. Blinken touted Biden’s decision early in his presidency to force Americans to fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business and its global abortion agenda. “It is one of many steps – along with revoking the Mexico City Policy, withdrawing from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, resuming support for the United Nations Population Fund – that we are taking to promote women’s health and equity at home and abroad. Because women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights,” Blinken stated.

Biden Puts Pro-Life Groups on Domestic Extremist List

President Biden’s administration put pro-life activists on a list of “domestic violent extremists” in a new report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The report did not name specific groups or individuals, but it did identify several “threat categories” of extremists, including pro-lifers and abortion activists, animal rights activists, anti-government groups and anarchists, and racist groups. “Abortion-related domestic violent extremists” have “ideological agendas in support of pro-life or pro-choice beliefs,” the report states.

Gallup: Church Membership Fell Below Majority in 2020

The majority of Americans do not belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque as of 2020 according to the latest poll from Gallup, which also found that most Americans do not consider religion to be very important to them. The survey found: 47% of Americans said they belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque; 48% of Americans said that religion is very important to them; 66% of Americans age 75 or older are members of a church; 58% of baby boomers belong to a church; 50% of Generation X belong to a church; and only 36% of millennials belong to a church.

In Three Recent Mass Shootings, Networks Quick to Erroneously Blame a ‘White Male’

 Three tragic mass shootings over the past couple of weeks were perpetrated by a Syrian, a Hispanic and a Black man, who was a Nation of Islam follower. But in each case some networks rushed to judgment and blamed each of them on a White male before the true information came out. Why would they do this? Because now being White, male, conservative or Christian is what the ‘work’ people despise and are eager to blame everything wrong on them. The truth, however, undermines  their ongoing progressive narrative.

Pace of Coronavirus Vaccinations Accelerating in U.S.

The pace of coronavirus vaccinations is picking up, increasing from 2.5 million a day last week to 2.7 million this past week. U.S. is now administering about 18.8 million doses per week, up from 11.5 million just a month ago and 8.1 million two months ago. About 17% of the U.S. population has now been fully vaccinated with 31% having received at least one dose, representing 38% of the eligible population. To get the vaccines into more arms faster, about half of U.S. states will open up their vaccination efforts to all adults by mid-April, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients says. In all, 46 states and the District of Columbia have already pledged to meet President Biden’s goal of having all Americans eligible for a vaccine by May 1.

New York Issues Vaccine Passport App, First in Nation

Starting Friday, New Yorkers will be able to pull up a code on their cell phone or a printout to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the virus that causes it. The first-in-the-nation certification, called the Excelsior Pass, will be useful first at large-scale venues like Madison Square Garden, but next week will be accepted at dozens of event, arts and entertainment venues statewide. It already enables people to increase the size of a wedding party, or other catered event. The app, championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support the recovery of industries most affected by the pandemic, is funded by the state and available for free to businesses and anyone with vaccination records or test results in New York. Like an airline boarding pass, people will be able to prove their health status with a digital QR code – or “quick response” machine-readable label.

Florida Governor Signs Executive Order Banning ‘Vaccine Passports’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed an executive order that bars the usage “vaccine passports,” becoming the first governor in the United States to take action against what civil liberties groups say is a potential privacy nightmare. The Republican governor’s order comes after unconfirmed reports that the Biden administration could be working on implementing a vaccine passport-type system in the United States. On Monday, the governor said he would forbid local governments and businesses in Florida from requiring vaccine passports, or documents showing one has been vaccinated for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Vaccine Passport is Not the Mark of the Beast, But a Precursor

While some Christians are worried that the coming vaccine passports are the Mark of the Beast, they do not (yet) meet the Biblical definition which is that the ‘mark’ (most likely a computer chip) would be placed on the hand or forehead, without which no one would be able to buy or sell anything. Even if the vaccines carry a microchip into our body, it would still not be in the hand or forehead. However, these so-called passports are a precursor to the Mark of the Beast to come, making people more used to the idea of autocratic government control over their lives. God will make it clear to believers when that time comes (probably in the next 5-10 years).

  • He [the ‘beast’] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)
  • Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)

Vaccines Not 100% Effective, It’s No Surprise that People Are Getting Covid After Vaccinations

With vaccines anywhere from 75% to 96% effective, that means that 4% to 25% of vaccinated people can still get infected. So it is not surprising to hear that 102 people have tested positive in Washington state for COVID-19 even after getting fully vaccinated, authorities said Tuesday. That number represents 0.1 percent of people in the state who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Eight of the patients required hospitalization and two, both over 80 years old with underlying health issues, died.

  • The vaccines reduce the probability of getting infected, they do not guarantee immunity.

Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines 90% Effective after Two Doses

After two doses in a study of real-life conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in preventing people from getting infected by the coronavirus. In the study of 3,950 health-care personnel, police, firefighters, and other essential workers, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots reduced the risk of infection by 80 percent after one shot, which increased to 90% after the second shot.

Millions of J&J Vaccine Discarded in Manufacturing Error

The production error that occurred at Emergent BioSolutions and saw millions of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine discarded does not impact already distributed doses, the White House said on Friday. Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that all doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that have already been distributed in the U.S. have come from a different FDA-approved facility. Workers at the Baltimore production facility reportedly mixed ingredients from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with those from the yet-to-be-approved AstraZeneca vaccine. Emergent BioSolutions has a history of citations from the FDA for issues regarding poorly trained employees, cracked vials and mold at one of its facilities.

40 Million Vaccine Doses Unused or Wasted

While 140 million doses have been administered across the nation as of last Saturday, another 40 million doses delivered to state health agencies and private pharmacies have thus far gone unused or just been wasted. The U.S. was averaging about 2.5 million jabs per day last week, so 40 million doses equals more than two weeks of shots.

UK Miscarriages Increase 366% in 6 Weeks Due to Covid Vaccines

Official data released by the British government shows that coronavirus (Covid-19) injections are killing unborn babies at an alarming rate. The latest Medicines and Healthcare produce Regulatory Agency’s Yellow Card Scheme report, dated Dec. 9, 2020, through March 7, 2021, reveals a whopping 366 percent increase in the rate of miscarriages following vaccinations. The British government already warned pregnant women that they might not want to take the shot due to “no or limited” data showing its safety or efficacy in pregnant women.

U.S. Death Rate Rose 16% in 2020 an Increase of 450,000 over 2019

More than 3.3 million people in the U.S. died in 2020, for a rate of about 829 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s up from about 715 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019, an increase of 16%. That’s an increase of about 450,000 over 2019’s total of 2.85 million total deaths, according to the CDC. Prior to 2019, total deaths were fairly constant with 2.84 million in 2018 and 2.81 million in 2017.

  • Call it what you will – virus, flu, hoax – something new and extreme happened in 2020 to drastically increase the number of deaths in the U.S.

Covid-19 Cases Up 19% Over Past Two Weeks in U.S., But Deaths Down 31%

Over the past week, there has been a 7-day average of 64,730 cases per day in the U.S. , an increase of 20 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Case numbers continue to rise amid growing outbreaks in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Infection numbers are relatively low in much of the South and West. Far fewer deaths are being reported at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where many residents are now vaccinated and visitors are being allowed to return. Deaths, however, are down 31%

WHO-China Report Says Animals Most Likely Source of COVID, But WHO’s Chief Objects

A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely.” The findings offer little new insight into how the virus first emerged and leave many questions unanswered. Repeated delays in the report’s release have raised questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew its conclusions. “We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

  • The World Health Organization’s chief, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the mission to study the origins of the coronavirus in China didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab leak before it concluded that the pathogen probably spread from bats to humans via another animal.

France to Enter Its Third National Lockdown as 4th Wave Engulfs Europe

After more than a year of lockdowns and months of sputtering vaccination campaigns, Europe’s efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic suffered another setback on Wednesday when President Emmanuel Macron of France announced a new set of restrictive measures in a desperate move to halt a new deadly wave. The move imposed a third national lockdown for a month. With infections surging, hospitals crowded with patients and the virus now reaching into classrooms, Mr. Macron abandoned a three-month gamble in which he kept France open in the hope that a steady pace of vaccinations would make a lockdown unnecessary.

Covid-19 Cases/Deaths Rising in India

India reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths so far on Thursday. India recorded a big spike with 72,330 new infections being reported in the span of 24 hours, according to Union health ministry data. The data also recorded the deaths of 459 people in same period – up from 354 on Wednesday.

Mexico Surpasses Brazil with Second-Highest Covid Death Toll after U.S.

On Sunday, Mexico shot past Brazil to take over the No. 2 spot for coronavirus deaths after officials announced a massive revision to the country’s death toll. COVID deaths are actually as much as 60% higher than previously reported, for a total of more than 321,000, the BBC reports. The U.S. is in the top spot with 549,000 deaths, and Brazil’s 310,000 deaths now place it at No. 3. Mexico has by far the lowest population of the three countries giving them a higher death rate per capita. While 70.5% of Mexico’s 417,000 excess deaths were determined to be from COVID, experts say more of them can likely be blamed on the pandemic, because people were unable to get medical care for whatever they ultimately died from due to overwhelmed hospitals.

Border Apprehensions Spiked in March with Record Number of Unaccompanied Children

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 171,700 migrants in March, including a record number of unaccompanied minors, far exceeding the prior month’s totals and continuing an upward trend dating back to last year. In March, CBP encountered 18,800 unaccompanied children at the border, More migrant families are also arriving. In March, around 53,500 families were encountered by border officials, up from 19,246 in February. The data underscores the ongoing challenge facing the Biden administration as officials scramble to set up emergency sites to house migrant children, many of whom have been held in poor conditions.

861 Criminals Caught Crossing Texas Border Area, Including 92 Sex Offenders

A Border Patrol section chief reported that more than 861 criminals have been encountered at the border, including 92 sex offenders and 63 gang members since the start of the fiscal year. “Within the copious amounts of groups being encountered in” the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas, “a Salvadoran man with a prior conviction for murder was discovered” along with 862 criminal aliens, Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings wrote on Twitter last Saturday. Embedded in the groups were about 93 unaccompanied children, Hastings said, adding that so far in 2021, more than 18,000 such children have been encountered by agents.

Smugglers Drop Little Girls Over Border Fence. Dump Baby in River

Two little girls were dropped from a border barrier at the U.S. border by smugglers. Their plight drew national concern and outrage when a video showed them being dropped from the top of a high barrier. The girls are now receiving care at a Border Patrol facility after being rescued. The 3-and 5-year old girls were picked up by agents after they were spotted by surveillance technology. In addition, Federal Border Patrol agents and Texas Rangers saved the life of a 6-month-old baby who was thrown in the Rio Grande river by human traffickers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

CBP Projects 184,000 Migrant Children will Cross Border in Fiscal Year 2021

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is projecting that as many as 184,000 unaccompanied children could reach the border in the fiscal year 2021 — the latest insight into the dramatic and continuing migrant crisis facing the Biden administration. While only a projection, if accurate it would be the highest number of unaccompanied children on record, and more than twice the 76,020 encountered during the 2019 border crisis — during which the Trump administration was hammered for its handling of the crisis and detention of children. 

Marches, Rallies Against Asian Hate Crimes See Widespread Participation

Thousands of people took to the streets this weekend to demonstrate against violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders following the shooting in Atlanta last week that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. Marchers gathered in major cities nationwide, including New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and Tulsa, Oklahoma. There has been a significant increase in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide during the pandemic after claims that the coronavirus originated in China. “We are Americans, we are mothers, we are friends, we live here,” said Ling Liu, who marched in Indianapolis on Saturday. “We love our community. This affects all of us, and we don’t want any violence against anyone.”

Man Arrested For Assaulting Elderly Asian Woman Was On Parole after Killing his Mother

New York police unions on Wednesday slammed the state’s leftist politicians for the release of a man who killed his own mother in 2002 and was arrested this week for assaulting an Asian woman. Brandon Elliot, 38, was arrested earlier Wednesday and slapped with a number of charges including assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime, for the violent assault of a 65-year-old woman in Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Elliot was sentenced to 15 years-to-life for killing his mother with a kitchen knife. Although he was denied parole two times in 2017 and 2018, Mr. Elliot was sprung in September 2019 and is on lifetime parole.

As Police Funding is Slashed, Murders & Other Crimes Soar

Cities in parts of the U.S. that slashed their police department funding last year, in part as a result of police-involved shootings, have seen an increase in certain crimes over the past year. Between Dec. 11, 2020, and March 28 of this year, murders in Minneapolis rose 46%. Total violent crime between July 22, 2020, and March 28 was also up 22% year-over-year. Police statistics from July 2020, when Portland’s budget cuts were made, and this past February — the most recent data available — show homicides skyrocketed 271%. Murders in New York City are up 11.8% as of March 21. The number of shootings rose 40.1% in 2021. Murders in Los Angeles are up 28.3% as of March 13 and the number of shooting victims nearly doubled. Aggravated assaults were also up 8.4%.

Iowa Governor Signs Bill Letting Residents Buy, Carry Guns Without Permits

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation into law on Friday lifting some restrictions to buy or carry a handgun in the state for law-abiding citizens. The NRA-backed legislation named “House File 756” will take effect on July 1 and eliminates the requirement for law-abiding Iowans to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun from private non-licensed sources. Additionally, Iowans will no longer need to have a permit carry a weapon Individuals will still have to follow federal law and go through an instant background check to buy from licensed sellers each time they purchase a gun..

Right-Wing Protesters and Left-Wing Counter-Protesters Clash at Oregon Capital

Three people have been arrested and lodged at the Marion County Correctional Facility following violence at the Oregon state Capitol building linked to clashes between right-wing protesters and left-wing counter-protesters. Police said that the first event by right-wing protestors, billed as the Freedom Rally, appeared on social media in February. Meanwhile, a second event posted soon afterwards was dubbed Fascist Free 503 to organize a counter-protest. Social media posts connected to the group indicated that their intention was to prevent the Freedom Rally caravan from meeting at the state capitol. Soon after the protesters’ arrival, the Salem Police Department began to receive reports that individuals from the Court Street group were targeting vehicles driving by. Victims reported their vehicles were damaged by paint filled balloons, rocks and other hard objects being thrown at them as they passed. One vehicle sustained significant damage after a large tree limb was thrown through the front window into the vehicle’s passenger seat.

Over Two-Thirds of Blacks Support Voter ID Laws

Democrats, contend that laws requiring voters to present photo ID amount to discriminatory “suppression” of the black vote, and are pushing legislation in the Senate that would gut state voter ID laws. But a new Rasmussen national telephone and online survey finds that 69% of likely black voters believe that voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote. Rasmussen noted that 36 states have enacted some form of voter ID law. However, those laws would be nullified if the Senate approves HR1, which was already passed the House on a party-line vote. It will become federal law of the Senate also passes it and President Biden signs it, which he has indicated he will do.

Petaluma, CA. First City in Nation to Ban Building Any More Gas Stations

Petaluma, California, in Sonoma County, located 37 miles north of San Francisco, is the first city in the U.S. to ban the construction of a new gas station. City officials argue not building any more gas stations will help reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030, in line with the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and World Economic Forum’s stated goals, which in part advocate for the future of cars and trucks being electric. Last fall, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. Berkeley and several cities in California have banned, or are planning to ban, the use of natural gas in new homes and businesses.

  • However, electricity in California is already a problem with rolling blackouts and Texas just illustrated the frailty of the electric power grid which failed during a recent cold snap. The push to implement Agenda 2030 will cause major power disruptions and a severe economic downturn.

Biden Proposes $2 Trillion Infrastructure, Jobs Plan Funded by Corporate Tax Hike

President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion plan Wednesday to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure, support electric vehicles and clean energy, and boost access and pay for caregivers in a massive undertaking that would be the centerpiece of his economic agenda. The White House is promoting the American Jobs Plan, as a domestic investment not seen in the U.S. since the construction of the interstate highways in the 1950s and the Space Race a decade later. Biden wants to raise the tax rate on corporations from 21% to 28% in order to pay for the eight-year spending package. It will be just the first piece of Biden’s larger “Build Back Better” agenda, with a separate proposal addressing health care, education and childcare expected in April.

  • Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday said that President Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan does not spend “nearly enough” money. As socialism rises, the economy will implode.

Infrastructure Bill Spends Less than Half on Infrastructure

President Biden’s $2 trillion spending plan, which is being promoted largely as a bill to address infrastructure, directs well under half of its total money to things traditionally defined as infrastructure. The analysis, based on the 25-page summary of the president’s proposal for the “American Jobs Plan,” indicates less than $750 billion of the spending fits even a broad definition of infrastructure. For example, the American Jobs Plan references “care infrastructure” when talking about $25 billion to upgrade childcare facilities and $400 billion to care for the elderly and disabled. That’s quite different from repairing potholes and rebuilding bridges. “This plan is not about rebuilding America’s backbone. Less than 6% of this massive proposal goes to roads and bridges,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “It would spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.”

The Economy Added 916K Jobs in March, Unemployment Fell to 6%

U.S. hiring kicked into a higher gear in March as employers added a booming 916,000 jobs amid falling COVID-19 cases, a relaxation of business constraints in many states and a growing number of Americans receiving vaccinations. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.2% to 6%, the lowest in a year, the Labor department said Friday. The advances, the most since August, were driven by substantial gains at restaurants and bars, as well as construction and education. The number of Americans permanently laid off fell by 65,000 to 3.4 million.

Economic News

The federal ban on evictions has been extended yet again to June 30..With six million families behind on their rent and three million behind on their mortgage, policymakers find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Allowing the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to lapse will cause great harm to poor people as well as the economy. But an indefinite continuation will eventually squeeze landlords into bankruptcy, a different but just as serious blow to the economy, with higher-income people absorbing the blow. Some kind of phased-out option would appear to be the best solution, but people and the economy will still suffer, just not all at once.

Health systems including the Mayo Clinic, Pittsburgh’s UPMC and NYU Langone Health received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief stimulus funds.. But poorer hospitals — many serving rural and minority populations — got a tinier slice of the pie and ended the year with deficits, downgrades of their bond ratings and bleak fiscal futures0

Airline travel in the United States recently reached its highest level since the pandemic began, although it’s still around half of what it was pre-pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

More than a year into the pandemic, toilet paper prices are going up—not because people are still hoarding it, but because commodity prices are rising. Analysts say the cost of wood pulp has surged 35% over the last year.

There are not enough homes for sale and, as a result, pending home sales plunged 10.6% in February, marking the second straight month of declines. Housing inventory reached a record low of 1.03 million units as of the end of February, a 29.5% year-over-year decline. For wannabe buyers, the shortage of homes on the market, combined with a surge of competition from other purchasers is setting off bidding wars, all-cash offers and no end of sticker shock. But this one-two punch of very low supply and roaring demand is suiting homebuilders just fine. Not only are homebuilders making far more money now than a year ago, they are making a lot more money per home built.

The quarter-mile-long container ship that’s been blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week was dislodged Monday, clearing the way for hundreds of waiting vessels to begin transiting the vital trade artery. But that doesn’t mean the crisis is over for companies that rely on timely deliveries of raw materials, parts and products. There were 367 vessels — including 35 crude oil tankers and 96 container ships — waiting to use the canal. The economic ripples will mean higher prices and longer waits for deliveries. The worldwide cost of the blockage is estimated to be at least $60 billion,

U.S. & Signatories of Iran Nuclear Deal Meeting Next Week to Try and Revive the Pact

Iran and world powers plan to meet Tuesday on efforts to restore the accord to curb Tehran’s nuclear program after the Trump administration pulled out and reimposed sanctions. The talks in Vienna will include “separate contacts” between U.S. envoys and nations taking part in the meeting, including China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran, according to a European Union statement.

Iran Rejects Ending 20% Enrichment Before U.S. Lifts Sanctions-State TV | Reuters

Iran will not stop its 20% uranium enrichment before the United States lifts all sanctions, Iranian state TV quoted an unnamed official as saying on Tuesday in reaction to a U.S. media report that Washington would offer a new proposal to jump-start talks. The Biden administration has been seeking to engage Iran in talks about both sides resuming compliance with the deal, under which economic sanctions on Tehran would be removed in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program to make it harder to develop a nuclear weapon – an ambition Tehran denies.

U.S. Says China is Committing Genocide Against the Uyghurs

The U.S. and China are engaged in an increasingly intense confrontation over Beijing’s human rights record – exchanging near-daily salvos over allegations Xi Jinping’s government is committing genocide against the Uyghur people. The Biden administration formalized its accusations that China has engaged in “genocide and crimes against humanity” on Tuesday as part of an annual State Department human rights report. The document cites Beijing’s “mass detention” of the Uyghurs, as well as evidence of forced sterilization, rape, torture and forced labor. But China is pushing back hard, accusing the U.S. of meddling in China’s internal affairs and blasting the genocide label as a fabrication of Western researchers and biased foreign media outlets.    

China, With $400 Billion Iran Deal, Could Deepen Influence in Mideast

China and Iran signed a sweeping economic pact on Saturday that calls for heavy Chinese investments in Iran over 25 years in exchange for oil — a step that could ease Iran’s international isolation. China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy. The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undercut American efforts to keep Iran isolated. President Biden has offered to resume negotiations with Iran over the 2015 nuclear accord. But Iran has refused to do so, and China has backed it up, demanding that the United States act first to revive the deal it broke by lifting unilateral sanctions that have suffocated the Iranian economy.

Dozens Killed in Deadliest Day Since Coup in Myanmar

As Myanmar’s military celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day holiday with a parade Saturday in the country’s capital, soldiers and police elsewhere reportedly killed over 90 people as they suppressed protests against last month’s coup. “This 76th Myanmar armed forces day will stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor,” the European Union’s delegation to Myanmar said on Twitter. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts.” U.S. Ambassador Thomas Vajda in a statement said “security forces are murdering unarmed civilians… Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule.”

Suicide Bomb Hits Palm Sunday Mass in Indonesia

Two attackers blew themselves up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral during a Palm Sunday Mass on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, wounding at least 14 people. Police later said both attackers were killed instantly and evidence collected at the scene indicated one of the two was a woman. The wounded included four guards and several churchgoers. The attack a week before Easter in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation came as the country was on high alert following December’s arrest of the leader of the Southeast Asian militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been designated a terror group by many nations. Indonesia has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people.

Nigerian Soldiers Ambush Boko Haram Fighters, Kill 49

Nigerian Army troops of 28 Task Force Brigade in Chibok and Askira have killed about 48 Boko Haram terrorists and rescued 11 abducted victims in an onslaught in Borno. The troops achieved the feat while acting on credible intelligence that some remnants of insurgents were fleeing due to the intensity of troops’ operations in Sambisa Forest. The troops then laid ambush for the terrorists on Chibok-Damboa axis, killing nine while several others escaped with fatal gunshot wounds in one encounter. The troops also recovered seven AK47 Rifles and freed three kidnapped victims. The troops also laid a successful ambush along Askira – Chibok Main Supply Route (MSR) and neutralized 39 terrorists in another encounter. The army spokesperson also disclosed that the troops successfully rescued eight additional kidnapped victims from the terrorists.

Gunmen Kill 30 People In Attack In Western Ethiopia, Witnesses Say

Gunmen killed 30 civilians in an attack on a village in the west of the Ethiopian region of Oromiya, witnesses said on Wednesday, the latest outbreak of ethnic violence to challenge the federal government in the fractious nation. Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is struggling to control several flashpoints where ethnic rivalries over land, power and resources have ignited ahead of national elections scheduled for June. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has promised to hold the first free and fair polls, but some of his reforms have also emboldened regional strongmen and groups angered by what they describe as decades of government repression.

Environment

The loss of forests accelerated during 2020, despite the worldwide pandemic. The Earth saw nearly 100,000 square miles of lost tree cover last year — an area roughly the size of Colorado — according to the satellite-based survey by Global Forest Watch. The change represents nearly 7 percent more trees lost than in 2019. The vital, humid primary forests of the tropics, which store immense amounts of carbon, saw even greater devastation. More than 16,000 square miles of these forests vanished last year, a 12 percent increase. The shrinking of the world’s forests in 2020 had many causes, including massive wildfires in Russia, Australia and the United States, as well as droughts and insect infestation.

Wildfires

A town in western North Dakota was ordered to evacuate Thursday night as a wildfire fueled by dry, windy conditions swept through a cemetery and threatened a historic amphitheater. Police went door to door alerting the 100 residents of Medora, which sits on the southern edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park off of Interstate 94 near the Montana border. As of 8 p.m. Thursday local time, the fire had burned about 15 square miles and was 15% contained.

Wildfires burning in the Black Hills of South Dakota forced hundreds of residents to evacuate and Mount Rushmore to close. The largest, the Schroeder Road fire, has consumed nearly 3 square miles just west of Rapid City, South Dakota. It was first reported at 9:22 a.m. Monday MDT and was driven by winds that gusted over 70 mph in Rapid City. “We are at record-dry conditions along with high winds playing a major factor in this fight,” Jay Esperance, division director for South Dakota Wildland Fire, said. The blaze has destroyed at least one home and several outbuildings, and Sheriff Kevin Thom said 400 to 500 homes were evacuated. is 0% contained. Governor Noem said a rapidly growing fire between Kadoka and Murdo, about 100 miles east of Rapid City on Interstate 90, crossed the interstate and caused at least one accident.

Signs of the Times (3/26/21)

March 26, 2021

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:18-23)

War Against Christian Baker Now in Ninth Year

The state of Colorado, which was determined by the Supreme Court to have exhibited “hostility” to Christianity in its prosecution of a baker who declined to create messages that violated his faith, now has put him on trial again for the same charge. The trial for Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop began Monday on the charge that he refused to bake a cake celebrating the anniversary of a man’s “transition” to a woman. He has stated will bake cakes for anyone, but he won’t create any message that violate his Christian beliefs. The latest case was brought by a transgender lawyer, Autumn Scardina, admitted she had “vented” against Phillips by writing him emails when his same-sex wedding cake case was going on. Scardina called him a bigot and hypocrite, according to testimony. Some have accused Scardina of a ‘set-up’ in order to get Phillips back in court.

Drag Queen Story-Hour Judge Arrested for Child Pornography

Police arrested Draq Queen Story Hour’s Brett Blomme last week on child pornography charges. Blomme, president and CEO of pro-LGBTQ Cream City Foundation, bragged about sponsoring the Drag Queen Story Hour. Blomme also happens to be a Milwaukee Children’s Court judge. Blomme apparently used government resources as well as his own personal equipment to upload and share at least 27 horrendously abhorrent child rape images and videos with other pedophiles and child pornography websites. The children were as young as 2 years-old. Blomme and his “husband” have two adopted children. In 2020, Blomme ran for his current Children’s Court position on a “progressive” platform celebrating LGBTQ “values,” which blasted the traditional values of his opponent.

Arizona Schools Teaching About Sex Much too Early Claims CAP

“Some kindergartners in Arizona are learning about sensitive body parts through the 3R’s program. Some 4th graders are learning details of sex in the FLASH Curriculum. In California, it’s even worse. Some 4th graders are taught pornography is normal, and 2nd graders learn details we won’t discuss here,” writes Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy. In an effort to keep parents in control of their children’s education and rollback the inappropriate lessons, CAP is supporting SB 1456 which prohibits sex education before 5th grade in Arizona district and charter schools. It also requires schools provide the sex ed curricula for grades 5-12 for parental review. Parents would then have to opt-in their child for sex ed if they so choose. It would also require parental opt-in for instruction about HIV, AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Biden Administration Now Formally the Biden-Harris Administration

A memo has been sent from the White House to all federal agencies advising them that they are to refer to the Biden-Harris Administration, no longer just the Biden Administration. This is unprecedented and fuels the flames of the rumors that President Biden’s poor health will force him to abdicate in the near future with VP Kamala Harris becoming President. Along those lines, Biden appointed Harris as the ‘point person’ for the crisis at the southern border, which might just prove to be an albatross for her.

Biden Invokes ‘Jim Crow’ in Press Conference, Incurs Black Wrath

Black Republican Rep. Byron Donalds slammed President Biden on Friday for invoking Jim Crow during his first formal press conference, saying he is “irresponsibly injecting race” into the conversation. Biden on Thursday, during his first press conference since taking office, referenced Jim Crow when defending the Democrats’ H.R. 1 voting reform bill and criticizing their efforts to get rid of the filibuster. “Jim Crow might not mean anything to President Biden, considering he joined segregationists in opposing busing and eulogized known racists like Robert Byrd, but that dark stain on our republic is personal to me and many Black Americans like me,” Donalds said, also pointing out that in 2005, then Senator Biden praised the filibuster rule when it worked in his favor.

Colorado’s Tough Gun Control Laws Failed to Stop Deadly Boulder Shooting

Colorado has been enacting gun control laws at a rapid clip for years, and yet none of those restrictions was able to prevent Monday’s horrific attack at a Boulder grocery store. Instead, Coloradans are once again grappling with another mass-casualty event, which occurred despite gun control bills passed after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, as well as the extreme risk protection order, or “red flag” law, signed by Gov. Jared Polis in 2019. The gun-control group Giffords ranks Colorado 15th out of 50 states for strong gun safety laws The man charged with killing 10 people in a Boulder grocery store passed a background check and purchased the weapon used in the slaughter, a Colorado gun shop owner said Friday.

Court Rules Americans Have ‘No Right’ to Carry Guns in Public

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that there is no right to carry a gun in public. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 7-4 ruling rejected a challenge to Hawaii’s requirement that residents must pass an application to have weapons outside the home. Hawaii’s law requires residents to show an urgency or need to carry a firearm, the applicant must have good character, and he or she must be “engaged in the protection of life and property.” “There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment,” the court ruled. “We can find no general right to carry arms into the public square for self-defense,” the majority wrote, claiming that the Second Amendment applies to the “defense of hearth and home.”

Georgia Gov Signs Sweeping Election Reform into Law

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an election reform bill into law Thursday, imposing rules on voter identification requirements and limiting ballot drop boxes. GOP state lawmakers, who dominate the Georgia House and Senate, swiftly moved the legislation, despite objections raised by Democrats. The bill passed 34-20 in the state Senate and 100-75 in the state House. Absentee voters would have to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a process for checking someone’s identification, which would replace signature-matching processes. More than 200,000 Georgia voters lack a state identification or driver’s license, so they would need to provide additional proof of their identities. Voting rights activists opposed the bill, saying it would lead to voter suppression.

Biden Doubles Vaccination Goal as More States Ease Pandemic Restrictions

About half of U.S. states will open up their vaccination efforts to all adults by mid-April, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday. Biden on Thursday announced a new goal of administering 200 million COVID vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office. That’s double his initial goal of 100 million doses.  The U.S. is currently averaging about 2.5 million doses being administered per day.

Covid-19 Cases Increasing Again in the U.S. with Deaths Plateaued at 1000/Day

The most recent seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases was up by about 7% from the prior week, while hospitalizations have increased slightly and deaths have plateaued, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC said. Still, the country is now averaging about 1,000 deaths a day, down from more than 2,000 a day a month ago and down from more than 3,000/day in late January. Michigan, Colorado, Connecticut, South Dakota and Hawaii reported increases of more than 30 percent.

  • Arizona is adding cases at one of the lowest rates in the country. Fewer than 500 cases are being identified there most days, compared to about 10,000 a day at the state’s January peak. Just a couple of months ago, Arizona led the nation in new cases per capita.

About Half of America’s Grade Schools Now Open for In-Person Classes but Stark Gap by Race

Results from the federal government’s first school survey during the pandemic finds that about half of all grade schools are open for full-time, in-person classes. There’s a stark gap by race. As of January, half of all White students were attending school full-time in person, when compared with about a third of Hispanic students, 28 percent of Black students and 15 percent of Asian students.

Former CDC Chief Says Coronavirus Escaped from Wuhan Lab

The former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, commented on his opinion about the origins of the coronavirus, saying he believes it escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Redfield said it explains why the virus is well adapted to spread among humans. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that most public health officials believe the virus could have become well adapted to spread among humans without having originated in the lab.

More Problems With AstraZeneca Vaccine, Efficacy Reduced

One person has died and another was critically ill with blood clots and cerebral hemorrhage Sunday after receiving the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, authorities in Denmark say. The two developed severe symptoms within 14 days after vaccination, the Capital Region of Denmark, which operates public hospitals, told the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in several European countries earlier this month amid reports of blood clots in a small number of patients. Last week, the European Medicines Agency determined the vaccine was safe and effective. Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director, said the benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 “outweigh the possible risks.” Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among nations saying they would resume using the vaccine.

  • Results from a U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may have included “outdated information” and that could mean the company provided an incomplete view of efficacy data, American federal health officials said early Tuesday. The latest analysis reduced its effectiveness down to 76% from 79%.

Brazil Still Reeling from Latest Coronavirus Surge

Brazil had an average of 2,235 deaths a day last week – the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, Brazil has had more than 12 million cases and nearly 300,000 people have died, the second largest COVID-19 death toll in the world after the United States. Brazil’s vast size and deficient infrastructure make getting coronavirus vaccines to far-flung communities of Indigenous peoples and descendants of enslaved people a particularly daunting endeavor. Manaus — a city in the Amazon —  suffered a devastating second wave of COVID-19 cases in January, driven by a more contagious strain of the virus. Hospitals lacked oxygen for weeks and doctors had to choose which intensive care patients to put on ventilators.

India’s Covid-19 Cases Spiking as Several Variants Detected, Including a Double Variant

India on Thursday recorded 53,476 new Covid-19 cases, marking the highest single-day rise in cases since October 23. The country has been reporting more than 35,000 new cases daily for over a week in a recent surge in cases after they fell in January and February this year. The rise in cases comes as the country’s top researchers announced that there are 771 variants of concern present in the country. While the Health Ministry has not correlated these to the recent rise in cases, these variants have been primarily detected in several states of “grave concern,” given that they are contributing to most of the nation’s case load. There’s now a “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus spreading in India, the nation’s Health Ministry said Wednesday. A double variant contains two mutations in the same virus

Biden Says He’s ‘Flattered’ Illegal Immigrants are Pouring Across the Border

During his first official press conference as President Thursday afternoon, Joe Biden was asked about the soaring number of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors pouring across the border. He responded by saying he’s “flattered” because the people coming think he’s a nice guy. “I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I’m the nice guy. That’s the reason why it’s happening That I’m a decent man or however it’s phrased because ‘Biden is a good guy,'” he said. But then, he went on to contradict himself and say, “It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.” There were 16,513 unaccompanied minors in government custody as of Wednesday, far more than last winter, recent data shows.

Biden Giving Media ‘Zero Access’ to Border Operations

Award-winning photojournalist John Moore blasted the Biden administration for giving “zero access” to the media to observe Customs and Border Protection operations at the southern border. “There’s no modern precedent for a full physical ban on media access to CBP border operations,” Moore wrote on Twitter. Customs and Border Protection officials told the Washington Examiner that Biden Homeland Security officials had “muzzled” spokespersons and top agents to prevent them from speaking with the press. Many reporters called out the Biden administration for a lack of transparency at the U.S.-Mexico border

Democratic Senator Says Migrant Families Released into U.S. Without Notice to Appear in Court

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said many migrant families are being released into the U.S. without a notice to appear in a court. The Democrat made the comment one day after the photos of migrants in a crowded border facility in Donna, Texas were released by his office as the Biden administration continued to limit media access to the southwestern border.

Republican Senator Posts Video of an Immigrant Holding ‘Pod’ at 9 Times Capacity

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., posted a shocking video of a “pod” at a Texas migrant facility along the southern border that is holding nearly nine times as many people as it was designed to hold. Lankford toured the migrant holding facilities on Friday along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other GOP senators. A pod designed to hold 80 people filled to the brim with over 700 migrants. The video showed people shoulder to shoulder, sitting and sleeping on floors while wrapped in aluminum blankets. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who was on the trip as well, posted in a Twitter thread that Border Patrol is “overwhelmed, overworked, [and] discouraged by new policies.”

ICE Ends Long-Term Detention of Migrant Families

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has effectively ended long-term detention for migrant families, delivering a huge win to immigrant rights activists who for years had pushed for the move. The move, which was made with little fanfare, was revealed in court documents earlier this month. Now, with long-term detention over, families are either held for a few days for processing or released outright at the border without any ICE detention. In either case, they are generally free to make their way deeper into the country with deportation hearings years down the line. With the surge of people and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE didn’t have the space to hold people for the long term anymore. What space ICE does have needs to be used for people being tested and, if infected with the coronavirus, quarantined at the facilities.

Biden to Spend $86 Million to House Illegal Immigrants in Hotels

The Biden Administration plans to spend more than $86 million dollars to house illegal alien families in hotels. Axios reported that a Texas-based non-profit will oversee the project — housing illegals in hotels near the border in Arizona and Texas. Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson said in a statement to The Hill that the agency signed a short-term $86.9 million contract with Endeavors to “provide temporary shelter and processing services for families who have not been expelled and are therefore placed in immigration proceedings for their removal from the United States.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement will provide medical care, food service, social workers and coronavirus testing.

Just 13% of Migrant Families Turned Back at the Border

The Biden administration turned back an average of just 13% of nearly 13,000 migrant family members attempting to cross at the U.S. southern border this past week. The information covers the week of March 14. The family members were all returned to Mexico. A DHS spokesperson said, “Our policy remains that families are expelled, and in situations where expulsion is not possible due to Mexico’s inability to receive the families, they are placed into removal proceedings.” The administration has been recently stymied by Mexico’s inability to accept more families the U.S. otherwise would expel.

Texas Rancher Forced to Defend Home after Migrants Enter Property

A Texas ranch owner, John Sewell, said Thursday that he has “never seen” a migrant surge as serious as the one that has developed in recent months under the Biden administration, after defending his home from 12 migrants. “I’ve been [in Texas] for about 25 years so I’ve seen this under many administrations, I’ve seen lots of trouble. But I’ve never seen it at this level… [The migrants] are more confrontational… I’m 40 miles from the border. So, it’s not like I’m sitting at the edge of the border… The smugglers are bringing them here, dropping them off and they’re coming through my property and that in turn has caused lots of heartache for us. Not to mention they’re tearing down our fences, they’re coming to our houses at night. I have a daughter I won’t let walk on the driveway to jog or exercise because of this without having a dog with her.”

With 45,000 Bridges in Poor Condition, Biden Seeks $3T Bipartisan Plan to Fix Infrastructure

More than 45,000 bridges rated in poor condition. Hundreds of water mains breaking every day. Not many issues unite Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill like crumbling roads, airports and transit systems back home – and the Biden administration is hoping an effort to modernize America’s neglected infrastructure might fuel a rare moment of bipartisanship. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to appear before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Thursday to lay out the administration’s priorities in what will be a first step in a months-long negotiation with Congress to determine how America’s crumbling infrastructure can be brought up to code. The spending package is estimated to cost up to $3 trillion.

Evanston, Illinois, First U.S. City to Approve Reparations for Black Residents

Evanston, Illinois, has become the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery. The Chicago suburb’s City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to distribute $400,000 to eligible Black households. Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property. The program is being funded through donations and revenue from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. The city has pledged to distribute $10 million over 10 years. Qualifying residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

Oakland to Give $500/Month to Families of Color for 18 Months

Low-income families of color in Oakland, California, could receive some extra financial assistance over the next year and a half. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced this week that the city will launch a guaranteed income project to give hundreds of Black and Indigenous families and people of color $500 per month for 18 months. The project’s payments will be unconditional, and recipients may spend the money however they choose. The Oakland Resilient Families program is the latest trial of a “guaranteed income” system of wealth distribution, where residents are given a set amount of money per month to supplement the existing social safety net.

Kim Janey Becomes Boston’s First Black and First Female Mayor

Kim Janey has been sworn in as acting mayor of Boston, making history as the first Black person and first woman to lead the city. Janey, who was the City Council president, automatically replaced Democrat Marty Walsh after he resigned Monday to be President Joe Biden’s labor secretary. The city will hold a mayoral race in November, and Janey hasn’t said whether she’ll run against the five other candidates, all of whom are people of color. Justice Kimberly Budd, who became the first Black woman to lead the state Supreme Judicial Court in 2020, administered the oath of office during a ceremony presided over by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman to serve on the City Council and to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts.

Data Shows Asian Hate Crimes Rising Rapidly

According to data from the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, there were 3,795 incidents reported from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021. Federal data show that there were 158 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in 2019 by police agencies to the FBI, up from 148 the year before ; more recent data have yet to be released. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University said that anti-Asian hate crimes surged in 16 of America’s largest cities by 149 percent in 2020, according to an analysis of official preliminary police data. The data shows hate crimes rising as many blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic.

Miami Beach Declares ‘State of Emergency’ Over Spring Breakers

Miami Beach is canceling Spring Break. The city is instituting an 8 p.m. curfew and declaring a state of emergency to try to get the horde of Spring Breakers who have flooded the area under control. “Too many people are coming here right now,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said at a press conference Saturday. “Our city in this area has become a tinder, and we can’t have a policy of simply hoping it’s not lit.” The main strip, Ocean Avenue, which has been jam-packed with revelers for the past two months, stayed crowded Saturday night well past the 8 p.m. deadline despite the curfew. Police eventually fired pepper balls around 9 p.m. to disperse the crowd. Miami Beach Police said more than 1,000 people have been arrested this spring break season, and about 80 guns have been seized.

Americans Gained Two Pounds Per Month During the Pandemic

American adults gained nearly two pounds a month during a four-month observational period during the pandemic in 2020. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco linked the weight gain to shelter-in-place orders issued by 45 out of 50 state governments to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the public health problems posed by obesity, experts called the findings alarming.

Postmaster General Announces 10-Year Plan with Longer Delivery Times

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced a 1-year plan for the U.S. Postal Service that includes longer mail delivery times and cuts to worker hours. DeJoy said that USPS is facing a $160 billion debt over the next 10 years. He added that USPS lost $9.2 billion in 2020 alone amid the coronavirus pandemic. The USPS hopes to operate at break-even by 2023 under the restructuring plan, which took eight months to put together. Chief Retail and Delivery Officer Kristin Seaver explained on Tuesday, however, that only 70% of first-class mail would be affected by longer wait times while the majority of all other shipping options will be delivered on time after implementation.

Enormous Container Ship Blocking Suez Canal, Might Take Weeks to Extricate

Shipping experts believe it could take days or even weeks to free the 224,000-ton vessel that is wedged across the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world’s busiest waterways since Tuesday. The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, ran aground on March 23 after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement. Authorities attempted to re-float the vessel Thursday morning but were not successful. Another attempt will be made later on Thursday. Meanwhile, at least 237 ships carrying vital fuel and cargo are waiting to pass through the blocked waterway, costing the world economy about $400 million an hour. Piracy fears are mounting as ships take the long way around Africa to avoid the blocked canal.

Economic News

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 684,000, the fewest since the pandemic erupted a year ago, down from 781,000 in the previous week. However, that’s still about 2.5 times higher than normal (about 250.000/month). And, a total of 18.9 million people are continuing to collect jobless benefits, up from 18.2 million in the previous week. Roughly one-third of those recipients are in extended federal aid programs, which means they’ve been unemployed for at least six months.

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, 8 million more Americans have fallen into poverty, 10 million more Americans are now in danger of being evicted from their homes, and more than 70 million new claims for unemployment benefits have been filed, with another 770,000 filed just last week, up 45,000 from the previous week.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. reached an average of $2.87 a gallon over the past week, according to the American Automobile Association. The national average for gas prices during the same time last year was set at $2.10, marking a more than 25% increase. The states with the highest gas prices are California ($3.86), Hawaii ($3.53) and Washington ($3.31). Prices are back to pre-pandemic levels, and this time of year usually brings an increase in gas prices due to the warmer weather and more travelers.

Ridership on public transportation has cratered, creating not only an economic problem for transportation companies and the cities they operate in, but also will cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as people turn back to their personal vehicles.

Israel Elections Yield Same Old Result – Deadlock

The counting is complete and the final tally has been released in Israel’s election. The result remains the same – political deadlock with no clear winner as neither the incumbent nor the opposition have the majority necessary to form a government. Voter turnout was 67.4%, the lowest since 2009 (64.7%). Although there are many parties, there are in effect only two sides – Likud led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the opposition, led by Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid. Both will now scramble to obtain a majority. Within a week of the results, the two parties will attempt to win President Reuven Rivlin‘s approval to form a government. Rivlin will pick the side he feels most likely to succeed.

U.S. Sanctions China for Serious Human Rights Abuses Against Uyghurs

The US announced sanctions Monday against two Chinese officials for “serious human rights abuses” against Uyghur Muslims, a step coordinated with the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the Chinese campaign against Uyghurs as genocide. “Amid growing international condemnation, the PRC continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken said in a statement, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China, located in the northwest of the country close to Central Asia. It is the largest province-level division of China.

Iran Must Come Clean About Hidden Uranium To Revive Nuclear Deal, IAEA Chief Warns

Iran must come clean about recent findings of undeclared uranium to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, the director general of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has told Newsweek. In an interview, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said “detailed and technical discussions” are needed to ascertain the location of Iran’s undeclared uranium and that this issue is “totally connected” to the future of the deal. He said there were a number of points that were “still unclear” relating to traces of uranium that were found but had not been declared in the past by Tehran.

North Korea Tests New Ballistic Missile in Violation of UN Resolutions

North Korea on Friday confirmed it had tested a new guided missile, as President Biden warned of consequences if Pyongyang escalates tensions amid stalled nuclear negotiations. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the two “new-type tactical guided projectiles” accurately hit the target off its eastern coast on Thursday. KCNA quoted top official Ri Pyong Chol, who supervised the test, as saying that the new weapon’s development “is of great significance in bolstering up the military power of the country and deterring all sorts of military threats existing on the Korean Peninsula.” Japanese officials said both weapons tested Thursday were ballistic missiles, which are prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.

Taliban Threatens to Attack U.S. Troops if Not Gone by May 1

The Taliban on Friday threatened “death and destruction” against U.S. forces unless all Americans leave Afghanistan by May 1, adding new pressure to President Biden as he weighs whether to honor the looming deadline. The Taliban’s threats came less than 24 hours after Mr. Biden refused to say during a White House press conference whether he’ll meet the May 1 date, which was established in an agreement that former President Trump struck with the Taliban last year. Mr. Biden said it “will be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” though he did promise that the U.S. and its 2,500 remaining forces will leave the country eventually.

‘Humanless Protests’ In Myanmar Against Junta After 250 Killed

With at least 250 protesters having been killed since the military coup in Myanmar last month, Reuters reports that what it calls “humanless protests” are becoming increasingly popular. Anti-junta messages and displays are popping up on trees, in streets, and even on cookware. Dolls, toys, mannequins, and cardboard cutouts have replaced protesters in the streets, and protesters are releasing hundreds of red balloons calling for international aid and help from the UN. Those who are taking to the streets are doing so in safer ways: Drivers are honking and gesturing from their cars in convoys; medical workers marched pre-dawn, before security patrols started up for the day.

Fifteen Killed When Fire Ripped Through Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh

Christian families were among those who lost everything when a terrible fire raged through the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on March 22, 2021. The devastating blaze affected five sections of the huge and sprawling camp, killing at least 15 people, injuring hundreds and making tens of thousands homeless. The vast majority of the Rohingya refugees are Muslims, but among them are a few hundred Rohingya Christians who have suffered much for becoming followers of Christ. The flimsy bamboo homes and meager possessions of these families were destroyed by the inferno.

Volcanoes

Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall erupted over last weekend for the first time in more than 800 years, creating rivers of lava and shooting flames and ash into the air. Officials say seismic activity was minor, and the area the lava covered measured about 1,640 feet wide in a very remote region. Locals have been expecting the eruption for weeks as seismic activity ramped up, and no one was injured.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rattled parts of Japan Saturday, shaking buildings and prompting a tsunami advisory and evacuations near the same area where a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit 10 years ago. There were no immediate reports of major damage or serious injuries. The U.S. Geological Service gave the earthquake a rating of 7.0 magnitude. It was centered offshore about 16 miles east-northeast of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, at a depth of about 33 miles.

Weather

After multiple tornadoes touched down in the South on Thursday – killing five people in Alabama, knocking out power, destroying homes and downing trees across the region – more severe thunderstorms could be coming this weekend. Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley told ABC 33/40 news that a local airport was hit. “We have airplanes torn apart like toys. We’ve got homes along here that are totally destroyed, trees down, power lines down. It’s pretty devastating.” Newnan Georgia, about 35 miles southwest of Atlanta, experienced heavy damage in and around its historic downtown. Police tweeted that several downtown streets were closed and residents should avoid the area due to multiple downed trees and power lines. Newnan High School also received significant damage. Twisted metal and other debris littered the campus. Trees in the surrounding neighborhood were snapped in half and some fell on houses.

Extraordinary rainfall over the past week has led to some of the worst flooding in decades in Australia’s state of New South Wales, officials said Monday, and some rivers are topping record levels. Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and hundreds more had to be rescued from the rising floodwaters that have isolated dozens of towns in Australia’s most populous state. In parts of the state that have been hit harder, this is a once-a-century event. Up to 38 parts of the state have been declared natural disaster areas. More than 16 inches of rain has fallen along the northern New South Wales coast during the last seven days. Snakes and spiders have been seen struggling to reach higher ground, with trees “full of snakes,” according to one resident while spiders seek refuge in homes. At least one person has died. Rain ended Wednesday but rivers continue to rise.

Signs of the Times (3/20/21)

March 20, 2021

And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2Corinithians 12:9-10)

The following news briefs are meant to be the basis for prayer, so please pray.

Vatican on Gay Unions: We ‘Cannot Bless Sin’

The Vatican decreed Monday that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response Monday to a question about whether Catholic clergy can bless gay unions. The answer was contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis The decree distinguished between the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. The Vatican holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay unions are “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic teaching holds that marriage between a man and woman is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.

Pope Calls for a New World Order, Satan Happy to Oblige

Aligning with the call among globalist leaders for a “Great Reset” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis makes the case for a “new world order” in a book to be published Tuesday. That world, he explains in “God and the World to Come,” is characterized by a shift from financial speculation, fossil fuels and military build-up to a green economy based on inclusiveness, reports Breitbart News. The pope said justice can be healed “by building a new world order based on solidarity, studying innovative methods to eradicate bullying, poverty and corruption… The path to humanity’s salvation passes through the creation of a new model of development, which unquestionably focuses on coexistence among peoples in harmony with Creation.”

  • Just as the Bible says, a new world order and one-world government is indeed coming, with Satan in the background pulling the strings (Revelation 13). But it will deceive the masses with its calls for unity even as it attempts to completely eradicate God and believers from the world.

Court Says High Schools Can Ban Coaches from Kneeling for Prayer

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Thursday that high schools are within their rights to ban coaches from kneeling in prayer. A three-judge panel found that the Bremerton School District in Washington state can ban Coach Joe Kennedy, a Marine veteran and assistant football coach, from taking a knee in brief, personal prayer after football games. In 2015, Coach Kennedy was fired after he declined to stop praying on the 50-yard-line after football games. “It’s legal for coaches to take a knee to protest the national anthem, but it’s illegal for coaches to take a knee to pray. America is screwed up,” said Todd Starnes on his radio show.

Canadian Father Gets 5 Years in Jail For Calling His Daughter a Girl, U.S. Next With Equality Act

The trouble for Rob Hoogland’s family began shortly after the local public school in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, showed a series of “transgender-affirming” movies. Shortly thereafter, Hoogland says, school counselors began pressuring his young daughter to believe she is a boy. Worse yet, the school arranged for the girl to be injected with testosterone, despite the fact the father would have objected had he known. Now Hoogland faces up to five years in prison for defying a court order and continuing to call his precious daughter a “girl.” “Rapists get two years in prison. I’m looking at five years. Put that into perspective. That tells you how important this is to the government in their experimenting on children,” Hoogland said.

  • This is just the kind of situation that passage of the Equality Act by Congress will cause in the U.S.

Undercover Videographer David Daleiden Suing VP Kamal Harris and Planned Parenthood

David Daleiden is the undercover journalist who captured and published video evidence of Planned Parenthood’s top leadership — medical directors, national program directors, even its Senior Director of Medical Services — callously negotiating the harvesting and sale of aborted baby body parts. Now he faces years in prison on felony charges after Kamala Harris, then California’s Attorney General, prosecuted him for deceptively acquiring the videos. But now the Thomas More Society has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in California on behalf of David against now Vice President Harris for prosecuting David in bad faith, twisting and perverting California’s anti-eavesdropping law to persecute a citizen journalist because of his political views. In addition, the Thomas More Society filed a defamation (libel) lawsuit in federal court in New York against Planned Parenthood, which erroneously claimed that Daleiden created a “fake” and “false” “smear campaign” against Planned Parenthood.

WorldNetDaily Cancelled and Demonetized by YouTube in Violation of First Amendment

Outraged by YouTube’s libeling and cancelling of prominent Trump supporter, “MyPillow guy” Mike Lindell, WND posted a short video in support of Mike. That video resulted in the demonetization of the entire WND YouTube account. David Kupelian, Managing Editor at WMD, writes, “As we’ve warned about for over four years, the lords of the Internet – Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and others – have now made their big move for all-out, undisguised, totalitarian control of everything you are allowed to read, watch, hear – and therefore think. Remember, Twitter permanently banned a sitting president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, depriving him of close to 90 million personal followers… That’s what Jefferson was talking about when he said, “The only security of all is in a FREE PRESS.” WND is an independent news organization now being censored in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Democrats Confirm Abortion Activist Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary

The U.S. Senate confirmed pro-abortion politician Xavier Becerra as health secretary on Thursday in a narrow, largely party-line vote. The vote to confirm was 50-49 in the divided U.S. Senate. Becerra, the attorney general of California, is President Joe Biden’s choice to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A career politician with no medical background, he has a pro-abortion record that includes prosecuting the undercover journalists, supporting partial-birth abortions and attempting to force nuns who serve the poor and elderly to fund abortions.

Senate Confirms First Native American Cabinet Secretary

The Senate voted Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary, a historic move that will make her the first Native American Cabinet secretary. The vote was 51 to 40, with most Republicans voting against her after several called her views on public land use and fossil fuels extreme. It wasn’t the first time Haaland has made history. In 2018, she was elected as one of the two first female Native Americans in Congress. Discussing her motivation to take on the job, she said, “It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land, and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that,” adding, “We want to protect this country, and that means protecting it in every single way.”

CDC Now Says Students Only Need to be Three Feet Apart

In a major policy revision intended to encourage more schools to welcome children back to in-person instruction, federal health officials on Friday relaxed the six-foot distancing rule for elementary school students, saying they need only remain three feet apart in classrooms as long as everyone is wearing a mask. The three-foot rule also now applies to students in middle schools and high schools, as long as community transmission is not high. The six-foot rule still applies in the community at large, officials emphasized, and for teachers and other adults who work in schools, who must maintain that distance from other adults and from students. Most schools are already operating at least partially in person, and evidence suggests they are doing so relatively safely. Research shows in-school spread can be mitigated with simple safety measures such as masking, distancing, hand-washing and open windows.

Covid Rising by 10% in 14 States Over Past Week

Covid-19 cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states as of Wednesday compared to last week, with half of those states rising by more than 20%. On Feb. 17, there were only 3 states showing increases of 10% or more. Michigan cases are increasing the fastest, at more than 50% this week compared to last, with Delaware (39%), Montana (34%), Alabama (31%) and West Virginia (29%) in the Top 5. Some states that saw large declines earlier in the winter have been backsliding. At the other end of the scale, Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 49th Friday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January.

  • Overall, the 7-day average of new cases in the U.S. has leveled off at about 54,750/day, while the 7-day average number of daily deaths continued to decline to 1,265/day.

UK Variant Spreading Rapidly Across the U.S.

A new, more contagious and potentially more deadly variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the US, and health officials are worried. The B.1.1.7 variant, first spotted in the UK, is not only more easily transmitted, but it also appears to be more deadly Dr. Anthony Fauci said in his Friday briefing that this variant likely accounts for 20 to 30% of infections in the U.S., “and that number is growing. Of concern is that there is about a 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there’s likely an increase in the severity of the disease for people infected with this variant, he said. Fauci pointed to one study showing a 64% increased risk of death for people infected with B.1.1.7 compared to those infected with the original virus.

European Covid-19 Death/Vaccination Rates Mixed

As Italy’s death rate pushes upward once again, the victims remain predominantly elderly with inoculation drives stumbling in the country. Promises to vaccinate all Italians over 80 by the end of March have fallen woefully short, amid well-documented interruptions of vaccine supplies and organizational shortfalls. Just a third of Italy’s 7.3 million doses administered so far have gone to people in that age group. But other countries in Europe have made progress to protect those over 75. Britain is the first country in Europe to authorize widespread vaccinations and the percentage of fatalities among those over 75 is diminishing. Spain and France also prioritized vaccinating residents of nursing homes.

Covid Antibody Treatment Reduces Severity and Death Rates

Two recent clinical trials found that taking antibody treatments can reduce the severity and prevent deaths in people with mild to moderate COVID-19. According to Nature, an antibody developed by Vir Biotechnology headquartered in San Francisco and GSK located in London, England reduced the risk of hospitalization and deaths in COVID-19 patients by 85%. In a separate trial, the antibody cocktail consisting of bamlanivimab and etesevimab created by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly slashed that risk by 87%. The antibody VIR-7831 developed by Vir and GSK, was identified in 2003 in a person recovering from severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS caused by a similar coronavirus to the one that causes COVID-19. Scientists later found that the antibody was able to bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that triggers COVID-19.

Goal of 100 Million U.S. Citizens Vaccinated by May 1 to be Met Friday, 3/19

President Joe Biden said on Twitter that his goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccinations will be accomplished Friday, 42 days ahead of his target date. More than 20 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, as states continue to expand their lists of people who are eligible to get a shot.

Over 40% of Healthcare Workers Remain Unvaccinated

Even as vaccine supply continues to increase, some of the most important sectors of the population remain unvaccinated. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey, more than 4 in 10 health workers say they haven’t received a vaccine. Only 52% of front-line health care workers said they received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, more than 1 in 3 said they weren’t confident vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness over the long-term

Sweden, Italy, Germany and France Halt Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine

The German government on Monday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over new reports of dangerous blood clots in connection with the shot. The Health Ministry said the decision was taken as a “precaution” and on the advice of Germany’s national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation of the cases. AstraZeneca stated that their extensive testing showed no correlation with blood clots. Sweden, Italy and France also paused their use of this vaccine.

Border Crisis Growing Alarmingly Fast

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday said that the U.S. is on track to encounter more migrants than it has in the last 20 years. He spoke days after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it had encountered more than 100,000 migrants at the border in February, while numbers of child migrants in custody have also increased dramatically. The Biden administration has been moving to increase capacity of facilities to house migrants, and building a number of extra facilities – including looking at NASA sites and military bases. On Saturday, Mayorkas announced he had directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support a “government-wide effort” to house child migrants.

3,000 Immigrant Teens to be Housed in Dallas Convention Center

The U.S. government plans to use the downtown Dallas convention center to hold up to 3,000 immigrant teenagers as sharply higher numbers of border crossings have severely strained the current capacity to hold youths. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used for up to 90 days beginning this week, according to written notification sent to members of the Dallas City Council. Federal agencies will use the facility to house boys ages 15 to 17, according to the memo, which describes the soon-to-open site as a “decompression center.” U.S. Health and Human Services is rushing to open facilities across the country to house immigrant children who are otherwise being held by the U.S. Border Patrol, which is generally supposed to detain children for no more than three days. The Border Patrol is holding children longer because there is next to no space in the HHS system.

Suspected Terrorists Crossing Through Border, Homeland Security Admits

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged Wednesday that known or suspected terrorists are crossing through the southern border, though he said it’s been going on for years. The question of how terrorism suspects enter the U.S. has been heatedly debated for years. The Trump administration used it as justification for its get-tough policies, including construction of the border wall. Trump opponents downplayed the threat, but now are forced to admit as Border Patrol agents told them that illegal immigrants on the terrorist watch list have been coming across the boundary. Biden’s transition team was warned by career DHS officials that terminating border security measures would lead to catastrophic consequences.

House Passes Two Bills to Grant Citizenship to Millions of Illegal Immigrants

House Democrats on Thursday hailed the expected passage of two bills that would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a sea change in the nation’s stance on immigration. The bills would grant quick legal status and a path to naturalization to farmworkers and another bill to do the same for young adult “Dreamers” and other migrants in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program. The fate of the bills in the Senate remains precarious. Even though Democrats now control the Senate, they are far from a filibuster-proof majority. Republicans who worked with Democrats on immigration bills in the past say the current border situation has made bipartisanship more difficult.

Only a Few Illegal Immigrants Will Receive Stimulus Checks

President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package excludes most immigrants who aren’t in the U.S. legally from receiving stimulus checks, just like the relief packages enacted during the Trump administration. Only noncitizens who have been authorized to work by the Department of Homeland Security can get a Social Security number, which is required to work and collect Social Security benefits, as well as other government services such as stimulus checks. However, according to the Associated Press, some people who entered the U.S. on valid temporary working visas — which would have made them eligible for a Social Security number — may be eligible for the stimulus check, even if they overstayed their visas.

Riots & Protests Mark Anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s Death

Major cities on the West Coast were among those seeing riots and protests Saturday night as demonstrators marked the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death in a police raid in Louisville, Kentucky. Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland all saw clashes between crowds and police, with numerous arrests reported. In Los Angeles, some demonstrators smashed store windows and threw rocks at police officers in Hollywood. At least one officer was injured in the clashes. In Seattle, videos posted to social media early Sunday showed police moving aggressively against demonstrators with police on bicycles making arrests. Earlier, a violent clash broke out as police used pepper spray while moving in against a crowd. In Portland, a federal courthouse in the downtown area appeared to be the main staging area for another faceoff with authorities. New messages were seen spray-painted outside the courthouse, including, “Police are murderers.”

Capitol Outer Fencing to Be Removed This Weekend

De-escalation of the security perimeter around the Capitol will continue this weekend with the removal of the outer fence surrounding the complex. The inner layer of fencing will remain around the Capitol Square area while the Architect of the Capitol makes security repairs to the building. Police and the AOC began scaling back the fencing earlier in the week. As of late Friday, razor wire had been removed from both outer and inner fences, and the latter was moved closer to the Capitol. Capitol Police reported “there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing.”

Michigan Official Violated Law with Ballot-Counting Instructions

A judge in Michigan has ruled a Democratic state official violated state law by ordering during the 2020 vote count that clerks must assume a signature on an absentee ballot is valid. The ruling Monday changed no election results but it bolstered  the complaints filed by President Trump’s campaign and his allies in battleground states that officials opened the door to fraud by violating safeguards in state election laws. In the Michigan case, Judge Christopher Murray of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson broke state law. The state requires that absentee voters sign an application for the ballot and then sign the return envelope before mailing the ballot. Signatures that do not “agree sufficiently” are “to be rejected,” the law states.

Biden Plans First Major Federal Tax Hike Since 1993

President Joe Biden is planning the first major federal tax hike since 1993 to help pay for the long-term economic program designed as a follow-up to his pandemic-relief bill. The Spending program has yet to be unveiled, with analysts penciling in $2 trillion to $4 trillion estimates. Unlike the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus act, the next initiative, which is expected to be even bigger, won’t rely just on government debt as a funding source. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said at least part of the next bill will have to be paid for, and pointed to higher tax rates. Biden’s key economic advisers are now making preparations for a package of measures that could include an increase in both the corporate tax rate and the individual rate for high earners. For the Biden administration, the planned changes are an opportunity not just to fund key initiatives like infrastructure, climate and expanded help for poorer Americans, but also to address what Democrats argue are inequities in the tax system itself.

Americans Moving to States with Lower Taxes and Smaller Government

When people vote with a moving van or a U-Haul truck, they vote for lower taxes and smaller government. That’s the conclusion from comparing a new report on freedom at the state level with the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.  Over the course of a year a net of 788,381 people moved to Florida, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the “freest” five states in America, according to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom in North America index. The least-free U.S. states are New York, West Virginia, Alaska, California and Vermont According to Census Bureau state-to-state migration estimates through mid-2018, the freest five states attracted a net of 270,608 people from other states while the bottom five saw a net outbound loss of 398,067 residents through domestic migration. New York lost the most, as 458,014 left the state and 254,447 moved in for a net loss of 203,567. California’s net loss was 190,122 for the year.  . 

Twenty-One States Sue Biden over Keystone Pipeline Shutdown

Attorneys general from 21 states on Wednesday sued to overturn President Biden’s cancellation of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Led by Ken Paxton of Texas and Austin Knudsen of Montana, the states said Biden had overstepped his authority when he revoked the permit for the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office. Because the line would run through multiple U.S. states, Congress should have the final say over whether it’s built, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texas. Construction on the 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration. It would move up to 830,000 barrels (35 million gallons) of crude daily from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Economic News

Mortgage rates have been steadily rising this year, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing demand for housing — yet. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage is now 3.09%, up from the all-time low of 2.67% at the end of 2020.

Executives from U.S. major airlines all said this week that they’ve seen strong demand for seats from leisure travelers. Bookings have been particularly strong during the traditional spring-break period and going into the summer. “The last three weeks have been the best three weeks since the pandemic hit,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said about advanced ticket sales. “We’re getting very close to 2019 levels in total bookings.”

Israel’s Pool of Siloam Flowing Again After 6-Year Drought

Prayers of rain have been answered and after experiencing more than six years of drought, ancient sources of water are flowing in Israel. Most notably, the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem is overflowing. Six years of drought ended last winter with a blessed rainy season. The Pool of Siloam once served the Temples in Jerusalem. “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:6-7)

“Israel Apartheid Week” a Complete Misnomer

Radical Muslim student groups and the BDS movement are promoting a misleading myth this week known as “Israel Apartheid Week.”  As the name clearly states, they are comparing the Jewish state to the South African apartheid regime of racial segregation. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” writes Gary Bauer. “Israel is the most diverse nation in the Middle East.  It fully protects the rights of minority citizens. Israel’s Arab citizens can vote in elections.  Israeli Arabs serve in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.  They also serve in the Israeli military.  Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab citizen, served on Israel’s Supreme Court for 14 years.”

Biden Administration Returning to the Two-State Solution

The Biden administration is looking to hit the reset button with the Palestinians, including the return to a more traditional position on a two-state solution and rolling back several Trump administration positions on Israel. The four-page memo, titled, “The U.S. Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” was obtained by The National, an English-language news outlet based in the United Arab Emirates. According to the memo, the Biden administration will seek to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace under a two-state solution framework “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees.” While the Trump administration endorsed the concept of a two-state solution, critics considered Trump’s plan for Mideast peace, unveiled in January 2020, as ignoring long-held Palestinian demands and being more favorable towards Israel. The Trump plan was endorsed by Israel as a starting point for negotiations but rejected outright by the Palestinians.

IDF General: Next War Will Rain 2,000 Missiles a Day on Israel

Israeli Defense Forces Commander Gen. Uri Gordin gave a dire warning during an address at the B’Sheva Conference in Jerusalem on Monday regarding the threat awaiting Israel in the next war. “In the next war the State of Israel is expected to absorb about 2,000 missiles and rockets that will be launched at it every day and will challenge all military and civilian systems alike,” Gordin said. Israel faces missile threats on multiple fronts. In Lebanon, there are an estimated 150,000 missiles controlled by Hezbollah. The terror group is engaged in an ongoing effort to make its arsenal more precise. Hamas is also working to build up its missile arsenal and routinely launches rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. In Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to bomb Israel out of existence, a new “missile city” was just announced. It also has started enriching uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.

Biden’s ‘Killer’ Remark Riles Putin, Deepens U.S.-Russia Rift

The already chilly U.S.-Russian relationship descended into a rhetorical and diplomatic deep freeze Thursday when Vladimir Putin bristled at President Biden’s claim that he is a “killer.” The Russian president invoked the atomic bombings of Japan, slavery and the killings of American Indians in a stunning broadside against the White House and America as a whole. The rapid fallout from Mr. Biden’s seemingly off-the-cuff remark, offered during an interview with ABC News this week as he referred to poisonings of Putin political rivals, had some wondering whether Mr. Biden appreciated the impact of a President’s language.

Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks Warns of Increased China Threat, Worsening Relations

A day after Chinese diplomats traded angry barbs with their U.S. counterparts in face-to-face meetings in Alaska, new Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Friday lashed out at Beijing during a virtual speech at the National War College in Washington, D.C. Hicks said China’s policies and recent actions constitute a threat to regional stability and to the rules-based international order. China “has adopted a more coercive and aggressive approach to the Indo-Pacific region. In 2020 alone, Beijing escalated tensions with its neighbors — Australia, Japan and the Philippines,” she said. “Beijing has demonstrated increased military confidence and a willingness to take risks.” China was involved in an armed confrontation last year with India along their disputed border that resulted in a loss of life on both sides. It also has clamped down on any dissent in Hong Kong with oppressive national security laws.

Militants Massacre 24 Christians, Including Two Ministers, in Western Ethiopia

Twenty-four Christians, including two ministers, were attacked and killed by armed militants in western Ethiopia. The Christians were attending a church service in Horo Guduru Welega zone (formerly Welega province) on the eve of Ethiopian Lent, which began on March 8. According to local contacts, members of the militant group OLF Shenie, an offshoot of the Oromo Liberation Front, surrounded the church and forced members of the congregation to hand over their mobile phones. The armed men then killed the two ministers outside the church, before taking the other Christians to a nearby forest, where they too were killed.

Gunmen Abducedt 39 Students From Nigerian College in Kaduna

Gunmen abducted 39 students, most of whom are Christians, from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on March 11. The armed gang raided the college at about 9.30 p.m., shooting indiscriminately and rounding up 219 people. Of these, 180 were rescued by the army soon afterward. Several videos have been released showing the 39 students who remain in captivity, many wearing only undergarments, being threatened, beaten and whipped. The abductions usually are done to extort payments for their release.

Attackers On Trucks And Motorbikes Raid Mali Base, Kill 33 Troops

At least 33 Malian soldiers have been killed and 14 wounded in an attack on a military post in the country’s violence-hit northeastern region of Gao, according to the army. Some 100 assailants on pick-up trucks and motorbikes launched the attack on Monday in the town of Tessit, located 37 miles southeast of Ansongo, near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger. The army said that 20 attackers were killed. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Mali has been plagued by a brutal conflict that began as a separatist movement in the north but devolved into a multitude of armed groups jockeying for control in the country’s central and northern regions. The violence has spread into Burkina Faso and Niger, with fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda exploiting the poverty of marginalized communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups.

Gunmen Kill At Least 58 Civilians In Attack On Niger Convoy

Armed men in southwestern Niger have killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy returning from a weekly market and attacked a nearby village, the government said on Tuesday. The attacks on Monday occurred in the Tillabery region, which is near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso and has seen increasingly deadly attacks by armed groups active across the region with links to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. The mass killings underscore the enormous security challenges facing Niger’s new president, Mohamed Bazoum, who won the election in late February. Attackers killed at least 100 civilians on January 2 in raids on two villages in Tillabery, one of the deadliest episodes in the country’s recent history. The assailants this time intercepted four vehicles transporting passengers from a weekly market to the villages of Chinagoder and Darey Dey, the government said. “These individuals then gutlessly and cruelly proceeded to carry out targeted executions of passengers,” it said. “In the village of Darey Dey, they killed people and burned the granaries.”

Environment

Scientists from Washington, British Columbia and U.S. federal agencies joined forces in a virtual press conference Wednesday to declare open season on the Asian giant hornet, an invasive species that was first found in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. The agencies are collaborating on their plans to track, trap and eradicate any of these ‘murder hornets’ they find in 2021.  The joint announcement comes as the predatory insects are setting up nests this spring. Asian giant hornets can destroy entire hives of pollinator honeybees, critical to many crops.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rattled parts of Japan Saturday, shaking buildings and prompting a tsunami advisory and evacuations near the same area where a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster struck 10 years ago. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The U.S. Geological Service gave the earthquake a rating of 7.0 magnitude. It was centered offshore about 16 miles east-northeast of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, at a depth of about 33 miles.

Volcanoes

A long dormant volcano in Iceland erupted overnight Thursday, sending glowing red-hot rivers of lava flowing down on two sides. There is no danger to property or large population centers. A few roads in the vicinity of the eruption have been closed and people are advised to stay away from valleys and other places near the fissure where toxic gases can accumulate. The volcano is about 20 miles outside the capital of Reykjavík.

Weather

Dozens of houses were damaged or destroyed by possible tornadoes in the Deep South and thousands were still without power as of Thursday morning. At least three homes were destroyed in Alabama’s Chilton County, which saw two possible tornadoes Wednesday night. Two people, a woman and her 3-year-old daughter, were hurt when they were thrown from their home in Clarke County, Alabama. Nearly 16,000 homes and businesses in Alabama had no electricity as of 7 a.m. Thursday. A home was damaged and trees were down across parts of Stone County in southern Missouri after a possible tornado struck shortly before midnight.

A “crippling” winter storm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the Rocky Mountains. Rescuers worked through the night to reach motorists trapped on Colorado highways by Winter Storm Xylia. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis activated 50 National Guard soldiers and airmen to help with stranded motorists and with search and rescue operations. More than 925 flights scheduled for Monday were canceled at Denver International Airport, which closed completely Sunday evening because of the storm. The airport received 27.1 inches of snow.

Australia’s east coast was smashed by heavy rains on Saturday, sparking dangerous flash flooding that forced the evacuation of multiple regions as the fast-moving waters unmoored houses, engulfed roads, stranded towns and cut power lines. In Sydney, the country’s biggest city, authorities pleaded for people to stay at home as a major dam overflowed and a mini-tornado tore through a western suburb. Most of the coast in the state of New South Wales (NSW), which is home to about a third of Australia’s 25 million people, has already seen March rainfall records broken and authorities warned the downpour was likely to continue for several days.

Signs of the Times (3/13/21)

March 13, 2021

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  (Romans 13:11-14)

Arkansas Governor Signs Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill into Law

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday signed into law legislation banning nearly all abortions in the state, a sweeping measure that supporters hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark Roe v. Wade decision but opponents vow to block before it takes effect later this year. The Republican governor had expressed reservations about the bill, which only allows the procedure to save the life of the mother and does not provide exceptions for those impregnated in an act of rape or incest. Arkansas is one of at least 14 states where legislators have proposed outright abortion bans this year. Hutchinson said he was signing the bill because of its “overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.” The legislation won’t take effect until 90 days after the majority-Republican Legislature adjourns this year’s session.

Mississippi and Idaho Ban Transgenders from Women’s Sports

On Thursday, the Governor of Mississippi signed into law the common-sense rule that to play in girls’ sports you have to be a biological female. On Monday, Idaho became the first state in the United States to bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports and to legalize the practice of asking girls and women to undergo sex testing in order to compete. More than half of the remaining states are engaged in similar efforts to save girls’ sports.

Biden Signs an Executive Order to Redefine ‘Sex’ in Title IX to Include ‘Gender Identity’

Earlier this week, President Biden signed an Executive Order redefining Title IX’s use of “sex” to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Title IX is the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including in sports – and it has played a significant role in giving women equal access to athletic opportunities. When enforced, the President’s Executive Order will almost certainly require schools to let biological males compete – and win – in female athletic competitions.

First Lawsuit Filed in U.S. to Refuse Forced Vaccination

This month, a corrections officer filed a lawsuit against his workplace for requiring him to receive the vaccine in order to keep his job. Isaac Legaretta, sued a county manager and his supervisor earlier this month because they are requiring him to take the vaccine against his will. “You can’t be forced to be a human guinea pig when a product is experimental,” said N. Ana Garner, an attorney for Legaretta, who filed his complaint in U.S. District Court District of New Mexico Sunday. “We have the right to bodily integrity,” she told Bloomberg Law. The long-term effects of the vaccine are completely unknown, making this vaccine experimental. It has only been given emergency authorization by the FDA because those long-term effects have yet to be studied.

President Biden Fires Attorney Who Defended Religious Liberty of Employees

An attorney within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who had gained a reputation for defending religious liberty was fired by President Biden Friday. Sharon Fast Gustafson was nominated by President Trump as EEOC general counsel in March 2018. Her term was set to expire in August 2023. Under her leadership, EEOC filed a lawsuit against Kroger on behalf of two employees who said they were fired after refusing to wear LGBT-themed aprons. The women “believed the emblem endorsed LGBTQ values and that wearing it would violate their religious beliefs,” the EEOC said in a news release at the time. In the year 2020, Gustafson said in the letter, the EEOC filed 37 lawsuits based on sex and 29 based on disability. Other lawsuits filed included ones based on retaliation (26), race (13), age (7), religion (5) and national origin (4). Gustafson said her work promoting religious liberty had been removed from the EEOC website after Biden was inaugurated. Biden requested Gustafson’s resignation, but she refused in a letter to Biden dated March 5, saying, “Your request that I resign provided no reason for the request,”. She was fired the same day.

  • This is a clear indicator that the Biden administration does not respect and will not defend religious freedom. Rather, faith will be under attack in the U.S. as never before.

‘Woke’ School Recommends Discarding Words Like ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’

An elite New York City school warned staff, students, and parents to stop using words like “mom” and “dad” because they are inappropriate terms. Instead, the Grace Church School, which charges $57,000 a year, urges the K-12 “community” to use “grown-ups,” “folks,” “family,” or guardians. The City Journal reported on a 12-page memo, showing how “woke” ideology is influencing elite education. The guide says “traditional family” is an “outdated term,” saying: “we actively try to undo notions of a ‘typical’ or ‘normal’ family structure, each family is unique.” The memo also warns “sexuality can be fluid along the course of a person’s life,” giving scenarios and instructing them how they should respond. Within a massive list of phrases not to use, “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” should be replaced with “Have a great break!” Despite pushback, the school defended the use of the “woke” memo. “Grace is an Episcopal school. As part of our Episcopal identity, we recognize the dignity and worth common to humanity,” Rev. Robert M. Pennoyer II, the assistant head of school, said in a statement to the City Journal.

Fence Around the Capital Causing Bipartisan Criticism

Authorities have begun adjustments on the fence erected around the Capitol after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but the barrier remains contentious in Congress, which must determine how much fencing is necessary and how much it will cost going forward. The 7-foot, chain-link fence topped with razor wire has been moved closer to the Capitol in several locations as threats to the campus are reassessed. But the fence has proven a target of criticism from lawmakers of both parties for restricting access to the historic building. Capitol grounds have traditionally been open, allowing joggers and tourists to enjoy the campus. The fencing has forced motorists and pedestrians to find new routes. “The view of our nation’s Capitol through concertina wire is not something that we’re very proud of,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. “This fence sends a terrible message to American citizens, as well as to our allies and adversaries, and it is not a long-term security solution,” said a letter from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Equality Act Being Debated in the Senate, Likely Headed for a 50-50 Vote Broken by VP Harris

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared “Rule 14” on the “Equality Act” which means that this measure bypasses all committees and sends the “Equality Act” straight to the Senate floor. Senators can vote on this bill at any moment. Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel writes, “The Equality Act is designed to crush moral decency and religious freedom beneath the feet of the radical LGBT & Q lobby, make abortion a federal right and punish anyone—especially Christians and religious institutions—who will not promote those life-threatening and soul-crushing actions and ideals.” Heavy-duty prayer is urgently needed

Congress Passes New Stimulus Bill, Biden Signs, Checks Start Going Out Next Week

The most heralded feature of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) are the $1,400 relief checks, the $350 billion for state and local governments, the money for vaccines, and the boost in child tax credits. But the stimulus bill also contains many other spending programs. For a list of the ARP’s many spending provisions, see the Appendix at the end of this report.

The American Rescue Plan Will Fund Abortion Providers

The American Rescue Plan forces American taxpayers to fund abortions and the Planned Parenthood abortion business. It is the largest expansion of abortion funding since 2010, when Democrats passed Obamacare, notes LiveNews.com. “In the Senate, Democrats defeated a pro-life amendment that would have stopped the COVID relief bill from using tens of millions and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to fund killing babies in abortions.” The Senate voted 52-47 to defeat the pro-life amendment. The nation’s Catholic bishops slammed Democrats for passing the bill without any protections against abortion funding.

Moderna’s Top Scientist: mRNA Vaccine is “Hacking the Software of Life”

Dr. Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer at Moderna Inc. explained in a 2017 TED talk how the company’s mRNA vaccines were being designed to work. “In every cell there’s this thing called messenger RNA or mRNA for short, that transmits the critical information from the DNA in our genes to the protein, which is really the stuff we’re all made out of. This is the critical information that determines what the cell will do. So we think about it as an operating system. So if you could change that, if you could introduce a line of code, or change a line of code, it turns out, that has profound implications for everything from flu to cancer. He added that, “We are actually hacking the software of life.” In essence, they are relabeling gene therapy as vaccines.

  • The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not the same as previous vaccines. The introduction of mRNA is new, and the long-term effects of “hacking” our internal software remains to be seen with millions of people acting as the guinea pigs. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not use mRNA.

Deal With J&J for 100M More Doses Means Enough Vaccine for All Eligible Americans

President Joe Biden announced plans on Wednesday to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine – enough when added to vaccines from other sources to provide the nation with more than enough doses to serve every eligible American, the White House said Wednesday. The single-shot J&J doses come in addition to the 200 million doses Pfizer and Moderna pledged to deliver by late May of their two-shot vaccines, putting the country well over the total supply needed to vaccinate everyone eligible for the vaccine in the United States.

Enough Vaccine for Everyone, But 1/3 Will Refuse to Get Vaccinated

In President Biden’s prime-time address to the nation Thursday evening, he said there would be enough vaccine for every eligible American by May 1 and challenged states to get the job done by then. However, an analysis by the New York Times on Thursday says only 90% of Americans would be vaccinated by August 22 based on current rates. The pace of vaccination has increased steadily in recent weeks, to more than 2 million doses on average each day. But supply-chain inefficiencies still are causing issues. In addition, there are still many people who say they will refuse to get the vaccine. Almost half of former President Trump’s supporters don’t plan to get vaccinated according to a poll by NPR, PBS, and Marist. The survey found that 41 percent of Republicans would not take the vaccine, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats saying they wouldn’t take it. Overall, about one-third say they will not get vaccinated.

  • About 66 million Americans have been vaccinated at least once as of 3/12, representing 54% of the prioritized population and 20% of the total population.

In 2018 Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab, Were Ignored

Research on bat viruses at a Wuhan lab had already drawn the attention of U.S. diplomats and officials at the Beijing Embassy in late 2017, prompting them to alert Washington that the lab’s own scientists had reported “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” But their cables to Washington were ignored writes Josh Rogin in Politico Magazine. Now, the new Joe Biden team is walking a tightrope, calling on Beijing to release more data, while declining to endorse or dispute the Trump administration’s controversial claims that the coronavirus came out of the Wuhan lab. Last month, National security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement expressing “deep concerns” about a forthcoming report from a team assembled by the World Health Organization that toured Wuhan—even visiting the lab—but was denied crucial data by the Chinese authorities.

New Covid-19 Cases/Deaths/Hospitalizations Continue to Decline at a Slower Rate

Over the past two weeks in the U.S., new daily Covid-19 cases decreased 19% while daily deaths are down 35% and hospitalizations down 26%. However, the 7-day average cases still remain high at 56,362/day with the 7-day average of daily deaths also still high at 1,364/day. While many states have continued to see significant declines in new cases, others, especially on the East Coast, have seen infections plateau at relatively high levels.

  • Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 13th Friday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

Eli Lilly COVID-19 Drug Combo Cuts Risk of Hospitalizations, Deaths by 87%

A combination of two Eli Lilly antibody drugs cut the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths by 87%, the company announced Wednesday. The findings draw from a BLAZE-1 Phase 3 cohort with 769 mild-to-moderate coronavirus patients aged 12 and up at high-risk of progressing to severe disease. There were 15 “events” like hospitalizations or deaths in the placebo group, and four “events” in a group of patients taking 700 mg of bamlanivimab and 1400 mg of etesevimab together, “representing an 87 percent risk reduction,” Lilly announced. The company noted that the four deaths all occurred in the placebo group.

Some Countries Halting Use of Astra-Zeneca Vaccine

Several European countries have suspended their use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after reports of blood clots in some people, even though there is no evidence the shot is responsible. Denmark said it was doing so “based on a precautionary principle,” joining Norway and Iceland in halting use of the vaccine. Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca shot on Friday and the country also delayed its rollout. AstraZeneca has robustly defended its vaccine, saying Friday there was “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots.

Italy Going Back into Lockdown as Covid-19 Cases Grow Exponentially

Italy is facing another lockdown, as the government attempts to contain a recent surge of coronavirus cases, driven by the presence of new variants. Half of Italy’s 20 regions, which include the cities Rome, Milan and Venice, will be entering new coronavirus restrictions starting Monday, March 15. The measures will be effective through April 6, according to a decree passed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet on Friday. Additionally, over Easter weekend, the entire country will be considered a “red zone,” and will be subject to a national lockdown from April 3 to 5. The variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is also now prevalent in the country, according to the health ministry, who also said that they are worried about the presence of small clusters of the Brazilian variant.

Biden’s First Month Yields Record Numbers of Illegal Immigration

President Biden’s first full month in charge of the country’s borders set new records for illegal immigration, according to numbers released Wednesday that showed last month was the worst February ever when it comes to illegal immigrant children. Nearly 9,500 unaccompanied juveniles were nabbed at the southwest border, part of an overall surge of migrants which is double what the country experienced last year at this time, and even runs ahead of the record-breaking 2019 border surge. Customs and Border Protection said it recorded more than 100,000 encounters with illegal immigrants. That’s the fifth-worst month in the last decade

5% to 10% of Migrant Border-Crossers Testing Positive for Covid-19

Migrant families coming across the border are testing positive for the coronavirus at much higher rates than for U.S. citizens. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Washington Times that the families it is processing are between 5% and 10% positive. In Brownsville, Texas, the city says it is seeing a 12% positive rate. And in Harlingen, Texas, the homeless shelter where families are being dropped off reported that 25% tested positive for COVID-19. That’s more than seven times the current positivity test rate for the U.S. public, which Johns Hopkins University’s tracker shows at 3.5%.

Crisis: 3,250 Migrant Children in Custody Along the Border

More than 3,250 migrant children are in custody along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the children are staying in holding cells longer than the three days allowed by law, averaging 4 days and 11 hours.. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that thousands of children are crossing the U.S. southern border because “this administration did not feel that it was humane or moral to send kids back… on the treacherous journey back to countries where they were fleeing persecution, where they were fleeing really difficult circumstances.” She noted that because of the influx, it’s been difficult to find facilities to transfer children where they could have access to lawyers, education and health care officials. Under U.S. law, migrant children are separated from the adults they arrive with — often a grandparent, older sibling or other relatives — until federal officials can confirm the accompanying adult is their relative.

Texas Implements its Own Border Security Program

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched a program on March 6 that will deploy state National Guard troops and personnel from other agencies to respond to the burgeoning crisis at the southern border. Abbott says Operation Lone Star, in collaboration with the state’s Department of Public Safety, will deploy air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to prevent Mexican criminal organizations from smuggling drugs and people into Texas. “Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott said.

Minneapolis Reaches $27M Settlement with George Floyd’s Family

Minneapolis leaders approved a $27 million settlement Friday with the family of George Floyd in a wrongful death lawsuit over his death in police custody that spurred protests worldwide and a national reckoning on racial justice. The settlement includes $500,000 to be directed to enhance the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue business district where Floyd died. It’s the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever. Mayor Jacob Frey said, “Today’s settlement reflects our shared commitment to advancing racial justice, our sustaining push for progress, our commitment to Minneapolis, and our commitment and compassion to one another.”

Portland Unrest Continues Unabated Despite Change in Administration

Downtown Portland, Oregon, erupted in violence yet again Thursday night, drawing tear gas and smoke bombs from federal officers who were deployed to quell the unrest, according to a report. Rioters set fires and smashed windows in the area of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse until being driven away by federal officers, At least 100 rioters have been arrested. The crowd later made a return to the area, managing to break some courthouse windows and set another fire. Earlier in the day, a crowd had gathered to protest plans to replace and expand an oil pipeline that runs between Superior, Wisconsin, and the Canadian province of Alberta. Some protesters also cited the start of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota as a reason for the unrest. Oregon’s largest city has seen almost daily and nightly protests for much of the past year.

Amazon Won’t Sell Books That Call Transgenderism a Mental Illness

Amazon is banning books that describe gender dysphoria as a mental illness. For decades, mental health professionals have considered it just that, and it was removed from the list only in recent years amid LGBTQ activism. “We reserve the right not to sell certain content. … We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ as a mental illness,” Amazon said. The company claimed its actions were not “part of a broad campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon’s platforms.” Amazon didn’t say what it will do now with the Bible, which condemns deviant sexuality.

World Debt Binge Creates Future Headache – Massive Interest Payments & Inflation

Desperate to save their economies from complete collapse, worldwide governments borrowed unprecedented amounts of money on the cheap to support workers and businesses during the pandemic. Now, with recovery in sight, a big risk looms: interest payments. Spurred on by rock-bottom rates, governments issued $16.3 trillion in debt in 2020, and they’re expected to borrow another $12.6 trillion this year. Should that happen, the cost of servicing mountains of sovereign debt will jump, eating up government funds that could otherwise be spent on essential services or rebuilding weakened economies. Concerns about rising interest rates have come into focus as investors offload government bonds. The UK Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that if short- and long-term interest rates were to rise by just 1 percentage point, debt interest spending would increase by $29 billion.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 42,000 last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November, evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs amid a decline in confirmed coronavirus cases and signs of an improving economy. However, this is still almost three times the normal rate of new unemployment applications.

About 4.1 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 20.1 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid. The nation has recovered 12.9 million of the 22.4 million jobs shed since last spring. As of February 2021, women were down 5.1 million jobs compared to the same time last year, while men have lost 4.4 million jobs.

Retail sales are now 7.4% above their pre-pandemic peak, with 28% of total sales shifting online. Restaurant income is still 16.6% below its pre-crisis high. More than 100,000 restaurants have permanently closed. Airline passenger trips generally have trended higher since bottoming in April but were still 71% below the year-ago level in this past January.

Inflation watch: Gas prices have been increasing at the pump for the past few weeks, reaching a national average of $2.77 a gallon as of Monday, which is 39 cents higher than the same time in 2020, according to AAA. The price of agricultural commodities traded on the global stage has shot up by 50 percent since the middle of 2020, according to Robobank. Lumber prices have increased more than 180 percent since last spring, and this price spike has caused the price of an average new single-family home to increase by $24,386 since April 17, 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Iran Enriching Uranium With New Set Of Advanced Machines At Natanz

Iran has started enriching uranium with a third set of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, the U.N. nuclear watchdog told its member states on Monday, a further breach of Tehran’s 2015 deal with major powers. The move is part of a recent acceleration by Iran of its violations of restrictions under that deal, which granted Iran relief from financial sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear activities. It began breaching limits after then-U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal and re-imposed sanctions in 2018.

Impasse Over Iran Nuclear Talks Sets Off International Scramble To Save Accord

Three weeks ago, in a show of both good faith and diplomatic pressure, the United States offered to rejoin nuclear talks with Iran. The double-edged overture fell flat: Iran refused to meet without first receiving financial incentives, and the Biden administration made clear, as the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, put it, that “the ball is in their court.” That set off a new rush among world powers to resuscitate a 2015 nuclear accord that the United States exited three years after negotiating it, leaving Iran to steadily violate the terms of the deal.

Israeli Strikes Target Iranian Oil Ships Bound For Syria

Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, U.S. and regional officials say, in a new front in the conflict between Israel and Iran. Since late 2019, Israel has used weaponry including water mines to strike Iranian vessels or those carrying Iranian cargo as they navigate toward Syria in the Red Sea and in other areas of the region. Iran has continued its oil trade with Syria, shipping millions of barrels and contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran and international sanctions against Syria.

Sharp Increase in Attacks by Iran-Backed Houthis Follows U.S. Reversal of Terror Designation

The Iran-backed Houthis attacked a major Saudi Arabian oil facility with drones and missiles over the weekend in another dangerous cross-border attack targeting civilians and critical infrastructure. Missile defense systems, which prevent the majority of attacks from causing damage or casualties, are being used more frequently in recent weeks to thwart Houthi attacks. The uptick in aggression follows the end of U.S. support for Saudi-led coalition offensives in Yemen and the rescission of the group’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations by the Biden administration. Western governments (including the U.S.) condemned on Thursday an attack by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on the city of Marib.

Continued Junta Attacks Against Protesters Continues in Myanmar

Bloodshed continues in Myanmar after another violent day Thursday saw at least 12 people killed by the ruling junta, according to a watchdog group, prompting a top UN official to say the crackdown on peaceful protests is “likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.” In the small, central town of Myaing, police shot into a crowd of unarmed people, killing at least eight, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Images posted on social media showed the town’s roads streaked with blood and bodies lying crumpled and lifeless in the street. The military junta, which seized power in a coup on February 1, is attempting to crush peaceful opposition to its enforced rule in every corner of Myanmar, not just the big towns and cities.

Demonstrations Lead Russia to Throttle Twitter

The new year in Russia kicked off with mass arrests of protesters pushing back against the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an inconvenient development in a nation known for stifling dissent. Now the Kremlin is going after American social media, throttling Twitter’s speed in an apparent attempt to tamp down on posts encouraging people to demonstrate. “The slowing down will be applied to 100% of mobile devices and on 50% of nonmobile devices,” state communications regulator Roskomnadzor announced in a Wednesday statement, noting it had found more than 3,000 posts of illegal content on the social media platform that Twitter wouldn’t take down.

China & Russia Agree to Build a Scientific Space Outpost Together

China and Russia have agreed to collaborate on building and operating a robotic scientific outpost on the moon or in lunar orbit, the China National Space Administration announced. The agency said the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint effort to build an “international lunar research station.” Harry Kazianis, a senior director at the Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank Center for the National Interest, said an “authoritarian alliance in space” should worry the United States. “This mirrors what China and Russia are doing on sharing weapons technology, economic ties and more,” Kazianis told USA TODAY. “Both nations see space as the next great power battleground. By working together, they can try and blunt any U.S. advantages in this domain of the future.”

China Puts an End to Hong Kong’s Democracy

By a vote of 2,895-0, with one abstention, China’s National People’s Congress voted to give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the proportion of those directly elected, and ensure that only those determined to be truly loyal to Beijing are allowed to run for office. Beijing has made it clear throughout the process that only true “patriots” will be able to sit in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, excluding government critics and anyone holding views that diverge significantly from the program laid out by Beijing, which many see as effectively ending the city’s already weakened democracy.

Environment

Last month’s historic bitter cold in Texas is being blamed for killing nearly 4 million fish along the state’s coast. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department estimates a minimum of 3.8 million fish comprising 61 species died during the freeze. It’s the largest fish kill in the state since the 1980s, the agency said.

Wildfires

More than a dozen people are missing in a series of wildfires in Argentina, set on purpose and then fueled by hot and windy conditions. Authorities say the blazes were most likely set in connection with a local conflict. “The outbreaks were started simultaneously in different locations,” Interior Minister Wado de Pedro said. “It was not a lightning strike or an accident, it is clearly intentional fires, which affect not only native forests, local flora and fauna, but also thousands of people who run risk of life.”

Weather

Severe weather, historic snowfall and flash flooding are forecast for the next few days in areas of the central United States, from the Rockies to the Mississippi River Valley. “The stage is set for a significant winter storm to impact the central Rockies and the central High Plains,” the Weather Prediction Center said Friday morning. This storm system delivers its first threat over the Rockies Friday into Saturday, with intense bands of snowfall dumping up to two feet of snow across Colorado and Wyoming. Dangerous travel conditions will exist across portions of interstates 25, 70, and 80 — so drivers are urged to use extreme caution.

Heavy rain that caused evacuations, collapsed bridges and caused extensive damage on the Hawaiian island of Maui Tuesday moved over Oahu Wednesday, where a North Shore beach town was ordered to evacuate and one person was missing after being washed away by floodwaters. Separately, a man was rescued in the community of Waikele after the truck he was in was carried about 100 yards by floodwaters. The Honolulu Fire Department responded to 20 weather-related calls from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. David Ige issued a statewide emergency declaration Tuesday night.

At least four residents were trapped in their homes Wednesday after a storm across Southern California unleashed the mudslides in areas scarred by wildfires. A mandatory evacuation was issued for Silverado Canyon Wednesday morning. Firefighters were called in to help the residents trapped in Silverado Canyon near Irvine. Mud flowed into six or seven homes and damaged nine vehicles. Mud two to three feet deep covered a half-mile stretch of road.

Appendix: Additional Spending Programs in the American Rescue Plan

  • The restaurant industry will get a long-awaited $28.6 billion for a new grant program offering direct debt-free aid to independent restaurants with 20 or fewer locations.
  • ARP includes an additional $21.5 billion for emergency rental assistance to states and cities, adding to the $25 billion they received in December for the same purpose. The money is meant for renters facing back payments to keep families in their homes.  The bill also includes $10 billion to states and cities to help the estimated 3.3 million homeowners behind in mortgage payments or in foreclosure.
  • Addressing other housing needs, the bill allocates $5 billion for homelessness services; $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers; $100 million to support households living in federally subsidized rural housing; and $100 million in housing counseling to help homeowners and renters with debt challenges navigate their housing situations. It will also provide $100 million to fair housing organizations that help renters and homeowners combat housing discrimination amid the pandemic.
  • The legislation will send $125 billion to the nation’s K-12 public schools aimed at reopening schools for in-person learning and supporting students who suffered a loss of learning as a result of their schools closing during the pandemic.
  • The bill provides $39.6 billion to colleges and universities – which have lost more than 650,000 employees during the pandemic – and college students themselves. At least half the aid will go to emergency financial aid grants to students to pay for things like food, housing and health care.
  • The bill appropriates $10.4 billion for agricultural and food supply sectors, $5 billion of which will go to socially disadvantaged farmers of color. These include Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American farmers.
  • The relief package provides an additional $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program, which provides aid to live music and other event venues that have closed or scaled back operations.
  • The relief package will provide the first major expansion of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” since it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. The bill increases premium support in ACA marketplaces, subsidizes COBRA coverage and provides incentives for the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the ACA.
  • The package provides $500 million for rural health care efforts including increasing vaccine distribution, providing medical supplies, expanding medical surge capacity, increasing access to telehealth, and helping fill the gap for rural health care providers.
  • The package gives $200 million to the more than 17,000 public libraries – many of which were forced to close during the pandemic – through the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • The bill extends through September the 15% increase in food stamp benefits though the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
  • The bill also provides $4 billion to support the food supply chain through the purchase and distribution of food, purchase of PPE equipment for farmers and frontline workers in the food industry and financial support for farmers, food processing companies and farmers markets.

Signs of the Times (3/8/21)

March 8, 2021

Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

These news items are meant to be the basis for prayer, so please pray.

Equality Act Undermines Religious Freedom In Violation of the Constitution

The First Amendment is very clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Equality Acts, recently passed by the House and is being considered by the Senate essentially expands the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBTQ rights alongside “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” However, the Equality Act also states in Sec. 1107 that, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” In other words, religious beliefs and rights are effectively cancelled by the Equality Act when you read the fine print.

  • Ironically, this 1993 Act was sponsored by then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY-9) and it actually strengthened the religious rights in the First Amendment. Now he leads the charge for the Equality Act.

America’s Largest Christian Adoption Agency Will Now Work with LGBTQ Parents

Bethany Christian Services is the largest Christian adoption agency in the United States. This week, the organization announced that it would begin providing its services to LGBTQ parents nationwide. Their decision is in response to requirements from various states that agencies serve such couples to maintain their governmental contracts. In 2007, the organization specified that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” On Monday, Bethany’s vice president stated, “Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission. But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree. We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children.”

  • The religion of secular humanism is increasingly infiltrating the Church and its extensions, diminishing the light of truth and compromising core beliefs in the false notion that half truth is better than none.

Senate Finally Passes Stimulus Bill, Sent Back to House to Approve Changes

Democrats muscled past unified Republican opposition Saturday and are on the cusp of delivering a massive Covid relief bill that will put $1,400 checks in the pockets of millions of Americans, shore up unemployment for the millions still out of work and notch the first major legislative accomplishment of Joe Biden’s presidency. After the Senate passed its version of Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package on a party-line vote Saturday, it now heads back to the House, where the chamber will vote Tuesday to approve changes made in the Senate. The House is likely to pass it and President Biden said he will sign it into law. Once it is signed into law, the bill will directly touch millions with aid checks and extended unemployment, beef up tax credits for families, put new money toward the federal vaccine rollout, spend $130 billion to get kids back in classrooms, earmark $350 billion for states and cities facing uncertain tax streams during the pandemic, extend more generous food assistance programs, help people struggling to pay rent and encourage companies to extend paid sick leave.

  • The House is expected to vote Tuesday, 3/9 on the Senate’s version of the bill, which is likely to pass and then be forwarded to President Biden who affirmed that he will sign the legislation into law.

Senate Votes Down $15 Minimum Wage Amendment to COVID Stimulus Bill

A group of Democratic senators joined all Senate Republicans in voting against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour on Friday. The Vermont independent tried to add the provision to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill as the Senate considered the $1.9 trillion measure. But the effort failed in a 58-42 vote with eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus voting against it. 

House Passes New Voting Rights Bill, Prospects in Senate Dim

A sweeping voting rights reform bill passed the House in a 220-210 vote Wednesday night, with every Republican and one Democrat voting against. The HR1 “For the People Act,” which would bring in new national standards, would be the biggest expansion of federal voting rights since the 1960s if it becomes law, though the odds are against it making it through the Senate. A near-identical bill passed the House in 2019 but didn’t make it to a vote in the then-GOP-controlled Senate. The dozens of provisions include measures requiring states to offer 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee balloting, along with same-day registration. The bill also calls for automatic voter registration and the restoration of voting rights to former felons as well as requiring presidents to release their tax returns. It also aims to eliminate partisan gerrymandering by requiring independent redistricting commissions. Republican lawmakers argued that the bill would lead to federal interference in the ability of states to decide how elections, saying Democrats want to use their “temporary power” to “try to ensure they’ll never have to relinquish it.”

Biden Signs Executive Order Aimed at Expanding ‘Voter Access’

President Biden on Sunday signed an executive order aimed at expanding voting rights. It’s the Biden administration’s latest move to expand voting rights as they push the Senate to pass H.R. 1, the House Democrats’ bill to transform America’s election system, including prohibiting voter ID laws. Agency heads will be required to post “relevant information” – like how to vote-by-mail and vote in an upcoming election – on websites and social media platforms. Those who visit vote.gov will be directed to the appropriate state website that provides greater details on how to vote in that individual state. Election officials are encouraged to distribute voter registration and voting-by-mail applications and help voters fill out those applications if need be. Federal prisoners who are currently incarcerated with be educated on their voting rights, including whether or not they will be restored once their sentence is completed. Those who are eligible to vote will be registered to do so.

Houses Passes Bill Transferring Administration of Elections from States to the Federal Government

On Wednesday, Democrats in the House passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, which was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). The election reform package, if passed by the Senate, would transfer authority over how elections are administered from states to the federal government and make permanent many voting rules that opponents say lead to voter fraud. The 791 page-long H.R. 1 legislation package was adopted without much debate. The Senate has yet to take up the measure.

Covid-19 Cases/Deaths/Hospitalizations Declining at Slower Rate

Over the past two weeks, the number of daily new cases and deaths in the U.S. have continued to decline, but at a much slower rate. New daily cases decreased by 12% of the past two weeks while deaths were down 10%, and total number of hospitalizations was down 29% as of 3/8. However, the 7-day average number of new cases is till high at 58,745/day with deaths at 1,728/day. While the increased rate of vaccinations is driving the numbers down, infections from the new, more infectious variants are rising.

Vaccinations on the Upswing, Many Already Getting Second Doses

The U.S. hit a record on Saturday for single-day doses administered at 2.9 million vaccinations. The country is now vaccinating a seven-day average of nearly 2.2 million Americans. According to data compiled by the CDC, 9.2% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, while more than 58.8 million people have received at least one dose.

CDC Releases Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Monday designed to ease restrictions for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency’s guidance state those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease. The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed, unless they’re symptomatic.

Adverse Incident Reports Show 966 Deaths Following Vaccination for COVID-19

According to adverse incident reports collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 966 individuals have died after having received an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. Between Dec. 14 and Feb. 19, 19,769 reports were made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) following immunizations with either the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccines. At this time, VAERS data is not available after Feb. 19. The 966 deaths represent 5 percent of the total number of adverse events reports. Of those who died, 86, (8.9 percent) died on the same day they got the shot. An additional 129, (13.4 percent) died within one day. An additional 97 died within 2 days, and 61 within 3 days. A total of 514 (53.2 percent) died within a week. 173 died within 7-13 days. 106 within 14-20 days.

  • Some of these people may have died anyway, even if they hadn’t been vaccinated. But the numbers do seem to be high for such a short time after getting the shot. Obviously, further analysis is required.

34 Cases of Spontaneous Miscarriages, Stillbirths Occurred after COVID-19 Vaccination

Thirty-four cases of pregnant women experiencing spontaneous miscarriages or stillbirths after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine have been submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Reports made to VAERS do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused the event or reaction. Most of the cases of spontaneous miscarriages occurred in the first trimester, or the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, with 25 occurrences after being immunized with a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Four cases of stillborns occurred in either the second (weeks 13–27) or third trimester (weeks 28–40).

Austria Suspends Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Batch After Death

Austrian authorities have suspended inoculations with a batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots, a health agency said on March 7. One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering, The women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.

25% of Illegal Aliens Test Positive for Covid-19 in Texas Town

A quarter of the illegal immigrants dropped off in one Texas town tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the man who runs the homeless shelter where Border Patrol agents are bringing the migrants they’re catching and releasing. Bill Reagan, director of Loaves and Fishes, the food bank and shelter in Harlingen, Texas, told city commissioners that, “We can’t quarantine them. Even though they test positive, they’re going to leave the next day. They’re going to get on the bus or the airplane, and they’re gone.” Federal officials have asked Texas to assist with this issue, Governor Abbott said Thursday, but he declined, saying testing and quarantining migrants is the federal government’s job.

Illegal Immigrant Children Overwhelming U.S. Shelters

The U.S. is quickly nearing maximum capacity in shelters for illegal immigrant children following the Biden Administration’s loosening of border policies. Internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services reveal the shelter system is now at 94% occupancy, according to Axios. And it is expected to hit maximum capacity later this month. The documents also show the Border Patrol referred an average of 321 children per day to HHS in the week ending March 1. Axios noted the number was just 47 per day during the first week of January. Axios said the number of children crossing into the U.S. from Mexico could soon overwhelm government systems. HHS officials have moved to open overflow shelters.

  • Biden administration officials said that they are pivoting away from Trump administration policies they felt were inhumane toward migrants, especially children. But as federal agents grapple with a rising influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, what to do with the children who come with an adult that is not their parent is becoming a rising concern.

Democrats Pushing Amnesty Bills As Border Crisis Worsens

House Democrats are pushing two bills that would grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants in the coming weeks — even as the Biden administration scrambles to deal with a rapidly escalating crisis at the southern border. Democrats announced this week that they had reintroduced the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, both bills that had been introduced in the last Congress but never became law. The American Dream and Promise Act would grant citizenship pathways to what Democrats estimate are approximately 2.5 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Meanwhile, the agriculture bill would grant citizenship to illegal immigrants who have at least partially worked in agriculture as well as create reforms to the broader immigration system related to agriculture.

Supreme Court Dismisses ‘Sanctuary City’ Cases at Request of Biden’s DOJ

The Supreme Court has dismissed three pending requests to hear challenges to the Trump administration’s order to withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions—states and cities that refuse to cooperate with Department of Homeland Security efforts to deport people residing in the United States illegally. “After a request from the Biden administration yesterday, the Supreme Court just dismissed three pending cert petitions (requests to hear a case) about the Trump administration’s effort to withhold money from so-called sanctuary cities,” the SCOTUS Twitter account noted.

FBI Continues to Pursue Capitol Rioters After Arresting Almost 300 So Far

In the two months since an angry mob forced its way into the U.S. Capitol, agents in all but one of the FBI’s 56 field offices have been drafted to track down those who participated in the deadly insurrection. They’ve mined tens of thousands of photos and videos. They followed trails the rioters left on social media bragging about being inside the Capitol. And they’ve arrested almost 300. But, as many as 500 remain at large of the 800 who Capitol Police believe entered the Capitol. Arrests are expected to continue given the more than 230,000 digital tips the agency received. The riot claimed five lives and cost millions in damages and cleanup in the historic building. 

Fatal Shooting of Man in Minneapolis Near ‘George Floyd Square’

A manhunt was underway Sunday in Minneapolis after the fatal shooting of a man near “George Floyd Square,” an intersection that serves as a memorial to the man whose death at the hands of police in May set off Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. The shooting took place less than 48 hours before jury selection is set to begin in the murder trial of the police officer charged in Floyd’s death. “Officers were met with some interference at the scene,” Police spokesman John Elder said. The shooting came hours after about 150 people gathered in front of the Minnesota governor’s mansion to demand accountability for police officers. Many of the protesters had family members who died during police encounters.

Attitudes Shifting About Black Lives Matter (Down) vs. Police (Up)

Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen and their faith in local law enforcement has risen since protests demanding social justice swept the nation last year, according to an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. The debate over the intersection of racism and policing will be in the spotlight again as jury selection opens Monday in the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide marches last year. Last June, 60% in a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll described Floyd’s death as murder; that percentage has now dropped by double digits to 36%. Uncertainty has grown about how to characterize the incident, caught on video, when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck and ignored his protests that he couldn’t breathe. Nearly two-thirds of Black Americans, 64%, view Floyd’s death as murder; fewer than one-third of white people, 28%, feel that way.

Ferguson Activists Sue Black Lives Matter for $20M Over Teen’s Death

Michael Brown Sr. and Ferguson, Mo., activist Tory Russell, the founder of the International Black Freedom Alliance, demanded $20 million from Black Lives Matter after revelations that the organization brought in $90 million last year. Brown’s son, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old Black teen, was killed in a police-involved shooting in the city in 2014, prompting a wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Despite the protest movement’s massive haul, Brown said he received just $500. “Today, we hold Black Lives Matter accountable,” Russell said in a video Tuesday alongside the elder Brown. “What kind of movement are we building where we’re saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but the freedom fighters and the families are being left behind?”

Right Side Broadcasting Network Suspended by YouTube Over Trump CPAC Speech

Right Side Broadcasting Network said it was suspended by YouTube for two weeks because it broadcast former President Donald Trump’s Sunday night speech. The media outlet wrote that YouTube claimed the video “violated their guidelines on election misinformation,” adding that it reached nearly 4 million views. “They have also removed it from their platform,” Right Side wrote on Twitter. Trump delivered the speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday night, where he briefly touched on the Nov. 3 election.

  • Freedom of speech used to be a cherished right. Now, if it doesn’t meet the ‘right’ standards set by whoever is in power, that freedom is perverted.

High School Principal Suspended for Promoting Free Speech to Students

Barton Thorne wanted his students to be aware of the prospect of losing their right to speak and be heard in the era of “cancel culture”, and his high school immediately illustrated his point—by canceling him. Thorne is the principal of Cordova High School in Shelby County, TN, and when he delivered his weekly video address to staff and students in January, just days after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, his message was clear: Beware the suppression of online speech and expression that does not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy of the moment. It was a message not well-received by district administrators, who placed Thorne on paid leave after receiving complaints about the video’s contents. “Here you have a high school principal who is trying to advise his students of the importance of listening to all voices and viewpoints, who then has his own voice silenced by the school district for saying so,” said Patrick Wood, founder and director of Citizens for Free Speech.

Cancel Culture Strikes Conservative Cartoon ‘Mallard Fillmore’

The conservative comic strip “Mallard Fillmore” has been plucked. Bruce Tinsley, creator of the 27-year-old cartoon, said he was told this week by his syndication company that Gannett newspapers across the country simultaneously dropped the comic over two strips critical of President Biden and transgender participation in women’s sports. “It was a big shock,” Mr. Tinsley told The Washington Times. “From what I’m hearing, it was unprecedented. My syndicate had never seen anything like it.” Certainly, “Mallard Fillmore” has been known to ruffle feathers, but Mr. Tinsley said he didn’t think the strips referring to Mr. Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order on gender identity and sexual orientation were over the top.

  • Either line up in lockstep to secular humanism or risk being cancelled. Soon all things Christin will be targeted under ‘hate crime’ accusations.

Fewer Miles Driven in Pandemic, But More Traffic Fatalities

The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued Thursday that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years. However, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923. Pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept many drivers off U.S. roads and highways last year, but those who did venture out found increased reckless driving. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior,” said Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety.

Food Forests Cropping Up Across the Country Offering Free Food

There’s a seven-acre farm in Atlanta where residents can walk into a forest, take a deep breath, and begin pulling crops right off the land for dinner. A one-time pecan farm, the Food Forest at Browns Mill project contains 2,500 edible and medicinal plants available to anyone in need. It’s one of a growing number of free-food forests cropping up in cities around the country, as citizens and organizations both public and private attempt to grapple with problems of hunger and food deserts. In Atlanta, this problem is acute, with the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas estimating that at least one in every four Atlantans, or around 125,000 people, live in areas defined as food deserts based on their geographical distance from grocery stores. Having created the nation’s largest free-food forest, The Conservation Fund, with the assistance of the city of Atlanta and the U.S. Forest Service, is ensuring this former pecan-farm continues its tradition of feeding the community.

Shift to Remote Work Leading to Exodus from Big Cities

Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, people working remotely increased to about 32% of the workforce, largely white-collar employees, reports Moody’s Analytics. A Gartner survey of HR leaders at 130 companies in December found that 90% plan to let employees work remotely at least some of the time even after much of the population is vaccinated. And 13% of executives say they’ll close their offices for good, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. All of which is leading to remote workers moving out of large cities. Moody’s Analytics has identified metro areas most likely to emerge winners and losers from potentially millions of people movements across the country. It found that Northeast cities are most vulnerable to an exodus of residents while the South and West are most likely to gain, accelerating trends that have been decades in the making.

Economic News

Hiring rebounded sharply in February after a two-month slump with employers adding 379,000 jobs as falling COVID-19 cases and fewer business restrictions offset the harsh winter weather across much of the country. Restaurants and bars accounted for most of the job gains. The unemployment rate fell from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor department also reported Friday.

However, the American job market is nowhere near fixed. Nearly one year into the pandemic, the nation is still down nearly 9.5 million jobs. Another 745,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, up slightly from the previous week and still more than three times the number of claims in the same week last year. On top of that, 436,696 workers applied for Pandemic Unemployment benefits, which are available to people like the self-employed or gig workers.

The pandemic is squeezing women out of the workforce, and the December, 2020 jobs report highlights just how dire the situation is. According to U.S. government data, the country lost 140,000 jobs in December — and an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center shows that all of them belonged to women. The downturn has weighed heaviest on women of color. In total, the NWLC counted roughly 154,000 Black women who left the workforce in December.

A few years ago, when the U.S. national debt crossed the $20 trillion dollar mark, it seemed illogical that it would ever get to $30 trillion so quickly. But the U.S. national debt is currently around 28 trillion dollars, and Congress is poised to pass a $1.9 trillion “relief bill”.  We are going to have to borrow every single dollar that we spend in that bill, and that will be on top of all of the “normal” borrowing that we are already doing.  So by the end of 2021, the U.S. national debt will cross the 30 trillion dollar mark. That’s almost 50% higher than the $20.8 trillion total of all the goods and services the U.S. produced in the 2020 fiscal year. This simply cannot go on for much longer before the house of cards falls and totally wrecks the U.S. (and global) economy.

General Motors is extending the downtime at three North American factories that began in February through at least mid-April as it prioritizes the production of its full-size pickups and SUVs during the ongoing semiconductor shortage affecting the automotive industry. The automaker will also pause production in April and May at its Gravatai, Brazil, factory, which builds vehicles for the local market.

Progressives Upset with Sec. of State for “Strong Commitment to Israel” Tweet

Progressives are upset with new Secretary of State Antony Blinken over a tweet in which Blinken proclaimed a continued “strong commitment to Israel” in light of the International Criminal Court’s announcement of a criminal investigation into events that transpired between the Jewish state and Palestinians. The ICC released details of the probe on Wednesday, stating that it was examing acts committed by both sides of what it called the “Situation in Palestine” beginning on June 13, 2014 — the day after Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Sha’er were kidnapped in the West Bank before being killed. The ICC’s report of its preliminary findings alleged that Israel may have committed war crimes through “disproportionate attacks in relation to at least three incidents” including clashes with protesters on Israel’s border with Gaza in 2018. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the ICC’s decision to investigate as “undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy.”

Netanyahu Outraged at ICC for Investigating Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the announcement by the International Criminal Court on last week that it would investigate Israel for war crimes. “The decision of the International Court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy,” he said in a videotaped statement. Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the ICC, announced that the court would initiate “an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine.” Netanyahu responded, “Without any jurisdiction, it decided that our brave soldiers, who take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties against the worst terrorists in the world who deliberately target civilians, it’s our soldiers who are war criminals.”

Palestinian Authority Paid $181 Million to Terrorists and Their Families

A senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization says the Palestinian Authority paid out some 600 million shekels ($181 million) in stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families last year under the PA’s pay-for-slay policy, Times of Israel reported Thursday. For decades, the Palestinians have used foreign donor money, including U.S. taxpayer funds and other sources, to reward terrorists and their families, the Times reports. These are monthly cash payments to terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners, and to the families of the so-called “martyrs” – any Palestinian killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. That includes payments in perpetuity to the families of suicide bombers as a reward for their “sacrifice” to the Palestinian cause.

Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Say They Targeted Saudi Oil Port

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they attacked a major Saudi Arabian oil port on the Persian Gulf with drones and missiles on Sunday. Saudi authorities said the strike caused no casualties or damage. The Saudi Energy Ministry said an assault “coming from the sea” had targeted petroleum tanks at the Ras Tanura port. It condemned what it called “repeated acts of sabotage and hostility” targeting energy supplies to the world. “All indications point to Iran,” said an adviser to the Saudi royal court who said he was briefed on the matter.

U.S. Warns Afghanistan of New Taliban Spring Offensive, Reviewing Troop Pullout Deal

The Taliban could make rapid military gains across Afghanistan when American and Nato troops pull out, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned. Under a deal between the Taliban and the previous Trump administration, all remaining U.S. forces are due to leave the country by the end of next month. But in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Mr Blinken has warned of a possible new “spring offensive.” Under the previous deal, the remaining 10,000 U.S.-led Nato forces in the country are due to pull out by May 1 in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. The White House has now said that it wants to make sure the Afghan militant group is “living up to its commitments,” including reducing violence and cutting ties with terrorists, before withdrawing. Levels of violence in the country remain high, with journalists, activists, politicians and women judges among those killed in targeted assassinations.”

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Slaying Of Three Women Media Members in Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afghanistan, the latest in a spike in targeted killings across the war-tor country. Dozens of people gathered Wednesday for the funerals of the three media workers. The women were gunned down Tuesday in separate attacks, according to the news editor of the privately owned station and officials in Nangarhar province. Afghan officials said police arrested their alleged killer, identifying him as Qari Baser and insisting he was a member of the Taliban — a claim promptly denied by the Taliban. Instead, ISIS claimed ‘credit’ for the slayings.

Earthquakes

Residents on New Zealand’s coast were warned to head to higher ground immediately over the threat of a tsunami after a strong earthquake struck off the country’s North Island and caused severe shaking. The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck 147 miles northeast of Gisborne, New Zealand, at 2:27 a.m. Friday (8:27 a.m. EST), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Hundreds of people sought shelter in a school on higher ground above Hawke’s Bay on the central coast of North Island. At least four aftershocks have been reported since the first quake, including one of magnitude 5.1. The tsunami alert was cancelled shortly afterwards.

Small earthquakes are nothing new or surprising for Icelanders—but 17,000 of them in a week is enough to rattle them. Scientists say the swarm of quakes suggests Mount Keiler, 20 miles away from Reykjavik, could be about to erupt for the first time since the 12th century. Experts believe the apparently imminent eruption is likely to be a fissure eruption, with lava oozing out of the ground, unlike the explosive eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that massively disrupted international air travel for more than a week in 2010.

Megadrought Persists in Southwestern U.S.

Much of the western U.S. continues to endure a long-term drought, one that threatens the region’s water supplies and agriculture and could worsen wildfires this year. In fact, some scientists are calling the dryness in the West a “megadrought,”  defined as an intense drought that lasts for decades or longer. “Coming off record-breaking or near-record-breaking heat and dryness in 2020, the winter has not provided much relief at all and we see the most widespread exceptional drought in this region,” said climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center. Exceptional drought is the worst level of drought.

Weather

Most of the attention from the winter storm system that tore through the South in mid-February was on the aftermath in Texas. However, thousands of people in Jackson, Mississippi, have also suffered — and will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future – without water. Nearly three weeks after winter storms cut water to customers on Jackson’s water system, some haven’t seen as much as a trickle return. What little there is cannot be used to brush teeth, wash dishes or hands. City officials offer no hope of when the water will return, nor even a firm number on how many are without water.

The U.S. averages over 1,150 tornadoes every year. That’s more than any other country. In fact, it’s more than Canada, Australia and all European countries combined. The average number of tornado fatalities per year in the U.S. is 73. But in Europe, where the tornadoes are usually much weaker, the fatalities are estimated to be between 10 and 15 annually. “No place else in the world has the large warm water on its equatorward side with a wide high range of mountains extending from north to south to the west of it,” explained Dr. Harold Brooks, senior scientist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Signs of the Times (3/3/21)

March 3, 2021

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  (Psalm 2:1-6)

FDA Approves Johnson & Johnson Single Shot Vaccine, Merck Will Help Produce It

The U.S. now has a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19. On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Health experts have been anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading. Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states began Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

  • Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, a historic collaboration that should help J&J catch up after falling behind in its expected vaccine production. Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, abandoned its own effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Catholic Groups Spurn J&J Vaccine Because it Uses Aborted Fetal Tissue

Some Catholic groups have decided that the J&J vaccine deserves to be spurned because the company used cell lines from two abortions that took place in the ’70s and ’80s in not only the vaccine’s testing, but also in its development and production. The Archdiocese of New Orleans implored Catholics to, if the option is available, opt for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine instead of the J&J one which is “morally compromised.” Despite their misgivings, however, Catholic leadership in New Orleans and Baton Rouge says if the J&J vaccine is the only option, the church won’t castigate those who get it.

Federal Law Prohibits COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Despite what some vaccine law “experts” have been saying, for the time being no one, including employers, can force a COVID-19 vaccine on anyone, reports Technocracy News. This is because the current vaccines being used in the U.S. have not been formally approved by the FDA. Rather, they’ve only received an emergency use authorization (EUA) while clinical trials continue. The same section of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that authorizes the FDA to grant emergency use authorization also requires the secretary of Health and Human Services to “ensure that individuals to whom the product is administered are informed … of the option to accept or refuse administration of the product.” Likewise, the FDA’s guidance on emergency use authorization of medical products requires the FDA to “ensure that recipients are informed to the extent practicable given the applicable circumstances … That they have the option to accept or refuse the EUA product …”

$1.9B Stimulus Bill Funds the Abortion Industry

Over the weekend, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a COVID-19 relief bill which aims to use taxpayer money to fund abortions and the abortion industry under the guise of coronavirus relief. Known as H.R. 1319, the $1.9 trillion, 592 page “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” passed by a narrow 219 to 212 margin, largely along party lines. Now, the bill is in the United States Senate for ratification. The massive funding bill, unlike previous COVID-19 relief legislation, excluded Hyde Amendment protections, meaning that there are no safeguards against over $400 billion being used to cover elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment U.S. bans federal funds from paying for abortions except to save a pregnant woman’s life or those resulting from rape or incest.

New Mexico Repeals Protections for Healthcare Workers Who Oppose Abortion

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (Dem) on Friday signed a bill into law that repeals not only the state’s 1969 abortion ban but also conscience protections for hospitals and healthcare workers. The bill, S.B. 10, had passed the state House, 40-30, and the Senate, 25-17, before being signed into law by the Democratic governor, who supports abortion rights. The 1969 law outlawed abortion but included exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life or to stop a “grave impairment” to the woman. It also permitted an abortion if the unborn baby would have had a “grave physical or mental defect.” Opponents criticized not only the removal of protections for the unborn but also the removal of protections for hospitals and healthcare workers who oppose abortion.

States Race to Protect Women’s Sports from Transgenders

At least 25 states have introduced legislation to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Five of those bills have cleared one chamber, and the Tennessee legislation is expected to reach the state House and Senate next week for floor votes. However, those state bills would be rendered legally moot if the U.S. Senate passes and President Biden signs the Equality Act, which would bar discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, requiring schools that receive federal funds to allow transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports.

Freedom Assessment Study Puts U.S. in Bottom Half of Free Countries

Freedom declined in the U.S. and around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in less than 20% of the world’s population living in a free country, according to Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties released Wednesday. The U.S. scored an 83 on Freedom House’s 100-point system, which assesses countries on a 40-point scale for political rights and a 60-point scale for civil liberties. That puts the U.S. in the bottom half of all the world’s ‘free’ countries. The U.S. fell three points from last year and has dropped 11 points in the past decade. The report’s authors cited mass arrests and violence during last summer’s racial justice protests, lack of transparency about COVID-19 treatment and prevention, Mr. Trump’s voter fraud allegations in response to the November presidential election, and the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol as among the most concerning indicators of the health of U.S. democracy.

Poll Finds That Most Americans Believe Cancel Culture Threatens Freedom

A newly released survey found the majority of Americans believe cancel culture poses “a threat to our freedom.” Sixty-four percent of respondents answered affirmatively when asked in a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll: “Do you think there is a growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom or not?” When broken down along ideological lines, 80% of Republican participants said cancel culture poses “a threat” to freedom, while only 48% of Democrats said the same. Sixty-four percent of independents agreed it’s a “threat to our freedom.” “Americans are showing increased and substantial concern about the growth of cancel culture,” said Mark Penn, director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll. “Tech companies beware that the public sees them acting out of bias tilted toward the Democrats and voters are calling for new regulations to ensure fairness and openness”.

More Covid-19 Variants Emerging in NY, California and Brazil

Health officials are urging Americans to not let their guards down against COVID-19 as researchers discover new variants that may already be more transmissible and could also be somewhat resistant to the vaccine. While U.S. experts have been following variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, they’re also discovering other variants closer to home in Brazil, New York and California. A variant that originated in Brazil – called P.1 – was first reported in late January by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan. It has 17 unique mutations. As of Sunday, the CDC reported 10 cases of the P.1 variant in five U.S. states: Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Maryland. The agency has designated it a “variant of concern.” Many of the Brazilian cases occurred in people who already had recovered from the coronavirus, intensifying concerns about reinfection.

Texas & Mississippi Drop Covid Restrictions Despite Federal Warnings

The governors of Texas and Mississippi relaxed Covid restrictions their states this week in defiance of federal government warnings to not open their economies too fast. President Biden on Tuesday warned the country to dig in for a while longer as he flexed sweeping wartime powers under the Defense Production Act in another big leap forward in the inoculation drive, announcing there would be enough doses for all US adults by the end of May. On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned that with variants spreading, “we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”

CDC Announces Ebola Travel Restrictions from Guinea and Congo

Beginning next week, the U.S. government will funnel travelers from Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo to six U.S. airports, the CDC announced on its website Friday. “Airlines will collect and transmit passenger information to CDC for public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers boarding a flight to the U.S. who were in DRC or Guinea within the previous 21 days.” The CDC release said workers would interview affected passengers on arrival to ensure they have accurate contact-tracing data. “This information will be shared with U.S. state and local health departments to appropriately monitor arrivals in their jurisdiction.”

Judge Rules Eviction Moratorium Unconstitutional, Justice Dept. Appeals

The Justice Department said Saturday it will appeal a judge’s ruling that found the federal government’s eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. Prosecutors filed a notice in the case on Saturday evening, saying the government was appealing the matter the to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeal comes days after U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevented had overstepped its authority and that the moratorium was unlawful. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” the judge wrote in his decision. 

‘Frightening Levels of Fraud’ Overwhelm COVID Unemployment Programs

With the floodgates set to open on another round of unemployment aid, states are being hammered with a new wave of fraud as they scramble to update security systems and block scammers who already have siphoned billions of dollars from pandemic-related jobless programs. The fraud is fleecing taxpayers, delaying legitimate payments, and turning thousands of Americans into unwitting identity theft victims. Many states have failed to adequately safeguard their systems, and some will not even publicly acknowledge the extent of the problem. The massive sham springs from prior identity theft from banks, credit rating agencies, health care systems, and retailers. Fraud perpetrators, sometimes in China, Nigeria, or Russia, buy stolen personal identifying information on the dark web and use it to flood state unemployment systems with bogus claims.

California Announces $6.6 Billion School Reopening Deal

California’s public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s legislative leaders. California, the most populous U.S. state, has 1,037 public school districts, more than 6.1 million students and about 319,000 teachers. Most public school classes have not been held in-person since March of last year because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers’ unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom. California can’t order schools to return to in-person instruction, but state officials can offer a lot of money to those that do.  To be eligible for this new money, school districts in regions that fall under the most restrictive level — known as the purple tier — must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade. Districts in the next highest tier, the red tier, must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school.

Six Dr. Seuss Books Cancelled for Racist Depictions

Tuesday was the 117th birthday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, but the celebration this year comes with controversy. The business that controls the Seuss name says six books will no longer be published or sold because they portray people “in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” March 2 was “Read Across America Day,” which is traditionally associated with Seuss. President Biden’s proclamation for the day left out Seuss’ name, a pivot from presidents Obama and Trump. And the NEA also has been shifting its focus on the day from Seuss to emphasize diverse children’s titles. Some pundits wonder whether cancel culture has become so mindless and al-encompassing that people will finally say “enough already!”

108 Illegal Immigrants Released into Texas Test Positive for Coronavirus

More than 100 illegal immigrants released by the Border Patrol into Texas since late January have tested positive for the coronavirus following their arrival. Felipe Romero, a spokesperson for Brownsville, said Wednesday that the 108 positives represent 6.3% of the number of total migrants who have been rapid-tested at the city’s main bus station, where they are being released by the Border Patrol. He added that Brownsville does not have the authority to prevent those who test positive from traveling elsewhere in the U.S. — and are advising them to quarantine, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and socially distance. 

Portland Anti-ICE Rioters Smash Windows, Spray-Paint Businesses

Rioters vandalized several buildings in downtown Portland, Ore., on Saturday night in one of the largest protests in weeks. Around 150 people marched through Portland’s Pearl District in what’s called a “direct action” event, smashing windows of businesses like Starbucks, Chipotle, Umpqua Bank and Urban Pantry and tagging them with graffiti. The marchers were protesting the Biden administration’s immigration policy and the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The White House received progressive pushback this month when it reopened a Texas shelter meant to house unaccompanied teenage migrants. Business owners expressed great frustration at the interference and damage to their businesses which have nothing to do with immigration policy.

Self-Harm & Substance Abuse Among Teens Rose Substantially During Pandemic

Mental health issues among teenagers, including incidences of self-harm and overdosing, have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study of medical reports and insurance claims. Claims for intentional self-harm among individuals 13 to 18 years old increased almost 91% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, a report by FAIR Health found. The Northeast region recorded the highest jump in intentional self-harm claims among this age group, a nearly 334% climb last August compared to the same month in the year prior. The report released Tuesday also found that claims for overdoses for teenagers aged 13 to 18 jumped almost 95% in March 2020 and 119% in April 2020 compared to the same months the previous year.

Largest Texas Electric Utility Files for Bankruptcy

The oldest and largest electricity cooperative in Texas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the devastating winter storm in February. Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed its bankruptcy petition after racking up bills owed to the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), in connection with the outages. Power companies that went down during the storm from Feb. 13-19 were required to pay for replacement power sources at what Brazos described as “excessively high” rates. The Waco, Texas-based Brazos said it was presented with a bill for more than $2.1 billion for seven days of what it called a “black swan winter event.” It refused to pay, saying the winter storm legally eliminated its requirement to do so.

Economic News

According to Bloomberg News, basic food staples are dramatically spiking in price all over the globe. In Indonesia, tofu is 30% more expensive than it was in December. In Brazil, the price of local mainstay turtle beans is up 54% compared to last January. In Russia, consumers are paying 61% more for sugar than a year ago. Inflation in cereals has hit 20 percent, which represents the highest annual rise since mid-2011. Overall, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index has risen for a seventh consecutive month.

Demand for mortgage applications remained tepid last week as rates rose to their highest level since July. Last week, applications fell by 12% while refinancings were down 11%. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate for a home with a balance of less than $548,250 increased to a seven-month high of 3.23%, up from 3.08% the week prior. Mortgage rates have increased in seven of the past nine weeks.

Rockets Hit Airbase In Iraq Hosting U.S. Troops

At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a heart attack and died during the rocket attack. The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar.

Iran Behind Attack on Israeli Ship in Persian Gulf

Iran was behind the attack in the Persian Gulf on an Israeli-owned ship, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz said, an incident developing at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East. The Helios Ray, sailing between Oman and Iran and carrying a cargo of cars on its way from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, was hit on Thursday night by an unidentified explosion that bore two holes in the ship. No one was injured in the apparent attack. The ship docked in Dubai and an Israeli team was reportedly dispatched to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the investigation into the incident.

U.S. Sanctions Russians over Putin Opponent Alexei Navalny’s Poisoning

The U.S. is imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the poisoning and continued detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reiterating its call for the Kremlin critic’s release from prison, senior administration officials announced Tuesday. The U.S. is sanctioning seven senior members of the Russian government and adding 14 entities to the Department of Commerce’s “entity list,” mirroring sanctions imposed earlier by the European Union and the United Kingdom for the attempted murder of Nalvany. The sanctions prevent top figures allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin from accessing financial and property assets in the U.S. 

More Protesters Are Killed in Myanmar as Crackdown Escalates

After four weeks of protests, the military in Myanmar (Burma) opened fire on demonstrators in several cities on Sunday, killing at least 18 people, the United Nations said, in the most vicious effort yet to extinguish the unrest roiling the nation. The forceful response of the military signaled a new toughness after a month in which thousands have turned out regularly to protest a Feb. 1 coup. The demonstrations and civil disobedience movement have been the biggest tests yet of a military notorious for its brutality after having crushed democracy movements in 1988 and 2007 by shooting peaceful protesters.

More Than 300 Girls Kidnapped In Latest Nigerian School Abduction. Then Returned

Gunmen kidnapped 317 girls from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria, police said Friday, the latest in a rising tide of high-school abductions across Africa’s most populous nation, where kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry. Dozens of armed militants broke into the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara state at around 1 a.m. Friday and began shooting before packing schoolgirls onto vehicles or walking them toward the nearby Rugu forest, which spreads over three states and hundreds of miles. The Zamfara police said security forces, backed by reinforcements, were in pursuit of the abductors. All of the schoolgirls who were kidnapped at gunpoint from their boarding school in Nigeria have been released, authorities said Tuesday. They were freed after “repentant bandits” acted as intermediaries to negotiate their release.

Former President of France Convicted of Corruption

A court on Monday found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved. This is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has been convicted of corruption. Sarkozy’s co-defendants – his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 – were found guilty and given the same sentence as the politician.

Earthquakes

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.0 struck central Greece Wednesday and was also felt in neighboring Albania and North Macedonia, and as far as Kosovo and Montenegro. Local officials reported structural damage, mainly to old houses and buildings that saw walls collapse or crack. The midday quake sent thousands of people rushing out of homes and office buildings into the streets in Larissa and Tyrnavos, the closest towns to the epicenter. Numerous aftershocks hit the area, the most powerful having a preliminary magnitude of over 5.0.

Environment

A massive iceberg broke off Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf, British researchers announced. At 490 square miles, the berg is bigger than New York City, which is 302 square miles. A crack in the ice shelf widened several hundred meters Friday before the iceberg sheared off. The last major chunk to come off in this area was in the early 1970s, the BBC said. There is no evidence that climate change played a significant role in this event, the British Antarctic Survey said. Calving is an entirely natural process wherever ice flowing on the land meets the ocean or large lakes. Each year, 10,000 to 15,000 icebergs are calved worldwide, most of them on the small side.

Weather

Floodwaters forced residents of a Kentucky nursing home to evacuate overnight as drenching rains soaked the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Even as rains move out of the area, many rivers are still rising and nearing flood stage. Several communities in Kentucky and West Virginia experienced flooding that entered homes and numerous motorists had to be rescued from swamped cars. As of Monday morning, some areas of Kentucky had received more than 6 inches rain in the past 48 hours. High water left 11 people stranded at a church in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, Monday morning. Officials in Kentucky said flooding that inundated homes and businesses has reached historic levels in some areas Tuesday. At least 49 counties had issued disaster declarations.

Signs of the Times (2/27/21)

February 27, 2021

“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5)

These news items are meant to be the basis for prayer, so please pray.

Equality Act Passed by House, Moves on Now to Senate

House Democrats on Thursday passed the Equality Act, taking their cues from President Biden as he pushes transgender rights to the forefront over warnings of dire repercussions for religious freedom, women’s sports and female privacy. The bill, which would add sex, gender identity and sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was approved 224-206, with three Republicans voting in favor of the measure, a drop from the eight who supported the measure in 2019. But the road through the 50-50 Senate remains uncertain. Democrats would need 10 Republicans to join them in order to stave off a filibuster.

Equality Act Creates ‘Right’ to Kill Babies

The Equality Act contains language that could be construed to create a right to demand abortion from health care providers, and likely would place at risk the authority of the government to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions, reports LifeNews. The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by defining “sex” to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” Abortion is considered a “related medical condition” by pro-abortionists. “If enacted, H.R. 5 would open the door for widespread litigation wherein any attempt to restrict abortion, including the funding of abortion, would constitute discrimination,” said Jennifer Popik, J.D., director of federal legislation for the National Right to Life Committee.

Equality Act calls Bible a Bigoted Document, Rabbis Say

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing over 1500 traditional, Orthodox rabbis in matters of public policy, called today for the rejection of the Equality Act that the U.S. House approved last Thursday as “a direct attack on Jewish religious values and practices.” For example, the text refers to “the sex stereotype that marriage should only be between heterosexual couples” as a discriminatory belief. “The Equality Act expressly declares that the Book of Genesis [see 2:24] and all of the Jewish laws pertaining to marriage as a sanctified union between man and woman… are nothing more than engagement in discriminatory stereotypes. This is a disgraceful attack upon Jewish Biblical beliefs, rendered no more excusable by the fact that other traditional religious groups have similar tenets.” Furthermore, “A law which would require recognition of the gender a person prefers to be… would demand we cease to operate in accordance with our sincerely-held beliefs, moral values and religious education — expressly violating our religious liberty.”

Equality Act a ‘Pandora’s Box of Evil’ Says Liberty Counsel

The so-called “Equality Act” will devastate Christian schools from pre-K through college. Noncompliant schools will lose tax exemption (including federal, state and property) and accreditation. Loss of accreditation will be the death of most Christian colleges and universities, notes Liberty Counsel. The radical bill will strip Christian schools and colleges of their accreditation if they don’t comply. The bill will require schools to accept abortion. Schools which offer health insurance for students must include abortion. In addition, biological boys and men will be able to participate in women’s sports which will unfairly punish female contestants. “But worst of all, the bill imposes LGBTQ into every corner of our schools. This includes “Q”—which the bill says stands for ‘Queer’—all the 550 paraphilias (including pedophilia). This applies to staff, teachers, restrooms, lockers, showers, dorms, sports and more. This bill is a Pandora’s Box of evil that will insert itself into scores of federal laws, override all state and local laws, and force religious institutions to accept and promote homosexual, bisexual, transvestite, transexual and any of the 550 paraphilia behaviors,” writes Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

Georgia Enacts Law Creating ‘Sanctuary State for People of Faith’

A new law makes Georgia a “sanctuary state for people of faith,” according to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The Faith Protection Act was a response to lockdowns and restrictions enacted by state and local authorities in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he said. “I want Georgia to be known as a sanctuary state for people of faith,” Kemp said. “I think we’ve seen around the country there have been a lot of people in power, especially governors around the country, that have denied people that right of religious freedom… We never shut churches down. We asked our pastors and faith leaders across all denominations to work with us and help us flatten the curve and stop the spread, but we also know, and even with a pandemic, it’s important for us to be able to worship.”

Supreme Court Blocks California’s Ban on Indoor Church Services

The U.S. Supreme Court handed California churches a victory Friday, granting injunctive relief to a group that had sued over coronavirus lockdown rules that banned indoor services. The churches will be allowed to hold indoor services as they await a decision on their appeal in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing their case but had denied a motion to suspend the ban during it. The 6-3 decision came with the Court’s liberal justices in dissent. The churches sued Santa Clara County earlier this month after the county continued to ban indoor services despite an earlier Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s complete ban violated the First Amendment.

House Passes COVID Relief Bill with $1,400 Stimulus Checks

The Democratically-controlled House approved a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package early Saturday, a key step for a measure that would provide millions of Americans $1,400 stimulus payments, ramp up vaccine distribution and extend unemployment aid through the summer. The bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, passed 219-212. No Republicans voted for it, and two Democrats voted against it. The measure now heads to the Senate where it faces a rocky road ahead in the evenly divided chamber. No Senate Republicans are expected to support the bill, citing its size and scope, so Democrats will have to count on every one of their 50 senators — and a tie-breaking 51st vote from Vice President Kamala Harris

$15 Minimum Wage Ruled Out of Stimulus Package

Senate Democrats are seeking another way to raise hourly wages for Americans after  the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour could not stay in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus plan making its way through Congress. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Thursday the provision raising the wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 would have to be removed and considered as a standalone bill or as part of other legislation. She noted that the wage increase did not meet the criteria to be included in the bill under the reconciliation process. The decision means that any minimum wage increase provisions cannot be passed with a simple Senate majority and would require bipartisan support.

  • The Parliamentarian of the United States Senate is the official advisor to the Senate on the interpretation of Standing Rules of the United States Senate and parliamentary procedure. MacDonough is an American lawyer and has been the Parliamentarian of the Senate since 2012. She is the first woman to hold the position. Parliamentarian rulings are seldom challenged.

House Votes to Protect 2.7 Million Acres in Western ‘Land Grab’

The House voted Friday to cordon off nearly three million acres of Western land in the name of environmental protection, overriding Republicans who called it a “massive land grab” that will kill jobs, increase wildfire danger and reduce access to public lands. The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, approved by a vote of 227 to 200, combined eight Democrat-sponsored bills to create another 1.5 million acres of federal wilderness, including more than 1,000 river miles, and withdraw 1.2 million acres from new oil and mining claims. The package affecting four states—Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington—will ensure that “iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado’s Thompson Divide are permanently protected from the irreversible threats posed by extraction,” said the House Natural Resources Committee.

Big Tech Censorship of Conservatives & Christians Continues to Escalate

The National Pulse editor and “War Room” host Raheem Kassam said he was locked out of his Twitter account without an explanation. “They’ve done it again. Of course they don’t give a reason,” he wrote on Parler and Gab. Later, Kassam asked “why did Twitter suspend me right as we published this story?” referring to a story alleging that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a nominee to chair the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have close ties with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) front groups. Kassam was the previous editor-in-chief for Breitbart News.

  • It’s Black History Month, but a highly acclaimed PBS documentary on the only African-American on the U.S. Supreme Court – and only the second ever – no longer is streaming on Amazon Prime. “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” is available on other sites, but not Amazon which merely says it is “unavailable.” Not coincidentally, on Monday Thomas issued a scathing dissenting opinion in which he criticized the Supreme Court for refusing to hear two pivotal Pennsylvania cases challenging the counting of ballots in the 2020 election.

Worrisome Coronavirus Variant Found in New York City

Two separate teams of researchers said this week they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast that carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response — as well as the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments. Genomics researchers have named the variant B.1.526. It appears in people affected in diverse neighborhoods of New York City, they said, and is “scattered in the Northeast.” One of the mutations in this variant is the same concerning change found in the variant first seen in South Africa and known as B.1.351. It appears to evade, somewhat, the body’s response to vaccines, as well. And it’s becoming more common.

Pfizer Testing Ways to Combat Coronavirus Variants

Pfizer says it is looking into two separate ways to provide protection against new and more infectious COVID variants, especially the one first detected in South Africa.. Board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the company is investigating whether a third shot of the current vaccine will provide extra protection against variants. He says Pfizer and partner BioNTech are also investigating whether the formulation can be modified to make the vaccine “protective no matter how the coronavirus mutates into infectious variants. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the company’s goal is to be able to produce a modified vaccine within 100 days of a new coronavirus variant emerging.

Many Nurses Quitting Due to Pandemic Fatigue

Almost a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, America’s nurses — who for almost 20 years have been voted the country’s most trusted professionals — are running on empty. They’ve reused PPE, canceled PTO and worked extended shifts for employers they don’t always feel value their safety. The stress and lack of support has driven many nurses to quit their jobs. And during the worst health crisis the U.S. has seen in more than a century, the health care system can’t afford to lose them. “The mental-health impact this is going to have on nurses … I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of it yet,” nurse Rachel Ellsworth said. After months of debating the decision, she finally quit her job in January. “It broke me,” she said. “It was just too much.”

Pentagon Report Reveals White Supremacists in the Ranks

A Pentagon report on extremism gives disturbing insight into how White supremacists are active in the military and offers recommendations to better identify domestic extremists and prevent them from serving. While the report, commissioned by Congress and dated October 2020, concluded that extremist views were not widespread and identified “a low number of cases in absolute terms,” it underlines the urgency of the problem because “individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events.” At least 27 current or former members of the U.S. military are facing federal charges in connection with the Capital riot.

Biden Lifts Trump’s Pause on Green Card Immigration

President Biden reversed yet another order from his predecessor Wednesday, lifting the “pause” on immigration that former President Trump introduced in April last year. Biden said the Trump freeze on green cards, which was extended after being issued for an initial 60 days, did not protect the US economy as Trump claimed, the New York Times reports. “To the contrary it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” Biden said. “It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

New Tent Facility in Texas to Hold Migrant Surge

The Biden administration is preparing to open a new tent facility in Texas to hold migrants crossing the border, as officials scramble to deal with the combination of a surge in numbers and the challenges of COVID-19. The soft-sided facility is being set up in addition to a similar 185,000-square-foot site in Donna, Texas, that was opened at the beginning of the month. There has been an increase in the number of migrants moving to the border in recent weeks, coming amid a number of sweeping changes to Trump-era immigration and border security policies by the Biden administration.

Supreme Court Tosses Pennsylvania Election Lawsuit but Opens Door to More Fraud

The Supreme Court announced that it won’t take up lawsuits challenging a Pennsylvania state court decision that relaxed ballot-integrity measures, including a move to extend the ballot-receipt deadline during the November election by three days amid the coronavirus pandemic. Former President Trump and the state’s Republican Party urged the court to take up a review of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said, “That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future… These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority non-legislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”

U.S. Experiencing a Pandemic of Adolescent Mental Illness

Dr. Brian Alverson, director of the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, says he has witnessed what he describes as “a massive pandemic of mentally ill adolescents,” many of them admitted to his hospital. He referred to a recent Friday, “when I looked at the census of the hospital. Three-quarters of the hospital was adolescents who wanted to hurt themselves because of mental illness.” “Adolescence emphasizes the needs for socialization,” he said, which they are not getting because of the Covid-19 lockdowns. “It’s important developmentally to reach this period when you need to rely on friends as much as you do previously on family. It’s a time to explore outside the family domain” – a time “to go to each other’s houses and have these experiences, learn how to get along, how to fight, how to disagree, how to fall in love. Those are all normative.”

Declining Sperm Count Jeopardizes Humanity’s Survival

Falling sperm counts and changes to sexual development are “threatening human survival” and leading to a fertility crisis, a leading epidemiologist has warned. Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, warns that the impending fertility crisis poses a global threat. “The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” she writes in her recently released book, Count Down. It comes after a study she co-authored in 2017 found that sperm counts in the west had plummeted by 59% between 1973 and 2011. Now, Swan says, following current projections, the median sperm count is set to reach zero in 2045. Swan points to lifestyles and chemical exposures that are changing and threatening human sexual development and fertility. Such is the gravity of the threats they pose, she argues, that humans could become an endangered species.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week but remains higher than the normal 250,000 or so. Applications for benefits declined 111,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 730,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It is the lowest figure since late November. The latest figures come as the job market has made scant progress in the past three months. Hiring averaged just 29,000 a month from November through January. Though the unemployment rate was 6.3% in January, a broader measure that includes people who have given up on their job searches is closer to 10%.

U.S. oil prices have skyrocketed 69% since November’s election based on Thursday’s close at $63.50 a barrel. That’s by far the biggest post-election gain through this point in the presidential cycle since oil futures began trading in 1983. Gasoline prices are also on the rise, climbing 27% since the election, with the national average hitting $2.70 a gallon this week. Wall Street, backed by easy money from the Federal Reserve, is making a massive bet that Americans’ thirst for oil will rise dramatically.

Best Buy said Thursday that it laid off 5,000 workers this month and is planning to close more stores this year as more consumers buy electronics online. Fry’s Electronics said Wednesday that it would abruptly close all of its stores overnight, ending nearly four-decades in business.

Costco will raise its minimum wage to $16 an hour starting next week, CEO Craig Jelinek said during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Thursday. Two years ago, Costco moved its starting hourly wage to $15 everywhere in the U.S. Effective next week, the starting wage will go to $16, said CEO Craig Jelinek.

U.S. Launches Airstrike Against Iranian Targets in Syria

The U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes, Biden’s first military action, were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. Syria war monitoring groups said the strikes hit trucks moving weapons to a base for Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the strike saying President Biden shouldn’t have proceeded with warlike action without Congressional approval.

  • Russia, a key military ally of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Friday sharply condemned the U.S. airstrike. Russia has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the country’s nine-year civil war, clashing repeatedly with U.S. forces and U.S.-allied Kurds who have been battling the terror group Islamic State on the same battlefield..

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Complicit in Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder U.S. Says

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammad Bin Salman, approved the operation “to capture or kill” Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday. U.S. intelligence officials came to that conclusion based on the crown prince’s “absolute control,” the direct involvement of one of his key advisers in Khashoggi’s murder, and “the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad,” the report states. Lawmakers said the long-anticipated report demands a U.S. response – including possible penalties for the crown prince, who is known by his initials as MBS. Saudi Arabia bluntly rejected the report saying, ““The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”

Nigeria’s Boko Haram’s Rocket Attack Kills 10

Militants have killed at least 10 people last Tuesday in Nigeria by using rocket-propelled grenades, which local officials describe as a “new trend”. Suspected Boko Haram militants fired from the outskirts of the northeastern city of Maiduguri into densely populated areas, according to Borno state governor Babagana Zulumon. He said the use of these weapons “has to be stopped”. It is the worst attack of its kind in Maiduguri in a year. The city is the birthplace of Boko Haram. The militants came through Boboshe village, a known Boko Haram enclave, They then crossed the ditch fortification around Maiduguri and started shooting sporadically which sent people scrambling for safety. Explosives began to rain down near the University of Maiduguri,

Environment

More manatee deaths have been documented through the first two months of the year than were recorded during those same two months in 2019 and 2020 combined, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records. Through Feb. 12, the state has recorded 317 manatee deaths. The past five-year average shows 100 documented deaths each full year. The current rate puts the state on pace to record more than 2,100 deaths this year, which could be as much as a third of the state’s documented population. The theory is that sea grass losses over the past few decades have left manatees with too little food to survive. It’s another example of Florida’s water quality issues, from blue-green algae to red tide and brown algae.

Weather

More than 120,000 people have been displaced by flooding that has inundated several cities in the Amazon rainforest, and more rain is expected. The state of Acre, in northwest Brazil, on the border with Peru, declared a state of disaster in 10 cities after rivers overflowed their banks. The flooding comes as Acre is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic with 55,881 infected. In addition, more than 10,000 people in Acre have contracted dengue since the beginning of the year.

Signs of the Times (2/24/21)

February 24, 2021

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on Me; because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to preach the acceptable year of Jehovah and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness; so that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He might be glorified.. (Isaiah 61-3)

Equality Act Dangerous for Christians, Violates Biblical Standards, Forces Compliance

Democrats are racing to pass the most dangerous bill for Christians to ever be considered by Congress, reports Liberty Counsel. “This bill is the most radical bill ever introduced in Congress to advance the LGBTQ agenda and abortion.” Deceptively misnamed the “Equality Act,” the bill states that religious freedom cannot be used as a defense. HR 5 elevates “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the same protected category as race. HR 5 applies to a person’s “actual or perceived romantic, emotional, physical, or sexual attraction to other persons or lack thereof on the basis of gender. Voting is expected to begin Thursday.

The impact for Christians is manifold:

  • Biological men will have access to women’s sports, bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, showers and shelters
  • Pastors could be forced to officiate same-sex ceremonies and churches would have to offer use of their buildings to LGBTQ groups or lose tax-exempt status for non-compliance and face lawsuits
  • Churches and religious schools would be forced to hire staff involved in LGBTQ conduct, even to visible positions of authority, and give them complete access to all children.
  • The bill sanctions abortions and the removal of pro-life protections
  • It introduces explicit content in school curriculum across the nation and encourages children toward experimental cross-sex hormones and surgery.
  • The overall effect is to make Biblical beliefs unconstitutional and unlawful.

A Record 5.6% of U.S. Adults Now Identify as LGBTQ

A record number of U.S. adults – 5.6% – identify as LGBTQ, an increase propelled by the younger generation, a Gallup poll released Wednesday shows. The survey marks more than a 1 percentage point jump from the last poll in 2017 in which 4.5% of adults identified as LGBTQ. Generation Z adults (those 18 to 23) show 1 in 6, identifying as LGBTQ, or 15.9%,. In each older generation, LGBTQ identification is lower, including 2% or less of respondents born before 1965.

  • This demonstrates the ongoing degradation of Biblical morality in a world increasingly rejecting God.

Planned Parenthood Killed 354,871 Babies Last Year with $618 Million of Taxpayer Money

Planned Parenthood’s recently released annual report documents that the abortion giant killed at least 354,871 babies in their 2019-2020 fiscal year, while receiving over $618 million dollars in taxpayers’ money. This was about a 3% increase over the prior fiscal year. LiveAction calculated that Planned Parenthood “commits 41 abortions for every one prenatal care service and 133 abortions for every adoption referral.”

South Carolina Passes Bill to Ban Almost All Abortions, But Immediately Suspended by Judge

The South Carolina House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a pro-life heartbeat bill banning nearly all abortions, following the lead of other states with similar measures that would go into effect if the US Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has promised to sign the measure as soon as possible. The Senate approved the measure on Jan. 28, after years of failed attempts. Republicans gained three seats in the 2020 elections and the newly energized 30-16 Republican majority made the proposal Senate Bill No. 1.But the new law was suspended by a federal judge Friday on its second day in effect for 14 days until a more substantial hearing on March 9.

Texas is Only State with its Own Electrical Grid Which Failed Dangerously

As winter storm blackouts roiled Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the nonprofit that operates Texas’ electrical grid, has gained sudden notoriety because Texas is the only state that has its own electrical grid. The U.S. has three power grids: one covers the eastern U.S., another the western states and the Texas grid covers nearly the entire state. The Texas grid has been thrust into the national spotlight as extreme energy demand and overloaded frozen utility plants contributed to widespread power outages. Nearly 4.5 million customers went without electricity. The breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas – whose leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the state’s rolling blackouts – failed so spectacularly. The Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said.

  • Failing power plants, rolling blackouts and a spike in demand as Texas is hijacked by a harsh February winter snowstorm – this was the scenario exactly a decade ago as blackouts rolled through Texas. A post-mortem at the time included a recommendation to provide more winter protections for generating facilities, but it was ignored.
  • In the wake of the disastrous days of Texas power outages, five members of the board of the state’s Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) are reportedly stepping down Wednesday. None of them actually live in Texas, the Texas Tribune reports. ERCOT has been sued over the outages, but the organization is arguing in court that it has sovereign immunity, a legal principle protecting certain entities from lawsuits because such suits could disrupt “key government services” if money is drained for litigation.

Biden Rejoins Paris Climate Accord

The United States is back in the Paris climate accord, just 107 days after it left. While Friday’s return is heavily symbolic, world leaders say they expect America to prove its seriousness after four years of being pretty much absent. Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office reversing the pullout ordered by his predecessor, former President Trump. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that the official American re-entry “is itself very important,” as is Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will return to providing climate aid to poorer nations, as promised in 2009.

U.S. Lost a Year of Life Expectancy in 6 Months, 2.7 Years Lost for Blacks

A study published Thursday found life expectancy in the United States dropped to its lowest level in 15 years, and even lower for Black Americans and Latinos, during the first half of the coronavirus pandemic. Data through June 2020 shows life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population fell from 2019 by a year to 77.8 years, the lowest since 2006. Life expectancy for Black populations declined the most from 2019 – by 2.7 years, to 72 years – its lowest level since 2001. Latinos experienced the second-biggest decline, falling 1.9 years since 2019 to a life expectancy of 79.9 years, lower than when it was first recorded in 2006. Black Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 at 2.9 times the rate of white Americans and die at 1.9 times the rate, according to CDC data.

  • The U.S. spend more on healthcare per capita than any other nation. Yet, the United States still ranks a dismal 34th in life expectancy.

The Decline in New Covid-19 Cases Has Leveled Off

Over the past two weeks, the number of new Covid-19 cases has decreased by 37%. However, over the past few days, the 7-day average has leveled off at about 67,000 cases/day. Similarly, Covid-19 deaths are down by 34% over the past two weeks while the number of hospitalizations is down 31%. However, the 7-day average of deaths/day has increased from 1,774 on 2/18 to 2,082 on 2/23. Two opposing forces are affecting infection rates – vaccinations are decreasing the number of people at risk of infections while more infections coronavirus variants have begun to surge across the U.S.

  • Similarly, Arizona’s 7-day average of new cases has leveled off at around 1,700/day, down from a peak of about 10.000/day on 1/12/21, but higher than the low of about 300/day on 9/25/20. And the 7-day average of deaths/day has increased from about 80/day to 95/day over the past 3 days.

Vaccine Schedule Delayed by Winter Weather

Over 130.3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. as of 2/23, including both first and second shots. Power outages amid ongoing winter storms have affected more than 2,000 COVID-19 vaccination sites, slowing the pace of administering doses, U.S. health officials said last Friday. More than a third of U.S. states have reported shipment delays. The foul winter weather, like the storm that plunged parts of Texas into darkness, has set back the nation’s vaccine rollout, delaing more than 6 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna and Pfizer Vow to Increase Vaccine Production

Drugmakers Moderna and Pfizer vowed to increase the supply of vaccines to the United States. The companies told members of Congress on Tuesday that they anticipate a big surge in doses after making manufacturing improvements — an additional 140 million delivered in the next five weeks.

FDA Panel Recommends Single-Shot Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The FDA confirmed the safety and efficacy of single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, especially against severe cases. A Food and Drug Administration review found the vaccine prevented severe illness that results in hospitalizations and deaths in a large clinical trial, paving the way for likely authorization this week.

Mayo/Israel Confirm Vaccine Effectiveness

A team at the Mayo Clinic health system looked at more than 31,000 people across four states who had received at least one dose of either vaccine — and found the vaccines were 75% effective in preventing infection 36 days after the first dose. The vaccines were 89% effective 36 days after the second dose, according to the research. New research from Israel shows that infections were reduced by 75% after only the first of the two-dose inoculation, The Jerusalem Post reported Friday. According to the data, 14 days after injection, the second dose of the vaccine was 95.8% efficient in preventing new infections, and 98% of those inoculated did not develop fever or respiratory symptoms.

Reactions to Vaccines Mostly Headaches, Fatigue and Dizziness

Americans reported nearly 7,000 reactions such as headaches and dizziness during the first month of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a new analysis of safety monitoring data. The symptoms most frequently reported to the vaccine safety monitoring system were headaches at 22%, fatigue at nearly 17% and dizziness at almost 17%.

Pfizer Vaccine No Longer Requires Ultra-Freezing Storage

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine no longer needs to be kept at ultra-freezing temperatures and can be safely stored inside normal medical freezers — making distribution easier, the firm said in a report Friday. Further research discovered that the doses can remain at between 5 and -13 degrees Fahrenheit without spoiling — instead of -94 degrees like previously thought. The new vaccine “stability data” revealed by the companies have now been submitted to U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The Ten Richest Countries Have Administered 75% of Covid-19 Vaccines

Just ten countries (the richest ones) have administered 75% of the world’s available Covid-19 vaccine supply, while more than 130 countries haven’t even received their first doses, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. To address that inequity, the secretary-general proposed that members of G20 create an emergency task force to promote global vaccine access. Guterres’ suggestion comes the same week that Mexico indicated it would file a complaint at the UN Security Council over the “unfair” vaccine rollout, which Foreign Minister Marcel Ebrard said favors richer countries.

Biden Pledges $4 Billion to Get Vaccines to Low Income Countries

The Covax Facility, the international program to deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, is getting a major boost. President Biden plans to pledge $4 billion to Covax. That’s a reversal from former president Donald Trump, who rejected U.S. participation in the plan.

India’s Government Rejects Pfizer Vaccine Over Safety Concerns

India’s government recently rejected Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, citing serious safety concerns. India’s Health Department demanded a double-blind study on the shot’s effectiveness and safety. India’s health committee “noted that incidents of palsy, anaphylaxis and other SAE’s [Serious Adverse Events] have been reported … Further, the firm [Pfizer] has not proposed any plan to generate safety and immunogenicity data in the Indian population.”

Jakarta Enforces Vaccination with Fines and Withholding Aid

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is threatening residents with fines of up to 5 million rupiah – about $360 – for anyone refusing to be vaccinated against Covif-19, an unusually stiff penalty aimed at guaranteeing compliance with new regulations calling for compulsory vaccinations. In addition to the fines, the government is threatening to withhold social aid for noncompliance.

Big Tech Censorship of Christians & Conservatives Escalates Across Internet/Cable

Here are just a sample of recent Big Tech censorship against Christians and Conservatives, showing that freedom of speech is being dismantled despite First Amendment protection in the U.S. Constitution.

  • YouTube took down a newly recorded interview with former President Donald Trump because they say it violated YouTube’s community guidelines. Specifically, Google said it contained “content that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.” During the Newsmax interview, Trump alleged he won the 2020 election, among other claims.
  • House Democrats are pressuring cable TV providers and online streaming companies to purge conservative media outlets from their platforms or at the very least do more to censor content they deem fake and misleading. They are targeting Fox News Channel, One America News Network and Newsmax by casting them as purveyors of lies and conspiracy theories. Constitutional scholars say these Democrats are treading on dangerous authoritarian ground. In a letter to the CEOs of AT&T, Hulu, Alphabet Inc., Altice USA, Cox Communications, Dish Network, Charter Communications, Comcast, Apple, Amazon, Roku, Democrat Congressional Representatives Jerry McNerny and Anna Eshoo are essentially demanding contracts with right leaning outlets be terminated and therefore, deplatformed. 
  • Google’s YouTube last week removed a video that showed an attorney testifying to the Ohio legislature, after the service deemed that it contained misinformation about COVID-19. Thomas Renz, an attorney with the citizens’ group Ohio Stands Up! testified that he opposed the harsh emergency orders imposed by health officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Renz noted that officials initially thought the fatality rate from the virus would be much higher than the flu, but it turned out to be close to the influenza fatality rate.
  • Ryan Anderson, the president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., did not realize that Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, had removed his book critiquing the transgender movement from their site until people trying to purchase it informed him that it was gone. Amazon’s webpages for copies of When Harry Became Sally have been removed while Kindle and Audible versions of the book have become inaccessible for purchase.
  • The president and CEO of D. James Kennedy Ministries says the Lifetime channel rejected programming on abortion and other controversial subjects in recent weeks, leading the ministry to pull all its shows off the channel rather than produce “milquetoast” content. The ministry is now searching for a new cable television platform that will give it the national exposure it needs to reach a broad audience.

At Least 35 Capitol Police Officers Investigated for Complicity in Riot

At least 35 Capitol police officers are being investigated and six were suspended following the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6, officials said on last Thursday. Officials did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation, although videos show police officers standing motionless as groups made their way into the Capitol building on Jan. 6, sparking concerns over police complicity.

Rochester Grand Jury Declines to Indict Police Officers Over Daniel Prude’s Death, Protests Follow

Police officers who put a hood over the head of a mentally distraught Black man, then pressed his body against the pavement until he stopped breathing will not face criminal charges after a grand jury declined to indict them. Daniel Prude, 41, died last March, several days after his encounter with police in Rochester. Police initially described his death as a drug overdose. It went mostly unnoticed. But nightly protests erupted after body camera video was released nearly six months later following pressure from Prude’s family. Attorney General Letitia James, whose office took over the investigation, said her office had “presented the strongest case possible” to the grand jury, but couldn’t persuade it that the officers had committed a crime. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Rochester, N.Y. on Tuesday night to protest the news that the grand jury had decided not to indict the seven officers.

Biden’s 100-Day Deportation Moratorium Indefinitely Banned by Judge

The Biden administration’s efforts to impose a 100-day pause on deportations of illegal immigrants was halted on Tuesday when a district judge extended a ban on its imposition indefinitely in response to a lawsuit from Texas. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton had previously issued a two-week restraining order on the policy after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had argued that it violated federal law and an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Texas be consulted before such a move. The agreement means that DHS must give Texas 180 days’ notice of any proposed change on any matter that would reduce enforcement or increase the number of “removable or inadmissible aliens” in the U.S.

Democratic Mayor Pleads With Biden Not to Release Illegals in Texas

The Democratic mayor of a small Texas border city is pleading with President Biden to stop releasing illegal immigrants into his city. Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, posted a plea on the city’s YouTube channel. video uploaded to his municipality’s YouTube page. “I am pleading and requesting with you to please put a halt to any measures regarding the release of immigrants awaiting court dates into the city of Del Rio and surrounding areas,” the mayor said. “We do not have the resources available to house and accommodate these migrants within our community.”

AOC, Omar Slam Biden for Reopening Migrant-Children Facility

Democratic Congressional Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar on Tuesday slammed President Biden for reopening a Texas facility to hold migrant teens. The facility in Carrizo Springs reopened Monday in order to hold up to 700 teenagers, ages 13 to 17, after it was shut down by the Trump administration having only been open a month in summer 2019. The Biden administration has defended reopening the facility as an emergency measure needed to comply with COVID-19 protocols. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris previously lambasted the Trump administration‘s treatment of migrant children at the southern border. “This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay — no matter the administration or party,” Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said.

Biden Unveils Plan to Give 11 Million Illegals Citizenship

Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday for President Joe Biden’s plan to create a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying there is no justification for denying them a permanent home in the United States. Top Democrats said the legislation, blocked for more than a decade by Republicans, is “long overdue,” noting that most of those it will address have lived in the country for many years, with homes, businesses and U.S.-born children and grandchildren. The legislation followed through on Biden’s announcement on January 20, his first day in office, to overhaul U.S. policies toward undocumented immigrants as well as people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking to enter for work or as refugees. Opponents fear that there will now be a flood of border-crossers taking jobs away from bonafide citizens.

  • Politico reported that Democrats, in border states where immigration is a key issue, fear that President Biden is walking into a political buzzsaw by moving too quickly to overhaul immigration law.

Overdose Deaths Hit Record High During Pandemic

Drug overdoses killed an estimated 83,544 people in the U.S. during a 12-month period ending in July 2020, a record that coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, which experts say has created a huge amount of stress and hampered treatment services. That is almost a 25% increase from the year before. Meanwhile, the number of calls to the national crisis hotline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration rose last year by more than 700% from 2019.

Black Males Disproportionately Victims/Perpetrators of Gun Violence

Young Black men and teens made up more than a third of firearm homicide victims in the U.S. in 2019, according to a recently released study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The analysis, titled “A Public Health Crisis in the Making,” found that Black men and boys in the 15-34 age group make up just 2% of the nation’s population, but they were involved in 37% of gun homicides that year. That’s 20 times higher than white males of the same age group. Of all reported firearm homicides in 2019, more than half of victims were Black men and 63% of male victims were Black.

Supreme Court Won’t Block Turnover of Trump’s Tax Records to Prosecutors

In a significant defeat for former President Trump, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to step in to halt the turnover of his tax records to a New York prosecutor. The court’s action is the culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before. Trump’s tax records are not supposed to become public as part of prosecutor’s criminal investigation, but the high court’s action is a blow to Trump because he has for so long fought on so many fronts to keep his tax records shielded from view by anyone, especially the criminal justice system. Trump has called it “a fishing expedition” and “a continuation of the witch hunt” against him.

Conservatives Denounce “Liberal Goodies’ in Democrat’s $1.9B Stimulus Proposal

The Republican Study Committee issued a three-page memo to conservatives to outline “all the left-wing items Democrats are hoping the public won’t find about.” Among the provisions raising eyebrows among conservatives are the $1,400 stimulus checks going to mixed-status families with undocumented immigrants; allowing Planned Parenthood to receive Paycheck Protection Program funds designed to keep small businesses afloat; and nearly $600 million for additional emergency paid family leave for federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers. The memo also calls out $1B in subsidies and loan forgiveness to ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers and ranchers on the basis of race and ethnicity, and allowing coronavirus funding to go to colleges that have partnerships with Chinese-controlled companies.

California Sending Stimulus Checks to State Residents Including Illegal Aliens

California lawmakers on Monday approved $600 stimulus checks for state residents, including immigrants who are in the country illegally as part of the state’s new $7.6 billion COVID-19 relief package. Gov. Newsom signed it into law on Tuesday. About $470 million in stimulus checks will go to 565,000 Californians with individual tax identification numbers who did not receive federal stimulus payments and whose income is less than $75,000, many of whom are here illegally, The Los Angeles Times reported. The package allocates about $2.3 billion for $1,200 stimulus payments to state residents with individual tax ID numbers who qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit — mostly people who earn less than $30,000.

Los Angeles County Mandates ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers

A mandate kicking off this week will put more money in the pockets of grocery workers in Los Angeles County for braving the pandemic to clock in. Starting Friday, national grocery and retail drug stores in unincorporated areas of the county have to start forking over $5 more an hour to their front-line workers as “hero pay,” a hazard bonus that will be mandated for the next four months. The Los Angeles Times notes the move would affect about 2,500 hourly workers. But while worker unions are smiling, grocery store associations and others aren’t, saying that that there could be “unintended consequences,” such as stores slashing workers’ hours, laying them off, or raising prices for customers

CEO’s Optimism Contrasts with Economic Misery for those Unemployed

America’s CEOs are the most confident they have been in 17 years, as company leaders expect fewer layoffs and further improvements in the business environment, according to a recent survey from the Conference Board, a non-profit think tank. But this sentiment doesn’t align with the experience of millions of Americans who are still unemployed and need government aid to make ends meet as a result of the pandemic. The disconnect is yet more proof of the k-shaped recovery, in which some Americans are experiencing major improvements while others are still suffering. For example, a recent consumer sentiment survey from the University of Michigan showed that households making less than $75,000 per year felt especially pessimistic about their financial futures as of February.

Economic News

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week by 13,000 to 861,000, evidence that layoffs remain painfully high despite a steady drop in the number of confirmed viral infections. Nearly 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic. Though the unemployment rate fell last month from 6.7%, to 6.3%, it did so in part because some people stopped looking for jobs.

Gasoline prices are expected to rise 10 to 20 cents a gallon in the coming days after winter storms knocked out about a dozen refineries in Texas, capping a sharp run-up in prices since Halloween and possibly heralding a move toward $3 by summer as the pandemic eases.

Kroger is closing two more stores, this time in Seattle, rather than providing workers with hazard pay. A law that went into effect this month in the city requires grocery stores of a certain size to pay workers an extra $4 per hour amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores—even in a pandemic—operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape,” the statement says. Hazard pay would make it “impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”

Walmart announced pay bumps Thursday that will bring its average hourly wage to over $15 an hour. But the move still falls short of the $15 minimum wage announced by some of its largest competitors. Walmart, America’s largest private employer, said it will raise wages for 425,000 US workers — more than a fourth of its workforce — to at least $13 an hour, starting March 13.

Airlines in the United States, South Korea and Japan have grounded dozens of Boeing 777 aircraft after one of the jets suffered engine failure Saturday, sending debris crashing down over Denver through the roofs of homes and into yards. No injuries were reported. Boeing recommended that airlines stop flying versions of the aircraft that are equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines while U.S. authorities investigate the Denver incident. The plane manufacturer said that 69 of the 777 jets that are in service are powered by the engine.

Iran Plans More Advanced Machines At Underground Enrichment Plant

Iran has informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog it plans to install more of its advanced IR-2m centrifuges at an underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, a report by the agency on Wednesday said, which would deepen a breach of Iran’s nuclear deal. “Iran indicated it plans to install two additional cascades of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at FEP to enrich … up to 5% U-235. This will bring the total number of cascades of IR-2m centrifuges either planned, being installed, or operating in FEP to six,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to member states obtained by Reuters.

Biden Offers To Restart Nuclear Talks with Iran, But Iran Says Lift Sanctions First

The United States took a major step on Thursday toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said. In a series of moves intended to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, the administration also backed away from a Trump administration effort to restore United Nations sanctions on Iran. That effort had divided Washington from its European allies. Iran’s top diplomat insisted Sunday the United States must first lift economic sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration before the nuclear pact can be revived.

Iran Officially Imposes Curbs On UN Nuclear Inspections

Iran officially started restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities Tuesday, a bid to pressure European countries and President Joe Biden’s administration to lift crippling economic sanctions and restore the 2015 nuclear deal. World powers slammed the restrictions as a “dangerous” move. It came as the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press that Iran had added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20% to its stockpile as of Feb. 16.

Burma Protest Against Military Coup Leaves at Least 2 dead, Dozens Injured

At least two people were killed and dozens more injured in Burma on Saturday during protests against a Feb. 1 military coup that led to the detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader. The violence broke out in Mandalay, Burma’s second-largest city. According to protesters, people began to gather at 8 a.m. at a local shipyard in Mandalay, hoping to block military police from entering the city. Things turned violent around 2 p.m. when local squatters living by the side of the road began throwing stones at police forces who were using water cannons to control the crowds. When the police started firing bullets into the air, chaos broke out. Then the police used live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against the protesters.

4 Aid Workers Are Shot Dead In Pakistan

Gunmen killed four aid workers in an ambush in the northwestern Pakistani district of North Waziristan on Monday, police officials said, an attack that could signal a revival of insurgency in the region bordering Afghanistan that was once a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. A vehicle carrying the aid workers, who were all Pakistanis and who were affiliated with a program for developing household skills for women, was fired upon by unidentified attackers in the town of Mir Ali, the police said. The four aid workers, all women, were killed and the male driver was wounded. A fifth aid worker, also a woman, survived the attack by taking refuge in a nearby house.

Seven Election Officials Killed In Landmine Blast As Niger Votes

Seven members of Niger’s electoral commission (CENI) have been killed during the country’s presidential election runoff when their vehicle hit a mine and exploded in the troubled western region of Tillaberi. The country regularly suffers attacks by armed groups and had increased to protect Sunday’s poll, in which the governing party candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, is facing former President Mahamane Ousmane. A vehicle belonging to CENI and carrying election workers to their polling stations hit a mine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwest, said Harouna Mounkaila, vice president of the commission’s local branch. “They were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station,” Moukaila told Reuters news agency, adding that three other workers were seriously wounded.

Another Wave of Locusts Threatens Africa with Food Scarcity

The plague of locusts in the Horn of Africa is on the rise again, as a new generation of pests is breeding and hatching. In countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, the next harvest is under threat. This means that families that have been impoverished and weakened by years of crises are sinking even further into a downward spiral of hunger and poverty. More than 15 districts have already been severely affected by the second wave of locusts. Around 1.9 million people were already living in a precarious nutrition situation, which could now dramatically worsen. Billions of locust swarms destroyed thousands of acres of crops last year in Africa.

Environment

Nearly a third of all freshwater fish species are threatened by extinction, according to a new report released by 16 conservation groups on Tuesday. “The World’s Forgotten Fishes” says that 80 freshwater species — which make up more than half of all the world’s species — have already been declared extinct, with 16 disappearing in 2020 alone. Migratory populations have declined by more than three-quarters since the 1970s, while populations of larger species, weighing more than 60 pounds, have fallen by an even more “catastrophic” 94 percent, it said. Of more than 10,000 species whose conservation status has been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 percent are considered at risk of extinction.

  • “A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.” (Revelation 8:11)

Earthquakes

An earthquake rattled parts of Oklahoma and Kansas Friday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey gave the quake a preliminary rating of 4.2 magnitude. It struck at 7:56 a.m. CST and was centered about 3.5 miles southwest of Manchester, Oklahoma, near the Kansas state line, and at a depth of about 4 miles. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Volcanoes

Mt. Etna erupted just before midnight on Monday night, provoking a huge eruption plume that rose for several kilometers from the top of Etna in Sicily. This is the fifth episode in a series of Mt. Etna eruptions which have been occurring over the past week. Europe’s most active volcano scattered ashes around a vastly populated area on its slopes.

Weather

While state officials work to turn the lights back on for the remaining Texas households still in the dark and address widespread water disruptions, some residents are faced with damage that could take weeks — or months — to recover from. As of early Monday morning, more than 15,700 people were without power across the state, down from about 4 million after the initial deep freeze. Meanwhile some 8.8 million people — nearly a third of the state’s total population — were still experiencing water disruptions Sunday evening. For residents dealing with lasting damage, Governor Abbott said the state was bringing in more plumbers to meet the high demand of customers with broken pipes. “If you do not have insurance, you may qualify for a FEMA reimbursement,” he said.

At the same time millions of people in Texas were shivering in their homes without power, the cost of electricity was skyrocketing. That meant some people who still had power were left with bills totaling thousands of dollars. The rising costs came in response to increased demand for gas and electricity as a parade of winter storms brought frigid cold, snow and ice to large swaths of the U.S., utility providers say. These are customers of a company that sells wholesale power for a monthly membership. Their rate is based on wholesale costs and is more susceptible to swings in the market. The wholesale price of electricity on the Texas power grid jumped to more than $9,000 per megawatt hour on Monday, according to Reuters, up from less than $50 before extreme winter weather set in. Texas’ utility regulator, Public Utility Commission of Texas, said Saturday that it is investigating this unprecedented rise in charges.

God is Still in Control, Don’t Resist, Evangelize

February 17, 2021

Focus on the Harvest, Not Politics

The end-times are unfolding just as Scripture tells us it will. Divisiveness will continue to grow: Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another, (Revelation 6:4).

Pestilence (infectious viruses, virulent bacteria, microscopic germs) will increase in many different forms: And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (Rev 6:8).

  • Murder rates in the U.S. saw an “historic” increase in 2020 compared to 2019, with more than 1,200 additional killings year-over-year in a sample of 34 American cities, according to a study released 2/8/21. Homicide rates jumped by 30% from 2019 to 2020
  • We have experienced more protests, often accompanied by vandalism and violence, than any time since perhaps the anti-Vietnam War. The Capitol riot will not be the end of protest fever, as anarchists, extremists, leftists, rightists, white supremacists and others will continue to be more and more stirred up by demonic forces.
  • Famines are increasing at historic levels with 270 million at risk of “catastrophic hunger” according to a recent UN report in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

What’s next? Economic devastation and food scarcity: And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quartof wheat for a denarius and three quarts of barley for a denarius.” Rev. 6:5-6).

  • The economic stimulus in the U.S. and other countries has been constructed on a mountain of debt, which will continue to rise in early 2021. Federal debt is already greater than America’s total output of goods and services (GDP – gross domestic product).
  • 17.8 million are still unemployed in the U.S. with many restaurant and travel companies on the edge of collapse. Airlines will soon shed thousands of jobs.
  • 14 million renters are behind on their payments and face further hardship when the moratorium on evictions is eventually lifted. Meanwhile, landlords are being squeezed into bankruptcy with lack of income.
  • These issues will make investors nervous, and the overpriced stock market will crash, destroying wealth and pension funds.
  • Weather will continue to grow more extreme, destroying crops with heat, cold, floods and drought (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

But surely America will recover and we will see a great awakening, right? Wrong. The only Scripture that I believe pertains to America indicates that it’s reign as a superpower is coming to an end. This is in Daniel’s prophecy about the four coming kingdoms:

  • And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh! After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. (7:3-4)

As with many Old Testament prophecies, there is often a near-term and long-term fulfillment. In the near-term fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, most scholars relate these four beasts to the kingdoms of Babylon (in which Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God), then the Medo-Persian alliance which conquered Babylon, then Greece through Alexander the Great who overtook nations quickly like a leopard and then the Roman Empire which encompassed ten kingdoms with the little horn representing Antiochus Epiphanes, a man renowned for his ingenuity and cruelty who defiled the Temple in 156 BC.

  • In the long-term fulfillment, the first beast is the USA (usually symbolized by an eagle) which came out of England (represented by a lion, the traditional symbol for England). With its eagle’s wings plucked off, the lion/eagle loses its power to soar as a super-power and instead become ordinary like a man standing on the ground.
  • After which the second beast, Russia (the bear is the traditional symbol for Russia) will become dominant. Russia has already begun to flex its military muscle in the Ukraine, with more targeted areas (ribs) to follow. It’s alliance with Iran will be the source of conflict stirred up in the Middle East.
  • The third beast, the leopard, is unknown at this point in time. No current nation is symbolized as a leopard. However, it will have four heads indicating that it might be a consortium of four nations. China is the most likely candidate because its economy has risen fast (like a leopard) to become second only to the U.S.economically, but continues to grow at a much higher rate. China and 14 other Asia-Pacific nations recently signed one of the world’s biggest trade pacts, leaving the U.S. on the sidelines. If China allies itself with (or takes over) nuclear powers India and Pakistan and conquers Russia, this could form the four heads.. With wings of a bird, this third beast will soar to take the place of the fallen eagle (USA).

Regardless of who the third beast actually winds up to be, the fourth beast will come from an alliance of ten nations who overcome the third beast and usher in the anti-Christ, the little horn with eyes of a man and a mouth speaking pompous words, which quite accurately describes the anti-Christ of Revelation 13:1-8:

  • Then I [the Apostle John] stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon [Satan] who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
  • We see here once again the lion, bear and leopard, tying John’s prophetic vision to Daniel’s earlier prophecy. This fourth and final beast will be a reconstitution of Daniel’s fourth beast in its near-term fulfillment, the Roman Empire. This time it will be ten nations who come together to put down the leopard (China+), mostly likely comprised of England, America, Europe and some Euro-Asian nations. Out of this will arise the leader of the one-world government, the anti-Christ who will overcome the entire world, even the saints who will suffer extreme persecution as secular humanism reigns supreme.

What can we do to stop all this? Nothing. It’s God’s will and God’s plan for the end-times as He decreed in Scripture.

  • God has already begun to remove His restraining hand that has kept a balance between good and evil: For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (2Thessalonians 2:7).
  • And no, this is not the church being taken out of the world (the church is always referred to as she, the bride of Christ) nor is it the rapture of the saints.

This is done to allow sin to reach its fullness and to usher in the anti-Christ:

  • And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. (Daniel 8:23).

Instead of laboring against God’s plan (always a futile exercise), we need to focus on the harvest through evangelism: Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 37-38).

  • This is the Great Commission that Jesus call us to: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18)

Nowhere in Scripture do we see a great awakening or worldwide/nationwide revival. As I prophesied in 2007 (click here), there will only be pockets of revival within the deep darkness of the end-times, as described in Isaiah 60:1-3:

  • Arise, shine, for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles [i.e. unbelievers] shall come to your light, and kings [i.e. leaders] to the brightness of your rising.

We are called to focus on evangelism not to spend our time and energy on politics nor trying to thwart God’s end-time plan.

  • Become the light in your family, neighborhood, workplace and everywhere you go. Focus on manifesting the light and people will come to you, especially as times get more difficult. Only go where God sends you. You don’t have to manufacture evangelistic opportunities – He will bring them to you if you are prayed up and prepared.
  • People will sense God’s light on you and within you. You can’t achieve this by striving, only by becoming more and more Christlike which requires your entire attention on Him, not on the things of the world.
  • Wherever you go, walk in the light: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8).
  • And not only wear your Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) but also put on the armor of light: The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)

The good news in all of this is that the sooner the end-times are over, the sooner Jesus Christ returns to rule and reign on a new/restored earth for a thousand years.

  • Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
  • And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)