Signs of the Times

September 17, 2018

­Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Pope Summons Bishops for February Abuse Prevention Summit

Pope Francis is summoning the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children — evidence that he realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine the church. Francis’ key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with U.S. church leaders who have been deeply discredited by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church’s decades-long sex abuse and cover-up scandal. The Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican is believed to be the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Pope Francis faced what was then the worst crisis of his papacy when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest. He eventually admitted to “grave errors in judgment” and has taken steps to make amends, sanction guilty bishops and remake the Chilean episcopacy. Pope Francis will meet with a group of U.S. church officials led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the Vatican Thursday amid growing criticism over the pope’s handling of sex-abuse cases.

Pastor Faces Eviction for Hosting Home Bible Study

A semi-retired Lutheran minister in Fredericksburg, Virginia faces the possibility of being evicted from a senior living community because he’s been hosting a small Bible study in the privacy of his apartment, his attorney alleges. First Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing Pastor Ken Hauge. The pastor has accused the management of The Evergreens at Smith Run of a pattern of verbal abuse and harassment directed at Christians who live in the complex. “The threat of eviction follows repeated religious discrimination by The Evergreens management, including forcing Hauge to refer to his event as a ‘Book Review’ rather than a ‘Bible Study,’” First Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser wrote in a letter to the corporate owner of the community. Management also withdrew support of a social event because a resident said grace over a meal, and banned all religious activities from the community room.

Appeals Court Reinstates Missouri Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court handed pro-lifers a victory last week by reinstating a Missouri law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion clinics to be set up as “ambulatory surgical centers.” The 3-0 ruling Monday by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction that prevented the law from going into effect. The decision could suspend abortion services in Columbia, Mo., and prevent a Kansas City clinic from regaining its license, Planned Parenthood officials told The Kansas City Star. Pro-lifers say the law is designed to protect women who undergo abortions.

Mainstream Media Acknowledge Universal Microchipping to Come

At one time, the notion that the general population would be microchipped someday was a “conspiracy theory”, but now the mainstream media is coming right out and telling us that we will all get chipped. Last month, USA Today published an article entitled “You will get chipped — eventually.” Of course, it is being portrayed as “cool” and “trendy,” and a lot of people will be fooled by that, notes Charisma News. Someday identity chips will be required for the entire population, and the potential for tyranny and control are frightening. Permanent digital identification is increasingly being pushed as the solution to problems such as identity theft, tax evasion, illegal immigration and money laundering. And tech companies would love to have a universal way to confirm the identities of individuals on the Internet. But very few people are talking about the dark side of this technology – but the Bible does. “No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name… 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 13:17, 14:11)

Florence Floods Isolate Wilmington, NC

Storm-weary residents of North Carolina struggled Monday to loosen the grip of Florence, the lingering killer that has closed more than 100 roads, cut off power to almost 500,000 homes and businesses and essentially cut off the city of Wilmington from the world. At least 17 people have died in the wreckage of the hurricane-turned-tropical depression that dumped 30 inches of rain in parts of the state since last week. In Wilmington, officials were planning to fly food and water into the coastal city of almost 120,000 people. The National Weather Service has measured 23.59 inches of rain at the city’s airport since Thursday. Florence dumped 30.58 inches of rainfall in Swansboro, North Carolina. This breaks the all-time record for rainfall in a single storm system in the state of North Carolina. The previous record was 24.06 inches, and it was set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Dams and levees in areas pelted by Florence were showing signs of distress as rivers overran their banks and authorities warned of more flooding to come. Landslides have become a concern as well — especially in North Carolina’s western mountains. Early Monday, the storm was centered about 145 miles west-northwest of Greensboro, North Carolina. Rescue efforts were complicated by the closure of roads, including parts of interstates 95 and 40.

U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910

The foreign-born population in the United States has reached its highest share since 1910, according to government data released Thursday. The foreign-born population stood at 13.7 percent in 2017, or 44.5 million people, compared with 13.5 percent in 2016. The new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades. The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009. The last historic peak in immigration to the United States came at the end of the 19th century, when large numbers of Europeans fled poverty and violence in their home countries. Some of the largest numbers came from Germany, Italy and Poland. That wave peaked around the turn of the century, when the total foreign-born population stood at nearly 15 percent. But after the passage of strict racial quotas in the 1920s, the foreign-born population fell sharply for decades in the middle of the 20th century. By 1970, the population was below 5 percent.

Detention of Migrant Children at Highest Levels Ever

Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded. Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. Shelter capacities have hovered close to 90 percent since at least May, compared to about 30 percent a year ago. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border.

Migrant Arrests Up 3% in August

The number of migrant family members arrested for illegally entering the United States shot up 38 percent in August, according to statistics released last week, a surge homeland security officials characterized as a “crisis.” Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 13,000 members of “family units” last month, the latest data shows, the highest August total ever recorded. The increase followed President Trump’s decision to back off the provision of his “zero tolerance” crackdown that separated children from parents in an attempt to deter illegal migration. Overall, the number of foreigners apprehended or deemed “inadmissible” at border crossings rose to 46,560 in August, up from 40,011 in July. Department of Homeland Security officials said the arrival of so many families was due to court-imposed restrictions limiting the duration children may be detained in immigration jails. The result, officials said, is that parents bring children as a way to win quick release from government custody and avoid deportation.

$10 Million FEMA Budget Shifted to ICE

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency insisted Wednesday that the transfer of nearly $10 million of its budget to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not affect the agency’s hurricane response and other disaster relief efforts. “We have plenty of resources, both monetary, staff and commodities, to respond to the storm,” Jeff Byard, FEMA’s associate administrator for the Office and Response and Recovery, told reporters during a morning briefing as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast. The budget transfer document from the Department of Homeland Security specifically mentions the money would come from FEMA’s budgets for travel, training, public engagement and information technology work not from disaster relief funding.

Poll Confirms that Americans Don’t Trust the Press

A major poll from Gallup and the Knight Foundation confirms that Americans don’t trust the press. The news media, like many other major U.S. institutions, has suffered from a decline in public confidence in recent years,” the report states. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults in the current survey say their trust in the news media has decreased in the past decade. Just 4 percent say their trust has increased, while 26 percent indicate their trust has not changed. Republicans (94 percent) and political conservatives (95 percent) are nearly unanimous in saying their trust in the media has decreased in the past decade. However, declining trust is not just confined to the political right — 75 percent of independents and 66 percent of moderates indicate they are less trusting than they were 10 years ago. However, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that voters trust the media over Trump by a 54-30 percent margin.

Heroin Use Down, Meth & Marijuana Up

Far fewer people started using heroin last year, but the decline among young new 18- to 25-year-old heroin users was almost imperceptible and this age group also saw a big jump in methamphetamine and marijuana use, according to a federal report out Friday. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health emphasizes what it calls these “transitional aged youth” because they have higher rates of cigarette use, alcohol abuse, heroin use disorder and use more cocaine, meth and LSD than people both younger and older. With all the publicity surrounding deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl, addiction experts expected there to be a move away from heroin  – just as crack cocaine fell out of favor decades ago. Use of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and opioids by pregnant women increased significantly between 2015 and 2017, the report found. About 7 percent of pregnant women reported using marijuana, with about 3 percent saying they used it daily. The report says marijuana use is linked to fetal growth problems, preterm births, stillbirths, hyperactivity and impaired cognition in newborns.

E-Cigarettes an Epidemic Among Nation’s Youth

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb dramatically escalated his efforts to stop an “epidemic” of teenage vaping, announcing Wednesday a massive enforcement action against retailers for allegedly selling e-cigarettes to minors and warning manufacturers of a potential ban of flavored e-cigarette liquids. Officials said the move against more than 1,300 retailers was the largest coordinated enforcement action in the agency’s history. The threatened ban, if carried out, would significantly upend the fast-growing industry. Preliminary data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show a 75% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students this year compared to 2017. Much of the FDA’s sharp change in course is a result of the phenomenal success of Juul, which looks like a USB flash drive. In just three years, it has captured about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market. Juul delivers high levels of nicotine in a way that istn’t harsh, and it packages the product in a streamlined, clever way. Juul also developed a social media and advertising campaign that made a Juul e-cigarette “cool and hip.” In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes also contain other harmful substances that may cause oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Seven States Have Obesity Rates Above 35 Percent

Seven states boast adult obesity rates above 35 percent, a new report finds, while other states have seen their rates balloon rapidly. According to The State of Obesity 2018 report, no state showed significant statistical improvement in their obesity rates from a year earlier. Only two states — Hawaii and Colorado — and the District of Columbia had obesity rates below 25 percent. Seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia — had adult obesity rates above 35 percent. West Virginia held the highest rate at just over 38 percent. The report released by nonprofit organizations Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also found 22 states had obesity rates between 30 and 35 percent, while an additional 19 states had rates between 25 and 30 percent. Several studies have shown obesity has been linked to multiple diseases, from hypertension and diabetes to cancer. In May, a report from the World Cancer Research Fund linked 12 types of cancers, including breast and colorectal, to being overweight. The report says obesity costs an estimated $149 billion annually in directly related healthcare spending, and an additional $66 billion a year in lowered economic productivity.

Air Pollution Linked to Dementia

A recently released working paper by three Arizona State University economists makes the case that prolonged exposure to air pollution does not just cause respiratory problems, but also puts individuals at higher risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The ASU researchers estimate, for example, that implementation of an Environmental Protection Agency standard on fine-particulate air pollution in 1997 through the Clean Air Act in previously unregulated counties averted approximately 140,000 people living with dementia in 2013. The size of particulates smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter allows those particulates to remain airborne for long periods, to penetrate buildings, to be inhaled easily and to reach and accumulate within brain tissue, the researchers write. They cite other studies that show the accumulation of particulates in the brain can cause neuroinflammation, which is associated with symptoms of dementia.

Economic News

Household income grew for the third straight year in 2017 but at a slower pace and poverty edged down in signs that the healthy economy continued to lift Americans across the financial spectrum. The median U.S. household income rose 1.8 percent to $61,372, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. That followed gains of 5.2 percent in 2015 and 3.2 percent in 2016. The number of Americans living in poverty was unchanged at 39.7 million but due to increased population, the poverty rate dipped to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent in 2016, the third straight annual decline. Since 2014, the rate has fallen from 14.8 percent. And there were 28.5 million Americans without health insurance, or 8.8 percent of the population, a figure that was unchanged from 2016.

U.S. employers advertised the most jobs on record in July, and the number of workers quitting their jobs also hit an all-time high. Americans are increasingly taking advantage of a tight labor market to find new, often higher-paying jobs. That could help push up wages broadly across the economy. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of job openings rose 1.7 percent to 6.9 million, the most on record dating back to late 2000. The number of people quitting jumped 3 percent to 3.58 million, also a record. Quits are typically a good sign that jobs are plentiful, because people usually quit when they have another job or are confident they can find one. Even as the number of available jobs rose, overall hiring in July was essentially flat, with about 5.7 million people finding jobs, the report showed.

Poverty rates in some of the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas are on the decline, according to new data released Thursday. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics from its American Community Survey (ACS) show a decline in poverty rates in 13 of 25 of the most populous metro areas from 2016 and 2017. For several metro areas, it was the third consecutive year for a decline, according to the ACS. The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area had the lowest poverty rate of 7.9 percent.

For the first time since 1973, the United States is the world’s largest producer of crude oil, according to preliminary estimates published on Wednesday by the Energy Department. The feat demonstrates how the US shale oil boom has reshaped the global energy landscape. American oil output has more than doubled over the past decade. The United States isn’t expected to cede its crown any time soon. The EIA expects US oil production to stay ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia through 2019. The achievement underscores the profound impact of rapid technological advances in drilling. Fracking unlocked vast sums of oil and natural gas that had been trapped underground. Drilling costs declined dramatically.

Middle East

A prominent American-born Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager outside a shopping mall in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. The dead man, Ari Fuld, 45, was well-known by settlers as an outspoken Israeli advocate on social media. He was planning a lecture tour in the United States in November, according to his Twitter account. A civilian shot the attacker, who was taken to a hospital in moderate condition. Israeli media identified the attacker as Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, a 17-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village.

Korea

North and South Korea opened their first liaison office near their tense border Friday in a bid to facilitate better communication ahead of an eagerly awaited summit between their leaders in Pyongyang next week. The opening – in the North Korean border town of Kaesong – is the latest in a series of reconciliatory steps the rival Koreas have taken this year. The office is the first of its kind since the nations were divided at the end of World War II in 1945. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said during the opening ceremony that the new office will become the “cradle of Korean co-prosperity.” Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, said during the ceremony that the office would help the Koreas have “candid conversations” and further build ties.

China

The growing crack-down on unofficial churches in China deepened on Sunday (Sept. 9) when authorities closed one of the largest churches in Beijing. The Beijing Chaoyang District Civil Affairs Bureau informed Zion Church that it was “legally banned” for organizing events without registering as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church, Reuters reported. The church has faced growing threats from authorities, including eviction, since it refused to comply with a government order in April to install closed-circuit television cameras at its worship site. Bob Fu, president of advocacy group China Aid, said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He called the church closure part of a larger crackdown on Christianity across China.

Nigeria

A spate of attacks, in which at least 20 were killed in Nigeria’s central Plateau State over the last week of August, has shattered peace efforts by religious and political leaders in its capital, Jos. On Aug. 28, communities including a mining site at Wereh village (Ropp District), Abonong, Ziyat and Bek villages (Foron District), Nafan, Sagas, Rawuru and Rambuh villages (Fan District), all in Barkin Ladi, came under heavy attack by Fulani militants, reports Charisma News. Victims included a pastor and four members of his family. Rev. Adamu Wurim Gyang, 50, and his three children were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. His wife, Jummai, 45, was shot and left to die in a pool of blood. More than 14 were killed in that attack; 95 houses were burned down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed.

Weather

Typhoon Mangkhut struck the island of Luzon in the Northern Philippines early Saturday as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 65 people with hundreds missing, many believed buried under mud. About 87,000 people have been evacuated from high-risk areas and advised not to return home until the danger has passed. The most powerful typhoon to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year slammed ashore before dawn in Cagayan province on the northeastern tip of Luzon island, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 105 mph with gusts of up to 161 mph after it sliced northwestward across Luzon then blew out to the South China Sea. Mangkhut then barreled into southern China on Sunday, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain, prompting Chinese authorities to issue a red alert, the country’s most severe storm warning. More than three million people have been moved to safety in southern China as Typhoon Mangkhut moved northward and continued to wreak havoc across the region Monday. Hong Kong was left reeling by ferocious winds of up to 107 miles per hour and gusts of up to 138 mph. The storm tore off roofs and scaffolding from skyscrapers, shattered windows, shook high-rise buildings and caused serious flooding in low-lying areas as waves of more than ten feet lashed the coast.

The Hurricane season has been causing devastation from the Pacific to the Atlantic as seven active store swirled across the globe last week – with high chances an eighth powerful storm will soon develop to break an all-time record. Overall, there have been 9 named storms in the Atlantic and 15 names storms in the Pacific since the official start of the hurricane season, way above normal. As one veteran meteorologist remarked, “in my 35 years forecasting the weather on TV, I have NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics all at the same time.”

Signs of the Times

September 11, 2018

­Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12)

College Rules 9/11 ‘Never Forget’ Memorial Biased against Muslims

A conservative student group at a Wisconsin-based college was told their 9/11 “Never Forget” poster violates the school’s bias policy because it exclusively targets Islamic terrorism – despite the fact that it was Islamic terrorism. By focusing “relentlessly on one religious organization, one religious group, one religious identity,” Ripon College’s bias incident team ruled Young America’s Foundation’s posters remembering September 11th create an environment where “students from a Muslim background would feel singled out and/or harassed.” YAF spokesman, Spencer Brown, slammed the ruling as “a transparent attempt to sanitize the truth about 9/11,” adding that the “posters are biased against no one except radical Islamic terrorists.”

Christian Cheerleaders Win Right to Include Bible Verses on Banners

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court handed a group of Christian cheerleaders a victory in their lawsuit involving run-through banners that include Bible verses. The state high court, without comment, refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that had sided with the cheerleaders. The dispute began in 2012, when middle school and high school cheerleaders at public schools in Kountze, Texas, began writing Bible verses on run-through banners as a way to inspire the athletes. The school district, reacting to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), banned the banners, and the cheerleaders filed suit. The cheerleaders have won their case at every level – the district court, appeals court and the Texas Supreme Court.

Chinese Authorities Tear Down Crosses and Close Down Churches in Henan

According to ChinaAid, Henan authorities have continued to tear down crosses and close churches across China. So far, in the Jinshui District of Zhengzhou, at least eight house churches have been shut down. ChinaAid reports that Christians from Zhongmo County were informed by the local government that the crosses would be taken down. Some churches intended to cover the crosses with black veils to conceal them. Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness made a statement last Tuesday condemning the actions of the Henan authorities, voicing outrage over the treatment toward churches and the destruction of crosses. The statement tells of extreme oppression in the largely Christian province of Henan.

Australian Christians Choose Homeschooling Amid Religious Bullying

The Daily Mail reports that deeply religious families in Australia are more frequently choosing to homeschool their children as a result of increased religious bullying. Some parents have reported incidence of their children being taunted and targeted because of their moral opposition to same-sex marriage. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the number of students being homeschooled has nearly doubled since 2014 with approximately 4,479 students partaking in home school education. The Accelerate Christian Home Schooling coordinator Stuart Chapman said, “Christians are now the ones who are the target of bullying and in the minority.” Chapman then cited on incident where “students who opposed same sex marriage were forced to stand at the back of their classrooms. “In 2017, Australia legalized same sex marriage, and Chapman says that since this vote, families are in fear of their children being attacked for having opposing values.

  • Tolerance doesn’t apply to Christians, so who are the hypocrites? And what happened to religious freedom?

Students Ordered to Remove “Christ” From Football Field

Just hours before the Benton High School football team ran onto the field last Friday – two students were ordered to remove a logo from the end zone because it included a cross, a Bible verse and the word “Christ.” The logo belonged to Christ Fit Gym, a faith-based gymnasium in nearby Bossier City, Louisiana. It included the words “Christ Fit Gym,” a cross and a Bible verse reference, 1 Timothy 4:8. Owner Billy Weatherall said he paid the high school football booster club $3,500 to put his logo in the end zone for the 2018-19 football season. The two students refused to remove the logo. “You have to stand up for Christ no matter what (and we) just told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” one of the students wrote on social media. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field.” A judge had granted a temporary restraining order to prevent anyone from removing the signs – but it was too late.

Satanism On the Rise in America

Charisma News reports that while attendance declines at Christian churches, many Satanic groups are experiencing tremendous growth. For some, embracing Satanism is the ultimate form of rebellion, for others it is about making an anti-Trump political statement, and yet others claim that they are attracted by the very real power that they discover in Satanism. Every week, bizarre rituals are conducted in basements, meeting halls and public facilities all over the country, and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on. Of course, most mainstream news articles about Satanists attempt to portray them as ordinary people who have simply been “misunderstood.” And ultimately that is what the Satanists are trying to do for Satan—they are trying to get all the rest of us to view Satan or Lucifer as a “misunderstood” being that only has humanity’s best interests at heart. And since the values of Satanism line up more accurately with the values of modern society than Christian values do, Satanists are finding increasing success in bringing in new recruits. Today, there are Satanic churches just about everywhere in the U.S.

Assaults on ICE, Border Patrol by Illegal Immigrants Surge

Assaults on ICE agents reached a decade high in 2017, and assaults on Border Patrol agents have also surged in recent years, according to new government numbers that seem to back up agents’ claims that illegal immigrants are increasingly looking to fight rather than flee, reports the Washington Times. The report signals increased danger, particularly on the southwest border, where agents say a surge in illegal immigration in recent years generally correlates with growing violence. Prosecutors, meanwhile, often refuse to bring charges or win cases against the perpetrators, the audit found. At the border, the most frequent method of attack was projectiles — usually large rocks — which accounted for half of assaults. But bombs, clubs, knives, guns and even laser pointers to blind agents have all been used. Most of the injuries were minor and didn’t require treatment, the audit found.

Federal Report Criticizes FEMA’s Response to Hurricane Maria

A report from the Government Accountability Office found that FEMA was not ready for what it encountered in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, in part because the agency had to assume many of the responsibilities that local governments usually handle. “They were completely overwhelmed from a workforce standpoint,” Chris Currie, the GAO director for emergency management issues. “Once Maria hit, their staff resources were pretty exhausted. Their other commodities and resources were exhausted.” Three overlapping hurricanes caused staffing shortages and required FEMA to shift staff that was already deployed to other disasters. The remote distance and logistical challenges made it difficult to quickly deploy resources and personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, the islands were not fully prepared for such a storm and the widespread devastation and loss of power and communications led FEMA to assume response functions that territories would usually perform themselves.

Facebook and Twitter Apologize for Missing Russian Meddling

Facebook and Twitter executives issued mea culpas on Wednesday for the failure to root out Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg saying it was “completely unacceptable,” and promising to keep cracking down on bad actors. “We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. This is on us,” she said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “This interference was completely unacceptable.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted a small number of actors were able to “game Twitter” to have an outsized impact. Facebook in particular came under fire for being at the forefront of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, as actors set up fake Facebook groups, organized protests and spread memes as part of an effort to disrupt the election. Thirteen Russians were indicted by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year on charges of plotting to disrupt the election by creating fake social media accounts to weigh in and stir up political issues.

Nearly 30% of Opioid Prescriptions Lack Medical Explanation

Nearly 30% of all opioids prescribed in US clinics or doctors’ offices lack a documented reason — such as severe back pain — to justify a script for these addictive drugs, new research finds. In total, opioids were prescribed in almost 809 million outpatient visits over a 10-year period, with 66.4% of these prescriptions intended to treat non-cancer pain and 5.1% for cancer-related pain, according to a study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. However, for the remaining 28.5% of prescriptions — about three out of every 10 patients — there was no record of either pain symptoms or a pain-related condition, the Harvard Medical School and RAND Corp. researchers say. Dr. Tisamarie B. Sherry, lead author of the study, said, “The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation.”

FTC, States, Target Bogus Veterans’ Charities

Generous Americans give more than $2.5 billion a year to some 40,000 charities with missions designed to help veterans. Lately, however, this crowded field has been inundated by fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC launched Operation Donate with Honor in July to spotlight the problem of fraudulent and deceptive fundraising on behalf of military and veterans’ causes. The FTC distributed a list of 102 law enforcement actions 34 states have lodged against bogus veterans’ charities. The list laid bare the many ways these groups solicit donations—online, on the phone, by mail, door-to-door and at stores and supermarkets. In many cases, the lion’s share of each dollar donated was paid to telemarketers instead of veterans. In some cases these telemarketers charged a fee of 85 cents of every dollar. One charity that is named is Help the Vets. Donors contributed $20 million to the Florida charity from 2013 to 2017. But the charity spent only 5% of the dollars that were collected to assist veterans, the FTC said.

Massachusetts Issued 1,905 Drivers Licenses to Dead People

A state audit published Thursday finds that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issued nearly 2,000 licenses to people after their deaths. Massachusetts’ Office of the State Auditor said the RMV had improperly used databases to verify a person’s eligibility for a license. The report cites a “significant risk” that the licenses could be used as false identification or to commit fraud. The audit found that 97 percent of the licenses in question were still active in January 2018. Some licenses were issued in the name of people who had been dead since the early 1960s, but most cases involved people who had died since 2000, the report says.

Economic News

Wages for U.S. workers grew at 2.9 percent in the past year, the Labor Department reported Friday. It’s the fastest growth since 2009 and an encouraging sign that wages might finally be moving higher after years of sluggish gains. The higher pay is coming as businesses are having to compete hard for workers. The U.S. economy added a robust 201,000 jobs in August, the 95th straight month of gains and a record-setting streak of hiring. The national unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent, one of the lowest levels in half a century. The U.S. economy has averaged 207,000 jobs a month so far this year, a healthy pace that indicates companies will continue to grow.

A debt and currency crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States. The emerging market debt bubble is now three times larger than it was in 2007, and it is seven times larger than it was in 2002, according to CNBC. Emerging markets are also heavily plagued by debt and a stronger dollar makes it tougher for them to pay this debt. The latest data from the Institute of International Finance shows that debt in emerging markets including China increased from $9 trillion in 2002 to $21 trillion in 2007 and finally to $63 trillion in 2017. Many currencies of emerging market countries are falling rapidly, prompting fears of a larger, overall market meltdown.

Middle East

Citing lack of progress on peace negotiations, the Trump administration will announce Monday plans to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington – a move that drew an immediate rebuke from Palestinian officials who said the White House is trying to bully them. “We have been notified by a U.S. official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US.,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a statement Monday. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump Administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.” The Trump administration first threatened to close down the PLO’s office in Washington last fall but later backed off. On Saturday, the Trump administration announced it is “reprogramming” $25 million in aid that had been earmarked for hospitals in Arab sections of Jerusalem. The funding will instead be directed to “high-priority projects elsewhere,” a move that follows the administration’s decision to stop funding the Palestinians’ dedicated United Nations agency, UNRWA. Last Thursday, President Donald Trump told Jewish leaders that the Palestinians would not receive any more aid from the U.S. unless they made a deal with Israel.

North Korea

A peace declaration in the 65-year-old Korean war now appears to be a central sticking point in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations. The answer, for now, is no – at least from Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons first. On Tuesday, the White House said Trump had spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae, “including our ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un. Also on Tuesday, NBC News reported that China has eased economic sanctions on North Korea, reopening trade in a move that undermines the Trump administration’s efforts to apply “maximum pressure” to the Kim regime. That development could seriously complicate the U.S.-North Korea negotiations, giving Kim increased leverage to make his demands, including a peace declaration.

North Korea held a military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding on Sunday but refrained from displaying its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles or mentioning its nuclear program amidst a period of diplomatic negotiations with the United States and South Korea. In previous years, the parade has been a showcase for Pyongyang’s latest weapons technology, but this year the event had a less bellicose tone, according to reports from foreign journalists invited to cover it. Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, delivered a speech that focused mainly on economic development.

Syria

The last vestige of Islamic State territory in Syria came under attack, as members of an American-backed coalition said Tuesday that they had begun a final push to oust the militants from Hajin, the remaining sliver of territory under the group’s control in the region where it was born. The assault is the final chapter of a war that began more than four years ago after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized enormous tracts of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that has been fighting the Islamic State in Syria with the United States and its allies, said in a statement that its forces had launched an offensive on the area from four sides on Monday evening.

Afghanistan

Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, American officials routinely issue inflated assessments of progress that contradict what is actually happening there, reports the New York Times. More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in the Afghan conflict, and the United States has spent more than $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency and paying for relief and reconstruction. The war has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after World War II. But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni. The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But, in many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest. Twin bombings at a wrestling training center in a Shiite neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital last Wednesday killed at least 20 people, including two reporters, and wounded 70,

Nigeria

Residents say Boko Haram extremists have overrun a key crossroads and military outpost in northern Nigeria. Gudumbali is a town to which just months ago the government encouraged displaced people to return. Resident Umara Modu says extremists told people to leave and that they were not the target. Gudumbali was the site of one of the deadliest encounters in the fight again Boko Haram, with scores of soldiers killed in 2015. Modu says “I will never go back to Gudumbali again, no matter the assurance, because we went back after the military authority and the Borno state government promised us adequate security.”

Yemen

Talks aimed at bringing a peaceful end to the civil war in Yemen ended Saturday after the Houthi delegation failed to show. Nevertheless, the United Nations’ mediator Martin Griffiths vowed to keep pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The conflict in Yemen has become a proxy battle for supremacy in the troubled region. Saudi Arabia backs the government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was displaced by the war. President Hadi, a Sunni Muslim, has been living in exile in Riyadh. Iran supports the Houthi rebels, members of the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, who control of the capital city of Sana’a. The most recent statistics show that 56 percent of Yemen is Sunni and 42 percent identifies with the Zaidis.

Wildfires

A fast-moving brush fire in Shasta County, California, continued to rapidly grow in size, keeping about 50 miles of Interstate 5 closed in both directions Friday morning. The interstate, the West Coast’s main north-south thoroughfare, will be shut at least through Sunday. The Delta Fire, which broke out around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, has grown to more than 38 square miles and is 0 percent contained. Five homes have been destroyed, but no injuries have been reported. Mandatory evacuations were ordered and an estimated 280 homes are threatened. Schools across Shasta County closed early Friday because of the smoky conditions created by the Delta Fire and other wildfires burning in the area. Just a few miles away, the 72-square-mile Hirz Fire is burning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. With structures such as vacation cottages and gas stations threatened, fire officials have directed large air tankers to battle the blaze.

Earthquakes

Two powerful earthquakes rocked Japan within 20 minutes of each other early Thursday, just over a day after a typhoon in the country left at least 30 people dead with nine still missing. The quakes — magnitude-6.6 and -5.3 — struck Tomakomai, the fifth largest city in the Hokkaido area, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). They each had a depth of roughly 21 and 23 miles, respectively. The quakes triggered landslides and massive power outages. At least nine people are dead and scores more are injured. The quakes that struck 39 miles from Sapporo in southern Hokkaido where they buckled roads, knocked homes off their foundations and caused entire hillsides to collapse. On Tuesday, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 1993 was recorded. It first made landfall on Japan’s southwestern island of Shikoku and then again near Kobe on Honshu (see below).

Residents of Davao City scampered towards safer ground, rushing out of buildings and malls following a powerful earthquake the rocked the southern Philippine city. A magnitude-6.4 quake jolted Davao Oriental at 3.16pm on Saturday. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) recorded the epicentre at 104 km east of Davao.

Weather

As Category-4 Hurricane Florence aims at the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center is calling Florence “extremely dangerous,” and predicts its peak winds could reach 150 mph, which is just 7 mph from Category 5. The center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the East Coast from Edisto Beach, S.C., northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The center is warning of an “extremely dangerous” triple threat in the Carolinas and Virginia: 1) A “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast — a rise in ocean water over normally dry land; 2) Life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event from the coast to interior sections. Some estimates predict as much as 4 feet of rain; 3) Damaging hurricane-force winds at the coast and some distance inland.

Sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine soared to near-record highs in August in what scientists referred to as a month-long “marine heat wave” in the typically colder waters off the New England coast. During one 10-day period in August, the average sea-surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine was nearly 5 degrees above the average from 1982 to 2011. The Gulf of Maine warmed at a rate of about 0.1 degrees over the last 30 years – more than three times the global average.

This summer’s nighttime temperature, when averaged nationwide for June, July and August, was the hottest ever recorded at 60.9 degrees, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. In fact, every state had an above-average summer minimum temperature. Summer overnight low temperatures are warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as afternoon high temperatures for the U.S. Records go back to 1895.

Signs of the Times

September 4, 2018

­But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. (Psalm 106:35-38)

Dallas Billboard Promotes Abortion for Black Women

A new billboard in Dallas shows three smiling African American women on one side with a message on the other side that reads, “Black women take care of their families by taking care of themselves. ABORTION IS SELF-CARE.” It is sponsored by The Afiya Center, which calls itself the only “reproductive justice” organization in “North Texas founded and directed by Black women.” Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, who once worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic, posted a picture of the billboard on her Facebook page with the message: “The abortion war against black women is so real.” Walter Hoye of Oakland, California, an African-American minister and founder of the Issues for Life Foundation, said that, every single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans. Nearly half of all black babies conceived die in abortion chambers today. “This means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother’s womb,” Hoye said

125 Women Take Abortion Pills to Protest Pro-Life Laws

In a deadly display of defiance, 125 women in South Korea swallowed abortion drugs in protest of the country’s pro-life laws. Korea Bizwire reports the protest took place Sunday in front of the Bosingak Pavilion in Seoul, South Korea. According to the report, 30 additional women took vitamins so that authorities would not be able to tell which women took the illegal abortion drugs. Wearing black, they demanded that the government legalize the killing of unborn babies. The pro-abortion group claimed 125 women abort their unborn babies illegally every day in South Korea, according to the report. They also urged the government to make abortion drugs legal and easily available. However, the drugs are dangerous and can be deadly to the mother as well as her unborn baby, reports LifeNews.com. Complications from abortion drugs include excessive bleeding, infection, incomplete abortion requiring surgery and death of the woman. A Food and Drug Administration report in 2017 found that 22 women died, more than 1,000 were hospitalized and nearly 600 experienced severe blood loss that required transfusions after taking the abortion drugs in the United States.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surge for 4th Straight Year

New cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017, continuing a four-year trend of rising sexually transmitted diseases fueled by a lack of awareness and changing sexual behavior, federal health officials said Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2.29 million new cases of these three common yet treatable sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017. Left untreated, these infections can result in infertility or pregnancy complications or increase the risk of HIV transmission. Federal health officials are particularly troubled by the 67 percent jump in gonorrhea cases since 2013 because the bacterial infection has become resistant to all antibiotics except ceftriaxone. The rise in cases is at record levels, but the federal budget has not increased STD program funding since 2013, leaving health departments scrambling to address the problem with fewer resources.

America’s STD Problem a ‘Moral and Spiritual Crisis’

Franklin Graham pointed to news of skyrocketing STD rates in the United States as evidence of our collective “moral and spiritual crisis.” Graham expounded on his point by saying that sin always carries a cost. He concluded by pointing to God’s grace and quoting 1 Corinthians 6:18. “God loves us and wants to protect us. His Word tells us what to do: ‘Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.’” David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD directors, said that President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar should declare this “a public health crisis.”

Flag Flap Reaches New Extremes

A new movie, “First Man,” is debuting this month. It’s about American astronauts setting foot on the moon where Neil Armstrong planted an American flag. Ironically, the film stars Canadian actor Ryan Gosling as Astronaut Armstrong. Worse, that iconic flag scene was cut out of the final version of First Man. Now, Twitter has now taken to censoring GIFs for the American flag being planted on the moon by Armstrong as well. As reported by The Gateway Pundit, a GIF of the iconic moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon’s surface was declared “sensitive,” which meant users had to click to “Learn More.”

U.S. Nixes Funding to U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

The Trump administration announced Friday it will zero out funding for the United Nations’ aid program for Palestinian refugees, part of a broader effort to rein in foreign aid and restrict assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. is “no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs,” referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She said some countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar, have stepped up funding for the program, “but the overall international response has not been sufficient.” She also argued that UNRWA recognizes too many Palestinians as refugees, creating an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries” that is unsustainable.

California End Bail System

California will end the cash bail system in a sweeping reform for the state. Rather than requiring defendants to pay in order to be released before trial, their release will hinge on an assessment of their risk to public safety. “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. California is the first state to eliminate money bail completely, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, an organization that advocates for pretrial justice reform. Critics have long contended that the money bail system perpetuates inequality. While some people are able to quickly get out of jail by posting bail, people who aren’t able to afford it sit in jail until the court takes action, or until they work with a bail bond agent to secure their freedom, which can leave them in debt.

Florida’s Unending Red Tide is Killing Wildlife, Tourism and Businesses

Florida’s worst red tide in more than a decade had turned aqua-blue surf to a rusty dull brown. The lifeguards. are wearing gas masks. it’s no longer a threat to just marine life. Business owners in the hardest-hit counties report they have lost nearly $90 million and have laid off about 300 workers because of the red tide and a separate freshwater algal bloom in the state’s largest lake. Together, the two blooms have caused a sharp drop in tourism. A pair of toxic algal blooms striking the state at the same time is rare and, in this case, especially lethal. A red tide is a natural phenomenon that develops miles offshore before making its way to the coast, where it feeds on a variety of pollutants, including phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, along with other runoff and wastewater.

Economic News

More than 30 percent of student loan borrowers are in default, late or have stopped making payments after just six years, according to Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress. Historically, the Department of Education has only reported the default rates of students three years after graduation, which come out to just over 10 percent. By comparison, three-year credit card default rates are under one percent. But when Miller looked at information on student loan borrowers six years after graduation, he found that 15.5 percent were in default, 4.8 percent were more than 90 days late on their payments and 10.2 percent were not making payments on their loans at all. Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

From Argentina’s peso to the Turkish lira, the currencies of emerging markets are taking a battering. Both economies have been plunged into turmoil this year. Their currencies have collapsed, coming under pressure from an array of forces including rising US interest rates, political clashes and the global trade war. The pressures have exposed frailties in multiple emerging markets, particularly the reliance on funding from foreign investors, who are more likely to pull out their money as local currencies drop in value. Worries about Argentina and Turkey have prompted nervous investors to retreat from other economies that are viewed as vulnerable. On Friday, Indonesia’s currency plunged to its lowest level against the US dollar since the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago. India’s rupee is down almost 10% since the start of the year, and Brazil’s real is down 20% against the dollar this year as of last Friday.

Persecution Watch

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements this week harshly criticizing Iran for a brutal crackdown on Christians which has recently included imprisonment of several well-known leaders. AI said in their statement that the Christian leaders “have been targeted solely for peacefully practicing their Christian faith” which included such activities as organizing house churches and Bible studies in private homes, all of which has been characterized by Iranian security services as “threats to national security.

The United Nations has condemned the treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar as “crimes against humanity” in a damning newly-released report. PreMediass attention has focused on the elements of the report which call for genocide prosecutions against leaders of the Myanmar Army for actions against Rohingya Muslims. But the report also highlights “similar patterns of conduct by security forces” against Christians in Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar. The independent fact-finding mission reported “Violations against ethnic and religious minorities in northern Myanmar are often committed with persecutory intent, in a context of severe discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds. This manifests, for example, in the destruction or ransacking of churches and religious objects during military operations (and sometimes subsequent erecting of Buddhist pagodas).”

Terrorism Update

A 19-year-old Afghan citizen had a “terrorist motive” for allegedly stabbing two Americans at the main train station in Amsterdam, city authorities in the Dutch capital said Saturday. Amsterdam police shot and wounded the suspect after the stabbings Friday at Central Station. “Based on the suspect’s first statements, he had a terrorist motive,” the city administration said in a statement that did not elaborate on what the statements were or how they showed intent. The wounded Americans were recovering in a hospital from what police termed serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Syria

Several UN Security Council ambassadors on Tuesday voiced concern over the fate of civilians in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, as Damascus appears ready to militarily re-take the region. Following a council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Western nations warned of the dire consequences of an attack by the government of Bashar al-Assad. “There are alarming signs of a pending military offensive in northwestern Syria,” said Carl Skau, Sweden’s ambassador to the Security Council. “Increased military escalation,” he warned, “would have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a humanitarian disaster.” The strategically important northwestern province of Idlib borders on Turkey and is the last holdout of rebels in Syria. John Ging, a senior official with the UN Humanitarian Affairs office, said that observers have seen a “serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation” in northwestern Syria in the past weeks.

Incoming and outgoing flights in Israel will be affected by the massive Russian military maneuvers off the Syrian coast, Israel’s Airports Authority cautioned Tuesday. Syrian forces have been preparing for an onslaught on the Idlib province in the country, the last rebel stronghold, while the Russian military has been amassing unprecedented forces off the Syrian coast that would lend support to Assad. The Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that it deployed 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the maneuvers.

Iran

U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will “cripple” the Middle Eastern country’s economy after they take effect in early November, according to a report released last Wednesday by Oxford Economics. The economic sanctions were originally lifted by the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 during President Barack Obama’s administration. President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in May, calling it inadequate and claiming it would not prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons. He then followed up earlier this month with his decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil industry take effect Nov. 4. Oil and crude exports form the backbone of Iran’s economy and represents the primary source of revenue and foreign currency for the government. The economy is already in poor shape and protests have been mounting over high unemployment.

An Iranian civil aviation company is suspected of smuggling arms into Lebanon, destined for the militant group Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories — and western intelligence sources said Monday they’ve uncovered the unexpected routes that Iran apparently took to try avoiding detection. The route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said: “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down.” Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have supplied evidence that Iran has operated weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, the Reuters news agency reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq in recent months.

Earthquakes

Southern California received a jolt last Tuesday evening when a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the region, but there were no reports of injuries or damage. The tremor struck less than three miles north of La Verne, California, at 7:33 p.m. local time Tuesday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The temblor was about four miles deep, and forceful shaking was reported near the epicenter. A 3.4 magnitude aftershock was reported one minute after the main quake.

Wildfires

Wildfires in the U.S. have charred more than 10,000 square miles so far this year, an area larger than the state of Maryland, with large fires still burning in every Western state including many that are yet fully contained. Smoke from this summer’s Western wildfires — a potential health hazard for at-risk individuals — prompted the closure of Yosemite National Park for more than two weeks and drifted to the East Coast, according to NASA. Recent research says it also impacts climate change as small particles spiral into the upper atmosphere and interfere with the sun’s rays. Scientists broadly agree wildfires are getting bigger in North America and other parts of the world as the climate warms. But still emerging is how that change will alter the natural progression of fire and regrowth. The time interval between wildfires in some locations is getting shorter, even as there’s less moisture to help trees regrow. That means some forests burn, then never grow back, converting instead into shrub land more adapted to frequent fire. A longer fire season and bigger fires in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada are burning not just trees but also tundra and organic matter in soils, which hold roughly a third of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon.

  • Increasingly extreme weather and concomitant wildfires are key signs of the impending end-times ((Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Weather

Flash flooding caused road closures and stranded motorists in parts of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. The National Weather Service says rainfall totals of up to 3 inches per hour were causing the flooding. NWS said 10.57 inches of rain fell over nine hours in Mount Joy Almost 8 inches was reported at Schaefferstown over a four hour period. Lancaster Online reported that a bus filled with students was trapped in the floodwaters along Route 230 but the students were eventually evacuated. Several local highways were shut down. One man is dead and the search continues for a woman who remains missing after being swept from a bridge Friday as heavy rains triggered flash flooding in Maryland on Saturday. Heavy rainfall triggered significant flash flooding early Monday in the northeastern Kansas city of Manhattan, about 50 miles west of Topeka. The Corps of Engineers office measured an overnight rain total of 8.9 inches just north-northwest of downtown Manhattan Monday morning. Multiple roads in Manhattan were impassable due to high water.

Water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are dropping to dangerous levels, reflecting the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit,” scientists said. Lake Powell is about 48 percent full, and Lake Mead is about 38 percent full. By the end of the year, Powell’s levels are projected to fall 94 feet (29 meters) below where the reservoir stood in 2000 when it was nearly full. The Colorado River basin, which feeds the two reservoirs, has been drying out over the last two decades, scientists said. With the demands from farms and cities exceeding the available the water supply, the strains on the river and reservoirs are being compounded by growing population, drought and climate change. The Colorado River and its tributaries support about 40 million people and more than 7,800 square miles (20,200 square kilometers) of farmland.

Signs of the Times

August 27, 2018

­And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:11-13)

Ex-Vatican Diplomat Calls on Pope Francis to Resign over Abuse Coverup

Pope Francis should resign for his “sinful conduct” in covering up sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a retired Vatican diplomat says. Francis had recently become pope in 2013 when he asked Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò his thoughts on McCarrick, Viganò says in a damning, 11-page open letter published Sunday. According to Viganò, he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick’s thick dossier which chronicled McCarrick’s ongoing sexual abuse. “He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests,” Viganò reportedly told Pope Francis. Viganò, who was serving as the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., told Francis that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, had ordered McCarrick to leave the seminary where he was living and withdraw to a life of prayer and penance. He said Francis dropped the sanctions against McCarrick, a well-known liberal by church standards, and “continued to cover for him.” McCarrick resigned last month amid claims of sexual abuse of an altar boy and seminarians.

School District Bans Pregnancy Center from Promoting Abstinence

Most parents agree that a high school sex education program ought to include accurate, comprehensive information about healthy teen relationships. But in Pennsylvania’s Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, that no longer is the case, reports Townhall.com. Due to progressive student and staff protests, Drexel Hill’s Amnion Pregnancy Center will no longer be permitted to deliver content to students at Strath Haven High School. High school senior Abby McElroy complained to school officials that Amnion’s classroom sex education presentation had promoted abstinence. The 17-year-old student at Strath Haven High School claims that the presentation made sexually active students feel “shamed.” While McElroy admits that Amnion did not mention religion once during the class period, she claims they do have Biblical references on their website. After news of the allegations against Amnion came out, more than 500 people signed a Change.org petition against the pregnancy center’s future participation at the school. According to Almion’s executive director Melanie Parks, their organization is not faith-based. Almion’s website says that their RealEd sex education program is intended “to provide a framework that empowers young people to think through their own values and morals and make healthy decisions about relationships.”

  • Another example of intolerance against conservative and/or Christian values

United Way Affiliates Send Millions to Planned Parenthood

Despite an expose in recent years that the Planned Parenthood abortion business sells the body parts of aborted babies, and despite the fact that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s biggest abortion company, a new report indicates that United Way affiliates fund it with millions in donations, reports lifenews.com. Not only do dozens of United Way affiliates donate to the Planned Parenthood abortion business, but those donations have increased to over the $2.5 million, 2ndVote, the conservative watchdog for corporate activism, released its annual findings on United Way’s financial support for Planned Parenthood. The report tracks 1,200 United Way affiliates. Analysis of the most recent IRS Form 990 filings and other documentation found 62 United Way affiliates sent $2,756,799 to Planned Parenthood abortion organizations in tax year 2016.

Trump Revokes $200M Aid to Gaza, West Bank

The Trump administration will revoke more than $200 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department announced Friday. The move came after a State Department review examining whether the funding was in “U.S. national interests” and of value to American taxpayers. In a terse announcement, the State Department said it would redirect the $200 million to “high-priority projects elsewhere.” The move drew immediate fire from Democrats in Congress, who said it would roil an already volatile part of the world and undermine U.S. efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The withdrawal of economic aid to the Palestinians comes as the Trump administration is preparing to unveil a highly anticipated Middle East peace plan – an effort that appears to be faltering even before it gets off the ground. One contentious element of that plan would reportedly tie economic development for Gaza and the West Bank to significant concessions from the Palestinians, including giving permanent control of Jerusalem to the Israelis.

U.S., Mexico Reach Partial Deal to Revamp NAFTA

The White House says announced Monday that negotiators for the U.S. and Mexico have reached a partial deal to revise parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The announcement of a deal comes after five consecutive weeks of talks between the two nations to revise key parts of the 24-year-old pact, which President Trump has repeatedly denigrated as the “worst trade deal ever.” The U.S. and Mexico are hoping to get a final deal signed before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto leaves office on Dec. 1. Negotiations between the United States and Mexico resolved a major stumbling block on auto manufacturing Under the current law, about 62% of the parts in any car sold in North America must be produced in the region or automakers have to pay import taxes. The new preliminary agreement would increase that requirement. However, the fate of any new deal will hinge on Canada, which has been on the sidelines during the latest round of negotiations but still must sign off on any changes to NAFTA.

Federal Judge Overturns Trump’s Executive Orders to Promote Government Efficiency

A federal judge dealt a blow Saturday to President Donald Trump’s efforts to “promote more efficient” government, ruling that key provisions of three recent executive orders “undermine federal employees’ right to bargain collectively” under federal law. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump had “exceeded his authority” in issuing the orders. The White House had no comment and referred questions to the Justice Department, which said it was reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering options. Federal worker unions that had sued to block Trump’s use of his executive authority in this area applauded the outcome. The executive orders, issued by the White House in May, covered collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures and use of “official time.”

  • Excessive bloat in government bureaucracy is like a cancer that keeps on growing and growing, feeding off the notion that government should fix all of society’s ills. A recent Reuters–Ipsos poll found that 70% of Americans (85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans) want the U.S. government to provide medical care for everyone. Of course, the question didn’t note that taxes would probably go up a lot as well.

Court Says Fourth Amendment Applies to Smart Meter Data

The Seventh Circuit just handed down a landmark opinion, ruling 3-0 that the Fourth Amendment protects energy-consumption data collected by smart meters. Smart meters collect energy usage data at high frequencies—typically every 5, 15, or 30 minutes—and therefore know exactly how much electricity is being used, and when, in any given household. The court recognized that data from these devices reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search. The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data and that the government’s access of it constitutes a “search.” This case, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville, is the first case addressing whether the Fourth Amendment protects smart meter data. Courts have in the past held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect monthly energy usage readings from traditional, analog energy meters, the predecessors to smart meters. About 65 million smart meters have been installed in the United States in recent years. More than 40% of American households now have a smart meter.

Social Media Purge Iranian Disinformation Sites

Google has removed dozens of YouTube channels it says are linked to an influence operation run by Iran’s state broadcaster. The disclosure comes just days after Facebook, Instagram and Twitter purged hundreds of accounts that originated in Iran that were spreading disinformation in the United States and abroad. In all, Google says it shut down 58 accounts on its video service YouTube and other sites. Cybersecurity firm FireEye tipped off Google, which says it has briefed law enforcement officials and shared its findings with lawmakers. Last week, Facebook disclosed it had uncovered a network operated by Iranian state media and removed 652 pages, groups and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and Instagram. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted more revelations of nation-state disinformation campaigns may come to light in coming months.

Economic News

Powered by big gains in popular technology companies like Apple, Amazon and Netflix, the Nasdaq composite barreled through the 8,000 milestone for the first time Monday and hit a new all-time high. The surge is the latest sign that the longest bull market in Wall Street history remains healthy and continues to be driven by innovative tech companies that are transforming the way people communicate, shop and consume media. The Nasdaq, which is now up more than 16 percent this year after surging 28.2 percent in 2017, is being led by the so-called “FAANG” stocks — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet — which are responsible for a big chunk of the tech-dominated index’s sizable gains. Innovation in smart phones, social media, video streaming, cloud-based computing and machine learning is boosting the fortunes of tech leaders.

America’s wealthy households are increasingly moving to coastal cities on both sides of the country, but those with more modest incomes are either relocating to or being pushed into the nation’s Rust Belt, according to a new study by BuildZoom. That’s creating “income sorting” across the country, with expensive cities like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle drawing wealthier residents. For instance, Americans who move to San Francisco earn nearly $13,000 more than those who move away, the study found. Conversely, those who are moving into less expensive inland cities such as Detroit or Pittsburgh earn up to $5,000 less than those who are leaving.

The Trump administration’s latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods kicked in Thursday, drawing immediate retaliation from Beijing. The new exchange of fire in the trade war between the two economic superpowers comes as officials from both countries hold talks in Washington over the dispute. The United States imposed 25% tariffs on another $16 billion of Chinese goods, affecting 279 products, including chemical products, motorcycles, speedometers and antennas. China responded immediately with 25% tariffs on an equal amount of American goods, such as chemical products and diesel fuel. China and the United States have now imposed tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods in the tariff war, which the Trump administration launched in an effort to punish China for what it says are unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property.

Sears Holdings is closing 46 more Sears or Kmart stores as the struggling retailer seeks stability amid questions about its future. The latest plan involves closing 13 Kmart locations and 33 Sears stores in November, all of which are losing money. The company has closed several hundred locations in recent years. The company had 365 Kmart stores and 506 Sears full-line stores as of May 5. Over the previous year, the company closed 379 full-line stores.

North Korea

President Donald Trump on Friday nixed a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, suggesting Kim Jong Un’s regime had not made good on promises to relinquish its nuclear weapons arsenal.  The president said Pompeo would go at a later date, after the U.S. and China resolve an escalating trade war that has complicated America’s diplomatic efforts in North Korea. During a highly publicized summit on June 12 in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement in which North Korea promised to work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But the North Koreans have not taken any visible, concrete steps toward fulfilling that pledge.

Iran

Iran’s parliament voted Sunday to fire the country’s finance minister amid an economic free fall fanned by America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with world powers, dealing another blow to President Hassan Rouhani’s embattled administration. It’s unlikely that parliament’s dismissal of Masoud Karbasian will stem the downward spiral, with the currency, the rial, falling to new lows against the U.S. dollar amid chronically high unemployment and inflation in the country. But it shows the Shiite Muslim theocracy’s growing recognition of the anger felt across the country of 80 million, which has seen months of sporadic protests challenging the ruling clerics. Karbasian’s dismissal comes after lawmakers similarly dismissed Rouhani’s labor minister, Ali Rabiei, this month.

A major shipping route located between Oman and Iran where nearly one-third of the world’s sea-traded oil passes through daily may become a new flashpoint after a top Iranian Navy general said Monday that the country has taken full control of the Strait of Hormuz. The strait, which at its narrowest point is 21 miles wide, has shipping lanes that are 2 miles wide in each direction and is the only sea passage from many of the world’s largest oil producers to the Indian Ocean. The blockage of the Strait of Hormuz, even temporarily, could lead to substantial increases in total energy costs.

Islamic State

Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. It is vying for survival with other, sometimes stronger, extremist groups. But one sphere where Islamic State still reigns supreme among terrorists is in cyberspace. The group’s vast online presence is a critical recruitment and marketing tool that has helped it build a brutish brand using propaganda and sometimes false claims. Maintaining the perception that Islamic State is still a force in the world is all the more important as its territorial control, or self-declared caliphate, has almost completely collapsed. The latest example of the role of such online propaganda came on Thursday, when Islamic State’s official news outlet claimed that a man who stabbed his mother and sister to death in France had responded to its calls to attack citizens of countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb disputed the statement, saying the perpetrator was mentally unstable. That claim came a day after Islamic State released what it said was a recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the first in nearly a year, calling for supporters abroad to continue attacks on Western cities.

South Africa Seizing White-Owned Farms

South Africa faces potential economic calamity if it moves ahead with the seizure of largely white-owned farmland, analysts warned this week, as global investors reacted to a plan that government leaders say is necessary to correct decades-old wrongs of apartheid that left deep, systemic wealth inequalities and land ownership disparities along racial lines, reports the Washington Times. South African economic analysts and U.S. observers say the country risks inviting the kind of devastation that left neighboring Zimbabwe’s economy in ruins after a similar forced expropriation scheme targeting some of the country’s most productive farmland.

Volcanoes

Mount Etna in Sicily is again erupting and is shooting chunks of lava up to 500 feet in the air. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) says the volcano began spewing plumes of ash and lava on Thursday evening. The volcano, which “re-awoke” in late July, continued on Friday to feed ash plumes several hundred yards into the air above the crater. No evacuations were ordered for towns on the volcano, and flights into the nearby airport at Catania are continuing uninterrupted. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. It has one of the world’s longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 B.C.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake shook eastern Venezuela on Tuesday afternoon, forcing residents in the capital city of Caracas to evacuate buildings and flee their homes. The 7.3 quake – the largest to strike Venezuela since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – was felt throughout the Caribbean. But at a depth of some 76 miles, it appeared to have caused only limited damage. Its epicenter was a few miles off the sparsely populated Cariaco peninsula stretching into the eastern Caribbean.

Wildfires

German firefighters battling a large inferno in a forest southwest of Berlin faced an added challenge in recent days: buried, exploding World War II ammunition that was being set off by the wildfire. The fire started Thursday afternoon and spread quickly through the dry pine forests in the Treuenbrietzen region, 30 miles outside of Berlin. The fire sent thick smoke toward Berlin and forced several nearby villages to evacuate. The blaze grew to the size of about 500 soccer fields and detonated ammunition several times, keeping firefighters from entering some areas of the forest.

 

Weather

Israel’s Water Authority published a report on Sunday showing that the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and several smaller lakes, streams and tributaries throughout the Land of Israel are reaching their lowest levels since records began to be kept as the country endures the fifth year of a severe drought. The report projects that the drought will linger and perhaps intensify in the years to come, prompting spiritual leaders to implore those who love Israel to pray for a wet, rainy winter in 2018-2019.

Signs of the Times

August 21, 2018

­For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah57:15)

Miracles Mark Ongoing Revival in Small Georgia Church

Physical healings, deliverance and more than 500 baptisms have taken place during Sunday-night services at Christ Fellowship in Dawsonville, Georgia, for the past six months. Pastor Todd Smith says people have come from hundreds of miles to “walk into that water and feel the presence of the Lord.” Christ Fellowship, with about 300 to 400 regular attendees, sees its Sunday-night services swell to 600 at times, with individuals and churches traveling in from all parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee to connect with the presence of God. A handful of local pastors and some nationally known evangelists have taken turns preaching the Sunday night services. But the worship and sermons are only a prelude to the manifestation of God’s power when an altar call and an invitation to be baptized are made.

Atheist Group: ‘Lock Up’ USAF Commander for His Faith

The atheistic Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a complaint contending that a Christian commander with the United States Air Force should be fired and imprisoned for expressing his faith. MRFF filed the formal complaint with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, accusing the newly installed commander at California’s Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, of multiple crimes. Teichert  “engaged in] intolerance/proselytizing; violations of DoD diversity & civil liberties policies; and Air Force standards violations,” MRFF’s complaint states. The anti-Christian group also launched a public smear campaign, insisting that Teichert should not just be relieved of his military duties, but also be thrown in jail. “Sometime in early 2013, he created a public webpage and the blog – along with social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) – to promote his fundamentalist, dominionist ‘Christian’ beliefs,” MRFF’s demand letter alleged. The atheist group was also greatly disturbed that Teichert called for prayer that America would return to its Christian roots, as the general expressed below.

Revival at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri

A U.S. Army Chaplain says a revival is taking place on the base of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Since March nearly I,839 troops have reportedly come to the Lord. Chaplain (Capt.) Jose Rondon ministers at the base each week and has been posting testimonies and baptisms of new converts on his Facebook page. “Today, 380 soldiers came to salvation in Christ once and for all,” Rondon says in one post. “Thanks CH Tony Cech for the excellent, clear, and powerful messages during the 3 services. Since March 11, 2018, we have seen 1,839 soldiers coming to Christ. God’s doing an unbelievable work through our military at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.” “The current spiritual awakening at Fort Leonard Wood is indicative of a great move of God taking place within the Armed Services today,”  says retired Major General Doug Carver.

100,000 Attend Harvest Crusade Despite Bans on Posters

Some 100,000 Southern Californians packed out Angel Stadium of Anaheim during the three nights of the 29th annual SoCal Harvest, which ran from Aug. 17–19. Bibles in hand and friends by their sides, thousands poured into the stadium venue ready to hear the Gospel delivered by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, who was joined by top Christian artists Chris Tomlin, MercyMe and Phil Wickham over the course of the weekend. More than 325,000 participated in the SoCal Harvest virtually via live internet broadcasts and Facebook Live, with the outreach experiencing a 177 percent increase in its Facebook Live viewership over last year.  More than 10,000 people responded to Laurie’s nightly invitation to make a commitment of faith in Christ by walking onto the field of Angel Stadium to pray with a Harvest team member standing by, or by indicating their faith decision through the SoCal Harvest live internet broadcast. A local real estate company had removed billboards promoting the event after receiving complaints about the display of a Bible.

Church Protected Over 300 ‘Predator Priests’ Says PA Grand Jury

Church leaders protected more than 300 “predator priests” in six Roman Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania for decades because they were more interested in safeguarding the church and the abusers than tending to their victims, says a scathing grand jury report released Tuesday. More than 1,000 young victims were identifiable from the church’s own records, the report says. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all.” The redacted report details the latest in a decades-long series of claims of abuse and protection leveled against the Catholic church across the nation and around the world. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Pope Francis wrote, urging all 1.2 billion Catholics to fight the culture that had enabled sexual abuse.

  • Another huge black eye for Christ from the denomination that is unfortunately most-closely associated with Christianity, yet is far removed from true biblical Christianity, “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” (Mark 7:7)

Catholic School Terminates Lesbian Employee, Sparking Controversy

Roncalli High School in Indianapolis placed guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on paid administrative leave Sunday after officials learned of her lesbian relationship, The Indianapolis Star reported. She had worked at the school for 15 years and has been asked either to resign or dissolve her marriage, she told local media. The private Catholic high school was within its legal right to terminate the female employee who married another woman, a legal expert says. Jim Bopp, an attorney and legal expert, said the private school legally can require employees to follow a code of conduct because it is a religious organization. The school is exempt from the Indianapolis anti-discrimination ordinance, he said. Fitzgerald’s termination has divided the school community and received extensive local media coverage. Roncalli board member Daniel Parker resigned to protest the termination. But the school says it was following Catholic teaching.

Oprah Winfrey Promotes “Shout Your Abortion” Movement

Oprah Winfrey waded deeper into political waters this summer by promoting the “Shout Your Abortion” movement and its attempts to normalize the killing of unborn babies by having women brag about their abortions. The July issue of her “O” magazine featured “Shout Your Abortion” founder Amelia Bonow in its “Inspiration” section, CNS News reports. Bonow, who began the campaign to urge women to brag about aborting their unborn babies, soon will be coming out with a new book by the same title. Bonow said the campaign really took off when a friend shared her post on Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. She blamed the pro-life movement for trying to silence women who have had abortions. However, the pro-life movement, Silent No More, promotes women telling their stories. It encourages people who experienced pain and regret after their abortions to share their stories publicly, and its website documents thousands of stories of mothers, fathers, grandparents and others who experienced deep pain and remorse because of unborn babies’ abortion deaths.

Chelsea Clinton Claims Abortions Gave $3.5 Trillion Boost to Economy

Last week, Chelsea Clinton claimed the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a good thing — not only because it supposedly gave women the “dignity to make our own choices,” but also because it led to an alleged $3.5 trillion boost to America’s economy. As LifeNews reported this past week, instead of adding $3.5 trillion to the economy, that loss of lives has caused a cumulative GDP deficit of $62.6 trillion that continues to climb with each passing year. By 2040, that cumulative deficit will likely reach $400 trillion. The logic is simple. Every unborn baby killed in abortion is a worker who could have been contributing to the economy, as well as their children, and eventually their grandchildren and so on.

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Coal Pollution Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would roll-back the environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Instead, the EPA will allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfilment of a campaign promise at the heart of President Trump’s appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia, where he is attending a celebratory rally. The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry. Critics say the decision will result in much more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Russians Targeting Senate and Conservative Think Tanks

Parts of an operation linked to Russian military intelligence targeting the US Senate and conservative think tanks that advocated for tougher policies against Russia were thwarted last week, Microsoft announced early Tuesday. The disclosure, coming less than three months ahead of the 2018 midterms, demonstrates new ways in which Russia is attempting to destabilize US institutions. In its announcement, Microsoft said it executed a court order giving it control of six websites created by a group known as Fancy Bear. The group was behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, according to cybersecurity firms. The websites could have been used to launch cyberattacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of November’s elections, Microsoft said.

Persecution Update

Incidents of anti-Semitism in Britain are near record levels. The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that fights anti-Semitism, recorded 727 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2018, the second-highest total ever marked for the first half of a year since the CST began recording anti-Semitic incidents in 1984. Only the total for the first six months of 2017 has been higher. The current climate has shaken Britain’s roughly 300,000-strong Jewish community. Since the UK took in some 90,000 Jews from the European mainland as World War II loomed, it has been considered one of the safest places in the world for Jews to live. Unlike in neighboring France, where a 2015 terror attack targeted a kosher supermarket and a Holocaust survivor was killed in her home in March, no lethal violence has occurred. But the conversation is changing. “Some of our volunteers from the coalition have become aware of so many incidents through their work with us that they have decided to leave and have moved with their families.”

Terrorism Update

A man crashed a car into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, injuring two pedestrians Tuesday in an incident British police are investigating as a terror attack. It was the fourth vehicle-based terror attack in London in less than 18 months. The driver of the car — in his late 20s — was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorism offenses. Few other details about him, his identity or a possible motive were released. No one else was in the car and no weapons were found with him.

Groups of youths in Sweden set fire to dozens of cars in the city of Gothenburg and surrounding towns on Monday, in what Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described as “extremely organized” attacks. Police said up to 100 cars were burned or damaged in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-biggest city, as well as in Trollhattan, an industrial area with high unemployment, and Falkenberg. A number of cars were also burned overnight in Stockholm. Police did not say what might have motivated the attacks, only confirming that gangs of youths were involved. Witnesses told police the alleged offenders were dressed in dark clothing and hoodies.

Economic News

The nation’s food-stamp program is one of the largest run by the government — at $70 billion a year. But while the economy has improved dramatically, food-stamp enrollment has not, declining just 17 percent while the unemployment rate fell three times faster — 62 percent. Why the disconnect? Critics say states are milking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), overstating their needs, while the Trump administration is approving state “work waivers” it doesn’t have to. “We have almost seven million open jobs across America,” said Foundation for Government Accountability executive director Kristina Rasmussen. “Employers are struggling to find workers. Yet we have people sitting on sidelines in part, because they can — on food stamps.”

Turkey is just the latest developing economy to plunge into chaos. The Turkish lira has shed more than 40% since January, while the country’s stock market has been cut in half. The turmoil follows a similar currency crash in Argentina that led to a rescue by the International Monetary Fund. In recent days, the Russian ruble, Indian rupee and South African rand have also tumbled dramatically. The recent overseas turbulence is being driven by a confluence of factors. The most obvious is the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in response to economic strength and warming inflation in the United States. Removing easy money from the market has sent the U.S. dollar soaring against rivals. The stronger greenback is a recipe for disaster for emerging markets like Turkey that binged on debt that was priced in cheaper dollars.

The 50 percent runup in U.S. home prices since 2011 is reshuffling the pecking order of hot housing markets. Many midsize metro areas that had once been affordable are experiencing declining sales amid sharply rising prices and shrinking supplies. Metro area sales fell 4.3 percent in 2017 year and are down 0.5 percent so far this year. Meanwhile, many smaller, more affordable markets – such as Boise, Idaho; Dayton, Ohio; Greenville, South Carolina; and Winston-Salem – are benefiting from an influx of new residents and home sales that continue to climb. Even in second-tier metro areas – ranked 26th to 50th by population – single-family house prices increased 10 percent in the 12 months ending in the first quarter to a median of $343,000, according to Moody’s figures. The soaring prices have taken a toll. Homeowners devote 35.1 percent of their monthly income to housing costs, up from a 27.8 percent average over the past 13 years, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Greece Exits EU Bailouts

After eight years and roughly $330 billion in loans, Greece is leaving bailouts behind. The country on Monday officially exited the last of the three enormous rescue programs that saved it from going bust and abandoning the euro. But the bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission came at a huge cost that will still be felt for years to come. In exchange for the money, Greece agreed to drastically cut spending and implement painful economic reforms. Government employees had their salaries slashed, their pensions frozen, and their retirement age pushed higher. Consumer spending plummeted, unemployment spiked and many businesses shut down. The Greek economy is now three-quarters of the size it was in 2007, before the crisis started. The government, whose runaway spending fueled the financial meltdown, seems to have put its house in order. It went from a 15% budget deficit in 2009 to a 1% surplus in 2017. The Greek economy is expected to grow 2% this year and 2.4% next year, after shrinking for eight out of the past 10 years. Public debt is forecast to peak this year at over 188% of Gross Domestic Product before declining to 151% by 2023, the year Greece is due for another review and possible debt relief.

France Pulls Oil Business Out of Iran

Iran’s oil minister said on Monday that France’s oil giant Total SA has officially pulled out of Iran due to the renewed U.S. sanctions. Total SA canceled its $5 billion, 20-year agreement to develop the country’s massive South Pars offshore natural gas field. Earlier this month, Iran said China’s state-owned petroleum corporation took a majority 80 percent share of the project. CNPC originally had some 30 percent of shares in the project. Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are starting to shift their cargoes to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker Co  for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of economic sanctions. The renewed U.S. sanctions took effect in August, after America’s pullout from the nuclear deal in May. The re-instatement of the sanctions exacerbated a financial crisis in Iran, which has sent its currency, the rial, tumbling.

Gaza Kites & Balloons Cause 1,000 Fires, 8,000 Acres Burned in Israel

The magnitude of the most recent crisis in Israel has hardly been reported in the mainstream news. Over 1,000 fires have been ignited by fire-carrying kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip. More than 8,000 acres of agricultural land and natural habitats have been destroyed by these fires causing some $2.2 million in damages. The weaponized kites resemble children’s toys floating in the sky, but they carry burning charcoal or oil-soaked rags across the Gaza border to ignite fires wherever they land inside Israel. These menacing “toys” are increasingly sophisticated, and some now carry explosives instead of fire and include time fuses that delay ignition until after they cross the border. Helium balloons are replacing kites because they fly farther into Israel—one flew 22 miles. This newest wave of terrorist attacks began in April and does not seem to be letting up. As many as 30 fires have been started in a single day. The Islamist group Hamas threatened to launch as many as 5,000 fire devices into Israel. Not only that, Hamas says they will soon begin using exploding drones that reach even deeper into Israel than the helium balloons.

Palestinian Authority Funds Terrorism Over Schools

United With Israel reports that the Palestinian Authority (PA) last Wednesday made it clear to the world that if forced to choose, it will pay salaries to terrorists rather than for the education of Palestinian children. Recent reports claimed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dedicated solely to serve the Palestinians, did not have enough money to open up the UNRWA school system for over 320,000 Palestinian children. However, UNRWA’s budget for the schools could easily be covered by the PA from the money it spends paying terrorist prisoners and families of so-called “Martyrs,” terrorists killed while attacking Israelis. Yet PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced on official PA TV that “Israel considers them (i.e., terrorist prisoners) criminals… Even if we need to cut from our flesh, we will continue to give the support and aid.”

Afghanistan Attack Blamed on ISIS

A suicide bomber struck a private education center in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul on Wednesday where high school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams, killing 48 young men and women and leaving behind a scene of devastation and tragedy. The bombing, blamed on the Islamic State group, was the latest assault on Afghanistan’s Shiite community, which has increasingly been targeted by Sunni extremists who consider Shiites to be heretics. It also showed how militants are still able to stage large-scale attacks, even in the heart of Kabul, and underscored the struggles of the Afghan forces to provide security and stability on their own. The attack comes amid a particularly bloody week in Afghanistan that has seen Taliban attacks kill scores of Afghan troops and civilians.

Last Syrian Rebel Stronghold Fears Attack

Syrian rebels are readying for a government assault on the country’s northwestern Idlib province, their last major stronghold in a country that’s been wracked by a seven-year war, leaving half a million dead and more than 5 million Syrians languishing as refugees in neighboring countries. Rebel commanders fear an offensive will be launched by mid-September, when a de-escalation agreement negotiated by Russia and backed by Iran and Turkey expires. With President Bashar al-Assad saying his forces intend to retake control of Idlib, U.N. officials have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis, fearing for the well-being of 2.5 million to 3.3 million people estimated to be living in the province, half of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country.”

Yemen Bomb Supplied by U.S.

The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN. Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market — this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb — killed 97 people. In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over “human rights concerns.” The ban was overturned by the Trump administration’s then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.

Venezuela Implements Economic Reforms

Venezuela on Monday began to launch dramatic reforms announced by President Nicolás Maduro to rescue a downward-spiraling economy, including a new currency and a more-than-3,000 percent hike in the minimum wage. The changes start with the introduction of a currency that lops five zeros off the country’s fast-depreciating bills. Maduro says he’ll also raise gasoline prices to international levels – a combination of measures critics say will only make things worse. Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike and protest Tuesday. They hope to draw masses into the streets against Maduro’s socialist ruling party. Banks were closed Monday as they prepared to deal with the new currency. In late-September, the world’s cheapest gas will rise to international levels to curtail rampant smuggling across borders.

Environment

A blanket of red tide along Florida’s Gulf Coast that’s killing marine life in addition to emptying normally packed beaches with an unrelenting stench has caused the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency for parts of the region. Red tide is a naturally occurring toxic algae bloom that can be harmful to people with respiratory problems. It has spread throughout the region since October and stretches about 150 miles from Naples to Anna Maria Island. The algae turns the water toxic for marine life, and in recent weeks beachgoers have discovered turtles, large fish, dolphins and manatees washed up dead. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which will have “all state resources” deployed to ensure residents are safe and businesses can recover. Scott said he’s ordering $100,000 for additional scientists to help with clean-up efforts and another $500,000 to help local communities and businesses struggling with lost income as tourists flee. The governor also directed another $900,000 in grants to help Lee County’s clean-up efforts.

The volume of toxic wastewater that fracked oil and gas wells generated during their first year of production increased by up to 1440 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to a study which was published on Aug. 15 in the journal Science Advances. The amount of water used for fracking in each oil or gas well increased up to 770 percent over the same period. “After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources. We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,” said Avner Vengosh, co-author of the study. Vital drinking water reserves are being threatened. The study also said salts, toxic elements, organic matter, and naturally occurring radioactive material in the wastewater that is produced pose risks to local water supplies.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey defines any earthquake of at least magnitude 4.5 as “significant”, and there were 53 earthquakes that met that criteria along the Ring of Fire on Sunday alone. Because none of the earthquakes happened in the United States, the mainstream media almost entirely ignored this story. The ring is formed of a string of 452 volcanoes and sites of seismic activity (earthquakes), which encircle the Pacific Ocean. The entire west coast of the U.S. falls along this “Ring of Fire”, and experts assure us that it is only a matter of time before the seismic tension that is building up along the tectonic plates in that area is released. According to the UK’s Daily Star, scientists are warning that “increased seismic activity” along the Ring of Fire “may mean the so-called ‘Big One’ is on the way.”

Earthquakes struck near two popular vacation destinations Sunday, one rattling the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga, and another striking Indonesia’s Lombok. The Fiji/Tonga quake roughly 200 miles off both Fiji and Tonga measured a massive 8.2-magnitude but was hundreds of miles deep. The Lombok quake was 6.3-magnitude and struck at a depth of 3.7 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey. Lombok has suffered a series of earthquakes since late July, with more than 430 people killed in a magnitude-6.9 quake that struck August 5. Twelve more people died on Lombok and Sumbawa. killed by collapsing buildings or heart attacks. The swarm of quakes caused panic in Sembalun subdistrict on Lombok in the shadow of Mount Rinjani, but many people were already staying in tents following the deadly jolt in early August and its hundreds of aftershocks.

Wildfires

The Howe Ridge Fire that led to evacuations in Glacier National Park covered almost 5½ square miles as of Thursday. Lightning started the fire on the northwest side of Lake McDonald on Saturday. The next evening, dry and windy conditions caused the fire to spread. Park officials ordered evacuations of a campground, the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and residences and businesses in the area. The fire claimed several historic structures at Lake McDonald. The main cabin at Wheeler camp was saved, but several other buildings there were lost. The west side of the park remains closed, but the east side is still open. On Sunday, the wildfire came within a half-mile of iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road which traverses the park. Officials evacuated the Fish Creek Campground and told residents in the small town of Apgar on Lake McDonald that they might have to leave.

As dozens of wildfires continue to grow in western and central Canada, some towns have been shrouded in smoke so thick, the skies have turned black in the middle of the day. When the sky isn’t totally black, the smoke turns it an eerie orange shade. As a result of the thick smoke, several flights out of the airport east of Vancouver were canceled Sunday. Air quality is poor across much of the province, and officials warned residents with respiratory issues to stay inside. Some 500 wildfires are currently burning across British Columbia, claiming more than 1,700 square miles of land, or almost three times the yearly average.

Weather

At least 38 people died when a 650-foot section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed in a strong storm Tuesday in an industrial area of Genoa, Italy, crushing vehicles below. Some vehicles plunged 260 feet as the span fell. The collapse was along a highway that connects Italy to France, and because it came one day before the Italian holiday Ferragosto, it’s likely the roadway was busier than usual as travelers made their way to the mountains.

More than 350 people have died in floods triggered by intense monsoon rainfall in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the latest tragic flooding event in what has been a devastating season for the country. The floods have left more than 800,000 people homeless over the course of several months. Schools and Cochin International Airport – one of the country’s busiest – have been closed because of the disaster. Many of the victims were killed in mudslides triggered by the heavy rainfall. “We’re witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media. “Almost all dams are now opened. Most of our water treatment plants are submerged.

Signs of the Times

August 13, 2018

­Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

Willow Creek Elders and Lead Pastor Resign in Wake of Hybels Accusations

The lead pastor and entire elder board of Willow Creek Community Church have announced they will resign to give the church a “fresh start” following new allegations of sexual harassment against founder and former pastor Bill Hybels. The news follows the resignation over the weekend of lead teaching pastor Steve Carter, who cited differences with the church over how it handled allegations against Hybels and a “horrifying” report in the Sunday New York Times that detailed new allegations by Hybels’ former executive assistant. A March investigation by the Chicago Tribune and further reporting by Christianity Today documented more women’s claims that Hybels had sexually harassed them. The Tribune also reported that allegations previously had been investigated by Willow Creek’s elders and an outside law firm but that Hybels was cleared of wrongdoing. Missy Rasmussen, who has been an elder at Willow Creek for seven years, said the board now could see that the prior investigation was “flawed.” She apologized for its handling of allegations to all the women who have come forward. “We are sorry that our initial statement was so insensitive, defensive and reflexively protective of Bill (Hybels),” Rassmussen said.

  • Pastoral and priestly sexual abuse has done more to hurt Jesus’ Church than any outside factor.

Crusade Ad Barred Over Bible Image

For 28 years, world-renowned evangelist Greg Laurie has been holding evangelistic crusades in Southern California, where he has led tens of thousands to Christ and encouraged millions in their faith. Laurie told Janet Mefferd on American Family Radio that he asked to put a billboard up at a shopping center. “They signed off on the art – they printed it, they installed it and it was up … and it was great,” Laurie said. The ad showed a silhouette of Laurie holding a Bible in his hand – as if preaching – and it did not even have a cross or the word ‘Bible’ on the book … it was just a silhouette. However, Laurie soon got a call from Irvine Company, reporting they had received some complaints – and requesting that the image of the Bible be removed from the picture. “We immediately gave them a new piece of art, which was totally generic – no image of a Bible,” Laurie recounts. “And then [on] the day of the installation, they came back and said, Well, we’re not going to put that up, and the other one’s coming down – and we’re not going to put up anything. They did refund our money.” “I see ads all the time that offend,” Laurie asserted. “I see billboards for things that offend me, but I don’t boycott it and try to stop it – it’s free speech. And now, all of a sudden, I can’t even hold up a Bible, and more to the point – a black book?”

  • End-times persecution of all things Christian will continue to increase

Oregon Judge Upholds Transgender School Bathrooms

Boys will continue to be allowed in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms in Oregon after a judge dismissed a lawsuit against that policy, saying, “high school students do not have a fundamental privacy right to not share school restrooms, lockers, and showers with transgender students whose biological sex is different than theirs.” Students who are unwillingly subjected to seeing students of the opposite sex are not having their rights violated, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez wrote. The lawsuit against Oregon schools allowing boys in girls’ restrooms and vice versa was filed by parents and students in Dallas, Oregon. This gender-free policy caused “embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension, and stress produced by using the restroom with students of the opposite sex,” they said in the lawsuit. This ruling “reveals everything people need to know to understand the utter corruption of our court system,” Julie Quist, Board Chair of the Child Protection League (CPL), told LifeSiteNews. “Decency and respect for our children…are being cast aside for the political advantage of a militant political force that is systematically violating the innocence, dignity and freedom of our children.”

FDA Purchases Aborted Baby Parts

A new report indicates the Food and Drug Administration has signed a new contract to acquire body parts from aborted babies to be transplanted into so-called humanized mice. The grisly experiments allow mice to have a functioning human immune system for research purposes. CNSNews today reported the details of the new FDA contracts, signed on Jul 25, according to information published by the FDA and the General Services Administration.: “The objective is to acquire Tissue for Humanized Mice,” said a June 13 FDA “presolicitation notice” for the contract. The contractor, the notice said, would “provide the human fetal tissue needed to continue the ongoing research being led by FDA. “Fresh human tissues are required,” said the notice, “for implantation into severely immune-compromised mice to create chimeric animals that have a human immune system.”

China Attempting to Eradicate Religion

China is in the midst of an “ambitious new effort” to lesson or even eradicate the influence of Christianity and religion from the country, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.  An in-depth AP report describes churches being shut down, Bibles being seized and restrictions being placed on other religions, too. Crescents have been removed from mosques and Tibetan children removed from Buddhist temples and placed in public schools. In recent months, Chinese authorities have: Shut down hundreds of Christian house churches;    Seized Bibles and forced e-commerce retailers to stop selling Bibles; Prevented children from attending church in some areas; Forced Christians in one location to replace posters of Jesus with pictures of President Xi Jinping; Raided church meetings and interrogated hundreds of Christians from one congregation. The AP story further said that under Xi, Christians “are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival.”

Counter-Protesters Outnumber White Nationalists in D.C.

Thousands of counter-protesters heavily outnumbered a small group of white nationalists holding a “Unite the Right 2” rally Sunday, a day that was largely peaceful but marked by a few confrontations on the streets of the nation’s capital. Unite the Right 2 organizer Jason Kessler said he expected 100 to 400 far-right activists to attend, but only two dozen arrived at a subway station near the White House and were escorted by police to the rally site at nearby Lafayette Square. Before their arrival, thousands of counter-protesters were out in force all day to observe the one-year anniversary of a white nationalist rally a year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event, the first Unite the Right rally, sparked chaos, violence and resulted in the death of one counter-protester. As the white nationalists proceeded to Lafayette Square, counter-protesters tried pushing into the group, and members of Antifa were seen launching eggs, fireworks and water bottles at police officers and the Secret Service, beating people in the street and threatening members of the media.

Trump Condemns Racism on Charlottesville Anniversary

President Donald Trump acknowledged the grim anniversary of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly last year – which is regarded as one of the worst weeks in his presidency. “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump posted on Twitter Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!” The remarks swayed heavily from his comments after last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in the city, which led to violence and several deaths, when Neo-Nazi sympathizers and counter-protesters clashed during protests. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was struck and killed when a white supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. And two Virginia state troopers died when their surveillance helicopter crashed near the protests. At that time, Trump argued there was blame on both sides.

Once-Critical Judge Praises Trump Administration

The federal judge overseeing the reunification of more than 2,500 migrant families separated from their children praised the Trump administration on Friday for its work tracking down parents who had been deported. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has at times lashed out at government attorneys when he felt they were moving too slowly to complete the reunifications he ordered on June 26. But with most reunifications now completed and both sides focusing on the 386 parents who were deported, Sabraw was pleased. Last Thursday, the government submitted a six-page plan that designated administrators at the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services responsible for overseeing efforts to find the deported parents. That process led to the government establishing contact with all but 26 of the 386 parents who had been deported. “That would indicate to me that the government has put in an enormous amount of work in the last seven days,” Sabraw said. “Keep up the good work.”

Attorney General Sessions Calls Out the SPLC

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a left leaning think tank whose major claim to fame is their “authority” to declare other organizations “hate groups”, based on whatever qualifiers they choose, notes constitution.com. But now Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center by name last Wednesday as he spoke at the Religious Liberty Summit sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian public interest law firm the SPLC designates a “hate group.” The ADF earned its SPLC “Anti-LGBT Hate Group” designation after a string of Supreme Court victories that enraged the far left, most notably the successful defense of a Christian Colorado baker who refused to adorn a cake with phrases condoning homosexual marriage. “We have gotten to the point where … one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a “hate group” on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Sessions said.

  • Islam takes a harder stand against homosexuality than Christianity, calling for them to be murdered. Christ calls on us to love everyone, since we’re all sinners saved by the grace of God. The SPLC is the real hate group, displaying their intolerance of anyone who does not believe as they do. Religious freedom in the USA applies to everyone, not just the SPLC.

Children in New Mexico Compound Training for School Shootings

As authorities work to identify a young boy’s remains, they have learned that at least one of the 11 children found on a compound in rural New Mexico was trained to commit school shootings. Days after the starving children were rescued, the foster parent of one of them told authorities the suspects “trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings,” court documents state. Leading up to Friday’s raid at the compound, a team who surveilled the property in Amalia, New Mexico, had noticed a makeshift shooting range. And when authorities searched the compound, they found an AR-15 rifle, loaded 30-round magazines, four loaded pistols and many rounds of ammo, officials said. The allegations against the five suspects — Siraj Wahhaj, his sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj as well as Lucas Morten and Jany Leveille — come as prosecutors ask a judge to hold them in jail without bail. FBI analysts said the suspects appeared to be “extremist of the Muslim belief.” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said authorities were able to get a search warrant after they received a message from what appeared to be someone inside the compound that said “we are starving and need food and water.”

ICE Arrests Ringleaders of Illegal Immigrant Exploitation

Federal authorities Thursday announced the arrest of 13 people they say were ringleaders in a massive scheme to exploit illegal immigrants as cheap labor on farms and Hispanic-oriented businesses in Minnesota and Nebraska. They also carried out search warrants on 11 of the businesses Wednesday and nabbed 133 illegal immigrant workers they found at the time. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they suspect some of the migrants were coerced into working in rough conditions, either by force or threats of being reported to authorities for deportation. The migrants were forced to cash their paychecks at a remittance business run by the scammers, and had taxes taken from their paychecks, even though the businesses didn’t actually send the money to the IRS, officials said.

Pentagon Plans to Launch Trump’s Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the Pentagon plans to launch a Space Force, embarking on an effort to create the first new armed service since 1947. In June, President Donald Trump called for the establishment of the sixth armed service, to join the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Thursday’s plan, which requires authorization and funding from Congress, would develop forces to defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks. China and Russia are the nation’s primary rivals in space. The force would be created by 2020, Pence said. Before that, the Pentagon plans to assemble the U.S. Space Command, which would be led by a four-star officer and draw forces from the other armed services. A 15-page proposal outlines the need for the force and steps to get there but no bottom line, saying only that any costs associated with it will be sent to Congress next February. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that he assumed creating the Space Force would cost “billions.” The top House Republican and Democrat on an Armed Services Committee panel on strategic forces applauded the plan.

Murder Clearance Rate Lowest in Recorded History

The national murder clearance rate – the calculation of cases that end with an arrest or identification of a suspect who can’t be apprehended – fell to 59.4 percent in 2016, the lowest since the FBI has tracked the issue. The issue of murder clearance rates is in the spotlight as Chicago officials struggle to solve gun violence that’s plaguing the city. But the nation’s third-largest city, which only cleared 26 percent of its homicides in 2016, is just one among many big cities struggling to quickly solve gun crimes, according to FBI data and crime experts. Last weekend in Chicago, more than 70 people were shot, including 12 fatally, but only a single arrest has been made so far from the dozens of shootings over a 60-hour period. Police chiefs in many other cities understand the struggle. It’s one that has been exacerbated in municipalities to varying degrees by politics, fear, a no-snitching philosophy mentality pervasive in some enclaves, diminished resources for law enforcement and discontent with policing in minority communities, experts say. In big cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New Orleans – which cleared less than 28 percent of its homicide cases in 2016 – the fracturing of gangs has added a difficult dimension for detectives as they try to glean information from the streets.

U.S. Infrastructure Crumbling

About seven out of every 100 miles of roadway nationwide are in poor condition; 9 percent of bridges nationwide are structurally deficient, meaning that they are in need of some repair; and 17 percent of dams in the country have a high hazard potential — meaning a functional failure would result in the loss of life, reports the USA Today. “It’s hurting our economy, it’s hurting our communities’ ability to grow, it’s hurting our quality of life, and in some cases, there are public safety concerns,” said Kristina Swallow, 2018 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Our infrastructure is not meeting our needs.” President Trump proposed a $1 trillion plan to improve aging roads, bridges, and tunnels across the country, but funding the project has proven to be a political challenge.

Unintended Target of Tax Reform: Churches

Houses of worship and nonprofit groups are crying foul as they realize that a provision in last year’s tax reform law requires them to pay federal taxes on some employee benefits for the first time, a development that could cost them thousands of dollars. The provision was in the legislation that Congress and President Trump signed in December, but for months it flew under the radar while lawmakers wrestled over the main portion of the law: corporate and individual tax cuts. Now churches, synagogues, universities and nonprofit groups have learned they must pay taxes on employee fringe benefits such as parking and transportation under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A certain provision calls for a 21 percent tax on some fringe benefits and expenses. “Think of it: $13 billion every decade on the backs of churches and nonprofits, hindering their ability to serve their constituents,” said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Economy

Corporate America is growing practically nonstop thanks to massive tax cuts and a booming economy. Already fat profits at S&P 500 companies are on track to spike by nearly 25% during the second quarter. The across-the-board success includes everyone from Apple and Amazon to Chevron and JPMorgan Chase. Blockbuster earnings growth has offset rising concern on Wall Street about President Trump’s trade wars and crises in emerging markets, such as Turkey. Ten of the 11 S&P 500 sectors increased profits by double-digits during the second quarter, led by surging growth from energy companies thanks to The success has been driven in part by the corporate tax cut, which lowered the rate from 35% to 21%. A big chunk of those tax savings have gone to the bottom line and to stock buybacks, which boost per-share earnings. Stock buybacks could exceed $1 trillion this year for the first time ever. higher oil prices.

Recession warning signs: U.S. consumer credit just hit another all-time record high.  In the second quarter of 2008, total consumer credit reached a grand total of 2.63 trillion dollars, and now ten years later that number has soared to 3.87 trillion dollars.  That is an increase of 48 percent in just one decade. According to the Federal Reserve, the credit card default rate in the U.S. has risen for 7 quarters in a row. Over the last 8 years, the total amount of student loan debt has shot up 79 percent in the United States. It is being projected that interest on the national debt will surpass half a trillion dollars for the first time ever this year. In addition, the median stock price to sales ratio, it is the highest that it has ever been and it is twice as high as it was in February 2000, meaning the stock market is highly overvalued.

Tariff Trade Wars

China has announced plans to put tariffs of 25% on U.S. products worth $16 billion, the latest move in an escalating trade war. The Chinese government said in a statement Wednesday that the taxes would be imposed on August 23. Last Tuesday, the Trump administration unveiled its own list of roughly $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be hit with 25% tariffs. The world’s top two economies have repeatedly sparred over trade in recent months, in what economists warn may become a devastating cycle of retaliation.

Wielding tariffs as a foreign policy weapon, President Donald Trump said Friday he would increase duties on steel and aluminum from Turkey as the two nations argue about a imprisoned American. The tweeted tariff threat came little more than a week after the Trump administration placed sanctions on Turkish officials over the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson, calling his detention “unjust” and “unacceptable.” Although narrowly tailored, those penalties have contributed to a slide in the value of the Turkey’s currency, the lira, amid fears of a broad economic crisis.

The list of U.S. companies affected by tariffs is growing, Some are either planning to close plants, lay off employees, cancel plans for new jobs or raise prices. Several have raised prices or suffered lower profits while others announced the possible closing of plants, layoffs and halting plans to add jobs due to the higher costs of imported products and parts.

Middle East

The Israel Defense Forces hit 12 Hamas positions across the Gaza Strip, including a factory that produces concrete for terror tunnels, late Wednesday night after 150 rockets were fired on southern Israel by the Hamas terror group. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 25 rockets. A 30-year-old woman was seriously injured when a rocket hit a greenhouse where she was working. Another person was moderately injured. The IDF retaliated by targeting a number of sites used by the Hamas and other terror organizations operating in Gaza. A tense calm appeared to have settled on the border between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Friday morning

More Russian Sanctions

Under pressure from Congress, President Donald Trump’s administration said Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the alleged attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, 67, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33. The pair were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Britain, in March. The sanctions come amid criticism of Trump for appearing to side with Russia over his own intelligence agencies on the question of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election. Russia’s Embassy in Washington on Thursday described new U.S. sanctions over claims Moscow poisoned one of its former spies and his daughter in Britain as “draconian” and the case against it as “far-fetched” and lacking “any facts or evidence.” A number prominent opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin — journalists, politicians, former associates — have died or been injured in violent or suspicious circumstances, both at home and abroad.

More Canadian Mass Killings

Canadian police have charged a man for the deaths of two police officers and two civilians in a shooting that struck a nerve in a country that has been roiled in recent months by several instances of mass violence. No motive has been disclosed. The shooting comes as Canada wrestles with a string of violence, including an instance in Toronto last month where a man with a handgun opened fire in a crowded part of the city, killing two people and wounding 13 before he died in the confrontation. In April, a man who linked himself to a misogynistic online community used a van to run down pedestrians in a busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14. Authorities are also still pursuing leads in an ongoing investigation of a serial killer who has been charged with killing eight men in the city in recent years.

Dozens Dead after School Bus Hit by Airstrike in Yemen

Dozens of children, many believed to be under the age of 10 and on their way to summer camps, have been killed after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus in northern Yemen on Thursday. The bus was struck as it was driving through a market in the rebel-held province of Saada. At least 43 people were killed and 63 injured in the strike, according to the Houthi-held health ministry. The Saudi-led coalition called the airstrike a “legitimate military operation,” and a retaliation to a Houthi ballistic missile that targeted the kingdom’s Jizan province on Wednesday night, according to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency. One person was killed in that attack, Saudi state media reported.

Taliban Kill More Than 200 Afghan Defenders

Afghan government forces lost more than 200 officers and soldiers in fighting over the past three days as Taliban insurgents launched sustained attacks on four different fronts. The hardest-hit area was the southeastern city of Ghazni, where more than 100 police officers and soldiers had been killed by Sunday, and the insurgents appeared to be in control of most of the strategic city aside from a few important government facilities. Ninety miles west, the Taliban seized control of the Ajristan District. Estimates of the dead ranged from 40 to 100. Twenty-two survivors were carried to safety on donkeys by rescuers who found them lost in the mountains. In Faryab Province, 250 miles to the northwest, an isolated Afghan National Army base of 100 soldiers lost more than half of its men in a Taliban assault that ended early Sunday morning. And 275 miles east of the Faryab base, in northern Baghlan Province, at a base at Jangal Bagh on the strategic highway between Pul-i-Kumri and Kunduz, insurgents killed seven policemen and nine soldiers and captured three other soldiers on Saturday.

Thousands Rally for Removal of U.S. Military Base off Okinawa

Tens of thousands of protesters in Okinawa vowed to stop the planned relocation of a U.S military base, saying they want it off the southern Japanese island entirely. Opponents of the relocation say the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated coastal site would not only be an environmental debacle but also ignore local wishes to remove the base. About 70,000 people gathered Saturday at a park in the state capital of Naha under pouring rain ahead of an approaching typhoon, and observed a moment of silence for Okinawa’s governor, Takeshi Onaga, who died Wednesday of cancer. Onaga, elected in 2014, had spearheaded opposition to the relocation and criticized the central government for ignoring the voices of Okinawans. He had filed lawsuits against the central government and said he planned to revoke a landfill permit issued by his predecessor that is needed for construction of the new base. Okinawans are trying to block the government plan to start dumping soil into Henoko Bay within days to make a landfill for the new site of the Futenma base.

Argentina Defeats Bill to Legalize Abortion

Members of the Argentina Senate voted last Wednesday against legislation that would legalize abortions on unborn babies up to 14 weeks of age and older in some circumstances. Senators voted 38-31 against the measure. Approved by Congress’ lower house on June 14, the bill sent to the Senate would legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and force religious hospitals to do abortions. Doctors all across Argentina fought against the new pro-abortion bill that could punish them for refusing to abort unborn babies. Argentina prohibits unborn babies from being aborted except in cases of rape, severe disabilities or threats to the mother’s life.

Earthquakes

Another big aftershock shook the Indonesian island of Lombok last Thursday as an official said the death toll from the earlier 7.0 quake hit 430, with another 1,500 seriously injured. The strong aftershock, measured at magnitude 5.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey, caused renewed panic and damage. It was centered in the northeast of the island. More than 156,000 have been displaced due to the extensive damage to thousands of homes.

Volcanoes

After three months of lava flows that claimed hundreds of homes on the southern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, eruptions at the Kilauea Volcano have paused temporarily. The pause was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey following a Sunday flyover of Fissure 8, the last fissure that was still oozing lava. For days, the USGS observed a big decline in the amount of lava emerging from the fissure. “It could be weeks or months before we feel comfortable calling the eruption and the summit collapse over,” Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory scientist Tina Neal said in a press release. Since the first fissure opened May 3, the thick lava has covered more than 12 square miles of land and destroyed at least 700 homes.

Wildfires

Dozens of wildfires are burning across the western United States, including at least 10 major fires in California alone, sending plumes of smoke across much of the country. Large wildfires from central and Northern California into northern British Columbia continue to burn and emit thick smoke, contributing to an expansive area of varying density smoke reaching from the Pacific coast eastward as far as Lake Superior and Hudson Bay. Smoke was observed as far east as the southeastern U.S. coast and even parts of upstate New York and northern New England, though the highest concentrations of smoke were in Northern California, the Great Basin and portions of the northern Rockies.

  • As of Monday morning, there are 13 large (over 100 cares) wildfires in Washington, 12 in Oregon, 10 in California, 11 in Montana, 11 in Idaho, 12 in Colorado, 6 in Utah, 1 in Nevada, 3 in Wyoming, 1 in South Dakota, 11 in Arizona, 2 in New Mexico, 1 in Texas, and 17 in Arkansas.

Virtually every state in the Lower 48 has been impacted by the Western wildfire smoke, but there’s a different reason for the hazy skies in South Florida. Saharan dust has swept into the skies of Miami and the rest of South Florida, turning skies dusty and dry but making for terrific sunrises and sunsets. The dust has drifted across the Atlantic Ocean in recent weeks, an occurrence that isn’t incredibly rare but can stifle the formation of tropical systems.

About 20,000 residents are under mandatory evacuation orders as a Southern California fire — which authorities say was set intentionally — spread this week. The Holy Fire started last Monday in the Cleveland National Forest and has so far destroyed 12 structures. A man has been arrested in connection with the fire that is wreaking havoc near the border between Orange and Riverside counties, which are among the most populous counties in California. The Holy Fire has burned 6,200 acres and is 5% contained as of last Thursday.

Weather

Flash flooding in the Northeast Saturday triggered numerous water rescues in New Jersey and New York. Numerous water rescues were undertaken Saturday morning in several New Jersey cities, including Hoboken and Jersey City. Several roads were reportedly impassable in Hoboken. In metro New York City, street flooding on the Federal Highway was reported in Manhattan. Rain and the risk of flooding will continue into early this week in the Northeast as a closed upper-level low develops and lingers. Another round of flooding rainfall drenched parts of the Northeast Monday morning, with rainfall rates of almost 3 inches per hour. In Pennsylvania, cars were submerged and some homes were evacuated. In Philadelphia, bus and train service was delayed along several routes.

More than 30,000 customers remained without electricity Sunday morning after howling winds whipped up a dust storm, forced flights to be diverted and knocked out power Saturday night in Las Vegas. Gusts up to 71 mph battered Nellis Air Force Base, and other parts of southern Nevada saw winds in excess of 60 mph. A flash flood warning was issued for Clark, Mohave and San Bernardino counties as the monsoon storms moved through the area. McCarran Airport grounded departing flights and diverted incoming flights to other airports.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was closed last Tuesday after at least eight people were injured and three animals were killed in a hailstorm Monday afternoon. The zoo said three animals – two vultures and a duck – were killed by the large hail. The zoo’s infrastructure was also damaged. Jenny Koch, marketing director of the zoo, told the Denver Post that, “It was hail the size I’ve never seen before,” she said. “Basically, chunks of ice.” Officials were not allowing visitors to drive their cars from the zoo because many had smashed windshields from the hail. The zoo said that about 400 guest cars were severely damaged. Some of the hail was as large as baseballs.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more severe, with large hailstones, scorching heat, flooding in some areas, drought in others (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times`

August 7, 2018

­

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:9-10)

Tenn. Schools Must Display ‘In God We Trust,’ According to New Law

Students heading back to school in Tennessee in the coming weeks will be greeted by more than new teachers and old friends. They’ll also see “In God We Trust” displayed prominently in their schools. A bill requiring the national motto to be displayed in a prominent place was signed into law in April, meaning the 2018-19 school year is the first one to be impacted by the new rule. The law defines “prominent place” as a “school entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the national motto.” The phrase “may take the form of, but is not limited to, a mounted plaque or student artwork.” “Our national motto is on our money. It’s on our license plates. It’s part of our national anthem,” Republican Rep. Susan Lynn told The Tennessean. “Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things.”

Christian Students Face Growing Anti-Christian Harassment at School

In many schools today, Christianity is treated like a virus. The Bible is banned; students are called out in class for expressing their faith; the cross is treated as contraband. Bible clubs are banned or ostracized by school officials. The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) reports that one little elementary school girl was banned from drawing a picture of Jesus, had her Bible confiscated, and was instructed she could never even mention her faith at school. A little boy was repeatedly threatened with punishment for doing book reports on Bible stories. The ACLJ says they are contacted “almost daily” by the parents of Christian students who are facing blatantly unconstitutional discrimination. “Religious liberty is the cornerstone of America, and our children are its future. The Bible, prayer, Christian faith – they’re all under attack in our public schools. We won’t tolerate it,” says the ACLJ, which is fighting many of such cases in court.

Army Chaplain Faces Possible Court Martial

A decorated Army chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina could face a possible court martial and even military prison after he explained to a soldier that he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs. An Army investigator under the command of Major General Kurt Sonntag recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires be found guilty of “dereliction of duty.” Squires, who was officially accused of discrimination, is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB). According to NAMB policy, chaplains are prohibited from conducting marriage retreats for same-sex couples. The policy clearly states, “endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union…nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation.”

Canadian Tolerance: Oppose Chick-Fil-A Because Owners are Christian

When Chick-Fil-A announced a new store for Toronto – its first franchised international restaurant – the reception wasn’t hospitable. It started when Chick-fil-A president Tim Tassopoulos released a letter July 25 announcing a series of new restaurants in the Canadian city. But many of the country’s left-leaning and LBGT citizens – apparently reacting to the company’s Christian roots – weren’t excited, according to Fox News. “Just a friendly Canadian reminder that we are a progressive country and have morals and fight for equal rights for all,” one Toronto citizen, Chris Lotts, wrote on Twitter. “We don’t want your bigoted and discriminatory business opening anywhere north of the border. #BoycottChickFilA.” Another Torontonian, Wayne Leung, wrote, “You’re not welcome here. I know your homophobic history and your bankrolling of political candidates who promote anti-LGBT discrimination. That bigotry has no place in Canada. I will be boycotting you and encouraging others to do the same. #BoycottChickFilA”

Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible, Changing Church’s Catechism

Pope Francis has declared that the death penalty is never admissible and that the Catholic Church will work towards its abolition around the world, the Vatican formally announced Thursday. The change, which has been added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, makes official a position that the Pope has articulated since he became pontiff. The declaration by Pope Francis, may have particular resonance in the United States, where capital punishment remains legal in 31 states and as a federal punishment. Pope Francis in a 2015 speech to the US Congress said that human life must be defended “at every stage of its development.”

Judge Rules DACA Program Should Restart

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to restart a program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, the second ruling blocking the administration from ending the DACA program. In a 25-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates for District of Columbia said that the Trump administration did not justify its decision to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Bates said the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program, failed to “elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision” and called the policy “unlawful and unconstitutional.” The government has 20 days, until Aug. 23, to appeal the ruling or the Trump administration will have to restart DACA, Bates wrote in the ruling. Bates joined judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco in ruling against the Trump administration. The dispute dates back to 2012, when then-president Barack Obama established the program without congressional action. The goal was to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, but many Republicans called it executive overreach and have remained opposed to the program.

Trump Says ACLU Should Find Deported Parents, Judge Says Otherwise

The Trump administration believes that the responsibility for finding parents who were deported after they were separated from their children should rest with immigration advocacy groups, not with the federal government, according to a court document filed Thursday. The administration reunited more than 1,400 children with their parents by a July 26 deadline imposed by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw. But the judge gave the government more time to reunite more complicated cases, including an estimated 431 children whose parents had already been deported. Justice Department lawyers said that the government would turn over whatever identifying information it could on the parents who were deported, but the ACLU “should use their considerable resources and their network of law firms, (non-governmental organizations), volunteers, and others” to establish contact with the deported parents. ACLU lawyers argued that the Trump administration is trying to shirk its responsibility by passing its work off to private groups despite its own considerable resources. A federal judge said Friday it is the responsibility of the Trump administration to reunite the hundreds of children separated from parents who have been deported to countries south of the border.

Anti-WMD Sanctions Imposed by Trump Administration

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions Friday on a Russian bank, two North Korean companies and one North Korean citizen for illegal financial activity. The Treasury Department said the sanctions are a response for the entities “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction on behalf of an individual designated for weapons of mass destruction-related activities in connection with North Korea.” The announcement came as President Trump continues to push North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to denuclearize, and to gain more cooperation such as the recent return of remains of dozens of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War. The Russian-registered bank, AgrosoyuzCommercial Bank, was targeted for doing business with Han Jang Su, a North Korean described as the Moscow-based representative of Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank. The two North Korean companies hit with new sanctions are described by Treasury as front companies for the bank.

Courts in Three States Ban Release of 3D-Printable Gun Blueprints

Three courts last Tuesday banned the chief promoter of 3D-printable guns from posting his designs online, just hours before a midnight deadline that would have made such information widely accessible. Courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington State issued rulings barring Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distribution, from uploading instructions for making 3D-printable guns at midnight Wednesday – as he had planned to do under a settlement reached in June with the Trump administration. “Today Cody Wilson committed to not publish any new printable gun codes nationwide until a court hearing in September,” New Jersey’s attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, announced. Wilson downplayed the court agreement in an email to USA TODAY. “We agreed to maintain the status quo, keep up existing files, block (New Jersey) IP addresses, and not post new files. We gave up nothing,” Wilson said.

Alt-Right and Antifa Clash at Berkley

Authorities arrested 20 people during a clash of dueling demonstrations between Antifa and individuals affiliated with the so-called “alt-right.” Three people suffered minor injuries after a group of “extremists” threw “explosives” — believed to be fireworks and flares — at police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s officers. No members of law enforcement were hurt. The protest in Berkeley turned violent Sunday when one masked Antifa group member sucker-punched a detractor and other agitators smashed the windows at a Marine Corps recruiting post, cellphone video showed. Besides the damage to the Marine Corps post, Berkeley police also said “an extremist element” damaged 21 city vehicles, setting one on fire, and slashed their tires. The group also set fires in trash bins, which were extinguished quickly. Officials did not identify the “extremist element.” The incident began percolating days earlier when two groups announced plans for a “No to Marxism” rally at the city’s Civic Center Park, an announcement that prompted plans for a “Sweep Out The Fascists” march.

44 People Shot in Chicago in 14 Hours Sunday

Chicago police records show 44 people were shot on Sunday in just 14 hours, including five who were killed. In three hours beginning at 1:30 a.m., records show, 30 were shot and two killed in 10 incidents. Chicago has struggled with high shooting and murder rates in recent years, although shootings are down 30% from 2017, and murders are down 25%.June marked 15 straight months of fewer killings and shootings, police said. However, on June 25, at least 21 were shot and two died. Experts say crime tends to pick up during the hot summer months.

Russia Dumped 84% of Its U.S. Debt

Russia has rapidly sold off the vast majority of its stash of American debt. Between March and May, Russia’s holdings of US Treasury bonds plummeted by $81 billion, representing 84% of its total US debt holdings. Perhaps Russia just wanted to diversify its portfolio, as the central bank stated. Or perhaps Russia was seeking revenge for Washington’s crippling sanctions on aluminum maker Rusal. Either way, Russia’s selling has not hurt America’s ability to borrow money. That’s because investors — particularly life insurers and pension funds that serve aging baby boomers — have a big appetite for fixed income. The sudden debt dump may have contributed to a short-term spike in Treasury rates that spooked the market, but treasury rates quickly descended back below 3% because demand for bonds continued to grow.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in July and unemployment fell slightly to 3.9 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. The pace of job growth was below economists’ predictions that about 195,000 jobs would be added last month, but the Labor Department revised employment growth even higher for May and June, meaning the three-month average for job gains is 224,000, a very healthy pace at this stage of the recovery. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 94 consecutive months, a record streak that shows no signs of waning despite President Trump’s escalating trade war. Hiring remained solid in most industries in July. Blue-collar jobs have grown sharply, with manufacturing adding 327,000 positions in the past year and construction adding 308,000. Transportation, mining and financial services did not hire much in July. Retail was also sluggish with just 7,000 job gains.

Unemployment has fallen this year to its lowest level since 2000. The only red flag in the U.S. labor market remained wages. Despite many company executives complaining they cannot find workers to fill open positions, wage growth remains sluggish. Typically, businesses raise wages when it’s difficult to find the talent they want, but annual wage growth remained at a tepid 2.7 percent, the Labor Department said. Wage growth has been stuck around that level for two years.

The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, a recent study has found. The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. As the study, from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, explains, older people whose finances are precarious have few places to turn. Bankruptcy can offer a fresh start for people who need one, but for older Americans it “is too little too late,” the study says. “By the time they file, their wealth has vanished and they simply do not have enough years to get back on their feet.”

The number of people who live in their vehicles because they can’t find affordable housing is on the rise, even though the practice is illegal in many U.S. cities. The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle’s King County, Washington found. The problem is “exploding” in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine. Stephanie Monroe, managing director of Children Youth & Family Services at Volunteers of America, Dakotas, tells a similar story. At least 25 percent of the non-profit’s Sioux Falls clients have lived in their vehicles at some point, even during winter’s sub-freezing temperatures.

Trump administration officials announced plans Wednesday to abandon Obama’s fuel economy rules. The proposal would freeze rules requiring cleaner, more efficient cars and unravel one of President Obama’s signature policies to fight global warming. It would also challenge the right of states to set their own, more stringent tailpipe pollution standards, setting the stage for a legal clash. The officials say the old rules would cause significant increases in vehicle cost and hurt the economy. Opponents say the move would increase air pollution and gasoline costs.

Aid to Israel Included in Defense Spending Bill

The US Senate passed a large, omnibus defense bill this month totaling nearly $750 billion, including $550 million to fund joint projects with Israel for air defense and tunnel detection, as well as increasing the pre-positioned emergency stocks of weapons and military equipment stored in Israel. “This bipartisan legislation authorizes increases in US security assistance to Israel, and it encourages expanded weapons stockpiles and new US-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space,” AIPAC said in a statement. The move came amidst a flurry of other defeats for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel this week.

IDF Strikes Terror Cell Inside Syrian Zone of Golan Heights

The Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that one of its aircraft had struck a terrorist cell in the southern Golan Heights, on the Syrian side of the border, killing 7 terrorists. The incident came amidst fierce fighting between Assad regime forces and remnants of the Islamic State terror militia in southern Syria. Meanwhile, Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told Sputnik news agency on Wednesday that the Kremlin and Israel have agreed to a plan for the Iranian forces deployed in Syria to be moved 85 km away from the Israeli border.

U.S. to Restore Sanctions on Iran

The Trump administration said it would restore sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord at midnight on Monday, ratcheting up pressure on Tehran while worsening a divide with Europe. The new sanctions are a consequence of President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the nuclear deal with world powers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the goal was to get Iran to change its ways — including ending its support of brutal governments or uprisings in the Middle East. European officials have said that the Iran nuclear agreement is crucial to their national security. International inspectors have concluded that Iran is complying with the accord. The new sanctions bar any transactions with Iran involving dollar bank notes, gold, precious metals, aluminum, steel, commercial passenger aircraft and coal, and they end imports into the United States of Iranian carpets and food stuffs.

North Korea Reportedly Developing New Missiles

Recent satellite imagery shows that North Korea is developing new missiles, reports the Washington Post. U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing other signs as well that Pyongyang is building the missiles in the same research facility that manufactured the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Evidence indicates that work has begun to build at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at the site in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of the capital Pyongyang. photos and infrared images indicated that vehicles were moving in and out of the Sanumdong site but did not show how advanced any the missile-building process might be. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had pledged the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” at his summit meeting with President Trump, but the short agreement said nothing about inspections or a verification process to make sure North Korea follows through.

U.S. Sanctions Turkish Officials to Protest American Pastor’s Detention

The Trump administration has sanctioned two high-level officials in Turkey for what it says is their role in the case of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terrorism-related charges. “At the president’s direction, the Department of Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of the interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced at her press briefing last Wednesday. Under the sanctions, any assets the Turkish officials have in the U.S. will be frozen. American individuals and businesses are barred from having financial transactions with them. The moves follow reports that a Turkish court denied Brunson’s latest appeal on charges of espionage and “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member,” which the Trump administration says are false.

Two American Cyclists Killed in Tajikistan

Four cycling tourists, including two Americans, were killed in an attack in Tajikistan, authorities told ABC News. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter post Monday. A group of seven cyclists was heading north in Danghara district, about 55 miles southeast of the capital Dushanbe, when they were struck by a car with five armed people onboard on Sunday. Tajikistan’s interior minister said that, after striking the cyclists, the people in the car got out and attacked them with a firearm and a knife. The two Americans, a woman and a man, were killed along with a Swiss man and a Dutch national.

British Supreme Court Rules Patients Can be Starved to Death

The British Supreme Court has ruled that doctors and families can revoke a patient’s life support and withhold food and water without his or her consent and without a court hearing. The decision is particularly concerning — because it comes from a nation that is already pushing towards euthanasia. In the UK, with its government-run health care system, doctors and hospitals are routinely giving up on patients they believe are too far gone, even children such as Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans in recent cases that received worldwide attention. In such instances they are pressuring families to allow life support to be revoked from patients they believe The ruling from the high court in Britain also comes after new reports that hundreds of patients are being euthanized in Belgium including three children. have no chance at life — even though other doctors and medical professionals disagree. The ruling essentially allows doctors and families to guess what a patient might want if no advance directive is in place — allowing patients to have their life support and food and fluids terminated and their lives taken even if that may not be the decision they would have wanted.

Earthquakes

Indonesia’s Lombok Island was rocked by a powerful 6.9 magnitude earthquake Sunday evening killing 98 people, a week after being hit by another deadly temblor. Officials said Monday that the death toll is expected to rise as rescuers still haven’t reached some of the most devastated pars of Lombok island. The earthquake struck at 7:46 p.m., local time, and was centered on the northern part of Lombok Island. The island is located just east of Bali. Lombok Island was hit hard by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake last Sunday which killed 16 people and injured another 162. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Ocean. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Wildfires

A summer of fire like this one has become more common in recent years: The number of large forest fires in the western USA and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate changes, according to a report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The number of acres burned in the USA by wildfire has doubled compared with 30 years ago. Last year, more than 10 million acres burned, and this year is on pace to meet or exceed last year’s total. California has experienced six of its most destructive wildfires in recorded history over just the last 10 months. The fires have charred more than 10,000 structures and claimed dozens of lives.

A pair of wildfires in Northern California burned more than 425 square miles, becoming the second-largest wildfire in state history. That’s larger than 18 Manhattan Islands and roughly one-third the size of the state of Rhode Island. The so-called Mendocino Complex prompted new evacuations in Lake and Mendocino counties amid fears that hot, windy and dry weather conditions could fan the flames. The Mendocino Complex has destroyed at least 75 homes, 68 other structures and threatens 9,300 buildings, Cal Fire said. There are at least 18 major fires burning throughout California, authorities said Sunday. The Mendocino Complex is comprised of the Ranch Fire in Mendocino County, which has burned 351 square miles and was 21 percent contained as of Monday. Nearby, the River Fire has burned 76 square miles and was 58 percent contained. Combined, the Mendocino Complex far surpasses the size of the deadly Carr Fire burning near Redding, California, which has burned an area larger than Dallas.

The devastating fire tornado that spun up during the Carr Fire last week had 143 mph winds, equivalent to an EF-3 tornado. Also known as a fire whirl or firenado, the weather service described it as “a rotating column of fire induced by intense rising heat and turbulent winds.” Fire tornadoes range in size from less than 1 foot as much as 500 feet in diameter. So far, the Carr Fire has claimed six lives, destroyed over 1,500 structures, and burned some 206 square miles, Cal Fire said Friday. The fire started when a flat tire on a trailer caused the rim to spark on the asphalt, setting aflame dry grasses along the roadside. A seventh death has been blamed on the Carr wildfire, which has destroyed more than 2,000 structures, 1,080 of which are homes.

Yosemite National Park is shrouded in so much smoke from wildfires that the air quality is worse than anywhere in America and is rivaling Beijing, prompting officials to extend the park closures indefinitely. Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park – El Portal Road, Wawona Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona Campground, Crane Flat Campground and Tamarack Campground – closed July 25. The 115-square mile (300-square kilometer) fire near Yosemite started on July 13 and is now 41 percent contained.

Weather

Portugal’s weather agency said Friday that eight places in the center, south and east of the country experienced record-breaking local temperatures the previous day, as the Iberian Peninsula bears the brunt of a heat wave across the European continent. The temperature reached 113 degrees near Abrantes, a town 99 miles northeast of Lisbon. Forecasters say temperatures in Portugal are expected to peak at 116.6 degrees in some places on Saturday. Many other European countries are also suffering unusually extended periods of very hot weather. The current heat wave in the Netherlands is the longest-ever recorded, while Sweden has experienced its hottest July in more than 250 years, accompanied by wildfires across the country.

The ongoing heat wave and drought in Germany has lowered water levels on numerous rivers, including the Elbe River, where dangerous World War II munitions have been exposed. Police are warning against touching grenades, mines and other possibly live explosives exposed in areas that were once battlegrounds in the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. It’s estimated that 2.7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Germany by Allied Forces during the war. More than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are uncovered in Germany each year.

Signs of the Times

July 30, 2018

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

Priestly Abuse of Nuns an Ongoing Problem

After decades of silence, several nuns worldwide to come forward recently on an issue that the Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with: The sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops. An AP examination has found that cases have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it. Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part because of years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

  • This comes on the heals of another Cardinal resigning over sexual abuse charges

Ads for Franklin Graham Festival Banned Over His Views on Homosexuality

Evangelist Franklin Graham says his Festival of Hope will go on in the United Kingdom despite backlash and a local bus company banning ads for the event. The Festival of Hope is scheduled to take place Sept. 21-23 in Lancashire and feature a Gospel message from Graham along with music from The Afters, Rend Collective and Michael W. Smith. Earlier this month, Blackpool Transport – which runs buses in the area – announced it was removing ads for the festival following a social media protest that highlighted some of Graham’s pasts statements about homosexuality and other issues. “Blackpool Transport is a proud ongoing supporter of the Pride and LGBT+ communities,” they said in a statement.

  • Imagine the hue and cry if ads for an LGBT event were banned. Overall religious freedom in the UK has severely diminished.

Secretary of State Pompeo Hosting Global Religious Freedom Summit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted the first ever worldwide conference on religious freedom in Washington last week. Unfortunately, religious persecution is nothing new and in recent years, it’s grown, reports (Breaking Christian News. In an attempt to stop that trend, Pompeo hosted more than 80 high-level government ministers at the State Department this week for the first ever worldwide conference on religious freedom. “The advancement of religious freedom matters to every individual in every country,” says Pompeo. “The human dignity, the human right attached to religious freedom I feel personally, and I know President Trump does as well,” Pompeo said. The overall concept is to show evidence that greater religious freedom means less terrorism and a better economy. Experts say roughly three-fourths of the world’s population faces some restriction on religious freedom.

North Korea Dismantling Key Missile Facilities

North Korea has started dismantling a missile-engine test site, as President Trump said the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, promised he would during their historic summit meeting in Singapore in June, according to an analysis of satellite imagery of the location, reports the New York Times. The North Koreans have started taking apart the engine test stand at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, said Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., an expert on North Korea’s weapons programs, in a report published on Monday on the website 38 North. The dismantling work probably began sometime within the last two weeks, he said. North Korea has also started dismantling a rail-mounted building at the Sohae station where workers used to assemble space launch vehicles before moving them to the launchpad, Mr. Bermudez said. But it still remained unclear whether North Korea planned to raze the entire Sohae site in the country’s northeast, which has been vital to its space program.

Border Family Reunification ‘Has Been Completed’ says Judge

The judge overseeing the chaos from President Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy gave the government good marks for its efforts to reunify families, saying “that process has been completed.” But the judge, in a court hearing Friday, said there are still hundreds of other parents who weren’t in government custody who must now be tracked down. He didn’t blame the government for failing to reunify them, since they aren’t in government custody, but he did say they are still the government’s responsibility. “The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process… where we go next is identifying and finding those parents who have been removed without children or who are in the interior and not presently located,” Judge Dana Sabraw said. He said the government managed to reconnect 1,820 children. The difficult in locating the missing parents is due to the failure to properly record, classify and keep track of migrant parents and children pulled apart by the “zero tolerance” border crackdown that was hastily implemented.

Liberal 9th Circuit Court Backs Right to Carry Firearms in Public

The liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed the right of individuals to carry firearms in public in a ruling Tuesday, striking down a lower court argument that the Constitution only protects that right at home. “Analyzing the text of the Second Amendment and reviewing the relevant history, including founding-era treatises and nineteenth century case law, the panel stated that it was unpersuaded by the county’s and the state’s argument that the Second Amendment only has force within the home,” the ruling states. Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in his opinion that “for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.” In his dissent, Judge Richard Clifton said states have “long allowed for extensive regulations of and limitations on the public carry of firearms.”

Trump Postpones Second Meeting with Putin

The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not meet this year, a surprising reversal that came amid mounting pressure from fellow Republicans on his handling of Russia. “The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.  Trump, after returning from his widely panned meeting with Putin in Helsinki last week, said he intended to invite Putin to the White House for a follow-up meeting this fall.

United Nations Running Out of Money

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the U.N. is running out of money and is urging members to pay up amid a looming financial crisis for the international body. In a letter to staff this week, seen by Fox News, Guterres says he has warned member states of a “troubling financial situation facing the United Nations,” which he says is caused by late payments to the U.N. by member states. “Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning; we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” he said. Trump administration threats to cut funding do not appear to be directly linked to the cash crunch. The U.S. has not yet reduced or delayed its payments to the budget. However, earlier this year, the U.S. withheld funding to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

More Transgender Nonsense

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Wisconsin taxpayers must pay for the transgender surgeries of two gender-confused Medicaid patients, effectively going against a rule that’s been on the books for more than twenty years, reports LifeSiteNews.com. Since 1996, Wisconsin Medicaid rules have barred coverage for “transsexual surgery,” so in April the two sued on the grounds that the exclusion violated not only their equal protection rights, but the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). U.S. District Judge William Conley agreed with them this week. Conley issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the state from enforcing the rule, claiming the “likelihood of ongoing, irreparable harm facing these two individual plaintiffs outweighs any marginal impacts on the defendants’ stated concerns regarding public health or limiting costs.” He also refused to hold off despite the fact that the case is being appealed to the 7th Circuit, and signaled he may expand the order to fund surgery for any transgendered Medicaid patient.

A man in Canada has recently changed his gender on his birth certificate in order to receive lower insurance rates. The man, identified as “David,” from Alberta, Canada, legally changed his gender, because the car insurance rates are higher for men. CBC reports, “According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, men under 25 are generally at higher risk of collision than women of the same age, which means their premiums are often higher.” Rather than pay $1,100 more for insurance, “David” took measures into his own hands: “David, who was 23 at the time, says he learned he first had to change his gender on his birth certificate and driver’s licence before he could have it reflected on his insurance policy, to get the cheaper rate,” CBC says. After getting his doctor to write a note saying that “David” identified as a woman, a requirement at the time, he was able to change his gender legally and receive the lower insurance rate.

Water Discovered in Underground Lake on Mars

There’s water on Mars. For the first time, scientists have detected a lake of salty water under the Martian ice, a study released Wednesday said. The lake is about a mile under the surface and stretches 12 miles across, they say. The presence of liquid water under the Martian polar ice caps has long been suspected but not seen, until now, the study said. The discovery raises the possibility of finding life on the red planet. “Without water, no form of life as we know it could exist,” said Anja Diez of the Norwegian Polar Institute. Astronomers used radar data from the orbiting European spacecraft “Mars Express” to find the water. They spent at least two years checking over the data to make sure they’d detected water, not ice or another substance.

U.S. and EU End Trade War

The United States and the European Union stepped back from the brink of a trade war on Wednesday, after President Trump said the Europeans agreed to work toward lower tariffs and other trade barriers, and to buy billions of dollars of American soybeans and natural gas. The surprise announcement, made by Mr. Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, defused, for the moment, a trade battle that began with Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum exports and threatened to escalate to automobiles. The two sides agreed to hold off on further tariffs, and work toward dropping the existing ones on steel and aluminum, while they tried to work out a deal to eliminate tariffs, nontariff barriers and subsidies on industrial goods, excluding autos.

Economic News

A big rebound in spending by Americans and a sharp rise in exports and business investment powered the U.S. economy to its fastest growth in four years this spring, the government reported Friday. The second quarter’s 4.1 percent annualized growth rate marks a major jump from the first three months of 2018, when the economy grew at a tepid 2.2 percent, according to government economists. And it provides a boost to President Trump and Republicans hoping to tout a strong economy in their pitch to voters ahead of November’s midterm elections. But economists caution the growth was driven by one-time factors and is likely to be short-lived.

Some of the largest companies in America are reporting this week that they are suffering the sting of the Trump administration’s trade war, sounding alarm in an otherwise prosperous economy. General Motors said Wednesday that it has lowered its outlook for 2018 earnings in part because of significant increases in the costs of raw material. Whirlpool, which was supposed to benefit from Trump-imposed tariffs on foreign-made washing machines earlier this year, reported Tuesday that it did not make its second-quarter earnings estimates as steel prices rose 50 percent. Harley-Davidson said Tuesday it faces up to $100 million in European Union tariff costs in 2019. That’s in addition to about $50 million this year due to retaliatory European Union levies on steel and aluminum.

If you’re using the stock market as a measure of who’s winning the trade dispute, the U.S. has a clear lead over China and its other trading partners. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up 6.5% this year through last Wednesday’s close. China’s Shanghai composite is down more than 12% over the same period, and major stock indexes in Japan and Europe are down a little less than 1 percent. While the trade war has cast a shadow over parts of Corporate America, but it is bringing a bit of good fortune to the steel industry, President Trump’s metal tariffs have sent steel prices surging and sparked blockbuster profits for steel manufacturers. “All in all, we’re very happy with tariffs,” Nucor CEO John Ferriola told analysts earlier this month.

The Trump administration announced $12 billion in aid for U.S. farmers on Tuesday to help protect them from the repercussions of trade spats between the United States and China, the European Union and others. The administration will pay for billions in trade-related aid through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s broad authority and two commodity support programs in a farm bill under consideration in Congress.

Middle East

Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet Tuesday after the aircraft infiltrated Israeli airspace while flying over the Golan Heights, the country’s military announced last Tuesday. The jet flew about 1.2 miles into Israeli airspace before it was hit by a pair of Patriot missiles, according to the Israel Defense Forces. he jet crashed in the Southern Golan Heights on the Syrian side. The Israeli military had sent numerous warnings to prevent anyone from violating its airspace. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said one pilot was killed and that the condition of the other was unknown. Tuesday’s incident is the first downing of a Syrian jet since a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet shot one down over Syria in June 2017 after the Syrian plane fired on U.S.-backed Syrian forces.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense last Thursday issued a rare statement thanking the IDF for a strike it conducted against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in southern Syria in retaliation for ISIS rocket fire on Israel. On Wednesday, ISIS fired two Grad rockets at Israel’s north, setting off sirens in the area. The rockets landed in the Kinneret, Sea of Galilee, causing no damage or injuries. The beaches were full of swimmers nearby amid the summer vacation season. In response, the IDF aircraft targeted the rocket launcher from which they were fired. The area surrounding it was targeted by IDF artillery.

A terrorist infiltrated the Jerusalem suburb of Adam last Thursday evening, stabbing three people including 31 year old Yotam Ovadia, who died of his wounds shortly after arriving at Hadassah Medical Center at Mt. Scopus. The attacker, a resident of a nearby Arab village, also died at the scene after being shot and hit by the car of intervening bystanders. The Islamist terror militia Hamas issued a statement saying, “We praise the heroic action, which is a natural response to Israel’s crimes … this is a continuation of the Intifada.”

IDF units deployed on Israel’s northern and southern borders were on maximum alert Thursday morning following heavy exchanges of fire overnight with Assad regime forces in Syria as well as Hamas and other terror militias in the Gaza Strip. Two BM-21 “Grad” rockets, believed to be fired at Assad regime forces in southern Syria by the Islamic State (IS) terror militia fell in the Sea of Galilee late Wednesday, leading Israeli jets to launch retaliatory strikes.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber struck outside a crowded polling station in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, killing 31 people as Pakistanis cast ballots Wednesday in a general election meant to lead to the nation’s third consecutive civilian government. The attack in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, also wounded 35 people and several were reported to be in critical condition. A witness who was waiting to cast his ballot, Abdul Haleem, said he saw a motorcycle drive into the crowd of voters just seconds before the explosion. Haleem’s uncle was killed in the blast. Baluchistan also saw the worst violence during election campaigning earlier this month, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally, killing 149 people, including the candidate Siraj Raisani. Another 400 were wounded. Voting in that constituency has been suspended. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, though Baluchistan has seen relentless attacks, both by the province’s secessionists and Sunni militants who have killed hundreds of Shiites living there. In recent years, the IS affiliate in the region has emerged as a major force behind violence, often using local Sunni radicals from the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to carry out its attacks.

Syria

Islamic State militants went from home to home, killing families as they slept, before launching several suicide bombings last Wednesday, targeting a bustling vegetable market as well as government-held positions in the southern Syrian province of Suwayda. When the attackers ran out of ammunition, they detonated their explosive vests. By the day’s end more than 200 people were dead, and 180 wounded, in a gruesome massacre claimed by ISIS. The coordinated assault — one of the group’s deadliest attacks in Syria for years — is a chilling reminder that ISIS is far from dead, just a few months after US President Donald Trump suggested the terrorists would soon be gone from Syria for good.

Turkey

President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that the U.S. will penalize Turkey with “large sanctions” for its “long time detainment” of an American pastor and called for his immediate release. The Rev. Andrew Brunson, a Protestant missionary, has spent nearly two years in jail on charges of collaborating with Turkey’s foes and attempting to stir chaos by inciting hatred based on religious and ethnic differences. Brunson, 50, has been detained in Turkey since 2016 after he was blamed for assisting rebels in a coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one many have speculated was of Erdogan’s doing to tighten his grip on power in the country. Trump’s tweet echoes comments Vice President Mike Pence made Wednesday night at a religious freedom summit.

Infrastructure

The collapse of a hydroelectric dam has left 24 people dead and hundreds missing in southeastern Laos. Rescue efforts are underway as top government officials rushed to the site and public appeals were launched for aid. The Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Attpeu province collapsed Monday evening, releasing large amounts of water that swept away houses and made more than 6,600 people homeless. The dam was constructed by a joint venture led by South Korean companies, with Thai and Lao partners. The project was still under construction. The portion that collapsed as a “saddle dam,” which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam. It was 770 meters long and 16 meters high.

Volcanoes

Evacuation orders and a state of emergency were issued once again Friday for a South Pacific island in Vanuatu after an eruption at the Manaro Voui Volcano spewed dark ash into the air. The country’s cabinet declared a state of emergency and ordered the mandatory evacuation of the entire island of Ambae, one of 65 inhabited islands that make up Vanuatu. Last September, the 154-square-mile island was evacuated when a cycle of eruptions began after several years of relative quiet. Since then, recurring eruptions prompted lawmakers in March to urge residents to consider permanently relocating somewhere else.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory reports that the eruptions in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone could become the longest ever recorded at the volcano, as the lava flows show no sign of slowing down. That could mean more homes in danger, and with more than 700 dwellings destroyed since the lava flows began May 3, it’s already a full-blown disaster. With no signs that the eruptions are slowing down, this also raises fears that new channels could form, diverting lava to other areas previously untouched by fissure openings.

Earthquakes

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia’s Lombok Island early Sunday, killing 14 people and injuring another 162. The quake damaged more than 1,000 houses and was felt in a wider area, including on Bali, where no damage or casualties were reported. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of only 7 kilometers (4.4 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to do more damage than deeper ones. The quake caused blackouts in East Lombok and North Lombok districts and triggered a large landslide from Mount Rinjani. Rescuers were evacuating more than 800 tourists from the mountain.

Wildfires

The death toll from two big wildfires raging on the outskirts of Athens, Greece, rose to at least 82 as of last Thursday. Fire authorities said Tuesday that at least 156 adults and 16 children have been hospitalized with injuries. Many are in serious condition. The two largest wildfires — one 20 miles northeast of Athens near Rafina, the other 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta — broke out Monday during hot, dry summer conditions. Fanned by gale-force winds that frequently changed direction, the flames spread rapidly into populated seaside towns — too fast for many who were in their cars or homes to flee. Dried pools of molten aluminum dot the charred roads of a small Greek village ravaged by fire this week. The flames were so hot that cars in their path began to melt, metal dripping to the ground and tires turned to liquid rubber. Entire villages are being destroyed. The mayor of the municipality in Greece where more than 80 people lost their lives to wildfires this week has admitted that mistakes were made in the response to the crisis, telling CNN that no evacuation order was given and that the scale of the fire was “underestimated.”

The heart of Yosemite National Park, where throngs of tourists are awe-struck by cascading waterfalls and towering granite features like El Capitan and Half Dome, will be closed as firefighters try to corral a huge wildfire just to the west that has cast a smoky pall and threatened the park’s forest, officials said Tuesday. Yosemite Valley will be closed for at least four days beginning at noon Wednesday, along with a winding, mountainous, 20-mile stretch of State Route 41. At least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings will be canceled — to say nothing of the impact on day visitors, park workers and small businesses along the highway. The Ferguson Fire scorched another 1,723 acres last Wednesday night to cover a total of 43,299 acres as of Thursday.

Relentless summer heat and dry conditions fueled several large wildfires burning in California, including one blaze that burned five homes and forced hundreds to evacuate. Sparked last Wednesday in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, the so-called Cranston Fire burned timber and tinder-dry brush, erupting to a 7-square-mile conflagration in just a matter of hours. Authorities said the blaze threatened some 600 homes, and all 3,200 people in the town of Idyllwild and surrounding communities were ordered to leave their homes. The fire was 5 percent contained Thursday morning. The inferno was the largest of at least five that police believe were purposely set Wednesday by a man whose car was reportedly spotted at the starting point of the blaze in Riverside County. Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula was booked on suspicion of five counts of arson,

An out-of-control blaze in Northern California has killed five people and destroyed 500 structures and has grown to more than 131 square miles, authorities said Saturday night. It is only 5% contained. The fire moved so quickly that residents had little time to flee. In the small community of Keswick, only a handful of homes remain after the uncontained Carr Fire swept through the town that of around 500 people. The blaze killed at least one firefighter and a private bulldozer operator that was fighting the growing fire as it jumped the Sacramento River and rapidly moved into the western side of the town of more than 90,000 people. At least three others have been injured three by the flames and heat. Residents were urged to evacuate, and the inferno moved so quickly that fire crews had only one priority: aiding in evacuations in hopes the death toll wouldn’t rise. In all, an estimated 37,000 people have been evacuated. On official noted Friday afternoon that the blaze is expected to continue moving into urban areas. Over 120 homes have been destroyed and 500 structures have been destroyed. About 5,000 additional structures are threatened.

Weather

Flash flood warnings and watches were in effect last Wednesday across much of the Mid-Atlantic and deep into upstate New York as heavy rains continued to pound the waterlogged region for a fifth day. About 30 million people have been under the cloud of flood watches for days. In contrast, almost 40 million people from Washington state to Arizona were dealing with a dangerous heat wave, the National Weather Service said. Death Valley will see highs above 120 the next couple of days, with nighttime temperatures dropping to only about 100. Southern California also was locked in a pattern of triple-digit temperatures, and people were urged to ease off air conditioners and other appliances during peak power usage from 5-9 p.m.

Japanese officials classified the country’s historic heat wave as a natural disaster, warning citizens Tuesday to stay inside and avoid life-threatening temperatures of 104 degrees in some areas. At least 65 people have died in the blistering heat since early July, but the actual figure is thought to be much higher. AccuWeather estimates the death toll from the Japan heat wave is likely already in the hundreds despite the official toll, and they predict the number will climb into the thousands before the heat wave ends. More than 22,000 people have been taken to hospitals with heat-stroke symptoms. In the city of Kumagaya, temperatures soared to 106 degrees on Monday, the highest temperature ever reported in the country.

In the last 30 days (ending Wednesday, July 25), there have been 3,173 new daily maximum temperatures, 159 new hottest months and 53 new all-time highs worldwide, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the U.S. alone, there have been 1,566 new daily maximum temperatures, 86 new hottest months and 24 new all-time highs during the same time period. Phoenix, Arizona, set a new record high last Thursday of 116 degrees.

  • The Scriptures tell us that extreme weather conditions, including scorching heat, will be the hallmark of the end-times (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times

July 23, 2018

­Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Federal Judge Backs Trump Administration over Abstinence Funding

A federal judge has sided with the Trump administration in a lawsuit challenging its move to prioritize faith-based, abstinence-focused programs for dispensing family-planning dollars. In May, three Planned Parenthood groups and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) sued the administration over the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) February guidelines overhauling how it evaluated applications for Title X family planning grants. The new rules gave priority to abstinence, ease of primary care access, more family participation, and cooperation with faith-based groups. Last Monday, District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, saying, “the administration’s priorities were consistent with the Title X program’s mission of supporting “voluntary family projects … offering a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services.”

Trump and Iran’s Rouhani Exchange Twitter Threats

President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exchanged angry threats Monday as tensions between the two nations escalated as Washington prepares to re-impose economic sanctions following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped. Trump tweeted Iran would face dire consequences for making hostile threats against the United States after Rouhani said that “Americans must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Trump responded with a tweet written in capital letters that warned: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” Rouhani cautioned Trump to stop “playing with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it.” Trump ordered increased American sanctions after those sanctions had been suspended as part of the accord. The first part of the sanctions — affecting Iran’s access to U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and other commodities, and its car industry — will snap back on August 4. Sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will be re-imposed in November.

Trump Sides with Russia’s Putin over U.S. Intelligence Services

President Trump on Monday stood beside Russian President Vladimir Putin and rejected the findings of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, drawing bipartisan blowback from lawmakers dismayed by his performance on the world stage, reports the Washington Time, a conservative newspaper. At a joint press conference after their summit in Helsinki, Mr. Trump declined to publicly rebuke Mr. Putin for election hacking and failed to admonish Russia’s invasion of Crimea, poisoning of opponents on British soil and fueling bloodshed in Ukraine and Syria. The White House said many of the topics were addressed behind closed doors. In public, Mr. Trump vouched for the former KGB officer’s claim that Russia didn’t meddle in the election and called Mr. Putin’s denials “extremely strong and powerful.” Trump walked back from those remarks in recent days but only caused more confusion. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first public comments since the Helsinki summit, echoed President Donald Trump’s view that the talks were successful, but warned of “forces” in the U.S. that are trying to undermine the results. Trump has now invited Putin to the nation’s capital for a second go-round this fall.

Majority of Immigrant Children Still Separated from Parents

Federal officials said Thursday that 364 children have now been reunited with their parents to comply with a federal judge’s order that the Trump administration bring together undocumented immigrant families separated under its “zero tolerance” policy. A majority of the nearly 2,600 immigrant children – who were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border with their parents for trying to illegally enter the country – still remain apart from their parents in facilities around the country. The administration’s controversial practice was designed to discourage illegal immigration by keeping immigrant parents apart from their children before they entered deportation proceedings. In response to an ACLU lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to end the practice of breaking up families, saying it potentially violates immigrants’ due process rights. She then gave federal authorities 30 days to reunite nearly 2,600 children who had been separated from their parents. The deadline is July 26.

Gun Control Out the Window with Latest Court Ruling

The federal government has finally recognized the obvious – that sharing instructions on how to make guns with 3D printers counts as constitutionally protected speech. Despite little fanfare, this is an important victory for First Amendment rights. It also represents a blow to the increasingly futile cause of gun control. The U.S. Justice Department announced a legal settlement in a case brought by Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed. Wilson, 25, created a ruckus in May 2013 when he announced his successful design of a plastic gun. In just two days, 100,000 copies of the handgun blueprint were downloaded from Wilson’s website. The most downloads came from Spain, followed by the U.S., Brazil and Germany. People are going to download these files whether they’re legal or not. As we’ve seen with movies, file sharing is unstoppable. The most pirated TV program in 2017 was the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” with well over 10 million illegal downloads in most weeks. Like it or not, gun control has become moot.

Two People Killed, Dozen Wounded in Toronto Shooting

A second shooting victim died Monday following a gunman’s rampage in a Toronto neighborhood that left another dozen people wounded along a thoroughfare crowded with bars and restaurants. The 29-year-old suspect died after an exchange of gunfire with responding police officers a few blocks from Sunday’s carnage. Police Chief Mark Saunders said the shooting, in the Greektown neighborhood, was not random and he did not rule out terrorism as a motive. He said the suspect used a handgun. The attack in Canada’s largest city came three months after a 25-year-old man in a rented Ryder truck mowed down pedestrians along iconic Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 15. “We were so use to living in a city where these things didn’t happen,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said. “But there are things that happen nowadays.”

Chicago is the Rat Capital of the U.S.

A new study has named Chicago the “rat capital” of America, with a total of 50,963 rat complaints in 2017 compared to 32,855 in 2014, an increase of 55%. The study, by apartment search service RentHop.com, compared complaints in the Windy City, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., and found that Chicago topped the list with 1,876 complaints per 100,000 residents, a figure more than twice the number of the nation’s capital, which came in second place. Boston had 363 complaints per 100,000 residents while New York City came in fourth with 222 gripes per 100,000 residents.

Administration Adds 30% to Health Costs in U.S.

A widely cited study published in The New England Journal of Medicine used data from 1999 to estimate that about 30 percent of American health care expenditures were the result of administration, about twice what it is in Canada. If the figures hold today, they mean that out of the average of about $19,000 that U.S. workers and their employers pay for family coverage each year, $5,700 goes toward administrative costs. Like the overall cost of the U.S. health system, its administrative cost alone is No. 1 in the world, reports the New York Times. The Netherlands was second in hospital administrative costs: almost 20 percent of hospital spending. At the low end were Canada and Scotland, which both spend about 12 percent of hospital expenditures on administration.

Homelessness Costing San Francisco Millions

Members of this younger generation are exhibiting risky behavior when coming up with a down payment to buy a home, with about 1 in 3 (29 percent) saying they raided their 401(k) or IRA or borrowed against their retirement accounts, a move personal finance pros say could hurt their financial well-being, according to a new survey from Bank of the West. Long known for being cautious when it comes to taking risk and approaching the unpredictable stock market with trepidation, millennials now view real estate as the “cornerstone” of their investment portfolio. Nearly 6 in 10 (56 percent) cited homeownership as the most popular ingredient of the American Dream, according to the bank’s “2018 Millennial Study” released Thursday. Being debt-free ranked second at 51 percent and retiring comfortably came in third at 49 percent.

Homeless is a problem that’s costing the city of San Francisco hundreds of millions of dollars annually to try to solve – and for its new mayor, something that’s starting to become increasingly smelly too. Mayor London Breed says the amount of feces scattered on the streets of the wealthy city in recent months is among the worst she has ever seen, and San Francisco reportedly is set to spend nearly $280 million in its next budget fighting homelessness – an average of $37,300 for each of the city’s estimated 7,499 homeless residents. San Francisco in recent years is reported to have spent $241 million and $275 million from annual budgets on homeless outreach services and programs. But for all the money San Francisco is throwing at the complex issue, the number of people living on the streets appears to be staying the same, according to data from a homeless count survey conducted last year citywide.

Economic News

Economists were shocked and surprised that all three measures of residential construction activity performed poorly in June. The two most closely watched numbers, construction permits and housing starts, fell short of their June 2017 numbers. The worst numbers were for privately authorized housing starts. They failed to hold on to their gain in May, dropping 12.3 percent to 1,173,000 units. The June estimate fell below the June 2017 pace by 4.2 percent. Single-family starts were down 9.1 percent from May and off 0.2 percent from the June 2017 number. Construction permits were authorized in June at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,273,000, down 2.2 percent from the May rate of 1,301,000. This is 3.0 percent lower than the permitting pace in June 2017.

The European Union and Japan have signed a trade deal that promises to eliminate 99 percent of tariffs that cost businesses in the EU and Japan nearly $1.17 billion annually. The EU-Japan “Economic Partnership Agreement” (EPA) is the largest trade deal ever negotiated by the EU and will create a trade zone covering 600 million people and nearly a third of global GDP. The result of four years of negotiation, the EPA was finalized in late 2017 and is expected to come into force in autumn 2019. The EU and Japan see the signing of the deal as a signal against President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

Israel

Tens of thousands of Israeli LGBT advocates and their supporters went on strike across the country Sunday, protesting the exclusion of gay men from a recently passed surrogacy law. The community were outraged that after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers, he then voted against it, apparently under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox Jewish coalition partners. “Although Israel has a very liberal image concerning gays it’s not the case when you look at the Israeli law,” said former Israeli lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz at the protest, who called for law amendments to ensure equal treatment for the LGBT community.

Israel’s parliament approved a controversial piece of legislation on Thursday that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people but which critics warn sidelines minorities. The government says the bill, passed in the early morning hours, will merely enshrine into law Israel’s existing character. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called its passage a “historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.” The legislation also addresses Jerusalem’s status, declaring that ” Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Opponents of the new bill say it marginalizes the country’s Arab minority of around 20 percent and also downgrades Arabic language from official to “special” standing. The law passed with a 62-55 backing, with two members of the Knesset abstaining. The legislation is defined as “basic law,” granting it quasi-constitutional status, will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.

Middle East

1,440 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday as part of mourning rituals to mark the 9th day of the month of Av (Tisha B’Av) on the Jewish calendar, a date on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed by invading armies and on which many other disastrous events have befallen the Jewish People over the centuries. Jordan’s embassy in Israel sent a protest letter to the foreign ministry after more than 1,000 Jews were allowed to ascend to the Temple Mount Sunday. The letter declared that the Jews who visited the Temple Mount “defiled” the site and were a “provocation” to Muslims throughout the world. The vast majority of the over 1,000 Jews who entered the site of the Temple Mount Sunday were peaceful. A few were arrested after they attempted to pray on the site, which is forbidden because it is said to be incitement to violence since it angers Muslims.

Incoming rocket alert sirens blared throughout northern Israel on Monday morning, as Israel for the first time deployed the David’s Sling anti-missile system after rockets from Syria strayed toward Israel. The David’s Sling air defense system knocked down Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives. The stray rockets from the fighting between President Bashar Assad’s troops and rebels in south Syria were targeted by David’s Sling and reportedly shot down over Syria.

Violence flared between Israel and Hamas for the second time in a week, prompting renewed fears that Gaza could slide quickly into an all-out war. Hours later, reports that a ceasefire has been restored surfaced but has not been corroborated. The escalation began in the late afternoon, when an Israeli soldier died after being hit by gunfire during protests along the fence that separates Israel and Gaza, Israeli Defense Forces said. It was the first Israeli soldier killed on the fence since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, the IDF said. The IDF’s initial response was tank and artillery fire. Four people were killed in that salvo, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Since March 30, protesters in Gaza have launched thousands of kites and helium balloons laden with explosives, Molotov cocktails and other incendiary material over the border into Israel. The resulting fires have burned nearly 8,000 acres of land, with the vast majority of scorched earth consisting of agricultural fields and nature reserves. Thousands of animals have choked to death, said a spokeswoman for the Nature and Parks Authority. Some species have lost their natural habitat, creating an ecological disaster. Ecologists grimly predict a full recovery could take years. The damage protesters have caused is not only hurting Israelis, but Gazans themselves. The wheat from Israeli fields would have also fed people in Gaza.

Islamic State

The Islamic State is creeping back into parts of central Iraq just seven months after the government declared victory in the war against the group, embarking on a wave of kidnappings, assassinations and bombings that have raised fears that a new cycle of insurgency is starting again, reports the Washington Post. The small-scale attacks are taking place mostly in remote areas that have been neglected by the government and are chillingly reminiscent of the kind of tactics that characterized the Islamic State insurgency in the years before 2014, when the group captured a vast swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. Over the past two months, dozens of people, including local government officials, tribal elders and village chiefs, have been abducted and killed or ransomed by fighters claiming affiliation with the Islamic State. Electricity infrastructure and oil pipelines have been blown up. Armed men dressed as security forces and manning fake checkpoints have hijacked trucks and robbed travelers, rendering the main Baghdad-Kirkuk highway unsafe for a period of weeks.

A squad of assailants, including gunmen and a suicide bomber, stormed a government building last week in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people, in the latest of half a dozen deadly attacks in that region since mid-June. No group has asserted responsibility for the attack, but most of the others have been claimed by the Islamic State. The morning attack on a busy education office building in the crowded provincial capital left several dozen officials and visitors trapped for hours while insurgents and security forces exchanged gunfire, officials and witnesses said. Ten other people were injured.

China

The goal of China’s influence operations around the world is to replace the United States as the world’s leading superpower, the CIA’s Michael Collins said Friday. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum during a session on the rise of China, Collins, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia Mission Center, said Chinese President Xi Jinping and his regime are waging a “cold war” against the U.S. Collins also said that China is, “A country that exploits all avenues of power licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military, to undermine the standing of your rival relative to your own standing without resorting to conflict. The Chinese do not want conflict,” Collins said. By looking at the writings of Xi, whose “thought” or world view was recently enshrined in China’s constitution, it’s clear, Collins says, that the threat China presents is the greatest global challenge the U.S. currently faces.

Environment

Air pollution in national parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Acadia is as bad as some of America’s largest cities, and the foul air may be causing tourists to cut visits short or avoid going at all, according to a study released last Wednesday. “Even though the national parks are supposed to be icons of a pristine landscape, quite a lot of people are being exposed to ozone levels that could be detrimental to their health,” said study co-author Ivan Rudik of Cornell University. Researchers from Iowa State and Cornell said visitor numbers dropped almost 2 percent when ozone levels went up even slightly and at least 8 percent during months with bad air quality. Health concerns for visitors were more of a worry than poor visibility. Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, forms on warm, sunny days and is made worse from chemicals from car and truck tailpipes and from power plant and industrial smokestacks. This ozone can exacerbate asthma attacks and cause difficulty breathing. It differs from the “good” ozone in the stratosphere, which protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Volcanoes

One person was seriously injured and 22 others hurt after a “lava bomb” hit a tour boat near the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. Molten rock running into the ocean exploded and threw chunks of lava onto the Lava Ocean Tours boat, smashing a basketball-size hole through the boat’s roof and raining smaller rocks onto the decking. Authorities said most of the injuries were burns or scrapes caused when the hot rocks fall onto the boat and its passengers. Of the injured, four were taken by ambulance, one seriously injured with a fractured femur.

Expanding cracks and fissures at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming have prompted officials to close certain areas to tourists last Wednesday. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are now closed to tourists due to a possible safety hazard and park rangers are initiating a risk assessment, according to a statement from the National Park Service. Although it’s unclear how the cracks appeared, it could be due to seismic activity in the area. Grand Teton National Park sits atop the Yellowstone super-volcano, which last erupted 630,000 years ago and ejected 240 cubic miles of rock, ash and volcanic dust into the sky and left a 34 mile by 50 mile depression in the ground.

Wildfires

Officials confirmed the death of a person who was found in a burned field as a wildfire burned more than 70 square miles near The Dalles, Oregon, one of dozens of large wildfires burning across the West. The Substation Fire jumped the Deschutes River and burned a home and two other structures last Tuesday night. The expansion of the fire has been blamed on gusty winds. The area is also in moderate to severe drought. More than 250 firefighters have reached 82 percent containment on the fire, which has grown to nearly 80,000 acres, officials said late Saturday. However, a growing complex of fires in southwest Oregon has caused state officials to bring in more outside resources. The Garner Complex is composed of several fires in Jackson and Josephine counties, and has burned 6,382 acres and is 8 percent contained as of Saturday morning. Nearly 1,100 firefighters had been called in by late Friday. Wheat farmers have especially been hit hard by these fires.

Numerous wildfires were also causing problems in California. At Yosemite National Park, skies turned smoky and hazy as firefighters struggled to contain an inferno that continues to torch land in rural areas. The Ferguson Fire was responsible for turning the California park a smoky orange hue as it burned more than 27 square miles of land along the western edge of the park. The wildfire, which killed one firefighter, and injured two others. The Ferguson Fire spread to 33,743 acres by Monday morning, but firefighters increased containment to 13 percent, authorities reported. Yosemite National Park remains open.

Sweden’s most serious rash of wildfires in modern history has prompted a call for help from the European Union amid a record-smashing Scandinavian heat wave that shows no signs of letting up. At least 40 wildfires were burning in parts of Sweden Wednesday. A pair of Italian planes and eight Norwegian helicopters were assisting firefighting efforts.

Weather

Unusual weather conditions for the month of July have impacted the central and eastern states the past few days from a weather pattern not typically seen in mid-summer. A potent southward dip in the jet stream has moved from the Midwest into the East where it will linger to begin this week and contribute to a heavy rain threat. Typically, the jet stream flows in a flat west-to-east fashion near the Canadian border in July. Saturday was the second-wettest July calendar day on record in Baltimore (4.79 inches) and the fifth-wettest July day in Washington D.C. (4 inches). The weekend deluge was only the beginning. Several more onslaughts of heavy rain are expected in the East this week, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, leading to “potentially dangerous, even life-threatening flooding,” the National Weather Service warned.

A heat wave last week in Quebec, Canada, killed an estimated 91 people last week. Canadian health officials said the majority of deaths occurred in Montreal as heat indexes climbed to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the dead were men living alone, people over the age of 60, those suffering from chronic illnesses or mental health disorders. The majority of the deaths occurred in heat islands that are often warmer than other locations in a given area due to industrial growth, additional blacktop or dark buildings.

At least five tornadoes battered central Iowa Thursday afternoon, skimming roofs off buildings at two manufacturing plants, toppling the top of a courthouse clock tower and destroying buildings and homes. The tornadoes ripped through the towns of Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant. Miraculously, no fatalities were reported, and many of those taken to local hospitals were treated and released with minor injuries.

Seventeen people, including children, were killed when a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, on Thursday evening. The boat, carrying 29 passengers and two crew members, flipped during a severe thunderstorm. The driver of the Ride the Ducks tourist boat was among the victims as the vessel sank in 40 feet of water. Seven passengers – three children and four adults – received medical attention. Three were admitted as patients. Two are in the critical care unit. The storm hit the lake with 80 mph winds that kicked up waves 5 feet high. The weather service had issued warnings 8 hours earlier and a Branson inspector had warned of such an accident a year ago. Duck boats — amphibious vehicles that can travel on both land and water — have a long history of fatal crashes and accidents.

Signs of the Times

July 16, 2018

­When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan. (Proverbs 29:2)

Doctor Fired for Affirming Basic Biology of Sexual Identification

A British doctor has committed the unpardonable sin. Dr. David Mackereth, who had worked for the U.K.’s National Health Services for 26 years, dared to affirm that sex is biologically determined. As the headline in the Daily Mail states, “Christian doctor is SACKED by the Government for refusing to identify patients by their preferred gender because he believes sex is established at birth.” How could be so foolish as to believe that a biological male is different than a biological female? Not only is this doctor a bigot, he is also scientifically ignorant, his accusers assert.

  • Scientifically-ignorant? Isn’t science the study and identification of observable facts? How then do feelings count more than biology?

Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh a Step, Not a Lurch, Rightward

President Trump’s choice of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is intended to move what is already one of history’s most conservative courts to even more consistent right-of-center outcomes. However, based on Kavanaugh’s 300-plus past court decisions, he is not ultra-conservative, but leans conservative, often arguing to uphold the law, not make new law. Kavanaugh is only one of several nominations President Trump expects to make for the Supreme Court. “He’s anticipating making two, three, four, maybe five picks over the years. And so he’s kind of setting out a program for who he would like to pick over the years,” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The American Family Association gave Kavanaugh a 4-star rating, not 5 stars.

Federal Judge Pauses Deportations of Reunited Families

A federal judge on Monday ordered the US government to temporarily pause deportations of reunited families to allow attorneys time to debate whether he should more permanently extend that order. San Diego-based US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the pause to allow for a full written argument on the ACLU’s request to pause deportations of parents for a week after reunification. The ACLU argued that the week would be necessary for parents to have time to fully consider the decision whether to have their children deported along with them. The ACLU’s filing was made earlier Monday morning, and Sabraw gave the Department of Justice a week to respond.

12 Russian Intelligence Officers Indicted for Hacking

Twelve Russian military intelligence officers were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department Friday in a far-reaching hacking scheme that targeted the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign as part of the Kremlin’s effort to undermine the 2016 election. The 11-count indictment, unveiled just days before President Donald Trump was set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, asserts that the Russian suspects “engaged in a sustained effort” to penetrate the most sensitive repositories of information held by the Democratic Party. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the action, part of the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign by special counsel Robert Mueller, as some Democratic lawmakers called on the White House to immediately punish the Kremlin by canceling the Putin meeting. The White House did not immediately address that demand Friday, but rather reasserted that the indictment had not implicated anyone connected to the campaign. President Trump blamed Obama Saturday for not doing more to prevent Russia’s cyber-attack.

Trump and Putin Meet in Helsinki

President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart met for a longer-than-expected two hours on Monday, with Trump saying they would discuss “everything from trade to military to missiles to nuclear to China.” One agenda item Trump did not mention, however, was Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, a topic Trump had promised to press Russian President Vladimir Putin on after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted last week for stealing Democratic campaign emails. The summit began with a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin — with only translators present — which blew past its scheduled 90 minutes. Responding to a reporter’s question after that meeting, Trump said the two had a “very, very good start for everybody.” Trump and Putin then sat across from each other at a working lunch with high-level aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.  In a series of tweets Monday, Trump complained about the FBI investigation and faulted President Barack Obama for not stopping Russian attempts to meddle in the vote. Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

Trump Claims Victory after Tumultuous NATO Summit

President Donald Trump claimed credit Thursday for reinvigorating the NATO alliance, a day after he threw a gathering of America’s closest allies into turmoil by upbraiding member countries over defense spending and singling out Germany for the harshest criticism. On Wednesday, the first day of a two-day summit of NATO allies, Trump publicly slammed Germany as a ”captive to Russia,” prompting a terse retort from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Later, in a closed-door meeting, Trump demanded that NATO allies double their defense spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product. He also said he got pledges for increased defense spending, a claim that was later disputed by other NATO leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron pointed to previous commitments NATO members had made to increase defense spending by 2024. Trump asserted he has the authority to pull out of the treaty unilaterally, but that the additional commitments he’s received at the two-day summit made that “unnecessary.”

Trump says Britain’s May Terrific after Criticizing Her in Interview

President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged full cooperation on trade and other issues Friday, easing tensions following Trump’s explosive interview in which he criticized her handling of ‘Brexit’ and called into question a U.S.-U.K. trade deal. In a joint press conference outside London, the two leaders touted the relationship between their countries and a commitment to work together on issues of national security, terrorism, border security and trade. Despite his interview with The Sun, Trump said he supported whatever decision May comes to regarding Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union. Standing next to May, he called her an “incredible woman” and “tough negotiator” who is doing a “fantastic job.” He instead reserved his most pointed criticism for Germany’s Angela Merkel, continuing to hammer her over a natural-gas pipeline deal with Russia.

Tens of Thousands March In UK Against Trump

“Trump Baby,” a giant inflatable blimp created to protest President Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, flew high in the sky opposite the Houses of Parliament on Friday, before tens of thousands braved the English heat to march against the U.S. leader. The 20-foot long, diaper-wearing, smartphone-clutching balloon flew for several hours before it was deflated and packed away. It will make its next appearance in Scotland, where Trump will spend the weekend following his two-day working visit to the southeast of England. A smaller version of the blimp accompanied tens of thousands protesters on a march and rally in central London. The Stop Trump Coalition, which was behind that event, said that 250,000 people attended.

Video Shows Man Killed by Officer was Armed

Police in the nation’s third-largest city released video Sunday that showed a man who was shot to death by an officer a day earlier had a firearm and tussled with officers before the shooting. Dozens of protesters took the streets Saturday, with some demonstrators calling the police “murderers” and a few slinging bottles and rocks at the officers. Police said Harith Augustus, 37, had a valid firearms license but did not have a concealed-carry permit. The video was released much earlier than usual in such instances in order to dispel inaccurate information circulating on the street that sparked the violent protests. One police officer was killed in Massachusetts and three others were wounded in Missouri in separate shootings Sunday. The incidents come as tensions soared around the country over a police-involved shooting in Chicago.

Baltimore Police Stop Noticing Crime, More Killings Ensue

Just before a wave of violence turned Baltimore into the nation’s deadliest big city, a curious thing happened to its police force: officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime. Police officers reported seeing fewer drug dealers on street corners. They encountered fewer people who had open arrest warrants. Police questioned fewer people on the street. They stopped fewer cars. In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 – as Baltimore faced a wave of rioting after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van – officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since. The surge of shootings and killings that followed has left Baltimore easily the deadliest large city in the United States. Its murder rate reached an all-time high last year; 342 people were killed.

  • If police are going to be protested, harassed and killed by the people they are supposed to protect, backing off from those communities has underscored the crime and violence they were preventing beforehand. The people they were protecting now are showing their true colors.

Hawaiian Volcano Forms New Island

Lava that’s still flowing from the Kilauea volcano has now created a tiny new island off the coast of Hawaii. The island of lava appeared Thursday, just offshore from the northern edge of the Big Island. The island is part of the lava flow that extends underwater away from the coastline. It is just a few meters offshore, and about 20 to 30 feet in diameter. Kilauea was still erupting lava into the channel leading northwest from the vent as of Sunday.

Economic News

The Consumer Price Index, which tracks most items on the average city-dwelling American’s shopping list, rose 2.9% last month — its fastest pace since 2012. Average hourly earnings only increased 2.7% over the year in June, so wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. However, much of the recent boost is driven by the price of oil, which has recovered from under $30 a barrel during a supply glut in 2015 to over $70 a barrel today, with core inflation (less the more volatile energy and food prices) up only 2.3%.

The nation’s housing inventory increased 12.2 percent in the second quarter, the biggest gain since early 2015, according to real estate research firm Trulia. However, housing supplies were still down 5.3 percent from a year ago, a dynamic that has continued to push up prices. But that’s less than the double-digit annual declines that have prevailed since the second quarter of 2017. Experts attributed the increase to an acceleration in new home construction as well as the willingness of more existing homeowners to put their houses on the market. More inventory should help slow down increasing housing prices.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced that total consumer credit in the United States increased by a whopping 24.6 billion dollars in May, which was far greater than the 12.4 billion dollar gain that economists were anticipating.  Total U.S. consumer credit has now hit a grand total of 3.9 trillion dollars, but it is the “revolving credit” numbers that are getting the most attention.  Revolving credit alone shot up by 9.8 billion dollars in May, and that was one of the largest monthly increases ever recorded.  At this point, total “revolving credit” has reached a brand new all-time record high of 1.39 trillion dollars, and credit card debt accounts for nearly all of that figure.

The average cumulative federal student loan debt that parents borrow even exceeds what’s being taken on by students, according to new research. On average, parents owed $32,596 for their cumulative loans taken out under the Federal Parent PLUS program at college graduation in 2015-16. On average, college grads with bachelor’s degrees owed $29,669 in student loans in 2015-16, according to Savingforcollege.com. However, a much smaller percentage of parents borrow than students. About 69 percent of students took out student loans in 2015-16, compared with about 14.4 percent of parents. The high cost of college — and the inability of some families to save much money — has caused nearly half of college grads with student loans to take out the maximum amount of loans allowed under the federal student loan program.

Flooded with cash from the Republican tax cut, U.S. public companies announced a whopping $436.6 billion worth of stock buybacks, according to research firm TrimTabs. Not only is that most ever, it nearly doubles the previous record of $242.1 billion, which was set during the first three months of the year. Apple alone announced plans for $100 billion in buybacks. Big banks such as Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America each said they would buy back at least $20 billion of their own stock after the Federal Reserve gave them a clean bill of health late last month. The buyback boom is terrific news for shareholders — and corporate executives. When companies repurchase vast amounts of stock, they provide persistent demand that tends to boost share prices. Buybacks also artificially inflate a closely watched measure of profitability known as earnings per share.

A California city is set to become the first in the nation to embark on an experiment of Universal Basic Income, paying 100 residents $500 a month without any conditions. The program’s purpose is to eventually ensure that no one in Stockton, with a population of 300,000, lives in poverty. The receivers of the cash will be able to spend the money on anything they want without any strings attached. It will launch by 2019 and the 100 fortunate residents will receive the cash for a full 18 months as part of its testing phase before deciding whether to roll it out across Stockton. The city, which was once known as America’s foreclosure capital, has recently fallen on hard times, with 1-in-4 residents living below the poverty line and the median household income nearly $8,000 lower than the national median.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from his trip to Moscow Thursday evening, telling reporters before boarding his aircraft that his main priority in Syria is the removal of Iranian forces from the country. “We did not have a problem with the Assad regime for 40 years,” Netanyahu said. “Not one bullet was fired on the Golan Heights. What bothered us in the beginning was Islamic State [near Israel’s border], and afterward Iran and Hezbollah were brought there. We will not accept Iran on our border, or anywhere else in Syria. But our emphasis is on two things: getting rid of the missiles and the proximity of Iranian troops to the border.”

Syrian rebel forces claimed that 22 people, including nine Iranians, were killed in an overnight strike in northern Syria blamed on Israel, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera network reported Monday. Iranian forces were stationed at a Syrian military base on the outskirts of Aleppo that was reportedly attacked Sunday night by the IDF. The IDF has reportedly hit Syrian positions near Damascus and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama in the past. However, it rarely attacks as far north as Aleppo. Israel has been pushing Russia to remove Iranian-aligned militia fighters from Syria and has vowed to stop them from getting a foothold anywhere in the country. Russia has reportedly only agreed to removing them from the Golan border region.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) over the weekend carried out the largest wave of daytime strikes against Hamas terror targets in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014 in response to over 200 rockets fired by Gaza-based terrorists at Israel’s civilian population. Since Friday night, Hamas terrorists fired over 200 rockets at Israeli civilians in Israel’s south, threatening the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system intercepted only 30 rockets. Several Israelis were injured and damage was caused to buildings and property.

An IDF spokesperson issued a statement Thursday morning confirming that three positions manned by forces loyal to Syria’s Assad regime had been struck in retaliation for the attempt Wednesday evening by a military UAV to penetrate Israeli airspace from the Syrian side of the border. That attempt was broken up when IDF forces shot the drone down with a Patriot missile, but not before residents of the Galilee and Golan Heights were alerted to potential danger by air raid sirens.

Islamic State

Islamic State fighters who fled into the desert to escape U.S.-backed forces in Syria and Iraq are now drawing on stashed weapons and ammunition to stage renewed attacks in both countries, as friction among foreign powers hampers efforts to finish the terror group off. The attacks are a sign of Islamic State’s advance planning, and they have complicated the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw U.S. troops. Before retreating from its urban strongholds, Islamic State decentralized its command structure, set up sleeper cells, and dug tunnels in the vast desert that spans the two countries. The Pentagon now no longer gives a timeline for wrapping up a campaign that the White House said in April was coming to a rapid end. The U.S. currently keeps approximately 2,000 troops in Syria.

Iran

New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bombmaking technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago. While Iranian officials halted much of the work in 2003, internal memos show senior scientists making extensive plans to continue several projects in secret, hidden within existing military research programs. “The work would be divided in two: covert (secret structure and goals) and overt,” an Iranian scientist writes in one memo, part of a 100,000-document archive seized in a daring raid on a storage facility in Tehran by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency in January. However, the stolen documents contain no revelations about recent nuclear activity and no proof that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear accord it reached with the United States and five other global powers.

Afghanistan

The Trump administration has told its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, a significant shift in American policy in Afghanistan, done in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the 17-year war. The Taliban have long said they will first discuss peace only with the Americans, who toppled their regime in Afghanistan in 2001. But the United States has previously insisted that the Afghan government must take part. The recent strategy shift, which was confirmed by several senior American and Afghan officials, is intended to bring those two positions closer and lead to broader, formal negotiations to end the long war. The shift comes from a realization that the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

A squad of assailants, including gunmen and a suicide bomber, stormed a government building last Wednesday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people, in the latest of half a dozen deadly attacks in that region since mid-June. No group has asserted responsibility for the attack, but most of the others have been claimed by the Islamic State. The morning attack on a busy education office building in the crowded provincial capital left several dozen officials and visitors trapped for hours while insurgents and security forces exchanged gunfire, officials and witnesses said. Ten other people were injured. A spokesman for the provincial governor’s office said the assault had ended but gave no details.

Mexico

Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is planning his own border force to stop illegal immigrants and drugs crossing into Mexico from Central America, Alfonso Durazo, his chief of public security, told Bloomberg news. Mr. Durazo said the border force would also patrol the U.S.-Mexico line, though he declined to give Bloomberg more details. Mr. Durazo said they will try to work to improve conditions Central America to stem the flow of people fleeing those countries — similar to pledges made by the Obama administration after the 2014 surge of illegal immigrants. Those migrants have continued to flow north, with some of them stopping in Mexico whole others continue north to try to enter the U.S.

  • Once these Central American refugees make it into Mexico, they no longer should receive asylum status in the U.S. since they are already safely out of their own country.

Nicaragua

At least 10 people were shot dead in Nicaragua as police and paramilitary groups attacked roadblocks set up by anti-government demonstrators demanding President Daniel Ortega’s exit from office, a rights group said. Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, said more than 20 were also wounded in Sunday’s violence in several cities south of Managua, the capital. In the Monimbo neighborhood of Masaya, “the attacks have not ceased and the city is closed,” Leiva said. “Nobody can get in or out.” In the municipality of Nindiri, on the outskirts of Masaya, Roman Catholic Bishop Abelardo Mata of the Esteli archdiocese was attacked as he was traveling in a car to a funeral. It was the second attack in a week on Catholic officials, who have been mediating stalled talks on finding a peaceful solution to the standoff and have criticized Ortega’s government over the killings.

Wildfires

Sweltering conditions and rugged terrain continue to hinder firefighters as they battle a wildfire burning along the Merced River near Yosemite National Park, a blaze that killed a California firefighter on Saturday. The Ferguson fire in Mariposa County broke out Friday and is burning largely out of control, forcing closure of a key access road into the Park at the height of tourist season. It doubled in size overnight and has scorched more than 14 square miles on the park’s western edge and is 2 percent contained. Building high pressure will contribute to warmer and drier conditions early this week in the southern Sierra Nevada. Yosemite Cedar Lodge was evacuated Saturday afternoon, while officials shut off electricity to many areas as a safety precaution. Evacuations were also ordered in rural communities just outside the park, and people in nearby lodges and motels were told to be ready to leave if flames approach. A stretch of State Route 140, a main road into Yosemite, was closed Sunday.

Summer lightning returned to the skies over Southern Oregon and Northern California on Sunday and started numerous fires. Cal Fire reported new fires from lightning down-strikes in Siskiyou County.  The Oregon Department of Forestry reported more than 40 confirmed fires in Jackson and Josephine Counties. The National Weather Service, in a red flag warning for both sides of the state line, pointed out that lightning-caused fires can still spread quickly in very dry brush and timber, even after a rainfall.

Weather

Alaska’s showed off its weather contrasts the first week of July with record snow in the north and record heat in the south. While Barrow received snow on July 4th, both Anchorage and Juneau recorded their hottest first week of July. Most years, Anchorage fails to record a single 80-degree high. It did so twice, on July 3 and 6. Juneau soared to the 80s three straight days July 3-5.

A heat wave last week in Quebec, Canada, killed an estimated 70 people. Canadian health officials said the majority of deaths occurred in Montreal as heat indexes climbed to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the dead were people over the age of 60 suffering from chronic illnesses. Cooler temperatures returned to Quebec ending the crisis.