Signs of the Times (6/19/15)

Americans’ Confidence in Religion Hits a New Low

Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” a new Gallup survey finds. “In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1″ in Gallup’s annual look at confidence in institutions. Overall, church/organized religion is now ranked in fourth place in the new Gallup survey — behind the military, small business and the police — while still ahead of the medical system, Congress and the media, among 15 institutions measured. In the mid-’70s, nearly 7 in 10 Americans said they had “a great deal or quite a lot” of confidence in the church or organized religion. That has decreased decade by decade to a new low of just 42 percent, according to the report.

  • Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. (2Thessalonians 2:3)

Galilee Church Torched

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a chorus of outrage and condemnation Thursday for the apparent arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee discovered early in the morning Friday. Graffiti discovered at the site, in Hebrew, implied that Christianity is an idolatrous religion. “Freedom of worship in Israel is one of our core values and is guaranteed under the law,” Netanyahu said. “We will bring to justice those responsible for this crime. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.” Israel’s Police have called the attack a “hate crime” and have vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

  • The anti-Christ spirit is ramping up as the run-up to the Tribulation accelerates. Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. (1John 2:18)

Obama Calls for Stricter Gun Laws after Charleston Massacre

President Obama renewed his call for stricter gun laws Thursday following a shooting spree at a Charleston, S.C. church that killed nine people. “We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said. Obama’s remarks were not unlike the 13 others he’s given following a mass shooting during his presidency. “The president wants to blame an inanimate object — the gun,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for the Gun Owners of America. “But that just deflects blame away from the real culprit: gun-control policies that leave people defenseless in the face of evil perpetrators who are never effectively prevented from acquiring weapons.”

  • In a world of good and evil, there are no perfect solutions to issues like gun control. Only when Jesus returns to eradicate evil and reign over the earth for the next millennium will perfection be attained.

Pope Issues Urgent Appeal to Fight Climate Change

Pope Francis on Thursday threw the weight of the Catholic Church behind a new appeal to combat climate change, saying the future of humanity is at stake and dismissing those who deny the planet is getting warmer. Francis unequivocally lined the Catholic Church up on the side of the environment with the release of church doctrine that condemned polluters and governments alike for failing to do enough to address the problem. In the first encyclical written entirely under his papacy, Francis said humans have a moral obligation to protect the environment and that doing so is a key part of the challenge of lifting the world’s least fortunate from poverty. He said the poor stand to suffer the most from extreme weather events that are already regularly wreaking havoc across the planet.

  • Malachy’s ‘last Pope’ certainly aligns himself with globalist agendas. Climate change is an end-time phenomena that won’t be curtailed no matter what we do (Daniel 9:26, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:11)

Global Warming Deniers Unimpressed with Pope’s Climate Encyclical

Prominent climate deniers pushed back against the pope’s long-awaited environmental encyclical Thursday, claiming the debate over man-made global warming has yet to be settled. “I disagree with the pope’s philosophy on global warming,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the leading voice of climate denial in the Senate and chairman of its Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement to USA Today. “I am concerned that his encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history,” he added. Inhofe said it was the impoverished who would lose the most from any actions taken to combat warming. “It’s the poor that spend the largest portion of their expendable income to heat their homes, and they will be the ones to carry the heaviest burden of such onerous policies” that would increase their taxes. The pope’s decree came as a new report showed May was the warmest on record worldwide.

  • Global records only go back to the late 1800s, insufficient time to claim “warmest ever”. The earth has gone through extended periods of warm-up, cool-down and even ice ages which often take hundreds, even thousands, of years to fully materialize.

World Running out of Water

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface. Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows. Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

Will Whack-a-Mole Strategy Succeed vs. Terrorists?

American counterterrorism officials have had much to celebrate in recent days: the killing of ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in Syria and the trove of “intel” that was taken from his residence by U.S. special forces; the death of the leader of al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, in a drone strike; and the possible death in Libya of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of a virulent North African jihadist group. But the leadership of these groups is generally replaceable. What to do about all this is a puzzle because much of the Middle East is in the grip of a regional, sectarian civil war fomented by Iran and the Gulf States and is evolving into a Rubik’s Cube-like problem that has no good solution, because when you move one piece of the cube it can create both solutions and a new set of problems simultaneously, notes Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst. “Consider that the United States is training Syrian opposition forces to fight the Iran-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad, while it is also training Iraqi forces of the Iran-backed Iraqi government to fight ISIS. The U.S. therefore is effectively supporting both sides of the wars in Syria and Iraq.”

Refugee Numbers Highest Ever Recorded

There are more refugees in the world today than ever previously recorded — and more than half are children, the United Nations refugee agency said Thursday. Nearly 60 million people were counted as forcibly displaced in 2014. If those people were the population of one country, it would be the 24th largest in the world. One person out of every 122 on the planet is said to be either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. Last year on average, each day saw another 42,500 people driven from their homes. The conflict in Syria has been the biggest single driver of displacement, but far from the only one. “One clearly gets the impression that the world is at war — and indeed many areas of the world are today in a completely chaotic situation,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

  • And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:6-8)

Economic News

The Federal Reserve decided not to raise interest rates in June, but comments Wednesday suggests the long awaited rate hike could come in September. “No decision has been made by the committee about the right timing of an increase, but certainly an increase this year is possible,” Fed chair Janet Yellen said. The Fed expects the U.S. economy to be in a good place soon, but it’s still in “wait and see” mode. It especially wants to see “further improvement” in wage increases, the ability of part-time workers to find full-time jobs and inflation closer to its 2% target.

Consumer prices increased in May as gasoline costs jumped ahead of the summer driving season. The consumer price index increased 0.4%, the Labor Department said Friday, the most since February. Over the past year, however, prices were unchanged. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, were up a benign 0.1%. Gasoline prices increased 10.4% last month. Average regular unleaded gasoline prices of $2.80 a gallon are up sharply from about $2 in January but still about 86 cents below the year-ago price.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, indicating that layoffs remain at unusually low levels and the job market is moving closer to full health. Weekly applications for jobless aid dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, near 15-year lows reached two months ago. Applications, a proxy for layoffs, have remained below 300,000, a historically low level, for 15 weeks. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell 50,000 to 2.22 million, down 14% over the past year.

Another sign that the economy is rebounding: more people are having babies. The number of births among women ages 15 to 44 ticked up by 1% from 2013 to 2014, to 3.98 million births. That’s the first increase since 2007, the beginning of the recession, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 3.98 million total births in 2014 was most since 2010.

The mainland Chinese stock market, which had gained more than 150% in a year’s time, prompting bubble warnings, seems to be deflating, as shares dipped 13.3% this week. The popular China index, popular with newbie investors in China, many who are buying stocks with borrowed money to amp up returns, tumbled 306.99 points, or 6.4%.

Greece couldn’t get a debt deal with Europe. So it went to Russia and signed a controversial gas deal instead. There’s still time for Greece to avoid the financial abyss — European leaders meet again Monday — but it wants to show it has other options. Officials agreed Friday to build a pipeline that would bring Russian gas through Greece and into western Europe, Russian state media reported.

The European Central Bank pumped more emergency cash into Greek banks Friday, keeping them afloat while politicians try one last time to keep the country solvent. European finance officials failed Thursday to strike a deal to release the remainder of Greece’s 240 billion euro ($272 billion) bailout fund, bringing the country one step closer to a default and potential exit from the Eurozone.

Middle East

Israeli Druze are demanding help to protect Druze in Syria. Rebel factions, including jihadist elements, have surrounded the Druze border town of Hader near the Israeli border, although Israeli Druze leaders have said they do not want to evacuate the village’s residents, even those who are wounded to Israel, but would prefer that the US step in to protect them. The intensifying violence on the northern side of Israel’s border with Syria and the threat of a spillover into Lebanon has the full attention of the government, according to a report to the Knesset by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. “We are vigilantly following all that is being done along our borders, and my instruction is to take all action necessary.” The Druze religion has its roots in Ismailism, a religio-philosophical movement which founded the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt in the tenth century. During the reign of al-Hakim (996 – 1021) the Druze creed came into being, blending Islamic monotheism with Greek philosophy and Hindu influences.

Yemen

Medical officials have raised the toll from Saudi-led airstrikes on a convoy of civilians fleeing the fighting in southern Yemen to 31, making it among the deadliest single attacks since the air campaign began nearly three months ago. The attack took place early Wednesday in the northern outskirts of the southern port city of Aden, which has seen months of intense fighting between Shiite Houthi rebels and their Sunni opponents. Officials say those killed were families carrying food and personal belongings, fleeing north in a convoy of vehicles, including a bus carrying 16 passengers. The Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign against the Iran-backed Houthis in late March.

Chad/Nigeria

The central African country of Chad conducted airstrikes against Boko Haram sites in neighboring Nigeria on Wednesday and announced it has banned burqas, the head-to-toe garment worn by some Muslim women, after twin bombings earlier this week by veiled attackers. The Chad army and security forces hit Boko Haram bases and related sites, according to a government statement, destroying six bases and killing several militants. Prime Minister Kalzeube Payimi Deubet announced the burqa ban Wednesday after as many as 23 people were killed Monday in the capital, N’Djamena, in two attacks. The four veiled attackers were also killed, and more than 100 people were wounded.

At least 23 people were killed in Nigeria when a Boko Haram bomb that was confiscated by vigilantes exploded. The BBC reports the vigilantes had been celebrating a successful mission against the terrorist group when the bomb detonated. The incident appears to have been accidental.

Dominican Republic

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic — the vast majority Haitians — face deportation as a deadline to apply for legal status looms. The problem of what to do with thousands of workers who entered illegally is not just a U.S. situation. The Dominican government tackled the issue with a “regularization plan” that offered a path to legal status for the undocumented. But critics say it was designed to fail. Wednesday was the deadline for undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic to register under the regularization plan or face deportation. According to the government, more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Dominican Republic have registered, but at least that many others will not meet the deadline. “Those who do not have documentation will have to return to their country,” Dominican Foreign Minister Andres Navarro said.

Georgia (the country)

A tiger that escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after flooding destroyed the enclosures was reported Wednesday to have killed one man and wounded another. The animal, said by eyewitnesses to be a white tiger, attacked people inside a building close to Heroes Square, near the Tbilisi Zoo, the Civil.ge news agency said. The Interior Ministry said police killed the tiger, which was hiding at an abandoned factory. Flooding during the weekend destroyed enclosures at the zoo, leaving animals including lions, tigers, bears and wolves roaming the city. The zoo said Tuesday that all eight lions and seven tigers that had been missing were killed in the flooding, along with at least two of its three jaguars. A hippopotamus that escaped from the zoo was cornered and subdued with a tranquilizer gun Sunday. At least 19 people have died in the flooding, including four at the zoo.

Hong Kong

Lawmakers on Thursday rejected a proposal to change how Hong Kong chooses its top official. The plan would have allowed Hong Kong’s five million eligible voters to vote for the territory’s chief executive from a slate of two or three candidates, starting in 2017. The measure needed the support of at least two-thirds of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to pass, and it failed to meet that mark. Opponents of the measure, many of whom took part in the protests last year, argued that the restrictions China’s legislature imposed on who could appear on the ballot would have left voters with no real choice. Nominees would have been vetted by a committee of about 1,200 people dominated by loyalists to the Communist-run government in Beijing, ensuring that only people acceptable to the Chinese government could appear on the ballot. Supporters of the election proposal, including the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, argued that it was a huge improvement over the current system, under which Mr. Leung and his predecessors were chosen by that same 1,200-person committee, minus the public vote.

Wildfires

A wildfire near Big Bear in California’s San Bernardino National Forest has exploded in size, as hot, dry conditions fuel the flames. The forest fire started Wednesday afternoon but grew to 10,000 acres in less than 24 hours, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It was only about 5 percent contained, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. San Bernardino firefighters described the fire as “erratic” and “extreme” by Thursday. Nearly 200 campers, most of them children, were evacuated from several wilderness sites. Twenty to 25 homes were evacuated as the fire grew. A stretch of State Route 38, the main mountain artery, and several other roads were closed. A separate Southern California fire near the community of Thermal burned at least three homes Thursday.

Seven wildfires are burning in Alaska where it’s been hotter than normal. The fires have consumed nearly 44,000 acres, with most only at 0-5% containment as of Friday morning. Five wildfires in Arizona have burned through 10,500 acres, with four of them at 0% containment while the Kearny River fire at 25% containment.

Weather

Tropical Storm Bill made landfall on Matagorda Island, Texas Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. CDT with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Although Tropical Storm Bill weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday, the weather system still packed heavy Gulf Coast rain that caused a new round of flooding from already swollen lakes and rivers in North Texas. Close to 20 people were rescued Wednesday afternoon when torrential rains caused flooding in parts of Wise County. The full impact won’t be felt for 24 to 36 hours, as water racing over heavily saturated ground pours into storm sewers and streams and then into bloated reservoirs. About a foot of water covered areas in southern Dallas County just west of I-35 early Wednesday morning. 2-3 feet of water swamped underpasses in Sealy, Texas, where over 7 inches of rain had fallen. Roads have also been flooded on parts of Galveston Island. Highways remain closed in 15 counties as of 5 a.m. Thursday in Oklahoma. Residents across the Ozarks and mid-Mississippi Valley are being warned Friday of possible flooding from the weakened remains of former Tropical Storm Bill.

The Southeast will be broiling this weekend as heat and humidity combine to make outdoor activities unpleasant, with temperatures 10-15 degrees above normal in many locations. Clear skies will rule the western third of the country. The Desert Southwest will continue its hot streak, with highs above 110 degrees in southern Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada.

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