Archive for October, 2015

Signs of the Times (10/30/15)

October 30, 2015

New Planned Parenthood Video Reveals Partial-Birth Abortions

A new undercover video has just been released that explicitly demonstrates how Planned Parenthood is conducting illegal partial-birth abortions. A partial-birth abortion is where most of the baby is delivered — fully alive — and then its spinal cord is cut before the rest of the baby’s body is pulled out. This act is truly horrific, and it has been under a federal ban for more than ten years, reports the Media Research Center. This latest video catches the nation’s biggest abortion business selling the intact heads of aborted babies for research. “Our tax dollars are paying for an organization involved in such gruesome and inhumane activities,” MRC notes. And the mainstream media continues to ignore or even quash this story.

Obama Recommends that Schools Celebrate “Undocumented Immigrant Awareness Day”

Obama’s Department of Education has recommended that schools dedicate a week to recognizing illegal aliens, including an “undocumented immigrant awareness day,” according to the American Thinker. The White House released a document Tuesday that outlined how schools could make undocumented students feel more welcome. These suggestions include “Undocumented Week” and “an undocumented immigrant awareness day.” The resource guide was more than 50 pages long and chock full of tips and ideas to help undocumented youth achieve educational and economic success — regardless of actual or perceived immigration status.

Muslim Gangs Raping & Pillaging in Germany

German correspondent Alexander Benesch wrote concerning Muslim refugee camps in Germany that there is “a lack of security for women and children, leading to rape, molestation and (reportedly but not verified) forced prostitution.” He also reports that the German government is covering up these atrocities. ““Mainstream media coverage of this is scarce, because it embarrasses the government.” In addition, Islamic gangs in Germany have broken into schools and churches and plundered collection boxes, crosses and other valuable and sacred objects used in church services, reports WorldNetDaily.com

Israeli and Jewish Leaders at Vatican on Nostra Aetate Anniversary

Jewish leaders from Israel and several prominent Diaspora communities met with Pope Francis in Rome on the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate, aka Second Vatican Council, on Wednesday, with Francis issuing a statement condemning anti-Semitism and welcoming closer ties between Jewish communities and the Catholic Church. “Yes to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity. No to anti-Semitism,” the pope told a public appearance at St. Peter’s Square. The document, issued in 1965, included several changes to centuries of official Vatican policy, notably including the absolution of Jewish collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was followed by warming relations between the Catholic Church and Israel, including visits by several Popes and the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1993.

Senate Approves Two-Year Budget Deal

The Senate passed a two-year budget deal early Friday that would prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its debts next week and help avert a potential government shutdown in December. Senators voted 64-35 to approve the legislation shortly after 3 a.m. The House approved the budget agreement Wednesday despite opposition from a majority of Republicans. President Obama is expected to sign it into law. The legislation would raise the debt limit through March 2017, allowing the government to continue to borrow money to pay its bills. The Treasury Department had warned that the government would default on its debts unless the limit is raised by Tuesday. The deal also lifts budget caps to boost spending for military and domestic programs by a total of $80 billion over two years. That reduces the possibility of a government shutdown in December, when current funding for federal agencies expires. Additionally, it would protect senior citizens from an expected spike in Medicare premiums next year.

Murder Rate Cut in Half despite Increase in Guns

A Pew Research Center report has found that the murder rate in the U.S. has been cut in half over the past two decades from 7 per 100,000 to 3.6 per 100,000, in spite of widespread proliferation of guns. The gun death rate has also dropped over the same time period, though not as drastically. In 1993, it was about 15.2 per 100,000. Twenty years later in 2013, it was down to 10.6. Most Americans are unaware that gun crime is markedly lower. The Pew survey (March 14-17) found that 56% of Americans believe the number of crimes involving a gun is higher than it was 20 years ago; only 12% say it is lower and 26% say it stayed the same. (An additional 6% did not know or did not answer.)

  • Once again we can thank the mainstream media for keeping us so well informed (not)

U.S. Student Performance Slips on National Test

Fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States lost ground on national mathematics tests this year, the first declines in scores since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990. Reading performance also was sobering: Eighth-grade scores dropped, according to results released Wednesday, while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time students took the test. The tests also show large achievement gaps between the nation’s white and minority students as well as between poor and affluent children, an indication that the nation’s disadvantaged students are not gaining ground despite more than a decade of federal law designed to boost their achievement. Many people look to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores as an important barometer of U.S. student achievement because they are the only exams that have been given nationwide over a long period of time, capturing the performance of rich and poor children of all ethnicities in urban, suburban and rural communities. Peggy Carr, the federal official who oversees the tests, said the drops surprised her. But she cautioned against reading too much into the development, saying, “One downturn does not a trend make.” Carr said she would withhold judgment until 2017.

Large Number of Americans Don’t Celebrate Halloween

A LifeWay Research study has found that a large number of Americans choose to not celebrate Halloween due to its pagan elements. Charisma News reports that 21 percent of Americans say they try to avoid the holiday completely, while another 14 percent say they avoid the pagan elements of the holiday. Eighteen percent of Christians say they try to avoid Halloween, while 23 percent say they try to avoid its pagan elements. The study also found that, among Christians, Catholics were more favorably disposed toward the holiday than Protestants. Seventy-one percent of Catholics said the holiday was “all in good fun,” while only 49 percent of Protestants said the same thing. Evangelicals are the most likely to avoid Halloween altogether (28 percent), or to avoid the pagan elements (23 percent). Charisma News reports that Halloween’s popularity has exploded in the past few years, becoming a national industry with an estimated $6.9 billion to be spent on the holiday this year.

  • Halloween opens demonic doors and gives Satan more authority. God should be hallowed, not Satan.

Record Number of Expats Renouncing Citizenship

An increasing number of Americans are bidding Uncle Sam farewell. Many are expats tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork — a headache that has increased lately as hefty tax regulations have kicked in. Last year, 15 times more Americans renounced their citizenship than in 2008. A record 1,426 Americans gave up their citizenship in the third quarter, according to new government data. Unlike most countries, the U.S. taxes citizens on all income — no matter where it’s earned, or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that means a mountain of paperwork so complex that expats are often forced to seek professional help, paying high fees to accountants and lawyers.

Sweden to Become World’s First Cashless Country

A study by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm shows that Sweden is on track to become the world’s first cashless country. Today, five of six major banks in Sweden are already refusing to operate with cash. As a result, and considering the latest Tax Authority guidelines, Bitcoin has the potential to become a commonly used currency in Sweden. People are becoming increasingly accustomed to using bank cards to pay even for the smallest purchases in Sweden with four out of five purchases made electronically. Now, with the increasing penetration of mobile and P2P payment systems, the necessity to use cash is quickly becoming obsolete. Moreover, the recent launch of mobile payment app Swish from several major Swedish and Danish banks is already revolutionizing the local banking system, says Arvidsson. As a result, several major banks are refusing to accept cash at all.

Economic News

The U.S. economy cooled in the third quarter as businesses cut back amid weakness overseas. Gross domestic product – the value of goods and services produced in the country — expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.5% in the July-September period, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That’s down from the second quarter when the economy surged at a 3.9% pace on solid consumer spending and business investment, releasing pent-up demand after harsh weather and a West Coast ports slowdown held first quarter growth to a meager 0.6%.

Energy giant Chevron plans to shed 6,000 to 7,000 jobs and slash its capital investment plan after low energy prices dealt a sharp blow to the company’s sales and profit in the third quarter. The company is latest in a series of energy giants that are turning to steep job cuts to stabilize its finances amid a prolonged slump for oil and natural gas prices. Chevron said it would lower its spending on capital investment and exploration activity by 25% to under $28 billion in 2016. It plans to slash that figure further to under $24 billion in 2017 and 2018.

A record breaking amount of cash is flocking to the United States. Foreign direct investment into the U.S. hit $200 billion in the first half of 2015, a record high according to a report published Thursday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It’s usually a sign that global investors are optimistic about the U.S. economy at a time when the rest of the global economy undergoes a slowdown. However, a lot of the money can be traced to foreign entities that are buying U.S. companies. Many of these companies then relocate overseas to escape high corporate taxes in the United States. About $86 billion of the $200 billion went towards chemical companies. Another $80 billion to manufacturing companies.

The gap between CEO retirement benefits and the nest eggs of average U.S. workers is even wider than the imbalance between compensation for the highest- and lowest-paid employees, a report issued Wednesday shows. The 100 largest retirement U.S. CEO retirement packages are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41% of American families, according to the report by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies watchdog groups. The CEO nest eggs on average are worth more than $49.3 million, enough to produce a $277,686 monthly retirement check for life, the report said. In contrast, 31% of the bottom economic group of American families have nothing saved for retirement.

European Migrant Crisis

Austria will build a fence along its border with Slovenia to slow the flood of refugees heading to northern Europe, officials announced Wednesday. Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told public broadcaster Ö1 that “this is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country, not about shutting down the border,” Swedish media outlet The Local reported. Meanwhile, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Miro Cerar said Wednesday that his country is ready to build a fence on its border with Croatia if a European Union plan to reduce the movements of refugees through tighter border controls fails. More than 86,000 people have entered Slovenia since Oct. 16, after Hungary closed its border with Croatia, forcing the Middle East refugees and migrants to seek an alternative route to European countries such as Germany. Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras branded the European response to its migrant crisis “inept” Friday after 22 people were confirmed drowned in the eastern Aegean Sea in two new incidents involving boatloads of people trying to reach European shores.

Austrians are arming themselves at record rates in an effort to defend their households against feared attacks from Muslim invaders. A Czech TV report confirms that long guns – shotguns and rifles – have been flying off the shelves in Austria, and Austrians who haven’t already purchased a gun may not have a chance to get one for some time. They’re all sold out. Tens of thousands of Muslim “refugees” have poured into Austria from Hungary and Slovenia in recent months on their way to Germany and Sweden, two wealthy European countries that have laid out the welcome mat for migrants. More than a million will end up in Germany alone by the end of this year, according to estimates from the German government. Obtaining a working firearm and ammunition in Germany, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands is practically impossible for the average citizen. Germany, for instance, requires a psychological evaluation, the purchase of liability insurance and verifiable compliance with strict firearms storage and safety rules. And self-defense is not even a valid reason to purchase a gun in these countries, reports WND.com

Israel

The upcoming anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination 20 years ago by a Jewish extremist may also mark the death of Israel’s peace movement. Rabin, a hawkish general-turned prime minister, was gunned down in Tel Aviv on Nov. 4, 1995, during a pro-peace rally in what’s now called Rabin Square. Two decades later, Israel appears further away from the prospect for peace than ever. Quite a change from the time Rabin famously shook hands on the White House lawn with Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat in 1993 and signed the Oslo Peace Accords, giving Palestinians limited self-governance over parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, Israel has moved to the right politically and no one is talking about an independent Palestinian state happening anytime soon. A small but vocal group of young Israeli extremists have built nearly 100 unauthorized settlement outposts and initiated confrontations with Palestinians.

Islamic State

The Pentagon is considering plans that would place U.S. advisers closer to ground combat in Iraq and Syria in a move that could amount to a major escalation in its war against the Islamic State, a senior defense official told USA Today. The potential move reflects growing concern at top government levels that U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq are not making sufficient progress against the Islamic State. The options under consideration include placing U.S. advisers alongside local combat units in Iraq and embedding a small number of U.S. advisers with Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State, the official said. Last week, American Special Forces soldiers accompanied Kurdish units on a successful mission to rescue 70 prisoners from the Islamic State. A U.S. soldier was killed in the fighting.

Syria

Iran’s role in the Syrian civil war is getting more significant, with Iranian officials headed to peace talks while Tehran boosts its military power in the war-torn country. The United States had invited Iran to join the talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Iran is increasing its military presence in Syria, a top commander told Iranian TV. Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said Iran is increasing both the quality and quantity of its presence in Syria, according to Iranian media. Salami said the Iranian officers were providing tactical help for Syrian commanders of battalions in direct battles, as well as weapons and ordnance, operational assistance and help with strategic planning.

Nigeria

Nigerian troops have rescued 338 captives, almost all children and women, from Boko Haram camps in a northeastern forest, the military said Wednesday. Thirty extremists were killed Tuesday in attacks on two camps on the fringes of the Islamic insurgents’ holdout in Sambisa Forest, according to a Defense Headquarters statement on social media. Separately troops ambushed and killed four suspects on a bombing mission in northeastern Adamawa state. Hundreds of people have died in suicide bombing attacks mainly targeting mosques and markets in recent months. Earlier this year, troops from Nigeria and Chad forced Boko Haram out of a large swath of northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram, which is allied with the Islamic State group, had declared an Islamic caliphate.

China

More than 30 years after China imposed its controversial “one-child” policy, Chinese state media reported Thursday that it would be scrapped. The Xinhua news agency said China’s ruling Communist Party decided that all couples would now be allowed to have two children. It said the decision to remove remaining restrictions that limited couples to a single child was made “to improve the balanced development of (China’s) population.” The restrictions were introduced in 1980 to aggressively cap the number of children Chinese couples could have in an attempt to reduce the burden on resources amid the country’s rapidly expanding population.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey says 435 small earthquakes have rattled the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Ramon in the last two weeks. USGS research geophysicist Brad Aagaard says the small quakes have been recorded since Oct. 13. Most of them have ranged from magnitudes-2.0 to -3.0. The largest was a magnitude-3.6 on Oct. 19. No damage or injuries have been reported. San Ramon and other nearby cities sit on the Calaveras Fault and have a history of earthquake swarms. The USGS says they’re not cause for extra concern and unlikely to lead to a large, damaging quake. Based on other swarms, the agency predicts that the series of quakes may persist for several more weeks.

The death toll in the magnitude-7.5 earthquake that rocked Pakistan and Afghanistan rose to 385 on Wednesday. Several aftershocks followed Monday’s quake, which was centered in a remote area in Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China. More than 10,000 homes were damaged in northwest Pakistan, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said that more than 7,600 homes were destroyed and 558 people injured in that country. Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said that 267 Pakistanis were killed, 220 of them in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Afghanistan reported 115 dead, while three people died on the Indian side of the disputed region of Kashmir, the Associated Press reported.

Wildfires

Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are choking under a thick haze of wildfire smoke caused by the annual burning of land for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The haze is so bad it’s been described by the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) as a “crime against humanity.” Schools are closed, transport disrupted and half a million cases of acute respiratory infection have been recorded since July. The annual burning churns out thick smoke across parts of Southeast Asia, but this summer’s haze is the worst it’s been for 20 years. Most of the forest fires that are contributing to this massive environmental disaster are started illegally by farmers who slash and burn peat forest to make way for agricultural land.

Weather

Another round of storms in Texas left damage in at least two small towns near San Antonio on Friday morning. Tornadoes are suspected. D’Hanis and Floresville took the hardest hit. A bank was destroyed, a high school severely damaged and other buildings were damaged as well, but there were no reports of injuries as of Friday morning. San Antonio officials reported more than a dozen road closures Friday morning as the heavy rain caused flooding. Severe weather is expected to continue in the Southern Plains throughout the day. Over the weekend, other areas could also see severe weather.

The Antarctic ozone hole widened to one of its largest sizes on record earlier this month, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced Thursday. The hole’s large size was due to unusually cold temperatures in the stratosphere, the level of the atmosphere where the ozone hole and ozone layer are located, the agency said. On Oct. 2, the hole reached its largest size of the year, some 10.9 million square miles, bigger than the size of Russia and Canada combined. The largest hole on record was in 2000, when it reached 11.1 million square miles, NASA said. Located high up in the atmosphere, the ozone layer blocks potentially harmful ultraviolet energy from reaching the Earth’s surface. If unblocked, this energy could lead to increased rates of skin cancer and other ailments in humans and animals. The hole, discovered in the late 1970s, is a radical thinning of the ozone layer caused by the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which at one time were used in refrigerators and aerosol sprays. The Montreal Protocol — an international treaty signed by 196 countries in the late 1980s — limited production of CFCs.

Signs of the Times (10/27/15)

October 27, 2015

Canada Mosque Shows Children How to Behead

An Ontario mosque is coming under fire for using young Muslim children to conduct mock beheadings in a school play. Video footage of the Islamic Jaffari Center in Thornhill, Ontario, shows children as young as 4 years old watching and learning to conduct beheadings in the play. The video was featured on the Canada’s Sun News Network television program, “Byline with Brian Lilley.” A young boy can be seen sitting on the floor as another boy approaches him from behind with a machete. At the end of the play, the boy playing the part of the executioner announces, “Here are the heads.”

Oprah’s ‘Belief’ Leads Millions into Religious Deception

For the past several weeks, Oprah Winfrey has been sharing her heart about how the Bible has impacted her life and how God gives her great joy. “The only problem is, we aren’t really sure which god she is glorifying but she’s leaving Jesus out of the equation (or at least putting other gods on the same pedestal next to Him),” notes Charisma News. “Oprah’s sudden river of religious talk is not based on some newfound appreciation for Christianity. It’s marketing spin for her new series, Belief, which the media pioneer describes as a ‘groundbreaking’ television event exploring humanity’s ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves.” Oprah has insisted she is a Christian, but doesn’t mention Jesus. And a well-circulated YouTube video shows her arguing vehemently that Jesus is not the only way to the Father.

Vatican Summit Opens Door for Divorced, But Not Gays

A momentous and divided gathering of global bishops ended Saturday by endorsing measures that could lead to greater participation of divorced and remarried Catholics in the church, while the 270 churchmen declined to take up the even more controversial issue of whether to be more welcoming of gays. The final document was an obvious compromise intended to gain support from both reformers and hardliners and achieve as much consensus as possible. The three-week meeting of churchmen from all five continents, called a synod, revealed serious theological, cultural and ideological fissures in the worldwide hierarchy. Some cardinals and bishops blasted gay rights in harsh terms, as others said any softening of the church’s practices on allowing remarried Catholics to take communion would be tantamount to heresy. The often-vague language of the concluding report also left the door open for Francis to take further action to provide greater pastoral flexibility to local bishops and priests, as church leaders expect him to do. Pope Francis appeared to lecture church elders at the closing of a landmark summit on the family here, suggesting they should not be quick to exclude a broad array of people deserving of God’s grace, in a sermon at Sunday’s Mass.

FBI Director Admits It Can’t Vet All Syrian Refugees for Terrorism Ties

During congressional hearings on the Syrian refugees, FBI Director Jim Comey admitted that there was just no way for our government to vet all of the refugees who would be moving into our nation. “The sad fact is that we may well be opening our doors wide for the very terrorists we are fighting in the Middle East,” notes Liberty Alliance. “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them,” FBI Director Comey said.

  • The U.S. is inviting and resettling thousands of potential Islamic terrorists into our country every month

Obama Administration Targeting Conservative Christian Groups for Domestic Extremism

The Obama administration has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expand their investigative efforts to include “domestic extremism.” Among the DOJ’s sources for rooting out these “extremist” organizations is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC), “hate group” list. John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, announced Wednesday that the Justice Department is creating the new position of domestic terrorism counsel to combat the “real and present threat” of domestic extremism. The SPLC says it places groups — including conservative, Christian groups — on its “Hate List” based on their beliefs, not their propensity for violence. “Homegrown violent extremists can be motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate — anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs,” Carlin told a gathering at George Washington University. “By falsely and recklessly labeling many mainstream Christian ministries as hate groups, the SPLC is directly responsible for fanning the flames of violence against Christian organizations,” notes Liberty Counsel.

  • The stage is being set for a government crackdown on conservative Christian groups who espouse sound Biblical principles

Obama Administration Places Gag Orders on National Weather Service & NOAA

In recent weeks Washington has placed “gag orders” on the following agency employees, “The National Weather Service”, the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”, and the “US Department of Commerce,” reports RedFlag News. Bill Hopkins, the executive president for the National Weather Service Employees Organization said, ““As a taxpayer, I find it highly disturbing that a government agency continues to push gag orders to hide how they operate. This is the work of the American government, owned by the American public, and should be open to the American public.” Jeff Ruch, the executive director “PEER” (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) said this about the “gag orders”. “The National Weather Service is about the last place where national security-style secrecy rules need to be enforced,” Ruch noted that the broad scope of the gag orders put much of what goes on inside the agency under wraps. “Everyone is free to talk about the weather except for the people working inside the National Weather Service. Go figure.” An unidentified NOAA scientist that said “we all know it is going on (climate engineering) but we are afraid to speak out, we have no first amendment protection”.

  • Global warming, now called climate change, appears to be engineered or enhanced as a means of enforcing stricter government control and ushering in the one-world government of Revelation 13.

‘Nuclear Fire’ Erupts at Radioactive Facility near Las Vegas

Government officials are still looking into what may have caused a low-level radiological storage facility approximately 100 miles outside Las Vegas to go up in flames, reports CBS Las Vegas. “We didn’t even hear about it when it happened, according to Cindy Craig, a resident. “We weren’t even get told about it until the next day.” In a 40-second cellphone video, the explosion is seen shooting up out of the ground causing massive plumes of smoke. The explosion caused the facility to go up in flames. State officials said the fire started in one of 22 covered trenches used to store low-level radioactive material. The EPA said an unknown amount of low-level radioactive waste that burned had been deposited before 1992, according to the Associated Press. The U,S. Geological Survey previously found high concentrations of radionuclides underground, the Nuclear Resource and Information Service said.

  • The storage of nuclear material represents an ongoing radiological threat and a terrorist target

Obama Proposes Plan to Curb Excessive Testing

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are expected to meet Monday with teachers and school officials to outline their plan to limit the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests. The White House has outlined a series of steps to help educators end assessment that is burdensome or not benefiting students or teachers. Obama recommended limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of a student’s instructional time in the classroom. The White House said Saturday the proliferation of testing in the United States — a problem the administration acknowledged it has played a role in — has taken away too much valuable time that could be better spent on learning, teaching and fostering creativity in schools.

No Criminal Charges for Lerner, Others in IRS Scandal

The Justice Department announced Friday afternoon that it will not bring criminal charges against Lois Lerner or any other IRS official involved in the targeting of Tea Party groups, in a decision Republicans said amounted to a “free pass.” In a letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, the department said the investigation into the controversy will be closed — and while they found “mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia,” they found “no evidence that would support a criminal prosecution.” Republicans, who themselves have investigated the IRS scandal for years, fumed over Friday’s DOJ decision. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the move marks a “low point of accountability” for the Obama administration. “Giving Lois Lerner a free pass only reinforces the idea that government officials are above the law and that there is no consequence for wrongdoing,” Issa said in a statement.

Feds Raid Drug ‘Super Tunnel’ on U.S.-Mexico Border

Smugglers on the U.S.-Mexico border have become so sophisticated in moving drugs that one “super tunnel” raided this week featured a railway. The tunnel stretched the length of eight football fields, from a Tijuana warehouse to a San Diego warehouse, and had a rail system, lighting, electricity, and metal beams to prevent a cave-in. Authorities confiscated at least 12 tons of marijuana with a street value of $6 million and arrested 22 people in San Diego and Tijuana in connection with the one of the largest tunnels uncovered in recent years. “We see a super tunnel open for business once every year or so,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of Southern California said in a statement. “Just when traffickers think they’re ready to move, we put them out of business.”

Firearms Records Backlogged at National Tracing Center

Millions of firearm purchase records, potentially critical to tracing guns used in crimes, languish in scores of cardboard boxes and shipping containers awaiting processing at the government’s National Tracing Center in Martinsville, West Virginia. Officials estimate that 1.6 million paper documents and other records arrive every month from defunct firearm dealers who are required to ship their business records, some barely discernible, to this Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives facility for eventual inclusion in a digital repository. Up to 50 times a day, document examiners comb through everything from 1970s-era microfilm to hand-written cards in an effort to satisfy sometimes urgent pleas for assistance from law enforcement agencies from across the country, ATF information specialist Neil Troppman said. The dysfunctional document management system exists even as ATF examiners are faced with a steadily increasing demand for tracing guns used in crimes — 364,441 requests last year, reports USA Today.

Hot Dogs, Bacon, Processed Meats Linked to Cancer

Eating hot dogs, ham and other processed meat can cause colorectal cancer and eating red meat probably can cause cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency reported Monday. Dr. Kurt Straif, with the International Agency for Cancer Research, said the risk of developing colorectal cancer from eating processed meat remains small but rises with the amount consumed. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance,” Straif said. The IARC report labeled processed meat a carcinogen — cigarettes are similarly labeled. Processed meat was defined as meat transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking “or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” The North American Meat Institute scoffed at the report, saying it ignored “numerous” studies showing no link between meat and cancer.

Congress and White House Reach Tentative Budget Deal

After five years of bitter clashes, Republican congressional leaders and President Obama on Monday night appeared to settle their last budget fight by reaching a tentative deal that would modestly increase spending over the next two years, cut some social programs, and raise the federal borrowing limit. The accord, which must be approved by the House and the Senate, would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government’s debt and dispenses with perhaps the most divisive issue in the capital just before Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to turn over his gavel to Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday October 19, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned the U.S. Treasury will run out of money by Tuesday November 3, less than two weeks from now, unless the debt ceiling is raised. “Only Congress can act to raise the debt limit. I will have used all the tools that I have as of November 3rd, and then we’re operating on cash,” Lew said, warning that “every time we hit this that sometime there could be an accident, and that would be terrible.”

  • What kind of ‘accident’ Lew was referencing he left undefined

Economic News

The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday its index of consumer confidence fell to 97.6 in October from a revised 102.6 in September. “Despite the decline, consumers still rate current conditions favorably, but they do not anticipate the economy strengthening much in the near-term,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the board.

Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods fell in September, declining for a second straight month. Orders for durable goods dropped 1.2% in September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That follows a revised 3% drop in August, an even bigger downturn than first reported. Durable goods orders have been down in four of the past six months, a sign of the problems facing manufacturers as they struggle with economic weakness in key export markets like China. A stronger dollar has also been a drag, making American products less competitive overseas.

A powerful concoction of market forces have teamed up to put a lid on corporate profit growth. Among these factors are China’s slowdown, the resurgent U.S. dollar, cheap oil, and even rising minimum wages. Third-quarter S&P 500 profits are projected to decline nearly 4%, according to FactSet. That would mark the first back-to-back quarters of shrinking profits since 2009. This isn’t expected to be a blip either. Wall Street analysts aren’t expecting earnings and revenue growth to return until the first quarter of 2016.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran count on oil exports. But oil in the current $40 to $50 range is already below the break-even point for many Middle Eastern nations. Yet OPEC still is flooding the market with oil in order to destroy the fracking boom in the U.S. The question is, at what point does it become too expensive for OPEC to continue down this path? In the meantime, U.S. oil production is rapidly declining as fracking wells are shut down and investment in new wells is drying up.

Middle East

Israel’s Prime Minister has agreed to 24-hour video surveillance at a disputed Jerusalem holy site — a move that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said could be “a game-changer” to reduce regional bloodshed. Tensions have been brewing for weeks in and around Israel and Palestinian territories, erupting into deadly violence. And much of that has centered on a site in Jerusalem that’s sacred to two religions as the Temple Mount to Jews and as al-Aqsa Mosque complex, or Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims. The round-the-clock observation “will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency” and discourage “anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site,” Kerry said. Muslim religious officials in Jerusalem said Monday that Israeli police have blocked them from installing security cameras at the city’s most sensitive religious site, despite a new agreement to place the surveillance equipment there.

Israeli forces shot a knife-wielding Palestinian dead Saturday after he ran toward a crossing between Israel and the West Bank and tried to stab security personnel at the site, the Israeli military said. The incident is the first time an official West Bank crossing was targeted in the latest round of violence that began in mid-September. In the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, while 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 28 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes.

Islamic State

The Obama administration is weighing moving U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria while preparing to “intensify” the air campaign against the Islamic State, officials said Tuesday. Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday that the military plans a “higher and heavier rate of strikes” against ISIS targets. The Washington Post reported that national security advisers are proposing putting a limited number of Special Operations forces in Syria, and U.S. advisers closer to the fight in Iraq.

The Islamic State executed three detainees in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra by strapping them to pillars and then blowing them up along with the antiquities, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. “This execution is the first of its kind by the Islamic State, the organization (that) in recent months has invented new ways of execution,” the observatory said in a statement late Monday. The London-based group said it obtained its information from local sources. The report came just days after the observatory released footage Saturday that appeared to show Islamic State militants executing a teenage Syrian soldier by running him over with a tank. The Islamic State has consistently used the Internet and social media to publicize its brutality.

  • The evil is so blatant and rampant in the Islamic State that there is no question their ‘god’ is Satan

Syria

Russia has sent a few dozen special-operations troops to Syria in recent weeks, Russian and Western officials say, redeploying the elite units from Ukraine as the Kremlin shifts its focus to supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia in late September launched a campaign of airstrikes in support of Mr. Assad’s government, and President Vladimir Putin has said Russian troops wouldn’t play a role in ground combat. But Russian military experts and officials say small numbers of special-forces units—whose missions are rarely acknowledged publicly—are also on the ground in Syria.

Airstrikes believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes in western Syria are reported to have killed dozens of civilians, Human Rights Watch says, suggesting that the bombings appear to be war crimes. The aerial attacks took place in the northern part of Homs on October 15 as Russian and Syrian planes were supporting a ground offensive by the Syrian military and its allies against rebel groups, the rights group said in a statement Sunday. Russian forces have faced a series of allegations of striking civilian areas since they began bombing parts of Syria last month in an effort to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Moscow. The Syrian American Medical Society has accused Russian warplanes of repeatedly targeting hospitals.

Yemen

A second Doctors without Borders medical facility was hit by an airstrike in less than a month, the organization said Tuesday. The group tweeted that the facility, in Saada, northern Yemen, was hit by several airstrikes on Monday night while patients and staff were in the building. Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported that a number of patients were injured. A Saudi-led coalition started launching airstrikes against the Houthis in March. The Saba new agency, which is run by the rebels, said it was the only hospital in the area, a Houthi stronghold.

Earthquakes

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Afghanistan at 1:39 p.m. local time Monday afternoon (5:09 a.m. EDT). The earthquake was centered about 159 miles north-northeast of the Afghan capital of Kabul. Officials worked Tuesday to reach the hardest-hit remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, one day after the major earthquake left at least 311 people dead. Widespread shaking was felt across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, including Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi, The Associated Press reported. Buildings swayed back and forth in Islamabad, sending people streaming out of buildings and into the streets in panic. Afghani and Pakistani officials said 237 of those deaths occurred in Pakistan, while 74 have been confirmed dead in Afghanistan, including 12 girls who were crushed in a stampede as they fled their collapsing school.

Wildfires

Indonesia is in the grips of a double-headed climate and public health crisis as fires rage across the country. On Monday, the fires reached such a fever pitch that Indonesian Prime Minister Joko Widodo cut a trip to the U.S. short to return home and deal with the inferno that’s turning air toxic and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than the U.S. on a daily basis. Nearly 116,000 fires have been documented and air quality in Indonesia and its neighboring countries has suffered greatly. The fires are an annual occurrence, but this year is already the second-most prolific burn year on record due to dry conditions driven by this year’s strong El Niño.

Wildfires have burned 15 million acres in Canada and Alaska so far this year, in what’s likely to become the second-most extreme fire season of the past decade for North America’s boreal region. But the worst damage could still be around the corner because the area contains organic material that is hundreds if not thousands of years old. The burning of that material releases into the atmosphere carbon into the atmosphere that was once stored in frozen soil, or permafrost. Excessive amounts of carbon released into the atmosphere increase the likelihood of global temperature rise. “Once fires in this region burn deeply, all these other things start to happen, affecting plants, animals and local people,” said Michelle Mack, a researcher and biological sciences professor at Northern Arizona University, which is using a NASA-funded grant to measure severe fire impacts in North America. Alaska is already warming twice as fast as the rest of the nation, with rapidly melting sea ice and thawing permafrost.

Weather

Up to 20 inches of rain have fallen over parts of Texas over the last few days, breaking some local rain records. Heavy flooding in north and central Texas caused major headaches across the state Saturday morning, as floodwaters derailed a Union Pacific train, inundated roads and stranded drivers. Swift water rescue teams were deployed early Saturday to recover two Union Pacific employees from a train that was partially submerged north of Corsicana, Texas. Several vehicles were stalled and traffic backed up for 12 miles after Interstate 45 flooded in North Texas. Northbound I-35 in central Texas was shut down by officials late Friday morning. Law enforcement agencies in Waco received reports of people trapped inside of vehicles stranded in high water. In West Texas, runoff washed away a mobile home. No one was home. Flood waters swallowed up an ambulance in Odessa and prompted at least 30 swift-water rescues in the area. The fast-moving rain storm swamped low-lying streets in Dallas, forcing some drivers to wade through several feet of water.

The City of Houston activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center Saturday as flooding began to hit the area due to a slow-moving storm system rolling over the city. The National Weather Service reported Saturday evening that roads were becoming submerged in the city at the rate of 2-3 inches per hour. The Houston EOC reported high water and disabled vehicles in at least a dozen locations around the city. Louisiana is bracing for more heavy precipitation Monday as the storm that dumped more than a foot of rain on Texas over the weekend moves east. A flash flood watch was issued for parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge through Monday afternoon, and forecasts say some areas around New Orleans could get up to 8 inches of rain. Crews southeast of New Orleans were rushing Tuesday to plug a hole in a breached levee after heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Patricia pounded the area. Parts of the Gulf Coast are also dealing with strong winds and huge waves.

A day after record-breaking Hurricane Patricia made landfall in Mexico, early reports revealed thousands of homes had been damaged but no casualties in the state of Jalisco, where thousands of residents had hunkered down in shelters during the historic storm. Authorities cautioned that the remnants of the hurricane could still cause deadly flooding and mudslides. Hurricane Patricia made landfall Friday evening around 6:15 p.m. near Cuixmala, Mexico, in the state of Jalisco, with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. Multiple homes were severely damaged and banana and papaya crops destroyed in Michoacan state. The Colima-Guadalajara freeway was closed, as well as the highway between Manzanillo and Guadalajara. Mountains, geography and planning led to surprisingly little damage and few deaths when Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm on record in the Western Hemisphere, slammed ashore with 165-mph winds, experts say. But ask local residents and they say prayer played a role. “God takes care of us,” said Yolanda Garcia Casillas, 49, who rode out the storm in this seaside community 20 miles south from where the storm made landfall.

Signs of the Times (10/23/15)

October 23, 2015

Texas & Ohio Defund Planned Parenthood

After Planned Parenthood was caught in a series of 10 videos selling aborted babies and their body parts, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced his decision to eliminate state taxpayer funding for the abortion business. One of the expose’ videos caught a Houston, Texas Planned Parenthood arranging for the sales of aborted babies and dissecting babies it had aborted and planned to ship off for sale to a biotech firm. Texas state investigators conducted a raid today on multiple Planned Parenthood abortion clinics across the state Thursday. The investigators were seeking hundreds of pages of information, from patient records to employee home addresses, involving 10 Planned Parenthood facilities across the state related to suspicions of misspent Medicaid money. The Ohio state Senate also approved new legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, which runs approximately one-third of the abortion centers in the Buckeye State. “The grotesque revelations of this summer’s video scandal have brought renewed energy to our pro-life state to end business with the abortion industry once and for all,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life.

UN Helping Palestinians Lay Claim to Jewish Holy Sites

A United Nations organization recently declared that two Israeli holy sites now belong to Muslims. CBN News reports that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are Palestinian sites. Last week Palestinians set fire to the tomb of the Biblical patriarch Joseph. Israelis claim that if holy sites are given over to Palestinian control, they will be set on fire like Joseph’s tomb. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon commented on UNESCO’s recent declaration: “It is an attempt by the Arab side, and by the Palestinians, to change history and pretend as if those places, which are holy places for Judaism, which have been holy places for Judaism for thousands of years, are actually Palestinian or Muslim holy places,” Nahshon said.

Obama Vetoes Defense Bill

President Obama issued a rare veto of a defense policy bill Thursday in a showdown with Congress over broader spending levels. The veto of the National Defense Authorization Act is an extraordinary use of one of the president’s most powerful executive tools. While the White House had problems with some of the bill’s provisions, Obama’s main objection is that the bill uses a budget gimmick to increase defense spending without increasing domestic spending first. The president wants Congress to lift the automatic budget caps known as sequestration included in a 2011 budget agreement. Congressional Republicans said it is an unprecedented and irresponsible use of the President’s veto power. “The president has vowed to veto it. Why? Because he wants to stop and spend more money on his domestic agenda,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. “It’s time to put our troops first, time to stop playing political games.”

Hackers Break into Email of CIA & Homeland Security Chiefs

On Monday, a group of hackers claimed credit for a breach of CIA director John Brennan’s email, as well as the account of Jeh Johnson, who heads the Department of Homeland Security. CNNMoney reached out to the alleged hackers on Twitter, and in a subsequent recorded interview, the self-proclaimed hackers described who they are and how they did it. They say they are American and younger than 22. They smoke pot and go the by name CWA, for Crackas with Attitude. And their methods were incredibly low-tech. Their motivation? “Free Palestine. The United States government funds Israel, and in Israel they kill innocent people. We’re going to do it until they stop funding Israel or until we get raided.”

  • S. government computer systems and files are so poorly protected that it poses a severe cyber-threat to the American economy

Feds Reveal How They Secretly Track Americans’ Phones

Federal law enforcement officials, in testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, gave some long-awaited answers about how they use secret devices to track Americans’ cell phones. Until now, the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies have kept a tight grip on any information about the use of “Stingray” machines. Police nationwide have been using Stingray devices for years. It mimics an actual company cell phone tower and tricks your phone into connecting with it. There have been serious concerns about whether police are listening to phone calls, collecting text messages and tracking Americans’ locations without warrants. On Wednesday, two officials from the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security told Congress that the devices are programmed to track cell phone locations — but not gather calls or messages.

  • The potential for abuse is very real – especially as end-time socialistic government control increases

Number of Americans Smoking Pot Doubles in 10 Years

A lot more Americans were smoking marijuana in 2012-13 than 10 years before — and not for medical reasons, either — according to a new study. The percentage of American adults who had used marijuana within the last year was 9.5%, the study found. That compared to 4.1% in 2001-02. The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It was based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 Americans over the age of 18. The percentage of pot smokers with marijuana use disorders actually dropped, with about one in three showing signs of dependence or abuse. But the total number of disorders increased because of the large increase in total users. The attitudes toward the use of marijuana are shifting in the United States, as are the laws governing its use. Twenty-three states now allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, the study notes, and four of those states also allow recreational use of the drug.

Monster Hurricane Threatens Mexico

Mexico’s Pacific coast is in the crosshairs of Hurricane Patricia, which became the most powerful hurricane ever measured in the Western Hemisphere on Friday morning as its maximum sustained winds reached an unprecedented 200 mph. The hurricane is forecast to make landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco Friday evening as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane capable of causing widespread destruction. Residents and authorities in Mexico are rushing to prepare for what will likely be the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall on that country’s Pacific coastline. Patricia now holds the record for lowest pressure in any hurricane on record: 25.99 inches of mercury.

Migrant Crisis Update

The epicenter of the European migrant crisis has shifted to tiny Slovenia which was poised Tuesday to deploy its army to stem the flow of migrants pouring into the Balkan nation who were bound for northern Europe. The migrants are mainly from war-torn Syria and its neighbors. A surge of migrants has swamped the tiny nation’s border security at Trnovec since Hungary closed its border with Croatia on Friday. Hungary previously had sealed its border with Serbia, so Slovenia has become the primary passageway to Austria, Germany and beyond. The Slovenia government said Tuesday that more than 12,000 refugees are now in their country, with more than 5,000 arriving daily. The European Union on Wednesday announced it is calling an extraordinary meeting of EU and Balkan leaders this coming Sunday to deal with the continent’s ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.

Obama Administration asks Congress for Puerto Rico Bankruptcy Protection

The Obama administration is asking Congress to grant bankruptcy protection to Puerto Rico as the island territory struggles to restructure its $72 billion in debt. A proposal sent to Capitol Hill Wednesday would allow Puerto Rico and other territories to seek a financial restructuring under the supervision of a federal bankruptcy court — a step currently not available to states or territories. The administration is also asking for new oversight of Puerto Rico’s finances, revamp the territory’s Medicaid funding system and extend the earned income tax credit to Puerto Rican taxpayers. Puerto Rican officials have been in talks with hedge fund managers to refinance the island’s debts, but those talks appear to have broken down. The Treasury Department has discussed the possibility of some kind of federal role in helping Puerto Rico but has emphasized that a bailout is not part of the plan.

Treasury Postpones Bond Sale as Debt Limit Nears

The Treasury Department said Thursday it would postpone an auction of two-year notes scheduled for next week because of worries that the debt limit impasse in Congress would prevent the sale from going through. The Treasury move marks the first time it’s had to delay a bond offering because of the debt limit since 2004. The move is the latest warning from the Treasury Department that the looming Nov. 3 deadline for raising the $18.1 trillion debt ceiling is already having and adverse effect on the economy — and the government’s borrowing costs. Rates for bonds that mature in November have risen.

Economic News – Domestic

Construction companies built more apartment complexes in September, sparking a temporary rise in housing starts for a real estate market that otherwise appears to have peaked during the summer. Housing starts last month rose 6.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.21 million homes, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. But a 17% surge in multi-family housing — which includes apartments — accounts for almost all of that increase. New construction and sales of existing homes surged in the first half of the year as more Americans found work and the unemployment rate dipped to a solid 5.1%. But tight inventories, rising prices and the absence of meaningful wage growth have capped growth as affordability has become an issue.

Big banks and brokerages slashed their bonus pools last quarter after reduced trading activity led to double-digit revenue declines. Unless things turn around — and soon — Wall Streeters will see shrunken bonuses and possible layoffs, experts said. Wall Street’s woes started in August when investors became rattled by China’s unusual move to devalue its currency. That, combined with uncertainty over the direction of U.S. interest rates, led investors to pull back from trading in bonds, currencies and commodities.

Economic News – International

Money is leaving China at a torrid pace. An estimated $520 billion to $530 billion left the country in the first eight months of the year, according to a semi-annual report by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 2014, only $26 billion left China in the first six months of the year. Outflows remain high despite government efforts to reassure investors who are worried about the country’s economic slowdown and a sudden devaluation of the yuan earlier this year. China already limits the amount of money an individual can move out of the country to $50,000 per year. But last month, Beijing even clamped down on the amount of cash its citizens can withdraw from ATMs overseas, another attempt to stop money from leaving the country. However, China’s stock market is rebounding. The Shanghai Composite has soared 12% so far in October after its dramatic 34% plunge between June and September. China slashed key interest rates again on Friday, the latest in a string of measures aimed at boosting its economy.

Persecution Watch

Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) are once again being targeted by armed Muslim groups going from house to house, shooting and beheading innocent believers in an appalling display of violence. Some reports indicate as many as 200 people were killed in the clashes, their bodies thrown into wells. Around 20,000 Christians have fled their homes in terror. They have lost everything in their flight, and with the country now well into the rainy season, nutrition and health concerns are paramount, reports Barnabas Aid.

Bowing to the demands of Muslim hardliners, authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh province tore down three simply made churches of wood, concrete and tin, on Monday (October 19). A further seven churches are set to be demolished in the coming days. Earlier in the month, an Islamic youth group held a demonstration demanding the closure of churches in Aceh which do not have official permits to exist. Then, taking the law into their own hands, hundreds of angry Muslims arrived on motorcycles and in pickups and cars, armed with axes and machetes, and set fire to three churches last week.

Six St. Louis, MO area churches have been set on fire in the last two weeks, and authorities believe the arsonist is racially and/or religiously motivated. Christian Today reports that the six churches which were set on fire were of different denominations, but five congregations were black, and the sixth was racially mixed. St. Louis Fire Capt. Garon Mosby stated that “it is arson” and that hate crime “is part of the dynamic” of the attacks.

Middle East

Israel arrested a senior Hamas official in the West Bank on Tuesday, accusing him of inciting violence by encouraging attacks against Israelis. The Israeli military says it detained Hassan Yousef near Ramallah and accused him of “actively instigating and inciting terrorism,” the Associated Press reported. It marks the most high-profile arrest in a month of unrest in the region. Over the past month, nine Israelis have been killed in lone-wolf Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings and 41 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 20 described by Israel as attackers. The rest died in clashes with Israeli troops. An Eritrean migrant died late Sunday after being mistakenly shot by a security guard and then beaten by a mob that mistook him for a Palestinian attacker.

Wednesday saw several more terrorist attacks by Palestinians directed at Israelis, starting with a stabbing attack which seriously wounded a female IDF soldier at Kikar Adam, north of Jerusalem in the Binyamin region. The attacker was shot dead and another individual suspected of assisting in the attack was arrested. Later on Wednesday, a suspected vehicular ramming attack wounded five IDF soldiers near the Palestinian village of Beit Omar. A soldier fired on the driver of the ramming vehicle, incapacitating him. Three other attacks at various locations in the West Bank resulted in wounds and injuries to a police officer and the terrorist attackers, prompting Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai to issue a public appeal for calm. Another stabbing attack against an IDF soldier took place Friday morning near the Gush Etzion security fence in the West Bank. The soldier was lightly wounded and his attacker was shot and wounded.

Islamic State

A U.S. service member died during a commando raid Thursday to free about 70 Islamic State hostages in Iraq, according to a senior Defense official, the first U.S. service member to die fighting ISIS. The raid was led by elite Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special operations forces. The New York Times, citing unnamed Iraqi officials, said the mission near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija “appeared to be a significant joint strike against the Islamic State.” The Times said the raid involved American helicopters, Kurdish and American Special Operations forces, and airstrikes. Iraqi officials said the objective had been a prison run by the militants at a village east of Hawija.

The Islamic State rakes in up to $50 million a month from selling crude from oilfields under its control in Iraq and Syria, part of a well-run industry that U.S. diplomacy and airstrikes have so far failed to shut down, according to Iraqi intelligence and U.S. officials. Oil sales — the extremists’ largest single source of continual income — are a key reason they have been able to maintain their rule over their self-declared “caliphate” stretching across large parts of Syria and Iraq. With the funds to rebuild infrastructure and provide the largesse that shore up its fighters’ loyalty, it has been able to withstand ground fighting against its opponents and more than a year of bombardment in the U.S.-led air campaign.

Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad made a secret visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their two governments disclosed Wednesday. The trip, which took place on Tuesday, was Assad’s first known visit abroad since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The leaders discussed their joint military campaign against militants in Syria and stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict. The United Nations estimates the civil war has killed at least 250,000 people. Russia began launching airstrikes against insurgents in Syria on Sept. 30 amid criticism from the United States and its allies who say the intervention is doing little beyond helping to keep Assad in power and fanning the violence. The U.S. and allies want Assad to step down from power.

  • Russia is becoming more entrenched in the Middle East just as Ezekiel 38 prophesies

Canada

Canada voted in its first new leader in nearly a decade in a general election that handed Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party an absolute majority — and dealt a stunning blow to incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The victory denied a fourth term to Harper and his Conservative party. Harper has held the position since February 2006. Liberal candidates have secured 184 seats in the federal legislature, putting them over the 170 seats needed for forming a majority government. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, as Harper’s Conservatives will now officially be designated, have 99 seats.

Earthquakes

There is a 99.9 percent chance of a magnitude-5 or greater earthquake striking within three years in the greater Los Angeles area, where a similar sized temblor caused more the $12 million in damage last year, according to a study by NASA and university researchers. The study released Tuesday was based on Global Positioning System and airborne radar measurements of how the Earth’s crust was deformed by the magnitude-5.1 quake on March 28, 2014, in La Habra, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Damage included broken water mains and cracked pavement. While the magnitude-5 quake was found to be extremely likely by April 1, 2018, one of magnitude-6 or higher was pegged at just 35 percent and the largest potential quake was estimated at 6.3. The U.S. Geological Survey took issue with the study, asserting that it was unclear how the study derived its numbers and that the accepted probability is more like 85 percent – still quite high.

Environment

Two new studies highlight issues with methane gas emissions in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. One, published in the journal Energy Science and Engineering, suggests that the methane released during shale gas extraction has not been properly measured. “The EPA has seriously underestimated the importance of methane emissions in general – and from shale gas in particular,” Robert Howarth, who authored the paper and is a professor at Cornell University, said in a press release. Another new study, published in Water Resources Research, also suggests hidden issues regarding methane and fracking. The paper suggests that abandoned oil wells near fracking sites can become conduits for methane, which is not currently measured by the current monitoring system. These wells, rather than hold and trap the methane gas, release it to the surface where it can linger for a decade or more, warming the atmosphere at a level 100 times higher than carbon dioxide (though CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for much longer).

Lathering yourself with sunscreen before a sunny day on the beach is a healthy living must. But, like many other healthy habits, there might be a downside for the environment. A chemical in sunscreen, oxybenzone, which helps filter UV rays, is highly concentrated in the waters around highly trafficked reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean, an international team of researchers found. Oxybenzone not only kills coral, but also causes damage at the DNA level, both in fully grown coral and in the larval stage, hampering further development. Report author Craig Downs of the non-profit scientific organization Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia said in a press release, “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers.”

Earthquakes

A major earthquake, magnitude 7.1, struck just off the coast of the island nation of Vanuatu Wednesday morning (local time), where residents are still struggling to recover from Tropical Cyclone Pam. More than 3,300 Vanuata residents were left homeless from the devastation caused by Pam and 11 lives were lost. With an epicenter at a depth of 79 miles, there was no threat of any significant tsunami occurring. Reports of damage or injuries were not readily available, but Shadrack Welegtabit, director of Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office, told local media officials are awaiting word from islands located near the epicenter. The Vanuatu islands are just over 1,000 miles east of Australia.

Weather

The death toll from Koppu has climbed to at least 39 people since the storm made landfall in the Philippines Sunday morning, local time, while flooding rains continue to lash parts of the country with torrential downpours. Koppu was downgraded to a tropical storm late Monday, but remains a deadly threat to the archipelago. The Philippine government is warning its citizens that the deadly impacts from Koppu will persist for days to come. Massive rainfall totals have been reported in the northern Philippines, where water has flowed down the mountains and into villages, the BBC reported. The floods left many residents stranded on the roofs of their homes, awaiting rescue. As of Wednesday evening, more than 100,000 people are still in evacuation centers.

At least 16 homes in Odessa, Texas, were flooded Thursday morning, the National Weather Serivce reported, as a slow-moving storm system moved east across the central and southern Plains. More than 3.7 inches of rain fell in just four hours late Wednesday night. As of early Thursday morning, the Odessa Fire Department said it had conducted at least 30 swift water rescues and pulled people from five buildings. About 2 feet of water covered intersections in Andrews, Texas, and 6-12 inches of water flowed over Highway 180 near Seminole, Texas. The Oncor power company reported more than 2,000 customers without power in Midland Thursday morning, with nunerous smaller outages scattered across the region. Hobbs, New Mexico, was also seeing high water, and the NWS reported at least four water rescues there late Wednesday night.

Signs of the Times (10/19/15)

October 19, 2015

Agenda 2030 Threatens Americans Freedom

On September 25 – 27, 2015, thousands of leaders from all over the World met in New York City to present a new fifteen-year plan entitled “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” In spite of the name change, Agenda 2030 has the same plan and goals of 1992’s Agenda 21, but on steroids. While Agenda 21 focused mainly on the environment, Agenda 2030 encompasses far more and is touted to be the “new universal agenda” for humanity. It professes to be an altruistic plan that will benefit future generations. “The reality, however, is that U.N. Agenda 2030 will rob individuals of most every freedom through its imposed mandates,” notes Patrick Wood on his website, technocracy.news.

  • American sovereignty is being subverted by the United Nations with Obama’s complicit support.

U.S. Sanctuary Cities Releasing Thousands of Dangerous Aliens

The reality of sanctuary cities in the U.S. receives little attention from the mainstream media. However, there are many. As Wikipedia reports, “Sanctuary city is a term that is applied by some to cities in the United States or Canada that have policies designed to not prosecute illegal aliens… The term generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual’s immigration status.” Judicial Watch has reported that on a new study that approximately 1,000 criminal illegal aliens per month were released from jail in 340 cities nationwide over a nine-month period rather than turn those individuals over to federal custody for deportation. “According to an updated report prepared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for Congress, between January 1 and September 30, 2014, local sanctuaries released 9,295 alien offenders that ICE was seeking to deport. More than 600 people were released at least twice. Out of these, 5,947 of the criminal aliens (62 percent) had significant prior criminal histories or other public safety concerns even before the arrest that led to a detainer. Fifty-eight percent of those with a prior history of concern had prior felony charges or convictions; 37 percent had serious prior misdemeanor charges. An alarming number — 2,320 — of the total number of released offenders were subsequently arrested within the time period studied for new crimes after they were released by the sanctuaries.”

  • The U.S. is being flooded with criminal aliens while the Obama administration twiddles its thumbs

Fatherless Homes Destroying Children

According to the U.S. Census, 43% of U.S. children live without their father. Fatherless children are 100–200% more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. The Department of Health & Humans Services reports that 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes, 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father and 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. In addition, fatherless children are 100–200% more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. The National Principals Association Report says that 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Fatherless daughters are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, are 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, and are 164% more likely to have an out-of-wedlock birth. The CDC reports that 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. A child who comes from a fatherless home is 68% more likely to use drugs or alcohol, more likely to become sexually active at an early age, and three times more likely to commit a violent crime. The Criminal Justice & Behavior report, Vol. 14, reports that 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes and 85% of all youths residing in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.

  • Satan’s top priority is to destroy God’s ordained family structure. Ridding the home of fathers, promoting gay marriage and sexualizing our children are his primary strategies.

US Drone Strikes Killing More than Intended

The U.S. is killing far more people than intended in some drone strikes, according to a report likely to raise new questions about the Obama administration’s reliance on drones in its battle against Islamic terrorists. The Intercept, in a wide-ranging set of articles on the U.S. drone program, reported that in one five month-period, nearly 90 percent of people killed by strikes in an operation in northeastern Afghanistan were not the intended targets. The news outlet says documents detailing Operation Haymaker show that the campaign, which lasted between January 2012 and February 2013, killed more than 200 people, but only 35 were the intended targets. The White House and Pentagon boast that the program is precise and civilian deaths are relatively minimal. But documents suggest that in Yemen and Somalia, where American intelligence capabilities are more limited, the percentage of non-targets killed could be even higher than in Afghanistan.

Russian Hackers Pose Significant Cyber-Espionage Threat’ To U.S. & NATO Partners

The Russian hacker group Pawn Storm is using a vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player to install malware on computers belonging to several “foreign ministries,” Trend Micro researchers reported last week. Pawn Storm “is the most significant cyber-espionage threat to the U.S. government and her NATO partners,” Trend Micro’s chief cybersecurity officer, Tom Kellermann, said in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation. The exploit contains similarities to the major attack hacking on the White House just months ago, researchers found. That particular score allegedly resulted in a trove of Obama’s “unclassified” emails. Adobe sent out a security advisory bulletin warning of a “critical vulnerability” in Adobe Flash Player that affected Windows, Linux, and Macintosh platforms. If hackers successfully exploit the program, the bulletin warned they could cause a “crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.” To breach a target’s security, the hackers would send spear phishing-emails that appeared to be legitimate, including links apparently leading to information about geopolitical events.

State Department Cybersecurity Critical

The State Department was among the worst agencies in the federal government at protecting its computer networks while Hillary Clinton was secretary from 2009 to 2013, a situation that continued to deteriorate as John Kerry took office and Russian hackers breached the department’s email system, according to independent audits and interviews. The State Department’s compliance with federal cybersecurity standards was below average when Clinton took over but grew worse in each year of her tenure, according to an annual report card compiled by the White House based on audits by agency watchdogs. Network security continued to slip after Kerry replaced Clinton in February 2013, and remains substandard, according to the State Department inspector general. In each year from 2011 to 2014, the State Department’s poor cybersecurity was identified by the inspector general as a “significant deficiency” that put the department’s information at risk.

Homeless Crisis in Hawaii

Hawaiian Governor David Ige on Friday signed an emergency proclamation to tackle homelessness in the state, saying the measure will help turn around the lives of young and old. Hawaii has an estimated 7,620 homeless people, said the governor’s spokeswoman Cindy McMillan, citing a 2015 statewide count. This may not seem like much compared with other places — to this point California has about 114,000 homeless, New York has more than 80,000 and Texas about 28,500, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness — but it’s all relative to the state’s total population. At 465 people per 100,000 citizens, the Aloha State has the highest rate of homelessness per capita of any of the 50 states. Hawaii’s total population is about 1.36 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The emergency proclamation allows the spending of over $1.3 million to fund homeless services and help set up permanent homes for families and the chronically homeless. The latter effort will include building a transitional housing facility for homeless families.

Migrant Crisis Update

Last week, leaders meeting Brussels identified Turkey as a key partner in any solution to the ongoing migrant crisis. Many migrants travel through Turkey as part of long journeys to Northern Europe. Turkey is currently hosting around two million migrants. Meanwhile, Hungary has now completely closed its border with Croatia, meaning that Slovenia is now bracing for thousands of migrants to travel through there enroute to Austria and Germany. Border tensions escalated Monday in several Balkan nations amid new controls on migrants trying to reach Northern Europe. Thousands of migrants, including many women and children, spent a night in the cold and rain near Slovenia’s border with Croatia as the countries continued to argue over how to handle the large influx of people. Croatia wants Slovenia to take in around 5,000 people each day traveling through its territory but Slovenia is only willing to accept half of that number because that is how many Austria — its neighbor to the north — is allowing in. Austria denies the restrictions. Doctors are warning of medicine shortages for around 10,000 refugees currently stranded in Serbia.

Arctic ‘Doomsday Vault’ Opens to Retrieve Vital Seeds for Syria

Humanity has had to cash in on its insurance policy earlier than expected, reports CNN. Deep in the side of a mountain in the Arctic Archipelago is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Known as the “Doomsday Vault,” this seed bank — operated by the Norwegian government and containing a seed of just about every known crop in the world — is meant to be humanity’s backup in the event of a catastrophe that devastates crops. But it was not a natural disaster that has caused scientists to have to dip in and make the first significant withdrawal from the vault. Rather, it was war. The bloody conflict in Syria has left scientists at an important gene bank in Aleppo — where new strains of drought- and heat-resistant wheat have been developed over time — unable to continue their work in recent years. Now, with no sign of conditions in Syria improving, scientists have begun recovering their critical inventory of seeds, sourced from around the Fertile Crescent and beyond, that have been in safekeeping beneath the Arctic ice.

Economic News – Domestic

The demand for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is growing. In fact, according to a new survey released this month from Michigan State University, the labor market for college graduates hasn’t been this good since 1999. The annual survey on hiring trends found that companies say they are hiring 8% to 18% more college graduates this year over 2014-2015. The most significant increases for students with bachelor’s degrees were in the finance, government, nonprofit, education and scientific services sectors, it reports. This is the third consecutive annual improvement in the hiring of college graduates since the recession.

The federal deficit for the fiscal year that just ended was the smallest in eight years. Spending was up over last year, but tax revenue rose more. The 2015 deficit came in at $439 billion, or 2.5% of the size of the economy, according to numbers released Thursday by the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget. That’s the lowest since 2007, when the annual deficit was $161 billion, or 1.1% of GDP. It’s also $44 billion, or 9%, lower than it was in 2014.

The federal government took in $3.25 trillion in revenue, up 8% from the year before. The increase was due in large part to growth in individual income taxes (up nearly 11%) and payroll taxes (up 6%). Corporate taxes also rose by 7%. Uncle Sam spent $3.69 trillion, up 5% from last year. Some of the biggest increases occurred in the areas of health and education. But it also fell in some key areas, including defense and homeland security, transportation, agriculture and interest payments on the country’s debt.

Longer term, though, the debt situation will worsen due largely to the costs associated with the retirement of the Baby Boomers. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that deficits will start to rise again starting in 2018. And barring any policy changes, it projects the country’s debt will go “up sharply relative to GDP” after 2025. Today, the debt — which is an accumulation of deficits over time — stands at more than $18.1 trillion or roughly 74% of GDP.

Corporate America is blaming its poor profits on minimum wage increases. Major retailers and restaurant chains, which employ many minimum wage workers, say their profits are getting pinched by all the minimum wage increases across the United States. Walmart cut its earnings outlook Wednesday and said its wage hike will cost the company an extra $1.2 billion this year and $1.5 billion next year. Its stock experienced the worst percentage loss in one day since 1988, falling nearly 10%.A $15 minimum wage is “absolutely outrageous,” according to Dunkin Donuts (DNKN) CEO Nigel Travis. Execs at McDonald’s (MCD) noted earlier this year that its franchisees were concerned about steep wage hikes. And even Starbucks (SBUX) has come out against a $15 minimum wage, arguing for something closer to $12 an hour.

Economic News – International

China’s economic growth continued to decline in the latest quarter. The world’s second-largest economy grew by 6.9% in the three months ended in September, the slowest since early 2009 in the aftermath of the global crisis. That was down slightly from the previous quarter’s 7%. Seven percent is a far cry from the heady days when China was pumping out GDP growth of 10% on a regular basis. Weakening trade and manufacturing have fueled concern about possible job losses and unrest. The communist government has cut interest rates five times since last November in an effort to shore up growth. Much of China’s slowdown over the past five years is self-imposed as communist leaders try to steer the economy to more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and service industry instead of trade and investment.

India’s exports of goods shrank by nearly a quarter in September from a year ago, falling for a 10th straight month and threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of boosting economic growth through manufacturing. India’s economy, Asia’s third largest, is mostly driven by domestic demand, but the country has still felt the effects of China’s slowdown. Exports have dropped and consumer and industrial demand for imports has weakened.

Middle East

Palestinians late Thursday set fire to a religious site in the West Bank revered by some Jews as the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph. Palestinian security forces extinguished the blaze early Friday at Joseph’s Tomb, a small stone structure in the West Bank city of Nablus. In a separate incident on Friday, a Palestinian impersonating a journalist stabbed an Israeli soldier. The attacks came as the terrorist group Hamas called for a “day of rage” against Israel to begin following afternoon prayers. Separately, the Israeli military said that one of its soldiers was stabbed in Kiryat Arba, a town on the outskirts of Herbon. The soldier was lightly wounded and the assailant, who was disguised as a news photographer, was shot.

Three Palestinians were shot and killed by Israelis Saturday in separate stabbing incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the latest in the month-long upsurge in violent confrontations. Arab Israeli citizen. Mohannad al-Okbi, 21, opened fire in an Israeli bus station Sunday in the southern city of Beersheba, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding 10 people. Al-Okbi was shot and killed by Israeli police. Two people were killed and nearly a dozen injured in a shooting and stabbing attack carried out by an Israeli Bedouin Arab in the southern city of Beersheva, Israeli police confirmed Monday.

Islamic State

A Kosovar man living in Malaysia who accessed the personal data of more than 1,300 government and military employees, and passed that data onto the Islamic State, has been arrested in Malaysia on U.S. charges, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. Ardit Ferizi also accessed customer data from an unidentified Internet retailer, obtaining credit card information on 100,000 customers, according to a federal indictment unsealed in Virginia. Ferizi, allegedly head of a group of Albanian hackers from Kosovo. Ferizi had unauthorized access to a federal computer and used that access to obtain email addresses, cities of residence, dates of birth and other personal identifying information on 1,351 government and military workers, and passed those names onto the Islamic State terrorist group between April and August. He transferred the information via links he posted to Twitter, the affidavit said, “for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against against the individuals.”

Syria

An airstrike has killed a top al-Qaeda commander and two other fighters in Syria, activists said Saturday, but it was not immediately clear whether it was carried out by the U.S.-led coalition or Russian warplanes. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al-Charekh, a Saudi better known as Sanafi al-Nasr, was killed Thursday in an airstrike near the northern Syrian town of Dana, along with another Saudi and a Moroccan member of al-Qaeda’a local affiliate, known as the Nusra Front. Russian warplanes have been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since Sept. 30. A U.S.-led coalition has been targeting the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group for more than a year.

Turkey

A Turkish jet shot down a Russian drone that entered its airspace near the Syrian border Friday, a senior defense official confirmed to Fox News. A military statement said the aircraft was shot down after it ignored three warnings for it to leave. Turkey earlier this month complained about violation of its airspace by Russian warplanes. The intrusions also drew strong condemnation from its NATO allies. All Russian jets have since returned to their base and all Russian drones “are functioning normally,” Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, told Russian news agencies Friday.

Iran

President Obama on Sunday signed the Iran nuclear deal, officially putting the international agreement into effect. The president’s signature opens the way for Iran to make major changes to an underground nuclear facility, a heavy water reactor and a site for enriching uranium. However, the rogue nation will need months to meet those goals and get relief from the crippling economic sanction that will be lifted as part of deal, despite the pact going into effect Sunday. Senior administration officials insisted that no relief from the penalties will occur until the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s acting defense minister said on Monday that the Doctors Without Borders hospital in the north of the country that was bombed by U.S. forces was indeed being used by insurgents who were fighting government forces. Masoom Stanekzai told The Associated Press in an interview that Taliban insurgents and possibly Pakistani intelligence operatives were using the facility in Kunduz city as a “safe place.” The hospital was bombed by a U.S. AC-130 gunship in the early hours of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people and injuring many more. The main building was destroyed and the hospital has been shut down.

Cameroon

The Obama administration notified Congress on Wednesday that 90 U.S. troops have been deployed to the African nation of Cameroon on Monday to assist in the fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram. The Americans will conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region, the White House said. “They are armed, but they are armed for the purposes of force protection and providing for their own security,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Earnest said the U.S. troops — which eventually could number around 300 — are there at the invitation of Cameroon and “will act in coordination” with that country’s government.

Environment

The current condition of the Mississippi River watershed’s infrastructure and environment was given a D+ by a coalition of environmentalists, academics and business groups. The grade was given by America’s Watershed Initiative, a “collaboration working with hundreds of business, government, academic and civic organizations to find solutions for the challenges of managing the Mississippi River and the more than 250 rivers that flow into it.” According to the organization, the watershed needs a major overhaul. The fourth largest in the world, the Mississippi River watershed consists of five river basins flowing across 31 states. Six broad goals for the watershed were measured in the report: ecosystems, flood control and risk reduction, transportation, water supply, economy and recreation. According to the Institute, each field was measured by how well the goal was being met, and the report card can be used to track progress in achieving the objectives. The results will help create a roadmap for collaborative efforts to improve the 31-state watershed and encourage individuals and organizations to engage in issues that affect it. The difficulty is that there is no single institution that makes decisions for the Mississippi Watershed.

Weather

Emergency crews were forced to shut down nearly 40 miles of California’s Interstate 5 heading both north and south after flash flooding sent mud and rocks over several highways near Los Angeles Thursday. Up to five feet of mud swamped the Grapevine, a section of Interstate 5 in the Tehachapi Mountains near Tejon Pass, trapping vehicles. Caltrans officials worked overnight to remove the accumulated mud from the Grapevine, but have yet to set timetable for Interstate 5 to reopen as dozens of abandoned cars must first be cleared from the roadway. Vehicles were backed up for miles stranding over 100 people with some still waiting for help from emergency responders early Friday morning. Flooding also swamped roads in the San Gabriels of north L.A. County and parts of the Antelope Valley. Numerous vehicles in the area were just about completely submerged in mud.

A slow-motion disaster is playing out in the northern Philippines, where thousands of residents still have days of life-threatening rainfall ahead. At least 11 people have died and six more are missing since the landfall of Typhoon Koppu (Lando) in the Philippines Sunday morning, local time, while flooding rains continue to lash parts of the country with torrential downpours. Many have suffered injuries and thousands have been displaced. Koppu has stalled near Luzon in the northern Philippines. Although its winds will continue to weaken, heavy rain will drench the region into at least Tuesday, leading to more dangerous flooding and possible mudslides.

Signs of the Times (10/15/15)

October 15, 2015

Another Denomination Slips Into the Great Falling Away

The latest denomination to fall at Jezebel’s hand is the Dutch Reformed Church. In a landmark vote, the church has decided to recognize same-sex relationships. Jesus warned the church not to tolerate the spirit of Jezebel, which teaches and seduces God’s servants to commit sexual immorality and engage in idolatry (Rev. 2:20). Sixty-four percent of the church voted in favor of this strong delusion, which also opens the door for ordaining gay ministers, reports charismanews.com. But they are not the first to fall away. The United Church of Christ, which considers itself a mainline Protestant denomination and claiming over 1 million members and about 5,200 congregations in the U.S.—proudly announced last year that it will serve as a major sponsor of the Gay Games. Even denominations that don’t consider themselves part of the Progressive Christianity movement are falling into this deception. The Presbyterian Church (USA) last year voted to allow its ministers to perform gay weddings in states where it’s legal and the Moravians also voted to ordain gay clergy.

  • Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Planned Parenthood Will No Longer Accept Reimbursement for Fetal Tissue ‘Donations’

Planned Parenthood released a statement Oct. 13 (Tuesday), saying it will no longer receive reimbursement from fetal tissue donations. There has been an ongoing debate regarding the legality of Planned Parenthood’s practices after undercover videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress, reportedly showing that the organization profited from fetal tissues sales – ‘fetal tissue’ being a euphemism for baby body parts. Fox News reports that while it is legal for Planned Parenthood to be reimbursed for expenses incurred while preparing fetal tissue parts for donation to a medical research facility, the undercover videos purport to show that Planned Parenthood actually profits from the fetal tissue sales, and that they are not donations at all. Since Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization, profiting from fetal tissue sales is illegal.

  • In other words, Planned Parenthood is now giving away baby parts for free

FBI Issues Terror Alert

The FBI on Sunday issued the strongest warning to date about possible attacks by the ISIS terrorist group against the U.S. military inside the homeland, officials told ABC News. In a joint intelligence bulletin issued overnight by the FBI with the Department of Homeland Security, officials strongly urged those who serve in uniform to scrub their social media accounts of anything that might bring unwanted attention from “violent extremists” or would help the extremists learn individual service members’ identities. Officials said they fear copycat attacks based on what happened in Canada last month, when two uniformed Canadian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents by young men who claimed they were ISIS followers. Some in U.S. special operations and other military branches have told ABC News they deactivated, scrubbed or locked Facebook and other personal social media accounts months ago at the urging of security officers as the U.S. began bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria last August. But the government on Sunday night indicated they had obtained fresh intelligence that ISIS wants to recruit or inspire sympathizers inside America to hurt military members where they live.

FBI Sex Trafficking Sting Saves 149 Children

A nationwide FBI sting focused on combating sex trafficking involving children, resulted in the arrest of 150 pimps and other individuals, and the rescue of nearly as many sexually exploited children. The youngest victim was 12-years-old. The operation is the result of a collaboration between the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and state and local law enforcement partners across the country. Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost program, which started in 2003, and has resulted in the conviction of more than 2,000 pimps and others, and the recovery of 4,800 sexually-exploited children, according to the FBI.

FBI Uses Hackers to Bust Bank-Robbing Botnet

American and British police have managed to stop a massive hacking operation that infected computers worldwide, stealing at least $10 million from the United States alone. Law enforcement — with the help of several cybersecurity firms — took control of a network of machines that distributed malicious software known as “Bugat,” “Cridex” or “Dridex.” This malware preyed on unsuspecting people by slipping into their computers, stealing passwords and siphoning money from bank accounts. For distribution, it relied on a network of enslaved computers. Experts say the botnet infected maybe 125,000 computers a year. The botnet sent official-looking spam that tricked people to open poisonous email attachments. Using that method, they were able to steal $3.5 million from Penneco Oil in Pennsylvania in 2012 and send that to bank accounts in Belarus and Ukraine, according to the indictment.

4.2 Billion People are Still Offline

There are currently 4.2 billion people — 57% of the world — who are still offline on a regular basis, according to the United Nations Broadband Commission. Around 70% of mobile and internet usage is concentrated in two regions: Asia-Pacific and the Americas. In poorer countries, nearly 25% fewer women than men have Internet connectivity, and this gap rises to nearly 50% in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They are also less likely to own mobile devices. Even though the report estimates that 60% of the world population should be online by 2021, the gap between the richer and poorer nations will most likely remain wide. Growing audiences in linguistically diverse areas, such as Africa, India and Southeast Asia, still proves to be a challenge. Most of the world’s languages are not not represented online. The internet mostly caters to those who understand the Latin “a to z” text and digits “0 to 9.” Over half the websites are in English. European languages — Spanish, French, German — and Japanese are used in less than 5% of websites. Many national languages like Swahili and Hindi appear in less than 0.1% of websites.

Medicare Premiums Expected to Surge Next Year

Congress and the Obama administration are frantically seeking ways to hold down Medicare premiums that could rise by roughly 50 percent for some beneficiaries next year, according to lawmakers and Medicare officials. The cost of avoiding such big premium increases could be as much as $7.5 billion by some estimates. White House officials have discussed the issue with congressional aides, but said they were also considering administrative action to moderate the increase in premiums, perhaps by establishing a Medicare contingency fund. Premium increases could affect about 30 percent of the 51 million people enrolled in Part B of Medicare, which covers doctors’ services, outpatient hospital services, some home health care and other items. Spending for these services grew slightly more than expected last year, officials said.

Government Employees Make Much More than Those in the Private Sector

While pro-big government liberals argue about “class warfare” and “income inequality,” they should consider taking a look at a recent study that shows a staggering gap in pay between private sector and government employees, reports patriotupdate.com. According to the study from the Bureau of Economic Analysis reviewed by the Cato Institute, average government employee pay is a staggering 78 percent higher than private sector employee pay. “Federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153 in 2014, compared to an average in the private sector of $56,350,” the study noted. And when you add in benefits packages, the difference is even higher. Overall federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246, the study reported.

Economic News

Retail sales edged up just slightly in September as consumers pulled back after opening their wallets in previous months. Purchases at stores and online rose 0.1%, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Even excluding volatile autos and gasoline, sales were virtually flat. And retail sales in July were revised from a 0.2% increase to unchanged. Consumer spending had been a bright spot in the economy in recent months, offsetting weakness overseas, a strong dollar and low oil prices, all of which have hampered factory output and business investment.

  • The lack of increase over the past two months indicates the tepid economic recovery is slowing even more.

Consumer prices fell for the second straight month in September as cheap gasoline more than offset a higher grocery bill. The consumer price index slipped 0.2%, the Labor Department said Thursday. Gas prices fell 9% after dropping by 4.1% in August. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items, picked up 0.2% and are up 1.9% the past year. Besides the sharp drop in gas prices last month, also falling were apparel prices by 0.3%, used car prices by 0.2%, and airline fares by 0.1%.Those were partly offset by a 0.4% rise in food prices, the biggest increase since May 2014.

The U.S. dollar is not having a good October. It’s value has sunk along with uncertainty around when the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate. These recent losses come after the dollar surged against most currencies for much of this year. Indonesia’s rupiah has gained 10%, the Brazilian real is up nearly 5% and the Turkish lira has gained 3.3% against the dollar in October. The euro and the British pound have also gained more than 1.5% against the dollar in October.

Seniors and other retirees across America got some disappointing news on Thursday. For the first time in five years, they will not get an annual raise in their Social Security benefits in 2016. The reason? A decline in inflation caused by falling gas prices. The amount of money that Social Security pays out is adjusted each year to take into account the rate of inflation. This is known as the cost of living adjustment, or COLA. The inflation measure used by the Social Security Administration was down 0.3% for the 12 months that ended in August — largely due to a 23% drop in gas prices.

Twitter said Tuesday it would jettison up to 336 people — roughly 8% of its workforce — as part of a restructuring CEO Jack Dorsey says will place the social network “on a stronger path to grow.” Dorsey says the company is working “around the clock” on a streamlined roadmap for Twitter, its video app Vine and live broadcast service Periscope. But Dorsey also warned this roadmap will feature a smaller Twitter team. Twitter is struggling to attract new users and restore confidence on Wall Street. The main challenge: Twitter faces growing competition for advertising dollars and people’s attention from Snapchat, Facebook and the Facebook-owned services Instagram and WhatsApp. About 300 million people sign in to use the service at least once a month, making Twitter about one-fifth the size of rival Facebook, which has nearly 1.5 billion users, and smaller even than Instagram, which recently surpassed 400 million users.

Persecution Watch

The Christian Post reports that under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Christians in China have experienced the worst persecution in 20 years, particularly in the last couple years. Some reports even state that last year Chinese Christians experienced the worst persecution they have experienced in a generation. In addition to the campaign to take down all crosses on church buildings, the Chinese government has demolished around 1,700 churches and imprisoned prominent Christians and their advocates. Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, the Chinese Communist Party’s official paper, has announced that this crackdown on Christians will continue and even intensify.

The Islamic State terrorist group has threatened to kill 180 Assyrian Christians because its ransom demands have not been met. According to The Christian Post, the Islamic State is demanding $12 million for the release of the hostages. The Assyrian community, however, does not have sufficient funds to pay this price. The 180 Assyrians are part of a group of 230 hostages kidnapped by the Islamic State in February in villages in the Khabur river valley in Syria. Just last week, the terrorist group released a video showing the brutal executions of three of the hostages.

Middle Eastern Christians who have lived in Sweden for decades are being threatened by Islamic State (IS). The Arabic letter “noon” (equivalent to N) has been painted on the walls of two shops owned by Assyrian Christians in Gothenburg. The bakery and next door pizzeria were also painted with the IS logo and messages in Swedish saying “The Caliphate is here” and “Convert or die”.

Middle East

Israel’s military began deploying hundreds of soldiers to cities on Wednesday to assist police forces in an attempt to quell shooting and stabbing attacks on Israelis by Palestinians over the past several weeks. At least three Israeli Jews were killed and more than a dozen wounded by Palestinian attackers in shooting and stabbing incidents in Jerusalem and Ra’anana on Tuesday, ominous signs of escalating violence that has plagued Israel for weeks. In Jerusalem, two assailants opened fire and stabbed people on a bus in a city neighborhood, killing two men, Israeli police said. Witnesses said the Palestinian attackers locked the doors of the bus to prevent passengers from escaping before police and a security guard killed one attacker and wounded the other. Both of the terrorists were already sitting, and didn’t look suspicious said one of the survivors. Almost simultaneously, a driver rammed his car into people waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem, exited the vehicle and began stabbing the injured and others, killing a 40-year-old man, Israel’s Walla news site reported. The attacker was shot dead.

There were also two stabbings in Ra’anana, a city of about 80,000 in central Israel, where one Israeli died and five more were injured. Jerusalem sustained two more terrorist stabbing attacks on Wednesday evening, one at the Damascus Gate to the Old City and one at the Central Bus Station. The first attacker was shot and killed by police before he could harm anyone but the second wounded a women in her 70s before being shot and killed by police, who later identified him as a resident of eastern Jerusalem who had previously served time in prison for security offenses.

Islamic State

Iraq’s military claims its air force struck a convoy in western Anbar province that included ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The fate of Baghdadi is unknown, as he was “carried away in a vehicle,” the military statement said. But nine ISIS officials were killed in the airstrike, along with a “large number” of Baghdadi’s bodyguards, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. The site of the meeting was also struck, and several ISIS leaders were killed and wounded. Baghdadi is enemy No. 1 in the fight against ISIS say U.S. officials.

Syria

Insurgents have fired two shells at the Russian embassy in the Syrian capital as scores of pro-government supporters gathered outside the compound to thank Moscow for its intervention in Syria. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties. Opposition fighters in the suburbs of the capital have targeted the embassy in the past but it was not clear if Tuesday’s attack targeted the rally. Russia began launching airstrikes against insurgents in Syria on Sept. 30.

Iran

Iran’s parliament approved the nuclear deal the country struck with world powers in July, state media reported Tuesday. A council of senior clerics will now review the accord before its final approval, Iran’s IRNA new agency said. The clerics have the power to send the deal back to parliament to reconsider. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on key policies, but he has indicated that it is up Iran’s parliament to approve or reject the deal. The nuclear deal calls for curbing Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting economic sanctions. Iran maintains its nuclear program is only used for peaceful purposes such as power generation and for medical treatment, but it has balked at the idea of giving inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear sites to confirm that claim.

Afghanistan

President Obama announced Thursday that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for most of the next year, and maintain a force of 5,500 in 2017, a policy reversal that prolongs American involvement in the longest war in its history. Obama, who had planned to reduce the number of U.S. troops to around 1,000, made the decision at the recommendation of his national security team following a months-long review of security challenges in Afghanistan. The remaining troops will continue the current mission of counter-terrorism activities and training and advising Afghan security forces. They will not engage in ground combat.

Even as the Taliban are winning major victories against the government this year, including the capture of Kunduz, they are not exerting monolithic control. The Islamic State has made major inroads in turf battles against Taliban commanders, particularly in places in Nangarhar Province like the Maamand Valley. And the result, rather than weakening the overall insurgency, has mostly been to inflict more chaos and misery for Afghan civilians, reports the New York Times. The fighters were suddenly flush with cash. Rumors circulated that they were paying a signing bonus of $400 to $500, a persuasive offer in a country where a lack of job prospects is pervasive.

Ukraine

The Dutch Safety Board has concluded that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed over Ukraine in July 2014, broke up after it was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine. The investigators found the surface-to-air missile exploded less than a yard from the cockpit, killing three crew members. The front of the plane broke off and the aircraft came down over eastern Ukraine, where a conflict was raging between Russian-backed separatists and government forces. Ukraine should have closed its airspace to civil aviation, Dutch Safety Board Chairman Tjibbe Joustra said. “None of the parties involved recognized the risk from the armed conflict on the ground.” Russia has denied involvement in the incident that killed all 298 people aboard.

Wildfires

Multiple homes and other structures have been destroyed by a wildfire in rural Wyoming that moved rapidly across dry land, aided by strong winds. Hundreds were forced from their homes after at least 10 homes and several outbuildings were charred by the flames. Casper College set up an evacuation center for those pushed out by the inferno. Winds gusted as high as 50 mph Monday as the flames spread into grasslands and thinly populated areas near Evansville. The fire burned several thousand acres. The cause of the fire that began at a composting area Saturday evening remains unknown.

A series of small fires burned across multiple states Tuesday, prompting evacuations in Louisiana and Texas cities. Damage from the blazes in all the states is limited, but a dry forecast for the rest of this week could still spell trouble ahead. Hot, windy conditions have sparked several grass and brush fires in the Plains, with one particular fire in the Lone Star State threatening dozens of homes. The Hidden Pines Fire in Bastrop County, Texas, had burned 4,200 acres and destroyed nine homes as of Thursday morning. The fire was only 15 percent contained, a worrisome drop from an earlier estimate of 50 percent containment. New evacuations were ordered around Cottletown, Texas, as the fire worsened Wednesday afternoon.

A relentless wildfire season has stretched all year in the Western states. Hundreds of homes and millions of acres have been burned, and some lives have been lost. According to the federal government’s National Interagency Fire Center, 2015 is the most devastating year for wildfires since at least 1960. Fire seasons that seemingly stretch year-round have drained budgets and require so much manpower to battle that state officials have enlisted the help of international crews at times. Through Oct. 8, the NIFC notes that more than 11.2 million acres of land have been burned in the United States since the beginning of the year. For comparison, in the same span a year ago, just over 3 million acres of land had burned, though that was the lowest number of any year since 2005. From 1960 to 2003, there wasn’t a single year when wildfires burned more than 8 million acres of American land. Since then, that milestone has been achieved seven times.

In the 21st century, there’s been far more damage despite lower numbers of wildfires because hotter, drier conditions have given rise to more numerous mega-fires. A wildfire becomes a mega-fire when it burns at least 100,000 acres of land, according to National Geographic, and these massive infernos are causing irreparable damage to our forests, especially in the West. They push species of trees to extinction, destroy animal habitats and wipe out plants before they have a chance to fully regrow from the last fire.

Weather

Sunday took late-season heat to unheard-of extremes in parts of Colorado, Nebraska and the Dakotas. For much of the region, temperatures were higher than any on record for so late in the year. A few places were so hot that October 11 will go down as the hottest day of all of 2015 – an extraordinary feat in the central and northern Plains, where October is typically part of a rapid transition from summer’s heat to winter’s chill. Fargo, North Dakota, was one of the places where Sunday was hotter than any other day in 2015, surpassing the city’s high of 96 from Aug. 14. The mercury hit an astonishing 97 in Fargo. It was by far the latest 97-degree or hotter day in any calendar year in Fargo, beating the Dust Bowl-era record from 1936 by a margin of 19 days.

Strong winds howled across the nation’s northern tier Saturday through Monday, whipping across a broad swath from the interior Northwest to the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. At least two major traffic pile-ups were blamed on the winds, which kicked up dust leading to poor visibility in southeast Washington. The winds were caused by a strong pressure gradient between low pressure in Canada and high pressure over the West, resulting in gusts topping 60 or 70 mph in many locations. State route 221 was completely shut down due to a multi-vehicle accident and reports of lots of blowing dust around the area. A total of 20 cars were involved, and that the accident led to one death and multiple injuries. An earlier accident was also caused by dust on Interstate 82, about five miles west of Benton City.

Officials say an EF0 tornado hit a busy Tampa Bay, Florida, bridge Sunday morning, causing serious damage to a U.S. mail truck. While driving on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Sunday morning, motorists were surprised to see a waterspout come onshore and completely destroy a U.S. mail truck. Driver Randy Leaver said the force of the waterspout thrust the truck onto its side, which flung him into the passenger seat of the semi. He tried to exit the truck, but the door was stuck, and shortly after, the twister lifted the vehicle again before setting it down on the bridge. Leaver suffered only minor injuries.

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

Signs of the Times (10/12/15)

October 12, 2015

Arizona Abortions Declining

The Arizona Department of Health Services has issued its annual abortion report for 2014 regarding abortion in Arizona which shows a decrease of 501 fewer abortions in 2014 as compared to 2013, a decrease of 3.7%. Arizona has seen a total decrease of 1,500 abortions annually or a reduction of 10.7%. Cathi Herrod, who heads up the Center for Arizona Policy, said, “The statistics prove this fact: when pro-life people register to vote, vote their values, elect a pro-life legislature and governor, then the lives of preborn children can be saved and their mothers spared the agony of abortion. While we rejoice in the news of continued reductions, we also grieve that the numbers remain way too high.”

  • CAP is the leading voice in Arizona for incorporating Christian values within state government

Public School Choirs Banned from Singing in Area Christmas Show

Several public schools in Portland, Oregon have banned choirs from performing in an annual Christmas festival after complaints were filed by an atheist group. The Blaze reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Lane Middle School and Grant, Wilson, Lincoln, and Cleveland High Schools, complaining that it was unconstitutional for public schools to promote Christian events. Choirs made up of students from area schools always perform in the Christmas Festival of Lights, which calls itself “the largest Christmas choral festival in the world” and is put on by the Grotto, a Catholic shrine. The FFRF’s co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor stated, “Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s legal.” The school district complied with the FFRF’s demands to ban the choirs, fearing legal action.

  • The war on Christmas continues and we are losing

Survey Finds Most Americans Believe in a Creator

LifeWay Research’s finding that most Americans believe there is a creator who designed the universe and defines human morality is not surprising. After all, 3 in 4 U.S. adults identify with a religious denomination. The surprise is that so many people who don’t identify with a religion — so-called nones — agree. The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that most Americans — 72 percent overall and 46 percent of nones — agree that: “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.” This view is most strongly held by evangelicals and by older adults. And most Americans — 79 percent overall, and 43 percent of nones — say they agree that “The fact that we exist means someone created us.”

  • The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

U.S. Officials Say Iran Nuclear Deal Violates Federal Law

Some senior U.S. officials involved in the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal have privately concluded that a key sanctions relief provision – a concession to Iran that will open the doors to tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-backed commerce with the Islamic regime – conflicts with existing federal statutes and cannot be implemented without violating those laws, Fox News reported. The deal stipulates that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies can, under certain conditions, be allowed to do business with Iran. The problem is that the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRA), signed into law by President Obama in August 2012, was explicit in closing the so-called “foreign sub” loophole. Additional executive orders and statutes signed by President Obama, such as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, have reaffirmed that all prior federal statutes relating to sanctions on Iran shall remain in full effect.

  • As more details emerge, this seriously flawed deal needs to be trashed. Besides, Iran has no intention of complying anyway.

China Left Out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The largest regional trade agreement in history involves the United States and 11 countries in the Asia Pacific and the Americas, which collectively represent about 40% of world GDP and around a quarter of global exports. More than five years in the making, the TPP, as it is commonly referred to, was finalized on Monday, but it still needs the approval of lawmakers in member countries, including the U.S. Congress. While a lot of the details of the deal are still secret, the TPP is clearly more than just a free trade agreement. In addition to slashing or eliminating 98% of tariffs on thousands of goods including dairy, beef, sugar, cars, tractors and chemicals, it also establishes common rules and regulations for trade and investment across member countries as well as external tribunals to sort out disputes. TPP member states will include the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru – but not China. Excluding China has been widely interpreted as an attempt by the United States to curtail Beijing’s growing political and economic might in the Asia Pacific region, and some experts have described it as a “terrible mistake.” But China already has free trade agreements with more than half of the TPP countries.

  • Of more significance, the TPP is yet another step toward global governance as prophesied in Revelation 13

U.S. Cybersecurity Efforts Stalled after Huge Data Breach

Nearly three months after a fevered Obama administration attempt to bolster security against cyber-hackers who tapped into the private information of some 25 million federal employees, cybersecurity experts say there is still no comprehensive plan to protect the sprawl of 10,000 government and contractor computer systems, Fox News reported Sunday. Among the noteworthy gaps: a cybersecurity “strategy and implementation plan,” – which the White House said last July would be the work of “a team of over 100 experts from across the government and private industry – remains elusive. New comprehensive software defenses that the administration intends as a major security bulwark also appears to be a work in progress with no end point in sight. Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts say that government agencies apparently still don’t perform routine security tasks that are commonplace in the private sector. In addition, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is holding top agency officials accountable for such laxness, and literally hundreds of recommendations to government agencies on how to enhance security remain unaddressed.

  • Cyberwarfare is increasingly underway and the U.S. government is woefully unprepared

Federal Court Rules against Obama & EPA

On Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit based in Cincinnati issued a nationwide stay blocking the Obama administration’s highly controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. State legislators from across the country believe the rule violates the Tenth Amendment and sets a dangerous precedent for federal intrusion. In total, more than 30 states have sought legal action against the rule. “It’s important to realize that this rule would give the federal government unprecedented powers over property owners, farmers and businesses. Even a puddle of water in your driveway could be subject to federal investigation. In addition, this rule presents a massive negative impact to our states’ economy and sovereignty,” said Tennessee State Representative Sheila Butt. “I’m thankful for the Court’s ruling, but the fight isn’t over just yet.”

  • Obama and the liberal left purposely seek greater ‘federal intrusion’ and socialistic control

EPA Spends Millions on Military-Style Weapons

The Environmental Protection Agency has spent millions of dollars over the last decade on military-style weapons to arm its 200 “special agents” to fight environmental crime, reports minutemennews.com. Among the weapons purchased are guns, body armor, camouflage equipment, unmanned aircraft, amphibious assault ships, radar and night-vision gear and other military-style weaponry and surveillance activities, according to a new report by the watchdog group Open the Books. “Our report discovered that when the EPA comes knocking they are armed with a thousand lawyers, arrest/criminal data, credit, business and property histories, plus a ‘Special Agent’ with the latest in weaponry and technology,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open the Books and author of the report.

  • All levels of the government have armed themselves in order to jam the U.N.’s ‘sustainability’ agenda down our throats

No HHS Oversight of Planned Parenthood

In the past 8 years, the Department of Health and Human Services has doled out billions of our taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood with “ZERO oversight,” reports Liberty Counsel. In their most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood (PPH) revealed an annual revenue of $1.3 billion. Further, they reported holding $1.4 billion in assets during 2013-2014. They reportedly received over $500 million of taxpayer dollars – as funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Unbelievably, as The Stream uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, HHS has “conducted zero oversight since 2007,” while PPH labels their trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts as “research.” Under the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should be performing audits on Planned Parenthood. Specifically, according to HHS’s own documents, ‘Section 498A of the Public Health Service Act [42 USC 289g-1] requires the annual submission to Congress of a report describing research involving therapeutic transplantation of human fetal tissue supported or conducted by the NIH. Despite the terms of Section 498A of the Public Health Service Act, the audits are apparently not taking place.

Millennials More Narcissistic

Evangelist Greg Laurie says that we are living in a culture that is “completely self-absorbed” just as 2Timothy 3:1-2 prophesies: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves. He notes that: the Incidence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their twenties as for the generation that’s now 65 or older; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982; 40% of Millennials believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance. So, what is the antidote to selfishness? It is selflessness: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

  • Another indicator that perilous times are indeed coming as the end-times roll forward toward the Tribulation

Economic News

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday that would lift the 40-year-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, a restriction that critics say hurts job creation and U.S. national security. The bill heads next to the Senate. However, the White House has threatened to veto the bill should it make its way to the president’s desk, calling it unnecessary. The export ban was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975 in response to the oil embargo by Arab OPEC nations against the U.S. for its support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But repeal supporters say the policy is now outdated — and failing to repeal it would cost jobs.

The Dow extended its rebound rally from its recent correction lows to six sessions on Friday as stocks keep heading higher following the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s meeting last month that lowered investor expectations for an interest rate hike this year. Stocks also rallied overseas, putting global shares on track for their best week since 2011, according to Reuters.

World oil prices have charged higher this week, breaking back above $50 a barrel for the first time since July. As recently as last month some analysts were warning of a risk that prices would collapse to $20 a barrel. But tensions in the Middle East, the biggest oil producing region, have pushed prices up. Investors are worried more violence in the region could impact production and transport. In addition, U.S. crude oil production declined by 120,000 barrels per day in September compared with August due to the low prices.

Middle East

Five Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops Friday along the heavily guarded frontier near the Gaza border. Four Palestinians were killed when they threw rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers along the border. One of those killed as a 15-year-old teenager. At least 30 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes. Earlier, the Israeli military said about 200 Palestinians in Gaza advanced toward soldiers on the border and threw rocks and rolled burning tires at troops stationed there. It said that forces opened fire at the main instigators to stop their advance. The clashes Friday are the latest violence threatening to escalate tensions throughout the country as Israel struggles to control the spiraling situation. A rash of Palestinian attacks aimed at Israeli civilians and soldiers this week have been mostly carried out by young Palestinians stabbing people on the streets seemingly at random — making it difficult for authorities to predict or prevent them. A Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis in Jerusalem Saturday before being shot dead by police forces.

Police officials announced Sunday evening that over 1,000 additional Border Police officers are being deployed to Jerusalem amidst a surge in terrorist attacks using crude weapons such as knives, rocks and gasoline bombs which have killed several people over the last week and wounded many more, including 70 police officers. On Monday morning, police thwarted yet another attempted stabbing attack near the Lion’s Gate to the Old City, shooting and killing the terrorist as he attempted to stab an officer. The latest incident came following a weekend which saw riots break out in several Palestinian cities in the West Bank, along the border fence with the Gaza Strip and in predominantly Arab cities in Israel, although security forces reported that the disturbances are dwindling in size and intensity amidst the massive police crackdown

An Israeli airstrike on a home in Gaza killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her 2-year-old child Sunday, an official in Gaza said. He said four other people were wounded, including Hassan’s husband and son. In the West Bank, a Palestinian woman was critically injured after a bomb detonated in her car after she left the vehicle, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. He said a police officer was slightly injured in the attack. It was the first use of explosives in the current round of violence, which has mainly been confined to stabbings and shootings. Israel’s military said it carried out airstrikes in Gaza targeting Hamas weapons manufacturing facilities in response to renewed rocket fire toward Israel.

Islamic State

The Islamic State registered significant gains on Friday in the area of northwestern Syria that Russian warplanes have been bombing, taking six villages near Aleppo and threatening to cut off an important route north to the Turkish border. The Kremlin has said its military had entered Syria to fight the Islamic State, but the Russian forces have concentrated much of their firepower on insurgent groups aligned against President Bashar al-Assad, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and relatively secular groups like the Free Syrian Army. Rival insurgents say that the Islamic State, also called ISIS or Daesh, is taking advantage. The Iraqi Air Force bombed the convoy of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s western Anbar province, the Iraqi military said Sunday. The condition and location of al-Baghdadi were not known, the military said.

The Pentagon will end its faltering program to train a moderate Syrian rebel force to battle the Islamic State, shifting instead to a plan to support already existing tribal and other forces, a senior U.S. defense official told USA TODAY on Friday. The Pentagon’s $500 million training plan has fallen far short of its initial goal of training 5,400 rebels a year. Instead, only a handful of U.S. military-trained rebels made it into Syria since the program got underway this year. The first Pentagon trained team to make it into Syria this summer came under attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria and dispersed. The second team handed over some U.S.-supplied arms and equipment to the same terror group. Obama attributed the difficulties to getting the rebels to focus on fighting the Islamic State instead of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Syria

Four Russian cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea fell short of their Syrian targets and landed in a rural part of Iran, two U.S. military officials said Thursday, amid growing international concern about Russia’s actions in the region. The errant strikes were part of a volley of 26 long-range cruise missiles that Russia fired Wednesday. The flight path for the Kalibr cruise missiles, which had not previously been used in combat conditions, took them over Iran and Iraq. Russia’s growing military activity in the region has raised worries that a mishap could trigger a wider war as Russian ships, aircraft and troops intensify operations in what the U.S. says is a bid to prop up longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad rather than combat the Islamic State.

Iran

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency is reporting the country has successfully test fired a new guided long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile. The Sunday report did not elaborate on the range of the missile or the specifics of the test firing. It said the new missile is precision guided and can be controlled until the moment of impact. The Islamic Republic already claims to have surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can hit Israel and U.S. military bases in the region.

Turkey

A pair of bomb blasts exploded Saturday as thousands gathered for a peace rally in the Turkish capital of Ankara, leaving at least 95 dead and another 246 injured. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which authorities were investigating as possible suicide bombings. The blasts were the deadliest attacks in the nation in years. Turkey is embroiled in struggles both with the Islamic State in bordering Syria and with Kurdish separatists. Some 14,000 people were believed to be in the area at the time. Saturday’s rally, organized near Ankara’s train station by the country’s public sector workers’ trade union, was calling for an end to the renewed violence between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday said Kurdish rebels and Islamic State militants were most likely to be responsible.

Environment

Strange colors and smells seeped out of the faucets of Flint, Michigan, residents for more than a year, but officials assured them everything was fine. In recent weeks, it’s been revealed that residents had a right to be concerned; the water has been contaminated and has increased lead levels in the blood of some of the city’s children. After switching to a temporary water supply in 2014, Flint officials seemed to have soothed residents. They sent out a notice in July, stating, “This is not an emergency. If a situation arises where the water is no longer safe to drink, you will be notified within 24 hours.” Despite their reassurances, alarm spiked again when testing in recent weeks revealed increased levels of lead in the blood of some of Flint’s children. There was an increase from 2.5 percent of lead found in the children tested to 6.3 percent.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake shook parts of Oklahoma and Kansas early Saturday morning. The quake, centered about 21 miles north of Enid, in north-central Oklahoma at 4:20 a.m. CDT, was felt as far away as parts of southern Oklahoma and northern Kansas. No reports of damage have been received. Some shaking was felt in Wichita, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. A second earthquake, a magnitude 4.5, was also observed about 3 miles west-northwest of Cushing, Oklahoma early Saturday evening. This earthquake was likewise centered in north-central Oklahoma, at 5:03 p.m. CDT, but was somewhat displaced to the southeast of the earlier quake.

Weather

Rain was the last thing residents want to see in the forecast in South Carolina, a state still coping with the consequences of unprecedented rainfall over the past week. Rain is the last thing residents want to see in the forecast in South Carolina, a state still coping with the consequences of unprecedented rainfall over the past week. While this current round of rain is not as prolific as what occurred this past week, some locally heavy rain fell in some parts of South Carolina over the weekend with rain rates up to 1 inch in 15 minutes. Street flooding was reported in the city at Whaley and Main, as rain quickly ran off saturated ground. Nearby Rocky Branch Creek rose over 9 feet in just 75 minutes into moderate flood stage.

Signs of the Times (10/8/15)

October 8, 2015

Despite Rising Violence, Christians Lead Global Prayer Initiative Near Temple Mount

Hundreds gathered this week in the Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem to pray following attacks near the Temple Mount. Millions of Christians around the world also prayed Sunday for the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. “We pray that as Christian brothers and sisters we no longer can be silent among the nations … bind us together with our Jewish brothers and sisters, for together we are the family of the One True God,” prayed Ken Howard of Christian Friends of Israel. According to Charisma News, Christians from more than 175 nations gathered to pray in their homes and churches for Jerusalem. They also joined in prayer through the prayer app, “Instapray,” and on a 24 hour Prayer Conference Call.

California Governor Signs ‘Right to Die’ Bill

“The crux of the matter is whether the state of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life,” Brown said, “no matter how great his pain and suffering.” The governor made his perspective clear — and made ABX2 15, which is also called the “End of Life Option Act,” a statewide law — when he signed the controversial legislation Monday. Californians Against Assisted Suicide, an alliance opposed to the measure, said policymakers should have first thought about how the law will affect the disadvantaged, not the well-connected, like Brown. “As someone of wealth and access to the world’s best medical care and doctors, the governor’s background is very different than that of millions of Californians living in health care poverty without that same access,” said the coalition. “These are the people and families potentially hurt by giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal overdoses to patients.”

  • “Right to Die” is a euphemism for assisted-suicide, just like “pro-choice” is a nicer term for killing babies, all port of the culture of death permeating our Godless culture

Ten Commandments Monument Removed from Oklahoma Capitol Grounds

Workers began removing a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol late Monday in accordance with a court order. The Daily Oklahoman reported that the 6-foot high monument would be reinstalled outside the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. The removal comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in June that the display violates a state constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.” The Daily Oklahoman reported that the private contractor was hired to move the 4,800-pound monument out of concern that state workers could not safely do the job without damaging or destroying it. Its placement at the Capitol prompted requests from several groups to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wanted to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard. A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also made requests.

Scientists Urge the Arrest of Those who Oppose Global Warming

Top UN scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth and 19 other scientists have become so tired of debating global warming that they are now apparently seeking to jail those who disagree with them, says climatechangedispatch.com. In a letter addressed to President Obama, the twenty climate scientists asked him to prosecute people who disagree with them on the science behind man-made global warming, The Daily Caller reported. Scientists from several universities and research centers even asked Obama to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute groups that “have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.

Obama Administration and UN Announce Global Police Force to Fight ‘Extremism’ In U.S.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced at the United Nations that her office would be working in several American cities to form what she called the Strong Cities Network (SCN), a law enforcement initiative that would encompass the globe. “Cities are vital partners in international efforts to build social cohesion and resilience to violent extremism,” claims the Justice Department website. “The SCN will strengthen strategic planning and practices to address violent extremism in all its forms by fostering collaboration among cities, municipalities and other sub-national authorities.”

  • This represents a further subjugation of U.S. sovereignty to U.N. and international law under the pretext of countering extremism. Who are the extremists? Those who oppose the mobilizing one-world government? Those who oppose gay marriage and abortion? Christians in general?

‘Jade Helm’ Military Exercises a Prelude to Martial Law?

The US military has quietly added more states to its eight-week Jade Helm joint training drill, originally designated to take place in seven southwestern states. Speaking of the exercise at the Brazos County Commissioners Court in Texas last month, Jade Helm Operations Planner and retired Green Beret Thomas Mead told an audience that the drill, which will run from July 15 to September 15, will now include the states Mississippi and Florida. The interagency, unconventional warfare exercise, lasting eight weeks, will utilize 1,200 Special Forces personnel from multiple branches of the US military, including Army Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine Special Operations Command and the 82nd Airborne Division. The military says the exercise serves to hone troops’ advanced skills in “large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities,” and will allow them to work alongside “civilians to gain their trust and an understanding of the issues.”

  • This is just another step of preparation for exerting military control under U.N. authority in order to enforce global sustainability initiatives such as global warming

6,000 Federal Inmates to be Released

In a move to reduce prison overcrowding and provide relief to inmates given harsh sentences in drug cases, the federal Bureau of Prisons will grant early release to about 6,000 inmates beginning later this month, officials confirmed to CNN. The mass release is the largest in the Bureau of Prisons history and the first wave of what could be tens of thousands of early releases, officials said. The mass release was triggered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which lowered maximum sentences for drug offenders last year and made the change retroactive. Even with the Sentencing Commission’s reductions, drug offenders will have served substantial prison sentences, the Justice Department said. Moreover, the reductions are not automatic, she said. Under the commission’s directive, federal judges are required to carefully consider public safety in deciding whether to reduce an inmate’s sentence. Many of those to be released are small-time drug dealers. But an AP analysis also found that some carried semi-automatic weapons, had past convictions for robbery and other crimes, moved cocaine shipments across states, and participated in international heroin smuggling.

Hackers Cost U.S. Firms Millions

According to a new report by Hewlett Packard and the U.S.-based Ponemon Institute of Cyber Crime, hacking attacks cost the average American firm $15.4 million per year, double the global average of $7.7 million. In a survey of more than 2,000 executives and employees in 250 organizations worldwide, the report’s authors found that cybercrime affected all industries and all markets. The global financial services and energy sectors were the worst hit, with average annual costs of $13.5 and $12.8 million respectively. Rising business expenses come as the cost to hackers themselves is plunging, thanks to a proliferation of botnets that make launching DDoS attacks cheap and simple, and the easy sharing of tools and exploits on “dark net” forums and marketplaces. According to cybersecurity firm Incapsula, the price of launching a DDoS (Denial of Service) attack has plummeted to just $38 per hour. By comparison, “the real-world cost of an unmitigated attack is $40,000 per hour” for businesses, reports CNN Money.

California’s Farmers Hurt by Drought & Environmental Regulations

Drought-stricken California farmers say environmental regulations barring them from irrigating their parched lands are making them the endangered species. With the drought entering its fourth year, anger is building in central California at state and federal agencies, who critics say are putting wildlife ahead of jobs, families and the food supply. Blocked by environmentalists from pumping water from rivers onto their arid lands, farmers blame both regulations and the agencies and activists who go to court to enforce them. “These are communities who rely almost solely upon agricultural production or agri-business activities,” Gayle Holman, spokeswoman for the nation’s largest agricultural water supplier, the Westlands Water District, told FoxNews.com. “If we continue down this path, we will most likely see our food production turn to foreign soil. We could lose the economic engine that agriculture brings to our nation.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have placed heavy regulations on the water that pours down from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. In the name of the Endangered Species Act, and on behalf of such native fish species as the tiny delta smelt, environmental groups’ efforts to block the diversion of water for farm use has left ranches, orchards and farms dry – and unproductive.

Prescription Drugs Cost More on Obamacare

Health Affairs, one of the nation’s definitive health policy publications, reported Monday that patients whose prescription drug plans are covered under Obamacare must pay, on average, 46 percent more than those who are covered under an employer-based drug plan. Depending on which tier of Obamacare coverage you choose, those costs can rise even higher. “The most popular [Obamacare] Marketplace plan — the silver plan — has significantly higher cost sharing than does a typical employer-sponsored plan, which may cause patients to reduce the use of cost-saving services that are essential for managing chronic conditions,” the report summary states.

Economic News

U.S. oil production decreased by 120,000 barrels per day in September from August, according to a report released by the Energy Information Administration on Tuesday. It marks the lowest monthly output in the last 12 months. And it was the fourth in the past five months that U.S. production has declined. U.S. oil output still stands at a robust 9 million barrels per day, nearly double the amount of oil pumped in late 2008. The news sent oil prices rallying nearly 5% on Tuesday to $48.53 a barrel, the highest level in a month.

World economic growth this year will be the weakest since 2009, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday. The IMF now expects global growth of just 3.1% this year, down from its previous forecast of 3.3%.It blamed China’s slowdown, low commodity prices, and the expected increase in U.S. interest rates, for the slump. The IMF said that increased market volatility in August, and the depreciation of the yuan, has fueled uncertainty and risk aversion. Political instability in many parts of the world is also stifling growth, it said.

Persecution Watch

Three Christian men in India have been arrested and held on charges of converting the local people to Christianity in the village of Motawa in northern India. The Indian Express reports that the three menare volunteers for Gospel Echoing Missionary Society. Activists accused the men of going against anti-conversion laws and attempting to convert the local people to Christianity, as well as showing a Gospel film. Others accused the men of baptizing villagers and encouraging them to read the Bible. There were also reports of women who were healed of various ailments after attending medical camps organized by GEMS.

The headmaster of a school in Pakistan was badly beaten and abused by his Muslim co-workers. Christian Today reports that Saddique Azam’s position as Headmaster of Pernawa village school has been an issue of controversy since he was promoted to the position three months ago. Azam is a Christian and his Muslim co-workers didn’t approve of his faith and didn’t think a Christian should have a position of authority over them. The Muslim attackers tried to threaten and beat Azam into resigning, but he did not give in to their demands so they beat him. Police arrested the three Muslim teachers, but did not file charges against them.

Israel

After Israel complained for years that it was surrounded by oil-rich states but didn’t have a drop within its own borders, it appears there’s a big-time turnaround with the announcement Wednesday that massive oil reserves have been located in the Golan Heights, close to the country’s border with Syria. Afek Oil and Gas, an Israeli subsidiary of the U.S. company Genie Energy, confirmed the find in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, but conceded that until the oil is actually extracted, they won’t be sure of the actual amounts and quality of the oil that has been discovered. Experts say actually extracting meaningful quantities of oil from the deposits is likely some time away.

Middle East

The spike in violence between Palestinians and Israelis shows no signs of abating, with three stabbing attacks reported Thursday. In Tel Aviv, a female Israeli soldier was stabbed with a screwdriver, allegedly by a Palestinian. Another soldier shot the attacker dead. In the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, an Israeli man was in serious condition after being stabbed in the stomach, Samri said. Israeli security forces are still looking for that attacker. Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jewish student, 25, in Jerusalem, wounding him seriously, police said. A 19-year-old Palestinian from the Shuafat refugee camp has been arrested in that attack at a light rail station near Jerusalem’s main police headquarters. These are the latest in a series of knife and gun attacks on Israelis, many concentrated in Jerusalem, the city that both sides claim as their capital. Four Israelis were killed in two attacks last week.

Islamic State

Russian warships targeted the Islamic State in Syria with missiles, officials said Wednesday. Four warships carried out 26 missile strikes from the Caspian Sea, destroying all the 11 targets more than 900 miles away, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, that Russia will coordinate its actions in Syria with Turkey and the United States. “Without each other’s support, we will not likely solve this problem.” A Syrian official said government troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, launched a ground offensive against insurgents in the central part of the country Wednesday.

Women drawn to the Islamic State, often by romantic notions of supporting revolutionaries and living in a state that exalts their religion, can find themselves part of an institutionalized, near-assembly-line system to provide fighters with wives, sex and children. Three young Yazidis who escaped from the Islamic militants’ brutal clutches said ISIS uses serial rape to ‘convert’ these women to Islam. After abducting hundreds of young women and girls from their homes in Iraq’s Sinjar province last August, ISIS fighters rounded the captives up in “slave markets” where they were picked out to be used for sex. Some of them were shown videos of beheadings and then told “You have two choices, convert to Islam. Or die like this.” ISIS militants have kidnapped, raped, tortured and massacred thousands of Yazidis. The United Nations has accused ISIS of committing genocide against them.

Syria

Russian-backed Syrian government troops launched a ground offensive Thursday to crush rebel forces opposing the regime of President Bashar Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin is backing longtime ally Assad in his 4-year-old civil war against rebels that now include the Islamic State extremists and more moderate opposition groups backed by the United States. That goal runs counter to the Obama administration’s objectives. It is leading a coalition campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State and is calling for Assad’s removal. The Pentagon has accused Russia of bolstering Assad by attacking moderate opposition groups the U.S. supports. Russian officials countered that their goal is to go after all terrorist groups. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says there has been a “troubling escalation” in Russian military activity in Syria, after Moscow dramatically expanded its air campaign.

Iran

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday banned any further negotiations between Iran and the United States, putting the brakes on moderates hoping to end Iran’s isolation after reaching a nuclear deal with world powers in July. Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, already said last month there would be no more talks with the United States after the nuclear deal, but has not previously declared an outright ban. His statements directly contradict those of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who says his government is ready to hold talks with the United States on how to resolve the conflict in Syria, where the two countries back opposing sides.

Iran played an integral role leading up to Russia’s move to launch its air campaign in Syria and play a stronger role in Iraq, with one of Tehran’s most powerful generals meeting for three hours with President Vladimir Putin to push for intervention, Iraqi government officials tell The Associated Press. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, went to Moscow in August with the message that Russian airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria were imperative, said the two senior officials, who were later briefed on the meeting. Soleimani and Putin reviewed maps and surveillance photos and shared intelligence, all suggesting the militant group would expand its reach to Russia’s doorstep in the Caucuses if Moscow didn’t act, the two officials said. The meeting also covered plans to create a joint intelligence-sharing center between Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia in Baghdad, which began operating later the same month.

  • An end-time alliance between Russia and Persia (Iran) is prophesied in Ezekiel 38

Addressing concerns that a landmark nuclear deal reached this year could boost Iran’s military power, the Obama administration reassured critics that it would maintain and enforce its remaining tough sanctions against the country. Yet the U.S. government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in the past year compared to recent years, according to a review of court records and interviews with two senior officials involved in sanctions enforcement. The sharp fall in new prosecutions did not reflect fewer attempts by Iran to break the embargo, the officials said. Rather, uncertainty among prosecutors and agents on how the terms of the deal would affect cases made them reluctant to commit already scarce resources with the same vigor as in previous years, the officials said. The more relaxed enforcement raises questions over how strictly the arms embargo and other remaining sanctions will be applied in future, since the nuclear deal still needs to be implemented and Iran will likely remain sensitive to a tough sanctions regime, reports United Against Nuclear Iran.

Yemen

Airstrikes hit a wedding celebration Wednesday in a rebel-held portion of Yemen, killing at least 30 people, local officials said, amid a months-long conflict in which a Saudi-led coalition has bombed rebel areas. Dozens were unaccounted for after the bombing, and hospitals have been overwhelmed with victims, three local security officials said. The Houthi rebels are locked in a bitter conflict with forces loyal to the government of deposed Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. The pro-government fighters have the support of a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Houthi-held areas since March.

Fifteen members of a Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen were among those killed in a series of explosions in the southern port city of Aden on Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates said. The attacks targeted a hotel that Yemen’s Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and his cabinet use as a base. It is also the residence and headquarters of the UAE troops, who are part of a Saudi-led coalition targeting the rebels, known as Houthis. Government officials said Bahah was not hurt in the attack at Hotel al-Qasr, Al Jazeera reported. Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Aden for Saudi Arabia in March as the Houthis and their allies advanced on the city. In July, the rebels were driven out of Aden by government forces and militias loyal to them. Hadi, who returned to Aden last month, is not reported to be staying at the hotel, the BBC said.

Afghanistan

It took a horrific tragedy to remind the nation that its longest war, though often forgotten, is by no means gone. Outrage over the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, by an American gunship Saturday focused increasingly rare media scrutiny on a conflict in which U.S. combat officially ended last year — but where fighting still rages. The attack renew serious doubts about the limits of cooperation between the U.S. and the Afghan units that apparently called in the strike, as well as the basic quality of that American-trained force. Pentagon strategists are also puzzling over how the resurgent Taliban was able to capture Kunduz in the first place. Heading into his final year in office, Obama is weighing whether to go ahead with his plan to bring home almost all U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year to honor a political promise to end the wars he inherited. He may instead opt to leave behind a reduced, but still considerable, U.S. force to boost the country’s vulnerable military forces amid fears that they could eventually collapse under Taliban pressure.

Environment

For just the third time on record, scientists say they are now watching the unfolding of a massive worldwide coral bleaching event, spanning the globe from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. And they fear that thanks to warm sea temperatures, the ultimate result could be the loss of more than 12,000 square kilometers, or over 4,500 square miles, of coral this year — with particularly strong impacts in Hawaii and other U.S. tropical regions, potentially continuing into 2016. The event is being brought on by a combination of global warming, a very strong El Nino event, and the so-called warm “blob” in the Pacific Ocean, say the researchers. The prior events, were in 1998 and 2010, and those were one year events.

Weather

In the wake of the historic flooding disaster, President Obama signed a disaster declaration for South Carolina Monday, allowing for the allotment of federal funds toward all recovery efforts. River flooding is expected to continue in parts of South Carolina over the next few days even though the heavy rain has dissipated. Residents near one Columbia, South Carolina, lake were told to flee Monday afternoon, as a dam was about to break, potentially putting thousands in the path of millions of gallons of water. Shortly afterward, the dam broke, becoming the 18th dam to breach or fail in the Palmetto State since Saturday. At least 15 people have been killed by the dangerous floods. In South Carolina, authorities warned residents to stay home due to the deadly floods and were also asked to only call 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

The historic flooding in South Carolina is at least the sixth so-called 1-in-1,000 year rain event in the U.S. since 2010, a trend that may be linked to factors ranging from the natural, such as a strong El Niño, to the man-made, namely climate change. So many “1-in-1,000 year” rainfalls is unprecedented, said meteorologist Steve Bowen of Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm. In addition to this weekend’s floods in South Carolina, which killed at least nine people, the other 1-in-1,000-year rain events include the Tennessee floods in May 2010, the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England drenching during Hurricane Irene in 2011, the Colorado floods in 2013, the deluge in Baltimore in August 2014, and the flooding earlier this year in Nebraska, according to Bowen.

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

Signs of the Times (10/5/15)

October 5, 2015

11 Christian Missionaries Crucified and Beheaded by ISIS

At several steps on their path to death by beheading and crucifixion last month, eleven indigenous Christian workers near Aleppo, Syria, had the option to leave the area and live, reports Charisma news. The indigenous missionaries were not required to stay at their ministry base in a village near Aleppo, Syria. Their ministry director who trained them had entreated them to leave. They stayed because they believed they were called to share Christ with those caught in the crossfire. “Every time we talked to them,” the director said, “they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.” Islamic State militants on Aug. 28 crucified four of the Christians, including a 12-year-old boy, and beheaded eight others in separate executions. The boy was the son of a Syrian ministry team leader who had planted nine churches.

  • When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11, NKJV)

Homeschooled Children More Religious

Those who homeschool their children for religious or moral reasons make up 91 percent of the nation’s two million homeschooling families, New Republic reports. Many families who choose the homeschool alternative to private or public school education want to be able to raise their children to be strong, conservative Christians. This runs counter to the trend of the U.S. becoming more secular, with each new generation tending to be less religious than their parents. In general, the report summarizes, several studies showed that most homeschooled children who were raised in Christian homes continued in their faith, as did most children who were raised in Christian homes who went to public or private school.

  • It’s encouraging that Christian children can hold on to their faith within the secular humanism indoctrination centers (public schools), but it is far easier to do so when homeschooled.

Four Students Arrested for Calif. School Shooting Plot

Four students were arrested Saturday after police discovered a shooting plot involving Summerville High School in Tuolumne, California. Among the evidence, deputies said they found a list of the names of the targeted victims. Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele said the students confessed. When asked what the students said, Mele responded: “that they were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible.” The sheriff’s department said they were contacted on Wednesday by school administrators regarding students who were making threats against faculty and staff.

Mentally Ill Shooters Able to Legally Acquire Guns

Criminal histories and documented mental health problems did not prevent at least eight of the gunmen in 14 recent mass shootings from obtaining their weapons, after federal background checks led to approval of the purchases of the guns used, according to the New York Times. The most recent shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where he was a student. He was armed with six guns, including a Glock pistol, a Smith & Wesson pistol, a Taurus pistol and a Del-Ton assault rifle, according to The Associated Press. In all, Mr. Harper-Mercer owned 14 firearms, all of which were bought legally through a federally licensed firearms dealer, a federal official said Friday. Some were bought by Mr. Harper-Mercer, and some by members of his family. He was discharged from the Army basic training and was identified by the Switzer Learning Center in Torrance, Calif., which teaches students with learning disabilities and emotional issues, as being mentally unstable.

  • The two main issues here are the lack of effective screening of mentally disturbed individuals through existing gun laws and why the shooter’s family allowed him to have so many guns at home. Perhaps they should be prosecuted as co-conspirators.

Doctors Without Borders Killed by U.S. Airstrike

Nine people were killed and another 37 people were injured after a suspected U.S. airstrike struck near a Doctors Without Borders (DWB) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan early Saturday morning. “We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted in Kunduz,” DWB director of operations Bart Janssens said in a statement. The organization said the hospital was hit several times during “sustained bombing” starting at 2:10 a.m. Saturday and was “very badly damaged.” Of the 37 people seriously wounded, 19 are staff members. Army spokesman Col. Brian Tribus confirmed U.S. forces conducted an airstrike on Kunduz at 2:15 a.m. that “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” At the time of the bombing, there were 105 patients at the hospital, and more than 80 international and Afghan staff, Janssens said. DWB pulled out of Kunduz Sunday and called for an independent inquiry into what it calls a ‘war crime’. The acting governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province said Sunday that Taliban fighters had been routinely firing “small and heavy” weapons from the grounds of the hospital. The strike was not requested by U.S. troops, a U.S. general said Monday, but was requested by Afghan forces.

Billions from U.S. Fail to Sustain Foreign Forces

With alarming frequency in recent years, thousands of American-trained security forces in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have collapsed, stalled or defected, calling into question the effectiveness of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the United States on foreign military training programs, as well as a central tenet of the Obama administration’s approach to combating insurgencies, the New York Times reported Sunday. The setbacks have been most pronounced in three countries that present the administration with some of its biggest challenges. The Pentagon-trained army and police in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the heartland of the Islamic State militant group, have barely engaged its forces, while several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province were forced to retreat last week when attacked by several hundred Taliban fighters. And in Syria, a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State has produced only a handful of soldiers.

European Migration Influx Continues Unabated

One month after the European Union agreed to secure its borders, the refugee crisis has largely fallen off the front pages and reporters are going home. But the human tide keeps rolling northward and westward, and aid agencies are preparing for it to continue through the winter, when temperatures along the refugee trail will drop below freezing. They fear the crisis will only get worse. “One thing is clear, the movement is not going to die down,” said Babar Baloch, the U.N. refugee agency’s representative in the Balkans. “What we are seeing right now … it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

While more than 500,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, more than double the figure for all of 2014, that is only a fraction of the people who are on the move. Some 4 million have fled Syria after more than four years of civil war, and 8 million have been displaced inside the country. And it’s not just Syrians. It’s Iraqis and Iranians, Afghans and Eritreans. The EU acknowledged the scale of the problem last week, even after it approved a plan to toughen border controls and provide at least 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to help Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan care for refugees living in their countries. The first new border measures won’t take effect until November, and a proposal for strengthening the EU border agency is due in December.

Catholic Synod to Address Family/Gay Issues

Pope Francis returned to Rome Monday after the longest and perhaps most challenging foreign journey of his pontificate: a trip that lasted 10 days and took him from communist Cuba to the capitalist U.S., where the popular pontiff faced some of his toughest critics — both inside and outside the church. Now comes the hard part. On Sunday in the Vatican, Francis formally opens a three-week meeting of some 270 bishops from around the world who will discuss — or, more likely, argue vociferously about — church teachings on family life, a topic that encompasses hot-button questions about the church’s views on divorce, homosexuality and cohabitation. On Saturday, the Vatican fired a monsignor who came out as gay on the eve of the meeting. Monsignor Kryzstof Charamsa was a mid-level official in the Vatican’s doctrine office.

Scottrade Hacked, Customer Data Stolen

Scottrade, the stock trading service, has been hacked — and it lost information on 4.6 million customers. The breach affected those who signed up for a Scottrade brokerage account before February 2014. On Friday, the firm acknowledged that unknown criminals had broken into its computer network. The company said it didn’t know about the theft until it was alerted by the FBI in August. According to the company, federal agents were still investigating the incident and told the company to keep silent until now. It’s unclear who did it. And as with most cyberattacks, we may never know. Hackers often hide behind computer servers around the globe.

Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Agreement Reached

The United States and eleven other nations have finally reached a long-sought agreement on a controversial free-trade pact. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, would knock down tariffs and import quotas, making it cheaper to import and export, and open new Asia-Pacific markets to American companies. Negotiations have been going on for years. Critics say the trade deal will shift more jobs and business operations overseas, as U.S. businesses seek to benefit from lower wage workers in developing economies. The TPP is a central focus of President Obama’s trade agenda and something he has pushed for since the start of his presidency. The agreement still has to gain Congressional approval.

Economic News

Why isn’t the Federal Reserve’s zero percent interest rate trickling down to Main Street? Because most American consumers are still so much in debt from prior borrowing that they can’t afford to extend themselves further. In 1955, the ratio of household debt to wage and salary income was about 0.6 – that is, debt was 60% of income. By the year 2000, the ratio had climbed to over 1.3, or 130% of income. At the peak of the recent recession, the ratio had zoomed to 2.2, more than twice household income. While the ratio has declined to about 1.8, the level of household debt is still at unprecedented levels.

The most worrisome aspect of the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates and prior Quantitative Easing money-printing stimulation, is that the Fed doesn’t have any more weapons to further stimulate the tepid economic recovery. Should the recovery falter any further and China continue to contract, another debt-infused recession may be just around the corner.

September’s jobs report, released last Friday, shows the U.S. labor force participation rate at yet another record low, undercutting the already-underwhelming numbers that have been reported in recent months. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate now stands at 62.4 percent, its lowest ratio in nearly four decades. That figure means 94,610,000 otherwise-qualified Americans had dropped out of the labor force as of Sept. 30.

On average, the U.S. added 167,000 jobs a month in the last three months. That’s lower than the 200,000 monthly pace that’s considered healthy. However, the unemployment rate has declined to 5.1%, almost half of the 10% it was at during the aftermath of the financial crisis. What’s missing in the job count are the 30.2 million independent — full-time and part-time — workers in the U.S. economy. That’s up 12% over the last 5 years, according to a new study by MBO Partners and Emergent Research. These include the part time and full-time Uber and Lyft drivers, the Alfred butlers and Handy house cleaners that make up the so-called “gig” or “on-demand economy.”

Volkswagen Groups’s incoming chairman warned managers that the automaker’s diesel-emission scandal poses “an existence-threatening crisis for the company” as new details emerged about how the debacle unfolded. The crisis, which has wiped out $34 billion of the company’s value, stems from the disclosure by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month that VW had rigged nearly 5 million diesel cars in the U.S. to pass emissions tests even though they spewed far greater emissions on the highway. VW admitted to the fraud and said 11 million vehicles are affected worldwide.

Middle East

Israeli police on Sunday took the unprecedented step of barring Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from entering the Old City after two stabbing attacks on Israelis by Palestinians. A Palestinian teenager who stabbed and wounded a 15-year-old Israeli early Sunday was shot dead, Israeli police said. It came after a Palestinian man fatally stabbed two Israelis and wounded two more, including a toddler, Saturday. He was also shot dead by police. Tensions have been rising in the region in recent weeks, mainly around the religious site known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa mosque. The outer wall of the temple compound forms the Jewish holy site known as the Western Wall. The unrest has spread to the West Bank, where Israeli troops on Sunday shot and wounded at least 26 Palestinians during an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp, a Palestinian hospital director said, according to the Associated Press. Two Palestinians were arrested suspected of “terror activity,” the news agency said.

Islamic State

The Islamic State has drawn tens of thousands of people from around the world by promising paradise in the Muslim homeland it has established on conquered territory in Syria and Iraq. But in reality, the militants have created a brutal, two-tiered society, where daily life is starkly different for the occupiers and the occupied, according to interviews with more than three dozen people who are now living in, or have recently fled, the Islamic State, reports the Washington Post. Foreign fighters and their families are provided free housing, medical care, religious education and even a sort of militant meals-on-wheels service. The militants are paid salaries raised largely from taxes and fees levied on the millions of people they control, in an arc of land as big as the United Kingdom. Those whose cities and towns are held by the Islamic State said they face not only the casual savagery of militants who behead their enemies and make sex slaves out of some minority women but also severe shortages of the basics of daily life. Many residents have electricity for only an hour or two a day, and some homes go days without running water. Jobs are scarce, so many people can’t afford food prices that have tripled or more. Medical care is poor, most schools are closed, and bans on most travel outside the Islamic State are enforced at gunpoint.

Syria

Russian forces bombed targets in Syria for a fourth day despite international concerns over Moscow’s intentions in the war-torn nation. The Russian defense ministry said its soldiers bombed nine ISIS positions Saturday near the terror group’s de facto capital in Raqqa. In the past 24 hours, the air force conducted 20 airstrikes near Raqqa, the ministry said. Tactical bombers destroyed various militant facilities, including ammunition and oil depots, and all-terrain vehicles, the defense ministry said in a statement. At least 11 people were killed in an alleged double strike by Russia in Syria’s Idlib province, according to opposition groups. “There were families living there,” said Ahmed alHmady, head of Syria Civil Defense in Balyoun, Idlib, who survived the attack. “There are no armed fighters there.”

Turkey

Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador in its capital, Ankara, to protest an alleged violation of its airspace by a Russian warplane near the border with Syria on Saturday, the foreign ministry said Monday. The ministry said the Russian plane was flying near the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province, and Turkish military authorities scrambled two F-16 jets which intercepted the Russian aircraft and forced it to fly back into Syrian airspace. In the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Turkey warned that Russia would be held “responsible for any undesired incident” that may occur, the statement added. Russia and Turkey have repeatedly clashed over the Syrian situation, with Moscow backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Ankara urging his ouster. Turkey has called Russia’s new bombing campaign in Syria “unacceptable.” NATO also warned Russia to stay out of Turkish air space.

Iraq

At least 24 people were killed and 64 wounded when two suicide car bombs exploded in Baghdad on Saturday. The incident took place in a busy roundabout in Kadhmiya, a suburb in northwestern Baghdad, police said. ISIS released a statement, posted on Twitter, claiming responsibility. The Sunni bombers were targeting Shiites, the violent Islamist group said.

Weather

Officials asked all 4.8 million South Carolina residents to stay where they are and not attempt to venture into catastrophic flash flooding that’s ongoing in numerous parts of South Carolina. Officials are worried life-threatening impacts will only worsen as the 1-in-1000-year rain-event continues. At least six people have died from the floods. Authorities said hundreds of people were in need of rescue Sunday morning as the floodwaters kept rising all over the Palmetto State. Multiple dam breaches were reported Sunday morning in Columbia. Charleston has received more than 14 inches of rainfall since the historic event began Friday. One area northeast of Charleston has reported more than two feet of rain. Rescue crews went door to door in South Carolina’s capital city Monday morning as officials continued to free residents were trapped by severe flooding that swamped virtually the entire state. Officials claim it may take weeks or months to assess all of the closed roads and bridges, including a 75-mile stretch of I-95, the freeway that connects Miami to Washington, D.C. to New York.

Thousands are without power across North Carolina and Georgia after heavy weekend rain. Brunswick County, North Carolina evacuated 400 to 500 residents beginning Friday night into Saturday morning due to flooding from heavy rains. Officials in Georgia warned drivers not to push through standing water as tides overcame seawalls putting entire parking lots underwater. Flood watches were also issued for Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Outer Banks, Hyde, and Pamlico counties until 8 p.m. Monday.

For more than four days, there’s been no word from, and no sign of, the U.S.-flagged container ship El Faro as it was overtaken by Hurricane Joaquin. The 28 Americans and five Poles aboard faced winds of up to 150 mph, 30-foot waves and potentially 25 inches of rain. According to the Associated Press, a shipping container has been spotted near where El Faro, a 735-foot cargo ship, lost power in the middle of the storm. Search crews also found life jackets, additional life rings and an oil sheen. The ship is presumed to have sunk while the search continues for survivors. Searchers found life rafts and survival suits, including one survival suit with human remains on Monday.

At least 131 people are dead and an estimated 500 are missing after a massive landslide covered much of a town in Guatemala. The death toll will likely rise during the search and recovery effort. The rain-soaked side of a hill crashed down onto El Cambray, burying dozens of homes. Dozens of rescue workers and volunteers searched all day Friday in the mud and debris for survivors and victims. Many people in El Cambray did not heed a warning to evacuate. El Cambray is located about 10 miles east of Guatemala City.

At least 19 people are dead and two remain missing after flash floods inundated buildings, roads and train tracks around the French Riviera late Saturday night. Some of the victims drowned in a retirement home and were others trapped in cars and campsites. Residents of the picturesque and touristy region along the Mediterranean coast, stunned by the ferocity of the brief downpour Saturday night, described it as the worst flooding they’d ever seen.

Signs of the Times (10/2/15)

October 2, 2015

Oregon Community College Shooter Targeted Christians

The gunman in Thursday’s mass murder at an Oregon community college specifically targeted Christians, three witnesses said. Authorities say Christopher Harper Mercer killed at least nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police. One victim remains in critical condition at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. Kortney Moore, 18, told the Roseburg News-Review that the shooter then burst into the room and ordered students to get on the ground, before asking people to stand up and state their religion before shooting the Christians, Fox News reports.

Billy Graham Disturbed by ‘The Moral Decline of This Nation’

The nearly 97-year-old Billy Graham recently voiced his concern over the state of affairs in America and abroad. SRNNews.com reports that Graham, who is a few weeks short of his 97th birthday, has observed that the world he was born into in 1918 is barely recognizable today. The famous evangelist’s son, Franklin Graham, who has taken over his ministry, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, stated that his father is concerned with “the moral decline of this nation, and the embracing of sin.” Graham said his father was particularly concerned about the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, as well as the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

Planned Parenthood Spent Millions on ‘Blowout’ Parties, Travel, Salaries

Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have spent millions in recent years on “blowout” parties, first-class travel and “lucrative” salaries, according to a report from the chairman of the House oversight committee. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, publicly accused the organization of spending a big chunk of its budget on non-health care expenses during a heated hearing on Tuesday. Afterward, he released a report detailing those costs. According to the report, which cited tax returns, Planned Parenthood spent over $5.1 million on travel in 2013, or nearly $14,000 a day. Several affiliates reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on travel. The report also said Planned Parenthood “books first class or charter travel.” Further, the House report said Planned Parenthood spent $622,706 on “blowout parties” in 2013 and 2013; and the group’s affiliates likewise spent on vast sums on events such as a so-called “Gathering of Goddesses and Gods.” The report also said over 40 executives earned salaries of $200,000 or more between 2009 and 2013. Richards acknowledged during Tuesday’s hearing, under questioning from Chaffetz, that her annual compensation is $520,000. Chaffetz called the salaries “exorbitant.”

Oregon Bakery Owners Refuse to Pay Damages in Gay Wedding Cake Case

The owners of an Oregon bakery are refusing to pay $135,000 in state-ordered damages to a same-sex couple who were denied service. Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, cited religious beliefs when they refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer more than two years ago. The Kleins have filed an appeal of the ruling and are defying the order to pay. They’re claiming financial hardship although crowdfunding efforts have raised more than $500,000 on their behalf, according to The Oregonian. A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. It provides an exemption for religious organizations, but the agency ruled that exemption does not allow private businesses to discriminate against potential customers.

  • Private businesses should be exempt from this law. Publicly-owned corporations should be allowed to apply for religious exemptions.

Americans’ Trust of Media at All-Time Low

A new Gallup poll shows that just 40% of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. That figure represents a steep decline from the 55% high in the late 1990s when Gallup began polling. Trust in the media is even lower among young Americans aged 18 to 49, where just 36% of that demographic expressed faith in news media outlets. As has long been the case, trust remains higher among Democrats than Republicans. However, Gallup found that trust among Democrats fell to a 14-year low of 54%, while trust among Republicans grew from 27% to 32%.

Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin in Oregon

Oregon joins Colorado and Washington as the only states with recreational marijuana marketplaces on Thursday. Adults 21 and older in Oregon may buy up to a quarter-ounce of cannabis per day, without needing a doctor’s recommendation. And frugal stoners will be pleased to note that pot sales will be untaxed until January. Voters in Alaska and the District of Columbia have approved recreational marijuana, but sales there have not yet begun.

U.S. Leads the World in Mass Shootings

With the latest mass shooting at an Oregon Community College Thursday, a new study reports that there are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world. Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are defined for the study as having four or more victims and don’t include gang killings or slayings that involve the death of multiple family members. The 90 U.S. mass shootings are nearly a third of the 292 such attacks globally for that period. While the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, it had 31% of all public mass shootings. In the United States, people have a greater chance of dying in mass shootings if they’re at work or at school. Overseas, these incidents typically happen near military installations.

High-Tech Criminals have Police Outmatched and Outgunned

European police say today’s criminals have gotten better than ever at using technology to hurt people — and escape justice by hiding in the shadows. Crooks are increasingly using electronic money, such as Bitcoin, which is hard to trace. There’s no middleman, no central player like a bank tracking customer transfers by name. Underground marketplaces online are getting smarter. They’re now decentralized too. No one person is in control. There’s no single computer server to shut down, no dragon’s head to chop off. In addition, it’s harder for police to eavesdrop on criminals, because they now regularly encrypt their conversations. Email, online chats — everything is encoded. “The speed at which society and crime ‘cyberize’ exceed the speed at which law enforcement can adapt,” the Europol report states.

Experian Breach May have Exposed 15 Million T-Mobile Records

A hacker has acquired the records of 15 million T-Mobile customers and people who had applied for credit, the company reported Thursday. The breach, which affected two years’ worth of records, occurred at Experian, the vendor that processes T-Mobile’s credit applications. Experian has notified both U.S. and international law enforcement. Experian North America’s parent company, Experian is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The data set was for applicants and customers of T-Mobile who applied for service over the past two years. The breach happened approximately two weeks ago.

Government Waste Continues to Increase

Government waste took a significant turn for the worse in fiscal 2014, rising dramatically to $124.7 billion from $105.8 billion in fiscal 2013. That’s a striking increase of nearly 20 percent in improper federal payments. Since fiscal 2003, “cumulative improper payment estimates have totaled almost $1 trillion,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a new report. The waste spans 24 federal programs across 22 government agencies. In addition, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said: “There is, of course, plenty of questionable spending that the government does on purpose on a more or less daily basis.”

Dip, don’t Swipe your Credit Card

Credit card technology is getting an upgrade, and it was supposed to be in place by Thursday. Banks should have supplied you with a new credit card with chip-enabled technology (though 60% of people haven’t gotten theirs yet). Merchants need new credit card readers that make you “dip,” not swipe, your credit card into the reader. Until they are geared up with the new machines (and only about a third of them are), merchants will be held fully liable for any losses due to credit card fraud.

Amtrak Mimics Airlines, adds Baggage Fees

Amtrak is cracking down on passengers who try to board their trains with too many bags. Starting Thursday, passengers who exceed the limit of two carry-on bags and two personal items will have to p.ay $20 for each extra bag. Overweight bags will also carry a fee. Most U.S. airlines have been charging fees for checked bags for years, raking in $3.5 billion in baggage fees last year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Congress Passes Budget Legislation to Avert a Shutdown

Congress on Wednesday approved a short-term spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown and fund federal agencies through mid-December. The Senate passed the stop-gap funding bill earlier in the day on 78 to 20 vote and the House cleared it later in the afternoon on a 277 to 151 vote. Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law. Attention now turns to December when House Republicans will have a new slate of leaders who are being urged by conservatives to take a more aggressive approach with President Obama over issues such as government spending and abortion, raising the possibility there will be another tense standoff that could lead to a shutdown.

Economic News

Employment growth slowed for the second straight month in September as employers added 142,000 jobs, possibly weakening the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year. Also discouraging: employment gains for July and August were revised down by a total 59,000. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, was unchanged at 5.1% as a sharp drop in the number of Americans employed was offset by an even steeper decline in the number working or looking for jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. In another disappointing sign, average hourly earnings ticked down 1 cent to $25 09 cents, and are up 2.2% over the past year, roughly in line with the sluggish 2% pace that has prevailed through most of the recovery. Stocks on Wall Street plunged at the open Friday as investors reacted to a weaker-than-expected September jobs report

U.S. automakers enjoyed a robust sales performance in September. Ford reported a 23% increase for the month, General Motors posted a 12% gain and Fiat Chrysler extended its sales streak to 66 consecutive months of gains with a 14% rise. Shoppers are fleeing cars for crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, as low gasoline prices shift buyers focus away from high-mileage compacts.

Manufacturing activity grew at the slowest pace in two years last month as a strong dollar and low oil prices continued to weigh on the manufacturing industry in the U.S. An index of factory activity slipped to 50.2% from 51.1% the previous month, the lowest since May 2013, the Institute for Supply Management said Thursday. A reading above 50 means the sector is expanding, while below 50 indicates contraction.

China’s factories continued to sputter in September, suggesting continued pain for the world’s second-largest economy. The government’s official purchasing managers’ index hit 49.8 in September, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, up slightly from 49.7 the previous month. As in the U.S. manufacturing index, any number below 50 represents a deceleration in the manufacturing sector.

Saudi Arabia’s mountain of oil money is shrinking. After years of raking in cash from lofty prices, oil-producing countries are getting squeezed by the crash in crude oil prices. The cash crunch caused the OPEC leader to sell bonds over the summer to raise at least $4 billion. It was the first time Saudi Arabia tapped the bond markets in eight years. Now there are signs Saudi Arabia is pulling out cash from global asset investments.

  • This may cause OPEC to allow the price of crude oil to rise from the artificially low levels they have maintained in order to drive U.S. shale-oil drillers out of business

Middle East

The Israeli military says it has carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip after a rocket was launched from the Palestinian territory toward Israel. No casualties were reported in the exchange. The military says it targeted four “terror sites” in Gaza early Wednesday. Local media reports in Gaza said Israeli warplanes hit training sites belonging to the militant Hamas group that controls Gaza. The strikes were in retaliation for a rocket launched at southern Israel late Tuesday. The rocket was intercepted mid-air by Israel’s aerial defense system. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian incitement over the situation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for a shooting attack Thursday evening which left Eitam and Naama Henkin the parents of four children dead. “The killers knew that they were murdering a mother and father, the children were there.”

In a watershed moment that has won support on many fronts, but drawn condemnation from Israel and the United States, the Palestinian flag was raised outside the headquarters of the United Nations in New York for the first time Wednesday. At the ceremony, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the occasion a “day of pride for the Palestinian people around the world” and a “day of hope.” The historic moment came after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly that the Palestinian Authority was no longer bound by the Oslo Peace Accords. During his General Assembly speech, , Abbas accused Israel of not committing to the Oslo Accords and, in response said, “They leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them.” Abbas declared Palestine as a “state under occupation.”

  • Just as the Bible prophecies for the end-times, Israel is falling out of favor in the world. Eventually this will result in war against Israel with Russia and Iran leading the way

Islamic State

Nuclear annihilation across the globe. This is what a German reporter who successfully embedded with the Islamic State says the terror group is planning. Jurgen Todenhofer released his findings in a book titled “Inside IS – Ten Days in the Islamic State,” reports the UK’s Daily Express. “The terrorists plan on killing several hundred million people. The west is drastically underestimating the power of ISIS. ISIS intends to get its hands on nuclear weapons,” says Todenhofer, calling the group a “nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history.” He adds, “They now control land greater in size than the United Kingdom and are supported by an almost ecstatic enthusiasm the like of which I’ve never encountered before in a war zone. Every day hundreds of willing fighters from all over the world come. They are the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life. I don’t see anyone who has a real chance to stop them. Only Arabs can stop IS. I came back very pessimistic.”

Syria

Russia launched its first airstrike in Syria following a buildup of its forces in the embattled country, a U.S. official said Wednesday. The airstrike was conducted around the city of Homs. The United States was given one hour’s notice before the strike took place. The notice was sent in Baghdad, where the Russians have set up a coordination unit with Iraq’s government. Russia claims its warplanes are bombarding Islamic State positions in Syria’s war-torn northern regions, but a senior U.S. defense official tells Fox News that the strikes are actually hitting the Free Syrian Army and other forces aligned against President Bashar Assad, adding that there is no presence of ISIS in those areas. Any future for Syria that includes its embattled president, Bashar Assad, is “a non-starter,” and Russian effort to back him in Syria’s long civil war are bound to fail, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir predicted.

Further Russian airstrikes continued Thursday, and Russia said its airstrikes have destroyed 12 Islamic State targets including a command center and two arms depots. More Iranian troops have arrived in Syria for an upcoming ground operation to accompany Russian airstrikes, U.S. defense officials claimed to Fox News. A joint statement released Friday by Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States expressed concern over Russia’s military actions in Syria and said it will “only fuel more extremism and radicalization.” In response, Russian officials issued a demand to the United States to move its warplanes out of Syria.

  • The confluence of forces and interests in Syria are so diverse that ongoing strife is a certainty with the potential of spreading outward

Afghanistan

Afghan forces launched a counterattack Tuesday in an effort to drive Taliban militants from the northern city of Kunduz in what is emerging as a critical test of a U.S. military strategy that greatly restricts the involvement of American forces. U.S. warplanes conducted several airstrikes near the city’s airport and the coalition has provided intelligence and surveillance support to Afghan forces. Heavy fighting was reported within the city. Government forces retook Kunduz and were mopping up pockets of Taliban resistance in the beleaguered northern city, Afghan officials said Thursday. But heavy street battles were still taking place Thursday, raising questions about the government’s claims and highlighting the uncertainty of the situation.

An American C-130 cargo plane crashed early Friday in Afghanistan, killing 11 people, including six U.S. service members, officials said. The plane crashed at Jalalabad Airport in eastern Afghanistan at about midnight local time. First responders are still on the scene, and the cause of the crash was under investigation. A spokesman for the Air Expeditionary Wing said six U.S. service members who comprised the plane’s crew died, along with five civilian passengers.

Iraq

Antiwar.com found that at least 647 civilians and security personnel were killed across Iraq during September. Another 736 were wounded. Militants lost 3,195 personnel, while 397 of them were known wounded. Adding these brings the preliminary figures to 3,842 killed and 1,133 wounded in the last month. Meanwhile on Wednesday, sixteen Turkish kidnapping victims were freed and immediately flown home to Turkey. On Sept. 2, a previously unknown militant group had kidnapped 18 men and released a list of political demands. Two of the abductees were freed two weeks ago. It is unclear which demands, if any, were satisfied. Over 500 people have now been sickened by cholera across Iraq.

Iran

The Iranian death toll in the recent stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has jumped above 450, state media reported. That’s a high proportion of the total of 769 people that Saudi Arabia says were killed in the stampede. Iran’s Supreme Leader on Wednesday says the real total is much higher and delivered verbal broadsides against Saudi Arabia, threatening it with “tough and harsh” retaliation because Iranian stampede victims weren’t being treated and repatriated swiftly enough.

China

At least seven people have been killed and 51 others injured after multiple parcel bomb blasts in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, according to local media. Initial investigations suggest the explosions were caused by 17 parcel bombs in the seat of Liucheng county and the surrounding area. Police named a 33-year-old man from Liucheng Tai Po town as a suspect in the explosions and said their investigations were continuing. Authorities said they had ruled out a terrorist attack.

Weather

Potentially historic flooding is forecast for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic from a weather system not directly related to Hurricane Joaquin. As meteorologists eye the strengthening hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, a more immediate problem faces the East Coast: severe flooding that has now turned deadly. Two persons were killed Thursday morning in Spartanburg, South Carolina, after several cars were submerged in floodwaters underneath a bridge. Locally heavy rain in the Spartanburg, South Carolina area late Wednesday and into early Thursday prompted the flash flooding. Rain has fallen in this area every day for the past week and more rain is expected through Monday. Extremely heavy rainfall is possible this weekend with more than six inches of additional rain expected, leading to a potentially dangerous situation throughout the Carolinas. Areas from the mid-Atlantic to the central Appalachians and the Carolinas appear to be the epicenter for the heaviest rainfall amounts.

Hurricane Joaquin, an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, remains parked over the central Bahamas Friday morning, producing hurricane-force winds, storm surge flooding and torrential rain. Dozens are trapped in their homes in the central Bahamas, with authorities unable to reach them. All schools have been closed in The Bahamas. The storm ripped off tree branches and sent widespread flooding throughout some areas, with reports that water reached the windows of homes on Long Island and submerged the airport runway at Ragged Island. Maximum sustained winds are around 130 mph, making Joaquin a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. For now, Joaquin is expected to pass sufficiently west of Bermuda Sunday to limit any direct impacts.

In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers compared sea level and storm surge heights in New York City from 850 to 1800 to the period from 1970 to 2005. The average flood height increased by about 4 feet in New York between the two time periods. Larger and more extreme storms along with an even higher sea level are likely to cause more frequent and intense flooding, the study says.