Archive for November, 2015

Signs of the Times (11/30/15)

November 30, 2015

Abortions Decline to Historic Low

The Centers for Disease Control released its national abortion report last Wednesday and the new figures how the number of abortions in the United States has declined to a historic low. Although approximately 699,000 babies lost their lives in abortions in 2012, the latest year CDC has produced figures for, that represents a decline of about half since the highs of more than 1.5 million in the late 1980s, when the effect of legalizing abortion in 1973 took its full effect. That is a decline from the 730,322 babies who died from abortions in 2011, according to CDC’s report last year. “The abortion rate for 2012 was 13.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 210 abortions per 1,000 live births,” the report indicated. Approximately 1 in 3 pregnancies ended in an abortion in the 1980s.

Politically Incorrect Georgia Welcome Sign Stirs Up Controversy

A sign put up by a sheriff in a small town in Georgia has created quite a stir on social media. The controversial sign reads: Welcome to Harris County, Georgia! WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust; We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you… LEAVE ! The Harris County sheriff said he paid for the sign himself. Jolley told WLTZ-TV that he has just as much right to voice his opinions as anyone else under the First Amendment. “I spent 20 years in the Army to give everyone the right not to agree with it and to voice their opinion if they’re not, and that’s fine.”

U.S. Issues Worldwide Travel Alert

The United States issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans amid concerns that terror groups and individuals plan more attacks after the Paris massacres. The State Department warned that groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram “continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.” It also warned of the possibility of individuals carrying out their own attacks. “These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests,” the department said in issuing a travel alert that expires on February 24, 2016. The alert does not instruct Americans to avoid travel, but it does urge U.S. citizens to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.”

German Officials Warn of Homegrown Islamists Radicalizing Refugees

German authorities are growing increasingly concerned that newly arrived refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East are being recruited by radical Islamists once they arrive in the country. The Wall Street Journal, citing interviews with security officials from across Germany, reports that an increasing number of refugees are attending services at mosques that investigators believe attract extremists. The report brings into focus a different dimension to the possible security risk posed by asylum-seekers who have flooded into Western Europe for months. Some of the ISIS terrorists who killed 130 people in Paris earlier this month posed as refugees from Syria’s civil war to slip into Europe and meet their co-conspirators.

FBI Tracking 48 High-Risk ISIS Suspects

With as many as 1,000 active cases, Fox News reports that at least 48 ISIS suspects are considered so high risk that the FBI is using its elite tracking squads known as the mobile surveillance teams or MST to track them domestically. “The FBI together with law enforcement agencies across the country are engaged in this. It takes enormous amount of manpower to do this on a 24-7 basis. It takes enormous amount of money to do this,” said Republican Sen. Dan Coats who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence. With at least a dozen agents assigned to each case, providing 24/7 coverage, this high level of surveillance reflects the severe risk associated with suspects most likely to attempt copycat attacks after Paris.

Turkey Downs Russian Warplane

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey will have “tragic consequences” for ties between the two countries. Turkey said Tuesday that it shot down a Russian warplane after it ventured into Turkish airspace but Russia’s defense ministry said the aircraft remained within Syria. Putin said the plane, a Su-24 attack aircraft, was downed by an air-to-air missile launched from a Turkish F-16 fighter jet. The Russian aircraft posed no threat to Turkey, Putin said. The incident is being investigated and comes amid tense relations between Turkey, Moscow and the West over the conflict in Syria. Russia ramped up the threat of a military confrontation between Turkey and Moscow Wednesday by announcing that a state-of-the-art air defense missile system will be deployed at a Russian air base in Syria and that all its bombers will now be escorted by fighter jets on their missions. The Kremlin issued economic sanctions against Turkey on Saturday brushing off a fence-mending bid by Turkey’s president who expressed regret over the incident.

Planned Parenthood Attack Leaves Three Dead, Nine Injured

An alleged shooter remains in custody Saturday, a day after he barricaded himself inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., and went on a shooting spree. The suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, was arrested Friday night, hours after a shooting at the clinic killed one police officer and two civilians, officials said. The dead officer was identified as 44-year-old Garrett Swasey of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs police department; he had been assisting Colorado Springs police in the incident. The names of the two civilians have not yet been released. Nine other people, including five officers, also were injured in the shooting. Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged gunman, was described as an odd and aggressive individual often living on the fringes of society, according to the USA Today. Dear, 57, had moved from a North Carolina shack to a Colorado camper, leaving a trail of run-ins with police and neighbors. Dear told authorities that he has anti-abortion and anti-government views. Operation Rescue, the Christian Defense Coalition and many other pro-life groups have denounced the violence.

Hundreds Protest as Chicago Releases Video of Cop Shooting Teen

Hundreds of protesters chanting “16 shots” wove their way through downtown streets Tuesday night after the city released a dramatic video showing a white police officer firing a fatal barrage of 16 bullets at a black teenager. Police and elected officials are bracing for more possible backlash and strong public reaction, even after the officer was charged with first-degree murder. The video went viral on social media. The announcement of the charges against Officer Jason Van Dyke come as the city faced a court-ordered Wednesday deadline to release video from a squad car dashcam of the Oct. 20, 2014 incident.

Americans Say Racism on the Rise

In a new nationwide poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly half of Americans — 49% — say racism is “a big problem” in society today. The figure marks a significant shift from four years ago, when over a quarter described racism that way. The percentage is also higher now than it was two decades ago. But is racism actually on the rise in the United States? Or, has our awareness changed? Or is it a problem that’s been blown out of proportion? No one knows for sure, but this much is clear: Across the board, in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem.

Half of Obamacare Co-Ops Failing

The fate of a network of alternative “co-op” health plans started under ObamaCare remains uncertain going into 2016, after half of them collapsed amid deep financial problems. The co-ops are government-backed, nonprofit health insurers propped up with over $2 billion in taxpayer loans. Twelve of the 23 co-ops established under the Affordable Care Act, though, have gone or are expected to go under by the end of the year, leaving customers who used them scrambling for coverage and taxpayer money at risk. Kevin Counihan, insurance marketplace CEO at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, described the co-op failures and other changes as simply “inevitable” in the health care industry. “This was a fairly risky exercise to begin with,” Ed Haislmaier, senior research fellow in health policy at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News.

Paris Climate Change Conference Underway

Activists took to the streets around the world as more than 140 world leaders gathered in Paris to discuss how to approach climate change issues. negotiators from 196 countries are seeking to develop an accord reducing man-made emissions to limit rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather. Held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, the conference is under extra-high security after the Paris attacks earlier this month. President Barack Obama , among scores of other leaders are in attendance. According to an early draft of a climate-change initiative, governments participating were pledging to double their clean energy research and development spending in the next five years, AP reports. The central goal of the gathering is to forge an agreement that would set the world on a path to ultimately restrict planetary warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

Glass bottles and even candles were thrown at police in the Place de la Republique, after two peaceful demonstrations earlier in the day, according to AP. Police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators. According to the Paris police chief, about 100 people were detained. Events took place all around the world on the eve of the Paris talks. People in countries such as Spain, Brazil and the Philippines marched to urge government leaders to halt climate change.

Climate Scientists Dispute Manmade Theory of Global Warming

A group of prominent climate scientists have attacked liberals’ alarmist view of global warming. The Daily Caller reported. The scientists slammed policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as “nonsense,” and they criticized politicians and activists for claiming the world was on the path for catastrophic global warming. “The most important thing to keep in mind is — when you ask ‘is it warming, is it cooling’, etc. — is that we are talking about something tiny (temperature changes) and that is the crucial point,” Dr. Richard Lindzen, a veteran climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Policies to slow CO2 emissions are really based on nonsense,” Dr. Will Happer, a physicist at Princeton University, said during the panel Thursday hosted by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. “They are all based on computer models that do not work. We are being led down a false path,” Happer argued. The earth goes through climate cycles in the same way that it goes through seasons. The fact that the climate changes is nothing new, the scientists say.

Bill Gates Launches Multi-Billion Dollar Clean Energy Fund

Bill Gates has pulled together a multinational band of investors to put billions into clean energy. The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist announced his latest endeavor, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, at the climate change summit in Paris alongside President Obama and French President Francois Hollande. “We need to bring the cost premium for being clean down,” Gates said Monday in an interview with CNN’s New Day. “You need innovation so that the cost of clean is lower than the coal based energy generation.” Lowering the cost of clean energy to make it competitive with fossil fuels is the best way to get poor countries to make the switch without sacrificing economic growth, Gates said.

NSA Ends Bulk Phone Data Collection

The National Security Agency is ceasing its bulk collection of telephone metadata starting this week. The government will move to a more “focused and targeted” approach in gathering intelligence, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement. The shift comes more than two years after details about the program were leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. President Barack Obama in June signed a reform measure that took away the National Security Agency’s authority to collect in bulk the phone records of millions of Americans. The USA Freedom Act requires the government to obtain a targeted warrant or court order to collect phone metadata from telecommunications companies. The government accessed times calls were logged, to what number and their duration – their metadata, but not content.

Millennials’ New American Dream

Millennials are no longer looking at home ownership as the American dream, and this generation’s changing desires are affecting how younger people live, work, and consume in the free market. Millennials are far more interested in renting apartments and living in urban areas compared to previous generations. They rent property for practical reasons. The difficulty millennials have experienced recently in the U.S. job market is compounded by crippling student debt and a housing market that still caters to families with children. Many millennials are waiting until their mid-30s before considering the possibility of having children. Because of the high costs associated with mortgages and lack of funds for a down payment, many millennials opt to rent homes. Renting a home is often less expensive than a mortgage, largely because of the high maintenance costs associated with home ownership, and many students would much rather pay off student loan debt than pay for a mortgage. The student debt crisis has become such an important part of the millennial experience, paying off student loans has now become the new American dream.

Economic News

Many shoppers said “no, thanks” to wild crowds over the holiday weekend as more people opted to shop online than in stores, initial data show. As retailers seamlessly transitioned from Black Friday deals to Cyber Monday deals as early as Saturday, they were riding the tailwind of a shopping weekend that found more than 103 million people say they had or planned to shop online Thursday through Sunday. That’s compared to nearly 102 million people who shopped in stores during the four-day period.

The economy grew by 2.1% between July and September, according to the Commerce Department. That’s better than its initial estimate of 1.5%. The report comes just weeks after the best report on jobs growth of the year in October. However, U.S. retail sales were only up 1.7% in October, creating uncertainty about whether the economy is slowing down or not.

Everyone in the energy industry is suffering as crude oil prices have slumped. But some oil producing countries are hurting more than others. In the United Kingdom, it costs $52.50 to produce a barrel of oil — which is trading right now around $42. Oil production in Brazil costs nearly $49 per barrel. Production costs around $41 a barrel in Canada. In the U.S., production costs are $36 a barrel — still below the trading price, reports CNN.

Over the six months through September, more than $110 billion of auto loans have been originated to borrowers with credit scores below 660, the bottom cutoff for having a credit score generally considered “good,” according to a report Thursday from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Of that sum, about $70 billion went to borrowers with credit scores below 620, scores that are considered “bad.” The amount of super-low-quality auto lending is now surpassing the totals of dubious lending that peaked in 2006.

  • Another debt bubble building up and getting ready to explode

Environment

A wave of toxic mud has reached the Atlantic Ocean after escaping a collapsed dam and traveling the length of the Rio Doce river in Brazil. Concerns of severe pollution have arisen. The waste took a 310-mile path down the river after the iron mine dam collapsed two weeks ago. The toxic brew was found to contain substances like mercury, arsenic, chromium, and manganese at high levels that exceed human consumption. Samarco, the owner of the mine, made attempts to protect plants and animals by placing barriers along the banks of the river. Samarco has insisted the sludge is harmless, an obvious lie.

Islamic State

Russian President Vladimir Putin told French President Francois Hollande on Thursday that he is willing to work more closely with the U.S.-led coalition that is battling the Islamic State in Syria. The diplomatic development came as Hollande traveled to Moscow as part of a week-long effort to bolster support for the fight against the militant group responsible for the Paris attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13. Hollande also visited the White House Tuesday to press for a stronger coalition to combat the terrorist group, which says it carried out the attacks in Paris that killed at least 130. President Obama has pledged to amplify U.S. strategy, which stresses airstrikes and training local forces to carry out the fight in Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq, rather than sending in American ground troops.

France

Nearly 1,000 people have been denied entry into France since the deadly terror attacks in Paris earlier this month, the country’s interior minister said Saturday. Tight border controls, additional border checks and more surveillance went into effect with a state of emergency declared immediately following the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 dead at a concert hall, stadium and multiple restaurants and cafes in the French capital. The state of emergency was extended for three months by the nation’s legislature last week. “Since we brought back border controls, nearly 1,000 people have been denied entry to the national territory because of the risk they represented,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a speech in Strasbourg, AFP and Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia

More than 900 women are campaigning for public office in Saudi Arabia — a first in the kingdom’s history. The December 12 municipal election will be the first opportunity for Saudi women to vote or run for office since a 2011 order by the now deceased King Abdullah that granted women some opportunities for political participation in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom. Women will only participate in elections at the municipal level. Just three months ago, Saudi women were allowed to register to vote for the first time.

Iran

The nuclear deal signed between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 Powers in July is not legally binding and Iran did not even sign it, as President Barack Obama did not require them to so, a State Department official conceded in a letter to Congressman Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), the National Review reported last week. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter that was obtained by the National Review. Meanwhile, Iran is reducing its nuclear activities under the deal, but a senior UN official says he cannot guarantee that everything it is doing is peaceful. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano says he is “not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” and thus cannot conclude that “all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Four months after a historic accord with Tehran to limit its atomic ambitions, American officials and private security groups say they see a surge in sophisticated computer espionage by Iran, culminating in a series of cyberattacks against State Department officials over the past month. The surge has led American officials to a stark conclusion: For Iran, cyberespionage – with the power it gives the Iranians to jab at the United States and its neighbors without provoking a military response – is becoming a tool to seek the kind of influence that some hard-liners in Iran may have hoped its nuclear program would eventually provide. Over the past month, Iranian hackers identified individual State Department officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East, and broke into their email and social media accounts, according to diplomatic and law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation. The State Department became aware of the compromises only after Facebook told the victims that state-sponsored hackers had compromised their accounts.

Mali

A mortar attack on a United Nations base in northern Mali early Saturday left at least three people dead, including two peacekeepers, U.N. officials said. Another 20 people were injured in the attack, which happened around 4 a.m. local time when rockets were fired at the base. At least four of the wounded had serious injuries. A contractor was also killed. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just eight days after 20 people were killed in an extremist attack on a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. Three Islamist groups, including two affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the hotel assault.

Nigeria

At least 21 people were killed and dozens more were injured Friday in a suicide attack targeting a symbolic Shiite Muslim march passing through a village in northern Nigeria’s Kano state. The bomber detonated his explosives after running into the crowd in the village of Dakasoye. The march is an annual ritual observed by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a major Muslim group based in northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria is largely Sunni-dominated but there is growing number of Shiites, most of whom were converted from the Sunni branch. The Islamist terror group Boko Haram has frequently conducted attacks throughout Kano state.

Ukraine

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated further on Wednesday as Ukraine decided to stop buying Russian natural gas — hoping to rely on supplies from other countries — and closed its airspace to its eastern neighbor. Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in the east brought relations between the two countries to a post-Soviet low. The fighting between Russia-backed rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine killed more than 8,000 people and left parts of Ukraine’s industrial heartland in ruins. Ukraine still has no access to the territories under rebel control as well as hundreds of kilometers of the Ukrainian border with Russia.

Earthquakes

A major 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck near the Peru-Brazil border Tuesday night. The deep tremor shook a sparsely populated area near Iberia, Peru. Reports of damage or injuries were not readily available. A 5.9-magnitude aftershock was reported just five minutes after the initial quake.

A magnitude-4.5 earthquake shook portions of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas just days after Oklahoma’s strongest earthquake of 2015 hit the same area. The latest quake struck just before 4 a.m. local time to the south of the Kansas/Oklahoma border. The earthquake was shallow, 5 kilometers deep, causing social media to light up with many reports of people feeling the tremor. There are no reports of damage or injuries so far.

Weather

Over the past 20 years, 90% of major disasters have been caused by weather, and the United States was the hardest-hit country, according to a new U.N. report. Worldwide, there have been 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other weather-related events since 1995. More than 600,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of those disasters. Economic losses – including earthquakes and tsunamis – are between $250 billion and $300 billion annually, the report estimated. The five countries with the highest number of disasters are the U.S., China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia. On average, there were 335 weather-related disasters worldwide each year between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14% from the 1995 to 2004 period, and almost twice the level recorded between 1985 and 1995. Nearly half (47%) of all disasters were floods, which affected 2.3 billion people and killed 157,000. But they weren’t the deadliest — storms were, resulting in 242,000 deaths, or 40% of all weather-related deaths. Almost 90% of these deaths occurred in lower-income countries.

A deadly storm that has caused flooding and coated parts of the southern Plains in ice during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend dumped more rain on already swollen rivers in parts of North Texas and Arkansas on Sunday and made driving dangerous in parts of Oklahoma. The band of storms that has been moving through parts of the Plains and the Midwest since Thursday has been blamed for at least 14 deaths, including eight in Texas and six in Kansas.

A developing storm is expected to dump heavy snow on parts of the Northern Plains early this week, the National Weather Service said. Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties due to the wintry weather tormenting Oklahoma. About 100,000 homes still didn’t have power Sunday as a result of freezing rain, ice and sleet that began Thursday.

Winter Storm Delphi will continue to dump snow, possibly heavy at times, along with some sleet and freezing rain from the Plains into the Upper Midwest through Tuesday. As of Monday morning, the National Weather Service had posted winter storm warnings in parts of five states, including central Kansas, eastern Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, southwest/south-central Minnesota and the northwestern half of Iowa.

Tropical Storm Sandra became the eighteenth named storm of the 2015 eastern Pacific hurricane season early Tuesday morning. Not only is Sandra one of the latest named storms on record, but it’s also expected to become an exceptionally rare late-season hurricane, and, while weakening, may limp ashore in Mexico this weekend.

Signs of the Times (11/23/15)

November 23, 2015

The Paris Attacks: More Than Meets the Eye

The Paris attacks, the refugee crisis, ISIS, a world on the verge of global war: it’s all a manipulated contrivance of the globalist elite to eviscerate freedom and usher in Huxley’s “Brave New World,” aka George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order,” notes Pastor Chuck Baldwin.” Folks, get your eyes off of the Wizard and start looking for the man (men) behind the curtain, because that’s the real enemy.” For an alternate view of ISIS and Syria, go to http://www.newswithviews.com/baldwin/baldwin883.htm

FOX News Poll: Majorities Call for War against ‘Radical Islam,’ Oppose Syrian Refugees

Most American voters believe Islamic terrorists will strike the U.S. soon. A Fox News national poll released Sunday also finds Democrats and Republicans united against President Obama’s plan to accept Syrian refugees, since voters think at least one will be a terrorist. Sixty-six percent of voters feel that the U.S. is at war with radical Islam, and Democrats who refuse to call the enemy by that name are doing the wrong thing. They also feel (60%) that Obama has not fought the war against ISIS aggressively enough, and that war is going badly. Respondents say that terrorism is now the top problem facing the country, and an attack is likely soon. The majority (67%) believe that Bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S. is a bad idea.

House Passes Bill to Suspend Intake of Refugees in U.S.

A bill that would suspend the U.S. refugee program passed in the House last Thursday. The bill suspends the program that would allow Iraqi and Syrian refugees into the country until top security agencies approve entrance. The House voted 289-137. Forty-seven Democrats voted with Republicans for the bill. Minority Leader Harry Reid has said that he would try to block the bill in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has said he would veto the bill. But House Speaker Paul Ryan said national security is “at stake.” The veto threat “baffles me,” Ryan said, “especially given the fact that his own law enforcement top officials came to Congress and testified that there are gaps in this refugee program.”

Syrian Refugees Caught Before Entering U.S.

Honduras police just caught a group of Syrians with fake and stolen Greek passports who were trying to sneak into the U.S. through Mexico, a police spokesman in Tegucigalpa told Reuters last week. At least one suspect in Friday’s terror attack in Paris had reportedly entered Europe with a fake Syrian passport. The suspects in Honduras were in police custody, and had flown to the country from Costa Rica. They were trying to arrive in the U.S. by land, presumably by traveling through Mexico, the police spokesman added.

Two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection claim that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector. The federal agents spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity, however, a local president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) confirmed that Laredo Border Patrol agents have been officially contacting the organization with concerns over reports from other federal agents about Syrians illegally entering the country in the Laredo Sector, reports Conservative Byte.

Europe & U.S. Under Terror Alert

New York conducted an extensive active-shooter drill with an eye toward the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Brussels extended its highest alert into Monday as major cities in Europe and the United States hunker down in the face of chilling threats of terror. In Brussels, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel extended the highest alert level for at least another day, citing an “imminent threat” to the capital. The city was in a virtual lockdown, with commuter rails and schools ordered closed and most cultural and sports venues also shuttered. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said “several suspects” linked to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks were being sought in Belgium.

Eighty Radical Mosques in U.S.

There are more than 80 radical mosques are in the U.S., according to the Clarion Project, a non-profit group that describes itself as “dedicated to exposing the dangers of Islamist extremism.” These mosques or their leading clerics have radicalized attendees to become terrorists, supported terrorist organizations, made radical Islamist remarks or hosted others that have, or are financially backed by radical individuals or organizations. “Islamist extremists have developed a sophisticated network of interconnected organizations across America,” according to Clarion. “The common thread among these organizations is their ideology of political Islam, which aspires to implement Shariah governance and to establish a global Islamic caliphate.”

Obama Admin Blocks 75 Percent of Islamic State Strikes

U.S. military pilots who have returned from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq are confirming that they were blocked from dropping 75 percent of their ordnance on terror targets because they could not get clearance to launch a strike, reports minutemennews.com. Strikes against the Islamic State targets are often blocked due to an Obama administration policy to prevent civilian deaths and collateral damage, according to Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The policy is being blamed for allowing Islamic State militants to gain strength across Iraq and continue waging terrorist strikes throughout the region and beyond, according to Royce and former military leaders who spoke Wednesday about flaws in the U.S. campaign to combat the Islamic State.

  • As with other terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamic State purposely hides behind civilians knowing the West is reluctant to cause ‘collateral damage’

Terror Attacks Seen as Evidence of a Shift by ISIS

The recent attacks in Paris and Beirut and the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt were the first results of a centrally planned terrorism campaign by a wing of the Islamic State leadership that oversees “external” targets, according to American and European intelligence officials, reports the New York Times. Carrying out attacks far from the Islamic State’s base in Iraq and Syria represents an evolution of the group’s previous model of exhorting followers to take up arms wherever they live — but without significant help from the group. And it upends the view held by the United States and its allies that the Islamic State as a only regional threat. One possible motivation of the change in strategy by the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, is to seize leadership of the global jihad from Al Qaeda — from which the Islamic State broke away in 2013.

Terror Mastermind Killed in Paris Raid, Entered France as Refugee

The mastermind of the Paris terror attacks died during a massive police raid Wednesday in a Paris suburb, the Paris prosecutor said Thursday. The bullet-riddled body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, was among two suspects found in the rubble following a police assault on an apartment in Saint Denis. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Friday some of the Paris attackers, including the mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, exploited the Syrian refugee crisis to slip into the country unnoticed. French officials said they believe that the terror cell directed by Abaaoud was preparing for another terror attack only days after their initial murderous spree left 129 people dead in central Paris. French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Thursday that Abaaoud has also been linked to other attacks in Europe over the past year, including attacks on synagogues, and may be connected to an attempted assault aboard an Amsterdam to Paris train in August that was thwarted by three Americans. Turkish authorities arrested three people with suspected ties to ISIS in last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, CNN Turk reported Saturday.

Gunmen Hit Luxury Hotel in Mali, Take Hostages, 3 Dead

Gunmen in Mali stormed a Radisson Blu hotel popular with foreigners in Bamako, the nation’s capital, on Friday, taking some 170 people hostage. The takeover, which was punctuated by gunfire and explosions, according a Malian military official. Malian security forces, aided by U.S. and French special forces, ended the 7-hour siege that left up to 27 hostages and two extremists dead. The U.S. Department of State confirmed that an American citizen is among those who were killed. One guest earlier reported that the attackers instructed him to recite verses from the Quran before he was allowed to leave the hotel. A security source told Reuters that as many as 10 gunmen stormed the building, firing shots and shouting, “God is great,” in Arabic. Malian security forces were hunting “more than three” suspects on Saturday.

Boko Haram Overtakes ISIS as World’s Deadliest Terror Group

With its reign of terror in the Middle East, its claim to have brought down a Russian passenger jet and now, the atrocities in Paris, ISIS has commanded global headlines as the world’s most dangerous terror group. But another militant Islamist organization overtook ISIS to become the world’s deadliest terrorist group last year, according to a new report from the Institute for Economics and Peace. Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group based mainly in Nigeria’s northern states, was responsible for 6,644 deaths in 2014, an increase of 317% from the previous year, according to the Global Terrorism Index, released Tuesday. By contrast, ISIS, the terror group to which Boko Haram reportedly pledged allegiance in March of this year, was responsible for 6,073 deaths. There were 32,658 people killed in terrorist attacks last year — nine times more victims than there were in 2000, the report says.

  • Evil is ramping up in the end-time march toward the Tribulation

Security Tight as Obama Arrives in Malaysia for ASEAN Summit

Security was heightened in the wake of several recent terror attacks as President Obama arrived in this capital city Friday for a series of regional meetings focused on terrorism and China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. No specific threats against the country were confirmed, but Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said reports of a leaked police memo warning of suicide bombings were legit. Local media reported the memo said the Islamic State and the Philippine Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf were planning to carry out attacks in Kuala Lumpur and Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo.

Refugee Crisis Not Just about Syrians

The heart-wrenching plight of desperate refugees, most of them Syrians, who are fleeing to Europe by land or sea is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Yet it is only part of a troubling trend that has reached unprecedented levels: More people from every corner of the globe have been uprooted by war, persecution or natural disasters than ever before in history. In the U.S., the vast majority of migrants trying to cross the southwestern border are no longer Mexicans looking for better-paying jobs. Now it’s people fleeing Central America for their personal safety. Refugees of African countries to South Africa are the targets of attack in their new home, blamed for taking jobs from locals. The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority living in Burma, have fled the country on rickety and overcrowded boats, seeking refuge in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Instead, they often find themselves trapped again, snared in a transnational network of smugglers and traffickers that exploits the desperate migrants.

More Mexicans Leaving the U.S. than Arriving

More Mexicans are now leaving the U.S. than are coming into the country, a Pew Research Center report said Thursday. While tougher enforcement of immigration laws has been a significant factor in the reversal, most of the departing Mexicans are leaving on their own. Citing Mexican census figures, the report found that 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico from 2009 to 2014. It said that U.S. census data for the same period shows an estimated 870,000 Mexicans entered the U.S. Pew’s findings accounted for both documented and undocumented immigrants. Among the most common reasons Mexicans are saying adiós to the USA are a slow economic recovery here and the fact that they miss their families back home, the study found.

Anonymous Hackers Thwart Islamic State Online

While the Islamic State has had much success using social media to get its message out, a loose band of activists who go by the name “hunters” are just as busy trying to shut it down. The hactivist group Anonymous, the most well-known of these hunters, tweeted Wednesday that more than 6,080 IS Twitter accounts had been disabled due to its efforts. Ghost Security Group, which goes by the name GhostSec, collects reports of Islamic extremist groups and works to remove their content. These sometimes overlapping groups are called “hunters,” said Veryan Khan, editorial director with the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, a private firm that collects information on terrorism. “Hunting groups are volunteer cyber militias,” she said.

STD Rates Rise Dramatically in U.S.

The news in this year’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on sexually transmitted diseases is not good. The number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the United States increased between 2013 and 2014, after being on the decline for several years. Cases of syphilis, which have been on the rise for the last decade, shot up in 2014. “This is a bare minimum of the number of infections occurring in the U.S.,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention. There could be many cases that went undiagnosed because the infections did not cause symptoms.

UnitedHealth Warns It May Exit Obamacare Plans

Insurance giant UnitedHealth Group dealt a blow to the Affordable Care Act on Thursday when it warned that it may stop offering insurance plans to individuals through the public exchanges established by the reform law. In a surprise, UnitedHealth downgraded its earnings forecast in a sign that ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, are taking a toll on the company’s bottom line. People who purchase plans through the public exchanges are typically heavy users of their plans, draining insurers’ profits. UnitedHealth warned investors that it would reap $425 million less in revenue during the fourth quarter than it had previously expected. News that not even UnitedHealth Group can make money on the Obamacare exchanges is rattling the entire healthcare industry. Five health-care stocks in the S&P 500, including hospitals Tenet Healthcare and HCA Holding, and insurers Aetna, Anthem and UnitedHealth were down 5.6% or more Thursday.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve says it’s the pace of interest rate hikes that investors should be focusing on, not the timing of the first increase in nearly a decade. And the pace of the rate-hike cycle will be executed “gradually.” That was the message the U.S. central bank sent to Wall Street on Wednesday in the release of the minutes of its October policy meeting. Rates are still at emergency low levels in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as the Fed has seen the need to keep borrowing rates low to stimulate the slow economic rebound. Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy “could well” be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed’s first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade. Patients might not be concerned enough about these diseases, said Dr. Laura Elizabeth Riley, director of obstetrics and gynecology infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. “These are things that are treatable but also avoidable,” she said.

U.S. housing starts in October fell to a seven-month low, weighed down by a steep decline in the construction of multi-family homes, but a surge in building permits suggested the housing market remained on solid ground. Groundbreaking dropped 11 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.06 million units last month, the lowest level since March, the Commerce Department said. October marked the seventh straight month that starts remained above 1 million units, the longest stretch since 2007. Building permits increased 4.1 percent to a 1.15 million-unit rate.

A massive supply glut has caused global oil prices to crash this year. Ferocious production from OPEC and near-record U.S. output is adding to sky-high oil inventories around the world. The oversupply problem has gotten so bad that oil tankers waiting to be offloaded are piling up off the U.S. Gulf Coast because there’s nowhere to put the crude. So-called “floating storage” of crude oil soared to nearly triple the normal level last week in a “super tanker traffic jam, according to ClipperData, which tracks global shipments of crude.

Persecution Watch

A visibly orthodox Jewish man was stabbed in Marseilles, France, Wednesday evening by three Islamic State supporters. Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin said three men on bikes approached the victim, a history teacher at a local Jewish school, on the street. “The three people insulted, threatened and then stabbed their victim in the arm and leg. They were interrupted by the arrival of a car and fled,” Robin told Reuters, adding that one of the assailants was wearing a t-shirt with the Islamic State logo.

Middle East

An American teen was among five people killed Thursday in a pair of attacks by Palestinians, including a stabbing at an office building in Tel Aviv. A knife-wielding Palestinian man fatally stabbed two Israeli men in a southern Tel Aviv office building before being apprehended. A shooter opened fire on an Israeli car from his vehicle. The Israeli military said the vehicle fled the scene and “intentionally” rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians. The attack took place in Gush Etzion, an area south of Jerusalem. Police told Reuters that the number of Israelis who have died in a wave of violence over the past seven weeks, stemming from tensions over the Temple Mount, has risen to 16, along with 79 Palestinians. The Hamas militant group, on Twitter, praised the attack.

Islamic State

China has vowed to bring ISIS to justice after the group said it had executed two hostages, a Chinese and a Norwegian. But how to respond to Fan Jinghui’s “cold-blooded and violent” death presents a dilemma for China, which has stayed on the sidelines in the fight against ISIS and has a long-held principle of noninterference in other countries’ affairs. To date, Beijing has been vague on the question of what it will contribute to the global fight against ISIS and has declined to explicitly offer its support for airstrikes being conducted against the group in Syria.

Syria

Syria’s president says his forces are advancing on “almost” all fronts thanks to Russian airstrikes that began nearly two months ago and have tipped the balance in his favor in some parts of the country. Russia, which has conducted an air campaign in Syria since Sept. 30, sharply raised its intensity in recent days on President Vladimir Putin’s orders after Moscow said it had confirmed that a bomb brought down a Russian plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Assad said the Russian airstrikes are more effective than those of the U.S.-led coalition because Moscow is coordinating with his government, saying “you cannot fight terrorism with airstrikes alone.” The Kuwaiti newspaper Daily al-Rai reported on Monday that Russia has deployed ground troops to Syria in direct support of the Assad regime, supplementing the Kremlin’s reinforced and intensified air campaign. Fierce fighting continued Monday in several areas of Syria, adding to the death toll in the nearly five-year-old conflict which some observers estimate has already resulted in over 300,000 deaths and many more wounded and displaced

Russia

Russia’s counter-terrorism agency says it has raided the hideout of armed militants in the North Caucasus and killed 11 of them. The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the militants were part of a group whose members had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. An Islamic insurgency has long simmered in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus republics of southern Russia. The region, which includes Chechnya and Dagestan, has recently become a fertile ground for ISIS propaganda and recruitment.

Afghanistan

Threatening letters from the Taliban, once tantamount to a death sentence, are now being forged and sold to Afghans who want to start a new life in Europe. The handwritten notes on the stationery of the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan had been traditionally sent to those alleged to have worked with Afghan security forces or U.S.-led troops, listing their “crimes” and warning that a “military commission” would decide on their punishment. They would close with the mafia-style caveat that insurgents “will take no further responsibility for what happens in the future.” But nowadays the Taliban say they have mostly ceased the practice, while those selling forged threat letters are doing a brisk business as tens of thousands of Afghans flee to Europe, hoping to claim asylum. Forgers say a convincing threat letter can go for up to $1,000.

Iran

Iran has started cutting back on some nuclear technology, which could be reengineered to make nuclear weapons, in line with a deal with six world powers, a U.N. nuclear agency report said Wednesday. However, diplomats familiar with the report said that the country is keeping thousands of machines that could be used for such a purpose on standby. The U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency report and the diplomats’ assessments present a mixed picture of the pace of Iran’s moves to comply with the July 14 deal it signed with the six countries and come about a month after the deal was formally adopted on Oct. 18. A total reduction of about 4,500 of the nearly 20,000 machines was reported. Iran had previously set up. But the diplomats said all of the machines that have been taken out were previously idle. Thousands of centrifuges that were spinning uranium into enriched levels used for fuel are no longer online but remain on standby and can be restarted at short notice, reports United Against Nuclear Iran.

Argentina

Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri is poised to become Argentina’s next President after a runoff vote that marks the end of a political dynasty. Daniel Scioli, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s hand-picked successor, conceded defeat. Fernandez, who’s slated to leave office in December after eight years at the helm, Sunday’s closely watched vote was a test of whether her populist political legacy would endure. It could also change how the South American country handles its debt problems and interacts with Wall Street. Macri said he wants to rewrite the playbook on Argentina’s economy — a campaign promise that made him popular on Wall Street and drew sharp criticism from his opponents.

Earthquakes

The largest earthquake of the year rattled northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas early Thursday morning. The USGS said the magnitude 4.7 quake happened at 1:42 a.m. local time and was centered about 8 miles southwest of Cherokee, about 20 miles south of the Kansas border. The center of the quake was shallow — about four miles under the surface — and people in the communities of Cherokee and nearby Alva reported feeling strong shaking.

Weather

The first significant wintry storm of the season blanketed parts of the Midwest with a foot of snow Friday and more was on the way Saturday, creating hazardous conditions as some travelers prepared to depart for the Thanksgiving holiday. While winter has not officially begun, the shovels and snow blowers were out from South Dakota and southern Minnesota, to Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The National Weather Service said the snow would continue in Illinois and Indiana on Saturday, as well as move into Michigan before heading northeast into Canada late Saturday.

Severe thunderstorms tore through parts of northern Argentina and southern Brazil Wednesday into early Thursday, dumping damaging hail, flooding rain, even spawning a tornado. Hail up to the size of tennis balls pelted parts of Córdoba and Santa Fe provinces, west and northwest of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires last Wednesday.

After nearly a week of non-stop rain in India, 59 people are dead after over 21 inches of rain fell in the past week. More than 138,000 people have been impacted by floods, landslides and heavy rains in Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society.

In Myanmar, heavy rains caused a landslide near a jade mine has killed more than 100 people and left hundreds missing. Most of the victims are villagers who had been sifting through waste and processed mining materials when the landslide struck Saturday afternoon in Kachin state. The region is home to some of the world’s highest quality jade, producing billions of dollars a year from it.

Signs of the Times (11/18/15)

November 18, 2015

Christianity on the Brink of Disappearing in the Middle East

A new report suggests that barring significant interventions on the part of world powers, the Christian presence in the Middle East may disappear completely within a decade – or even sooner. That bleak outlook comes from “Persecuted & Forgotten?” – a biannual report on Christian persecution that is produced by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, pointing out in particular the severe crisis in Syria and Iraq brought on by Islamist groups, notably ISIS, in carrying out “religiously motivated ethnic cleaning.” Todd Daniels, Middle East manager for the advocacy group International Christian Concern, agrees with the forecast. “Without massive change in the government structures and the security structures, it’s hard to see how there will be a place for them [Christians] in the next few years.”

Only 2% of Syrian Refugees to America are Christian, Disproportionate

The Obama Administration is not admitting Christian refugees from Syria in proportion to their population. Despite the fact 10% of refugees fleeing ISIS in the region are Christian, only 2% or 53 Christian refugees of 2,151 coming to America are Christian. President Obama has admitted 2,098 or 98% Muslim refugees, reports PrayInJesusName.org. “President Obama said Monday that calls from some quarters for the U.S. to admit only Christian refugees from Syria were ‘shameful,’ yet the reality is that today’s refugee system discriminates, not against Syrian Muslims, but against Christians and other non-Muslim minorities,” reports CNS News. Critics say this is because the federal government relies on the United Nations in the refugee application process – and since Syrian Christians are often afraid to register with the U.N., they and other non-Muslims are left out.

  • The U.N. is no friend of America or Christians

Islamic State Video Warns of More Attacks on West

A chilling new Islamic State video warns of deadly consequences in the United States or any country that joins the French in their punishing airstrikes against ISIL positions in Syria and Iraq. ‘We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day God willing, like France’s and by God, as we struck France in the center of Paris, we swear we will strike America at its center in Washington,” a militant says in the video. ISIS probably has plans for more attacks “in the pipeline,” according to the head of the CIA, although President Barack Obama’s national security team said over the weekend that the threat to Europe is greater than it is to the U.S.

  • Obama claimed that his ‘strategy’ was keeping ISIS contained, yet another lie or the result of obstinate blindness. In fact, Obama’s efforts at reconciliation provided cover for ISIS expansion.

Paris Terrorism Update

On Monday, a French official identified the suspected mastermind of the attacks that killed 132 people in Paris on Friday as Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, according to media reports. French radio station RTL described Abaaoud, 27, as “one of the most active (Islamic State) executioners” in Syria. Abaaoud is believed to be linked to thwarted attacks on a high-speed train bound for the French capital and a church in the Paris area earlier this year. French police carried out nearly 170 searches and arrested 23 people in dawn raids in the wake of the attacks on Paris, and more than 100 people are placed under house arrest. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told France Info radio Tuesday morning that security forces had carried out 128 raids.

French police stormed an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint Denis on Wednesday where at least two suspected terrorists linked to last week’s attacks, including a female suicide bomber, were killed, authorities said. Seven arrests were made in the raid, which reportedly targeted the man believed to be the leader of Friday’s attacks in the French capital. Officials were hunting for Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, according to media reports; that led to gunfire exchanges in Saint Denis between police and an unknown number of suspects who barricaded themselves in an apartment. One woman blew herself up.

  • If Abdelhamid Abaaoud is confirmed to have been hiding out in Paris, it would mean the Islamic State operative had somehow managed to slip past security nets and return from the battlefields of the Middle East raising serious questions about how well security measures work in keeping terrorists out

The French air force carried out bombing missions on ISIS targets in Raqqa, Syria, for a second day in a row. ISIS claims Raqqa as the capital of its so-called caliphate. France’s strikes early Tuesday destroyed a command post and training camp, according to military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron. They were the second wave of airstrikes by France against ISIS after the Paris attacks. The Russian military joined France in launching airstrikes against an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria Tuesday.

At least one of the terrorists who attacked civilians in Paris on Friday entered the European Union hidden among the wave of refugees arriving on European shores. The attacks appear to have been carried out by people from several nations and to have involved extensive planning and sophisticated weapons, notes the New York Times.

  • How many Islamic terrorists are infiltrating the U.S. among the thousands of refugees being legally taken into our country? More than a few, unfortunately.

U.S. Venues, Cities on High-Alert after Paris Attacks

Homeland Security officials talked with local officials Saturday to reiterate they had received no credible threats to U.S. soil, but they urged cities to remain vigilant after the attacks in Paris. Many states opened their state or regional law enforcement centers to coordinate security. Tourist destinations such as historical sites, religious institutions, social establishments and other locations that could potentially be targeta are getting special police attention.

Dozens of Governors Refuse to Receive Syrian Refugees after Paris Attacks

More than half the nation’s governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, although the final say on this contentious immigration issue will fall to the federal government. The declarations come amid reports that at least one of the Paris attackers slipped through Europe’s immigration system. The governors are also concerned about “gaping holes” impacting America’s screening process. In Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population, Gov. Rick Snyder said he was putting his prior calls for the state to accept more refugees on hold until the Department of Homeland Security reviewed its screening procedures. The Detroit Free Press reported that between 1,800 and 2,000 refugees had been resettled in Michigan over the past year and that approximately 200 of those were from Syria. In a statement, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said, “I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

The Price of Counterterrorism Is Expensive

Gordon Adams, a national security budget expert, estimates that the U.S. spends at least $100 billion a year on counter-terrorism efforts. But he and other defense experts caution that pinpointing a precise cost is impossible. Counter-terrorism activities go far beyond military activities and some costs are classified. the United States spends far more on defense and counter-terrorism than any other country in the world. Its military expenditures alone top that of the next seven countries combined, which are China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, India and Germany, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Ohio Teachers Increasingly Pack Guns in School

Dozens of school districts in Ohio now allow teachers who have conceal-carry permits to pack guns on the job. While an exact number of Buckeye State districts now allowing teachers to have guns in the classroom is not known, there are at least 40, according to Joe Eaton, director of FASTERsaveslives.org, a program affiliated with the Buckeye Firearms Foundation which sponsors training for teachers from the school districts. Teachers who recently took part in the program were taught not only about gun safety and use, but were taught paramedic skills and how to react to active shooter situations, according to WKRC in Cincinnati. “The single most important factor in active killer death toll is time,” Chad Baus, of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, said in a statement to Foxnews.com. “The longer killers have their way in so-called ‘no-guns’ zones, the more people die. The sooner they are stopped, the fewer people die.”

Obama Sets Out on Six-Day Trip to Asia

President Obama arrives in Manila in the Philippines on Tuesday for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, a meeting of 21 Pacific Rim economies. The president plans to highlight security partnerships across the Pacific, climate change, counterterrorism, human rights and the global refugee crisis, a White House adviser said. Military tensions with China in the South China Sea and the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement are likely to be the key issues of President Obama’s trip.

More Doctors Offering Direct-Pay Health Care

Instead of dealing with traditional insurance, co-pays and deductibles, many patients are now paying a one-year membership fee that includes an annual physical exam and between two and four office visits. Small procedures such as nebulizer treatments, strep tests and electrocardiograms are included. For example, Dr. Christina Bovelsky’s patients in Delaware can pay monthly fees between $65 and $75. Yearly rates for adults vary between $780 and $900, depending on the number of visits a patient wants. Care for children under 18 ranges from $240 to $360. Additional office visits cost $80 each. A Physicians’ Foundation 2014 survey found 7 percent of U.S. doctors now run a direct-pay practice and another 13 percent plan to transition to some form of direct-pay model.

Wall Street Is Hurting

Americans have lost respect for big banks. In Gallup polls, just over a quarter of Americans trust banks today. A decade ago, it was over 50%. Top college grads increasingly want to go to Silicon Valley, not Wall Street. They see tech as a better way to make money and change the world. “People could not be fleeing Wall Street faster at this point,” says Baiju Bhatt, a computer whiz who used to work on Wall Street. “All the kinds of people I remember who would have gone into consulting or finance are definitely trying to get jobs in tech right now.” Investment banks like Goldman Sachs (GS) have responded by increasing their starting salaries and enacting “sacred Saturday” policies to give young bankers a day off.

Iraq is Flooding America with Oil

The U.S. more than doubled its imports of oil from Iraq between August and September, according to a Platts analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. The U.S. imported 521,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day during the final week of October. That was up from zero during several weeks in August. The dramatic increase in Iraqi oil imports is only adding to the already-massive supply glut that has pushed down oil prices. Crude oil prices sank to a four-month low of $40.06 a barrel this week and they’re down 12% in November alone. Iraq has really stepped up its oil production this year despite its own battles with ISIS and cheap prices. The shift is being driven by the simple fact that it’s cheaper for oil producers to have certain blends of oil refined on the Gulf Coast than in Europe. During the last week of October, the U.S. imported nearly 900,000 barrels per day from Saudi Arabia and almost 3 million from Canada.

  • As cheap oil drives fracking operations out of business, imports of oil are increasing. So much for energy independence.

Economic News

Consumer prices edged up in October after two straight months of declines as gasoline costs moved higher. The consumer price index rose 0.2%, the Labor Department said Tuesday, Over the past year, prices are up 0.2%. Gasoline prices increased 0.4% last month after tumbling the two previous months. The report could provide the Federal Reserve more evidence that low inflation is stabilizing as it considers raising interest rates next month for the first time in nearly a decade.

Car buyers now owe $1 trillion on their car loans, the first time they’ve ever owed that much. The loan balances have been driven up by a combination of three factors — strong car sales, rising car prices and low interest rates. Interest rates are low. Borrowers with top credit scores can get loans for less than 3%. New car sales are up nearly 6% so far this year. But the amount owed is up 11%, due to rising auto prices.

Japan’s economic output shrank in the most recent quarter, throwing the world’s third largest economy back into recession and presenting another setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for reviving the nation’s long-suffering economy. Japan’s Cabinet Office announced Monday that gross domestic product, the measure of a nation’s goods and services, fell at an annualized rate of 0.8% in the July-September quarter, and shrank at a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in the previous quarter. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Middle East

A man in his 40s and his 18-year old son were murdered by Palestinian terrorists while driving to a family celebration. Other family members were wounded. Rabbi Yaakov Litman, in his early 40s, and his son Netanel, 18, were shot dead in a Palestinian terror attack on Route 60 in the South Hebron Hills in Judea, near the city of Hebron, on Friday afternoon. The family was on the way to a Shabbat celebration in honor of the upcoming wedding of a daughter, who was not with them during the attack.

Islamic State

An American airstrike has targeted and likely killed a top Islamic State leader in Libya, in a strike that happened just as the Paris terrorist attacks were underway, the Pentagon said Saturday. The U.S. strike targeted Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al-Qaida operative and the senior Islamic State leader in Libya. This was the first airstrike against an Islamic State leader in Libya and comes on the heels of a U.S. and British operation late last week in Syria that officials believe likely killed Islamic State militant Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi was a Kuwaiti-born British citizen known as “Jihadi John,” who appeared in several videos depicting the beheadings of U.S. and Western hostages.

Intensifying pressure on the Islamic State, United States warplanes for the first time attacked hundreds of trucks on Monday that the extremist group has been using to smuggle the crude oil it has been producing in Syria, American officials said. Plans for the strike were developed well before the terrorist attacks in and around Paris on Friday, and the assault is part of a broader operation to disrupt the ability of the Islamic Stateto generate revenue to support its military operations and run its self-styled caliphate.

The terror group that claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner in Egypt last month is a little known affiliate of the Islamic State that has quietly but rapidly grown into a powerful regional threat. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed Tuesday that the plane was blown up by a homemade explosive device. Russia is offering $50 million for information that would lead to those responsible for planting the bomb. The group called the Sinai Province claimed responsibility for a July rocket attack that hit an Egyptian navy frigate in the Mediterranean Sea off the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula. The group has also tried to seize territory in the Sinai Peninsula and launched car bombs in Cairo and elsewhere over the past couple years, all signature tactics of the Islamic State militants.

Nigeria

At least 31 people were killed and 72 others injured in a bomb blast in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola on Tuesday evening. The explosion ripped through the crowded Tipper Garage in the Jambutu area of the city at around 7:48 p.m. local time ‎shortly after evening prayers. This area houses a livestock market, an open-air restaurant and a mosque. The explosion happened as traders were leaving the mosque and others were eating at the restaurant, most likely the work of Boko Haram militants.

Earthquakes

Wildfires raging across southwest Australia killed four people, officials said Wednesday, as a blistering heat wave swept through the country. The bodies of four people were found in a rural area north of the town of Esperance, where several fires have been burning since they were sparked by lightning on Sunday. Hundreds of residents have been evacuated and schools were closed as firefighters struggled to contain the blazes, which have been fanned by days of fierce winds and temperatures soaring above100 Fahrenheit. The Salmon Gums blaze has burned through 1,100 square miles of land.

Weather

At least three people are dead and more than 1 million lost power Tuesday as powerful winds raked the Pacific Northwest and parts of the interior Northwest. Winds were clocked as high as 119 mph in the mountains of Washington state while urban centers were buffeted by winds strong enough to cause extensive damage to trees and buildings. Heavy rain is also causing its share of problems, contributing to serious flooding in parts of western Washington. Falling trees were blamed for three deaths.

As many as 38 unconfirmed tornadoes struck a swath of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska Monday, causing damage in at least two of those states as a severe weather outbreak unfolds across the central and southern Plains. Officials in Texas said one of the tornadoes destroyed an oil and gas facility, raising concerns about radioactive material stored there. The storms also brought strong non-tornadic winds to some areas, and in Texas and Oklahoma combined, some 47,000 customers woke up without power Tuesday morning. So far, there have been no injuries reported from these storms.

Authorities said a rare tornado struck a Central California town, causing damage to some structures and knocking down trees and power lines. The National Weather Service said video and witness reports confirm a tornado touched down in Denair, about 13 miles southeast of Modesto, on Sunday afternoon. The Modesto Bee reports the twister swept along nearly a mile of Zeering Road, toppling trees and fences, breaking windows and ripping off part of a church roof. The tornado came as another cold front swept across California. Hail and thunderstorms were reported in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Signs of the Times (11/14/15)

November 14, 2015

Horrific ISIS Terror Attack in France

The Islamic State claimed responsibility Saturday for a series of terror attacks in Paris described by French President Francois Hollande as “an act of war” that killed at least 127 people. Putting his nation’s security at its highest level, Hollande vowed to hit back against the militants and declared three days of national mourning. France has already bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition. French police were hunting Saturday for possible accomplices to eight terrorists who carried out the attacks at six sites in the city, employing seven suicide bombs. At the Bataclan concert hall, where terrorists triggered explosives and fired shots during a performance by the California rock band Eagles of Death Metal, police said the bodies of more than 110 victims remained inside. Other victims were killed at a stadium and at cafes. Three suicide bombs went off outside the national stadium, where Hollande was among the spectators at an exhibition soccer match between the French and German national teams. Investigators are searching for information about the attackers. Police said a Syrian passport was found on the body of one suicide bomber at the stadium. Hollande, speaking Saturday from the Élysée Palace, said the attacks were “prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside.”

  • The efforts against ISIS have been too little, too late. They need to be destroyed by any means necessary.

G-20 Summit to Focus on Migrants/ISIS

Because of Turkey’s involvement in the conflict in neighboring Syria and the fact that combat is occurring only 300 miles from the Group of 20 summit venue in Antalya, Syria and ISIS will loom large when the world leaders meet on Sunday. The leaders — representing the USA, European powers, China, Russia, Japan, India and Brazil — plan to discuss a possible peace plan and what to do about the flood of refugees fleeing Syria and other wars. The attacks in France will also certainly be a topic.

  • There is no such thing as a ‘peace plan’ with the fanatically evil Islamic State

Sheriffs Fume over Mass Release of 6,112 Federal Inmates

Local sheriffs across America are voicing concern for the safety of the citizens they’ve sworn to protect after the biggest one-time release of federal inmates in U.S. history. The 6,112 inmates were released from federal prison at the beginning of November in response to a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce sentences for most drug trafficking offenses and apply them retroactively. It coincides with a broader and bipartisan push for rethinking federal sentencing. “There’s no transition here, there’s no safety net. This is the biggest sham they are trying to sell the American people,” Sheriff Paul Babeu of Arizona’s Pinal County told FoxNews.com. “On average these criminals have been in federal prison for nine years — you don’t have to be a sheriff to realize that a felon after nine years in jail isn’t going to be adding value to the community. A third are illegals and felons so they can’t work. What do we think they are going to do?” said Babeu, also a congressional candidate. The Justice Department says 77 percent of exiting inmates are already in half-way houses or home confinement.

Three Men Arrested for Alleged ‘Race War’ Plot

The FBI arrested three Virginia men for attempting to buy weapons from an undercover agent, which they had hoped to use to attack black churches and Jewish synagogues. They are accused of plotting to rob a jeweler and use the money to help Doyle buy land and stockpile weapons for “an impending race war,” a court affidavit says. They tried to buy an automatic weapon, explosives and a pistol with a silencer from three undercover agents posing as illegal firearms dealers. All three men, who were arrested Sunday, have lengthy criminal records, led by Charles D. Halderman’s 17 felony convictions.

Half of CA’s Illegal Immigrants Would Qualify for Medicaid

Over half of all illegal immigrants in California earn incomes so low that they would be eligible for the state Medicaid system, Medi-Cal, a new study has found, just as California is about to extend the health insurance to children in the country illegally. The non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California concluded that, should the deep blue state choose to go further and expand the program to include all illegal immigrants, 51 percent of them would have incomes low enough to be eligible for the program. The study estimates that there are approximately 2.6 million illegal immigrants living in California, and so approximately 1.4 million would be eligible for Medi-Cal benefits should they be extended to them.

Wanted: 100,000 New STEM Teachers

In schools across America, there are “Help Wanted” signs advertising jobs that desperately need to be filled. They’re all for teaching positions in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) which have 100,000 open positions nationwide. 100Kin10 is a New York nonprofit trying to fill those roles. Its name reflects its goal: train and place 100,000 new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teachers by 2021. “There’s an urgency to meet this target because our schools have to better prepare kids for the future where the economy will largely be driven by STEM-based jobs,” said Talia Milgrom-Elcott, executive director of 100Kin10. What started as a group of 28 corporations, universities and nonprofits has since ballooned into a robust initiative with more than 230 public and private partners around the country.

Workers’ Share of Corporate Benefit Expense is Escalating

Companies’ health care costs in 2015 rose at the lowest rate in at least 20 years, a report out Thursday shows, but workers’ share of costs continue to skyrocket. The average health care rate increase for mid-sized and large companies was 3.2% this year, the lowest since the consulting firm Aon started tracking it in 1996. Despite this, the average amount workers have to contribute toward their health care is up more than 134% over the past decade and that trend will accelerate, says the report. Employees on average contributed $2,490 toward premiums and another $2,208 in out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles in 2015, the report shows. The amount of employees’ premium and out-of-pocket costs combined was just $2,001 in 2005.

Income Tax Identity Theft Baffles IRS

Income tax identity theft is a huge problem that is only getting worse. According to a 2015 report of the General Accountability Office (GAO), the IRS paid out $5.8 billion dollars in bogus refunds to identity thieves for the tax year 2013 and according to the GAO, the real figure is quite probably higher because of the difficulty of knowing the amount of undetected fraud. The IRS announced a new cooperative effort between the IRS, state tax administrators and private tax preparation leaders to fight income tax identity theft. Included among the steps being taken are a review of the IP addresses of computers filing income tax returns online in order to identify computers filing multiple returns; and monitoring the time it takes to complete an electronic income tax return which can help identify fraudulent income tax returns since completing a fraudulent return generally takes less time than preparing a legitimate return. In addition, income tax preparation software companies will start using enhanced validation protocols including increased use of security questions.

Economic News

U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in October amid a surprise decline in automobile purchases, suggesting a slowdown in consumer spending that could temper expectations of a strong pickup in fourth-quarter economic growth. The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent last month after being unchanged in September. Sales at auto dealerships fell 0.5 percent last month after rising 1.4 percent in September. Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services rose 0.2 percent after an upwardly revised 0.1 percent gain in September. The lackluster report suggests that savings from cheaper gasoline are being used to pay rents, which have increased substantially over the past year.

#BlackLivesMatter has become a rallying cry in America. An equally troubling question facing the nation is do #BlackJobsMatter?, asks CNNMoney. The unemployment rate for whites is 4.4%. It’s more than double that — 9.2% — for African-Americans. It’s become accepted that the African-American unemployment rate is “always” twice that of whites. It’s been this way for decades. There was hope that the election of President Barack Obama would usher in a new era, but the overall black-white job gap isn’t closing.

General Motors has become the first Detroit automaker to export vehicles from China to the U.S. GM has reportedly solidified a plan to import a Buick from China to the U.S. The automaker will begin selling the Buick Envision — which is already assembled in China, Buick’s most popular market — in the U.S. by early next year, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The compact crossover, currently produced at a plant in Shandong province of China, will fill a key hole in the Buick brand’s U.S. lineup.

President Obama signed into law a bipartisan budget bill last week that, among other things, shores up Social Security Disability payouts. The Social Security Disability trust was on pace to run out money next year and, as a result, millions of Americans were going to receive an automatic 19% reduction in their disability benefits in the fourth quarter of 2016. The new law fixes that by shifting payroll tax revenue from one Social Security trust fund — the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust fund — to another, the Disability Insurance Trust fund.

  • Shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic only postpones an inevitable crisis as the wave of Boomers retire and the proportion of workers supporting retirees and the disabled shrinks

Skyrocketing CEO compensation is a huge and growing concern for investors — and no wonder. In 1965, the average CEO of publicly listed companies was paid 20 times more than the average worker. Last year, it was an incredible 303 times more. When executive compensation gets that extreme, it can take a bite out of company profitability.

Persecution Watch

Christians are under siege in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, according to a disturbing new report. The Southeast Asian nation, where about 90 percent of its 250 million people are Muslim, has long been seen as seen as an example that a large Muslim majority can live in relative peace alongside minority religions, like Christianity and Hinduism. But in October, there was a troubling outburst in violence in the Sharia-law governed region of Aceh. At the urging from Islamic leaders, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets with machetes and torched area churches. “We will not stop hunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah’s enemies,” one Islamic leader said, according to a report by the Gatestone Institute titled, “The Indonesian Jihad on Christian Churches.” The report said that a total of 8,000 Christians in Aceh were displaced in violent clashes.

Four Christian families narrowly escaped being burned alive in their Bangladesh homes after being accused of witchcraft. Christian Today reports that the families had endured accusations from Muslims that they were practicing witchcraft for over a year. The Muslims also threw bricks at the families’ houses and told them to leave the village. “They wanted to kill us by burning us alive, but we managed to escape. We have lost everything,” said Ramni Das who lost two houses in the attack. Neighbors helped the families escape their burning homes. Das reported the attacks to police, but no action has been taken to bring the attackers to justice, although police claim to be investigating the case.

Migrant Crisis

As Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since World War II, the European Union has launched an emergency fund for Africa to tackle the spiraling number of migrants flooding its shores. The nearly $2 billion fund was unveiled at the end of a two-day summit of EU and African leaders in Malta. The fund will support projects to combat poverty, slow down migration and speed up repatriation programs. This new money is in addition to the 20 billion euros annually donated to Africa by the EU and its 28 states. “We are under no illusions that we can improve the situation overnight, but we are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.

Islamic State

Islamic State militants this week freed 37 Assyrian Christians held captive for more than nine months. The release was negotiated by the Assyrian Human Rights Network, according to the Christian Today web site. The radical ISIS army raided several villages along the Khabour River in Northern Syria in February, taking more than 200 people hostage. ISIS had demanded $100,000 for each hostage, about $23 million. The group later lowered the ransom to about half that amount. Since then, about 88 hostages have been released, but at least three have been executed. The AHRN continues to work for the release of the remaining hostages.

  • Hostage ransom fees are one of the primary funding tools of ISIS

The Syrian army has broken a two-year ISIS siege on the Kwairis military airport near Aleppo, which had been surrounded by the terror group since 2013. Government forces killed “hundreds of ISIS terrorists and destroyed their dens and cells with all weapons inside,” Syria’s state news agency SANA reported. “The regime has been fighting since the end of September to break the siege,” said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “Taking this airport back from siege means they can advance to ISIS areas. They can use it to shell areas around Aleppo.” The Syrian military has been backed by Russian air power in recent weeks.

The Sinai Peninsula is the new front line in the battle against ISIS. But the men defending Sinai aren’t soldiers or police. They are Bedouin tribe members. “They are not Muslims,” says Sulieman El Meharwel, one of three tribal leaders who talked to CNN about resisting ISIS. “They kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them. We accept everyone, including Christians and Jews, but we can never accept ISIS.” It’s the Egyptian wing of ISIS that claims to have downed Metrojet Flight 9268 over Sinai, killing all 224 people aboard. “We’ve stopped ISIS more than 20 times. We went out with more than 50 cars and kicked them back,” says Abu Atwey, of the Tarabeen tribe.

Iraq

Iraqi police officials say a suicide bomber killed 17 people at a Baghdad memorial service for a Shiite militia fighter killed in battle against the Islamic State group. The official says the bomber detonated his explosives’ vest on Friday at the service in the southwestern Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Amal. At least 43 people were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Islamic State militant group has frequently targeted large Shiite gatherings. The radical Sunni group believes that Shiites are apostates who have strayed from Islam.

Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes launched a ground offensive shortly after dawn Thursday to recapture the strategic Iraqi town of Sinjar from the Islamic State, touching off a fierce battle for control of the strategic city. U.S. advisers are with Kuridsh units at headquarters far from the fighting, according to a U.S. military official. The Kurdish government said Friday that its forces liberated the strategically important city in Iraq, a day after it severed an important Islamic State supply route in its attempt to retake Sinjar from the militant group. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said that its peshmerga fighters were clearing Sinjar of remaining Islamic State extremists and that those fighters were “defeated and on the run.”

Lebanon

Twin suicide bombings just minutes apart shattered a Shiite suburb in southern Beirut on Thursday, killing at least 43 people and wounding dozens more in one of the deadliest attacks in years, according to Lebanese officials. The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the explosions, which hit during rush hour in the commercial and residential area of Burj al-Barajneh, a stronghold of the Shia Hezbollah movement that is fighting in Syria. At least 239 people were wounded in the blast, the Lebanese Health Ministry said. The explosions erupted at a community center and a nearby bakery, according to Reuters. The Islamic State, which is dominated by Sunni militants, said in a statement posted online by its supporters that its members first blew up a bicycle loaded with explosives, Reuters reported. The second explosion came from a suicide bomber who detonated a charge among the onlookers drawn by the first blast.

Afghanistan

The Taliban don’t only attack other people; factions of the Taliban sometimes battle each other. For the last four days, two Taliban groups have waged gun battles in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan, Ata Mohammad Haqbayan, the head of the Provincial Council in Zabul, said Tuesday. On one side are fighters loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, and on the other are fighters loyal to Mullah Mohammad Rasool, the leader of a Taliban splinter group. So far, about 100 Taliban fighters from both sides have been killed.

Environment

Chinese pollution has reached its highest levels since record-keeping began, creating a dangerous, hazy scene in several cities. In Shenyang, in northeastern China, pollution levels soared as high as 1,400 micrograms per cubic meter. China’s government said pollution levels that exceed 35 micrograms per cubic meter are unhealthy. The highest pollution level ever recorded was 1,986 micrograms per cubic meter in Palangkaraya, Indonesia, during illegal burning in September. The pollution got thicker over the weekend as temperatures plummeted and residents burned coal to stay warm.

The city of Montreal is dumping 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River over the next several days, an action the mayor says is necessary to make repairs and improvements to the city’s wastewater system. Mayor Denis Coderre said, “If we had other options, we would have taken them, but we had no other option.” The city says it’s taking several precautions to make sure the river, its banks and its wildlife suffer no lasting harm. “The citizen outrage over ‪#‎flushgate has been overwhelming in recent days — and despite reassurances from the Canadian federal and provincial governments, the people seem unconvinced that this activity is safe for the River,” a group called Save the River said on its Facebook page.

  • What about the downstream victims? The St. Lawrence River empties in Lake Ontario.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Saturday off the coast of southwest Japan, triggering a small tsunami. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The earthquake struck at 5:51 a.m. at a depth of 6 miles about 11 miles southwest of Kagoshima city, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. A one-foot tsunami was recorded at 6:45 a.m. on Nakanoshima, a small island to the south of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island.

Weather

Along the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada mountains, as much as a foot and a half of snow fell in western Nevada Tuesday. This led to school closures, and the heavy, wet snow briefly knocked out power to more than 36,000 customers in northern Nevada. The storm brought much-needed early-season snow to an area that’s been in the grip of a severe drought for several years. The storm created travel problems in parts of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas Wednesday as blowing snow reduced visibilities to dangerous levels. Numerous accidents were reported on slick, icy roadways. In the higher elevations of Colorado, some areas received at least a foot of new snow from this storm. Winds gusted as high as 50 mph in Nebraska as the snow fell, creating poor driving conditions. A large storm system arrived in the Pacific Northwest Friday, and it’s beginning to cause problems for many residents in western Washington. About 6,000 Puget Sound Energy customers were without power as heavy rain led to some localized flooding.

A powerful low-pressure system swept through the Midwest Wednesday, spawning severe thunderstorms and high winds. Several tornadoes were reported in Iowa, which was among numerous states reporting damage from the fast-moving system. A barn was thrown into a roadway in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. An EF1 tornado with an estimated peak wind speed of 110 mph touched down in a cornfield 2 miles west of Avoca, Iowa. Another tornado reported near Barnes City in Mahaska County caused extensive tree damage and destroyed several farm buildings. More than 6,600 customers were without power in Kansas Wednesday. Damaging winds and tornadoes tore through parts of four Midwest states on Veterans’ Day. Seven tornadoes have been preliminarily confirmed by the National Weather Service in Iowa. One tornado near Avoca, Iowa overturned semis and destroyed outbuildings. Another tornado formed on the Mississippi River before moving into Le Claire, Iowa, removing the roof of one home and damaging several others. There were also 105 reports of thunderstorm wind damage, mainly in Iowa, northern Missouri and Illinois.

Signs of the Times (11/10/15)

November 10, 2015

Campus Stabber’s Manifesto: Praise for Allah & Plan for Beheading

A handwritten manifesto carried by a California college student whose stabbing spree Wednesday left four wounded bore names of his targets, a vow “to cut someone’s head off” and as many as five reminders to “praise Allah,” law enforcement authorities told FoxNews.com, while insisting that neither terrorism nor religion appear to be motives in the attack.

  • Federal officials are going to ridiculous extremes to deny attacks are not terrorism and especially not due to Islam. If it were a Christian attacker the script would be reversed.

Appeals Court Rules against Obama Immigration Plan

President Obama’s executive action preventing the deportation of an estimated 5 million people living illegally in the United States suffered another setback Monday after a federal appeals court upheld a federal judge’s injunction blocking the measure. The 2-1 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans further dims the prospect of implementation of the executive action before Obama leaves office in 2017. Appeals over the injunction could take months. Republicans had criticized the plan as an illegal executive overreach when Obama announced it last November. Twenty-six states challenged the plan in court. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen granted the temporary injunction preventing the order’s implementation this past February, agreeing with the states that legalizing the presence of so many people would be a “virtually irreversible” action that would cause the states “irreparable harm.”

$1B Project to Digitize U.S. immigration Yields Just 1 Form

The government has spent more than $1 billion trying to replace its antiquated approach to managing immigration with a system of digitized records, online applications and a full suite of nearly 100 electronic forms. A decade in, all that officials have to show for the effort is a single form that’s now available for online applications and a single type of fee that immigrants pay electronically. The 94 other forms can be filed only with paper, reports the Washington Post. This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats, according to documents and interviews with former and current federal officials.

  • The government once again proves inept at getting things done, excelling only at wasting taxpayer dollars

FEMA Scandal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency can’t adequately account for more than 70 percent of the money spent on fuel for New York in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, a federal audit released on Friday found. FEMA spent $6.37 million for 1.7 million gallons of fuel as a gasoline shortage crippled the New York City area after the October 2012 storm, according to the audit from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. But the audit found “incomplete and questionable” documentation for $4.56 million of that spending. Additionally, $1.81 million worth of fuel went to recipients outside the scope of work that FEMA established for the crisis, the audit found. As a result, FEMA can’t be sure any of that fuel went to approved power restoration or emergency public transportation work in New York, the audit said. The unaccounted fuel deliveries occurred because FEMA didn’t comply with federal regulations requiring the agency to provide proper documentation accounting for its work, the audit found.

  • Just another federal agency pouring our hard-earned taxes into a black hole. Federal waste is a major contributor to our bloated federal debt

U.S. Military Proposes Sending more Forces to Europe to Deter Russia

U.S. military officials have proposed sending more troops to Europe to deter the threat of aggression by Russia and have stepped training exercises aimed at countering possible interference with troop transfers by Moscow. The Wall Street Journal reports that proposals for the deployment of multiple U.S. brigades in Europe were made over the weekend at the Reagan National Defense Forum. The U.S. Army currently has two infantry brigades based in Eastern Europe, totaling approximately 7,000 soldiers. One other brigade rotates in and out of Europe on a regular basis. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Journal that he would like to send attack helicopter units and artillery brigades to Europe as well as more rotating brigades.

Congress Calls for Obama to Increase ISIS attacks

Top congressional lawmakers expressed little doubt Sunday that ISIS is responsible for the recently downed Russian jetliner and called for heightened security and a revamped U.S. foreign policy to prevent a similar attack on an American passenger jet. The calls for a more aggressive response were made by Capitol Hill Democrats and Republicans, including leaders in intelligence, foreign policy and homeland security. Texas GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that the Obama administration’s tepid efforts to destroy the Islamic State terror group in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East is in large part to blame for the airliner tragedy.

  • As Iraq and Afghanistan fade out of the headlines, Russia and ISIS become the new battleground

U.S. Launches Unarmed Ballistic Missiles Over Western States

The U.S. Navy said it launched a second — and final — missile in a planned exercise Monday afternoon from a submarine off the Southern California coast. The second test launch of the Trident II missile was from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean, the Navy said. The blast-off took place to far less fanfare than Saturday night’s launch, which provoked residents from San Francisco to Mexico to take to social media, posting photos of an eerie-looking bluish-green plume smeared above the Pacific which authorities say was due to the gases expelled in the atmosphere from the Trident’s motor. Speculations were wide-ranging, including rumors of an otherworldly alien UFO.

  • Some say this was a message to China over their increasing militarization of the China Sea near Japan

Greenhouse Gas Levels Rise to Record High

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere hit another record high in 2014, a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report said Monday. The increase in gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide is fueling climate change and making “the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations,” the WMO said. The WMO is the United Nations’ weather agency. The report found that concentrations of carbon dioxide — considered the most dangerous greenhouse gas because of its long life cycle — reached 397.7 ppm in 2014 and that in the Northern Hemisphere it “crossed the symbolically significant 400 ppm level” in the spring of 2014. PPM stands for parts per million. The last time carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm was millions of years ago, according to the journal Nature Geoscience. A 2009 report in the journal found evidence of CO2 levels of 365 ppm to 415 ppm roughly 4.5 million years ago.

  • No humans or greenhouse gases around to blame 4.5 million years ago

Fast-Food Workers Strike, Seeking $15 Wage

Fast-food workers demanding a $15 an hour wage walked out in dozens cities at 6 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off a year-long campaign to muster the political power of 64 million low-wage workers in next year’s presidential election. The protests, which will take place in 270 cities, mark the workers’ largest show of force in the three years since they launched a series of rallies to call for higher pay and the right to unionize. Tens of thousands of workers and supporters were expected to take part in Tuesday’s demonstrations. In contrast to their nine previous walkouts, the workers are putting an emphatic political stamp on Tuesday’s activity. They’ll parade to local city halls in the late afternoon and the daylong offensive is expected to culminate with a protest by several thousand workers at the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee Tuesday night.

Gender Pay Gap Analysis

Yet another study has found overwhelming evidence that men get paid more than women. The pay gap exists even when male and female workers have the same job with the same qualifications. Overall, American women earn just 74 cents for every $1 a man earns, PayScale found after looking at data from over a million people. The study found that there’s no industry where women earn the same or more than men and there’s no state where women earn more than men. And, the gap gets worse the higher up the job ladder you go. In America, women are more likely to be social workers, secretaries and nurses, while men are more often employed as managers, engineers and IT workers, higher paying jobs. PayScale found American women earn 97 cents to the $1 men earn even when everything — job title, industry, experience, location and whether they have kids — is equal.

Economic News

Global trade growth is slowing sharply in 2015 and could spark another recession. “Growth rates of global trade observed so far in 2015, have, in the past, been associated with global recession,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Monday. World trade is expected to grow by just 2% this year. The average rate of growth for 2003-2012 was 5.6%. Imports into emerging markets are falling sharply, with China accounting for nearly one third of the drop, the OECD said.

The jobs report released by the Labor Department last Friday shows that the number of part-time workers who would rather have full-time jobs has fallen by more than 1 million to 5.7 million in the past 12 months. It’s the lowest number since 2008The rise in part-time workers has been one of the most unsettling trends of the Great Recession and the years since. Most of these workers were doing it not out of choice but because they hadn’t been able to find full-time work. Part-time workers — defined as people working under-35 hours a week — are five times more likely to live in poverty than full-time workers. They are far less likely to have health insurance and other benefits.

The U.S. shale oil boom lured tons of prospectors in recent years. Oil companies of all types and sizes loaded up on massive amounts of debt to fund rigs and fancy new drilling equipment. The problem is the companies were banking on oil prices closer to $100 oil when they took on the debt. Now oil is around $45 and no one is expecting prices to hit $100 any time soon. “There are going to be a lot of defaults,” R. Matthew Freund, chief investment officer of USAA Investments, told CNNMoney.

Migrant Crisis

According to the United Nations, 744,000 migrants have fled to Europe so far this year — more than 218,000 in October alone. Last month’s surge was more than in all of last year. And with the violence in the Middle East escalating, the crisis is not likely to ease. The European Union expects 3 million refugees to have arrived to its shores by 2017. The migration is already putting a strain on Europe’s finances. Governments are pouring money into rescue operations and border protection, as well as housing, health care and other services provided to the refugees.

Breitbart reports that a convicted terrorist has been caught trying to smuggle himself into Europe by posing as an asylum seeker, in a stark event proving correct those who warned of terrorists taking advantage of the European Union’s lax border controls. Ben Nasr Mehdi, a Tunisian who was first arrested in Italy in 2007 and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for plotting terror attacks with an Islamic State-linked group, was caught trying to re-enter the country.

  • With thousands of Muslim immigrants being taken in by the U.S. it seems almost certain that a few of them are terrorists posing as migrants

Middle East

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that they haven’t given up hope for peace in the Middle East, despite a changing political and diplomatic environment that seems to make such an accomplishment impossible for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. “I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to protect itself and defend itself against terror and destruction. But neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors who want to make peace with it.”

Israeli authorities said they targeted a Hamas facility in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack. On Sunday, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip and hit an open area in southern Israel, according to the IDF. The attack was followed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since last year’s devastating war, and the movement has been attempting to clamp down on numerous smaller armed groups operating in the territory.

Islamic State

A leader in an ISIS-affiliated Egyptian terrorist group has been killed, Egypt’s state media reported Monday. Gharabali was killed in a shootout with security forces at a checkpoint in the El-Marg district in northeastern Cairo, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Officers were attempting to carry out an arrest warrant against Gharabali. The terrorist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for downing the Russian Metrojet flight last month.

If the Islamic State indeed destroyed the Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula, it would shatter whatever expectation there was that the group could be confined and ultimately defeated within Iraq and Syria, notes the Washington Post. The incident raises concerns that the threat from the Islamic State has dramatically expanded, and it points to the potentially deadly role of insurgents around the world who have allied themselves with the militant group. Analysts say it shows that the Islamic State has learned how to turn its affiliates into operational arms. There have been arrests of Islamic State operatives in Kosovo and Albania in recent months for allegedly planning attacks in Europe, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

Egypt

British tourists stranded at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, were hoping to come home Friday, but many will be stuck here for at least a few more days. Airlines from several countries canceled flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh beginning Wednesday, stranding thousands of tourists, after a Russian jetliner crashed last weekend shortly after taking off from the airport, killing all 224 people on board. British and U.S. officials have said in recent days that they believe a bomb may have brought the airliner down. An unnamed crash investigator told France 2 television station that the voice recorder aboard the flight captured the sound of an explosion that wasn’t associated with engine failure. The United States appears to be increasingly confident that a terrorist bomb brought down the Russian passenger jet that broke apart over Egypt. One official said it was “99.9% certain.”

Syria

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has determined that mustard gas was used over two months ago in a Syrian town. An official from that group said it raises new concerns about the deployment of such chemical weaponry in the country’s bloody, messy war. The report doesn’t assign blame among the many groups, including ISIS, warring in Syria. “It’s very serious because mustard gas is a known chemical weapon,” the OPCW official said. “It’s obviously very, very dangerous and extremely toxic, so it’s a new level of concern.”

Jordan

A Jordanian police officer opened fire Monday at a police training compound in Amman, killing five people — including two American contractors — and raising worries about the spread of terrorism to a stable U.S. partner in the Middle East. Seven people were also wounded, including two Americans. The training center in eastern Amman is used principally to train Palestinian security personnel, though other nationalities are also trained there. Mohammed Momani, a spokesman for Jordanian government, said Tuesday that the attacker opened fire in a canteen. The family of the police officer, whose motives are under investigation, say he was not an extremist, the Associated Press reported.

England

The ‘Million Mask March’ through central London organized by hacker collective Anonymous erupted in violent scenes Thursday night, with three police officers taken to the hospital, a police car set ablaze and 50 people arrested, police said. Metropolitan Police commander BJ Harrington condemned the violence as “completely unacceptable” and praised his officers for their restraint “in the face of hostile provocation.” Six police horses were also injured. About 2,000 police officers were called into action, with mounted officers forming a barrier against a densely packed crowd on The Mall. The protest’s anti-capitalist theme was outlined in a YouTube video promoting the event, which it promised would be “the biggest global protest in the history of the world. There is no reason a select few can acquire so much while the majority suffers when we have the technology that would let every man, woman and child on Earth life better than the 1%,” the video said. “Installing a humanitarian-based, open-source government will ensure equality for all.”

Spain

Catalonia’s parliament on Monday voted to draft a plan to gain independence from Spain by 2017, putting itself on a collision course with the country’s central government. The Barcelona-based regional parliament for northeastern Catalonia passed the motion, which was proposed by pro-secession parties Together for Yes and the far left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy by 72 votes to 63. The motion announced “the start of a process toward the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” and a “process of democratic disconnection not subject to the decisions by the institutions of the Spanish state.”

China/Taiwan

China’s Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou staged their historic, but short meeting Saturday on neutral territory in the Southeast Asian city state of Singapore. Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949 when Mao Zedong led Communist forces to victory and the Nationalists, led by Chiang Kaishek, fled to Taipei, where they set up a rival government which claimed to be the legitimate government of the island and the mainland. Over the decades Taiwan has developed into a vibrant democracy, but it has never declared full independence. That’s partly because some politicians, especially in Ma’s party, adhere to the so-called One China policy and partly because China has threatened violence to regain the “rebel” island if it every tries to formally split with the mainland.

Myanmar

The ruling political party in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) conceded defeat Monday to opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi in the nation’s first free general election in a quarter of a century, according to early reports. The National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi’s party, is expected to win most of the votes. Partial results released by the country’s electoral commission showed the NLD on track to win the largest number of seats in Myanmar’s parliament. But Myanmar’s military will retain 25% of the seats in parliament regardless of the vote’s outcome and has barred Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s president, setting the stage for ongoing conflict. It is hoped that the success of open elections in Myanmar will reverberate across more restrictive nations in the surrounding area (e.g. Thailand and Laos).

Environment

Two people are dead and at least 13 are missing after two dams holding back mining waste were breached and a wave of mud swept through the Bento Rodrigues district of Mariana, Brazil, Thursday afternoon. Witnesses say the town, which has a population of 620 people, was completely flooded, reports BreakingNews.com. Officials said that four people were injured by the flood and only around ten of the village’s approximately 200 houses were left standing, leaving most of the population without shelter. Hundreds of people who survived the collapse are staying in a gymnasium that has been turned into a makeshift shelter. Others were sent to local hotels. Guilherme de Sa Meneghin, public prosecutor for the State of Minas Gerais said there would be a criminal investigation into why there was no alarm system in place.

Earthquakes

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck in Chile, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake hit about 47 kilometers southwest of Ovalle, Chile. The city is about 400 miles north of Santiago. No immediate damage has been reported, according to The Associated Press. The quake shook Santiago, causing office buildings to sway. Chile’s emergency services office first alerted, but later discounted, the possibility of a small tsunami.

Weather

Following up a snowy start to November across parts of the West, another round of early season snow has moved into the region. Up to 10 inches of snow was measured in parts of the Reno, Nev., metro area as of late Monday night. This storm system is spreading east across the northwest just in time to start this week and, as it progresses east, the threat may shift from snow to severe weather across parts of the Plains and Midwest. A southward dip in the jet stream is setting the stage for cold air to filter down into the West. Blizzard warnings have been posted for parts of the High Plains.

Additional heavy rain and flash flooding will target parts of the Gulf Coast and Southeast Coast through Tuesday, including rain-weary parts of the Carolinas. Friday night into Saturday, Texas and Louisiana were already affected by this latest lashing of heavy rain. Over the past few weeks, torrential rain has triggered destructive flash flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana, in particular.

A huge sinkhole has swallowed more than a dozen cars in an IHOP parking lot in Meridian, Mississippi. Local TV station KSLA quoted witnesses as hearing a series of booms before power went out and the sinkhole, which is about 50 feet wide and 600 feet long, opened up. WTOK said that the city, which lies near the Alabama border and has a population of about 40,000, has received 3 inches of rain this weekend and nearly 10 in the last two weeks.

Unprecedented back-to-back cyclones have hit the Arabian Sea. The second cyclone in a week is heading toward the Arabian Peninsula, just days after the first storm brought heavy rains, winds and flash flooding to the area. Cyclone Megh made a direct hit on Socotra Island Sunday and could hit mainland Yemen one week after Cyclone Chapala, the second-strongest cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, dumped enormous amounts of rainfall on the arid coast.

Signs of the Times (11/6/15)

November 6, 2015

Proportion of Americans Who Believe in God Falls, Acceptance of Homosexuality Rises

The proportion of Americans who say they are “absolutely certain” God exists has dropped sharply from 71 percent to less than two thirds, the Pew Research Center said Tuesday. The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God declined from 92 to 89 percent over the same period, from 2007 to 2014, but is still remarkably high compared to other developed countries. The percentage of Americans who say they pray every day, attend regular services and consider religion very important have also clocked small, but significant declines, the research center said. The vast majority of Americans, 77 percent of adults, continue to identify with some religious faith, but a growing number are unaffiliated to a particular group. Younger Americans are less religious than their elders. Four in ten of the youngest Millennials say they pray every day, compared to six in ten Baby Boomers. The survey also showed that nearly all major religious groups have become significantly more accepting of homosexuality in recent years — even evangelicals and Mormons who traditionally have expressed strong opposition to same-sex relationships. Changing attitudes about homosexuality are exhibit wider acceptance among the younger generation than older adults. Also, the religiously unaffiliated are growing more rapidly among Democrats than Republicans.

Iraqi Muslims Sick of ISIS, Turning to Christ

More and more Kurdish Muslims living in Iraq are turning to Christ after witnessing the brutality of extremist groups like ISIS, who carry out horrific acts in the name of Allah, Christian aid workers have revealed. A ministry leader in the Kurdish Region of Iraq told the Christian Aid Mission that his organization can barely keep up with the desire of refugees to learn about Christ and the Bible, which has grown increasingly strong since ISIS overtook many parts of the region. “They’re just sick of Islam,” he said. “People are very hungry to know about Christ, especially when they hear about miracles, healing, mercy and love.”

  • Times of persecution represent the best opportunities to share Christ because people are more open and are seeking answers

Ohio Voters Say No to Legalizing Marijuana

In a major blow to marijuana legalization nationwide, Ohio voters Tuesday rejected a sweeping initiative that would have ended pot prohibition in the Buckeye State. Unofficial election results found that the proposed constitutional amendment, known as Issue 3, was defeated 65.1% to 34.8%.At the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, opponents of legalization rejoiced in their double victory, achieved even though they were outspent by a whopping 20-to-1 ratio. Curt Steiner, campaign director for Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, said. “Issue 3 was designed and built primarily to garner massive and exclusive profits for a small group of self-selected wealthy investors. Issue 3 was about greed, not good public policy.”

Houston Rejects LGBT Rights Measure

Houston voters rejected the “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” a measure designed to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people. The ballot issue drew national attention, with conservative opponents claiming the law would allow troubled men to go into women’s restrooms and locker rooms. The law was passed by the city last year to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people, but Tuesday’s vote repealed it. The yearlong battle over gay and transgender rights turned into a costly, ugly war of words between this city’s lesbian mayor and social conservatives and attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities.

San Francisco’s “Sanctuary City” Sheriff Voted Out

The sheriff who steadfastly defended the city’s “sanctuary city” policy was voted out. Ross Mirkarimi and his office received heavy criticism after Mexican illegal immigrant Francisco Sanchez allegedly shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s waterfront July 1. Sanchez had been released from Mirkarimi’s jail in March even though federal immigration officials had requested that he be detained for possible deportation.” Mirkarimi received just 31% of the votes with Vicki Hennessy, a former sheriff’s official, garnering 62%.

Muslim-Majority City Council First in USA

Voters in Hamtramck, Michigan, have elected a Muslim majority to its city council, symbolizing the demographic changes that have transformed the city once known for being a Polish-Catholic enclave. In Tuesday’s election — with six candidates running for three seats — the top three vote-getters were Muslim, while the bottom three were non-Muslim. It is believed that Hamtramck is the first city in the U.S. with a Muslim majority on its city council. Formerly known for its Polish population, Hamtramck is now about 24% Arab (mostly Yemeni); 19% African-American; 15% Bangladeshi; 12% Polish; and 6% Yugoslavian (many Bosnian), according to U.S. Census figures.

Obama Orders Agencies to Stop Asking for Job Applicants’ Criminal Records

President Obama ordered federal agencies to stop requiring job applicants to declare on applications whether they have a criminal record — a movement called “ban the box.” The president visited a drug treatment and counseling center in Newark, New Jersey, and announced two executive actions that he said will help former prison inmates return to productive lives. The administration is offering $8 million in grants for job training, and the president ordered federal agencies to “ban the box.” “We can’t dismiss people out of hand simply because of a mistake they’ve made in the past,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.” “Public safety does have to be the top priority, and that doesn’t seem to be the president’s top priority,” said former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican.

Obama rejects Keystone Pipeline Project

President Obama rejected a presidential permit Friday morning for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, citing concerns about its impact on the climate. “America’s now a global leader in taking serious action to fight climate change,” Obama told reporters. “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.” Obama rejected the idea that the project, which would bring Canadian tar sands oil to the United States, would either lower oil prices or improve America’s energy security. The decision to deny TransCanada Corp. a cross-border permit for a 1,179-mile pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Neb. puts an end — at least for now — to a seven-year fight over a project that came to symbolize what Obama could do unilaterally to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Backers of the project said it would ensure a secure supply of oil from a reliable U.S. ally.

Democrats Furious over Obama’s Trans-Pacific Trade Deal

President Obama faced deep skepticism from fellow Democrats over the hard-fought Pacific Rim trade deal after it was released early Thursday morning, with critics calling it a “job-killing” agreement while the administration argued it’s an economic win. The Trans Pacific Partnership, after spending months under wraps, was posted online Thursday morning. The debate over the deal has cut across party lines, with Obama enjoying some support from Republicans yet facing fierce resistance from congressional Democrats. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said Thursday the deal may be “worse than we thought,” predicting the agreement would lead to American job losses and calling on lawmakers to stop the deal. The text of the agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries including Japan and Mexico runs to 30 chapters and hundreds of pages. It is dense in its detail, laying out plans for the handling of trade in everything from zinc dust to railway sleepers and live eels. The documents show the pact reached Oct. 5 in Atlanta after several years of talks is full of lofty goals. Negotiators agreed to promote environmental sustainability, respect the rights and needs of indigenous peoples, and temper protections for drug patents with safeguards for public health and access to medicines. It also emphasizes the intention of the trading bloc to abide by earlier commitments made under the World Trade Organization and other international treaties.

  • Like Obamacare, Obamatrade is another fiasco with dense details and Agenda 21 ambitions to turn America into a weak, socialistic nation under global laws and regulations

Fast-Food Workers Plan another Strike Next Week

Fast-food workers, already a potent political force, are planning their largest nationwide strike yet next week and this time will leverage their crusade for a $15-an-hour wage in a bid to sway the 2016 presidential election. The group representing the workers, ‘Fight for $15’, plans on Tuesday to stage protests at restaurants in 270 cities, the most since it began organizing the demonstrations three years ago. Striking fast-food and other low-wage workers will then gather at local city halls, kicking off a campaign to prod their colleagues to vote next November for local, state and national candidates who support the $15 pay floor. Labor and other groups will simultaneously rally in about 200 other cities, and the daylong blitz will culminate with a protest by several thousand workers at the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee. All of the top Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have said they back a $12-$15 minimum wage and have made the growing divide between rich and poor a centerpiece of their campaigns. Most of the Republican contenders oppose raising the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, saying it will hurt job growth.

Middle-Aged White Americans Dying at Record Rates

Middle-aged white Americans are dying at a record rate, new findings suggest. According to research conducted by Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case and published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, death rates among white Americans ages 45 to 54 are rising even as those among every other age, racial and ethnic group in the United States are in decline. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other sources, Deaton and Case concluded that the skyrocketing death rates they uncovered among less educated middle-aged white Americans, especially, are due to epidemic-levels of suicides and issues stemming from substance abuse, such as heroin and prescription drug overdoses and alcoholic liver disease. Deaton and Case also found that, among the middle-aged white Americans they studied, there were “concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work,” as well as increased reports of pain.

IRS Audit Rates Decline to Decade-Long Low

The odds of a U.S. taxpayer facing an IRS audit fell to the lowest level in more than a decade during the 2015 federal fiscal year, according to preliminary data that the nation’s tax agency released Tuesday. The audit coverage rate, the percentage of federal tax returns the IRS examined either in person or by mail correspondence, dropped to 0.84%, the IRS said. The rate was the lowest since 2004, and the decline marked the third consecutive year with audit coverage below 1%. IRS personnel audited just over 1.2 million individuals during the fiscal year, the preliminary data shows. That marked a 1.1% decline from 2014, and a nearly 22.3% drop from fiscal year 2010. Audit-generated revenue averaged $14.7 billion annually between 2005 and 2010, but the average dropped to $10.5 billion per year since 2010, the IRS said. Staffing reductions also contributed to the worst level of IRS taxpayer services in years, as phone calls dropped by the tax agency’s switchboard soared past 8 million, and rates of calls answered fell sharply.

Economic News

The labor market bounced back strongly in October as employers added 271,000 jobs, bolstering the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month. The modest job gains for August and September, which averaged 139,000, were revised up 12,000. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, fell to 5% from 5.1% despite a sharp rise in the number of Americans looking for work, the Labor Department said Friday. A broader measure of unemployment – that includes part-time workers and discouraged Americans who have given up job searches, as well as the unemployed — fell to 9.8% from 10%. Equally encouraging is that average hourly earnings rose 9 cents to $25.20 and are now up 2.5% over the past year, the biggest jump since 2009.

U.S. services companies grew at an accelerated pace in October as business activity, new orders and employment all strengthened. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its services index climbed to 59.1 last month from 56.9 in September. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. The figures raise the prospect that consumer spending will anchor growth during the October-December quarter at a time when manufacturing, hurt by global economic turbulence, has slowed. The gap between how the ISM measures services and manufacturing has reached its widest point in roughly 14 years.

Low oil prices are biting hard — even the mighty OPEC is being forced to tighten its belt. The cartel’s administrative body, the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, Austria, is slimming down as its members struggle to adjust to oil prices below $50 per barrel. Travel budgets have been slashed and new staff hiring has been put on hold, an OPEC official told CNNMoney. Energy companies across the globe are taking painful steps to balance their books. Chevron announced that it expects to cut between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs this year. Shell (RDSA) is shedding 7,500 jobs, while Exxon (XOM) is letting 1,500 workers go.

This year, private colleges are charging an average of $1,476 more than last year. And public schools are charging $617 more for in-state tuition, room and board, according to the annual report from The College Board released Wednesday. The good news is that’s one of the smallest increases since the 1970s. But the bad news is that costs are still outpacing inflation and rising faster than family incomes. While middle class families saw their median income shrink by 2% over the past decade, the cost to attend a private institution jumped 25%.

The amount borrowed per student is down for the fourth year in a row, driven down largely by a decline in graduate school enrollment. And student aid from grants and scholarships that don’t have to be repaid is up by $540 per undergraduate and $1,380 per graduate student. The average loan debt for borrowers who graduated in 2014 is: $25,500 for public school grads; $30,200 for private school grads, 39% of borrowers owe less than $10,000; 28% owe between $10,000 and $25,000; 4% owe more than $100,000.

Migrant Crisis

In late September, European leaders agreed on a plan to relocate 160,000 migrants from the countries they’re flooding into — mainly Greece and Italy. Six weeks later, the scheme has only just gotten off the ground, according to new statistics released by the European Commission. Only 1,418 places (out of the needed 160,000) have been made available in EU states for these people to be transferred to — and just 116 have been moved as of November 4, according to the European Commission. Tove Ernst, a migration spokeswoman for the European Commission, says it took time to put the mechanisms in place on the ground to facilitate relocation. “The system is now up and running — the first flight from Greece [has left] and we’re hoping that progress on the ground and progress with member states will be made swiftly,” Ernst told CNN. More migrants fled to Europe in October than in all of last year, exacerbating an already dire situation for both refugees and host countries. More than 218,000 migrants fled across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in October, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said. That’s more than the 216,000 who crossed into Europe in 2014. So far, more than 750,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year, according to the UNHCR.

Iran

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is behind a recent wave of cyberattacks on email and social media accounts of White House personnel that are believed to be connected to the arrest of an Iranian-American businessman last month, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal. Officials told The Journal Obama administration personnel are among a large group of people who have had their computers hacked in recent weeks, including journalists and academics. Some of the officials hacked include those employees of the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs and its Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Though President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had hoped the recent nuclear deal would further cooperation between the two nations, the cyberattacks from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the arrest of Siamak Namazi (a Dubai-based businessman who has spent most of his life advocating improved ties between the U.S. and Iran) have signaled that Iranian hardliners have not toned down their hostility toward Washington.

Islamic State

An anonymous U.S. intelligence official told the Associated Press that intercepted communications played a role in a tentative conclusion that a Sinai affiliate of the Islamic State planted an explosive device on the Russian airliner that crashed over the weekend. An affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane in a tweet quickly after it crashed. Concerns that the airliner was brought down by a bomb prompted the British government to suspend flights Wednesday to and from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. “We have concluded there is a significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Wednesday. British Prime Minister David Cameron warned against vacations or other non-essential travel to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheik airport, where the Russian Metrojet flight originated. Irish airlines were also directed Wednesday not to operate in the Sinai Peninsula “until further notice.” President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday suspended all flights from Russia to Egypt, the most popular tourist destination for Russians. The move came as several airlines imposed bans on checked luggage over concerns that a bomb in a cargo hold brought down the Russian charter jet in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday

Syria

When the Pentagon pulled the plug last month on its plan to train and field a force of moderate Syrians to combat the Islamic State, it had spent $384 million, or $2 million per fighter, for a program that produced dismal results, according to interviews and spending figures obtained by USA Today. The Pentagon had tabbed $500 million in 2015 for the effort and promised to graduate 3,000 trained and equipped New Syrian Forces fighters this year, and 5,000 annually thereafter to combat the Islamic State. Of the 180 Syrians vetted, trained and equipped, 145 fighters remain in the program. Of those, 95 are in Syria today. Two of the four training camps the Pentagon designated for the program in the Middle East never hosted a recruit. The Pentagon disputes the $2 million per fighter saying that the “vast majority” of the funds paid for weapons, equipment and ammunition, some of which the U.S.-led coalition still has in storage.

  • Regardless of the cost per fighter, the program represents another dismal failure in Obama’s misguided efforts in the Middle East

Germany

German banking giant Deutsche Bank will pay $258 million and terminate six employees for processing thousands of transactions that benefited Iran and other blacklisted nations, state and federal regulators said Wednesday. The Federal Reserve and New York State Department of Financial Services imposed the penalties after finding that Deutsche Bank’s Manhattan-based division handled U.S. dollar transactions valued at more than $10.86 billion for Iranian, Libyan, Syrian, Burmese and Sudanese financial institutions and other entities. The transactions were forbidden based on U.S. economic sanctions imposed over findings of terrorism. Emails uncovered by investigators showed bank employees and customers knew the transactions were improper.

China/Taiwan

Divided by a sea channel and decades of bitter history, the leaders of China and Taiwan are set to meet in Singapore on Saturday for the first time since 1949. The summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is unprecedented. Taiwan’s official name is the “Republic of China” tracing its founding to 1911 after the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty. The Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), ruled China until 1949 when it was defeated by the army of the Communist Party of China in a bloody civil war. KMT then fled to Taiwan, an island off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Later that same year, Communist leader Mao Zedong declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China from Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The two places have been governed separately since, though a shared cultural and linguistic heritage mostly endures — with Mandarin the official language in both places.

Mexico

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that growing, possessing and smoking marijuana for recreation are legal under a person’s right to personal freedoms. The measure was approved in 4-1 vote on the five-justice panel. The ruling Wednesday did not approve the sale or commercialization of marijuana, nor is it expected to lead to general legalization. But if the court rules the same way on five similar petitions, it would then establish the precedent to change the law and allow general recreational use. A similar process led to the court’s recent ruling that Mexican laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Cuba

President Obama cracked open the door for U.S. businesses to enter the Cuban market, but now it’s up to those companies to figure out how to get through it, reports USA Today. Dozens of American firms attended Cuba’s annual International Trade Fair this week, where businesses from more than 70 countries are trying to broker deals with the Cubans. Some Americans have set up booths promoting their products, some are having private meetings with various Cuban ministries that would have to approve any trade deals and all are trying to establish themselves in a communist country they know little about.

Maldives

The government of the Maldives has declared a state of emergency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday, two days after an explosive device was found in a vehicle near the President’s residence following an explosion on the President’s boat. The government of the Maldives, an archipelago of picturesque islands off the southern tip of India, has been in turmoil in recent weeks. In late October, state-run TV reported that Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had been arrested and charged with treason in connection with an alleged assassination attempt on President Abdulla Yameen.

Volcanoes

The eruption of a volcano has forced the closure of several Indonesian airports, including the one serving the popular resort island of Bali. The eruption of Mount Rinjani sent ash and debris more than 11,000 feet into the air, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman, tells The Associated Press. The eruption, which began late Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, coated villages and farmland in ash and prompted Indonesian officials to advise airlines to avoid flying routes near Mount Rinjani. The eruption prompted also forced several smaller airports on nearby islands to halt flights, too. The concern for aircraft is that ash could be drawn into the engines and cause significant damage in flight.

Solar Storm

A massive solar storm knocked out Swedish air traffic control systems, officials said Wednesday, prompting them to shut down the country’s airspace for more than an hour. The civil aviation authority said the solar storm created disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field, which affected radar installations in southern Sweden. Agency spokesman Per Froberg said flights disappeared from radar screens in Swedish air traffic control towers during the blackout, which lasted about an hour. Air traffic control officials in neighboring Denmark and Finland say they didn’t experience any problems. If powerful enough, these storms can disrupt satellite communications, including radar and GPS systems.

Weather

California and much of the West have been experiencing a long-term drought over the past few years, but a recent storm system has brought much-needed moisture to the area and further relief is possible in the weeks and months ahead. A recent change in the jet stream pattern is allowing for cold air to drain down into much of the western United States. This has quickly reverted the pattern from unseasonable warmth to near and even below average temperatures in some locales. Snow has also fallen across many mountain ranges of the West to start November. More than a foot of snow has fallen in some areas, including northeastern Nevada where 18 inches of snow snapped the branches of trees. 24 inches of snow was measured in Three Creek, Idaho with 8.8 inches reported in Flagstaff, Arizona. Snow-water levels are already running considerably above average across the Sierra Nevada. Computer model guidance suggests that a similar snowy setup may evolve early next week, which could bring more fresh powder to the higher elevations of California.

Much of Florida is sweating through a heat wave that is rewriting the November record books. This week, the following locations have already set or tied records for the month of November: Daytona Beach: 90 degrees on Nov. 2; Gainesville: 91 degrees on Nov. 3; Jacksonville: 89 degrees on both Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Naples: 92 degrees on Nov 4; Tampa: 92 degrees on Nov. 4. Overnight lows also set records in Key West (81 degrees); Vero Beach (79 degrees). Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee has reached 88 degrees four of the first five days of the month. A high of 88 degrees had only happened on three previous November days dating back to 1896.

A recent study in the Journal of Glaciology reported that despite the effects of man-made global warming, the frozen continent is actually gaining ice rather than losing it. The study, led by Jay Zwally, a NASA glaciologist, claims that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers, especially in eastern and central portions of the continent. Meanwhile, another study out Monday said that the destabilization and eventual collapse of the massive West Antarctic ice sheet — because of global warming — would lead to as much as a nine-foot sea level rise worldwide, inundating coastal cities.

Signs of the Times (11/3/15)

November 3, 2015

Government Rules Transgender Student Must Have Access to Locker Room

The U.S. government on Monday found that a Chicago suburban high school district discriminated against a transgender student and gave the school a month to provide full access to girls’ locker rooms or lose federal funding. After an investigation stemming from a 2013 complaint by the ACLU, and months of negotiations, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found Township High School District 211 was violating federal non-discrimination rules. The district says transgender students may use their gender-identified locker room if they change and shower privately. The government said a separate changing place was discriminatory because it subjected the student to stigma and different treatment.

  • Circular logic: if they must change and shower privately they’re already receiving ‘different treatment’

Department Of Defense Shifts Focus To Climate Change

Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress. To reduce the national security implications of climate change, combatant commands are integrating climate-related impacts into their planning cycles, officials said. The ability of the United States and other countries to cope with the risks and implications of climate change requires monitoring, analysis and integration of those risks into existing overall risk management measures, as appropriate for each combatant command, they added.

  • Climate change is the foundation for the one-world government folks to enforce compliance under the banner of “sustainability” – now even U.S. Defense mechanisms are being put in place to do so

Vaccines Used To Deliver Covert Birth Control

In the vaccine research community, it’s an open secret that the Rockefeller Fund, the UN, and other groups have been backing the development of vaccines that function as agents of population control. This work has been going on for decades by incorporating anti-fertility hormones in vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis given in a one-shot combination in countries like Africa. “Population reduction is a stated and very specific goal of Agenda 21 and the United Nations, and other like-minded organizations and NGOs that are aligned with it,” writes Jon Rappaport in Technocracy News.

Higher Premiums Likely to Slow ObamaCare Signups

The Obamacare increases for 2016 have been released. Premiums will increase 3 times faster than officials claim, reports truenews.com. Every state is different. Every insurer is different. New Mexico residents, for instance, can expect increases of 8 to 40 percent for the second-lowest cost silver plan. But for people in other states, including Arkansas the cost will increase less than 4 percent. Overall the average increase is 20.3 percent, according to analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation, instead of the 7.5 percent originally asserted. Enrollment on the federal and state exchanges began anew Sunday for the third year.

While the law’s expanded coverage has reduced the uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent, the gains will be harder in 2016. Costs are going up on the private, taxpayer-subsidized coverage sold through HealthCare.gov and state insurance exchanges, and many of the more than 10 million remaining uninsured Americans are skeptics. A sharp increase in fines, however, may sway at least some fence-sitters. In 2016, the penalty will rise to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is higher. This year, the fine is the greater of $325 or 2 percent of income. However, many are trapped in what’s called the “Medicaid gap.” They cannot get health insurance through HealthCare.gov because the law prevents people below the poverty line from using the insurance exchanges. So the private insurance alternative is closed to them, even as their states refuse to expand public coverage.

National Debt Nearly Doubles under Obama

President Obama is expected to sign into law a two-year budget deal this week. According to The Washington Times, the deal with Congress will suspend the debt limit to allow the Treasury to borrow about $1.5 trillion. By the end of Obama’s presidency, the national debt will be nearing $20 trillion. In 2009, when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. “Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”

Corporations Shield Themselves from Class-Action Lawsuits

Nine words inserted in the fine prints of consumer and employment contracts are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found. These buried, seemingly innocuous words specify that the corporation “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, corporations have devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices. Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

California Turning to Desalinization to Solve Water Crisis

Three years of historically dry winters in the Sierra Nevada forced Californians to kill a lot of lawns and cut per-person water use by a quarter this summer, just to get by. Not content to wait and see if the next few winters offer a reprieve, Santa Barbara is among the coastal cities ready to pay up and tap an eternal source: the sea. Santa Barbara is retrofitting a desalination plant that was built in response to a lesser drought, and then abandoned in 1991. Technological advances, population growth and drought all make now the time for this new source, said Joshua Haggmark, the city’s water resources manager. Critics say desalination takes too much energy when the region could solve its problems through conservation.

Newest Ethanol Plant Makes Fuel from Husks

DuPont opened what it calls the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant, which uses corncobs, husks and stalks to produce what eventually will be 30 million gallons of ethanol annually. “This facility is a game-changer,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said. “We envisioned new biofuels from new technologies that were cleaner, greener and more efficient. You achieved those goals.” DuPont said the company plans to sell most of the green biofuel in California to help the state meet its low-carbon fuel standard. Cellulosic ethanol is 90% cleaner than gasoline. The company wants to replicate the Nevada biorefinery, which will employ 85 full time and about 150 seasonally, worldwide. It has licensed the technology in China and was hosting potential customers from across the globe at Friday’s ceremony.

Economic News

On Monday, the ISM Manufacturing Index — the official thermometer of the U.S. manufacturing sector since 1915 — declined for a fourth straight month. Demand has cooled as the global economy slows down, especially in China. It came in with a reading of 50.1. That’s just above the red flag zone. Anything below 50 would signal a manufacturing contraction. Manufacturing is often seen as a leading indicator of U.S. recessions. It’s an alarming sign when it starts to look weak for too long.

China’s all-important factory sector continued to contract for a third straight month in October, according to an official survey. The government’s purchasing managers’ index hit 49.8 in October, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Any number below 50 represents a deceleration in the manufacturing sector. A separate survey conducted by Chinese media group Caixin showed manufacturing PMI at 48.3 in October. That index has now been below 50 for eight consecutive months. The official government manufacturing gauge is heavily weighted toward large enterprises, while the Caixin survey places greater emphasis on smaller firms.

Migrant Crisis

Afghanistan will take back all its citizens to be deported from Germany as the European country struggles to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees and other asylum seekers who have arrived there this year, a Kabul official said. Afghans currently make up the second largest nationality, after Syrians, arriving in Europe. So far this year, an estimated 120,000 Afghans have left the country, legally and illegally, according to authorities. The International Organization of Migration says more than 76,000 Afghans have traveled to Europe so far in 2015. Last week, Germany’s interior minister complained of an “unacceptable” influx of Afghans from relatively safe areas of their country, and warned that many of them would have to return home.

German government officials have compelled a small town with just 102 people to take in approximately 750 migrants from Syria and other countries, The New York Times wrote Saturday. Sumte, a small town at the western fringe of the former East Germany, was informed earlier this month by its municipal government that it had been assigned to accept over a thousand of the asylum seekers that have poured into Germany over the course of 2015. The number was so high that Mayor Christian Fabel first thought it was a joke, but after a storm of local protest, the figure was lowered to 750, not out of sympathy but because it was believed a thousand would overwhelm the town’s sewage system.

Middle East

Israeli security forces remained on high alert throughout the country Tuesday following a string of attacks Monday evening that left several Israelis wounded and several Palestinian terrorists dead. Another possible attack was averted Tuesday morning when security forces arrested a Palestinian man at the Gilboa West Bank crossing and discovered a pipe bomb and knife in his possession, arresting him on the spot. The incident occurred several hours after two Palestinian terrorists attempted to stab a soldier outside of the crossing, leading to one being shot dead and the other being arrested. Also on Monday evening, four Israelis, including two senior citizens, were wounded in two separate stabbing attacks in Rishon Lezion and Netanya. Suspects in both attacks were arrested.

Islamic State

The Obama administration has authorized the deployment of U.S. military advisers into Syria in a significant expansion of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, the White House said Friday. President Obama approved a contingent of no more than 50 special operations forces to enter northern Syria where they will work with local rebels fighting the Islamic State. The Islamic State has maintained a grip on large swaths of Iraq and Syria despite more than a year of bombing by the U.S.-led coalition, and the move is an effort to invigorate ground operations. The United States is also in talks with Iraq about bolstering special operations forces in that country. The new Syria deployments are a testament to the tug between the president’s war doctrine and his war reality: after vowing to end two wars, he now faces the prospect of leaving office with ground forces deployed in three combat zones.

The cause of the crash that killed all 224 people aboard a Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula early Saturday has yet to be determined, but officials say there is no evidence to support the claim by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State that it brought down the plane. The Russian Transport Minister quickly dismissed the claim, saying it “cannot be considered reliable,” Interfax News reports. Mohamed Samir, Egypt’s army spokesman, also disputed the claim. The Metrojet flight, carrying 217 passengers and seven crewmembers, was en route from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg when it dropped off radar screens 23 minutes into the flight. It is believed to be the deadliest air accident in the history of Russian aviation. The co-pilot told his daughter ‘the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired’ before the airliner took off, according to his wife. The airliners broke apart at high altitude and scattered mangled bodies and plane parts over a wide swath of Egyptian desert, Russia’s air transport chief said Sunday. A Metrojet official on Monday said neither a mechanical failure nor human error could have caused the crash of its passenger plane in Egypt. A U.S. infrared satellite detected a mid-air ‘heat flash” over the Sinai desert at the same time a doomed Russian plane crashed in the area.

  • Russia recently began bombing ISIS in Syria, so retribution seems likely

Afghanistan

The Department of Defense spent $43 million to build a natural-gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost roughly $500,000, the lead oversight team monitoring U.S. spending in Afghanistan has found. The discovery came as part of a broader investigation into allegations of criminal activity within the DOD’s premiere program to kick-start the Afghan economy. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction told FoxNews.com, that the spending is “outrageous.” At issue is spending by the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations which ended in March 2015. But most alarming, according to Sopko, is the DOD’s failure to answer questions about the $800 million program.

Somalia

At least nine people were killed and 10 injured when Islamic extremists attacked a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, a police official said Sunday. The attack started at dawn when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle laden with explosives at the gate of the Sahafi Hotel and then gunmen on foot shot at people in the hotel. Al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist rebels waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack on a website associated with the group. Fighters from the al-Qaeda linked group infiltrated the hotel after the blast, taking some hostages.

Turkey

Turkish voters handed a surprise victory Sunday to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party, with preliminary results showing his long-ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) clinching a majority in parliament. With nearly all the votes counted, results published by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed the AKP securing at least 316 seats in Turkey’s 550-seat parliament, surpassing the 276 needed to form a single-party administration. Sunday’s vote represents a significant shift from the June election, in which the AKP lost its governing majority for the first time in 13 years and could not form a coalition. The party’s gamble to hold another election five months later appears to have paid off for Erdoğan, who was not on the ballot.

Earthquakes

Three minor earthquakes shook central Arizona on Sunday night and were felt by many residents in the Phoenix area. The first quake, a magnitude-3.2, was reported just before 9 p.m. local time Sunday. Then came the largest of the three tremors, a 4.1-magnitude quake, at 11:29 p.m. Twenty minutes later, a 4.0 temblor was reported. Each of the three earthquakes was centered near Black Canyon City, located about 45 miles north of Phoenix. No injuries or damage were reported, according to AZFamily.com, but residents were surprised by the shaking. Although nearby states are no stranger to large earthquakes, it’s rare for Arizona to experience earthquakes as large as the ones that shook residents Sunday night. The United States Geological Survey’s database shows just 6 prior earthquakes of magnitude 4 of greater have been centered in Arizona since record-keeping began.

Weather

Another round of storms and strong winds moved across Texas on Saturday, with two people still missing from earlier flash floods in the Austin area. Two people already were known to have died – in Austin and near San Antonio – when they were swept away by flood waters. Tornadoes were reported south and east of Houston on Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service. There were reports of overturned mobile homes and possible injuries. Power outages in the Houston area topped 25,000. As much as 13 inches of rain fell in coastal Texas spawning major flash flooding across Houston and nearby communities Saturday. Six people have been reported dead. The weekend’s rains in Houston left the city with a raw sewage problem that collected on downtown streets. The storms that pummeled Houston on Halloween caused more than 2 million gallons of sewage to spill into the bayous creating a horrible stench.

The heavy rains moved east across the Gulf Coast states Saturday and Sunday. Flash flood watches were posted over parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The storms moved across the Southeast on Monday, triggering floods and other storm damage and one death. Early Sunday morning, a strong storm left damage in Henry County, Alabama, including to school buildings in the town of Headland. The Headland High School auditorium’s roof was torn off by the storm

The coast of Yemen, an area unaccustomed to dealing with the devastation of tropical systems, has taken a direct hit from the powerful and dangerous Cyclone Chapala. As Chapala made landfall Tuesday, it dumped enormous amounts of rainfall on the arid coast – as much as a decade’s worth, according to some reports. This caused major flooding and swamped entire towns. In the coastal town of Mukalla, currently under al Qaeda control, thousands fled their homes, fearing rockslides and flooding, Reuters reported. Before hitting the mainland, Chapala sideswiped the Yemeni island of Socotra on Sunday. At least three people were killed and more than 200 were injured. “The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” Socotra Island Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafain said. Cyclone Chapala became the strongest tropical system so far south in the Arabian Sea on record. A cyclone is the same type of storm as a hurricane or typhoon. They’re known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.