Archive for February, 2016

Signs of the Times (2/26/18)

February 26, 2016

Abortion Clinics Closing at Record Pace

Abortion clinics are closing at a record pace across the country as they fail to meet new health and safety requirements and the demand for their business drops, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Since 2011, at least 162 abortion clinics have shut or stopped doing abortions; 21 new abortion clinics opened in that same time period, the report states. While abortion activists blame the closures on laws that require basic health and safety protections for patients, the report indicates that many factors are involved, including the lack of business and fewer doctors willing to do abortions. These numbers, coupled with plunging national abortion statistics, point to the fact that fewer women actually want abortions. As modern technology shows clear pictures of unborn babies in the womb, and as more pro-life groups offer women alternatives to abortion, more women have access to the education and resources to choose life for their unborn babies.

Six States Sue Federal Government Over Obamacare

Six states filed a new lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska filed in the Northern District of Texas takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee assessed to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. The lawsuit says nothing in the Affordable Care Act’s language provided clear notice that states would also have to pay the fee. “This notice was not even provided by rule but was ultimately provided by a private entity wielding legislative authority,” the suit says. The suit seeks an injunction against the federal rules that say states are responsible for the fee. It also asks that states be refunded for what they’ve already paid. The suit says the fee is projected to allow the federal government to collect between $13 billion and $15 billion from states over the next decade.

Court Orders Clinton & Aides to Testify

Trouble continues to mount for Democrat presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as her top aides, as a federal judge just issued a major ruling in a lawsuit against her. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has ordered Clinton’s top aides and State Department officials to testify under oath about whether Hillary’s private email server setup was deliberately put in place to assist her in avoiding open records laws, according to Newsmax. The judge actually ordered the State Department to work together with Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group behind a lawsuit focused on special arrangements for Clinton aide Huma Abedin, to devise a plan for depositions and discovery in the case, to occur no later than April. Judicial Watch sued the State Department years ago in an effort to obtain any public records regarding Abedin’s simultaneous employment at the State Department as Clinton’s top aide, as well as with the Clinton Family Foundation and an affiliated consulting firm.

Planned Parenthood to Spend Over $1 Million Promoting Hillary Clinton

Planned Parenthood will be sinking even more money into promoting Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. The abortion giant announced Thursday that it will spend over $1 million on television and Internet-based advertising to push her campaign. Earlier this year, the Planned Parenthood abortion business spent six figures on a huge ad buy in Iowa. Now they have launched a multi-platform, seven-figure ad campaign in Michigan, Virginia and Texas ahead of the March 1st “Super Tuesday” primaries. “Hillary Clinton is the only candidate in this race who has made women’s health and rights a priority,” said Deirdre Schifeling, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

  • I wonder what proportion of that money comes from federal government (i.e. taxpayer) funding?

No Hate Crime Charges for Black Suspects Who Brutally Beat Marine Corps Veteran

Bronze Star Marine Corps veteran Christopher Marquez was the victim of a brutal beating at a Washington D.C. McDonald’s when several African American individuals approached Marquez at the fast-food restaurant, asking him if “black lives matter.” As Marquez was leaving the fast-food chain, he was struck with a firearm, beaten, and robbed. Marquez was beaten so badly that he didn’t even remember exactly where the attack took place. The Marine is calling the incident a “hate crime” but the Justice Department and the mainstream media have failed to acknowledge that this is exactly what it was.

  • It appears hate crimes can only be perpetrated by whites, especially Christian Caucasians

Migrant Update

Norway is ready to abandon the Geneva Convention if Sweden collapses. The border will be closed by force, and Swedish refugees will be rejected without the possibility to seek asylum. “We are prepared for the worst,” says Prime Minister Erna Solberg. There is such an imminent danger that the asylum system in Sweden will break down, that Norway must have an emergency legislation in place in case it happens, Solberg believes. Therefore, she has crafted a law that will allow for Norwegian authorities to reject asylum seekers who do not come directly from a conflict area. This means that asylum seekers who want to come to Norway from Russia, but also from the other Nordic countries, will be denied the right to seek asylum, which otherwise is anchored in the UN Refugee Convention.

A dispute over how to shelter 160,000 refugees in Europe got deeper Tuesday when Poland said its population is unable to live with people from the Middle East. EurActiv Greece reports. The Dutch EU presidency, helped by Germany, Italy and Greece, is trying to convince Eastern European countries to join an EU-wide plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees seeking shelter in Europe. But the leaders from the Visegrad (V4) countries — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — are opposed to the idea. “Central and Eastern EU countries do not have the experience to live with citizens from North Africa or the Middle East,” said a Polish diplomat contacted by EurActiv. The Polish position echoes comments by Slovakia, whose Prime Minister Robert Fico said that Muslims cannot be integrated in mostly Christian European societies.

Longing for refuge in Germany but stuck in limbo in Greece. That could be the fate of masses of new migrants to Europe, the United Nations warned. Reluctance of some European countries to take refugees and discussions in Germany to limit the number there have had little effect on the tide of humanity arriving from the East. Three times as many migrants have arrived so far this year than by the same time last year in Greece — by far their main gateway to Europe. More than 100,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year. Last year, it took until June to reach that sum.

Zika Update

Federal and state health officials are investigating 14 new reports of potential sexual transmission of the Zika virus, including several cases involving pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed Tuesday. In at least two of these U.S. cases, infection was confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner who recently had returned from one of the approximately three dozen countries where the virus has now spread. Four other women have tested positive for Zika in preliminary lab tests but are awaiting final confirmation. The CDC said the eight other cases remain under investigation. The state of Florida announced Wednesday that three pregnant women who had traveled outside the United States tested positive for Zika virus.

Organizers of the 2016 Olympics are facing an uphill task in their bid to convince the international sports community that the Games will be spared the effects of the rapidly spreading Zika virus. While Olympic organizers have devoted much energy to reassuring athletes and potential visitors, their position is not helped by the current realities of Rio life. Fatima Teresa Goncalves dos Santos, a Rio businesswoman, told USA TODAY Sports how she contracted Zika last year, less than two miles from the Olympic Park where most of the sports will be staged. Medical experts say Zika enhances the risk of a mother’s baby being born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in the child having an abnormally small head and suffering from seizures and impaired brain development. However, the Zika virus may cause more extensive birth defects throughout the body than scientists previously thought, according to a new study released Thursday. The new study associates the virus with damage to tissue outside the central nervous system for the first time. For those who are not pregnant, Zika usually results in a brief period of discomfort, including rashes, itching and joint pain.

  • For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)

Economic News

The fragile condition of the U.S. economy received an upgrade on Friday when the government said it grew at a 1% pace between October and December. That’s up from an initial estimate of just 0.7% and should ease fears the U.S. is on the verge of slipping into a recession. However, the economy remains under pressure from anemic global growth and a super-strong U.S. dollar that is slamming manufacturing.

Orders to U.S. companies for long-lasting manufactured goods advanced in January at the strongest pace in 10 months. Moreover, a key category that tracks business investment surged by the largest amount in 19 months. The bigger-than-expected gains could be a sign of better days ahead for the nation’s beleaguered manufacturers. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods, items ranging from autos and appliances to steel and machinery, rose 4.9% last month. That represented a rebound from a 4.6% plunge in December. Demand in a category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans rose 3.9% in January, reversing a 3.7% fall in December. It was the biggest advance in this category since June 2014.

  • Investors and economists pay too much attention to one-month swings. If we average the January and December numbers, durable goods rose 0.3% over the two months, continuing to indicate an economy growing slowly.

The metals market has finally stopped melting down — at least for the moment. After crashing to crisis levels late last year, raw materials that serve as key barometers of global growth are suddenly showing signs of life. Iron ore has skyrocketed 31% since mid-January, while copper and aluminum — key construction components — are up 7% since then. That’s a big relief because the collapse in industrial metals had been setting off global recession alarm bells. The precipitous drops raised fears about just how bad things were in China — the world’s biggest consumer of these materials.

Halliburton is cutting 8% of its workforce, or roughly 5,000 positions, the Houston energy company told CNNMoney on Thursday. It’s the latest evidence of the crisis confronting the U.S. oil industry as crude prices have crashed to seven-year lows. “Our industry has turned down faster than anyone ever expected,” Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar and President Jeff Miller said in a memo to employees obtained by CNNMoney. The execs said it’s now clear that business opportunities will be “much worse than anticipated” coming into the year.

China’s Shanghai composite index plunged more than 6% Thursday — its biggest one-day drop in a month — amid ongoing fears about the health of the world’s second largest economy. The benchmark dived 6.4% to 2,741.25, days before finance ministers from the Group of 20 major rich and developing economies meet in Shanghai. Investors are hoping the G20 meeting on Friday and Saturday will spur moves to shore up global growth.

Middle East

Iran’s new cash-incentive plan for “martyrs” who strike in Jerusalem is proof the Islamic Republic intends to spend billions reaped in the recent nuclear deal on terrorism, Israeli officials told Thursday. Already identified as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, Iran will now pay the equivalent of $7,000 “to every family of a martyr of the intifada in Jerusalem,” Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon said Wednesday at a news conference in Beirut. “This demonstrates again Iran’s role in encouraging terror,” Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry told “Following the nuclear agreement, Iran continues being a major player in international terror.” The Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Fathali, unveiled the new scheme to benefit the families of terrorists involved in the ongoing uprising in Jerusalem, which began on Sept. 13, 2015. So far, 32 Israelis and one Palestinian have been murdered, and 357 people injured. The latest figures issued by Israel show 188 stabbings, 75 shootings and 39 vehicle attacks. More than 160 Palestinians have been killed during the same period by Israeli security forces and armed members of the Israeli public, with most reportedly shot while carrying out attacks.

  • Virtually all of the Palestinian deaths were because they initiated ‘lone wolf’ attacks against Israelis

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday that the risk is growing of a shooting war between Russia and Turkey, which would be difficult for NATO to stay out of. “We are always referring to Syria as a proxy war among regional actors,” Mogherini said. “This risks to become something bigger than this. I’m not thinking of a cold war. No, we risk a hot war among different actors than the one we always think of. Not necessarily Russia and the United States, but Russia and Turkey.”

The Canadian Parliament passed a historic motion Monday which formally condemned the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. The Conservatives, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper who attended the session to cast his vote against BDS, joined the Liberals in overwhelmingly supporting the motion in a vote of 229 for and 51 against, Canada’s CIJ news reported. The motion states that, “given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.” “We must fight anti-Semitism in all its forms,” Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dionadded. “We must oppose the boycott, divest, sanctions campaign in our communities and continue to speak out forcefully against them.”

  • At least one country in North America hasn’t abandoned our spiritual ancestor

Islamic State

A video purportedly made by supporters of the Islamic State makes direct threats against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for combating terrorism on their Internet platforms. The 25-minute propaganda video was released by a group calling itself “the sons of the Caliphate army.” In it, photographs of both technology leaders are targeted by bullets. The video was spotted by Vocativ deep web analysts on the social media service Telegram, which is used by ISIS. The extremist group says it’s responding to growing efforts by Facebook and Twitter to suspend accounts and remove posts that the social media services say incite violence and promote terrorism. The group claims that they hacked more than 10,000 Facebook accounts, more than 150 Facebook groups and more than 5,000 Twitter profiles. “Many of these accounts have been given to supporters,” the video says.

Seeking to bolster its effort to counter ISIS messaging on social media, the Obama administration is assembling something of a high-tech dream team to battle the terrorist group online. At a meeting conducted at the Justice Department on Wednesday, executives from Apple, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, MTV and Buzzfeed offered their input to top counter intelligence officials, according to an industry source familiar with the meeting. Nick Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the group the administration is making strides in combating ISIS on social media, where the terrorist army has inspired potential lone wolf assailants to carry out attacks.


The United States and Russia brokered a temporary cease-fire between forces loyal to the Syrian government and Western-backed rebels trying to overthrow it that is scheduled to begin at midnight Friday, local Damascus time. The 5-year-old war in Syria has killed about 470,000 people and displaced 11 million, creating a refugee crisis in Europe. The agreement, called a “cessation of hostilities,” should stop the fighting between those parties and allow aid groups to deliver humanitarian supplies and services to areas that have been besieged by government forces backed with Russian airstrikes. The agreement does not apply to the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, or the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front terrorist groups. It also does not impact airstrikes against those two militant groups conducted by Syria, Russia and the U.S.-led coalition. Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday that the agreement has already allowed five or six Syrian communities to receive 114 trucks carrying assistance and that 80,000 people now have supplies for a month that they did not have a week ago.

North Korea

The United States submitted a draft resolution Thursday to the U.N. Security Council to impose “a major upgrade” in sanctions against North Korea following the reclusive nation’s recent nuclear weapons test and rocket launch. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the proposed sanctions for the first time would require all cargo going in and out of North Korea to be inspected and are meant to hold North Korea accountable for its actions. The move comes after the U.S. and China — North Korea’s chief ally — agreed on the draft resolution following more than a month of discussions. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test last month, claiming it tested a hydrogen bomb, and fired a long-range rocket over Japanese airspace on Feb. 7 in what was widely condemned as a test of missile technology banned by previous U.N. resolutions.


The world’s deadliest terrorist group is not in the Middle East. It’s in Nigeria, where the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram and other forces killed more than 4,000 Christians in 2015. That tally was a 62 percent increase from the previous year, according to Open Doors. In response, Nigeria’s largest confederation of Christian churches is, for the first time, jointly endorsing a commitment to revive the Church in the country’s north, before it collapses from a decade of violence that has killed thousands of Christians and driven away more than 1 million.


Christians in India have called on the government to intervene in the increasing tension and persecution they are experiencing from Hindu extremists. Christian Today reports that the Tirunelveli District Pentecostal Churches Federation in the state of Tamil Nadu has called on India’s government to address the “steadily increasing attacks on Christians.” Although India is supposedly a secular state, the Christians claim that they are being targeted by “Hindutva” adherents who are antagonistic toward Christianity and attack Christian churches. “Though we’re being targeted, we’ve never retaliated and done anything that would undermine the tranquility of society as Christianity is all about love, compassion and brotherhood,” said R. Babu Paul Dinakaran, district secretary of the Federation. “However,” Dinakaran continued, “heads of a few Hindutva outfits are encouraging their cadres to orchestrate attacks against us.”


Winter Storm Petros hammered the Midwest and Great Lakes regions with heavy snow and strong winds that left at least one person dead and caused lots of travel problems. More than 15 inches of snow fell in parts of Indiana, with over a half foot in Michigan, Illinois, northern Arkansas and eastern Missouri as of early Thursday morning. The combination of snow and strong winds has caused power outages in the St. Louis metro and parts of central Illinois. Tens of thousands were without power in Missouri and Illinois as the powerful system made its presence felt, dumping more than a foot of snow. South of Chicago, as many as 50 vehicles were stuck overnight Wednesday in heavy snow along Route 17 in Grant Park. The snow and wind from Winter Storm Petros was caused by the same low pressure system that has brought severe thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes to the South and East Coast. A Coast Guard ship overturned in large waves Thursday while attempting to rescue passengers aboard a fishing boat that ran aground off Long Island.

Large tornadoes hammered the South on Tuesday, reducing homes to rubble as emergency crews rushed to pluck residents trapped by the destructive storms. Three people have died as a dangerous, multi-day round of severe weather swept through the South. There were at least 18 reported tornadoes on Tuesday. In Louisiana, at least two people were killed at a trailer park in Convent where dozens of trailers were destroyed by a likely tornado. For the second time in as many weeks, a large tornado left major damage in Escambia County, located in the far western portion of the Florida Panhandle. A tornado outbreak stretched Wednesday into another day of destruction and tragedy as the storm system shifted into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, killing four more people in Virginia. The storm system has spanned hundreds of miles and more than a dozen states. As of Thursday morning, survey teams from the National Weather Service have confirmed 26 tornadoes in this outbreak, and crews will likely confirm more on Thursday. Fifty-two tornadoes have been reported by citizens and the media.

Signs of the Times (2/23/16)

February 23, 2016

Released Gitmo Detainee Now the Face of Al Qaeda

A Guantanamo Bay detainee that was released by President Obama in 2012 is now the face of Al Qaeda, reports Last December, al Qosi began appearing in al Qaeda propaganda videos denouncing the Saudi’s and advocating for jihadists to go to Yemen and join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qosi had joined al Qaeda in 1990, and by 1994 was part of Osama Bin Laden’s personal security. As reported by Daily Mail, Ibrahim al Qosi was sent to Gitmo in December 2001 after being captured in Afghanistan. He was offered a plea deal that ultimately led to his release from Gitmo after pleading guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to al Qaeda.

  • In Obama’s haste to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center and pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has fostered the regrowth of the Taliban in Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and rejuvenated al Qaeda.

Obama Releases Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay

President Obama released a plan Tuesday to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, setting up a last-year confrontation with Congress about a campaign promise he made eight years ago. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that the Pentagon report “will make a compelling case that closing the prison is clearly in our national security interest, but also will reflect the need for the United States government to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.” There are 91 detainees remaining in the prison; each one costs more than $3 million per year to maintain. Current law prohibits the president from transferring the Guantanamo Bay detainees — taken captive in the global war on terror and held without trial off U.S. soil — to the United States. Congress added a provision to the defense policy bill signed by Obama last year requiring the administration to put forward a plan for transferring the remaining detainees to prisons in the United States.

Anti-Semitism Thriving in Europe

Michael B. Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States and a member of the Knesset parliament, says anti-Semitism is thriving in Europe, prompting a record-setting Jewish migration to Israel in 2015. Most recently, the European Union’s decisded to label Jewish goods coming from Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and the Golan Heights. “There are more than 200 territorial disputes in the world, but Europe does not label products as made in Chinese-occupied Tibet or Turkish-occupied Cyprus,” Oren told CNN. “Palestinian leaders have ordered or encouraged terrorist attacks that have killed more than 1,500 Israelis and maimed many thousands more… Yet Europe does not label Palestinian products, only those made by Jews.” Europe will also label Jewish products as coming from the Golan Heights, where there are no Palestinians at all, he adds.

Threats, Harassment, Vandalism at U.S. Mosques Reach Record High

Through December 8, American mosques and Islamic centers have been the victims of vandalism, harassment and anti-Muslim bigotry at least 63 times last year, the Council on American-Islamic Relations says in the study. That’s the highest number since the Muslim civil rights group began keeping track in 2009 and a threefold increase over last year. The previous high was 53 incidents in 2010, during the controversy over the “ground zero mosque” near the site of the 9/11 attack in New York. But this past year’s hostilities have a sharper edge. Last November alone saw 17 anti-Muslim incidents at mosques, with the vehemence rising after terrorists aligned with the Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris. Death threats and vandalism appear to be spiking again since December 3, when a Muslim couple killed 14 people and injured 21 more in San Bernardino, California.

Poll: Apple Should Help FBI Unlock Terrorism Suspect’s iPhone

As the standoff between the Department of Justice and Apple Inc. continues over an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, 51% say Apple should unlock the iPhone to assist the ongoing FBI investigation. Fewer Americans (38%) say Apple should not unlock the phone to ensure the security of its other users’ information; 11% do not offer an opinion on the question. The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 18-21 among 1,002 adults, finds that almost identical shares of Republicans (56%) and Democrats (55%) say that Apple should unlock the San Bernardino suspect’s iPhone to aid the FBI’s ongoing investigation. The war of words between Apple Inc. and the government continued Sunday as FBI Director James Comey said forcing Apple to help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters is no big deal. “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land,” Comey said in a statement Sunday night, insisting that vital decisions involving safety from terrorists shouldn’t be left in the hands of “corporations that sell stuff for a living.” Apple said it wouldn’t comply, arguing that helping the government unlock an encrypted phone would sabotage the entire point of encryption and endanger the privacy of millions of its customers.

Sea Levels Rising Fastest in 3 Millennia

Sea levels rose faster in the past century than during the previous 27 centuries, a pair of studies published Monday found. “The 20th century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia — and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster,” said Robert Kopp, study lead author and an associate professor at Rutgers University. The study, “Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era,” was published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To reach their conclusions, the scientists compiled a database of geological sea-level indicators from marshes, coral atolls and archaeological sites around the world that spanned the last 3,000 years. Global sea levels stayed fairly steady for about 3,000 years. Then, with the Industrial Revolution, global sea levels began to rise, the study said. Scientists say the seas rose 5.5 inches from 1900 to 2000, a significant increase, especially for low-lying coastal areas.

Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively,’ WHO Leader Says

The Zika virus “is now spreading explosively” in the Americas, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday, with another official estimating between 3 million to 4 million infections in the region over a 12-month period. The lack of any immunity to Zika and the fact that mosquitoes spreading the virus can be found most “everywhere in the Americas” — from Argentina to the southern United States — explains the speed of its transmission, said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, an official with the WHO and Pan American Health Organization. Some 80% of those infected with the Zika virus don’t even feel sick, and most who do have relatively mild symptoms such as a fever, rash, joint pain or pink eye. But there are major worries about the dangers pregnant women and their babies face. Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, said that, where the virus has arrived, there’s been a corresponding “steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.”

Migrant Update

Onlookers celebrated as a suspected arson fire damaged a former hotel being converted into a refugee home in eastern Germany, police said Sunday, raising new concerns about violence toward new arrivals in a nation that registered more than a million asylum-seekers last year. While most Germans have been welcoming toward refugees, a vocal minority has staged protests in front of refugee homes, especially in the east. Germany last year saw a surge in violence against such lodgings. Investigators found traces of a fire accelerant at the scene and believe the fire was caused by arson. The Bautzen fire came after a mob in the small town of Clausnitz, also in Saxony, on Thursday screamed “We are the people!” and “Go home!” as they blocked a bus carrying asylum-seekers outside a new refugee home.

Economic News

Oil prices jumped Monday as the International Energy Agency projected a sharp decline in oil production growth rates over the next half decade. The IEA said a rapid decline in investments in exploration and production activities will lead to an average of 4.1 million barrels per day in new production from 2015 through 2021. That compares to the boom-time rate of 11 million barrels per day in new production from 2009 through 2015. Capital expenditure on global oil exploration and production is expected to fall 17% in 2016, following a 24% drop in 2015

In the last three months of 2015, earnings declined 4% at the largest 500 publicly-traded companies compared to a year ago. It was the largest drop since 2009, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch research. Energy companies accounted for much of the decline as oil prices have continued to fall. Earnings growth for energy firms slowed by 75% in the fourth quarter. Excluding energy, earnings increased by 1.7%.

Homeownership patterns are shifting for Americans over age 55, even as the senior population grows. Among those age 55 to 64, renting is becoming more common, and that trend is likely to continue, according to Rolf Pendall, director of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Pendall and his colleagues have observed a decline in the share of 55- to 64-year-olds owning homes since 1990, which accelerated between 2010 and 2013 in the wake of the financial crisis.

The British pound plummeted the most in six years Monday after London’s popular and internationally-known mayor said he would oppose the government and campaign for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.

European Union

UK Prime Minister David Cameron reached a deal with the European Union in Brussels late Friday after marathon negotiations at a summit of the group’s leaders. He sought to amend the country’s relationship with the EU ahead of setting a date for the vote, in part because he faces skepticism within his own Conservative Party about the merits of retaining Britain’s ties with the 28-nation political bloc. Among the measures that Cameron secured concessions on from the EU were assurances that Britain would not be forced to join the euro currency, restrictions on some welfare payments to the citizens of other EU nations who come to work in Britain, and a guarantee that it can forgo “ever-closer union” — a reference to ceding more government powers to the seat of EU power in Brussels. “Three years ago I committed to the British people that I would renegotiate our position in the EU and hold an in-out referendum. Now I am delivering that commitment. You will decide,” he said. Britain will hold the historic referendum on whether to remain in the European Union on June 23. An average of the six most recent polls of voting intentions showed that 51% of Britons would choose to remain in the EU, while 49% would opt to leave.

Middle East

Israelis suffered another violent weekend including several stabbing attacks. On Sunday morning, a 16-year old Palestinian attempted to stab soldiers guarding the Habitot junction in the Samaria region and was shot dead before he could wound any of his intended victims. Also on Sunday, a 14-year old Palestinian attempted to stab soldiers near the village of Kafr Bnei Naim and was stopped and arrested without any harm to the soldiers or himself. Another attempted attack on Sunday was prevented when police stopped 17-year old Palestinian who was on her way to carry out an attack near Ariel.

Islamic State

The use of child soldiers far predates ISIS, but what concerns researchers and policymakers is that ISIS’ use of boys and girls is far more atrocious than in previous conflicts. Of 89 child deaths published by CTC Sentinel Friday, 39% died detonating a vehicle born IED device and 33% were killed as foot soldiers. Some 4% killed themselves while committing mass casualty attacks against civilians. Nearly 20% of the children killed were “marauders” who carried out so-called “plunging attacks.” That’s a military operation in which a group of fighters attack an enemy position before blowing themselves up. Last month, five adult ISIS fighters flanked by three children infiltrated the Tariq base in Iraq. ISIS boasted that the group attacked from within for three hours, killing people before detonating their suicide belts. Children are integrated into ISIS’ military operations — often with parental consent.

The Islamic State has released dozens of Assyrian Christians taken hostage in northeastern Syria a year ago, the Associated Press reported Monday. Younan Talia of the Assyrian Democratic Organization told AP the 43 freed captives were on their way to the town of Tal Tamr. The group represents the last of more than 200 Christians freed since all were kidnapped from 11 villages near Tal Tamr. Younan told AP the release came after mediation led by a top Assyrian priest in northern Syria. The abductions came during a three-day militant offensive as the Islamic State pushed to carve a caliphate out of a swath of Syria and Iraq. The abductions caused thousands of residents to flee and become refugees in nearby cities. More than 600 of the refugees were children, the organization said.


Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that a “provisional agreement” has been reached on a cease-fire that could begin in the next few days in Syria’s five-year civil war. Kerry said he spoke in the morning with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss terms of a ceasefire and the two now must reach out to the parties in the conflict. He declined to go into the details of the agreement because all parties need to be fully consulted. Kerry said he hoped President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin would talk soon and that after that, implementation could begin. Russia has to talk with Iran and the Syrian government and the U.S. has to talk with the opposition and members of the International Syria Support Group. Residents of the Syrian capital expressed skepticism on Monday about reports that a “provisional agreement” has been reached for a truce, a day after a wave of Islamic State bombings killed about 130 people in government-held areas near Damascus and beyond.

Two blasts in the central Syrian city of Homs killed at least 14 people and wounded 29 Sunday in the latest wave of violence to hit the city in recent weeks, state TV said. The television report said Sunday’s blasts struck in the pro-government neighborhood of Zahraa — a frequent target for similar explosions. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists around Syria, said the blasts killed 25 and wounded more than 100. The Observatory said the blasts were caused by two vehicles rigged with explosives. The Zahra neighborhood is predominantly Alawite, the minority sect to which President Bashar Assad belongs. Homs, once dubbed the capital of the Syrian revolution, has been hit with a wave of explosions in recent months, killing and wounding scores of people.


Amnesty International has told Sky News that Russia is guilty of some the most “egregious” war crimes it has seen in decades. The human rights organization claims Moscow’s warplanes have been deliberately targeting civilians and rescue workers in Syria over the last week. Tirana Hassan, director of Amnesty’s crisis response program, said the attacks are ongoing, with strikes documented on schools, hospitals and civilian homes. She said the bombing of civilian targets by Russian and Syrian forces was in itself a war crime, but claimed there have been consistent reports of additional bombardments which injure and kill humanitarian workers and civilians attempting to evacuate the wounded and the dead.


Libya’s interim government issued a statement saying that it “strongly condemns the airstrikes carried out by the US Air Force at certain positions in the town of Sabratha on Friday morning, February 19, 2016, without any coordination or consultation with the interim Libyan government.” “Any interference, similar to the one that has taken place, will be considered an open and flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Libyan state and international law,” the statement said. The interim government said that it values the foreign assistance it receives in the war on terror, but added that “any military or political interference into Libyan affairs should be performed in a legal way through parliament and the newly formed government.”


Cameroonian special forces killed 162 Boko Haram militants during a raid to regain control of Goshi, a town in northeastern Nigeria. During the three-day operation, the Cameroonian force freed about 100 captives held by the militants, including Nigerians and Cameroonians. “The town of Goshi in Nigeria was formally identified as one of the Boko Haram posts, hosting factories for the manufacturing of bombs and mines,” said Cameroon’s communication minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary. The town also served as a hub for holding the teenagers Boko Haram used for its suicide bombing missions, Bakary said. In the course of the attack, the soldiers dismantled four mine factories.


Two years after a pro-Western revolution provoked a conflict with Russian-backed separatists, Ukraine faces a graver threat from rampant corruption — the problem that sparked its 2014 revolt in the first place. In eastern Ukraine, government forces are under the fiercest assault from militants since a cease-fire began to take hold in the beginning of September. And in the capital, Kiev, Ukrainian politicians face a growing backlash over an economy in shambles and widespread cronyism it had pledged to eradicate when parliament voted on Feb. 22, 2014, to oust Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. Parliament’s actions were backed by mass demonstrations on Maidan square in Kiev, where Yanukovych’s troops shot and killed many protesters. While the conflict in the east saps energy and costs lives, what’s at stake in Ukraine’s faltering struggle with corruption is the support of its European allies and full integration with the West, warned Germany, who provided the most financial and diplomatic assistance to the former Soviet Republic in the past two years.


The same storm system that kicked up powerful winds as high as 148 mph in the Rockies and fueled grass fires in the Plains Friday has created violent winds that are whipping across the Midwest. Extensive damages have been spotted in Wisconsin and Illinois, and evacuations have been made in Chicago. Numerous wind gusts have topped 60 mph in the greater Chicago area, including gusts of 72 mph near Douglas Park, 70 mph at Gary Airport and 62 mph at O’Hare. Buildings on Walker Street in Chicago had to be evacuated due to falling debris knocked over by the wind Friday. The wind also collapsed a building under construction, crushing a car but causing no injuries. Some streets in downtown Chicago were shut down due to falling glass blown out by the strength of the wind. The same storm system that kicked up powerful winds as high as 148 mph in the Rockies and fueled grass fires in the Plains, many of them in Oklahoma.

Tropical Cyclone Winston raked across Fiji Saturday with Category 5 winds, the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record in the South Pacific archipelago. Winston is now located west of Fiji and is forecast to curl southward away from land while weakening the next few days. Winston made landfall along the north coast of Fiji’s largest, most populous island, Viti Levu, Saturday evening, local time packing estimated maximum sustained winds of 180 mph. Winston not only was the first Category 5 tropical cyclone of record to hit Fiji, but earlier Saturday afternoon, became the strongest tropical cyclone of record in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of Fiji was without electricity Sunday and residents were told to stay inside for a second straight night as officials scrambled to restore services and assess damage in the wake of a ferocious cyclone that left at least 21 people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes. In some cases, entire houses were blown to pieces.

Signs of the Times (2/19/16)

February 19, 2016

Bibles Needed for China

It’s been estimated that close to 20,000 people in China are placing their faith in Jesus every single day, according to Bible Gateway. Others estimate that China could be the largest Christian nation in the world by 2020. But Chinese readers face a very real challenge. Since the early 1900s, they’ve been constrained to using the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Bible – which is now a terribly outdated translation that’s hard to understand and often fails to engage the hearts of new believers. Five years ago, Biblica released an updated Chinese Contemporary Bible (CCB, but they need funds to get this updated translation in the hands of Chinese men and women desperate to read God’s Word. With a matching grant up to $10,000, a gift of $48, for example, would normally send 12 Bibles. But today, through the matching grant, each gift will be doubled to $96, sending 24 Bibles.

  • Click here to make a donation to send bibles to China

35 Unborn Lives Saved in ‘40 Days for Life’ Campaign

The 40 Days for Life campaign recently reported that 35 unborn babies have been saved through the efforts of pro-life volunteers. The volunteers go to local abortion clinics and offer information and prayer for the women going into the clinic, intending to get abortions. reports that, through the campaign, 35 mothers decided at the last moment to save their child’s life.

Wisconsin De-Funds Planned Parenthood

On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed two pro-life bills that will help further de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business in the Badger State after it was caught across the country selling the body parts of aborted babies for profit. Walker signed the bills at Life’s Connection, a women’s health clinic in Waukesha that helps promote abortion alternatives. AB 310/SB 237 redirects federal Title X family planning funds away from organizations that perform abortions, meaning $3.5 million taxpayer dollars will be driven away from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. SB 238/AB 311 dramatically reduces Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s artificially inflated Medicaid reimbursement rates, and will eliminate $4.5 million taxpayer funds that have previously gone to Planned Parenthood.

Justice Scalia’s Death has Major Impact on Current Court Cases

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a major setback for the conservative legal movement in the months ahead. This was to be the term conservatives roared back after one in which the court’s liberal bloc won most of the important cases, such as same-sex marriage and Obamacare. On tap to be decided in the next four months are cases affecting abortion rights, affirmative action, voting rights, the power of labor unions and President Obama’s health care and immigration policies — and conservatives stood a chance of winning them all. Not anymore. Scalia’s untimely death Saturday at a Texas ranch leaves an empty seat on the Supreme Court — almost surely for the remainder of the 2015 term, and most likely for the duration of Obama’s presidency.

  • A very convenient death – too convenient.

World War III Taking Shape in Syria?

Armies and militias from more than a dozen countries have joined the Syria conflict, making for a mind-boggling and dangerous stew of shifting and competing alliances. Even as a proposed cease-fire is scheduled to begin as early as this week, more nations are escalating their roles in the nearly 5-year-old civil war: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey said they may send ground troops to fight. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are backed by two nations, Russia and Iran, and many Shiite militias from across the region who are organized by Iran. Many rebel forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian government are backed by arms, funds and airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition. The U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq includes: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Kurdish militia from Turkey, Iraq and Syria are fighting the Islamic State. But the Kurds are sometimes aligned with the Syrian government and seen as a threat by Turkey, which has fought for years against a Kurdish separatist movement threatening its territorial sovereignty. Syrian Kurds are backed by Russia, the United States and Iraqi Kurdish groups. The Islamic State, a vicious al-Qaeda spinoff, and Jabhat al Nusrah, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria that works with many Sunni Arab opposition groups in Syria, have attracted foreign fighters from across the Arab world and Europe. Both have expanded during the chaos in Syria.

Massive Extermination of Christians & Civilians in Syria

United Nations investigators are reporting that “a massive scale” of extermination against detainees and civilians is taking place right now in Syria, adding it’s an “urgent, large scale crisis of human rights protection.” According to the written report, both loyalist and anti-government forces are committing war crimes — painting “a terrifying picture of the magnitude.” In Syria alone, more than 250,000 men, women, and children have been killed — many of those have been tortured and raped before being executed and coldly discarded into mass graves. The 13.5 million civilians who remain are in desperate need of aid, often unable to access fresh water, food, and medicine due to supply lines being cut. Millions of these are Christians and other religious minorities who, in addition to being caught in the violent civil war, are also being aggressively targeted by Islamic State forces. As one Christian man told a reporter in Syria, “This life is worse than death.”

Austria to Limit Number of Refugees Crossing its Borders

Austria vowed to press ahead early on Friday with plans to cap the number of asylum seekers entering the country despite claims the move would break the law, as European Union leaders struggled to end their fragmented approach to managing Europe’s biggest refugee emergency since World War II. In the latest in a series of uncoordinated and unilateral measures by nations, Austria announced that it would allow no more than 80 people a day to apply for asylum at its southern border points, as of Friday. In tense late night talks in Brussels on Thursday, EU leaders decided to hold a summit in early March with Turkey, which has been the source of hundreds of thousands of people arriving in the EU over the last year to push Ankara to tighten border controls. More than 1 million people entered the EU in 2015 fleeing conflict or poverty, and some 84,000 have entered so far this year.

Facebook User Arrested for ‘Offensive’ Posts about Syrian Refugees

Scotland police have said the arrest of a man responsible for a series of offensive Facebook posts about Syrian refugees resettled on the Isle of Bute should send a clear message that such social media abuse will not be tolerated, reports The Guardian. Following the arrest, Insp Ewan Wilson from Dunoon police office said: “I hope that the arrest of this individual sends a clear message that Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of activity which could incite hatred and provoke offensive comments on social media.” Only months ago, Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch warned Americans the U.S. Department of Justice intends to criminally prosecute and even imprison Americans who they determine are guilty of using “speech that edges towards violence” against Muslims.

  • The end of free speech? While such posts are indeed offensive and give Facebook grounds to cancel an account, arrests are a harbinger of the coming police state which will enforce political correctness

Hollywood Hospital Hit by Ransomware Attack, Hackers Demand $3.6M

Ransomware is always going to present a major headache for any victim, but when a hospital is at the center of an attack, the matter suddenly appears more threatening, with the stakes a whole lot higher. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles computer systems have been offline for more than a week following a ransomware attack, with hackers reportedly demanding a $3.6 million payment to restore access, CSO reported Monday. Staff are understandably having a hard time coping, with procedures such as CT scans unable to be carried out. In some cases, patients are being ferried to nearby medical facilities for treatment. The ongoing incident also means hospital workers are unable to gain access to important documents, patient data, and emails. Instead, staff have had to step back in time, firing up fax machines and making more use of pens and paper to keep track of work at the facility. On Wednesday, the hospital paid a ransom equivalent to around $17,000 in bitcoins to get its computer systems back up and running.

Apple Resists Push by FBI to Unlock iPhone Data

Apple’s resistance to help the FBI obtain iPhone data associated with the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists pits Washington versus Silicon Valley in a high-stakes war over Tech Age privacy rights amid escalating, international terrorism. A federal magistrate ruled Tuesday that Apple must help FBI agents try to get into Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone by disabling a feature that will lock them out after 10 unsuccessful tries. Apple, the largest publicly traded company in the world by market value, is fighting the order. Law enforcement, CEO Tim Cook says, is asking the company to create a new version of the iPhone operating system and install it on Farook’s phone as a “backdoor” into obtaining its data. “In the wrong hands, this software . . . would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” Cook says. At stake are the sweeping international ambitions of the entire U.S. technology industry, billions of dollars in potential global growth that hinges on customers entrusting the most intimate details of their lives to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, especially in areas of the world where people have far greater qualms about the government gaining unfettered access to their personal information.

Military fails to treat new cases of war-related stress

The U.S. military is struggling to provide adequate therapy sessions for thousands of active-duty troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, a massive study released Thursday concludes. The RAND Corp. study of 40,000 cases, the largest ever, found that only a third of troops with PTSD and less than a quarter who are clinically depressed receive the minimum number of therapy sessions after being diagnosed. The good news in the study: vast improvement in how the Army and other service branches follow up with inpatient cases of PTSD after servicemembers are released from mental hospital care, a crucial period when many suicides occur. “We just don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet the demand,” said Brad Carson, acting principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Since 2009, the military has increased mental health professionals on staff by 42% to 9,295.

Flint Residents Paid Highest Rate for Water in U.S.

Flint residents paid the highest water rates in America even as their water was tainted with lead, according to a national study released Tuesday by the public interest group Food and Water Watch. A survey of the 500 largest water systems in the country, conducted last year, found that on average, Flint residents paid about $864 a year for water service, nearly double the national average and about three-and-a-half times as much as Detroiters pay. The United Nations recommends that water and sewer service shouldn’t exceed 3% of a household income. In Flint, the charges totaled about 7%. A Flint lawyer who sued to reduce the rates says they are high in part because city officials and state-appointed emergency managers have tapped water and sewer money for other needs.

Economic News

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela on Tuesday reportedly agreed to freeze oil production at January levels if other oil-producing countries do the same. But indications that Iraq and Iran have no plans to slash production dampened hopes for a global reduction in oil output — so prices relinquished earlier gains, slipping into negative territory. Iran’s OPEC envoy on Wednesday said his country will not freeze its oil production levels, snubbing the proposal that was agreed upon by four other OPEC members a day earlier

Cheap gasoline kept a lid on consumer prices again in January, but a core measure of inflation rose more than expected. The consumer price index was unchanged last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The index was up 1.4% over the past year. Excluding volatile food and gasoline, core inflation rose 0.3%, more than the 0.2% economists expected. The measure was up 2.2% the past 12 months. Low oil prices and a strong dollar, which makes imports cheaper for consumers, has held down inflation. But prices of services such as healthcare and rent, have risen more sharply in recent months. In January, gasoline prices fell 4.8%, matching its December decline. Regular unleaded averaged $1.72 Thursday, according to AAA, down from $1.88 a month ago. Food prices were unchanged.

2015 was a tough year for oil driller Schlumberger. Unless you were the CEO. CEO Paal Kibsgaard received total compensation worth $18.3 million in 2015, the company reported, down only slightly from $18.5 million the year before. The rest of Schlumberger didn’t fare so well. The company cut 25,000 jobs during the year, or 20% of its workforce. Revenue was down 27%, and profit plunged 41%.The weak results and layoffs are the result of the plunge in the price of oil.

Latinos opened 86% of all the new businesses created in the U.S. between 2007 and 2012, according to a recent report by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. But they lagged non-Latino businesses in how much revenue they brought in — $155,806 in 2012 versus $573,209, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. The biggest issue? A lack of access to capital. The researchers pointed to the lack of a pipeline between investors and Latino-owned businesses and a dearth of financial education, as well as cultural issues within the Latino community.

As China’s manufacturing sector stalls, the world’s second-largest economy is relying on a more dangerous growth engine: Debt. The Chinese government is encouraging banks to lend and people and businesses to spend. New loans in China hit a record level in January, according to data released this week. But as loans skyrocket, so does something else: the risk of defaults. America did it for years, spurring people to buy homes, cars and just about everything else on credit. The debt gorging led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession.

For two decades, Venezuelans have paid just pennies at the pump. But on Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro announced that they’ll soon be paying a lot more. Before the announcement, a liter of high-quality gas in Venezuela cost about 10 centavos or one U.S. penny. Now it costs 6 bolivars or about 60 U.S. cents — a 6000% price increase. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. It’s a member of OPEC, and oil exports account for about 95% of its export revenue. Its economy is currently in a severe recession as oil prices have fallen dramatically in the past two years.

European Union

European Union leaders face twin challenges this week: keeping Britain as a member and finding a common solution to a migrant crisis that has divided the group’s 28 members. The outcome of the two-day summit that kicks off Thursday in Brussels may determine the timing of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s planned referendum on continued membership in the political group. Cameron has promised to negotiate new terms with the EU before holding the vote at home. He is seeking concessions on issues that include economic competitiveness, members’ sovereignty rights, welfare policies and the free movement of labor within the bloc. If he succeeds, he may hold the referendum in June. Polls show the British public evenly split over “Brexit” — British exit from the EU. Cameron’s proposals face opposition from nations such as France, which don’t want Britain to gain any unfair advantage over how it regulates banks and other financial institutions since London competes with other European capitals as a financial hub. Other members object to his demands to reduce social payments and curb working rights for non-British citizens. Germany opposes any weakening of the EU as a single political entity.

Middle East

IDF soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, was buried Friday morning at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem a day after he was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist during a stabbing attack at a supermarket in the West Bank’s Binyamin region which also left another shopper wounded. The two 14-year old terrorists who carried out the attack were both shot by an armed civilian, with one later dying of his wounds. The Rami Levi supermarket where the attack occurred has both Arab and Jewish employees and is patronized by both Arab and Jewish customers on a daily basis. Also on Friday morning, the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City was the site of yet another stabbing attack which wounded two Border Police officers. The terrorist who carried out the attack was shot dead at the scene by police, while an uninvolved bystander was wounded in the incident.

Persecution Watch

Two Christian leaders in India were left in critical condition after they were violently attacked in two separate incidents on 5 February and 28 January. Pastor Simon Tandy and his wife were deliberately rammed into by Hindu extremists while they were on a motorbike and church leader Jose Kannumkuzhy sustained serious head injuries in a mob attack. The incident against Pastor Simon Tandy and his wife took place a few days after Hindu extremists barged into a Sunday worship service on 31 January and threatened the couple. Hindu radicals have since gone to the couple’s house and ordered his wife not to take legal action against them. In a separate, earlier incident, a mob of 35 people attacked and beat up church leader Jose Kannumkuzhy and three other Christians – Lijo, Joseph and Stanley – in Ettimada, a suburb around 20 km south of Coimbatore city, in Tamil Nadu state.

Also in India, a mob of around 400 Hindu radicals ambushed a group of eleven Christians who had met together to pray for a girl who was ill in Sardarshahr, Churu, in India’s northern Rajasthan state, on 31 January. They beat the Christians and handed them over to the police, falsely accusing them of giving people money to convert to Christianity.

In recent weeks, Fulani Muslim herders have been setting fire to the fields of Christians in the central-northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), leaving them completely destroyed, according to a Barnabas Fund contact. Many homes have also been torched in the Batangafo area, in central-northern CAR. Muslim Seleka gunmen initiated an uprising in November 2012 and took control of the government in this Christian-majority country. Seleka militants ravaged the country, propagating a spree of violence, rapes and killings, primarily against Christians. Thousands were killed in fighting and nearly 500,000 people fled their homes.

Christians among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them: religious harassment. Some Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered. The persecution has been observed in various locations across Europe, reports The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.

After a year filled with repeated threats and attacks against Protestant churches and their leaders in Turkey, the leader of their tiny Christian community has admitted that they remain “anxious and distressed”. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek of the Association of Protestant Churches named last week two major obstacles to his community’s quest for true religious freedom: the Turkish judiciary’s failure to respond to their members’ security concerns, and the government’s exclusion of Protestants from the state’s protocol dialogue with other religious minorities. Even though freedom of religion and belief is “secured under national and international laws and the constitutional authority in Turkey,” serious obstacles still violate the basic rights of the nation’s 6,000 to 7,000 Protestants, some 80 percent of whom are citizens of Muslim background.

Islamic State

The FSB — Russia’s security agency and the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB — told state-run TASS news that seven alleged ISIS members were charged Wednesday for plotting terrorist attacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. To date, Russia hasn’t been hit by ISIS terror attacks on busy, civilian-filled areas like those in Paris, Tunis or Jakarta. But it is a target due to the Kremlin’s armed efforts against the Islamist extremist group in Syria. ISIS’ Caucasus affiliate claimed credit for a pair of attacks, one in September on a Russian military facility, and another a December shooting in the troubled Russian republic of Dagestan. And an ISIS affiliate in Sinai said that its members bombed a Russian passenger plane flying from Egypt to St. Petersburg, killing 224 people.


Scores of rockets fell on the Christian areas of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, last the weekend, killing seven Christians, wounding many more, and devastating buildings. Many of those killed last weekend were young people, one of them just 13 years of age, said a Barnabas partner based in Aleppo. Earlier in February, a renewed offensive in Aleppo left around 100 apartments in Christian areas badly damaged. A senior church leader in Syria told Barnabas that an estimated 40% of Christians in Syria have been forced to leave their homes since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Some of these are living in other parts of Syria and some have fled into other countries. In capital city Damascus, where the situation is more stable, the number of Christians living there is growing, he says, as Christians from other parts take refuge there.


Turkish fighter jets on Thursday pounded Syrian Kurdish rebel positions across the border in northern Iraq in retaliation for an attack in Ankara on Wednesday that killed at least 28 people. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both blamed Syrian Kurdish militias for a car bomb that targeted a convoy of Turkish military vehicles in the nation’s capital. At least 61 people were wounded in the incident. Salih Muslim, a Syrian Kurdish leader, nevertheless rejected Turkey’s allegation, saying his group had “no link to these bombings.” There were no other claims of responsibility including the Islamic State that has bombed the city in the past. Davutoglu said 12 people were detained in connection with the attack. He also confirmed the man who denoted the bomb was a Syrian national.


U.S. warplanes on Friday bombed an Islamic State camp in Libya, targeting a militant linked to two terror attacks in Tunisia last year. More than 30 militants from the extremist group were killed at the camp near the coastal city of Sabratha, near the border with Tunisia, the New York Times reported. Noureddine Chouchane, the target of the strike, is believed to have been one of the organizers of the attack at the Bardo Museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis that killed 22 people in March, and an attack in June that killed 38 people in the seaside resort of Sousse. The Islamic State has gained a foothold in Libya, which has spiraled into chaos since a U.S.-backed coalition helped rebels overthrow the regime of leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The Islamic State has been attempting to expand its influence in the war-torn country, threatening to take over oil refineries near Sirte. The United States and its allies have become increasingly concerned about the group’s growing presence near those refineries, which could provide the militant group with another source of revenue.


China deployed missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to a statement from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, even as President Obama called for reduced tensions in the region at the conclusion of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders. Commercial satellite imagery picked up the deployment, Fox News reported. The network said it obtained imagery from ImageSat International (ISI) showing two batteries of surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar targeting arrays on the island. The U.S. recently challenged China’s territorial claims in the Parcel Islands, sending the Navy missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within 12 miles of one of the islands claimed by China. The South China Sea has become hotly contested as China and other nations in the region seek to control trade routes and mineral deposits in the area. China has complicated the regional tensions further by building new “islands” in the sea by piling sand on reefs and then constructing military installations.

North Korea

President Barack Obama signed new sanctions on North Korea into law Thursday, punishing the regime for its nuclear and missile tests as well as for suspected cyber-hacking incidents. Congress overwhelmingly passed the measure earlier this month. The unilateral U.S. sanctions Obama approved Thursday would freeze the assets of anyone doing business related to North Korea’s nuclear or weapons programs or is involved in human rights abuses in the country. The measure is meant to compel American allies to enact similarly tough restrictions on North Korea to further isolate the country, which conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and recently launched a satellite into space. Tough new multilateral sanctions have been held up at the United Nations Security Council over disagreements between China and other nations. China, a longtime sponsor of North Korea, has expressed concerns about measures that it worries could debilitate North Korea’s economy. But South Korea welcomed the American sanctions


Parts of central U.S. will feel more like summer than winter on Thursday, with possibly record-breaking high temperatures. The higher temperatures, combined with powerful, gusty winds are expected to create an extreme potential for fire in a swath covering eastern Colorado, the Texas panhandle as well as parts of Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning, which advises extreme caution about open flames. Blazes popped up in Oklahoma and Missouri, prompting evacuations and shutdowns of roadways.


A full-blown case of spring fever bloomed in the Plains Thursday, with dozens of daily record highs, but also an extreme danger of fast-spreading wildfires. A winter heat wave is spreading inland from the West Coast and could bring unseasonable warmth spanning from coast-to-coast by the weekend. Southern California is on track to continue setting hot temperature records, On Wednesday, Phoenix recorded 91 degrees — and it’s only February! Parts of the South could see temperatures 20°-30°F above normal.

Millions woke up Tuesday morning to ice-covered roads that made travel nearly impossible, all due to a winter storm that killed at least five people. Winter Storm Olympia hindered travel up and down the East Coast for a second consecutive day, knocking out power to thousands while being blamed for hundreds of crashes. Schools were closed again Tuesday in many towns as officials attempt to keep students safe and roads clear. Thousands of New Jersey homes and businesses lost power Tuesday afternoon as a line of strong storms moved across the Garden State. Trees and power lines were felled by the nasty weather. As the severe weather moved east, damage was also reported in New York City from gusty winds. In Manhattan, two women were injured at about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday morning when broken glass from a table blew off a 22-story building.

Tornadoes touched down in the Deep South Monday on the southern end of the low-pressure system associated with Winter Storm Olympia. A few additional severe storms are possible Tuesday before the cold front clears the Florida peninsula and the eastern Carolinas. Seventeen reports of tornadoes were received by the National Weather Service from early Monday afternoon through early Tuesday morning in four states, with the densest clusters of reports in southern Mississippi and southern Alabama. Injuries have been reported in Louisiana and a high school in Mississippi sustained damage Monday. In total, 15 tornadoes have been confirmed from the severe weather event Monday and Tuesday in the South.

By studying more than a decade of measurements recorded by NASA satellites, scientists have documented a striking pattern in places around the world: many wet regions have grown wetter, while a number of dry regions have grown drier. Researchers examined data from NASA satellites between 2002 and 2014 and found areas that have become wetter included the upper Missouri River basin, the northern Amazon and parts of Africa, as well as other parts of the tropics. Areas throughout the mid-latitudes became drier: in the Middle East and North Africa, parts of India and China, and across much of the southern and western United States, where drought-plagued California and the southern High Plains stood out for especially large losses of water.

Signs of the Times

February 15, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia’s Death Quickly Sparks Political Battle

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep Saturday during a visit to Texas. His death immediately triggered a monumental election-year battle in Washington over whether President Barack Obama should choose a successor who could tilt the Supreme Court toward liberals. Within two hours of Scalia’s death being reported, presidential candidates along with Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were feuding over whether Obama should appoint a replacement for the eloquent and outspoken Scalia or wait for the next administration to make a decision. The battle lines underscored the huge political stakes in the 2016 election, which could cement the ideological balance of the court for years to come. News of Scalia’s death broke hours before the latest Republican presidential debate and added another explosive element to a heated GOP primary campaign. Even before Saturday, the fate of the Supreme Court was already a key election issue, given the possibility that the next President could get the chance to nominate at least two or three Justices due to the age of those on the bench.

Many Say Scalia’s Death Suspicious

The seemingly quick conclusion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of “natural causes” this weekend is prompting calls for an autopsy and toxicological reports by activists and across social media platforms. “Anytime a head of state, member of Congress, or the most conservative member of the U.S. Supreme Court is found dead, an extensive autopsy and toxicology examination should be both immediate and mandatory,” said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration. “The horrid reaction and comments about his death expressed by many liberals online illustrate that Scalia was hated by many people.” Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, who pronounced Scalia dead, said the death certificate will say the cause of death was natural, and that he died of a heart attack. She said no autopsy was necessary. Guevara said she talked to Scalia’s doctor in Washington, D.C., who told her he had been sick. According to Guevara, Scalia told his group Friday at dinner he was not feeling well and went to his room early. He then missed breakfast and lunch Saturday and was later found unresponsive in his bed. It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, she pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body and decided not to order an autopsy. A second justice of the peace, who was called but couldn’t get to Scalia’s body in time, said she would have ordered an autopsy, reports the Washington Post. Scalia was animated and engaged during dinner Friday night, says Houston businessman John Poindexter, who owns the 30,000-acre luxury ranch. “We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled,” said Poindexter.”

  • Extremely suspicious death at just the right time for Obama to be able to swing the court left once again

Pope’s Efforts to Stop Church Child Abuse Ineffective

A member of a commission set up by Pope Francis to advise him on child abuse says the group is a “token body” exercising in “smoke and mirrors” that won’t help children stay safe from abusive priests. Peter Saunders, the commission member, is now on a leave of absence as he considers whether to continue with an effort he says he has lost faith in. Meanwhile, new Catholic bishops are still being taught they’re not obliged to report cases of child abuse by priests to the police. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Francis set up with much fanfare in 2014, was supposed to issue guidelines for the Vatican on how to deal with child abuse. But the body was never consulted about the training for new bishops, a sign that Francis’ reform efforts, and his pledge to clean up the Catholic Church’s most damaging crisis, seem to be unraveling before they’ve even really gotten started. The problems come as Pope Francis pays a visit to Latin America, a region where, as GlobalPost has reported, the church is accused of reassigning and protecting many alleged predator priests. Among the latest scandals in the region, Chileans are outraged that the pope appointed a bishop accused of shielding the country’s most despised pedophile priest from investigation.

Pope Condemns Corruption, Violence in Mexico

Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico was unprecedented — the world’s first Latin American pope meets with Latin American political and religious leaders, and celebrates Mass at the center of Latin American Catholic devotion. To state leaders, he cautioned that a selfish society becomes “a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death.” From the assembled Mexican bishops, he demanded “prophetic courage” to heal ravaged areas. At evening Mass, he sought hope for “the suffering but resilient hearts” of families that lose children to violence and crime. As the popemobile whisked Francis from one speech to the next, crowds stretched from one horizon to the other. The air remained festive, even jubilant, and peaceful. But as the pope spoke, he seemed to tap into the frustration many Mexicans have expressed here over the past two days: a pervasive sense of government corruption and the inability of authorities to bring years of cartel violence under control. Mexicans are desperately praying that the pope’s visit will bring peace to Mexico, by raising the spiritual conscience of government leaders and of those involved in crime and the drug trade.

U.S. Power Grid Targeted by Terror Groups

There are any number of terror groups – ISIS, Al Qaeda, even entire countries like North Korea – that would love to see America brought to her knees. Thanks to the deplorable condition of the country’s electric grid, it could be done without a single bullet being fired, reports “Experts describe it as having so many weaknesses that a hacker could sit at a terminal on the other side of the globe and successfully take over computers that control power stations all across the United States.” A USA TODAY analysis of federal energy records found that the grid is struck by a physical or cyberattack every four days. We don’t hear about most of these attacks, but some we do. Perhaps the best known was the one on a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in San Jose, California. Shooting for 19 minutes, snipers managed to destroy 17 giant transformers that provided essential power as far away as Silicon Valley. It took workers 27 days to restore the facility. No arrests were made. Former CIA official Dr. Peter Pry warns, “There is an imminent threat from ISIS to the national electric grid and not just to a single U.S. city.” Dr. Pry says that attacks on just 9 of the nation’s 55,000 electrical substations could result in nationwide blackouts for up to 18 months.

Obama Cutting Counterterrorism Funds in Budget Proposal

Sen. Charles Schumer is slamming a White House proposal that would reduce funding for counterterrorism programs across the country by nearly $300 million. The New York Democrat is pushing President Barack Obama to reconsider the cuts. Schumer notes that the cuts to the Urban Area Security Initiative were included in the proposed 2017 budget released last week by the White House. The initiative helps fund programs in cities across the U.S. to prevent extremist attacks, or respond to and recover from them. The proposed budget would cut the funding from $600 million to $330 million. “In light of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the vow by our extremist enemies to launch more attacks on our shores, it makes no sense to propose cuts to vital terror-prevention programs like UASI.”

  • It makes no sense unless Obama wants a crisis so that he can institute martial law

U.S. Seeks to Redefine Terrorism Rules to Include Anti-Government Protestors

The U.S. Justice Department is considering legal changes to combat what it sees as a rising threat from domestic anti-government extremists, senior officials told Reuters, even as it steps up efforts to stop Islamic State-inspired attacks at home. Extremist groups motivated by a range of U.S.-born philosophies present a “clear and present danger,” John Carlin, the Justice Department’s chief of national security, told Reuters in an interview. The U.S. State Department designates international terrorist organizations to which it is illegal to provide “material support.” No domestic groups have that designation, helping to create a disparity in charges faced by international extremist suspects compared to domestic ones. A Reuters analysis of more than 100 federal cases found that domestic terrorism suspects collectively have faced less severe charges than those accused of acting on behalf of Islamic State since prosecutors began targeting that group in early 2014.

Systems to Weed Out Problem Teachers Defective

An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts. The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. States fail to report the names of thousands of disciplined teachers to a privately run database that is the nation’s only centralized system for tracking teacher discipline. The names of at least 9,000 educators disciplined by state officials are missing from a clearinghouse operated by the non-profit National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. At least 1,400 of those teachers’ licenses had been permanently revoked, including at least 200 revocations prompted by allegations of sexual or physical abuse. Three states already have begun internal investigations and audits based on questions raised during the course of this investigation.

Migrant Update

The European Union warned Greece on Friday to do a better job of stemming the flood of migrants crossing through to other European nations or face a suspension of the EU’s passport-free travel rights. The ultimatum demands that Greece fix its border controls within three months or lose free travel rights for up to two years. Greece is the main gateway for several thousand migrants a day who are fleeing wars in Syria and elsewhere en route to more prosperous northern Europe. EU leaders have accused Greece of not doing enough to keep so many war refugees and other migrants seeking better economic opportunities from transiting through the country.

The ultimatum came as the 28-nation bloc struggles to cope with its worst refugee crisis since World War II. More refugees and migrants have braved wintry seas to reach Europe so far this year than in the first four months of 2015, according to the United Nations. Children are increasingly among those making the treacherous journey to Greece. “One in three people arriving to Greece were children as compared to just one in 10 in September 2015,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

Zika Update

Three people have died in Venezuela from complications related to the Zika virus, President Nicolas Maduro said. There have been 319 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the nation, state-run newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reported Thursday. The Zika virus is a flavivirus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile and dengue. But unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no medicine to treat the infection. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first case of locally acquired Zika virus in the United States in the latest outbreak. The case was transmitted via sex, and not by the most common route, which is via mosquito bite.

A rare neurological disorder is on the rise in several Latin American countries that are also seeing an outbreak of the Zika virus, the World Health Organization said Saturday. The U.N. health body in Geneva said in a weekly report that Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which can cause temporary paralysis, has been reported in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela. The increase in Guillain-Barre cases is appearing in conjunction with the spread of the Zika virus to 34 countries. However, the health agency said “the cause of the increase in GBS incidence … remains unknown, especially as dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus have all been circulating simultaneously in the Americas.”

Economic News

Oil prices scored their biggest one-day gain since 2009 Friday after hitting 12-year lows a day earlier, as hopes of production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries fueled a rally. The spike came after a United Arab Emirates Energy Minister suggested that OPEC members “are ready to cooperate on a cut,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Cuts by OPEC would mark a reversal. In January OPEC increased production by 280,000 barrels per day to 32.6 million

U.S. stocks also rallied in a big way Friday, getting a lift from an explosive rally in oil and some good news in the beleaguered banking sector. The Dow Jones industrials snapped a five-day losing streak, jumping 314 points, or 2.0%, to close at 15,974. Also helping was news that giant German bank Deutsche Bank announced plans to buy back more than $5 billion in debt to help cool market jitters about its financial health. Concerns about European and U.S. banks have been one of the reasons stocks had such a rocky week. Even with Friday’s rebound, the Dow is now down 1,451 points this year, while the S&P 500 is off 9% and remains near two-year lows.

The middle class remains under siege. Since 2010, as the country began to recover from the Great Recession, income of the top 20% of households grew 3.7% from 2010 through 2014. During that time, incomes of the middle 20% of households declined 0.7%.

Middle East

The last Gaza war began in the air with rockets that Hamas militants fired at Israel. Now, Israelis living next door to the Palestinian territory see worrisome signs that the next war will be waged underground. Hamas appears to be building new tunnels under their feet to smuggle fighters into Israel to kill or kidnap residents. In response, the Israeli government is stepping up efforts — and developing secret high-tech methods — to detect and destroy the labyrinth of tunnels Hamas builds to circumvent a tight embargo that Israel and Egypt imposed around Gaza. Israel says Hamas has resumed digging tunnels since the last war ended. Hamas claims it has built more than 50 tunnels in the past 18 months.

It was a violent weekend in Israel, with security forces and civilians facing multiple attacks by Palestinians wielding knives, guns and other weapons. On Sunday evening, two Palestinians opened fire at security forces near the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City. Police shot both attackers dead before they could wound anyone. Earlier Sunday, IDF troops stationed near the security fence north of Jenin came under fire Sunday, killing two terrorists after an exchange of fire. Elsewhere Sunday afternoon, another Palestinian teenager pulled out a knife and charged Border Police officers at a checkpoint south of Jerusalem. The attacker was shot dead before he could wound anyone. Another attempt at stabbing was reported Sunday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. Israel has experienced an increase of violence from ‘lone wolves’ since October.


The U.S. government called Saturday on Turkey to stop shelling American-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria as the militants sought to seize new ground before a possible cease-fire, creating dangerous fissures between tenuous allies in the war against Islamic State extremists. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon both pressed Turkey to immediately stop shelling and urged America’s Kurdish allies in Syria not to expand their areas of control as world leaders struggle to cement the details of a cease-fire meant in Syria to take hold within days. The surge in violence threatens to drive a new wedge between the U.S. and Turkey, wary allies in the war against Islamic State. And it is a reflection of the fractured Syrian battlefield that makes it difficult for world leaders to work out a durable cease-fire in the five-year-old war.

Perhaps never before have the dangers — or the complications — of what amounts to a mini world war been so apparent as in the battle underway for control of Aleppo, notes the Washington Post. While a cease-fire in Syria is supposed to take place by week’s end, the fighting is escalating and new parties, such as Saudi Arabia, are preparing to enter the fray. On Sunday, Turkey announced the arrival of Saudi military jets that are poised to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in Syria. Turkey and Qatar are also considering sending ground troops into the fight, according to the Andalou News Agency. In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Sunday, Syria’s foreign ministry accused Turkey of shelling government forces in northern Syria and sending military supplies accompanied by gunmen into its country, according to the Al Arabiya television network. Two hospitals in Syria were hit by airstrikes Monday causing a number of deaths, according to media reports. Doctors Without Borders said a hospital it funds in the town of Marat Al Numan, in Idlib province in the north of the country, was hit by four rockets in at least two attacks, leaving at least eight staff members missing.


Somalia’s Islamic extremist terror group, Al Shabaab, said Saturday they carried out the bombing of a commercial passenger jet earlier this month that blew a hole in the fuselage, sucking out the suspected bomber and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing. Western and Turkish intelligence agents aboard the Daallo Airlines flight to Djibouti on Feb. 2 were the targets of the bombing, the terror group said in a statement. The Al Qaeda-affiliated group said it had planned to destroy the Airbus 321 plane but failed. The bomb detonated shortly after takeoff from Mogadishu airport, when the plane was at 11,000 feet and ascending. Experts said if the plane had been at its intended cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the explosion could’ve brought the plane down.


10,000 Greek farmers staged a massive revolt in Athens, destroying several police cars. The farmers are upset with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the government for a proposal to triple the social security burden and double income taxes in an effort to appease European Union leaders Brussels who claim that Greece has not made enough progress towards fiscal consolidation since the country’s third bailout was agreed last August. Tsipras swept to power a little over a year ago with promises to roll back austerity, but “prolonged negotiations with creditors and the resulting economic malaise that gripped the country last summer broke the PM’s revolutionary spirit and now, he’s been reduced to something of a technocrat rather than a socialist firebrand,” reports Freedom’s Phoenix. Putting Greece on a sustainable path is a virtual impossibility at this juncture, the report contends. “There are myriad structural problems that cut to the heart of the currency bloc’s woes and on top of that, Athens’ debt burden is simply astounding.”


The Haitian Parliament elected a new interim president Sunday, one week after the previous president stepped down with no successor lined up. Former head of Parliament Jocelerme Privert is the new interim president. Privert will serve a term of 120 days and must confirm a consensus prime minister. A new round of elections will take place on April 24, with the elected winner to be installed on May 14. In the past, Haiti’s elections have been marred by delays, protests that sometimes turned violent and claims of vote-rigging.


An Antarctic iceberg the size of a major city that’s blocked access to the sea since 2010 for thousands of Adelie penguins threatens to completely wipe out the colony. Once 160,000 strong, the flightless birds now number only 10,000 after being forced to waddle some 40 miles in search of food, according to new research from the Climate Change Research Center at Australia’s University of New South Wales. Scientists predict the colony will vanish in 20 years unless the ice breaks up or the giant iceberg, which measures 1,000 square miles, is somehow dislodged.


A magnitude-5.1 earthquake struck Oklahoma early Saturday. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported the epicenter of the earthquake was 17 miles northwest of Fairview. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The earthquake occurred at 12:07 a.m. at a depth of 1 kilometer, the USGS said. This is the strongest quake to rattle the state since 2011. Though Oklahoma has a history of earthquakes, the USGS says there has been a significant increase in the rate of quakes since 2009. The USGS says waste water injected into deep geologic formations is a likely contributing factor to the seismic activity increase. This method of retrieving oil and natural gas is known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

A moderate earthquake, magnitude 5.8, struck near the coast of New Zealand’s south island early Sunday afternoon (local time), where some residents were urged to evacuate. The quake was centered about 17 kilometers miles (11 miles) east-northeast of Christchurch, New Zealand. The earthquake was relatively shallow, with an epicenter at a depth of 8 kilometers (5 miles). Residents reported seeing a dust cloud emerging through the sky near Christchurch. The same portion of New Zealand was rocked by a strong, magnitude 6.3 earthquake back nearly five years ago on Feb. 22, 2011. Although that earthquake led to the deaths of at least 180 people, this most recent earthquake appears to have been a relatively low-impact event. The quake Sunday caused a cliff to crumble near Taylor’s Mistake bay. Some narrowly escaped the collapse.


A blast of bitter cold arctic air has brought the coldest temperatures in decades to some Northeast cities Valentine’s Day morning. Boston fell to minus 9 degrees Sunday, making it the coldest temperature recorded in the city since Jan. 15, 1957, or nearly 60 years. Boston also crushed its Valentine’s Day record low of minus 3 degrees set in 1934. In New York City, the low temperature dipped to a daily record low of 1 degree below zero. Wind chills Sunday morning dropped into the 40s below zero in portions of Upstate New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, including Saranac Lake, New York (minus 45 degrees), Pittsfield, Massachusetts (minus 43 degrees), and Montpelier, Vermont (minus 45 degrees). This bitter cold air mass has prompted the National Weather Service to issue wind chill warnings for a large portion of the Northeast for “life-threatening” cold conditions. Boston fell to minus 9 degrees Sunday morning, making it the coldest temperature recorded in the city since Jan. 15, 1957.

Winter Storm Olympia will bring snow and ice to a number of states from the Midwest and South into the Northeast to start this week. The storm was named Sunday morning after the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings from parts of central Kentucky to western Virginia. At least three people were killed and scores were injured Saturday when dozens of vehicles slammed into each other during a ‘whiteout’ on a stretch of Pennsylvania Interstate 78 in Lebanon County. T winter storm brought a snowy, icy mess from Georgia to Maine on Monday, snarling air and road travel and threatening power outages across the region. More than 510 flights had been canceled nationwide as of 8:20 a.m. ET, with the heaviest disruptions so far coming in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Although precipitation may start as snow or ice in the East Monday into Monday night, many locations will change to rain during the course of the storm, including along the I-95 corridor.

Record warmth has been giving much of the West a very early summer preview, as temperatures have soared into the 80s and 90s. The change has been rather abrupt, as conditions more typical during an El Niño winter, has been replaced by dry and unseasonably warm conditions. A nearly steady string of storm systems through the late fall and early winter brought much-needed rain to the region. Unfortunately, the current warm, dry spell has put further drought-relief on hold, at least in the short-term. Dozens of record highs have been toppled over the past week across the Golden State, Desert Southwest and other parts of the West, as many locations have risen into the 80s and 90s. The warmth has been a staggering 15 to 25 degrees above average.

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

Signs of the Times (2/12/16)

February 12, 2016

National Sex Trafficking Sting Nets 600 Arrests before Super Bowl

Law enforcement agencies in 17 states arrested nearly 600 people and rescued 68 victims of human trafficking during a sting in the lead-up to Super Bowl 50, police said. As part of the “National Day of Johns” sex trafficking sting, spearheaded by the Cook County, Ill., Sheriff’s Office, police said that they captured hundreds of men and women attempting to hire prostitutes through websites such as and Craigslist. Police also said they rescued dozens of women who said they had been forced into prostitution. “Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their ‘hobby’ is much more than a ‘victimless’ crime,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a statement. “It’s particularly meaningful that this sting culminated on the day of the Super Bowl, which unfortunately has emerged as a prominent haven for sex trafficking.”

Human Trafficking Victims Seek Help in Record Numbers

The number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. who reached out for help has reportedly gone up this past year, according to More than 1,600 human trafficking victims sought help in 2015, a 24% increase over 2014, according to an annual report released by Polaris, an organization that provides resources and a hotline to call to help human trafficking victims. “From the domestic servant forced to work for little pay who required emergency shelter to the young girl made to sell sex online against her will who texted us for crisis support, survivors of human trafficking are reaching out to the national hotline more than ever,” said Polaris CEO Bradley Myles. Polaris’ report helps to quantify the extent of human trafficking in the U.S. Thirty states now require certain businesses such as strip clubs, motels, and truck stops to display National Human trafficking hotline numbers in prominent places.

Pro-Abortion Group Protests Doritos Commercial ‘Ultrasound’

Some viewers laughed, while others were a little put off by the “Ultrasound” ad, which showed a fictitious fetus moving around in the womb as the expectant father munched on Doritos. But few took the advertisement as seriously as NARAL Pro-Choice America, which tweeted that the Doritos ad humanized fetuses. “If NARAL is scandalized by the notion that a human fetus is human, then they are scandalized by science,” Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said in a statement to

  • This demonstrates how delusional and irrational pro-abortionists have become about the murder of babies

Supreme Court Blocks Obama Climate Change Rules

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt President Barack Obama a blow by moving to temporarily block his administration’s rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Reacting to a lawsuit from 29 states, as well as the energy industry, justices blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan from going forward while the rule is challenged in court. Obama has pushed action on global warming as a key part of his legacy, an effort that reached its peak with the deal at the U.N.-led talks on climate change in Paris in December. The court decision means that Obama now has two major legacy actions — immigration and climate change — stuck in the court system with the specter of a Republican taking over the White House in January.

Illegal Immigrants Received $750M in ObamaCare Subsidies

Illegal immigrants and individuals with unclear legal status wrongly benefited from up to $750 million in ObamaCare subsidies and the government is struggling to recoup the money, according to a new Senate report obtained by Fox News. The report found that as of June 2015, “the Administration awarded approximately $750 million in tax credits on behalf of individuals who were later determined to be ineligible because they failed to verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence.” The review found the credits went to more than 500,000 people who are illegal immigrants or whose legal status was unclear due to insufficient records.

Life Expectancy in U.S. Lower than Other High-Income Countries

Americans die younger than people in other high-income countries, with drug poisonings, gun injuries and motor vehicle crashes largely to blame, a study finds. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared U.S. death rates in 2012 with those of a dozen other countries with similar economies, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and other European countries. The researchers found that men and women in the United States lived 2.2 fewer years than residents in similar countries. American men and women could only look forward to a life expectancy of 76.4 and 81.2 years, respectively, compared with the 78.6 and 83.4 years of their peers abroad. Researchers found that drug poisonings, gun injuries and motor vehicle accidents were responsible for 48% of the gap in men’s life expectancy between the United States and similar countries. An earlier study found that death rates among middle-aged white Americans, unlike other age groups, have been on the rise since 1999, largely because of increases in rates of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.

Oregon Occupiers Surrender, Cliven Bundy Arrested

The weeks-long standoff in Oregon over land rights has ended. Now the drama moves to the courts. The four final holdouts will be arraigned before a federal judge in Portland on Friday following their arrests the day before at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore. Their surrender capped a five-week ordeal that included the arrest of almost a dozen protesters and the shooting death of one. Meanwhile, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge, has been arrested after flying into Portland International Airport. The 74-year-old, who intended to travel to Burns, close to the wildlife refuge, faces federal charges related to a standoff at his ranch with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2014, The Oregonian reported. The newspaper, which said Bundy owes $1 million in grazing fees and penalties, said he faces a charge of conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer and weapons charges. His sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and several others were arrested on Jan. 26 after occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during a land-rights protest. One protester was killed during a traffic stop.

Justice Department Sues Ferguson, Missouri

The Justice Department is suing the city of Ferguson in an attempt to forcibly overhaul the city’s troubled police and court operations, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday. The decision comes hours after city leaders sought to revise a long- negotiated settlement, citing prohibitive costs of executing such a deal. “Painstaking negotiations lasted more than 26 weeks as we sought to remedy literally years of systematic deficiencies,” Lynch said of the government’s action. “Last night, the City Council rejected the consent decree approved by their own negotiators; their decision leaves us no further choice.” Lynch said the residents of Ferguson have been waiting “decades for justice,” having endured civil rights breaches that established a pattern and practice of racially biased policing. Earlier Wednesday, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles signaled that the city was ready to take on the Justice Department in federal court.

Migrant Update

Tantalizingly close to Turkish soil, thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing an upsurge in violence have gathered at their neighbor’s border. They can see Turkey’s flag fluttering in the distance, the safety they long for painfully near but closed to them. Long lines of tents provide some shelter from the elements but not the new life they were seeking. “We did not come here to get tents. We do not need food or water,” one refugee told CNN. “We want to get through and provide security for our children.”

NATO on Thursday said it would deploy three warships to the Aegean Sea to help stop the smuggling of migrants between Turkey and Greece. The military alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move was aimed at countering human smuggling and criminal networks, and was not about stopping or sending back boats. “This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation,” Stoltenberg said.

Zika Update

A new report paints a heartbreaking portrait of the damage suffered by babies with microcephaly, a normally rare birth defect linked to the Zika outbreak in Brazil. Babies with microcephaly have abnormally small heads, a condition that often signals incomplete brain development. New research suggests that the damage can go far beyond the size of a baby’s skull, and that babies with microceophaly who survive their infancy may need a level of intensive care that is in short supply in the developing countries and territories hardest hit by Zika. “It is not simply a problem of a small brain,” said Nassim Zecavati, an assistant professor of pediatric neurology at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. “There are significant brain abnormalities.” Zika may also be linked to serious eye abnormalities that could lead to blindness in Brazilian newborns with microcephaly, according to a study published in JAMA.

Persecution Watch

The name of Jesus is not welcome in the Johnson Space Center newsletter, according to a complaint filed on behalf of a group of Christians who work for NASA. The JSC Praise & Worship Club was directed by NASA attorneys to refrain from using the name ‘Jesus’ in club announcements that appeared in a Space Center newsletter. “It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating,” NASA engineer Sophia Smith told Todd Starnes of Fox News. “NASA has a long history of respecting religious speech. Why wouldn’t they allow us to put the name Jesus in the announcement about our club?” Liberty Institute, one of the nation’s largest religious liberty law firms, threatened to file a federal lawsuit unless NASA apologizes and stops censoring the name ‘Jesus’.

Economic News

The global stock rout rolled across Asia on Friday. Major Asian stock markets sank as investors continued to dump riskier assets. Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 4.8%, bringing its losses for the week to more than 11%.The falls in Asia follow drops in U.S. and European markets on Thursday amid worries over low oil prices and the health of the banking sector. Stocks in Tokyo have been hammered this week as investors turned to assets considered safer bets, like gold, government bonds and Japan’s currency, the yen. However, the Dow jumped more than 150 points on Friday morning fueled by a 10% surge for oil prices and a big rebound for banks.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen sees warning signs ahead for the U.S. economy. In prepared testimony to be delivered to Congress on Wednesday, Yellen acknowledged that there are several risks to U.S. economic growth — borrowing costs are rising, stock prices have declined a lot so far this year and the dollar continues to strengthen against its global counterparts. “These developments, if they prove persistent, could weigh on the outlook for economic activity and the labor market,” Yellen said in her remarks at the start of a two-day testimony. Already many oil companies have filed for bankruptcy and defaults are skyrocketing. These concerns will play a role in the Fed’s decision to raise rates again this year.

There were 5.6 million job openings in December, just shy of the all-time record of about 5.7 million set in July, according to Labor Department data published Tuesday. American companies are hiring, despite all the concern surrounding the U.S. economy. The number of job openings now is almost three times the 2.1 million during July 2009, just after the recession ended that June. However, the number of job openings could be a reflection of companies not finding the right candidates. Many Americans don’t have the skills that those available jobs require. It’s called the job skills gap, and it has become a serious problem in the U.S.

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week in a sign of a stable job market despite the slowing global economy hitting stocks and commodities. Weekly applications for jobless aid fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low number suggests that companies are holding onto workers and possibly looking to hire more.

More people are falling at least two months behind in making payments on their auto loan, a new report showed Tuesday. As more borrowers have qualified for loans amid higher national employment rates, and with new-car sales booming as a result, the total amount of auto loan debt climbed to $987 million in the fourth quarter, up 11.5% from the same quarter in the previous year, reports Experian Automotive. The credit-reporting service says that the total is the highest since it began keeping track in 2006. Along with the rising auto loan tallies has come growth in serious delinquencies. The percentage of people who are at least 60 days behind on their payments rose to 0.77%, up from 0.72% in the same period in 2014. Experian says it’s still short of a record. Sixty-day delinquencies reached 0.94% in 2009 after the recession.

At least 67 U.S. oil and natural gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to consulting firm Gavin/Solmonese. That represents a 379% spike from the previous year when oil prices were substantially higher. With oil prices crashing further in recent weeks, five more energy gas producers succumbed to bankruptcy in the first five weeks of this year, according to Houston law firm Haynes and Boone. “We fully anticipate it’s only going to get worse,” said Buddy Clark, a partner at Haynes and Boone

The world is once again growing nervous about the health of big banks — especially those based in Europe. Not only are bank stocks plummeting at an alarming pace, but investors are raising their bets that some could even default on their debt if the global economy sinks into recession or the crash in oil prices deepens. The cost to insure Deutsche Bank’s (DB) debt has skyrocketed 182% over the past three months to the highest level since the 2011 sovereign debt crisis, according to FactSet. Credit Suisse (CS) is also under fire, with the cost to insure its debt doubling.

Islamic State

The Islamic State militant group will “almost certainly” remain a threat to the U.S. homeland and seek to launch or inspire attacks on American soil in 2016, a top U.S. intelligence official warned Tuesday. Attacks in the United States by the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “will probably continue to involve those who draw inspiration from the group’s highly sophisticated media without direct guidance from ISIL leadership,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testified in a rare public hearing on Capitol Hill about intelligence threats facing the nation. Testifying with Clapper were the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart; CIA Director John Brennan; FBI Director James Comey; and Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency. Clapper called the Islamic State the “pre-eminent terrorist threat.” It can “direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.”


Humanitarian aid may soon head to Syria, just hours after diplomats reached a deal that could lead to a cease-fire. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the temporary “cessation of hostilities” in Munich ahead of a security conference here that got underway Friday. Dozens of world leaders and senior diplomats were attending. Kerry described the effort to achieve a cease-fire as “unanimous” and “ambitious.” Syrian opposition groups questioned how the international community would enforce the truce, given that Russian warplanes will be allowed to continue bombing the terrorist groups Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Syria’s five-year-long civil war has killed more than 250,000 people, driven more than 4 million people from the country and led to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Aleppo is a city on edge. Shelling pounds the key battleground daily, an unrelenting and terrifying reminder of Syria’s five-year civil war. Earlier this month, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime cut off access to the main road from Aleppo to the Turkish border, in turn hampering any movement by rebels fighting his government but also NGOs who are trying to bring supplies to the city’s beleaguered populace. It’s estimated some 320,000 people still live, or subsist, in the city under continual bombardment. Residents are suffering in many ways. They are hungry. There’s a shortage of fuel. And getting out has become as risky as staying.


For the first time since combat operations were declared over at the end of 2014, a battalion of 500 U.S. Army infantrymen is being sent to southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province where the Taliban have made a comeback, Fox News has learned. The decision, confirmed by defense officials, is a sign of military escalation in the country even as the Obama administration tries to draw down. The battalion is meant to relieve a company of 150 soldiers, giving the U.S. Army nearly 350 more soldiers to prevent the Taliban from taking over volatile Helmand province. The additional soldiers will provide increased “force protection” for a team of special operations forces training and advising the Afghan Army’s 215th Corps, which has suffered from desertions and poor leadership.


A State Department official told lawmakers Thursday he was unsure of the precise location of tons of low-enriched uranium shipped out of Iran on a Russian vessel as part of last summer’s nuclear agreement. Ambassador Stephen Mull, the lead U.S. official overseeing the deal’s implementation, said during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the stockpile is a Russian custody issue. Critics of the nuclear deal seized on the shipment’s status as an example of the agreement’s flaws. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said in a statement that it’s “outrageous and unbelievable” that Russia is being trusted to be the repository for such sensitive material. Russia is a close ally of Iran, said Smith, who added that’s he unaware of any requirement in the nuclear agreement that requires Russia to declare where the material will be stored and how it will be safeguarded.


A camp that was supposed to be a shelter from terrorism and violence instead became an instant death zone for dozens in Nigeria this week. At least 58 people were killed and another 78 injured when two female bombers detonated their suicide vests, according to emergency relief officials. The victims were in a camp for people who had been displaced by Boko Haram violence in Nigeria’s Borno State. As horrendous as the attack was, it could have been worse. One of the bombers backed out at the last minute. More than 53,000 people fleeing Boko Haram attacks from six districts are sheltered under military protection.


South Korea on Wednesday said it would stop work at an industrial complex it jointly runs with North Korea in response to the recent rocket launch and nuclear weapons test by Pyongyang. The Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is 31 miles northwest of Seoul, just over the border, is the last remaining symbol of reconciliation between Pyongyang and Seoul. Some 124 South Korean companies at the complex employ more than 54,000 North Korean workers, who make items including clothes and utensils. North Korea on Thursday declared the industrial complex a military zone and said it was pulling out all its workers. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test last month and on Sunday, fired a long-range rocket over Japanese airspace in what is widely believed to be a test of a new missile system that could reach as far as the United States. Both actions are banned by United Nations resolutions.


A strong undersea earthquake has hit off the coast of eastern Indonesia, but no injuries or serious damage was reported immediately. The Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the temblor Friday had a magnitude of 6.6 and was unlikely to trigger a tsunami. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 6.5 and struck about 94 kilometers (58 miles) west of Waingapu, a coastal town on Sumba island in East Nusatenggara province. It said it was centered at a depth of about 30 kilometers (19 miles). Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2004, a massive earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.


Three different volcanoes erupted, all in different countries Sunday. Soputan in Indonesia provided the largest spectacle of the trio. Restless since the middle of 2015, Soputan produced a lava fountain that left ash hazards for residents near the vent. The blast plume reached heights of 8,200 feet, and exclusion zones reached as wide as 4 miles outside the volcano. In Guatemala, Santiaguito produced several impressive explosions that blasted ash nearly 19,000 feet high, prompting nearby areas to post both aviation and respiratory/water alerts. The eruptions could be heard from over 15 miles away. Turrialba in Costa Rica produced an eruption that only lasted 10 minutes and reached 1,600 feet at the peak of its plume, but the ash it generated was exceptionally thick. Strong winds surrounding the volcano brought the ash into a widespread area.


Winter storm Mars brought snowfall between 6 and 10 inches to New England Monday. New Haven, Connecticut and Southampton, NY received 6 inches while Boston got 6.4 inches and northern Maine had 10 inches. On Tuesday, winter storm Nacio took aim at the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic, dumping more than a half-foot of snow in some areas. The coldest air of the season is poised to plunge into the Northeast this coming Valentine’s Day weekend. This Arctic blast will not only flirt with some daily records, but will also bring subzero cold to parts of the Midwest and reinforce the cold in the Southeast. In addition to the bitterly cold temperatures, wind chills are expected to plummet into the 20s and 30s below zero from parts of the Midwest into the Northeast.

Despite the recent swarm of winter storms across the East, winter in the U.S. is off to one of the warmest starts on record. All of New England, New York, New Jersey and Florida set their warmest November to January periods on record. This is according to the latest report from NOAA, including records dating back to 1895. In all, 33 states from the Plains to the East Coast observed a top seven warmest November to January on record, including every state along and east of the Mississippi River. Overall, this was the fourth-warmest November to January period for the Lower 48 states.

After a cool and stormy start to the winter season across California, a complete flip-flop in the weather pattern has caused record heat to surge across the state. A nearly steady string of storm systems through the late fall and early winter brought much-needed rain to the region. Unfortunately, the current warmth is being accompanied by a stifling dry spell, putting drought-relief on hold. Dozens of record highs have been been toppled since Monday across the Golden State, as many locations have risen into the 80s and 90s. The warmth has been a staggering 15 to 25 degrees above average.

  • Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat. (Revelation 16:8-9a)

Nearly 13,000 homes are without power after Storm Imogen’s first blows slammed parts of southern Britain Monday with dense rain and strong winds, reaching up to 96 mph, according to BBC News. Some parts of the region are expected to see an entire month’s worth of rain in a single day. By the end of the week, parts of Britain could see a whopping three months’ worth of rain, according to the Telegraph. Blizzard conditions are also possible in parts of Scotland.

Signs of the Times (2/8/16)

February 8, 2016

David Daleiden Refuses Plea Deal, Demands Apology

The man behind the videos exposing Planned Parenthood has no interest in a plea deal for probation for the bogus charges filed against him. Instead, he wants an apology from the District Attorney behind the baseless charges. A Texas grand jury indicted David Daleiden and another pro-life activist, Sandra Merritt, behind the videos. Instead of prosecuting Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby parts, Daleiden was indicted for buying them. Daleiden and Merritt were charged with one felony related to tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue. The felony charge was in reference to the use of a fake ID. If convicted, Daleiden faces 20 years in prison while Planned Parenthood officials face no legal consequences for their actions.

  • The justice system has by-and-large been taken over by liberal socialists who will do anything to advance their agenda and destroy those in opposition. Isn’t freedom great?

New Hampshire Legislators Vote Down 2 Bills to Protect Unborn Babies

Two pro-life bills were voted down this week in New Hampshire. Life News reports a bill that would require doctors to care for babies born alive after botched abortions was defeated in a vote 9-7. The second bill to be voted down would have banned dismemberment abortions in the state. The procedure involves doctors using tools to removing limbs from babies to remove them from the womb. Pro-life legislators argued that the abortion procedure was violent and should be illegal. The bill lost in a narrow 9-8 vote.

Lack of Women in Corporate Leadership Roles Worldwide

There’s a stunning lack of women in corporate leadership roles across the globe says a new report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The report says that nearly a third of the companies studied had no women whatsoever on their boards or in any ‘C-Suite’ (CEO, CFE, etc.) jobs. 60% had no female board members. More than 95% did not have a female CEO. The report found that companies where women accounted for at least 30% of their executives typically had higher profits than those that had less female representation in top manager roles. The 10 countries with the most gender-diverse corporations — including Norway, Latvia, Finland and Sweden — offered 11 times more paternity leave than the bottom 10 countries (Australia, Pakistan, Canada and Japan, among others).

Migrant Update

Anti-immigration and anti-Muslim groups from across Europe demonstrated Saturday as migrants continued to flee from a renewed offensive by the Syrian government, with tens of thousands massing along Turkey’s border. Turkey refuses to open the border. It already hosts over 2.5 million Syrian refugees. In Dresden, a stronghold of Germany’s Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident, or PEGIDA, thousands took part in a rally to express disapproval with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy toward migrants. More than a million asylum-seekers are now living in Europe’s wealthiest country, with more arriving each day. Protests were held in more than a dozen other nations in Europe on Saturday including the Czech Republic, France, Poland and the Netherlands. Riot police clashed with protesters at several of the rallies including in Calais, France, where police used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Up to 33 people drowned Monday trying to reach Greece from Turkey as German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks in Ankara with Turkey’s leadership over how to reduce the influx of migrants headed to Europe. Merkel said she would renew pressure on the United Nations to not let lapse a U.N. resolution calling for all sides in Syria’s five-year-old conflict to halt attacks on civilians. The International Organization for Migration says 374 refugees and other migrants have died so far this year while trying to reach Greece by crossing the Aegean Sea. The IOM says 3,770 people died making similar journeys in the Mediterranean last year.

Zika Update

More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia are infected with Zika, but the country reports no cases yet of the rare birth defect microcephaly, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday. Santos confirmed more than 25,000 people were infected with the virus overall in the country, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported. “We are projected to reach 600,000 cases before the epidemic reaches its ceiling,” he added. An analysis of Zika cases found a 66% increase of Guillain-Barre, a rare nerve disorder linked to the virus, but none of microcephaly, a defect in which babies are born with abnormally small skulls, Santos said. Health officials said three people in the country died from Guillain-Barre after contracting Zika. President Barack Obama is asking Congress Monday for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus.

No Cheers for Low Unemployment Rate

The U.S. unemployment rate just fell below 5% for the first time since 2008. Normally, this would merit a celebration. But these aren’t normal times. People as diverse as Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump claim the “real” unemployment rate is much higher. The core problem is that only 62.7% of adult Americans are working. The so-called Labor Force Participation rate hasn’t been this low since the late 1970s. The rate measures how many people over age 16 are working or actively seeking work. Back in the ’70s, it was low because fewer women worked outside the home. That’s not the story today. Now, three factors are driving the decrease in workers. The first is that a huge part of the adult population, Baby Boomers, are retiring. The second is more young people are going to college and graduate school. But the third one is alarming: some people have just given up on finding work. It’s hard to quantify how many people fall into this dropout category, but it’s large enough to matter. The Wall Street Journal estimates that about 2.6 million of the roughly 92 million American adults who don’t work want a job but aren’t looking for one anymore.

Economic News- Domestic

A disappointing jobs report sent stocks skidding Friday with the Nasdaq composite index falling to its lowest level in more than 15 months. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had patched together two straight days of gains, was down 211.61 points, or 1.3%. For the week, the Nasdaq posted a more than 5% loss. The Dow dropped about 1.6%. The Nasdaq is now 16.4% below its record close last year, creeping ever closer to a 20% slide that would qualify as a bear market. The Nasdaq index is heavily weighted with high-tech companies. The 462 information technology stocks in the broad Russell 3000 index have shred a total of $529 billion this year with an average decline of 14%. The stock market’s terrible start to 2016 just got worse with the Dow dropping 300 points on Monday morning as oil prices slipped again.

Financial markets are trapped in a “death spiral,” according to analysts at Citigroup. The bank’s research team described a “negative feedback loop” in the global economy and across financial markets. It is fueled by strong dollar, lower commodity prices, weak trade and declining growth in emerging markets. The four forces are interconnected and present central banks with the difficult task of fighting deflation and staving off another global downturn, the bank said in a report, released Friday. If the loop continues, Citi warns, the world could slip into “significant and synchronized” global recession. The bank even invented a new term for its doomsday scenario: “oilmageddon.”

One of America’s oldest stock exchanges has just been sold to China. The 134-year-old Chicago Stock Exchange reached a deal on Friday to be acquired by a Chinese-led group of investors. The purchase by Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group is the latest U.S. investment made by China and would give the country a foothold in the vast American stock market. The struggling Chicago Stock Exchange is a very small player in the exchange world. As of January, the Chicago Stock Exchange handled just 0.5% of U.S. trading, making it the third-smallest U.S. exchange.

Economic News – International

China’s foreign-exchange reserves fell to the lowest level in more than three years in January, raising questions about how long Beijing can keep burning through the rainy-day funds to defend the yuan without triggering a flight of capital to other countries.

Global currencies are crashing left and right. Russia’s ruble and Mexico’s peso recently hit all-time lows against the dollar. The currencies of Colombia, Argentina and Brazil are all down 28% or more in the past 12 months. Turkey and South Africa have also fallen by double digits over that time. Weak currencies are often a sign of an economic slowdown. China posted its worst growth last year in a quarter century, and Brazil is in its longest recession since the 1930s. American travelers going to weak-currency countries, from Brazil to South Africa to Indonesia, are getting more for their dollar. A strong dollar is also good news for box stores because importing, has become a lot cheaper.

Argentina and a group of American hedge funds may soon end a 15-year battle. Negotiating through a mediator, Argentina has offered to pay six hedge funds that own the country’s debt a total of $6.5 billion of the $9 billion it owes. The hedge funds are referred to as “vultures” in Latin America because they buy bonds extremely cheaply, sue the countries for full repayment and often make a big profit once they’re paid.

India has once again posted growth of more than 7%, securing its standing as the world’s fastest growing major economy. Official data released Monday showed GDP grew at an annual rate of 7.3% in last three months of 2015, a tad weaker than the previous quarter. The country’s manufacturing sector is booming, and the Indian government is forecasting GDP growth of 7.6% for the current financial year ending March 31.

Islamic State

Twitter has suspended 125,000 accounts connected to the Islamic State over the past six months, the company said Friday. Twitter has been heavily criticized for not more effectively policing the presence of the extremist group. Pressure has heated up from the Obama administration and presidential candidates in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino County. The Islamic State — also known as ISIL or ISIS — use popular Internet services such as Twitter and Facebook to spread propaganda and to attract and train new recruits. The extremist group has used Twitter to celebrate terrorist attacks and publicize executions. Twitter says it does not permit tweets that promote terrorism or make violent threats. It relies on users to alert the company about violations to its policies. But ISIS is quick to create dozens of back up accounts easily including false information.


The Obama administration has found itself increasingly backed into a corner by Russian bombing in Syria that its diplomacy has so far appeared powerless to stop. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday that he has been in continuous contact with the Russians and that the next few days will determine “whether or not people are serious” about a cease-fire, humanitarian access to areas besieged by fighting and the revival of peace talks suspended last week. Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said publicly that his government saw no reason to stop the airstrikes, which Russia says are targeting “terrorist” groups, including those fighting with the Syrian opposition against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.


Hours after North Korea fired a long-range missile Sunday over Japanese airspace, a senior South Korean official said that Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on the possible deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea. Seoul and Washington will discuss deploying the THAAD missile system in response to North Korea’s “provocation,” CNN reported. THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. “The Republic of Korea and the U.S. assesses that North Korea’s nuclear test and its long-range missile test is a severe threat against peace and stability of Republic of Korea and Asia Pacific Region,” said Yoo Jeh Seung, head of defense planning for South Korean Defense Ministry. The launch is widely believed to be a test of a new missile system that could reach as far as the United States, and comes only weeks after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test. Both are banned by U.N. resolutions. A South Korean naval vessel fired five shots as a warning to a North Korean patrol boat that briefly moved south of the countries’ disputed boundary line in the Yellow Sea, Seoul’s defense ministry said Monday.


President Michel Martelly made his farewell speech to Haiti as he departed office Sunday with no successor yet chosen because a runoff election was scrapped last month amid violent protests and deep suspicions about vote rigging. Martelly, who took office in May 2011, is departing on what was scheduled as the first day of Port-au-Prince’s annual three-day Carnival celebration. However, authorities called off Sunday’s festivities because of a tense atmosphere amid the political uncertainty. Lawmakers are beginning a process to patch together a short-term interim government to smooth political divisions and fill the void left by Martelly’s departure. Prime Minister Evans Paul remains in office for now, awaiting a provisional president to be chosen by Parliament in the coming days. With quarrelling factions again throwing Haiti into an electoral and constitutional crisis, a last-minute deal was forged by Martelly and lawmakers less than 24 hours before his scheduled departure from office. The deal announced Saturday says an interim government will rule until an elected leader can take office May 14. The twice postponed presidential and legislative runoff is rescheduled for April 24.


At least 32 people have died and more than 100 are still missing after a damaging magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday morning local time, causing several buildings to collapse. Nearly 300 survivors have been pulled out of the rubble. Firefighters and soldiers scrambled with ladders, cranes and other equipment to a residential high-rise complex that folded like an accordion in a pile of rubble and twisted metal and extracted dazed survivors. Taiwan’s emergency management information center told the Associated Press that nine of the deceased were found at the ruins of the fallen building. It said 475 people were injured, with 368 of them discharged from hospitals by Saturday evening. The Taiwanese government has ordered an investigation into the collapse of a high-rise building, as images emerged showing tin cans built into the walls of the toppled complex. The cans appear to have been used as construction fillers in beams.

Sink Holes

Sink hole incidents are occurring much more frequently of late around the world. Giant holes are opening up all over the earth and swallowing homes, buildings, roads and sometimes even people. According to ABC News, insurance claims related to sinkholes more than doubled between 2006 and 2009. There are dozens of sinkholes that have opened up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvia, and the city is so broke that it doesn’t have the money to fix all of them, according to In the U.S., a sinkhole recently formed in Ohio that was the size of four football fields and that was more than 30 feet deep. It caused part of State Route 516 to collapse and authorities were projecting that the road would continue to stay closed for months to come. The giant Louisiana sinkhole in Assumption Parish that made headlines all over the nation last year is now more than 800 feet in diameter. It just continues to grow, and authorities have no idea when it will stop growing. More recently, large sinkholes forced roads to close in New Jersey and in Arizona, where one person died this past Friday. A sinkhole that appeared in the middle of Guatemala City in 2010 was about 30 stories deep. Down in Sarisarinama, Venezuela some sinkholes have appeared in recent years that are more than 1,000 feet wide. China has been one of the worst areas of the world for sinkholes over the past several years. Over 20 sinkholes have opened up in the ground since last September in the village of Lianyuan in southern China’s Hunan Province, swallowing houses and drying up rivers.

  • Authorities have blamed collapsing mines for some of the sinkholes, but for most sinkholes there has been no explanation.


Ten major volcanoes have erupted along the Ring of Fire during the past few months, and the mainstream media in the United States has been strangely silent, reports These include eruptions of some volcanoes that have been dormant for decades. It is not unusual for two or three volcanoes along the Ring of Fire to be active at the same time, but what we are witnessing right now is highly unusual. Approximately 90 percent of all earthquakes and approximately 80 percent of all volcanic eruptions occur along the Ring of Fire, and it runs directly along the west coast of the United States. The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe area lining the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, from New Zealand, the Philippines and Japan along the western Pacific through Alaska, California, Central America and South America along the eastern Pacific.


A low-pressure system driving southeastward from Canada, known as an “Alberta clipper,” will bring strong winds and blizzard conditions to portions of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest through early Monday, despite producing only modest snowfall. Blizzard warnings have been issued Sunday by the National Weather Service from parts of the eastern Dakotas into western/southern Minnesota and Iowa, while high wind warnings and advisories are posted from eastern Montana into the Dakotas and Nebraska. A sharp, southward plunge in the jet stream early in the new week ahead will bring much colder arctic air from the Upper Midwest to the Gulf Coast and East. Portions of the East will see more snow to start this week and will continue to impact New England through early Tuesday.

In parts of southeast Massachusetts, blizzard conditions are possible along with tree damage and some power outages. Children in Boston were enjoying a four-day weekend after schools were closed yet again on Monday morning. Air travel was also hindered by the imminent storm. At Boston Logan International Airport, more than 125 flights were canceled Monday morning Winter storm watches have also been posted by the National Weather Service in the mid-Atlantic, including Baltimore and Philadelphia.

One of the world’s newest and biggest cruise ships on Sunday was caught in a storm so powerful that the captain ordered passengers confined to their cabins for safety. Royal Caribbean’s 168,666-ton Anthem of the Seas experienced “extreme wind and sea conditions” that were not expected as it was sailing south from the New York area to Port Canaveral, Florida. Passengers tweeting from Anthem describe hurricane-force winds and giant waves that rocked the vessel, overturning furniture, smashing glassware and collapsing part of a ceiling in a public corridor. Royal Caribbean said there had been no reports of serious injuries, and the damage to public areas and cabins “in no way affect the sea worthiness of the ship.” Anthem is carrying 4,529 passengers and 1,616 crew.

Signs of the Times (2/5/16)

February 5, 2016

Eight Major Identical Twin Studies Prove Homosexuality Is Not Genetic

Eight major studies of identical twins in Australia, the U.S., and Scandinavia during the last two decades all arrive at the same conclusion: gays were not born that way, reports “At best genetics is a minor factor,” says Dr. Neil Whitehead, PhD. Whitehead worked for the New Zealand government as a scientific researcher for 24 years, then spent four years working for the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency. Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay. “Because they have identical DNA, it ought to be 100%,” Dr. Whitehead notes. But the studies reveal something else. “If an identical twin has same-sex attraction the chances the co-twin has it are only about 11% for men and 14% for women.”

Congress Accuses Kerry/Obama of Paying $1.7 Billion Ransom to Iran

The chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee demanded Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry explain the $1.7 billion settlement paid to Iran that some Republicans have described as a “ransom” tied to last month’s release of five American prisoners. The Obama administration claimed the agreement was made to settle a dispute with Iran over $400 million in frozen funds that dated back to 1979. The remaining $1.3 billion was described by the Obama administration as “interest”. The White House announced the payment on Jan. 17, the same day that Iran released five American prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati, and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.

  • Since it is against long-standing U.S. policy to negotiate with terrorists, Kerry/Obama tried to get away with a backdoor claim that it was an ‘interest’ payment, typical obfuscation by Emperor Obama

Size of ISIS Army Remains the Same Despite U.S. Air Campaign

The number of fighters in the Islamic State’s army largely “remains the same” as it did a year ago, a U.S. official briefed told Fox News. Officially, ISIS is estimated to have between 20,000 and 25,000 fighters based on the new intelligence estimate, as first reported by USA Today. A year ago, ISIS was estimated to have between 19,000 and 31,000 fighters. The new estimate means that despite more than 10,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS starting in August 2014, ISIS largely has maintained the size of its force – due in part to an emerging practice of “forced conscription” and an influx of new members, including foreign fighters flocking to ISIS’ self-declared caliphate. Territory, however, has been taken back from the vast terror network in that time. The U.S. military estimates that 40 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq has been retaken.

Zika Update

The Florida Department of Health has confirmed two cases of the Zika virus in Lee County, bringing the state’s number of such infections to nine. Gov. Rick Scott declared a health emergency in four counties Wednesday. Health officials say all the affected Floridians, including the two in Lee County, were infected in Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti or Venezuela. Other Florida cases include four Miami-Dade County residents, two from Hillsborough County and one from Santa Rosa County. None of Florida’s confirmed Zika cases involve pregnant women, the health department reported. Zika has been sexually transmitted in Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. It is the first known case of the virus being locally acquired in the continental United States in the current outbreak.

The World Health Organization declared the rise in birth defects linked to the Zika virus outbreak a public health emergency on Monday, underscoring the seriousness of the problem and paving the way for more money, greater attention and a coordinated global response. Doctors connect Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes, to a surge in neurological disorders and the birth defect microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. Experts agree that Zika virus is “strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven” to be the cause of these problems, and “as a precautionary measure, a coordinated international response is needed,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

Pregnant family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to areas with the Zika virus will be offered voluntary relocation, a Defense Department official said Monday. Responding to a growing concern over the “explosive” outbreak of Zika virus in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, the U.S. Southern Command also is identifying ways to support partner nations but has not yet received requests for help. Department of Defense researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Naval Medical Research units are stepping up efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostic tests and treatments for Zika and related viruses. The Pentagon will collaborate with other government agencies as part of the U.S. response, led by the Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chicago Homicide Rates Spiking

The nation’s third largest city recorded 51 homicides in January, the highest toll for the month since at least 2000. Gang conflicts and retaliatory violence drove the “unacceptable” increase in homicides, the police department said in a statement. But the rise in violence also notably comes as the Chicago Police Department faces increased scrutiny following the court-ordered release of a police video showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times. Chicago routinely records more homicides annually than any other American city, but the grim January violence toll marks a shocking spike in violence in a city that recorded 29 murders for the month of January last year and 20 murders for the month in 2014. The rise in violence comes after the Chicago Police Department reported 468 murders in 2015, a 12.5% increase from the year before. There were also 2,900 shootings, 13% more than the year prior.

Economic News

Payroll growth slowed in January as employers added 151,000 jobs, down from over 250,000 in December, raising concerns that troubles overseas may be dampening business confidence and rattling the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9% from 5%, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s the lowest rate since February 2008. Surveys of both the manufacturing and service sectors showed significantly weaker hiring. And initial jobless claims, a reliable measure of layoffs, rose. The reports have raised concerns that the struggles of manufacturers stemming from a weak global economy, strong dollar and low oil prices may be spreading to the previously healthy service sector, which comprises about 80% of economic activity.

The International Monetary Fund says several countries are running out of money because of cheap oil. Translation: Loans and bailouts for oil countries are likely coming. “I think of a country like Nigeria, for instance, where 90% of its exports and 60% of its revenue are generated by oil or oil-related revenues,” IMF Director Christine Lagarde said Sunday. Nigeria is considering asking the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other international organizations for a $9 billion loan. Azerbaijan is looking for an emergency loan of up to $4 billion.

Beneath the surface of the global financial system lurks a multitrillion-dollar problem that could sap the strength of large economies for years to come, reports the New York Times. The problem is the giant, stagnant pool of loans that companies and people around the world are struggling to pay back. Bad debts have been a drag on economic activity ever since the financial crisis of 2008, but in recent months, the threat posed by an overhang of bad loans appears to be rising. China is the biggest source of worry. Some analysts estimate that China’s troubled credit could exceed $5 trillion, a staggering number that is equivalent to half the size of the country’s annual economic output.

General Motors reported the best profit margin in its 107-year history in 2015, just six years after the company was saved by a federal bailout. Last year, GM reported net income of $9.7 billion, more than tripling its 2014 results. The company’s profit margin reached 7.1%, up from 4.2%. The nation’s largest automaker benefited from strong car sales in both the United States and China, where it now sells more cars than it does at home. Total global sales came to 9.8 million cars and trucks, the third straight year GM set a record for the company.

America is pumping so much oil that it’s running out of places to keep it all. The U.S. now has nearly 503 million barrels of commercial crude oil stockpiled, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. That’s up from 285 million barrels in 2000. The sky-high inventories are the latest sign that the U.S. oil boom is still alive and kicking. U.S. oil production is near all-time highs despite the epic crash in oil prices from $107 a barrel in June 2014 to just $30 a barrel now. Global inventories also remain high, with the International Energy Agency recently saying the world is “drowning” in oil. The agency is bracing for oversupply of 1.5 million barrels per day in the first half of 2016.

Venezuela has more oil than any other country on the planet. But it has started importing American crude. The fact that Venezuela is importing American oil is raising eyebrows because Venezuela has 298 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s more than Saudi Arabia, Russia or Iran and eight times the reserves of the United States. But the oil extracted in Venezuela is very heavy and hard to refine and then sell to other countries. Venezuela needs to first mix its heavy oil with lighter types of crude to balance out the quality.

Chinese firms are opening their wallets for a record global shopping spree as they look to make up for slowing economic growth at home. Just one month into 2016, Chinese companies have announced plans to buy 66 foreign companies worth $68 billion. That’s equivalent to 60% of the value of all such deals last year, according to Dealogic. A broad range of Chinese companies has fueled the record start to the year. And the deal flow is expected to continue, experts say. The latest takeover came Wednesday: State-owned ChemChina offered $43 billion for Switzerland’s Syngenta, a global supplier of pesticides and seeds. If approved by regulators, the purchase would be the largest overseas takeover ever by a Chinese corporation.

Middle East

The US Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week that they have, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies from 7 other nations, arrested several operatives of the Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah as part of a year-long operation code-named “Project Cassandra”. The arrests disrupted a global criminal enterprise Hezbollah was using to finance its participation in the Syrian conflict, as well as plan for a future war with Israel.

Israelis suffered another terror attack Thursday, this time coming from two teenaged Arab girls who stabbed a security guard at the entrance to the central bus station in the southern city of Ramle. The guard was taken to a hospital while his attackers were arrested by security services. The attack came a day after 19-year old Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was killed and one of her comrades wounded by an attack by three Palestinian terrorists near the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City

This week’s decision by the Israeli government to open a section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City for non-Orthodox prayer and mixed-gender services was denounced on Monday by the Palestinian Authority as an unacceptable change in the status quo. “Al Aqsa Mosque is part of the faith of the Muslims and belongs only to Muslims,” declared Palestinian Minister for Wakf and Religious Affairs, Sheikh Yusef Edais. “This includes all its structures, yards, walls and gates. The Jews have no connection to it whatsoever. This offensive against Jerusalem is aimed at consolidating the occupation in it and turning it into a Jewish city by falsifying its history and displacing its original residents.” Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, made a similar statement, calling the decision a “brutal attack on the Waqf and additional evidence of the Israeli aggression against Muslim holy places, in an attempt to Judaize Jerusalem.”

  • Solomon’s temple pre-existed Islam by around 1,700 years, so their revisionist claims are ludicrous

Islamic State

Members of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State gathered Tuesday in Rome where they discussed how to prevent the extremist group from gaining a stranglehold in Libya and seizing its oil wealth. The Islamic State is close to seizing Libyan oil refineries — and gain a major new revenue source — as the terror group expands its presence in the war-torn country. Islamic State fighters have pushed toward critical port facilities near their Libyan stronghold of Sirte. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States and its allies have made progress against the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria but are concerned that the militant group has spread into Libya.

ISIS has executed 3,895 people, more than half of them civilians, since announcing the establishment of a “caliphate state” in June 2014, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Of the 2,114 civilians killed, 78 were children and 116 were women, the SORH said in a press release. Civilians were killed by firing squad, beheaded, stoned, thrown off high buildings or burned, SOHR said. The other people executed included fighters for the Syrian regime, militiamen loyal to the regime and rebel groups like al-Qaeda in Levant.

U.S. airstrikes on a remote region of Afghanistan have destroyed a radio station operated by the Islamic State group, American and Afghan officials said on Tuesday. “Voice of the Caliphate” radio operated by Islamic State near the border with Pakistan was destroyed in U.S. two airstrikes. The Islamic State group has emerged in Afghanistan in the past year, with a military presence in districts near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The radio station was spreading the group’s extremist message, issuing threats to journalists in the provincial capital Jalalabad and attempting to recruit young men to its cause.


Supported by Russian air strikes, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military forces appeared to close in on the opposition-held city of Aleppo on Friday, the country’s state-backed news agency SANA said. The offensive into rebel territory by government troops has sent thousands of Syrians fleeing toward the border with Turkey and is threatening to unleash a new humanitarian disaster in a five-year-old conflict that has already led to the deaths of over 250,000 people. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said up to 70,000 Syrian refugees were headed to Turkey as Assad’s regime seeks to wrest control of key towns in northern Syria away from opposition groups. Some of these groups have United States backing and some of them are fighting each other as well as Assad.


Police arrested two suspected Islamic extremists on Thursday as part of a series of raids across Germany as the city of Cologne began a five-day carnival amid heightened security following robberies and sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve that targeted hundreds of women. The raids took place in Berlin, at refugee centers in Hanover and in Attendorn, a town about 50 miles from Cologne. Two Algerian suspects were detained. Cologne has drafted in an extra 2,500 police officers and spent an additional $450,000 to boost security across the region during its week-long carnival that has been celebrated for several hundred years. Prosecutors have received 1,037 criminal complaints over the New Year events, including 446 allegations of sexual assault, three of them rape. Criminal proceedings have begun against 50 people. Most of the suspects are refugees from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.


A senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Thursday that his country had signed contracts worth nearly $40 billion with Russia to build nuclear power plants, railroads and other infrastructure. He added that Teheran and Moscow are also in talks to expand trade, particularly in oil and weapons. In related news, Iranian Army chief declared on Thursday that his forces already had missiles capable of annihilating Israel and that there were plans to continue building the arsenal. “Iran’s missile capability and its missile program will become stronger,” General Ataollah Salehi boasted, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. “We do not pay attention and do not implement resolutions against Iran, and this is not a violation of the nuclear deal. Our missile program is not a threat against our friends but it is a threat against our enemies. Israel should understand what it means.”


In a pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area in coastal Kenya on Sunday (Jan. 31), Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebels killed at least four Christians, beheading one of them, area sources said. “This is the third time the area has been attacked, and we have lost several Christians,” a survivor said. The rebels, who are fighting government and regional forces in Somalia, regard the northern coastal area of Kenya as Islamic territory. Al Shabaab, linked with Al Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack in a call to news organization Al Jazeera.


Militants attacked a sparsely manned U.N. police base in the Malian city of Timbuktu on Friday morning, sparking a fight in which Malian and U.N. peacekeeping forces eventually retook the center, a United Nations representative in the West African nation said. An unknown number of militants started the assault by driving up to the base — a former hotel now used as an operating center for U.N. police officers — and detonating a vehicle at an entrance Friday morning. Only several police officers were inside at the time. Malian and U.N. peacekeeping forces responded and eventually retook the base. Mali has been wracked by violence in recent years, including an insurgency by Islamist and ethnic Tuareg groups that prompted French forces to intervene in the country in 2013. The United Nations established its peacekeeping mission in Mali that year.


Famine is imminent in Zimbabwe as a massive drought throughout the region takes its natural course. In Zimbabwe’s worst affected areas, hunger is already beginning to bite and children are too weak to attend school. Some 70% of Zimbabwe’s population live off their own crops, but this year the rivers are dry, the crops have wilted, and animals are dying in large numbers. The drought is affecting the south of the country worst, where just half an inch of rain has fallen since October (the beginning of summer, which is usually the wettest season). This is well below the expected 12 inches.


Winter Storm Kayla forced the closure of at least two interstates Tuesday morning due to whiteout conditions from its heavy snow and gusty winds. More than 100 miles of Interstate 80 were closed Tuesday in Nebraska due to the nearly impossible driving conditions. To the south, I-70 was also closed in parts of Colorado and Kansas. The storm also had impacts on air travel. At Denver International Airport, dozens of flights were canceled Tuesday morning, a day after more than 500 flights were canceled at the hub. A snow emergency has been declared for Omaha and several nearby communities. Heavy snow and extremely strong winds greeted New Mexicans on Monday morning. Wind gusts as high as 95 mph were reported in southern parts of the state, while areas of northern New Mexico picked up as much as 16 inches of new snowfall.

Severe weather on the warm side of Winter Storm Kayla moved into the South and Ohio Valley Tuesday, where at least 12 tornadoes were spawned. The twisters damaged dozens of homes and other structures, but so far, no deaths have been reported in the areas hit by severe weather Tuesday night. At least nine reports of tornadoes occurred in parts of Mississippi and Alabama Tuesday. Winter Storm Lexi began delivering a quick-hitting band of snow from the coastal mid-Atlantic into southern and eastern New England Friday, causing early morning travel issues for commuters. School districts in Massachusetts announced they would be closed Friday due to the snow.

Signs of the Times (2/1/16)

February 1, 2016

NY House Passes Bill Allowing Non-Doctors to Shoot Poison into Full-Term Babies

The Empire State has long been known for its pro-abortion laws, but the latest bill passed by the NY House takes it to a whole new level, reports AB 6221 passed the State Assembly 94-49, and if it passes the Senate and becomes law, the wording of the abortion statute would allow full-term abortions as long as it’s “relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Relevant reasons include emotional, familial, age, physical, or psychological. In other words, almost any excuse to kill a full-term baby will do. In addition, the bill would allow non-doctors to inject poison into the full-term fetus’s heart to stop it.

Freedom Fading from the World

The level and quality of freedom in the world has been eroding steadily over the past decade, says the Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2016” report. And 2015 marked the sharpest decline yet. Freedom House, which describes itself as an independent democracy watchdog, rates dozens of indicators, including real-world assessments of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, whether there is a level playing fields for opposition parties, equality of opportunity for women, the rule of law, transparency of government operations. The resulting score, from 0 to 100, produces three categories: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free. Worldwide, of 7.3 billion people, only 40% live in countries judged Free, down from 46 percent a decade ago. Of 195 countries, only 86 are rated Free. In 2015, the level of freedom deteriorated in 72 countries, and advanced in just 43, the worst performance since the decline set in a decade ago, undoing the enormous advances seen in the last quarter of the 20th century. The freest regions in the world remain the Americas and Europe, along with India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

State Department Acknowledges Top Secret Info in Hillary’s Emails

The State Department acknowledged for the first time Friday that “top secret” information has been found in emails that passed through the private email server Hillary Clinton used while leading the agency, elevating the issue in the presidential campaign three days before the hotly contested Iowa caucuses. The information was contained in 22 emails, across seven email chains, that were sent or received by Clinton, according to a State Department spokesman. The emails will not be disclosed as part of an ongoing release of Clinton’s email correspondence from her years as secretary of state, even in redacted form because of their highly sensitive nature. The finding is likely to complicate Clinton’s efforts to move past the controversy, which has dragged down her poll ratings in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it comes as her potential Republican rivals have called for Clinton to be prosecuted for what they say was her mishandling of national secrets.

Most Oregon Occupiers Now in Jail

A federal judge on Friday denied bond for Ammon Bundy and other members of a group that occupied a federal wildlife facility in Oregon. o far 11 people have been arrested. Four members of the protest group remain inside the refuge. In a YouTube video posted Friday, a man said they would leave when they and all defendants were pardoned. Group leader Ammon Bundy stood in court and told the judge why he and others took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon in early January. “I do love this country very, very much,” he said. “I love the people in it. And my only goal from the beginning was to protect freedom for the people.” But Judge Stacie Beckerman denied bail bond for Bundy and his followers. On Thursday, during a traffic stop, law enforcement officers shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, one of the protest group’s most prominent members. The FBI said that Finicum reached his hand toward a pocket on the inside of his jacket, at least twice, before he was shot. Finicum was found to have a loaded handgun in that pocket.

WHO to Hold Emergency Meeting about the Zika Virus

World Health Organization officials will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the Zika virus, which WHO officials have said is “spreading explosively” throughout the Americas. The WHO could classify the Zika outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern,” which requires a coordinated global response. WHO officials said they’re particularly concerned about a link between the virus and a spike in cases of microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with unusually small skulls and incomplete brain development. CDC laboratories have developed a test that can confirm Zika in the first week of illness or in a sample from an affected child. However, diagnosing a prior infection with Zika is much more challenging, so CDC scientists as well as private companies are working to develop tests that can do this accurately.

Chronic Drug Shortages Forcing Hard Decisions

In recent years, shortages of all sorts of drugs — anesthetics, painkillers, antibiotics, cancer treatments — have become the new normal in American medicine, reports the New York Times. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists currently lists inadequate supplies of more than 150 drugs and therapeutics, for reasons ranging from manufacturing problems to federal safety crackdowns to drug makers abandoning low-profit products. But while such shortages have periodically drawn attention, the rationing that results from them has been largely hidden from patients and the public. At medical institutions across the country, choices about who gets drugs have often been made in ad hoc ways that have resulted in contradictory conclusions, murky ethical reasoning and medically questionable practices, according to interviews with dozens of doctors, hospital officials and government regulators.

Watchdog Places Wounded Warrior Charity on Watch List

The Wounded Warrior Project, the charity for wounded veterans, has been placed on Charity Navigator’s watch list over accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to CBS News. Charity Navigator is a watchdog organization that evaluates charities in the U.S. According to the charity’s tax forms, obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings increased from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery. Army Staff Sergea nt Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years. “Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money.” Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

IRS Identity Theft and Scams on the Rise

Reports of identity theft shot up in 2015, largely driven by an increase in tax- and wage-related fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. People made 490,220 identity theft complaints to the FTC in 2015, up from 332,647 (a 47% increase) in 2014 and 290,102 in 2013. From 2014 to 2015, there were 51% more complaints related to tax and wage identity theft, which isn’t all that surprising. All thieves need is a Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return. According to 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 probably significantly higher because of the difficulty of knowing how much income tax fraud remains undetected. If you are the victim of income tax identity theft, it still takes an average of 278 days to resolve your claim and get your refund although the IRS routinely tells taxpayers that they can expect their claims to be resolved within a still too long 180 days.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)is warning taxpayers to be on “high alert” for scammers posing as IRS agents who call unsuspecting taxpayers and threaten them with heavy fines and even jail time if they do not immediately pay these scammers the demanded money. According to TIGTA, it has received approximately 896,000 complaints since October 2013 of these phone calls and knows of at least 5,000 victims who have paid more than 28.5 million dollars to the scammers. Unfortunately, Congress has passed legislation that requires the IRS to hire private collection agencies to go after taxpayers who owe money to the IRS. So after years of the IRS telling taxpayers that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by telephone and that therefore if someone calls you, attempting to collect money for the IRS it is a scam; now taxpayers will be receiving calls on behalf of the IRS attempting to collect overdue taxes.

Economic News

U.S. consumers kept their spending flat in December and instead boosted their savings rate to the highest level in three years. The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending was unchanged in December after rising 0.5% in November. Incomes increased 0.3%, in December, matching the November gain. The rise in incomes and flat spending pushed the savings rate to 5.5% of after-tax income in December. That was the highest level since December 2012. Weak gains in consumer spending dragged the U.S. economy in the final three months of the year. Overall growth slowed to a meager 0.7% rate in the fourth quarter.

The Dow rose nearly 400 points Friday to cap a turbulent month on an upbeat note after a surprise interest rate cut by the Bank of Japan and despite a report showing weak fourth-quarter U.S. growth. It was a dreary month for stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average, kicked off the final trading day of the month down 7.78% for 2016 and it’s still in correction mode, or down more than 10% from its peak. Whether Friday’s bounce lasts remains to be seen, as prior bounces for the blue-chip Dow have faltered amid fresh selling sparked by a new diet of negative headlines. U.S. stocks pulled back Monday as fresh signs of weakness in China’s manufacturing sector added to concerns about slowing growth.

America is wasting little time getting back into the oil exporting business. Just weeks after Congress lifted a 40-year ban on exporting oil, the first shipments of the domestically-produced oil left U.S. ports for Europe last Friday. The first freely-traded shipments of U.S. crude are symbolic of the country’s newfound role as a leading producer of oil. America’s entry into the world market is viewed with relief by those worried about potential supply disruptions, since most of the big oil producers are located in volatile parts of the world.

Migrant Update

The number of migrants who died trying to reach Europe by sea surged in January, according to a group that tracks people crossing the Mediterranean. The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said 244 people died attempting to reach Europe by boat in the first 28 days of 2016, most of them en route from the western Turkish coast to Greece. That was three times the 82 people who died making the treacherous voyage during the same period in 2015. In January 2014, 12 people perished at sea. The group estimates 55,528 migrants made crossings to Europe so far this year — nearly 2,000 per day. The most popular access point is Greece’s Aegean Sea, followed by a central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy. Many are fleeing war in Syria and other countries, while others are seeking better economic opportunities.

About 10,000 migrant children who traveled to Europe are currently unaccounted for, the European Union’s police agency said, raising concerns that some of those missing might be vulnerable to human trafficking. “We think it’s shocking that we are now learning that there are so many unaccompanied minors exposed to trafficking and other dangers,” said Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. “That is another tragic twist in the latest story of migration to Europe and the need to protect vulnerable young people who find themselves at loose without friends in Europe and therefore vulnerable without proper mentoring and leadership.” More than 1 million migrants entered Europe last year.

On January 21, more than 30 babies were born in RUN Ministries’ Community of Hope Refugee Camps and their “open sky” areas in northern Iraq. It was a brutal winter night, and nearly half of the babies died because of the cold mountain winter. RUN leaders are doing everything they can to help these babies survive. They just don’t have the resources needed to provide shelter and warmth for every refugee who needs it.

  • Help these babies survive by donating to org

Middle East

France threatened to recognize a Palestinian state Friday if Israel and the Palestinians cannot settle their long-festering differences following a peace conference planned by summer. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he will invite Israel, Palestinians, Arab nations and others to a peace conference to seek a two-state solution. “If this attempt to achieve a negotiated solution reaches a dead end, we will take responsibility and recognize the Palestinian state,” Fabius said. He added that continued Israeli settlement construction on land that Palestinians want for a future state threatens a political agreement and requires a French response. “We must not let the two-state solution unravel. It is our responsibility as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council,” he said.

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian on Sunday after he opened fire at a West Bank checkpoint and wounded three people, the military said. Medics said two of the wounded were in serious condition. The attacker got out of his vehicle and opened fire near the Jewish settlement of Beit El. Palestinians identified the gunman as Amjad Sukkari, a 34-year-old policeman who worked as a bodyguard for the Palestinian attorney general. A post on his Facebook page from just hours before the attacks read, “there is nothing worth living on this earth as long as the occupation strangles our breaths.” Palestinians have killed 26 people on the Israeli side and wounded dozens more since mid-September, mostly in stabbings. Israeli responders have killed 150 Palestinians during that timeframe. The Israeli military partially closed off the main Palestinian city in the West Bank on Monday, sealing off roads out of the city. Citing “situation assessments,” the military said only residents of Ramallah could enter and only residents of other cities and humanitarian cases were allowed to leave until further notice.

Islamic State

The Council of Europe has officially recognized the Islamic State’s persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East as genocide. Christian Today reports that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution entitled “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq.” The report states that ISIS has “perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law.” The resolution passed 117 votes to one. Under international law, genocide is considered the severest crime. The designation of genocide also has actual implications for Christians and other minorities being persecuted by ISIS as it will put pressure on the United Nations Security Council to also issue a genocide resolution which will encourage countries to take action to stop the genocide.


A triple bombing claimed by the extremist Islamic State group killed at least 45 people near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday, overshadowing an already shaky start to what are meant to be indirect Syria peace talks. Syria’s state news agency SANA said that the blasts went off in Sayyda Zeinab, a predominantly Shiite Muslim suburb of the Syrian capital. The attackers detonated a car bomb at a bus stop and then two suicide bombers set off more explosives as rescuers rushed to the area. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 47 people were killed in the explosions, and that the death toll was expected to rise because a number of people were seriously wounded. An IS-affiliated website said the blasts were carried out by members of the extremist group, which controls large areas in both Syria and Iraq.

The main Syrian opposition delegation arrived in Switzerland Saturday night, however it remained unclear whether the delegation would actually participate in U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s civil war. The indirect peace talks began here Friday with a meeting between the United Nations envoy and the Syrian government delegation. The main opposition group, the Higher Negotiations Committee or HNC, boycotted that session saying it won’t take part until a set of preliminary demands are met: releasing detainees, ending the bombardment of civilians by Russian and Syrian forces, and lifting government blockades on rebel-held areas.


Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan warned Moscow that continued airspace violations by Russian jets would result in “consequences” after reporting a fresh border crossing Saturday. Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said another Russian warplane violated its airspace Friday despite repeated warnings. The incursion comes two months after NATO-member Turkey’s military shot down a Russian jet for crossing over its territory. “We regard this infringement which came despite all our warnings in Russian and in English as an effort by Russia to escalate the crisis in the region,” Erdogan said. “If Russia continues the violations of Turkey’s sovereign rights, it will be forced to endure the consequences.”


A suicide bomber killed at least nine people and wounded 12 in an attack on a police base in Kabul on Monday, an Afghan official said. The attacker joined a line of people waiting to enter the local headquarters of a branch of the national police after having lunch and praying outside. The bomber detonated his payload after being spotted near the gate. The majority of the killed and wounded were civilians. The attack targeted the Afghan National Civil Order Police, a militarized force that often fights on the front lines of the war with the Taliban. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The insurgents, who have been at war with the government for 15 years, often target local security forces.


Members of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram apparently burned children alive as part of an attack in Nigeria that killed 86 people. The incident happened Saturday night in the village of Dalori in northeastern Nigeria. Two nearby camps housing 25,000 people who have fled Boko Haram were also attacked. The Associated Press said it spoke to a survivor who watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death. A solider at the scene told the AP three female suicide bombers blew themselves up as part of the assault. Mohammed Kanar, the area coordinator of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, said 86 bodies, many of them charred and riddled with bullets, were collected by Sunday afternoon.


After more than five decades of isolation and repressive military rule, Myanmar on Monday swore in hundreds of lawmakers in its first freely-elected parliament since the army took power in 1962. The inaugural session marked the start of a new era for Myanmar (formally known as Burma). It follows an election on Nov. 8 that saw Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party win two-thirds of available parliamentary seats and effectively rout the country’s military leaders. But there is a long road ahead before full democracy comes to Myanmar. The military has retained 25% of seats in parliament — giving the generals an effective veto over any changes to the constitution — as well as control of key sectors of the economy and ministries such as defense, interior and border affairs. The army can still take over the government under emergency legislation. Parliament will pick a new president over the next few weeks but Suu Kyi is barred from the post because her children are foreign nationals.


A US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles or within the territorial waters of an island claimed by China in the South China Sea, in a sign of increasing tension in the region days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing attempting to settle long standing territorial disputes. Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the island as well. Tension in the region has been building for months. “This operation was about challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others,” said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.


U.S. law allows any Cuban who reaches U.S. soil to apply for political asylum and stay. In 2014, 17,470 Cubans presented themselves at U.S. land ports along the Mexican border, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In 2015, that number nearly doubled to 30,966 and officials say they expect that trend to continue. Many of those journeys came to a halt in November, when Nicaraguan officials prevented Cuban migrants from passing through their country. That forced neighboring Costa Rica to house and feed the growing number of Cubans stranded there. At one point, the Costa Rican government estimated that up to 8,000 Cubans were living in schools, gymnasiums and other makeshift shelters built along the border. Costa Rica started negotiating with countries farther north — including Belize, Honduras and Mexico — to see if they would accept the Cubans. Finally, Guatemala agreed to help, and on Jan. 12, the first flight of 180 Cubans took off. From that point, the Cubans can continue their journey north. That provided hope to thousands of Cubans still in Costa Rica. The next scheduled flight departs Feb. 3, and more will follow.


A cross-border raid by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials resulted in the arrest of 24 Sinaloa cartel members, authorities said. The sting occurred around the Arizona border with Mexico on Friday. It also netted “assault-type weapons” and hundreds of pounds of narcotics. The raid, dubbed Mexican Operation Diablo Express, targeted “high-level” Sinaloa cartel members who operate in the United States and Sonora state, Mexico. Mexican federal officers were brought in to the United States to ensure safety during the operation. Those arrested are in the custody of the Mexican government, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they will seek their extradition. “The targeted Sinaloa cell has been responsible for the importation of millions of pounds of illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, into the United States from Mexico,” ICE said.


Severe storms hammered California over the weekend, killing one person and leaving tens of thousands without power. A 48-year-old woman was killed Sunday in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego when a large oak tree was knocked over by strong winds, crushing her passing car. The storms also knocked out power to some 140,000 customers in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas Sunday night. The National Weather Service office in Oxnard, California, reported thunderstorm wind damage west of Santa Paula that took down two or three trees, trapping six cars near the intersection of Briggs and Faulkner roads. Winds gusted as high as 91 mph in Southern California over the weekend. In Los Angeles, flash flooding was reported in the Burbank area at Interstate 5 and wind gusts blew a roof off of a home and onto nearby power lines near South Ditman Avenue. The National Weather Service also reported several downed trees close to Mulholland Highway and Highway 2. Near Santa Barbara, there were reports of flash flooding with mud and rocks across Highway 154.

Winter Storm Kayla will deliver a swath of snow across the country from the West to the Great Lakes to start the week. Kayla has already moved into the Southwest and Rockies. As low pressure develops over the southern High Plains, heavy snow will progress northeast from the Front Range of the Rockies across the central Plains, Upper Midwest and parts of the Great Lakes Tuesday into Wednesday. Widespread snowfall amounts of 6 inches or more will be common in these areas, particularly the mountains in the West and a swath from Kansas and Nebraska into Iowa and Wisconsin. With low pressure rapidly intensifying over the Plains and Mississippi Valley, strong winds will develop around the storm. Blizzard warnings have been posted in parts of the Plains as winds will increase to 25 to 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph possible Tuesday and Tuesday night. There will also be areas of strong winds over mountains and lower elevations of the Desert Southwest.

Warmer air has spread from the South and central U.S. into the northeast into early this week, bringing spring-like temperatures to the Deep South and Florida. Record highs were set from the Ohio Valley, to south Texas, to New Jersey and the Hudson Valley Sunday. The warm, humid air is moving northward into parts of the south, including the Lower Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley and Southeast where there will be an increasing threat of severe thunderstorms, including possible tornadoes, on Tuesday. The greatest tornado threat is focused on parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Tennessee Valley.