Signs of the Times (7/1/16)

Revival Sweeping Nepal, 200,000 Buddhists Saved

More than 200,000 Tibetans have accepted Jesus into their lives, Breaking Christian News reported Friday. Asian Access’ Joel Handley says he believes much of the faith sweeping the region stems from Christian response to the devastating Nepalese earthquake more than a year ago.  “They haven’t seen Buddhists, Hindus or other religious groups helping in the midst of the rubble. Rather, week after week, it is the followers of Jesus who have proved the test of time, sacrificed their own lives to serve and been the hands and feet of Jesus,” Handley says.

Christianity on the Rise in Cuba

Cuban Christianity has “grown in the shadows of culture for many years,” according to the Deseret News. With help from Christian organizations, such as The Luis Palau Bible Institute and the International Bible Society, that growth is continuing. Those groups are distributing bibles and holding gospel-training sessions to help Cubans gain biblical knowledge. Many of the churches and church leaders were born in the trenches and underground,” said Dr. Carlos Barbieri, director of the Luis Palau Bible Institute. “They are bold and persistent. They are undoubtedly a living example for others, committed to the scriptures and passionate about the Lord,” “Most important of all is that Cuban Christians feel more free to engage in these events and participate in these training courses without fear,” Barbieri said.

Russian Government Introduces Draconian Restrictions on Religious Freedom

A series of amendments to anti-terrorist legislation in Russia requires individuals to gain prior state authorization before even discussing their faith with someone else. The Duma adopted the amendments Wednesday despite major protests by churches. The bill was passed by the Council of the Russian Federation and is now on its way to President Putin for his expected signature. The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith – even a casual conversation – to have prior authorization from the state. This includes something as basic as an emailed invitation for a friend to attend church. Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present.

Judge blocks Mississippi Religious Objections Law

A federal judge has blocked a Mississippi law that would let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs in denying or delaying services to same-sex couples. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves filed orders in two lawsuits blocking the law just moments before it was to take effect Friday. State attorneys are expected to appeal. The law would allow clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and could affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies. Judge Reeves wrote that the law violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. More than 100 similar bills have been filed in more than 20 state legislatures across the nation in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling nearly a year ago that legalized same-sex marriage.

Concealed Carrier Prevents Mass Shooting at SC Nightclub

A man with a concealed carry license stopped a shooter after the latter opened fire on a crowd of people at a nightclub in South Carolina early Sunday morning, according to WISTV.com. After getting into a fight with another person, the 32-year-old suspect pulled out a gun and began to fire at a crowd of people gathered outside of the club, hitting and injuring four, WISTV reports. One of the victims, who holds a concealed-carry permit, shot back in self-defense, hitting the suspect in the leg. The suspect has been charged with four counts of attempted murder. He was also charged for unlawfully carrying a weapon and for carrying one while committing a violent crime.

  • Of course, the mainstream media has failed to report this story even as it continues to belabor the Orlando shooting as a call to gun control

13-Year Old Boy Fends off Burglars with Mother’s Gun

A 13-year-old boy in Ladson, South Carolina, fended off two would-be burglars by using his mother’s gun to protect himself while home alone Tuesday, reports the local newspaper, Post and Courier. He killed one of them in an exchange of gunfire, and the second suspect was later arrested, according to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. The boy was not injured in the shootout. The attempted burglary unfolded just before 1:30 p.m. at the Woodside neighborhood residence, where the boy said he became suspicious after seeing a vehicle pull up behind the house. The boy saw a man try to break into the back of the home, “at which time he feared for his safety” and grabbed his mother’s pistol, the arrest affidavit states. After the boy opened fire, the two suspects fled, and as they drove away, the boy continued shooting at them, according to the affidavit.

  • The liberal mainstream media fails to report these kinds of stories because they undermine their case for increased gun control

House Releases Final Benghazi Report

A damning report authored by the Republican-led House committee probing the Benghazi terror attacks faulted the Obama administration for a range of missteps before, during and after the fatal 2012 attacks – saying top administration officials huddled to craft their public response while military assets waited hours to deploy to Libya. The report released Tuesday pointedly blamed a “rusty bureaucratic process” for the slow-moving response the night of the attack. The report said despite orders from President Obama and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to deploy, the first military force did not do so until more than 13 hours after the attack started. The report said one anti-terrorism security team known as the FAST unit sat waiting for three hours in Rota, Spain awaiting orders While various officials debated how to proceed, U.S. personnel were under attack at two sites in Benghazi. In the end, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attacks. The report also said, “Security deficiencies plagued the Benghazi Mission compound in the lead-up to September 2012.” The claim that the fatal 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks were sparked by an anti-Muslim video was crafted in Washington by Obama administration appointees and reflected neither eyewitness nor real-time reports from the Americans under siege, according to the final report

Exploding UK Immigration Behind ‘Brexit’ Vote

The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union last week appears to have been driven largely by a historical surge of immigrants in recent years that has transformed the island nation. Annual legal immigration into the U.K. is now 10 times what it was in 1993, and experts believe this cultural dynamic fed fears of globalization and job losses which, in turn, drove last Thursday’s vote to exit the EU. The migration influx has been so dramatic in recent years that currently one in 20 people living in the U.K. — 3 million people — were citizens of another EU country just two years ago, according to the British Office of National Statistics.

Before 2004, when the EU expanded to include 10 new member states such as Latvia, Poland and other eastern European nations, net EU immigration to the U.K. averaged around 10,000 per year, according to the national statistics office. Last year, 270,000 citizens from EU countries immigrated to the U.K., the statistics office estimates. A full third of those who voted in favor of Britain leaving the EU said immigration concerns were the reason. Fifty-three percent said they were motivated by the U.K.’s inability to make its own laws without interference from EU bureaucrats based in Brussels.

Unnamed U.S. Government Agency Hit with 1,370 Cyberattacks in 2014

In 2014, a single U.S. government agency was hit with a blizzard of more than 1,370 external attacks on its most vital computer systems, with three out of every eight incidents resulting in a loss of data, according to a new report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, suggesting hackers have been far more successful at getting at sensitive government information than previously disclosed. The highly besieged agency was not named in the report, which was given to government officials in May and made public last week. The eye-opening number of data leaks that resulted from the attacks — 516 “incidents” in all — is barely mentioned in the 94-page GAO report, notes Fox News. It is mostly buried in the fine print of an information diagram on page 24 of the wordy and technical document. The fact that the data losses all came from one agency is mentioned only in a footnote to the diagram, and the extraordinary success rate of the attacks has to be calculated from figures speckled on the previous page.

U.S. & China to Participate in Massive Pacific War Games

Warships from a record 26 nations — including the United States and China — are converging on waters near Hawaii this week for a five-week-long series of exercises designed to promote international security, good will and cooperation on the high seas. The massive “Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, war games will take place amid increasing tension and competition in waters of the Asia-Pacific region and will include warships from at least seven nations with competing claims or interests in the region. China will take part in the RIMPAC exercise, held every two years, for just the second time. Some members of Congress and the U.S. defense community have called for the invitation to be withdrawn because of China’s assertive territorial claims and island-building program in the South China Sea. China has claimed sole ownership over virtually all of that key waterway, through which passes an estimated $5 trillion in annual trade. In just the past two years, China has built at least seven landfill islands in the South China Sea, including some with military-grade runways, deep-water ports and extensive land facilities.

Tesla Driver on Autopilot Killed by Tractor Trailer

The U.S. announced Thursday the first fatality of a wreck involving a car in self-driving mode. Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was the owner of a technology company and had praised Tesla’s sophisticated “Autopilot” system just one month earlier for preventing a collision on an interstate. The government said it is investigating the design and performance of the system aboard the Tesla Model S sedan. Brown died in the accident Williston, Florida, when the car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to government records obtained Thursday.

Medical Errors Third-Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Newsmax reports that medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., based on data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the National Center for Healthcare Statistics. Over 250,000 lives were lost due to errors such surgical procedures on the wrong body parts, improperly filled prescriptions, inadequately sterilized instruments, and the wrong medicines given to the wrong patients. One in ten of all U.S. deaths are caused by medical errors, ranking only behind heart disease and cancer as the nation’s leading cause of death.

Blue Cross, Health Net Drop Affordable Care Act Marketplace Plans

Two major health insurance companies, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Health Net, will drop Affordable Care Act plans next year in Maricopa and Pinal counties, forcing tens of thousands of consumers to switch plans next year. Stung by financial losses on marketplace plans in 2014 and 2015, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona has filed documents with the Arizona Department of Insurance to discontinue such plans in Maricopa and Pinal counties. About 44,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield customers will need to find new sources of health coverage for 2017. Similarly, state filings show Health Net will drop Affordable Care Act plans in Maricopa and Pinal counties next year, eliminating coverage for about 14,000 current Health Net customers.

Economic News

Single-family home prices notched at least a 5% annual rise for the sixth consecutive month in April, but the growth is slowing slowly. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index showed home prices increased 5% in April compared to a year ago, down from a revised 5.1% rise in March. That marks the third straight slowdown in annual price appreciation, which topped out at 5.4% in January.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that consumer spending increased 0.4% in May on top of a 1.1% surge in April. Spending on durable goods such as autos and appliances grew 0.6%, down from a 2.6% jump in April. Spending on nondurable goods, such as food and clothing, grew 0.5%. And spending on services grew just 0.1%. The overall numbers underscore that consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, picked up in the spring after getting off to a slow start in 2016. But, Americans’ incomes grew just 0.2% in May, down from 0.5% in April.

Apartment rents are still surging but some relief is in sight. Average U.S. rent rose 0.4% in May, according to consumer price index data released this month, the 67th consecutive month of increases. Renting an average market-priced apartment now costs $1,282 a month. Rent has been climbing sharply since early last year, driven by strong demand as employment grew steadily in cities such as New York Atlanta, Phoenix and Tampa. Wage growth, meanwhile, hasn’t kept up with rising rents, making it tougher for apartment dwellers to save for a down payment. Many Millennials are moving out of their parents’ basements but still don’t have the savings to afford a home or can’t qualify for a mortgage.

In what is being called a ground-breaking agreement, Volkswagen will pay $14.7 billion not only to compensate owners for its polluting “clean” diesel-powered cars, but for environmental mitigation and to set up a fund to promote zero-emissions technology, the government announced Tuesday. Owners of the 475,000 Volkswagen vehicles with 2-liter diesels covered under the settlement will receive payments ranging from $5,100 to $10,000. In addition, Volkswagen will either repair their cars to bring them into compliance with emissions laws or buy them back in order to scrap them. VW has admitted to inserting software in VW and Audi cars with 2-lliter engines going back to 2009 that allows them to beat emissions tests.

Puerto Rico isn’t planning to make any of the $800 million payment to its bondholders due on July 1. Governor Alejandro García Padilla says it is in a “dire” financial position with only about $350 million in cash on hand right now. He argued that paying teachers, emergency personnel and other critical needs must come first. The deeply indebted island defaulted Friday on debt that is supposed to be guaranteed by the Puerto Rican constitution. In other words, Puerto Rico was supposed to pay creditors who hold general obligation bonds before paying anyone else. Puerto Rico’s default marks the first time that a state or state-like entity (Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory) has failed to pay general obligation bonds since the Great Depression.

Brexit cost the U.K. its perfect AAA credit rating. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.K. by two notches to AA on Monday, the latest fallout from last week’s shocking U.K. referendum to leave the European Union. S&P warned that Brexit will “weaken the predictability, stability and effectiveness” of British policymaking and deter foreign investment in the U.K. The ratings firm said Brexit may also lead to a “deterioration” of the British economy — especially its vitally-important banking industry — and could even trigger a “constitutional crisis” if there is another referendum on Scottish independence.

Worst Countries for Human Trafficking

Myanmar, Sudan and Haiti are currently among the worst offenders for human trafficking, according to a new report published today by the U.S. State Department. The three nations were among 27 to be downgraded in this year’s annual Trafficking in Persons — or TIP — report. Djibouti, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Turkmenistan also slipped to the bottom of the pile in this year’s report. After two years, Thailand moved off the bottom rung due to the government’s “significant efforts” to eliminate trafficking. However, the report says there’s still “widespread forced labor” in the country’s seafood sector. The only other country upgraded from Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch list was Kuwait, while 10 nations were upgraded from the Watch List to Tier 2, including Namibia, Lebanon, Egypt and Cambodia. The upward move for Cambodia marks a major improvement for a country that’s long been embroiled in a battle against the sex trade and child sex tourism. Seven countries made the leap from Tier 2 to Tier 1, including Colombia, Cyprus, Lithuania and the Philippines, where human trafficking has historically been a critical issue.

Middle East

A Palestinian assailant broke into a home in a West Bank settlement early Thursday and stabbed a 13-year-old Jewish girl to death as she slept in bed, the latest in a nine-month wave of violence that had recently shown signs of tapering off. She was a cousin of Uri Ariel, a Cabinet minister from the Jewish Home, a party affiliated with the West Bank settler movement. The minister later said Israel would make “every effort” to build up settlements in the West Bank. The attacker, identified as a 17-year-old high school dropout, was fatally shot by security guards. The Israeli military sealed off the entrances to a nearby village, the home of the attacker, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on both the Palestinian leadership and the international community to condemn the brutal assault. “The horrifying murder of a young girl in her bed underscores the bloodlust and inhumanity of the incitement-driven terrorists that we are facing,” Netanyahu said after an emergency meeting with his defense minister.

Israeli security agencies were on high alert Friday following the thwarting of yet another attempted terrorist attack, this time a Palestinian woman who tried to stab an Israel Border Police officer at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The terrorist was shot by the officer and later died of her wounds. Earlier, an Israeli father of 10 was killed in front of his children and three others were wounded in a shooting attack by a Palestinian terrorist near Hebron. The fatality has been identified as 40-year-old Michael “Micki” Marc from the nearby town of Otniel, who was traveling in his car with his family when it was targeted. His wife Chavi was seriously wounded in the attack, and was evacuated to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital with multiple gunshot wounds to her upper body. Two other family members were also wounded in the attack. According to initial reports, a “Kia” model car overtook the family as they drove along Route 60 and opened fire, striking both parents and causing the car to overturn. As many as 20 shots were fired at the car.

Palestinian leadership continues to incite violence against Israelis, as a senior Palestinian official called to end Israeli lives in a most violent fashion. “Wherever you see an Israeli, slit their throat,” declared Sultan Abu Alainin, member of Fatah’s Central Committee and aide to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with the Palestinian Donia Al-Watan newspaper on Monday.

Islamic State

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State rocked the extremist group near the Iraqi city of Fallujah on Wednesday, killing at least 250 suspected militants and destroying at least 40 vehicles. The reported strikes occurred south of the city, and are the latest setback for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which continues to suffer devastating defeats just two years after capturing large swaths of Iraq. An unnamed U.S. defense official told FOX News that a convoy of ISIL fighters was hit as they tried to leave a neighborhood on the outskirts of Fallujah. The Islamic State has lost about 45% of the territory it controlled at its peak last year in Iraq and about 20% of what it once occupied in Syria, the Pentagon says. “ISIL fighters are panicking on the battlefield, foreign recruits are now looking to return home, and leaders are struggling to maintain discipline, even despite the threat of execution for disobedience,” Brett McGurk, a special envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week.

Turkey

The death toll has climbed to 31 after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. The three men arrived at the airport in a taxi. They opened fire on passengers before blowing themselves up. Security footage captures one of the suicide bombers collapsing to the ground after being shot in the airport. He is seen squirming for several seconds before he sets off the bomb. Tuesday’s attack left 239 people wounded but 109 have been treated and discharged. The three suicide bombers were nationals from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a senior Turkish official said Thursday. Counter-terrorism teams launched 16 simultaneous raids in Istanbul, and Turkish police said they have detained 13 people, including three foreign nationals in connection with the attack. Turkish officials have strong evidence that the Istanbul airport attackers came to the country from the Syrian ISIS stronghold of Raqqa and that the group’s leadership was involved in the planning of the attack, a senior Turkish government source told CNN Thursday.

Iraq

The United States has extended a $2.7-billion line of credit to Iraq for the purchase of military equipment amid the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said Wednesday that the deal gives Iraq a one-year grace period and eight and a half years total to pay for its purchases of ammunition and maintenance of its F-16s and M1A1 tanks. Like other oil-reliant countries, Iraq’s economy has been severely hit by plummeting crude prices since 2014, plunging the nation into an acute financial crisis. The OPEC member is struggling to feed a cash-strapped economy amid an expensive fight against IS militants, who still control key areas in the country’s north and west.

Afghanistan

A Taliban suicide attack struck a police convoy outside the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 50. The convoy of buses carried new officers from a graduation ceremony and was struck by two bombs, the BBC reported. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a suicide bomber on foot targeted a bus carrying trainee policemen and their instructors before a car bomber attacked 20 minutes later when police arrived to help. “The Taliban have once again shown their total disregard for human life. Their increased use of improvised explosive devises is taking a very heavy toll on the Afghan people,” said Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Nigeria

The Nigerian Army reported on June 26th that it raided 15 villages in the remote north-east of the country as part of its continuing operation to defeat Islamist militant group Boko Haram. In the process, the army freed 5,000 people held hostage by the insurgents. For the past seven years, Boko Haram has fought to establish an Islamic State in the region. Their main targets are Christians, Western-style educational establishments (i.e. not Islamic), and security forces. More than 15,000 people have been killed, thousands more taken hostage, and 2 million displaced in Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during Boko Haram’s insurgency. In the last year, Nigeria’s armed forces, sometimes supported by troops from neighboring countries, have recaptured most of the territory that the Islamists had claimed.

Venezuela

The fight for food has begun in Venezuela. On any day, in cities across this increasingly desperate nation, crowds form to sack supermarkets. Protesters take to the streets to decry the skyrocketing prices and dwindling supplies of basic goods. The wealthy improvise, some shopping online for food that arrives from Miami. Middle-class families make do with less: coffee without milk, sardines instead of beef, two daily meals instead of three. The poor are stripping mangoes off the trees and struggling to survive. What has been a crisis developing in slow-motion appears to be careening into a new, more dangerous phase. The long economic decline of the country with the world’s largest oil reserves now shows signs of morphing into a humanitarian emergency, with government mismanagement and low petroleum prices leading to widespread shortages and inflation that could surpass 700 percent this year.

Brazil

The headache for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games organizers shows no signs of subsiding. Six weeks before the Games are set to begin, Francisco Dornelles, the acting governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that the state has not yet received recently-approved federal funds to beef up security and transportation for the quadrennial competition. The budget shortfall adds to the “perfect storm” Brazil is facing leading up to the Games, due to kick off on August 5. Organizers are dealing with concerns regarding the Zika virus, a doping scandal in which Brazil’s only testing lab was suspended, high crime and political upheaval involving the country’s highest figures. With just 36 days to go before the Rio Olympics kick off, the situation in the host city just went from bad to worse.

Hong Kong

Thousands of citizen in Hong Kong took to the streets for the southern Chinese city’s annual pro-democracy protest march Friday, as tensions persisted over the high-profile case of a bookseller secretly detained in the mainland. Protesters waved placards calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China and signs with photos of the bookseller, Lam Wing-kee, whose revelations last month about his ordeal rekindled concerns about Beijing’s tightening grip on the semiautonomous city. Lam is one of five booksellers who went missing for months only to turn up later in police custody in mainland China. Their disappearance sparked international concern that Beijing was eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Environment

The ozone hole over Antarctica is healing according to a study published in the journal Science. For decades, a large hole has opened in the ozone layer over Antarctica each year. The gap forms in late August or early September – spring in the Southern Hemisphere – and expands until it reaches its largest annual size in October. But a study published Thursday found that the ozone hole is healing, based on studies performed on the hole each September since 2000. It could be fully repaired by the middle or end of this century. Researcher Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at MIT, proved in 1986 that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) weakened the ozone layer over Antarctica. Made of chlorine and bromine, CFCs were found in many household objects until they were banned by the Montreal Protocol in 1987. As a result, the hole is shrinking.

Officials in five states have issued health advisories for dozens of beaches just days before thousands hit the road for the 4th of July holiday. Texas leads the way with 15 beaches with either high or medium levels of bacteria; Louisiana has a dozen beaches under advisory, and Mississippi and Alabama have one apiece. More than half of the Texas advisories are centered around Galveston, where the Galveston County Health District is assuring people that the advisories in the area are not related to the Vibrio bacteria, commonly referred to as the “flesh-eating bacteria,” which killed at least 10 people last year in Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott added two more counties on Thursday to the state of emergency declared over a “guacamole-thick” algae bloom affecting a stretch of beaches promoted as the state’s “Treasure Coast.” At Central Marine boat docks in Stuart on Thursday, pea-green and brown algae coated the water and smelled strongly like cow manure. Blooms that started last week in the St. Lucie River continue to spread, threatening Atlantic beaches expecting crowds of families for the holiday weekend. Manatees have been seen struggling to get through the thick algae.

Water Woes

Eighteen million Americans live in communities where the water systems are in violation of the law. Moreover, the federal agency in charge of making sure those systems are safe not only knows the issues exist, but it’s done very little to stop them, according to a new report and information provided to CNN by multiple sources and water experts. States are the first line of enforcement, but when they fail — as they did recently in Flint, Michigan — the EPA is supposed to step in. But in many cases, the agency hasn’t. More than 5,300 water systems in America are in violation of the EPA’s lead and copper rule, a federal regulation in place to safeguard America’s drinking water from its aging infrastructure. Violations include failure to properly test water for lead, failure to report contamination to residents, and failure to treat water properly to avoid lead contamination. Yet, states took action in just 817 cases; the EPA took action in only 88 cases, according to NRDC’s report.

California’s Central Valley has three times more freshwater in underground aquifers than previously thought, drinking water that could help the state weather future drought and fortify itself against a changing climate, according to a new Stanford University study. But tapping that water, locked thousands of feet beneath the ground, will be expensive and comes with an enormous risk — it could cause the valley floor to sink, according to the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sinking land in the Central Valley is already threatening roads, homes and other infrastructure, and reduces the amount of water some aquifers can hold. To stave off losses during its four-year drought, California has relied on groundwater to irrigate its farm fields. So much groundwater is being used that the water table has fallen by 50 feet in some places in the Central Valley, and the valley floor is sinking, or subsiding, as aquifers are depleted.

Beijing residents have put up with choking smog, trash-filled rivers and toxic running tracks. Now they have another concern — sinking. An international study led by Beijing-based researchers has discovered that the city is dropping by as much as 11 centimeters (4 inches) in some districts per year. The thirsty city has depleted its groundwater, which the study identified as the cause of the sinking. Beijing is ranked as the fifth most water-stressed city in the world, the study notes, and as China continues to urbanize, the stress on subterranean aquifers is only set to worsen.

Wildfires

Residents east of Interstate 17 in Cordes Lakes who were evacuated Tuesday because of a fast-moving wildfire that burned more than 1,000 acres in a single afternoon were allowed to return to their homes late that night after fire managers said they had the blaze 50 percent contained. Smoke and flames from the Bug Creek Fire that skirted the interstate had choked northbound traffic for much of the day on the main route connecting Phoenix to popular destinations including Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Motorists reported hours-long delays. When conditions allowed, state transportation and public safety officials opened one northbound lane to let traffic pass. Otherwise, drivers were forced to turn around at Sunset Point, about 50 miles north of Phoenix.

People living in a rural subdivision 50 miles northeast of Sacramento were evacuated Tuesday as firefighters braved triple-digit temperatures to battle a wildfire that climbed out of a steep canyon along the middle fork of the American River. Homes near Todd Valley between the cities of Foresthill and Auburn were evacuated as a 20-acre fire quickly grew to 300 acres. The fire was approaching a subdivision with large lots and a scattered population. The fire began Tuesday afternoon in El Dorado County before jumping the river and climbing out of the canyon and into neighboring Placer County.

Weather

Severe storms slammed the Las Vegas area with hail and “unprecedented” heavy rain that led to flash flooding Thursday, causing water rescues and leaving thousands without power. Strong to severe thunderstorms developed northwest of Las Vegas and slowly dropped toward the southeast into southern Nevada bringing 1-2″ hail and high rainfall rates to Las Vegas. The hilly and urban terrain promoted flash flooding. An early monsoon and near record high atmospheric moisture helped these storms saturate the area. Erin Neff, spokeswoman for the Clark County Regional Flood Control District, characterized the rain in some parts of the area as “unprecedented.”

More heavy rainfall arrived in soggy West Virginia on Monday and Tuesday, bringing additional precipitation and flooding to a region that’s dealing with tragedy and a prolonged cleanup. The widespread flooding killed 23, left thousands homeless and prompted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to declare a federal disaster. According to the National Weather Service, “extremely rare amounts of rainfall” swamped entire areas of the state, washing out roadways, flooding and destroying structures and cutting off power to thousands – a one in a thousand -year event.

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