Archive for October, 2016

Signs of the Times (10/28/16)

October 28, 2016

State of Georgia Demands Pastor Turn Over Sermons

A Seventh-day Adventist lay minister who says he was fired by Georgia’s Department of Public Health because of his sermons says he will not turn over his sermons for review by state attorneys. Dr. Eric Walsh had been appointed to President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/Aids and was hired by the Georgia state agency. But the DPH found out that LGBT activists had protested Walsh when he was selected as the commencement speaker at Pasadena City College. The agency launched an investigation into his preaching and he was asked to hand over copies of his sermons. DPH employees watched the sermons, and later the agency rescinded the offer of employment after Walsh had been employed for only a week. Walsh then filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in September 2014, arguing that he was fired for his sermon content. The state of Georgia then filed for a Request for Production of Documents, asking that Walsh turn over his copies of sermon notes and transcripts, including his Bible. Walsh’s attorney, Jeremy Dys, of First Liberty Institute, called the filing for the sermon notes a “government overreach.”

NATO Bolsters Presence in Eastern Europe as Russia Tension Rises

The UK has deployed hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe as NATO continues to bolster its presence in the face of perceived Russian provocation. It is the largest buildup of troops in the region since the Cold War. The announcement comes a week after a Russian fleet, which was reportedly en-route to Syria, passed close to British waters. The Russian role in the Syrian conflict has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and NATO that had already risen due to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine in 2014. On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that recent tactics by Moscow had forced the alliance to respond. “Russia has tripled defense spending,” Stoltenberg told reporters. The latest troop deployment comes at a time of fear over the security of Baltic states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities like Ukraine and concerns that they could suffer a similar fate to Crimea’s.

FCC Passed Sweeping New Rules to Protect Online Privacy

Federal regulators have approved unprecedented new rules to ensure broadband providers do not abuse their customers’ app usage and browsing history, mobile location data and other sensitive personal information generated while using the Internet. The rules, passed Thursday in a 3-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, require Internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, to obtain their customers’ explicit consent before using or sharing that behavioral data with third parties, such as marketing firms. Also covered by that requirement are health data, financial information, Social Security numbers and the content of emails and other digital messages. The measure allows the FCC to impose the opt-in rule on other types of information in the future, but certain types of data, such as a customer’s IP address and device identifier, are not subject to the opt-in requirement. “It’s the consumers’ information,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “How it is used should be the consumers’ choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”

Obamacare Premiums to Rise 22%

Obamacare premiums are set to skyrocket an average of 22% for the benchmark silver plan in 2017, according to a government report released Monday. The price hike is the latest blow to Obamacare. Insurers are raising prices and downsizing their presence on the exchanges as they try to stem losses from sicker-than-anticipated customers. Enrollment for 2017 will be closely watched since insurers want to see younger and healthier consumers enroll. For 2016, the benchmark plan’s premium rose only 7.2%, on average, for the states that use healthcare.gov. While premiums are set to rise by double digits on the ObamaCare exchanges, millions of Americans already have made the decision to abandon the markets altogether and shop for health care on their ow, CNN reports.

141 Pipeline Protesters Arrested

The standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline is heating up, and protesters say they won’t back down. Long-brewing tensions over the controversial project boiled over Thursday, as police in riot gear faced off with protesters on horseback. After hours of clashes, law enforcement officials arrested 141 people. A court decision allowing construction of the $3.7 billion pipeline across four states hasn’t dampened demonstrators’ furor over the project. The developer calls it an economic boon that will make the US less dependent on imported oil. But protesters say it threatens the environment and will destroy Native American burial sites, prayer sites and artifacts. Police deployed bean bag shotguns, pepper spray gas and unleashed a high-pitched siren as they tried to disperse the crowd. Protesters lit debris on fire and threw Molotov cocktails

Seven Acquitted in Oregon Standoff Trial

Seven people who were among the armed occupiers of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year were acquitted Thursday of charges related to the 41-day standoff. Ammon Bundy; his brother, Ryan Bundy; and three other people were found not guilty of firearms charges and conspiracy to impede federal workers. Two others who were acquitted were charged only with conspiracy. The federal jury couldn’t reach a verdict on a theft charge against Ryan Bundy. The Bundy brothers and their father, Cliven Bundy, remain in police custody as they still face federal charges in Nevada for a standoff at the Bundy ranch in 2014. Dozens of people occupied part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns on January 2 after gathering outside for a demonstration supporting Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers who were convicted of arson, and in defiant protest of federal land policies. Many of the protesters who took over an unoccupied building on the refuge were armed. The driver of one vehicle, LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed when he got out and confronted authorities. Police said Finicum was reaching for a gun in his pocket. The occupation of part of the federal wildlife refuge ended peacefully February 11 when the last occupiers surrendered to authorities.

Migrant Update

This year has become the deadliest yet for migrants crossing the Mediterranean bound for Europe, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday. “We can now confirm that at least 3,800 people have died, making 2016 the deadliest ever,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler wrote on Twitter. According to UN Radio, 3,771 lives were lost during the whole of 2015, the previous record number. Most of the migrants sought to travel from Libya, on the North African coast, to Italian shores, the United Nations said. Libya is a popular jumping-off point for migrants seeking to reach Europe from North Africa via what is known as the Central Mediterranean route. Smuggling networks are well established there, and the lack of an effective central government makes the job of traffickers easier. The UN refugee agency considers the route extremely dangerous due to the open sea, strong currents and grim weather.

Scores of children were left with nowhere to go Thursday night as French riot police gathered outside a refugee camp in Calais. Officials had pledged to close the camp, known as “The Jungle,” and resettle all of remaining migrants. But aid workers said hundreds of unaccompanied children remained unregistered and, with the camp closing, some faced possibly sleeping outdoors for a second night in a row. According to the French Interior Ministry, the UK had agreed to transfer 274 unaccompanied minors from Calais, but had failed to deliver on that promise. The French government, which has taken the lead in dismantling the camp that became the symbol of Europe’s failure to handle the refugee crisis, urged the UK to “quickly take responsibility.”

Pension Crisis

There are only seven cities nationwide with a pension surplus, according to a study by Fellner’s organization and the group Wilshire Consulting. The rest are $6 trillion short, setting aside just 35 cents for every dollar promised, reports Fox News. Wisconsin is the only state more than 50 percent funded, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. The five worst include Illinois, where 60 percent of state workers retired in their 50s. In Connecticut, pensions average $40,000 a year, yet state employees contribute just zero to two percent, compared to 6 percent in North Carolina, according to the ratings company, Fitch. Back in the late 1990s, pension managers thought they were going to get 7 to 9 percent returns forever, so they gave in to union demands for bigger benefits. Then the bubble burst – first in 2000 and again in 2008.

Until now, the courts have generally held that once a city signs a pension contract, it’s iron clad and can’t be altered or broken. However, a recent appeals court ruling says the so-called ‘California rule’ is not absolute, and a city can treat retirees like any other creditor. The issue is now before the state Supreme Court. Given how many pension plans are underwater, experts say almost every city, county and state in the U.S. is waiting for a decision before deciding what to do.

  • One way or another, taxpayers will have to pay the piper for past economic malfeasance

Economic News

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September compared with the same time a year ago — the fastest economic growth in two years. Growth was sluggish in the first half of the year, averaging just above 1%.While the economy gained momentum in the third quarter, growth for the year comes in at 1.7% , still slow compared with historical standards. For the third quarter, American shoppers continued to drive growth, while business spending was less of a drag. Consumer confidence hit a nine-year high in September, according to the Conference Board.

Exports grew by 10% in the quarter, the best pace in nearly three years. A huge jump in shipments of soybeans explained much of the increase in exports, economists say. China has been one of the biggest buyers of U.S. soybeans. American agricultural exports to China have increased by 200% over the past decade, according to the USDA. As a result, trade contributed 0.83 percentage point to GDP growth after adding a mere 0.18 percentage point in the April-June quarter.

The gig economy is booming – i.e. an economic sector consisting of part-time, temporary, and freelance jobs (think Uber drivers). Most of the estimated 68 million gig workers worldwide choose the freelance lifestyle for better work-life balance. But nearly 20 million of them do it out of necessity because they can’t find better work or pay, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, a consulting firm. The workers who do it by choice report being happier than workers in the traditional 9 to 5 economy, McKinsey found. Government officials admit they haven’t accounted for gig workers as the freelance economy has boomed. The Labor Department says it will start counting gig workers in its jobs figures by next May. Uber drivers in the U.K. won a landmark court case Friday that means they will qualify for the minimum wage, paid time off and other perks.

Twitter is cutting its staff by 9% after a widely rumored sale process appears to have come to nothing. The layoffs are expected to impact about 350 employees across sales, partnerships and marketing efforts, according to the company. The goal is to push Twitter toward profitability as an independent company. Disney, Google, Verizon and Salesforce were all said to be interested in bidding for the social network, but ultimately backed off.

Islamic State

ISIS is sending “suicide squads” from Syria to its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, witnesses have told CNN, as tens of thousands of troops close in on the key city to take it from the militant group’s control. Witnesses said hundreds of new arrivals had streamed into Mosul from the group’s heartland of Raqqa, Syria, in the past two days, describing them as foreign fighters wearing distinct uniforms and suicide belts, and carrying light weapons. ISIS fighters have been seen rigging bridges across the strategic Tigris river with explosives and have prepared dozens of vehicle-borne suicide bombs. ISIS has “executed” 232 people near the Iraqi city of Mosul and taken tens of thousands of people to use as human shields against advancing Iraqi forces, the United Nations said Friday. A coalition of around 100,000 forces began an operation on October 17 to retake Mosul, and have been slowly gaining ground toward the city, liberating villages from ISIS rule along the way. Clashes with ISIS fighters are expected to intensify the closer in troops get, and in Mosul itself, bloody street-to-street skirmishes are expected.

Syria

Rebel fighters launched a new offensive in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday, unleashing a series of deadly car bombings and mortar attacks on government-held positions aimed at breaking the siege of rebel-controlled eastern neighborhoods. Opposition social media showed videos of rebel tanks, armored personnel carriers, grad rockets and artillery firing from the southwest of the city, in an apparent attempt to break through Syrian government offenses from the outside Aleppo. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 others were wounded when hundreds of mortar rounds showered down on several residential neighborhoods in regime-held areas of western Aleppo, the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said in a statement.

Lithuania

Lithuania published a manual Friday for its three million citizens on how to defend their homeland in the event of a Russian invasion. Since Russia annexed Crimea two years ago, Lithuanians have been on edge. Conscription has been restarted and defense spending ramped up and NATO has deployed more troops to the Baltics. The manual warned of Russia’s method of using “denial and ambiguity” at the beginning of an invasion and warns: “It is most important that the civilians are aware and have a will to resist — when these elements are strong, an aggressor has difficulties in creating an environment for military invasion.” The manual also noted that Russia “does not hesitate to use a military force against its neighbors, and at this moment it basically continues the military aggression against Ukraine.”

Yemen

The UN World Food Program fears the devastating toll that hunger could have on the war-torn country of Yemen, leaving millions at risk for starvation. The organization said it has provided food for more than 3 million people each month since February. It has split these rations so it can reach 6 million people every month, but resources are beginning to run out. “An entire generation could be crippled by hunger,” Torben Due, the program’s director in Yemen, said in a statement. “We need to scale up our life-saving assistance to reach more people with timely food assistance and preventive treatment. We appeal to the international community to support the people of Yemen. The war in Yemen began in early 2015 when Houthi rebels — a minority Shia group from the north of the country — drove out the US-backed government and took over the capital, Sanaa. The country has become a proxy battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The ongoing conflict has left thousands dead as the Saudi-led coalition continues its attacks on Houthi rebels. U.S. officials told NBC News Thursday that they believe Iran has supplied weapons to the Houthis in Yemen – including coastal defense cruise missiles like the ones that were fired at US Navy ships earlier this month.

Ivory Coast

Following many years of political turmoil and civil conflict, business is back – and booming – in the Ivory Coast. This prosperous West African country is Africa’s fastest growing economy in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The country’s phenomenal growth rate of 8.5 percent greatly contrasts with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa which has only seen three percent growth. But not every Ivorian is reaping the rewards. While the economy powers ahead, many citizens have been left behind, with the World Bank estimating that nearly half of the population still lives in poverty.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro just increased the nation’s minimum wage by 40%. But that’s still not much in a world where inflation is expected to soar by nearly 500% this year and 1,660% next year, according to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund. Venezuela’s minimum wage, including food subsidies, is rising to 90,812 bolivars a month. That’s just $67 a month, according to a popular but unofficial exchange rate. On the government’s highest exchange rate (it has three), the new minimum wage is worth $138. It is the fourth time Maduro has increased the minimum wage this year. Food stamps and worker bonuses make up most of workers’ total “wages” in Venezuela. The raise comes one day before opposition leaders, who want to oust Maduro, planned a nationwide strike of businesses.

Environment

A massive new report by the World Wildlife Fund has found a 58 percent average decline of global wildlife populations since the 1970s, and human activity is to blame. The alarming new findings were part of the Living Planet Index, a report prepared by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London. It cited poaching, habitat loss and pollution as reasons for the dramatic decline – all human-caused issues. “For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife,” Mike Barrett, director of science and policy at WWF-UK, told the New York Times. “We ignore the decline of other species at our peril – for they are the barometer that reveals our impact on the world that sustains us.” The report also found things could get even worse in the coming years if nothing is done to reverse the damage already occurring. By 2020, 67 percent of vertebrates could be gone from 1970 population levels if the current pace continues, the report concluded.

Earthquakes

A pair of earthquakes struck central Italy Wednesday night, causing widespread damage in an area still reeling from an earthquake that killed hundreds just months ago. However, unlike the August quake, initial reports indicate that there have been no deaths or serious injuries directly attributed to the earthquakes. Both temblors were centered near the town of Visso, Italy, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The second quake was rated 6.1 after it struck at 9:18 p.m. local time (3:18 p.m. EDT) at a depth of 6.2 miles. The town of Ussita seemed to be ground zero for serious damage at first light Thursday. Ussita Mayor Marco Rinaldi said that ‘many houses collapsed’ in the town, including a historic church. Damage to homes and buildings were also reported across the Umbria and Marche regions of Italy.

Weather

Phoenix broke a record Thursday when the temperature at Sky Harbor Airport reached 100 degrees just after 2:30 p.m. The previous record high for Oct. 27 was 98 degrees in 2001. The city’s 100-degree high also set the record for the latest date reaching triple digits, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix. The previous mark was Oct. 23, 2003. The normal high for Oct. 27 is 84 degrees.

A 650+ foot mudslide struck a stretch of Colombian highway Wednesday morning, killing at least 7, burying multiple vehicles and four lanes of highway, authorities said. Search and rescue efforts were ongoing at the scene, near the village of El Cabuyal, where government officials said that at least 6 vehicles had been buried by the torrent of debris. A total of 9 people are still reportedly missing in the disaster. More than 50,000 cubic meters of land was displaced by the mudslide, which also took out multiple power lines en route to the highway. The local government attributed the mudslide to recent rains in the area. The stretch of impacted highway connects the Colombian capital of Bogotá to Medellín, the capital city of the mountainous province of Antioquia.

2017 Presidential Election

October 25, 2016

Donald Trump will not win the Presidential election for two reasons:

  1. The New World Order won’t allow it.
    1. The globalists will do anything and everything in their power to prevent Trump from winning – from planting lies, to controlling the liberal media, even to assassination
    2. President Obama as well as the Bushes and Clintons have been backed and controlled by the global elite, but not Trump
  2. God won’t interfere because he is allowing His prophecies to be fulfilled
    1. Revelation 13 says the one-world government being set up by Satan will happen despite all the prayers of the saints
    2. In fact, Revelation 13:7 says the anti-Christ (beast) will overcome the saints
    3. All of this to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy (8:23) that sin must reach its fullness and usher in the anti-Christ before the Lord Jesus returns to take possession of His Kingdom

Signs of the Times (10/24/16)

October 24, 2016

Five Places Still Perform Late-Term Abortions

The topic of late-term abortions was raised in last week’s Presidential debate. Operation Rescue reports that there are five abortion facilities in the U.S. that perform late-term abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later. They call New Mexico the “Wild West” for late-term abortionists because there are essentially no laws restricting the practice or regulating it. The Southwestern Women’s Options facility is the largest late-term abortion facility in the U.S. “Documentation exists that provide details of a severely botched 35-week abortion there in 2011, which ruptured the uterus of the patient.” Like New Mexico, Colorado law allows for abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. According to a Federal Court lawsuit filed in Colorado, one patient suffered a horrific Third Trimester dismemberment abortion complication in 2013. The three other late-term abortion facilities are in Dayton, Ohio, Beverly Hills, California and Germantown, Maryland where one woman died of complications from a 33-week abortion in 2013.

  • 81% of Americans support banning abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy, according to a Marist poll in November, 2015. Even among those who identify themselves as “pro-choice,” two-thirds oppose second and third trimester abortions.

Iran Seeks More Cash for Hostages

Iran is seeking “many billions of dollars” in payments from the United States in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran’s state-controlled press that are reigniting debate over the Obama administration’s decision earlier this year to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash. Senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens. Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused. Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “many billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”

Widespread Cyberattack Takes Down Sites Worldwide

A number of popular websites like Twitter and Netflix went down for some users on Friday in a massive cyberattack with international reach. Affected sites included Twitter, Etsy, Github, Vox, Spotify, Airbnb, Netflix and Reddit. The cyberattack that took down large swaths of the internet around the world on Friday was carried out, in part, by unsuspecting devices connected to the internet. Security firm Flashpoint said it believes that digital video recorders and webcams in people’s homes were taken over by malware and then, without owners’ knowledge, used to help execute the massive cyberattack. Tens of millions of IP addresses were used and hundreds of thousands of devices appear to have have been infected with the malware. It was a distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack. Using the malware, hackers were able to flood a website with so much traffic that it impaired normal service. The FBI said Friday that it was “investigating all potential causes of the attack,” and the U.K.’s Home Office said it was looking into the matter.

83 Arrested at Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Eighty-three people were arrested Saturday at a protest against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, authorities in North Dakota said. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said 300 protesters trespassed on private property and “engaged in escalated unlawful tactics and behavior” at a spot three miles west of State Highway 1806, along the pipeline right-of-way. The 1,172-mile pipeline would stretch from the oil-rich Bakken Formation — a vast underground deposit where Montana and North Dakota meet Canada — southeast into South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. After the pipeline is completed, it would shuttle 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day, according to the developer, Energy Access Partners. Protesters say the pipeline will damage the environment and affect historically significant Native American tribal lands. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation in North Dakota is near the pipeline route, and other tribes oppose the project.

Persecution Watch

According to the findings of a new survey from the Christian advocacy group Open Doors USA, religious minorities who seek safe haven in the European nation are finding a general lack of protection. Since February, nearly 800 Christians and Yazidi refugees were attacked by others at the relief centers and camps. The findings showed that nearly half of the respondents said they suffered some sort of injury. Nearly 300 said they received death threats against themselves or their families. Others were sexually assaulted, insulted, discriminated against or subjected to psychological pressure.

Thousands of Christian refugees who fled their homes in Iraq due to persecution are only finding more persecution in Turkish refugee camps. ChristianToday.com reports that about 45,000 refugees who fled Iraq are now living in poverty in Turkey and are discriminated against by their Muslim neighbors.

According to Open Doors World Watch List, North Korea is the single worst country for Christian persecution. The Christian Post reports that citizens in North Korea are told by the government that Christians are evil and want to kill people and drink their blood. this revelation came from a North Korean woman who was imprisoned for her faith, but was eventually able to escape to South Korea. Before she became a Christian Hae Woo heard stories of the horrendous things Christians reportedly did. “Every form of religion, and especially Christianity, was like opium: addictive and destructive. I heard stories about Christians who went to hospitals, enticed people into cellars, killed them there and sucked the blood out of their bodies so that they could sell it.”

A key Christian leader from Sudan reported to Barnabas Aid that there is no more recognition of religions other than Islam following the separation of largely-Christian South Sudan. “This has come from President Omer El Bashir, but they didn’t put it in the constitution, only in government officials’ practices and government institutions, like the law enforcement agencies.” The government is working hard to close all church activities in North Sudan by arresting the active church leaders and closing the churches or schools. The government recently closed about 6-7 local churches from the Presbyterian Evangelical Church around Khartoum state.

Migrant Update

French authorities began clearing the “Jungle” refugee camp on Monday, bussing out more than 1,000 people by the afternoon as it readies to raze the patch of wasteland where thousands have made temporary homes. An old hangar in the port city of Calais was converted into a processing center for between 6,000 and 10,000 migrants. Authorities offered them two choices — stay in France or go back to their country of origin. Some migrants have refused to leave the camp, which sits at one end of the Eurotunnel — a direct route to Britain that many have risked their lives trying to traverse, hiding in lorries. Some have even walked the 30 miles. In 2015, the Eurotunnel operator intercepted 37,000 migrants attempting to travel to the UK illegally. Britain is a preferred destination for many migrants — its economy is doing better than most of its European counterparts, unemployment rates are low and a lot of migrants have at least a basic command of English.

Economic News

U.S. single-family starts surged in September, pointing to sustained housing market strength even as a drop in the construction of multi-family dwellings pushed overall home building activity to a 1-1/2-year low. A tightening labor market, which is steadily pushing wages higher, as well as low mortgage rates are underpinning demand for housing. Single-family starts are also getting a boost from a chronic shortage of previously owned homes available for sale. Overall groundbreaking activity, however, declined 9.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.05 million units last month, the lowest level since March 2015.

The U.S. economy is inching along, productivity is flagging and millions of Americans appear locked out of the labor market, notes the Wall Street Journal. In addition, the U.S. is creating startup businesses at historically low rates. The American economy has long relied on fast-growing young companies to fuel job growth and spread the latest innovations. But government data shows a decades-long slowdown in entrepreneurship. In 2014, the most recent year of data, the startup rate was the second-lowest on record. The share of employment at such firms, meanwhile, has slipped from nearly 4% to about 2% of private-sector jobs.

Despite the tepid economic recovery, retailers began gearing up to hire holiday-season workers in August this year, an unusually early start showing how competition has intensified for temporary help in a tight labor market, reports the Wall Street Journal. Data from job-search site Indeed.com shows retailers, warehouses and logistics firms started searching for temporary workers a month earlier than in recent years. This suggests retailers and other firms “anticipate stronger consumer demand and expect that it will be harder to find the people they want to hire,” said Indeed.com.

Islamic State

Hundreds of ISIS fighters are fleeing Mosul in Iraq and crossing into neighboring Syria as coalition forces close in on the city. ISIS fighters dressed in women’s clothes were caught fleeing Mosul while the group’s commanders have ordered their wives and girlfriends to escape before the city is encircled, reports Fox News. Their desperate last-ditch escape comes as Kurdish forces and elite Iraqi counter-terror troops began a lightning advance on the city. Leading US generals and French president Francois Hollande say ISIS fighters are fleeing – and must be blocked from regrouping in nearby Raqqa. Major General Gary Volesky, who heads the anti-ISIS coalition’s land component, said many foreigners among the 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS fighters would likely end up forming the core of the holdout jihadist force. So far 78 towns have been liberated and 772 ISIS fighters killed in first week of this major battle, officials report.

ISIS executed 284 men and boys as coalition forces closed in on Mosul, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN Saturday. ISIS used a bulldozer to dump the corpses in a mass grave at the scene of the executions — Mosul’s defunct College of Agriculture in the north of the city. The victims were all shot and some were children, said the source. The United Nations earlier said it is “gravely worried” that ISIS has taken 550 families from villages around Mosul and is using them as human shields as Iraqi and Kurdish forces battle the terror group for control of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Iraq

Militants armed with assault rifles and explosives attacked targets in and around the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk early on Friday in an assault quickly claimed by the Islamic State group and likely aimed at diverting authorities’ attention for the battle to retake ISIS-held Mosul. At least 11 workers, including two Iranians, were killed when ISIS militants stormed a power plant north of Kirkuk and then blew themselves up. Multiple explosions meanwhile rocked the city and gun battles were underway, said witnesses in Kirkuk. Much of the fighting was centered on a government compound in the city.

Syria

Turkish jets and artillery struck U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters in northern Syria Thursday, and Turkey’s state-run news agency said as many as 200 militiamen were killed, in a major escalation of Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria. A senior commander with the main Syria Kurdish militia confirmed that Turkish jets and artillery were still attacking his forces north of Aleppo, but disputed the casualty count, saying no more than 10 fighters had been killed so far. Further south, a humanitarian pause announced by Russia for the besieged rebel-held city of Aleppo took effect, and the Syrian military, using loudspeakers, called on residents to evacuate and for gunmen to lay down their weapons. But there was no sign of residents leaving the bombed-out districts.

An international team has determined that the Syrian government carried out a third chemical attack in the conflict-wracked nation, according to a report released late Friday. In August, the team from the United Nations and the chemical weapons watchdog blamed President Bashar Assad’s government for using chlorine gas in two attacks and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters for using mustard gas in one attack. The team said at that time that three other attacks indicated possible government involvement. In a report sent to the U.N. Security Council late Friday and seen by The Associated Press, the team said there was “sufficient evidence” to conclude that Syrian forces were responsible for one of the attacks in Qmenas in Idlib governorate on March 16, 2015. It said a device, dropped from a high altitude, “hit the ground and released the toxic substance that affected the population.”

Somalia

Somali pirates have released 26 hostages after nearly five years in captivity, according to an organization involved in mediation efforts. The dozens of hostages freed were in a ship hijacked south of the Seychelles in March 2012. Of the 29 crew members seized, one died during the hijacking and two died from illness while in captivity, according to the organization, Oceans Beyond Piracy. The hostages were all men from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy said the crew of Naham 3 was released Saturday. He did not provide specifics on the terms or conditions of their release, or whether any ransom was paid. “They are reported to be in reasonable condition considering their ordeal,” Steed said. “They are all malnourished. Four are currently receiving medical treatment.” Somali pirates and their peers have made millions in ransom money hijacking vessels in the region.

Niger

Thousands of children in the west African nation of Niger are suffering from severe malnutrition and lack of clean water. ChristianToday.com cites a report from the World Food Program, which states that 44 percent of children in Niger suffer from malnutrition. Niger is a poor country and many men leave their families to look for work elsewhere. Many of the malnourished children suffer severe pain, other illnesses and stunted growth.

China

A U.S. Navy warship on Friday passed through waters claimed by China near disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Defense Department said, drawing Chinese condemnation. The destroyer ship USS Decatur conducted the transit operation near the Paracel Islands. He said it was done “in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident.” A Chinese defense ministry statement called it “a gravely illegal act” and “intentionally provocative.” The Chinese navy sent a guided missile destroyer and an escort vessel that “spotted and verified the American ships and warned them to leave,” the statement said. The Paracels, a group of islands and reefs, are occupied by China but are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Ross said the ship passed within an “excessive” claim of territorial waters by China between two land features, although it did not go within 12 nautical miles of them, the standard distance for territorial boundaries.

Venezuela

Earlier this year, Venezuelans suffered through acute food shortages. Now food is starting to reappear on more and more supermarket shelves. But the prices are prohibitive for almost everyone. Venezuelans say they’ve seen staggering price hikes as the country struggles with exponentially rising inflation. The IMF forecasts inflation in Venezuela to rise 475% this year. For example, Venezuela’s most popular dish is the arepa. It’s made with cornmeal. The government’s price for cornmeal was 190 bolivars — or about 16 cents — for a two-pound bag. In supermarkets, today though, cornmeal made in Venezuela is now selling for 975 bolivars, and imported cornmeal goes for 1,850 bolivars. The black-market price for that bag of cornmeal is as much as 3,500 bolivars — or $3.

Haiti

A manhunt is underway after 174 inmates escaped from a prison in Haiti following a riot during which one guard was killed, authorities said. A dozen have been captured as of Sunday morning. The prison break occurred at a facility in Arcahaie on Saturday. The uprising was led by “heavily armed individuals,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office. Teams from SWAT and the defense forces are searching for the inmates. Nearby residents have been urged to be cautious and cooperate with police. Teams from SWAT and the defense forces are searching for the inmates. Nearby residents have been urged to be cautious and cooperate with police. Arcahaie is about 30 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Environment

Many residents of Atchison, Kansas, are being evacuated following a chemical leak that sent a plume of toxic gas into the sky above the city. Officials with the Atchison County Emergency Management Agency told weather.com that the spill occurred at MPG Ingredients, Inc. earlier today. They believe the plume is comprised of chlorine. A lack of wind in the area Friday meant the plume would remain over the city until the winds pick up and disperse it.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake in western Japan knocked loose roof tiles, toppled store shelves and caused power outages Friday afternoon, but apparently caused no widespread damage. Seven people were injured, one seriously. At least two houses collapsed. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the 6.6-magnitude quake occurred in Tottori, a prefecture on the Sea of Japan about 430 miles west of Tokyo. The epicenter was at a relatively shallow depth of 7 miles. The earthquake caused temporary blackouts at about 32,000 homes.

Weather

Tyhoon Haima slammed into southern China on Friday after hammering the northern Philippines with ferocious wind and rain, triggering flooding, landslides and power outages and killing at least 13 people. Haima, known locally as “Lawin,” made landfall shortly after noon in the city of Shanwei in Guangdong province, packing winds of up to 166 kilometers (103 miles) per hour before weakening to a tropical storm. China had suspended dozens of flights and rail services in several southern provinces. In the city of Shenzhen, authorities ordered schools, markets and factories to close, halted public transportation and evacuated some areas. Hong Kong hunkered down as Haima lashed the financial hub with rain and wind gusts of up to 109 kph (68 mph). Schools and offices were shut, trading on the stock market suspended and commuter ferry services halted. In the Philippines, Haima’s blinding winds and rain on Thursday had rekindled fears of the catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which left 7,300 dead, but large casualties appeared to have been averted after more than 100,000 people fled to safer ground. Several villages were cut off by fallen trees, landslides and floods, impeding communications and aid. The provincial government of Cagayan said it is possible that 100 percent of houses in Tuguegarao City were either partially or completely damaged by Super Typhoon Haima.

Snow fell over some of the higher elevations of the Northeast this weekend, shifting the area away from a week of record warmth. Several locations saw about a half foot of snow in the Adirondacks of New York. Snow also accumulated in parts of Vermont and New Hampshire. Bolton, Vermont, saw 9 inches of snow.

Signs of the Times (10/19/16)

October 19, 2016

40 Days for Life – 286 Babies Saved from Abortion

The total number of babies saved by the 40 Days for Life campaign continued to rise into the hundreds during the second week of its current campaign. Steve Karlen, the North American campaign director, confirmed for LifeSiteNews that the number had risen to 244 by Friday. And on Sunday, 40 Days for Life reported on its website that the total had grown to 286 as of Tuesday morning. The pro-life outreach has 367 locations in each of the 50 U.S. states and in 23 other countries worldwide. More than 12,000 lives have been saved across the world since the first coordinated vigil was held in 2007. The current vigil continues through November 6. 40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. The visible, public centerpiece of 40 Days for Life is a focused, 40-day, non-stop, round-the-clock prayer vigil outside a single Planned Parenthood center or other abortion facility. A community outreach program is also conducted through carefully targeted news stories, talk shows, editorials and opinion pieces in the community.

Scientists Create Offspring By Creating Eggs In Lab From Scratch

For the first time, scientists have created viable mammalian eggs from scratch in the lab – and used them to produce healthy offspring, reports Technocracy News. Experts say the breakthrough could one day offer new hope to women who have lost their fertility – as a result of cancer treatment, f or example. However, it is likely to be many years before the technique – so far performed in mice – is reliable and safe enough for humans. In the experiments, the Japanese team used stem cells both obtained from embryos and generated from mature cells taken from the tips of mouse tails. The latter were used to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells which have the properties of embryonic stem cells, including the ability to transform into a multitude of different tissues. Both kinds of stem cell were exposed to specific cocktails of chemicals and biological signals to coax them to develop into eggs. A number of the eggs were eventually fertilized using a standard IVF technique and the resulting embryos produced healthy, fertile offspring. The success rate was low – just 11 out of 316 two-cell embryos ended up delivering live births. This is the first report of anyone being able to develop fully mature and fertilizable eggs in a laboratory.

  • Not quite “from scratch” since existing stem cells were employed. Scary nonetheless.

Planned Parenthood Celebrates its 100th Birthday and its 7 Million Abortions

On Sunday, Planned Parenthood celebrated what National Right to Life dubs the “saddest birthday ever.” The nation’s largest abortion provider turned 100 on October 16. As it commemorated its birthday, pro-lifers memorialized the seven million babies’ lives Planned Parenthood has taken – just since 1970. And the number rises daily. In its 100th year, Planned Parenthood has already added another quarter million babies to its death toll. Thus, celebrating 100 years of its own life means celebrating over seven million deaths and counting, reports liveactionnews.org. Hillary Clinton congratulated Planned Parenthood and reiterated her promise to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who will support Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that has resulted in 59 million abortions on unborn babies over the last four and a half decades.

More Than 1 Million to Lose Obamacare Plans

A growing number of people in Obamacare are finding out their health insurance plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise, NewsMax reported Sunday. At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they have now, according to state officials contacted by Bloomberg. That’s largely caused by Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and some state or regional insurers quitting the law’s markets for individual coverage. Sign-ups for Obamacare coverage begin next month. Interviews with regulators and insurance customers suggest that plans will be fewer and more expensive, and may not include the same doctors and hospitals.

Judge Orders IRS to Clean Up their Tea Party Mess

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to finally clean up the tea party targeting mess, giving the tax agency less than a month to decide on a handful of applications that are still pending more than three years after officials first admitted they were targeting the conservative groups and subjecting them to intrusive scrutiny. The IRS also must file a brief detailing the steps it has taken to prevent further targeting and to make sure the tea party groups don’t face any more fallout from the stigma of having been singled out in the first place, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said in an order issued last Friday. Judge Walton also said that four other groups that had withdrawn their applications amid the unconstitutional targeting can resubmit and the IRS must decide on those, too, by Nov. 11.

Attack on Somalis in Kansas Thwarted, Feds Say

Three men face domestic terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to bomb an apartment complex occupied by Somali immigrants in southwest Kansas, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday. The men had talked about filling four vehicles with explosives and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, to create a large explosion. About 120 Somali immigrants live in the complex, CNN affiliate KWCH reported, and acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said one of the apartment units served as a mosque. The trio, members of a militia group that called itself The Crusaders, wanted to “wake people up,” the DOJ said. They were stockpiling weapons and planned to release a manifesto after the explosion.

200 Nations Endorse Climate Deal

Representatives from nearly 200 member countries of the Montreal Protocol agreed on a deal to reduce emissions of powerful greenhouse gases at a summit Saturday in Kigali, Rwanda. The landmark deal will reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the world’s fastest-growing greenhouse gases, the UN Environment Program said in a statement. HFCs are considered potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning instead of other ozone-depleting substances. “The amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer endorsed in Kigali today is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius, a target agreed at the Paris climate conference last year,” the UN agency said. According to the agency, the agreed reduction in HFCs could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming by the end of this century.

Police Chief Group Issues Apology to Minorities

The head of a major international law enforcement organization on Monday apologized for “the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.” International Association of Chiefs of Police President, Terrence M. Cunningham, struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging the deep-seated, generational mistrust between minorities and the police. Cunningham, speaking at a meeting of the group in San Diego, said law enforcement’s history is “replete with examples of bravery, self-sacrifice and service to the community.” But Cunningham said at the same, “the history of policing has had darker periods.” “There have been times when law enforcement officers because of the laws enacted by federal, state and local governments have been the face of oppression to far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as “ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans,” Cunningham said.

Will the U.S. Elections be Hacked?

The Obama administration is accusing Russia of hacking US political organizations. States are reporting attempts — in one case successful — to breach voter registration databases. The public is understandably concerned about the integrity of next month’s election. But election officials and cyber experts say it’s virtually impossible for Moscow or some other outside group to influence the election outcome. Hackers could create mischief — some say “chaos” — but the election system is resilient enough to withstand shocks, so the ‘experts’ say.

  • Hackers have proven that they can gain access to almost every cyber system, including those of the White House and the NSA which have more protection than the widespread polling places.

Economic News

The U.S. dollar recently hit its highest point since early March, rallying on the rising hopes that the Federal Reserve will finally raise interest rates in December. It’s up 3% against a basket of currencies since late September, surpassing the level seen after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Wall Street investors now place a 64% chance of a Fed rate hike in December, which is among the highest odds seen all year. A rate increase in the U.S. would be the first in a year and a reflection of a healthy economy. That would be good news for the dollar, which tends to rise on signs of American economic strength.

The price of crude oil has increased to over $50 per barrel, its highest level in more than a year after a report showed a surprising drop in U.S. stockpiles. A government report showed U.S. stockpiles of crude oil unexpectedly fell by 5.2 million barrels last week. Investors were expecting a rise of 2.1 million barrels. Investors bullish on oil are hoping the unexpected drop is signal that the global oil glut is easing. Oil prices have crashed over the past two years as the world’s biggest producers have sought to defend their market share and refused to cut production. Low prices have hurt oil-producing nations, forcing them to slash spending. The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel finally agreed to slash production in September.

Israel

Israel has suspended ties with UNESCO, the UN body in charge of preserving culture an”d history, after a draft decision that Israel says ignores Judaism’s ties to the religion’s holiest site. The draft decision notes the importance of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — but makes no mention of why the city is significant to Christians or Jews. A subsidiary body of UNESCO’s Executive Board passed the resolution Thursday in Paris. It refers to Jerusalem’s holiest site — known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary — only by its Muslim name. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the move as absurd, saying: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”

Islamic State

Iraq’s military says it has inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul, as Iraqi-led forces close in on the city in the long-awaited battle to recapture it from the terror group. Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the offensive, Iraq’s military said it had inflicted losses and made advances in the Hamdaniya district. The battle for Mosul — the largest city under ISIS control and the terror group’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq — represents “a decisive moment in the campaign” to defeat ISIS, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. Having already lost key cities — such as Tikrit and Ramadi — Mosul is the militant group’s last bastion of power in the country. Freeing Mosul would be the beginning of the end of ISIS in Iraq.

As ISIS awaits one major assault in Mosul, Iraq, the self-declared caliphate has lost its control of a symbolic stronghold in north Syria. The Free Syrian Army, a Turkish-backed faction, on Sunday took back the town of Dabiq from ISIS, Turkish state media and a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization, said it received reports that groups of ISIS fighters had withdrawn from Dabiq overnight. Now the Free Syrian Army operation will seek to clear the town of mines, booby-traps and IEDs.

Turkey

A would-be suicide bomber, suspected of being a member of ISIS, was shot and killed by anti-terror forces during a shootout in the Turkish capital of Ankara, state-run Anadolu agency reported. The suspect was shot after ignoring demands to surrender. “Scores of explosives” were found in the suspect’s home in the Ankara neighborhood of Etimesgut, Anadolu reported. Authorities had warned of potential terror attacks in the capital Monday, with the warning coming as coalition forces mount a major offensive against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, authorities arrested 20 ISIS suspects in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Wednesday. The suspects were rounded up in coordinated raids in four locations across the province.

Afghanistan

Two Americans were killed and another three were injured in a rare attack on foreign troops in the Afghan capital Wednesday, U.S. and Afghan officials said. A gunman fired on international advisers at an ammunition depot near Camp Morehead, a training site for Afghan commandos, about six miles south of Kabul. The attack, which took place near the entrance of the base, killed one U.S. service member and injured another. One U.S. civilian was also killed, and two more were wounded in the assault, a statement from the NATO-led coalition said. The gunman, which the Afghan Defense Ministry said was wearing an Afghan army uniform, was killed after international troops responded with gunfire. The Americans were at the depot as part of the NATO training mission for Afghan security forces.

Iran

ran said on Wednesday it would accept no US “interference” after Washington demanded the release of a dual national and his 80-year-old father given 10 year sentences for espionage. The State Department demanded the immediate release of Siamak and Baqher Namazi, both Iranian-American dual nationals, after their sentences were announced on Tuesday. But foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told Iranian media: “The government and the Iranian people give no importance to the statements and interference of American officials and their efforts to divide the ranks of the Iranian people. The American threats only add to the wall of mistrust Iranians have regarding the United States. Both were jailed for 10 years for “espionage and collaboration with the American government”, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi announced on Tuesday. Three other Iranian-American dual nationals — Farhad Abd-Saleh, Kamran Ghaderi and Alireza Omidvar — were also sentenced to 10 years on the same charges, along with a US resident from Lebanon, Nezar Zaka.

Somalia

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, reports the New York Times. Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993. American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. America’s role in Somalia has expanded as the Shabab have become bolder and more cunning. The group has attacked police headquarters, bombed seaside restaurants, killed Somali generals and stormed heavily fortified bases used by African Union troops. In January, Shabab fighters killed more than 100 Kenyan troops and drove off with their trucks and weapons. The group carried out the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall, which killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 175 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more. About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes. The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations. Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities. The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations, reports the New York Times.

Environment

A filthy brown sea, a slurry of mud, debris, chemicals and waste, has overtaken miles of rural counties in North Carolina. Hundreds of hog and poultry farms may have been inundated last week as the Neuse, Lumber and Tar rivers roared over their banks, a rampage powered by the deluge of Hurricane Matthew. The carcasses of several thousand drowned hogs and several million drowned chickens and turkeys were left behind. An incalculable amount of animal waste was carried toward the ocean. Along the way, it could be contaminating the groundwater for the many people who rely on wells in this part of the state, as well as threatening the delicate ecosystems of tidal estuaries and bays. The extent of the damage will not be known until the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality conducts tests in the coming weeks.

Wildfires

A fire sparked Monday morning in southern Colorado quickly grew out of control, forcing some residents to flee as homes reportedly burned. The so-called Junkins fire has claimed nearly 16,000 acres in Custer and Pueblo counties, according to an incident report. The fire grew rapidly due to windy conditions; just north of Custer County, in the town of Florence, winds gusted above 40 mph Monday morning. The wildfire in southern Colorado has destroyed five homes, and hundreds of people remain under evacuation orders, authorities said Tuesday. The fire has scorched more than 25 square miles,

A wildfire was burning out of control in western Nevada near Lake Tahoe and destroyed 22 homes, authorities said Saturday. No injuries have been reported. The Little Valley Fire has scorched at least 2,000 acres and was zero percent contained Friday, according to local officials. It also has destroyed more than a dozen outbuildings. Five-hundred structures remain threatened. Firefighters struggled with wind gusts that hit up to 87 mph.

Weather

A rare occurrence shook the West Coast Friday, when two confirmed tornadoes tore through Tillamook County, Oregon. One of the twisters lashed the town of Manzanita, Oregon, in the morning, leaving substantial damage in its wake. A second tornado was spotted in Oceanside. The storm damaged several buildings in town and took down trees, power lines around the city. Prior to Friday, there had been only 4 tornadoes on record since 1950 in Tillamook County. The last occurred on Sep. 18, 1997. Trees and power lines snapped Saturday as another powerful storm bearing the remnants of a Pacific typhoon hit the Northwest with a second punch. Tens of thousands of people were without power in Oregon and Washington on Saturday as the storm made landfall after gathering intensity off the coast. The National Weather Service said winds gusted above 50 mph in the Portland area.

Hurricane Nicole made a direct hit on Bermuda Thursday as the strongest hurricane to affect the Atlantic archipelago in 13 years. The storm pummeled the island, snapping trees, flooding homes and peeling off some roofs. “There has been significant flooding in areas around the island and some severe road damages,” said National Security Minister Jeff Baron. Nicole is expected to maintain its strengthen into Sunday before weakening once again. It will likely become a “post-tropical” cyclone by midweek. However, this system poses no direct threat to any additional land areas. Large swells generated from Nicole’s winds will continue to reach parts of the U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada over the next few days. These swells will create dangerous surf conditions and rip currents.

Typhoon Sarika slammed into the northeastern Philippines early local time Sunday, leaving at least three dead and some 15,000 displaced. The storm isolated villages with flooding, downed trees and knocked out power. The typhoon forced more than 15,700 villagers to flee their homes in five northern provinces and take refuge in 132 emergency shelters. The typhoon left more than 246,000 without power and telephone service in Catanduanes, the Philstar reports. More than 400 people had to be evacuated and sea and air travel was suspended as a safety precaution. The Philippines is now bracing for another onslaught from Super Typhoon Haima, which is expected to hit the country’s northern island of Luzon on Wednesday night local time with winds over 160 mph.

Flooding in Vietnam triggered by heavy rains over the weekend killed 24 people and left four others missing, disaster officials said Monday. Nearly 3 feet of rain fell in some areas on Friday and Saturday, submerging 125,000 homes in the region. The flooding temporarily disrupted the North-South Highway and damaged buildings, crops and fish farms. About 150,000 people have been displaced by the flooding.

Signs of the Times (10/14/16)

October 14, 2016

U.S. Strikes Yemen after Missiles Launched at U.S. Vessel

An American destroyer struck three sites in Yemen on Thursday, hours after missiles targeted a U.S. warship in the Red Sea for the second time in four days, defense officials said. The Pentagon said its destroyer USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the coastal radar sites controlled by the Houthi group in “self-defense.” The USS Mason was targeted late Wednesday by missiles from territory controlled by the Houthis — a minority Shia group that has taken control of swathes of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. The same warship was targeted Sunday, when two missiles were launched within 60 minutes of each other, but in both incidents they missed the ship and landed in the water. The guided-missile destroyer was not damaged in either incident, officials said. The U.S. warship was conducting routine operations in international waters off the Yemen coast when it was targeted Wednesday, the Pentagon said. The strikes are the first instance of the U.S. firing at Houthi targets since the Yemen civil war erupted in March last year. Initial assessments indicate that all three targets were destroyed. The strikes were in remote areas with little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage. Iran deployed two warships off Yemen threatening to further escalate tensions after the U.S. fired Tomahawk cruise missiles destroying three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News on Thursday.

U.S. Relations with Russia Deteriorating Rapidly

U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated sharply amid a barrage of accusations and disagreements, raising the stakes on issues ranging from the countries’ competing military operations in Syria, disputes over Eastern European independence and escalating cyber breaches. According to Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, it’s not a new Cold War. It’s not even a deep chill. It’s an outright conflict. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Oct. 8 that the situation between the U.S. and Russia today is more dangerous than it was during the Cold War. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US was considering a “range” of “proportional” responses to alleged Russian hacking of US political groups. Washington publicly accused the Kremlin of cyberattacks on election systems and the U.S. government. That came after talks on a Syria ceasefire broke down as US officials suggested Russia be investigated for war crimes in the besieged city of Aleppo. Meanwhile, Moscow abruptly abandoned a nuclear security pact, citing U.S. aggression, and moved nuclear-capable Iskandar missiles to the edge of NATO territory in Europe. Its officials have openly raised the possible use of nuclear weapons.

  • Russia’s alliance with Iran is also troubling as they fulfill the prophecies in Ezekiel 38-39 of Russia (Rosh in the NKJV) and Persia (Iran, which is not Arabic)

New Child Bride Every 7 Seconds Worldwide

The statistics are startling: Around the world, every seven seconds, a girl under 15 is married. Girls as young as 10 are being married off. Becoming a child bride is one factor that greatly affects the future of women and girls around the world, according to a report by Save the Children released Tuesday. “Child marriage starts a cycle of disadvantage that denies girls the most basic rights to learn, develop and be children,” said Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The worst countries in which to be a girl are Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger, which all ranked at the bottom of the Girls’ Opportunity Index. India has the highest number of child marriages of any country, partly owing to the large size of its population. Countries at the top include Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. The United States comes in 32nd.

Youth Concussions on the Rise in U.S.

Concussions have been on the rise for American youth since 2010, according to the Health of America Report recently released by Blue Cross Blue Shield. There was a 71% increase in rough-sports-related concussions reported by Blue Cross Blue Shield medical claims data since 2010 for patients ages 10 to 19. Fall, when football, rugby and soccer are traditionally played, is the peak time for these injuries, the report noted, and boys were twice as likely to be concussed than girls. Overall, patients ages 10 to 19 are five times more likely to be diagnosed with a concussion than all other age groups combined. Researchers want to increase awareness to prevent cases of potential paralysis, long-term memory loss and many other short-term and long-lasting side effects, even death.

College Students Nationwide Flood Mental-Health Centers

Nationwide, 17% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems during the past year, and 13.9% were diagnosed with or treated for depression, according to a spring 2016 survey of 95,761 students by the American College Health Association. That is up from 11.6% for anxiety and 10.7% for depression in the spring 2011 survey, reports the Wall Street Journal. Counseling centers say they are also seeing more serious illnesses, including an uptick in the number of students coming to college with long psychiatric histories. It is unclear why the rates of mental-health problems seem to be increasing among college students. Therapists point to everything from the economy and rising cost of tuition to the impact of social media and a so-called helicopter-parenting style that doesn’t allow adolescents to experience failure. Students are “overwhelmed with stress,” says Micky M. Sharma, director of Ohio State’s Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service.

Nobody Wants to Host the Olympic Games Anymore

Cities used to covet the Olympic Games. Hosting them meant glamour and prestige. Not anymore. Rome became the latest city to abandon a bid for the 2024 Summer Games when it withdrew on Tuesday because of worries over the cost. Budget concerns have led city after city to drop their Olympic dreams in recent years. Hamburg, Germany, previously bailed on 2024. Stockholm and Krakow, Poland, pulled the plug on bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which were later awarded to Beijing. An Olympic host city has to plan, pay for and construct massive infrastructure projects. Security costs can run into the billions of dollars. Thousands of hotel rooms must be built to house athletes and tourists. Most of it happens on the taxpayer dime — with little discernible economic benefit. Elected leaders have argued that ticket sales, construction jobs and increased tourism outweigh the costs. But economists say the real return on hosting the Olympics is not so rosy. Montreal, host city of the 1976 Summer Games, provides perhaps the best example of the long-term cost. Mismanagement and gross cost overruns left the city with $1.5 billion of debt that wasn’t paid off until 2006.

Economic News

Bankruptcy filings by U.S. businesses soared 38 percent in September from a year earlier, reports Newsmax Finance. Last month’s bankruptcies reached 3,072 to bring the year-to-date total to 28,789 and marked the eleventh straight month of increases from 2015, according to data from the American Bankruptcy Institute. The restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard with bankruptcies following the filings of Garden Fresh Corp., Cosi Inc., Logan’s Roadhouse. “The Fed’s policy of easy credit has encouraged businesses to borrow – those that could. But by now, this six-year debt binge has created an ominous debt overhang that is suffocating these businesses,” says Wolf Richter, editor of the Wolf Street blog.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the total amount of debt around the globe has now hit a staggering 152 trillion dollars.  That is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable, and the IMF says that it is equivalent to 225 percent of global Gross Domestic Product.  It is the biggest debt bubble in the history of the planet, and it is rising at an extremely alarming pace.  Many economists all over the world agree that when this debt bubble finally bursts, it is going to create an economic crisis on a scale that humanity has never seen before. The International Monetary Fund has urged governments to take action to tackle a record $152tn debt mountain before it triggers a fresh global financial and economic crisis.

A new survey has found that 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  GoBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 Americans only to uncover that 62% of them had less than $1,000 in savings. Last month GoBankingRates again posed the question to Americans of how much they had in their savings account, only this time it asked 7,052 people. The result? Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) had less than $1,000 in their savings account. A staggering 34% of Americans don’t have any savings at all, while another 35% have less than $1,000. Of the remaining survey-takers, 11% have between $1,000 and $4,999, 4% have between $5,000 and $9,999, and 15% have more than $10,000. One of the primary reasons for this is that most of us are absolutely drowning in debt.  In fact, the total amount of household debt in the United States now exceeds 12 trillion dollars, more than $96,000 per household.

America’s dairy farmers have dumped 43 million gallons of milk in fields and elsewhere over the first eight months of the year as the US deals with a massive milk glut. The reason for the spilled milk is that the glut has cut the price of milk 22 percent since spring, to $16.39 per hundred pounds on Wednesday. At that price, some farmers can’t afford to truck the milk to market, according to the Wall Street Journal. The glut is the result of a price spike in 2014, which persuaded farmers to bring more dairy cows on line. Milk cows have increased by 40,000 this year, and each one is producing 1.4 percent more milk than a year ago, according to the US Dept. of Agriculture. Prices have declined 33 percent since 2014.

The difference between the government reported unemployment rate last month of 5% and Donald Trump’s stated 9.7% is that the higher rate includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs. It also counts unemployed people who looked for a job in the past four weeks, as well as unemployed people who have looked for a job in the past year. This is the government’s U6 rate. The 5% is the U3 rate that includes only unemployed people who were actively looking for a job in the past four weeks. The U6 rate peaked at 17% in 2010. The problem is that it has mostly been flat this year. This is a weak spot in the economy with 5.9 million Americans working part-time jobs but wanting full-time positions. Prior to the start of the recession in 2007, that figure was closer to 4.2 million workers, CNN Money reports.

Israel

The 58-member Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted on Thursday to approve a resolution tabled by the Palestinian Authority declaring the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City has no historic ties to Judaism. The vote passed with 24 nations voting yes and 6 voting no, while a nearly unprecedented 26 countries abstained from voting, leaving diplomatic analysts saying the vote was actually a hollow victory for the Palestinians. U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle harshly criticized a UNESCO resolution. Senator Ted Cruz complained that UNESCO had “doubled down on its reflexive anti-Israel bias by voting for yet another resolution that deliberately distorts history and denies the specific connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem going back thousands of years. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), also condemned the passage of the resolution. “I am outraged by the actions of the UNESCO Executive Board today in passing a resolution that is blatantly anti-Semitic and obviously revisionist as it seeks to eliminate all Jewish ties to the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount,” said Nadler.

Islamic State

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and ground fighting have depleted the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria in a big way, reportedly by 16 percent over just 9 months, a new study has found. ISIS now controls only 25,000 square miles of land in the region, an area roughly the size of West Virginia, IHS Conflict Monitor reports. It marks a sharp reversal from the terror network’s massive land grab in 2014 and is down drastically from the reported 35,000 square miles controlled at the start of 2015. Analysts said one of the biggest blows against ISIS came when Turkey, a stalwart ally of the U.S., entered Syria at the end of August, capturing the strategically important border town of Jarablus. The news comes ahead of a planned assault on Mosul, the terror group’s biggest stronghold in Iraq. Local counterterrorism units, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni and Shia militias will take part in the assault along with coalition air support, The Telegraph reports.

Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq last week shot down a small drone the size of a model airplane. They believed it was like the dozens of drones the terrorist organization had been flying for reconnaissance in the area, and they transported it back to their outpost to examine it. But as they were taking it apart, it blew up, killing two Kurdish fighters in what is believed to be one of the first times the Islamic State has successfully used a drone with explosives to kill troops on the battlefield. In the last month, the Islamic State has tried to use small drones to launch attacks at least two other times, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device.

Iraq

ISIS militants set many oil wells on fire in Iraq hoping to obscure the view of Iraqi and coalition warplanes, but it didn’t stop Iraqi forces from driving them out of town in late August. Instead, residents are choking on the heavy toxic smoke. “It’s like poison,” one man said. “You feel sick all the time, it gets in your nose, your lungs, on your skin, everywhere.” Technicians from the provincial oil company were able to put six of the fires out, but there are still nine to go. The engineers estimate 5,000 barrels of oil are burning every day. Earlier this week ISIS militants sabotaged another well. Thirty-year oil industry veteran engineer Hussain Salim has the formidable task of putting out the fires, and told CNN that it can take up to a month to put out each of the fires.

Syria

Overnight shelling and more than a dozen airstrikes on rebel-held parts of Aleppo killed at least 11 people Thursday, bringing the death toll in the last three days to at least 65, according to an opposition activist group and Aleppo’s volunteer civil defense forces. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 20 airstrikes on eastern Aleppo, adding that clashes were taking place between government forces and insurgents on the city’s northern edge. The Halab Today TV channel reported “intense” airstrikes on rebel-held parts of Syria’s largest city, saying that cluster bombs were being dropped. The Observatory said Wednesday that at least 358 civilians have been killed in eastern Aleppo since a U.S. and Russian-brokered truce collapsed on Sept. 19.

Nigeria

Boko Haram militants handed over 21 Chibok schoolgirls to Nigerian authorities Thursday after a series of negotiations, Nigeria’s government said, in the first mass release of any of the more than 200 girls and women kidnapped from their school two years ago. The 21 former captives were freed at about 3 a.m. in the northeastern Nigerian town of Banki, near the border with Cameroon. They are said to have been among the 276 girls that Boko Haram militants herded from bed in the middle of the night at a school in Chibok in April 2014 — a kidnapping that spurred global outrage. As many as 57 girls escaped almost immediately, and one was found this spring. Just under 200 remain unaccounted for after Thursday’s release. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government brokered the deal between the Islamist militant group and the Nigerian government. Terms of Thursday’s deal were not immediately announced, but no captive Boko Haram fighters were released in exchange for the girls, CNN reported.

More than 3 million people displaced and isolated by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned, reports the Washington Post.. Institutional failures have exacerbated the situation: For over a year, the United Nations and humanitarian groups dramatically underestimated the size of the disaster, and the Nigerian government refused to acknowledge the huge number of people going hungry in Africa’s second-richest nation. Thousands of people have already died because of the inaction, aid experts say. The crisis has been largely hidden from view, partly because it has been extremely dangerous for aid groups to visit the area.

Egypt

Egypt’s new capital city moved a step closer to reality with the announcement that Chinese developers will largely fund the megaproject. The China Fortune Land Development Company (CFLD) agreed to provide $20 billion for the currently unnamed city, after a meeting between heads of the firm and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. This follows a previous commitment of $15 billion from another Chinese state-owned company, bringing the project close to its $45 billion budget requirements for phase I. Plans for the new capital were first announced in March 2015. Government officials described the development as a solution to crowding, pollution and rising house prices in Cairo. The 700 square kilometer city to be constructed in the desert to the East of Cairo would become the new seat of government, and it is presented as a far grander vision than the current capital. Proposals for the city include housing for five million people, over 1,000 mosques, smart villages, industrial zones, a 5,000-seat conference center, and the world’s largest park.

Haiti

Haiti’s leader says Hurricane Matthew’s assault has accelerated the already existing cholera epidemic and undermined the strides made in fighting the disease. Thirteen people have died from cholera since Matthew hit Haiti and comes after a devastating cholera outbreak in 2010. Cholera, which is spread through water or food contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria, can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, which leads to extreme dehydration. It can swiftly result in outbreaks, and patients who are not treated quickly can die within hours. Haiti has one of the highest rates of cholera in the world, with almost 10,000 people dead from the disease since 2010 and more than 27,000 suspected cases have been reported this year — an estimated 1 in 3 of them children, UNICEF said.

  • Haiti’s primary ‘religion’ is voodoo. A correlation?

China

China’s population is aging rapidly, a hangover of the one-child policy, which was finally overturned last year. The country is already home to more seniors — 114 million aged 65 or over — than any other developing country, according to a World Bank report. While Chinese law requires adults to support their parents, many seniors whose children have died or moved away are left without a network of care. More than 1,300 elderly people go missing in China every day — 500,000 per year, says a new report from Zhongmin Social Assistance Institute under the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Around 25% of those missing had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, while 72% suffered some sort of memory impairment, according to the report. Of those who were found after being reported missing, 25% then went missing again.

Weather

Last week, the European Union joined dozens of countries in signing onto a United Nations climate treaty, pushing it to within a month of taking legal force. Following the filing of paperwork in recent weeks by 73 countries, collectively responsible for 57 percent of annual climate emissions, a key threshold for the Paris agreement was passed Wednesday. The U.N. said the treaty will take effect Nov. 4. The agreement was finalized less than a year ago, following five years of contentious efforts to push global climate policy in an untested direction following the collapse of UN negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. The voluntary nature of the pact, however, offers few assurances that it will succeed. Future work to tighten pledges will be key to the treaty’s success, analysts say.

After tearing through the Caribbean, leaving more than 1,000 dead in Haiti, Hurricane Matthew hammered the coast of the southeastern United States, leaving behind a trail of coastal destruction, wind damage and freshwater flooding that claimed an additional 40 lives. Although Hurricane Matthew is long gone, communities from central Florida up through Virginia have been dealt problems ranging from substantial beach erosion and blackouts to uninhabitable homes and major flooding. In North Carolina, 1,500 were stranded by a levee breach and several counties were under severe flooding threats, including one town of 2,000 that remained under a mandatory evacuation early this week. Authorities made fresh appeals Wednesday for people in eastern North Carolina to leave low-lying areas as rivers swollen with rainwater caused flooding days after Hurricane Matthew passed. Evacuations were ordered for about 9,000 people in Greenville. The flooding is the result of up to 18 inches of rain that fell in eastern North Carolina from Matthew.

Signs of the Times (10/9/26)

October 9, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Brings Record River Flooding & Power Outages

Record-breaking flooding has occurred in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew dumped extreme amounts of rain on eastern parts of the state. Though the rain has ended, and it should remain dry for many days ahead, rivers will still be rising in some locations. That could lead to additional record flooding at some gauges. This flooding is the result of 6 to 16 inches of rain that fell in eastern North Carolina from Matthew. The top total was 15.65 inches at William O Huske Lock 3, followed by 14.82 inches in Fayetteville. Matthew left behind seven dead with 562 successful swift water rescues.

Rainfall from Matthew, as well moderate tidal flooding, has caused severe flooding in parts of Virginia. Several communities in southeast portions of the state were hit by street flooding Saturday after nearly a foot of rain fell as Hurricane Matthew began to pull away from the eastern seaboard. Heavy rain and strong winds affected the Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas Saturday night. Street closures are being reported in the communities of Virginia Beach, Franklin, Hampton and Isle of Wight, where the James River Bridge Southbound has been closed due to high water and downed power lines and trees have caused roadways throughout the county to become dangerous.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, state energy provider South Carolina Energy & Gas reported that more than 825,000 were without power as of Saturday evening, Gov. Nikki Haley said in a Saturday evening press conference, but as of Sunday morning the number dropped to 191,000. The largest outages are in the Low Country areas. Hurricane Matthew began its strike on South Carolina early Saturday morning, leaving a major highway closed and more than 100 roads impassable in Charleston. Both directions of Interstate 95 were rendered impassible in South Carolina due to floodwaters and other obstructions. More than 370,000 in Georgia were without power Saturday with at least 3 dead.

Hurricane Matthew, in its destructive march along the Florida coast on Friday, caused widespread flooding, damage and power outages across the state. At least five people have died. Florida Power & Light’s latest report says it has restored power to 747,325 of the more than 1 million customers that lost power at the height of the storm. The electric company brought in 15,000 crews from all over the country to aid in the storm impacts, with workers coming from as far away as Massachusetts and Texas. Storm surge in St. Augustine engulfed city streets and pushed through residential areas. Jacksonville Beach residents were not allowed to return to the area Saturday. After surveying damages Friday night, Mayor Charlie Latham said it was not as bad as expected and began lifting the evacuation orders for some zones Sunday morning.

White House Puts Thousands of Deportation Cases on Hold

The Obama administration has delayed deportation proceedings against more than 56,000 Central American immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally since 2014, The New York Times reported Thursday. Federal officials told the Times that some deportation cases have been pushed as far back as 2023, creating what one retired immigration judge called “docket chaos.” Some of those whose cases have been delayed failed to report to government offices to be fitted with GPS ankle bracelets, the Times reports. Now, federal officials admit that many immigrants with delayed cases may never report for their court dates. In June 2014, the White House said it would work to process and deport illegal immigrants quicker after a surge of families and unaccompanied minors crossed the southern U.S. border over the previous months.

Immigration Agents Caught Barely Half of Illegal Border Crossers Last Year

Immigration authorities caught just over half of the people who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico last year, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security that offers one of the most detailed assessments of border security ever compiled. The report found that 54 percent of people who entered illegally between border crossings got caught in the 2015 fiscal year. That’s much lower than the 81 percent success rate that Homeland Security cited publicly using a different counting method, reports Fox News. The 98-page report was completed in May, and Homeland Security officials have declined to release it, despite urging from some members of Congress. The Associated Press obtained a copy from a government official involved in border issues who acted on condition of anonymity.

U.S. Admits Record Number of Muslim Immigrants

A recent study by Pew found that a record near-half of all refugees that entered the United States in FY2016 were Muslim, marking the highest number of Muslim refugees recorded since religious self-reporting data became available 14 years ago. According to Pew: A total of 38,901 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, making up almost half (46%) of the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the country in that period, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. That means the U.S. has admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002.” Pew added that “A slightly lower share of 2016’s refugees were Christian (44%) than Muslim, the first time that has happened since fiscal 2006, when a large number of Somali refugees entered the U.S.”

States that refuse to help resettle Syrian refugees are guilty of illegal discrimination, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, delivering a judicial rebuke to GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, who, as Indiana’s governor, had tried to stop Syrians from being shipped into his state. “Federal law does not allow a governor to deport to other states immigrants he deems dangerous,” Judge Posner wrote. Posner added that there’s no evidence that Syrians are more dangerous than other refugees, and he said even if they are, allowing Indiana to refuse to resettle them would only foist the problem onto neighboring states.

U.S. Officially Accuses Russia of Hacking Attacks

The Obama administration on Friday officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations. The denunciation, made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, came as pressure was growing from within the administration and some lawmakers to publicly name Moscow and hold it accountable for actions apparently aimed at sowing discord around the election. “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” said a joint statement from the two agencies. “. . . These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” “Today was just the first step,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee. “Russia must face serious consequences. The United States must upend Putin’s calculus with a strong diplomatic, political, ­cyber and economic response.”

N.S.A. Contractor Arrested in Theft of Classified Information

The F.B.I. secretly arrested a former National Security Agency contractor in August and, according to law enforcement officials, is investigating whether he stole and disclosed highly classified computer code developed by the agency to hack into the networks of foreign governments. The arrest raises the embarrassing prospect that for the second time in three years, a contractor for the consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton managed to steal highly damaging secret information while working for the N.S.A. In 2013, Edward J. Snowden, who was also a Booz Allen contractor, took a vast trove of documents from the agency that were later passed to journalists, exposing surveillance programs in the United States and abroad. The contractor was identified as Harold T. Martin III of Glen Burnie, Md., according to a criminal complaint filed in late August and unsealed Wednesday. According to court documents, the F.B.I. discovered thousands of pages of documents and dozens of computers or other electronic devices at his home and in his car, a large amount of it classified.

Persecution Update

An American missionary has been charged with violating Russia’s new anti-evangelism laws, and although he has appealed the charge, his appeal was rejected. According to The Christian Post, Pastor Donald Ossewaarde has been living in Oryol, a town 224 miles south of Moscow, for nearly 15 years and was recently accused of illegal missionary activity. “I was accused of gluing two Gospel tracts to a bulletin board at the entrance of an apartment building” he said, and “of conducting a religious service in a private home, which they said was a violation of the new anti-missionary law.” Russia’s new anti-evangelism laws are supposedly meant to prevent the spread of terrorism, but many Christians believe that they will allow the state greater control over religion.

Economic News

The economy added 156,000 jobs last month, a tad lower than the revised job gains for August, but significantly down from the 252,000 jobs added in July, the Labor Department said Friday. Counting September’s gains, the United States has added 15 million jobs since employment hit its low in February 2010. The unemployment rate ticked up to 5% from 4.9%. Wages grew 2.6% in September compared with a year ago. That’s not stellar, but it’s better than the growth of 2% or less seen for years during the recovery.

The International Monetary Fund says the U.S. economy is losing momentum. The IMF said the American economy will expand by only 1.6% this year, down from 2.6% in 2015. The latest forecast is 0.6 percentage points lower than what the fund predicted just three months ago. The world’s largest economy grew by just 1.4% between April and June compared to the same period last year, according to U.S. government data. The performance was well below economists’ expectations.

The U.S. economy has only grown 2% a year since it bottomed out in June 2009. That’s far below the typical growth in rosy times of over 4% a year that the U.S. has experienced since World War II. It’s even below the rather sluggish rebound during President George W. Bush’s tenure of 2.7%, making it the slowest U.S. recovery since WWII, reports CNN.

Oil returned back above the $50 level on Thursday for the first time since late June. Prices for crude oil have surged 12% since OPEC surprised the world last week in Algeria by reaching an understanding to cut output for the first time in eight years. The framework deal could still collapse and awaits formal approval at OPEC’s regular meeting in November, but it represents a reversal from the cartel’s recent strategy of flooding the world with oil.

The British pound slumped to its lowest level in 31 years on Tuesday on fears that the U.K.’s divorce from the European Union will be bad for the economy. Brexit plans have begun to emerge in the last few days: talks with the EU will begin in early 2017, the exit will happen two years later, and the U.K. will give priority to controlling immigration. European leaders have made clear that if Britain does not allow free movement of EU citizens across its borders, it will lose some of its rights to access the free trade area. British exporters may find it harder to compete in Europe, and the country’s banks could lose the ability to do business freely across the region.

Israel

A Palestinian motorist launched a shooting spree near the Israeli police headquarters in Jerusalem Sunday, killing two people and wounding five others before being shot dead, Israeli police and emergency services said. Police officers on motorcycles chased the assailant, who eventually stepped out of his vehicle and opened fire at them. A separate police force ultimately shot and killed the attacker. The suspect was identified as a 39-year-old man from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Israeli media reported the man had previously served multiple sentences for violent acts and was due to report to prison Sunday for another sentence over assaulting a police officer. Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft attacked Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in response to a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists at Israel’s civilian population earlier in the day. Palestinian sources report of two terror targets that were hit. The rocket, fired by an unknown faction, exploded in an open space, causing no casualties and some minor damage.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics published a report this week showing that the population in the 126 Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) had reached 385,900 by the end of 2015, totaling 4.5% of the overall population of the State. The vast majority of new residents of these communities were babies born to parents already living there. The report came out as the US State Department issued one of its sharpest ever rebukes of Israel over construction in West Bank settlement communities. The remarks by spokespersons from the State Department and the White House included references to the recently signed military assistance package for Israel and other elements of U.S. aid to the Jewish State, leading to statements of alarm from Israeli officials. The Obama administration on Wednesday issued unusually sharp criticism of Israel and strongly condemned its recent decision to advance a plan that would build some 100 housing units in the Shiloh area in Samaria, a compensation for Israeli families who are soon to lose their homes following a court ruling that their homes must be demolished because they were mistakenly built on privately owned Arab land.

Syria

Rival resolutions on Syria backed by the West and Russia were defeated in the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, offering no relief to the besieged city of Aleppo and leaving the key powers even more divided over a course of action in the war-ravaged country. Russia vetoed a French-drafted resolution demanding an immediate halt to the bombing campaign that the Syrian government and Russia are carrying out against rebel-held districts in Aleppo. The rival Russian draft which made no mention of a bombing halt was rejected because it failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes needed for approval by the 15-member council. The votes reflected the deep divisions in the U.N.’s most powerful body which is charged with ensuring international peace and security but has totally failed to take action to end the more than 5-year Syrian conflict which has killed over 300,000 people and displaced millions.

Russia has deployed an advanced anti-missile system to Syria for the first time, three US officials tell Fox News, the latest indication that Moscow continues to ramp up its military operations in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad. It comes after Russia’s actions led to the collapse of a cease-fire and the cut-off of direct talks with the U.S. While Moscow’s motives are not certain, officials say the new weapon system could potentially counter any American cruise missile attack in Syria. It is the first time Russia has deployed the SA-23 system outside its borders.

A barrel bomb struck a center used by Syria’s civil defense volunteers, known as the White Helmets, in the country’s capital of Damascus, the group said. The group tweeted that the center and vehicles at the scene were destroyed Wednesday, and some volunteers injured in the attack. White Helmets members describe themselves as a group of 3,000 volunteers whose goal is to save lives in Syrian communities. “We rush to the scene of attacks to save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property,” the group says on its website.

Belgium

Two police officers were stabbed in the Brussels district of Schaarbeek on Wednesday, a Federal Prosecutor’s Office spokesman said. The stabbings are being treated as a suspected terror attack. The city remains on a high terror alert at level three, one below the highest level. On March 22, suicide bombers struck at the city’s airport and a subway station, killing 32 people. Brussels has become a hotbed of terror in Europe. The alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks in November last year, which killed 130 people, was arrested in Belgium.

Germany

German police searched nationwide Sunday for a 22-year-old Syrian man believed to have been preparing a bombing attack, who slipped through their fingers as they were closing in on him, and were questioning a second Syrian man on suspicion he was involved in the plot. The man in custody was one of three apprehended in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Saturday. He was the renter of the apartment that police raided in their search for the main suspect, Jaber Albakr from the Damascus area of Syria.

Turkey

A bomb mounted on a motorcycle exploded Thursday not far from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, wounding at least 10 people, Turkish officials said. The blast occurred outside a police station in the city’s Yenibosna district, northeast of the airport. The victims were civilians, and none of the injured was in serious condition. Police were searching for one person spotted leaving the area on a motorbike. No groups immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Turkey has been rocked by a wave of terror attacks in the past year carried out by Kurdish rebels as well as Islamic State militants. Kurdish militants detonated a car bomb Sunday outside a military checkpoint in southeast Turkey, killing ten soldiers and eight civilians, the prime minister said. Turkey immediately launched a military operation against the rebels in response.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up after refusing to surrender to police during an operation in the outskirts of the capital Ankara Saturday, a senior official said. No one else was killed or hurt. Governor Erkan Topaca said police, acting on a tip, launched an operation to catch a man and a woman who were suspected of planning a suicide car bombing in Ankara. They were hiding inside a hut at a horse farm in the district of Haymana, just outside of the capital. “They blew themselves up before we could intervene,” Topaca told reporters at the scene.

Afghanistan

Nearly four dozen Afghan troops training in the U.S. have vanished in less than two years, officials confirmed Thursday. At least 44 Afghan troops have left their assigned bases since January 2015, calling into question their training programs’ screening processes. Of those 44, 25 were reported Absent Without Leave, or AWOL, in 2015, and 19 have gone AWOL this year. One of the eight Afghan students who disappeared in September of this year turned up at the Canadian border, the Pentagon reported. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the frequency of Afghan troops disappearing from military training was truly concerning, raising fears of terrorism in America.

Russia

Russia is currently conducting a drill that involves more than 40 million people and scenarios will cover biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies. The huge four-day “civil defense” drill has set alarm bells ringing in Washington and London, with tensions already high over disagreements in Syria. Following a breakdown in communication between the USA and Russia, the Kremlin has now organized the huge emergency practice drill – either as a show of force or something more sinister. The drill will prepare Russian citizens for “large natural and man-made disasters”, according to the country’s Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disaster.

Russia has backed out of a deal to convert 34 tons of weapons grade plutonium into nuclear fuel each year. In the year 2000 Russia and the United States agreed to end the arms race and each turn 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into reactor fuel every year. The agreement was re-affirmed in 2010. In a statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United states of creating “a threat to strategic stability, as a result of unfriendly actions towards Russia.”

A document released by the French Ministry of defense states that on September 22nd FOUR European countries scrambled fighter jets to head off two Russian Blackjack bombers. The bombers headed across the top of Scotland from Norway, before skirting Ireland’s west coast towards France and Spain. Norway, the UK, France and Spain all sent up fighters to intercept the jets.

Columbia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a five-decade civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people. Nobel judges conspicuously did not honor his counterpart, Rodrigo Londono, the leader of the rebels. The award came just days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected the peace deal that Santos helped bring about. “The referendum was not a vote for or against peace,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, insisting the peace process wasn’t dead. “What the ‘No’ side rejected was not the desire for peace,” rather a desire for more severe judgment against the rebels.

Volcanoes

The largest active volcano in Japan has erupted, sending a column of smoke and ash more than 11,000 meters (nearly 7 miles) into the air, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported early Saturday. It is extremely rare for an eruption column to exceed 10,000 meters, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Mount Aso, which stands 1,592 meters (a little over 5,200 feet) tall, is in Kumamoto Prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu. Images from the area showed a layer of volcanic ash coating streets, roofs and vehicles. No injuries have been reported. While the volcano is in its active phase, there is a “possibility” another eruption of the same scale could occur.

Weather

The number of people killed in Haiti by Hurricane Matthew has risen sharply, with coastal villages and towns beginning to make contact with the outside world, three days after being hit by the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. A Reuters news agency tally of deaths reported by civil protection officials at a local level on Friday showed the storm killed at least 877 people. Rural clinics overflowed with patients whose wounds including broken bones had not been treated since the storm hit on Tuesday. Food was scarce, and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mixing with sewage. “Devastation is everywhere,” said Pilus Enor, mayor of the town of Camp Perrin. “Every house has lost its roof. All the plantations have been destroyed. Haitian officials said more than 28,000 houses have been damaged so far but assessments are only in the initial stages.

Leaving Haiti in “total disaster,” Hurricane Matthew slammed into Cuba Tuesday night. At least 283 deaths have been attributed to the storm. Twenty-three of the deaths were reported in Haiti. Six other deaths were recorded in the neighboring Dominican Republic and one each in Colombia and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “It’s the worst hurricane that I’ve seen during my life,” Fidele Nicolas, a civil protection official in Nippes, told AP. “It destroyed schools, roads, other structures.” According to Haiti Libre, 14,530 people have been displaced, 2,703 families are affected and 1,885 houses are flooded. Major flooding was reported in several southern towns, including Petit Goave, where the Ladigue Bridge collapsed Tuesday, isolating southwest Haiti from the rest of the country.

Residents of Baracoa, Cuba, were digging out rubble that was left after Hurricane Matthew hit the eastern portion of the country Wednesday with heavy flooding and strong storm surge. Hit in some areas by 24-foot waves, Baracoa saw hundreds of homes were either damaged or destroyed when flooding and the storm surge overcame the city. Hundreds of people from Baracoa, Maisí and other territories to the east of Guantánamo have had their houses partially or completely destroyed. The road joining Guantanamo’s municipalities of Imías and Baracoa became flooded and impassable. Nearly 380,000 people were evacuated and strong measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure.

Signs of the Times (10/3/16)

October 3, 2016

U.S. Military to Fund Gender Reassignment Treatments

Starting the first week of October, the government will pay for gender reassignment treatments and surgeries for eligible soldiers — an estimated expense between $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year. There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender troops in the active-duty force of 1.3 million, according the RAND Corp. which conducted a study for the Pentagon. Of those troops, RAND estimates that between 30 and 140 would like hormone treatment, and 25 to 130 would seek surgery. The Defense Department policy states if a service member’s ability to serve is hindered by a “medical condition or medical treatment related to their gender identity,” they will be treated.

University of Michigan Professors Instructed to Use ‘Preferred Pronouns’

On Wednesday, the University of Michigan unveiled a new webpage that allows students to choose their preferred pronouns, including “they” and “ze.” Preferred pronouns will appear on class rosters, and if professors accidentally use the wrong pronoun, “you can acknowledge that you made a mistake and use the correct pronoun next time,” said the university’s provost and vice president for student life in a campus-wide email announcement. A university spokesman said“If there were a persistent pattern of ignoring a student’s preference, we would address that as a performance matter.

  • An insane world continues to grow crazier and crazier

Judge Roy Moore Suspended Over Refusal to Approve Same-Sex Marriages

On Friday, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) — lacking the votes to remove Chief Justice Moore from office — instead voted to suspend Justice Moore for the remainder of his term. The COJ’s order Friday morning said Moore will remain suspended from his office, without pay, for the remainder of his current six-year term, which does not end until January of 2019. Since there is no meaningful difference between suspension for the remainder of the term and removal from office, the COJ did what the rules say they cannot do, maintains Liberty Counsel, which will file an emergency appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel is calling for a new panel of judges to be convened to hear this case. “The evidence and the arguments presented Wednesday by our Liberty Counsel team showed that Chief Justice Moore should be immediately reinstated. He did nothing wrong. The Chief Justice’s accusers presented no live testimony or affidavits. The charges should be dismissed. Nonetheless, the COJ ruled to suspend the Chief Justice for the rest of his term and threw the rule of law out the window!”

First Baby with DNA of 3 Parents is Born

The “three-parent” procedure used to birth the first baby with DNA from three parents is under fire from critics for who say it is “playing God,” reports ChristianHeadlines.com. The baby boy was born last week to a Jordanian couple in Mexico. The three-parent procedure is illegal in the United States. But American Dr. John Zhang, a reproductive endocrinologist at New Hope Fertility Center in New York City, and the participants went to Mexico because “there are no rules” there, Zhang reportedly told New Scientist. The mother, Ibtisam Shaban, has Leigh syndrome, a fatal disease that affects the nervous system, in her mitochondrial DNA. She had no symptoms of Leigh syndrome, but her first two children died to the disease at six and eight months. According to Stream.org, U.S. Dr. John Zhang removed the nucleus and placed it in the shell of a donor’s egg, which contained healthy mitochondria DNA. Thus, the baby would have DNA from three parents. “We do not yet know the interaction between the mitochondria and nuclear DNA. To say that it is the same as changing a battery is facile. It’s an extremely complex thing.” Dr Trevor Stammers, Program Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St. Mary’s University, said.

Congress Passes Stopgap Government Funding Bill, $1.1B for Zika Fight

Averting an election-year crisis, Congress late Wednesday sent President Barack Obama a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus. The House cleared the measure by a 342-85 vote. The votes came after top congressional leaders broke through a stalemate over aid to help Flint, Michigan, address its water crisis. Democratic advocates for Flint are now satisfied with renewed guarantees that Flint will get funding later this year to help rid its water system of lead. The hybrid spending measure was Capitol Hill’s last major to-do item before the election and its completion allows lawmakers to jet home to campaign to save their jobs. Congress won’t return to Washington until the week after Election Day.

Ailing ObamaCare May Have to Change to Survive

The fierce struggle to enact and carry out the Affordable Care Act was supposed to put an end to 75 years of fighting for a health care system to insure all Americans. With the new enrollees sicker than expected, many insurers are pulling out or increasing premiums. The law’s troubles could make it just a way station on the road to another, more stable health care system, reports the New York Times. Seeing a lack of competition in many of the health law’s online insurance marketplaces, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and much of the Democratic Party are calling for more government intervention, not less. They and nearly one-third of the Senate have endorsed a new government-sponsored health plan, the so-called public option, to give consumers an additional choice. A significant number of Democrats, for whom Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in the primaries, favor a single-payer arrangement, which could take the form of Medicare for all. Donald J. Trump and Republicans in Congress would go in the direction of less government, reducing federal regulation and requirements so insurance would cost less and no-frills options could proliferate, notes the Times.

Commission on Civil Rights Releases Report Condemning Religious Freedom

The Obama administration’s Commission on Civil Rights has just released a report that would lay out the ground rules to actually persecute Christians in the United States. The report was entitled, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” says that the free exercise of religion is an excuse for bigots and racists to get away with discrimination. It seems that everything that someone does that is protected by the Constitution of the United States is suddenly wrong, notes the Conservative Daily Post. “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ … remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance,” said Martin Castro, the chairman of the commission. So even though the United States Constitution gives people the freedom to practice whatever religion they want, the Obama administration wants to persecute them on the grounds that they are trying to get away with discrimination.

Muslim Immigrant in Ohio Shoots Daughter in Apparent ‘Honor’ Killing

While Ohio Police are baffled at what motive Jamal Mansour had when he took a gun into his daughter’s bedroom and shot her in the head twice, but the clues are there for anyone who knows the history and teachings of Islam, reports Constitution.com. As police seem to overlook the obvious, an “honor” killing is the most likely answer. Jamal Mansour, 63, who migrated from Jordan to the US and became a naturalized citizen, took a gun into his daughter’s bedroom at around 1:15am last Tuesday morning. He then shot 27-year-old Tahani Mansour twist in her forehead. She died nearly 10 hours later at the hospital. Mansour stood just hours later before a judge and had the audacity to call the fatal shooting of his daughter “an accident.” He is facing murder, felonious assault and domestic violence charges. “Mr. Mansour might have assimilated to Western culture sufficiently to shave his beard and wear jeans but not to accept his daughter behaving like western girls,” said Attorney Daniel Akbari, author of “Honor Killing: A Professional’s Guide to Sexual Relations and Ghayra Violence from the Islamic Sources.”

Migrant Update

Hungary is recruiting thousands of so-called “border hunters” to patrol its razor-wire boundary fence, planning to equip the special unit with night-vision goggles, riot gear and dogs in an effort to keep migrants at bay, The Washington Post reported. The nation is hoping to attract 3,000 border hunters to support the 10,000 police officers and soldiers already trying to keep migrants at bay in Serbia, the BBC reported. Recruits must be 18 and pass a psychological test. They will be trained for six months before going on duty. “Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk” said Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Economic News

U.S. consumer spending in August turned in the weakest performance in five months, reflecting a drop in spending on autos. Income growth also slowed as wages and salary gains slowed following four strong months. Consumer spending was unchanged last month after solid gains of 0.4% in July and 0.3% in June, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the poorest showing since a similar flat reading in March. Personal incomes rose 0.2% last month, just half the gain in July. It was the weakest showing since a 0.1% drop in February. Wages and salaries, the biggest income category, were up just 0.1% after two months of 0.5% increases.

A surprise deal by major oil producers to cut output is unlikely to make a big difference to the low gas prices consumers have been enjoying at the pump, reports CNN Money. The OPEC deal includes Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer that had previously refused to cut back. But it won’t rein in some of the other top crude exporters. Iran, which recently emerged from sanctions, will be allowed to raise production further. Nigeria and Libya, which have had some of their oil facilities damaged by terrorist attacks, are also being given room to pump more. The deal represents a U-turn by Saudi Arabia, which had led OPEC on a production binge to force higher cost competitors out of the market. Oil supplies and inventories remain high. And the International Energy Agency warned that despite low prices, demand is slowing in countries that were previously driving the market, such as India and China.

Deutsche Bank is Germany’s biggest lender and is facing a $14 billion bill for improper selling of mortgage-backed bonds before the financial crisis of 2008. Many experts don’t feel that they would have to pay the whole fine but say that it is within the rights of the Treasury to insist the fine is paid.  If this happens, there is little doubt that would lead to the total collapse of the bank in its current form. According to Die Zeit, the German financial sector is in talks with the government to have a rescue plan in place to head off a total collapse of the bank. Germany’s second largest bank is also under stress, Commerzbank is planning to cut almost 10,000 jobs over and will stop paying dividends to shareholders.

Syria

The United States formally suspended talks with Russia about the protracted Syria conflict on Monday because of the Russian military’s role in the assault on the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo. The United States also shelved plans with Russia for the joint military targeting of jihadists in Syria, the State Department said in a statement. The American step reflected aggravated tensions with Russia on a range of issues and raised new challenges over how to de-escalate and resolve the Syria war, which has left roughly half a million people dead since 2011. Roughly 275,000 civilians are trapped in Aleppo, including an estimated 100,000 children. Hundreds of people there have been killed in the past week, international aid groups say.

Russia warned the United States about taking direct action against the Syrian regime, saying it would cause negative consequences across the Middle East, Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency reported Saturday. Meanwhile, intense fighting continued in the besieged Syrian city Aleppo on Saturday, with one of the main hospitals bombed by Russian-backed Syrian forces. Syrian government forces took control of a hospital in Aleppo Friday, a day after seizing a Palestinian refugee camp in the northern city from rebels, according to Syria’s military. The military said its forces captured the Kindi hospital and were strengthening their positions in the Handarat refugee camp. Doctors without Borders called on the Syrian government and its allies to “stop indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo.” It said two hospitals that it supported were bombed and put out of service on Sept 28.

Afghanistan

Afghan officials say the Taliban have attacked a police headquarters the in southern Helmand province, killing the local police chief. It’s the second major Taliban assault Monday in Afghanistan. The insurgents are also attacking the northern city of Kunduz since early morning. A suicide car bomber struck the police compound in Naway district, blasting through the gate and allowing gunmen in afterward. Helmand, a Taliban heartland, is the source of most of the opium produced in Afghanistan, which helps fund the insurgency.

Iraq

President Obama has authorized sending an additional 600 American troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in the looming battle to take back the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, United States officials said last week. The announcement means that there will soon be 5,000 American troops in Iraq, seven years after the Obama administration withdrew all American troops from the country. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the additional troops would help with logistics as well as providing intelligence for Iraqi security forces in the fight for Mosul. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Iraqi forces would be ready to retake the city by early October.

Iran

The Obama administration agreed to back the lifting of United Nations sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran’s ballistic-missile program on the same day in January that Tehran released four American citizens from prison, according to U.S. officials and congressional staff briefed on the deliberations. The U.N. sanctions on the two banks weren’t initially to be lifted until 2023, under a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers that went into effect on Jan. 16. The new details emerged after administration officials briefed lawmakers in September about the U.S. decision.

Sudan

Amnesty International accused the Sudanese military on Thursday of using chemical weapons against civilians, including very young children, in one of the most remote corners of the Darfur region over the past eight months. The Britain-based human rights group said it had gathered “horrific evidence” including satellite imagery, more than 200 in-depth interviews with survivors, and expert analysis of dozens of images in an investigation that suggests at least 30 chemical attacks took place in the Jebel Marra area. “The scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s director of crisis research. Darfur has been witness to bloodshed since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

Kashmir

Two Pakistani soldiers were killed after clashes with Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, Pakistan’s military said. The Indian army said it had conducted “surgical attacks” across the de-facto border between the two countries to foil a “terrorist attack,” according to India’s Director General of Military Operations. But Pakistan insisted that no incursion had taken place into the territory it controls, saying there had only been an exchange of fire. It promised a “forceful response” if there was a repeat of the operation. India said it had acted to protect its citizens — Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh told reporters on Thursday the strikes had been based on “specific credible information” that militants were planning to carry out strikes in Indian cities. On Friday, India relocated more than 10,000 people from around the disputed border area of Kashmir as tensions with Pakistan continue to escalate.

Columbia

Voters narrowly rejected a government peace deal with FARC rebels, which has thrown the country into disarray. Likened to the fallout from the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” referendum, the vote’s unexpected failure has left the Colombian political classes reeling and unsure how to respond in order to save four years of hard negotiation with the Marxist militia. In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s vote, many Colombians were angered by what they saw as insufficient punishment for those who perpetrated a litany of crimes against their people. It’s estimated 220,000 were killed in the 52-year conflict which displaced as many as 5 million people. Now the rebels and the Colombian government, facilitated by international leaders, will have to go back to the drawing board to re-imagine a peace that is acceptable to the people of Colombia.

Earthquakes

Officials are warning residents in Southern California that a large earthquake is becoming more likely in the next few days along the San Andreas Fault. The earthquake advisory is in effect for Ventura, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, Kern and Imperial counties. The advisory has been issued in response to the recent earthquake swarm of small tremors along the fault line. Still, the odds of a 4.3 magnitude or larger earthquake are small, and the most important takeaway from the advisory is that residents need to brush up on emergency plans should the Big One strike.

Wildfires

A fast-moving brush fire atop Loma Prieta in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains left one firefighter injured and destroyed at least eight homes, officials said. The Loma fire has also torched nine outbuildings. According to Cal Fire’s latest report, the fire has grown to more than 4,300 acres and is 34 percent contained. Mandatory evacuations have been canceled in Santa Cruz County, but the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said 325 structures are still threatened in Santa Clara County. Those evacuations remain in place.

Weather

Major Hurricane Matthew strengthened to a rare Category 5 late Friday evening, before weakening just a bit to a strong Category 4 hurricane overnight. Matthew is the first Category 5 hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. The storm poses a danger to Jamaica, parts of Hispañola, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas early next week. Its potential U.S. impact later next week still remains unclear. Impacts are possible in Florida during the middle of next week. As of 8 a.m. Monday, Matthew located was 220 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and 280 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Six years after a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, Haiti braces for Hurricane Matthew amid fears that the country is ill-equipped to face another deadly natural disaster. With an expected 15-25 inches of rain on the way, Haiti is looking at even more devastation exacerbated by deforestation, which increases the potential for floods and mudslides. Couple that with the state of the country’s dilapidated homes and buildings and the possibility of heavy casualties from the storm seems likely, the Associated Press reports. The latest advisory says southern Haiti and southwestern Dominican Republic can expect 15 to 25 inches with possible isolated downpours of up to 40 inches. Eastern Cuba and western Haiti could see up to a foot of rain, with isolated amounts of 20 inches, while Jamaica could see 5 to 10 inches.

A powerful typhoon is inching closer Monday to Japan’s southernmost Okinawa island chain, packing powerful winds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, which has prompted the closure of the airport and forced flight cancellations. The “most intense typhoon to hit parts of Okinawa on record” has forced the closure of Okinawa’s main Naha airport. The typhoon has also prompted the country’s two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, to cancel a combined 125 domestic flights. The island of Kumejima could potentially see “spectacular damage” as the typhoon passes over the island that is home to 8,700 people, weather.com chief meteorologist Jon Erdman said, noting that this will be the strongest typhoon on record to pass within 65 nautical miles of the island.