Signs of the Times (10/14/16)

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.

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