Signs of the Times (11/5/16)

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is Nov. 6

This Sunday, November 6, marks the 20th International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). Christians around the world are facing increasing persecution for sharing their faith, handing out Bibles, and meeting together to worship. From Christians who have been arrested and banned from meeting together in China to Christians in the Middle East who have suffered under ISIS’ control to Christians in Pakistan who suffer under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, Christians around the world are in great need of prayer. “According to statistics, persecution is the daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director of the World Evangelical Alliance and the Religious Liberty Commission, according to BibleGateway.com. “These Christians, who face routine harassment and difficulties, often suffer in silence and isolation. Over the years, the IDOP has served as a platform to highlight their stories and advocate their plight. Moreover, in so doing, the IDOP has also been a source of solidarity and encouragement to persecuted Christians by reminding them that they are part of a larger, global family of believers.”

Federal Judge Rebukes President Obama Over Lack of Christian Refugees

A federal judge called out the Obama administration over the lack of Christian refugees being allowed into the United States from war-torn Syria. “It is well‐documented that refugees to the United States are not representative of that war‐torn area of the world. Perhaps 10 percent of the population of Syria is Christian, and yet less than one‐half of 1 percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States this year are Christian,” Judge Daniel Manion wrote. In 2016 alone, some 11,000 Syrian refugees have entered the United States, only 56 were Christians, according to data produced by the Refugee Processing Center. So far, between 500,000 and 1 million Christians have fled the violence or were murdered. Manion took aim at Obama’s policy in a 7th U.S. Court of Appeals opinion on a lawsuit filed by the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. The group advocates for immigrants and those fleeing violence from their home countries.

FBI Warns of Possible Pre-Election Day Terror Attacks

Al-Qaeda may be planning pre-Election Day attacks on Monday in New York, Texas and Virginia, says the FBI. U.S. intelligence officials have alerted joint terrorism task forces of the threat, whose credibility was still being assessed, sources told The New York Post. Specific sites that may be targeted in the three states were not mentioned in the threat. “The counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States,” a senior FBI official told CBS News. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he had learned of the threat several days ago during classified briefings. “We are still very much assessing the credibility. It is not at all clear how credible this is,” Blasio said.

Voters Disgusted with U.S. Politics

An overwhelming majority of voters are disgusted by the state of American politics, and many harbor doubts that either major-party nominee can unite the country after a historically ugly presidential campaign, according to the final pre-election New York Times/CBS News Poll. With more than eight in 10 voters saying the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited, the rising toxicity threatens the ultimate victor. Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, are seen as dishonest and viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters. More than a quarter of Trump’s supporters say they will probably not accept the outcome if Mrs. Clinton is declared the winner, and nearly 40 percent of them say they have little or no confidence that Americans’ votes will be counted properly.

Intelligence Agencies Expect Russia to Continue Meddling in U.S. Politics

U.S. intelligence agencies do not see Russia as capable of using cyberespionage to alter the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election, but they have warned that Moscow may continue meddling after the voting has ended to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the result, U.S. officials said. The assessment reflects widespread concern among U.S. spy agencies that a months-long campaign by Russia to rattle the mechanisms of American democracy will probably continue after polls close on one of the most polarizing races in recent history, extending and amplifying the political turbulence, reports the Washington Post. In recent weeks, officials at the Department of Homeland Security have collected evidence of apparent Russian “scanning” of state-run databases and computer voting systems. The decentralized nature of U.S. polling would make it extraordinarily difficult to subvert a nationwide race. Instead, U.S. officials said it is more likely that Russia would use hacking tools to expose or fabricate signs of vote-rigging, aiming to delegitimize the election outcome.

Voter issues

A federal judge in North Carolina granted a preliminary injunction to the NAACP on Friday, holding that residents whose voter registrations were canceled in recent months because of a so-called “individual challenge law” must have their registration restored. The ruling could affect thousands of voters. “The court concludes that the balance of the equities and public interest factors weigh decidedly in favor of protecting eligible voters who are being removed from the voter rolls,” wrote Loretta Biggs of the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Kim Westbrook Strach, the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, issued a statement Friday afternoon saying her office “is working quickly to establish the procedures necessary to comply with the court order between now and Election Day.” Civil Rights groups praised the ruling that comes in a key swing state just four days before Election Day. Strach says that the challenges at issue were not initiated by the counties, but by private individuals.

Jerry Mosna was gardening outside his San Pedro, Calif., home Saturday when he noticed something odd: Two stacks of 2016 ballots on his mailbox. The 83 ballots, each unused, were addressed to different people, all supposedly living in his elderly neighbor’s two-bedroom apartment. “I think this is spooky,” Mosna said. “All the different names, none we recognize, all at one address.” His wife, Madalena Mosna, noted their 89-year-old neighbor lives by herself, and, “Eighty people can’t fit in that apartment.” They took the ballots to the Los Angeles Police Department, but were directed to the post office. They felt little comfort there would be an investigation, and called another neighbor, John Cracchiolo – who contacted the Los Angeles County Registrar’s office. A spokeswoman for the Registrar said the office will investigate. Both Cracchiolo and Jerry Mosna told FoxNews.com they think they stumbled upon a case of fraud.

Pre-Election Gun Sales on the Rise

The FBI’s background check system for gun sales processed more than 2.3 million checks in October, setting an all-time record. There were 2,333,539 gun-related checks processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, last month, according to FBI documents posted on Monday. That represents an increase of more than 350,000 checks over the previous October, itself a record. It’s also the 18th month in a row to set a record for the month.

  • Next week’s election has clearly made many people nervous.

Suicide Rate Doubles for U.S. Children

Since 2007, the rate of suicide deaths among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled, according to new government data released Thursday. The death rate data, published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, measured children’s deaths between the years 1999 and 2014. The child suicide rate fluctuated from 1999 to 2007, but rose sharply after 2007. The lowest rate of suicide fatalities was 0.9 deaths per 100,000 kids in 2007, but that number doubled to 2.1, or 425 deaths, in 2014. Dr. Lisa Boesky, a private clinical psychologist and author who studies adolescent suicide, says younger kids will often take their own lives impulsively. Young kids may attempt to harm themselves for different reasons than teens. Most of the time, bad relationships between family and friends provoke kids to hurt themselves, Boesky says. The younger children are much more likely to suffer from (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), Boesky says.

America’s Undocumented Immigrant Workforce has Stopped Growing

In the years that followed the Great Recession, the number of undocumented workers joining America’s workforce came to a standstill. According to a report released Thursday from Pew Research Center, an estimated 8 million undocumented immigrants were either working or looking for work in the U.S. in 2014, down from the 8.1 million that were in the U.S. workforce in 2009. Overall, this group made up about 5% of the U.S. workforce in 2014, Pew reported. The declining growth rate in the number of undocumented workers is a sharp contrast to the decade prior to the recession. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. workforce more than doubled from 3.6 million to 7.3 million, Pew reported. Mexico’s stablizing economy has helped stem the flow of undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S.

Economic News – Domestic

Wall Street is on edge ahead of next week’s election. The S&P 500 dropped for the ninth straight day on Friday. That’s the longest losing streak for the index since December 1980. Over the nine-day period, the S&P 500 has fallen by 3.1%. Compared with that, the S&P 500 fell a lot more in December 1980 — 9.4% — over the course of nine days. The slow downward momentum is due to election uncertainty, analysts say.

The economy added 161,000 jobs in October, a solid gain, suggesting it is maintaining its healthy and steady pace. Jobs added during the previous month were also revised up from 156,000 to 191,000 by the Labor Department. Unemployment fell a tick to 4.9%. That’s down by half since 2009, when unemployment peaked at 10%. Wage growth — one of the last metrics to move in the right direction post-recession — continued to show signs of accelerating. Wages grew 2.8% in October compared to a year ago, the fastest growth since June 2009.

A more-realistic unemployment rate is probably closer to 10 percent and a wide swatch of the American public remains out of work, reports NewsMax. Millions of Americans are working part time but would prefer full-time work. The alternative gauge of joblessness, the U-6 rate, that counts not only the officially unemployed but also the part-timers who’d prefer full-time work and people who have stopped looking for jobs, fell to 9.5 percent. That’s the lowest point since 2008. Still, it is higher than is typical in a healthy economy. Meanwhile, CNS News reports that “94,609,000 Americans aren’t in the labor force, 425,000 more than last month’s 94,184,000, and the second highest number on record.”

America has gained 10.9 million new jobs since President Obama took office. But as CNNMoney points out, the total job gains under Obama are far fewer than under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. The question is, how good are those jobs? Overall, manufacturing jobs have declined 122,000 since February 2009. But some blue-collar jobs are growing, such as construction. Almost all of the job gains under President Obama have been in so-called service jobs, including the low-end jobs of toiling in stores and restaurants, concludes CNNMoney.

America’s greenback recently hit its highest point since early March, rallying on the rising hopes that the Federal Reserve will finally raise interest rates in December. Last week, the Fed hinted that it plans to raise rates “relatively soon,” a comment that added to the dollar’s rally. It’s up 3% against a basket of currencies since late September, surpassing the level seen after the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. A rate increase in the U.S. would be the first in a year and a reflection of a healthy economy.

Crude oil got crushed this week due to new signs the oil glut isn’t going away just yet. Oil prices have dropped from over $50 per barrel of crude to under $44 after a government report revealed that stockpiles of crude unexpectedly skyrocketed. The Energy Information Administration said crude inventories surged by 14.4 million barrels last week. It’s the biggest increase on records that go back to 1982. Analysts had anticipated an increase of just 1 million barrels.

The FBI’s background check system for gun sales processed more than 2.3 million checks in October, setting an all-time record. There were 2,333,539 gun-related checks processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, last month, according to FBI documents posted on Monday. That represents an increase of more than 350,000 checks over the previous October, itself a record. It’s also the 18th month in a row to set a record for the month.

  • Next week’s election has clearly made many people nervous.

Economic News – International

A senior British court on Thursday dealt a severe blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to begin the process of exiting the European Union early next year, ruling she must get Parliament’s approval before she acts. The decision greatly complicates May’s stated plan to trigger Article 50 — the never-before-used mechanism for a country to leave the European Union — by the end of March at the latest. Most members of Parliament opposed Brexit in the lead-up to Britain’s June referendum, when voters opted for an exit by a 52-to-48 margin. But it risks setting off an angry backlash from voters who favor leaving the E.U. and believe the issue was completely settled.

Migrant Update

French authorities Wednesday finished moving the last of the 1,616 unaccompanied minors housed at the country’s “Jungle” migrant camp, as British officials prepared to assess them for settlement in the UK. The children had been living in shelters made from converted shipping containers at the camp in the port town of Calais as the tents and shacks around them, which once housed thousands of other migrants, were demolished over the past week. Last week, France evacuated at least 6,000 migrants and bussed them to other regions to begin the process of resettlement.

During the first six months of 2016, migrants in Germany committed 142,500 crimes, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office. Germany has been hit by a spate of horrendous violent crime including rapes, sexual and physical assaults, stabbings, home invasions, robberies, burglaries and drug trafficking. Adding to the country’s woes is the fact that thousands of people have gone missing, reports Technocracy News. Germany took in more than 1.1million migrants in the past year and parts of the country are crippled with a lack of infrastructure. According to Freddi Lohse of the German Police Union in Hamburg, many migrant offenders view the leniency of the German justice system as a green light to continue delinquent behavior, says the report.

Islamic State

Iraqi forces entered ISIS-held Mosul on Thursday for the first time in more than two years, and are in a head-to-head battle with ISIS militants on the front line, defense officials said. Penetrating the eastern border has been the most significant breakthrough in the offensive launched two weeks ago to free Mosul from the militant group’s brutal rule. Officials warned that entering the city would likely trigger the fiercest fighting yet, and that the battle is expected to be fought “street to street,” or even “house to house.” The Defense Ministry says there is now a safe passage for civilians to flee the front line and hundreds of civilians have poured out of Mosul. Many of them waved white flags to show they were civilians.

As the attention of Western media focuses on the besieged rebel-held eastern enclave of Aleppo, Christians in the government controlled areas are fighting a daily struggle to survive. In the Christian quarter, there are 3,221 Christians over the age of 80 who have no one to turn to, as their families have left the country to escape the war. “The poor and the poorest are those who remain,” reports Barnabas Aid. “One [US] dollar used to be 50 Syrian pounds but now it is 500 – 600. Food and medicine are available, but very expensive. The cost of a kilogram of milk used to be 260 Syrian pounds before the war, but now it is 2,600.

Turkey

A car bomb attack in the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region killed eight people Friday, hours after authorities detained at least 12 pro-Kurdish legislators for questioning in terror-related probes. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said two police officers, a technician and five civilians died in the attack near a building used by the riot police. Up to 100 people were hurt in the blast but only seven of them remain in hospital, he said. The Diyarbakir governor’s office said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out with a minibus laden with a ton of explosives. The blast caused a large crater near the police building and damaged several buildings and businesses nearby.

Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed Thursday during a joint raid by U.S. special operations forces and Afghan troops targeting senior Taliban commanders — rare combat deaths for Western forces who handed over the task of securing Afghanistan to local troops some two years ago. Four U.S. service members suffered injuries. More than 30 Afghan civilians were killed in the fighting as well, according to local reports. The American service members “came under fire” alongside Afghan troops while attempting to “clear a Taliban position” in Kunduz province, military officials said. At least five Americans have been killed in action in Afghanistan since early October.

Jordan

Three U.S. service-members were killed in a shootout Friday at the gates of an air base in southern Jordan, the military said, a U.S. official told Fox News. The shots were fired as a car carrying the trainers tried to enter the al-Jafr base near the southern Jordanian town of Mann, said the military. A Jordanian officer was also wounded. Jordan is grappling with homegrown extremism, with hundreds of Jordanians fighting alongside ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, with several thousand more supporting the extremist group from within the Jordanian kingdom. Last November, a Jordanian police captain opened fire in an international police training facility, killing two Americans and three others.

Nigeria

Women and girls who survived Boko Haram violence were raped by government officials at camps in northern Nigeria where they sought safety, according to a new rights group report. Dozens of victims who stayed at camps for the displaced in Borno State’s capital Maiduguri told Human Rights Watch they were sexually abused or coerced into sex by camp leaders, vigilante group members, policemen and soldiers. Many of the women were abandoned after becoming pregnant. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW.

Earthquakes

The 6.6-magnitude earthquake that rocked the Umbria region of Italy on Sunday was the strongest earthquake to strike the country in 30 years and caused serious damage to houses and other structures as far away as Rome. In addition, there was a huge displacement of the ground across an area of 50 square miles, from several inches to up to more than two feet. The greatest displacement occurred around the mountain village of Castelluccio, where the ground heaved over 28 inches. The result of the massive shift caused devastating destruction to the city’s structures. The quake, which was very shallow, destroyed the entire village of Arquata del Tronto, including the historic Basilica of Saint Benedict in Norcia.

Weather

Warm weather was persistent and smashed many records in October. It was the hottest October on record in such locations as Huntsville, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Perhaps the most eye-popping October warmth, however, was in Alaska. America’s northernmost town, Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, about 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, had a monthly temperature departure of 12.9 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Overall, there were 5,824 record highs in cities and towns across the U.S. while only 501 low-temperature records were set.

Parts of the Deep South haven’t seen measurable rain since September, setting new all-time dry-streak records and quickly worsening the Southeast’s drought this fall. No measurable rain (at least .01 inches) has been tallied in Alabama at Birmingham’s Shuttlesworth International Airport since Sept. 18, over a month and a half’s time, a record-long dry streak for the city dating back to 1930. They’re not alone. Anniston, Alabama, Meridian, Mississippi, and Rome, Georgia, each have 39-day dry streaks through Friday. Surprising dry streaks of over a month-long have also occurred along the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, each at 38 straight days through Nov. 4. As a result, numerous wildfires are burning from Alabama northward into Tennessee and Kentucky.

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is drying up and shrinkingThe lake’s decline has been caused by a combination of factors, both natural and man-made. The Beehive State continues to be impacted by a long-term drought that has persisted for five years. But the problems have been growing for more than 150 years, when humans began removing more water from the lake and its watershed than was being replenished. Some 40 percent of the river water that should flow into and refill the lake is being diverted by farming and other industries, as well as for human consumption.

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