Signs of the Times (12/3/16)

French Government Votes to Ban Pro-Life Websites

The socialist government of France passed a bill after one day’s debate that criminalizes websites that might dissuade women from abortion, reports LifeSiteNews.com. The “digital interference” bill is aimed at cracking down on French websites that would, in the words of the bill, “deliberately mislead, intimidate and/or exert psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion.” Convicted website owners could face two years in prison and fines up to 30,000 euros ($31,799 USD). The majority left voted in a block for the bill while the minority right formed a block against it. Bruno Retailleau, who heads the Republicans party group in the Senate, told French radio Thursday that the bill “is totally against freedom of expression.” Christian Democratic Party member Jean-Frederic Poisson also blasted the bill  on Twitter for what he saw as the government’s double standard in banning sites that propose “alternatives” to abortion but not “jihadist websites.”

Criminal Charges Filed Against Priest for Praying Outside Planned Parenthood

Father James Linton was arrested last month outside the San Bernardino Planned Parenthood for offering to pray with women entering the abortion facility. Police held him for six hours and later charged him with criminal trespass. If convicted, Father Linton could be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and a $400 fine, reports LifeNews.com. When he was arrested, Father Linton, an Anglican pastor, was standing on a public easement offering incoming mothers and fathers alternatives to abortion and praying for them to change their minds. “The arrest of Father Linton is an outrageous violation of his First Amendment rights,” stated Allison Aranda, Senior Staff Counsel for the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Father Linton was doing nothing more than exercising their Constitutional right to speak freely on the public sidewalk and rights of way in their community. They are not violating the law. “In fact, the code section under which Father Linton was charged specifically exempts from criminal liability those who are engaging in activities protected by the California and United States Constitutions,” Ms. Aranda noted.

Immigration Violations Constitute the Majority of Federal Cases

For the first time, immigration violations now make up more than half of all federal prosecutions, easily outpacing drugs, fraud, organized crime, weapons charges and other crimes. In the last fiscal year, 52 percent of all federal prosecutions – 69,636 cases – involved an immigration violation, compared to 63,405 prosecutions for all other federal crimes, according to a new study by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Clearinghouse, which sued the Justice Department to obtain the information. The two most common charges pursued by prosecutors relate to illegal entry or re-entry to the U.S. The penalty for a conviction on either charge can range from a few months to typically two years in federal prison for a person who re-enters the U.S. after being deported. However, a more serious outcome from a conviction isn’t jail, but a 10-year prohibition from entering the U.S. “Imagine the other crimes that are not being prosecuted because immigration is such a priority,” study co-author Susan Long told Fox News.

2/3 Of Aliens Admitted Under Obama’s ‘Minor’ Program Are Adults

Recent government data shows that more than two-thirds of the aliens brought into the United States under the Obama’s Central American Minors (CAM) program weren’t actually minors at all, reports MRCTV.com. To date, more than 10,600 Central Americans from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have applied for refugee status or humanitarian parole under the CAM program, the State Department said Wednesday. The controversial initiative was launched in December 2014 as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigrant, and was touted as a way to bring illegal alien children from certain Central American countries into the United States to be reunited with their families, who are often here illegally themselves. The move was allegedly designed to keep underage children from relying on dangerous human smugglers to bring them across the U.S. –Mexico border illegally. Unfortunately, the program struggled to convince potential applicants that its long, extensive application process was more appealing than simply paying a smuggler to transport them across the border. To help bolster the floundering program, the administration expanded CAM in August to include adult relatives of “qualifying” children, effectively nullifying the original point of the program.

Obama Strikes ‘Classified’ Deal to Accept 2,500 Refugees Australia Rejected

Nearly 2,500 refugees from terrorism hotspots around the world are bound for the U.S. after being rejected by Australia, but not even top lawmakers can get answers about who they are, reports Fox News. In an unprecedented move, the U.S. State Department has classified details on refugees to be resettled in America via a secret deal made with Australia. The bi-lateral agreement, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a “one-off,” involves 2,465 people currently being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who will now be transferred onto U.S. soil. “This is a backroom deal, wheeling and dealing with another country’s refugee problem,” Center for Immigration Studies fellow Don Barnett told FoxNews.com. “I don’t believe for a moment it’s a one-time deal. That’s for public consumption.”

Philippines President Duterte says Trump Wished his Drug Crackdown ‘Success’

President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday Donald Trump wished his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs would succeed during a telephone call, and he assured the U.S. president-elect the Philippines would maintain its ties with America — a departure from Duterte’s hostility toward the Obama administration. Duterte called to congratulate Trump late Friday in their first talk that was described by an aide of the Philippine president as “very engaging, animated conversation” in which both leaders invited each other to visit his country. In a video released by Duterte’s close aide, Bong Go, the Philippine leader is seen smiling while talking to Trump and saying: “We will maintain … and enhance the bilateral ties between our two countries.” The other parts of the conversation were not aired in the video but in a statement released by his aides, Duterte said “he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.” Duterte’s crackdown has encouraged violence against drug dealers which much of the international community has condemned.

China Lodges Complaint over Trump-Taiwan Call

China’s foreign ministry said Saturday it has lodged a complaint with the United States over a controversial phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan’s President that has overturned decades of diplomatic protocol. China views Taiwan as a renegade province and, since 1979, the US has acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, with US-China relations governed by a set of protocols known as the ‘one China’ policy. This means there are no formal diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan — so Trump’s decision to take Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s call could risk a major upset. Trump’s transition team said Friday that the President-elect had chatted with Tsai, who passed along her congratulations. The chat marks the first publicly reported call between a US President or President-elect and the leader of Taiwan since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979. Trump on Friday night emphasized that Taipei initiated the call. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” tweeted the President-elect.

  • Trump promised to shake things up and he is doing so. Whether it turns out well remains to be seen.

Wisconsin Recount Underway, Much Ado About Nothing

The first results in Thursday evening from the recount in Wisconsin were from Menominee County. Trump lost two votes compared to the initial count and Democrat Hillary Clinton lost one, according to The Journal Times. Stein gained 17 votes and Libertarian Gary Johnson picked up 12 — a discrepancy the state Elections Commission reported was due to “human error” in which their vote totals from certain wards were omitted from the initial tally. They have until December 13th to finish the recount of nearly 3 million votes, so they’re likely to find more discrepancies like this. But Trump won the state by 22,000 votes, so a few missed votes here and there aren’t likely to change anything.

Trump Vows to Cut All Business Ties

Donald Trump promised Wednesday to ‘remove’ himself from his businesses and said he will announce details in two weeks about how he’ll avoid conflicts of interest when he is president. Trump used his favorite method of communicating with the public — Twitter — to announce plans for a “major news conference” on Dec. 15 to discuss plans to leave the Trump Organization. His adult children, whom he has said he will put in charge of the company, will be a part of the news conference. Trump owns or has a position in more than 500 companies, according to a CNN analysis. That includes about 150 that have done business in at least 25 foreign countries, including Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There have been growing questions about the potential conflicts of interest posed by Trump’s continued business interests and his role as president.

Trump’s Health Secretary Would Replace Obamacare

Tax credits to buy insurance on the individual market. Incentives to sock money away in Health Savings Accounts. Limits on employer-sponsored plans. High-risk pools to cover the sick. These are some of the ways Tom Price, Donald Trump’s choice as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, would replace Obamacare. An orthopedic surgeon who chairs the House Budget Committee, Price has long been an opponent of Obamacare. The Georgia Republican says the health reform law has hiked premiums and limited access to doctors.

Trump Treasury Secretary Promises Huge Tax Overhaul

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for Treasury secretary says tax reform will be his top priority and promises the largest tax overhaul since the Reagan administration. Steven Mnuchin, a former Wall Street insider who ran an eclectic series of businesses before becoming a Hollywood producer, confirmed that he was Trump’s pick for the Treasury job, which has vast responsibility for regulating the financial industry and oversees the IRS. Mnuchin told CNBC he expects interest rates to stay relatively low for the next two years. He also said Janet Yellen has done a “good job” as Federal Reserve chair.

‘King of Debt’ Hires ‘King of Bankruptcy’ as Commerce Secretary

The self-proclaimed King of Debt has chosen someone that Wall Street has dubbed the King of Bankruptcy to be his Commerce Secretary. Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who is known for buying up distressed and failing companies, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for the job, reports CNN Money. That news, combined with the nomination of former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood executive Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, shows that Trump wants businessmen — and not career politicians — in key financial posts.

Trump Nominate Retired Marine Gen. Mattis as Secretary of Defense

President-elect Donald Trump kicked off his post-election “Thank You” tour Thursday by announcing that he would nominate retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense. At a rally in Cincinnati, Trump described Mattis as “one of our great, great generals” and added, “They say he’s the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have,” Trump told the crowd. Mattis’ record in combat and his credentials as a senior commander are widely admired. The 66-year-old Mattis, known by his nickname, “Mad Dog,” retired from the military in 2013 after serving as the commander of the U.S. Central Command. General Mattis’ tour of duty was cut short by the Obama administration, which believed he was too hawkish on Iran. His appointment to run the Pentagon would require a waiver from Congress, since federal law requires military personnel to be retired for seven years before taking a civilian position in the in the Department of Defense.

Persecution Update

November was a tragically painful month for Christians living in Nigeria. The month was filled with anti-Christian violence, but not necessarily from the fearsome terrorists at Boko Haram, reports Liberty Alliance. Two separate November attacks saw about 50 Christian men, women (including pregnant women), and children slaughtered not by organized Muslim terrorists but by Muslim herdsmen. Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two Christian villages in what Christian leaders call a campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing. The herdsmen also burned down both Protestant and Catholic churches in the region.

Economic News – Domestic

The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, and the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.6% from 4.9% in October, defying forecasts of an economic downturn if Trump got elected. November was the 74th consecutive month America added jobs. However, the total size of the labor force — which includes both employed and unemployed people — decreased. “Our best answer here is that more people stopped looking for work,” says Steve Chiavarone, portfolio manager at Federated Investors. “The headline numbers here are okay but the underlying numbers are less rosy.”

Air conditioning company Carrier said Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with President-elect Donald Trump that would keep 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis. Carrier had announced in February that it would lay off workers and move those jobs to Mexico. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Indiana’s outgoing governor, traveled to the state Thursday to unveil the agreement alongside company officials. “Companies are not going to leave the U.S. anymore without consequences,” Trump said Thursday at the Indiana plant where the company makes furnaces. Trump said that those consequences would include paying higher tariffs on imports.

More manufacturing jobs are coming soon to America, courtesy of China. In October, Chinese garment manufacturer Tianyuan Garments Co. sealed a deal to acquire a defunct 100,000-square foot metal fabrications plant in Little Rock, Arkansas. The $20 million investment would make Tianyuan — which produces clothes for brands like Adidas, Reebok and Armani — the first Chinese manufacturer to make clothing in the U.S. The Chinese firm expects to hire 400 American workers to run the refurbished factory, slated to open in late 2017. Tianyuan Garment is the second Chinese company in a span of six months to announce it was expanding production to the U.S. In April, Chinese paper products maker Sun Paper Industry said it was opening its first North America factory in South Arkansas, investing more than $1 billion to construct a new bio-products mill that would create 250 local jobs.

Economic News – International

After a painful two-year price war against U.S. shale, the Saudi Arabia-led cartel finally blinked this week by agreeing to stop flooding the world with excess supply. OPEC’s first production cut since 2008 reflects a recognition that hopes of drowning U.S. producers with cheap oil has failed to kill the American oil boom. In fact, the price collapse crushed the budgets of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC producers, creating financial stress that was unthinkable just years ago. Moreover, U.S. frackers have emerged from the oil crash stronger and leaner than before. Now they’re positioned to ramp up output at prices that were once too low to survive on. As a result, the price of crude oil spiked 14% in just the past three days, ending Friday at a 17-month high of $51.68 a barrel.

India’s gross domestic product grew by 7.3% in the quarter ended September, a slight increase from the previous quarter and much stronger than China’s 6.7%. That means India is still the fastest growing major economy in the world. The boom could come to an abrupt halt, however, because a bombshell announcement on Nov. 8 scrapping the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes has drained billions of dollars’ worth of cash from the economy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise move was aimed at tackling corruption and tax evasion. But it rendered about 86% of Indian banknotes effectively worthless overnight. Millions continue to line up at banks and ATMs, which are rapidly running out of cash as the government scrambles to print and circulate new 500 rupee and 2,000 rupee notes.

Known for the punishing hours demanded by its ‘salaryman’ culture, Japan has struggled to tackle the impact of overwork on employees’ health. A recent government study found that one in five workers are at risk of working themselves to death. It’s such a big problem that Japan even has its own word for it: karoshi (death by overwork). Calls for tougher measures to deal with the issue intensified recently following the death of a 24-year-old employee at Dentsu, a major advertising agency. Matsuri Takahashi jumped to her death from a company dormitory in late December 2015. Last month, Tokyo officials recognized her suicide as the result of karoshi, which is defined as employees working so hard that they die from stress-related disease — or become so depressed that they kill themselves.

Children as young as eight are working at plantations that supply palm oil to some of the world’s biggest brands, according to a new report by Amnesty International. Amnesty’s investigation into plantations in Indonesia also found workers performing dangerous tasks without adequate protection. Others were paid less than the legal minimum wage or exposed to dangerous chemicals. Amnesty said some plantation workers were earning as little as $2.50 a day. The group also uncovered examples of people working unlawfully long hours without a pension, health insurance or job security.

Syria

Rebel groups in Syria’s war-ravaged Aleppo put up a united front on Thursday in a final effort to prevent regime forces from seizing the whole city. Rebels in eastern Aleppo have held ground in the Sheikh Saeed neighborhood as they continue to clash with regime troops, in an attempt to protect the southern parts of the enclave south after Syrian forces made sweeping territorial gains in the north. Syrian troops backed by militia gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad entered eastern Aleppo on Saturday and have seized the entire northeast. They are now in control of more than 20% of eastern Aleppo. At least 40 people were killed in shelling on Thursday as they were trying to flee rebel-held areas, the Aleppo Media Center said. The death toll has reached more than 600 since Saturday, according to various activist groups.

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just announced that the only reason Turkish military forces have entered northern Syria is to “end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad”.  By publicly proclaiming that Turkey intends to use military force to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdogan has essentially declared war on the Syrian government.  This puts a member of NATO in direct military conflict with Russia, since Russia is working very hard to prop up the Assad regime. If all-out war broke out between Turkey and Russia, could that be the spark that causes wide-scale war to erupt in the Middle East? If so, would NATO and the U.S. be drawn into the conflict, igniting World War III?

  • Russia (Rosh, NKJV) has already aligned itself with Iran (Persia) as Ezekiel 38-39 prophesies, perhaps setting the stage for the Middle East conflagration that would usher in the anti-Christ who engineers the “covenant with many” as prophesied in Daniel 9:27

Iran

The Senate moved decisively Thursday to renew a decades-old sanctions law that lawmakers said gives the United States the clout to punish Iran should it fail to live up to the terms of the landmark nuclear deal. Senators passed the bill unanimously, 99-0, two weeks after the House also approved the legislation by an overwhelming margin of 419-1. The bill to grant a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act will be sent to President Barack Obama, who planned to sign it. The White House deemed the bill unnecessary but said it didn’t violate the international accord meant to slow Iran’s ability to make nuclear arms. Seeking to address Iran’s concerns, White House officials emphasized that the administration can and will waive all the nuclear-related sanctions included in the renewal.

Indonesia

Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians took to the streets Friday to protest Jakarta’s embattled Christian governor. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, has faced demonstrations calling for his ouster amid allegations of blaspheming the Quran. An ethnic Chinese Christian, Ahok is currently under investigation by Indonesian police over a speech he gave in which hardline Islamists claim he insulted the Quran. Ahok quoted a verse from the Muslim holy book and said that people had been “lied to” by those saying they would go to hell for voting for him. Police estimate around 200,000 people converged on Jakarta’s main square Friday for noon prayers. Islamist groups, NGOs, students and ordinary citizens came from Jakarta and other cities and towns outside the capital. Supporters of Ahok gathered Friday outside his headquarters to pray for him, according to a statement from the campaign team.

Wildfires

Wildfires in the Tennessee resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have killed at least 12 people and scorched more than 15,000 acres. Several people remain missing. On Wednesday, local authorities asked residents to conserve water as much as possible as firefighting activities and the loss of water from burned structures has placed a significant burden on water resources in Gatlinburg. On Wednesday, local authorities asked residents to conserve water as much as possible as firefighting activities and the loss of water from burned structures has placed a significant burden on water resources in Gatlinburg.

Weather

Severe thunderstorms spawned tornadoes from Louisiana to the Carolinas over a two-day period wrapping up November 2016. So far, 23 tornadoes have been confirmed. This is the most number of tornadoes in any U.S. outbreak since August 24, when two dozen tornadoes were confirmed in Indiana and Ohio. Five people were killed as the storms ripped through the South early Wednesday. Three people were killed in Alabama, all in a mobile home. Another person in the home was critically injured. In addition to the reported fatalities, four children were critically injured after a 24-hour daycare center was flattened. Two others were killed in Tennessee.

Fall 2016 was the warmest on record for dozens of U.S. cities from southern New England to the Great Lakes, Southeast, central and southern Plains and Desert Southwest. At least 73 locations tied or broke their previous warmest September through November period in 2016. Among the cities setting records, Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis and even Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, crushed their previous fall records from 1931 – a Dust Bowl year. Fall 2016 was “runner-up” warm in the fall record books of another 87 cities, from Caribou, Maine, to Minot, North Dakota, to Salem, Oregon, to Houston. Salt Lake City set a record warm fall for the second year in a row. Despite colder weather in November, America’s northernmost town, Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), about 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, also had their record warmest fall. One of America’s southernmost cities, Brownsville, Texas, also easily soared past their previous record warmest fall from 2004.

  • The Bible prophesies scorching heat, large hail and floods for the end-times (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

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