Signs of the Times (12/7/16)

U.S. Facing Biggest Islamic Terror Threat Since 9/11

The United States faces its highest threat from Islamist terrorists since 9/11 and much of that stems from those radicalized at home, says the House Homeland Security Committee’s December Terror Threat Snapshot released Tuesday. What’s more, the report said, the threat to the United States and Europe will persist in 2017. Throughout 2016, ISIS conducted 62 attacks worldwide, injuring 732 people and killing 215 in several countries, including the United States, France, and Belgium. According to the report, ISIS’ shift in messaging from joining the jihad in Syria and Iraq to carrying out attacks in fighters’ home countries is likely to accelerate the trend of at-home radicalization. At the same time, terrorists are also relying on refugee programs, porous borders, and well-known migration routes to gain access to various countries throughout the West. “Make no mistake: we face a deadlier threat than ever before not only because our enemies have gotten savvier, but because we took the pressure off them,” House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement on the report. “For eight years, the Obama Administration reluctantly played global whack-a-mole with terrorists rather than leaning into the fight with decisive leadership.”

Fewer Hotels Allowing Bibles in Rooms

A recent survey from STR, a hospitality analytics company, found that the percentage of hotels that offer religious books in rooms has fallen over the past 10 years. In 2006, 95 percent of hotels carried such books, and this year, it’s estimated that only 48 percent of hotels carried religious materials. An accurate count is difficult because most major hotel franchises allow individual hotel owners to make their own decisions about whether to stock the Bibles or Book of Mormon. There has been increased pressure from non-religious groups to stop carrying the religious material. Last year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes separation of church and state, asked 15 major hotel companies to keep Bibles out of hotel rooms. “We are trying to educate the hotel industry that a quarter [25%] of our population is not religious,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the group.

  • In a democracy, should 25% of the population rule? In the U.S. (which actually is a representational republic) it seems like those who complain the loudest get their way. Lately, it’s the LGBT community.

‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill Passed in Ohio

Ohio lawmakers have passed a controversial “Heartbeat Bill” that would ban abortions in that state from the moment the heartbeat of a fetus can be detected — which usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill, which would prohibit such abortions even in cases of rape or incest, now depends on Republican Gov. John Kasich. He has 10 days to decide whether to veto the legislation. A veto would stop the bill unless three-fifths of the state House and Senate vote for an override. If Kasich signs the bill, or if he does nothing within 10 days, the measure would become law early next year and Ohio would have one of the toughest restrictions on abortions in the country. Should the bill become law, a court battle likely would ensue. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio already has said it would press a legal challenge.

Abortion Rate in NYC is 60 Percent of Birth Rate

New York City’s abortion rate is the highest abortion rate in the country, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report shows that in 2013, New York City reported 69,840 abortions and 116,777 registered births, which means that the city’s abortion rate is 60 percent of its birth rate. This Abortion Surveillance Report, while analyzing 2013 data, follows a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office, which said that in 2014, more black babies were aborted in New York City than were born in the city. “New York City also had 1752 late term abortions (21 weeks or later gestation) in 2013, more than the states of New Jersey and Georgia combined,” said Dr. James Studnicki, chair of health services research at the University of North Carolina

House Panel Finds Planned Parenthood Guilty

The House Select Panel on Infant Lives has released a list of nine criminal and regulatory referrals against abortion providers and fetal tissue procurement companies. According to LifeNews.com, the release of the list comes after an investigation into the alleged practice of selling aborted baby parts at a profit. The Select Panel started its investigation in October 2015 after undercover videos surfaced from the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood officials working to get the best price for aborted baby organs and tissue to be sold to an organ procurement business. David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress said, “The Select Panel findings confirm the criminal activity at Planned Parenthood that CMP’s videos documented and show that the wrongdoing goes even deeper than anyone first suspected,” he said. “The Panel has also criminally referred Planned Parenthood’s closest business partners in the sale of aborted baby parts to various state and local law enforcement. Law enforcement and elected representatives at all levels must now act quickly to bring Planned Parenthood to justice under the law and prevent any more taxpayer subsidies from flowing to Planned Parenthood’s barbaric criminal enterprise.”

Bill Gates: Humanity ‘Badly Needs One World Government’

Billionaire Bill Gates called for “a kind of global government” this week, arguing that the creation of a one world government would be needed to combat major issues such as “climate change.” Speaking with Germany’s “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper, the Microsoft founder said that the United Nations doesnt have enough power and must be granted full governmental control “for the good of humanity.” Gates went on to stress his position further, stating that a global government was “badly needed” in order to combat an array of issues ailing the planet. The billionaire made headlines recently after introducing a plan to implement a cashless system in multiple third-world countries – already being rolled out in India – despite criticism that the program would undoubtedly give financial elites total control over monetary systems, reports Infowars.

  • The one-world government prophesied in Revelation 13 is slowly taking shape, backed by the financial elites who think they know how to run the world better. However, Scripture says it is Satan who is manipulating things from behind the curtain.

Pentagon Buried Study Exposing $125 Billion in Waste

Senior defense officials suppressed a study documenting $125 billion worth of administrative waste at the Pentagon out of fears that Congress would use its findings to cut the defense budget, the Washington Post reported late Monday. The report, which was issued in January 2015 by the advisory Defense Business Board (DBB), called for a series of reforms that would have saved the department $125 billion over the next five years. Among its other findings, the report showed that the Defense Department was paying just over 1 million contractors, civilian employees and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs. That number nearly matches the amount of active duty troops — 1.3 million, the lowest since 1940. The Post reported that some Pentagon leaders feared the study’s findings would undermine their claims that years of budget sequestration had left the military short of money. In response, they imposed security restrictions on information used in the study and even pulled a summary report from a Pentagon website. “They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” former DBB chairman Robert Stein told the Post. “We proposed a way to save a ton of money.”

Tech Giants Collaborate to Fight Terrorist Content

Four of the world’s biggest tech companies are collaborating to crack down on terrorist content on their platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google’s YouTube say they will set up a shared database to help them track and remove “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos.” The database will contain the digital “fingerprints” of the images and videos, allowing the tech firms to identify potential terrorist content more efficiently, the companies said in a statement Monday. The internet giants have been battling the spread across the internet of content linked to terrorist organizations. Supporters of the Islamic militant group ISIS have proved particularly adept at using social media for propaganda and recruitment. The tech firms have the challenge of balancing freedom of expression with preventing illegal activity and respecting users’ privacy. They also face the potentially contentious task of determining what constitutes terrorist content.

Texas Elector Won’t Cast his Vote for Donald Trump

A Texas elector said Monday that he will not cast his vote for President-elect Donald Trump as part of the Electoral College process on December 19. Christopher Suprun, a paramedic from Texas who served as a firefighter during the Sept. 11 attacks, wrote in an editorial published in The New York Times that even though he is a Republican elector, he will not vote for Trump as required. Suprun ended the editorial by saying that the electors still have a chance to unify behind a Republican alternative such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Along with Suprun, 36 other electors planning to vote for Trump would have to abandon their vote for him — which is almost beyond the realm of possibility, notes CNNPolitics.

Trump Taps Ben Carson for HUD Secretary

Dr. Ben Carson will be nominated as the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Trump transition team announced Monday. “I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,” President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement. “Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities.” During their primary fight, Trump had derided Carson as “super low energy” and delivered a number of sharp attacks on Twitter, questioning Carson’s temperament and qualifications for office. Carson endorsed Trump shortly after he dropped out of the contest, becoming only the second former Republican candidate to do so after Gov. Chris Christie. When Carson — a famed neurosurgeon — became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins at age 33, he became the youngest person to head a major division in the hospital’s history.

Trump’s Emerging Cabinet Looking More Conventional Than Expected

Just two weeks ago, President-elect Donald Trump appeared poised to assemble a Cabinet as unconventional as he is, drawing heavily from a band of quirky loyalists that included several from the fringes of the Republican Party. But as he moves rapidly toward assembling his roster of top advisers, Trump instead is pulling together a more orthodox GOP team than many expected, including a defense secretary nominee, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who has received solid marks from the party establishment, reports the Washington Post. The emerging Cabinet has gone a long way toward mollifying some of Trump’s Republican critics, and several of the picks — including the wife of the Senate majority leader as transportation secretary — are tailor-made to encourage cooperation between the administration and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. The incoming team is preparing not only to implement longtime Republican goals — such as repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes — but also to push for Trump’s iconoclastic and controversial campaign promises on issues such as a border wall and trade.

Trump Gains Votes in Wisconsin Recount

Statewide recounts in key 2016 battlegrounds are proceeding in fits and starts — but doing little to change the math behind Donald Trump’s victory., reports Fox News. In Wisconsin, one of three states where Green Party candidate Jill Stein has sought a fresh tabulation, the president-elect has gained votes against Hillary Clinton. The push for a recount in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is awaiting a federal court’s OK, and a similar effort in Michigan has run into new judicial turbulence. But while Trump narrowly defeated Clinton in all three states, the numbers trickling in look unlikely to call into question the Nov. 8 results. By Wednesday morning, Trump had widened his victory margin over Clinton in Wisconsin by 146 votes, with 23 of the state’s 72 counties having finished their recounts.

Trump Sold All His Stocks to Avoid Conflict

President-elect Donald Trump says he sold all of his personal stock holdings because he was worried about a conflict of interest. Calling in to NBC’s “Today” show after he was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Trump said he got out of the market in June “because I felt I was very much going to be winning.” He said he therefore “would have a tremendous … conflict of interest owning all of these different companies… I don’t think for me to be owning stocks when I’m making deals for this country that maybe will affect one company positively and one company negatively — I just felt it was a conflict,” he said.

Dakota Pipeline Protest Successful

After weeks of protesting in snow and frigid temperatures, protesters at the at the Oceti Sakowin encampment in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, have claimed a victory with the announcement Sunday that the Army Corp of Engineers has denied Dakota Access the right to extend its pipeline beneath a Missouri River reservoir. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of people cheered and chanted “mni wichoni,” which means “water is life” in Lakota Sioux, as a celebration broke out at the protest camp that has become home to thousands over the past weeks following the announcement. As NBCNews points out, however, the victory may prove to be a short-lived since President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports the project and could reverse the decision after he is in office. The Army Corp of Engineers announced it will look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

Shootings of Police Officers Up, Shootings by Police Officers Down

Following more than two years of increasingly hostile anti-police rhetoric and nationwide allegations of police brutality, shooting deaths of on-duty police officers are already up 54 percent from last year’s total, when 39 officers died from non-accidental gunfire. A total of 60 officers have been killed by deliberate gunfire so far in 2016. A total of 12 police officers were shot to death in November, which tied July for the deadliest month for police officers in 2016 for shooting deaths. That month, five police officers were shot during a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. The increasing number of police officers being shot to death in the line of duty comes as police shootings are on the decline. According to the Washington Post’s database, 20 fewer civilians have been shot to death so far this year than at the same point in 2015. The Post reports that as of 10 a.m. on Dec. 5, a total of 884 individuals had been shot to death by police officers in the United States this year.

Persecution Watch

Christians meeting in “house churches” in China are amongst thousands of Chinese people “considered expendable” by the Chinese government and being used in the “harvesting” of organs, according to China watcher Ethan Gutmann. Gutmann, who has written two books about China and published several reports, said as many as 100,000 organ transplants may be taking place annually in the country, despite the Chinese government’s claims it administers only 10,000. And the source for the “majority” of these, Gutmann said, are Falun Gong adherents, but also other “expendable” citizens such as Tibetans, Uighurs and Christians.

Economic News

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, President-elect Trump pledged to lower corporate taxes across the board. But he also said he would charge a hefty 35% tax for “any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, [or] builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and … sell[s] its product back into the U.S.” Trump argued that those companies deserve “retribution.” He said businesses that want to offshore jobs have been “forewarned.” Trump also announced Monday a $50 billion investment by Japanese company SoftBank that he and the company’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son claim will create 50,000 jobs in the U.S.

The U.S. ranks low on the worldwide scale of minimum wage. Currently at $7.25 nationally (some states have voted to increase their minimums), other nations with a higher minimum wage included Australia ($14.98 equivalent U.S. dollars), France ($12.64), Belgium ($11.90), the United Kingdom ($10.47) and Canada ($9.40).

Sales of arms by American defense companies have declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, while European firms saw their sales jump. Despite the drop, U.S. companies are still dominating the global arms market, selling $209.7 billion worth of arms in 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That’s 3% lower than in 2014, but still 56% of arms sales globally. Russian arms sales grew 6.2% in 2015, after skyrocketing over 48% in 2014 and 20% in 2013. Russia is investing heavily in upgrades to its military capabilities. President Vladimir Putin plans to spend more than 20 trillion rubles ($700 billion) bringing equipment up to date by 2025. It now accounts for 8.1% of sales globally.

European Union

Elections in Austria and Italy gave the European Union one victory and one defeat. European leaders first hailed pro-EU candidate Alexander Van der Bellen’s trouncing of nationalist Norbert Hofer in Austria’s Presidential election as a victory over nationalism. Their relief over the Austrian vote was short lived. The resignation of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the early hours of Monday following his referendum defeat to anti-EU forces signaled what so many had feared, that his referendum on political reforms inside Italy would reverberate across all of Europe. Renzi’s referendum defeat hands Italy’s EU opponents a stronger mandate and possibly enough clout in Parliament or the polls to push their agenda. The message for Brussels is clear; if anti-EU sentiment can bring down the Prime Minister of Italy, then it might surely pluck Italy from the dwindling group of 27 nations.

Syria

Russia and China on Monday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo to allow desperately needed aid into the war-ravaged zone. The United States and Russia verbally dueled before the vote, which called for a seven-day truce. Venezuela also rejected the resolution. The vote came as the Syrian regime continues to blitz Aleppo’s east in support of its troops there, as part of an operation to seize control of the area held by rebels for more than four years. Dozens have been killed daily in the strikes. A government siege on eastern Aleppo is tighter than ever, and food stocks, clean water supplies and medicine are running dry. The United Nations has repeatedly called for safe passage for its humanitarian staff, but it said the Syrian government and its most powerful ally, Russia, have failed to guarantee that.

Three years after the CIA began secretly shipping weapons to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, battlefield losses and fears that a Donald Trump administration will abandon them have left tens of thousands of opposition fighters weighing their alternatives, reports the Washington Post. Just over a year ago, the opposition held significant territory inside Syria. Since then, in the absence of effective international pushback, Russian and Syrian airstrikes have relentlessly bombarded their positions and the civilians alongside them. On the ground, Syrian government troops — bolstered by Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Shiite militia forces from Iraq — have retaken much of that ground. In brutal attacks over the past three weeks, they have been driven out of much of the eastern Aleppo stronghold that they have occupied since 2012.

Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a ban on full-face veils in the country, during a speech at her party’s conference on Tuesday. “The full veil is not appropriate here, it should be forbidden wherever that is legally possible. It does not belong to us,” she said at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) gathering. Her comments were met with sustained applause by the audience. It’s not the first time party leaders have proposed banning the Islamic dress, with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also calling for the veil to barred from public places in August. “It does not fit into our society for us, for our communication, for our cohesion in the society…. This is why we demand you show your face,” he said at the time.

Japan

The US military this month will return to Japan’s government 9,852 acres of land on the island of Okinawa which it has held since World War II, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Tuesday. The land is part of a territory officially referred to as the Northern Training Area, in a large US military base complex on the Pacific island more than 960 miles southwest of Tokyo. The US had turned most of Okinawa over to Japan in 1972 after controlling it from the end of World War II in 1945. This is the largest return of US-occupied land since then. To facilitate the return, the Japanese government agreed to build six helicopter landing zones as well as some access roads to allow US troops to train in the area. The US military is expected to continue to administer the area, which was used for jungle warfare training, a US official said.

Sudan

Sudan’s ecosystems and natural resources are deteriorating dangerously. Temperatures are rising, water supplies are scarce, soil fertility is low and severe droughts are common. After years of desertification, its rich biodiversity is under threat and drought has hindered the fight against hunger. This burden is affecting not only the country’s food security and sustainable development, but also the homes of many Sudanese families. Dust storms — known locally as “Haboobs” have also increased in this region. Moving like a gigantic thick wall, it carries sand and dust — burying homes, increasing evaporation to a region that’s already struggling to preserve water supplies, as well as eroding valuable fertile soil. Experts say that without quick intervention, parts of the African country — already one of the most vulnerable in the world — could become uninhabitable.

Earthquakes

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia Wednesday morning, killing 97, seriously injuring at least 600 and causing multiple buildings to collapse. The quake that struck six miles north of Reuleut in the northern region of Aceh Province occurred at a depth of 5.1 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The death toll in Wednesday’s earthquake is likely to rise as rescuers pull more bodies from the rubble. The national disaster agency told ABCNews some 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, including 14 mosques, mostly in Pidie Jaya.

Weather

Dangerous wind chill factors will continue to plague residents in the Northern Plains Wednesday after a blizzard shut down a nearly 300-mile stretch of Interstate 90 Tuesday in North Dakota.  Both lanes of I-94 were closed from Dickinson to Fargo; northbound and southbound Interstate 29 was also closed between Fargo and the Canadian border due to zero visibility and blowing and drifting snow. In addition, an approximately 60-mile stretch of Highway 2 from Lakota to the Grand Folks Airport was shut down due to strong winds and zero visibility. Strong winds will persist Wednesday in parts of the Dakotas and northwest Minnesota.

At least two people were dead Monday after torrential rain in parts of Spain led to severe flash flooding over the weekend. “Unprecedented” levels of rain have left parts of the Costa del Sol in a “red alert” disaster zone, the highest possible alert. Local police told the Olive Press the rainfall is the worst since 1989.

Heavy flooding in Thailand has killed 14 people and has inundated southern holiday islands ahead of the December-January high season for tourism. Severe storms have battered the popular tourist destinations since the beginning of the month. The flooding has affected 582,000 residents in 11 southern provinces. 676 roads and 33 local bridges were also damaged by the floods. More than 12 inches of rain was measured in the southeastern part of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province at Hua Sai at the end of last week.

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