Signs of the Times (7/27/17)

Awesome Night of Faith—In Hollywood!

More than 400 media professionals and guests filled a CBS Studio Center soundstage on May 4 for Legacy: An Evening of Honor and Prayer. Mastermedia International and The Hollywood Prayer Network (HPN) co-hosted the event, honoring producer Martha Williamson (Touched by An Angel), producer Terry Botwick (Captive), studio exec Merlinda Balmas (Warner Bros.), writers/producers Steve Storm and Christina Lee Storm (DreamWorks Animation), and actors David and Jessica Olyelowo (Selma) as believers living out a legacy of faith and integrity while working in the Hollywood entertainment industries. Their heartfelt acceptance comments were very moving. Everyone on the sound stage prayed together for three issues unique to the journey of Christian media professionals—career, health, and marriage and family. Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple closed with a stirring prayer to commission everyone present to use the gifts God has given them for positive influence in media.

Trump Bans Transgenders in Military Sparking GOP Backlash

President Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he will ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity, reversed an Obama administration decision to allow them to serve openly, but it caught the Pentagon and Capitol Hill off guard, reports the Washington Post. War hero John McCain, the preeminent Republican voice on national security, took a break from battling brain cancer to send this statement: “The President’s tweet … regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. … There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is up for reelection in one of the reddest and most socially conservative states in America, agreed. Many other GOP Senators also criticized Trump’s decision and the way it was announced. The Pentagon appeared to be caught off guard and said it would continue to permit transgender people to serve until the White House officially changes the guidelines. However, the American Family Association said they applaud President Trump “for his courageous decision to end the usage of our military for social engineering and political correctness. American families deserve a military that is focused solely on readiness and national defense.”

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill directing public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and other facilities which correspond to their gender identity.

Senate Okays Debate, Then Fails to Pass Any Healthcare Bills

The Republicans’ moment of victory on health care didn’t last long. With cancer-stricken John McCain making a stirring speech and casting the decisive procedural vote on Tuesday, President Trump and Mitch McConnell were able to get the health bill out of intensive care and to the Senate floor. But in the vote hours later on the main repeal-and-replace bill—the one that the president and GOP leadership have been pushing so hard—nine Republican senators defected. Then the Republicans failed again Wednesday to pass a repeal-only bill, which Trump favored as a backup but which never had a chance. The U.S. Senate voted 55 to 45 to reject the repealing of Obamacare and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Republicans are now considering a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare in hopes of just keeping the repeal process alive. The “skinny repeal” plan would likely eliminate the individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, and the employer mandate, which obligates larger companies to provide affordable coverage to their full-time workers. The plan would also get rid of the Obamacare tax on medical device makers. Without the individual mandate, premiums would likely rise — as would the amount the federal government has to shell out in subsidies to help people buy coverage, warns the American Academy of Actuaries.

Congress Strikes Deal on Russia Sanctions Despite Trump Objection

House and Senate negotiators brushed aside White House objections Saturday and reached agreement on a broad sanctions bill that will make it more difficult for President Trump to unilaterally ease or end punitive measures against Moscow. The package punishes Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential elections and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The House and Senate negotiators also addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses. The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempted to ease or end the sanctions. Under the terms of the bill, Trump would be required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it. One day after the House passed legislation 419-3 to enact new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea — as well as tying President Donald Trump’s hands to remove Russia sanctions — Corker, the Senate foreign relations chairman, said he planned to strip out the North Korea-related portion of the bill.

Trump Reluctantly Recertifies Iran Nuclear Deal

President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers. Mr. Trump has repeatedly condemned the deal brokered by President Barack Obama as a dangerous capitulation to Iran, but six months into his presidency he has not abandoned it. The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran’s compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely. Administration officials announced the certification on Monday evening while emphasizing that they intended to toughen enforcement of the deal, apply new sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing activities, and negotiate with European partners to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran. Aides said Mr. Trump had insisted on such actions before agreeing to the consensus recommendation of his national security team.

Border Crossers Down Again, Agents Praise Trump

In June, 21,659 people were arrested or turned away at U.S. ports of entry along the Mexican border, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics. That’s slightly higher than May but less than half the number from June 2016. June marked the fifth consecutive month that the numbers were markedly lower than in 2016. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that decline reflected an overall reduced flow of illegal immigrants across the border. Kelly credited Trump’s executive orders such as those expanding the powers of federal immigration officials to arrest undocumented immigrants. The head of the union representing more than 16,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents says there is sky-high morale at the agency thanks to the Trump administration.

Although courts have turned aside some of Trump’s orders, Kelly said tightened border security has driven up the fees charged by human smugglers. Since November 2016, “coyotes” who lead immigrants across the border have more than doubled their prices in some areas: $8,000 from $3,500 in certain mountainous regions. be curbing immigration enthusiasm. At least nine people died after being crammed into the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, authorities said Sunday in what they described as an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

Judge Allows Collection of Voter Data

A federal judge in DC declined to block President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission from collecting data on voters from 50 states in a ruling on Monday, handing a win to an administration inundated by lawsuits over the commission’s request. The commission’s vice chairman, Kris Kobach, sent a letter to all 50 states requesting a slew of voter roll data in late June. Kobach said he was only asking for what was publicly available under the laws of each state, but the request nevertheless triggered rapid-fire litigation in federal courts, including a suit by a privacy rights group in which claimed the commission had failed to comply with federal law and the request violated constitutionally-protected privacy rights. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly concluded Monday that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) did not have standing to sue on all of its claims under existing case law. The judge further concluded that the White House Information Technology office — now tasked with collecting the voter roll information on behalf of the commission — is not an independent “agency” for purposes of the federal statues EPIC sought to rely upon, and therefore, a federal court “cannot presently exert judicial review over the collection process.”

Fact Checkers Feud Over Number of Noncitizens Who Voted Illegally

A right-leaning fact-checker is fighting critics on the left who say its conclusion that a lot of noncitizens vote illegally is bunk, reports the Washington Times. The online battle of debunking and rebuttal is playing out as a much larger war has erupted between President Trump’s commission on election integrity and Democratic state leaders. They are refusing to provide the panel with public voter registration data. Left-wing groups are suing to stop the commission’s work, which could settle the noncitizen debate by collecting enough data. In the fact-check standoff, there is Just Facts, a small New Jersey firm of conservative and libertarian scholars who promote what they say is solid independent research. Just Facts President James D. Agresti issued a blockbuster report in June. Using previous research, polling data and Census Bureau figures, his team concluded that as few as 594,000 noncitizens or as many as 5.7 million voted in the 2008 presidential election. If accurate on the high side, it would vindicate Mr. Trump’s contention that a lot of illegal ballots were cast in his race for the White House last year with Democrat Hillary Clinton. Challenging Mr. Agresti are fact-checkers PolitiFact and Snopes.com and left-leaning news sites such as HuffPost.

  • com is reportedly on the verge of financial collapse since one if its founders has been accused of using company cash to fund his contentious divorce and to pay for fancy vacations with his new wife, a former escort and porn actress, reports WorldNetDaily.

Women Drawn to ISIS Husbands Abused Say Escapees

Foreign women who flocked to the “Islamic caliphate,” were drawn by the promise that they could start a new life with strong, devout men. They say what they found there was something entirely different — fighting in all female dorms, sex obsessed ISIS fighters, some being divorced and remarried as many as six times, reports CNN. In the scorching heat of the Syrian desert, dozens of runaway ISIS brides sit in a crowded concrete jail and wait with their children. The women are segregated from the rest of a sprawling refugee camp in Ain Issa, around 30 miles (50 km) north of ISIS’ de facto capital, Raqqa. All insist they were shocked and appalled when they learned what ISIS was really like. Now they are stuck between the militants’ crumbling stronghold and home countries that most likely don’t want them back.

A’s on the Rise for HS Seniors, But SATs Down

Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen. In 1998, A averages represented 38.9% of all seniors. By last year, it had grown to 47%. Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A’s on report cards do not represent increased learning. Examining the academic transcripts of high school graduates in the 18-year period from 1998 to 2016, they found that the average grade point average rose from 3.27 to 3.38, even as the average SAT score dropped.

  • Schools are being measured on performance, so now they juice the numbers

Youth Becoming Desensitized to Violence

The cellphone video taken by a group of teens while they watched a man drowning in a Cocoa pond in Melbourne, Florida — and not only did nothing to help him, but laughed at him — has shocked many around the world. The five teenagers who taunted the drowning man while recording his death may face criminal charges, the police chief said Friday. Vicki Panaccione, a Melbourne psychologist who works with children and families, said she has noticed a trend of people becoming “desensitized about what’s going on in the world because of everything they’re exposed to. It can almost be overwhelming. Kids are being bombarded with all kinds of violence and aggression.” That includes everything from violent video games and movies, to news media reports of mass shootings. “In general, we’re just getting too used to all of the horrible things that are happening in the world,” Panaccione said. “It just becomes a ho-hum experience.” There was also the recent court case of a girl who encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide by text, which the boy’s family discovered on his phone.

Contaminants in Water Pose Health risks, but are Legal

Contaminants detected in water samples throughout the country pose health risks but are perfectly legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a new report released Wednesday finds. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) collected data from drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015 at more than 48,000 water facilities throughout the U.S. and found 267 contaminants present in water supplies, many at levels above what scientific studies have found pose health risks. If you decide to drink tap water, — it’s surprisingly fine to do so in some cases — the EWG recommends using a filter. EWG’s findings: 93 of the contaminants were linked to an increased risk of cancer; 78 were associated with brain and nervous system damage; 63 were connected to developmental harm in children or fetuses; 38 were contaminants that could cause fertility issues; and 45 were endocrine disruptors. Details are available in an EWG database.

First U.S. Company Offers Microchip Implants to Employees

A Wisconsin company called Three Square Market is going to offer employees implantable chips to open doors, buy snacks, log in to computers, and use office equipment like copy machines. Participating employees will have the chips, which use near field communication (NFC) technology, implanted between their thumb and forefinger. It’s an extension of the long-running implantable RFID chip business, based on a partnership with Swedish company Biohax International. The vending kiosk company, also known as 32M, will “chip” employees at a party on August 1st. Around 50 people are supposedly getting the optional implants.

  • An early indicator of how the ‘mark of the beast’ is to be implemented in the near future (see Revelation 13:16-17 and 14:11)

U.S. Debt at Record Levels

Total government debt plus total personal debt in the United States has blown past the 41 trillion-dollar mark, reports 720Global.  When you break that down, it comes to $329,961.34 per household, and that figure represents 584 percent of median household income. In 1980, total government debt plus total personal debt in the United States was just over 3 trillion dollars.  That breaks down to $38,552 per household, which represented 79 percent of median household income at the time. These figures don’t even include corporate debt. They only include government debt on the federal, state and local levels, and all forms of personal debt.

  • The debt load is staggering, which will eventually bring about the world’s worst depression ever, as prophesied in Revelation 6:5-6

Economic News

The Federal Reserve held its key short-term interest rate steady Wednesday but signaled that it likely will begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion asset portfolio in September in an initiative that will nudge long-term rates higher. The central bank continues to grapple with both low 4.4% unemployment and persistently weak inflation — signs of an economy that has largely healed since the Great Recession but is still constrained by its aftereffects.

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods posted the biggest gain in nearly three years last month, pulled up by a surge in orders for civilian aircraft. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods — which are meant to last at least three years — climbed 6.5% in June, reversing two straight monthly drops. But the bulk of the increase came from a 131.2% surge in orders for civilian aircraft, a volatile category. Excluding transportation equipment, orders were up just 0.2%.

U.S. home resales volumes fell more than expected in June as a dearth of properties pushed house prices to a record high. The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales dropped 1.8 percent from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million units last month. However, sales were up 0.7 percent from June 2016. An acute shortage of properties has hampered monthly sales. The shortage of properties has led to bidding wars, which have culminated in house price increases outpacing wage gains. Last month, the number of homes on the market slipped 0.5 percent to 1.96 million units. Supply was down 7.1 percent from a year ago.

Self-checkout machines were only the beginning of replacing human workers with machines at retail stores. The U.S. economy has lost about 71,000 retail jobs since the beginning of the year as routine tasks become automated and thousands of stores close because of competition from e-commerce companies like Amazon. Nearly 16 million people, or 11 percent of non-farm U.S. jobs, are in the retail industry, making it bigger than the factory sector, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline rose about a penny nationally over the past two weeks, to $2.32. The slight increase comes after 11 weeks of decline. The current price is about 10 cents above where it was a year ago. Gas in Reno, Nevada, was the most expensive in the contiguous United States at an average of $2.99 a gallon. The cheapest was in Jackson, Mississippi, at $1.97 a gallon. The U.S. average diesel price is $2.51, the same as it was two weeks ago.

Sales of organic food hit a record $43 billion last year, up 8.4% from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association, much higher than the 0.6% growth rate in the overall food category. But organics still have a long way to go, representing just 5.3% of total retail food sales in the U.S.

North Korea

U.S. officials believe that North Korea will be able to launch a reliable nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by early 2018, a U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment confirmed to CNN Wednesday. That would be an acceleration of two years from previous estimates that put Pyongyang three to five years from fully developing long-range missile capabilities. The official clarified to CNN that while North Korea can currently get a missile “off the ground,” there are still a lot of variables about guidance, re-entry and the ability to hit a specific target that North Korea still has to surmount. The Washington Post confirmed that the U.S. intelligence community’s latest assessment concludes Pyongyang will have a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year.

Middle East

Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police clashed last Friday outside the Old City of Jerusalem amid tensions over Israeli authorities’ decision to bar male worshipers under 50 from entering the area for Friday prayers. The unrest erupted outside Herod’s Gate as Israeli police stopped younger men from entering the Old City of Jerusalem and Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary, allowing only male worshipers aged 50 and over and women to go through. The restrictions were imposed after a fatal shooting last week. Israeli police forcefully pushed worshipers back and pointed their weapons at them. The officers then fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the worshipers and move them back. Also, two Israeli police officers were killed in a shooting by the Lions’ Gate in the Old City walls.

Following a tense morning, which saw thousands of Moslem residents gathering outside the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City but refusing to enter through the metal detectors placed there following last Friday’s shooting attack that killed two Israel police officers, Moslem prayers were held in the streets and open spaces near the Mount. Shortly after they ended, violent riots erupted near Lions Gate and some neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, as some Islamic leaders urged their followers to revolt while others counseled patience. Violence continued over the weekend, including a terror attack in a Jewish community north of Jerusalem in which three Israelis were stabbed to death in their living room and clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police resulted in several casualties on both sides. On Monday morning, the violence spread to Amman, Jordan, where a security officer for the Israeli Embassy was stabbed by a Jordanian man who was there to do some manual work at the facility.

The Islamist terror militia Hamas declared itself outraged Wednesday following a decision by the EU Court of Justice to keep it on a terrorist blacklist, calling for a “day of rage” this coming Friday to protest against the “injustice” of the decision. A Hamas statement also pointed out the installation of cameras on the Temple Mount by Israeli security forces as an example of gratuitous “oppression” and called on Palestinians to rise up and demonstrate their unwillingness to be subjected to such demeaning oppression.

Islamic State

The Islamic State is struggling to mount an effective defense of the Syrian city of Raqqa, its headquarters, as local forces make rapid headway in ousting the militants, the U.S. military said.  The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they have captured 40% of the city since June 6, when a ground assault began. “We don’t see any significant counterattacks,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Dirk Smith, a deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition, “I’d characterize them in disarray.” Since this month’s recapture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State, Raqqa has become the main focus of the fight against the Islamic militants.

Iraq

The massive effort to drive the Islamic State from what had been Iraq’s second-largest city is now being matched by an enormous challenge to bring an ancient metropolis back to life from near total ruin. Much of the historic Old City in western Mosul has been reduced to rubble, with corpses rotting on the streets or buried under debris. Unexploded bombs and booby traps litter the terrain, as Islamic State guerrillas continue sniper attacks. And hundreds of thousands of former residents who fled remain in limbo.  Rebuilding after the nine-month offensive that ended in July will take years and billions of dollars, but the priority now is to make the city safe enough for residents to return. That means hunting down Islamic State stragglers, removing thousands of bodies and locating all the bombs that could still go off. Damage is far more extensive in western Mosul, where the prolonged fighting and airstrikes were more fierce. In contrast, reconstruction in Mosul’s eastern half across the Tigris River has been ongoing since January. A large proportion of buildings there remained intact.

Syria

Three of the leading international powers involved in Syria’s war—the U.S., Russia and Iran—are looking to expand and fortify their military presence in the country by building and upgrading foreign bases, with some already in the works. U.S. special operations forces have been involved in Syria for years, and the U.S. appears to be broadening the platforms from which it operates. Earlier this month, satellite imagery showed what appeared to be the construction of a new airstrip near Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, according to The Daily Beast. This base, along with other ‘temporary’ installations, reportedly could be used to both battle the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and bolster forces of the rebel Free Syrian Army in areas where fighters supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are poised to take over. Meanwhile, Assad allies Russia and Iran have announced plans to develop their own military presence in the country.

Iran

The Trump administration Wednesday continued its sharp criticism of Iran, labeling Tehran the world’s top government sponsor of terrorism. In a new report, the State Department said terrorist attacks and deaths from terrorism declined worldwide last year. The Islamic State militant group remained the most active “nonstate” perpetrator, the report said, despite having suffered a significant loss of territory. The document, formally titled Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, is issued annually under congressional mandate. A section on state sponsors of terrorism highlights Iran, its arming of the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon and anti-Israel groups like Hamas, plus its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the U.S. accuses of committing numerous atrocities against his citizenry.

Afganistan

A suicide bomber rammed his car packed with explosives into a bus carrying government employees in the Afghan capital early on Monday, killing 31 people and wounding 42 others, Kabul’s police chief spokesman said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault. The attack took place in a western Kabul neighborhood where several prominent politicians reside and at rush hour, as residents were heading to work and students were on their way to a nearby private high school. The bus was completely destroyed, along with three other cars and several shops in the area. The minibus was carrying employees of the mines and petroleum ministry. It is the latest in a string of attacks in recent days by the Taliban, which said it had captured two districts in northern and central Afghanistan at the weekend.

A U.S. airstrike targeting Afghan militants Friday in restive Helmand province instead killed 16 Afghan police officers, U.S. and Afghan officials said. Two others were injured. The friendly fire incident, now under investigation, happened during a US-supported Afghan National Defense and Security Forces operation that aimed to go after militants in Gereshk district, US Forces-Afghanistan said.

Africa

Thousands in South Sudan are starving as the country faces a massive hunger crisis. The United Nations released estimates in February, saying that 100,000 South Sudanese were starving and that 5 million more people, or about 42 percent of the population, have limited access to food. The U.N. has declared parts of the country in famine and also said that Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen will also suffer mass death from water and food shortages without “prompt and sustained humanitarian intervention.” The hunger problems were caused by the wars in the countries and not by droughts or crop failures, according to a report from Vox. In Nigeria, for example, Boko Haram has forced millions from their homes, including farmers. Many of the country’s agricultural systems have been casualties of the fighting, and the U.N. now estimates that some 4.8 million people are in need of food assistance. In Somalia, more than 6 million people need food assistance, but the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab makes it hard for groups to bring in aid. In Yemen, about 7 million people need food help, but war between the government and the Houthi rebels has stopped food shipments.

Venezuela

Thousands of Venezuelans are rallying for a second day Thursday against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime as it prepares for a national vote next week. Hours after a national strike gripped Venezuela on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it is slapping sanctions against 13 Venezuelan government officials. “As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. The sanctions come ahead of the planned July 30, 2017, election orchestrated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of a National Constituent Assembly that will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions.

Mexico

Members of Mexican cartels are flocking to a new Mexican folk religion, and it puts a dark spin on Christianity. The religion involves devotion to La Santa Muerte, which translates to “Holy Death” or “Saint Death,” and can even include human sacrifice, reported Fox News. The popularity of the religion among drug traffickers and violent criminals in Central Texas has raised concern among authorities, prompting Texas officials and the Catholic Church to warn about the dangers of the dark creed. An FBI bulletin written by Robert J. Bunker, an academic and adviser to the government on security matters, noted the rise of the “criminalized and dark variant” of the Christian religion, pointing to many of its negative implications, which include “inspired and ritualistic killings.” The bulletin said those who worship La Santa Muerte, who is depicted as a robed skeleton carrying a scythe in one hand and a globe or scales in the other, can partake of various forms of sacrifice that include the “ritual murder and butchering of humans.”

Earthquakes

A massive 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck between Russia and Alaska Monday evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake occurred at 7:34 p.m. EDT approximately 124 miles east-southeast of Nikol’skoye, Russia, off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, at a depth of 7.3 miles. This quake was followed by several aftershocks, some of which were greater than 5.0 magnitude. A tsunami of 0.3 feet (3.6 inches) above the tide level was observed on Shemya Island, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. This is currently the second strongest earthquake of 2017. A 7.9 magnitude quake in Papua New Guinea on Jan. 22.

The 6.7 magnitude quake killed two and injured at least 358 people. The epicenter was 6.2 miles south-southeast of the city of Bodrum, and the temblor hit at a depth of roughly 6.2 miles. The two victims were tourists from Sweden and Turkey who were visiting the Greek island of Kos. Thirteen others were airlifted to hospitals in Athens, as well as Rhodes and Crete islands, because of serious injuries.

Wildfires

Authorities in a western Montana county have ordered residents to evacuate their homes as a wildfire approaches. about 60 homes and other structures in the Sunrise Creek and Quartz Flats areas are under siege from the Sunrise fire, which is burning 11 miles southeast of Superior in the Lolo National Park. The lightning-sparked blaze started July 16 and has grown to more than 4 square miles. Given some of the driest conditions in decades and with no forecasted moisture any time soon, containment of this fire won’t occur until around the end of fire season, forest officials say.

Wildfires tearing through a dry Mediterranean forest have prompted authorities to evacuate some 12,000 people from three popular tourist destinations in the Var region of the French Riviera. The fires started Monday in the La Londe-Les-Maures forest. Another fire started Tuesday night near Bormes-les-Mimosas and quickly grew to more than 3 square miles. More than 540 firefighters are battling this latest blaze. Nine have been injured. On Monday, smaller, scattered evacuations were ordered as other fires threatened parts of Saint-Tropez

Weather

For the first time in 11 years, Lake Tahoe is nearing capacity thanks to snow melt coming off of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The lake level peaked at 6,229 feet on July 9, coming extremely close to its full capacity level of 6,229.1, which hasn’t been reached in over a decade. Lake Tahoe was filled to the brim by melting snow pouring down from the Sierras, which filled the waterway with more than 12 billion gallons of water. During the winter, the area was buffeted with snow piled so high that ski resorts had to be shut down in January. More than 10 feet of snow fell in the Sierra over the course of a week.

Last week, heavy rain in the Upper Midwest overnight Friday triggered widespread flash flooding that has prompted evacuations and washed out roads and bridges. From Wisconsin to Iowa, rain that measured up to 10 inches in some areas led to more than 40 reports of flash flooding. Early Friday evening, a severe thunderstorm with destructive winds over 70 mph moved through Elk Grove Village, Illinois, uprooting large trees throughout the village adjacent to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Officials in a New York town declared a state of emergency after at least three tornadoes left behind damage Thursday. Severe thunderstorms struck parts of the Northeast Monday, causing damage to buildings and downing large trees and power lines, knocking out power to thousands in Syracuse. Large trees were downed across the area.

A massive storm wreaked havoc on New Zealand’s South Island, prompting states of emergency and the mobilization of troops to help those affected by the storms. a state of emergency was declared Saturday in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin. The Guardian reports that those cities were only accessible by air afterwards. In Christchurch, the Heathcote River burst its banks and flooded parts of the city, prompting the New Zealand Defence Force to deploy troops to help with numerous evacuations. In addition to flooding, landslides have been reported.

At least 48 people  died over the past week after heavy monsoon rains lashed western India, including the desert state of Rajasthan, and officials said 24,000 villagers evacuated to higher ground.

Drought-stricken Nairobi, Kenya, has been rationing water since January, and officials fear supplies may run dry by September. Some 3.1 million residents are threatened by this lack of water, brought on by a combination of heat, arid conditions and meager rainy seasons. Currently, 60 percent of the city’s population is without reliable water.

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