Signs of the Times (10/26/17)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Millennials Turning to Witchcraft in Place of Religion

Research and studies are showing that more Americans are interested in spirituality, but are less interested in organized religion. This trend is especially true for millennials. According to a report from MarketWatch.com, interest in spirituality, astrology, and witchcraft is soaring among millennials. One study has even shown that over half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. The psychic services industry, which involves things such as tarot card reading, palm reading, mediums, and astrology has also grown to be a $2 billion industry. Melissa Jayne, the owner of Catland, a “metaphysical boutique” in Brooklyn, New York, said she has seen interest in these types of spirituality increase recently, particularly among millennials. “Whether it be spell-casting, tarot, astrology, meditation and trance, or herbalism, these traditions offer tangible ways for people to enact change in their lives,” she said. Danielle Ayoka, another spiritist whose business profits from the trend in witchcraft, astrology, and similar interests, adds that these things have become increasingly mainstream: “When I started my journey in 2010, I was the weirdo. Now it is becoming more and more normalized, and I believe it is because more people are looking to heal. Millennials are much more open-minded,” she said.

Vice-President Pence Vows U.S. Aid for Persecuted Christians

In an address Wednesday night, Vice President Pence said, that “President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding the ineffective relief efforts of the United Nations and from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID,” bringing a message of solidarity and hope for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. “The Bible tells us that all who desire to live a godly life through Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Pence said. “Sadly, today, Christianity is under unprecedented assault in the ancient land where it first grew. Tonight, I came to tell you, help is on the way. President Trump and I and our entire administration are working tirelessly to protect these ancient communities.” Christians and religious minorities have endured ongoing torture in the Middle East, actions the Trump administration calls by name: genocide. “They are crimes against humanity and we will call them what they are,” Pence said.

HHS Says Life Begins at Conception in Draft of 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

The Department of Health and Human Services defines life as beginning at conception in a draft of its new strategic plan, which would run from 2018 to 2022. “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” the department says in the introduction of its draft plan recently released. The Obama administration had similar language in its HHS strategic plan, but did not include the “beginning at conception” phrase, the Hill reported. The change is a sign of the Trump administration’s pro-life stance. “While we may refer to the people we serve as beneficiaries, enrollees, patients, or consumers, our ultimate goal is to improve health care outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across health care settings,” the strategic plan states.

ACLU Succeeds in Killing Teen’s Unborn Baby

The pro-abortion America Civil Liberties Union Wednesday confirmed that an illegal alien teenager who was being cared for in a shelter in Texas has had the taxpayer-funded elective abortion that she was demanding. The action, authorized just one day earlier by six Democrat-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, was blasted by a variety of organizations across the nation for creating a new “right” to abortion at taxpayer expense even for those who have broken U.S. laws to enter the country. Pro-life organizations pleaded with the government to appeal immediately, but the ACLU had already arranged with an abortionist to do the procedure right away. WorldNetDaily reported that six Democrat-appointed judges on an appeals court set the stunning precedent of an abortion “right”, while three Republican appointees on the court opposed the abortion demand.

IRS Admits It Targeted Conservative Groups

After a years-long lawsuit by the ACLJ (American Center for Law & Justice) against the IRS, the agency admitted in federal court to wrongfully targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups for their political beliefs and has issued an apology. In the proposed Consent Order filed late Wednesday night, the IRS not only acknowledges the Obama Administration‘s wrongdoing, it consented to a court order barring it from ever taking such discriminatory action against conservative groups again. It took five years for the ACLJ to achieve that victory in court. Jay Sekulow, ACLJ Chief Counsel, said, “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this victory. It sends a powerful message to the deep state bureaucracy. We will defeat the lawlessness.”

Most Americans Now Favor Renegotiating the Iranian Nuclear Deal

A strong majority of voters – including most Democrats – said the U.S. should renegotiate the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, according to a recent poll. Furthermore, there is broad support for any new deal to be ratified by Congress, rather than implemented as an executive agreement, as former President Obama did in 2015. According to the latest Harvard-Harris survey, 70 percent of respondents said the 2015 Iran deal should be renegotiated and verified by Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats. Overall, 60 percent of polled voters said the deal is a bad one for the U.S., with two-thirds of voters saying Iran has not complied with the terms of the agreement. Half of Democrats agreed that Iran has not held up its side of the bargain.

U.S. House Passes Bills Targeting Iran’s Missiles, Hezbollah Activity

The House of Representatives passed four bills on Wednesday that would sanction Iran’s ballistic missile activity and Hezbollah’s terrorist practices. The bill targeting Iran’s missile work – which has earned bipartisan support – would require the president to report to Congress details of Tehran’s missile supply chain, and determine whether its program violates international law. The U.S. would further sanction Iranian individuals and agencies involved in the missile work, as well as “foreign entities that supply material” to the program. If passed into law, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will likely bear the brunt of the sanctions, given its role in Tehran’s ballistic missile development. The bill follows up on previous sanctions legislation targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reasserts that U.S. policy is “to prevent Iran from undertaking any activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” referencing the ability of ICBMs to carry nuclear payloads.

  • Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addressed a conference in London on Tuesday, saying among other things that “(Iran’s behavior) is not acceptable, and there will be consequences to the Iranians. This is what President Trump has said, and we are very supportive of that…the international community needs to support those (sanctions) in order to send a very strong message to Iran that your behavior, your nefarious activities, have consequences.”

House Passes Budget Paving the Way for Trump’s Tax Reform Plan

The House of Representatives on Thursday narrowly approved a $4 trillion budget that paves the way for Republicans on Capitol Hill to begin focusing on tax reform. The vote was 216-212, with 20 Republicans, including conservatives unhappy about deficits and debt, opposing it. The Senate passed the measure last week and the House endorsed it without changes. The tax bill is the top item on the GOP agenda and would be Trump’s first major win in Congress. The goal is a full rewrite of the inefficient, loophole-laden tax code in hopes of lower rates for corporations and other businesses to spark economic growth. Key decisions about tax brackets, including a new bracket for high-income earners, remain up in the air. Trump says he opposes curbing 401(k) donations, however, which tossed a monkey wrench into the process.

Trump Signs Order Resuming Refugee Admissions with Extreme Vetting

President Trump resumed refugee admissions into the United States on Tuesday, signing an executive order that lifted his previous seven-month moratorium and replacing it with what he has called “extreme vetting.” The move came as the previous moratorium — originally expected to last 120 days but extended by President Trump in June — was set to expire on Tuesday. The executive order allows immigration officials to restart the Refugee Admissions Program, but with “special measures” to screen refugees “whose entry continues to pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.” Those measures include more in-depth interviews of families seeking refugee status and biometric information to be checked against a various federal watch lists and databases. But 11 countries are deemed to have too high-risk to have its citizens be treated as normal refugees, and will be admitted on a limited case-by-case basis while the administration conducts another 90-day review.

The 11 countries were identified by refugee agencies as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In all but two of the countries on the list — North Korea and South Sudan — Islam is the dominant religion. This more restrictive, scaled-down version would have banned half of the refugees admitted to the U.S. last year. The new program bars refugees coming from 11 countries that made up 44% of the 53,716 refugees admitted to the U.S. in the 2017 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to a USA TODAY analysis of State Department data.  President Obama raised the annual cap on refugees to 110,000 in his final year in office as countries around the world struggled to respond to the ongoing global migration crisis. But Trump lowered that to 55,000 in 2017 and has set a cap of 45,000 for 2018, the lowest cap since Congress passed the Refuge Act in 1980.

Congressional Inquiries About Russian Collusion Stall

All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan cooperation, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find. Nine months into the Trump administration, hopes are dwindling that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy, notes the New York Times.

Congress Approves $36.5 Billion Disaster-Relief Package

Congress gave final approval Tuesday to a $36.5 billion emergency spending plan to pay for ongoing relief from recent natural disasters. The spending deal includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to natural disasters stretching from the storm-scarred beaches of Puerto Rico to the scorched vineyards of Northern California. The bill also forgives about $16 billion of the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt, freeing up money under its borrowing limit for additional loans; $576.5 million to address wildfires in the West; and $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance programs that will provide low-income Puerto Rico residents relief after Hurricane Maria slammed the island. Aid for Puerto Rico dominated the latest round of emergency funding. More than 80 percent of the island still is without power more than a month after the storm, and concerns are growing that a failure to restore electricity and provide basic services to residents could cause a mass exodus to the mainland United States.

  • Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expressed his gratitude for all the Trump administration has done for Puerto Rico. “The truth of the matter is, the president has responded,” he said in an MSNBC interview. “He has responded to all of our petitions. I’ve had enormous access to the president and to his staff and they have done so quickly. We are very grateful for that and I wanted to answer truthfully.”

Senate Repeals Rule Allowing Class-Action Suits Against Banks

U.S. consumers are on the verge of losing the right to sue their banks and credit card companies through class-action lawsuits. Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 Senate tie Wednesday night, narrowly approving the repeal of the rule that blocked financial companies from requiring consumers to resolve disputes via individual arbitration proceedings. The Senate vote followed earlier House approval and now goes to President Trump for expected signing. The action hands Wall Street and the financial industry a victory while dealing a defeat to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog that approved the rule in July. Created as a new safeguard after the national financial crisis, the watchdog agency had moved to ban most mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of agreements that consumers typically agree to automatically and often unwittingly when they open a checking account or get a credit card.

President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Health Emergency

President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis to be a national emergency, and said that the government will be taking new steps to stem the crisis, including research into new types of painkillers, raising awareness of the issue, removing a certain painkiller from the market, and by encouraging people to not start taking drugs at all. Trump said the opioid epidemic has now become deadlier than car accidents and gun violence in this country. In order to reduce opioid addiction and deaths, Trump said that the border wall will be constructed, since 90 percent of heroin in the country comes from south of the border. Additionally, the NIH will begin research on a non-addictive painkiller and into new techniques for treating opioid addiction. On the issue of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opiate that comes mostly from China, Trump said that he will speak about the issue with Chinese President Xi, and will embolden the post office to inspect packages to look for the drug.

Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Getting Sicker In-Between

Data released last week suggest Americans’ health is declining and millions of middle-age workers face the prospect of shorter, and less active, retirements than their parents enjoyed. The U.S. age-adjusted mortality rate rose 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Society of Actuaries. That’s the first year-over-year increase since 2005, and only the second rise greater than 1 percent since 1980. Americans in their late 50s already have more serious health problems than people at the same ages did 10 to 15 years ago, according to the journal Health Affairs. At the same time that Americans’ life expectancy is stalling, millions of U.S. workers are waiting longer to call it quits. The age at which people can claim their full Social Security benefits is gradually moving up, from 65 for those retiring in 2002 to 67 in 2027. Almost one in three Americans age 65 to 69 is still working, along with almost one in five in their early 70s.

Most Baby Foods and Formulas Tested Positive for Arsenic

An alarming study released Wednesday found many baby food products test positive for arsenic, including 80% of infant formulas. And, that’s not the only dangerous contaminate found. An alarming study released Wednesday found many baby food products test positive for arsenic, including 80% of infant formulas. And, that’s not the only dangerous contaminate found. About 530 baby food products were tested. researchers found 65% of products tested positive for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium and 10% for acrylamide. All of these chemicals pose potential dangers to developing infants, especially affecting fine motor skills and cognition. Mainstream brands including Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout were among the worst offenders. Plus, 60% of products claiming to be “BPA free” tested positive for the industrial chemical bisphenol A.

U.S. Infrastructure in Bad Shape

An estimated 17% of American dams — 15,500 in total — are categorized as high hazard potential, meaning their failure would almost certainly result in loss of life. Meanwhile, 11.2% of roads are in poor condition, which ultimately lead to vehicle damage and traffic delays. Perhaps most troubling is the state of disrepair of bridges across the country as tens of thousands are classified as structurally deficient by the federal government. The estimated cost of repairing roads, bridges, and dams in the United States is projected to top $2.4 trillion by 2025. Other necessary infrastructure repairs, including railways, airports, and wastewater infrastructure would cost an additional $2.2 trillion. Infrastructure repair is one rare issue that often garners bipartisan support in Washington. While President Donald Trump previously proposed spending $1 trillion on fixing the country’s infrastructure, he recently abandoned his plans to form a Council on Infrastructure. The states with the worst infrastructure are (according to a USA Today analysis), Hawaii, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and California. The states with the best infrastructure are, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Georgia and Wyoming.

Economic News

Existing home sales rose modestly in September, but the pace was still 1.5% below the year-ago level, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. The chief culprit in the decline is a national housing supply that remains at a 20-year low of 4.2 months — the time it would take to run out of homes for sale if no new units were added – down from 4.5 months a year ago. A six-month inventory is considered balanced. Economists expect supplies to stay low at least for the next year, making house-hunting more challenging for buyers and further pushing up prices. Home building has been hindered by shortages of construction workers and available lots.

Sales of new U.S. homes jumped last month to the highest level since October 2007, a sign that Americans — unable to find existing homes — are turning to new construction. New home sales leapt 18.9% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 667,000, the most in a decade, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Sales rose in all regions including the South, where they increased nearly 26%. The measure of new home sales is based on contract signings, so the number was likely lifted by those looking to replace homes destroyed or damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A slew of American blue chips reported strong earnings and outlooks Tuesday, including Dow components Caterpillar, 3M and United Technologies as well as GM, tool maker Stanley Black & Decker and Big Pharma titan Eli Lilly. The good news helped push the Dow up nearly 200 points to a new all-time high. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record highs once again as well. The Dow is now up more than 18% this year, while the Nasdaq has gained more than 22.5%. The solid results also come on the heels of healthy earnings from big banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America earlier this month. Most American companies are still doing quite well. Consumers are continuing to spend on new cars and phones and take out loans for mortgages.

More Than 75% of Europe Bound Migrant Youth Face Exploitation

Many migrant children and youth have been subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Europe. UN officials have called on the European Union to create “protection corridors” for children migrants fleeing to Europe. More than three in four migrants between the ages of 14 and 24 report being subjected to forced labor, sexual abuse, child marriage and other forms of exploitation, the UN’s children and migration agencies said in a study published Tuesday. Children from sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk of exploitation, with 83 percent of those attempting to reach Europe via Libya having experienced some form of abuse. The agencies said racism likely played a major part in the significant difference between the groups of children and young adults. “If you try to run, they shoot you. If you stop working, they beat,” the report quoted Aimamo, a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor from Gambia, as saying. “We were just like slaves.” It is largely the guards and security workers at the refugee accommodation centers that are the exploiters, the report says, particularly in Berlin.

North Korea

Aside from threatening nuclear war against the United States, North Korea is also suspected of secretly developing a vast biological-weapons program that could unleash fear and death in crowded cities, a Harvard University study warns. “North Korea is likely to use biological weapons before or at the beginning of a conflict to disrupt society and create panic, incapacitate societies, and/or cause a significant military diversion,” says the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It is theoretically possible that North Korean sleeper agents disguised as cleaning and disinfection personnel could disperse BW agents with backpack sprayers,” the Harvard report said. North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un is believed to be developing biological agents such as anthrax, cholera and smallpox, London’s Daily Mail reported.

Syria

US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces say they have captured Syria’s largest oil field from ISIS, the latest in a series of recent setbacks for the jihadists in the east of the country. In 2014, ISIS seized control of the al-Omar oil field, the country’s largest and most important oil facility, which once had the capacity to produce 75,000 barrels of oil per day. The Syrian Democratic Forces, said that the group had “liberated” the oil field in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, driving ISIS fighters “out of the fields with little damage” on Sunday. ISIS’ oil production has been “reduced from a peak of approximately $50 million per month to currently less than $4 million per month.”

Niger

U.S. officials revealed that nearly 1,000 US troops are on the ground in Niger, a massive force for the tiny country, but that this is now the “hub” for U.S. military operations in Western Africa. This only became public knowledge after four U.S. special forces were killed in an ambush by Islamic militants. Niger has hosted a US drone base for years, and about 100 troops were reported deployed in 2012. Somewhere between then and now, this increased ten-fold, and those troops started engaging in patrols. African Command says there are no armed U.S. warplanes in West Africa at present, but that they rely on French warplanes. Details on what exactly being a ‘hub’ means are scant, since these operations were meant to be kept secret.

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his ruling coalition retained a two-thirds majority in Sunday’s national elections, an outcome he said shows support for a stronger military and a hard line on North Korea.  Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the ruling coalition won 312 seats in the 465-seat lower house of parliament, exceeding a two-thirds majority at 310, and other parties had 143 seats. A two-thirds supermajority gives Abe and his allies the ability to push through changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow a more robust, conventional military. Abe made his strong military stance a key point in the campaign, calling the threat from North Korea one of the two crises facing Japan, along with its rapidly aging population.

Indonesia

An explosion and raging fire at a firecracker factory Thursday near Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, left at least 47 people dead and dozens injured, police said. The death toll could rise as many of the people who escaped the factory suffered extensive burns. The fire broke out at the factory in a warehouse complex in Tangerang, a city in Banten province on the western outskirts of Jakarta. A police report said the fire spread after an explosion and that the factory’s roof collapsed.

Wildfires

Fires fed by winds and hot and dry conditions in Southern California shut down highways and sent firefighters scrambling to contain them Tuesday. In Rancho Cucamonga, officials shut down the 210 Freeway in both directions and northbound 15 Freeway due to a brush fire that erupted near the intersection of the two roadways. Firefighters in Jurupa Valley battled a blaze that was sparked in a lumber yard and spread across several acres. The so-called Clay Fire shut down a major highway and forced a county animal shelter to evacuate. Red flag warnings remain in effect through Wednesday in parts of Southern California. Very hot, dry air combined with wind gusts of 45 to 55 mph will lead to ripe conditions for rapid development and spreading of wildfires.

Weather

Israel’s water crisis is intensifying. The prolonged drought in Israel has led to a water shortage so critical that even Israel’s world-leading waste treatment and desalinization infrastructure is not adequate to address the ongoing crisis. “No one imagined we would face a sequence of arid years like this, because it never happened before,” said Uri Schor, spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority.

Game 1 of the 2017 World Series in Los Angeles on Tuesday was the hottest World Series game on record. The first-pitch temperature was 103 degrees at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday at 5 pm. The high temperature in downtown L.A. was 104 degrees earlier in the afternoon, crushing the previous record-latest-in-season 104-degree high by 8 days (Oct. 16, 1958). The previous hottest-known World Series game was another game 1, this time on Oct. 27, 2001, in Phoenix, when the first-pitch temperature was 94 degrees.

Severe storms hammered the Carolinas and Virginia Monday evening, and there were nine confirmed tornadoes. More than 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday morning. Eight minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. There were at least four reports of possible tornadoes in South Carolina.

Severe storms with damaging winds and heavy rainfall struck Hawaii early Tuesday morning. The Maui Police Department tweeted early Tuesday that there was an island-wide power outage from the storms and that Maui Electric was working to restore power. Maui has a population of about 150,000.

Typhoon Lan made landfall early Monday morning, Oct. 23, in southeastern Japan, where a combination of flooding rain, high winds and pounding surf battered the country, lashing the country’s main island of Honshu with winds up to 105 mph, killing two people. Shingu, in Wakayama Prefecture in southern Japan, recorded more than two feet of rainfall from Friday morning into early Monday morning.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme ((Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

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