Archive for July, 2018

Signs of the Times

July 30, 2018

­But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31))

Priestly Abuse of Nuns an Ongoing Problem

After decades of silence, several nuns worldwide to come forward recently on an issue that the Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with: The sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops. An AP examination has found that cases have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it. Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part because of years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

  • This comes on the heals of another Cardinal resigning over sexual abuse charges

Ads for Franklin Graham Festival Banned Over His Views on Homosexuality

Evangelist Franklin Graham says his Festival of Hope will go on in the United Kingdom despite backlash and a local bus company banning ads for the event. The Festival of Hope is scheduled to take place Sept. 21-23 in Lancashire and feature a Gospel message from Graham along with music from The Afters, Rend Collective and Michael W. Smith. Earlier this month, Blackpool Transport – which runs buses in the area – announced it was removing ads for the festival following a social media protest that highlighted some of Graham’s pasts statements about homosexuality and other issues. “Blackpool Transport is a proud ongoing supporter of the Pride and LGBT+ communities,” they said in a statement.

  • Imagine the hue and cry if ads for an LGBT event were banned. Overall religious freedom in the UK has severely diminished.

Secretary of State Pompeo Hosting Global Religious Freedom Summit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted the first ever worldwide conference on religious freedom in Washington last week. Unfortunately, religious persecution is nothing new and in recent years, it’s grown, reports (Breaking Christian News. In an attempt to stop that trend, Pompeo hosted more than 80 high-level government ministers at the State Department this week for the first ever worldwide conference on religious freedom. “The advancement of religious freedom matters to every individual in every country,” says Pompeo. “The human dignity, the human right attached to religious freedom I feel personally, and I know President Trump does as well,” Pompeo said. The overall concept is to show evidence that greater religious freedom means less terrorism and a better economy. Experts say roughly three-fourths of the world’s population faces some restriction on religious freedom.

North Korea Dismantling Key Missile Facilities

North Korea has started dismantling a missile-engine test site, as President Trump said the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, promised he would during their historic summit meeting in Singapore in June, according to an analysis of satellite imagery of the location, reports the New York Times. The North Koreans have started taking apart the engine test stand at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, said Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., an expert on North Korea’s weapons programs, in a report published on Monday on the website 38 North. The dismantling work probably began sometime within the last two weeks, he said. North Korea has also started dismantling a rail-mounted building at the Sohae station where workers used to assemble space launch vehicles before moving them to the launchpad, Mr. Bermudez said. But it still remained unclear whether North Korea planned to raze the entire Sohae site in the country’s northeast, which has been vital to its space program.

Border Family Reunification ‘Has Been Completed’ says Judge

The judge overseeing the chaos from President Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy gave the government good marks for its efforts to reunify families, saying “that process has been completed.” But the judge, in a court hearing Friday, said there are still hundreds of other parents who weren’t in government custody who must now be tracked down. He didn’t blame the government for failing to reunify them, since they aren’t in government custody, but he did say they are still the government’s responsibility. “The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process… where we go next is identifying and finding those parents who have been removed without children or who are in the interior and not presently located,” Judge Dana Sabraw said. He said the government managed to reconnect 1,820 children. The difficult in locating the missing parents is due to the failure to properly record, classify and keep track of migrant parents and children pulled apart by the “zero tolerance” border crackdown that was hastily implemented.

Liberal 9th Circuit Court Backs Right to Carry Firearms in Public

The liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed the right of individuals to carry firearms in public in a ruling Tuesday, striking down a lower court argument that the Constitution only protects that right at home. “Analyzing the text of the Second Amendment and reviewing the relevant history, including founding-era treatises and nineteenth century case law, the panel stated that it was unpersuaded by the county’s and the state’s argument that the Second Amendment only has force within the home,” the ruling states. Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in his opinion that “for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.” In his dissent, Judge Richard Clifton said states have “long allowed for extensive regulations of and limitations on the public carry of firearms.”

Trump Postpones Second Meeting with Putin

The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not meet this year, a surprising reversal that came amid mounting pressure from fellow Republicans on his handling of Russia. “The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.  Trump, after returning from his widely panned meeting with Putin in Helsinki last week, said he intended to invite Putin to the White House for a follow-up meeting this fall.

United Nations Running Out of Money

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the U.N. is running out of money and is urging members to pay up amid a looming financial crisis for the international body. In a letter to staff this week, seen by Fox News, Guterres says he has warned member states of a “troubling financial situation facing the United Nations,” which he says is caused by late payments to the U.N. by member states. “Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning; we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” he said. Trump administration threats to cut funding do not appear to be directly linked to the cash crunch. The U.S. has not yet reduced or delayed its payments to the budget. However, earlier this year, the U.S. withheld funding to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

More Transgender Nonsense

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Wisconsin taxpayers must pay for the transgender surgeries of two gender-confused Medicaid patients, effectively going against a rule that’s been on the books for more than twenty years, reports LifeSiteNews.com. Since 1996, Wisconsin Medicaid rules have barred coverage for “transsexual surgery,” so in April the two sued on the grounds that the exclusion violated not only their equal protection rights, but the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). U.S. District Judge William Conley agreed with them this week. Conley issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the state from enforcing the rule, claiming the “likelihood of ongoing, irreparable harm facing these two individual plaintiffs outweighs any marginal impacts on the defendants’ stated concerns regarding public health or limiting costs.” He also refused to hold off despite the fact that the case is being appealed to the 7th Circuit, and signaled he may expand the order to fund surgery for any transgendered Medicaid patient.

A man in Canada has recently changed his gender on his birth certificate in order to receive lower insurance rates. The man, identified as “David,” from Alberta, Canada, legally changed his gender, because the car insurance rates are higher for men. CBC reports, “According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, men under 25 are generally at higher risk of collision than women of the same age, which means their premiums are often higher.” Rather than pay $1,100 more for insurance, “David” took measures into his own hands: “David, who was 23 at the time, says he learned he first had to change his gender on his birth certificate and driver’s licence before he could have it reflected on his insurance policy, to get the cheaper rate,” CBC says. After getting his doctor to write a note saying that “David” identified as a woman, a requirement at the time, he was able to change his gender legally and receive the lower insurance rate.

Water Discovered in Underground Lake on Mars

There’s water on Mars. For the first time, scientists have detected a lake of salty water under the Martian ice, a study released Wednesday said. The lake is about a mile under the surface and stretches 12 miles across, they say. The presence of liquid water under the Martian polar ice caps has long been suspected but not seen, until now, the study said. The discovery raises the possibility of finding life on the red planet. “Without water, no form of life as we know it could exist,” said Anja Diez of the Norwegian Polar Institute. Astronomers used radar data from the orbiting European spacecraft “Mars Express” to find the water. They spent at least two years checking over the data to make sure they’d detected water, not ice or another substance.

U.S. and EU End Trade War

The United States and the European Union stepped back from the brink of a trade war on Wednesday, after President Trump said the Europeans agreed to work toward lower tariffs and other trade barriers, and to buy billions of dollars of American soybeans and natural gas. The surprise announcement, made by Mr. Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, defused, for the moment, a trade battle that began with Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum exports and threatened to escalate to automobiles. The two sides agreed to hold off on further tariffs, and work toward dropping the existing ones on steel and aluminum, while they tried to work out a deal to eliminate tariffs, nontariff barriers and subsidies on industrial goods, excluding autos.

Economic News

A big rebound in spending by Americans and a sharp rise in exports and business investment powered the U.S. economy to its fastest growth in four years this spring, the government reported Friday. The second quarter’s 4.1 percent annualized growth rate marks a major jump from the first three months of 2018, when the economy grew at a tepid 2.2 percent, according to government economists. And it provides a boost to President Trump and Republicans hoping to tout a strong economy in their pitch to voters ahead of November’s midterm elections. But economists caution the growth was driven by one-time factors and is likely to be short-lived.

Some of the largest companies in America are reporting this week that they are suffering the sting of the Trump administration’s trade war, sounding alarm in an otherwise prosperous economy. General Motors said Wednesday that it has lowered its outlook for 2018 earnings in part because of significant increases in the costs of raw material. Whirlpool, which was supposed to benefit from Trump-imposed tariffs on foreign-made washing machines earlier this year, reported Tuesday that it did not make its second-quarter earnings estimates as steel prices rose 50 percent. Harley-Davidson said Tuesday it faces up to $100 million in European Union tariff costs in 2019. That’s in addition to about $50 million this year due to retaliatory European Union levies on steel and aluminum.

If you’re using the stock market as a measure of who’s winning the trade dispute, the U.S. has a clear lead over China and its other trading partners. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up 6.5% this year through last Wednesday’s close. China’s Shanghai composite is down more than 12% over the same period, and major stock indexes in Japan and Europe are down a little less than 1 percent. While the trade war has cast a shadow over parts of Corporate America, but it is bringing a bit of good fortune to the steel industry, President Trump’s metal tariffs have sent steel prices surging and sparked blockbuster profits for steel manufacturers. “All in all, we’re very happy with tariffs,” Nucor CEO John Ferriola told analysts earlier this month.

The Trump administration announced $12 billion in aid for U.S. farmers on Tuesday to help protect them from the repercussions of trade spats between the United States and China, the European Union and others. The administration will pay for billions in trade-related aid through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s broad authority and two commodity support programs in a farm bill under consideration in Congress.

Middle East

Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet Tuesday after the aircraft infiltrated Israeli airspace while flying over the Golan Heights, the country’s military announced last Tuesday. The jet flew about 1.2 miles into Israeli airspace before it was hit by a pair of Patriot missiles, according to the Israel Defense Forces. he jet crashed in the Southern Golan Heights on the Syrian side. The Israeli military had sent numerous warnings to prevent anyone from violating its airspace. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said one pilot was killed and that the condition of the other was unknown. Tuesday’s incident is the first downing of a Syrian jet since a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet shot one down over Syria in June 2017 after the Syrian plane fired on U.S.-backed Syrian forces.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense last Thursday issued a rare statement thanking the IDF for a strike it conducted against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in southern Syria in retaliation for ISIS rocket fire on Israel. On Wednesday, ISIS fired two Grad rockets at Israel’s north, setting off sirens in the area. The rockets landed in the Kinneret, Sea of Galilee, causing no damage or injuries. The beaches were full of swimmers nearby amid the summer vacation season. In response, the IDF aircraft targeted the rocket launcher from which they were fired. The area surrounding it was targeted by IDF artillery.

A terrorist infiltrated the Jerusalem suburb of Adam last Thursday evening, stabbing three people including 31 year old Yotam Ovadia, who died of his wounds shortly after arriving at Hadassah Medical Center at Mt. Scopus. The attacker, a resident of a nearby Arab village, also died at the scene after being shot and hit by the car of intervening bystanders. The Islamist terror militia Hamas issued a statement saying, “We praise the heroic action, which is a natural response to Israel’s crimes … this is a continuation of the Intifada.”

IDF units deployed on Israel’s northern and southern borders were on maximum alert Thursday morning following heavy exchanges of fire overnight with Assad regime forces in Syria as well as Hamas and other terror militias in the Gaza Strip. Two BM-21 “Grad” rockets, believed to be fired at Assad regime forces in southern Syria by the Islamic State (IS) terror militia fell in the Sea of Galilee late Wednesday, leading Israeli jets to launch retaliatory strikes.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber struck outside a crowded polling station in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, killing 31 people as Pakistanis cast ballots Wednesday in a general election meant to lead to the nation’s third consecutive civilian government. The attack in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, also wounded 35 people and several were reported to be in critical condition. A witness who was waiting to cast his ballot, Abdul Haleem, said he saw a motorcycle drive into the crowd of voters just seconds before the explosion. Haleem’s uncle was killed in the blast. Baluchistan also saw the worst violence during election campaigning earlier this month, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally, killing 149 people, including the candidate Siraj Raisani. Another 400 were wounded. Voting in that constituency has been suspended. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, though Baluchistan has seen relentless attacks, both by the province’s secessionists and Sunni militants who have killed hundreds of Shiites living there. In recent years, the IS affiliate in the region has emerged as a major force behind violence, often using local Sunni radicals from the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to carry out its attacks.

Syria

Islamic State militants went from home to home, killing families as they slept, before launching several suicide bombings last Wednesday, targeting a bustling vegetable market as well as government-held positions in the southern Syrian province of Suwayda. When the attackers ran out of ammunition, they detonated their explosive vests. By the day’s end more than 200 people were dead, and 180 wounded, in a gruesome massacre claimed by ISIS. The coordinated assault — one of the group’s deadliest attacks in Syria for years — is a chilling reminder that ISIS is far from dead, just a few months after US President Donald Trump suggested the terrorists would soon be gone from Syria for good.

Turkey

President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that the U.S. will penalize Turkey with “large sanctions” for its “long time detainment” of an American pastor and called for his immediate release. The Rev. Andrew Brunson, a Protestant missionary, has spent nearly two years in jail on charges of collaborating with Turkey’s foes and attempting to stir chaos by inciting hatred based on religious and ethnic differences. Brunson, 50, has been detained in Turkey since 2016 after he was blamed for assisting rebels in a coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one many have speculated was of Erdogan’s doing to tighten his grip on power in the country. Trump’s tweet echoes comments Vice President Mike Pence made Wednesday night at a religious freedom summit.

Infrastructure

The collapse of a hydroelectric dam has left 24 people dead and hundreds missing in southeastern Laos. Rescue efforts are underway as top government officials rushed to the site and public appeals were launched for aid. The Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Attpeu province collapsed Monday evening, releasing large amounts of water that swept away houses and made more than 6,600 people homeless. The dam was constructed by a joint venture led by South Korean companies, with Thai and Lao partners. The project was still under construction. The portion that collapsed as a “saddle dam,” which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam. It was 770 meters long and 16 meters high.

Volcanoes

Evacuation orders and a state of emergency were issued once again Friday for a South Pacific island in Vanuatu after an eruption at the Manaro Voui Volcano spewed dark ash into the air. The country’s cabinet declared a state of emergency and ordered the mandatory evacuation of the entire island of Ambae, one of 65 inhabited islands that make up Vanuatu. Last September, the 154-square-mile island was evacuated when a cycle of eruptions began after several years of relative quiet. Since then, recurring eruptions prompted lawmakers in March to urge residents to consider permanently relocating somewhere else.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory reports that the eruptions in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone could become the longest ever recorded at the volcano, as the lava flows show no sign of slowing down. That could mean more homes in danger, and with more than 700 dwellings destroyed since the lava flows began May 3, it’s already a full-blown disaster. With no signs that the eruptions are slowing down, this also raises fears that new channels could form, diverting lava to other areas previously untouched by fissure openings.

Earthquakes

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia’s Lombok Island early Sunday, killing 14 people and injuring another 162. The quake damaged more than 1,000 houses and was felt in a wider area, including on Bali, where no damage or casualties were reported. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of only 7 kilometers (4.4 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to do more damage than deeper ones. The quake caused blackouts in East Lombok and North Lombok districts and triggered a large landslide from Mount Rinjani. Rescuers were evacuating more than 800 tourists from the mountain.

Wildfires

The death toll from two big wildfires raging on the outskirts of Athens, Greece, rose to at least 82 as of last Thursday. Fire authorities said Tuesday that at least 156 adults and 16 children have been hospitalized with injuries. Many are in serious condition. The two largest wildfires — one 20 miles northeast of Athens near Rafina, the other 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta — broke out Monday during hot, dry summer conditions. Fanned by gale-force winds that frequently changed direction, the flames spread rapidly into populated seaside towns — too fast for many who were in their cars or homes to flee. Dried pools of molten aluminum dot the charred roads of a small Greek village ravaged by fire this week. The flames were so hot that cars in their path began to melt, metal dripping to the ground and tires turned to liquid rubber. Entire villages are being destroyed. The mayor of the municipality in Greece where more than 80 people lost their lives to wildfires this week has admitted that mistakes were made in the response to the crisis, telling CNN that no evacuation order was given and that the scale of the fire was “underestimated.”

The heart of Yosemite National Park, where throngs of tourists are awe-struck by cascading waterfalls and towering granite features like El Capitan and Half Dome, will be closed as firefighters try to corral a huge wildfire just to the west that has cast a smoky pall and threatened the park’s forest, officials said Tuesday. Yosemite Valley will be closed for at least four days beginning at noon Wednesday, along with a winding, mountainous, 20-mile stretch of State Route 41. At least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings will be canceled — to say nothing of the impact on day visitors, park workers and small businesses along the highway. The Ferguson Fire scorched another 1,723 acres last Wednesday night to cover a total of 43,299 acres as of Thursday.

Relentless summer heat and dry conditions fueled several large wildfires burning in California, including one blaze that burned five homes and forced hundreds to evacuate. Sparked last Wednesday in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, the so-called Cranston Fire burned timber and tinder-dry brush, erupting to a 7-square-mile conflagration in just a matter of hours. Authorities said the blaze threatened some 600 homes, and all 3,200 people in the town of Idyllwild and surrounding communities were ordered to leave their homes. The fire was 5 percent contained Thursday morning. The inferno was the largest of at least five that police believe were purposely set Wednesday by a man whose car was reportedly spotted at the starting point of the blaze in Riverside County. Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula was booked on suspicion of five counts of arson,

An out-of-control blaze in Northern California has killed five people and destroyed 500 structures and has grown to more than 131 square miles, authorities said Saturday night. It is only 5% contained. The fire moved so quickly that residents had little time to flee. In the small community of Keswick, only a handful of homes remain after the uncontained Carr Fire swept through the town that of around 500 people. The blaze killed at least one firefighter and a private bulldozer operator that was fighting the growing fire as it jumped the Sacramento River and rapidly moved into the western side of the town of more than 90,000 people. At least three others have been injured three by the flames and heat. Residents were urged to evacuate, and the inferno moved so quickly that fire crews had only one priority: aiding in evacuations in hopes the death toll wouldn’t rise. In all, an estimated 37,000 people have been evacuated. On official noted Friday afternoon that the blaze is expected to continue moving into urban areas. Over 120 homes have been destroyed and 500 structures have been destroyed. About 5,000 additional structures are threatened.

Weather

Flash flood warnings and watches were in effect last Wednesday across much of the Mid-Atlantic and deep into upstate New York as heavy rains continued to pound the waterlogged region for a fifth day. About 30 million people have been under the cloud of flood watches for days. In contrast, almost 40 million people from Washington state to Arizona were dealing with a dangerous heat wave, the National Weather Service said. Death Valley will see highs above 120 the next couple of days, with nighttime temperatures dropping to only about 100. Southern California also was locked in a pattern of triple-digit temperatures, and people were urged to ease off air conditioners and other appliances during peak power usage from 5-9 p.m.

Japanese officials classified the country’s historic heat wave as a natural disaster, warning citizens Tuesday to stay inside and avoid life-threatening temperatures of 104 degrees in some areas. At least 65 people have died in the blistering heat since early July, but the actual figure is thought to be much higher. AccuWeather estimates the death toll from the Japan heat wave is likely already in the hundreds despite the official toll, and they predict the number will climb into the thousands before the heat wave ends. More than 22,000 people have been taken to hospitals with heat-stroke symptoms. In the city of Kumagaya, temperatures soared to 106 degrees on Monday, the highest temperature ever reported in the country.

In the last 30 days (ending Wednesday, July 25), there have been 3,173 new daily maximum temperatures, 159 new hottest months and 53 new all-time highs worldwide, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the U.S. alone, there have been 1,566 new daily maximum temperatures, 86 new hottest months and 24 new all-time highs during the same time period. Phoenix, Arizona, set a new record high last Thursday of 116 degrees.

  • The Scriptures tell us that extreme weather conditions, including scorching heat, will be the hallmark of the end-times (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times

July 23, 2018

­Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Federal Judge Backs Trump Administration over Abstinence Funding

A federal judge has sided with the Trump administration in a lawsuit challenging its move to prioritize faith-based, abstinence-focused programs for dispensing family-planning dollars. In May, three Planned Parenthood groups and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) sued the administration over the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) February guidelines overhauling how it evaluated applications for Title X family planning grants. The new rules gave priority to abstinence, ease of primary care access, more family participation, and cooperation with faith-based groups. Last Monday, District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, saying, “the administration’s priorities were consistent with the Title X program’s mission of supporting “voluntary family projects … offering a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services.”

Trump and Iran’s Rouhani Exchange Twitter Threats

President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exchanged angry threats Monday as tensions between the two nations escalated as Washington prepares to re-impose economic sanctions following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped. Trump tweeted Iran would face dire consequences for making hostile threats against the United States after Rouhani said that “Americans must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Trump responded with a tweet written in capital letters that warned: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” Rouhani cautioned Trump to stop “playing with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it.” Trump ordered increased American sanctions after those sanctions had been suspended as part of the accord. The first part of the sanctions — affecting Iran’s access to U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and other commodities, and its car industry — will snap back on August 4. Sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will be re-imposed in November.

Trump Sides with Russia’s Putin over U.S. Intelligence Services

President Trump on Monday stood beside Russian President Vladimir Putin and rejected the findings of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, drawing bipartisan blowback from lawmakers dismayed by his performance on the world stage, reports the Washington Time, a conservative newspaper. At a joint press conference after their summit in Helsinki, Mr. Trump declined to publicly rebuke Mr. Putin for election hacking and failed to admonish Russia’s invasion of Crimea, poisoning of opponents on British soil and fueling bloodshed in Ukraine and Syria. The White House said many of the topics were addressed behind closed doors. In public, Mr. Trump vouched for the former KGB officer’s claim that Russia didn’t meddle in the election and called Mr. Putin’s denials “extremely strong and powerful.” Trump walked back from those remarks in recent days but only caused more confusion. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first public comments since the Helsinki summit, echoed President Donald Trump’s view that the talks were successful, but warned of “forces” in the U.S. that are trying to undermine the results. Trump has now invited Putin to the nation’s capital for a second go-round this fall.

Majority of Immigrant Children Still Separated from Parents

Federal officials said Thursday that 364 children have now been reunited with their parents to comply with a federal judge’s order that the Trump administration bring together undocumented immigrant families separated under its “zero tolerance” policy. A majority of the nearly 2,600 immigrant children – who were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border with their parents for trying to illegally enter the country – still remain apart from their parents in facilities around the country. The administration’s controversial practice was designed to discourage illegal immigration by keeping immigrant parents apart from their children before they entered deportation proceedings. In response to an ACLU lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to end the practice of breaking up families, saying it potentially violates immigrants’ due process rights. She then gave federal authorities 30 days to reunite nearly 2,600 children who had been separated from their parents. The deadline is July 26.

Gun Control Out the Window with Latest Court Ruling

The federal government has finally recognized the obvious – that sharing instructions on how to make guns with 3D printers counts as constitutionally protected speech. Despite little fanfare, this is an important victory for First Amendment rights. It also represents a blow to the increasingly futile cause of gun control. The U.S. Justice Department announced a legal settlement in a case brought by Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed. Wilson, 25, created a ruckus in May 2013 when he announced his successful design of a plastic gun. In just two days, 100,000 copies of the handgun blueprint were downloaded from Wilson’s website. The most downloads came from Spain, followed by the U.S., Brazil and Germany. People are going to download these files whether they’re legal or not. As we’ve seen with movies, file sharing is unstoppable. The most pirated TV program in 2017 was the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” with well over 10 million illegal downloads in most weeks. Like it or not, gun control has become moot.

Two People Killed, Dozen Wounded in Toronto Shooting

A second shooting victim died Monday following a gunman’s rampage in a Toronto neighborhood that left another dozen people wounded along a thoroughfare crowded with bars and restaurants. The 29-year-old suspect died after an exchange of gunfire with responding police officers a few blocks from Sunday’s carnage. Police Chief Mark Saunders said the shooting, in the Greektown neighborhood, was not random and he did not rule out terrorism as a motive. He said the suspect used a handgun. The attack in Canada’s largest city came three months after a 25-year-old man in a rented Ryder truck mowed down pedestrians along iconic Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 15. “We were so use to living in a city where these things didn’t happen,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said. “But there are things that happen nowadays.”

Chicago is the Rat Capital of the U.S.

A new study has named Chicago the “rat capital” of America, with a total of 50,963 rat complaints in 2017 compared to 32,855 in 2014, an increase of 55%. The study, by apartment search service RentHop.com, compared complaints in the Windy City, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., and found that Chicago topped the list with 1,876 complaints per 100,000 residents, a figure more than twice the number of the nation’s capital, which came in second place. Boston had 363 complaints per 100,000 residents while New York City came in fourth with 222 gripes per 100,000 residents.

Administration Adds 30% to Health Costs in U.S.

A widely cited study published in The New England Journal of Medicine used data from 1999 to estimate that about 30 percent of American health care expenditures were the result of administration, about twice what it is in Canada. If the figures hold today, they mean that out of the average of about $19,000 that U.S. workers and their employers pay for family coverage each year, $5,700 goes toward administrative costs. Like the overall cost of the U.S. health system, its administrative cost alone is No. 1 in the world, reports the New York Times. The Netherlands was second in hospital administrative costs: almost 20 percent of hospital spending. At the low end were Canada and Scotland, which both spend about 12 percent of hospital expenditures on administration.

Homelessness Costing San Francisco Millions

Members of this younger generation are exhibiting risky behavior when coming up with a down payment to buy a home, with about 1 in 3 (29 percent) saying they raided their 401(k) or IRA or borrowed against their retirement accounts, a move personal finance pros say could hurt their financial well-being, according to a new survey from Bank of the West. Long known for being cautious when it comes to taking risk and approaching the unpredictable stock market with trepidation, millennials now view real estate as the “cornerstone” of their investment portfolio. Nearly 6 in 10 (56 percent) cited homeownership as the most popular ingredient of the American Dream, according to the bank’s “2018 Millennial Study” released Thursday. Being debt-free ranked second at 51 percent and retiring comfortably came in third at 49 percent.

Homeless is a problem that’s costing the city of San Francisco hundreds of millions of dollars annually to try to solve – and for its new mayor, something that’s starting to become increasingly smelly too. Mayor London Breed says the amount of feces scattered on the streets of the wealthy city in recent months is among the worst she has ever seen, and San Francisco reportedly is set to spend nearly $280 million in its next budget fighting homelessness – an average of $37,300 for each of the city’s estimated 7,499 homeless residents. San Francisco in recent years is reported to have spent $241 million and $275 million from annual budgets on homeless outreach services and programs. But for all the money San Francisco is throwing at the complex issue, the number of people living on the streets appears to be staying the same, according to data from a homeless count survey conducted last year citywide.

Economic News

Economists were shocked and surprised that all three measures of residential construction activity performed poorly in June. The two most closely watched numbers, construction permits and housing starts, fell short of their June 2017 numbers. The worst numbers were for privately authorized housing starts. They failed to hold on to their gain in May, dropping 12.3 percent to 1,173,000 units. The June estimate fell below the June 2017 pace by 4.2 percent. Single-family starts were down 9.1 percent from May and off 0.2 percent from the June 2017 number. Construction permits were authorized in June at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,273,000, down 2.2 percent from the May rate of 1,301,000. This is 3.0 percent lower than the permitting pace in June 2017.

The European Union and Japan have signed a trade deal that promises to eliminate 99 percent of tariffs that cost businesses in the EU and Japan nearly $1.17 billion annually. The EU-Japan “Economic Partnership Agreement” (EPA) is the largest trade deal ever negotiated by the EU and will create a trade zone covering 600 million people and nearly a third of global GDP. The result of four years of negotiation, the EPA was finalized in late 2017 and is expected to come into force in autumn 2019. The EU and Japan see the signing of the deal as a signal against President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

Israel

Tens of thousands of Israeli LGBT advocates and their supporters went on strike across the country Sunday, protesting the exclusion of gay men from a recently passed surrogacy law. The community were outraged that after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers, he then voted against it, apparently under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox Jewish coalition partners. “Although Israel has a very liberal image concerning gays it’s not the case when you look at the Israeli law,” said former Israeli lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz at the protest, who called for law amendments to ensure equal treatment for the LGBT community.

Israel’s parliament approved a controversial piece of legislation on Thursday that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people but which critics warn sidelines minorities. The government says the bill, passed in the early morning hours, will merely enshrine into law Israel’s existing character. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called its passage a “historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.” The legislation also addresses Jerusalem’s status, declaring that ” Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Opponents of the new bill say it marginalizes the country’s Arab minority of around 20 percent and also downgrades Arabic language from official to “special” standing. The law passed with a 62-55 backing, with two members of the Knesset abstaining. The legislation is defined as “basic law,” granting it quasi-constitutional status, will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.

Middle East

1,440 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday as part of mourning rituals to mark the 9th day of the month of Av (Tisha B’Av) on the Jewish calendar, a date on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed by invading armies and on which many other disastrous events have befallen the Jewish People over the centuries. Jordan’s embassy in Israel sent a protest letter to the foreign ministry after more than 1,000 Jews were allowed to ascend to the Temple Mount Sunday. The letter declared that the Jews who visited the Temple Mount “defiled” the site and were a “provocation” to Muslims throughout the world. The vast majority of the over 1,000 Jews who entered the site of the Temple Mount Sunday were peaceful. A few were arrested after they attempted to pray on the site, which is forbidden because it is said to be incitement to violence since it angers Muslims.

Incoming rocket alert sirens blared throughout northern Israel on Monday morning, as Israel for the first time deployed the David’s Sling anti-missile system after rockets from Syria strayed toward Israel. The David’s Sling air defense system knocked down Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives. The stray rockets from the fighting between President Bashar Assad’s troops and rebels in south Syria were targeted by David’s Sling and reportedly shot down over Syria.

Violence flared between Israel and Hamas for the second time in a week, prompting renewed fears that Gaza could slide quickly into an all-out war. Hours later, reports that a ceasefire has been restored surfaced but has not been corroborated. The escalation began in the late afternoon, when an Israeli soldier died after being hit by gunfire during protests along the fence that separates Israel and Gaza, Israeli Defense Forces said. It was the first Israeli soldier killed on the fence since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, the IDF said. The IDF’s initial response was tank and artillery fire. Four people were killed in that salvo, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Since March 30, protesters in Gaza have launched thousands of kites and helium balloons laden with explosives, Molotov cocktails and other incendiary material over the border into Israel. The resulting fires have burned nearly 8,000 acres of land, with the vast majority of scorched earth consisting of agricultural fields and nature reserves. Thousands of animals have choked to death, said a spokeswoman for the Nature and Parks Authority. Some species have lost their natural habitat, creating an ecological disaster. Ecologists grimly predict a full recovery could take years. The damage protesters have caused is not only hurting Israelis, but Gazans themselves. The wheat from Israeli fields would have also fed people in Gaza.

Islamic State

The Islamic State is creeping back into parts of central Iraq just seven months after the government declared victory in the war against the group, embarking on a wave of kidnappings, assassinations and bombings that have raised fears that a new cycle of insurgency is starting again, reports the Washington Post. The small-scale attacks are taking place mostly in remote areas that have been neglected by the government and are chillingly reminiscent of the kind of tactics that characterized the Islamic State insurgency in the years before 2014, when the group captured a vast swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. Over the past two months, dozens of people, including local government officials, tribal elders and village chiefs, have been abducted and killed or ransomed by fighters claiming affiliation with the Islamic State. Electricity infrastructure and oil pipelines have been blown up. Armed men dressed as security forces and manning fake checkpoints have hijacked trucks and robbed travelers, rendering the main Baghdad-Kirkuk highway unsafe for a period of weeks.

A squad of assailants, including gunmen and a suicide bomber, stormed a government building last week in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people, in the latest of half a dozen deadly attacks in that region since mid-June. No group has asserted responsibility for the attack, but most of the others have been claimed by the Islamic State. The morning attack on a busy education office building in the crowded provincial capital left several dozen officials and visitors trapped for hours while insurgents and security forces exchanged gunfire, officials and witnesses said. Ten other people were injured.

China

The goal of China’s influence operations around the world is to replace the United States as the world’s leading superpower, the CIA’s Michael Collins said Friday. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum during a session on the rise of China, Collins, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia Mission Center, said Chinese President Xi Jinping and his regime are waging a “cold war” against the U.S. Collins also said that China is, “A country that exploits all avenues of power licit and illicit, public and private, economic and military, to undermine the standing of your rival relative to your own standing without resorting to conflict. The Chinese do not want conflict,” Collins said. By looking at the writings of Xi, whose “thought” or world view was recently enshrined in China’s constitution, it’s clear, Collins says, that the threat China presents is the greatest global challenge the U.S. currently faces.

Environment

Air pollution in national parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Acadia is as bad as some of America’s largest cities, and the foul air may be causing tourists to cut visits short or avoid going at all, according to a study released last Wednesday. “Even though the national parks are supposed to be icons of a pristine landscape, quite a lot of people are being exposed to ozone levels that could be detrimental to their health,” said study co-author Ivan Rudik of Cornell University. Researchers from Iowa State and Cornell said visitor numbers dropped almost 2 percent when ozone levels went up even slightly and at least 8 percent during months with bad air quality. Health concerns for visitors were more of a worry than poor visibility. Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, forms on warm, sunny days and is made worse from chemicals from car and truck tailpipes and from power plant and industrial smokestacks. This ozone can exacerbate asthma attacks and cause difficulty breathing. It differs from the “good” ozone in the stratosphere, which protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Volcanoes

One person was seriously injured and 22 others hurt after a “lava bomb” hit a tour boat near the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. Molten rock running into the ocean exploded and threw chunks of lava onto the Lava Ocean Tours boat, smashing a basketball-size hole through the boat’s roof and raining smaller rocks onto the decking. Authorities said most of the injuries were burns or scrapes caused when the hot rocks fall onto the boat and its passengers. Of the injured, four were taken by ambulance, one seriously injured with a fractured femur.

Expanding cracks and fissures at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming have prompted officials to close certain areas to tourists last Wednesday. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are now closed to tourists due to a possible safety hazard and park rangers are initiating a risk assessment, according to a statement from the National Park Service. Although it’s unclear how the cracks appeared, it could be due to seismic activity in the area. Grand Teton National Park sits atop the Yellowstone super-volcano, which last erupted 630,000 years ago and ejected 240 cubic miles of rock, ash and volcanic dust into the sky and left a 34 mile by 50 mile depression in the ground.

Wildfires

Officials confirmed the death of a person who was found in a burned field as a wildfire burned more than 70 square miles near The Dalles, Oregon, one of dozens of large wildfires burning across the West. The Substation Fire jumped the Deschutes River and burned a home and two other structures last Tuesday night. The expansion of the fire has been blamed on gusty winds. The area is also in moderate to severe drought. More than 250 firefighters have reached 82 percent containment on the fire, which has grown to nearly 80,000 acres, officials said late Saturday. However, a growing complex of fires in southwest Oregon has caused state officials to bring in more outside resources. The Garner Complex is composed of several fires in Jackson and Josephine counties, and has burned 6,382 acres and is 8 percent contained as of Saturday morning. Nearly 1,100 firefighters had been called in by late Friday. Wheat farmers have especially been hit hard by these fires.

Numerous wildfires were also causing problems in California. At Yosemite National Park, skies turned smoky and hazy as firefighters struggled to contain an inferno that continues to torch land in rural areas. The Ferguson Fire was responsible for turning the California park a smoky orange hue as it burned more than 27 square miles of land along the western edge of the park. The wildfire, which killed one firefighter, and injured two others. The Ferguson Fire spread to 33,743 acres by Monday morning, but firefighters increased containment to 13 percent, authorities reported. Yosemite National Park remains open.

Sweden’s most serious rash of wildfires in modern history has prompted a call for help from the European Union amid a record-smashing Scandinavian heat wave that shows no signs of letting up. At least 40 wildfires were burning in parts of Sweden Wednesday. A pair of Italian planes and eight Norwegian helicopters were assisting firefighting efforts.

Weather

Unusual weather conditions for the month of July have impacted the central and eastern states the past few days from a weather pattern not typically seen in mid-summer. A potent southward dip in the jet stream has moved from the Midwest into the East where it will linger to begin this week and contribute to a heavy rain threat. Typically, the jet stream flows in a flat west-to-east fashion near the Canadian border in July. Saturday was the second-wettest July calendar day on record in Baltimore (4.79 inches) and the fifth-wettest July day in Washington D.C. (4 inches). The weekend deluge was only the beginning. Several more onslaughts of heavy rain are expected in the East this week, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, leading to “potentially dangerous, even life-threatening flooding,” the National Weather Service warned.

A heat wave last week in Quebec, Canada, killed an estimated 91 people last week. Canadian health officials said the majority of deaths occurred in Montreal as heat indexes climbed to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the dead were men living alone, people over the age of 60, those suffering from chronic illnesses or mental health disorders. The majority of the deaths occurred in heat islands that are often warmer than other locations in a given area due to industrial growth, additional blacktop or dark buildings.

At least five tornadoes battered central Iowa Thursday afternoon, skimming roofs off buildings at two manufacturing plants, toppling the top of a courthouse clock tower and destroying buildings and homes. The tornadoes ripped through the towns of Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant. Miraculously, no fatalities were reported, and many of those taken to local hospitals were treated and released with minor injuries.

Seventeen people, including children, were killed when a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, on Thursday evening. The boat, carrying 29 passengers and two crew members, flipped during a severe thunderstorm. The driver of the Ride the Ducks tourist boat was among the victims as the vessel sank in 40 feet of water. Seven passengers – three children and four adults – received medical attention. Three were admitted as patients. Two are in the critical care unit. The storm hit the lake with 80 mph winds that kicked up waves 5 feet high. The weather service had issued warnings 8 hours earlier and a Branson inspector had warned of such an accident a year ago. Duck boats — amphibious vehicles that can travel on both land and water — have a long history of fatal crashes and accidents.

Signs of the Times

July 16, 2018

­When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan. (Proverbs 29:2)

Doctor Fired for Affirming Basic Biology of Sexual Identification

A British doctor has committed the unpardonable sin. Dr. David Mackereth, who had worked for the U.K.’s National Health Services for 26 years, dared to affirm that sex is biologically determined. As the headline in the Daily Mail states, “Christian doctor is SACKED by the Government for refusing to identify patients by their preferred gender because he believes sex is established at birth.” How could be so foolish as to believe that a biological male is different than a biological female? Not only is this doctor a bigot, he is also scientifically ignorant, his accusers assert.

  • Scientifically-ignorant? Isn’t science the study and identification of observable facts? How then do feelings count more than biology?

Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh a Step, Not a Lurch, Rightward

President Trump’s choice of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is intended to move what is already one of history’s most conservative courts to even more consistent right-of-center outcomes. However, based on Kavanaugh’s 300-plus past court decisions, he is not ultra-conservative, but leans conservative, often arguing to uphold the law, not make new law. Kavanaugh is only one of several nominations President Trump expects to make for the Supreme Court. “He’s anticipating making two, three, four, maybe five picks over the years. And so he’s kind of setting out a program for who he would like to pick over the years,” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The American Family Association gave Kavanaugh a 4-star rating, not 5 stars.

Federal Judge Pauses Deportations of Reunited Families

A federal judge on Monday ordered the US government to temporarily pause deportations of reunited families to allow attorneys time to debate whether he should more permanently extend that order. San Diego-based US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the pause to allow for a full written argument on the ACLU’s request to pause deportations of parents for a week after reunification. The ACLU argued that the week would be necessary for parents to have time to fully consider the decision whether to have their children deported along with them. The ACLU’s filing was made earlier Monday morning, and Sabraw gave the Department of Justice a week to respond.

12 Russian Intelligence Officers Indicted for Hacking

Twelve Russian military intelligence officers were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department Friday in a far-reaching hacking scheme that targeted the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign as part of the Kremlin’s effort to undermine the 2016 election. The 11-count indictment, unveiled just days before President Donald Trump was set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, asserts that the Russian suspects “engaged in a sustained effort” to penetrate the most sensitive repositories of information held by the Democratic Party. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the action, part of the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign by special counsel Robert Mueller, as some Democratic lawmakers called on the White House to immediately punish the Kremlin by canceling the Putin meeting. The White House did not immediately address that demand Friday, but rather reasserted that the indictment had not implicated anyone connected to the campaign. President Trump blamed Obama Saturday for not doing more to prevent Russia’s cyber-attack.

Trump and Putin Meet in Helsinki

President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart met for a longer-than-expected two hours on Monday, with Trump saying they would discuss “everything from trade to military to missiles to nuclear to China.” One agenda item Trump did not mention, however, was Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, a topic Trump had promised to press Russian President Vladimir Putin on after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted last week for stealing Democratic campaign emails. The summit began with a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin — with only translators present — which blew past its scheduled 90 minutes. Responding to a reporter’s question after that meeting, Trump said the two had a “very, very good start for everybody.” Trump and Putin then sat across from each other at a working lunch with high-level aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.  In a series of tweets Monday, Trump complained about the FBI investigation and faulted President Barack Obama for not stopping Russian attempts to meddle in the vote. Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

Trump Claims Victory after Tumultuous NATO Summit

President Donald Trump claimed credit Thursday for reinvigorating the NATO alliance, a day after he threw a gathering of America’s closest allies into turmoil by upbraiding member countries over defense spending and singling out Germany for the harshest criticism. On Wednesday, the first day of a two-day summit of NATO allies, Trump publicly slammed Germany as a ”captive to Russia,” prompting a terse retort from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Later, in a closed-door meeting, Trump demanded that NATO allies double their defense spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product. He also said he got pledges for increased defense spending, a claim that was later disputed by other NATO leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron pointed to previous commitments NATO members had made to increase defense spending by 2024. Trump asserted he has the authority to pull out of the treaty unilaterally, but that the additional commitments he’s received at the two-day summit made that “unnecessary.”

Trump says Britain’s May Terrific after Criticizing Her in Interview

President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged full cooperation on trade and other issues Friday, easing tensions following Trump’s explosive interview in which he criticized her handling of ‘Brexit’ and called into question a U.S.-U.K. trade deal. In a joint press conference outside London, the two leaders touted the relationship between their countries and a commitment to work together on issues of national security, terrorism, border security and trade. Despite his interview with The Sun, Trump said he supported whatever decision May comes to regarding Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union. Standing next to May, he called her an “incredible woman” and “tough negotiator” who is doing a “fantastic job.” He instead reserved his most pointed criticism for Germany’s Angela Merkel, continuing to hammer her over a natural-gas pipeline deal with Russia.

Tens of Thousands March In UK Against Trump

“Trump Baby,” a giant inflatable blimp created to protest President Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, flew high in the sky opposite the Houses of Parliament on Friday, before tens of thousands braved the English heat to march against the U.S. leader. The 20-foot long, diaper-wearing, smartphone-clutching balloon flew for several hours before it was deflated and packed away. It will make its next appearance in Scotland, where Trump will spend the weekend following his two-day working visit to the southeast of England. A smaller version of the blimp accompanied tens of thousands protesters on a march and rally in central London. The Stop Trump Coalition, which was behind that event, said that 250,000 people attended.

Video Shows Man Killed by Officer was Armed

Police in the nation’s third-largest city released video Sunday that showed a man who was shot to death by an officer a day earlier had a firearm and tussled with officers before the shooting. Dozens of protesters took the streets Saturday, with some demonstrators calling the police “murderers” and a few slinging bottles and rocks at the officers. Police said Harith Augustus, 37, had a valid firearms license but did not have a concealed-carry permit. The video was released much earlier than usual in such instances in order to dispel inaccurate information circulating on the street that sparked the violent protests. One police officer was killed in Massachusetts and three others were wounded in Missouri in separate shootings Sunday. The incidents come as tensions soared around the country over a police-involved shooting in Chicago.

Baltimore Police Stop Noticing Crime, More Killings Ensue

Just before a wave of violence turned Baltimore into the nation’s deadliest big city, a curious thing happened to its police force: officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime. Police officers reported seeing fewer drug dealers on street corners. They encountered fewer people who had open arrest warrants. Police questioned fewer people on the street. They stopped fewer cars. In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 – as Baltimore faced a wave of rioting after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van – officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since. The surge of shootings and killings that followed has left Baltimore easily the deadliest large city in the United States. Its murder rate reached an all-time high last year; 342 people were killed.

  • If police are going to be protested, harassed and killed by the people they are supposed to protect, backing off from those communities has underscored the crime and violence they were preventing beforehand. The people they were protecting now are showing their true colors.

Hawaiian Volcano Forms New Island

Lava that’s still flowing from the Kilauea volcano has now created a tiny new island off the coast of Hawaii. The island of lava appeared Thursday, just offshore from the northern edge of the Big Island. The island is part of the lava flow that extends underwater away from the coastline. It is just a few meters offshore, and about 20 to 30 feet in diameter. Kilauea was still erupting lava into the channel leading northwest from the vent as of Sunday.

Economic News

The Consumer Price Index, which tracks most items on the average city-dwelling American’s shopping list, rose 2.9% last month — its fastest pace since 2012. Average hourly earnings only increased 2.7% over the year in June, so wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. However, much of the recent boost is driven by the price of oil, which has recovered from under $30 a barrel during a supply glut in 2015 to over $70 a barrel today, with core inflation (less the more volatile energy and food prices) up only 2.3%.

The nation’s housing inventory increased 12.2 percent in the second quarter, the biggest gain since early 2015, according to real estate research firm Trulia. However, housing supplies were still down 5.3 percent from a year ago, a dynamic that has continued to push up prices. But that’s less than the double-digit annual declines that have prevailed since the second quarter of 2017. Experts attributed the increase to an acceleration in new home construction as well as the willingness of more existing homeowners to put their houses on the market. More inventory should help slow down increasing housing prices.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced that total consumer credit in the United States increased by a whopping 24.6 billion dollars in May, which was far greater than the 12.4 billion dollar gain that economists were anticipating.  Total U.S. consumer credit has now hit a grand total of 3.9 trillion dollars, but it is the “revolving credit” numbers that are getting the most attention.  Revolving credit alone shot up by 9.8 billion dollars in May, and that was one of the largest monthly increases ever recorded.  At this point, total “revolving credit” has reached a brand new all-time record high of 1.39 trillion dollars, and credit card debt accounts for nearly all of that figure.

The average cumulative federal student loan debt that parents borrow even exceeds what’s being taken on by students, according to new research. On average, parents owed $32,596 for their cumulative loans taken out under the Federal Parent PLUS program at college graduation in 2015-16. On average, college grads with bachelor’s degrees owed $29,669 in student loans in 2015-16, according to Savingforcollege.com. However, a much smaller percentage of parents borrow than students. About 69 percent of students took out student loans in 2015-16, compared with about 14.4 percent of parents. The high cost of college — and the inability of some families to save much money — has caused nearly half of college grads with student loans to take out the maximum amount of loans allowed under the federal student loan program.

Flooded with cash from the Republican tax cut, U.S. public companies announced a whopping $436.6 billion worth of stock buybacks, according to research firm TrimTabs. Not only is that most ever, it nearly doubles the previous record of $242.1 billion, which was set during the first three months of the year. Apple alone announced plans for $100 billion in buybacks. Big banks such as Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America each said they would buy back at least $20 billion of their own stock after the Federal Reserve gave them a clean bill of health late last month. The buyback boom is terrific news for shareholders — and corporate executives. When companies repurchase vast amounts of stock, they provide persistent demand that tends to boost share prices. Buybacks also artificially inflate a closely watched measure of profitability known as earnings per share.

A California city is set to become the first in the nation to embark on an experiment of Universal Basic Income, paying 100 residents $500 a month without any conditions. The program’s purpose is to eventually ensure that no one in Stockton, with a population of 300,000, lives in poverty. The receivers of the cash will be able to spend the money on anything they want without any strings attached. It will launch by 2019 and the 100 fortunate residents will receive the cash for a full 18 months as part of its testing phase before deciding whether to roll it out across Stockton. The city, which was once known as America’s foreclosure capital, has recently fallen on hard times, with 1-in-4 residents living below the poverty line and the median household income nearly $8,000 lower than the national median.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from his trip to Moscow Thursday evening, telling reporters before boarding his aircraft that his main priority in Syria is the removal of Iranian forces from the country. “We did not have a problem with the Assad regime for 40 years,” Netanyahu said. “Not one bullet was fired on the Golan Heights. What bothered us in the beginning was Islamic State [near Israel’s border], and afterward Iran and Hezbollah were brought there. We will not accept Iran on our border, or anywhere else in Syria. But our emphasis is on two things: getting rid of the missiles and the proximity of Iranian troops to the border.”

Syrian rebel forces claimed that 22 people, including nine Iranians, were killed in an overnight strike in northern Syria blamed on Israel, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera network reported Monday. Iranian forces were stationed at a Syrian military base on the outskirts of Aleppo that was reportedly attacked Sunday night by the IDF. The IDF has reportedly hit Syrian positions near Damascus and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama in the past. However, it rarely attacks as far north as Aleppo. Israel has been pushing Russia to remove Iranian-aligned militia fighters from Syria and has vowed to stop them from getting a foothold anywhere in the country. Russia has reportedly only agreed to removing them from the Golan border region.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) over the weekend carried out the largest wave of daytime strikes against Hamas terror targets in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014 in response to over 200 rockets fired by Gaza-based terrorists at Israel’s civilian population. Since Friday night, Hamas terrorists fired over 200 rockets at Israeli civilians in Israel’s south, threatening the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system intercepted only 30 rockets. Several Israelis were injured and damage was caused to buildings and property.

An IDF spokesperson issued a statement Thursday morning confirming that three positions manned by forces loyal to Syria’s Assad regime had been struck in retaliation for the attempt Wednesday evening by a military UAV to penetrate Israeli airspace from the Syrian side of the border. That attempt was broken up when IDF forces shot the drone down with a Patriot missile, but not before residents of the Galilee and Golan Heights were alerted to potential danger by air raid sirens.

Islamic State

Islamic State fighters who fled into the desert to escape U.S.-backed forces in Syria and Iraq are now drawing on stashed weapons and ammunition to stage renewed attacks in both countries, as friction among foreign powers hampers efforts to finish the terror group off. The attacks are a sign of Islamic State’s advance planning, and they have complicated the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw U.S. troops. Before retreating from its urban strongholds, Islamic State decentralized its command structure, set up sleeper cells, and dug tunnels in the vast desert that spans the two countries. The Pentagon now no longer gives a timeline for wrapping up a campaign that the White House said in April was coming to a rapid end. The U.S. currently keeps approximately 2,000 troops in Syria.

Iran

New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bombmaking technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago. While Iranian officials halted much of the work in 2003, internal memos show senior scientists making extensive plans to continue several projects in secret, hidden within existing military research programs. “The work would be divided in two: covert (secret structure and goals) and overt,” an Iranian scientist writes in one memo, part of a 100,000-document archive seized in a daring raid on a storage facility in Tehran by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency in January. However, the stolen documents contain no revelations about recent nuclear activity and no proof that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear accord it reached with the United States and five other global powers.

Afghanistan

The Trump administration has told its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, a significant shift in American policy in Afghanistan, done in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the 17-year war. The Taliban have long said they will first discuss peace only with the Americans, who toppled their regime in Afghanistan in 2001. But the United States has previously insisted that the Afghan government must take part. The recent strategy shift, which was confirmed by several senior American and Afghan officials, is intended to bring those two positions closer and lead to broader, formal negotiations to end the long war. The shift comes from a realization that the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

A squad of assailants, including gunmen and a suicide bomber, stormed a government building last Wednesday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 11 people, in the latest of half a dozen deadly attacks in that region since mid-June. No group has asserted responsibility for the attack, but most of the others have been claimed by the Islamic State. The morning attack on a busy education office building in the crowded provincial capital left several dozen officials and visitors trapped for hours while insurgents and security forces exchanged gunfire, officials and witnesses said. Ten other people were injured. A spokesman for the provincial governor’s office said the assault had ended but gave no details.

Mexico

Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is planning his own border force to stop illegal immigrants and drugs crossing into Mexico from Central America, Alfonso Durazo, his chief of public security, told Bloomberg news. Mr. Durazo said the border force would also patrol the U.S.-Mexico line, though he declined to give Bloomberg more details. Mr. Durazo said they will try to work to improve conditions Central America to stem the flow of people fleeing those countries — similar to pledges made by the Obama administration after the 2014 surge of illegal immigrants. Those migrants have continued to flow north, with some of them stopping in Mexico whole others continue north to try to enter the U.S.

  • Once these Central American refugees make it into Mexico, they no longer should receive asylum status in the U.S. since they are already safely out of their own country.

Nicaragua

At least 10 people were shot dead in Nicaragua as police and paramilitary groups attacked roadblocks set up by anti-government demonstrators demanding President Daniel Ortega’s exit from office, a rights group said. Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, said more than 20 were also wounded in Sunday’s violence in several cities south of Managua, the capital. In the Monimbo neighborhood of Masaya, “the attacks have not ceased and the city is closed,” Leiva said. “Nobody can get in or out.” In the municipality of Nindiri, on the outskirts of Masaya, Roman Catholic Bishop Abelardo Mata of the Esteli archdiocese was attacked as he was traveling in a car to a funeral. It was the second attack in a week on Catholic officials, who have been mediating stalled talks on finding a peaceful solution to the standoff and have criticized Ortega’s government over the killings.

Wildfires

Sweltering conditions and rugged terrain continue to hinder firefighters as they battle a wildfire burning along the Merced River near Yosemite National Park, a blaze that killed a California firefighter on Saturday. The Ferguson fire in Mariposa County broke out Friday and is burning largely out of control, forcing closure of a key access road into the Park at the height of tourist season. It doubled in size overnight and has scorched more than 14 square miles on the park’s western edge and is 2 percent contained. Building high pressure will contribute to warmer and drier conditions early this week in the southern Sierra Nevada. Yosemite Cedar Lodge was evacuated Saturday afternoon, while officials shut off electricity to many areas as a safety precaution. Evacuations were also ordered in rural communities just outside the park, and people in nearby lodges and motels were told to be ready to leave if flames approach. A stretch of State Route 140, a main road into Yosemite, was closed Sunday.

Summer lightning returned to the skies over Southern Oregon and Northern California on Sunday and started numerous fires. Cal Fire reported new fires from lightning down-strikes in Siskiyou County.  The Oregon Department of Forestry reported more than 40 confirmed fires in Jackson and Josephine Counties. The National Weather Service, in a red flag warning for both sides of the state line, pointed out that lightning-caused fires can still spread quickly in very dry brush and timber, even after a rainfall.

Weather

Alaska’s showed off its weather contrasts the first week of July with record snow in the north and record heat in the south. While Barrow received snow on July 4th, both Anchorage and Juneau recorded their hottest first week of July. Most years, Anchorage fails to record a single 80-degree high. It did so twice, on July 3 and 6. Juneau soared to the 80s three straight days July 3-5.

A heat wave last week in Quebec, Canada, killed an estimated 70 people. Canadian health officials said the majority of deaths occurred in Montreal as heat indexes climbed to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the dead were people over the age of 60 suffering from chronic illnesses. Cooler temperatures returned to Quebec ending the crisis.

Signs of the Times

July 9, 2018

­Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Campaign to Blitz the Country with ‘In God We Trust’ Laws Underway

This year, five state legislatures passed laws mandating that every public school prominently display the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.” The addition of Arkansas, which passed such a law in 2017, brings to six the number of states with public school mandates, including Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee. Those laws, mostly sponsored by legislative prayer caucuses in about 30 states, were inspired by the foundation’s 2017 manual known as Project Blitz, a 116-page guide for state legislators listing 20 model bills of which “In God We Trust” is the first. The list of “In God We Trust” legislation doesn’t count states like Minnesota that passed a law allowing but not mandating that public schools post the motto, or a new North Carolina law requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue optional “In God We Trust” license plates.

Mass Exodus from the Church Continues

In 1991, only six percent of Americans identified their religious affiliation as “none,” and that number had not moved much since the early 1970s. By the end of the 1990s, however, 14% of the public claimed no religious affiliation. The rate of religious change accelerated further during the late 2000s and early 2010s, reaching 20% by 2012. Today, one-quarter (25%) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest “religious group” in the U.S., reports PRRI Research. The most dramatic change during this time period has been among young people. If you go all the way back to 1986, just 10 percent of Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age group were “unaffiliated”.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 39 percent.

  • In general, the Church has watered down the Gospel to the point that it is almost irrelevant

Canadian Christian Faces 2 Years in Jail for Criticizing Homosexuality

A Canadian Christian man faces up to two years in prison and a charge of promoting hatred after distributing pamphlets that included Bible verses and graphic medical pictures of sexually transmitted diseases. Bill Whatcott, 51, is accused of violating the nation’s hate crimes law, which prohibits “willful promotion of hatred.” “This notion that I hate homosexuals is rubbish,” Whatcott said in an interview before he turned himself in to police. “What I do is I speak the truth, and I think the truth is the loving thing to share, even when it’s hard to share,” he added. “If you’ve got a kid who is doing drugs and ruining his life, [then] just telling him it’s fine is not helpful. You have to tell him he’s destroying himself.”

  • The Bible teaches that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and love (not hate) everyone (John 13:34), including our enemies (Matthew 5:43)

Major Court Win for Professor Fired for Defending Marriage

In a landmark decision Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said Marquette University violated John McAdams’ right to free speech when it suspended him for writing a blog post defending one-man, one-woman marriage. The court ordered the University to restore McAdams immediately with his full rank, tenure, compensation and benefits. “The undisputed facts show that the University breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract’s guarantee of academic freedom,” court documents say. The ruling from Wisconsin’s high court comes three years after litigation over the 2014 blog post.

U.S. Government Needs More Time to Reunite Separated Families

Just days ahead of a court-imposed deadline, the Trump administration said it may need more time to reunite some of the immigrant families it separated. The court order gives officials until Tuesday to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents. But officials need additional time to track down dozens of parents who are no longer in custody — including 19 who were already deported, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian said in court Friday. A list provided by the government suggests that fewer than half the migrant children younger than 5 years old who have been forcibly separated from their parents will be reunited with their families by Tuesday. Every illegal immigrant parent whose child was separated at the border has now been able to at least speak by telephone, the government said in court Friday. And some parents have already been moved to new detention facilities to put them closer to where their children are being held, preparing for final unification and, in many cases, release from custody. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw didn’t offer officials any extensions at Friday’s hearing, saying he needed more information on the cases. For the parents and children who have been brought back together, the celebrations may be short-lived. After reunification, they face a series of other obstacles — including long, complex legal proceedings, and possibly deportation.

Zero-Tolerance Policy Fails to Stop Surge of Illegal Immigrants

Migrant families continued to pour across the U.S.-Mexico border in June, according to the latest numbers, a signal that the government’s threat to jail parents and separate them from their children didn’t stop them from making the attempt. While the data released Thursday showed progress on the overall flow of people and on children traveling unaccompanied by parents, the number of families trying to sneak into the U.S. between the ports of entry remained virtually unchanged over the past three months. Analysts were baffled, reports the conservative Washington Times. They expected the administration’s get-tough policy announced in early May to change patterns. The administration’s zero-tolerance policy was supposed to scare migrants — families in particular — away from attempting to sneak into the U.S. Homeland Security is preparing to release dozens of immigrant parents from custody this week in order to reunite them with their young children, blaming a judge’s deadline for forcing them to reimpose the catch-and-release policy the Trump administration was trying to end.

48,000 Assaults Attributed to Illegal Immigrants in 2017

Illegal immigrants who were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were responsible for more than 48,000 assault offenses in 2017, according to a White House press release last Thursday. Illegals captured by ICE were also responsible for more than 5,000 sexual assault offenses, 2,000 kidnapping offenses, 1,800 homicide offenses and 76,000 dangerous drug offenses, according to the press release. In addition, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit made 4,818 gang arrests in 2017. The release also highlights the role of ICE in seizing illegal drugs, noting the agency seized 980,000 pounds of narcotics in 2017, with 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin seized.

Trump Blasts NATO Allies Over Paltry Contributions

President Donald Trump on Monday rebuked European allies on the eve of a NATO summit, complaining that the United States spends more on collective defense than its 28 North Atlantic partners. “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” Trump tweeted a day before departing on a seven-day European trip to Belgium, the United Kingdom and Finland. “While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more.” Trump claimed that the United States is “paying for 90 percent of NATO,” but the entire amount spent on collective defense is actually 67 percent of that spent by the 29 NATO allies – still a disproportionate contribution level. The agreement requires NATO countries to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Only five countries — the United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland — now meet the 2 percent guideline.

Trump Administration Rescinds Obama-era Guidance on Race in College Admissions

The Trump administration Tuesday discouraged the use of race in college admissions and public school enrollment by revoking federal guidance on affirmative action from the Obama era. The announcement is the latest step in a decades-long debate over the use of race in admissions, a tactic for many schools seeking to diversify and overcome the legacy of segregation. Trump officials said that the Obama administration overstepped its authority by going ­beyond what the Supreme Court has said in affirmative-action ­cases. In recent years, the court has restricted when race can be used. Officials replaced the Obama statements with one from President George W. Bush’s administration on the Education Department’s website. The Bush-era document stresses a preference for “race-neutral” methods for placing students.

Trump Administration Takes Another Swipe at Obamacare

The Trump administration took another major swipe at the Affordable Care Act, halting billions of dollars in annual payments required under the law to even out the cost to insurers whose customers need expensive medical services. In a rare Saturday afternoon announcement, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will stop collecting and paying out money under the ACA’s “risk adjustment” program, drawing swift protest from the health insurance industry. Risk adjustment is one of three methods built into the 2010 health-care law to help insulate insurance companies from the ACA requirement that they accept all customers for the first time — healthy and sick — without charging more to those who need substantial care. The other two methods were temporary, but risk adjustment was supposed to be permanent. Federal health officials are required each year to calculate which insurers with relatively low-cost consumers must chip in to a fund, and which ones with more expensive customers are owed money. This idea of pooling risk has encouraged insurers to participate in the insurance marketplaces the ACA created for Americans who cannot get affordable health benefits through a job.

Terrorism Update

In Germany and France, the authorities thwarted terrorists’ plots to attack with the deadly poison ricin. In eastern Syria, the Islamic State continued its retreat under stepped-up assaults by Kurdish militia and Iraqi pilots. And extremists in Yemen, Somalia and Libya were targeted by American airstrikes. That spate of action, over the past few weeks alone, illustrates the shifting and enduring threat from Islamic extremism around the world that will last long after the Islamic State is defeated on the battlefield, reports the Counter Extremism Project. From the scheming of lone extremists with no apparent connections to terrorist groups, like the ricin plots, to fighters aligned with the Islamic State or Al Qaeda in more than two dozen countries, terrorist threats are as complex and diverse as ever, American and other Western intelligence officials said in recent interviews.

The FBI arrested a man who plotted to set off a bomb during downtown Cleveland’s Fourth of July parade. Demetrius Pitts, 48—also known as Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq—was arrested Sunday and is believed to have ties to al-Qaeda, the FBI said at a press conference. In a meeting with an undercover agent last week, Pitts revealed his intentions to attack Cleveland on Independence Day. Later that week, Pitts was seen surveilling the locations he had previously discussed, officials said.

Economic News

Employment growth was strong for a second consecutive month in June as the economy added 213,000 jobs despite worker shortages and mounting U.S. trade tensions. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a separate survey, rose from an 18-year low of 3.8% to 4% as 600,000 Americans, including many discouraged workers on the sidelines, streamed into a favorable job market, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings increased 5 cents to $26.98, keeping the annual increase unchanged at 2.7 percent. Pay hikes haven’t picked up as much as anticipated in light of the historically low jobless rate, but economists expect annual gains to reach 3 percent by the end of the year.

The U.S. trade deficit dropped in May to the lowest level in 19 months as U.S. exports rose to a record level. But the trade gap between the United States and China increased sharply, underscoring the economic tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. The Commerce Department said Friday that the May trade deficit — the difference between what America sells and what it buys in foreign markets — fell 6.6 percent to $43.1 billion. Exports climbed 1.9 percent to a record $215.3 billion. Imports were up a smaller 0.4 percent to $258.4 billion.

For May, the America’s deficit in goods with China rose 18.7 percent to $33.2 billion. So far this year the deficit totals $152.2 billion, up 9.9 percent from the same period a year ago. As has been the case for decades, America’s deficit with China is the largest imbalance with any country. However, the balance of trade is about to undergo a seismic shift. The United States imposed penalty tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods Friday. China retaliated in kind, starting what Beijing called the “biggest trade war in economic history.” How this will affect U.S. and world economies is uncertain, with some economists claiming it will bring about a recession worse than the last one. The cost of the new tariffs will be seen immediately in the roughly 1,300 individual products that have suddenly become more expensive.

Median base pay for workers in the United States climbed by 1.6 percent in June to $52,052, according to the latest edition of Glassdoor’s Local Pay Report. That was the strongest growth in the wage statistic so far in 2018. “With unemployment hovering around historic lows, more workers, especially in high demand industries like healthcare, finance, and e-commerce, are in the driver’s seat to negotiate for better pay,” said Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain in a press release. In addition, traditional blue-collar jobs — such as truck driver, warehouse associate, and materials handler – also posted large wage gains. The increases were tied to the increasing demand for manpower in those areas created by growth in e-commerce.

Fourth of July gas prices notched their highest mark since 2014 but remain sharply lower than their all-time high for the holiday. At about $2.86 per gallon as of Tuesday morning, the national average price of gasoline is about 63 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA. Higher oil prices, caused largely by continued production limits at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, have nudged gas prices near the $3 mark this year.

Great Britain

A political crisis threatening Prime Minister Theresa May’s government deepened Monday after Boris Johnson resigned as Britain’s foreign secretary only hours after David Davis, the most senior British official leading negotiations for the country’s exit from the European Union, unexpectedly quit. Both resignations come in the wake of proposals unveiled by May over Britain’s Brexit strategy. Their departures add to pressure for May to resign. She could also be ousted in a leadership challenge by her ruling Conservative Party. Johnson and Davis were leading figures in the campaign in favor of Brexit, and both heavily favored a strong break  — a “hard Brexit” — in trade ties with the EU. Johnson’s resignation came after he reportedly described May’s plans for a “soft Brexit” that would preserve trade ties with the 28-nation bloc to “polishing a turd.”

Middle East

Responding to the unceasing wave of bomb-laden kites and balloons that have set fire to thousands of acres in the southern Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel will be closed. On Saturday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip targeted Israel communities with incendiary kites, causing two major fires. On Saturday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip targeted Israel communities with incendiary kites, causing two major fires. Netanyahu said that Israel will step up its efforts to stop the kites and balloons loaded with incendiary materials that are organized and directed by Hamas. The closure of Kerem Shalom will not include humanitarian aid, food and medicine, approved on an individual basis by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Kamil Abu Rokon. The crossing is located near the Egyptian border and serves as the main entry point for commercial goods and humanitarian aid.

Israeli Defense Forces deployed to the northern border were on high alert Friday as an offensive by the Assad regime, supported by Iranian ground forces and Russian aircraft, closed in on Quneitra and threatened to breach the 1974 separation of forces agreement which ended the Yom Kippur War. “IDF troops will protect Israel’s border until the last millimeter,” IDF Captain Tsur Goldman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday evening. The IDF on Thursday deployed several Iron Dome anti-missile batteries along Israel’s border with Gaza after Hamas fired 289 rockets and mortar shells into Israel.

The Golan Regional Council, representing Israelis living in the Golan Heights region which borders southern Syria, have taken it upon themselves to initiate a campaign to raise money and collect humanitarian supplies for the growing number of war refugees on the other side of the border. The campaign was launched this week even as negotiations between rebel factions and the Assad regime, brokered by Russia, have reportedly broken down.

North Korea

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Saturday slammed two days of talks with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “regrettable” and accused the United States of unilateral demands of denuclearization. The statement said the U.S. betrayed the spirit of last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by making unilateral demands for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. He called the talks “really disappointing.” “We expected that the U.S. side would come with productive measures conducive to building trust in line with the spirit of the North-U.S. summit and (we) considered providing something that would correspond to them,” the spokesman said. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the Trump administration of pushing a “gangster-like demand for denuclearization.”

“If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. On Sunday, Pompeo urged North Korea to follow the example of Vietnam, saying President Donald Trump believed Pyongyang could replicate Hanoi’s path to normal relations with Washington and to prosperity. But for that to happen, its leader Kim Jong Un needed to seize the moment. Speaking to business executives in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Pompeo said he hoped the United States could one day share the same level of partnership with North Korea as it did with Vietnam, a long-time former enemy.

Iran

The U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure free navigation and the flow of commerce, the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Thursday, as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned they would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if necessary. With tensions rising over the strategic waterway, the European Union is proposing a plan for salvaging a multinational nuclear deal with Tehran after Washington withdrew, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told leaders in Paris and Berlin on Thursday that the package did not go far enough. Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened in recent days to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s exports.

Afghanistan

Two Middle East rivals still engaged in a diplomatic cold war are slated to become the newest members of the U.S. and NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. Ground troops from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join the multi-nation coalition training and advising Afghan forces in the longest conflict in U.S. history, a senior administration official tells The Washington Times. The first-ever deployment of Qatari and Emirati ground troops to southwest Asia will be part of an overall increase of international forces to Afghanistan, as part of the NATO-led military advisory mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support.

Haiti

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti warned its citizens Saturday to stay inside amid continued demonstrations in the capital of Port-au-Prince and a northern city following a fuel price hike ordered by the government. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant on Saturday announced a temporary stop to the price increases and appealed for calm. Prices for gasoline were to rise 38% while diesel prices were to go up 47% and kerosene 51%. An estimated 120 American and 100 Haitian guests are staying in a Port-au-Prince hotel where demonstrators earlier tried to set fire to the hotel and get past security. U.S. officials told tourists and missionaries to shelter in place. There are no reports of U.S. citizens in Haiti being injured.

Wildfires

Huge wildfires roared across the bone-dry western USA on Thursday, including Colorado’s Spring Creek Fire, the state’s third-largest on record. That fire has destroyed 130 homes and forced the evacuations of 2,000 other homes near Fort Garland, southwest of Denver. It has consumed over 167 square miles and was 55% contained as of Sunday morning. A wildfire in central Utah has destroyed 90 structures and evacuation orders have been expanded to include more people yet again. The Dollar Ridge Fire burning west of Timber Canyon and south of the Strawberry River was sparked last week. It has consumed more than 77 square miles and is 30 percent contained. The state’s Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 40 because of smoky conditions and urged drivers to seek alternate routes.

A fast-moving, wind-driven fire broke out overnight Friday in Goleta, California. Twenty structures were destroyed and 2,500 people were evacuated from the area. In Los Angeles County, another fire broke out in the mountain slope above Burbank. Officials deployed a supertanker, which can carry 19,200 gallons of water, retardant or suppressant, from Colorado to help fight the fires in California on Saturday. One blaze jumped Interstate 5 and forced officials to close the southbound lanes on the Oregon side of the state line. The Klamathon Fire, has burned more than 47 square miles and has destroyed 72 structures. Another 810 structures are threatened. It is 25 percent contained. Cal Fire said numerous homes were damaged, destroyed or threatened by the flames. Forty structures have been destroyed and hundreds of homes in two states are being threatened.

Another Northern California inferno, named the County Fire, still threatens 1,000 homes, but authorities are hopeful that cooler weather will help crews get the blaze under control. The fire has sent smoke pouring into the Bay Area, turning the skies a hazy orange hue. Since being sparked Saturday, the blaze has burned more than 138 square miles of land in Yolo and Napa counties and was 58percent contained as of Sunday morning. A brush fire also forced evacuations Friday afternoon in Southern California, northeast of San Diego. Homes near Interstate 8 in the town of Alpine were in immediate danger as the flames spread rapidly, and residents were told to flee to safety immediately. Multiple structures burned as fire crews attempted to put out the flames.

Weather

Numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week. Large areas of heat pressure or heat domes scattered around the hemisphere led to the sweltering temperatures. The heat is to blame for at least 33 deaths in southern Quebec, mostly in and near Montreal, which endured record high temperatures. Montreal recorded its highest temperature in recorded history of 98 degrees. In Northern Siberia, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, analyses showed temperatures soaring 40 degrees above normal on July 5, to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. An intense heat dome scorched the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southeast Canada last week. It’s not only been hot but also exceptionally humid. Burlington, Vt., set its all-time warmest low temperature ever recorded of 80 degrees on July 2. Phoenix also set a record low of 94 degrees on July 5th.

Crews continue to search for dozens of missing individuals in southwestern Japan after days of flooding inundated entire towns, killing more than 100. As many residents returned to their flooded homes to begin the cleanup, officials said at least 80 people remain unaccounted for, many of which were in the Hiroshima area, which was slammed by floods and mudslides. Parts of southwestern Japan had as much as 3 inches per hour of rain, the highest rate of rainfall in decades.

The heaviest monsoonal rains in nearly 40 years fell on eastern Pakistan last week, leaving at least 15 dead. Most deaths were caused by electrocution and homes caving in. Pakistan has long struggled to cope with the annual monsoon rains, which trigger flash floods and mudslides that destroy homes.

Signs of the Times

July 2, 2018

­But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Justice Kennedy to Retire, Opening Seat for Trump to Fill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, handing President Trump and Senate Republicans an opportunity to create a solidly conservative court that could last for decades. Kennedy first informed his colleagues on the court about his plans, then personally delivered a simple, two-paragraph letter to Trump addressed, “My dear Mr. President.” Shortly after speaking with Kennedy, the president said he would move “immediately” to select someone from a list of 25 potential nominees assembled previously with the help of conservative interest groups. Kennedy’s long-rumored decision to step down July 31 will touch off a titanic battle between conservatives and liberals in the nation’s capital, on the airwaves and in states represented by senators whose votes will be needed to confirm his successor. Kennedy, who will turn 82 next month, held the most important seat on the court for more than a decade: He was the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment, often siding with the court’s more liberal justices.

  • Another conservative justice could mean the end of Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump Travel Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency, upholding his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries. The 5-4 ruling, with the court’s five conservatives in the majority, ends for now a fierce fight in the courts over whether the policy represented an unlawful Muslim ban. Trump can now claim vindication after lower courts had blocked his travel ban announced in September, as well as two prior versions, in legal challenges brought by the state of Hawaii and others. Chief Justice John Roberts issued the opinion, saying restrictions were limited to countries previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks. “The proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority,” the chief justice said.

Supreme Court Rules Against California Abortion Requirement

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a major blow to a California law requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly funded abortion and contraception services. Laws in more conservative states requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds or learn about the growth of their fetus now could be at risk. California’s law forces licensed pregnancy centers to post notices about free or low-cost state programs that include abortion services. It also requires unlicensed centers to inform clients that they are not medical facilities. Challengers called it a form of compelled speech. The four liberal justices compared it to laws, upheld by the high court, that require doctors performing abortions to advise women about alternatives. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which operates or is associated with about 130 California pregnancy centers, argued such “informed consent” laws are warranted on the verge of a medical procedure, but the same is not true for centers counseling women to continue pregnancy.

Federal Judge Orders Families at Border be Reunited Within 30 Days

A federal judge in California has ordered U.S. immigration authorities to reunite separated families on the border within 30 days, describing the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis as attempts “to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.” The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, said children younger than 5 must be reunified within 14 days of the order issued Tuesday. Sabraw, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, also issued a nationwide injunction on future family separations unless the parent is deemed unfit or doesn’t want to be with the child. It also requires the government to provide phone contact between parents and their children within 10 days. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by an anonymous woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was separated from her 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy who was separated from his Brazilian mother. It was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which pursued it as a class action after U.S. authorities began a “zero tolerance” policy in early May toward people crossing the border.

Hundred of Rallies Protest Zero Tolerance Border Policy

President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy led tens of thousands to take to the streets Saturday demanding change and that children separated from their families be reunited at once. “Families Belong Together” rallies were staged at more than 600 locations across all 50 states. Their chants echoed through the streets of the nation’s capital, at immigration detention centers and at community parks. Massive protests and rallies — from gun control to women’s rights to climate change —have become almost the new normal in recent years. But the question remains whether outrage can translate into action for change. During the July 4 Congressional recess, activists plan to pressure members of Congress to hold town halls to discuss immigration and force leaders to take a stand when confronted by their constituents.

Border Patrol Arrests Drop Sharply in June

Border Patrol arrests fell sharply in June to the lowest level since February, according to a U.S. official, ending a streak of four straight monthly increases. The drop could signal that President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally is having a deterrent effect. The agency made 34,057 arrests on the border with Mexico during June, down 16 percent from 40,344 in May, Newsmax reports. Arrests were still more than double from 16,077 in June 2017. The administration announced in early May that it was prosecuting every illegal entry, including adults who came with their children.

Supreme Court Rules Against Unions Coercing Fees

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a blow to organized labor, ruling that non-members cannot be forced in certain states to pay fees to unions representing public employees such as teachers and police, shutting off a key union revenue source. On a 5-4 vote powered by the court’s conservative majority, the justices overturned a 1977 Supreme Court precedent that had allowed the so-called agency fees that are collected from millions of non-union workers in lieu of union dues to fund non-political activities like collective bargaining. The ruling means that the estimated 5 million non-union workers who pay these fees will no longer have to do so. The court ruled that forcing non-members to pay agency fees to unions whose views they may oppose violates their rights to free speech and free association under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Justice Kennedy to Retire, Opening Seat for Trump to Fill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, handing President Trump and Senate Republicans an opportunity to create a solidly conservative court that could last for decades. Kennedy first informed his colleagues on the court about his plans, then personally delivered a simple, two-paragraph letter to Trump addressed, “My dear Mr. President.” Shortly after speaking with Kennedy, the president said he would move “immediately” to select someone from a list of 25 potential nominees assembled previously with the help of conservative interest groups. Kennedy’s long-rumored decision to step down July 31 will touch off a titanic battle between conservatives and liberals in the nation’s capital, on the airwaves and in states represented by senators whose votes will be needed to confirm his successor. Kennedy, who will turn 82 next month, held the most important seat on the court for more than a decade: He was the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment, often siding with the court’s more liberal justices.

  • Another conservative justice could mean the end of Roe v. Wade

California Passes Nation’s Toughest Online Privacy Law

Consumers will be granted sweeping new online privacy protections under a first of its kind California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last Thursday. The new law is the nation’s toughest and could serve as a model for other states. Under the law which takes effect in January 2020, consumers will have the right to know what personal information companies are collecting and with which businesses it’s being shared. They will also have the right to direct companies to delete their information and not to sell it. And the law restricts sharing or selling the data of children younger than 16. Consumers who prohibit companies from selling their personal data must be given the same level of service but companies will be able to charge them higher fees. The nation’s most populous state, considered a political trendsetter, is responding to consumers’ growing unease with the massive and largely unchecked collection and sharing of vast amounts of their private information.

The Capital Gazette Murders Should Have Been Prevented

The failure to stop Jarrod Ramos, charged with five counts of first-degree murder for Thursday’s deadly rampage at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, shows the blind spots that foil law enforcement and Internet companies — even as the social media gusher puts the warning signs in plain sight. Ramos, 38, posted harassing social media messages that alarmed editors at the paper and led police to investigate, but fell short of leading authorities to pursue charges or for Twitter to ban him. “The terror and violence that we saw at Capital Gazette is another horrible example why our laws need to be updated to reflect modern-day crime,” said Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who has been pushing for years to bolster federal online harassment laws and increase cyber-training for police departments around the country. In his 19 years of practicing law, Brennan McCarthy, an attorney in Annapolis, Maryland, said he never came across any person who frightened him as much as Ramos. McCarthy became a target of Ramos’ rage after representing a woman in 2011 who accused Ramos of stalking her and threatening her online.

  • These five murders should have been prevented, with the killer’s intent and insanity clearer known.

Swedes Implant Microchips By the Thousands

Thousands of Swedish citizens are having microchips implanted under their skin to replace credit cards, keys and personal identification – an invasive action that is sure to draw concern from privacy advocates and End Times theologians, too. Futurism.com’s Victor Tangermann expressed concern over the technology, which uses near-field communication (NFC) and “can be hacked with the use of a specialized reader and a lot of coding skills.” The real danger comes when governments make such chipping mandatory. Revelation 13:16-17 says that the end-time beast (antichrist) “causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark.”

Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky Medicaid Work Requirement

A federal judge ruled Friday afternoon that the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it allowed Kentucky to become the first state in the nation to require that low-income people work or otherwise engage in their communities to qualify for Medicaid. The decision by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg vacates that approval and sends the state’s program, Kentucky HEALTH, back to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for further review. Boasberg said that top HHS officials “never adequately considered whether [the program] would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”

Economic News

Canada has retaliated against US steel and aluminum tariffs by slapping its own penalties on American exports. The Canadian government confirmed Sunday that it has imposed tariffs on US exports worth 16.6 billion Canadian dollars ($12.5 billion US). More than 40 US steel products received tariffs of 25%. A tax of 10% has been levied on over 80 other American items including toffee, maple syrup, coffee beans and strawberry jam. US steel tariffs, which went into effect on June 1, are expected to be particularly painful for Canada.

U.S. companies, encouraged by a decade of unbelievably low borrowing costs, are sitting on $6.3 trillion of debt, according to S&P Global Ratings. That sum, which excludes banks, is more than before the Great Recession — or any other time in history. Companies have used that debt to invest in the future, make splashy acquisitions and reward shareholders with a bonanza of stock buybacks. After years of extraordinarily low interest rates, borrowing costs are finally on the rise. That makes it more expensive for companies to refinance their debt when it comes due. Those costs will only rise further if inflation heats up, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise rates more rapidly.

U.S consumers increased their spending just 0.2 percent in May, a disappointing result after two months of much stronger gains. Meanwhile, inflation rose 2.3 percent for the 12 months ending in May, the fastest reading in six years. The Commerce Department said Friday that the tiny rise in spending last month followed much stronger increases of 0.6 percent in March and 0.5 percent in April. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The 2.3% rise of inflation is the fastest 12-month increase since 2012 and stands above the Fed’s optimal target for 2 percent annual gains in inflation. However, the central bank has signaled that it is willing to let inflation run above 2 percent for a time, given that it had fallen short of that mark for six years.

The oil market is on fire once again. On Thursday, crude spiked above $74 a barrel for the first time since late 2014. The 13% surge over the past week has been driven by a confluence of factors, including; Saudi Arabia agreed last week to go all in with production. Investors are betting the OPEC leader has little room to respond to a future crisis; A major oil producer in Canada suffered a power outage, disrupting the flow of crude to the United States; and President Trump stepped up his crackdown on Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil producer. The State Department is now insisting that other countries stop importing Iranian oil — or face sanctions from Washington. Meanwhile, President Trump said Friday that Saudi Arabia agreed to pump more oil to reduce prices at his request.

Persecution Update

In a 60-hour killing spree that began last weekend, about 200 Christians were slaughtered in Nigeria even as the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom was departing from the area. Ambassador Sam Brownback’s one-week visit was pockmarked with six suicide bombings by Boko Haram in one day (the largest single day detonations), deadly Shiite clashes with the police, altercations between local Muslims and a community, and continuing killings by Muslim Fulani Herdsmen. The grand finale of this heinous storm of violence was the triple-digit massacre in Plateau State. Sadly, all of this occurred while Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was busy holding a party convention in his bid for re-election.

Migration Update

In a little over a year’s time, Algeria has expelled more than 13,000 migrants into the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert, forced at gunpoint to march through some of the world’s most unforgiving terrain. Those who have been forced to walk dozens of miles in temperatures as high as 120 degrees include pregnant women and children. They’ve been stranded in the desert with no food and water. According to the International Organization for Migration, a total of 11,276 men, women and children survived the march and made it to Niger. Algeria’s mass expulsions have picked up since October 2017, when the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain. These migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa — Mali, the Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger and more — are part of the mass migration toward Europe, some fleeing violence, others just hoping to make a living. A European Union spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that “sovereign countries” can expel migrants as long as they comply with international law. Unlike Niger, Algeria takes none of the EU money intended to help with the migration crisis. In all, according to the IOM, a total of 11,276 men, women and children survived the march and made it to Niger.

Underwater Arms Race

The world’s three largest naval powers are all developing the next generation of their nuclear submarine fleets, accelerating the underwater arms race between the United States, China and Russia. For now, at least, analysts say America remains by far the most dominant submarine force, even as its chief rivals work feverishly to overcome the U.S. advantages. Each country appears to have different strategic goals, with the U.S. bent on gaining greater cost and operating efficiencies while the Chinese and Russian are keenly focused on technological advances and achieving greater stealth. As tensions escalated in the South China Sea, these three nations are aggressively preparing for any potential undersea or nuclear conflict, as they develop or perfect nuclear ballistic submarines (SSBNs) and attack submarines (SSNs). These nations have already engaged in territorial disputes in those waters, and China has increased its submarine-intensive military drills as a show of force.

North Korea

Intelligence officials, citing new evidence, concluded that Pyongyang does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, U.S. officials said. The assessment stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s exuberant comments following his summit with Kim Jong Un, when he declared that “there is no longer a nuclear threat.” North Korea is upgrading a major nuclear research facility despite President Donald Trump’s claim that leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to disarm, according to new satellite images and a research paper published by a North Korea monitoring group. Uranium enrichment, a key component for civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons, is still taking place, according to expert’s interpretation of the images. North Korea also appears to be finalizing the expansion of a key ballistic missile manufacturing site, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by researchers in the United States. The satellite images are from June 21. That’s less than two weeks after Trump declared a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program after decades of hostility. Trump and Kim signed a joint declaration at a summit in Singapore on June 12 and pledged to work toward peace and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Middle East

Israeli Defense Forces opened fire Monday afternoon on four terrorists who infiltrated the border fence separating Gaza from Israel. The four attempted to set on fire an abandoned army outpost in the southern section of Gaza. One terrorist was killed. Another was critically wounded and transported to a hospital for medical treatment. A third terrorist was captured and transferred to the custody of security forces for interrogation. No one on the Israeli side was injured.

Syria

As many as 60 Syrians have been killed in separate attacks carried out by the Syrian regime and its allies as part of their ongoing military operation in the southwestern province of Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the regime’s forces, supported by Iranian militias and Russian air cover have shelled eight towns and villages in Hama countryside and Quneitra, resulting in a number of wounded. Some 150,000 Syrians have fled Daraa heading to Jordan or towards the Israeli occupied Golan Heights in an effort to escape regime bombing on the area. Jordan has closed its borders to refugees saying it is no longer able to cope with the number of asylum seekers flooding the country.

Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered preparations be made to implement martial law Wednesday evening as massive crowds continued to pour into the streets of Iranian cities to protest against his regime’s economic policies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, tweeted that “#Iran’s corrupt regime is wasting the country’s resources on Assad, Hizbollah, Hamas & Houthis, while Iranians struggle. It should surprise no one #IranProtests continue. People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani made a televised speech Wednesday evening in which he blamed the U.S. for the deepening crisis.

Russia

President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, less than a week after what figures to be a tense meeting between the U.S. president and NATO allies. “The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues,” the White House said in formally announcing the summit after days of negotiating. Those issues include the civil war in Syria, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons, said officials in both countries. The first formal, one-on-one Trump-Putin summit will come at the end of Trump’s scheduled trip to Europe, including a NATO summit in Brussels set for July 11-12. The U.S. president is at odds with NATO, saying members are not contributing enough to the mutual defense alliance; NATO members fear Trump will undercut western unity in confronting Russian aggression, from its incursion into Ukraine to cyberattacks.

Mexico

After 18 years of establishment politics, Mexicans decided that enough was enough. Left-leaning populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador easily won Mexico’s presidential election Sunday, a victory portending change and potentially upending of the country’s political order. The former mayor of Mexico City has promised to “uproot corruption,” increase social spending and pursue a different approach to crack down on drug cartels – even floating the idea of amnesty for those involved in the drug business if not accused of serious offences. López Obrador condemned the two parties that traditionally have held the presidency as “the mafia in power” and promised to “abolish corruption in Mexico” and bring organized crime to heel – with an approach of “hugs not bullets.” And he will address what he considers the root cause of crime and violence: poverty. While his surge in the polls spooked many politicians and businessmen because of his leftist rhetoric, López Obrador said he supports NAFTA and promised to pursue cordial relations with President Donald Trump, who also had campaigned as an outsider, although leaning to the right.

Wildfires

A 52-year-old illegal immigrant was arrested on charges of arson Saturday as wildfires continue to burn across Colorado. Numerous wildfires have triggered hundreds of evacuations, closed roads and destroyed an unknown number of structures. The Spring Fire in southern Colorado has scorched an estimated 60 square miles as of Sunday morning and was 0% contained. The fire that was sparked on Wednesday 9 miles north of Fort Garland has closed Highway 160 at La Veta Pass. The fire forced the evacuation of some 350 homes in the area. The fire is one of a handful of fires that are burning in the state amid dry, hot conditions. The Sugarloaf Fire in the Williams Fork Range near Silverthorne, Colorado, was sparked by lightning on Wednesday. It has burned more than 1,000 acres. The 416 fire burning near Durango in southwestern Colorado broke out on June 1 and has burned more than 65 square miles, according to Inciweb. It remains at just 37 percent contained and remains under investigation. A small fire in Grand County near the Rocky Mountain National Park triggered evacuation orders Thursday for 300 homes but was later lifted. Another fire north of Durango has burned 65 square miles. No structures have been damaged.

Residents were ordered to evacuate in a rural area of Northern California as a wildfire burned out of control and sent smoke into the Bay Area some 75 miles away. Since being sparked Saturday, the fast-moving fire has burned more than 50 square miles of land in Yolo County. More than 100 structures were threatened in the ranchland northwest of Sacramento, but no injuries were reported. The blaze was just 2 percent contained as of Sunday night. Smoke from the Yolo County fire later filled the sky over San Francisco, turning it into an eerie shade of orange.

Weather

Nearly 60 million people across the Northeastern US are under a heat watch, warning or advisory from the National Weather Service as the worst heat wave of 2018 scorches the most populated region of the country. Several high-temperature records have been set since the heat wave began over the Rockies and Midwest late last week, with Denver tying its all-time record high of 105˚ F on Thursday. Excessive-heat warnings are posted for much of New York and New Jersey, where high temperatures and humidity “will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely,” according to the National Weather Service. Overnight low temperatures are expected to dip only into the upper 70s, which will not allow buildings — and the people inside them — much chance to cool off. This lack of overnight cooling has proven to be deadly in past heat waves impacting urban areas.

Major flash flooding struck central Iowa Saturday night, including Des Moines, where one person was killed. A 65-year old man was found dead in Des Moines after he exited a van that stalled in the floodwaters. Water rescues were carried out Saturday night in Ankeny, Johnston, Des Moines and Urbandale. Water was reported to be chest deep in parts of the Ankeny area after an estimated 10 inches of rain fell on Saturday. A boil water advisory is in effect for Ankeny due to a water main break. Fourmile Creek at Easton Boulevard in Des Moines rose to 17.1 feet, setting a new record for that location. A record flood stage was also observed at Walnut Creek in Des Moines.

Dust from the Sahara Desert has spread across the Caribbean this week and may funnel its way into Texas by the weekend. The massive plume of Saharan dust stretched from Africa into the Caribbean last Wednesday. NASA’s forecast model shows the westernmost portion of the dust plume spreading across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and into coastal Texas late this week into the weekend.

In Quriyat, Oman, last Tuesday night, the low overnight temperature was a sultry 108.7 degrees. This sets a new world record for the hottest nighttime temperature, the Weather Underground reported. The high temperature there peaked at 121.6 degrees on Tuesday, falling about 2 degrees short of the all-time heat record for Oman of 123.4 degrees.

Signs of the Times

July 2, 2018

­But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Justice Kennedy to Retire, Opening Seat for Trump to Fill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, handing President Trump and Senate Republicans an opportunity to create a solidly conservative court that could last for decades. Kennedy first informed his colleagues on the court about his plans, then personally delivered a simple, two-paragraph letter to Trump addressed, “My dear Mr. President.” Shortly after speaking with Kennedy, the president said he would move “immediately” to select someone from a list of 25 potential nominees assembled previously with the help of conservative interest groups. Kennedy’s long-rumored decision to step down July 31 will touch off a titanic battle between conservatives and liberals in the nation’s capital, on the airwaves and in states represented by senators whose votes will be needed to confirm his successor. Kennedy, who will turn 82 next month, held the most important seat on the court for more than a decade: He was the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment, often siding with the court’s more liberal justices.

  • Another conservative justice could mean the end of Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump Travel Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency, upholding his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries. The 5-4 ruling, with the court’s five conservatives in the majority, ends for now a fierce fight in the courts over whether the policy represented an unlawful Muslim ban. Trump can now claim vindication after lower courts had blocked his travel ban announced in September, as well as two prior versions, in legal challenges brought by the state of Hawaii and others. Chief Justice John Roberts issued the opinion, saying restrictions were limited to countries previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks. “The proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority,” the chief justice said.

Supreme Court Rules Against California Abortion Requirement

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a major blow to a California law requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly funded abortion and contraception services. Laws in more conservative states requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds or learn about the growth of their fetus now could be at risk. California’s law forces licensed pregnancy centers to post notices about free or low-cost state programs that include abortion services. It also requires unlicensed centers to inform clients that they are not medical facilities. Challengers called it a form of compelled speech. The four liberal justices compared it to laws, upheld by the high court, that require doctors performing abortions to advise women about alternatives. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which operates or is associated with about 130 California pregnancy centers, argued such “informed consent” laws are warranted on the verge of a medical procedure, but the same is not true for centers counseling women to continue pregnancy.

Federal Judge Orders Families at Border be Reunited Within 30 Days

A federal judge in California has ordered U.S. immigration authorities to reunite separated families on the border within 30 days, describing the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis as attempts “to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.” The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, said children younger than 5 must be reunified within 14 days of the order issued Tuesday. Sabraw, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, also issued a nationwide injunction on future family separations unless the parent is deemed unfit or doesn’t want to be with the child. It also requires the government to provide phone contact between parents and their children within 10 days. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by an anonymous woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was separated from her 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy who was separated from his Brazilian mother. It was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which pursued it as a class action after U.S. authorities began a “zero tolerance” policy in early May toward people crossing the border.

Hundred of Rallies Protest Zero Tolerance Border Policy

President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy led tens of thousands to take to the streets Saturday demanding change and that children separated from their families be reunited at once. “Families Belong Together” rallies were staged at more than 600 locations across all 50 states. Their chants echoed through the streets of the nation’s capital, at immigration detention centers and at community parks. Massive protests and rallies — from gun control to women’s rights to climate change —have become almost the new normal in recent years. But the question remains whether outrage can translate into action for change. During the July 4 Congressional recess, activists plan to pressure members of Congress to hold town halls to discuss immigration and force leaders to take a stand when confronted by their constituents.

Border Patrol Arrests Drop Sharply in June

Border Patrol arrests fell sharply in June to the lowest level since February, according to a U.S. official, ending a streak of four straight monthly increases. The drop could signal that President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally is having a deterrent effect. The agency made 34,057 arrests on the border with Mexico during June, down 16 percent from 40,344 in May, Newsmax reports. Arrests were still more than double from 16,077 in June 2017. The administration announced in early May that it was prosecuting every illegal entry, including adults who came with their children.

Supreme Court Rules Against Unions Coercing Fees

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a blow to organized labor, ruling that non-members cannot be forced in certain states to pay fees to unions representing public employees such as teachers and police, shutting off a key union revenue source. On a 5-4 vote powered by the court’s conservative majority, the justices overturned a 1977 Supreme Court precedent that had allowed the so-called agency fees that are collected from millions of non-union workers in lieu of union dues to fund non-political activities like collective bargaining. The ruling means that the estimated 5 million non-union workers who pay these fees will no longer have to do so. The court ruled that forcing non-members to pay agency fees to unions whose views they may oppose violates their rights to free speech and free association under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Justice Kennedy to Retire, Opening Seat for Trump to Fill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, handing President Trump and Senate Republicans an opportunity to create a solidly conservative court that could last for decades. Kennedy first informed his colleagues on the court about his plans, then personally delivered a simple, two-paragraph letter to Trump addressed, “My dear Mr. President.” Shortly after speaking with Kennedy, the president said he would move “immediately” to select someone from a list of 25 potential nominees assembled previously with the help of conservative interest groups. Kennedy’s long-rumored decision to step down July 31 will touch off a titanic battle between conservatives and liberals in the nation’s capital, on the airwaves and in states represented by senators whose votes will be needed to confirm his successor. Kennedy, who will turn 82 next month, held the most important seat on the court for more than a decade: He was the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment, often siding with the court’s more liberal justices.

  • Another conservative justice could mean the end of Roe v. Wade

California Passes Nation’s Toughest Online Privacy Law

Consumers will be granted sweeping new online privacy protections under a first of its kind California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last Thursday. The new law is the nation’s toughest and could serve as a model for other states. Under the law which takes effect in January 2020, consumers will have the right to know what personal information companies are collecting and with which businesses it’s being shared. They will also have the right to direct companies to delete their information and not to sell it. And the law restricts sharing or selling the data of children younger than 16. Consumers who prohibit companies from selling their personal data must be given the same level of service but companies will be able to charge them higher fees. The nation’s most populous state, considered a political trendsetter, is responding to consumers’ growing unease with the massive and largely unchecked collection and sharing of vast amounts of their private information.

The Capital Gazette Murders Should Have Been Prevented

The failure to stop Jarrod Ramos, charged with five counts of first-degree murder for Thursday’s deadly rampage at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, shows the blind spots that foil law enforcement and Internet companies — even as the social media gusher puts the warning signs in plain sight. Ramos, 38, posted harassing social media messages that alarmed editors at the paper and led police to investigate, but fell short of leading authorities to pursue charges or for Twitter to ban him. “The terror and violence that we saw at Capital Gazette is another horrible example why our laws need to be updated to reflect modern-day crime,” said Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who has been pushing for years to bolster federal online harassment laws and increase cyber-training for police departments around the country. In his 19 years of practicing law, Brennan McCarthy, an attorney in Annapolis, Maryland, said he never came across any person who frightened him as much as Ramos. McCarthy became a target of Ramos’ rage after representing a woman in 2011 who accused Ramos of stalking her and threatening her online.

  • These five murders should have been prevented, with the killer’s intent and insanity clearer known.

Swedes Implant Microchips By the Thousands

Thousands of Swedish citizens are having microchips implanted under their skin to replace credit cards, keys and personal identification – an invasive action that is sure to draw concern from privacy advocates and End Times theologians, too. Futurism.com’s Victor Tangermann expressed concern over the technology, which uses near-field communication (NFC) and “can be hacked with the use of a specialized reader and a lot of coding skills.” The real danger comes when governments make such chipping mandatory. Revelation 13:16-17 says that the end-time beast (antichrist) “causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark.”

Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky Medicaid Work Requirement

A federal judge ruled Friday afternoon that the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it allowed Kentucky to become the first state in the nation to require that low-income people work or otherwise engage in their communities to qualify for Medicaid. The decision by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg vacates that approval and sends the state’s program, Kentucky HEALTH, back to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for further review. Boasberg said that top HHS officials “never adequately considered whether [the program] would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”

Economic News

Canada has retaliated against US steel and aluminum tariffs by slapping its own penalties on American exports. The Canadian government confirmed Sunday that it has imposed tariffs on US exports worth 16.6 billion Canadian dollars ($12.5 billion US). More than 40 US steel products received tariffs of 25%. A tax of 10% has been levied on over 80 other American items including toffee, maple syrup, coffee beans and strawberry jam. US steel tariffs, which went into effect on June 1, are expected to be particularly painful for Canada.

U.S. companies, encouraged by a decade of unbelievably low borrowing costs, are sitting on $6.3 trillion of debt, according to S&P Global Ratings. That sum, which excludes banks, is more than before the Great Recession — or any other time in history. Companies have used that debt to invest in the future, make splashy acquisitions and reward shareholders with a bonanza of stock buybacks. After years of extraordinarily low interest rates, borrowing costs are finally on the rise. That makes it more expensive for companies to refinance their debt when it comes due. Those costs will only rise further if inflation heats up, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise rates more rapidly.

U.S consumers increased their spending just 0.2 percent in May, a disappointing result after two months of much stronger gains. Meanwhile, inflation rose 2.3 percent for the 12 months ending in May, the fastest reading in six years. The Commerce Department said Friday that the tiny rise in spending last month followed much stronger increases of 0.6 percent in March and 0.5 percent in April. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The 2.3% rise of inflation is the fastest 12-month increase since 2012 and stands above the Fed’s optimal target for 2 percent annual gains in inflation. However, the central bank has signaled that it is willing to let inflation run above 2 percent for a time, given that it had fallen short of that mark for six years.

The oil market is on fire once again. On Thursday, crude spiked above $74 a barrel for the first time since late 2014. The 13% surge over the past week has been driven by a confluence of factors, including; Saudi Arabia agreed last week to go all in with production. Investors are betting the OPEC leader has little room to respond to a future crisis; A major oil producer in Canada suffered a power outage, disrupting the flow of crude to the United States; and President Trump stepped up his crackdown on Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil producer. The State Department is now insisting that other countries stop importing Iranian oil — or face sanctions from Washington. Meanwhile, President Trump said Friday that Saudi Arabia agreed to pump more oil to reduce prices at his request.

Persecution Update

In a 60-hour killing spree that began last weekend, about 200 Christians were slaughtered in Nigeria even as the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom was departing from the area. Ambassador Sam Brownback’s one-week visit was pockmarked with six suicide bombings by Boko Haram in one day (the largest single day detonations), deadly Shiite clashes with the police, altercations between local Muslims and a community, and continuing killings by Muslim Fulani Herdsmen. The grand finale of this heinous storm of violence was the triple-digit massacre in Plateau State. Sadly, all of this occurred while Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was busy holding a party convention in his bid for re-election.

Migration Update

In a little over a year’s time, Algeria has expelled more than 13,000 migrants into the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert, forced at gunpoint to march through some of the world’s most unforgiving terrain. Those who have been forced to walk dozens of miles in temperatures as high as 120 degrees include pregnant women and children. They’ve been stranded in the desert with no food and water. According to the International Organization for Migration, a total of 11,276 men, women and children survived the march and made it to Niger. Algeria’s mass expulsions have picked up since October 2017, when the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain. These migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa — Mali, the Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger and more — are part of the mass migration toward Europe, some fleeing violence, others just hoping to make a living. A European Union spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that “sovereign countries” can expel migrants as long as they comply with international law. Unlike Niger, Algeria takes none of the EU money intended to help with the migration crisis. In all, according to the IOM, a total of 11,276 men, women and children survived the march and made it to Niger.

Underwater Arms Race

The world’s three largest naval powers are all developing the next generation of their nuclear submarine fleets, accelerating the underwater arms race between the United States, China and Russia. For now, at least, analysts say America remains by far the most dominant submarine force, even as its chief rivals work feverishly to overcome the U.S. advantages. Each country appears to have different strategic goals, with the U.S. bent on gaining greater cost and operating efficiencies while the Chinese and Russian are keenly focused on technological advances and achieving greater stealth. As tensions escalated in the South China Sea, these three nations are aggressively preparing for any potential undersea or nuclear conflict, as they develop or perfect nuclear ballistic submarines (SSBNs) and attack submarines (SSNs). These nations have already engaged in territorial disputes in those waters, and China has increased its submarine-intensive military drills as a show of force.

North Korea

Intelligence officials, citing new evidence, concluded that Pyongyang does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, U.S. officials said. The assessment stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s exuberant comments following his summit with Kim Jong Un, when he declared that “there is no longer a nuclear threat.” North Korea is upgrading a major nuclear research facility despite President Donald Trump’s claim that leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to disarm, according to new satellite images and a research paper published by a North Korea monitoring group. Uranium enrichment, a key component for civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons, is still taking place, according to expert’s interpretation of the images. North Korea also appears to be finalizing the expansion of a key ballistic missile manufacturing site, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by researchers in the United States. The satellite images are from June 21. That’s less than two weeks after Trump declared a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program after decades of hostility. Trump and Kim signed a joint declaration at a summit in Singapore on June 12 and pledged to work toward peace and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Middle East

Israeli Defense Forces opened fire Monday afternoon on four terrorists who infiltrated the border fence separating Gaza from Israel. The four attempted to set on fire an abandoned army outpost in the southern section of Gaza. One terrorist was killed. Another was critically wounded and transported to a hospital for medical treatment. A third terrorist was captured and transferred to the custody of security forces for interrogation. No one on the Israeli side was injured.

Syria

As many as 60 Syrians have been killed in separate attacks carried out by the Syrian regime and its allies as part of their ongoing military operation in the southwestern province of Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the regime’s forces, supported by Iranian militias and Russian air cover have shelled eight towns and villages in Hama countryside and Quneitra, resulting in a number of wounded. Some 150,000 Syrians have fled Daraa heading to Jordan or towards the Israeli occupied Golan Heights in an effort to escape regime bombing on the area. Jordan has closed its borders to refugees saying it is no longer able to cope with the number of asylum seekers flooding the country.

Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered preparations be made to implement martial law Wednesday evening as massive crowds continued to pour into the streets of Iranian cities to protest against his regime’s economic policies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, tweeted that “#Iran’s corrupt regime is wasting the country’s resources on Assad, Hizbollah, Hamas & Houthis, while Iranians struggle. It should surprise no one #IranProtests continue. People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani made a televised speech Wednesday evening in which he blamed the U.S. for the deepening crisis.

Russia

President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, less than a week after what figures to be a tense meeting between the U.S. president and NATO allies. “The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues,” the White House said in formally announcing the summit after days of negotiating. Those issues include the civil war in Syria, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons, said officials in both countries. The first formal, one-on-one Trump-Putin summit will come at the end of Trump’s scheduled trip to Europe, including a NATO summit in Brussels set for July 11-12. The U.S. president is at odds with NATO, saying members are not contributing enough to the mutual defense alliance; NATO members fear Trump will undercut western unity in confronting Russian aggression, from its incursion into Ukraine to cyberattacks.

Mexico

After 18 years of establishment politics, Mexicans decided that enough was enough. Left-leaning populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador easily won Mexico’s presidential election Sunday, a victory portending change and potentially upending of the country’s political order. The former mayor of Mexico City has promised to “uproot corruption,” increase social spending and pursue a different approach to crack down on drug cartels – even floating the idea of amnesty for those involved in the drug business if not accused of serious offences. López Obrador condemned the two parties that traditionally have held the presidency as “the mafia in power” and promised to “abolish corruption in Mexico” and bring organized crime to heel – with an approach of “hugs not bullets.” And he will address what he considers the root cause of crime and violence: poverty. While his surge in the polls spooked many politicians and businessmen because of his leftist rhetoric, López Obrador said he supports NAFTA and promised to pursue cordial relations with President Donald Trump, who also had campaigned as an outsider, although leaning to the right.

Wildfires

A 52-year-old illegal immigrant was arrested on charges of arson Saturday as wildfires continue to burn across Colorado. Numerous wildfires have triggered hundreds of evacuations, closed roads and destroyed an unknown number of structures. The Spring Fire in southern Colorado has scorched an estimated 60 square miles as of Sunday morning and was 0% contained. The fire that was sparked on Wednesday 9 miles north of Fort Garland has closed Highway 160 at La Veta Pass. The fire forced the evacuation of some 350 homes in the area. The fire is one of a handful of fires that are burning in the state amid dry, hot conditions. The Sugarloaf Fire in the Williams Fork Range near Silverthorne, Colorado, was sparked by lightning on Wednesday. It has burned more than 1,000 acres. The 416 fire burning near Durango in southwestern Colorado broke out on June 1 and has burned more than 65 square miles, according to Inciweb. It remains at just 37 percent contained and remains under investigation. A small fire in Grand County near the Rocky Mountain National Park triggered evacuation orders Thursday for 300 homes but was later lifted. Another fire north of Durango has burned 65 square miles. No structures have been damaged.

Residents were ordered to evacuate in a rural area of Northern California as a wildfire burned out of control and sent smoke into the Bay Area some 75 miles away. Since being sparked Saturday, the fast-moving fire has burned more than 50 square miles of land in Yolo County. More than 100 structures were threatened in the ranchland northwest of Sacramento, but no injuries were reported. The blaze was just 2 percent contained as of Sunday night. Smoke from the Yolo County fire later filled the sky over San Francisco, turning it into an eerie shade of orange.

Weather

Nearly 60 million people across the Northeastern US are under a heat watch, warning or advisory from the National Weather Service as the worst heat wave of 2018 scorches the most populated region of the country. Several high-temperature records have been set since the heat wave began over the Rockies and Midwest late last week, with Denver tying its all-time record high of 105˚ F on Thursday. Excessive-heat warnings are posted for much of New York and New Jersey, where high temperatures and humidity “will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely,” according to the National Weather Service. Overnight low temperatures are expected to dip only into the upper 70s, which will not allow buildings — and the people inside them — much chance to cool off. This lack of overnight cooling has proven to be deadly in past heat waves impacting urban areas.

Major flash flooding struck central Iowa Saturday night, including Des Moines, where one person was killed. A 65-year old man was found dead in Des Moines after he exited a van that stalled in the floodwaters. Water rescues were carried out Saturday night in Ankeny, Johnston, Des Moines and Urbandale. Water was reported to be chest deep in parts of the Ankeny area after an estimated 10 inches of rain fell on Saturday. A boil water advisory is in effect for Ankeny due to a water main break. Fourmile Creek at Easton Boulevard in Des Moines rose to 17.1 feet, setting a new record for that location. A record flood stage was also observed at Walnut Creek in Des Moines.

Dust from the Sahara Desert has spread across the Caribbean this week and may funnel its way into Texas by the weekend. The massive plume of Saharan dust stretched from Africa into the Caribbean last Wednesday. NASA’s forecast model shows the westernmost portion of the dust plume spreading across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and into coastal Texas late this week into the weekend.

In Quriyat, Oman, last Tuesday night, the low overnight temperature was a sultry 108.7 degrees. This sets a new world record for the hottest nighttime temperature, the Weather Underground reported. The high temperature there peaked at 121.6 degrees on Tuesday, falling about 2 degrees short of the all-time heat record for Oman of 123.4 degrees.