Signs of the Times

­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)

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