Archive for August, 2018

Signs of the Times

August 27, 2018

­And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:11-13)

Ex-Vatican Diplomat Calls on Pope Francis to Resign over Abuse Coverup

Pope Francis should resign for his “sinful conduct” in covering up sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a retired Vatican diplomat says. Francis had recently become pope in 2013 when he asked Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò his thoughts on McCarrick, Viganò says in a damning, 11-page open letter published Sunday. According to Viganò, he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick’s thick dossier which chronicled McCarrick’s ongoing sexual abuse. “He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests,” Viganò reportedly told Pope Francis. Viganò, who was serving as the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., told Francis that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, had ordered McCarrick to leave the seminary where he was living and withdraw to a life of prayer and penance. He said Francis dropped the sanctions against McCarrick, a well-known liberal by church standards, and “continued to cover for him.” McCarrick resigned last month amid claims of sexual abuse of an altar boy and seminarians.

School District Bans Pregnancy Center from Promoting Abstinence

Most parents agree that a high school sex education program ought to include accurate, comprehensive information about healthy teen relationships. But in Pennsylvania’s Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, that no longer is the case, reports Townhall.com. Due to progressive student and staff protests, Drexel Hill’s Amnion Pregnancy Center will no longer be permitted to deliver content to students at Strath Haven High School. High school senior Abby McElroy complained to school officials that Amnion’s classroom sex education presentation had promoted abstinence. The 17-year-old student at Strath Haven High School claims that the presentation made sexually active students feel “shamed.” While McElroy admits that Amnion did not mention religion once during the class period, she claims they do have Biblical references on their website. After news of the allegations against Amnion came out, more than 500 people signed a Change.org petition against the pregnancy center’s future participation at the school. According to Almion’s executive director Melanie Parks, their organization is not faith-based. Almion’s website says that their RealEd sex education program is intended “to provide a framework that empowers young people to think through their own values and morals and make healthy decisions about relationships.”

  • Another example of intolerance against conservative and/or Christian values

United Way Affiliates Send Millions to Planned Parenthood

Despite an expose in recent years that the Planned Parenthood abortion business sells the body parts of aborted babies, and despite the fact that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s biggest abortion company, a new report indicates that United Way affiliates fund it with millions in donations, reports lifenews.com. Not only do dozens of United Way affiliates donate to the Planned Parenthood abortion business, but those donations have increased to over the $2.5 million, 2ndVote, the conservative watchdog for corporate activism, released its annual findings on United Way’s financial support for Planned Parenthood. The report tracks 1,200 United Way affiliates. Analysis of the most recent IRS Form 990 filings and other documentation found 62 United Way affiliates sent $2,756,799 to Planned Parenthood abortion organizations in tax year 2016.

Trump Revokes $200M Aid to Gaza, West Bank

The Trump administration will revoke more than $200 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department announced Friday. The move came after a State Department review examining whether the funding was in “U.S. national interests” and of value to American taxpayers. In a terse announcement, the State Department said it would redirect the $200 million to “high-priority projects elsewhere.” The move drew immediate fire from Democrats in Congress, who said it would roil an already volatile part of the world and undermine U.S. efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The withdrawal of economic aid to the Palestinians comes as the Trump administration is preparing to unveil a highly anticipated Middle East peace plan – an effort that appears to be faltering even before it gets off the ground. One contentious element of that plan would reportedly tie economic development for Gaza and the West Bank to significant concessions from the Palestinians, including giving permanent control of Jerusalem to the Israelis.

U.S., Mexico Reach Partial Deal to Revamp NAFTA

The White House says announced Monday that negotiators for the U.S. and Mexico have reached a partial deal to revise parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The announcement of a deal comes after five consecutive weeks of talks between the two nations to revise key parts of the 24-year-old pact, which President Trump has repeatedly denigrated as the “worst trade deal ever.” The U.S. and Mexico are hoping to get a final deal signed before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto leaves office on Dec. 1. Negotiations between the United States and Mexico resolved a major stumbling block on auto manufacturing Under the current law, about 62% of the parts in any car sold in North America must be produced in the region or automakers have to pay import taxes. The new preliminary agreement would increase that requirement. However, the fate of any new deal will hinge on Canada, which has been on the sidelines during the latest round of negotiations but still must sign off on any changes to NAFTA.

Federal Judge Overturns Trump’s Executive Orders to Promote Government Efficiency

A federal judge dealt a blow Saturday to President Donald Trump’s efforts to “promote more efficient” government, ruling that key provisions of three recent executive orders “undermine federal employees’ right to bargain collectively” under federal law. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump had “exceeded his authority” in issuing the orders. The White House had no comment and referred questions to the Justice Department, which said it was reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering options. Federal worker unions that had sued to block Trump’s use of his executive authority in this area applauded the outcome. The executive orders, issued by the White House in May, covered collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures and use of “official time.”

  • Excessive bloat in government bureaucracy is like a cancer that keeps on growing and growing, feeding off the notion that government should fix all of society’s ills. A recent Reuters–Ipsos poll found that 70% of Americans (85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans) want the U.S. government to provide medical care for everyone. Of course, the question didn’t note that taxes would probably go up a lot as well.

Court Says Fourth Amendment Applies to Smart Meter Data

The Seventh Circuit just handed down a landmark opinion, ruling 3-0 that the Fourth Amendment protects energy-consumption data collected by smart meters. Smart meters collect energy usage data at high frequencies—typically every 5, 15, or 30 minutes—and therefore know exactly how much electricity is being used, and when, in any given household. The court recognized that data from these devices reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search. The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data and that the government’s access of it constitutes a “search.” This case, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville, is the first case addressing whether the Fourth Amendment protects smart meter data. Courts have in the past held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect monthly energy usage readings from traditional, analog energy meters, the predecessors to smart meters. About 65 million smart meters have been installed in the United States in recent years. More than 40% of American households now have a smart meter.

Social Media Purge Iranian Disinformation Sites

Google has removed dozens of YouTube channels it says are linked to an influence operation run by Iran’s state broadcaster. The disclosure comes just days after Facebook, Instagram and Twitter purged hundreds of accounts that originated in Iran that were spreading disinformation in the United States and abroad. In all, Google says it shut down 58 accounts on its video service YouTube and other sites. Cybersecurity firm FireEye tipped off Google, which says it has briefed law enforcement officials and shared its findings with lawmakers. Last week, Facebook disclosed it had uncovered a network operated by Iranian state media and removed 652 pages, groups and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and Instagram. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted more revelations of nation-state disinformation campaigns may come to light in coming months.

Economic News

Powered by big gains in popular technology companies like Apple, Amazon and Netflix, the Nasdaq composite barreled through the 8,000 milestone for the first time Monday and hit a new all-time high. The surge is the latest sign that the longest bull market in Wall Street history remains healthy and continues to be driven by innovative tech companies that are transforming the way people communicate, shop and consume media. The Nasdaq, which is now up more than 16 percent this year after surging 28.2 percent in 2017, is being led by the so-called “FAANG” stocks — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet — which are responsible for a big chunk of the tech-dominated index’s sizable gains. Innovation in smart phones, social media, video streaming, cloud-based computing and machine learning is boosting the fortunes of tech leaders.

America’s wealthy households are increasingly moving to coastal cities on both sides of the country, but those with more modest incomes are either relocating to or being pushed into the nation’s Rust Belt, according to a new study by BuildZoom. That’s creating “income sorting” across the country, with expensive cities like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle drawing wealthier residents. For instance, Americans who move to San Francisco earn nearly $13,000 more than those who move away, the study found. Conversely, those who are moving into less expensive inland cities such as Detroit or Pittsburgh earn up to $5,000 less than those who are leaving.

The Trump administration’s latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods kicked in Thursday, drawing immediate retaliation from Beijing. The new exchange of fire in the trade war between the two economic superpowers comes as officials from both countries hold talks in Washington over the dispute. The United States imposed 25% tariffs on another $16 billion of Chinese goods, affecting 279 products, including chemical products, motorcycles, speedometers and antennas. China responded immediately with 25% tariffs on an equal amount of American goods, such as chemical products and diesel fuel. China and the United States have now imposed tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods in the tariff war, which the Trump administration launched in an effort to punish China for what it says are unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property.

Sears Holdings is closing 46 more Sears or Kmart stores as the struggling retailer seeks stability amid questions about its future. The latest plan involves closing 13 Kmart locations and 33 Sears stores in November, all of which are losing money. The company has closed several hundred locations in recent years. The company had 365 Kmart stores and 506 Sears full-line stores as of May 5. Over the previous year, the company closed 379 full-line stores.

North Korea

President Donald Trump on Friday nixed a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, suggesting Kim Jong Un’s regime had not made good on promises to relinquish its nuclear weapons arsenal.  The president said Pompeo would go at a later date, after the U.S. and China resolve an escalating trade war that has complicated America’s diplomatic efforts in North Korea. During a highly publicized summit on June 12 in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement in which North Korea promised to work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But the North Koreans have not taken any visible, concrete steps toward fulfilling that pledge.

Iran

Iran’s parliament voted Sunday to fire the country’s finance minister amid an economic free fall fanned by America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with world powers, dealing another blow to President Hassan Rouhani’s embattled administration. It’s unlikely that parliament’s dismissal of Masoud Karbasian will stem the downward spiral, with the currency, the rial, falling to new lows against the U.S. dollar amid chronically high unemployment and inflation in the country. But it shows the Shiite Muslim theocracy’s growing recognition of the anger felt across the country of 80 million, which has seen months of sporadic protests challenging the ruling clerics. Karbasian’s dismissal comes after lawmakers similarly dismissed Rouhani’s labor minister, Ali Rabiei, this month.

A major shipping route located between Oman and Iran where nearly one-third of the world’s sea-traded oil passes through daily may become a new flashpoint after a top Iranian Navy general said Monday that the country has taken full control of the Strait of Hormuz. The strait, which at its narrowest point is 21 miles wide, has shipping lanes that are 2 miles wide in each direction and is the only sea passage from many of the world’s largest oil producers to the Indian Ocean. The blockage of the Strait of Hormuz, even temporarily, could lead to substantial increases in total energy costs.

Islamic State

Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. It is vying for survival with other, sometimes stronger, extremist groups. But one sphere where Islamic State still reigns supreme among terrorists is in cyberspace. The group’s vast online presence is a critical recruitment and marketing tool that has helped it build a brutish brand using propaganda and sometimes false claims. Maintaining the perception that Islamic State is still a force in the world is all the more important as its territorial control, or self-declared caliphate, has almost completely collapsed. The latest example of the role of such online propaganda came on Thursday, when Islamic State’s official news outlet claimed that a man who stabbed his mother and sister to death in France had responded to its calls to attack citizens of countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb disputed the statement, saying the perpetrator was mentally unstable. That claim came a day after Islamic State released what it said was a recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the first in nearly a year, calling for supporters abroad to continue attacks on Western cities.

South Africa Seizing White-Owned Farms

South Africa faces potential economic calamity if it moves ahead with the seizure of largely white-owned farmland, analysts warned this week, as global investors reacted to a plan that government leaders say is necessary to correct decades-old wrongs of apartheid that left deep, systemic wealth inequalities and land ownership disparities along racial lines, reports the Washington Times. South African economic analysts and U.S. observers say the country risks inviting the kind of devastation that left neighboring Zimbabwe’s economy in ruins after a similar forced expropriation scheme targeting some of the country’s most productive farmland.

Volcanoes

Mount Etna in Sicily is again erupting and is shooting chunks of lava up to 500 feet in the air. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) says the volcano began spewing plumes of ash and lava on Thursday evening. The volcano, which “re-awoke” in late July, continued on Friday to feed ash plumes several hundred yards into the air above the crater. No evacuations were ordered for towns on the volcano, and flights into the nearby airport at Catania are continuing uninterrupted. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. It has one of the world’s longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 B.C.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake shook eastern Venezuela on Tuesday afternoon, forcing residents in the capital city of Caracas to evacuate buildings and flee their homes. The 7.3 quake – the largest to strike Venezuela since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – was felt throughout the Caribbean. But at a depth of some 76 miles, it appeared to have caused only limited damage. Its epicenter was a few miles off the sparsely populated Cariaco peninsula stretching into the eastern Caribbean.

Wildfires

German firefighters battling a large inferno in a forest southwest of Berlin faced an added challenge in recent days: buried, exploding World War II ammunition that was being set off by the wildfire. The fire started Thursday afternoon and spread quickly through the dry pine forests in the Treuenbrietzen region, 30 miles outside of Berlin. The fire sent thick smoke toward Berlin and forced several nearby villages to evacuate. The blaze grew to the size of about 500 soccer fields and detonated ammunition several times, keeping firefighters from entering some areas of the forest.

 

Weather

Israel’s Water Authority published a report on Sunday showing that the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and several smaller lakes, streams and tributaries throughout the Land of Israel are reaching their lowest levels since records began to be kept as the country endures the fifth year of a severe drought. The report projects that the drought will linger and perhaps intensify in the years to come, prompting spiritual leaders to implore those who love Israel to pray for a wet, rainy winter in 2018-2019.

Signs of the Times

August 21, 2018

­For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah57:15)

Miracles Mark Ongoing Revival in Small Georgia Church

Physical healings, deliverance and more than 500 baptisms have taken place during Sunday-night services at Christ Fellowship in Dawsonville, Georgia, for the past six months. Pastor Todd Smith says people have come from hundreds of miles to “walk into that water and feel the presence of the Lord.” Christ Fellowship, with about 300 to 400 regular attendees, sees its Sunday-night services swell to 600 at times, with individuals and churches traveling in from all parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee to connect with the presence of God. A handful of local pastors and some nationally known evangelists have taken turns preaching the Sunday night services. But the worship and sermons are only a prelude to the manifestation of God’s power when an altar call and an invitation to be baptized are made.

Atheist Group: ‘Lock Up’ USAF Commander for His Faith

The atheistic Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a complaint contending that a Christian commander with the United States Air Force should be fired and imprisoned for expressing his faith. MRFF filed the formal complaint with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, accusing the newly installed commander at California’s Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, of multiple crimes. Teichert  “engaged in] intolerance/proselytizing; violations of DoD diversity & civil liberties policies; and Air Force standards violations,” MRFF’s complaint states. The anti-Christian group also launched a public smear campaign, insisting that Teichert should not just be relieved of his military duties, but also be thrown in jail. “Sometime in early 2013, he created a public webpage and the blog – along with social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) – to promote his fundamentalist, dominionist ‘Christian’ beliefs,” MRFF’s demand letter alleged. The atheist group was also greatly disturbed that Teichert called for prayer that America would return to its Christian roots, as the general expressed below.

Revival at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri

A U.S. Army Chaplain says a revival is taking place on the base of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Since March nearly I,839 troops have reportedly come to the Lord. Chaplain (Capt.) Jose Rondon ministers at the base each week and has been posting testimonies and baptisms of new converts on his Facebook page. “Today, 380 soldiers came to salvation in Christ once and for all,” Rondon says in one post. “Thanks CH Tony Cech for the excellent, clear, and powerful messages during the 3 services. Since March 11, 2018, we have seen 1,839 soldiers coming to Christ. God’s doing an unbelievable work through our military at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.” “The current spiritual awakening at Fort Leonard Wood is indicative of a great move of God taking place within the Armed Services today,”  says retired Major General Doug Carver.

100,000 Attend Harvest Crusade Despite Bans on Posters

Some 100,000 Southern Californians packed out Angel Stadium of Anaheim during the three nights of the 29th annual SoCal Harvest, which ran from Aug. 17–19. Bibles in hand and friends by their sides, thousands poured into the stadium venue ready to hear the Gospel delivered by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, who was joined by top Christian artists Chris Tomlin, MercyMe and Phil Wickham over the course of the weekend. More than 325,000 participated in the SoCal Harvest virtually via live internet broadcasts and Facebook Live, with the outreach experiencing a 177 percent increase in its Facebook Live viewership over last year.  More than 10,000 people responded to Laurie’s nightly invitation to make a commitment of faith in Christ by walking onto the field of Angel Stadium to pray with a Harvest team member standing by, or by indicating their faith decision through the SoCal Harvest live internet broadcast. A local real estate company had removed billboards promoting the event after receiving complaints about the display of a Bible.

Church Protected Over 300 ‘Predator Priests’ Says PA Grand Jury

Church leaders protected more than 300 “predator priests” in six Roman Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania for decades because they were more interested in safeguarding the church and the abusers than tending to their victims, says a scathing grand jury report released Tuesday. More than 1,000 young victims were identifiable from the church’s own records, the report says. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all.” The redacted report details the latest in a decades-long series of claims of abuse and protection leveled against the Catholic church across the nation and around the world. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Pope Francis wrote, urging all 1.2 billion Catholics to fight the culture that had enabled sexual abuse.

  • Another huge black eye for Christ from the denomination that is unfortunately most-closely associated with Christianity, yet is far removed from true biblical Christianity, “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” (Mark 7:7)

Catholic School Terminates Lesbian Employee, Sparking Controversy

Roncalli High School in Indianapolis placed guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on paid administrative leave Sunday after officials learned of her lesbian relationship, The Indianapolis Star reported. She had worked at the school for 15 years and has been asked either to resign or dissolve her marriage, she told local media. The private Catholic high school was within its legal right to terminate the female employee who married another woman, a legal expert says. Jim Bopp, an attorney and legal expert, said the private school legally can require employees to follow a code of conduct because it is a religious organization. The school is exempt from the Indianapolis anti-discrimination ordinance, he said. Fitzgerald’s termination has divided the school community and received extensive local media coverage. Roncalli board member Daniel Parker resigned to protest the termination. But the school says it was following Catholic teaching.

Oprah Winfrey Promotes “Shout Your Abortion” Movement

Oprah Winfrey waded deeper into political waters this summer by promoting the “Shout Your Abortion” movement and its attempts to normalize the killing of unborn babies by having women brag about their abortions. The July issue of her “O” magazine featured “Shout Your Abortion” founder Amelia Bonow in its “Inspiration” section, CNS News reports. Bonow, who began the campaign to urge women to brag about aborting their unborn babies, soon will be coming out with a new book by the same title. Bonow said the campaign really took off when a friend shared her post on Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. She blamed the pro-life movement for trying to silence women who have had abortions. However, the pro-life movement, Silent No More, promotes women telling their stories. It encourages people who experienced pain and regret after their abortions to share their stories publicly, and its website documents thousands of stories of mothers, fathers, grandparents and others who experienced deep pain and remorse because of unborn babies’ abortion deaths.

Chelsea Clinton Claims Abortions Gave $3.5 Trillion Boost to Economy

Last week, Chelsea Clinton claimed the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a good thing — not only because it supposedly gave women the “dignity to make our own choices,” but also because it led to an alleged $3.5 trillion boost to America’s economy. As LifeNews reported this past week, instead of adding $3.5 trillion to the economy, that loss of lives has caused a cumulative GDP deficit of $62.6 trillion that continues to climb with each passing year. By 2040, that cumulative deficit will likely reach $400 trillion. The logic is simple. Every unborn baby killed in abortion is a worker who could have been contributing to the economy, as well as their children, and eventually their grandchildren and so on.

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Coal Pollution Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would roll-back the environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Instead, the EPA will allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfilment of a campaign promise at the heart of President Trump’s appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia, where he is attending a celebratory rally. The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry. Critics say the decision will result in much more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Russians Targeting Senate and Conservative Think Tanks

Parts of an operation linked to Russian military intelligence targeting the US Senate and conservative think tanks that advocated for tougher policies against Russia were thwarted last week, Microsoft announced early Tuesday. The disclosure, coming less than three months ahead of the 2018 midterms, demonstrates new ways in which Russia is attempting to destabilize US institutions. In its announcement, Microsoft said it executed a court order giving it control of six websites created by a group known as Fancy Bear. The group was behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, according to cybersecurity firms. The websites could have been used to launch cyberattacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of November’s elections, Microsoft said.

Persecution Update

Incidents of anti-Semitism in Britain are near record levels. The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that fights anti-Semitism, recorded 727 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2018, the second-highest total ever marked for the first half of a year since the CST began recording anti-Semitic incidents in 1984. Only the total for the first six months of 2017 has been higher. The current climate has shaken Britain’s roughly 300,000-strong Jewish community. Since the UK took in some 90,000 Jews from the European mainland as World War II loomed, it has been considered one of the safest places in the world for Jews to live. Unlike in neighboring France, where a 2015 terror attack targeted a kosher supermarket and a Holocaust survivor was killed in her home in March, no lethal violence has occurred. But the conversation is changing. “Some of our volunteers from the coalition have become aware of so many incidents through their work with us that they have decided to leave and have moved with their families.”

Terrorism Update

A man crashed a car into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, injuring two pedestrians Tuesday in an incident British police are investigating as a terror attack. It was the fourth vehicle-based terror attack in London in less than 18 months. The driver of the car — in his late 20s — was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorism offenses. Few other details about him, his identity or a possible motive were released. No one else was in the car and no weapons were found with him.

Groups of youths in Sweden set fire to dozens of cars in the city of Gothenburg and surrounding towns on Monday, in what Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described as “extremely organized” attacks. Police said up to 100 cars were burned or damaged in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-biggest city, as well as in Trollhattan, an industrial area with high unemployment, and Falkenberg. A number of cars were also burned overnight in Stockholm. Police did not say what might have motivated the attacks, only confirming that gangs of youths were involved. Witnesses told police the alleged offenders were dressed in dark clothing and hoodies.

Economic News

The nation’s food-stamp program is one of the largest run by the government — at $70 billion a year. But while the economy has improved dramatically, food-stamp enrollment has not, declining just 17 percent while the unemployment rate fell three times faster — 62 percent. Why the disconnect? Critics say states are milking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), overstating their needs, while the Trump administration is approving state “work waivers” it doesn’t have to. “We have almost seven million open jobs across America,” said Foundation for Government Accountability executive director Kristina Rasmussen. “Employers are struggling to find workers. Yet we have people sitting on sidelines in part, because they can — on food stamps.”

Turkey is just the latest developing economy to plunge into chaos. The Turkish lira has shed more than 40% since January, while the country’s stock market has been cut in half. The turmoil follows a similar currency crash in Argentina that led to a rescue by the International Monetary Fund. In recent days, the Russian ruble, Indian rupee and South African rand have also tumbled dramatically. The recent overseas turbulence is being driven by a confluence of factors. The most obvious is the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in response to economic strength and warming inflation in the United States. Removing easy money from the market has sent the U.S. dollar soaring against rivals. The stronger greenback is a recipe for disaster for emerging markets like Turkey that binged on debt that was priced in cheaper dollars.

The 50 percent runup in U.S. home prices since 2011 is reshuffling the pecking order of hot housing markets. Many midsize metro areas that had once been affordable are experiencing declining sales amid sharply rising prices and shrinking supplies. Metro area sales fell 4.3 percent in 2017 year and are down 0.5 percent so far this year. Meanwhile, many smaller, more affordable markets – such as Boise, Idaho; Dayton, Ohio; Greenville, South Carolina; and Winston-Salem – are benefiting from an influx of new residents and home sales that continue to climb. Even in second-tier metro areas – ranked 26th to 50th by population – single-family house prices increased 10 percent in the 12 months ending in the first quarter to a median of $343,000, according to Moody’s figures. The soaring prices have taken a toll. Homeowners devote 35.1 percent of their monthly income to housing costs, up from a 27.8 percent average over the past 13 years, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Greece Exits EU Bailouts

After eight years and roughly $330 billion in loans, Greece is leaving bailouts behind. The country on Monday officially exited the last of the three enormous rescue programs that saved it from going bust and abandoning the euro. But the bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission came at a huge cost that will still be felt for years to come. In exchange for the money, Greece agreed to drastically cut spending and implement painful economic reforms. Government employees had their salaries slashed, their pensions frozen, and their retirement age pushed higher. Consumer spending plummeted, unemployment spiked and many businesses shut down. The Greek economy is now three-quarters of the size it was in 2007, before the crisis started. The government, whose runaway spending fueled the financial meltdown, seems to have put its house in order. It went from a 15% budget deficit in 2009 to a 1% surplus in 2017. The Greek economy is expected to grow 2% this year and 2.4% next year, after shrinking for eight out of the past 10 years. Public debt is forecast to peak this year at over 188% of Gross Domestic Product before declining to 151% by 2023, the year Greece is due for another review and possible debt relief.

France Pulls Oil Business Out of Iran

Iran’s oil minister said on Monday that France’s oil giant Total SA has officially pulled out of Iran due to the renewed U.S. sanctions. Total SA canceled its $5 billion, 20-year agreement to develop the country’s massive South Pars offshore natural gas field. Earlier this month, Iran said China’s state-owned petroleum corporation took a majority 80 percent share of the project. CNPC originally had some 30 percent of shares in the project. Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are starting to shift their cargoes to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker Co  for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of economic sanctions. The renewed U.S. sanctions took effect in August, after America’s pullout from the nuclear deal in May. The re-instatement of the sanctions exacerbated a financial crisis in Iran, which has sent its currency, the rial, tumbling.

Gaza Kites & Balloons Cause 1,000 Fires, 8,000 Acres Burned in Israel

The magnitude of the most recent crisis in Israel has hardly been reported in the mainstream news. Over 1,000 fires have been ignited by fire-carrying kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip. More than 8,000 acres of agricultural land and natural habitats have been destroyed by these fires causing some $2.2 million in damages. The weaponized kites resemble children’s toys floating in the sky, but they carry burning charcoal or oil-soaked rags across the Gaza border to ignite fires wherever they land inside Israel. These menacing “toys” are increasingly sophisticated, and some now carry explosives instead of fire and include time fuses that delay ignition until after they cross the border. Helium balloons are replacing kites because they fly farther into Israel—one flew 22 miles. This newest wave of terrorist attacks began in April and does not seem to be letting up. As many as 30 fires have been started in a single day. The Islamist group Hamas threatened to launch as many as 5,000 fire devices into Israel. Not only that, Hamas says they will soon begin using exploding drones that reach even deeper into Israel than the helium balloons.

Palestinian Authority Funds Terrorism Over Schools

United With Israel reports that the Palestinian Authority (PA) last Wednesday made it clear to the world that if forced to choose, it will pay salaries to terrorists rather than for the education of Palestinian children. Recent reports claimed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dedicated solely to serve the Palestinians, did not have enough money to open up the UNRWA school system for over 320,000 Palestinian children. However, UNRWA’s budget for the schools could easily be covered by the PA from the money it spends paying terrorist prisoners and families of so-called “Martyrs,” terrorists killed while attacking Israelis. Yet PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced on official PA TV that “Israel considers them (i.e., terrorist prisoners) criminals… Even if we need to cut from our flesh, we will continue to give the support and aid.”

Afghanistan Attack Blamed on ISIS

A suicide bomber struck a private education center in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul on Wednesday where high school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams, killing 48 young men and women and leaving behind a scene of devastation and tragedy. The bombing, blamed on the Islamic State group, was the latest assault on Afghanistan’s Shiite community, which has increasingly been targeted by Sunni extremists who consider Shiites to be heretics. It also showed how militants are still able to stage large-scale attacks, even in the heart of Kabul, and underscored the struggles of the Afghan forces to provide security and stability on their own. The attack comes amid a particularly bloody week in Afghanistan that has seen Taliban attacks kill scores of Afghan troops and civilians.

Last Syrian Rebel Stronghold Fears Attack

Syrian rebels are readying for a government assault on the country’s northwestern Idlib province, their last major stronghold in a country that’s been wracked by a seven-year war, leaving half a million dead and more than 5 million Syrians languishing as refugees in neighboring countries. Rebel commanders fear an offensive will be launched by mid-September, when a de-escalation agreement negotiated by Russia and backed by Iran and Turkey expires. With President Bashar al-Assad saying his forces intend to retake control of Idlib, U.N. officials have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis, fearing for the well-being of 2.5 million to 3.3 million people estimated to be living in the province, half of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country.”

Yemen Bomb Supplied by U.S.

The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN. Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market — this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb — killed 97 people. In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over “human rights concerns.” The ban was overturned by the Trump administration’s then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.

Venezuela Implements Economic Reforms

Venezuela on Monday began to launch dramatic reforms announced by President Nicolás Maduro to rescue a downward-spiraling economy, including a new currency and a more-than-3,000 percent hike in the minimum wage. The changes start with the introduction of a currency that lops five zeros off the country’s fast-depreciating bills. Maduro says he’ll also raise gasoline prices to international levels – a combination of measures critics say will only make things worse. Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike and protest Tuesday. They hope to draw masses into the streets against Maduro’s socialist ruling party. Banks were closed Monday as they prepared to deal with the new currency. In late-September, the world’s cheapest gas will rise to international levels to curtail rampant smuggling across borders.

Environment

A blanket of red tide along Florida’s Gulf Coast that’s killing marine life in addition to emptying normally packed beaches with an unrelenting stench has caused the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency for parts of the region. Red tide is a naturally occurring toxic algae bloom that can be harmful to people with respiratory problems. It has spread throughout the region since October and stretches about 150 miles from Naples to Anna Maria Island. The algae turns the water toxic for marine life, and in recent weeks beachgoers have discovered turtles, large fish, dolphins and manatees washed up dead. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which will have “all state resources” deployed to ensure residents are safe and businesses can recover. Scott said he’s ordering $100,000 for additional scientists to help with clean-up efforts and another $500,000 to help local communities and businesses struggling with lost income as tourists flee. The governor also directed another $900,000 in grants to help Lee County’s clean-up efforts.

The volume of toxic wastewater that fracked oil and gas wells generated during their first year of production increased by up to 1440 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to a study which was published on Aug. 15 in the journal Science Advances. The amount of water used for fracking in each oil or gas well increased up to 770 percent over the same period. “After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources. We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,” said Avner Vengosh, co-author of the study. Vital drinking water reserves are being threatened. The study also said salts, toxic elements, organic matter, and naturally occurring radioactive material in the wastewater that is produced pose risks to local water supplies.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey defines any earthquake of at least magnitude 4.5 as “significant”, and there were 53 earthquakes that met that criteria along the Ring of Fire on Sunday alone. Because none of the earthquakes happened in the United States, the mainstream media almost entirely ignored this story. The ring is formed of a string of 452 volcanoes and sites of seismic activity (earthquakes), which encircle the Pacific Ocean. The entire west coast of the U.S. falls along this “Ring of Fire”, and experts assure us that it is only a matter of time before the seismic tension that is building up along the tectonic plates in that area is released. According to the UK’s Daily Star, scientists are warning that “increased seismic activity” along the Ring of Fire “may mean the so-called ‘Big One’ is on the way.”

Earthquakes struck near two popular vacation destinations Sunday, one rattling the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga, and another striking Indonesia’s Lombok. The Fiji/Tonga quake roughly 200 miles off both Fiji and Tonga measured a massive 8.2-magnitude but was hundreds of miles deep. The Lombok quake was 6.3-magnitude and struck at a depth of 3.7 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey. Lombok has suffered a series of earthquakes since late July, with more than 430 people killed in a magnitude-6.9 quake that struck August 5. Twelve more people died on Lombok and Sumbawa. killed by collapsing buildings or heart attacks. The swarm of quakes caused panic in Sembalun subdistrict on Lombok in the shadow of Mount Rinjani, but many people were already staying in tents following the deadly jolt in early August and its hundreds of aftershocks.

Wildfires

The Howe Ridge Fire that led to evacuations in Glacier National Park covered almost 5½ square miles as of Thursday. Lightning started the fire on the northwest side of Lake McDonald on Saturday. The next evening, dry and windy conditions caused the fire to spread. Park officials ordered evacuations of a campground, the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and residences and businesses in the area. The fire claimed several historic structures at Lake McDonald. The main cabin at Wheeler camp was saved, but several other buildings there were lost. The west side of the park remains closed, but the east side is still open. On Sunday, the wildfire came within a half-mile of iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road which traverses the park. Officials evacuated the Fish Creek Campground and told residents in the small town of Apgar on Lake McDonald that they might have to leave.

As dozens of wildfires continue to grow in western and central Canada, some towns have been shrouded in smoke so thick, the skies have turned black in the middle of the day. When the sky isn’t totally black, the smoke turns it an eerie orange shade. As a result of the thick smoke, several flights out of the airport east of Vancouver were canceled Sunday. Air quality is poor across much of the province, and officials warned residents with respiratory issues to stay inside. Some 500 wildfires are currently burning across British Columbia, claiming more than 1,700 square miles of land, or almost three times the yearly average.

Weather

At least 38 people died when a 650-foot section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed in a strong storm Tuesday in an industrial area of Genoa, Italy, crushing vehicles below. Some vehicles plunged 260 feet as the span fell. The collapse was along a highway that connects Italy to France, and because it came one day before the Italian holiday Ferragosto, it’s likely the roadway was busier than usual as travelers made their way to the mountains.

More than 350 people have died in floods triggered by intense monsoon rainfall in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the latest tragic flooding event in what has been a devastating season for the country. The floods have left more than 800,000 people homeless over the course of several months. Schools and Cochin International Airport – one of the country’s busiest – have been closed because of the disaster. Many of the victims were killed in mudslides triggered by the heavy rainfall. “We’re witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media. “Almost all dams are now opened. Most of our water treatment plants are submerged.

Signs of the Times

August 13, 2018

­Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

Willow Creek Elders and Lead Pastor Resign in Wake of Hybels Accusations

The lead pastor and entire elder board of Willow Creek Community Church have announced they will resign to give the church a “fresh start” following new allegations of sexual harassment against founder and former pastor Bill Hybels. The news follows the resignation over the weekend of lead teaching pastor Steve Carter, who cited differences with the church over how it handled allegations against Hybels and a “horrifying” report in the Sunday New York Times that detailed new allegations by Hybels’ former executive assistant. A March investigation by the Chicago Tribune and further reporting by Christianity Today documented more women’s claims that Hybels had sexually harassed them. The Tribune also reported that allegations previously had been investigated by Willow Creek’s elders and an outside law firm but that Hybels was cleared of wrongdoing. Missy Rasmussen, who has been an elder at Willow Creek for seven years, said the board now could see that the prior investigation was “flawed.” She apologized for its handling of allegations to all the women who have come forward. “We are sorry that our initial statement was so insensitive, defensive and reflexively protective of Bill (Hybels),” Rassmussen said.

  • Pastoral and priestly sexual abuse has done more to hurt Jesus’ Church than any outside factor.

Crusade Ad Barred Over Bible Image

For 28 years, world-renowned evangelist Greg Laurie has been holding evangelistic crusades in Southern California, where he has led tens of thousands to Christ and encouraged millions in their faith. Laurie told Janet Mefferd on American Family Radio that he asked to put a billboard up at a shopping center. “They signed off on the art – they printed it, they installed it and it was up … and it was great,” Laurie said. The ad showed a silhouette of Laurie holding a Bible in his hand – as if preaching – and it did not even have a cross or the word ‘Bible’ on the book … it was just a silhouette. However, Laurie soon got a call from Irvine Company, reporting they had received some complaints – and requesting that the image of the Bible be removed from the picture. “We immediately gave them a new piece of art, which was totally generic – no image of a Bible,” Laurie recounts. “And then [on] the day of the installation, they came back and said, Well, we’re not going to put that up, and the other one’s coming down – and we’re not going to put up anything. They did refund our money.” “I see ads all the time that offend,” Laurie asserted. “I see billboards for things that offend me, but I don’t boycott it and try to stop it – it’s free speech. And now, all of a sudden, I can’t even hold up a Bible, and more to the point – a black book?”

  • End-times persecution of all things Christian will continue to increase

Oregon Judge Upholds Transgender School Bathrooms

Boys will continue to be allowed in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms in Oregon after a judge dismissed a lawsuit against that policy, saying, “high school students do not have a fundamental privacy right to not share school restrooms, lockers, and showers with transgender students whose biological sex is different than theirs.” Students who are unwillingly subjected to seeing students of the opposite sex are not having their rights violated, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez wrote. The lawsuit against Oregon schools allowing boys in girls’ restrooms and vice versa was filed by parents and students in Dallas, Oregon. This gender-free policy caused “embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension, and stress produced by using the restroom with students of the opposite sex,” they said in the lawsuit. This ruling “reveals everything people need to know to understand the utter corruption of our court system,” Julie Quist, Board Chair of the Child Protection League (CPL), told LifeSiteNews. “Decency and respect for our children…are being cast aside for the political advantage of a militant political force that is systematically violating the innocence, dignity and freedom of our children.”

FDA Purchases Aborted Baby Parts

A new report indicates the Food and Drug Administration has signed a new contract to acquire body parts from aborted babies to be transplanted into so-called humanized mice. The grisly experiments allow mice to have a functioning human immune system for research purposes. CNSNews today reported the details of the new FDA contracts, signed on Jul 25, according to information published by the FDA and the General Services Administration.: “The objective is to acquire Tissue for Humanized Mice,” said a June 13 FDA “presolicitation notice” for the contract. The contractor, the notice said, would “provide the human fetal tissue needed to continue the ongoing research being led by FDA. “Fresh human tissues are required,” said the notice, “for implantation into severely immune-compromised mice to create chimeric animals that have a human immune system.”

China Attempting to Eradicate Religion

China is in the midst of an “ambitious new effort” to lesson or even eradicate the influence of Christianity and religion from the country, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.  An in-depth AP report describes churches being shut down, Bibles being seized and restrictions being placed on other religions, too. Crescents have been removed from mosques and Tibetan children removed from Buddhist temples and placed in public schools. In recent months, Chinese authorities have: Shut down hundreds of Christian house churches;    Seized Bibles and forced e-commerce retailers to stop selling Bibles; Prevented children from attending church in some areas; Forced Christians in one location to replace posters of Jesus with pictures of President Xi Jinping; Raided church meetings and interrogated hundreds of Christians from one congregation. The AP story further said that under Xi, Christians “are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival.”

Counter-Protesters Outnumber White Nationalists in D.C.

Thousands of counter-protesters heavily outnumbered a small group of white nationalists holding a “Unite the Right 2” rally Sunday, a day that was largely peaceful but marked by a few confrontations on the streets of the nation’s capital. Unite the Right 2 organizer Jason Kessler said he expected 100 to 400 far-right activists to attend, but only two dozen arrived at a subway station near the White House and were escorted by police to the rally site at nearby Lafayette Square. Before their arrival, thousands of counter-protesters were out in force all day to observe the one-year anniversary of a white nationalist rally a year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event, the first Unite the Right rally, sparked chaos, violence and resulted in the death of one counter-protester. As the white nationalists proceeded to Lafayette Square, counter-protesters tried pushing into the group, and members of Antifa were seen launching eggs, fireworks and water bottles at police officers and the Secret Service, beating people in the street and threatening members of the media.

Trump Condemns Racism on Charlottesville Anniversary

President Donald Trump acknowledged the grim anniversary of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly last year – which is regarded as one of the worst weeks in his presidency. “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump posted on Twitter Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!” The remarks swayed heavily from his comments after last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in the city, which led to violence and several deaths, when Neo-Nazi sympathizers and counter-protesters clashed during protests. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was struck and killed when a white supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. And two Virginia state troopers died when their surveillance helicopter crashed near the protests. At that time, Trump argued there was blame on both sides.

Once-Critical Judge Praises Trump Administration

The federal judge overseeing the reunification of more than 2,500 migrant families separated from their children praised the Trump administration on Friday for its work tracking down parents who had been deported. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has at times lashed out at government attorneys when he felt they were moving too slowly to complete the reunifications he ordered on June 26. But with most reunifications now completed and both sides focusing on the 386 parents who were deported, Sabraw was pleased. Last Thursday, the government submitted a six-page plan that designated administrators at the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services responsible for overseeing efforts to find the deported parents. That process led to the government establishing contact with all but 26 of the 386 parents who had been deported. “That would indicate to me that the government has put in an enormous amount of work in the last seven days,” Sabraw said. “Keep up the good work.”

Attorney General Sessions Calls Out the SPLC

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a left leaning think tank whose major claim to fame is their “authority” to declare other organizations “hate groups”, based on whatever qualifiers they choose, notes constitution.com. But now Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center by name last Wednesday as he spoke at the Religious Liberty Summit sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian public interest law firm the SPLC designates a “hate group.” The ADF earned its SPLC “Anti-LGBT Hate Group” designation after a string of Supreme Court victories that enraged the far left, most notably the successful defense of a Christian Colorado baker who refused to adorn a cake with phrases condoning homosexual marriage. “We have gotten to the point where … one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a “hate group” on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Sessions said.

  • Islam takes a harder stand against homosexuality than Christianity, calling for them to be murdered. Christ calls on us to love everyone, since we’re all sinners saved by the grace of God. The SPLC is the real hate group, displaying their intolerance of anyone who does not believe as they do. Religious freedom in the USA applies to everyone, not just the SPLC.

Children in New Mexico Compound Training for School Shootings

As authorities work to identify a young boy’s remains, they have learned that at least one of the 11 children found on a compound in rural New Mexico was trained to commit school shootings. Days after the starving children were rescued, the foster parent of one of them told authorities the suspects “trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings,” court documents state. Leading up to Friday’s raid at the compound, a team who surveilled the property in Amalia, New Mexico, had noticed a makeshift shooting range. And when authorities searched the compound, they found an AR-15 rifle, loaded 30-round magazines, four loaded pistols and many rounds of ammo, officials said. The allegations against the five suspects — Siraj Wahhaj, his sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj as well as Lucas Morten and Jany Leveille — come as prosecutors ask a judge to hold them in jail without bail. FBI analysts said the suspects appeared to be “extremist of the Muslim belief.” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said authorities were able to get a search warrant after they received a message from what appeared to be someone inside the compound that said “we are starving and need food and water.”

ICE Arrests Ringleaders of Illegal Immigrant Exploitation

Federal authorities Thursday announced the arrest of 13 people they say were ringleaders in a massive scheme to exploit illegal immigrants as cheap labor on farms and Hispanic-oriented businesses in Minnesota and Nebraska. They also carried out search warrants on 11 of the businesses Wednesday and nabbed 133 illegal immigrant workers they found at the time. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they suspect some of the migrants were coerced into working in rough conditions, either by force or threats of being reported to authorities for deportation. The migrants were forced to cash their paychecks at a remittance business run by the scammers, and had taxes taken from their paychecks, even though the businesses didn’t actually send the money to the IRS, officials said.

Pentagon Plans to Launch Trump’s Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the Pentagon plans to launch a Space Force, embarking on an effort to create the first new armed service since 1947. In June, President Donald Trump called for the establishment of the sixth armed service, to join the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Thursday’s plan, which requires authorization and funding from Congress, would develop forces to defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks. China and Russia are the nation’s primary rivals in space. The force would be created by 2020, Pence said. Before that, the Pentagon plans to assemble the U.S. Space Command, which would be led by a four-star officer and draw forces from the other armed services. A 15-page proposal outlines the need for the force and steps to get there but no bottom line, saying only that any costs associated with it will be sent to Congress next February. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that he assumed creating the Space Force would cost “billions.” The top House Republican and Democrat on an Armed Services Committee panel on strategic forces applauded the plan.

Murder Clearance Rate Lowest in Recorded History

The national murder clearance rate – the calculation of cases that end with an arrest or identification of a suspect who can’t be apprehended – fell to 59.4 percent in 2016, the lowest since the FBI has tracked the issue. The issue of murder clearance rates is in the spotlight as Chicago officials struggle to solve gun violence that’s plaguing the city. But the nation’s third-largest city, which only cleared 26 percent of its homicides in 2016, is just one among many big cities struggling to quickly solve gun crimes, according to FBI data and crime experts. Last weekend in Chicago, more than 70 people were shot, including 12 fatally, but only a single arrest has been made so far from the dozens of shootings over a 60-hour period. Police chiefs in many other cities understand the struggle. It’s one that has been exacerbated in municipalities to varying degrees by politics, fear, a no-snitching philosophy mentality pervasive in some enclaves, diminished resources for law enforcement and discontent with policing in minority communities, experts say. In big cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New Orleans – which cleared less than 28 percent of its homicide cases in 2016 – the fracturing of gangs has added a difficult dimension for detectives as they try to glean information from the streets.

U.S. Infrastructure Crumbling

About seven out of every 100 miles of roadway nationwide are in poor condition; 9 percent of bridges nationwide are structurally deficient, meaning that they are in need of some repair; and 17 percent of dams in the country have a high hazard potential — meaning a functional failure would result in the loss of life, reports the USA Today. “It’s hurting our economy, it’s hurting our communities’ ability to grow, it’s hurting our quality of life, and in some cases, there are public safety concerns,” said Kristina Swallow, 2018 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Our infrastructure is not meeting our needs.” President Trump proposed a $1 trillion plan to improve aging roads, bridges, and tunnels across the country, but funding the project has proven to be a political challenge.

Unintended Target of Tax Reform: Churches

Houses of worship and nonprofit groups are crying foul as they realize that a provision in last year’s tax reform law requires them to pay federal taxes on some employee benefits for the first time, a development that could cost them thousands of dollars. The provision was in the legislation that Congress and President Trump signed in December, but for months it flew under the radar while lawmakers wrestled over the main portion of the law: corporate and individual tax cuts. Now churches, synagogues, universities and nonprofit groups have learned they must pay taxes on employee fringe benefits such as parking and transportation under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A certain provision calls for a 21 percent tax on some fringe benefits and expenses. “Think of it: $13 billion every decade on the backs of churches and nonprofits, hindering their ability to serve their constituents,” said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Economy

Corporate America is growing practically nonstop thanks to massive tax cuts and a booming economy. Already fat profits at S&P 500 companies are on track to spike by nearly 25% during the second quarter. The across-the-board success includes everyone from Apple and Amazon to Chevron and JPMorgan Chase. Blockbuster earnings growth has offset rising concern on Wall Street about President Trump’s trade wars and crises in emerging markets, such as Turkey. Ten of the 11 S&P 500 sectors increased profits by double-digits during the second quarter, led by surging growth from energy companies thanks to The success has been driven in part by the corporate tax cut, which lowered the rate from 35% to 21%. A big chunk of those tax savings have gone to the bottom line and to stock buybacks, which boost per-share earnings. Stock buybacks could exceed $1 trillion this year for the first time ever. higher oil prices.

Recession warning signs: U.S. consumer credit just hit another all-time record high.  In the second quarter of 2008, total consumer credit reached a grand total of 2.63 trillion dollars, and now ten years later that number has soared to 3.87 trillion dollars.  That is an increase of 48 percent in just one decade. According to the Federal Reserve, the credit card default rate in the U.S. has risen for 7 quarters in a row. Over the last 8 years, the total amount of student loan debt has shot up 79 percent in the United States. It is being projected that interest on the national debt will surpass half a trillion dollars for the first time ever this year. In addition, the median stock price to sales ratio, it is the highest that it has ever been and it is twice as high as it was in February 2000, meaning the stock market is highly overvalued.

Tariff Trade Wars

China has announced plans to put tariffs of 25% on U.S. products worth $16 billion, the latest move in an escalating trade war. The Chinese government said in a statement Wednesday that the taxes would be imposed on August 23. Last Tuesday, the Trump administration unveiled its own list of roughly $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be hit with 25% tariffs. The world’s top two economies have repeatedly sparred over trade in recent months, in what economists warn may become a devastating cycle of retaliation.

Wielding tariffs as a foreign policy weapon, President Donald Trump said Friday he would increase duties on steel and aluminum from Turkey as the two nations argue about a imprisoned American. The tweeted tariff threat came little more than a week after the Trump administration placed sanctions on Turkish officials over the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson, calling his detention “unjust” and “unacceptable.” Although narrowly tailored, those penalties have contributed to a slide in the value of the Turkey’s currency, the lira, amid fears of a broad economic crisis.

The list of U.S. companies affected by tariffs is growing, Some are either planning to close plants, lay off employees, cancel plans for new jobs or raise prices. Several have raised prices or suffered lower profits while others announced the possible closing of plants, layoffs and halting plans to add jobs due to the higher costs of imported products and parts.

Middle East

The Israel Defense Forces hit 12 Hamas positions across the Gaza Strip, including a factory that produces concrete for terror tunnels, late Wednesday night after 150 rockets were fired on southern Israel by the Hamas terror group. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 25 rockets. A 30-year-old woman was seriously injured when a rocket hit a greenhouse where she was working. Another person was moderately injured. The IDF retaliated by targeting a number of sites used by the Hamas and other terror organizations operating in Gaza. A tense calm appeared to have settled on the border between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Friday morning

More Russian Sanctions

Under pressure from Congress, President Donald Trump’s administration said Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the alleged attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, 67, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33. The pair were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Britain, in March. The sanctions come amid criticism of Trump for appearing to side with Russia over his own intelligence agencies on the question of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election. Russia’s Embassy in Washington on Thursday described new U.S. sanctions over claims Moscow poisoned one of its former spies and his daughter in Britain as “draconian” and the case against it as “far-fetched” and lacking “any facts or evidence.” A number prominent opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin — journalists, politicians, former associates — have died or been injured in violent or suspicious circumstances, both at home and abroad.

More Canadian Mass Killings

Canadian police have charged a man for the deaths of two police officers and two civilians in a shooting that struck a nerve in a country that has been roiled in recent months by several instances of mass violence. No motive has been disclosed. The shooting comes as Canada wrestles with a string of violence, including an instance in Toronto last month where a man with a handgun opened fire in a crowded part of the city, killing two people and wounding 13 before he died in the confrontation. In April, a man who linked himself to a misogynistic online community used a van to run down pedestrians in a busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14. Authorities are also still pursuing leads in an ongoing investigation of a serial killer who has been charged with killing eight men in the city in recent years.

Dozens Dead after School Bus Hit by Airstrike in Yemen

Dozens of children, many believed to be under the age of 10 and on their way to summer camps, have been killed after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus in northern Yemen on Thursday. The bus was struck as it was driving through a market in the rebel-held province of Saada. At least 43 people were killed and 63 injured in the strike, according to the Houthi-held health ministry. The Saudi-led coalition called the airstrike a “legitimate military operation,” and a retaliation to a Houthi ballistic missile that targeted the kingdom’s Jizan province on Wednesday night, according to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency. One person was killed in that attack, Saudi state media reported.

Taliban Kill More Than 200 Afghan Defenders

Afghan government forces lost more than 200 officers and soldiers in fighting over the past three days as Taliban insurgents launched sustained attacks on four different fronts. The hardest-hit area was the southeastern city of Ghazni, where more than 100 police officers and soldiers had been killed by Sunday, and the insurgents appeared to be in control of most of the strategic city aside from a few important government facilities. Ninety miles west, the Taliban seized control of the Ajristan District. Estimates of the dead ranged from 40 to 100. Twenty-two survivors were carried to safety on donkeys by rescuers who found them lost in the mountains. In Faryab Province, 250 miles to the northwest, an isolated Afghan National Army base of 100 soldiers lost more than half of its men in a Taliban assault that ended early Sunday morning. And 275 miles east of the Faryab base, in northern Baghlan Province, at a base at Jangal Bagh on the strategic highway between Pul-i-Kumri and Kunduz, insurgents killed seven policemen and nine soldiers and captured three other soldiers on Saturday.

Thousands Rally for Removal of U.S. Military Base off Okinawa

Tens of thousands of protesters in Okinawa vowed to stop the planned relocation of a U.S military base, saying they want it off the southern Japanese island entirely. Opponents of the relocation say the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated coastal site would not only be an environmental debacle but also ignore local wishes to remove the base. About 70,000 people gathered Saturday at a park in the state capital of Naha under pouring rain ahead of an approaching typhoon, and observed a moment of silence for Okinawa’s governor, Takeshi Onaga, who died Wednesday of cancer. Onaga, elected in 2014, had spearheaded opposition to the relocation and criticized the central government for ignoring the voices of Okinawans. He had filed lawsuits against the central government and said he planned to revoke a landfill permit issued by his predecessor that is needed for construction of the new base. Okinawans are trying to block the government plan to start dumping soil into Henoko Bay within days to make a landfill for the new site of the Futenma base.

Argentina Defeats Bill to Legalize Abortion

Members of the Argentina Senate voted last Wednesday against legislation that would legalize abortions on unborn babies up to 14 weeks of age and older in some circumstances. Senators voted 38-31 against the measure. Approved by Congress’ lower house on June 14, the bill sent to the Senate would legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and force religious hospitals to do abortions. Doctors all across Argentina fought against the new pro-abortion bill that could punish them for refusing to abort unborn babies. Argentina prohibits unborn babies from being aborted except in cases of rape, severe disabilities or threats to the mother’s life.

Earthquakes

Another big aftershock shook the Indonesian island of Lombok last Thursday as an official said the death toll from the earlier 7.0 quake hit 430, with another 1,500 seriously injured. The strong aftershock, measured at magnitude 5.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey, caused renewed panic and damage. It was centered in the northeast of the island. More than 156,000 have been displaced due to the extensive damage to thousands of homes.

Volcanoes

After three months of lava flows that claimed hundreds of homes on the southern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, eruptions at the Kilauea Volcano have paused temporarily. The pause was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey following a Sunday flyover of Fissure 8, the last fissure that was still oozing lava. For days, the USGS observed a big decline in the amount of lava emerging from the fissure. “It could be weeks or months before we feel comfortable calling the eruption and the summit collapse over,” Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory scientist Tina Neal said in a press release. Since the first fissure opened May 3, the thick lava has covered more than 12 square miles of land and destroyed at least 700 homes.

Wildfires

Dozens of wildfires are burning across the western United States, including at least 10 major fires in California alone, sending plumes of smoke across much of the country. Large wildfires from central and Northern California into northern British Columbia continue to burn and emit thick smoke, contributing to an expansive area of varying density smoke reaching from the Pacific coast eastward as far as Lake Superior and Hudson Bay. Smoke was observed as far east as the southeastern U.S. coast and even parts of upstate New York and northern New England, though the highest concentrations of smoke were in Northern California, the Great Basin and portions of the northern Rockies.

  • As of Monday morning, there are 13 large (over 100 cares) wildfires in Washington, 12 in Oregon, 10 in California, 11 in Montana, 11 in Idaho, 12 in Colorado, 6 in Utah, 1 in Nevada, 3 in Wyoming, 1 in South Dakota, 11 in Arizona, 2 in New Mexico, 1 in Texas, and 17 in Arkansas.

Virtually every state in the Lower 48 has been impacted by the Western wildfire smoke, but there’s a different reason for the hazy skies in South Florida. Saharan dust has swept into the skies of Miami and the rest of South Florida, turning skies dusty and dry but making for terrific sunrises and sunsets. The dust has drifted across the Atlantic Ocean in recent weeks, an occurrence that isn’t incredibly rare but can stifle the formation of tropical systems.

About 20,000 residents are under mandatory evacuation orders as a Southern California fire — which authorities say was set intentionally — spread this week. The Holy Fire started last Monday in the Cleveland National Forest and has so far destroyed 12 structures. A man has been arrested in connection with the fire that is wreaking havoc near the border between Orange and Riverside counties, which are among the most populous counties in California. The Holy Fire has burned 6,200 acres and is 5% contained as of last Thursday.

Weather

Flash flooding in the Northeast Saturday triggered numerous water rescues in New Jersey and New York. Numerous water rescues were undertaken Saturday morning in several New Jersey cities, including Hoboken and Jersey City. Several roads were reportedly impassable in Hoboken. In metro New York City, street flooding on the Federal Highway was reported in Manhattan. Rain and the risk of flooding will continue into early this week in the Northeast as a closed upper-level low develops and lingers. Another round of flooding rainfall drenched parts of the Northeast Monday morning, with rainfall rates of almost 3 inches per hour. In Pennsylvania, cars were submerged and some homes were evacuated. In Philadelphia, bus and train service was delayed along several routes.

More than 30,000 customers remained without electricity Sunday morning after howling winds whipped up a dust storm, forced flights to be diverted and knocked out power Saturday night in Las Vegas. Gusts up to 71 mph battered Nellis Air Force Base, and other parts of southern Nevada saw winds in excess of 60 mph. A flash flood warning was issued for Clark, Mohave and San Bernardino counties as the monsoon storms moved through the area. McCarran Airport grounded departing flights and diverted incoming flights to other airports.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was closed last Tuesday after at least eight people were injured and three animals were killed in a hailstorm Monday afternoon. The zoo said three animals – two vultures and a duck – were killed by the large hail. The zoo’s infrastructure was also damaged. Jenny Koch, marketing director of the zoo, told the Denver Post that, “It was hail the size I’ve never seen before,” she said. “Basically, chunks of ice.” Officials were not allowing visitors to drive their cars from the zoo because many had smashed windshields from the hail. The zoo said that about 400 guest cars were severely damaged. Some of the hail was as large as baseballs.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more severe, with large hailstones, scorching heat, flooding in some areas, drought in others (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times`

August 7, 2018

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The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:9-10)

Tenn. Schools Must Display ‘In God We Trust,’ According to New Law

Students heading back to school in Tennessee in the coming weeks will be greeted by more than new teachers and old friends. They’ll also see “In God We Trust” displayed prominently in their schools. A bill requiring the national motto to be displayed in a prominent place was signed into law in April, meaning the 2018-19 school year is the first one to be impacted by the new rule. The law defines “prominent place” as a “school entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the national motto.” The phrase “may take the form of, but is not limited to, a mounted plaque or student artwork.” “Our national motto is on our money. It’s on our license plates. It’s part of our national anthem,” Republican Rep. Susan Lynn told The Tennessean. “Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things.”

Christian Students Face Growing Anti-Christian Harassment at School

In many schools today, Christianity is treated like a virus. The Bible is banned; students are called out in class for expressing their faith; the cross is treated as contraband. Bible clubs are banned or ostracized by school officials. The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) reports that one little elementary school girl was banned from drawing a picture of Jesus, had her Bible confiscated, and was instructed she could never even mention her faith at school. A little boy was repeatedly threatened with punishment for doing book reports on Bible stories. The ACLJ says they are contacted “almost daily” by the parents of Christian students who are facing blatantly unconstitutional discrimination. “Religious liberty is the cornerstone of America, and our children are its future. The Bible, prayer, Christian faith – they’re all under attack in our public schools. We won’t tolerate it,” says the ACLJ, which is fighting many of such cases in court.

Army Chaplain Faces Possible Court Martial

A decorated Army chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina could face a possible court martial and even military prison after he explained to a soldier that he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs. An Army investigator under the command of Major General Kurt Sonntag recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires be found guilty of “dereliction of duty.” Squires, who was officially accused of discrimination, is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB). According to NAMB policy, chaplains are prohibited from conducting marriage retreats for same-sex couples. The policy clearly states, “endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union…nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation.”

Canadian Tolerance: Oppose Chick-Fil-A Because Owners are Christian

When Chick-Fil-A announced a new store for Toronto – its first franchised international restaurant – the reception wasn’t hospitable. It started when Chick-fil-A president Tim Tassopoulos released a letter July 25 announcing a series of new restaurants in the Canadian city. But many of the country’s left-leaning and LBGT citizens – apparently reacting to the company’s Christian roots – weren’t excited, according to Fox News. “Just a friendly Canadian reminder that we are a progressive country and have morals and fight for equal rights for all,” one Toronto citizen, Chris Lotts, wrote on Twitter. “We don’t want your bigoted and discriminatory business opening anywhere north of the border. #BoycottChickFilA.” Another Torontonian, Wayne Leung, wrote, “You’re not welcome here. I know your homophobic history and your bankrolling of political candidates who promote anti-LGBT discrimination. That bigotry has no place in Canada. I will be boycotting you and encouraging others to do the same. #BoycottChickFilA”

Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible, Changing Church’s Catechism

Pope Francis has declared that the death penalty is never admissible and that the Catholic Church will work towards its abolition around the world, the Vatican formally announced Thursday. The change, which has been added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, makes official a position that the Pope has articulated since he became pontiff. The declaration by Pope Francis, may have particular resonance in the United States, where capital punishment remains legal in 31 states and as a federal punishment. Pope Francis in a 2015 speech to the US Congress said that human life must be defended “at every stage of its development.”

Judge Rules DACA Program Should Restart

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to restart a program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, the second ruling blocking the administration from ending the DACA program. In a 25-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates for District of Columbia said that the Trump administration did not justify its decision to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Bates said the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program, failed to “elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision” and called the policy “unlawful and unconstitutional.” The government has 20 days, until Aug. 23, to appeal the ruling or the Trump administration will have to restart DACA, Bates wrote in the ruling. Bates joined judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco in ruling against the Trump administration. The dispute dates back to 2012, when then-president Barack Obama established the program without congressional action. The goal was to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, but many Republicans called it executive overreach and have remained opposed to the program.

Trump Says ACLU Should Find Deported Parents, Judge Says Otherwise

The Trump administration believes that the responsibility for finding parents who were deported after they were separated from their children should rest with immigration advocacy groups, not with the federal government, according to a court document filed Thursday. The administration reunited more than 1,400 children with their parents by a July 26 deadline imposed by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw. But the judge gave the government more time to reunite more complicated cases, including an estimated 431 children whose parents had already been deported. Justice Department lawyers said that the government would turn over whatever identifying information it could on the parents who were deported, but the ACLU “should use their considerable resources and their network of law firms, (non-governmental organizations), volunteers, and others” to establish contact with the deported parents. ACLU lawyers argued that the Trump administration is trying to shirk its responsibility by passing its work off to private groups despite its own considerable resources. A federal judge said Friday it is the responsibility of the Trump administration to reunite the hundreds of children separated from parents who have been deported to countries south of the border.

Anti-WMD Sanctions Imposed by Trump Administration

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions Friday on a Russian bank, two North Korean companies and one North Korean citizen for illegal financial activity. The Treasury Department said the sanctions are a response for the entities “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction on behalf of an individual designated for weapons of mass destruction-related activities in connection with North Korea.” The announcement came as President Trump continues to push North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to denuclearize, and to gain more cooperation such as the recent return of remains of dozens of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War. The Russian-registered bank, AgrosoyuzCommercial Bank, was targeted for doing business with Han Jang Su, a North Korean described as the Moscow-based representative of Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank. The two North Korean companies hit with new sanctions are described by Treasury as front companies for the bank.

Courts in Three States Ban Release of 3D-Printable Gun Blueprints

Three courts last Tuesday banned the chief promoter of 3D-printable guns from posting his designs online, just hours before a midnight deadline that would have made such information widely accessible. Courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington State issued rulings barring Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distribution, from uploading instructions for making 3D-printable guns at midnight Wednesday – as he had planned to do under a settlement reached in June with the Trump administration. “Today Cody Wilson committed to not publish any new printable gun codes nationwide until a court hearing in September,” New Jersey’s attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, announced. Wilson downplayed the court agreement in an email to USA TODAY. “We agreed to maintain the status quo, keep up existing files, block (New Jersey) IP addresses, and not post new files. We gave up nothing,” Wilson said.

Alt-Right and Antifa Clash at Berkley

Authorities arrested 20 people during a clash of dueling demonstrations between Antifa and individuals affiliated with the so-called “alt-right.” Three people suffered minor injuries after a group of “extremists” threw “explosives” — believed to be fireworks and flares — at police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s officers. No members of law enforcement were hurt. The protest in Berkeley turned violent Sunday when one masked Antifa group member sucker-punched a detractor and other agitators smashed the windows at a Marine Corps recruiting post, cellphone video showed. Besides the damage to the Marine Corps post, Berkeley police also said “an extremist element” damaged 21 city vehicles, setting one on fire, and slashed their tires. The group also set fires in trash bins, which were extinguished quickly. Officials did not identify the “extremist element.” The incident began percolating days earlier when two groups announced plans for a “No to Marxism” rally at the city’s Civic Center Park, an announcement that prompted plans for a “Sweep Out The Fascists” march.

44 People Shot in Chicago in 14 Hours Sunday

Chicago police records show 44 people were shot on Sunday in just 14 hours, including five who were killed. In three hours beginning at 1:30 a.m., records show, 30 were shot and two killed in 10 incidents. Chicago has struggled with high shooting and murder rates in recent years, although shootings are down 30% from 2017, and murders are down 25%.June marked 15 straight months of fewer killings and shootings, police said. However, on June 25, at least 21 were shot and two died. Experts say crime tends to pick up during the hot summer months.

Russia Dumped 84% of Its U.S. Debt

Russia has rapidly sold off the vast majority of its stash of American debt. Between March and May, Russia’s holdings of US Treasury bonds plummeted by $81 billion, representing 84% of its total US debt holdings. Perhaps Russia just wanted to diversify its portfolio, as the central bank stated. Or perhaps Russia was seeking revenge for Washington’s crippling sanctions on aluminum maker Rusal. Either way, Russia’s selling has not hurt America’s ability to borrow money. That’s because investors — particularly life insurers and pension funds that serve aging baby boomers — have a big appetite for fixed income. The sudden debt dump may have contributed to a short-term spike in Treasury rates that spooked the market, but treasury rates quickly descended back below 3% because demand for bonds continued to grow.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in July and unemployment fell slightly to 3.9 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. The pace of job growth was below economists’ predictions that about 195,000 jobs would be added last month, but the Labor Department revised employment growth even higher for May and June, meaning the three-month average for job gains is 224,000, a very healthy pace at this stage of the recovery. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 94 consecutive months, a record streak that shows no signs of waning despite President Trump’s escalating trade war. Hiring remained solid in most industries in July. Blue-collar jobs have grown sharply, with manufacturing adding 327,000 positions in the past year and construction adding 308,000. Transportation, mining and financial services did not hire much in July. Retail was also sluggish with just 7,000 job gains.

Unemployment has fallen this year to its lowest level since 2000. The only red flag in the U.S. labor market remained wages. Despite many company executives complaining they cannot find workers to fill open positions, wage growth remains sluggish. Typically, businesses raise wages when it’s difficult to find the talent they want, but annual wage growth remained at a tepid 2.7 percent, the Labor Department said. Wage growth has been stuck around that level for two years.

The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, a recent study has found. The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. As the study, from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, explains, older people whose finances are precarious have few places to turn. Bankruptcy can offer a fresh start for people who need one, but for older Americans it “is too little too late,” the study says. “By the time they file, their wealth has vanished and they simply do not have enough years to get back on their feet.”

The number of people who live in their vehicles because they can’t find affordable housing is on the rise, even though the practice is illegal in many U.S. cities. The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle’s King County, Washington found. The problem is “exploding” in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine. Stephanie Monroe, managing director of Children Youth & Family Services at Volunteers of America, Dakotas, tells a similar story. At least 25 percent of the non-profit’s Sioux Falls clients have lived in their vehicles at some point, even during winter’s sub-freezing temperatures.

Trump administration officials announced plans Wednesday to abandon Obama’s fuel economy rules. The proposal would freeze rules requiring cleaner, more efficient cars and unravel one of President Obama’s signature policies to fight global warming. It would also challenge the right of states to set their own, more stringent tailpipe pollution standards, setting the stage for a legal clash. The officials say the old rules would cause significant increases in vehicle cost and hurt the economy. Opponents say the move would increase air pollution and gasoline costs.

Aid to Israel Included in Defense Spending Bill

The US Senate passed a large, omnibus defense bill this month totaling nearly $750 billion, including $550 million to fund joint projects with Israel for air defense and tunnel detection, as well as increasing the pre-positioned emergency stocks of weapons and military equipment stored in Israel. “This bipartisan legislation authorizes increases in US security assistance to Israel, and it encourages expanded weapons stockpiles and new US-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space,” AIPAC said in a statement. The move came amidst a flurry of other defeats for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel this week.

IDF Strikes Terror Cell Inside Syrian Zone of Golan Heights

The Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that one of its aircraft had struck a terrorist cell in the southern Golan Heights, on the Syrian side of the border, killing 7 terrorists. The incident came amidst fierce fighting between Assad regime forces and remnants of the Islamic State terror militia in southern Syria. Meanwhile, Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told Sputnik news agency on Wednesday that the Kremlin and Israel have agreed to a plan for the Iranian forces deployed in Syria to be moved 85 km away from the Israeli border.

U.S. to Restore Sanctions on Iran

The Trump administration said it would restore sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord at midnight on Monday, ratcheting up pressure on Tehran while worsening a divide with Europe. The new sanctions are a consequence of President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the nuclear deal with world powers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the goal was to get Iran to change its ways — including ending its support of brutal governments or uprisings in the Middle East. European officials have said that the Iran nuclear agreement is crucial to their national security. International inspectors have concluded that Iran is complying with the accord. The new sanctions bar any transactions with Iran involving dollar bank notes, gold, precious metals, aluminum, steel, commercial passenger aircraft and coal, and they end imports into the United States of Iranian carpets and food stuffs.

North Korea Reportedly Developing New Missiles

Recent satellite imagery shows that North Korea is developing new missiles, reports the Washington Post. U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing other signs as well that Pyongyang is building the missiles in the same research facility that manufactured the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Evidence indicates that work has begun to build at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at the site in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of the capital Pyongyang. photos and infrared images indicated that vehicles were moving in and out of the Sanumdong site but did not show how advanced any the missile-building process might be. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had pledged the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” at his summit meeting with President Trump, but the short agreement said nothing about inspections or a verification process to make sure North Korea follows through.

U.S. Sanctions Turkish Officials to Protest American Pastor’s Detention

The Trump administration has sanctioned two high-level officials in Turkey for what it says is their role in the case of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terrorism-related charges. “At the president’s direction, the Department of Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of the interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced at her press briefing last Wednesday. Under the sanctions, any assets the Turkish officials have in the U.S. will be frozen. American individuals and businesses are barred from having financial transactions with them. The moves follow reports that a Turkish court denied Brunson’s latest appeal on charges of espionage and “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member,” which the Trump administration says are false.

Two American Cyclists Killed in Tajikistan

Four cycling tourists, including two Americans, were killed in an attack in Tajikistan, authorities told ABC News. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter post Monday. A group of seven cyclists was heading north in Danghara district, about 55 miles southeast of the capital Dushanbe, when they were struck by a car with five armed people onboard on Sunday. Tajikistan’s interior minister said that, after striking the cyclists, the people in the car got out and attacked them with a firearm and a knife. The two Americans, a woman and a man, were killed along with a Swiss man and a Dutch national.

British Supreme Court Rules Patients Can be Starved to Death

The British Supreme Court has ruled that doctors and families can revoke a patient’s life support and withhold food and water without his or her consent and without a court hearing. The decision is particularly concerning — because it comes from a nation that is already pushing towards euthanasia. In the UK, with its government-run health care system, doctors and hospitals are routinely giving up on patients they believe are too far gone, even children such as Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans in recent cases that received worldwide attention. In such instances they are pressuring families to allow life support to be revoked from patients they believe The ruling from the high court in Britain also comes after new reports that hundreds of patients are being euthanized in Belgium including three children. have no chance at life — even though other doctors and medical professionals disagree. The ruling essentially allows doctors and families to guess what a patient might want if no advance directive is in place — allowing patients to have their life support and food and fluids terminated and their lives taken even if that may not be the decision they would have wanted.

Earthquakes

Indonesia’s Lombok Island was rocked by a powerful 6.9 magnitude earthquake Sunday evening killing 98 people, a week after being hit by another deadly temblor. Officials said Monday that the death toll is expected to rise as rescuers still haven’t reached some of the most devastated pars of Lombok island. The earthquake struck at 7:46 p.m., local time, and was centered on the northern part of Lombok Island. The island is located just east of Bali. Lombok Island was hit hard by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake last Sunday which killed 16 people and injured another 162. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Ocean. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Wildfires

A summer of fire like this one has become more common in recent years: The number of large forest fires in the western USA and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate changes, according to a report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The number of acres burned in the USA by wildfire has doubled compared with 30 years ago. Last year, more than 10 million acres burned, and this year is on pace to meet or exceed last year’s total. California has experienced six of its most destructive wildfires in recorded history over just the last 10 months. The fires have charred more than 10,000 structures and claimed dozens of lives.

A pair of wildfires in Northern California burned more than 425 square miles, becoming the second-largest wildfire in state history. That’s larger than 18 Manhattan Islands and roughly one-third the size of the state of Rhode Island. The so-called Mendocino Complex prompted new evacuations in Lake and Mendocino counties amid fears that hot, windy and dry weather conditions could fan the flames. The Mendocino Complex has destroyed at least 75 homes, 68 other structures and threatens 9,300 buildings, Cal Fire said. There are at least 18 major fires burning throughout California, authorities said Sunday. The Mendocino Complex is comprised of the Ranch Fire in Mendocino County, which has burned 351 square miles and was 21 percent contained as of Monday. Nearby, the River Fire has burned 76 square miles and was 58 percent contained. Combined, the Mendocino Complex far surpasses the size of the deadly Carr Fire burning near Redding, California, which has burned an area larger than Dallas.

The devastating fire tornado that spun up during the Carr Fire last week had 143 mph winds, equivalent to an EF-3 tornado. Also known as a fire whirl or firenado, the weather service described it as “a rotating column of fire induced by intense rising heat and turbulent winds.” Fire tornadoes range in size from less than 1 foot as much as 500 feet in diameter. So far, the Carr Fire has claimed six lives, destroyed over 1,500 structures, and burned some 206 square miles, Cal Fire said Friday. The fire started when a flat tire on a trailer caused the rim to spark on the asphalt, setting aflame dry grasses along the roadside. A seventh death has been blamed on the Carr wildfire, which has destroyed more than 2,000 structures, 1,080 of which are homes.

Yosemite National Park is shrouded in so much smoke from wildfires that the air quality is worse than anywhere in America and is rivaling Beijing, prompting officials to extend the park closures indefinitely. Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park – El Portal Road, Wawona Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona Campground, Crane Flat Campground and Tamarack Campground – closed July 25. The 115-square mile (300-square kilometer) fire near Yosemite started on July 13 and is now 41 percent contained.

Weather

Portugal’s weather agency said Friday that eight places in the center, south and east of the country experienced record-breaking local temperatures the previous day, as the Iberian Peninsula bears the brunt of a heat wave across the European continent. The temperature reached 113 degrees near Abrantes, a town 99 miles northeast of Lisbon. Forecasters say temperatures in Portugal are expected to peak at 116.6 degrees in some places on Saturday. Many other European countries are also suffering unusually extended periods of very hot weather. The current heat wave in the Netherlands is the longest-ever recorded, while Sweden has experienced its hottest July in more than 250 years, accompanied by wildfires across the country.

The ongoing heat wave and drought in Germany has lowered water levels on numerous rivers, including the Elbe River, where dangerous World War II munitions have been exposed. Police are warning against touching grenades, mines and other possibly live explosives exposed in areas that were once battlegrounds in the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. It’s estimated that 2.7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Germany by Allied Forces during the war. More than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are uncovered in Germany each year.