Archive for September, 2018

Signs of the Times

September 25, 2018

­He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2))

Atheist Group Says School Can’t Organize Prayer Support for Sick Girl

A Michigan high school has removed a video of community members praying for a coach’s ill daughter after complaints from an atheist group, reports ChristianHeadlines.com. In August, members of the community came together to form a “family circle” on the football field and support and pray for a young girl named Harper, who is the daughter of the Lake City High School head football coach. She is in the hospital suffering from a severe intestinal infection. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, says the event was unconstitutional because it included a public prayer. The high school subsequently removed the video to avoid more controversy and a possible lawsuit. But members of the community are now upset. “Outside factors should stay out of our community,” Bruce DeBoer, owner of the Tasty Treat, told the television station. “At that point in time this was to help a young girl and everyone supported it.”

Academy of Pediatrics Supports Sex Reassignment for Children

In a new medical policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it supports the surgical and hormonal transition of transgender children and teens. According to The Christian Post, the document discusses ways for parents and health care providers to affirm the gender choices of patients, including encouraging primary care doctors to install gender-neutral bathrooms in their offices and signs that show the office is LGBT inclusive. The statement also suggests diversity training for employees to be “helpful for educating clinical and administrative staff.” AAP is also recommending that doctors use the term “gender affirmation” instead of “gender transition” to discuss the gender identities of children and teens. The guideline also supports the use of chemical treatments to stop normal puberty, which gives time for the family to “explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills and further determine treatment goals.”

  • Worldwide insanity continues to increase as society gives heed to the doctrine of demons (Now the Spirit [a]expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. 1Timothy 4:1)

271 Indian Christians Face Criminal Charges for Evangelizing

Two-hundred and seventy-nine Christians in a northern part of India have been charged with crimes, including trying to convert Hindus to Christianity with drugs and spreading lies about Hinduism. Previously, a court in August cleared the charges, but Deputy Police Superintendent Anil Kumar Pandey says the Christians are accused of “various criminal offenses, like fraud, defiling places of worship and prejudice against national integration.” Said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians: “In Uttar Pradesh Hindu radicals have fabricated unfounded accusations against innocent Pentecostal Christians.” “There has been a surge in persecution against Christians,” he added. “Pentecostal pastors and Christian groups are under the constant watch of radical elements and the police.” According to religious freedom group ADF India, Christians in the Uttar Pradesh area experienced 26 attacks on them in just the first half of 2018.

China Leads the Way to Dystopian Technocracy

China’s chilling dictatorship is moving quickly to introduce social scorecards by which all citizens will be monitored 24/7 and ranked on their behavior, reports Technocracy News. The Communist Party’s plan is for every one of its 1.4 billion citizens to be at the whim of a dystopian social credit system, and it’s on track to be fully operational by the year 2020. An active pilot program has already seen millions of people each assigned a score out of 800 and either reap its benefits or suffer its consequences — depending on which end of the scale they sit. Under the social credit scheme, points are lost and gained based on readings from a sophisticated network of 200 million surveillance cameras — a figure set to triple in 18 months. The program has been enabled by rapid advances in facial recognition, body scanning and geo-tracking. The data is combined with information collected from individuals’ government records — including medical and educational — along with their financial and internet browsing histories.

Terror Attacks Declined Worldwide to 8,584 in 2017

There were 8,584 terrorist attacks around the world in 2017, a 23 percent decline from 2016, according to a recent State Department report. As a result, more than 18,700 people were killed, about a quarter of whom were the perpetrators themselves. The. death toll represented a 27 percent drop from the previous year. Much of the reason for the decline was the improved security situation in Iraq, according to Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism. More than half of all terrorist attacks worldwide took place in just five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines. And 70 percent of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in a different, if overlapping, set of five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. The security situation in Afghanistan continued to worsen as a result of coordinated attacks by the Taliban, including the group’s affiliated Haqqani network, the report noted.

South/North Korea Sign Historic Agreement

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a broad agreement in Pyongyang on Wednesday that both said would usher in a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea agreed to take further steps towards denuclearization, including permanently dismantling its Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad and allowing international inspectors to observe the process, Moon announced at a joint news conference with Kim following the signing ceremony. Kim said the two sides have taken active measures to free the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and threats and turn it into a “land of peace.” According to the text of the Pyongyang agreement, the North also said it was willing to take additional measures such as decommissioning its Yongbyon nuclear facility if the United States made further concessions. Momentum between the US and North Korea has sputtered since then, with Pyongyang hoping for a peace declaration officially ending the Korean War after 65 years and relief from punishing international sanctions, but Washington holding firm on demands for complete denuclearization first.

Trump Administration Cuts Refugee Admissions to 30,000

The Trump administration announced last Monday it will cut the maximum number of refugees allowed into the country next year to 30,000, citing national security concerns and the need to restore integrity to the system. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration is lowering the refugee cap from 45,000 in fiscal 2018 to 30,000 in fiscal 2019. It will be the lowest ceiling since the refugee program began in 1980. Former President Barack Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 in 2017, and the U.S. allowed in almost 85,000 refugees in 2016 — the last full year of the Obama administration. But the Trump administration has taken a much tougher line on immigration and refugee entry, focusing on the need to fully vet those coming into the U.S. Pompeo said even with the cut, the U.S. will continue to be the most generous nation in the world when it comes to immigration.

Project Veritas Unmasks Anti-Trump ‘Deep State’ Antagonists

Project Veritas released a video Tuesday of a member of the anti-Trump “deep state,” a career civil servant who says on camera he is there to work not for American taxpayers but the Democratic Socialists of America. The government employee is identified as Stuart Karaffa, a State Department staffer and “a ranking member of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.” The first video shows Karaffa “engaged in radical socialist political activity on the taxpayer’s dime, while advocating for resistance to official government policies.” He claims it’s “impossible to fire” federal employees, so he has little concern, and he also boasts that oversight of his activities is virtually nonexistent. Project Veritas said this is just the first installment of its undercover video investigation. Two more “Deep State” radicals are playing starring roles in another Project Veritas undercover video released Wednesday, with one admitting, “There’s a lot of talk about how we can like, resist from inside.” Allison Hrabar, a Justice Department paralegal, confesses using government-owned software and computers to push a socialist agenda. revealing that federal employees appear to be using their positions inside our government to resist or slow the Trump administration’s policies. “It appears some laws have been broken in the process,” Project Veritas explains.

Chicago Police Solve Fewer than One out of Six Homicides

Chicago police solved fewer than one in six homicides committed in the city in the first half of 2018, continuing a troubling decline in the number of perpetrators being brought to justice in one of the nation’s most violent cities, data obtained by USA TODAY shows. Chicago’s homicide clearance rate – the percentage of cases in which police arrest or identify a suspect – fell from 17.1% in 2017 to 15.4% during the first six months of 2018, the data shows. If that rate holds through the end of the year, it would be the sixth consecutive annual decline. Police in the nation’s third-largest city are having even less success solving nonfatal shootings, according to the data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Police only cleared 50 of 900 nonfatal shooting incidents in the first half of 2018, a rate of 5.6%.

Tariff War Heats Up

China has fired back at the United States after President Donald Trump ramped up the trade war with his biggest wave of tariffs yet. The Chinese government imposed tariffs on U.S. goods worth $60 billion following the Trump administration’s announcement that it was hitting $200 billion worth of Chinese goods with new tariffs. The US tariffs start at a rate of 10%, before rising to 25% at the end of the year. They come into effect on September 24, and will apply to thousands of Chinese products, ranging from food seasonings and baseball gloves to network routers and industrial machinery parts. China’s new tariffs will be levied at rates of 5% or 10%, depending on the product, from the same date. More than 5,000 US goods will be affected, including meat, nuts, alcoholic drinks, chemicals, clothes, machinery, furniture and auto parts. However, China is running out of imported American goods to target, since the U.S. imports far more Chinese goods than it exports to China.

Economic News

What trade war? The Dow just soared to its first record high since late January. The milestone shows that Wall Street is mostly unfazed by the escalating trade clash between the United States and China. The S&P 500 also notched an all-time high on Thursday. The Dow has spiked about 3,300 points since a low on April 2, when investors were more worried about trade. They’re betting that the strong US economy will power through the outbreak of tariffs. Stocks spiked late last year and in January after Republicans enacted a sweeping corporate tax cut. If the Dow closes above 26,616.71, it will mark the 100th record close for the index since President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell to a new 49-year low for the third straight week.

The median U.S. stock, when measured by share price relative to earnings over the past 12 months, for example, is almost 50 percent more expensive than at the top of the internet stock bubble in 2000 But it’s not just that one pricey data point that scares him. It’s the long list of other so-called valuation gauges that suggest record expensiveness. The U.S. stock market is also trading at a record valuation today relative to home prices. And thanks to much better performance compared to foreign shares recently, they are now 17 percent more richly priced relative to overseas stocks than they have been in 16 years. And in the post-war era, the total value of U.S. stocks relative to sales has never been as expensive as it is today. Analysts say that an expected return to more normal price levels relative to earnings will either occur due to falling stock prices or a continuation of strong earnings gains accompanied by a flat, trendless market.

Women on average make about 80 cents for every dollar a man does. In Silicon Valley, the wealth gap is even wider, extending to the most potentially lucrative currency on the planet: stock options. Women get half the amount of equity of their male colleagues at start-ups, giving them unequal access to the Silicon Valley’s wealth generation machine, according to a first-of-its kind study by an investor group and an equity management firm that are urging the technology industry to take action. For every dollar of equity for men, women hold 47 cents, according to the study of nearly 180,000 employees at more than 6,000 companies released this week by #Angels and Carta. Female founders have it even worse: They own 39 cents for every dollar of equity of a male founder.

Middle East

In his address to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, President Donald Trump repeated his determination to forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, reiterating that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem advances that goal. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon immediately praised Trump’s remarks. “The president proves again that the US is on the right side of history. While standing on the side of Israel in the struggle for stability in the Middle East, the United States leads the United Nations into a new era that ends its obsession with Israel and pushes back against the Iranian regime,” Danon remarked. Regarding Iran, Trump said the 2015 nuclear deal was a “windfall” for the Islamic Republic, whose leaders “sow chaos, death and destruction.” “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” he declared. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”

Syria

White House national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that the United States wouldn’t be leaving Syria so long as Iranian forces continued to operate there, suggesting the Trump administration had embraced an expanded mission in the embattled country beyond the defeat of the Islamic State. Bolton directly linked any future withdrawal of American troops from Syria to the departure of Iranian forces from the nation. Iran has joined Russia and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to back Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in a war in its eighth year. For years, the Pentagon has said the U.S. military mission in Syria would conclude once U.S.-backed forces defeated the Islamic State and secured the territory the group once occupied.

Syria inadvertently shot down a Russian military plane after an Israeli attack on Syrian positions, killing 15 people on board, Moscow said. Russian state media said Syrian anti-aircraft missiles shot the maritime patrol aircraft down amid an attack by Israeli jets in the Latakia region of north-west Syria. Moscow blamed Israel for putting its aircraft in the line of fire and said it only had a minute’s notice of the strike. In a rare acknowledgment of its military activity in the region, Israel expressed “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, but blamed the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The IDF said it had followed well-established protocols in communicating with Moscow, which are intended to prevent such incidents.

Iran

At least 25 people were killed and 60 others injured in an attack on a military parade in Iran’s southwestern city of Ahvaz on Saturday, Iran’s state news IRNA said. The dead and wounded were both military personnel and civilians including a journalist who was watching the parade. Terrorists disguised as Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and Basiji (volunteer) forces, began shooting from a long distance while inside the park, at the armed forces as well as civilians watching the parade. Three of the attackers were gunned down during clashes with the security forces and one other arrested. The separatist group the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz, which is aligned with Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for this attack. The attack happened in a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community, many of them Sunni. Revolutionary Guard’s acting commander Gen. Hossein Salami vowed revenge against the attack’s perpetrators and what he called the “triangle” of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

Libya

Islamic State is staging a resurgence in chaotic Libya, claiming more than a dozen attacks in the North African country this year and threatening to disrupt the flow of oil from one of the world’s most significant suppliers. The group’s re-emergence comes two years after Libyan forces backed by U.S. air power dislodged the extremist group from its stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, and it erodes one of the signature victories in the years-long U.S-led military campaign against the militants. The latest attack came last week when gunmen wearing explosive vests and carrying assault rifles stormed Libya’s state oil company, one of the country’s most important and heavily guarded institutions. Explosions shook the building and two employees died in the assault.

China

Amnesty International is demanding China end its campaign of “systematic repression” and reveal the whereabouts of nearly 1 million predominantly Muslim people who have been “arbitrarily detained” in the country’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The organization released a report Sunday night that includes interviews with more than 100 people outside of China whose relatives reportedly have been tortured, detained, or forced into “re-education camps” from a rural region of northwest China, known as the XUAR. The human rights group called on world leaders to stop the Chinese government’s “vicious campaign against ethnic minorities.”

Environment

Scientists are worried that the ‘good’ bugs that are crucial to as much as 80 percent of what we eat — native bees, ladybugs, mayflies, fireflies, and yes, even lovebugs — are less abundant than in summers past. Yes, some insects are pests. But they also pollinate plants, are a key link in the food chain and help decomposition. “You have total ecosystem collapse if you lose your insects. How much worse can it get than that?” said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. If they disappeared, “the world would start to rot.” Research has shown dwindling individual species in specific places. University of Nevada, Reno, researcher Lee Dyer and his colleagues have been looking at insects at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica since 1991. There’s a big insect trap sheet under black light that decades ago would be covered with bugs. Now, “there’s no insects on that sheet,” he said. Last year, a study that found an 82 percent mid-summer decline in the number and weight of bugs captured in traps in 63 nature preserves in Germany compared with 27 years earlier.

Smog-filled skies are a familiar sight to Southern Californians, but residents breathed dirty air for almost three straight months this summer. Southern California violated federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days beginning June 19, setting the area’s longest bad-air streak in the past two decades according to state monitoring data.   California claims eight of the country’s most ozone-polluted cities, including the No.1-ranked Los Angeles/Long Beach area. Besides threatening sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, ozone pollution can aggravate asthma, bronchitis or emphysema symptoms. It has also been linked to coughing and pain when breathing deeply, lung and throat irritation and wheezing and trouble breathing during exercise or outdoor activities. About 23 million people in the United States have asthma, which disproportionately affects children, lower-income communities and minorities, according to the EPA.

Weather

Ten days after Hurricane Florence roared onto land along the coastal Carolinas, hundreds of roads remain closed, thousands of residents remain out of their homes or under evacuation watches, and hundreds are still being rescued from rising waters. The death toll from the storm has reached 43, and tentative damage estimates in the range of $50 billion place the storm among the 10 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said teams conducted more than 350 rescues over this past weekend, raising the total to more than 5,200 since Florence slammed through the state. Ten river gauges in the state still showed major or moderate flood stages. More than 400 roads remained closed across the state, although the last blocked segment of I-95 was reopened late Sunday. Parts of I-40 have slowly been emerging from the floodwaters, but other sections could remain underwater for another week.

Severe storms which packed some tornadoes tore through southeastern Minnesota Thursday evening, toppling trees and power lines, damaging homes and flipping airplanes housed in a hangar at a municipal airport. There were several reports of tornadoes in Faribault and Waterville, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis. Several small planes were flipped and damaged by high winds at the Faribault Municipal Airport. No injuries were reported but several homes were also damaged in the storms.

More than 8 inches of rain fell at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport between Friday and Saturday, causing one death and damage to dozens of homes. The Dallas Fire Department said at least 15 people were rescued from the rising waters at about 7 a.m. Saturday. Up to 45 homes in Everman, south of Fort Worth, were damaged by floodwaters as some residents were forced to scramble onto roofs to escape rising water. As the heavy rain pushed eastward, parts of the Ohio Valley also saw flooding Sunday. In central Kentucky, numerous roads were inundated by floodwaters, and in Scott County, several drivers had to be rescued after they became stuck in flooding.

Signs of the Times

September 17, 2018

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

Pope Summons Bishops for February Abuse Prevention Summit

Pope Francis is summoning the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children — evidence that he realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine the church. Francis’ key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with U.S. church leaders who have been deeply discredited by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church’s decades-long sex abuse and cover-up scandal. The Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican is believed to be the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Pope Francis faced what was then the worst crisis of his papacy when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest. He eventually admitted to “grave errors in judgment” and has taken steps to make amends, sanction guilty bishops and remake the Chilean episcopacy. Pope Francis will meet with a group of U.S. church officials led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the Vatican Thursday amid growing criticism over the pope’s handling of sex-abuse cases.

Pastor Faces Eviction for Hosting Home Bible Study

A semi-retired Lutheran minister in Fredericksburg, Virginia faces the possibility of being evicted from a senior living community because he’s been hosting a small Bible study in the privacy of his apartment, his attorney alleges. First Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing Pastor Ken Hauge. The pastor has accused the management of The Evergreens at Smith Run of a pattern of verbal abuse and harassment directed at Christians who live in the complex. “The threat of eviction follows repeated religious discrimination by The Evergreens management, including forcing Hauge to refer to his event as a ‘Book Review’ rather than a ‘Bible Study,’” First Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser wrote in a letter to the corporate owner of the community. Management also withdrew support of a social event because a resident said grace over a meal, and banned all religious activities from the community room.

Appeals Court Reinstates Missouri Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court handed pro-lifers a victory last week by reinstating a Missouri law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion clinics to be set up as “ambulatory surgical centers.” The 3-0 ruling Monday by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction that prevented the law from going into effect. The decision could suspend abortion services in Columbia, Mo., and prevent a Kansas City clinic from regaining its license, Planned Parenthood officials told The Kansas City Star. Pro-lifers say the law is designed to protect women who undergo abortions.

Mainstream Media Acknowledge Universal Microchipping to Come

At one time, the notion that the general population would be microchipped someday was a “conspiracy theory”, but now the mainstream media is coming right out and telling us that we will all get chipped. Last month, USA Today published an article entitled “You will get chipped — eventually.” Of course, it is being portrayed as “cool” and “trendy,” and a lot of people will be fooled by that, notes Charisma News. Someday identity chips will be required for the entire population, and the potential for tyranny and control are frightening. Permanent digital identification is increasingly being pushed as the solution to problems such as identity theft, tax evasion, illegal immigration and money laundering. And tech companies would love to have a universal way to confirm the identities of individuals on the Internet. But very few people are talking about the dark side of this technology – but the Bible does. “No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name… And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 13:17, 14:11)

Florence Floods Isolate Wilmington, NC

Storm-weary residents of North Carolina struggled Monday to loosen the grip of Florence, the lingering killer that has closed more than 100 roads, cut off power to almost 500,000 homes and businesses and essentially cut off the city of Wilmington from the world. At least 17 people have died in the wreckage of the hurricane-turned-tropical depression that dumped 30 inches of rain in parts of the state since last week. In Wilmington, officials were planning to fly food and water into the coastal city of almost 120,000 people. The National Weather Service has measured 23.59 inches of rain at the city’s airport since Thursday. Florence dumped 30.58 inches of rainfall in Swansboro, North Carolina. This breaks the all-time record for rainfall in a single storm system in the state of North Carolina. The previous record was 24.06 inches, and it was set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Dams and levees in areas pelted by Florence were showing signs of distress as rivers overran their banks and authorities warned of more flooding to come. Landslides have become a concern as well — especially in North Carolina’s western mountains. Early Monday, the storm was centered about 145 miles west-northwest of Greensboro, North Carolina. Rescue efforts were complicated by the closure of roads, including parts of interstates 95 and 40.

U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910

The foreign-born population in the United States has reached its highest share since 1910, according to government data released Thursday. The foreign-born population stood at 13.7 percent in 2017, or 44.5 million people, compared with 13.5 percent in 2016. The new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades. The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009. The last historic peak in immigration to the United States came at the end of the 19th century, when large numbers of Europeans fled poverty and violence in their home countries. Some of the largest numbers came from Germany, Italy and Poland. That wave peaked around the turn of the century, when the total foreign-born population stood at nearly 15 percent. But after the passage of strict racial quotas in the 1920s, the foreign-born population fell sharply for decades in the middle of the 20th century. By 1970, the population was below 5 percent.

Detention of Migrant Children at Highest Levels Ever

Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded. Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. Shelter capacities have hovered close to 90 percent since at least May, compared to about 30 percent a year ago. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border.

Migrant Arrests Up 3% in August

The number of migrant family members arrested for illegally entering the United States shot up 38 percent in August, according to statistics released last week, a surge homeland security officials characterized as a “crisis.” Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 13,000 members of “family units” last month, the latest data shows, the highest August total ever recorded. The increase followed President Trump’s decision to back off the provision of his “zero tolerance” crackdown that separated children from parents in an attempt to deter illegal migration. Overall, the number of foreigners apprehended or deemed “inadmissible” at border crossings rose to 46,560 in August, up from 40,011 in July. Department of Homeland Security officials said the arrival of so many families was due to court-imposed restrictions limiting the duration children may be detained in immigration jails. The result, officials said, is that parents bring children as a way to win quick release from government custody and avoid deportation.

$10 Million FEMA Budget Shifted to ICE

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency insisted Wednesday that the transfer of nearly $10 million of its budget to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not affect the agency’s hurricane response and other disaster relief efforts. “We have plenty of resources, both monetary, staff and commodities, to respond to the storm,” Jeff Byard, FEMA’s associate administrator for the Office and Response and Recovery, told reporters during a morning briefing as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast. The budget transfer document from the Department of Homeland Security specifically mentions the money would come from FEMA’s budgets for travel, training, public engagement and information technology work not from disaster relief funding.

Poll Confirms that Americans Don’t Trust the Press

A major poll from Gallup and the Knight Foundation confirms that Americans don’t trust the press. The news media, like many other major U.S. institutions, has suffered from a decline in public confidence in recent years,” the report states. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults in the current survey say their trust in the news media has decreased in the past decade. Just 4 percent say their trust has increased, while 26 percent indicate their trust has not changed. Republicans (94 percent) and political conservatives (95 percent) are nearly unanimous in saying their trust in the media has decreased in the past decade. However, declining trust is not just confined to the political right — 75 percent of independents and 66 percent of moderates indicate they are less trusting than they were 10 years ago. However, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that voters trust the media over Trump by a 54-30 percent margin.

Heroin Use Down, Meth & Marijuana Up

Far fewer people started using heroin last year, but the decline among young new 18- to 25-year-old heroin users was almost imperceptible and this age group also saw a big jump in methamphetamine and marijuana use, according to a federal report out Friday. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health emphasizes what it calls these “transitional aged youth” because they have higher rates of cigarette use, alcohol abuse, heroin use disorder and use more cocaine, meth and LSD than people both younger and older. With all the publicity surrounding deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl, addiction experts expected there to be a move away from heroin  – just as crack cocaine fell out of favor decades ago. Use of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and opioids by pregnant women increased significantly between 2015 and 2017, the report found. About 7 percent of pregnant women reported using marijuana, with about 3 percent saying they used it daily. The report says marijuana use is linked to fetal growth problems, preterm births, stillbirths, hyperactivity and impaired cognition in newborns.

E-Cigarettes an Epidemic Among Nation’s Youth

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb dramatically escalated his efforts to stop an “epidemic” of teenage vaping, announcing Wednesday a massive enforcement action against retailers for allegedly selling e-cigarettes to minors and warning manufacturers of a potential ban of flavored e-cigarette liquids. Officials said the move against more than 1,300 retailers was the largest coordinated enforcement action in the agency’s history. The threatened ban, if carried out, would significantly upend the fast-growing industry. Preliminary data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show a 75% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students this year compared to 2017. Much of the FDA’s sharp change in course is a result of the phenomenal success of Juul, which looks like a USB flash drive. In just three years, it has captured about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market. Juul delivers high levels of nicotine in a way that istn’t harsh, and it packages the product in a streamlined, clever way. Juul also developed a social media and advertising campaign that made a Juul e-cigarette “cool and hip.” In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes also contain other harmful substances that may cause oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Seven States Have Obesity Rates Above 35 Percent

Seven states boast adult obesity rates above 35 percent, a new report finds, while other states have seen their rates balloon rapidly. According to The State of Obesity 2018 report, no state showed significant statistical improvement in their obesity rates from a year earlier. Only two states — Hawaii and Colorado — and the District of Columbia had obesity rates below 25 percent. Seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia — had adult obesity rates above 35 percent. West Virginia held the highest rate at just over 38 percent. The report released by nonprofit organizations Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also found 22 states had obesity rates between 30 and 35 percent, while an additional 19 states had rates between 25 and 30 percent. Several studies have shown obesity has been linked to multiple diseases, from hypertension and diabetes to cancer. In May, a report from the World Cancer Research Fund linked 12 types of cancers, including breast and colorectal, to being overweight. The report says obesity costs an estimated $149 billion annually in directly related healthcare spending, and an additional $66 billion a year in lowered economic productivity.

Air Pollution Linked to Dementia

A recently released working paper by three Arizona State University economists makes the case that prolonged exposure to air pollution does not just cause respiratory problems, but also puts individuals at higher risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The ASU researchers estimate, for example, that implementation of an Environmental Protection Agency standard on fine-particulate air pollution in 1997 through the Clean Air Act in previously unregulated counties averted approximately 140,000 people living with dementia in 2013. The size of particulates smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter allows those particulates to remain airborne for long periods, to penetrate buildings, to be inhaled easily and to reach and accumulate within brain tissue, the researchers write. They cite other studies that show the accumulation of particulates in the brain can cause neuroinflammation, which is associated with symptoms of dementia.

Economic News

Household income grew for the third straight year in 2017 but at a slower pace and poverty edged down in signs that the healthy economy continued to lift Americans across the financial spectrum. The median U.S. household income rose 1.8 percent to $61,372, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. That followed gains of 5.2 percent in 2015 and 3.2 percent in 2016. The number of Americans living in poverty was unchanged at 39.7 million but due to increased population, the poverty rate dipped to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent in 2016, the third straight annual decline. Since 2014, the rate has fallen from 14.8 percent. And there were 28.5 million Americans without health insurance, or 8.8 percent of the population, a figure that was unchanged from 2016.

U.S. employers advertised the most jobs on record in July, and the number of workers quitting their jobs also hit an all-time high. Americans are increasingly taking advantage of a tight labor market to find new, often higher-paying jobs. That could help push up wages broadly across the economy. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of job openings rose 1.7 percent to 6.9 million, the most on record dating back to late 2000. The number of people quitting jumped 3 percent to 3.58 million, also a record. Quits are typically a good sign that jobs are plentiful, because people usually quit when they have another job or are confident they can find one. Even as the number of available jobs rose, overall hiring in July was essentially flat, with about 5.7 million people finding jobs, the report showed.

Poverty rates in some of the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas are on the decline, according to new data released Thursday. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics from its American Community Survey (ACS) show a decline in poverty rates in 13 of 25 of the most populous metro areas from 2016 and 2017. For several metro areas, it was the third consecutive year for a decline, according to the ACS. The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area had the lowest poverty rate of 7.9 percent.

For the first time since 1973, the United States is the world’s largest producer of crude oil, according to preliminary estimates published on Wednesday by the Energy Department. The feat demonstrates how the US shale oil boom has reshaped the global energy landscape. American oil output has more than doubled over the past decade. The United States isn’t expected to cede its crown any time soon. The EIA expects US oil production to stay ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia through 2019. The achievement underscores the profound impact of rapid technological advances in drilling. Fracking unlocked vast sums of oil and natural gas that had been trapped underground. Drilling costs declined dramatically.

Middle East

A prominent American-born Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager outside a shopping mall in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. The dead man, Ari Fuld, 45, was well-known by settlers as an outspoken Israeli advocate on social media. He was planning a lecture tour in the United States in November, according to his Twitter account. A civilian shot the attacker, who was taken to a hospital in moderate condition. Israeli media identified the attacker as Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, a 17-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village.

Korea

North and South Korea opened their first liaison office near their tense border Friday in a bid to facilitate better communication ahead of an eagerly awaited summit between their leaders in Pyongyang next week. The opening – in the North Korean border town of Kaesong – is the latest in a series of reconciliatory steps the rival Koreas have taken this year. The office is the first of its kind since the nations were divided at the end of World War II in 1945. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said during the opening ceremony that the new office will become the “cradle of Korean co-prosperity.” Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, said during the ceremony that the office would help the Koreas have “candid conversations” and further build ties.

China

The growing crack-down on unofficial churches in China deepened on Sunday (Sept. 9) when authorities closed one of the largest churches in Beijing. The Beijing Chaoyang District Civil Affairs Bureau informed Zion Church that it was “legally banned” for organizing events without registering as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church, Reuters reported. The church has faced growing threats from authorities, including eviction, since it refused to comply with a government order in April to install closed-circuit television cameras at its worship site. Bob Fu, president of advocacy group China Aid, said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He called the church closure part of a larger crackdown on Christianity across China.

Nigeria

A spate of attacks, in which at least 20 were killed in Nigeria’s central Plateau State over the last week of August, has shattered peace efforts by religious and political leaders in its capital, Jos. On Aug. 28, communities including a mining site at Wereh village (Ropp District), Abonong, Ziyat and Bek villages (Foron District), Nafan, Sagas, Rawuru and Rambuh villages (Fan District), all in Barkin Ladi, came under heavy attack by Fulani militants, reports Charisma News. Victims included a pastor and four members of his family. Rev. Adamu Wurim Gyang, 50, and his three children were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. His wife, Jummai, 45, was shot and left to die in a pool of blood. More than 14 were killed in that attack; 95 houses were burned down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed.

Weather

Typhoon Mangkhut struck the island of Luzon in the Northern Philippines early Saturday as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 65 people with hundreds missing, many believed buried under mud. About 87,000 people have been evacuated from high-risk areas and advised not to return home until the danger has passed. The most powerful typhoon to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year slammed ashore before dawn in Cagayan province on the northeastern tip of Luzon island, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 105 mph with gusts of up to 161 mph after it sliced northwestward across Luzon then blew out to the South China Sea. Mangkhut then barreled into southern China on Sunday, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain, prompting Chinese authorities to issue a red alert, the country’s most severe storm warning. More than three million people have been moved to safety in southern China as Typhoon Mangkhut moved northward and continued to wreak havoc across the region Monday. Hong Kong was left reeling by ferocious winds of up to 107 miles per hour and gusts of up to 138 mph. The storm tore off roofs and scaffolding from skyscrapers, shattered windows, shook high-rise buildings and caused serious flooding in low-lying areas as waves of more than ten feet lashed the coast.

The Hurricane season has been causing devastation from the Pacific to the Atlantic as seven active store swirled across the globe last week – with high chances an eighth powerful storm will soon develop to break an all-time record. Overall, there have been 9 named storms in the Atlantic and 15 names storms in the Pacific since the official start of the hurricane season, way above normal. As one veteran meteorologist remarked, “in my 35 years forecasting the weather on TV, I have NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics all at the same time.”

Signs of the Times

September 11, 2018

­Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12)

College Rules 9/11 ‘Never Forget’ Memorial Biased against Muslims

A conservative student group at a Wisconsin-based college was told their 9/11 “Never Forget” poster violates the school’s bias policy because it exclusively targets Islamic terrorism – despite the fact that it was Islamic terrorism. By focusing “relentlessly on one religious organization, one religious group, one religious identity,” Ripon College’s bias incident team ruled Young America’s Foundation’s posters remembering September 11th create an environment where “students from a Muslim background would feel singled out and/or harassed.” YAF spokesman, Spencer Brown, slammed the ruling as “a transparent attempt to sanitize the truth about 9/11,” adding that the “posters are biased against no one except radical Islamic terrorists.”

Christian Cheerleaders Win Right to Include Bible Verses on Banners

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court handed a group of Christian cheerleaders a victory in their lawsuit involving run-through banners that include Bible verses. The state high court, without comment, refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that had sided with the cheerleaders. The dispute began in 2012, when middle school and high school cheerleaders at public schools in Kountze, Texas, began writing Bible verses on run-through banners as a way to inspire the athletes. The school district, reacting to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), banned the banners, and the cheerleaders filed suit. The cheerleaders have won their case at every level – the district court, appeals court and the Texas Supreme Court.

Chinese Authorities Tear Down Crosses and Close Down Churches in Henan

According to ChinaAid, Henan authorities have continued to tear down crosses and close churches across China. So far, in the Jinshui District of Zhengzhou, at least eight house churches have been shut down. ChinaAid reports that Christians from Zhongmo County were informed by the local government that the crosses would be taken down. Some churches intended to cover the crosses with black veils to conceal them. Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness made a statement last Tuesday condemning the actions of the Henan authorities, voicing outrage over the treatment toward churches and the destruction of crosses. The statement tells of extreme oppression in the largely Christian province of Henan.

Australian Christians Choose Homeschooling Amid Religious Bullying

The Daily Mail reports that deeply religious families in Australia are more frequently choosing to homeschool their children as a result of increased religious bullying. Some parents have reported incidence of their children being taunted and targeted because of their moral opposition to same-sex marriage. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the number of students being homeschooled has nearly doubled since 2014 with approximately 4,479 students partaking in home school education. The Accelerate Christian Home Schooling coordinator Stuart Chapman said, “Christians are now the ones who are the target of bullying and in the minority.” Chapman then cited on incident where “students who opposed same sex marriage were forced to stand at the back of their classrooms. “In 2017, Australia legalized same sex marriage, and Chapman says that since this vote, families are in fear of their children being attacked for having opposing values.

  • Tolerance doesn’t apply to Christians, so who are the hypocrites? And what happened to religious freedom?

Students Ordered to Remove “Christ” From Football Field

Just hours before the Benton High School football team ran onto the field last Friday – two students were ordered to remove a logo from the end zone because it included a cross, a Bible verse and the word “Christ.” The logo belonged to Christ Fit Gym, a faith-based gymnasium in nearby Bossier City, Louisiana. It included the words “Christ Fit Gym,” a cross and a Bible verse reference, 1 Timothy 4:8. Owner Billy Weatherall said he paid the high school football booster club $3,500 to put his logo in the end zone for the 2018-19 football season. The two students refused to remove the logo. “You have to stand up for Christ no matter what (and we) just told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” one of the students wrote on social media. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field.” A judge had granted a temporary restraining order to prevent anyone from removing the signs – but it was too late.

Satanism On the Rise in America

Charisma News reports that while attendance declines at Christian churches, many Satanic groups are experiencing tremendous growth. For some, embracing Satanism is the ultimate form of rebellion, for others it is about making an anti-Trump political statement, and yet others claim that they are attracted by the very real power that they discover in Satanism. Every week, bizarre rituals are conducted in basements, meeting halls and public facilities all over the country, and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on. Of course, most mainstream news articles about Satanists attempt to portray them as ordinary people who have simply been “misunderstood.” And ultimately that is what the Satanists are trying to do for Satan—they are trying to get all the rest of us to view Satan or Lucifer as a “misunderstood” being that only has humanity’s best interests at heart. And since the values of Satanism line up more accurately with the values of modern society than Christian values do, Satanists are finding increasing success in bringing in new recruits. Today, there are Satanic churches just about everywhere in the U.S.

Assaults on ICE, Border Patrol by Illegal Immigrants Surge

Assaults on ICE agents reached a decade high in 2017, and assaults on Border Patrol agents have also surged in recent years, according to new government numbers that seem to back up agents’ claims that illegal immigrants are increasingly looking to fight rather than flee, reports the Washington Times. The report signals increased danger, particularly on the southwest border, where agents say a surge in illegal immigration in recent years generally correlates with growing violence. Prosecutors, meanwhile, often refuse to bring charges or win cases against the perpetrators, the audit found. At the border, the most frequent method of attack was projectiles — usually large rocks — which accounted for half of assaults. But bombs, clubs, knives, guns and even laser pointers to blind agents have all been used. Most of the injuries were minor and didn’t require treatment, the audit found.

Federal Report Criticizes FEMA’s Response to Hurricane Maria

A report from the Government Accountability Office found that FEMA was not ready for what it encountered in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, in part because the agency had to assume many of the responsibilities that local governments usually handle. “They were completely overwhelmed from a workforce standpoint,” Chris Currie, the GAO director for emergency management issues. “Once Maria hit, their staff resources were pretty exhausted. Their other commodities and resources were exhausted.” Three overlapping hurricanes caused staffing shortages and required FEMA to shift staff that was already deployed to other disasters. The remote distance and logistical challenges made it difficult to quickly deploy resources and personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, the islands were not fully prepared for such a storm and the widespread devastation and loss of power and communications led FEMA to assume response functions that territories would usually perform themselves.

Facebook and Twitter Apologize for Missing Russian Meddling

Facebook and Twitter executives issued mea culpas on Wednesday for the failure to root out Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg saying it was “completely unacceptable,” and promising to keep cracking down on bad actors. “We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. This is on us,” she said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “This interference was completely unacceptable.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted a small number of actors were able to “game Twitter” to have an outsized impact. Facebook in particular came under fire for being at the forefront of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, as actors set up fake Facebook groups, organized protests and spread memes as part of an effort to disrupt the election. Thirteen Russians were indicted by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year on charges of plotting to disrupt the election by creating fake social media accounts to weigh in and stir up political issues.

Nearly 30% of Opioid Prescriptions Lack Medical Explanation

Nearly 30% of all opioids prescribed in US clinics or doctors’ offices lack a documented reason — such as severe back pain — to justify a script for these addictive drugs, new research finds. In total, opioids were prescribed in almost 809 million outpatient visits over a 10-year period, with 66.4% of these prescriptions intended to treat non-cancer pain and 5.1% for cancer-related pain, according to a study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. However, for the remaining 28.5% of prescriptions — about three out of every 10 patients — there was no record of either pain symptoms or a pain-related condition, the Harvard Medical School and RAND Corp. researchers say. Dr. Tisamarie B. Sherry, lead author of the study, said, “The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation.”

FTC, States, Target Bogus Veterans’ Charities

Generous Americans give more than $2.5 billion a year to some 40,000 charities with missions designed to help veterans. Lately, however, this crowded field has been inundated by fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC launched Operation Donate with Honor in July to spotlight the problem of fraudulent and deceptive fundraising on behalf of military and veterans’ causes. The FTC distributed a list of 102 law enforcement actions 34 states have lodged against bogus veterans’ charities. The list laid bare the many ways these groups solicit donations—online, on the phone, by mail, door-to-door and at stores and supermarkets. In many cases, the lion’s share of each dollar donated was paid to telemarketers instead of veterans. In some cases these telemarketers charged a fee of 85 cents of every dollar. One charity that is named is Help the Vets. Donors contributed $20 million to the Florida charity from 2013 to 2017. But the charity spent only 5% of the dollars that were collected to assist veterans, the FTC said.

Massachusetts Issued 1,905 Drivers Licenses to Dead People

A state audit published Thursday finds that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issued nearly 2,000 licenses to people after their deaths. Massachusetts’ Office of the State Auditor said the RMV had improperly used databases to verify a person’s eligibility for a license. The report cites a “significant risk” that the licenses could be used as false identification or to commit fraud. The audit found that 97 percent of the licenses in question were still active in January 2018. Some licenses were issued in the name of people who had been dead since the early 1960s, but most cases involved people who had died since 2000, the report says.

Economic News

Wages for U.S. workers grew at 2.9 percent in the past year, the Labor Department reported Friday. It’s the fastest growth since 2009 and an encouraging sign that wages might finally be moving higher after years of sluggish gains. The higher pay is coming as businesses are having to compete hard for workers. The U.S. economy added a robust 201,000 jobs in August, the 95th straight month of gains and a record-setting streak of hiring. The national unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent, one of the lowest levels in half a century. The U.S. economy has averaged 207,000 jobs a month so far this year, a healthy pace that indicates companies will continue to grow.

A debt and currency crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States. The emerging market debt bubble is now three times larger than it was in 2007, and it is seven times larger than it was in 2002, according to CNBC. Emerging markets are also heavily plagued by debt and a stronger dollar makes it tougher for them to pay this debt. The latest data from the Institute of International Finance shows that debt in emerging markets including China increased from $9 trillion in 2002 to $21 trillion in 2007 and finally to $63 trillion in 2017. Many currencies of emerging market countries are falling rapidly, prompting fears of a larger, overall market meltdown.

Middle East

Citing lack of progress on peace negotiations, the Trump administration will announce Monday plans to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington – a move that drew an immediate rebuke from Palestinian officials who said the White House is trying to bully them. “We have been notified by a U.S. official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US.,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a statement Monday. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump Administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.” The Trump administration first threatened to close down the PLO’s office in Washington last fall but later backed off. On Saturday, the Trump administration announced it is “reprogramming” $25 million in aid that had been earmarked for hospitals in Arab sections of Jerusalem. The funding will instead be directed to “high-priority projects elsewhere,” a move that follows the administration’s decision to stop funding the Palestinians’ dedicated United Nations agency, UNRWA. Last Thursday, President Donald Trump told Jewish leaders that the Palestinians would not receive any more aid from the U.S. unless they made a deal with Israel.

North Korea

A peace declaration in the 65-year-old Korean war now appears to be a central sticking point in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations. The answer, for now, is no – at least from Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons first. On Tuesday, the White House said Trump had spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae, “including our ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un. Also on Tuesday, NBC News reported that China has eased economic sanctions on North Korea, reopening trade in a move that undermines the Trump administration’s efforts to apply “maximum pressure” to the Kim regime. That development could seriously complicate the U.S.-North Korea negotiations, giving Kim increased leverage to make his demands, including a peace declaration.

North Korea held a military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding on Sunday but refrained from displaying its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles or mentioning its nuclear program amidst a period of diplomatic negotiations with the United States and South Korea. In previous years, the parade has been a showcase for Pyongyang’s latest weapons technology, but this year the event had a less bellicose tone, according to reports from foreign journalists invited to cover it. Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, delivered a speech that focused mainly on economic development.

Syria

The last vestige of Islamic State territory in Syria came under attack, as members of an American-backed coalition said Tuesday that they had begun a final push to oust the militants from Hajin, the remaining sliver of territory under the group’s control in the region where it was born. The assault is the final chapter of a war that began more than four years ago after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized enormous tracts of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that has been fighting the Islamic State in Syria with the United States and its allies, said in a statement that its forces had launched an offensive on the area from four sides on Monday evening.

Afghanistan

Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, American officials routinely issue inflated assessments of progress that contradict what is actually happening there, reports the New York Times. More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in the Afghan conflict, and the United States has spent more than $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency and paying for relief and reconstruction. The war has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after World War II. But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni. The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But, in many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest. Twin bombings at a wrestling training center in a Shiite neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital last Wednesday killed at least 20 people, including two reporters, and wounded 70,

Nigeria

Residents say Boko Haram extremists have overrun a key crossroads and military outpost in northern Nigeria. Gudumbali is a town to which just months ago the government encouraged displaced people to return. Resident Umara Modu says extremists told people to leave and that they were not the target. Gudumbali was the site of one of the deadliest encounters in the fight again Boko Haram, with scores of soldiers killed in 2015. Modu says “I will never go back to Gudumbali again, no matter the assurance, because we went back after the military authority and the Borno state government promised us adequate security.”

Yemen

Talks aimed at bringing a peaceful end to the civil war in Yemen ended Saturday after the Houthi delegation failed to show. Nevertheless, the United Nations’ mediator Martin Griffiths vowed to keep pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The conflict in Yemen has become a proxy battle for supremacy in the troubled region. Saudi Arabia backs the government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was displaced by the war. President Hadi, a Sunni Muslim, has been living in exile in Riyadh. Iran supports the Houthi rebels, members of the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, who control of the capital city of Sana’a. The most recent statistics show that 56 percent of Yemen is Sunni and 42 percent identifies with the Zaidis.

Wildfires

A fast-moving brush fire in Shasta County, California, continued to rapidly grow in size, keeping about 50 miles of Interstate 5 closed in both directions Friday morning. The interstate, the West Coast’s main north-south thoroughfare, will be shut at least through Sunday. The Delta Fire, which broke out around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, has grown to more than 38 square miles and is 0 percent contained. Five homes have been destroyed, but no injuries have been reported. Mandatory evacuations were ordered and an estimated 280 homes are threatened. Schools across Shasta County closed early Friday because of the smoky conditions created by the Delta Fire and other wildfires burning in the area. Just a few miles away, the 72-square-mile Hirz Fire is burning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. With structures such as vacation cottages and gas stations threatened, fire officials have directed large air tankers to battle the blaze.

Earthquakes

Two powerful earthquakes rocked Japan within 20 minutes of each other early Thursday, just over a day after a typhoon in the country left at least 30 people dead with nine still missing. The quakes — magnitude-6.6 and -5.3 — struck Tomakomai, the fifth largest city in the Hokkaido area, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). They each had a depth of roughly 21 and 23 miles, respectively. The quakes triggered landslides and massive power outages. At least nine people are dead and scores more are injured. The quakes that struck 39 miles from Sapporo in southern Hokkaido where they buckled roads, knocked homes off their foundations and caused entire hillsides to collapse. On Tuesday, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 1993 was recorded. It first made landfall on Japan’s southwestern island of Shikoku and then again near Kobe on Honshu (see below).

Residents of Davao City scampered towards safer ground, rushing out of buildings and malls following a powerful earthquake the rocked the southern Philippine city. A magnitude-6.4 quake jolted Davao Oriental at 3.16pm on Saturday. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) recorded the epicentre at 104 km east of Davao.

Weather

As Category-4 Hurricane Florence aims at the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center is calling Florence “extremely dangerous,” and predicts its peak winds could reach 150 mph, which is just 7 mph from Category 5. The center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the East Coast from Edisto Beach, S.C., northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The center is warning of an “extremely dangerous” triple threat in the Carolinas and Virginia: 1) A “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast — a rise in ocean water over normally dry land; 2) Life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event from the coast to interior sections. Some estimates predict as much as 4 feet of rain; 3) Damaging hurricane-force winds at the coast and some distance inland.

Sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine soared to near-record highs in August in what scientists referred to as a month-long “marine heat wave” in the typically colder waters off the New England coast. During one 10-day period in August, the average sea-surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine was nearly 5 degrees above the average from 1982 to 2011. The Gulf of Maine warmed at a rate of about 0.1 degrees over the last 30 years – more than three times the global average.

This summer’s nighttime temperature, when averaged nationwide for June, July and August, was the hottest ever recorded at 60.9 degrees, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. In fact, every state had an above-average summer minimum temperature. Summer overnight low temperatures are warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as afternoon high temperatures for the U.S. Records go back to 1895.

Signs of the Times

September 4, 2018

­But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. (Psalm 106:35-38)

Dallas Billboard Promotes Abortion for Black Women

A new billboard in Dallas shows three smiling African American women on one side with a message on the other side that reads, “Black women take care of their families by taking care of themselves. ABORTION IS SELF-CARE.” It is sponsored by The Afiya Center, which calls itself the only “reproductive justice” organization in “North Texas founded and directed by Black women.” Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, who once worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic, posted a picture of the billboard on her Facebook page with the message: “The abortion war against black women is so real.” Walter Hoye of Oakland, California, an African-American minister and founder of the Issues for Life Foundation, said that, every single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans. Nearly half of all black babies conceived die in abortion chambers today. “This means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother’s womb,” Hoye said

125 Women Take Abortion Pills to Protest Pro-Life Laws

In a deadly display of defiance, 125 women in South Korea swallowed abortion drugs in protest of the country’s pro-life laws. Korea Bizwire reports the protest took place Sunday in front of the Bosingak Pavilion in Seoul, South Korea. According to the report, 30 additional women took vitamins so that authorities would not be able to tell which women took the illegal abortion drugs. Wearing black, they demanded that the government legalize the killing of unborn babies. The pro-abortion group claimed 125 women abort their unborn babies illegally every day in South Korea, according to the report. They also urged the government to make abortion drugs legal and easily available. However, the drugs are dangerous and can be deadly to the mother as well as her unborn baby, reports LifeNews.com. Complications from abortion drugs include excessive bleeding, infection, incomplete abortion requiring surgery and death of the woman. A Food and Drug Administration report in 2017 found that 22 women died, more than 1,000 were hospitalized and nearly 600 experienced severe blood loss that required transfusions after taking the abortion drugs in the United States.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surge for 4th Straight Year

New cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017, continuing a four-year trend of rising sexually transmitted diseases fueled by a lack of awareness and changing sexual behavior, federal health officials said Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2.29 million new cases of these three common yet treatable sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017. Left untreated, these infections can result in infertility or pregnancy complications or increase the risk of HIV transmission. Federal health officials are particularly troubled by the 67 percent jump in gonorrhea cases since 2013 because the bacterial infection has become resistant to all antibiotics except ceftriaxone. The rise in cases is at record levels, but the federal budget has not increased STD program funding since 2013, leaving health departments scrambling to address the problem with fewer resources.

America’s STD Problem a ‘Moral and Spiritual Crisis’

Franklin Graham pointed to news of skyrocketing STD rates in the United States as evidence of our collective “moral and spiritual crisis.” Graham expounded on his point by saying that sin always carries a cost. He concluded by pointing to God’s grace and quoting 1 Corinthians 6:18. “God loves us and wants to protect us. His Word tells us what to do: ‘Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.’” David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD directors, said that President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar should declare this “a public health crisis.”

Flag Flap Reaches New Extremes

A new movie, “First Man,” is debuting this month. It’s about American astronauts setting foot on the moon where Neil Armstrong planted an American flag. Ironically, the film stars Canadian actor Ryan Gosling as Astronaut Armstrong. Worse, that iconic flag scene was cut out of the final version of First Man. Now, Twitter has now taken to censoring GIFs for the American flag being planted on the moon by Armstrong as well. As reported by The Gateway Pundit, a GIF of the iconic moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon’s surface was declared “sensitive,” which meant users had to click to “Learn More.”

U.S. Nixes Funding to U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

The Trump administration announced Friday it will zero out funding for the United Nations’ aid program for Palestinian refugees, part of a broader effort to rein in foreign aid and restrict assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. is “no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs,” referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She said some countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar, have stepped up funding for the program, “but the overall international response has not been sufficient.” She also argued that UNRWA recognizes too many Palestinians as refugees, creating an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries” that is unsustainable.

California End Bail System

California will end the cash bail system in a sweeping reform for the state. Rather than requiring defendants to pay in order to be released before trial, their release will hinge on an assessment of their risk to public safety. “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. California is the first state to eliminate money bail completely, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, an organization that advocates for pretrial justice reform. Critics have long contended that the money bail system perpetuates inequality. While some people are able to quickly get out of jail by posting bail, people who aren’t able to afford it sit in jail until the court takes action, or until they work with a bail bond agent to secure their freedom, which can leave them in debt.

Florida’s Unending Red Tide is Killing Wildlife, Tourism and Businesses

Florida’s worst red tide in more than a decade had turned aqua-blue surf to a rusty dull brown. The lifeguards. are wearing gas masks. it’s no longer a threat to just marine life. Business owners in the hardest-hit counties report they have lost nearly $90 million and have laid off about 300 workers because of the red tide and a separate freshwater algal bloom in the state’s largest lake. Together, the two blooms have caused a sharp drop in tourism. A pair of toxic algal blooms striking the state at the same time is rare and, in this case, especially lethal. A red tide is a natural phenomenon that develops miles offshore before making its way to the coast, where it feeds on a variety of pollutants, including phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, along with other runoff and wastewater.

Economic News

More than 30 percent of student loan borrowers are in default, late or have stopped making payments after just six years, according to Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress. Historically, the Department of Education has only reported the default rates of students three years after graduation, which come out to just over 10 percent. By comparison, three-year credit card default rates are under one percent. But when Miller looked at information on student loan borrowers six years after graduation, he found that 15.5 percent were in default, 4.8 percent were more than 90 days late on their payments and 10.2 percent were not making payments on their loans at all. Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

From Argentina’s peso to the Turkish lira, the currencies of emerging markets are taking a battering. Both economies have been plunged into turmoil this year. Their currencies have collapsed, coming under pressure from an array of forces including rising US interest rates, political clashes and the global trade war. The pressures have exposed frailties in multiple emerging markets, particularly the reliance on funding from foreign investors, who are more likely to pull out their money as local currencies drop in value. Worries about Argentina and Turkey have prompted nervous investors to retreat from other economies that are viewed as vulnerable. On Friday, Indonesia’s currency plunged to its lowest level against the US dollar since the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago. India’s rupee is down almost 10% since the start of the year, and Brazil’s real is down 20% against the dollar this year as of last Friday.

Persecution Watch

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements this week harshly criticizing Iran for a brutal crackdown on Christians which has recently included imprisonment of several well-known leaders. AI said in their statement that the Christian leaders “have been targeted solely for peacefully practicing their Christian faith” which included such activities as organizing house churches and Bible studies in private homes, all of which has been characterized by Iranian security services as “threats to national security.

The United Nations has condemned the treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar as “crimes against humanity” in a damning newly-released report. PreMediass attention has focused on the elements of the report which call for genocide prosecutions against leaders of the Myanmar Army for actions against Rohingya Muslims. But the report also highlights “similar patterns of conduct by security forces” against Christians in Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar. The independent fact-finding mission reported “Violations against ethnic and religious minorities in northern Myanmar are often committed with persecutory intent, in a context of severe discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds. This manifests, for example, in the destruction or ransacking of churches and religious objects during military operations (and sometimes subsequent erecting of Buddhist pagodas).”

Terrorism Update

A 19-year-old Afghan citizen had a “terrorist motive” for allegedly stabbing two Americans at the main train station in Amsterdam, city authorities in the Dutch capital said Saturday. Amsterdam police shot and wounded the suspect after the stabbings Friday at Central Station. “Based on the suspect’s first statements, he had a terrorist motive,” the city administration said in a statement that did not elaborate on what the statements were or how they showed intent. The wounded Americans were recovering in a hospital from what police termed serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Syria

Several UN Security Council ambassadors on Tuesday voiced concern over the fate of civilians in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, as Damascus appears ready to militarily re-take the region. Following a council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Western nations warned of the dire consequences of an attack by the government of Bashar al-Assad. “There are alarming signs of a pending military offensive in northwestern Syria,” said Carl Skau, Sweden’s ambassador to the Security Council. “Increased military escalation,” he warned, “would have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a humanitarian disaster.” The strategically important northwestern province of Idlib borders on Turkey and is the last holdout of rebels in Syria. John Ging, a senior official with the UN Humanitarian Affairs office, said that observers have seen a “serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation” in northwestern Syria in the past weeks.

Incoming and outgoing flights in Israel will be affected by the massive Russian military maneuvers off the Syrian coast, Israel’s Airports Authority cautioned Tuesday. Syrian forces have been preparing for an onslaught on the Idlib province in the country, the last rebel stronghold, while the Russian military has been amassing unprecedented forces off the Syrian coast that would lend support to Assad. The Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that it deployed 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the maneuvers.

Iran

U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will “cripple” the Middle Eastern country’s economy after they take effect in early November, according to a report released last Wednesday by Oxford Economics. The economic sanctions were originally lifted by the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 during President Barack Obama’s administration. President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in May, calling it inadequate and claiming it would not prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons. He then followed up earlier this month with his decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil industry take effect Nov. 4. Oil and crude exports form the backbone of Iran’s economy and represents the primary source of revenue and foreign currency for the government. The economy is already in poor shape and protests have been mounting over high unemployment.

An Iranian civil aviation company is suspected of smuggling arms into Lebanon, destined for the militant group Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories — and western intelligence sources said Monday they’ve uncovered the unexpected routes that Iran apparently took to try avoiding detection. The route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said: “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down.” Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have supplied evidence that Iran has operated weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, the Reuters news agency reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq in recent months.

Earthquakes

Southern California received a jolt last Tuesday evening when a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the region, but there were no reports of injuries or damage. The tremor struck less than three miles north of La Verne, California, at 7:33 p.m. local time Tuesday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The temblor was about four miles deep, and forceful shaking was reported near the epicenter. A 3.4 magnitude aftershock was reported one minute after the main quake.

Wildfires

Wildfires in the U.S. have charred more than 10,000 square miles so far this year, an area larger than the state of Maryland, with large fires still burning in every Western state including many that are yet fully contained. Smoke from this summer’s Western wildfires — a potential health hazard for at-risk individuals — prompted the closure of Yosemite National Park for more than two weeks and drifted to the East Coast, according to NASA. Recent research says it also impacts climate change as small particles spiral into the upper atmosphere and interfere with the sun’s rays. Scientists broadly agree wildfires are getting bigger in North America and other parts of the world as the climate warms. But still emerging is how that change will alter the natural progression of fire and regrowth. The time interval between wildfires in some locations is getting shorter, even as there’s less moisture to help trees regrow. That means some forests burn, then never grow back, converting instead into shrub land more adapted to frequent fire. A longer fire season and bigger fires in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada are burning not just trees but also tundra and organic matter in soils, which hold roughly a third of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon.

  • Increasingly extreme weather and concomitant wildfires are key signs of the impending end-times ((Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Weather

Flash flooding caused road closures and stranded motorists in parts of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. The National Weather Service says rainfall totals of up to 3 inches per hour were causing the flooding. NWS said 10.57 inches of rain fell over nine hours in Mount Joy Almost 8 inches was reported at Schaefferstown over a four hour period. Lancaster Online reported that a bus filled with students was trapped in the floodwaters along Route 230 but the students were eventually evacuated. Several local highways were shut down. One man is dead and the search continues for a woman who remains missing after being swept from a bridge Friday as heavy rains triggered flash flooding in Maryland on Saturday. Heavy rainfall triggered significant flash flooding early Monday in the northeastern Kansas city of Manhattan, about 50 miles west of Topeka. The Corps of Engineers office measured an overnight rain total of 8.9 inches just north-northwest of downtown Manhattan Monday morning. Multiple roads in Manhattan were impassable due to high water.

Water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are dropping to dangerous levels, reflecting the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit,” scientists said. Lake Powell is about 48 percent full, and Lake Mead is about 38 percent full. By the end of the year, Powell’s levels are projected to fall 94 feet (29 meters) below where the reservoir stood in 2000 when it was nearly full. The Colorado River basin, which feeds the two reservoirs, has been drying out over the last two decades, scientists said. With the demands from farms and cities exceeding the available the water supply, the strains on the river and reservoirs are being compounded by growing population, drought and climate change. The Colorado River and its tributaries support about 40 million people and more than 7,800 square miles (20,200 square kilometers) of farmland.