Signs of the Times

­Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. (Revelation 3:11-12)

Pope Admits that Priest Sex Abuse Scandals are Driving Catholics Away

The fury over priest sex abuse scandals are eroding the faith of Catholics and chasing many from pews, Pope Francis admitted last week – and the church needs “to change.” The pope’s frank comments, delivered before young people in Estonia on the final day of his pilgrimage to the Baltics, coincided with a stinging report of abuse of children by Catholic clergy in Germany. Francis told the youths the church must take action to restore the faith of future generations and be transparent and honest. The Vatican was assailed for not responding immediately to the release of a grand jury report in August by the Pennsylvania attorney general alleging that church leaders protected more than 300 “predator priests” in six Roman Catholic dioceses across the state for decades. The report claimed the church was more interested in protecting its own interests and the abusers than tending to the victims. There have been charges of a cover-up of the scandals that have placed the pope’s personal handling of the issue in a harsh spotlight. A retired Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who alleged earlier this month that Francis hid sex abuse allegations against U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has even called on the pope to resign.

40 Days for Life Prayer Vigils Began Last Week

40 Days for Life prayer vigils at abortion facilities started last Wednesday in a record 415 cities around the world. On the very first day, organizers said an abortion worker left her job. Former abortion workers report that when there is someone praying in front of an abortion facility, the “no-show” rate for abortion appointments can go to as high as 75 percent. On day 7, two abortion facilities closed in Orlando. On day 6, organizers said a total of 33 babies were saved from abortions. Find the closest vigil location at https://40daysforlife.com/browse-campaigns/.

HHSD Cancels Contract to Purchase “Fetal Tissue” for Testing

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has cut its contract with a biomedical procurement company that would have allowed the FDA to purchase “fetal tissue” for drug testing. The decision comes after 85 members of Congress signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, calling for an end to the contract. “Unborn children are not commodities to be bought and sold,” the letter said. “The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent.” HHS also said it would review all federal contracts that involve buying fetal tissue. In previous years, the HHS has said that fetal tissue “continues to be a critical resource for important efforts such as research on degenerative eye disease, human development disorders such as Down syndrome, and infectious diseases, among a host of other diseases.” The new HHS review will look at “the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

Pro-Abortion California Governor Vetoes Abortion-Pill Dispensing Bill

In a surprise eleventh hour move, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required university student health centers to dispense abortion pills. Known as the “College Student Right to Access Act,” the controversial SB 320 would have essentially transformed state universities into abortion facilities by mandating that campus health clinics begin providing abortifacients no later than 2022. “The average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from five to seven miles, not an unreasonable distance,” said Brown, explaining his rationale for vetoing the measure. “Because the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary.” Although the governor’s veto is pragmatic, it remains a win for the pro-life movement.

Experts Reveal How Transgenderism Harms Children

The infatuation with transgenderism which seems to be sweeping the nation—especially among young people—amounts to “large-scale child abuse,” according to a panel of experts speaking in the nation’s capital. Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Family Research Council: “It is troubling when an adult adopts this transgender ideology, but it is tragic when a child falls victim to it.” “For most of human history, it has been considered obvious that the way we determine whether people are male or female is on the basis of their bodies,” said Sprigg. “Today, the transgender movement claims that the mind takes precedence over the body when it comes to determining whether a person is male or female. This, however, is an ideological assertion,” said Sprigg. “It is not in any way a scientific one. It is troubling when an adult adopts this transgender ideology, but it is tragic when a child falls victim to it.”

Dr. Michelle Cretella, Executive Director, American College of Pediatricians: “America is engaged in large-scale child abuse. Complicit in this is … my field of pediatrics, psychiatry, our education system, mass media, and social media,” said Dr. Cretella. The abuse worsens when doctors prescribe puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Puberty blockers can lead to permanent sterility and halt physical development of the body, including the brain. These drugs cause impaired memory, brittle bones, and increased risk of certain cancers and obesity for some kids. Cross-sex hormones, which must be taken for a lifetime, can lead to sterility, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, blood clots, diabetes, cancer, and emotional instability.

Dr. Paul McHugh, Distinguished Service Professor, Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Sex reassignment surgery patients suffer suicide rates 20 times greater than their peers.” People are okay for about ten years after sex reassignment surgery, but then great regret begins to overtake them, said Dr. McHugh. He said this is not unlike what dermatologists encounter from patients with tattoos, who also begin to experience disappointment with their skin ink after ten years. McHugh emphasized that the medical treatments and surgical procedures now being performed on children are still experimental in nature.

Ricin Mailed to Pentagon and White Powder to Ted Cruz

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance Monday on two pieces of mail at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility, according to a US defense official. Sources tell CBN News the mail initially tested positive for ricin. The mail facility is located in a separate building on the grounds of the Pentagon. Ricin is a highly toxic compound that is extracted from castor beans and has been used in terror attacks. It can be used in powder, pellet, mist or acid form. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz’ (R-TX) campaign office in Houston was also hit with a threatening powdery substance. Staffers opened an envelope containing white powder. A hazardous materials response team was dispatched to Cruz’s office Tuesday morning to investigate.

Canada Agrees to Join NAFTA Deal

The United States and Canada confirmed Sunday they had reached a deal on a “new, modernized trade agreement,” which is designed to replace the 1994 NAFTA pact. In a joint statement the two nations said the new deal would be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said following a cabinet meeting, “It’s a good day for Canada.” President Trump tweeted about the deal on Monday morning, calling it a “great deal for all three countries” and that it will open markets to farmers and manufacturers. Trump also said the deal would reduce trade barriers to the U.S. and bring all three nations closer together in competition with the rest of the world.

Trump Administration Halts Visas for Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

President Trump’s administration this week began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa. The policy was made effective Monday. A majority of countries worldwide do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries. The shift in policy was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month. It gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country. Foreign Policy magazine, which first reported the story, estimated there are at least 10 current United Nations employees who would need to get married to get their partners’ visas renewed. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

Facebook Reports Its Biggest Security Breach Yet

Facebook has discovered a massive security breach affecting 50 million user accounts. The social media giant said attackers exploited the site’s ‘View As’ feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other users. The unknown attackers took advantage of a feature in the code called ‘Access Tokens,’ to take over people’s accounts, potentially giving hackers access to private messages, photos and posts – although Facebook said there was no evidence that had been done. The hackers also tried to harvest people’s private information, including name, sex and hometown, from Facebook’s systems. Facebook said it doesn’t yet know if information from the affected accounts has been misused or accessed, and is working with the FBI to conduct further investigations. However, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg assured users that passwords and credit card information was not accessed.

Four Supremacists Charged in 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ Rally at Charlottesville

Four California men, all alleged members of an organized hate group, were arrested Tuesday and charged with violating a federal rioting law in connection with the violent, 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, authorities said. The U.S. attorney’s office in Charlottesville described the suspects as members of a militant racist and anti-Semitic group, the Rise Above Movement, based in California. The four were arrested by FBI agents in California early Tuesday and charged with one count each of violating the federal rioting statute and conspiring to violate it. Authorities said in a statement that the four men traveled to Charlottesville with the intent to commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot. The Aug. 12, 2017, rally, dubbed “Unite the Right” by organizers, descended into a day-long scene of violent clashes involving hundreds of white supremacists and counter-protesters.

Study Confirms Link Between Violent Video Games and Aggression

An international study looking at more than 17,000 adolescents, ages nine to 19, from 2010 to 2017, found playing violent video games led to increased physical aggression over time. The analysis of 24 studies from countries including the U.S., Canada, Germany and Japan found those who played violent games such as “Grand Theft Auto,” “Call of Duty” and “Manhunt” were more likely to exhibit behavior such as being sent to the principal’s office for fighting or hitting a non-family member. “Based on our findings, we feel it is clear that violent video game play is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression,” said Jay Hull, associate dean of faculty for the social sciences at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the Dartmouth Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

80,000 Died from the Flu Last Year in U.S.

An estimated 80,000 people died of the flu and its complications in the U.S. last winter — the highest death toll for the diseases in at least four decades. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year. In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to — in the worst year — 56,000, according to the CDC. The season peaked in early February. It was mostly over by the end of March, although some flu continued to circulate. Making a bad year worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well. Experts nevertheless say vaccination is still worth it, because it makes illnesses less severe and saves lives.

Economic News

The federal debt increased by $1,271,158,167,126.72 (that’s 1.271 trillion dollars) in fiscal 2018, according to data released Tuesday by the Treasury. The fiscal year of the federal government goes from October 1st to September 30th. The total federal debt started the fiscal year at $20.2 trillion and ended it at $21.5 trillion. In 8 of the past 11 fiscal years, the U.S. national debt has risen by more than a trillion dollars. This debt represents $170,337 per U.S. household. In addition, the total personal debt of every American — what they owe on their mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and more — the total is staggering. Collectively, we’re $13.2 trillion in the red. That’s the highest ever, according to the New York Fed and represents another $104,579 per household. Furthermore, state and local government debt is at record levels all over the nation, and corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis.

  • It won’t be long now before this house of cards comes crashing down

In the 9th largest economy in the world (Italy), the financial markets are crashing, and in the 21st largest economy in the world (Argentina) the central bank just raised interest rates to 65 percent to support a currency that is completely imploding. Because the U.S. has been largely unaffected so far, the mainstream media is mostly choosing to ignore what is happening. The financial crisis in Italy threatens to literally tear the EU apart. Italy’s new populist government agreed to set Italy’s budget deficit at 2.4% of GDP, an increase on the current level and far above the 1.6% that the EU lobbied for. The Argentine peso has lost approximately 50 percent of its value so far in 2018, and in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding the central bank of Argentina just panic-raised interest rates to 65 percent. Venezuela’s economy has been in shambles for two years now and the situation in Brazil continues to deteriorate.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week for the third time this year. The decision, which was expected, is a sign of the feds’ increased confidence in the U.S. economy. Unemployment is low, economic growth is strong, and inflation is relatively stable. Policymakers under Chairman Jerome Powell unanimously agreed to raise the federal funds rate a quarter percentage point, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. The rate helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other consumer borrowing. Central bankers raised expectations for a fourth rate hike in December, with a majority now in favor of such a move. Fed officials expect at least three rate hikes will be necessary in 2019, with one more in 2020. The Fed has been gradually raising rates for three years, finally restoring them to normal levels long after the financial crisis. “I am not happy about that,” President Trump said at a press conference in New York. “We can do other things with the money.”

According to the latest estimates released by Edmunds, new vehicle sales for September are expected to decline both on a monthly basis and year-over-year basis. The company predicted that 1,392,434 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in September, which makes for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17 million. This will be a 5.4% decrease from last month and an 8.3% drop from September of last year. In addition, pending home sales also declined in August, dropping 1.8% from July  (almost four times worse than expected) and 2.5% year-over-year to its lowest since Oct 2014, the fourth month of annual declines in a row.

E-tailing giant Amazon said Tuesday it would increase its minimum wage on Nov. 1 to $15 for all U.S. full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees, including temps hired by agencies. That includes employees at Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for $13.7 million in June 2017. Amazon currently has more than 250,000 employees, and plans to hire more than 100,000 seasonal employees this holiday season. The company had recently been the target of criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who said Amazon doesn’t pay its lower-level employees a fair wage. “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos in a statement. Amazon also said it would begin lobbying for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25.

Uber will pay $148 million to settle an investigation into a 2016 data breach that the company was accused of intentionally concealing. The settlement with attorneys general for all 50 states and Washington, DC, will be split among the states. It’s the largest ever multi-state data breach settlement. The investigation was called to look into allegations that the ride-share company violated state-level notification laws by intentionally withholding that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million users in 2016. The breach wasn’t disclosed until late 2017, when Uber revealed that it paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data. As part of the settlement, Uber has agreed to develop and implement a corporate integrity program for employees to report unethical behavior. It also agreed to adopt model data breach notification and data security practices, as well as hire an independent third party to assess its data security practices.

Persecution Watch

Al-Shabaab terrorists murdered two Kenyan Christians travelling on a bus on 14 September after they refused to recite the shahada Islamic creed. The terrorists flagged down a bus travelling to the north-eastern city of Garissa and ordered the passengers to produce their identity cards. They separated three “non-local” (assumed to be non-Muslim) passengers and asked them to recite verses from the Quran and say the shahada Islamic creed. Recitation of the shahada is considered conversion to Islam. Two passengers who refused, a boy called Joshua who assisted the bus driver and a labourer from the town of Masalani, 100 miles south of Garissa, were tied up and then murdered. In 2014, 28 Christians travelling on a bus in Mandera country, north-east Kenya, were singled out and killed by Al Shabaab jihadists. Kenya is around 80% Christian and 10% Muslim.

Middle East

Over 100 improvised bombs and grenades were hurled at Israeli troops during Friday’s riots at the Gaza border, the military said Saturday. The Israeli army released footage of the violent demonstrations, which it said were the worst in two months, depicting attempts to breach and sabotage the security fence. Meanwhile in Gaza Saturday funerals were held for the seven Palestinians killed in the previous day’s violence, including two teen boys. At least 210 Palestinians were wounded. Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence, throwing hand grenades, bombs, rocks, and burning tires in clashes with IDF troops, who responded with tear gas, live fire, and air strikes. The IDF said about 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests, spread out among a few locations along the Gaza security fence. The protest was one of the largest and most violent in recent weeks and comes following the breakdown of indirect talks with Israel over a cease-fire and warnings that the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, was gearing up for another conflict.

Iran

A 12-mile stretch of the Iraq-Syria border has become the epicenter of a battle between Iran and the United States for control of the Middle East. Militias backed by Iran have taken control of territory on the Iraqi side of the frontier and just over the border in Syria stands a military base containing thousands of Shia fighters loyal to Tehran, according to analysts. Their presence marks a key staging post on the so-called “Shia crescent” of influence from Tehran, across Shia areas of Iraq, through Syria to the Israeli border and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon. It has prompted President Trump to rethink plans to pull out US troops once Islamic State is defeated

The State Department said Friday that it would temporarily close the U.S. consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra following a rocket attack in September blamed on Iranian-backed militias. Diplomatic staff and their families were being evacuated and consular services will be provided from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “temporary relocation” in response to what he called “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian government and militias under its control. He warned that the U.S. would respond to any more attacks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “temporary relocation” in response to what he called “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian government and militias under its control. He warned that the U.S. would respond to any more attacks.

Syria

International observers were alarmed Monday by Russia’s announcement that they would be sending their S-300 missile defense systems to Syria. The decision comes after Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian Il-20 spy plane, killing 15 Russian servicemen. Russia said Israel is “solely” to blame for the downing of the plane. Israeli F-16s flew below the Il-20, in a move the Russians said used the plane for cover. The antiquated Syrian defenses likely aimed for the larger Il-20 rather than the smaller F-16s. Russia claims they need to place the S-300 in Syria to protect their planes flying over Syrian airspace. The S-300 uses technology that distinguishes Russian planes from those belonging to other nations. Russia claims they initially proposed placing the S-300 batteries in Syria in 2013, but relented after Israel protested.

North/South Korea

Troops from North and South Korea began removing some landmines along their heavily fortified border on Monday, the South’s defense ministry said, in a pact to reduce tension and build trust on the divided peninsula. Project details were agreed during last month’s summit in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. In a statement, the ministry said the two sides agreed to remove all landmines in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom within the next 20 days. The deal also provides for removal of guard posts and weapons from the JSA to follow the removal of the mines, with the troops remaining there to be left unarmed. The JSA is the only spot along the 250-km (155-mile) -long “demilitarized zone” where troops from both Koreas are face to face.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho says his nation will never disarm its nuclear weapons first if it can’t trust Washington. Ri was speaking Saturday at the United Nations General Assembly. He called on the United States to follow through on promises made during a summit in Singapore between the rivals’ leaders. Ri says it’s a “pipe dream” that continued sanctions and U.S. objection to a declaration ending the Korean War will ever bring the North to its knees. Washington is wary of agreeing to the declaration without Pyongyang first making significant disarmament moves. Both Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump want a second summit. But there is widespread skepticism that Pyongyang is serious about renouncing an arsenal that the country sees as the only way to guarantee its safety. Pompeo is planning to visit Pyongyang next month to prepare for a second Kim-Trump summit.

Mexico

Authorities in Mexico disarmed and took control of the entire police force of the violence-wracked Pacific coast resort town of Acapulco on Tuesday. Mexican marines alongside state and federal police took part in the operation, which also led to the arrest of two local police commanders on charges of homicide. State security officials in Guerrero state took the action “because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups” and “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave. All police officers in Acapulco will be put under investigation and evaluated. The once popular resort town has fallen victim to violent turf wars between rival drug gangs, with the homicide rate standing at 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one the highest rates in the world.

Earthquakes

A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi Friday evening just hours after a powerful, deadly foreshock, apparently triggered a tsunami that hit the coast minutes later, the two events killing over 1,234 people with many still missing. The main tremor struck at 6:02 p.m. local time Friday evening about 35 miles northeast of Donggala, Indonesia – a town of about 300,000. The tsunami, confirmed by local agencies to be up to 6 and a half feet in height, struck Donggala and Palu, a coastal town of about 330,000 after the tsunami alert was cancelled. Entire houses were carried away by the tsunami and many families remain missing. Over 61,000 people have been left homeless and are growing more desperate by the minute as little aid as reached the affected areas, as of Monday. Despite a call for international aid, little has reached the battered area, and armed men are looting vehicles on roads leading up to the disaster zone.

Weather

Four days’ worth of rainfall and up to 3 feet of rain placed Hurricane Florence right behind Harvey as the second wettest storm in history. Florence’s rainfall was unprecedented for eastern North Carolina and make it one of the largest on record for the entire United States. Kenneth Kunkel, a meteorologist from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, said that Florence’s rainfall was unprecedented for eastern North Carolina and makes it one of the largest on record for the entire United States, ranking second for total four-day rainfall in areas up to 14,000 square miles. Florence’s heavy rainfall in just a few days also was categorized as a “one in a thousand year rainfall event” by the National Weather Service. Days of standing water from Hurricane Florence proved to be the perfect breeding ground for a large, aggressive species of mosquito which are now plaguing many areas in the Carolinas.

Dangerous flooding persisted in the Southwest as the remnants of Rosa brought heavy rainfall to Arizona, including the Phoenix area. Some roads in Phoenix were closed as they became impassable. North of downtown Phoenix, an underpass at Interstate 17 and Peoria Avenue was shut down Tuesday morning. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power across the Yuma area Sunday afternoon. Drivers struggled to navigate water-covered roads. Trees were downed in the Yuma area on Sunday, and the southwestern Arizona city of about 100,000 was expected to see heavy rainfall continue in the coming days. “I’ve been working here 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like this, at this magnitude,” maintenance worker Josh Magna told KYMA.

Over 200 people have been killed in recent weeks in Nigeria by flooding that has inundated much of the West African nation. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said Thursday that more than 1,000 other people have been injured, with more than 800,000 affected overall since late August. More than 286,000 people have been left homeless by the flooding. Heavy seasonal rains that began in July have caused the country’s two main rivers, the Niger and the Benue, to overflow their banks. The downpours are expected to continue through October.

Three people are missing after a rare powerful storm in the Mediterranean Sea brought torrential rain and 55 mph winds to southern Greece. The storm is referred to as a “medicane” by meteorologists because of its tropical storm-like characteristics. After moving into the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula on Saturday, with winds up to 55 mph, the Mediterranean storm has been moving slowly in a northeasterly direction, affecting Aegean Sea islands as well as Greece’s central mainland. The hardest-hit areas so far have been around the cities of Corinth and Argos in the Peloponnese and the northern part of the island of Evia, off central Greece

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