Signs of the Times

­Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. (1Timothy 4:1)

There Are Now More Wiccans than Presbyterians in U.S.

There may now be more Americans who identify as practicing witches… than there are members of mainline Presbyterianism, reports Crosswalk.com. Wicca is among the fastest-growing religions in the country. Almost half a million people practice it in the United States alone. A book titled Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation sold more copies for its publisher than any other book in its 95-year history. Websites devoted to Wicca have been cited as the most visited religious websites on the internet. Wicca has effectively repackaged witchcraft for Millennial consumption. No longer are witchcraft and paganism satanic and demonic. Rather, it’s now called a ‘pre-Christian tradition’ that promotes ‘free thought’ and the ‘understanding of earth and nature.’” Despite biblical warnings against the practice of witchcraft, the Rev. Valerie Love, who describes herself as a practicing Christian witch and an ordained minister of spiritual consciousness, is insisting that there is nothing wrong with Christians being witches and has recently launched a school to help Christians tap into magic.

Despite Violence by Islamic Terror Group, Thousands in Nigeria Are Turning to Christ

Despite an Islamic terrorist group’s violence, thousands in Nigeria are becoming Christians, said Todd Nettleton, of Voice of the Martyrs. Islamists in the Fulani tribe recently raided a village in the city of Jos in late September. Twenty people were killed in their homes. Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, said Christians have been shot to death, with homes and churches also destroyed. Still, according to The Christian Post, “thousands” of Fulani are committing their lives to Jesus. Nettleton added that the Voice of the Martyrs is helping to provide food, sleeping mats and mosquito nets to Christians who have been forced to flee because of the violence.

Canada’s Child Services Rejects Couple as Foster Parents over Religion

Hoping to foster a child in their home, husband and wife Levi and Amanda denBok applied with Children’s Aid Services (CAS) but were informed via letter that their religious beliefs disqualified them, The Christian Post reported. The couple shared the rejection letter in a Facebook post, describing how they were asked by a CAS adopting agent what church they attend and if they believe the Bible is true. In the interview, the husband and wife were asked: “Are you one of those churches that still believes the Bible is true?” The agent then informed the couple that the Bible was written “thousands of years ago” and the world has since changed. Dr. Charles McVety, who leads Canada Christian College as president, says the married couple’s beliefs don’t match the supposed “values” of the province of Ontario and its leaders. Yet it’s widely known, he says, that CAS favors same-sex couples as foster parents over religious couples.

Guam Catholic Church to File for Bankruptcy Due to Abuse Lawsuits

Guam’s Catholic church will file for bankruptcy — a move that will allow the archdiocese to avoid trial in dozens of lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by priests and move toward settlements. Archbishop Michael Byrnes announced Wednesday that mediation efforts that began in September led the church to bankruptcy. “This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims,” Byrnes said. “That’s the heart of what we’re doing.” Byrnes said the bankruptcy will provide “finality for victim survivors that they’ve been heard and understood.” Attorney Leander James, who is working with abuse victims in Guam, said in a statement the move will help resolve current lawsuits from more than 180 claims of abuse through settlements.

Study Shows Homosexuality is Strongly Linked to Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse

A new report by Ruth Institute has studied the question that those in authority in the Catholic Church have assiduously avoided for decades: Is there a correlation between the presence of a high proportion of homosexuals in the priesthood and the incidence of clergy sex abuse?  The report examines how “homosexual subcultures” within Catholic seminaries may have contributed to creating an environment where homosexual clergy were more likely to abuse minors.  “Although over 8 in 10 of victims have been boys, the idea that the abuse is related to homosexual men in the priesthood has not been widely accepted by Church leaders,” wrote Father Paul Sullins, a retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. “The data show that more homosexual men in the priesthood was correlated with more overall abuse and more boys abused compared to girls. Usually in sex abuse of minors, two-thirds of victims are girls.”

Democrats Seize House While Republicans Expand Control of Senate

Democratic candidates gained about two dozen House seats as Republicans expanded their hold on the Senate. A Democratic House majority will end two years of Republican control of all levers of government and is expected to press for President Trump’s tax returns and investigate his administration. The most expensive and consequential midterm elections in modern times came to a dramatic finish that underscored the nation’s deep polarization, but fell short of delivering the sweeping repudiation of Trump that Democrats expected. President Trump helped Republicans win hotly contested Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, and proclaimed the election’s outcome a “tremendous success.” Republicans held their grip throughout the South and in rural and exurban areas. But Democrats — propelled by women and minority voters especially — notched victories in districts that just two years ago helped send Trump to the White House. Trump endorsed California Democrat Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House on Wednesday morning.

Women and Minorities Achieve Gains Nationwide

From a pair of Native American women to a Somali refugee to the first openly gay man elected governor, the 2018 midterm elections brought a series of history-making votes that marked major accomplishments for women, minority and LGBT candidates. A record number of women are projected to win seats in the House in a massive night for female candidates across the political spectrum. Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland will become the first Native American women elected to Congress. Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will become the first Muslim women in Congress. Rep. Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator to represent Tennessee and Arizona is guaranteed to elect its first female senator. Following GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision last year not to seek re-election, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and GOP Rep. Martha McSally are in a race too close to call as of Monday morning. Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is the first openly gay man elected governor.

Ballot Measures Address Abortion, Marijuana, Medicaid, Transgenders, Fracking

There were more than 150 statewide measures on ballots this midterm election. Alabama and West Virginia voted measures into their constitutions that restrict abortion. Alabama’s amendment to the constitution gives a fetus the same rights as a human who has been born. West Virginia’s Amendment 1, narrowly passed. Also known as the No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment, it explicitly states that its Constitution has nothing in it that “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” Michigan became the tenth state that allows recreational marijuana use. However, North Dakota, voters rejected an initiative that would have allowed for recreational use for adults over 21. Missouri said yes to medical marijuana. Voters in Utah, Idaho and Nebraska voted yes to expand Medicaid eligibility to people under 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level. Montana voters rejected Medicaid expansion.

Voters said yes to California’s Proposition 4 that will authorize $1.5 billion in bonds for children’s hospitals. In Massachusetts, preliminary voting results with Question 3 seem to suggest voters said yes to keeping a law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places like restaurants, stores, hotels and hospitals. There’s no federal law that provides such protections for people who identify as transgender. Voters in Colorado have rejected a measure that would have banned drilling of fracking wells within 2,500 feet of occupied buildings, water sources and other “vulnerable” areas. Voters in San Francisco backed a plan to tax rich companies to help the homeless.

Another Kavanaugh Accuser Admits to Fabricating Rape Story

One of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s accusers admitted this week that she made up her lurid tale of a backseat car rape, saying it “was a tactic” to try to derail the judge’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, reports the Washington Times. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee revealed the fraud in a letter to the FBI and Justice Department Friday, asking them to prosecute Judy Munro-Leighton for lying to and obstructing Congress. Mr. Grassley said Ms. Munro-Leighton is a left-wing activist who hijacked another “Jane Doe” anonymous report about a backseat rape and claimed it as her own story, calling it a “vicious assault.” “I am Jane Doe from Oceanside CA — Kavanaugh raped me,” Ms. Munro-Leighton wrote in an Oct. 3 email claiming to have been a victim of the judge. Mr. Grassley’s investigators tried to reach her for a month but were unsuccessful until this week, when they spoke to her by phone and she confessed that she was not the original Jane Doe.” Kavanaugh turned down $600,000 raised by supporters during his brutal confirmation hearing that involved multiple uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct.

Migrant Caravan Coordinator Says Demand for Mexican Failed

The leading migrant caravan trying to make its way to the United States border is admitting defeat after asking the Mexican government to provide dozens of buses to speed up the group’s journey northward. The setback comes days after caravan leaders asked for “safe and dignified” transport to Mexico City, a checkpoint along the way for a group that has been dwindling in size as members either apply for protected status in Mexico or drop out over fatigue exacerbated by the sweltering weather conditions they have been facing. It has been a tumultuous journey so far for the leading caravan, which is now estimated to contain around 4,000 people – down from a peak of more than 7,000. At least 270 people traveling among the thousands in the new migrant caravans have criminal records, Homeland Security said last Thursday. The caravan is now in Mexico City, roughly 600 miles from McAllen, Texas and more than twice that to Tijuana, their stated goal. Their day of departure from Mexico City remains unknown

Armed Militia Groups Head to Border

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have been roused by President Trump’s call to restore order and defend the country against caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They’re packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border. The prospect of armed vigilantes showing up beside thousands of U.S. troops — along with Border Patrol agents, police officers and migrants — is considered serious enough that military planners have issued warnings to Army commanders.

Gitmo Terrorists Obama Released Now Reinforce Taliban in Qatar

The Guantanamo terrorists released by Barack Obama in exchange for a U.S. Army deserter have joined the Taliban’s “political” office in Qatar. The move reinforces the terrorist group’s operations, according to the Spanish international news agency that broke the story last week. The five men were incarcerated at the U.S. military prison in southeast Cuba because they held positions of great importance with the terrorist group, including Chief of Staff of the Taliban Army and the Taliban Deputy Minister of Intelligence. One U.S. Senator referred to the freed jihadists as the “Taliban Dream Team.” The nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), determined that the president broke a “clear and unambiguous” law when he traded the high-level terrorists for Bergdahl, who went AWOL in Afghanistan in 2009.

Humanity has Wiped Out 60% of Animal Populations Since 1970

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilization. The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by World Wildlife Foundation and involving fifty-nine scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. “This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “This is actually now jeopardizing the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

FDA Approves Opioid Painkiller 1,000 Times Stronger than Morphine

A new opioid tablet that is 1,000 times more potent than morphine and 10 times stronger than fentanyl was approved by the Food and Drug Administration Friday as a fast-acting alternative to IV painkillers used in hospitals. The painkiller Dsuvia will be restricted to limited use only in health care settings, such as hospitals, surgery centers and emergency rooms, but critics worry the opioid will fuel an already grim opioid epidemic. Dsuvia will not be available at retail pharmacies or for any home use. The medication, which comes in a single-use package, also should not be used for more than 72 hours. The medicine comes in a tablet that can dissolve under the tongue. Side effects of the potent drug include extreme tiredness, breathing problems, coma and death.

Economic News

U.S. and European stock markets rose sharply as the U.S. midterm election results will force President Donald Trump to share power with his Democrat opponents. “This was the most benign result possible from this midterm election,” wrote analysts at Gavekal Research. “Historically, legislative gridlock has been modestly positive for U.S. equity markets.

The economy added a healthy 250,000 jobs in October, the Labor Department said Friday in the last employment report before midterm elections. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a near 50-year low of 3.7 percent. Annual wage growth topped 3 percent for the first time in nine years. Average hourly earnings rose 5 cents to $27.30, pushing the annual gain to 3.1 percent, strongest since April 2009, from 2.8 percent in September.

Social Security pays 63 million Americans about $1 trillion in benefits annually, 5% of our country’s entire gross domestic product (GDP), which was about $19 trillion in 2017. About 90% of people aged 65 and older collect Social Security benefits. One reason Social Security isn’t likely to ever run out of money is because it’s financed to a great degree by taxes collected from workers. In 2017, about 87.7 percent of funds coming into the program came from payroll taxes, while 8.5 percent came from interest and 3.8 percent came from taxes on benefits. The Social Security program is more efficient than most people might think. Out of its budget of roughly $1 trillion, only 0.6 percent is used for administrative expenses.

Middle East

The PLO Central Council voted last week to suspend its recognition of the State of Israel and halt security coordination with the IDF. “The [PLO] is making a mistake. It’s worrisome that Ramallah is going in this direction,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Army Radio on Tuesday. “Over the last year, Ramallah has become more and more extreme, and is torpedoing any chance of an agreement.” These sentiments were echoed by several other Israeli officials. However, analysts pointed out that the PLO’s resolution was non-binding and still requires the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

North Korea

North Korea has warned it could revive a state policy aimed at strengthening its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country. The statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday evening said North Korea could bring back its “pyongjin” policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the United States doesn’t change its stance. North Korea accused Washington of derailing commitments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at their June summit in Singapore to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Iran

The Trump administration announced Friday the snapback of crippling economic sanctions on Iran’s oil, banking, shipping and other sectors – reimposing penalties lifted by the Obama administration as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The White House hopes the sanctions – set to go into effect Monday and aimed at more than 700 Iranian individuals and entities – will strangle Iran’s economy and force the regime into a new round of negotiations. The U.S. wants Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism, among other steps. As Iranians braced for the full restoration of the economic sanctions, their government signaled it would be open to talking to the United States about a new nuclear arms accord if Washington changes its approach to discussing the agreement it abandoned this year. “Mutual trust is not a requirement to start negotiations – mutual respect is a requirement,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

Islamic State

An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria. Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm after the campaign began in September have knocked the coalition back on its heels. And last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that is fighting the Islamic State with American help, suspended operations after Kurdish positions farther north were shelled by Turkey — not far from United States advisers. American diplomats and generals rushed to ease tensions with the Turks, who consider Kurdish fighters terrorists despite their partnership with the United States. But the episode underscores the shifting nature of the fight against the Islamic State. ISIS is still a potent threat as it pivots from its battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria to directing guerrilla insurgencies in the Middle East and beyond.

A huge deployment of up to 30,000 Iraqi fighters has been ordered along Iraq’s western border amid fears that Islamic State could enter from Syria in a repeat of its 2014 offensive. Two Iraqi Army brigades, each with 3,000 to 5,000 troops, have been redeployed to border areas over the past two days in order to prevent extremist fighters crossing over. In addition, Shiite Muslim militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), announced that 20,000 fighters have been redeployed to the same border “to provide border security after some Syrian villages fell under the control of ISIS.” Iraq is desperate to avoid a repeat of the losses it sustained four years ago when the extremist Sunni Muslim group took over the province of Nineveh and declared a caliphate before spreading farther into Iraq. Many areas of Syria and Iraq were only recently liberated from ISIS control, although Iraq’s western province of Anbar is still home to many of the group’s militants.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s highest court on Wednesday ordered the release of a poor, illiterate Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy, setting off a wave of demonstrations by hardline Islamists nationwide. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction against Asia Bibi, accused in 2009 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a case that sparked violent protests in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 200 million people. Bibi commented that Muslims were “unclean” so her co-workers accused her of insulting the prophet. She was later beaten, and the women complained to a local religious leader who pressed for the blasphemy charge. Blasphemy carries a death sentence under Pakistani law. Two Pakistani government officials were murdered in 2011 in assassinations linked to their support of Bibi. But the future of blasphemy laws in Pakistan is far from settled. The laws remain popular in Pakistan, and Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed support for them during the recent election campaign. Violent protests broke out in the wake of the Pakistan Supreme Court’s acquittal of Bibi.

Afghanistan

The U.S. military in Kabul says a U.S. service member has been killed in an apparent “insider attack” in the capital Kabul. The statement said the attacker was a member of the Afghan security forces and initial reports indicate the assailant was immediately killed by other Afghan forces. Another U.S. service member was wounded in the attack. The wounded service member is undergoing medical treatment and is in stable condition. The death of Brent Taylor — the North Ogden, Utah, mayor and soldier who was killed Saturday in Afghanistan — reverberated far beyond his small city in northern Utah. Just before his death, he posted in Facebook: “As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election (Tuesday), I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote,” Taylor wrote in the post. “And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ God Bless America.”

Yemen

Violence in Yemen’s key port city of Hodeidah is the worst seen in months, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator has warned, putting more civilian lives at risk in the war-torn country. Fighting has escalated since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis a week ago called on all participants in the Yemen civil war to agree to a ceasefire in the next 30 days and start peace talks. Humanitarian workers fear that more than 100 civilian deaths may have occurred in the past week alone in Hodeidah. The city, with its key port installations that bring in UN and other humanitarian aid, has become the center of the conflict in Yemen between Arab allies led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

Earthquakes

A swarm of earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, the largest measuring a 4.1 magnitude, rumbled through the Hollister area and the Salinas Valley last Friday morning. CBS San Francisco reported that the quakes rattled nerves but caused no major damage. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 4.1 quake hit at 5:58 a.m. PDT 12 miles southwest of the small community of Tres Pinos. It was followed by quakes measuring 3.6, 3.2 and 3.0. Officials are saying that this shaking was caused by “movement along the San Andreas Fault system”, and the initial magnitude 4.1 quake was quickly followed by a series of more than 20 aftershocks. Experts say California is overdue for a huge earthquake with some warning a major magnitude 7.0 is likely within the next 30 years. In recent months there has been an alarming amount of seismic activity worldwide along “the Ring of Fire”, and there have been times when the number of global earthquakes has been way above normal, with the number of global earthquakes over the last 30 days more than 50% above normal, according to Earthquake Track.

Weather

A recent United Nations report warned that the world had just a dozen years left to avoid some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change. A new study suggests that assessment was far too optimistic. Researchers using a new method to calculate the amount of heat absorbed by the world’s oceans say the buildup of heat over the last 25 years is 60% higher than previous estimates, meaning the world is warming significantly faster than expected, the BBC reports. In the study published in the journal Nature, the researchers, who measured gases released by the oceans, warn that our planet appears to be more sensitive to the release of greenhouse gases than earlier believed—and that dealing with the problem will be even more of a challenge.

A total of 22 confirmed tornadoes across six states were spawned by a severe weather outbreak in the South overnight Monday into Tuesday morning, leaving a trail of damage and killing at least one person. The National Weather Service gave one tornado a preliminary EF2 rating, with an estimated wind speed of 135 mph. Numerous trees were reported down.

At least 11 people died in Italy last week due to historic flooding throughout the country, officials said Tuesday. In Venice, more than 70 percent of the city was inundated as water levels rose over five feet above normal. In addition to heavy rain, sea water was also pushed into the city by a powerful storm and exacerbated by high tides.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: