Archive for January, 2019

Signs of the Times

January 25, 2019

­For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

New York Passes Bill Allowing Abortion Up to Birth

A new abortion law enacted by New York’s Democrat-led state legislature, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for the first time permits abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, up to the very moment of birth, for almost any reason. Cuomo ordered that landmarks like the spire of One World Trade Center be illuminated in pink to celebrate the new law. Dr. James Dobson, Conservative Christian author, radio broadcaster and founder of Focus on the Family, is calling the law “pure barbarism on a scale rarely seen since the Middle Ages.” To celebrate the new law, Lila Rose, president of the national pro-life Live Action, which has done undercover video investigations revealing the misbehavior of abortion industry players, said, “This is no different than infanticide. New York’s law is barbaric and inhumane and rejects modern science and medical advancements that reveal the development and humanity of life in the womb.” Roman Catholic lay leaders on Thursday demanded that Cardinal Timothy Dolan excommunicate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing the state law that allows abortion until birth.

  • As LifeNews noted, ” You can’t give a lethal injection to murderers in New York, but you can give one to an unborn baby.”

Non-Profit Planned Parenthood Made $564 Million in Profits Last Year

“For once, Planned Parenthood is being honest about its number-one mission: abortion. And thanks to the organization’s latest annual report, Americans are seeing just how profitable that mission has been,” reports the Family Research Council. The same weekend that tens of thousands of Americans were marching in Washington to protest abortion, Planned Parenthood decided to tell everyone what a cash cow abortion has been for them. Planned Parenthood recorded a whopping $564 million in profits last year, up $20 million over 2017.  A large proportion of their funding comes from the federal government – that is, taxpayers. Planned Parenthood also announced that they killed 11,373 more babies than the previous years, totaling 332,757 abortions last year. Meanwhile, their other services declined: the provision of contraception decreased by 80,000, cancer screenings by 45,000, and other ‘women’s health services’ such as well-woman exams and prenatal services decreased by 13,000.

Remembering the Unborn Memorial Held at Supreme Court

In honor of the 60 million unborn children whose lives have been taken since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Liberty Counsel partnered with the National Pro-Life Center to hold a “Remembering the Unborn Memorial.” The event kicked off in front of the US Supreme Court at noon Jan. 22, a date which former President Ronald Reagan designated as the National Sanctity of Human Life Day in a 1984 proclamation. Tuesday also marked the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. As part of Tuesday’s memorial ceremony, 3,000 flowers were placed along the sidewalk in front of the high court—a poignant gesture aimed at highlighting the innocent lives lost and the need for national repentance.

Worldwide Terrorism Decreased by 33% Last Year

Worldwide terror attacks decreased by one-third in 2018 compared to 2017, while resulting non-militant fatalities fell by more than one-quarter, according to the annual Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) Global Attack Index, released Thursday. Over the course of 2018, JTIC recorded a worldwide total of 15,321 attacks by non-state armed groups, which resulted in a total of 13,483 non-militant fatalities. The figures represented the lowest annual attack total since 2011 and the lowest annual fatality figures since JTIC began collecting comprehensive event data in 2009. Islamic State attacks decreased by almost three-quarters and resultant fatalities by more than 50 percent, although the group remained the deadliest worldwide in terms of number of non-militant fatalities caused. In contrast to the overall downward trend, attacks in Ukraine increased by almost one-fifth as it rose to be the most violent country in terms of recorded attacks. Afghanistan became the deadliest country worldwide in terms of recorded non-militant fatalities, with attacks rising by almost one-third and a significant 80 percent increase in fatalities. Syria dropped to the second highest country in terms of recorded attacks, with attacks falling by almost two-thirds and resultant fatalities falling by almost half.

Shutdown Update

Congressional leaders and President Trump reached a tentative deal Friday to temporarily reopen government without wall funds. The pact would reopen the government for three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks. The House and Senate will vote on legislation later Friday to reopen the government until Feb. 15. During that period, lawmakers will discuss funds for border security and Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The Trump administration ordered more than 30,000 employees back to work unpaid to prepare for tax filing season, which is set to begin next week. But of the 26,000 workers called back to the Internal Revenue Service division, about 9,000 workers could not be reached and about 5,000 more claimed a hardship exemption. The percentage of TSA airport screeners missing work hit a record 10% due to financial hardship as the partial government shutdown stretched into its fifth week. Flights at three major airports were being delayed Friday because of an increase in air traffic control employees calling in sick as the government shutdown continued.

Immigration Update

U.S. officials at the southern border will begin sending some asylum applicants back to Mexico on Friday as the administration implements new measures to prevent migrants from waiting in the United States while their cases are processed. The plan, announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday night, follows high-level talks between the two governments late last year as U.S. border officials struggled to handle a surge of Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty. Immigrant rights groups have opposed it, saying it violates U.S. and international asylum laws and could face court challenges.

Supreme Court Allows Partial Ban on Transgenders in Military

The Supreme Court will allow President Trump’s partial ban on transgender people serving in the military to take effect while court challenges continue. Responding to Justice Department requests, the high court Tuesday cleared away lower court actions that blocked the controversial policy from being implemented for nearly a year. The order represents a victory for the Trump administration, although the justices stopped short of agreeing to hear the administration’s appeal in the military transgender case, which means lower court challenges can proceed. Four district court judges have blocked the policy, but a federal appeals court last week reversed one of those injunctions.

EPA Pollution Fines Drop 85% Under Trump Administration

Environmental Protection Agency fines for polluters dropped eighty-five percent under the Trump administration, which former officials say cripples its efforts to deter wrongdoing. For the past 20 years, Environmental Protection Agency civil penalties for polluters averaged more than $500 million a year. That number fell to $72 million last year, according to an analysis of EPA data.

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Spars with Atheist Group

Ken Ham, the creationist founder of the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky, is sparring with a national group over whether public schools are legally allowed to visit his religious attractions. Earlier this month the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes the separation of church and state, sent letters to more than 1,000 public school districts in Kentucky and four other states saying that field trips to Ham’s Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are unconstitutional. The letters, sent Jan. 8, were prompted by Ham encouraging public schools to visit his theme park, which features a 510-foot-long model of Noah’s Ark. The same day those letters were sent, Ham fired back by offering free admission to any public schools that take students on official field trips to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, a Christian creationist ministry that runs the Ark Park in Williamstown and the Creation Museum in Petersburg.

Insect Colonies Collapsing

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished. “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. Earth’s bugs are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon.”

Increasing Risky Phone Use while Driving is Killing Americans

Americans are using their phones in riskier ways while driving, according to a new report. Although overall cell phone use on the road is down, drivers were “observed manipulating their phones” 57 percent more often in 2018 than they were in 2014, according to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. IIHS experts were able to track the problem by positioning researchers on the side of the road at traffic lights, straight sections of roads and roundabouts. The researchers recorded what drivers were doing when they passed by. Using the most recently available figures, IIHS estimated that about 800 people were killed in crashes in 2017 due to drivers who were using their phones for something other than a call. The study adds credence to suspicions that the nation’s spike in deadly crashes over the last few years is due in part to smartphone use. Distracted driving can occur for other reasons, too, including the use of vehicle infotainment systems.

Economic News

The world’s total debt is hovering near a record at $244 trillion, which is more than three times the size of the global economy, according to an analysis by the Institute of International Finance. The global debt-to-GDP ratio exceeded 318 percent in the third quarter of last year, despite a stronger pace of economic growth, according to a report by the Washington-based IIF released on last week. Meanwhile, over 1.9 billion people, or 26.2 percent of the world’s population, were living on less than $3.20 per day in 2015. Close to 46 percent of the world’s population was living on less than $5.50 a day. Global income inequality continues to grow worse with each passing year, despite racking up such enormous debt.

Renewable energy, led by solar and wind, is projected to be the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity generation, according to a report published Friday by the U.S. Energy Department. Boosted by swiftly falling prices, utility-scale solar power is expected to increase by 10% in 2019 and 17% in 2020. Wind power should grow 12% and 14% in those years, vaulting it ahead of hydropower for the first time. Coal, long the king of the power industry, continues to rapidly decline. The share of total power generation from coal-fired power plants tumbled to 28% last year, compared with 45% in 2010, according to the EIA. Coal’s market share is expected to decline to 24% by 2020.

China is expected to top the U.S. as the world’s largest retail market this year, a new report says, underscoring the Asian country’s growing middle class and shift to a consumer-driven economy. Retail sales in China are forecast to grow 7.5 percent to $5.6 trillion in 2019, according to eMarketer’s worldwide retail and e-commerce forecast. Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales are projected to increase 3.3 percent to $5.5 trillion. While growth is slowing for both countries, China is expected to outpace the U.S. through 2022, the report says.

Israel

In another defeat for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, British diplomats attending the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland announced on Thursday that they had finalized their first post-Brexit deal free trade deal with the Jewish State. “I’m delighted that as Britain prepares to leave the European Union and to ensure continuity for our businesses in both directions, we’ve reached agreement in principle today with our colleagues in Israel,” Britain’s Secretary for International Trade Liam Fox as he stood next to Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen.

The city of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus Christ, was the epicenter of a powerful earthquake late Thursday evening which was felt all over the Galilee region and as far south as Jerusalem. Residents of Nazareth and surrounding communities reported hearing loud explosions during the tremors which lasted for several seconds. It was the latest seismic event in the north of Israel following a series of similar sized quakes in recent months.

Middle East

Israel and Iran are edging dangerously close to a state of all-out war.  On Sunday night, Israeli forces rained missiles down on Iranian forces based in the Damascus area Sunday through Monday. According to the IDF, this was a response to “dozens” of missiles that were fired by Iranian forces in Syria toward targets in Israel earlier that day.  The Israelis were able to intercept the Iranian missiles, but if any of them had gotten through they could have caused a tremendous amount of damage.  Some of the missiles that Israel fired at the Iranians were reportedly intercepted, but quite a few of them did hit their intended targets. The death toll from the airstrikes on military targets in Syria rose to 21, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Palestinian Authority (PA)  spent at least $137 million in payments to terrorist prisoners in 2018, according to a report issued by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israel-based NGO. PMW said that it carried out the research as Israel was preparing to implement a new law that imposes financial sanctions on the PA for its so-called “Pay for Slay” policy. The media monitor group said that it looked at the PA’s financial reports for 2018 which include its payments to the terrorists, both current and released prisoners.

Syria

A state-run TV station in Syria said an explosion occurred mid-afternoon on Tuesday in the city’s Al-Hammam Square, which is usually crowded with people. At least one person died and dozens were injured. Specialized units dismantled a second bomb before it detonated in the same location. The explosions shattered a sense of relative calm in government-controlled areas that had somewhat stabilized after major advances by troops against insurgents in different parts of the country with Russian and Iranian help. Latakia has been a government stronghold since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. The blast came two days after an explosion struck a neighborhood in the capital Damascus, in which state media said there were no casualties. Syria’s civil war has killed nearly half a million people and forced more than half its pre-war population from their homes.

Along two sharp curves of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State is fighting to hold on to the last speck of the vast territory it once controlled. At its height, the group enforced its brutal version of Islamic rule over more than 60,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. It is now squeezed into two villages occupying six square miles. Its foot soldiers have been engaged in heavy clashes with the American-backed and Kurdish-led militia Syrian Democratic Forces who are battling to take back the turf. While some of the extremists are fighting to the end, local officials say the militants have been surrendering by the dozens, repeating a pattern observed in other cities shortly before the group was overrun. Even with the end of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq within view, Western officials caution that this is not the end of the violent threat posed by the group. It has continued carrying out devastating attacks as it reverts to its insurgent roots, including a suicide bombing that killed four Americans in Manbij last week.

North Korea

Researchers have discovered a secret ballistic missile base in North Korea, according to a report released on Monday by Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies defense think tank. The discovery of the Sino-ri base comes after an announcement on Friday that President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un will hold a second summit next month. “The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose,” Victor Cha, one of the authors of the report, told NBC News. “It looks like they’re playing a game. They’re still going to have all this operational capability, even if they destroy their disclosed nuclear facilities.” The Beyond Parallel report estimated that Pyongyang has 20 undisclosed sites, where it continues to develop its ballistic missile program, with Sino-ri one of the oldest.

Russia

The Russian military on Wednesday rolled out its new missile and spelled out its specifications, seeking to dispel the U.S. claim that the weapon violates a key nuclear arms pact. The military insisted that the 9M729 land-based cruise missile conforms to the limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The U.S. has announced its intention to abandon the INF, charging that the new Russian missile violates provisions of the pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles). Washington said it will suspend its treaty obligations if Russian does not come into compliance by Feb. 2. Lt. Gen. Mikhail Matveevsky, the chief of the Russian military’s missile and artillery forces, said at a meeting with foreign military attaches that the new missile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers (about 300 miles).

Afghanistan

Dozens were killed when the Taliban infiltrated an Afghan intelligence base, in one of the deadliest attacks against the agency. While the Afghan police and army have been dying in record numbers, the loss of elite intelligence forces — who are better trained and equipped — was another indication of the violence stretching the Afghan government’s defenses, even as the United States may be preparing to withdraw some of its troops. The attack, hours before the insurgents announced they had resumed peace talks with American officials, was a sign, analysts said, of how violence is likely to grow deadlier even as the sides of the long war have indicated a willingness to seek a negotiated settlement.

Venezuela

President Trump recognized Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, as the country’s interim president Wednesday, rejecting President Nicolas Maduro’s contested swearing-in two weeks ago to a second term. Canada also announced it was recognizing Guaido. who declared himself interim president before thousands of cheering supporters Wednesday and said he was “formally assuming the responsibility of the national executive.” Tens of thousands of Venezuelans, angry over spiraling inflation, a shortage of basic goods and a migration crisis, took to the streets to demand that Maduro step down. But Maduro is garnering support in other corners: Russia has announced it recognizes Maduro as president. Maduro also appears to be gearing up for a contentious fight and is not walking silently into the background. He gave U.S diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country. The Trump administration ordered all non-emergency U.S. diplomatic staff to leave Venezuela on Thursday amid that country’s growing political turmoil.

Mexico

Homicides in Mexico reached a record-level of 33,341 in 2018, up nearly 33 percent from the previous year, according to official statistics released Monday from the Interior Ministry, a result of the ongoing toll of the country’s drug war. The 33,341 homicides were the most since national record-keeping began in 1997, the government said. Murders in Mexico skyrocketed after the government controversially deployed its army to fight drug trafficking in 2006. More than 200,000 people have been murdered since. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December with a promise to curb the gruesome violence.

Environment

Plastics are threatening the health of the planet and its inhabitants, and they’re not going away because they take seemingly forever to decompose. Plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.  Marine life is choking on the debris: Microplastics are in our soil, our water, our air, getting into our bodies with potential consequences that we don’t fully understand yet. Massive amounts of plastic have piled up in landfills. Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars Petcare, Mondelēz International and others — some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies — are partnering on a potential solution to limit future waste. They’re working together on a project known as Loop, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. It offers consumers an alternative to recycling — a system that isn’t working well these days. Loop is a new way to shop, offering about 300 items — from Tide detergent to Pantene shampoo, Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Crest mouthwash — all in reusable packaging. After using the products, customers put the empty containers in a Loop tote on their doorstep. The containers are then picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again – the return of the milk man.

Weather

The death toll rose to 59 Friday, three days after torrential rainfall triggered landslides and overwhelmed a central Indonesia earthen dam, prompting officials to open floodgates that released a deluge of water on a Makassar neighborhood. More than half a foot of rain fell in the area within a 24-hour period ending Tuesday. Officials opened floodgates around 4 p.m. Tuesday when heavy rainfall overwhelmed the Bili Bili dam, an earthen embankment on the Jeneberang River about 20 miles east of Makassar in the Gowa district. The flash flood that resulted quickly rose to a height of more than 5 feet in the Makassar suburb of Katimbang, taking many of the residents by surprise.

Australia’s extreme heatwave is taking a devastating toll on animals. Temperatures reached more than 121 degrees in some places Thursday as at least 28 locations hit all-time highs. Horses and other feral animals are dying of thirst and hunger because many reliable water sources have dried up in the current heatwave. Thirst is suspected in the deaths of about 40 wild horses near Santa Teresa. Another 50 feral horses, or “brumbies,” had to be culled. Ranchers in the Goldfields region of Western Australia say thousands of camels are flocking from the Gibson Desert in search of water. Carmody said about 1,200 camels have been shot on his property since the day after Christmas. Ranchers say another 1,300 camels have been culled on other properties in the past month.

Signs of the Times

January 18, 2019

­Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. (Revelation 3:10-11)

Most Americans Want to Restrict Abortions

Three-quarters of Americans — including 60 percent of self-identified Democrats and 61 percent of those who identify as pro-choice — support restricting legal abortion to the first three months of pregnancy at most, according to a new poll released Tuesday. The study also found that 59 percent of Americans supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life. The phone survey of 1,066 adults was funded and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the Marist Poll. The two have teamed up every January since 2008 to gauge Americans’ attitudes toward abortion. The poll found that 55 percent of Americans identify as pro-choice, up four percentage points from the previous year’s survey. The same percentage of respondents said medical professionals with moral objections to abortion should be allowed to opt out of performing the procedure. The survey also found that if the Supreme Court revisits the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, 49 percent of Americans support upholding abortion restrictions legislated by the states while another 16 percent supported outlawing the procedure completely. Just 30 percent of respondents favored a Supreme Court ruling allowing unrestricted abortion.

Trump Administration Supports March for Life

Thousands of anti-abortion activists, including many young people bundled up against the cold weather gripping the nation’s capital, gathered at a stage on the National Mall Friday for their annual march in the long-contentious debate over abortion. Vice President Mike Pence will represent the Trump administration at the annual March for Life by delivering an address at the 37th annual Rose Dinner. Held this year in the grand ballroom of the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel, the Rose Dinner will follow the March for Life on the evening of January 18. “Throughout his extensive career, Vice President Pence has remained exemplary in his commitment to protecting the sanctity of unborn life and it is our utmost privilege to have a pro-life champion of his stature address this year’s Rose Dinner,” March for Life president Jeanne Mancini said.

Judge Forces Christian Groups to Fund Abortions

A group of charitable nuns will be forced pay for drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health plans as a result of a federal judge’s ruling last Sunday. The ruling by Judge Haywood Gilliam, a nominee of pro-abortion President Barack Obama, blocks the Trump administration from enforcing rules that provide wider religious exemptions to groups like Little Sisters of the Poor, the Washington Examiner reported. The Sunday ruling affects employers in the District of Columbia and 13 states, but Gilliam did not block the rules nation-wide as the pro-abortion attorneys general asked. Gilliam, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, also previously blocked another version of the exemptions. The Little Sisters won a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, but new lawsuits pushed them back into court.

Migrants from Terrorist Nations Enter U.S. Via Mexico at Record Rates

Federal agents along the southern border routinely encounter individuals from terrorist nations and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers them one of the top threats to the United States, according to a congressional report made public this month. Titled “Stopping Terrorist Travel Through Illicit Pathways to the Homeland,” the document outlines the findings of a lengthy investigation involving Special Interest Aliens (SIA) by the House Homeland Security Committee, reports Judicial Watch. SIA’s are individuals from countries outside the western hemisphere—mostly the Middle East, Asia and Africa—that pose a national security risk to the U.S. Congressional investigators found that the number of SIAs flowing north via Latin America has increased tremendously in the last few years thanks to established Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCO) that facilitate travel along drug and migrant smuggling routes. In Laredo, Texas alone there was an astounding 300% increase in immigrants from Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

President Trump’s Approval Rating Up with Latinos

Surprisingly, President Donald Trump’s approval rating among Latinos shot up nearly 20 points from December to January in a new poll. Key results in the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll show that 50 percent of Latinos support the job Trump is doing, a significant jump from the 31 percent who had the same answer in the December poll. Trump’s support among whites dropped from 50 percent to 40 percent, while his support among African-Americans fell from 19 percent to 11 percent. Overall, Trump’s approval in the most recent poll is 39 percent, down from 42 percent in the previous poll.

More Migrant Children Separated from Parents than First Reported

The Trump administration likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed, according to a report by government inspectors released on Thursday. The federal government has reported that 2,737 children were forcibly separated from their parents under last year’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. But that number does not represent the full scope of family separations. Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, the report said. The report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general said the federal tracking system has been so poor that the precise number of migrant children separated from their parents is unclear.

Majority of Undocumented Immigrants Overstay Visas

Most undocumented immigrants arrive legally and overstay their visas. The Center for Migration Studies says that in 2016-2017, overstayers accounted for 62% of newly arrived undocumented immigrants, outnumbering illegal border crossers for at least the seventh year in a row. “This is not a blip, but a trend which has become the norm,” says CMS executive director Donald Kerwin. The undocumented population from Mexico dropped by 1.3 million from 2010 to 2017, with a 400,000 drop in 2017 alone. “We have made tremendous progress since the year 2000 in reducing undocumented immigration into this country,” study author Robert Warren said.

  • However, the recent phenomena of Central American migrant caravans has changed the narrative

Second Central American Caravan Underway

A new caravan of migrants headed for the United States has left San Pedro Sula, the same city in Honduras where a large caravan left in October and arrived at the United States’ southern border in November. The earlier caravan ballooned to more than 5,000 people before traveling through Guatemala and Mexico and then reaching Tijuana, prompting President Donald Trump to deploy thousands of military troops to the southern border. The latest caravan is part of a growing wave of Central Americans arriving at the southern U.S. border and requesting asylum. Around 1,000 Central American migrants marched freely through the Guatemala-Mexico border on Friday after the gates were left wide open, with Mexican authorities standing down from confronting the caravan. An organizer of the latest migrant caravan was arrested on rape charges in Honduras. Juan Carlos Molina, the subject of an arrest warrant since August 2015, skipped court dates and ultimately became a fugitive.

Third Drug Tunnel Discovered Along Arizona Border

Mexican authorities uncovered another tunnel in Nogales, Sonora – across the border from Nogales, Arizona – which they suspect was used to smuggle drugs and people across the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the third time they have made such a discovery in less than a month. Police said the tunnel measured about 32 feet in length but offered few other details. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Arizona are also unable to provide information because they furloughed their communication staff due to the ongoing partial government shutdown. Critics routinely point to drug tunnels as a sign that walls don’t work. The vast majority of drugs, including heroin, are increasingly caught at the legal ports of entry, which would be unaffected by the construction of additional physical barriers along the border.

TSA Callouts Causing Long Airport Security Lines

Long lines and staffing issues have hit airports around the country as the partial government shutdown is in its fourth week. Callouts from TSA officers struggling to make ends meet without paychecks hit Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport, on Monday. Short staffing by the Transportation Security Administration caused lengthy security lines there. While other airports have so far been able to weather the shutdown, there are serious questions about how long the system can withstand TSA callouts. TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said Monday afternoon that Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, Miami International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Washington Dulles International Airport in the DC area were all “exercising their contingency plans.”

Judge Strikes Down Citizenship Question for 2020 Census

A federal district judge Tuesday struck down the Trump administration’s plan to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census, ruling that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross exceeded his authority under federal law. The much-awaited decision by Judge Jesse Furman is likely to wind up at the Supreme Court, which next month is scheduled to consider a portion of the case – whether Ross can be required to give a deposition about the reasons for his decision. But Furman’s ruling temporarily makes that question moot. Ross announced the addition of the citizenship question last March, but it has been tied up in court. The government has not asked about individuals’ citizenship on the Census since 1950. Opponents, including California, New York, the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration rights groups, contend fears of deportation among undocumented immigrants will cause them to be undercounted.

Government Shutdown Hurting Economy

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues. The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction. To blunt the shutdown’s effects, the administration on Tuesday called tens of thousands of employees back to work, without pay, to process tax returns, ensure flight safety and inspect food and drugs.

IRS Employees Ordered Back to Work Without Pay

The Internal Revenue Service is bringing back 36,000 more furloughed employees starting this week to create a bare bones staff to process tax returns and send out refunds as tax season gets underway. The additional employees, plus a 10,000-person skeleton staff retained after the partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, represent about 57 percent of the normal IRS workforce. Because of the federal government shutdown, none of the IRS employees will be paid. Even with the extra workers on hand, IRS services will be severely restricted. The IRS warns taxpayers to expect heavier call volume than usual and longer wait time despite adding more people to answer phones. Walk-in assistance centers around the country will remain closed. The IRS also says it will not conduct audits during the shutdown period and that anyone who had an appointment to discuss an audit should assume the meeting has been canceled.

Tea Party Groups Finally Get Justice in IRS Case

The federal government has been cutting checks to 100 conservative groups as part of a settlement in the class-action lawsuit NorCal v. United States, ending a five-year legal battle. President Obama famously said there was not a “smidgen” of evidence that the IRS unfairly targeted tea party groups, but hundreds of such groups described long delays and intrusive scrutiny — proven to be illegal — such as demanding membership information and religious beliefs. A 2013 inspector general’s report found the IRS flagged tax-exempt filings based on a conservative-sounded name, such as “patriots” or “tea party,” and the applications sat untouched for months. Most of the tea party groups are receiving $14,000 each as part of the settlement.

Food Recalls in U.S. Increasing

Americans experience more food recalls today than they did five years ago, particularly when it comes to meat and poultry, a government watchdog analysis found. Over the five-year period, poultry posted the most recalls with 168 followed by beef (137) and pork (128). Meat and poultry recalls increased by two-thirds from 2013 to 2018 while food recalls overall edged up 10 percent, according to the report published Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne disease each year in the United States. The analysis follows a year full of food safety scares. Two E. coli contaminations in romaine lettuce left five dead and more than 100 hospitalized. A salmonella outbreak in raw beef sickened 246 people and caused 12 million pounds of beef to be discarded.

Economic News

China’s huge export industry just suffered its worst month in two years but still managed to rack up a record trade surplus with the United States in 2018 despite new tariffs. The value of goods shipped from China to the rest of the world fell by more than 4% in December, compared to the same period a year ago. Despite last month’s decline, China racked up a record trade surplus with the United States in 2018, according to Chinese data. The $323 billion gap in value between how much China sells to the United States and how much it buys from it has been at the heart of the trade dispute.

The Chinese investment boom into America has almost completely vanished. Foreign direct investment from China into the United States plummeted by 83% in 2018, according to a report released Monday by law firm Baker McKenzie. Not only are Chinese firms drastically scaling back investments, but they’ve embarked on a record-setting wave of sales of real estate, hospitality and entertainment businesses. Net Chinese foreign direct investment into North America turned negative in 2018 to the tune of $5.5 billion. Another $12 billion of Chinese assets around the world are expected to be sold this year.

U.S. money market fund assets increased for a fifth straight week to their highest level since early 2010, as investors further raised their cash pile due to recent market volatility. During this five-week stretch, money fund assets have risen by $159.53 billion. Assets of money market funds, which are seen as nearly as safe as bank accounts, jumped $35.62 billion to $3.029 trillion. This marked the first time that money fund assets surpassed $3 trillion since the week ended March 9, 2010, following the Great Recession and its accompanying market crash.

The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline has dropped 12 cents a gallon over the past three weeks to a nationwide average of $2.31. The average gas price has dropped 66 cents over the past 3-1/2 months. Falling crude oil costs are the main reason for the decrease at the pump. The highest average price in the nation is $3.46 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area. The lowest average is $1.80 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Anti-Semitism

On Thursday, freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a move that has drawn heavy criticism of her party’s leadership due to Omar’s positions on Israel. Omar, a Muslim woman from Somalia, has a history of posting anti-Israel messages on social media, some of which have resulted in accusations of overt anti-Semitism. In one 2012 tweet, Omar exclaimed, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Omar is part of a group of recently elected members of Congress touted as the new “progressive” face of the Democratic party. Opposition to Israel is a key policy position for these lawmakers.

The Women’s March, which was hailed as an international rebuke of President Trump in 2017 when throngs of activists took the streets the day after his inauguration, is steadily losing supporters amid an anti-Semitism scandal that won’t go away. The march will be held in D.C. again on Saturday at the National Mall, but the controversial ties of organizers have caused the campaign to lose steam. At the center of the controversy are leaders’ ties to and statements about radical Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Both Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian activist who has embraced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against investment in Israel, and co-President Tamika Mallory have ties to Farrakhan. “White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through,” Farrakhan said in a sermon attended by Mallory.

An Israeli student studying abroad in Australia was on the phone with her sister overseas when she was killed in an “absolutely horrendous, horrific attack,” police said Thursday. Aiia Maasarwe, a 21-year-old from Israel, was walking home after getting off a tram when she was attacked just after midnight Wednesday in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora. In 2017, The Economist ranks Melbourne as the world’s fifth-safest city. However, the country’s human rights commission said that Australia “has a disturbingly high rate of violence against women.”

United Nations

Hundreds of protesters marched outside the Millennium Hilton Hotel in New York City on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas took over the chairmanship of the largest bloc of member states at the United Nations. The Group of 77, or G77—a U.N. group that includes 134 developing countries—also elected Riyad Mansour, head of the Palestinian mission, to be its next leader of the G77. This move came after the U.N. General Assembly held a special vote last October to elevate the Palestinian mission, which was awarded observer status in 2012, and thus make it eligible to lead the bloc. The protest was organized by New York City Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Stuart Force, whose son Taylor Force, a U.S. army veteran, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in 2016 while on a graduate-student trip to Israel with a group from Vanderbilt University. The terrorist’s family was rewarded by the Palestinian Authority as part of its “pay to slay” policy that gives money, including U.S. taxpayer funds, to terrorists and their families—a controversial system also mentioned at Tuesday’s protest.

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday confirmed that Israel has struck hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, including a weapons facility in a weekend airstrike, as the military announced the discovery of a sixth and final tunnel dug by the Lebanese terror group for cross-border attacks. Netanyahu said, “In the past 48 hours, Israel attacked an Iranian weapons warehouse at the international airport in Damascus. This reflects our consistent policy and strong determination to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. If necessary, we will step up these attacks.” He added, “At the same time, the IDF has exposed a sixth tunnel – the largest of all – that crossed into Israeli territory. This brings Operation Northern Shield to a successful close. We will continue to monitor all activity by Hezbollah, and by Iran and its proxies. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of Israel.”

Following violent street protests by hundreds of Arab Christians and several complaints by senior clergy against a display at the Haifa Museum of Art entitled “Sacred Goods” which includes the “McJesus” sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, the Ministry of Culture attempted to defund the Museum on Tuesday before being blocked from doing so by the Department of Justice. “It is forbidden to block funding to cultural institutions because of the content they exhibit,” Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber wrote in a letter to Culture Minister Miri Regev Tuesday. The “McJesus” sculpture shows the Ronald McDonald clown crucified on a cross.

Iran

While Iran characterized its recent spacecraft launch as nothing more than an “innocent satellite,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified it as “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements. Iran admitted that while it had launched the Payem satellite, it never reached orbit. Netanyahu says the launch is part of the Iranian government’s lies, beginning with its denial of trying to develop a nuclear weapon and its flaunting of the nuclear accord reached with world powers. Earlier in January, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran’s plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country’s defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Britain

British lawmakers have soundly rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in the biggest defeat for any UK government in the modern parliamentary era. After 200 speeches across eight days of debate, members of the House of Commons ignored the Prime Minister’s final pleas to support her plan and threw it out by 432 votes to 202. The margin of defeat — greater than the previous record set in 1924 — means the Prime Minister now faces a deep political crisis with no clear way forward. The opposition Labour party immediately triggered a vote of no-confidence in May’s government, hoping to capitalize on a perilous moment to force a general election. However, May survived Wednesday’s vote by a 325-306 margin, and will remain in power for now. She has until Monday to devise a new Brexit plan acceptable to lawmakers. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, whether a deal is in place or not. “Every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancor,” May said.

Syria

An explosion Wednesday in the northern Syria town of Manjib caused U.S. casualties, the U.S. military in Iraq said. Three U.S. service members were killed and another wounded by the explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” the military’s Operation Inherent Resolve said in a statement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, said the cause of the explosion was a suicide bomb outside a restaurant. The group said the attack killed 7 people and wounded 10 others. Reuters ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. Since 2016, only four U.S. troops had been killed in Syria before the latest attack, according to Pentagon records. Last month, President Donald Trump announced that the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn within months.

Kenya

Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack at an upscale hotel complex in Kenya’s capital on Monday that sent people fleeing from the scene shortly after explosions and gunfire erupted and left a number of 14 people dead. A group of armed assailants stormed the complex in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood Tuesday and reigned terror as people rushed to safety or took shelter inside the buildings. Hours after the assault began, the extremist group said its fighters were still inside the complex. One of the fatalities was American, a business investment adviser and former Peace Corps member.

Columbia

The suspect in a car bombing that left 21 people dead on Thursday in Bogotá, the capital,was a member of the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group, the defense ministry said Friday. José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, the assailant who was also killed in the attack, was a member of the National Liberation Army, a Marxist rebel group known as the ELN. The group has stepped up attacks against the government since its rival, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, signed a peace deal with the government in 2016. Thursday’s attack was the first car bombing in Bogotá in years, a gruesome reminder of a time when drug lords and rebel groups ravaged the capital’s streets with car bombs, killing hundreds of civilians and members of the security forces. Since the signing of the peace accords, the Colombian government has said it turned the page on that violent era.

North Korea

A Pentagon report released Thursday described North Korea’s missile and nuclear program as an “extraordinary threat” to the United States, warning that the U.S. must “remain vigilant” despite ongoing diplomatic engagement with the North. The Missile Defense Review report, introduced by President Donald Trump during a speech at the Pentagon, was released just hours ahead of a top North Korean envoy’s arrival in Washington to discuss a potential second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.   The report emphasized that Pyongyang has invested considerable resources and undertaken extensive nuclear and missile testing “in order to realize the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland with missile attack.” The White House announced Friday that President Trump will have his second meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un at the end of February.

China

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death Monday in a sudden retrial in a drug smuggling case that is likely to escalate tensions between the countries over the arrest in Canada of a top Chinese technology executive. The court announced that it had given Robert Lloyd Schellenberg the death penalty after rejecting his plea of innocence and convicting him of being an accessory to drug smuggling. It gave no indication whether the penalty could be commuted, but Schellenberg’s fate may become intertwined in diplomatic negotiations over China’s demand for their executive’s release. Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But suddenly last month, an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday’s retrial with just four days’ notice. The Chinese press began publicizing Schellenberg’s case in December after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States over charges of spying and circumventing sanctions on Iran.

The China National Space Administration released a photo Tuesday showing that cotton seeds brought to the far side of the moon by the country’s Chang’e 4 lander had germinated. Chinese authorities say the seeds, dormant during the 20-day journey to the moon, started growing after ground control activated the watering system in the probe’s “mini biosphere,” which contains air and soil. rapeseed and potato seeds have also sprouted, but cotton was first. The lander also brought rock cress, fruit fly eggs, and yeast to the moon, all chosen because they were small, hardy organisms that could thrive in a confined space. The sprouts suggest that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment.

Environment

The ice in Antarctica is melting six times faster than it did just 40 years ago, a new National Academy of Sciences study reports. Lead author Eric Rignot, an ice scientist at the University of California–Irvine, said the melting ice has caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch since 1979.  While that may not sound like much, the amount is certainly alarming to climate scientists, as it’s a preview of things to come: This isn’t the floating sea ice around Antarctica, which melts and refreezes with the seasons. Instead, this is freshwater ice on the gigantic ice sheets that cover most of the continent. Since 2009, almost 278 billion tons of ice has melted away from Antarctica per year, the new study found. In the 1980s, it was losing “only” 44 billion tons a year.

Air quality has worsened to dangerous levels in several Asian countries in recent days, becoming so unhealthy in Thailand that leaders have handed out face masks and are likely to turn to cloud seeding in hopes that rain will clear the air. The severe decline in air quality has been blamed on weather patterns, as well as construction dust, vehicle exhaust and other pollutants. In South Korea, unusually high pollution levels prompted emergency measures to reduce the health hazard. India’s cities are among the world’s smoggiest and it is just starting to tackle the problem. Key targets include reducing burning of field waste, firewood and charcoal, cleaning up thermal power and auto emissions and heavily polluting brick production and controlling dust from construction. Critics say the plan lacks details on enforcement and funding.

Weather

Californians began cleaning up Friday after a series of storms brought a deluge of heavy rain and mountain snow that killed at least six people, triggered a damaging tornado, numerous mudslides and prompted more than a dozen high water rescues. Thirteen people, some of which were homeless, were rescued Thursday from islands that formed on the flooded Santa Ana River in Riverside and San Bernardino counties east of Los Angeles. Numerous mudslides in the Santa Cruz Mountains forced the closure of Highway 35 and Highway 15 on Thursday. A mudslide Wednesday morning caused significant traffic delays on Highway 101 in Sausalito north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In Southern California, a large mudslide Thursday threatened homes on in the Nichols Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills. Water overtopped the Matilija Dam Thursday northwest of Los Angeles after nearly 6 inches of rain fell on the region. Numerous mud and rockslides made many canyon roads impassable, including Highway 27, which was closed in Topanga Canyon Thursday afternoon after a rockslide blocked the road.

More than 150,000 customers in North Carolina and Virginia woke up to no electricity Sunday as Winter Storm Gia shoved into the mid-Atlantic states. Dozens of roads in North Carolina were closed because of falling trees. In North Carolina, ice was the issue. In the nation’s capital, 3 to 6 inches of snow fell overnight and more was expected. At the three major airports serving the area, Reagan National, Dulles and Baltimore, 400 flights had been canceled by 10 a.m. Sunday. The storm, which left hundreds of motorists stranded on Missouri roads and caused scores of crashes, is blamed in the deaths of at least thirteen people, including an Illinois state trooper. More than 63,000 Missouri customers and almost 30,000 households in Kansas remained without power Sunday morning. The storm dumped up to 20 inches of snow on parts of Missouri.

A massive avalanche plowed into a hotel in southern Germany Sunday as heavy snowfall continued to pound Central Europe, killing 26 people in this month alone. While the hotel itself was damaged, no injuries to the hotel’s 100 guests were reported. About 1,100 snowed-in people in the nearby village of Balderschwang were unable to leave because of additional avalanche risks along the roads leading out.

Australia is in the midst of a scorching heat wave this week that has set all-time temperature records with four of its most sweltering days in history. Marble Bar in northwest Australia has experienced the hottest temperature since the weekend, topping out at 120.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Not far behind is Tarcoola in South Australia which hit 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the hottest temperature in its history dating to 1903. At least five other locations in southeast Australia set all-time record highs on Wednesday.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times

January 11, 2019

­Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Biblical Arguments For & Against a Border Wall

A case can be made both for and against a border wall using Scripture:

  • Pro: God “fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8) and delineated the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:1-15; Ezekiel 47:13-23). We are to guard ourselves against those who would harm us (Luke 11:21; Proverbs 25:26; Nehemiah 4:17-18).
  • Con: Scripture teaches: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21; cf. Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 24:19-22; Ezekiel 47:21-23; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 25:35, 40; Hebrews 13:2).

There are no perfect solutions in this fallen world of good and evil – that is, until Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom of mercy and justice. In the meantime, however, as we try to balance these two Biblical principles, we must remember that Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love every human being, even our enemies (Matthew 22:34-40, 5:43-48).

Migrant Flu, Pneumonia & Tuberculosis Rampant at Border

Border authorities have been referring 50 people a day for urgent medical care, including tuberculosis, flu, pneumonia and even pregnant women about to give birth, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said. Most of those in need of care are children, and a staggering 28 percent are under age 5, having been dragged along for the trip by parents who in many cases are hoping to use the children as a shield against speedy deportation from the U.S. The numbers were released after a full review was done of all children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection in the wake of two illegal-immigrant children who died in U.S. hospitals in December. McAleenan said most of those needing help were ill when they arrived at the border, and some appear to have made the initial decision to leave even while ailing, adding that he’s never seen anything like this before.

What If the Government Shutdown Lasts for Months?

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers didn’t receive their paychecks for the first time in this shutdown. Senators passed a bill Thursday to ensure all federal employees, whether they are still working or were furloughed, will be paid in full when the partial government shutdown ends. Saturday will be the  22nd day of the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. President Trump says he will keep the partial government shutdown going until he gets funding for the border wall. If so, NBC news says the following effects may be triggered: 38 million low-income Americans lose food stamps; 6 million face an uncertain timetable for collecting tax refunds; 2 million without rental assistance and facing possible eviction; 800,000 federal employees plunged into dire financial straits; Shuttered parks and museums while overstressed airports cause tourism to tank; Federal court system slows to a crawl; Disaster relief money doesn’t get to storm-ravaged areas.

  • Of course, this is a ‘doomsday’ scenario unlikely to fully manifest – Trump is more likely to declare a national emergency and use the Army Corps of Engineers to build the wall. White House officials also said Friday that they are considering diverting disaster relief funds toward building the wall.

New California Governor to Expand Health Coverage for Illegals

Newly sworn-in California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vowed to provide “sanctuary to all who seek it.”  Newsome also proposed extending state health care coverage to more illegal immigrants living within the Golden State’s borders. Hours after assuming office, Mr. Newsom released sweeping health care proposals to raise the age limit for illegal aliens covered by Medi-Cal from 19 to 26, which would make California “the first state in the nation to cover young undocumented adults through a state Medicaid program,” according to a Monday release from the governor’s office. Mr. Newsom, who ran on a universal health care platform, also proposed expanding Obamacare subsidies to middle-class earners and reinstating the Obamacare individual mandate at the state level. “No state has more at stake on the issue of health care. California must lead,” said Mr. Newsom in a statement. “We will use our market power and our moral power to demand fairer prices for prescription drugs. And we will continue to move closer to ensuring health care for every Californian.”

Anti-Trafficking Bill Signed into Law by President Trump

President Donald Trump has signed into law the Frederick Douglass Act, a bill authorizing $430 million to combat human trafficking. The measure, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), is designed to boost government efforts to prevent sex and labor trafficking and protect victims both nationally and internationally. The legislation received bipartisan support, with Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, co-sponsoring the bill. The legislation is named in honor of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass fought to abolish the institution. Serving as an American diplomat, he was the U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti for three years.

President Trump Halts FEMA Funds for California Wildfires

President Trump on Wednesday said he has ordered a halt to federal emergency funds for California to fight wildfires and manage its forests unless officials in the western U.S. state can “get their act together.” Trump accused the state of poor forest management. The state’s former top firefighter, Ken Pimlott, disagrees with Trump’s assessment. He said last month that California leads the nation in clearing away dead trees and thinning areas to remove fuel for fires. Insurance claims from the recent spate of California wildfires have topped $9 billion and are expected to grow, the state insurance commissioner reported last month.

Number of Abortion Facilities Continued to Decline in 2018

The number of abortion clinics in America continued to decline in 2018, following a trend that has seen an overall decrease of 159 abortion facilities since 2012, reports Operation Rescue. Overall, in 2018, 40 abortion facilities closed or no longer qualify as abortion clinics. Today, there are a total of 697 abortion centers left in America. That total includes 467 facilities that conduct surgical abortions – down dramatically from the high-water mark of 2,176 surgical facilities documented in 1991.  This represents a massive 79 percent decrease in the number of surgical abortion facilities over the past 27 years. Clinics that offered abortion drugs only, such as abortion pills or other chemical means, increased in number by 17 facilities to a total of 230.

Record Warming of Oceans is Accelerating

The world’s seas were the warmest on record in 2018, scientists announced Thursday. Also, ocean temperatures are rising faster than previously thought, a new paper said. Seas are warming as much as 40 percent faster than an estimate from a United Nations panel just five years ago. While 2018 was the 4th-warmest year on record in the atmosphere, it was the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that. The unusual warmth in the seas is harming marine life and coral reefs. It’s also contributing to rising sea levels around the world as ice melts near Antarctica and Greenland.

  • End-time weather will continue to become more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11). “A third of the living creatures in the sea died.” (Revelation 8:9)

U.S. Cancer Death Rate has Declined for 25 Years

The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States has dropped steadily for 25 years, a new study says, but disparities remain between the rich and the poor. The overall nationwide cancer death rate fell continuously from 1991 to 2016 by a total of 27%, according to a study by the American Cancer Society. That translates to about 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths total than would have been expected if death rates stayed at their peak, which was seen in 1991. The data shows that the nationwide cancer death rate climbed during most of the  1900s, largely driven by jumps in lung cancer deaths due to smoking and tobacco use. The racial gap in cancer mortality is continuing to narrow – the cancer rate for blacks was 33% higher than whites in the mid-1990s, and the current data now indicate it’s just 14% higher. Between 2012 and 2016, the overall cancer death rate was about 20% higher among people living in the poorest counties in the United States compared with those in the most affluent counties. The socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality has widened over the past three decades overall. Meanwhile, on a global scale, the number of people around the world who have cancer appears to be growing, according to the World Health Organization.

USA Had World’s 3 Costliest Natural Disasters in 2018

The USA led the world in catastrophes last year. Racking up an overall damage cost of $16.5 billion, the devastating and deadly Camp Fire that ravaged California in November was the world’s costliest natural disaster in 2018. In second and third place last year were Hurricanes Michael ($16 billion) and Florence ($14 billion). Florence dumped heavy rain across the Carolinas in September, and Michael tore into the Florida Panhandle in October. Michael, which had a wind speed of 155 mph at landfall, was the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to hit the USA. It reduced the small town of Mexico Beach, Florida, to rubble. The disastrous Camp Fire, California’s deadliest on record with 86 fatalities, stood out for its ferocity: “Such massive wildfires appear to be occurring more frequently as a result of climate change,” said Torsten Jeworrek of insurance giant Munich Re. “Action is urgently needed on building codes and land use to help prevent losses.”

  • Extreme weather will continue to worsen as the end-times progress (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Economic News

The U.S. Postal Service lost $3.9 billion in 2018, attributing the losses to drops in mail volume and the costs of pensions and health care. It was the 12th year in a row the agency reported a loss despite growth in package shipping. Consequently, the Postal Service announced a 5-cent increase in the cost of the first-class forever stamps from 50 cents to 55 cents starting January 27th. The nickel increase is the largest percentage rise since 1991, when postage increased from 25 to 29 cents. Other mailing services will see price increases averaging about 2.5 percent.

It’s not just stocks: the global housing market is in for a rough patch, which has turned ugly for many homeowners and investors from Vancouver to London, with markets in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia already showing increased signs of softening. Macro factors have triggered a global economic slowdown that is unraveling luxury marketplaces worldwide, according to Bloomberg. As a result, a turning point has been reached, with home prices globally now under pressure, and rising mortgage rates leading to depressed consumer optimism, while also triggering a housing affordability crisis, S&P Global Ratings said in a December report. To make matters worse, a simultaneous drop in house prices globally could lead to “financial and macroeconomic instability,” the IMF warned.

Baby boomers were supposed to be retiring. Instead, they’re still driving U.S. job growth. Americans 55 and over made up about half of all employment gains in 2018 despite only representing a quarter of the total work force. Of the 2.9 million new jobs recorded by Labor’s survey of households last year, 1.4 million were taken by people 55 and over. And in December, 39.2 percent of Americans in that age group were working, the largest portion since 1961, according to the monthly employment report of the Labor Department.

According to a recent survey by Bankrate, nearly 40% of all Americans now have a side hustle. Of course, a side hustle can be almost anything, be it the full-time employee who drives for Lyft after work, or the stay-at-home mom who sells her art on Etsy, or the musician who teaches piano between gigs. But whatever the case, the advent of the gig economy means that these side hustles are not unusual. In fact, they are usually lucrative. According to Bankrate, the average side hustler earns about $8,000 a year.

The global market for smartphones is shrinking, and two of its biggest players are hurting badly. Apple and Samsung have both warned of slumping sales in the last quarter of 2018. Samsung’s South Korean competitor LG warned of an 80% drop in operating profit in the same period compared to the previous year. The industry declined around 1% in 2018, according to preliminary forecasts by tech consultancies Canalys and Counterpoint Research. That’s the first annual decline for the smartphone market ever. IDC, another research firm, has forecast that the drop will be as steep as 3%.The main drag has come from the world’s biggest smartphone market, China, where sales have been falling for almost two years. due to a slowing economy, a weaker currency and a long-drawn out trade battle with the United States.

Middle East

After years of advocacy work and 18 months of governmental research, Israel says it is ready to demand compensation for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced out of seven Arab countries and Iran following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. “The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms” in those countries, and “to restore to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property what is rightfully theirs,” said Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the government’s handling of the issue. Israel is set to seek $250 billion in compensation from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Iran. Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries fled or were expelled in 1948 and later, while violent riots left many Jews dead or injured.

During a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, the Israeli leader raised the issue of the United States’ recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Netanyahu said, “When you’re there, you’ll be able to understand perfectly why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights, and why it’s important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” Israel captured the area after Syria and three other Arab nations attacked the Jewish state in 1967’s Six Day War. Israel defeated the Arab forces and gained control of the Golan, in addition to all of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. The international community has been reticent to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the strategically crucial territory.

Israeli Air Force fighter jets and an attack helicopter struck a number of terror targets at a Hamas military camp in the north of the Gaza Strip last Sunday night. The air attack was in retaliation for a missile that was launched earlier that evening from Hamas territory toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system. The Hamas missile launch may have been in retaliation an attack by Israeli military choppers on two Hamas positions east of the city of Khan Younis earlier Sunday evening in response to an improvised explosive device (IED) tied to a cluster of balloons that terrorists launched from Gaza into Israel.

Syria

President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, rolled back on Sunday Trump’s decision to rapidly withdraw from Syria, laying out conditions for a pullout that could leave American forces there for months or even years. Bolton, making a visit to Israel, told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States. He and other top White House advisers have led a behind-the-scenes effort to slow Mr. Trump’s order and reassure allies, including Israel. However, the first U.S. troops have begun to leave Syria, the New York Times reported Friday. The Pentagon is providing few details, except to say the U.S.-led coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal.”

Egypt

Christians in Egypt are celebrating the dedication of the Middle East’s largest church for Coptic Christians. The building is a gift to the Church from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He commissioned the cathedral in 2017 as part of a new capital being built outside of Cairo. He said the new church should be considered “a message of peace and love to the world.” Joel Rosenberg, who led a delegation of evangelicals to the dedication ceremony, said, “I really think it’s a game changer that a Sunni Arab Muslim President of the world’s largest Arab country has built a church, the largest in the Middle East and given it as a gift to the Christians of Egypt. We’ve never seen anything like it in history. And I think President Sisi is sending a message not just to his own people but to all Muslims that Muslims and Christians can live together in coexistence. That’s an extraordinary development.”

United Kingdom

More Britons want to remain a member of the European Union than leave, according to a survey published on Sunday which also showed voters want to make the final decision themselves. Britain is due leave the EU on March 29, but Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to get her exit deal approved by parliament, opening up huge uncertainty over whether a deal is possible, or even whether the country will leave at all. The survey by polling firm YouGov showed that if a referendum were held immediately, 46 percent would vote to remain, 39 percent would vote to leave, and the rest either did not know, would not vote, or refused to answer the question.

China

Two Huawei executives have been arrested in Poland on charges of spying for China. Poland’s counterintelligence service confirmed on Friday that a Chinese citizen suspected of spying had been arrested. Polish state media identified the suspect as Huawei’s sales director in the country. Huawei is one of China’s leading tech companies. It sells more smartphones than Apple and builds advanced telecommunications networks in countries around the world. Huawei is viewed by U.S. government officials as a national security risk which has been dodging the sanctions on Iran and embedding spyware into its telecommunications products. Other countries have concerns too: Huawei has been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand. The company has attracted greater scrutiny following the arrest of its chief financial officer last month in Canada.

Congo

The Congo’s Catholic Church has rejected the results of the Central African nation’s presidential election, saying they don’t match the data collected by its observers. There was widespread surprise Thursday after the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission announced that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had won the presidency. The Catholic group known as the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, said it had deployed more than 40,000 observers to all polling centers across the country. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the election results did not match what was witnessed during the vote count. The results came after nearly two weeks of speculation and reports of irregularities in the December 30 vote. If deemed legitimate, it would be the country’s first democratic transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Environment

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to new research — a jarring increase fueled by a booming economy still largely dependent on fossil fuels. Even with the closing of several coal plants, it’s the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimates published Tuesday. The surge comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. The new research indicates that U.S. power-sector emissions rose by 1.9%. and that the transportation sector “held its title as the largest source of U.S. emissions for the third year running,” due to a growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offsetting a modest decline in gasoline use.

Each year, monarchs in the western United States migrate from inland areas to California’s coastline to spend the winter The number of monarch butterflies turning up at California’s wintering sites has dropped by about 86% compared to only a year ago, according to the Xerces Society, which organizes a yearly count of the iconic creatures. That’s bad news for a species whose numbers have already declined an estimated 97 percent since the 1980s. The count so far shows that the number of monarchs at 97 sites has dropped from around 148,000 in 2017 to just over 20,400 this year. What’s causing the dramatic drop-off is a mystery.

Weather

A sprawling winter storm is spreading snow along a 1,500-mile path from Denver to New York City. It will crank up on Friday and should last until at least late Sunday before it peters out. Other big cities in the path of the storm include Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington and Baltimore. St. Louis should see the most snow from the storm, with as much as 8 inches likely. Snow should start there on Friday morning, potentially leading to commuting issues. For many areas, this will be a long-duration winter storm event that lasts more than 12 hours and perhaps as much as 48 hours in some cases, AccuWeather said.

The threat of avalanches kept communities in the northern Alps on edge after a series of storms pummeled Central, Eastern and Northern Europe with heavy snow, killing at least 16. The latest storm left several dead over the weekend and trapped hundreds of tourists in alpine villages. Travel in the region has been crippled by the heavy snowfall, with numerous train connections halted and hundreds of flights canceled. Many roadways, including major highways, are closed because of the treacherous conditions. Some ski resorts have reported up to 7 feet of snow in higher elevations, forcing some resorts to close. Several people were injured Thursday after an avalanche triggered by heavy snow accumulation struck a hotel in northeastern Switzerland.

The series of storms started with a powerhouse tempest sweeping in from the North Atlantic into Scandinavia and northern Europe as the new year arrived. Strong onshore winds drove water levels up to 6 feet above normal Germany. Water levels in some parts of Denmark were the highest in two decades. The system then took a sharp nosedive into eastern Europe, driving moist cold air into the higher elevations and pouring out prolific mountain snow over parts of the Alps and other mountain ranges of eastern and southern Europe. Several feet of snow buried parts of southern Poland. Residents of some Italian villages resorted to digging narrow alleys to get through city streets. Heavy snow also triggered travel headaches in Greece. Snow in Istanbul, Turkey, delayed flights Friday and Monday. Much heavier snow fell over mountain locations of central and eastern Turkey. Heavy snow stranded motorists in the higher elevations of Lebanon Sunday and Monday.

 

Signs of the Times

January 5, 2019

­Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

Abortions Leading Cause of Death in the World

More people died from abortions in 2018 than any other cause of death in the world. According to LifeNews, data compiled by Worldometers reveal that approximately 42 million abortions occurred around the world last year, making it the leading cause of death. Deaths from abortion exceeded those from cancer, HIV/Aids, suicide, and car accidents. Those 42 million abortion deaths are not included in the total death count worldwide, which was 59 million. In the United States, abortion rates have been declining for several years but it is still one of the leading causes of death in the US. An estimated 1 million babies are aborted each year in the US.

First Bill Passed by New Congress Restores Funding to Planned Parenthood

In a vote late Thursday night, House Democrats passed a bill attempting to end the partial government shutdown that also funds the Planned Parenthood abortion giant. The vote on the bill came just hours after Democrats took over the House and installed abortion activist Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Democrats want to restore the $100 million President Donald Trump took away from Planned Parenthood when he defunded its International arm during his first week in office. The Trump policy prohibits taxpayer funding to international groups that promote and/or provide abortions overseas. The House voted 241 to 190 for the bill with all Democrats voting for it and all but 7 Republicans voting against it.

Parents Pull Kids from Boy Scouts, Choose Faith-Based Organizations

More and more Christian parents are pulling their kids from the Boy Scouts of America in exchange for a faith-based organization, CBN News reports. Many Christian parents who do not agree with the new secular policies of BSA are pulling their kids out of the century-old scouting organization and opting for Trail Life USA, a faith-based alternative. Since the BSA policy change in 2015 that allowed gay adults to lead boy scout troops and the 2017 decision to allow girls and transgender boys to join troops, many Christian parents have moved away from the organization that once emphasized the importance of a nuclear family. According to World, Trail Life, which was founded in 2014, has seen significant growth since these decisions were made. The outlet reports that the organization now has over 27,000 members and around 800 troops across all 50 states, while CBS News says the Boy Scouts have lost 425,000 members.

1.5 Million Inactive Voters Still on California’s Rolls

Judicial Watch announced Wednesday that it has signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and County of Los Angeles under which they will begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names that may be invalid. These removals are required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA is a federal law requiring the removal of inactive registrations from the voter rolls after two general federal elections (encompassing from 2 to 4 years). Inactive voter registrations belong, for the most part, to voters who have moved to another county or state or have passed away. In its lawsuit, Judicial Watch alleged that Los Angeles County has more voter registrations on its voter rolls than it has citizens who are old enough to register and eleven of California’s 58 counties have registration rates exceeding 100 percent of the age-eligible citizenry.

Border Patrol Reports Rampant Migrant Illness

Hundreds of migrants and their children seeking to enter the U.S. from Mexico are arriving with illnesses, forcing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seek additional medical assistance and boost medical screenings, the agency disclosed Monday. Between Dec. 22 and Sunday, the agency reported 451 cases referred to doctors or other providers, including 259 children. Among the children, half of the cases involved kids under the age of 5. The ill migrants have been arriving with all kinds of ailments, many with flu or pneumonia that can be particularly pervasive and dangerous this time of year. Seventeen migrants have been hospitalized, including six children, according to the agency. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement last week that the Border Patrol has detailed 139,817 migrants on the Southwest border in the past two months. That compares to 74,946 for the same period last year. These include 68,510 family members and 13,981 unaccompanied children.

U.S. Fires Tear Gas at Migrants on Border

The new year brought continued tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana as U.S. authorities fired tear gas at a ‘violent mob’ of illegal immigrants from the Central American caravan who attempted to climb over and burrow under a section of border fence. Authorities fired tear gas into Mexico to keep roughly 150 migrants from breaching the border fence. The tear gas affected the migrants, including women and children, as well as members of the press. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement that the gas was aimed at rock throwers on the Mexican side who prevented agents from helping children being passed over the concertina wire. The agency says 25 migrants were detained. Such clashes have been common as the migrants, who have put their names on a waiting list that is thousands of names long, have grown restless, with some opting to try and force their way across the border. A new caravan of migrants, estimated at up to 15,000 people, is set to depart from Honduras in mid-January a few months after the previous caravan, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Mexican President Proposes Plan to Reduce Migration to U.S.

In a bid to reduce migration to the U.S. and attract investment, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed the creation of economic “free zones” along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Tax Incentive Decree for the Northern Border Region, which Lopez Obrador announced Saturday, would create a free zone that would stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Coast and be more than 15 miles wide. Inside the zone, income taxes would be reduced by a third and Value Added Taxes on imported goods would be slashed in half, the minimum wage would increase 100 percent, and fuel prices would equal U.S. prices. “It’s going to be the biggest free zone in the world,” Obrador said. “It is a very important project for winning investment, creating jobs and taking advantage of the economic strength of the United States.” Proponents of the president’s “free zone” plan believe it would reduce the incentive for Mexicans to migrate to the U.S. and increase competition among local businesses.

Judges Back Trump on Transgenders in Military

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld President Trump’s order barring military service for people with gender dysphoria. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington overturned a lower court’s decision to block Trump’s partial ban on “transgenders” in the military. “In light of the substantial constitutional arguments and the apparent showing that the policy accommodates at least some of plaintiffs’ interests, we think that the public interest weighs in favor of dissolving the injunction,” the ruling said. “This is a victory for our servicemembers who are tasked with defending America because it allows our military to focus their mission on fighting and winning wars rather than social engineering,” said retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council. “The Constitution very clearly delegates to the commander-in-chief the job of running the military – not the courts,” he said.

Senate Approves 77 Trump Nominations in End-of-Congress Deal

The Senate approved 77 Trump nominations in an end-of-Congress deal Wednesday night, filling out the ranks of federal prosecutors, ambassadors, the White House science adviser and the post of anti-drug czar — but no new judges. The deal came on the final day of the 115th Congress, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, standing alone on the chamber floor, reading out the nomination numbers then confirming them by voice vote. The move caps what’s been an extraordinary two years of both unprecedented action and obstruction, and presages battles still to come over the next two years. First up will be a decision on some 300 or so nominations that still languish, including more than 85 judicial picks that never saw final action. Under normal rules, all of those expired at the end of the old Congress on Thursday, marking a victory for liberal activists who’d warned Democratic leaders against any en-masse approvals. Trump can re-nominate them in the new Congress, where many will again face Democratic delays.

Partial Government Shutdown Beginning to Cause Harm

In addition to the 420,000 federal workers furloughed without pay, the partial government shutdown has begun hurting other groups as well. The shutdown has begun to wreak havoc on U.S. agriculture and the rural economy as farmers wait on subsidy payments, loans and data they need now to make plans for the spring. Farmers say the timing could hardly be worse as they’ve already been hit with fallen commodity prices and the loss of foreign markets in President Donald Trump’s trade wars. Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans will face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy. The partial shutdown has cut off new funding to the Treasury Department and the USDA, leaving them largely unstaffed and crippling both departments’ ability to fulfill core functions. During the shutdown, the USDA office that administers food stamps has sent home 95 percent of its employees without pay.

Bad Behavior Inflicts Toll on National Parks During Shutdown

Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the West’s iconic national parks, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty. The partial federal government shutdown has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees. This has left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep parks running. Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs. At the superintendent’s discretion, parks may close grounds/areas with sensitive natural, cultural, historic, or archaeological resources vulnerable to destruction, looting, or other damage that cannot be adequately protected by the excepted law enforcement staff that remain on duty, the NPS said in a statement. Three people have already died in the National Parks this week.

Reckless Behavior of Big Pharma Drowning U.S. with Opioids

In just 10 months, the sixth-largest company in America shipped more than 3 million prescription opioids — nearly 10,000 pills a day on average — to a single pharmacy in a Southern West Virginia town with only 400 residents, according to a congressional report released Wednesday. McKesson Corp. supplied “massive quantities” of the painkiller hydrocodone to the now-shuttered Sav-Rite Pharmacy in Kermit, even after an employee at the company’s Ohio drug warehouse flagged the suspect pill orders in 2007, the report found. That year, McKesson — ranked 6th in the Fortune 500 — reviewed its customers, including Sav-Rite, and reported to the Drug Enforcement Administration that the purchases were “reasonable,” according to the report. West Virginia is right now at the heart of the horrific opioid crisis that is sweeping the nation.

Meth, Cocaine Overdoses Rise as Cartels Sidestep Opioid Crackdown

A relatively new trend is the rise and availability of meth and cocaine across the U.S. The development is, in part, an outgrowth of the crackdown on opioids in the U.S., and the result of drug cartels finding other drugs to foist on Americans. The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, released last fall, noted the rise of more potent forms of meth and cocaine in the United States. And the drugs are being smuggled into the country., the report noted, mainly by Mexicans, through the U.S.-Mexico border. Colombia is once again a major player as a source country for narcotics – particularly cocaine – in the U.S. A peace process between the Colombian government and rebels had the unintended result of spawning more land use for the production of coca leaf, as the previous president stopped aerial fumigation meant to destroy coca crops. Farmers then switched to coca in the hope of qualifying for a government offer to compensate those who were growing the crop. Particularly worrisome in recent years has been the mixture in many overdose cases of cocaine and illicit fentanyl, authorities say. The same is happening with meth.

ER’s Overwhelmed by Mentally Ill Patients

A “huge and largely unreported problem” is happening in hospital Emergency Rooms across the nation. The extent to which ERs are now flooded with patients with mental illness is unprecedented,” said Dr. David R. Rubinow, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine at University of North Carolina. A 2017 government report found that the overall number of emergency department visits increased nearly 15% from 2006 to 2014, yet ER visits by patients with mental or substance use disorders increased about 44% in the same period. Dr. Catherine A. Marco, from her vantage point as an emergency physician professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, said, “we commonly see depression, anxiety, substance-related conditions and suicidal behavior.” “There are very real spillover effects from this phenomenon, which affects not only our ability to care for these patients with psychiatric needs but all patients seeking care in the ER,” said Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, an attending physician at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. In addition to longer wait times for everyone, “spillover effects” include dissatisfied mental health patients and an increase in potential violence in the ER.

  • As America becomes more and more godless, mental illness will continue to increase because sanity depends upon living in truth, not in denial.

Hospitals’ Secret Price List a Secret No More

Hospitals across the country rang in the New Year with a federal mandate to reveal their once-secret master price lists, although it’s unclear whether the new requirement will assist many patients or contain ever-rising health care costs. Starting Jan. 1, hospitals must publish online the starting price tags for every service or procedure. These detailed lists, known as chargemasters, include thousands of entries. The 2010 Affordable Care Act required hospitals to make these lists available to the public, but until this week, hospitals were not required to publish them. The new mandate marks an effort by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to improve price transparency in health care. However, the prices are typically starting points for payment negotiations between hospitals and insurance companies and have little connection to what most patients actually pay.

Economic News

Easing fears of a recession, the labor market bounced back resoundingly in December as employers added 312,000 jobs amid stock market turmoil and increasing worker shortages. The unemployment rate rose from a 50-year low of 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent as an additional 419,000 Americans began working or looking for jobs, many of them drawn in to the labor force by a strong job market, the, the Labor Department said Friday. Also encouraging: job increases for October and November were revised up by a total 58,000. Average hourly earnings rose 11 cents, or 0.4 percent, in December after gaining 0.2 percent in November. That lifted the annual increase in wages to 3.2 percent, matching October’s gain, from 3.1 percent in November. “Despite recent stock market volatility, the underlying economy is strong and growing,” says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of Glassdoor, the giant job-posting site.

2018 was the worst year for stocks in a decade. Not since the last financial crisis of 2008, have we had a year like this, and many believe that 2019 will be even worse. Some analysts say that stocks are still tremendously overvalued. December was the worst month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500  since 1931, according to the Dow Jones Market Data Group. The S&P 500, the broadest measure of stocks, lost 9 percent and the Dow over 8.5 percent. American billionaires saw the biggest loss this year, collectively dropping $76 billion. Mark Zuckerberg saw the sharpest drop in 2018 as his Facebook Inc. veered from crisis to crisis. His net worth fell nearly $20 billion, leaving the 34-year-old with just a $53 billion fortune.

Most economists expect slower growth in 2019, but the big question is whether that will morph into a full-blown recession — or if the Federal Reserve can successfully guide the US economy into a “soft landing,” in which the economy slows but doesn’t shift into reverse. Home sales and residential investment have started to sag over the past couple of quarters. The rising federal deficits, about to crack $1 trillion for the first time, can result in higher interest rates, as the Treasury has to pay more to sell the bonds needed to fund the government. Rising corporate debt can have a similar impact on rates.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday the central bank “will be patient” as it weighs future interest rate hikes in light of low inflation, adding that policymakers will also take into account recent stock market volatility. Stocks soared further as Powell seemed to deliberately convey a more cautious approach to rate hikes this year than he did during a news conference last month after the Fed raised rates for a fourth time in 2018.

Months after unveiling two new iPhones in time for the holiday season, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a note to investors that the company had lowered its revenue guidance, saying Apple “did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deterioration” in markets including greater China. The warning adds to investor fears that the global economy is in the midst of a significant slowdown and may lead to more selling in the stock markets

United Kingdom

With the U.K. facing a fresh migrant crisis at its borders, the British government is questioning whether the asylum seekers making the trek across the English Channel are “genuine” — noting they are making the trip from France. The U.K. has been hit by a wave of migrants in small, inflatable boats making their way across the channel between France and the south of England. The U.K. Telegraph reported more than 100 migrants have either made it to the U.K., or have been intercepted at sea since Christmas Eve. The Home Office’s National Crime Agency said in a statement it anticipates further attempts in future weeks, and it is working with French authorities to crack down on those organizing the boats. On Wednesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid expressed doubt to Sky News that those making the trips were genuine asylum seekers since they came from France — a safe country. Those in support of more open border policies argue countries have an obligation to give shelter to migrants fleeing persecution. But those who call for stricter policies argue that an asylum seeker is only such until they reach a safe country.

  • Similarly, the Central American caravan storming the U.S. border have already reached a ‘safe’ country away from the persecution they faced in their home country

North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with President Donald Trump into 2019, but also warns Washington not to test North Koreans’ patience with sanctions and pressure. During his televised New Year’s speech, Kim said he’s ready to meet with Trump at any time to produce an outcome “welcomed by the international community.” However, he said the North will be forced to take a different path if the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.” Kim also said the United States should continue to halt its joint military exercises with ally South Korea and not deploy strategic military assets to the South. He also made a nationalistic call urging for stronger inter-Korean cooperation.

Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday against launching three spacecraft in the coming months, describing them as a cover for testing technology that is necessary to lob a warhead at the United States and other nations. His statement seemed intended to build a legal case for diplomatic, military or covert action against the Iranian missile program. It was surprising only because Iran has been launching modest space missions, mostly to deploy satellites, since 2005. The U.S. has also said that North Korea has provided technical assistance to Iran’s ballistic missile and space rocket program.

Germany

Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) has threatened to create its own street patrols to protect residents after the past week saw an outbreak of ethnic violence. Last Saturday, four Muslim asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran allegedly assaulted Germans in Amberg, a town the southern state of Bavaria. According to police, the four teenagers, under the influence of alcohol, harassed and beat 12 passers-by. The NPD claims police are not doing enough to stop crime. The NPD is a small, fringe group without representation in state parliaments or the Bundestag. It has been branded racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist by German intelligence. Germany’s 16 states have called for a ban on the NPD, but the country’s Constitutional Court rejected such a ban.

China

China’s burgeoning space program achieved a first on Thursday: a landing on the so-called dark side of the moon. Three nations – the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China – have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, which faces Earth, but this is the first-ever landing on the far side. The landing of the Chang 4 highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement the nation’s position as a regional and global power. In 2013, Chang 3, the predecessor craft to the current mission, made the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too. For now, it plans to send its Chang 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples – also not done since the Soviet mission in 1976.

India

Two women in India became the first to enter a Hindu temple after the country’s supreme court lifted a centuries-old ban. The two women, ages 42 and 44, entered the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism, accompanied by police officers. Since the ruling, conservative demonstrators have protested near the temple, preventing women from entering. “We had issued standing orders to police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. There were no reports of violence.

Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has reached a grim new milestone in the Ebola outbreak that began August 1, 2018. The total number of probable patients is 608 as of Wednesday, with 368 deaths, the Ministry of Health said. An additional 29 people who doctors suspect may be sick with Ebola are under investigation. The ministry also reported that 207 people have recovered from the life-threatening illness. The outbreak is the second-deadliest and second-largest in history, topped only by one in West Africa in 2014, when the disease killed more than 11,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Mexico

A local mayor in Mexico was gunned down on his first day of office on New Year’s Day in the southern state of Oaxaca. Tlaxiaco Mayor Alejandro Aparicio Santiago was walking to his first official meeting at city hall shortly after taking office, when a group of gunmen opened fire. Four others were wounded in the attack. Between September 2017 and August 2018, 175 politicians were killed in Mexico, NPR reported. Most such executions are committed by drug cartels against politicians who seek to limit their power.

Weather

The amount of sea ice around Antarctica has melted to a record low for January, scientists announced this week. As of January 1, there was 2.11 million square miles of sea ice around the continent, the smallest January area since records began in 1978. Specifically, the area of sea ice around Antarctica on Jan. 1 was 11,600 square miles below the previous record low for that date, set in 2017. It was 726,000 square miles below average – an area roughly twice the size of the state of Texas.

Over two dozen cities in the East and Midwest had their wettest year on record in 2018, stretching from North Carolina to South Dakota. Reagan National Airport’s year-to-date precipitation total eclipsed the previous record-wet year in the nation’s capital, which had stood for 129 years. Baltimore’s BWI Airport topped its previous record-wet year – 62.66 inches in 2003 – in mid-November and crushed that record by over 9 inches. Other yearly precipitation records were set in Pittsburgh (57.83 inches), Charleston, West Virginia (67.05 inches), Louisville, Kentucky (68.83 inches), and Columbus, Ohio (55.18 inches). Not surprisingly, the mid-Atlantic states saw a record number of flood events in 2018.

Winter Storm Fisher released its grip on the Southwest and Southern Plains late Thursday after causing hundreds of crashes, including a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma and wrecks that killed at least six people in New Mexico and Oklahoma. Road conditions remained difficult Friday morning. Before arriving in Oklahoma and Texas, the system brought snow to parts of the Arizona and New Mexico desert. Snow blanketed Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona (a rare occurrence) as well as the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.

Tropical Storm Pabuk made a rare landfall in southern Thailand Friday, bringing heavy rain, storm surge flooding and winds to the Malay Peninsula’s tourist resorts and coastal villages. The storm made landfall just after midday Friday at Pak Phanang along the Gulf of Thailand coast of the Malay Peninsula about 370 miles south of country’s capital, Bangkok. Torrential downpours leading to flash flooding, waves from 10 to 16 feet along the Gulf of Thailand coast and damaging winds battered the Malay coast.