Archive for May, 2019

Signs of the Times

May 31, 2019

­­Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:31-32, 36)

200 ex-LGBTs Rally to Proclaim the Freedom They’ve Found in Jesus

Ex-homosexual and ex-transgender men and women from around the country gathered in the Nation’s Capital last weekend for the Second Annual “Freedom March” where they proclaimed the freedom they’ve found in abandoning homosexual and transgender practices. “Look at this! This is Amazing! They say we don’t exist!” declared author and documentary producer M.J. Nixon, a Freedom March co-founder. Former transwoman Jeffrey McCall kicked off the rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument, explaining that nobody here was forced to change: “It was the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ that fell on all of us.” One testimony after another from the racially diverse group of mostly millennials spoke about their personal conversion to Jesus and the freedom they have found from lives dominated by active homosexuality or gender dysphoria.

Religious, Conservative Wives are Happiest Notes New York Times

Last weekend, the New York Times caused an uproar of anger on social media after they published an op-ed article that claimed the happiest American wives identify as religious conservatives. “It turns out that the happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives, followed by their religious progressive counterparts,” the New York Times Opinion wrote in a tweet. The study was conducted by three professors, W. Bradford Wilcox professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, Jason S. Carroll a professor of marriage and family studies at Brigham Young University, and Laurie DeRose an adjunct lecturer in the sociology department at Georgetown University. The report found that 73% of wives “who hold conservative gender values and attend religious services regularly with their husbands have high-quality marriages.” On the other hand, only 55% of secular progressive wives in the United States say that they have high-quality marriages. The report also found that women in “highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.”

Abortion Is a ‘Disturbingly Effective Tool’ for Eugenics, Justice Thomas Warns

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas cited lessons from the history of the American eugenics movement Tuesday in warning that abortion can be a “tool” to eliminate entire segments of the population.  “A growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion,” Thomas wrote. Thomas cited the widespread use of abortion of female babies in Asia, the worldwide use of abortion of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, and the abortion ratio within the American black population compared to that of the white population. The reported nationwide abortion ratio – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births – among black women is nearly 3.5 times the ratio for white women,” he wrote. “With today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, Indeed, the individualized nature of abortion gives it even more eugenic potential than birth control, which simply reduces the chance of conceiving any child.”

Louisiana Passes Heartbeat Abortion Bill

A bill banning abortions in Louisiana once a fetal heartbeat is detected secured final passage in the Legislature here Wednesday just days after a federal judge blocked a similar law in Mississippi. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill Thursday, making Louisiana the fourth state to enact laws banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally considered about six weeks. Current Louisiana law prevents abortions after 20 weeks. Edwards said he expects the fetal heartbeat law to be challenged in court. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio are the other states that have approved a fetal heartbeat abortion law, while this spring Alabama passed a law that bans almost all abortions. Missouri’s governor signed a bill banning abortion after eight weeks.

Supreme Court Allows Block on Indiana Abortion Restriction to Stand

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that a provision of an Indiana law which said the state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by race, sex or disability should remain blocked. The court, however, did say it would allow part of the law that requires clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains to take effect. The fact that the court decided not to take up the more controversial provision of the Indiana law suggests that there is not a current appetite on the court to move aggressively to question the court’s core abortion precedents of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. The law was signed in March 2016 by then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It was blocked last year from going into effect by the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last Abortion Clinic in Missouri Receives Temporary Reprieve

The license for the last abortion clinic in Missouri was set to expire on Friday until Judge Michael Selzer issued a last minute restraining order preventing the facility license of the troubled Planned Parenthood abortion facility in St. Louis from expiring. Judge Selzer ruled that Reproductive Health Services Planned Parenthood may remain licensed and operating until June 4, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. when he will hear arguments in Planned Parenthood’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Planned Parenthood sued the state Department of Health and Senior Services earlier this week, accusing it of unlawfully refusing to renew the St. Louis clinic’s license, over demands to interview physicians for the investigation. Missouri Governor Mike Parson defended the investigation into the facility and urged the judge not to intervene. If the license is allowed to lapse, Missouri would become the only state in the country without a licensed abortion provider.

Supreme Court Leaves Transgender Student Bathroom Policy in Place

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling in favor of a Pennsylvania school district policy that allows some transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. The plaintiffs were students who say the policy violates their privacy rights and constitutes sexual harassment in violation of Title IX, a federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds. In court papers, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that “forcing a teenager to share a locker room or restroom with a member of the opposite sex can cause embarrassment and distress.” Lawyers for the school district say that they made the decision to allow transgender students to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity because the district “Believes that transgender students should have the right to use school bathroom and locker facilities on the same basis as non-transgender students.”

Federal judge Blocks the Use of Defense Funds for Border Wall

A federal judge blocked President Trump from tapping into Defense Department funds to build parts of his U.S.-Mexico border wall. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California blocked the administration from moving forward with specific projects in Texas and Arizona, saying Trump couldn’t disburse the funds without congressional approval. The lawsuit that prompted the ruling was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. Construction on the projects affected by the ruling Would have begun this past week, according to the ruling. The ruling does not prevent the Trump administration from using funds from other sources to build the projects. “The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” wrote Judge Gilliam, a Barack Obama appointee.

Private Group Begins Construction of Border Wall

A group that raised millions of dollars in a GoFundMe campaign says it has broken ground on a project to build its own stretch of border wall on private property. We Build the Wall, a group founded by a triple amputee Air Force veteran, said in a series of social media posts Monday it had started construction on private property in New Mexico. A half-mile stretch of wall on the site is nearly finished, Kobach said, costing an estimated $6 million to $8 million to build. The new stretch of private wall will connect two 21-mile sections of existing fencing. “Border Patrol told us it’s the No. 1 most important mile to close. The tough terrain always left it off the government list,” advisor Steve Bannon said. The Democratic mayor of Sunland Park, the New Mexico town in which the property is located, issued a cease-and-desist order Tuesday telling the private group building a half-mile of border wall to stop construction, saying the wall’s 18-foot height violates a city ordinance on the size of fencing, which can only be a maximum of 6 feet high. However, the city approved permits Thursday to continue building the wall.

Record Number of Migrants Arrested at Border Wednesday

Border Patrol set a record early Wednesday morning, apprehending 1,036 migrants attempting to illegally cross the southern U.S. border near El Paso, Texas, snapping the previous high of 424 set last month, NBC News reported. A majority of the migrants were coming from Central America’s Northern Triangle – El Salvador (76), Guatemala (515), and Honduras (135) – and traveling in the largest group ever apprehended. Families comprised 934 of the people, while 63 children and 39 single adults traveled alone, per NBC News, citing two U.S. officials and a document it had obtained. As Congress struggles to act on immigration and President Trump builds the wall through national emergency funding re-appropriated from Defense budgets, large-scale migration has continued to grow. March and April reported over 100,000 undocumented immigrants, illegally and legally crossing the border – the highest total in 12 years – and a DHS official expects that number to exceed 120,000 in May.

Migrant Children Being Held Too Long

Many of the nearly 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children who are being held in Border Patrol facilities have been there beyond legally allowed time limits, including some who are 12 or younger, according to new government data obtained by The Washington Post. Some unaccompanied children are spending longer than a week in Border Patrol custody despite federal law and court orders that require transferring children to more-hospitable shelters no longer than 72 hours after they are taken into custody. One government official said about half of the children — 1,000 — already have been in custody for longer than the allowed maximum, and another official said that more than 250 children 12 or younger have been in custody for an average of more than six days.

Youths Represent Much Higher Proportion of Migrants

Nearly 169,000 youths have surrendered at the southern border in the first seven months of this fiscal year, and more than half are ages 12 and under, according to federal records and officials familiar with Customs and Border Protection statistics. Minors now account for nearly 37 percent of all crossings — far above previous eras, when most underage migrants were teenagers and accounted for 10 percent to 20 percent of all crossings. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything near this,” said John Sandweg, an acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Obama administration. Migrants say they are coming to the United States because droughts are frying Central American harvests, they can’t pay their bills, and gangs are recruiting children. Families are increasingly heading to the desert dunes of Arizona’s southwest corner because they sense the U.S. government’s focus is on the Texas border along the Rio Grande and because Arizona has less space for detention beds, meaning they are more likely to be released quickly.

Guatemalan Migrant Smuggling Operation Busted

Homeland Security agents and Guatemalan authorities busted a significant smuggling organization Wednesday, arresting nine people who were involved in transporting thousands of illegal immigrants from across the globe through Latin America and into the U.S. The bust was the first fruit of a new cooperation agreement signed this week between the U.S. and Guatemala, authorizing the two countries to pool information and resources to go after the smugglers who are fueling the illegal immigrant surge. The organization had assets of $10 million, and facilitated smuggling of people from Guatemala, elsewhere in Central America and South America, and even from terrorist-connected countries such as Somalia and Pakistan.

Measles Outbreak Continues to Spread

This year’s U.S. measles epidemic has now surpassed a 25-year-old record, and experts say it’s not clear when the wave of illnesses will stop. U.S. health officials on Thursday reported 971 cases so far this year. That eclipses the 963 measles illnesses reported for all of 1994. Measles was once common in the U.S. but gradually became rare after vaccination campaigns were started in the 1960s. The vast majority of this year’s cases have been in New York City. But measles has also been reported in at least 26 states.

Toxic Parents Causing Drop in Youth Sports Participation

Youth sports have long been seen as a right of passage in American childhood – from Little League baseball to Pop Warner football – but participation levels are dropping nationwide because kids say it’s no longer fun for them. The culprit? A pressure cooker environment created by overly invested parents, according to health professionals and many youth sports organizations, reports Fox News. The out-of-control behavior of some parents, both on the sidelines and in the home, is fostering a culture that emphasizes winning and perfectionism over physical activity and enjoyment – one that experts say is toxic for children.

Economic News

U.S. home prices rose just 3.7% in March, the lowest growth rate in roughly seven years, according to the latest S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index. Las Vegas experienced the highest level of year-over-year growth at 8.2%, followed by Phoenix at 6.1% and Tampa at 5.3%.Cities along the Pacific Ocean were the hardest hit. Home prices in Seattle fell 11.4%, San Francisco slid 9.9% and Los Angeles fell 6.7%.

America’s population is aging and Millennials are having fewer kids than older generations did. That poses a risk to the U.S. economy. Home-building and auto sales will not be the boom industries that they typically have been in a strong economy. Investors need to prepare for earnings growth to slow, bond yields to keep falling and for returns in general to be lower. There will be an ever-increasing proliferation of AI and robotics in the economy to compensate for a lack of workers, experts say.

Medical debt contributes to two-thirds of all bankruptcies, according to the American Journal of Public Health. And a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times poll showed that of the 26% of people who reported problems paying medical bills, 59% reported a major life impact, such as taking an extra job, cutting other household spending or using up savings. Eighteen churches in the U.S. have been able to pay off $34.4 million of medical debt since the start of 2018.

All across America, U.S. farmland is being gobbled up by foreign interests. Today, nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors, reports NPR. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities. So, when we refer to “the heartland of America”, the truth is that vast stretches of that “heartland” are now owned by foreigners, and most Americans have no idea that this is happening.  These days, a lot of people are warning about the “globalization” of the world economy, but in reality, our own soil is rapidly being “globalized”.

Every American auto factory depends on Mexican parts to build its cars or trucks. That’s why President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican imports of up to 25% by October is rattling the US auto industry and driving down the stock market. The tariffs could raise costs in the United States by tens of billions of dollars in the auto industry alone. The tariffs are meant to force Mexico to mitigate the flow of illegal immigrants across Mexico to the U.S.

Reports of Chinese threats to escalate its trade dispute with the Trump administration to include rare earth minerals has, once again, shined a spotlight on U.S. dependency on China for elements used in hundreds of hi-tech products and military equipment. America’s rare earth mineral dependence is a long-standing issue. Starting in the 1990s, China began ramping up its rare earth production, dumping tons of low-priced minerals on the global market and driving U.S. miners out of business. Now, U.S. rare earth mineral production is virtually non-existent and China controls roughly 90 percent of global trade. The U.S. gets about 80% of its rare earth minerals from China. Everything from smartphones to flat screen TVs to green energy to electric car batteries rely on a group of seventeen rare earth metals.

Britain

Britain’s embattled leader Theresa May resigned her premiership Friday, although she will stay on as caretaker prime minister for now. The resignation comes amid a barrage of criticism over her failed efforts to steer the nation out of the European Union in a manner acceptable to increasingly rebellious lawmakers. Her last official day as prime minister will be June 7, after which her Conservative Party will start a process to replace her that could take several weeks or more. She will play a caretaker role until the new leader is chosen. Britain elects a party, not a candidate, meaning that there will be no immediate change to the party that is in power.

North Korea

North Korea has executed five officials for their part in the failed second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a South Korean newspaper. Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the U.S., was executed by firing squad in March for being “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader”, according to the Chosun Ilbo. The paper also claimed that four other North Korean Foreign Ministry officials were executed that same month because of the breakdown of the February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, but did not provide details. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, told reporters in Berlin that he had seen the reports and the U.S. was “doing our best to check it out.”

Middle East

The self-rule Palestinian Authority (PA) has never developed into a state as envisioned under accords reached with Israel in the 1990’s, due in large part to Palestinian terror that forced Israeli governments to freeze the process. Nevertheless, PA officials continue to press various countries to recognize the PA as a state of Palestine. Even as the PA tries to sway countries from attending the U.S.-led economic conference in late June in Bahrain, which is aimed at increasing prosperity among Palestinian civilians, the Palestinian officials have also included a call to recognize the non-existent Palestine. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu had previously stated that he would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state, but has back-pedaled, stating that the PA leadership encourages terror and is not a peaceful partner.

Israel

Over 1,000 fires raged across Israel over the past week or so, and in at least some of the cases, arson-terrorism is suspected. Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed “incendiary balloons launched by Hamas” for fires near the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. Starting on Thursday, May 23rd, wildfires began spreading rapidly in numerous locations throughout Israel, destroying houses and land, and wiping out entire communities. The lush rains of the winter and spring brought forth a great harvest, yet the recent heat wave has completely dried out grasses and underbrush, making it susceptible to instant wildfires. Many communities and families were evacuated from their homes and villages due to the rapid spreading fires. The authorities are working hard to get the fires under control but strong winds and soaring temperatures are creating an atmosphere for the fires to spread even more rapidly. Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Egypt, Russia and other neighbors for helping battle Israel’s wildfires.

On Friday morning, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a brutal stabbing attack near Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City. A 50-year-old Israeli was in critical condition, while a second 18-year-old victim remains  in moderate condition. The 19-year-old suspect was shot and killed by security forces on the scene. The stabbing occurred just hours before weekly Friday prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits at the top of the Jewish Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslims are expected for prayers on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. Across the Middle East, rallies are set to take place Friday to mark Quds Day, an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan during which demonstrators call for the destruction of the State of Israel. On Sunday, Israel marks “Jerusalem Day,” when it celebrates the reunification of the Old City during the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself after Netanyahu failed to form a government ahead of a midnight deadline, despite his Likud party winning the largest number of seats in April 9 elections. The move prevents Israel’s president from being able to call on an alternative candidate to attempt to form a government. New elections have been scheduled for September 17th. Israel is in uncharted political terrain. Mr. Netanyahu is Israel’s first prime minister-elect to be unable to form a coalition after an election, and the first to force another one by dissolving a Parliament sworn in just a month previously. His aura of invincibility, formed over a decade in office, has been seriously dented.

Iran

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Muslim nations to confront recent attacks in the region that the U.S. and its allies have blamed on Iran with “all means of force and firmness.” Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments at a meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom beginning Thursday. Al-Assaf said the alleged sabotage of boats off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels require the region to “make more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups” sponsored by Iran. Iran has denied being involved in the attacks.

Iran will not negotiate with the United States over its nuclear and missile programs, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, after President Hassan Rouhani signaled talks with Washington might be possible if sanctions were lifted. Washington withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal signed with Tehran in 2015, and it is ratcheting up sanctions in efforts to shut down Iran’s economy by ending its international sales of crude oil. One month after the Trump administration said it would tighten its ban on Iran’s oil sales, the country’s direct crude buyers have all but vanished, traders and executives in the Islamic Republic say.

Saudi Arabia

The Trump administration will push through $8.1 billion in new weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies, arguing that “Iranian aggression” presents a national security emergency which gives the president authority to bypass congressional objections. The move prompted fierce criticism from Democrats and at least one high-ranking Republican. Pompeo further inflamed the debate by claiming that Congress had blocked the sales for more than a year – an assertion that sparked a viral outcry. Opposition to the arms transfers was bipartisan, as lawmakers expressed growing concerns about the Saudi regime’s conduct in the Yemen war and the state-sponsored killing of outspoken critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Syria

Airstrikes and fighting in Syria’s last rebel-held province have left a trail of damage visible from space. In satellite images from May 20 and May 26, swathes of fields in northwestern Idlib appear blackened, the neat lines of city streets and blocks become blurs of debris, and plumes of smoke dot the landscape. Escalating military operations in northwestern Idlib province are creating a “humanitarian disaster,” despite the international organizations’ efforts to provide aid, the United Nations warned on Tuesday. In recent weeks, violence there has lead to the death of 160 civilians, the displacement of 270,000 residents and attacks on healthcare facilities, schools and markets.

Japan

A man wielding two long-blade knives stabbed 17 schoolgirls and two adults Tuesday morning at a bus stop in a suburb southwest of Tokyo, according to the police. Five of the children who were stabbed, along with about 15 other students, ran to a convenience store less than 100 feet away to hide. One of the girls, an 11-year-old, and a 39-year-old man died in the assault, and the attacker fatally stabbed himself. It was a shocking event for a country where violent crime is rare and the kinds of mass shootings that have devastated schools across the United States have never occurred because of strict gun-control laws. Officials at Caritas, the Roman Catholic school in Kawasaki that the children attended, said they had received no warning and did not know the attacker.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s adoption of so-called 21stCentury Socialism, championed by the late Hugo Chavez, has led to one of the most stunning economic collapses in nearly a half-century. People are eating out of trashcans, hyperinflation has made mounds of money utter worthless, groceries are now a luxury due to short supplies and high costs. Venezuelans of all walks of life have resorted to prostitution in exchange for common goods. Even children have been forced into prostitution in order to buy groceries. Basic medicines are scarce. Hospitals are reportedly working in 19th-century conditions, with basic items like soap, being in short supply. Hungry citizens are breaking into zoos, slaughtering the animals for meat. Outside of war, there hasn’t been anything like Venezuela’s economic fall in modern history.

Latin America

The rising number of people being murdered across Latin America and the Caribbean is so high that the life expectancy in some of those countries is dropping, a new study reports. Unlike the rest of the world where homicide rates have generally dropped, statistics in some Latin America countries show that the murder rate has skyrocketed in recent years. So much so, that Latin America now accounts for about a third of the world’s homicides, according to a new study from the Australian National University. The study shows that more than 2 million people aged 15-19 (mostly males) in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) were killed between 2005 and 2015. The two most populated countries – Mexico and Brazil – account for the highest number of homicides in absolute numbers, however in El Salvador and Honduras in 2015 had a staggering rate of 109 and 64 homicides per 100,000 people, respectively. The study shows that Honduran males are the hardest hit, losing six years of life expectancy due to homicides when compared to developed countries. The study concludes that the LAC region is the most dangerous in the world.

Volcanoes

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) reported that the latest eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily began on the night of May 29. Starting off by producing a thick column of ash rising from the New Southeast Crater, it gave way on May 30 to a far more lava-heavy display in the area, featuring two fissures blenching out lava. This sort of eruption involves a collection of gas escaping from the magma within the volcano’s conduit, a roughly vertical pipe that’s a bit like a volcano’s esophagus. This is technically known as a Strombolian eruption style, named after Stromboli, another beautiful and reliably hyperactive Italian volcano found within the volcanic Aeolian Islands, which are all just north of Etna itself.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake hit off the coast of El Salvador early Thursday, sending frightened residents running out of their homes in the predawn hours. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6. Its epicenter was about 17 miles (28 kilometers) south-southeast of La Libertad, a suburb of the regional capital, Santa Tecla, and it was recorded at a depth of 65 kilometers (40 miles). Seven aftershocks of between magnitude 4.1 and 5.0 were recorded. Power was knocked out in at least some areas, but no injuries were reported.

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook the Amazon jungle in north-central Peru Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of deaths or major damage. The quake, at a moderate depth of 71 miles struck at 2:41 a.m., 50 miles southeast of the village of Lagunas and 98 miles east-northeast of the larger town of Yurimaguas. In the capital, Lima, people ran out of their shaking homes.

Weather

There’s never been a wetter 12 months in the Continental United States than the period that recently ended, reported the National Weather Service, which has been keeping such records for 124 years. The continental U.S. is also free of severe to exceptional drought for the first time in the two decades the US Drought Monitor has been keeping track. The continental U.S. averaged 6 inches of precipitation above average during the one-year period, with an average of 36.2 inches tallied across the lower 48 states.

  • Flooding in eight states along portions of the Mississippi River is the longest-lasting flood since the “Great Flood” of 1927, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. The flooding is due to relentless, record-breaking spring rainfall. During the historic flood of 1927, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes as millions of acres of land and towns went underwater. This year’s flood rivals that one: For example, In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river went above flood stage on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood status ever since. The weather service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Mississippi first rose above flood stage in early January, and has been above that level ever since. If this record-long stretch extends well into June, it would break the record from 1927.
  • Farther north, the Mississippi River at the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois saw its longest stretch above major flood stage ever recorded, even surpassing that of 1927. As of Tuesday, more than 370 river gauges were reporting levels above flood stage in the central U.S. Heavy rain added to the floodwaters in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Wednesday, a day after the historic flooding turned deadly with a victim pulled from a submerged van. A levee along the swollen Arkansas River breached early Friday in Dardanelle, Arkansas, prompting a flash flood warning and forcing some evacuations. The National Weather Service says rain is expected throughout Arkansas over the next few days.

Wednesday marked the 13th consecutive day with at least eight reported tornadoes. That beats the record of 11 days set in June 1980. The National Weather Service has received more than 500 reports of tornadoes in the past 30 days. More than 235 tornadoes have been confirmed since May 17, according to U.S. Tornadoes. Ten people have been killed with hundreds of homes and businesses damaged.

  • The Midwest has been hammered by scores of tornadoes and heavy storms, leaving at least nine dead and a trail of damage from the high winds and flooding.At least a dozen communities suffered damage late Monday and early Tuesday as storms raced through the area. Many homes were destroyed and an apartment complex was decimated. Some of the most widespread damage occurred in the Dayton, Ohio, metro area and in Celina, Ohio, about 60 miles north-northwest of Dayton. Search and rescue crews worked through the night pulling people from collapsed homes. Despite multiple injuries, only one death had been reported. Iowa and Minnesota also experienced tornado strikes, but damage was minimal. Tornadoes hit the Kansas City area on Tuesday, injuring at least a dozen people and damaging many homes.
  • Residents in parts of the New York City area, including the borough of Staten Island, had a frightful hour or so Tuesday night when powerful storms in the area triggered a rare tornado warning that sent people scurrying for cover. Parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were under tornado warnings Tuesday. Storms marched through the Northeast Thursday, spawning two tornadoes, critically injuring a person, downing trees and causing damage in Virginia and Maryland.
    • 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

May 23, 2019

­­Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1Peter 4:12-13)

University Settles Christian Bias Lawsuit

A lawsuit that charged officials at the University of Colorado branch in Colorado Springs illegally discriminated against the members of a Christian club has been settled with a formal change to the school’s policies and a payment of more than $20,000 to the students. Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom revealed on Tuesday that UCCS settled a lawsuit that was triggered when they refused to grant registered status ot a student group. “As part of the settlement, the university agreed to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay over $20,500 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and update its policies to ensure that a student club may require its leadership to promote the purposes of the club and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission,” the ADF reported.

College Tells Protesting Students: Chick-fil-A Is Staying

A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. Chick-fil-A is on pace to become the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S. based on sales. The student government association had passed a resolution criticizing the company’s donations to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The resolution said the school’s “values of diversity and inclusion and Chick-fil-a’s values regarding the LGBT+ community are mutually exclusive.”

Google Engineer Says Tech Giant Discriminates Against Conservatives

In an open letter distributed Tuesday, a Google software engineer described a company culture of left-wing “outrage mobs” who use the tech giant’s anonymous bias-reporting channels to shut down conservative social and political thought. Mike Wacker, writing on Medium, warned that if “left unchecked, these outrage mobs will hunt down any conservative, any Christian, and any independent free thinker at Google who does not bow down to their agenda.” He claimed that in March, the company offered him a severance package to leave, with an implied threat that it would find a pretext to fire him if he refused.

Democratic Governor Is Set to Sign an Abortion Ban into Law

The conventional wisdom that says pro-life laws are a Republican-only issue may be challenged soon in Louisiana, where a Democratic governor has signaled support for a heartbeat bill banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy. It wouldn’t be the first time Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has bucked his party’s platform. Last year he signed a bill prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks. In 2016, he signed a bill requiring a 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion. Both are being challenged in court. The nation has 23 Democratic governors. Edwards is the only one who is pro-life, according to The Times-Picayune.

Vermont Governor to Allow No-Limits Abortion Bill to Become Law

A spokeswoman for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he will allow a sweeping no-limits abortion bill to become law, although it may do so without his signature. The pro-choice Republican governor has ruled out a veto of H. 57, meaning that he will either sign it or allow it to become law with no action. “It will become law,” spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley told multiple Vermont news outlets. The bill would give Vermont the most expansive abortion law in the nation, making abortion a “fundamental right,” allowing the procedure until birth, and forbidding state agencies from interfering with access to “reproductive health services.”

Wisconsin Governor Threatens to Veto Several Pro-Life Bills

Multiple pro-life measures have recently made their way through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly, but Democrat Gov. Tony Evers is threatening to veto all of them. Like several states, Wisconsin is currently considering a range of pro-life legislation. The Assembly has passed bills to require basic medical care for infants who survive attempted abortions, a ban on aborting specifically due to a child’s race, sex, or disability, and one cutting the remainder of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding that was significantly reduced, but not eliminated completely, under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. “We shouldn’t be limiting the right for women to make their own healthcare decisions,” wrote Evers, who defeated Walker last November.

Nevada Passes National Popular Vote Bill to Void Electoral College

The Nevada Senate approved Tuesday a National Popular Vote bill on a party-line vote, sending the legislation aimed at upending the Electoral College to the governor. Assembly Bill 186, which passed the Senate on a 12-8 vote, would bring Nevada into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement between participating states to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. If signed as expected by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada would become the 16th jurisdiction to join the compact, along with 14 states and the District of Columbia. The compact would take effect after states totaling 270 electoral votes join. With Nevada, the total would reach 195. While the effort has been billed by organizers as bipartisan, Democrats have embraced the NPV in the aftermath of President Trump’s 2016 victory, which saw the Republican win the electoral vote but not the popular vote.

San Francisco Has Become a ‘Train Wreck’

The Washington Post took a lengthy look at San Francisco and painted a bleak picture of the once desirable location, which has gone from an affordable city that attracted artists and musicians to an area dominated by tech companies, growing wealth, and small businesses getting priced out of the market. Mom and pop restaurants and shops that have been there for decades are being forced to close their doors because of the astronomically high real estate prices. Thousands of people are living on the streets, which has created a public health crisis in this ‘sanctuary city.’ At the same time, tech executives are taking in millions of dollars a year and are widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor even more. Marc Benioff, a lifelong San Francisco resident who founded and now chairs Salesforce, called the 2019 version of his beloved city “a train wreck.”

Migrant Update

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Thursday that “100%” of illegal immigrant families in the new border surge are being released into communities, rather than being held and deported. He said within a month or two, they are also granted work permits, giving them a foothold to live and remain in the U.S. while their cases proceed through the immigration courts — a process that averages two years, and stretches even longer in some overwhelmed regions. Mr. McAleenan said that system rewarding unauthorized migrants who jump the border with exactly the thing they seek is responsible for the record-breaking numbers.

250 People Have Died Worldwide from Taking Selfies

Some 259 people worldwide have died while taking selfies, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges in New Delhi, scoured news reports on selfie deaths that occurred from October 2011 to November 2017. They found that the most selfie deaths occurred in India, followed by Russia, the US and Pakistan. Most of the victims were men (about 72%) and under the age of 30. Researchers attributed India’s high number to the country’s enormous population of people under 30, which is the world’s largest. Although women generally take more selfies than men, researchers found that men were more likely to take risks — like standing at the edge of a cliff — to capture a dramatic shot.

Economic News

The Trump administration is preparing to announce another round of aid to farmers hurt by the trade war with, people familiar with the plan said, a package of assistance that could exceed $15 billion. The aid plan is largely modeled on the program the administration put in place last year after China slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, though the payments this time will be more generous. The administration is considering payments of about $2 per bushel to soybean growers, 63 cents per bushel to wheat growers and 4 cents per bushel to corn growers to compensate for losses from the trade war.

The Wall Street Journal explains that millennials financially lag behind baby boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment. Americans born between 1981 and 1996 have failed to match every other generation of young adults born since the Great Depression. They have less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates and fewer children, according to new data that compare generations at similar ages. Student loan debt and a lack of affordable homes are weighing on purchase plans of first-time homebuyers. With nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population holding student loans — nearly double the 2004 level — the share of Americans with housing debt has fallen to just over a quarter from 33% in 2004.

With short-term interest rates rising broadly across the economy the past few years, a small but growing share of customers are moving their cash to online banks that pay higher yields on savings and money market accounts. In the past 24 months, 21% of Americans have transferred their money to an online bank that pays at least 2% interest, according to a NerdWallet online survey of 2,012 adults for USA TODAY earlier this month. Before that, only 6% of Americans had their savings account at an online-only bank, such as Ally, E-Trade or Discover. Fourteen percent of consumers polled by Bankrate April 30-May 5 were earning more than 2% on their bank savings, up from 6.3% in July.

Ford Motor Co. said on Monday it will eliminate about 10% percent of its global salaried workforce, cutting about 7,000 jobs by the end of August as part of its larger restructuring in a move that will save the No. 2 automaker $600 million annually. The cuts include both voluntary buyouts and layoffs, and freezes open positions as well. About 2,300 of the affected people are employed in the United States. “To succeed in our competitive industry, and position Ford to win in a fast-changing future, we must reduce bureaucracy, empower managers, speed decision making, focus on the most valuable work and cut costs,” CEO Hackett said.

Britain’s second biggest steel maker collapsed on Wednesday, putting about 5,000 jobs at the company directly at risk, and threatening another 20,000 at suppliers. The company was seeking a government bailout, but talks ended without agreement. The High Court ordered the company into compulsory liquidation. The company blames uncertainty over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as the root cause of its problems.

Middle East

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has officially announced that it will boycott a conference in Bahrain next month that is touted as an economic precursor toward introducing the U.S. Trump administration’s diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians, known as the ‘deal of the century.’ The White House announced that it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity. “The Palestinian issue and national rights are not up for sale, and economic initiatives and imaginary promises to the world will not cover the evil face of the ‘deal of the century,’ which is intended to eradicate the Palestinian issue,” said a PA statement released on Thursday. The summit gained traction on Wednesday with the endorsement of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Leaders of Palestinian Christian communities in the West Bank are calling on the Palestinian Authority to investigate vandalism attacks on churches near Ramallah and Bethlehem. The Church of God in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah, was burglarized and damaged last Friday while the Saint Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem was also vandalized on the same day. “We feel we’re being deliberately targeted because we’re Christians,” a Christian woman from Aboud told The Jerusalem Post. “When you see two attacks on a church and monastery in one week, this makes you wonder whether there’s some kind of a scheme against Christians.” A fire which gutted the Jerusalem studios of Daystar, one of the world’s largest Christian broadcasters, was officially confirmed by Israeli police Tuesday morning to have been the result of an arson attack.

Iran

President Trump warned Iran early on Monday not to threaten the United States again or it’ll face its “official end,” shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight. The tweet came just hours after a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the US Embassy, causing no injuries. Top Trump administration officials told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. military deployments in the Middle East were purely defensive and not aimed at provoking a war with Iran, amid growing concerns in Congress about a possible military conflict.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Trump administration’s decision to deploy B-52 bombers and other military resources to the Persian Gulf had succeeded in preventing a possible strike on U.S. interests. . The Pentagon on Thursday presented plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said Wednesday. The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces.

Europe needs to join forces with the United States by continuing to squeeze and pressure Iran to force the rogue regime back to the negotiating table, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Newsmax TV. “The good news is those [U.S.] sanctions are working,” Grenell said. “The bad news is that means Iran is on the hunt for more money because this regime needs money to spread its terror. So, what we’re trying to do in Europe is really articulate to European governments that they’re gonna have to really crack down.” Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday. Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah hard. The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, but U.S. sanctions are curtailing Iran’s ability to support its most powerful regional proxy.

Syria

The US State Department issued a warning to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria on Tuesday, saying the US is closely watching the regime’s military operations against a rebel enclave in northwest Syria and is looking into allegations that Assad’s troops have used chemical weapons in recent days. “Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “We are still gathering information on this incident but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” she added.”

Ukraine

Ukrainian TV star and President-Elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought to capitalize on his huge popularity Monday by dissolving the country’s parliament minutes after he was sworn in as president. Zelenskiy, who won 73% of the vote last month in his landslide victory, slammed parliament as a hot-bed of self-enrichment and promised to stop the war in the east against Russian-backed separatists. The president’s bold move to dissolve the parliament, called the Supreme Rada, followed the failure of a majority of lawmakers to use parliamentary ruses to hamper Zelenskiy’s plans. Zelenskiy’s victory reflected Ukrainians’ exhaustion with widespread corruption and the country’s political elite.

Brazil

A gang of gunmen reportedly attacked a bar in the capital of Brazil’s northern Pará state Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people. The G1 news website said police reported that seven gunmen were involved in the attack, which also wounded one person. The news outlet said the attackers arrived at the bar on one motorcycle and in three cars. Much of Brazil’s violence is gang related. Rio de Janeiro experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also with police that often kill innocent bystanders.

Australia

Running on a climate-change platform, the left-wing Australian Labor Party lost a supposedly “unlosable” election on Saturday to the conservative Liberal/National Party Coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once praised fossil fuels while holding up a chunk of coal on the floor of Parliament. Matt McDonald, associate professor at the University of Queensland, said on ABC.net: “Voters feared climate policy more than climate change.” The election results were unexpected, but they also represented the latest in a string of defeats around the world for parties pushing the 2015 Paris climate accord, green energy, fuel taxes and carbon pricing.

Environment

Chinese foam manufacturers are releasing an ozone-destroying chemical into the air that goes against an international agreement meant to fix the ozone layer, scientists announced in a study Wednesday. The chemical is a chlorofluorocarbon known as trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), which the world agreed to phase out starting in 2010. But just in the past six years, emissions of CFC-11 have increased by around 7,000 tons each year, and the source is eastern China, the study suggests. Located up in the stratosphere, the ozone layer acts like a sunscreen, blocking potentially harmful ultraviolet energy from reaching our planet’s surface. Without it, humans and animals can experience increased rates of skin cancer and other ailments such as cataracts.

Almost one-quarter of the ice in the West Antarctic ice sheet has been classified as “unstable,” according to a new study released this week. This is due to the huge volume of ice that’s melted from the ice sheet over the past 25 years. Some areas are losing ice five times faster now than they were in the early 1990s. “In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts,” said study lead author Andy Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. The ice has thinned by some 400 feet in some places, the study said. The ice sheet and its glaciers are melting from underneath as warming sea water – overheated due to man-made climate change – chews away at it from below.

  • As we’ve been saying for years, extreme weather (including global warming) is a sign that the end-times are upon us (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11), the period Jesus calls the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), preceding the Tribulation and His Second Coming.

Weather.

Last year has been the “wettest 12-month period in recorded history” for the lower 48 states, moving closer to being drought-free, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With a wet 2019 so far, the Mississippi River flooding has been ongoing for three months or longer in some locations, making it the longest-lasting flood there since the Great Flood of 1927, the worst flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River. And there is no end in sight for the flooding, with more rain and storms continuing to hit the central states.

A surprisingly strong, late-spring snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow around Colorado Springs on Tuesday and up to 6 inches in the Denver metro area, which broke a 128-year record for the lowest high-temperature for the date at 39 degrees. The wintry onslaught was particularly hard on trees that buckled and broke under the weight of wet snow landing on freshly sprouted leaves. In Colorado Springs, three greenhouses at one nursery collapsed.

Flooding along Lake Ontario has prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency in all eight of the counties that border the state’s 326-mile lake shoreline. Cuomo also activated 200 members of New York National Guard and placed another 200 on standby. Cuomo deployed 20 sandbaggers, more than 1 million sandbags, hundreds of pumps and more than 5,000 feet of Aquadam, which are water-filled tubes used to create barriers and control water to prevent flooding.

Strong storms rumbled through north-central Texas early Saturday, bringing hail and damaging winds. Heavy damage was reported in Abilene from a likely tornado. There was structural damage to hundreds of buildings and several utility poles were down. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Damage was also reported near San Angelo, Texas, from a possible tornado, with many power lines down. A tornado touched down near Ballinger, Texas, damaging a high school, a baseball stadium and a water tower. Severe thunderstorms continued to rumble across parts of the U.S. Sunday, damaging buildings in Louisiana after spawning reports of tornadoes through north-central Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Saturday, blowing an entire home onto a road in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Classes were canceled Monday at school districts across Oklahoma as the southern Plains prepared for another day of severe storms after more than four dozen reports of tornadoes across five states over last weekend.

Heavy rains flooded homes, closed roads and prompted water rescues in the Southern Plains Tuesday morning as more than 30 tornadoes were reported across Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. A flash flood emergency was in effect for several communities in northeast Oklahoma Wednesday, including the Tulsa area. Interstate 40 was closed in both directions just west of Oklahoma City for several hours because of flooding at Six-Mile Creek. A violent tornado ripped through Jefferson City, Missouri, Wednesday, causing multiple injuries and ‘catastrophic’ damage to buildings. The Missouri Department of Public Safety said first responders were going door to door in an effort to rescue any residents, and urged people to stay out of areas with damage. There were no confirmed fatalities, but multiple people remain injured. The police received calls from many people saying they were trapped in their homes. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma Wednesday as waters from the Arkansas River continued to rise. All told, seven people have died this week from the severe storms.

Signs of the Times

May 17, 2019

­­From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalm 61:2-4)

More States Advancing Anti-Abortion Bills

State governments are on a course to virtually eliminate abortion access in large chunks of the Deep South and Midwest. Ohio and Kentucky also have passed heartbeat laws; Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature just passed one. If a new Mississippi law survives a court challenge, it will be nearly impossible for most pregnant women to get an abortion there. Or, potentially, in neighboring Louisiana. Or Alabama. Or Georgia. The Louisiana legislature is halfway toward passing a law — like the ones enacted in Mississippi and Georgia — that will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy. The states hope that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will approve, leading to the end of the constitutional right to abortion.

  • Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the controversial Alabama abortion bill into law on Wednesday. The law will make nearly all abortions in the state illegal and make performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison unless the mother’s health is at risk, with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest. Televangelist Pat Robertson said the law has “gone too far” and was “ill considered.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vowed to sue. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared abortion is a “constitutional right,” in response to the total abortion ban in Alabama. The statement prompted swift rebukes demanding to know exactly where the constitution makes abortion a right.

House Passes LGBTQ ‘Equality Act’

Democrats on Capitol Hill passed legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. If signed into law, the Equality Act would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. And it would effectively obliterate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law stops the government from encroaching on a person’s religious liberty. Under the Equality Act, some Christian leaders say that churches may come under attack for discriminatory beliefs and practices. The law could force churches to be forced to host events and other celebrations against their beliefs. In addition, Natasha Chart, board chair of the Women’s Liberation Front, teamed up with Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America to warn that, “Under this bill, men and boys [who identify as women and girls] will take away women’s small business grants and hard-won spots on sports teams; they will be allowed to live in women’s domestic violence shelters and use our locker rooms.”

Parents Keep 700 Students Home to Protest LGBT Elementary Curriculum

Two days after a California school board approved new curriculum that includes LGBT history, parents of more than 700 students kept their children home in protest. The Rocklin School District Board approved the curriculum on May 1 by a vote of 3-2, requiring students in kindergarten through fifth grades to learn about the contributions of key LGBT figures in history and social studies curriculum. The board’s action was in response to a new state law requiring schools to include the contributions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” in history lessons. Unlike sex-ed, there is no opt-out for parents in the law. “We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin had said earlier in the week. “However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children.”

Charter School ‘Liberates’ Children at Gay Pride Event

Central Park School for Children in North Carolina held a week-long celebration of gay pride where they are urging boys and girls to liberate themselves, reports Todd Starnes. Recently, the charter school hosted a Pride and Liberation Event for boys and girls in grades K through 8. The children will be learning all about the LGBTQ movement – from drag queens to something called queer history. The Raleigh News & Observer reported the pride and liberation event was in response to bullying at the school. Journalist A.P. Dillon first reported about the school’s activities after someone sent her emails written by administrators. “The e-mail also said that they didn’t want teachers to tell this to the parents until they had actually rolled it out. So parents were going to be getting blindsided so I decided that I would go ahead and publish this,” Dillon said.

Texas County Votes 5-0 to Keep Courthouse Crosses

A small Texas town is rejecting demands from an atheist organization to remove crosses from the county courthouse, and it’s getting the support of the state attorney general’s office, too. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in late April to officials in Coldspring, Texas, asserting that four white crosses on the sides of the building violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. But last week the San Jacinto County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to keep the crosses on the courthouse, KPCR-TV reported. More than 600 residents attended the commissioners’ meeting. The population of Coldspring, Texas, is about 900. The Texas Attorney General’s office applauded the commissioners’ decision and pledged its legal support if FFRF files suit.

VP Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates to Be Ready for Persecution

In a commencement speech delivered at Liberty University last Saturday, Vice President Pence told thousands of students that they should “be ready” for an increase in personal attacks on their faith. In a bid to encourage and equip young Christians to live out their calling in our modern secular culture, Pence warned that, increasingly, believers will be asked to “tolerate things” that go completely against their personal faith and spiritual convictions. “You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture,” he explained, noting that it has become “acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith.” Pence noted that “some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” referencing the left’s blatant double-standards.

Migrant Update

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 but given current trends which show a steadily increasing number of children and families attempting to sneak in, Homeland Security says it will exhaust its money to deal with the border situation well before then. “The problem we face is huge, short term fixes will not cut it, and we need sustained investment and additional emergency support at the Southwest border to overcome the humanitarian and security crisis. The president’s budget will do that,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said.

The Trump administration unveiled a multi-tiered plan to pay for construction of a Mexico border wall. The government intends to begin awarding the latest tranche of contracts Thursday, drawing on $2.5 billion from the Defense Department, primarily from budgets for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, the Justice Department said in a court filing Wednesday. That amount is all that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is currently prepared to give President Donald Trump for the project, according to the filing. An additional $600 million will come from the Treasury Department’s Forfeiture Fund. A federal judge in Oakland, California, is scheduled Friday to hear a request by the Sierra Club to block Trump from diverting taxpayer funds for the project.

The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to send up to 400 workers to the southern border to assist with the rising number of Central American migrants, but officials say the move shouldn’t affect air travel as the summer travel season gets underway. TSA officials do not plan to include people who conduct security screenings at U.S. airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is primarily responsible for securing the southern border and processing the record numbers of migrants crossing it, has already received help from thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops. Now, the Trump administration is seeking volunteers from across the federal government to help with the ever-growing number of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

President Trump proposed a new immigration system Thursday that gives preference to high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers. However, the plan deals only with legal immigration, not the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. or the roughly 3.6 million “Dreamers” who were illegally brought into the country as minors. Developed by senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, the plan is designed to create a “merit-based” point system for people seeking to enter the U.S., moving away from the mostly family-based immigration system in place today. The plan is certain to face resistance from lawmakers who believe it is more of a campaign document than a legislative proposal.

Google Top Stories Discriminates Against Conservatives

Google’s Top Stories box provides users with articles from left-leaning news organizations such as CNN 62.4 percent of the time — with only 11.3 percent coming from outlets that are considered conservative, according to a study by Northwestern University researchers. The researchers conducted an “algorithm audit” of the Google Top Stories box using data from late 2017 to determine the tech giant’s role in shaping which news its audience consumes. The Top Stories box – which is the three highlighted articles that appear with images at the top of any Google search – is among the most prominent real estate on the Internet. The researchers analyzed 30 “hard news” stories per day over a 30-day period, resulting in 6,302 links to various articles. The results indicate that liberal publications were prominently featured in Google’s Top Stories box — with CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, combining for a whopping 23 percent of Top Stories appearances during the sample period. Links to liberal CNN appeared in 10.9 percent of searches, while The New York Times made up 6.5 percent. By comparison, link to Fox News articles only appeared in 3 percent of the researchers’ searches.

Run, Hide, Fight

In an era where mass shootings are all too common, “run, hide, fight” has become a mantra. When faced with an active shooter, proponents say adults and students should try to escape the area or protect themselves. And as a last resort, they’re advised to counter the gunman, reports CNN. Whether they were acting on training or instinct, two students in the past two weeks chose the last option. Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at a classmate who pulled out a gun at their suburban Denver school, while 21-year-old Riley Howell knocked a gunman off his feet at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The heroic actions of both students cost them their lives. But some experts say they acted appropriately, giving others around them time to run for cover and preventing the shootings from escalating.

U.S. Birthrate Lowest in 32 Years

America’s fertility rate and the number of births nationwide are continuing to decline. The number of births for the United States last year dropped to its lowest in about three decades, according to provisional data in a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2017 to 2018, the birth rate dropped 7% among teenagers aged 15 to 19; 4% among women 20 to 24; 3% among women 25 to 29; and 1% among women 30 to 34, according to the report. The birth rate rose 1% among women aged 35 to 39 and 2% among women 40 to 44. Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017, according to the report. The data shows that the total fertility rate for the United States last year was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 2% from 2017 and a record low for the nation, and well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 required to maintain overall population stability.

The Stress and Strain of Motherhood Increasingly Difficult

Economic, cultural and even technological changes have dramatically altered the landscape of motherhood in recent decades, piling on new pressures and needs, reports the USA Today. In 1975, more than half of mothers stayed home with their kids. Today both parents work in 70% of families with children. Childcare costs on average $12,350 to $13,900 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In some cities, it’s double that. Dads are taking on more parenting responsibilities than ever, but surveys show it’s still unequal in more than half of households even when both parents work full-time. Nearly half of grandparents live more than five hours from their grandkids. Moms in 2016 spent 14 hours a week outside work on childcare, up from 10 hours a week in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media is pervasive, and research shows mothers who frequently compare themselves to others on social media feel more depressed, less competent and less positive about their co-parenting relationships.

Hospitals Not Protecting Mothers During Childbirth

The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. Authorities estimate that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives. Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, a USA TODAY investigation found.

71% of American Youth Unqualified for Military

Seventy-one percent of young people are ineligible to join the military, according to 2017 Pentagon data. The reasons: obesity, no high school diploma, or a criminal record. Steve Doster, Pennsylvania State director of Military Readiness for Council for a Strong America, says, “This is a very real risk to our national security.” The problem isn’t just a military one, though: It’s an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn’t eligible for a lot of other jobs either. The 29 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified become prime targets for all recruiting: military, college and jobs. According to a recent RAND report, 52 percent of employers in Pennsylvania find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education.

E-Scooters Replacing Dockless Bikes in U.S. Cities

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Americans took nine million trips on dockless bikes in 2018. They took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters. The NACTO micromobility report said there were about 44,000 dockless pedal bikes deployed throughout the U.S. at the end of 2017, but almost all of them are now gone. “Most dockless bike share companies retooled their fleets to focus on e-scooters, and new e-scooter-focused companies emerged. There are now tens of thousands of e-scooters on the ground in U.S. cities,” the report said.

Economic News

China said Monday it will slap tariffs on more than 5,000 U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to raise duties on Chinese goods. China’s Ministry of Finance said the new tariffs would impact $60 billion in U.S. imports and would range from 5% to 25%. The tariffs will take effect June 1, which would give the two sides time to resume trade negotiations that broke off last week without reaching a new deal. The tariffs will impact a wide range of U.S. products, including coffee, beef, salmon, flowers and some fruits and vegetables.

In a significant step toward congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the U.S. agreed to lift the tariffs in 48 hours in return for tough new measures to prevent Chinese steel from entering the U.S. via Canada or Mexico. The deal avoids quotas on steel from the two countries, which Canada and Mexico had opposed.

As lawmakers trade fire over contempt votes and impeachment, there’s been no progress toward reaching a budget agreement or extending the federal government’s ability to borrow before September, when the money runs out. That’s raising the ugly prospect of more than $100 billion in mandatory cuts as well as an unprecedented default on U.S. debt. The latest sign of the dysfunction gripping Congress came this week, when Republicans and Democrats continued to flounder in months-long negotiations over disaster aid for states recently hit by hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, typically a subject that can easily win bipartisan consensus but has instead repeatedly fallen apart over unrelated issues.

Some disturbing data: Global exports are absolutely crashing and have now fallen to the lowest level since 2009; Auto sales in Europe have fallen for seven months in a row; U.S. auto loan delinquencies have reached the highest level since the last recession; U.S. credit card delinquencies have hit the highest level in eight years; Overall, 59 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck according to a recent survey by Charles Schwab.

Europe

Less than two weeks before pivotal elections for the European Parliament, a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades, reports the New York Times. European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Fringe political commentary sites in Italy, for instance, bear the same electronic signatures as pro-Kremlin websites, while a pair of German political groups share servers used by the Russian hackers who attacked the Democratic National Committee. The activity offers fresh evidence that despite indictments, expulsions and recriminations, Russia remains undeterred in its campaign to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions.

Middle East

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip participated in riots and violent confrontations with Israeli troops guarding the border fence on Wednesday afternoon to mark “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” as the Palestinians refer to the anniversary of Israel’s birth on May 15, 1948. Several incendiary balloons were also sent over the border into Israel, sparking large fires which destroyed crops, trees and buildings inside Israel. Large demonstrations were also held in PA administered cities in the West Bank and in Israeli-Arab villages and among Arab students in some universities.

Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States. The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Saudi Araba said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday, in the latest U.S. response to what Washington sees as a growing threat from Iran. The decision further bolsters U.S. defenses and comes after the Trump administration expedited the deployment of a carrier strike group and sent bombers to the Middle East following what it said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran on U.S. interests. The Patriot defense system is designed to intercept incoming missiles. Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated sharply in recent weeks over new U.S. sanctions and Iran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment programs.

Iran

The U.S. military put its forces in Iraq on high alert and the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees Wednesday to leave the country immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. It comes as some U.S. allies have expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claims that Iran poses a growing threat. The Trump administration has made applying “maximum pressure” on Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposed crushing economic sanctions and boosted the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. In recent days, unease that Washington and Tehran could be headed toward military confrontation has mounted. President Trump sought to put the brakes on a brewing confrontation with Iran in recent days, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began searching for ways to defuse the tensions.

Niger

Islamic militants ambushed and killed government soldiers near Mali this week. The bodies of 11 Nigerien soldiers missing since Tuesday’s ambush have been discovered, bringing the death toll to 28. Niger and other countries in the Sahel have been facing a growing militant threat from several Islamist groups. The Islamic State group has said it was behind the ambush. They are most active in neighboring Mali, but they often stage cross-border raids. The soldiers had been in pursuit of militants who attacked a high security prison.

Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed a pastor and five congregants at a Roman Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso in West Africa last Sunday, the authorities said, in the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists. Congregants were leaving the church around 9 a.m. local time in the town of Dablo, about 124 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, when about 20 men circled them and opened fire, leaving at least six dead. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though violent Islamic extremism has been increasingly destabilizing the country.

North Korea

North Korea disclosed on Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades, amid growing concerns the country is dangerously short on food. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said that only 2.1 inches of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year, the lowest amount since 1982. The current conditions, described by KCNA as “extreme drought”, are expected to continue at least until the end of May. North Korean media outlets called on citizens on Thursday to find new sources of water. Earlier this month, United Nations food agencies said in a joint assessment about 10 million people in North Korea, about 40 percent of the population, were facing “severe food shortages” after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is confirming efforts in Norway to mediate between the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan opposition has said Maduro used past negotiations to play for time and was not sincere about making concessions. Maduro says he is open to dialogue and that the opposition had been trying to seize power by force. Guaidó says any diplomatic process aimed at resolving the Venezuelan crisis must lead to the end of Maduro’s government, its replacement by a transitional administration and free and fair elections. The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say, surpassing the fall of the Soviet Union. And Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s. Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, poor governance, corruption and the misguided socialistic policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and left much of the population in great distress dealing with extreme shortages of food and medical supplies. Many are fleeing the country.

Cuba

In the midst of a growing economic and food shortage crisis – in which Cubans are having to line up for hours to purchase basic food supplies in supermarkets – the Cuban government has introduced comprehensive rationing of staple products. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that the rationing would immediately begin nationwide, forcing cashiers to limit product quantities such as cooking oil, powdered milk, sausages, peas, chicken, eggs, rice, beans and soap it can sell to individual shoppers. General food stores in the nation of 11 million are owned and operated by the Communist government, and every citizen has been issued a ration book to purchase fundamental needs – a system that was introduced after the revolution sixty years ago. Those who run in more affluent circles are permitted to purchase more than the average Cuban. Cuba depends on importing more than 65 percent of its food products

Environment

Trash is everywhere on Earth, all the way from the top of Mount Everest to the very bottom of the ocean. Now, giant mounds of it are even washing up on the shores of otherwise pristine tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Tasmania. A mind-boggling 400 million pieces of trash – that’s 260 tons – were recently discovered on the beaches of the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, a chain some 1,300 miles northwest of Australia.  The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes, according to the study. Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos, a group of 26 tiny islands that are a territory of Australia. Plastic is abundant in and near the world’s oceans: Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere hit a new milestone over the weekend. Data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed that carbon dioxide levels surpassed 415 parts per million on Friday. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have skyrocketed far higher than any levels in the last 800,000 years, data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California – San Diego show, and levels have not been this high for millions of years. “This is the first time in human history our planet’s atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2,” said Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist. In the 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels didn’t surpass 300 ppm.

  • CO2 levels millions of years ago were higher than 2019 levels, and Earth’s temperatures were also much higher, notes the USA Today.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Residents in the area reported that the quake shook homes, rattled furniture, knocked items off shelves and tables and cut off power. The epicenter of the quake was about 28 miles northeast of Kokopo, in New Britain province. The city is on a smaller island northeast of the main island and about 495 from the A​ tsunami alert was issued for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands but was later cancelled. capital of Port Moresby.

On Wednesday evening, Israelis in Jerusalem reportedly felt the ground shake during an earthquake that qualified as “minor” on the Richter scale. The earthquake registered as a 4.5 magnitude, according to a report by Arutz Sheva based on data collected by Geophysical Institute of Israel. According to the Geophysical Institute, the quake’s epicenter was in the ocean between Hadera and Haifa, several hundred miles away from the Israeli coast.

Wildfires

Mexico City residents have been warned to stay inside as the city is enveloped in a cloud of hazardous wildfire smoke, and meteorologists in the U.S. predict the haze could reach parts of the U.S. by the end of the week. The pollution is from several recent and current fires in the city and outlying areas. Smoke from the blazes is also hovering over the western Gulf of Mexico. Mexico City’s environmental commission said the city’s air is polluted with high levels of ash and other solid particles that can cause respiratory problems and other illnesses with prolonged exposure. There have been several fires in or near the city in recent days, including 13 brush fires, four fires on empty lots, two house fires, a forest fire and a blaze at an industrial warehouse. Meanwhile, fires in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero have contributed to the crisis. At least 14 fires are burning out of control in Oaxaca, fueled by hot weather and high winds.

Weather

As the swollen Mississippi River continued to rise in the South over last weekend, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide emergency amid continuing torrential downpours and storms. In an effort to relieve stress on New Orleans levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré spillway about 28 miles north of the city on Friday. The opening marks the first time the spillway has been used twice in a single year and only the 14th time it has been opened since it was built in the aftermath of a historic flood that swamped New Orleans in 1927. “Regional rainfall caused the Mississippi River to rise 6 inches in the past 24 hours with more rain expected through the weekend,” the Corps explained. The Upper Texas Coast and the Gulf Coast of western Louisiana has received “tremendous rainfall” last week, “300-600% of normal. Flooding caused about two dozen cars from a Norfolk Southern freight train to derail Saturday near Hillsdale, Mississippi. High winds and severe thunderstorms downed trees and damaged buildings in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, after a night of flash flooding in New Orleans that led to more than 200 calls to police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Recent rainfall has already-high water levels surging in the Great Lakes, contributing to flooding along the lakeshores in parts of Ohio and Michigan, and New York is expected to follow suit. Areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline are “at the precipice of a disaster,” according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as forecasts for additional rain threaten to push water levels past flood level. Over last weekend, New York state deployed more than 800,000 sandbags, hundreds of pumps and 920 feet of temporary dams in eight counties along Lake Ontario in preparation for potential flooding.

A line of storms moving across northern Illinois and central Indiana Thursday damaged buildings and a small airport near Chicago and brought down trees and power lines in central Indiana. A tree fell on a city bus near downtown Indianapolis Thursday evening as severe storms hit the area. Almost 50,000 homes and businesses were without power in central Indiana. Hail the size of tennis balls was reported by storm spotters in Vermillion County, Indiana. Several aircraft were reportedly damaged and windows were broken out of a building Thursday afternoon at the Sandwich Airport, about 60 miles west of Chicago.

Severe storms, with large hail, damaging winds and ground-hugging tornadoes, are expected to hammer major parts of Tornado Alley from Texas to South Dakota Friday in the first round of violent, unsettled weather expected to last into next week.

Signs of the Times

May 10, 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; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

‘Fearfully, Wonderfully Made’ Shown in Times Square

Over last weekend, thousands of tourists and native New Yorkers saw a live 4-D ultrasound of a third-trimester baby on huge video screens in Times Square, despite efforts to censor the images. In January, when the New York legislature passed one of the most radical pro-abortion laws in the country – one allowing an abortion even while the baby was in the process of being born – activists on the floor and in the gallery started cheering when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. On Saturday, Focus on the Family showed New Yorkers who those lawmakers were cheering about killing when the ministry broadcast a live 4-D ultrasound of a late-term unborn child in Times Square. Leading up to “Alive from New York,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said that the national advertising giants that control the screens in Times Square censored the event. Undeterred, Daly rolled out a backup plan, which they implemented on Saturday, bringing their own big screens on flatbed trucks into the heart of Times Square where over 200,000 people saw the broadcast. Research finds more than half of abortion-minded women change their minds if they see an ultrasound of their unborn child.

One Man’s Vigil Saves Many Babies

John Barros is a 64-year-old man. He’s had cancer and recently suffered a stroke. But none of that has stopped him from standing outside an abortion clinic in Orlando, Florida for the last 9 years, reports LifeSiteNews. “I don’t have the power to turn a heart that is dead set on ending their baby’s life,” he says. “I do not have that power. But what I preach here [is] God uses his word to literally plow up some very hard ground in open people’s lives and they choose life.” Among other things, he hands out brochures, prays, sings hymns, and sidewalk counsels women arriving at the clinic. “The main thing is to let them know that you love them and that you’re there for them,” he says. Barros, who first stood outside the clinic 15 years ago, estimates that between 20 and 30 girls a month turn away from abortion and choose life. Barros’ church supports what he does and extends a helping hand to the women he helps turn away from abortion.

Georgia Governor Signs Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol in Atlanta, and marks the beginning of what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle over the law’s constitutionality. The legal showdown is exactly what supporters are looking for. Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country, energized by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme, are pushing abortion bans in an attack on the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus. ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean Young said, “Under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional,” Young said in a recent interview. Tuesday, he said the ACLU would challenge Georgia’s new abortion restriction in court.

Iowa’s Governor Signs Bill Cutting Abortion Funding

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her signature Friday to a state budget containing two measures denying taxpayer funds to two left-wing social priorities: gender-reassignment surgery and the abortion lobby’s influence over sex education. Reynolds signed the almost $2 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year on Friday evening, The Gazette reported. Among its provisions are language to exclude any organization involved in abortions from receiving state sex education grants (which stands to deprive Planned Parenthood of the Heartland of just over $260,000), and to state that the Iowa Civil Rights Act does not require state or local governments to fund gender-reassignment surgery.

Pope Issues ‘Ground-Breaking’ Abuse Regulation

Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by their superiors to church authorities, in a groundbreaking new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks. The new church law provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior. The law makes the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 religious sisters mandated reporters. That means they are required to inform church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes. It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy.

Twitter Excelling at Censorship

When the head of Twitter’s public policy department told the Senate that he’d do more on conservative censorship, making it worse wasn’t what most leaders had in mind! Unfortunately, that’s exactly what seems to be happening — to pro-lifers, Trump supporters, and even popular parody accounts. Three weeks ago, Carlos Monje Jr. was apologetic for the mistakes Twitter had made. A month later, he has a lot more to be sorry for, reports the Family Research Council who documented numerous Christian and conservative accounts that have been frozen or taken down, most without any explanation.

Trump Vindicated in Court on ‘Return to Mexico’ Asylum Policy

President Trump won a surprise victory before a usually antagonistic appeals court Tuesday when judges ruled he could continue his “Return to Mexico” policy that allows the government to make some illegal immigrants seeking asylum wait in Mexico while their cases are being heard. The policy, which the administration officially calls the Migrant Protection Protocols, had been one of the administration’s Hail Mary attempts to try to control the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America. Many of those are lodging asylum claims and counting on lax U.S. policies to earn them a foothold here, even if they don’t deserve asylum under the law. The goal was to make them wait in Mexico — effectively denying them that foothold — while their cases are being heard. A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been a roadblock to much of the president’s immigration agenda, sided with him, ruling that the law allows the Return to Mexico policy to proceed, and finding it’s particularly necessary given the surge of migrants.

Migrant Update

ICE has already released 168,000 illegal immigrant family members into the U.S. this fiscal year, and the number is likely to surge as the border situation deteriorates, a top deportation official told Congress on Wednesday. According to the results of a pilot program, a staggering 87% of released families are skipping their court hearings, leaving judges to order them deported in absentia — and the government is ill-equipped to track them down. Nearly 110,000 were nabbed at the southwestern border in April, including nearly 100,000 caught by the Border Patrol trying to sneak into the U.S. The other 10,000 were encountered when they showed up at ports of entry demanding to be let in, despite lacking permission.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a new program to let local police cooperate in turning over illegal immigrants even if the officers are limited by sanctuary city policies. The Washington Times reported that under the program, police won’t be involved in asking about legal status or citizenship, but will have permission to detain someone for up to 48 hours to give ICE a chance to take custody.

Shooters Kill One, Injure Eight in Colorado School

Two students are in custody after opening fire on their classmates at a Denver-area charter school Tuesday, police say. Sheriff Tony Spurlock says the suspects—one adult and one juvenile—were taken into custody within two minutes of reports of shots being fired at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, the Denver Post reports. Authorities say an 18-year-old man was killed and eight other students were injured. The suspect in custody has been named as Devon Erickson, 18. Spurlock says the injured students are all age 15 or older. Authorities say the suspects had at least one handgun, but have not commented on a motive. The Post reports that a Honda sedan with the words “(expletive) society” on the door and a pentagram with the numbers “666” on the hood was towed from the Erickson family home Tuesday night. The social media posts by the suspect in the shooting included opposition to “Christians who hate gays,” criticism of President Trump, and support for the left-wing Occupy Democrats. Five months before Tuesday’s fatal shooting, a district official urged the school’s administration to investigate allegations of violence, sexual assault and campus bullying that an anonymous parent feared could lead to “a repeat of Columbine.”

1.1 Million Americans Lost Health Insurance Coverage in 2018

The number of Americans without health insurance increased again in 2018, the second consecutive year that figure has risen after several years of declines under Obamacare, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey shows. An estimated 30.4 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2018, up from 29.3 million in 2017, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.  That means about 1.1 million more Americans lost insurance coverage last year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the health law’s individual mandate that required people get health insurance or pay a penalty. However, a strong economy means more low-income people likely moved from Medicaid coverage to health insurance through a job. The CDC survey also said the number of Americans in high-deductible plans reached an all-time high, covering 45.8% of people with private health insurance in 2018. In 2010, 25% of people with private coverage had high-deductible plans.

Alcohol Consumption Increasing Worldwide

Global alcohol use continues to rise, a new study reports, and is expected to keep growing in the years ahead. In fact, just in the past 27 years, the total volume of alcohol people consumed globally each year increased by 70% – from 5.5 billion gallons in 1990 to 9.4 billion gallons in 2017. That’s a result of increased population along with increased alcohol consumption. Consumption is growing in low- and middle-income countries, while the total volume of alcohol consumed in high-income countries has remained stable. “Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe,” said study author Jakob Manthey of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. “However, this pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries such as China, India, and Vietnam.”

Fifteen States call Pornography a Public Health Crisis

From Idaho to Pennsylvania, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have adopted resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis. This week the Arizona Senate approved a measure urging the state to prevent exposure and addiction to porn. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar measure in 15 states, including South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia, and the Republican Party added it to its national platform. Legislators link pornography to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unplanned pregnancies. Several Arizona Democrats said issues such as measles, opioid addiction, homelessness and suicide deserve more action than pornography. Some in the adult entertainment industry say blaming pornography for those social issues is “compete fear-mongering.”

Alzheimer’s Could Bankrupt Medicare

About 5.8 million Americans now have the Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As our population ages, that number will soar to at least 13.8 million by 2050, a 138% rise. s many as 1 in 3 people who live to be 85 in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s disease. “We are really in an epidemic,” says Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan neurologist, driven largely by baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), who are growing older and coming to an age when the disease most commonly strikes. The average person with Alzheimer’s disease will live four to eight years after diagnosis. It’s the most expensive disease in America – with care costing more than cancer and heart disease, the Alzheimer’s Association reports. The average cost to Medicare for a single person with dementia in 2018 was $27,244. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will cost $290 billion this year alone. But by 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion annually. “We really see this bankrupting Medicare at some point,” says Jennifer Lepard, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter.

Economic News

The U.S. trade deficit edged up by 1.5% in March, but the gap with China continues to narrow amid an ongoing trade dispute. The goods trade deficit with China decreased $1.9 billion to $28.3 billion in March, as imports continued to fall. The gap with China is down about 12% compared to the first three months of last year — before Trump began imposing tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to pressure Beijing to come to the negotiating table. Seeking to close that gap even further, President Donald Trump raised tariffs on some Chinese goods Friday. Overall, the U.S. monthly trade deficit in goods and services grew to $50 billion, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. American companies imported more from abroad than they exported, a trend driven by the strong economy.

China and the United States were moving towards an agreement to end a months-long trade war when, suddenly, it all fell apart this week. Now as negotiators scramble to resurrect the deal, revelations are emerging that indicate both sides appeared to think they had the other over a barrel. As a result, they pushed for more, setting the stage for a rapid escalation in tensions which undid session after session of hard-fought negotiations, notes CNN. President Trump says China “broke the deal” and imposed $200 billion new tariffs on Chinese goods, sending markets plummeting. Trump accused Beijing of attempting to run out the clock on his administration in the assumption it will be dealing with a Democratic administration after 2020. The Chinese government threatened to retaliate. A deal may still result from these talks, but it will be far harder than anyone expected only a month ago.

Between global warming, electric cars, and a worldwide crackdown on carbon, the future looks treacherous for Big Oil. The rise of Tesla and electric vehicles poses a severe threat to the oil industry. Passenger vehicles are the No. 1 source of demand for oil — and tomorrow’s transportation system may no longer rely on the gas station, but a charging station. However, the timing and severity of oil’s demise depends on how many electric vehicles will be on the road, how seriously governments take global warming and a confluence of other factors. Rapidly evolving technology and shifting political winds could hasten the arrival of Big Oil’s woes well before Wall Street’s current estimate of at least several decades.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “massive attacks against terrorist elements” in Gaza were launched after militants in the coastal enclave fired nearly 900 rockets towards Israel. Three Israelis were killed and about 250 were injured. Israel responded with airstrikes on 260 targets across Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Twenty-three Palestinian militants were killed in the airstrikes, with 60 more wounded. The UN said it is working with Egypt to try to restore a ceasefire and says both sides are putting at risk efforts to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza. A fragile calm returned to southern Israel Monday morning as the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and along with the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, declared a cease-fire at 4:30 AM. Hamas, which has ruled by force in Gaza for more than a decade, reportedly receives “tens of millions of dollars” from Iran each year, according to The Telegraph. Saudi journalists and intellectuals threw their support behind Israel, accusing Hamas of acting on behalf of Iran in retaliation for tightened U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Syria

Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes on Monday intensified a week-long bombardment of Idlib province, targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as tens of thousands of residents fled toward the border with Turkey, activists and monitors in the rebel-held region said. The aerial campaign has killed about 100 civilians and put at least 10 hospitals out of service. It has raised fears that Syrian government forces, supported by Russia and Iranian-backed fighters, are preparing an all-out offensive in Idlib — the last area in the country controlled by rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The airstrikes represent the latest and fiercest challenge to a pact brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year that was designed to avert all-out conflict in the northwestern province.

Iran

The United States is deploying a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East, a warning to Iran that attacks to U.S. interests will be met with “unrelenting force,” national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday. The move comes amid the Trump administration’s strategy to isolate Iran’s regime and strangle its economy. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said. Bolton’s statement followed rocket attacks from Gaza against southern Israel Sunday. Iran supplies the rockets that Hamas uses. A defense official said there were “clear indications” that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.

Iran’s president announced on Wednesday that the nation would stop complying with some parts of the nuclear accord it signed with world powers as President Donald Trump’s administration declared new economic sanctions on Tehran, reviving a crisis that had been contained for the past four years. The escalation of threats caught the United States’ allies in Europe in the crossfire between Washington and Tehran. And while the announcement by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord that was negotiated by world powers, it put it on life support. The declaration came on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s complete withdrawal from the agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Rouhani said Iran will start keeping excess uranium and “heavy water” from its nuclear program inside the country – as opposed to selling it internationally – in a move that effectively amounts to a partial breach of the deal. He also set a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear accord. If the new terms aren’t met, he threatened to resume higher uranium enrichment.

North Korea

For the second time in less than a week, North Korea launched suspected short-range missiles Wednesday, according to South Korea’s military. State media in North Korea said that on Saturday the nation held a short-range ballistic missile test as part of a regularly scheduled defensive military exercise. On Saturday, North Korea fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington. The firing Saturday comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the U.S. mainland. Experts believe that the North has viable shorter range nuclear armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons. During the diplomacy that followed the North’s weapons tests of 2017, Kim Jong Un said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs. These short-range projectiles don’t appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium.

The three new missiles North Korean tested over the past week are eerily familiar to military experts: They look just like a controversial and widely copied missile the Russian military has deployed to Syria and has been actively trying to sell abroad for years. Following the test launches, President Trump said he remains confident in negotiations with Kim Jong Un and that a nuclear deal is still possible. However, the Justice Department announced the seizure Thursday of the Wise Honest. The ship was detained by Indonesia last month with two dozen crew members on board. U.S. officials say payments for maintenance and equipment for the ship were made unwittingly in American dollars through U.S. banks.

Libya

The U.N. health agency says 443 people have died and 2,110 have been wounded in violence in Libya’s capital since the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli last month. With the number of people displaced by fighting approaching 60,000, the World Health Organization said in a tweet Wednesday that it is working to coordinate ongoing health services for them. The U.N. mission in Libya “is also deeply concerned about increased cases of arbitrary arrest and abduction of officials, activists and journalists” and is calling for their immediate release. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday the U.N. is very concerned about reports that airstrikes a day earlier hit a migrant detention center in Tajoura in eastern Tripoli

Pakistan

A bombing outside one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people, including five police officers, and injured at least 20 other people, officials said, raising new concerns about militant violence targeting a moderate and nonviolent strand of Islam. The bombing took place Wednesday morning in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, near the shrine of an 11th-century Sufi saint, Abul Hasan Ali Bin Usman, more popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri. Police officials said the bombing destroyed a van carrying police commandoes who were providing security at the shrine. Investigators said it was a suicide bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Attacks by armed militiamen and locals on Ebola clinics have escalated as the spread of the disease intensifies. The attackers maintain that the harrowing contagion is a scheme brought in from the outside According to World Health Organization data, since January 2019 there have been 130 attacks that have caused 4 deaths and 38 injuries, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of those, 97 attacks impacted health personnel and 44 incidents impacted health facilities. Dozens of individual medical professionals have been targeted by community criminals, including leading epidemiologist Richard Mouzako who was shot dead earlier this month as the attackers screamed that “Ebola doesn’t exist.” The hemorrhagic fever has now been classified as the second worst Ebola epidemic; having claimed more than 1,000 lives in the African country since August, second to the 2014 eruption that killed more than 11,000 people across the continent and even infiltrated to victims in the United States.

Environment

Up to 1 million of Earth’s 8 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within a matter of years, because of humans, scientists warned Monday. The losses are a direct result of human activity and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, according to a global assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. More food, energy and materials are being supplied, but they all come at the expense of nature, the report said. The worst impacts, in order of severity, have come from changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasion of alien species, the report found.

Britain has now gone one week without using any coal to generate electricity, and while that might not sound like much, it’s the longest the country has gone without coal power since the world’s first coal plant fired up in London 137 years ago. National Grid ESO, which supplies power to England, Scotland and Wales, took coal power off the grid on May 1, although for now at least, coal-fired power plants will still be relied upon as backup during periods of high demand for energy, the Guardian reported. The move is a big step toward Britain’s goal of phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2025.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck in eastern Papua New Guinea early Tuesday morning local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter of the strong quake was near Bulolo, about 41 miles northeast of Lae, the country’s second-largest city. It was also felt in the capital city of Port Moresby, about 160 miles away. The fire department in Lae said no one had yet called in to report damage or injuries so far following the quake. The USGS-linked Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami after the quake.

Weather

As of May 6, flooding has killed 43 people so far in 2019, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service (NWS). Most of those deaths have occurred in the central United States where copious amounts of precipitation has fallen in the first four months of the year and triggered both river flooding and flash flooding. The flooding death toll this year has easily surpassed the 31 people killed by tornadoes in 2019 through May 6. That follows the long-term trend of flooding being one of the most deadly weather events annually, even though it doesn’t typically garner as much attention as tornadoes and hurricanes do. Flooding has killed an average of 87 people annually over the last 30 years (1989-2018), according to NOAA. Only heat has been deadlier, on average, over that three-decade period. This year’s death toll from flooding through early May is also already at half its annual average.

A line of powerful storms that has triggered deadly flash flooding and destructive tornadoes in several states continued its trek across the South Thursday. Possible tornadoes were reported in Huntsville, Alabama, and McComb, Mississippi. There were reports of damaged buildings and trees down in both areas. Several roads in Jackson, Mississippi, were underwater Thursday morning and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency warning for the area. Rescues were underway Thursday morning for motorists stranded by flash flooding in Greenville, Mississippi. Buildings were reportedly inundated and roads impassable in Washington County, in western Mississippi. More than 86,000 homes and businesses across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi were without power Thursday evening. Dozens of motorists became stranded Thursday night in Houston. More than 111,000 Texas homes and businesses were without power Friday morning. A stretch of Interstate 10 was temporarily shut down in downtown Houston Thursday evening because of flooding and 30 to 40 people were rescued after becoming stranded at another stretch of the highway on the eastern side of the city. The Houston fire department urged motorists Friday to stay off the roads to avoid more flash flooding from the lingering storm system.

Signs of the Times

May 3, 2019

­­Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1Timothy 2:1-2)

White House Hosts Third National Day of Prayer Service

About one hundred people—religious leaders, Trump administration officials, and their guests—celebrated the “power of prayer” at the White House Wednesday. The president welcomed representatives of various faiths, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus. “Today we give thanks for this magnificent country and we proudly come together as one nation under God,” Trump said at the start of the service. The President and Melania Trump hosted the service in the White House Rose Garden where the president asked for prayer for Venezuela and called for the protection of religious freedom amid the recent string of attacks on houses of worship across the United States and all over the world. The President made mention of several incidents on houses of worship in the U.S. including the arson of three historically black churches in Louisiana and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue last year. Among his guests were rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who survived the San Diego synagogue shooting last week. The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 when President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress declaring it a day of observation when citizens can “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” This is the third consecutive year that the White House has hosted a National Day of Prayer service.

Trump Issues Religious-Freedom Protections for Those Forced to do Abortions

The Trump administration has finalized another set of administrative protections for religious Americans’ conscience rights on a range of fronts, President Donald Trump announced Thursday morning during remarks to observe the National Day of Prayer. “Earlier this week I took action to ensure that federal employees can take paid time off to observe religious holy days,” he announced. “And just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities.” According to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services, the final rule “ensures that HHS implements the full set of tools appropriate for enforcing” laws that exempt healthcare workers from “having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.”

Prominent Clergy, Scholars Accuse Pope Francis of Heresy

Prominent clergymen and scholars including Fr. Aidan Nichols, one of the best-known theologians in the English-speaking world, have issued an open letter accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. They ask the bishops of the Catholic Church, to whom the open letter is addressed, to “take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation” of a pope committing this crime. The authors base their charge of heresy on the manifold manifestations of Pope Francis’ embrace of positions contrary to the faith and his dubious support of prelates who in their lives have shown themselves to have a clear disrespect for the Church’s faith and morals. “We take this measure as a last resort to respond to the accumulating harm caused by Pope Francis’s words and actions over several years, which have given rise to one of the worst crises in the history of the Catholic Church,” the authors state. Many of these heretical statements touch on questions of marriage and the family and are to be found in Amoris Laetitia, but there is also a new claim made by Pope Francis in 2019 – namely, that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”

Late-Term Abortions in NYC Far More than Homicides

More babies died from abortion at 21 weeks’ gestation or over in 2015 than there were people killed by homicide in New York City, new figures reveal. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and published by the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reveal that the number of abortions at or after 21 weeks was 1,485 while the number of homicides was 352. While the figure of 1,485 is shockingly high, these abortions at 21 or more weeks’ gestation account for only 2.3 percent of the 63,610 abortions carried out in America’s abortion capital. And these numbers are only likely to get higher, as New York recently passed some of the most extreme abortion legislation in the world, removing abortion from the penal law and allowing it up to birth in some cases.

Students Win ‘Bible Ban’ Case as School Rewrites Policy

Parents of students who were banned from handing out Bibles during lunch at a Pennsylvania high school reached an agreement with the school district Monday that changes language in the student handbook. The students at Cumberland County High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa., said in January the principal was preventing them from handing out Bibles during any moment of the school day, including during lunch. The Independence Law Center then filed suit on behalf of the parents of the students, claiming the school’s policy was a violation of constitutionally protected free speech. The students are part of a group called the Christians in Action Club, or Bible Club. A federal judge issued an injunction against the school district in February, allowing the students to hand out Bibles. Under the agreement reached between the parents and the Mechanicsburg Area School District, the district agreed to delete a portion of the student handbook that banned any speech that “seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.” The district also agreed to pay the parents’ attorney fees. The judge signed off on the agreement.

School Stops Saying ‘God Bless America’ after Atheists Complain

A Pennsylvania school stopped saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeaker after a parent complained and an organization comprised of atheists and agnostics got involved. Sabold Elementary School in Springfield, Pa., had a custom of allowing users of the loudspeaker to say “God Bless America” after the morning Pledge of Allegiance. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, acting on a complaint from a parent, wrote the superintendent March 25 and argued the action was unconstitutional. An FFRF press release said saying the phrase “sends a message to its students that the school is endorsing and compelling belief in God.” The FFRF also says the Pledge itself is unconstitutional due to its incorporation of “under God.”

American School Children Forced to Praise ‘Blood of Martyrs’

In a frightening display at a Philadelphia Muslim school, young children performed songs calling for the “liberation” of land that belongs to Israel with the “blood of martyrs.” While the sight of even the youngest children singing about terrorism and violence against Israelis has become commonplace in videos from Gaza, seeing a similar display from children in the United States is chilling, reports United With Israel. “children to praise so-called “martyrs” and “liberate” land that belongs to a sovereign nation, Israel, makes the prospect of Israel-Palestinian peace even more remote.

Persecution of Christians in Middle East a Growing Problem

A new report details the pervasive persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East, The Guardian is reporting. The report, commission by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, says the persecution sometimes amounts to genocide. It noted millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes in the region.  Many of them have been killed imprisoned, kidnapped and discriminated against. “The overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians,” the report said. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.The report noted “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.” And the report added: “The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide.”

Palestinian Christian Village Attacked by Fatah-Linked Mob

Residents of the predominantly Christian village of Jifna, north of Ramallah in an area of the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority, were attacked  late Sunday following a personal dispute between a female resident of the village and the son of an individual tied to the Fatah faction, which dominates the PA. The woman reportedly filed a complaint with the PA police after she said she and her children were assaulted while driving through the village, leading to an apparent revenge attack on the entire village by a mob led by the father of the accused and including several men with weapons. Women and children were terrorized by the shooting, and houses were targeted with Molotov cocktails and rocks.

Shooter Attacks Jewish Temple in Poway, CA

One woman was killed and three others were wounded when a man entered a synagogue during Passover services Saturday at the Chabad of Poway temple and opened fire with an AR-style assault weapon shortly before 11:30 a.m. Poway is about 25 miles northeast of San Diego. Officials are calling it a hate crime. The suspect, 19-year-old John Earnest, turned himself in and is being questioned by authorities. San Diego Sheriff William Gore said that Earnest posted a “manifesto” online which details the shooter’s hateful motivations and his reasons for targeting members of the Jewish faith. Earnest is also under investigation in connection with an unsolved mosque arson case. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a veteran, murdered in Saturday’s shooting attack on a Chabad synagogue in the San Diego area, sacrificed her own life in order to save that of the synagogue’s rabbi by standing in front of him. After Earnest fired at least eight rounds into a California synagogue, he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets, authorities say.

Army Veteran Charged with Plotting Terror Attacks in LA Area

A 26-year-old former US Army soldier who served in Afghanistan has been charged with plotting terror attacks in the Los Angeles area, the Justice Department said Monday. Mark Steven Domingo allegedly sought to detonate improvised explosive devices containing nails this past weekend at a rally in Long Beach that was organized by a white nationalist group. On March 2, Domingo posted a video online professing his Muslim faith and wrote, “America needs another Vegas event,” referring to the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 in which more than 50 people died. He was arrested Friday night after he took receipt of what he thought were pressure cooker bombs. Domingo allegedly wanted to “seek retribution for attacks against Muslims” and also considered attacks on Jewish people, churches and law enforcement. He is accused of targeting “Jews as they walked to synagogue, police officers, a military facility, and crowds at the Santa Monica Pier.”

More States Enacting Red Flag Gun Laws

If someone is suicidal or an imminent threat to others, should a local judge be able to temporarily take away that person’s guns? Colorado is the 16th state to say “yes,” while another 21 have taken at least some steps toward adopting a so-called red flag law. Such laws are now on the books in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Maine and Pennsylvania could be next. Gun violence is again in the spotlight with two high-profile shootings in the past week, one at a synagogue and one at a college campus. The laws are opposed by the National Rifle Association which says they hinder the right to due process. Red flags in the run-up to the homicides in Tennessee that left seven people dead should serve as a “wake-up call” for the state, says a prominent defense attorney who reviewed the case. Michael Lee Cummins, the suspect in the Tennessee deaths, had a lengthy criminal history in Sumner County, including previous convictions for aggravated assault, domestic assault and attempted aggravated arson.

Military Sexual Assaults Rise by Almost 38%

Sexual assaults in the military rose nearly 38% from 2016 to 2018, according to survey results obtained by the USA TODAY. That spike in crime within the ranks comes after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate it. The report, released Thursday by the Pentagon, surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel in 2018. Based on the survey, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact – an increase over the 14,900 estimated in the last biennial survey in 2016.Unwanted sexual contact ranges from groping to rape. Enlisted female troops ages 17 to 24 were at the highest risk of being assaulted. More than 85% of victims knew their assailant. Alcohol was involved in 62% of the total assaults. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting Secretary of Defense, said in a statement Thursday he had reviewed the latest data and said, “We are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other. This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on.”

Rapists Seldom are Incarcerated in U.S.

The vast majority of sexual perpetrators escape prison time. Out of every 1,000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will never be incarcerated, according to an analysis of Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation data conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Most rapes aren’t even reported. Even when sexual assault or abuse is reported, legal experts say the variations in sentencing guidelines from state to state and judges’ ability to deviate from those guidelines make sentencing inconsistent. For example, Shane Piche admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl who rode the school bus he drove. Michael Wysolovski admitted to keeping a teenage girl in sexual captivity for more than a year. Last Thursday, two separate judges in two separate states ruled neither would be going to prison, with plea deals requiring them to register as sex offenders, and incarceration limited to time served.

Executives of Opioid Manufacturer Found Guilty of Racketeering

The billionaire founder of the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics and four other top executives were found guilty on Thursday in a scheme involving bribes and kickbacks to physicians who prescribed large amounts of a fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need the painkiller. After 15 days of deliberations, a jury in Boston federal court reached a first-ever conviction of a drug company CEO in the federal government’s fight to combat the opioid crisis, finding the Arizona-based company’s founder and former chairman John Kapoor guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges. Racketeering charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The landmark conviction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts marks an initial victory on the legal front in the government’s efforts to fight the rising number of opioid overdoses. Many similar lawsuits are being filed against opioid manufacturers in many cities and states.

Florida Votes to Ban Sanctuary Cities Statewide

Lawmakers in Florida approved a bill to ban sanctuary cities in the Sunshine State, and all that is left is for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign it into law. The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday the measure passed in both the House and Senate. The bill stipulates state and local law enforcement agencies will be required to comply with federal “immigration detainers,” which are used when a suspected illegal alien is in custody. There are hundreds of sanctuary cities and counties across the United States in Democrat-controlled areas. Republicans and members of the law enforcement community have pushed back on them, and the Trump administration has flirted with withholding certain federal funds to jurisdictions that refuse to enforce immigration laws. President Donald Trump recently announced the plan to send detained illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities, a plan that is now underway.

Migrant Update

President Trump will send Congress a supplemental budget request this week demanding more money ($4.5B) to secure the border amid the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis, the acting Homeland Security secretary told Congress on Tuesday, setting up a massive battle with Democrats. The president will also send a legislative package asking for changes to the law to allow for faster deportations of illegal immigrants, closing loopholes that migrants are exploiting to gain an illegal foothold in the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border may have influenced the country’s recent crackdown on migrants, USA Today reports. Migrants from Central America have found “immigration checkpoints all along the highway” leading through Mexico, according to the newspaper, and migrant caravans were raided and the travelers arrested last April. Humanitarian visas that allow migrants to live and work in Mexico were cut off, and bus operators were recently ordered to stop carrying migrants. Local police in the southern states in Mexico have begun preventing migrants from entering town centers, and local citizens are no longer offering food, water, or clothing to migrants. Maureen Meyer, from the non-partisan Washington Office on Latin America’s director for Mexico and migrant rights, said that Trump’s threats to close the border, end foreign aid to Mexico and suspend NAFTA negotiations, along with his decision to cut of multiple Central American countries from foreign aid, has had a great impact on Mexico.

From the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to the Southern California coast, the Trump administration continues  separating migrant families at rates that alarm immigration attorneys and advocates, even though a federal judge barred family separations as a systemic policy. Separations have slowed significantly since a federal judge in San Diego ordered the administration to halt the practice in June 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw allowed separations Advocates at the Young Center’s Harlingen, Texas, office said one in every five families they see at migrant shelters have been separated at the border for questionable reasons. Officials at Al Otro Lado, which advocates for immigrants in California, said dozens of families are separated each day throughout the San Diego metro area. in rare, specific circumstances, and the Trump administration has exploited those openings at a worrying clip, according to groups that work with migrants along the border.

Thousands fleeing conflict or poverty in Nigeria, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Haiti and Cuba have traveled across oceans, through the jungles and mountains of South America or up through Central America. It’s a a route that – so far – ends here: the steamy, crumbling Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. Some say they’ve given up hope of reaching the United States and just want papers that will allow them to work in Mexico – but northern Mexico, where wages are higher. The government is not prepared to grant that, so it keeps them in Tapachula, waiting – perhaps for an asylum ruling, perhaps residency status, but most likely perpetual homelessness.

Economic News

Hiring was strong for the second straight month in April and unemployment fell to a new 50-year low,  easing concerns that a slowing global and U.S. economy could dampen job growth. Employers added a booming 263,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, lowest since December 1969. Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $27.70, keeping the annual gain at 3.2%.Pay increases generally have topped 3% since last year as employers compete for a shrinking supply of workers.

Economies at the heart of Europe are growing more quickly than expected, boosting hopes that a global slump has been avoided. First quarter growth in the 19 countries that use the euro was 0.4%, double the rate posted in the final quarter of 2018. The results are the latest piece of evidence to suggest that the world’s largest economies are in better shape than many analysts feared. The US economy grew at a better than expected rate of 3.2%.

President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to work together on a $2 trillion infrastructure package — but put off for later the difficult question of how to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was “good will in the meeting” and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi added: “We did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold.”

The national average price of gas continues its customary spring climb as Memorial Day approaches, hitting $2.90 on Friday, up 20 cents from a month ago and 8 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA. In California, the average price of gasoline soared over $4 per gallon. Nationally, the average is “knocking on the doorstep” of hitting $3 for the first time since October 2014.

Britain

Knife-related homicides took 285 lives in England and Wales from March 2017 to March 2018 – a record since data collection began in 1946. The data, from the Office for National Statistics, doesn’t include Northern Ireland and Scotland. Unlike the U.S., where guns are tied to so many deaths, only 4% of homicides in Britain last year were from shootings; 39% were from “sharp instruments,” the top weapon. The stabbing deaths have led police leaders, youth workers and victims’ families to call for action over what Prime Minister Theresa May has described as a public-health emergency and a “cancer” affecting British society: violence by its youth.

  • The end-time surge in violence by our youth growing up within our culture of death will only get worse as rider of the red horse is loosed upon the earth to “take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.” (Revelation 6:4)

Middle East

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion to accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming Mideast peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians, reported the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Tuesday. Salman reportedly asked Abbas: “How much money does the Palestinian Authority and its ministers and employees need?” Abbas replied with an answer of $1 billion annually, to which the Saudi crown prince replied: “I will give you $10 billion over 10 years if you accept the deal of the century.” Abbas rejected the offer, saying it would “mean the end of my political life.” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said last week that the so-called “deal of the century” will be released after the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which starts on May 5 and concludes on June 4.

Syria

Fighting in northwestern Syria has displaced nearly 140,000 people since February, the UN said on Wednesday, as the Assad regime and its ally Russia have stepped up their bombardment program. “Since February, over 138,500 women, children and men have been displaced from northern Hama and southern Idlib,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Sri Lanka

Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to veil their faces under an emergency law ordered by President Maithripala Sirisena that bans all kinds of face coverings that may conceal people’s identities. The law takes effect Monday, eight days after the Easter bombings of churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people in Sri Lanka. Dozens of suspects have been arrested but local officials and the US Embassy in Colombo have warned that more militants remained on the loose with explosives.

Venezuela

Clashes between anti-government protesters and law enforcement officers erupted in Caracas on Tuesday after the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, called for the population to rise up against the president, Nicolás Maduro. The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first declared himself interim president in January, expressed immediate support for his latest move. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that U.S. military action “is possible” in Venezuela to bolster opposition leader Juan Guaido’s bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro. Pompeo’s remarks appeared to mark an escalation of the Trump administration’s rhetoric on Venezuela. Pompeo and other officials, including President Donald Trump, have said that “all options are on the table” but focused mostly on economic sanctions and other diplomatic tools. Pompeo on Tuesday said Maduro was ready to flee Venezuela but changed his mind after Russia persuaded him to stay. Maduro and Russian officials denied Pompeo’s account. The stepped-up U.S. pressure comes a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a popular uprising and claimed the support of the military. President Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and discussed a range of issues, including nuclear weapons, a three-party arms control agreement and the conflict in Venezuela.

  • It should be noted that Venezuela has by far the largest oil reserves in the world, hence the greater involvement of the world’s major powers.

China

China is continuing to modernize its armed forces in order to transform its military into a major global power and using espionage to steal cutting edge technology for military purposes, according to a newly released Pentagon report. “China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches,” the Department of Defense report said. The report also details the growth in China’s defense budget and its military capabilities, saying “China’s defense budget has nearly doubled during the past 10 years.”

Japan

Japanese Emperor Akihito announced his abdication at a palace ceremony Tuesday in his final address, as the nation embraced the end of his reign with reminiscence and hope for a new era. Akihito, 85, took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father’s name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. Akihito’s reign ends at midnight Tuesday, after which his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the throne as new emperor.

Earthquakes

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Arizona was the largest of several quakes that registered in the region on Saturday morning. The Arizona Geological Survey said the Duncan and Safford areas experienced a sequence of shallow quakes at 10:01 a.m. Each year, Arizona has hundreds of earthquakes that people don’t feel.

4.8-magnitude quake struck just below the U.S.- Mexico border near Alberto Oviedo Mota, Baja California. The perceived shaking in Alberto Oviedo Mota was listed as very strong with the potential for damage listed at moderate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The shaking was felt in Yuma, Arizona.

Weather

Deadly flooding from heavy rains and snow melt plagued areas from Michigan to the South this week, damaging homes and sending the Mississippi River in one spot to levels not reached in 157 years. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Thursday for Wayne County after this week’s heavy rains left widespread flooding. In other areas throughout the Midwest and the South, flooding has made roads impassable and forced the closure of two Mississippi River bridges in Quincy, Illinois, and Louisiana, Missouri.

The Mississippi River surged above levels reached in the historic 1993 flood in Davenport, Iowa, causing a levee to give way, inundating the city with more than 6 feet of water. The breech forced some residents to seek shelter on their rooftops, while others were evacuated by boats. Several businesses were forced to close as the flood waters rose, and city workers scrambled to reinforce the levee with sandbags.

A rash of severe storms lashed the Plains Tuesday, spawning at least three dozen suspected tornadoes that left a trail of damage across northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. More than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power early Wednesday in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Storms pounding Central Arkansas knocked down trees, ripped off roofs and flipped tractor-trailers on Thursday. In addition to Arkansas, the spate of storms caused damage in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into northeast India Friday as a Category 4-equivalent storm, uprooting trees, downing power lines and sweeping away thatched homes. “There were the roadside food carts, store signs all flying by in the air,” one witness reported. In the popular tourist beach city of Puri, the main highway in and out was made impassable by fallen trees and electricity poles. Nearly 1.2 million people had been evacuated Thursday in northeast India as the storm approached. Initial reports say seven have died, but the toll is expected to rise as the storm continues to batter India.