Archive for June, 2019

Signs of the Times

June 28, 2019

­­Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. (Galatians 1:3-5)

Supreme Court Refuses to Revive Alabama Abortion Ban

The Supreme Court won’t revive Alabama’s ban on the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. The ban has been blocked by lower courts. The justices on Friday rejected the state’s appeal in which it sought to enforce a law enacted in 2016 that bans the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall calls the procedure “dismemberment abortion.” Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Court records show 93% of abortions in Alabama occur before 15 weeks of pregnancy. For the 7% of abortions that occur later, almost all are by dilation and evacuation. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson found that the Alabama law would amount to a virtual ban on abortion in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Thompson’s ruling blocking the law, but two of the three judges on the panel said they voted to affirm only because they are bound by past Supreme Court decisions in support of abortion rights.

Rhode Island Signs Law Permitting Abortions up to Birth

On Wednesday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the Reproductive Privacy Act into law, allowing late-term abortions on unborn babies, including part-birth and dismemberment abortions. According to the Christian Post, the bill states, “Neither the state, or any of its agencies, or political subdivisions shall restrict an individual person from preventing, commencing, continuing, or terminating that individual’s pregnancy prior to fetal viability.” The bill states that late-term abortions are only allowed when necessary if the mother’s life or health is at risk. The Catholic governor claimed signing the bill shortly after it was approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly was the “right thing to do.” LifeNews called into question the broad term of “health” of the mother, which could qualify for any situation.

Poll Shows Most Americans Oppose Abortion

Gallup has released new National polling data on the issue of abortion and the results show increasing pro-life sentiment across the United States as more people say they oppose all or most abortions than have said so in recent years. In the past, the Gallup survey has found that roughly half or just over half of Americans oppose all or almost all abortions. This time, Gallup found that 60% of Americans take a pro-life position on abortion wanting all (21%) or almost all (39%) abortions made illegal. The poll found just 38% of Americans take a pro-abortion position wanting all (25%) or almost all (13%) abortions legal. That is down from the 43% pro-abortion figure Gallup found last year.

Pregnant Woman Changes Mind Mid-Abortion, Saves Twin Babies

A North Carolina woman undergoing a chemical abortion had a change of heart when she learned she was carrying twins and was able to save her babies thanks to the work of a pro-life pregnancy center. The woman was six weeks pregnant when she visited a Charlotte, N.C., abortion clinic – A Preferred Women’s Health Center – with the goal of ending the pregnancy. “Oh – twins,” the technician at the abortion clinic said while performing an ultrasound. The pregnant woman had always wanted twins, but she swallowed the first pill without having time to consider the consequences. A chemical abortion is a two-step process involving a pair of drugs, RU-486 (mifepristone) and misoprostol. Together, they’re known as the abortion pill. Leaving the clinic, the woman heard a sidewalk counselor: “It might not be too late for you – AbortionPillReversal.com– they can still help you save your baby.” The woman visited the website and called the phone number that was listed. She wanted to save her babies. Reversal treatment involves an extra boost of progesterone to offset the effects of mifepristone. About 750 babies have been born thanks to the treatment and to pregnant women changing their minds.

Conservatives Worry About Big Tech Liberal Bias

Conservative frustration with Big Tech bias bubbled over this week amid fresh evidence of behind-the-scenes political manipulation at Google, spurring calls for federal action to prevent the industry from putting its thumb on the scales of the 2020 election, citing a hidden-camera video released this week by Project Veritas showing a Google executive discussing the need to prevent “the next Trump situation.” YouTube has now deleted the Project Veritas video revealing a senior Google executive discussing what appears to be the tech giant’s plan to influence the 2020 elections.  Google intends to influence and control public perception so as to manipulate and determine national political election outcomes. It does this by using AI algorithms to skew search results, presenting only their political views, and suppressing dissenting or alternative views. The Media Research Center repeated its call Wednesday for a Justice Department investigation into bias at the social media giants, saying “they are simply too powerful for ordinary citizens to challenge.”

House and Senate Pass Competing Border Bills

Five months after labeling the border a “manufactured” crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Democrats on Tuesday to approve a $4.5 billion humanitarian assistance package President Trump had requested to deal with the record surge of illegal immigrants. But Democrats took their pound of flesh in the vote, deleting some of the president’s priorities from the final bill, such as money for investigators to stop human traffickers or more detention beds for ICE. Instead, they packed the measure with new rules on how President Trump can spend the money and, on the conditions that migrants can face when they arrive at the border. Meanwhile, the Senate passed its own measure, which Pelosi at first rejected. The House and Senate bills were similar in the amount of money but they differed over how to spend it. Border authorities, the Pentagon and deportation officers get money in the Senate bill that’s absent from the House version. But Congress sent President Trump a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package on Thursday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi capitulated to Republicans and Democratic moderates and dropped her insistence on stronger protections for migrant children in overcrowded border shelters.

Migrant Update

Illegal immigrant children caught at the border are now, and always have been, getting soap, toothpaste and other basic hygiene necessities — at taxpayers’ expense — a top Border Patrol official told Congress on Wednesday. Brian S. Hastings, chief of the Border Patrol’s law enforcement operations, said shocking claims by lawyers who visited facilities and said children were going without necessities were distorted. In fact, he said, the storeroom at border facilities “frankly looks like Costco,” with shelves of what the agency calls “consumables” — blankets, soap, and other basic necessities. “We provide three meals, hot meals a day, and snacks are unlimited,” he added.

The Department of Homeland Security projects a 25% drop in border crossings in June. Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan says U.S. and Mexican efforts to deter migration have been having an early effect. Migration patterns tend to dip in the hot summer months, but the expected decline is larger than predicted.

A Massachusetts federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents cannot make arrests at courthouses in the state, dealing a major blow to the agency. Judge Indira Talwani of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled Thursday that ICE agents are barred from “civilly arresting parties, witnesses and others attending Massachusetts courthouses on official business while they are going to, attending or leaving the courthouse.”

Supreme Court Blocks 2020 Census Citizenship Question

The Supreme Court has blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census for the time being in a major setback for the Trump administration. The bitter controversy centers around whether the administration can ask all recipients a citizenship question on the 2020 census for the first time since 1950. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that there was sufficient reason for concern about why the Commerce Department wanted to add the question. Roberts had the support of the four liberal justices. The decision raises the question of whether the administration will have enough time or the ability to add the citizenship question before the census begins. The administration previously told the court that the questionnaire needed to be printed by the end of June.

Supreme Court Refuses to Overturn States Gerrymandering

A deeply divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal courts may not intervene to block even the most partisan election maps drawn by state lawmakers, allowing such gerrymandering to continue. The 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s other conservatives said partisan election maps drawn by North Carolina Republicans and Maryland Democrats are constitutional despite their one-sided nature. The high court has never before declared unconstitutional an election map drawn for blatant partisan advantage. Justices have reasoned that elected officials are expected to joust for power in that fashion, while courts should be reluctant to intercede. The decision was loudly denounced by the court’s liberal justices.

Human Trafficking in America Among Worst in World

The United States is again ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. According to a recently released report by the State Department, the top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking in 2018 were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines. The Department of Justice provided more than $31 million for 45 victim service providers that offered services to trafficking survivors across the country, up from $16 million to 18 organizations in 2017, according to the report. The trafficking industry is fueled by an unceasing demand. It’s here that officers focus their enforcement actions. And it’s where advocates focus their education efforts to end the illicit trade. “We have a major issue here in the United States” said Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking. “The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So, we are driving the demand as a society.”

Alaska Most Dangerous State for Women

For decades, travelers, transplants and natives have taken pride in surviving and thriving in this remote state, unlike any other in America. But the isolation has consequences, too. The reality is that many women in Alaska have to survive something far more dangerous than anything they might encounter in the wild: the men they interact with every day. Across the state, and not just in rural areas, women are raped, beaten and murdered by their spouses and relatives at higher rates than anywhere else in the United States. Reported rape in Alaska is 2.5 times the national average. A staggering 59% of adult women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both. Alaska has the highest rate of female homicides at 3.40 per 100,000 women. Louisiana is second at 2.42 with Nevada third at 1.98.

Illinois Becomes 11th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Illinois on Tuesday became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for recreational use after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that permits residents to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis at a time and non-residents up to 15 grams. The move also implements the nation’s first comprehensive statewide cannabis marketplace designed by legislators. In addition, nearly 800,000 people with criminal records for purchasing or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less may have those records expunged. The law provides for cannabis purchases by adults 21 and older at approved dispensaries, which, after they are licensed and established, may start selling Jan. 1, 2020. That means possession remains a crime until then.

Sheriffs Says Legal Marijuana Causing More Crime/Accidents

The National Sheriffs’ Association, in a poll of its members, said legal marijuana is resulting in more crime and highway accidents, the Washington Examiner reported. The association surveyed 467 sheriffs and found: 65% said crime has increased where marijuana has been legalized; 84% linked legalized marijuana to impaired driving and accidents; 74% said they need “an increase in personnel, resources and training” to handle the jump in marijuana-related cases; and 85% want more research into the effects of cannabis.

Economic News

A new survey from financial information website Bankrate.com found that working-class Americans have a less favorable view of the economy than the experts do. All nine of the experts rated the economy as being “excellent” or “good,” compared to just 59% of the 10,000 workers surveyed. In addition, 39% of everyday Americans said the economy was “not so good” or “poor.” Everyday Americans also said they expect a recession to hit sooner than the experts predict. A fifth of Americans polled said they believe the recession has already begun, and 21% said they expected it to begin within six months or a year. However, all the experts said they don’t expect a recession to begin for either one to two years or more than two years.

America’s corn, soy and wheat farmers are having a terrible year. Heavy rains and floods across the growing regions have destroyed crops and caused farmers to miss planting windows. May 2018 through April 2019 was the wettest 12-month period on record for the United States, according to the US Department of Agriculture. On June 17, corn futures hit their highest level in five years. For the year, they’re up more than 17%, which puts futures on track for the steepest annual price increase since 2010. Corn has been hurt the most followed by soy and then wheat. The full extent of the losses won’t be known for a few more months.

Middle East

On Thursday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched a new wave of arson attacks, using incendiary devices attached to balloons to ignite fires in Israeli territory in the southern region. In total, Palestinians caused around 24 fires in southern Israel’s Gaza belt, according to a Times of Israel report. The Palestinian arson campaign began in March 2018 and has fluctuated between periods of heavy and lighter attacks, with not a day passing during which an arson attack didn’t take place. Thursday’s campaign represented an uptick in arson attacks, which involve Palestinians using balloons, kites, and even a live falcon to send incendiary devices into Israel, where they start massive fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves, costing Israelis millions of dollars.

The economic portion of the Trump administration’s long-awaited “deal of the century” Mideast peace plan was unveiled on Saturday, which calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians. The 10-year plan calls for projects worth $27.5 billion in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, and $9.1 billion, $7.4 billion and $6.3 billion for Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, respectively. Projects envisioned include those in the health care, education, power, water, high-tech, tourism, and agriculture sectors. It calls for the creation of a “master fund” to administer the finances and implementation of the projects that it says are akin to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

Israel

Israel security officials say Russia is behind the disruptions that plagued Israel’s civilian navigation systems for the past three weeks. Israel’s Army radio called it a “hostile attack.” The interference took place even as Russia’s National Security Adviser took part in a historic tripartite meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week. Russia denies that it had anything to do with the disruptions that Israel’s GPS systems experienced. If Russia is responsible, it appears to contradict the message of warming ties broadcast at the meeting that took place from June 24-26 between Russia, Israel and the U.S. The meeting was noted as historic since the national security advisers from the three nations had never met before for a trilateral meeting.

Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday for talks with the kingdom’s leaders to discuss “ways to counter the malign Iranian influence in the region.” Pompeo also will next visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in a bid to consolidate allies in the region en route to strengthening a global coalition against Iranian aggression. President Trump struck back Monday at Iran by issuing “hard-hitting” financial sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates. The sanctions ordered by President Donald Trump are in response to Iran shooting down a U.S. drone last week. The U.S. claims the $100 million, unmanned aircraft was flying over international waters while Iran says the drone was over its territory.

U.S. Cyber Command launched a retaliatory cyber-strike last week against an Iranian spy group, according to a U.S. official and a former US intelligence official familiar with the matter, reported CNN. USCC attacked the spy group, which has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, after Iran attacked ships in the region, the officials said. The U.S. official added the online strike targeted an Iranian spy group’s computer software that was used to track the tankers that were targeted in the Gulf of Oman on June 13. Iran denied reports in the U.S. media that the U.S. carried out a successful, retaliatory cyberattack that disabled Revolutionary Guard systems that control rocket and missile launches.

Tunisia

Two suicide bombers struck security forces in quick succession on Thursday morning in the Tunisian capital, killing at least one police officer and wounding at least eight other people, the Interior Ministry said. It was the second suicide assault on the streets of Tunis in nine months, stoking worries of renewed instability in a country that emerged as a rare democratic success after the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. The first bomber on Thursday morning struck a security patrol in the city center, near the site of the October attack, killing one police officer and wounding other officers and passers-by, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Ten minutes later, another bomber detonated a device at the back door of a police building in the El Gorjani area of the city, wounding four security officers, the ministry said. The building is part of a large complex that includes the headquarters of an antiterrorism brigade.

Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the American-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said in a statement. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the two service members were killed in an ambush in eastern Wardak Province. The deaths occurred one day after an unannounced visit to Kabul, the Afghan capital, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Meanwhile, the U.S. is holding direct talks with the Taliban in Doha, the Qatari capital. The seventh round of the talks are scheduled to begin on Saturday. The Taliban refuses to talk directly with the Afghan government, which it considers a puppet of the U.S. More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Islamic State

The Islamic State terror group has established conditions for a comeback that “could be faster and even more devastating” than when it first burst onto the world stage, according to a new report out Wednesday. ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also warns the terror group is likely to reclaim territory both in Syria and in Iraq, where it is already seizing control. “ISIS has systematically eliminated [Iraqi] village leaders and civilians who cooperated with anti-ISIS forces,” the report says. “It has re-imposed taxes on local populations in its historical support zones, displacing civilians and de facto controlling small pockets of terrain in Iraq.”

United Kingdom

An ad showing a father with his feet up while the mother is doing the housework would be outlawed in the United Kingdom under new regulations that ban using certain gender stereotypes to sell products. The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority, the ASA, issued the ban in December and gave companies a six-month grace period, which expired last week. The ASA’s chief executive, Guy Parker, said the ban was the result of a study the ASA conducted that concluded stereotypes in advertising can have “real-world psychological, physical, economic, social and political harm for individuals and groups.” The ASA said advertisements “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.”

Environment

A new federal study of oil that’s been seeping into the Gulf of Mexico from a platform toppled by Hurricane Ivan more than 14 years ago confirms that the spill is bigger than what the energy company who owns the platform has claimed. The platform, 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana, fell over after an underwater mudslide triggered by the hurricane on Sept. 15, 2004. The study, released this month by NOAA and done in conjunction with researchers from Florida State University and Florida International University, estimates that as much as 4,500 gallons per day could be leaking from the site. The platform is owned by Taylor Energy, which says oil sheens on the water surface indicate that only about 2.4 to 4 gallons of oil per day are seeping out. This isn’t the first time the energy company’s numbers have been refuted.

An outbreak of toxic bacteria is ruining some beach plans in Mississippi, where authorities are warning people not to swim or eat seafood from polluted coastal waters. Residents shouldn’t even allow their pets to come in contact with water that has a greenish-blue hue. The toxic cyanobacterium can cause rashes, diarrhea and vomiting. Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Joe Spraggins blames fresh water entering the Mississippi sound. A New Orleans spillway has been open for a historically long time to relieve pressure on levees from the flooded Mississippi River. The freshwater influx is creating a dead zone without oxygen where marine life can’t survive.

As summer hits its peak and the July Fourth holiday nears, an outbreak of blue-green algae on New Jersey’s largest lake has prompted the state’s environmental department to warn people to stay away from the water. Contact with it can cause rashes, flu- or allergy-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation. Lake Hopatcong straddles Sussex, Passaic and Morris counties. Just 44 miles northeast of New York City, it’s a popular summer holiday destination. The warning advised people to refrain from any water activities, including boating, kayaking and wading. Fish from the lake should not be eaten, it said. The warning will remain in place “for weeks, if not longer.”

Earthquakes

The Israeli Geophysical Institute reported on Wednesday afternoon that a 3.8 magnitude earthquake had hit in the southern Dead Sea region, south of Jerusalem. No injuries or damage were immediately reported but residents and tracking stations from the Sea of Galilee in the north to Eilat in the south reported feeling tremors.

Volcanoes

Papua New Guinea’s Mount Ulawun, considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, spewed ash into the sky on Wednesday, prompting officials to issue an eruption warning as scared residents fled. Witnesses described the scenes of ash spewing high into the sky above the volcano’s 7,657-foot summit. “The sky has turned black,” Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation, told Agence France-Presse.

Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands of Russia, south of the volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula, erupted last weekend for the first time since 1924 and the images from space were out of this world. A large plume of ash and volcanic gases shot up from the volcano’s 2,300-foot-wide crater about 4 a.m. local time on Saturday, June 22, ending a dormant period that had been ongoing for the past 95 years.

Wildfires

Alaska has been besieged by 19 large wildfires (over 100 acres) which have burned 116,851 acres (182 square miles). Most of them show no containment yet, with only one of the smallest at 66% containment. Most of the fires are being managed with “a strategy other than full suppression.”

The Woodbury fire in Arizona has burned 123,404 acres (192 square miles) of wilderness area. No structures have as yet been lost. The small town of Roosevelt had, been evacuated, but are now allowed to return. Area, road and trail closures remain in effect. The fire was 68% contained and command was turned over to local units Friday.

A massive fire in the Florida Everglades has burned 65 square miles of brush and grasslands since it started on Sunday. Officials were forced to close a stretch of Interstate 75 known as Alligator Alley Tuesday afternoon when the inferno’s thick smoke made travel dangerous along the highway. No homes or populated areas were threatened by the blaze, burning in a 165,000-acre conservation area in Broward County. As of Thursday, it was 65% contained.

Spontaneous combustion of a manure pile on a farm likely sparked a 13,000-acre wildfire now burning out of control in northeastern Spain, authorities say. Many horses and sheep died in the blaze that rolled across the rural terrain, forcing the evacuation of at least 53 residents in Spain’s Catalonia region. Officials called it the area’s worst wildfire in 20 years.

Weather

Record-shattering temperatures are scorching much of Europe this week as searing heat from North Africa overspreads the normally mild continent. Several deaths are being blamed on the heat wave blanketing much of Europe. Several locations in France topped 104 degrees on Wednesday. France is expected to experience 110 degrees in the southern parts of the country by Friday. Germany broke its all-time heat record for June on Wednesday when the temperature soared to 101.5 degrees in Coschen, which is about 65 miles southeast of Berlin. Authorities in Germany also imposed speed limits on some autobahns amid fears of buckling road surfaces, and some French schools stayed closed as a precaution. Both Poland (100.8 degrees) and the Czech Republic (102) also set June high temperatures on Wednesday. firefighters in Spain are struggling to contain a wildfire fueled by the hot and dry conditions on Thursday. The fire, in the northeast region of Catalonia, has burned about 21 square miles of land.

Signs of the Times

June 21, 2019

­­But the end of all things is at hand; therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  (1Peter 4:7-10)

Supreme Court Sides with Christian Bakery in Oregon

The Supreme Court delivered victory to yet another Christian bakery Monday, erasing a lower court’s ruling that had upheld penalties on the owners of an Oregon bakery who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The justices vacated that lower court decision and ordered a do-over in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling last year where the justices found anti-religious sentiments poisoned Colorado’s case against a different baker. The Oregon case involved Melissa and Aaron Klein, who closed their bakery after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries fined them more than $130,000 for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, saying the couple violated the state’s public accommodation law. “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel to First Liberty, which represents the Kleins. “The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

SCOTUS Allows Giant Cross to Remain on State Land

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a gigantic Latin cross on government land in Maryland does not have to be moved or altered in the name of church-state separation. The justices reasoned that the 40-foot cross was erected nearly a century ago as a World War I memorial, not an endorsement of Christianity. But while their verdict could extend to other existing monuments, it does not offer a blank check to new ones. The opinion written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito concluded that the display does not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause because of its longevity and multiple messages. The vote was 7-2, with Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

Court Allows Ban on Federal Funding for Abortion

The Trump administration’s rules restricting federal funding for clinics providing abortion referrals can take effect immediately, a federal appeals court said Thursday, sparking outcry among health organizations that opposed them. Along with more than 20 states, organizations including Planned Parenthood filed cases in three states to challenge the rules issued in February. Judges overseeing the cases blocked the rules from taking effect and two courts issued nationwide injunctions. In reversing those decisions, a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco called the rules reasonable. The court, which has drawn Trump’s ire in the past for blocking immigration orders, said the rules match a federal law prohibiting taxpayer funds from going to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Outrage Over California School’s ‘Condom Race’ for 10-Year-Olds

Outrage is growing in California against newly approved sex education materials in public schools. “It’s shocking,” Rebecca Friedrichs, the founder of For Kids & Country, told The Christian Post. She said one school had 10- and 11-year-old girls participate in a “condom race” in which they ran, in front of male classmates, to be the first to put a condom on a model of an erect adult male penis. The National Catholic Register reports that concerns center around changes approved by the California Board of Education in May. The programs are supposed to comply with the 2015 California Healthy Youth Act, “which mandates the teaching of ‘medically accurate’ and ‘age appropriate’ comprehensive sex education at least once in middle school and once in high school,” according to the report.

Mexico Signs Trump Trade Deal

The Mexican Senate overwhelmingly voted to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the deal Nov. 30, 2018, but it was not ratified by any country until Wednesday. USMCA includes rules that call for about 40% of automobile parts be produced by workers who earn a minimum of $16 an hour and more requirements that the parts be made in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, The Washington Post reported. Trump replaced NAFTA with USMCA in an effort to get better deals for U.S. workers. Mexican senators voted 114-4 to ratify USMCA. The treaty only needed a simple majority to pass. Trudeau also wants to move forward with decisions on the trade deal, but will probably wait until the Trump administration agrees on a deal with Democrats, WaPo reported.

Migrant Update

Thousands of illegal aliens flooding across America’s southern border have been segregated now because they’ve been exposed to either mumps, chicken pox or both. CNN reported that 5,200 adult immigrants are currently in quarantine in dozens of detention centers nationwide for exposure to contagious diseases. And a physicians’ organization has doubled down on its warning that some of those newcomers are coming from regions of the world that are being ravaged by Ebola, an almost-always-fatal disease for which the incubation period can be weeks.

The number of migrant families crossing the border illegally has been falling in recent weeks, according to preliminary figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, though U.S. officials say it is too soon to get a full picture of the impact on migration trends from President Trump’s deal with Mexico. U.S. authorities detained more than 85,000 “family unit” members at the border last month, an average of nearly 2,800 per day. That number has declined about 13 percent since the beginning of June, a period during which Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico and the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to an immigration crackdown to avoid the penalty.

Record Number of People Displaced Worldwide

A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, a new report released Wednesday finds. The annual “Global Trends” report, released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home. The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in by countries in the developing world, not wealthy countries. The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced people rose.

Coal Industry Boosted Under New Trump Energy Plan

President Donald Trump is keeping a signature campaign promise to boost the coal industry but environmentalists say the energy plan his unveiled Wednesday would lead to premature deaths and hasten climate change. Aging coal-fired power plants would get a new lease on life under the industry-friendly proposal known as the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. Presented as a change to the decades-old Clean Air Act, the Trump proposal would replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature plan to confront climate change. That plan never took effect after the Supreme Court prevented its implementation in 2015. The plan would give states broad latitude in how they would regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming as well as other pollutants, such as smog, soot and mercury. Environmental groups and some states already have vowed to sue to stop the plan’s implementation, just as opponents of Obama’s Clean Power Plan did successfully four years ago.

Risk of Hepatitis, Typhus and Other Diseases Growing among Homeless

From Los Angeles to Kentucky, across the USA, experts said, growing homeless populations are increasingly susceptible to outbreaks of contagious diseases, including typhus, Hepatitis A and Shigella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans with typhoid fever are usually infected abroad. But in Los Angeles, a Police Department employee assigned to the city’s traditional homeless epicenter became infected by the bacteria that causes the potentially deadly illness last month, and two other employees showed symptoms. Only blocks from billion-dollar skyscrapers and government offices, those living in tents or makeshift shelters use small plastic buckets as toilets. The waste is transferred into open 5-gallon pails left at street corners for crews to pick up. For water, some fire hydrants are fitted with fountains that inhabitants line up to use. Homelessness in L.A. was up 16% in 2019 to 58,936, three-quarters of whom live on the streets or in cars.

Obesity Rate Declining among U.S. Preschoolers

Preschool children receiving government food aid are reaching healthier body mass indexes, a U.S. study found, signaling a steady decline in obesity rates. The latest data shows obesity rates dropped to about 14% in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, down from 16% in 2010. Health experts welcomed the results published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, following an upward trend of obesity in young children between 2000 and 2010. All racial and ethnic groups recorded a statistically significant decline in obesity. The results cover children ages 2 through 4 on food vouchers and other services in the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. About 20% of U.S. children that age received benefits in 2016. Adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the nutrition program may have contributed to the decline, researchers said.

Impact of Illegal Drugs Worse than Expected

  1. William Jeynes, a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton and a Harvard graduate, noted some shocking results. The findings indicated that the effects of illegal drugs and prescription opioids on the academic and behavioral outcomes of young people are substantially more negative than is generally acknowledged in the media. Dr. Jeynes stated, These numbers are nothing short of alarming. It leads a person to the conclusion that there is a serious disconnect between the actual results of taking drugs and the perception by young people that they do little harm at all. I found the strong relationship between taking these drugs and acts of violence both against others and oneself particularly disconcerting.” Dr. Jeynes shared that, as one would expect, the impact of consuming harder drugs was greater than taking marijuana, but whether one examines the results of taking cocaine, opioids, heroin, amphetamines, or any other type of drug that is largely obtained illegally, the results are decidedly negative and substantial.

Hacker Ramson Attacks on the Rise

A Florida city is paying $600,000 in Bitcoins to a hacker who took over local government computers after an employee clicked on a malicious email link three weeks ago. Riviera Beach officials voted this week to pay 65 Bitcoins to the hacker who seized the city’s computer systems, forcing the local police and fire departments to write down the hundreds of daily 911 calls on paper. The payment will come from the city’s insurance. Targeted ransomware attacks on local US government entities — cities, police stations and schools — are on the rise, costing millions as some pay off the perpetrators in an effort to untangle themselves and restore vital systems. Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future found that at least 170 county, city or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff’s offices.

Economic News

The S&P 500 index hit a record high on Thursday, after the Federal Reserve indicated that it could cut interest rates as soon as next month to offset growing risks to global and domestic growth. The U.S. central bank left rates unchanged at the end of its two-day June policy meeting on Wednesday, but pledged to “act as appropriate” to sustain economic health. Wall Street’s main indexes have gained in recent weeks on expectations of a rate cut and hopes of a revival of trade talks between the United States and China.

The decade-long economic expansion is poised to become the longest in U.S. history next month. However, the expansion is displaying some telltale signs of old age, such as the 3.6% unemployment rate, a 50-year low; the beginnings of a slowdown in business profit growth; and a mounting debt problem – this time inside corporations. There’s also the wild card of an escalating trade war with China. At the same time, inflation is muted, interest rates are still relatively low and household balance sheets are healthy. Economists are divided about whether a recession is looming.

Though it’s been roughly a decade since the Great Recession plagued Americans and turned their finances upside down, a large number of U.S. adults are still struggling to recover. One in four Americans say that their financial situation hasn’t changed since the Great Recession, according to Bankrate, while 23% say they’re worse off now financially than they were back then. Much of the problem boils down to stagnant wages. Although the job market has been relatively healthy in recent years, 54% of Americans say their wages have yet to return to their pre-recession level.

As Americans’ finances recovered from the Great Recession – spurred by the longest bull market, 50-year unemployment lows and an almost record-breaking expansion – they got dumber about money matters. Just 34% could answer at least four out of five financial literacy questions correctly last year, down from 42% in 2009, according to the 2018 Financial Capability Study from FINRA Investor Education Foundation,

Persecution Watch

A National Guard facility in Pennsylvania refused to allow a Trail Life USA scouting troop to tour their facility because of the group’s religious affiliation. The Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard facility regularly hosts tours for Boy Scout troops and other organizations, but Trail Life boys were told they could not participate because they belonged to a Christian scouting organization. “Fort Indiantown Gap’s denial of access to the base facilities, which are open to other civic, fraternal, and youth organizations and for youth activities, constitutes viewpoint discrimination,” First Liberty Institute and Independence Law Center wrote in a letter to the National Guard. The law firms, which handle religious liberty cases, said the National Guard’s decision to ban the Christian scouting group is “discriminatory and unconstitutional.”

Dr. Edy Cohen was born in Lebanon and is currently a researcher at Bar Ilan University, specializing in Middle East affairs and Arabic media. He recently published a paper on the persecution suffered by Christians in the Palestinian Authority administered cities of the West Bank as well as in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. In a recent interview with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, he said, “There are approximately 50,000 Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and 4,000 in Gaza. But they are fleeing as fast as they can. They are going to Israel if they can, or Europe, mostly France. There also many secret believers who are afraid to speak up, including many converts. The Constitution of the PA is based on Sharia, so when you are a Christian living in this area you are a second class citizen by law. There is severe persecution in the PA, but it’s ignored by the media. There have been incidents of vandalism in Bethlehem, church properties are attacked and the media doesn’t report on it.”

Middle East

As part of their opposition to the U.S.-led conference in Bahrain next week, Palestinian leaders and faction representatives “emphasized that the ‘Bahrain workshop’ will be tantamount to a holocaust for the Arab principles and Palestinian rights,” reported the Al-Quds media outlet. An event has been planned to oppose the conference, referring to President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” as “The Holocaust of the Century.” In response to the Bahrain Conference, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Movement is calling for violence against Israel on the specific days the conference is taking place. Fatah posted an image of a masked Palestinian about to throw a rock, and text urging Palestinians to “escalate confrontations” as a “sign of opposition to the deal of the century and the workshop in Manama.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, took an additional step Tuesday in recognizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a state, according to the PA news agency WAFA. “Palestine and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed today a safeguards agreement at its Vienna headquarters,” said the news agency on Tuesday. “The signing of this agreement follows the accession of the State of Palestine as a State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the beginning of 2015,” WAFA added.

Iran

ON – President Donald Trump abruptly canceled an attack on Iran on Thursday evening after the nation shot down a U.S. drone, he confirmed in a Friday tweet. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump said, adding: “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Iran says it shot down an American “spy drone” Thursday, allegedly after the aircraft entered Iranian airspace. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says the drone was shot down over the Kouhmobarak district in the southern province of Hormozgan, near the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian authorities identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, but an American official tells Reuters that it was actually a US Navy MQ-4C Triton. The official says the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz when it was shot down, further raising tensions between Iran and the U.S.

President Trump said that Iran was responsible for an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. The president pointed to a video the U.S. military released that officials say shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz. The video. suggests that the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “This is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests.” Iran has denied being involved, accusing the U.S. instead of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” against it. The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman, off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze by an explosion.

The Department of Defense announced Monday evening that 1,000 U.S. troops are being sent to the Middle East in response to last week’s attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, attacks the United States says Iran conducted. The Department of Defense announced Monday evening that 1,000 U.S. troops are being sent to the Middle East in response to last week’s attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, attacks the United States says Iran conducted. The troops were authorized “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” Shanahan said.

Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers by June 26, the spokesman for the country’s atomic agency said Monday while also warning that Iran has the need for uranium enriched up to 20%, just a step away from weapons-grade levels. The announcement indicated Iran’s determination to break from the landmark 2015 accord, which has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall. Iran acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and said Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs.”

Nigeria

At least 30 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing in northeastern Nigeria, emergency services reported on Monday, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of the Boko Haram jihadist group. Three bombers detonated their explosives late Sunday outside a hall in the town of Konduga, where soccer fans were watching a game on television. Konduga is about 22 miles southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Usman Kachalla, the head of operations for the Nigerian emergency management agency, said on Monday: “The death toll from the attack has so far increased to 30. We have over 40 people injured.”

Nigerian activists descended on Washington this week to illuminate the harrowing and increasing persecution against Christians in Africa’s most populous nation. Those trapped within the bloodletting vow it is not only Boko Haram that has wrapped their lives in trauma and suffering, but other Muslim-dominant herdsman factions such as the Fulani, who are purportedly trying to erase them from the map. In the words of Alheri Bawa Magaji, a member of the mostly Christian Adara tribe and impassioned activist for her people, it is tantamount to genocide. “Christians are being phased out, and most Nigerians don’t even know what is really happening in these remote parts of the country because it is being suppressed,” she said. The attacks in recent times have been relentless, killing many and destroying entire villages.

Hong Kong

Following days of protests and street clashes, Hong Kong’s chief suspended a controversial bill indefinitely on Saturday that would have allow extraditions to mainland China. Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has claimed that the amendments are necessary to close legal loopholes, told the media that she took the move in response to widespread public unhappiness over the measure, The contentious bill raised concerns among critics that it would be used to undermine the city’s civil liberties by making political activists and human rights activists subject to removal. Organizers said more than a million people had taken to the streets since demonstrators erupted on Sunday.

South America

A “massive failure” in an electrical interconnection system left Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay completely without power last Sunday, The three countries experienced total blackouts affecting 55 million people. Parts of Chile and southern Brazil also experienced outages as well, said Edesur, the Buenos Aires-based company. Later Sunday, power had been restored to about 50,000 customers.

Earthquakes

Rescuers continued Tuesday to search for victims of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in southern China’s Sichuan province that killed at least 12 people and injured 135. More than 70 houses collapsed after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake and a 5.1 magnitude aftershock struck near the city of Yibin about 10:55 p.m. Monday local time. About 4,500 people had to be evacuated from their destroyed homes, the official Xinhua News Agency said. A major highway connecting Yibin and Xuyong county of Sichuan’s Luzhou City was closed because of the quake. Landslides also closed sections of other roads.

Weather

Overnight flooding in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Thursday forced people from their homes and left drivers stranded on highways. The heavy rain caused the roof of a grocery store in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, to collapse. Floodwaters were waist-high as rescuers used boats to take residents from their homes in Westville, New Jersey. Boats also evacuated about 50 people stranded in their homes by floodwaters in Vincentown in Southampton Township. Cars were stranded in high water on Interstate 295 near Bellmawr, New Jersey, and National Park, New Jersey. A number of highways and roads were closed by flooding in the greater Philadelphia area. Most train service was knocked out because of flooding and storm damage between eight stations.

The governor of Louisiana says the state’s fisheries industry has been hit hard by an influx of freshwater into the Gulf of Mexico from upstream flooding, and he’s asking for federal disaster aid to help. Heavy rainfall along the Mississippi River Basin – and the subsequent openings of the Bonnet Carré spillway – is adversely affecting the oyster, shrimp and blue crab industries, as well as recreational fishing. The Bonnet Carré spillway, 27 miles upriver from New Orleans, was opened twice this year – the first time that’s ever happened in the structure’s 90-year history. The excess fresh water reduces salinity, which makes it hard for oysters to survive and drives other shellfish to saltier areas. The runoff is also high in nitrogen and phosphorous, which cause algae blooms that deplete the water of oxygen, creating a “dead zone” that can result in fish kills and other devastating effects.

People in India’s sixth-largest city were lining up with cans amid a widespread water shortage during an intense drought that has dried lakes and depleted groundwater. Four of Chennai’s main water reserves had completely dried up, causing Chennai Metro Water to cut the water it supplies by 40%. Millions of people in Chennai were affected by the short water supplies, which has sparked protests, work stoppages and business closings. Water tank trucks were brought into the city from towns miles away.

Three million Olympic-size swimming pools full of water per year are melting from glaciers in the Himalayas, a new study. Even more concerning is that the ice melt has doubled in recent years: Himalayan glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a foot and half of ice each year since 2000 – which is double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000. Overall, the Asian mountain range, which includes Mount Everest, has been losing ice at a rate of about 1% a year since 2000, reports study author Joshua Maurer, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

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

Signs of the Times

June 13, 2019

­­We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2Corinthians 4:8-10)

Bakery Awarded $11M over Wrongful Student Protests

The owners of an Ohio bakery who sued for libel after being targeted by student protests won Friday an $11 million verdict against Oberlin College. A Lorain County jury ordered Oberlin to pay $11 million in compensatory damages to Gibson’s Bakery, a local fixture since 1885 that was beset by protests and racism allegations after three black students were arrested for shoplifting the day after the 2016 presidential election. “The jury saw that Oberlin College went out of their way to harm a good family and longtime business in their community for no real reason, and the jury said we aren’t going to tolerate that in our community anymore,” Owen Rarric, an attorney for the Gibsons, told Legal Insurrection. “The verdict sends a strong message that colleges and universities cannot simply wind up and set loose student social justice warriors and then wash their hands of the consequences,” said Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson, who runs the conservative Legal Insurrection website.

Vermont & Illinois Governors Sign No-Limits Abortion Bill

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Monday a sweeping no-limits abortion bill, creating a “fundamental right” to the procedure as a bulwark against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Mr. Scott, a pro-choice Republican, posted a statement saying that the legislation, H. 57, “affirms what is already allowable in Vermont — protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider.” Meanwhile, Vermont Right to Life executive director Mary Beerworth said the governor had endorsed “unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy” by signing the bill, which prevents the state from interfering with or restricting abortion access. On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law allowing abortions for any reason up to birth and forcing every state insurance plan to cover them. The law would erase criminal penalties for performing abortions and allow non-doctors to do them. The legislation also would repeal the partial-birth abortion ban, abortion clinic regulations and conscience protections for medical workers.

Trump Bans Fetal Tissue Research by Government Scientists

The Trump administration Wednesday banned government scientists from conducting fetal tissue research, handing pro-lifers a major victory and capping a contentious debate within the Department of Health and Human Services. “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” an HHS statement read. Any future research “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted,” the statement said. The department also said it is ending a contract with the University of California, San Francisco, that involved fetal tissue research. Some scientists had said fetal tissue research was necessary to find cures, although other scientists said such research was unethical and that alternatives existed. It was not a total victory for pro-lifers. HHS allowed current contracts with about 200 outside projects that use fetal tissue to continue, according to Politico.

Alabama Passes Controversial Castration Law

Males convicted of a sex offense against a child under the age of 13 in Alabama will be forced to undergo chemical castration in the month before they’re released from custody. Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed into law the bill passed by the state legislature on May 30. The effects—an inability to perform sexual acts and limited sexual interest—are reversed once treatment stops, but it’ll be up to a court to determine when this might happen. Any offenders who stop treatment on their own will be found in violation of parole and returned to custody. Randall Marshall of the ALCU of Alabama instead believes the law may be a form of cruel and unusual punishment. “It’s not clear that this actually has any effect and whether it’s even medically proven,” and “when the state starts experimenting on people, I think it runs afoul of the Constitution.” GOP Sen. Cam Ward says it will likely apply only to a small group of offenders as most people convicted in such cases are not considered for parole.

Michigan Muslim Rally Spews Hatred of Israel & U.S.

The “Quds Day” rally in Michigan last week was tailor-made for anti-Israel hate-mongers and those who despise America. Speakers at the anti-Israel rally in Dearborn, Michigan referred to U.S. presidents past and present as “criminals” and “terrorists,” calling the Jewish state a “cancer.” “Not only will we witness the liberation of Palestine, but we are going to play an active role in it with our own hands,” claimed one of the speakers. Another one praised the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which seek Israel’s destruction. Dearborn is home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.

Tariffs on Mexico Suspended after Negotiated Deal

President Donald Trump said Friday he will not place tariffs on Mexico Monday as previously threatened because Mexico has agreed to take new measures to stop the flow of illegal migrants into the United States. “The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” the president tweeted. “Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border.” Trump had threatened 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports unless officials there figured out a way to crack down on the flow of Central American migrants. In a major victory, Mexico has agreed to send more than ten times as many troops to the border.

Migrant Update

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told Congress Tuesday that 90% of asylum seekers skip their hearings after being released into the United States. McAleenan’s testimony also painted a grim portrait of a border crisis that shows no signs of easing, with Border Patrol overwhelmed and underfunded. The secretary described authorities as hamstrung by laws that limit how long they can keep migrants in custody. “Currently due to a single district court order, we cannot obtain effective immigration enforcement results for the families arriving at our border — they cannot be held for longer than 21 days and do not receive rulings from immigration courts for years,” he said.

  • Mark Morgan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told GOP senators that migrants from Central America are “renting babies” to make it easier to get across the U.S. border.
  • More illegal immigrants were apprehended crossing the southern border in May (144,000) than in any calendar month since 2006. The surge in arrests was the “worst case scenario,” according to a top immigration analyst who has now believes more than 1 million illegal immigrants will enter the United States this year.
  • An analysis of United States Census Bureau statistics revealed that nearly 300,000 “anchor babies” – children born to illegal aliens in the U.S. – add to the U.S. population annually, with about 20 percent of all births in America being born to legal or illegal immigrants.
  • California will become the first state in the country to pay for some adults living in the country illegally to have full health benefits. The agreement in the state legislature means low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 25 living in California illegally would be eligible for California’s Medicaid program, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Texas Governor Signs ‘Save Chick-fil-A’ Bill

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law, a new provision that supporters say defends the fast-food restaurant and protects religious freedoms. Opponents have argued it discriminates against the LGBT community. The new law stops the government from taking unfavorable action against a business or person for contributions to religious organizations. The bill was fast-tracked in the GOP-controlled legislature and originally was introduced after the San Antonio City Council blocked Chick-fil-A from opening a location in the city’s airport because of reported donations to organizations that protest gay marriage and other LGBT issues.

SCOTUS Rejects Challenge to ‘In God We Trust’ on U.S. Money

The Supreme Court rejected a case Monday brought by an atheist who wanted to scrub “In God We Trust,” the U.S. motto, from the nation’s currency, claiming it was an entanglement of state and religion. Michael Newdow, an activist who previous challenged reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, had now set his sights on U.S. money, but lost at the district, circuit and now Supreme Court levels. On behalf of a group of atheists, Newdow argued America’s money lacked a reference to God until 1864, when it was added in. He said that amounted to an endorsement of religion. The justices rejected his petition without comment.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenges to Silencer Laws

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request to take up a challenge to a federal law requiring the registration of some firearms including silencers. Challengers in the case believe the Second Amendment protects such firearm accessories. An appeals court had held that a silencer is not a “bearable” arm protected by the Constitution. The case comes as a silencer was used during the recent Virginia Beach massacre and President Donald Trump suggested he’d look into restrictions on gun silencers. The Trump administration had also urged the court not to take up the issue. The order was issued without comment or recorded dissent.

Man Fatally Shot, 25 Officers Hurt in Memphis

Armed officers and an angry crowd faced off after a Tennessee man was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals in a working-class Memphis neighborhood, leaving more than two dozen police officers injured. People in the crowd threw rocks and bricks, with 25 officers suffering mostly minor injuries during the tense clash Wednesday night in the Frayser community in north Memphis. Officers cordoned off several blocks near the scene. By 11 p.m., officers had used tear gas and most of the crowd dispersed. The U.S. Marshals Service said multiple officers encountered a man who was wanted on multiple warrants outside a home who then rammed his vehicle into the officers’ vehicles several times. The officers fired, striking and killing the individual. The NAACP tweeted that they were “closely monitoring the reports of riots” after the shooting.

Self-Inflicted Deaths at All-Time High in U.S.

According to a shocking new report from the Commonwealth Fund, the suicide rate in the United States is the highest that it has ever been before.  It’s the same story with death rates from drug overdoses and alcohol.  All three death rates are at an all-time record high. Since 2005, drug overdose deaths are up 115 percent, alcohol deaths are up 37 percent, and suicides are up 28 percent. Young adults (Millennials) were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol or suicide over the past decade

  • Some states have been hit far harder than others, according to the report. The highest drug death rates were all in northern Appalachia. “When we look at what’s going on in mid-Atlantic states — West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania — those are the states that have the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country,” David Radley, a senior scientist for the Commonwealth Fund, said. Rates in those states are at least double the national average of fatal drug overdose rates. West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rates, fueled mostly by the opioid epidemic. In addition, the New England states also have extremely high drug overdose death rates.
  • For suicide and alcohol deaths it is a completely different story. People died at higher rates of suicide and alcohol in Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oregon and Wyoming. The suicide rate in rural America is 45% greater than in large urban areas, according to a study released last fall by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Farming in the occupational group, along with fishing and forestry, with the highest rate of suicide deaths. Farmers’ net income has fallen 50% since 2013 and is expected to drop to a 12-year low this year, the US Department of Agriculture reports.

Economic News

U.S. employers hired the most people ever in April. The Labor Department said that businesses filled 5.9 million jobs in April – 4.2% more than in March and the most since records began in December 2000. However, taking population growth into account, new hires reached 3.9% of the total workforce compared to the record of 4.3% reached in January 2001.

With mortgage rates falling to the lowest level since September 2017, total mortgage applications surged 26.8% last week, led by an increase in refinancing, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said Wednesday. Applications to refinance mortgages jumped a whopping 47% from the prior week to the highest level since 2016. Mortgage applications to buy a home also perked up, increasing 10% after several weeks of lackluster showings as house shoppers also responded to falling rates.

According to a study that was recently conducted by the Federal Reserve, the percentage of wealth controlled by the top 10 percent of U.S. households has shot up from 60 percent in 1989 to 70 percent today. The study also found that the share of wealth among the richest 1% increased to 32% from 23% over the same period. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated for ordinary Americans.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is currently just $30,533, remaining virtually flat recently. As the cost of living has risen faster than our incomes have, more Americans have been squeezed out of the middle class with each passing month.

If the Strait were to be closed because of the threat of ongoing attacks, it would be a massive blow to the world’s economy. Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections. Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. In that case, benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

The automation wave is expected to dramatically reshape the US economy in the 2020s. This disruption will impact the labor force and cause tremendous job losses, reports Technocracy News. By 2030, automation could eliminate 20% to 25% of current jobs — equivalent to 40 million displaced workers, hitting the bottom 90% of Americans the hardest. In the next 10.5 years, automation is set to eliminate millions of jobs in the warehouse and logistics space, as well as increase the demand for small to medium-sized automated warehouses.

U.S. net oil imports (after accounting for exports) have shrunk to less than 3 million barrels per day, compared with more than 12 million in 2005. All of that American oil is keeping a lid on prices — despite US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Oil prices plunged into a bear market last week.

Persecution Watch

Christians are fleeing for their lives in northern Burkina Faso after twin attacks by Islamist extremists on 9 and 10 June left at least 29 people dead, according to Barnabas Fund contacts. Nineteen people were murdered in the town of Arbinda on Sunday 9 June and reports are coming in of a further ten slaughtered in nearby Namentenga province the next day. Arbinda had now lost in total no less than 100 people within six months. The entire population of Christians in the area have fled for their safety. Local Barnabas Fund contacts said that 82 pastors and 1,145 Christians, of 151 households, were fleeing from different locations in northern Burkina Faso. The latest attacks are the fifth and sixth in just the past six weeks. The four previous atrocities left a total of 20 dead. The Islamist militants’ murderous rampage began on 28 April in Silgadji.

China’s Orwellian-like network of surveillance cameras now includes churches. Most churches within the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement in one major Chinese city, Huai’an, have government-mandated surveillance cameras that allow the communist government to monitor the congregation’s every move, reports ChristianHeadlines.com. Within the Huaiyin district of Huai’an city, 155 of the 170 Three-Self churches have government-mandated cameras that are connected to a network allowing the government to watch Christians, Bitter Winter reported. The Religious Affairs Bureau pressured us into installing them,” a member of the church told Bitter Winter. The cameras are part of a massive network of cameras across China that allow the government to monitor citizens. There are an estimated 176 million surveillance cameras across China, The Atlantic reported. That number could reach 450 million by 2020.

It appears that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not the only social media sites that are censoring Christian, conservative and pro-life content. Pinterest, a popular website for sharing images, crafts, recipes and do-it-yourself projects, blocked content from Live Action by placing it on a list with pornography sites and other objectionable content, according to a whistleblower at the company. Live Action’s pins typically include inspirational messages to pregnant mothers, ultrasound images of unborn babies and information about abortion procedures and Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in America.

Israel

The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast that was held again last week is a prayer movement initiated and chaired by Knesset Member Robert Ilatov, and co-chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Each year the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast brings together government leaders and Christian leaders from around the world to gather in Israel’s capital city to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This year’s breakfast was truly the “gathering of the nations” said ICEJ President Juergen Buehler, “With over 800 delegates from 60 nations the breakfast is growing quickly which is evidence of the hand of the Lord on the event.”

A rocket was fired into Israeli territory from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday morning before being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and prompting retaliatory strikes by IDF aircraft. The incident came a day after large numbers of incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons were sent into Israeli territory from the Strip, igniting several large fires which burned crops and forests inside Israel.

A fire that has raged since Wednesday night in the hills of Itamar in Samaria is believed to have been caused by arson. So far, 1,700 acres of farmland and pastures have been burned. “This is the fourth fire to break out in four days, endangering residents and families, destroying years-worth of work by farmers,” said Iyar Segal, a resident of the Itamar hills. “We expect the Civil Administration, the IDF and police to arrest the arsonists with a strong hand, and to assist the farmers and residents.”

  • Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran is only 6 to 8 months away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Islamic State

It has been months since the Islamic State was expelled from its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, but the brutal terrorist outfit continues to wreak havoc in the lands it once deemed its “caliphate.” The Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate affirmed last week that more than 6,100 acres of agricultural crops were incinerated in less than two weeks in 136 separate incidents, with the at-risk area spanning almost 120,000 acres of Iraqi land. ISIS has claimed responsibility for numerous blazes in recent weeks, justifying their targeting of wheat crops as retaliation against those refusing to pay them taxes.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen

A missile fired by Houthi rebels struck the arrivals hall of an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, injuring 26 people, a Saudi official said. Eighteen people were treated at Abha International Airport for minor injuries and another eight were taken to hospital. According to Houthi-run Saba News, a strategic guided cruise missile was used in the attack. The airport, which services flights within Saudi Arabia, as well as to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, suffered material damage. The war in Yemen began in early 2015 when Houthi rebels — a minority Shia group from the north of the country — drove out the internationally-recognized government and forced its president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to flee. The crisis quickly escalated into a multi-sided war, with neighboring Saudi Arabia leading a coalition of Gulf states against the Houthi rebels. The coalition is advised and supported by the US, among other nations.

Iran

U.S. Navy ships rushed to the aid of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday after an apparent attack left at least one in flames and forced evacuations less than 20 miles from the coast of Iran. No nation or group claimed responsibility for the attack, the second on oil tankers in the region in a month. The incident is likely to increase steadily rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Oil prices spiked more than $3 to over $62 a barrel. Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency said Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 21 sailors from the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and 23 from the Bermuda-owned Front Altair and evacuated them to the nearby Iranian port of Jask. Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei expressed “concern and sorrow” over the incident and warned nations not to duped by others that benefit from instability in the region.

  • There is no place in the world more important for the global supply of oil than the Strait of Hormuz. The channel, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, is the only way to move oil from the Persian Gulf to the world’s oceans. If the Strait were to be closed because of the threat of ongoing attacks, it would be a massive blow to the world’s economy.

China

Vietnamese officials say China is intentionally mislabeling its products as “made in Vietnam” to avoid American tariffs, and have ordered offices to more aggressively examine products’ certificates of origin. Chinese firms first export products to Vietnam, then change the labeling on packages before exporting the goods to the United States, Japan or Europe, they said. “Dozens” of products have been identified, Hoang Thi Thuy, a Vietnamese Customs Department official, told state-run media, and goods like textiles, fishery products, agricultural products, steel, aluminum, and processed wooden products were most vulnerable to the fraud. The Customs Department exposed a company called INTERWYSE for trying to rebrand 600 Chinese-made speakers and phone chargers with a “Made in Vietnam” label.

Hong Kong

About one million people jammed Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday in an unprecedented protest to thwart a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial. Sunday’s outpouring was widely expected to raise the pressure on the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her official backers in Beijing. Lam had yet to comment on the rally, which followed weeks of domestic discontent growing official concern from the U.S., European Union and foreign business lobbies that the changes would dent Hong Kong’s vaunted rule of law and freedoms. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was unswayed by one of the biggest protests in the territory’s history. Lam announced Monday that a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China for the first time will not be scrapped despite widespread opposition. Protests continued in the following days, and Hong Kong police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had massed outside government headquarters Wednesday, throwing bricks. At least 72 people have been injured. Amid the chaos, government officials delayed the opening of debate on the bill Thursday.

Botswana

Botswana became the latest country to decriminalize gay sex on Tuesday in a landmark case for Africa when the High Court rejected as unconstitutional sections of the penal code punishing same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison. Jubilant activists in the packed courtroom cheered the unanimous decision in the southern African nation that is seen as one of the continent’s most stable and democratic. The ruling came less than a month after Kenya’s High Court had upheld similar sections of its own penal code in another closely watched case. More than two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws criminalizing gay sex, often holdovers from colonial times. Earlier this year, the southern African nation of Angola decriminalized same-sex activity and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mali

Unknown assailants killed at least 95 people and 95 more are missing in an ethnic Dogon village overnight in the latest massacre to destabilize central Mali, a government official said Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, though tensions have been high since an ethnic Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a larger massacre in an ethnic Peuhl village in March. Youssouf Toloba, who leads the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou, has denied that his fighters carried out the March bloodshed that left at least 157 people dead. Some Peuhl leaders, however, vowed to carry out reprisal attacks. Intercommunal violence has risen steadily in central Mali over the last several years, exacerbated by the presence of Islamic extremists who have moved south from their strongholds in the arid north, notes the USA Today.

Poland

President Trump on Wednesday said Poland has agreed to base about 1,000 U.S. troops on its soil, further solidifying the American-Polish relationship in the face of Russian mischief in Eastern Europe. Polish President Andrzej Duda said the final number of U.S. troops in his country will be decided by Mr. Trump, who earlier suggested up to 2,000. “The Polish government will pay for this,” Trump said in a joint press conference with Mr. Duda in the White House Rose Garden. Trump suggested that the troops would be transferred from foreign bases such as those in Germany rather than from the U.S.

Australia

The killing of four people in northern Australia has caused shock in the country most often held up worldwide as an example of effective gun control. At least four people were killed in the city of Darwin and several injured when a gunman opened fire with a pump-action shotgun late Tuesday night in several different locations. A suspect was apprehended soon afterward, and has been identified as 45-year-old local Ben Hoffmann, who was on parole at the time of the shootings. It is the worst spree shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which resulted in the country radically overhauling its gun laws. Authorities are now trying to piece together how the alleged Darwin shooter acquired his weapon and any motivations he may have had for the shootings.

Environment

Slimy, stinky sargassum is fouling Florida beaches, annoying tourists and being blamed for killing some marine life as it makes its way on shore in what may be unprecedented amounts. “Sargassum was something that was really unique and deserving of protection,” Brian Lapointe, a sargassum expert at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, told the Florida Keys Free Press. “All of a sudden, global change is going on and sargassum is becoming harmful. Now it’s the largest harmful algal bloom on Earth.” Sargassum creates a vital habitat for marine animals. But now it’s too “much of a good thing” as the large blooms make the water “anoxic and putrid.”

The 8.5 million pound boulder that crashed down onto a Colorado highway just before the Memorial Day weekend is not going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday that his administration has decided to leave the boulder that crashed onto Highway 145 between Cortez and Telluride where it is and give it the name “Memorial Rock,” the Denver Post reported. The boulder that is the size of a house is one of two boulders that crashed on May 24 from a 1,000-foot ridge above the two-lane highway, leaving an 8-foot trench across both lanes. Instead of blowing up the boulder as the state typically does in similar situations, the state will divert the highway around the massive rock that has now become a new landmark.

Earthquakes

There have been more than 700 earthquakes recorded in the Fontana area since May 25, ranging from magnitude 0.7 to magnitude 3.2, recorded Wednesday at 5:20 p.m., according to Caltech staff seismologist Jen Andrews. Scientists are quite “concerned” about the huge earthquake swarm that has been shaking southern California in recent weeks, and tar is literally bubbling up through the streets in one section of Los Angeles.  None of this means that a major seismic event is imminent, but it’s certainly not a good sign either.

Weather

Flooding across much of North Carolina last Saturday left three people dead, closed numerous roads and damaged buildings on the Duke University campus. The three victims were killed when their car flipped over into Rockdam Creek. Roads became rivers, high-water rescues were underway, and states of emergency were being declared in parts of the Southeast on Sunday after more than a month of rain fell in a day with more on the way. Parts of central Georgia saw 6 inches of rain in a 24-hour period that ended early Sunday. The westbound lanes of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina border were closed Monday afternoon after a rockslide that was triggered by heavy rains.

The western U.S. is sweltering under an unusually intense June heat wave, with temperatures soaring to near-record highs from Oregon to Arizona. Heat warnings and/or advisories were in effect Tuesday for a number of major metro areas in the West, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Francisco. On Monday, normally mild San Francisco soared to a brutal high of 100 degrees, the first time that city has ever hit the century mark in June.

More than 88,000 people were evacuated this week in southeastern China because of heavy rains and flooding that left at least 49 people dead and 14 missing. Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Jiangxi province where storms brought strong winds, hail and floods. Heavy rain was forecast to continue until June 12.

Hail the size of tennis balls hammered Munich and southern Germany on Monday, injuring several people and damaging cars, businesses and homes. The large hail was a rare sight for local residents.

  • 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

June 7, 2019

­­But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psalm 37:9-11)

Pope Changes the ‘Lord’s Prayer’

Pope Francis reportedly approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father. Instead of saying, “Lead us not into temptation,” Catholics will say, “Do not let us fall into temptation,” The Guardian reports. The pope said he thought the English translation of the prayer was not correct. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he said. “I am the one who falls. It’s not Him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen… A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”

Trump Bans Fetal Tissue Research by Government Scientists

The Trump administration Wednesday banned government scientists from conducting fetal tissue research, handing pro-lifers a major victory and capping a contentious debate within the Department of Health and Human Services. “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” an HHS statement read. Any future research “that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted,” the statement said. The department also said it is ending a contract with the University of California, San Francisco, that involved fetal tissue research. Some scientists had said fetal tissue research was necessary to find cures, although other scientists said such research was unethical and that alternatives existed. It was not a total victory for pro-lifers. HHS allowed current contracts with about 200 outside projects that use fetal tissue to continue, according to Politico.

Illinois Bishop Bans Communion for Abortion Votes

An Illinois bishop who calls an abortion bill passed by the state legislature “extreme” issued a decree Thursday that no lawmakers who supported it will be able to receive communion for “promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion.” Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton, both Catholics who pushed for The Reproductive Health Act, a sweeping abortion rights bill that repeals several restrictions on abortions, have been banned from partaking in the sacrament of communion at Mass in the Springfield diocese. The bill, approved last Friday, is awaiting the governor’s signature. Bishop Thomas Paprocki said pro-abortion lawmakers who supported the bill that removes waiting periods, spousal consent and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions, are promoting a position that is “inconsistent with being a good Catholic, a faithful Catholic.”

  • Parents who object to their daughter’s abortion would be required to pay for it and could be held liable under a pro-choice bill that passed the Illinois House Wednesday. The bill, H.B. 25, liberalizes the state’s abortion laws and declares abortion a “fundamental right.” The bill also repeals language that explicitly protected parents from being forced to pay for their daughter’s abortion if they didn’t give consent.

Christianity Trending in Country Music

Country music stars are putting their faith in new songs that focus more on the church pew than the bar stool, reports USA Today. While religion has always been deeply entrenched in the genre, a slate of Christianity-infused tracks are receiving radio play this year, and they’re being belted from award show stages by top stars, from Blake Shelton to Carrie Underwood to George Strait to Little Big Town. At least seven high-profile songs reference God or his son or wade into the spirit of Christianity. “It is noteworthy,” country music historian Robert K. Oermann said. “It is not common that there’d be this many at the same time.”

ISIS Planned to Send Terrorists into U.S. Via Mexico

A chilling confession from a captured ISIS fighter has shed light on how the terrorist group intended to exploit the vulnerabilities of the U.S. border with Mexico, using English speakers and westerners to take advantage of smuggling routes. Seized ISIS fighter Abu Henricki, a Canadian citizen with dual citizenship with Trinidad, last month said that he was sought out by the violent insurgency’s leadership to attack the U.S. from a route starting in Central America, according to a study by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and published in Homeland Security Today. The attacks were described to Henricki as designed to “cripple the U.S. economy,” and he was said to have been informed that he would be issued false identification and passports and would be maneuvered from Puerto Rico to Mexico and then to the United States.

Michigan Rally Spews Hatred of Israel & U.S.

The “Quds Day” rally in Michigan last week was tailor-made for anti-Israel hate-mongers and those who despise America. Speakers at the anti-Israel rally in Dearborn, Michigan referred to U.S. presidents past and present as “criminals” and “terrorists,” calling the Jewish state a “cancer.” “Not only will we witness the liberation of Palestine, but we are going to play an active role in it with our own hands,” claimed one of the speakers. Another one praised the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which seek Israel’s destruction. Dearborn is home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.

Judge Dismisses House Suit, Allows Border Wall Funding

Washington, D.C., district court Judge Trevor McFadden threw out House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s emergency border wall funding reallocation, saying that the matter is fundamentally a political dispute and that the politicians lack standing to make a legal case. Trump had declared a national emergency this past February over the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, following Congress’ failure to fund his border wall legislatively. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats then filed suit in April, charging that Trump was “stealing from appropriated funds” by moving $6.7 billion from other projects toward border wall construction. McFadden, a Trump appointee, suggested Democrats were trying to circumvent the political process.

ICE to Ramp Up deportation of Illegal Immigrant Families

Families no longer will be considered off-limits for deportation, acting ICE Director Mark Morgan told reporters Tuesday. Morgan, who has been at the job for a week, said the lack of consequences is fueling the current border crisis, which he called the worst he’s seen in decades of immigration law enforcement. He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement must find a way to change the incentives that leave immigrants thinking that if they bring a child and pose as a family, they will gain lax treatment, quick entry into the U.S., and face virtually zero chance of being removed any time soon. Ousting illegal immigrant families has long been a goal of hard-liners within the Trump administration, who say short of stopping them from coming, making sure they go home somewhat quickly after they are ordered out of the country is the only way to stem the surge.

  • Mark Morgan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told GOP senators that migrants from Central America are “renting babies” to make it easier to get across the U.S. border.

DHS Reports Citizenship Approvals Rose in 2018

Homeland Security reached a five-year high in approvals of citizenship applications last year, and swore in more people as naturalized citizens as well, according to the new statistical report released Friday night. Those numbers contradict the criticisms of congressional Democrats who had complained about backlogs building at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Homeland Security branch that handles legal immigration. There has been a 61 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 in approved asylum applications.

  • More illegal immigrants were apprehended crossing the southern border in May (144,000) than in any calendar month since 2006. The surge in arrests was the “worst case scenario,” according to a top immigration analyst who has now believes more than 1 million illegal immigrants will enter the United States this year

$19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Bill Approved by Congress

A long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster aid bill was approved by Congress and signed by President Trump who called it a “great.”  The bill that will send money to states and territories hit by hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters. The bill specifically addresses disasters that have occurred since 2017 including Hurricanes Maria, Florence and Michael and wildfires in California. It also covers volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and an earthquake in Alaska. It was held up for months as Trump and Democrats fought over aid for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory, which was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, will receive about $1.4 billion. More than $42 billion has previously been allocated to Puerto Rico for disaster relief, abut only $12.6 billion of that has been spent, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

One-Third of Homeless Young Adults in Arizona has been Trafficked

An Arizona State University study about sex and labor trafficking among homeless young adults in Arizona reveals that one-third of them have been trafficked. For the past five years, the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research has  conducted the Youth Experiences Survey, or YES, to gather data about human exploitation among homeless and runaway young adults ages 18 to 25. Of 179 homeless youths surveyed over two weeks in July 2018, one in three participants reported experiencing sex or labor trafficking and about a quarter of the participants reported experiencing both — results consistent with data gathered in years past. The average age of the victim’s first sex-trafficking experience was sixteen. Labor traffickers use violence, threats and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many industries.

Fifty-Two People Shot in Chicago Last Weekend

Chicago’s police chief on Monday decried a “despicable level of violence” during a weekend in which 52 people in the city were shot, eight of them fatally, and two people were stabbed to death. Police believe most of the shootings were gang-related. The weekend was the city’s most violent one yet in 2019. The shootings happened on one of the warmest and sunniest weekends of the year in Chicago. The city often sees an increase in violence in warmer weather. Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the department increased the number of uniformed officers on the street – targeting areas where police expected gang members to retaliate for previous shootings. He said he believes that effort helped police seize 92 illegal firearms, nearly twice as many as the department seizes in a typical warm-weather weekend.

Los Angeles’ Homelessness Rising Despite Huge Spending

Despite spending millions on housing and one of the strongest economies in decades, the number of homeless people in the nation’s most populous county showed a dramatic increase in a new official count released Tuesday. Los Angeles County’s homeless count rose 12% to 58,936, a reversal from the previous year when the number dropped by 4%. Though voters approved two massive bond measures to build more units as thousands live on city streets in tents, cars or in the open, officials say higher rents and a tight housing market are forcing more into homelessness. The state is short more than 500,000 affordable housing units for low-income renters, based on a California Housing Partnership Corp. study.

U.S. Farmers Grappling with Worst Crisis in 30 Years

American farmers already plagued by years of low prices and a trade war with China are now grappling with record Midwest rain that will likely prevent a large portion of this year’s crop from even getting planted. The troubles have created the worst farm crisis since the 1980s, when oversupplies and a U.S. grain embargo against the Soviet Union forced thousands of farmers into bankruptcy. While some farmers have been shutting down or selling to larger competitors for years amid thinner profits, analysts say 2019 will bring a more dramatic shakeout. “This is more than a cyclical thing,” says Gary Schnitkey, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. “It’s a series of events that we’ve never seen come together. … It’s going to be a blow to everyone’s financial position.”

Economic News

Hiring was weak in May as employers added 75,000 jobs, bolstering the Federal Reserve’s case for cutting interest rates as soon as this month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 178,000 job gains. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 50-year low of 3.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. The weak jobs report bolstered the Federal Reserve’s case for cutting interest rates, a possibility that provided a lift to stock markets this week.

According to a study that was recently conducted by the Federal Reserve, the percentage of wealth controlled by the top 10 percent of U.S. households has shot up from 60 percent in 1989 to 70 percent today. The study also found that the share of wealth among the richest 1% increased to 32% from 23% over the same period. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated for ordinary Americans.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is currently just $30,533, remaining virtually flat recently. As the cost of living has risen faster than our incomes have, more Americans have been squeezed out of the middle class with each passing month.

Tariffs on Mexican goods of 5% are set to begin June 10. They would gradually climb to 25% on October 1 if Mexico doesn’t take steps “to dramatically reduce or eliminate” the number of migrants, President Trump said on Thursday. Such a strategy would hurt American shoppers, the economy and stocks, experts say, just as U.S. growth is slowing and the threat of more tariffs on Chinese imports looms larger. From produce to cars, a wide variety of Mexican goods would become more expensive for American shoppers. President Trump could decide over the weekend to delay the tariffs, a top White House aide said, as negotiators from the two countries reported progress in talks that resumed in Washington on Friday.

New Jersey, it seems, is the last place where people want to spend their golden years. Almost 67% of all New Jersey moves were outbound last year, according to a survey from United Van Lines. A third of people who left New Jersey also cited retirement as a primary reason for their decision to pack up and go. Maine and Connecticut round out the top three states people are moving away from due to retirement. On the other hand, the Sun Belt is a hot destination for those entering their golden years. The survey says New Mexico is the top destination for retirees, followed by Florida and Arizona.

The automation wave is expected to dramatically reshape the US economy in the 2020s. This disruption will impact the labor force and cause tremendous job losses, reports Technocracy News. By 2030, automation could eliminate 20% to 25% of current jobs — equivalent to 40 million displaced workers, hitting the bottom 90% of Americans the hardest. In the next 10.5 years, automation is set to eliminate millions of jobs in the warehouse and logistics space, as well as increase the demand for small to medium-sized automated warehouses.

Israel

The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast was held again this past week and is a prayer movement initiated and chaired by Knesset Member Robert Ilatov, and co-chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Each year the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast brings together government leaders and Christian leaders from around the world to gather in Israel’s capital city to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This year’s breakfast was truly the “gathering of the nations” said ICEJ President Juergen Buehler, “With over 800 delegates from 60 nations the breakfast is growing quickly which is evidence of the hand of the Lord on the event.”

A fire that has raged since Wednesday night in the hills of Itamar in Samaria is believed to have been caused by arson. So far, 1,700 acres of farmland and pastures have been burned. “This is the fourth fire to break out in four days, endangering residents and families, destroying years-worth of work by farmers,” said Iyar Segal, a resident of the Itamar hills. “We expect the Civil Administration, the IDF and police to arrest the arsonists with a strong hand, and to assist the farmers and residents.”

Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is willing to get direct talks going with Iran without any preconditions, but will continue to increase pressure on the Islamic republic unless it ends its malignant activity around the world, including its support for Hezbollah. Pompeo’s comments carried new weight because there is no U.S. diplomatic footprint. Switzerland represents American interests in Tehran. The secretary of state said he had discussed Iran with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, although there was no clear indication that any direct talks between U.S. and Iranian officials are on the horizon.

  • Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran is only 6 to 8 months away from developing a nuclear weapon.

North Korea

A senior North Korean official who had been reported as purged over the failed nuclear summit with Washington was shown in state media on Monday enjoying a concert near leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Yong Chol has been North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and the counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since Kim Jong Un entered nuclear talks with the U.S. early last year. He traveled to Washington and met President Donald Trump twice before Kim’s two summits with Trump. Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been at a standstill since February, when the second summit between Trump and Kim broke down over what the United States described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Sudan

The death toll from Monday’s attack on the sit-in of Sudan’s pro-democracy protesters has risen to 100, after 40 bodies were recovered from the River Nile. The demonstrators have demanded that the Transitional Military Council, which has ruled the country since troops ousted longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April, make way for a civilian-led interim body. Eyewitnesses said that the police and RSF shot at protesters on Monday. Several videos showed security forces beating people with sticks. The internet has been blocked in places across the country. After April’s coup, the military council and opposition groups agreed on a three-year transition to democracy. But on Tuesday, the head of Sudan’s ruling military council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, called for national elections within nine months.

Mexico

Mexican drug cartels have established headquarters throughout the U.S. and are one of the country’s greatest criminal, national security and public health threats, according to government watchdog, Judicial Watch. “The Mexican cartels have left a trail of blood using intimidation and terrorist acts of ruthless violence,” the report says. Veteran Drug Enforcement Administration senior agent Derek Maltz says, “The cartels engage in beheadings, car bombings, dissolving humans in acid, mass murders, torture, bombings and political assassinations,” Maltz told Judicial Watch. “Their actions are consistent with the behaviors of traditional terrorists and they have infiltrated the highest levels of the Mexican government with bribes and corruption.”

Cuba

The Trump administration on Tuesday ended the most popular forms of U.S. travel to Cuba, banning cruise ships and a heavily used category of educational travel in an attempt to cut off cash to the island’s communist government. Cruise travel from the U.S. to Cuba began in May 2016 during President Barack Obama’s opening with the island. It has become the most popular form of U.S. leisure travel to the island, bringing 142,721 people in the first four months of the year, a more than 300% increase over the same period last year. That now appears to be over, with an estimated 800,000 cruise passenger bookings affected. “Cruise ships as well as recreational and pleasure vessels are prohibited from departing the U.S. on temporary sojourn to Cuba effective (Wednesday),” the Commerce Department said. U.S. national security adviser John Bolton declared Cuba part of a “troika of tyranny” along with Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Australia

the killing of four people in northern Australia has caused shock in the country most often held up worldwide as an example of effective gun control. At least four people were killed in the city of Darwin and several injured when a gunman opened fire with a pump-action shotgun late Tuesday night in several different locations. A suspect was apprehended soon afterward, and has been identified as 45-year-old local Ben Hoffmann, who was on parole at the time of the shootings. It is the worst spree shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which resulted in the country radically overhauling its gun laws. Authorities are now trying to piece together how the alleged Darwin shooter acquired his weapon and any motivations he may have had for the shootings.

Earthquakes

Southern California’s Jurupa Valley has recently been rattled by a “swarm” of small earthquakes. Since May 25, 432 quakes have hit the area that only spans a few square miles northwest of Riverside, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported Monday. The quakes have measured 0.8 to 3.2 in magnitude and only a few have been significant enough to be felt. There’s no need to panic, according to seismologists and geophysicists. Since there are no major faults nearby, this swarm is likely due to small cracks or a weak area in the Earth’s crust.

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake rattled southeast Albania early Saturday, injuring at least four people and damaging more than 100 homes. The quake struck 7 miles southeast of Korce around 6.30 a.m. local time Saturday at a depth of 6 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Korce is home to 75,000 residents and is 100 miles southeast of Tirana, the Albanian capital. Earthquakes are common in Albania. Daily quakes are recorded but most are too weak to be felt.

Environment

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil reached records levels in May, according to satellite data. Some 459 square miles of the rainforest were cleared last month. That’s up from the 351 square miles of rainforest that disappeared last year, and more than double the amount two years earlier. The 2.1-million-square-mile Amazon is the largest rainforest on Earth. It is crucial to oxygen production and stripping carbon from the atmosphere. Critics blame the surge in deforestation on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has weakened environment controls and encouraged mining and farming to expand in the region.

Carbon dioxide – the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming – peaked again at record levels last month. Levels at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory averaged 414.8 parts per million in May, surging past yet another climate milestone.  This level hasn’t been seen in human history and is also higher than at any point in millions of years. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increases every year, and the rate of increase is accelerating, scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday. The 2019 peak value was 3.5 parts per million higher than the 411.3 ppm peak reached in May 2018; this is the 2nd-highest annual jump on record.

Wildfires

A fast-moving wildfire in Grant County, Washington — the state’s first major blaze of the season — has grown to more than 7.8 square miles and prompted the evacuation of about 25 homes in several rural towns. The so-called 243 Fire sparked around 11 p.m. Monday night in dry grass and sage north of Beverly, about 145 miles southeast of Seattle. Fueled by winds that gusted to 15 to 20 mph, the wildfire that broke out on the east side of the Columbia River near the Wanapum Dam, and grew to more than 7.8 square miles within a matter of hours on Tuesday. As of Friday, the fire has burned 20,380 acres and is 65% contained.

  • So far this year, the number and extent of wildfires in the U.S. has been way below normal due to above average rainfall. There have been 15,063 wildfires compared to the ten-year average of 26,911 through June 7. These wildfires have consumed 332,791 acres compared to the ten-year average of 1,415,399 acres.

Weather

If $700 million in international aid money isn’t sent to Somalia soon, more than 2 million people may starve to death this summer due to severe drought, a United Nations emergency relief coordinator says. U.N. Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock says the money is urgently needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops in the African country. Of a Somali population of 15 million people, more than 3 million are struggling just to meet minimum food requirements. What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years. Lowcock also said the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $45 million to cover food shortages, water and daily necessities in Somalia as well as parts of Kenya and Ethiopia affected by droughts, but a lot more funding is desperately needed.

Officials in the South are preparing for more heavy rains Friday, a day after storms in Louisiana and Oklahoma killed at least one person and left homes and other buildings damaged, cars overturned and streets flooded. Fourteen campers and two dogs had to be rescued along the Buffalo River in Searcy County at Grinders Ferry. In Arkansas, residents were urged on Friday to evacuate in the Lollie Bottoms area in Faulker County as floodwaters threaten the Lollie Levee along the Arkansas River. In Oklahoma, police had responded to nearly two dozen high-water rescues in Oklahoma City in a little more than an hour Thursday morning.

A trio of levee breaches on the three major rivers have prompted evacuations in Arkansas and Missouri as historic flooding continued. “These levees were not built to sustain this high a flow for this long, and we are seeing problems and there more than likely will be more,” said Laurie Driver, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District. “This flood event could last for two, three weeks, maybe a month,” said Nathan Spicer, emergency management specialist in Little Rock.