Archive for July, 2019

Signs of the Times

July 26, 2019

­­The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

South Dakota Puts God Back in Schools

Students in South Dakota will notice a new addition to their schools this fall thanks to a new state law. The law, which goes into effect this month, mandates that every public school in the state must display the national motto–”In God We Trust.” The law says that “The display shall be located in a prominent location within each school. The display may take the form of a mounted plaque, student artwork, or any other appropriate form as determined by the school principal. The display shall be easily readable and shall be no smaller than twelve inches wide by twelve inches high.” One provision in the law stipulates that the state attorney general will “provide legal representation at no cost to the school district, employee, school board, or member of the school board,” in the event of lawsuits.

Christianity Continues to Decline in U.S.

According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity is declining in America. In the early 1990s, 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christian. By 2007 that number had dropped to 78.4%, and only 7 years later, in 2014, the percentage had dropped another 6% to 70.6%.Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” has jumped dramatically. From 2007 to 2014 their number jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. Also, the number of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths has grown, especially among Muslims and Hindus. Charisma News notes that, “Interestingly, all of this has been happening while we have been “taking our cities for God,” “pulling down demonic strongholds,” “re-digging wells of revival” and launching a “new apostolic reformation.”

  • The end-time ‘falling away’ is well underway, a significant sign that the ‘day of the Lord’ is coming soon, although there are still prophecies yet to be fulfilled (Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Judge Blocks 3 New Arkansas Abortion Laws

A federal judge blocked three new abortion restrictions from taking effect Wednesday in Arkansas, including a measure that opponents say would likely force the state’s only surgical abortion clinic to close. US District Judge Kristine Baker granted a 14-day temporary restraining order shortly before midnight Tuesday. The order blocks the state from enforcing the new laws, including a measure prohibiting the procedure 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. The laws also included a requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. An official with a Little Rock clinic that performs surgical abortions says it has one physician who meets that requirement, but he only works there a few days every other month. Baker also blocked a law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

  • San Francisco employees on official business won’t be permitted to travel to states with restrictive abortion laws under a new law passed Tuesday. The law also prohibits the city from contracting with companies headquartered in states with restrictive abortion laws. The city’s 11-member board of supervisors passed it unanimously.

Judge Blocks Policy to Minimize Central American Asylum Claims

A federal judge halted the Trump administration’s new policy intended to block most Central American migrants from claiming asylum when they reach the U.S., ruling Wednesday that the move treads beyond the powers Congress had granted. Judge Jon S. Tigar, an Obama appointee sitting on a federal court in California, issued a nationwide injunction ordering the administration not to move forward. It marked a stunning reversal for President Trump, who earlier in the day had won a favorable judgment on the same issue from a different judge in the District of Columbia. Judge Tigar said the administration cut too many procedural corners, made “arbitrary and capricious” decisions, and ignored the protections Congress has laid out for people seeking asylum. The asylum policy, announced last week, gives immigration officers the power to refuse to hear asylum claims from immigrants who leave their home countries and cross through other countries to reach the U.S.

DHS to Expand Speedy Deportations in Interior U.S.

The Trump administration announced plans Monday to speed up deportations for illegal immigrants in the interior, applying the same standards that have been at play at the border to now apply to the country as a whole. With more illegal immigrants managing to sneak into the interior amid the border surge, the new powers are necessary to be able to oust them from the communities where they end up, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a notice published online officially announcing the new policy. The first iteration of deportation sweeps against illegal immigrant families netted just 35 migrants — and only 18 of them were actual targets, ICE announced portraying a slow start to an operation that had sparked a massive backlash from immigrant-rights activists. The 18 targets were out of a universe of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants who’ve been ordered removed by judges, and who were defying those orders. The other 17 people nabbed were “collateral” arrests, meaning they happened to be present at the time Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were looking for targets.

150 Migrants Drown in Shipwreck off Libya Coast

Up to 150 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, were missing and feared drowned on Thursday after the boats they were traveling in capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. The International Rescue Committee said the tragedy was a stark reminder of the humanitarian crisis emerging out of Libya and of the urgent need for search and rescue missions to be resumed in the Mediterranean. Two boats carrying around 300 migrants capsized around 75 miles east of the capital, Tripoli. Around 147 migrants were rescued and returned to Libya. After the uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe. Traffickers and armed groups have exploited Libya’s chaos since his overthrow, and have been implicated in widespread abuses of migrants, including torture and abduction for ransom.

Countries Taking in the Most Refugees

There are over 70 million refugees in the world today. According to CARE, 24 people are forced to flee their homes every minute. This means that roughly 34,000 people a day run away from their countries in fear of their lives. The displaced people include refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people. Many have sought solace in neighboring countries, which is why Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda and Sudan are the top four in accepting refugees, according to 24/7 Wall Street. The next five are Germany, Iran, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. The U.S. ranks 17th.

Trump Vetoes Legislation Blocking Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump on Thursday vetoed three bills aimed at blocking his administration from selling American-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The measures would have stopped an imminent shipment of 124,000 precision-guided missiles and the fuses to detonate them, among other items. The White House argued that the ban on arms sales conflicted with U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, by negatively affecting America’s defense partnership with key allies and “signaling that we are willing to abandon our partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”

Terrorism Alliance Between U.S., Brazil, Argentina & Paraguay

On July 22, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay entered into an alliance with the United States to counter “illicit activity” and terrorism in the Tri-Border Area (TBA), the region that straddles the three South American countries’ borders. The “three plus one” alliance, which targets Hezbollah and Iran specifically, was made at the Buenos Aires Summit with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The announcement follows Argentina’s decision to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which coincided with the 25-year anniversary of the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters in Buenos Aires. Both Hezbollah and its financial sponsor Iran are blamed.

Russian Election Meddling Worse Than Thought

On Thursday, a bipartisan report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Russia targeted election systems in every state in the 2016 elections—”an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time,” per the New York Times. The committee didn’t find any manipulation of vote counts or voter registry files—though it noted its insight into that “is limited.” But it found “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” that was aimed at identifying security weak points, though “Russian intentions regarding US election infrastructure remain unclear.” The Times notes the report shows a “cascading intelligence failure,” though the report’s general assessment is that the Russians were apparently conducting a “fact-finding mission [more] than anything else.” But that’s actually alarming, as the report suggests the aim might have been to pinpoint vulnerabilities that could be exploited later.

  • Iran, other countries prepared to follow Russia’s disinformation playbook in 2020, researchers say. A broad range of independent researchers see this potential from operations in Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Federal Government to Resume Capital Punishment

Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday the federal government will resume capital punishment and will move forward with plans to execute five inmates on death row for the first time in more than 15 years. The Justice Department said Barr has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt a proposed addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol that will clear the way for the executions. Barr has also directed the bureau of prisons to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates. Barr said, “Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.  The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

School Shootings Increasing In U.S.

Since 2009, at least 180 of America’s schools experienced a shooting. These tragedies are as diverse as our nation, but the depth of trauma is hard to convey. There is no standard definition for what qualifies as a school shooting in the US. Nor is there a universally accepted database. So, CNN built their own. They examined 10 years of shootings on K-12 campuses and found two sobering truths: school shootings are increasing; and, no type of community is spared. They happened in big cities and in small towns, at homecoming games and during art classes, as students are leaving campus in the afternoon and during late-night arguments in school parking lots. And they are happening more often. From 2009 through 2103, there were on average about 10 school shootings per year. 2014 and 2015 averaged about 16, while 2016 through 2018 averaged about 29 per year. With little federal data on school shootings, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s behind the recent increase.

Feds Indict Officials at Companies that Distributed Millions of Opioids

A federal grand jury has indicted pharmaceutical wholesaler Miami-Luken, two of its top former officials, and two pharmacists with conspiring to illegally distribute millions of prescription painkillers in some of the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. The indictment says the distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone was “outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.” The wholesaler distributed 2.6 million hydrocodone tablets and 2.3 million units of oxycodone to a pharmacy in a West Virginia town of only 1,400 people between 2011 and 2015, the Justice Department said. Emails acquired by the government show drug execs indifferent to the opioid crisis, desiring to ship as much as possible to enhance profits.

In 20 years, drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and practitioners acted as street drug couriers and shipped “hundreds of millions” of suspicious opioid doses into two Ohio counties, according to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio. Companies certified to manufacture and distribute the drugs are required by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to monitor for “suspicious” orders, defined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as those of unusual size, frequency or pattern. For some defendants, “these ‘suspicious order’ shipments represented as much as 80% of the total opioid transactions and as much as 92% of the dosage units shipped” to Summit and Cuyahoga counties, court documents said.

Green Economy Turns Brown As Homelessness Surges In Bay Area

San Francisco recently released the results of its 2019 point-in-time homeless census conducted in January, and the news appeared nothing less than disastrous, as SF’s homeless headcount increased by the hundreds despite the city’s seemingly ceaseless efforts to provide relief, report. The 2019 homelessness spike in SF came amid a tide of similar baleful results across the Bay Area. Five out of nine Bay Area Counties—i.e., all of those not located in the North Bay—saw their homeless counts spike during the same period, with each of these counties reporting worse homelessness surges than SF. “The applied policies of the UN’s Agenda 21 and the New Urban Agenda is wreaking havoc in American cities, but no one is admitting that the homeless crisis is a direct result of those policies,” notes Technocracy News.

House Approves Trump’s Spending Hikes, Debt Holiday

The House approved new budget limits Thursday, which includes increased spending and debt over the next two years. The vote showed a growing rebellion among Republicans over surging deficits and President Trump’s willingness to sign hefty funding increases. Trump had pleaded with conservatives to back him and vote for the bill, which his top lieutenants had negotiated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, but it was Democrats who delivered the bulk of the votes to pass the measure. The final vote tally was 284-149, with more than 90% of Democrats backing it. More than two-thirds of Republicans defied Mr. Trump and opposed the bill. The deal includes increases for both defense and domestic spending, though the domestic side grows slightly faster, Democrats crowed. And having the debt deal in place should lower the risk of another government shutdown over the next 24 months. The Senate will vote on the measure next week, but is expected to pass it.

Economic News

The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department announced Friday. That’s better than economists had expected, but slower than the 3.1% pace in the first quarter. The middling result was propelled by a strong increase in consumer spending and government spending, but was dragged down by a large decrease in business investment, particularly in real estate, which had been much stronger in 2018. Consumer spending grew at a 4.3% annualized rate in the second quarter, up from only 1.1% in the prior quarter. Spending on durable goods, which includes long-lasting items like cars and furniture, was particularly strong, growing at a 12.9% annualized rate. Consumers saved 8.5% of their disposable, after-tax income in the first quarter and that rate remained at a still-strong 8.1% in the second.

U.S. manufacturing has declined for 118 straight months, The IHS U.S. Manufacturing PMI fell to 50.0 in July 2019, the lowest since September 2009. Output declined the most since August 2009 and employment dropped for the first time in six years. Survey respondents noted that a downturn in the automotive sector and heightened global economic uncertainty were factors behind the decline. The data revealed that export sales were particularly off. The Eurozone’s manufacturing sector is also in decline. The weighed PMI Composite index for July fell closer to the 50 mark separating growth from contraction, drifting from 52.2 to 51.5.

Nissan announced Thursday that it would be laying off 12,500 employees. Japan’s second biggest automaker, said profits were almost completely wiped out in the first quarter of its fiscal year. Operating profit plunged 99% in the quarter compared to a year earlier. Revenue, meanwhile, dropped nearly 13% compared to a year ago. The company added it will reduce its product lineup by at least 10% by the end of fiscal year 2022. “Loss-making overseas facilities would be the main targets,” CEO Hiroto Saikawa said, adding that the company had already suspended manufacturing lines in Indonesia and Spain.

Here’s another early warning signal of possible recession: Fewer goods are being shipped across the country. Truck, rail and air freight volumes fell 5.3% in June from the same period a year ago, the seventh straight annual decline, according to the closely watched Cass Freight Index. That followed a 6% drop in May. The persistent drops could portend trouble for the economy because shipments reflect demand for a wide range of consumer and industrial goods.

Credit reporting agency Equifax has reached a deal to pay up to $700 million to state and federal regulators to settle probes stemming from a data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 150 million people. It will be the largest settlement ever paid for a data breach. The amount of the settlement could change depending on the number of claims still to be filed by consumers. Equifax will pay at least $300 million and as much as $425 million to compensate affected people with credit monitoring services. The Federal Trade Commission said Equifax failed to properly safeguard peoples’ personal information despite claiming in its privacy policy that it implemented “reasonable physical, technical and procedural safeguards” to protect their data.

Facebook must pay a record-breaking $5 billion fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, by far the largest penalty ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy rights. Facebook also agreed to adopt new protections for the data users share on the social network, and to measures that limit the power of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Under the settlement, which concludes a year-long investigation prompted by the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social networking giant must expand its privacy protections across Facebook itself, as well as on Instagram and WhatsApp. It must also adopt a corporate system of checks and balances to remain compliant.

T-Mobile’s mega-merger with Sprint can move forward, the Justice Department said Friday, paving the way for an unprecedented combination of America’s third- and fourth-largest wireless providers. The DOJ’s blessing marks a critical breakthrough for T-Mobile and Sprint as they seek to join forces against Verizon and AT&T. Critics argue the merger will lead to higher prices and less innovation, but the merger may not close until a multi-state lawsuit to block the deal is resolved.

Investors worried about climate change are warning the world’s biggest cement producers to reduce their emissions or face extinction. A group of investors that manages $2 trillion on Monday pressured cement makers to accelerate efforts to reduce their emissions. Cement production, which uses huge amounts of heat and energy, is responsible for 7% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, more emissions than all but two countries (U.S. and China). Firms that don’t move quickly to change their practices risk losing access to capital, according to the investors.

For years, Chinese investment into the United States had been accelerating, with money pouring into autos, tech, energy and agriculture and fueling new jobs. But growing distrust and trade wars between the United States and China has slowed the once steady flow of Chinese cash into America, with Chinese investment plummeting by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office.

Persecution Watch

Two hundred Christian families escaped alive when Boko Haram militants attacked the village of Roum in Cameroon’s Far North Region on July 10. Why did they all survive? Because they had decided to sleep in the bush instead of in their houses – a precaution taken because of so many other recent attacks on nearby villages. The foresight of the Roum Christians saved their lives, but they still lost everything they owned. The jihadists set fire to their homes, killed their livestock and plundered their food-stores of millet. With their clothes, bedding and other possessions destroyed, the believers are now living in a local school.

Syrian Christian Suzan Der Kirkour, 60, was raped repeatedly, tortured and stoned to death near her home in Idlib governorate by Islamist militants, reportedly linked to an Al-Nusra Front rebel group active in the area, a Barnabas Aid contact has reported.

A pregnant mother of two children was among three Christians killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in north-central Nigeria the night of July 14 and morning of July 15, sources said. The herdsmen attacked the Christian communities of Ancha, Tafigana, Kperie, Hukke and Rikwechongu, killing the three Christians and burning down 75 houses and two church buildings, according to area residents.

Israel

A measure to oppose the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement receives strong, bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday – 398 members voted in favor and just 17 against. The BDS movement seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel, as well as U.S. companies with commercial ties to Israel. The majority in both parties supported the bipartisan resolution, which was opposed by 16 Democrats – including, of course, pro-BDS activists Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Israeli work crews on Monday started tearing down dozens of illegally built Palestinian Arab homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood, in one of the largest operations of its kind in years. The demolition is a sensitive issue as the buildings sit in Area A, over which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have control over civilian and security matters. However, the buildings are close to the separation barrier, which Israel credits with reducing terrorist attacks. Seven years ago the IDF banned construction of buildings within 250 meters of the separation barrier.

Iran

Iranian lawmakers on Sunday said they believe their country should impose a “toll” on all ships that pass through the vital Strait of Hormuz. The proposal comes just 48 hours after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) seized a British oil tanker traveling through the Strait, a key shipping channel in the region. After the Trump administration imposed a full embargo on exports of Iranian oil earlier this year, Tehran has targeted foreign vessels sailing through the strait. In addition to detaining multiple ships, the U.S. has alleged that Iran carried out a series of limpet mine attacks on oil tankers. Meanwhile, British officials said the country will weigh economic sanctions against Iran in response to the ship seizure.

On Monday, Iran said it arrested 17 of its own citizens who were spying for the US, reports Reuters. Iran said some would be executed, but it did not say how many. According to the state-run Fars news agency, the CIA recruited workers at nuclear and military sites, as well as in the private sector, and wooed them with promises of jobs in the US and easy US visas, per USA Today. Iran said it broke up the spy network last month. Neither the CIA nor the U.S. government has responded to the allegations.

Syria

Air strikes by the Syrian government and its allies on schools, hospitals, markets and bakeries have killed at least 103 civilians in the past 10 days, including 26 children, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Friday. “These are civilian objects, and it seems highly unlikely, given the persistent pattern of such attacks, that they are all being hit by accident,” Bachelet said, adding that the rising toll had been met with “apparent international indifference”.

Somalia

At least 17 people were killed in a car bombing in Mogadishu on Monday, medical sources tell VOA’s Somali service. The director of Mogadishu’s largest hospital, Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, said another 28 people were taken to the hospital with injuries. The explosion occurred when a suspected suicide bomber detonated a vehicle near a hotel close to the busy K-4 junction in Mogadishu. Witnesses told VOA Somali that the vehicle was turned back from a security checkpoint that leads to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport. Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

A suicide bomber walked into the mayor’s office in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, during a high-level security meeting on Wednesday and detonated explosives, seriously injuring the mayor and killing at least six people, according to local authorities. The mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, was in critical condition with head and stomach injuries, officials said. James Swan, an American diplomat who is the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia, had visited the mayor’s office earlier Wednesday but left before the attack, the authorities said. The Shabab, an Islamist extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility and said that Mr. Swan was the intended target, according to Radio Andalus, the group’s radio station. The Shabab, which seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, often target government offices and other high-profile places in Somalia’s capital.

North Korea

A day after two North Korean missile launches rattled Asia, the nation announced Friday that Kim Jong Un supervised a test of a new type of tactical guided weapon that was meant to be a “solemn warning” about South Korea’s plans to hold military exercises with the United States. The message in the country’s state media quoted Kim and was directed at “South Korean military warmongers,” the AP reports. It comes as US and North Korean officials struggle to set up talks after a recent meeting on the Korean border between Kim and President Trump seemed to provide a step forward in stalled nuclear negotiations. Although the North had harsh words for South Korea, the statement stayed away from the kind of belligerent attacks on the United States that have marked past announcements, a possible signal that it’s interested in keeping diplomacy alive.

United Kingdom

Boris Johnson will become Britain’s new prime minister on Wednesday. The governing Conservative Party revealed Tuesday that the Brexit hardliner won a ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members to replace Theresa May, who announced her resignation last month. Johnson, a former London mayor, had been the heavy favorite. He wooed Conservatives by promising to succeed where May failed and lead the UK out of the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31—with or without a divorce deal. Several Conservative ministers have already announced they will resign to fight any push for a “no-deal” Brexit, an outcome economists warn would disrupt trade and plunge the UK into recession. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is an eccentric character who is prone to gaffes, often projects a disheveled demeanor and has a tendency to offend allies and foes alike that has drawn comparisons to President Donald Trump.

Puerto Rico

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said late Wednesday that he will resign on Aug. 2 after nearly two weeks of furious protests and political upheaval touched off by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages between him and his top advisers. Puerto Ricans had already been frustrated with corruption, mismanagement, economic crisis, and the sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.. A crowd of demonstrators outside the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan erupted into cheers and singing after his announcement on Facebook just before midnight. Addressing the protests, Rosselló said, “The demands have been overwhelming and I’ve received them with highest degree of humility.” Rosselló, a Democrat elected in 2016, is the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of more than 3 million American citizens. However, the massive crowds showed no sign of dispersing as they also protested Rossello’s successor, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez, an embattled figure also tainted by the corruption scandals that have roiled the administration.

Mexico

Murders in Mexico jumped in the first half of the year to the highest on record, underscoring the vast challenges President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces in reducing violence in the cartel-ravaged country. There were 14,603 murders from January to June, versus the 13,985 homicides registered in the first six months of 2018. Mexico is on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year, an all-time high. For years Mexico has struggled with violence as consecutive governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting.

China

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said Tuesday the bureau has more than 1,000 open investigations into Chinese efforts to steal U.S. businesses’ confidential intellectual property. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Wray said China poses a bigger threat than Russia to the U.S. China is trying to “steal their way up the economic ladder at our expense,” he told the lawmakers. Over the past two years, the FBI, Justice Department and White House have accused the Chinese government of plotting to steal both U.S. government-funded research and private businesses’ intellectual property.

Volcanoes

Indonesia’s Tangkuban Perahu Volcano erupted Friday near the country’s third-largest city, sending a plume of ash into the sky that landed more than a mile from the volcano. The volcano, which erupted at 3:48 p.m. local time Friday, is located about 20 miles north of Bandung, the capital of West Java and home to more than 2.3 million people. Visitors and residents were warned to be alert for more possible volcanic activity. Indonesia is part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire and has dozens volcanoes, with some of the most active on the populated islands of Java and Bali.

Wildfires

There are currently 78 wildfires burning in Alaska, with most of them at zero percent containment. So far, these fires have consumed 2,056,514 acres (3,213 square miles – almost 3 times the size of Rhode Island. The largest of these is the Chalkyitsik Complex (4 fires) in the Upper Yukon Zone, fifteen miles east of Chalkyitsik. So far, 482,087 acres have been torched in mostly timber forest. Numerous structures threatened, with just two lost so far. In total, just 7 structures have been lost to these 78 fires.

A wildfire burning near Flagstaff, Arizona, has forced the evacuation of about two dozen homes north of the city and prompted authorities to give pre-evacuation notices to thousands more. The Museum Fire has torched more than 2.1 square miles in the Coconino National Forest and is 10 percent contained. The recreation area is known for horseback riding, camping, hiking and mountain biking. More than 500 firefighters and a dozen aircraft have been battling the blaze since it broke out on Sunday.

Lightning sparked more than a dozen wildfires Monday in northern Nevada. While many of the blazes have since been contained, crews continue to battle several fires sparked by a line of thunderstorms that swept through the region Monday afternoon. The Summit Fire near Winnemucca in Pershing County is the largest of these and has scorched more than 10 square miles as of Tuesday afternoon. The Midas Fire, located three miles southwest of the town of Midas in Elko County, has burned 2.6 square miles.

Eight firefighters and 12 civilians have been injured in wildfires burning through central Portugal. the fires began Saturday in the district of Castelo Branco, northeast of Lisbon, the capital. More than 1,000 firefighters, supported by 10 firefighting aircraft and hundreds of vehicles, are battling the fires. At least one village has been evacuated. In recent years, the country has witnessed some of its deadliest fires on record, with 106 people killed in 2017.

Weather

A relentless heatwave gripped the U.S. from the central states to the East Coast last weekend, killing at least seven. As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast. An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater. Temperatures reached the upper 90s from the Carolinas to Maine on Sunday, and the heat index hit 110 degrees in some places.

London and places across Europe sweltered under all-time high temperatures Thursday as the second heat wave this summer baked the continent. Paris soared to a record high of 108 degrees.  Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands also set all-time heat records, while London set a record for July of 98.4 degrees. So far, 6 deaths have been linked to the heat wave. Normally temperate Europe — where air conditioning is rare — isn’t equipped for the temperatures frying the region this week. So, tourists frolicked in fountains to seek relief, and authorities and volunteers fanned out to help the elderly, sick and homeless hit hardest by the heat. Trains were canceled in Britain and France, and French authorities urged travelers to stay home.

More than half a million homes and businesses in Michigan and Wisconsin remained without electricity Sunday morning after violent thunderstorms rolled across the Upper Midwest on Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s round of severe storms erupted over South Dakota, producing wind gusts up to 79 mph before moving into Wisconsin, Minnesota and eventually, Michigan. Numerous large trees were reportedly downed in Appleton, Wisconsin, by high winds. Many vehicles sustained damage from downed trees. Hail as big as baseballs that left numerous cars damaged along a Minnesota interstate Friday. A roof was ripped off one business, and siding was partially torn from a hotel in Wisconsin. Flash flooding closed several roads early Monday and sent water into businesses in areas in and around St. Louis, Missouri. Interstate 64 westbound was shut down in St. Louis after a car stalled in high water.

The death toll from monsoon flooding in South Asia rose to 164 Sunday Saturday as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt of it in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages were affected by the floods. More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, India.

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

Signs of the Times

July 26, 2019

­­The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

South Dakota Puts God Back in Schools

Students in South Dakota will notice a new addition to their schools this fall thanks to a new state law. The law, which goes into effect this month, mandates that every public school in the state must display the national motto–”In God We Trust.” The law says that “The display shall be located in a prominent location within each school. The display may take the form of a mounted plaque, student artwork, or any other appropriate form as determined by the school principal. The display shall be easily readable and shall be no smaller than twelve inches wide by twelve inches high.” One provision in the law stipulates that the state attorney general will “provide legal representation at no cost to the school district, employee, school board, or member of the school board,” in the event of lawsuits.

Christianity Continues to Decline in U.S.

According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity is declining in America. In the early 1990s, 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christian. By 2007 that number had dropped to 78.4%, and only 7 years later, in 2014, the percentage had dropped another 6% to 70.6%.Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” has jumped dramatically. From 2007 to 2014 their number jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. Also, the number of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths has grown, especially among Muslims and Hindus. Charisma News notes that, “Interestingly, all of this has been happening while we have been “taking our cities for God,” “pulling down demonic strongholds,” “re-digging wells of revival” and launching a “new apostolic reformation.”

  • The end-time ‘falling away’ is well underway, a significant sign that the ‘day of the Lord’ is coming soon, although there are still prophecies yet to be fulfilled (Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Judge Blocks 3 New Arkansas Abortion Laws

A federal judge blocked three new abortion restrictions from taking effect Wednesday in Arkansas, including a measure that opponents say would likely force the state’s only surgical abortion clinic to close. US District Judge Kristine Baker granted a 14-day temporary restraining order shortly before midnight Tuesday. The order blocks the state from enforcing the new laws, including a measure prohibiting the procedure 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. The laws also included a requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. An official with a Little Rock clinic that performs surgical abortions says it has one physician who meets that requirement, but he only works there a few days every other month. Baker also blocked a law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

  • San Francisco employees on official business won’t be permitted to travel to states with restrictive abortion laws under a new law passed Tuesday. The law also prohibits the city from contracting with companies headquartered in states with restrictive abortion laws. The city’s 11-member board of supervisors passed it unanimously.

Judge Blocks Policy to Minimize Central American Asylum Claims

A federal judge halted the Trump administration’s new policy intended to block most Central American migrants from claiming asylum when they reach the U.S., ruling Wednesday that the move treads beyond the powers Congress had granted. Judge Jon S. Tigar, an Obama appointee sitting on a federal court in California, issued a nationwide injunction ordering the administration not to move forward. It marked a stunning reversal for President Trump, who earlier in the day had won a favorable judgment on the same issue from a different judge in the District of Columbia. Judge Tigar said the administration cut too many procedural corners, made “arbitrary and capricious” decisions, and ignored the protections Congress has laid out for people seeking asylum. The asylum policy, announced last week, gives immigration officers the power to refuse to hear asylum claims from immigrants who leave their home countries and cross through other countries to reach the U.S.

DHS to Expand Speedy Deportations in Interior U.S.

The Trump administration announced plans Monday to speed up deportations for illegal immigrants in the interior, applying the same standards that have been at play at the border to now apply to the country as a whole. With more illegal immigrants managing to sneak into the interior amid the border surge, the new powers are necessary to be able to oust them from the communities where they end up, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a notice published online officially announcing the new policy. The first iteration of deportation sweeps against illegal immigrant families netted just 35 migrants — and only 18 of them were actual targets, ICE announced portraying a slow start to an operation that had sparked a massive backlash from immigrant-rights activists. The 18 targets were out of a universe of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants who’ve been ordered removed by judges, and who were defying those orders. The other 17 people nabbed were “collateral” arrests, meaning they happened to be present at the time Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were looking for targets.

150 Migrants Drown in Shipwreck off Libya Coast

Up to 150 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, were missing and feared drowned on Thursday after the boats they were traveling in capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. The International Rescue Committee said the tragedy was a stark reminder of the humanitarian crisis emerging out of Libya and of the urgent need for search and rescue missions to be resumed in the Mediterranean. Two boats carrying around 300 migrants capsized around 75 miles east of the capital, Tripoli. Around 147 migrants were rescued and returned to Libya. After the uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe. Traffickers and armed groups have exploited Libya’s chaos since his overthrow, and have been implicated in widespread abuses of migrants, including torture and abduction for ransom.

Countries Taking in the Most Refugees

There are over 70 million refugees in the world today. According to CARE, 24 people are forced to flee their homes every minute. This means that roughly 34,000 people a day run away from their countries in fear of their lives. The displaced people include refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people. Many have sought solace in neighboring countries, which is why Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda and Sudan are the top four in accepting refugees, according to 24/7 Wall Street. The next five are Germany, Iran, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. The U.S. ranks 17th.

Trump Vetoes Legislation Blocking Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump on Thursday vetoed three bills aimed at blocking his administration from selling American-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The measures would have stopped an imminent shipment of 124,000 precision-guided missiles and the fuses to detonate them, among other items. The White House argued that the ban on arms sales conflicted with U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, by negatively affecting America’s defense partnership with key allies and “signaling that we are willing to abandon our partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”

Terrorism Alliance Between U.S., Brazil, Argentina & Paraguay

On July 22, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay entered into an alliance with the United States to counter “illicit activity” and terrorism in the Tri-Border Area (TBA), the region that straddles the three South American countries’ borders. The “three plus one” alliance, which targets Hezbollah and Iran specifically, was made at the Buenos Aires Summit with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The announcement follows Argentina’s decision to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which coincided with the 25-year anniversary of the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters in Buenos Aires. Both Hezbollah and its financial sponsor Iran are blamed.

Russian Election Meddling Worse Than Thought

On Thursday, a bipartisan report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Russia targeted election systems in every state in the 2016 elections—”an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time,” per the New York Times. The committee didn’t find any manipulation of vote counts or voter registry files—though it noted its insight into that “is limited.” But it found “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” that was aimed at identifying security weak points, though “Russian intentions regarding US election infrastructure remain unclear.” The Times notes the report shows a “cascading intelligence failure,” though the report’s general assessment is that the Russians were apparently conducting a “fact-finding mission [more] than anything else.” But that’s actually alarming, as the report suggests the aim might have been to pinpoint vulnerabilities that could be exploited later.

  • Iran, other countries prepared to follow Russia’s disinformation playbook in 2020, researchers say. A broad range of independent researchers see this potential from operations in Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Federal Government to Resume Capital Punishment

Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday the federal government will resume capital punishment and will move forward with plans to execute five inmates on death row for the first time in more than 15 years. The Justice Department said Barr has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt a proposed addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol that will clear the way for the executions. Barr has also directed the bureau of prisons to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates. Barr said, “Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.  The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

School Shootings Increasing In U.S.

Since 2009, at least 180 of America’s schools experienced a shooting. These tragedies are as diverse as our nation, but the depth of trauma is hard to convey. There is no standard definition for what qualifies as a school shooting in the US. Nor is there a universally accepted database. So, CNN built their own. They examined 10 years of shootings on K-12 campuses and found two sobering truths: school shootings are increasing; and, no type of community is spared. They happened in big cities and in small towns, at homecoming games and during art classes, as students are leaving campus in the afternoon and during late-night arguments in school parking lots. And they are happening more often. From 2009 through 2103, there were on average about 10 school shootings per year. 2014 and 2015 averaged about 16, while 2016 through 2018 averaged about 29 per year. With little federal data on school shootings, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s behind the recent increase.

Feds Indict Officials at Companies that Distributed Millions of Opioids

A federal grand jury has indicted pharmaceutical wholesaler Miami-Luken, two of its top former officials, and two pharmacists with conspiring to illegally distribute millions of prescription painkillers in some of the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. The indictment says the distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone was “outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.” The wholesaler distributed 2.6 million hydrocodone tablets and 2.3 million units of oxycodone to a pharmacy in a West Virginia town of only 1,400 people between 2011 and 2015, the Justice Department said. Emails acquired by the government show drug execs indifferent to the opioid crisis, desiring to ship as much as possible to enhance profits.

In 20 years, drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and practitioners acted as street drug couriers and shipped “hundreds of millions” of suspicious opioid doses into two Ohio counties, according to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio. Companies certified to manufacture and distribute the drugs are required by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to monitor for “suspicious” orders, defined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as those of unusual size, frequency or pattern. For some defendants, “these ‘suspicious order’ shipments represented as much as 80% of the total opioid transactions and as much as 92% of the dosage units shipped” to Summit and Cuyahoga counties, court documents said.

Green Economy Turns Brown As Homelessness Surges In Bay Area

San Francisco recently released the results of its 2019 point-in-time homeless census conducted in January, and the news appeared nothing less than disastrous, as SF’s homeless headcount increased by the hundreds despite the city’s seemingly ceaseless efforts to provide relief, report. The 2019 homelessness spike in SF came amid a tide of similar baleful results across the Bay Area. Five out of nine Bay Area Counties—i.e., all of those not located in the North Bay—saw their homeless counts spike during the same period, with each of these counties reporting worse homelessness surges than SF. “The applied policies of the UN’s Agenda 21 and the New Urban Agenda is wreaking havoc in American cities, but no one is admitting that the homeless crisis is a direct result of those policies,” notes Technocracy News.

House Approves Trump’s Spending Hikes, Debt Holiday

The House approved new budget limits Thursday, which includes increased spending and debt over the next two years. The vote showed a growing rebellion among Republicans over surging deficits and President Trump’s willingness to sign hefty funding increases. Trump had pleaded with conservatives to back him and vote for the bill, which his top lieutenants had negotiated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, but it was Democrats who delivered the bulk of the votes to pass the measure. The final vote tally was 284-149, with more than 90% of Democrats backing it. More than two-thirds of Republicans defied Mr. Trump and opposed the bill. The deal includes increases for both defense and domestic spending, though the domestic side grows slightly faster, Democrats crowed. And having the debt deal in place should lower the risk of another government shutdown over the next 24 months. The Senate will vote on the measure next week, but is expected to pass it.

Economic News

The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department announced Friday. That’s better than economists had expected, but slower than the 3.1% pace in the first quarter. The middling result was propelled by a strong increase in consumer spending and government spending, but was dragged down by a large decrease in business investment, particularly in real estate, which had been much stronger in 2018. Consumer spending grew at a 4.3% annualized rate in the second quarter, up from only 1.1% in the prior quarter. Spending on durable goods, which includes long-lasting items like cars and furniture, was particularly strong, growing at a 12.9% annualized rate. Consumers saved 8.5% of their disposable, after-tax income in the first quarter and that rate remained at a still-strong 8.1% in the second.

U.S. manufacturing has declined for 118 straight months, The IHS U.S. Manufacturing PMI fell to 50.0 in July 2019, the lowest since September 2009. Output declined the most since August 2009 and employment dropped for the first time in six years. Survey respondents noted that a downturn in the automotive sector and heightened global economic uncertainty were factors behind the decline. The data revealed that export sales were particularly off. The Eurozone’s manufacturing sector is also in decline. The weighed PMI Composite index for July fell closer to the 50 mark separating growth from contraction, drifting from 52.2 to 51.5.

Nissan announced Thursday that it would be laying off 12,500 employees. Japan’s second biggest automaker, said profits were almost completely wiped out in the first quarter of its fiscal year. Operating profit plunged 99% in the quarter compared to a year earlier. Revenue, meanwhile, dropped nearly 13% compared to a year ago. The company added it will reduce its product lineup by at least 10% by the end of fiscal year 2022. “Loss-making overseas facilities would be the main targets,” CEO Hiroto Saikawa said, adding that the company had already suspended manufacturing lines in Indonesia and Spain.

Here’s another early warning signal of possible recession: Fewer goods are being shipped across the country. Truck, rail and air freight volumes fell 5.3% in June from the same period a year ago, the seventh straight annual decline, according to the closely watched Cass Freight Index. That followed a 6% drop in May. The persistent drops could portend trouble for the economy because shipments reflect demand for a wide range of consumer and industrial goods.

Credit reporting agency Equifax has reached a deal to pay up to $700 million to state and federal regulators to settle probes stemming from a data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 150 million people. It will be the largest settlement ever paid for a data breach. The amount of the settlement could change depending on the number of claims still to be filed by consumers. Equifax will pay at least $300 million and as much as $425 million to compensate affected people with credit monitoring services. The Federal Trade Commission said Equifax failed to properly safeguard peoples’ personal information despite claiming in its privacy policy that it implemented “reasonable physical, technical and procedural safeguards” to protect their data.

Facebook must pay a record-breaking $5 billion fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, by far the largest penalty ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy rights. Facebook also agreed to adopt new protections for the data users share on the social network, and to measures that limit the power of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Under the settlement, which concludes a year-long investigation prompted by the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social networking giant must expand its privacy protections across Facebook itself, as well as on Instagram and WhatsApp. It must also adopt a corporate system of checks and balances to remain compliant.

T-Mobile’s mega-merger with Sprint can move forward, the Justice Department said Friday, paving the way for an unprecedented combination of America’s third- and fourth-largest wireless providers. The DOJ’s blessing marks a critical breakthrough for T-Mobile and Sprint as they seek to join forces against Verizon and AT&T. Critics argue the merger will lead to higher prices and less innovation, but the merger may not close until a multi-state lawsuit to block the deal is resolved.

Investors worried about climate change are warning the world’s biggest cement producers to reduce their emissions or face extinction. A group of investors that manages $2 trillion on Monday pressured cement makers to accelerate efforts to reduce their emissions. Cement production, which uses huge amounts of heat and energy, is responsible for 7% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, more emissions than all but two countries (U.S. and China). Firms that don’t move quickly to change their practices risk losing access to capital, according to the investors.

For years, Chinese investment into the United States had been accelerating, with money pouring into autos, tech, energy and agriculture and fueling new jobs. But growing distrust and trade wars between the United States and China has slowed the once steady flow of Chinese cash into America, with Chinese investment plummeting by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office.

Persecution Watch

Two hundred Christian families escaped alive when Boko Haram militants attacked the village of Roum in Cameroon’s Far North Region on July 10. Why did they all survive? Because they had decided to sleep in the bush instead of in their houses – a precaution taken because of so many other recent attacks on nearby villages. The foresight of the Roum Christians saved their lives, but they still lost everything they owned. The jihadists set fire to their homes, killed their livestock and plundered their food-stores of millet. With their clothes, bedding and other possessions destroyed, the believers are now living in a local school.

Syrian Christian Suzan Der Kirkour, 60, was raped repeatedly, tortured and stoned to death near her home in Idlib governorate by Islamist militants, reportedly linked to an Al-Nusra Front rebel group active in the area, a Barnabas Aid contact has reported.

A pregnant mother of two children was among three Christians killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in north-central Nigeria the night of July 14 and morning of July 15, sources said. The herdsmen attacked the Christian communities of Ancha, Tafigana, Kperie, Hukke and Rikwechongu, killing the three Christians and burning down 75 houses and two church buildings, according to area residents.

Israel

A measure to oppose the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement receives strong, bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday – 398 members voted in favor and just 17 against. The BDS movement seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel, as well as U.S. companies with commercial ties to Israel. The majority in both parties supported the bipartisan resolution, which was opposed by 16 Democrats – including, of course, pro-BDS activists Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Israeli work crews on Monday started tearing down dozens of illegally built Palestinian Arab homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood, in one of the largest operations of its kind in years. The demolition is a sensitive issue as the buildings sit in Area A, over which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have control over civilian and security matters. However, the buildings are close to the separation barrier, which Israel credits with reducing terrorist attacks. Seven years ago the IDF banned construction of buildings within 250 meters of the separation barrier.

Iran

Iranian lawmakers on Sunday said they believe their country should impose a “toll” on all ships that pass through the vital Strait of Hormuz. The proposal comes just 48 hours after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) seized a British oil tanker traveling through the Strait, a key shipping channel in the region. After the Trump administration imposed a full embargo on exports of Iranian oil earlier this year, Tehran has targeted foreign vessels sailing through the strait. In addition to detaining multiple ships, the U.S. has alleged that Iran carried out a series of limpet mine attacks on oil tankers. Meanwhile, British officials said the country will weigh economic sanctions against Iran in response to the ship seizure.

On Monday, Iran said it arrested 17 of its own citizens who were spying for the US, reports Reuters. Iran said some would be executed, but it did not say how many. According to the state-run Fars news agency, the CIA recruited workers at nuclear and military sites, as well as in the private sector, and wooed them with promises of jobs in the US and easy US visas, per USA Today. Iran said it broke up the spy network last month. Neither the CIA nor the U.S. government has responded to the allegations.

Syria

Air strikes by the Syrian government and its allies on schools, hospitals, markets and bakeries have killed at least 103 civilians in the past 10 days, including 26 children, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Friday. “These are civilian objects, and it seems highly unlikely, given the persistent pattern of such attacks, that they are all being hit by accident,” Bachelet said, adding that the rising toll had been met with “apparent international indifference”.

Somalia

At least 17 people were killed in a car bombing in Mogadishu on Monday, medical sources tell VOA’s Somali service. The director of Mogadishu’s largest hospital, Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, said another 28 people were taken to the hospital with injuries. The explosion occurred when a suspected suicide bomber detonated a vehicle near a hotel close to the busy K-4 junction in Mogadishu. Witnesses told VOA Somali that the vehicle was turned back from a security checkpoint that leads to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport. Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

A suicide bomber walked into the mayor’s office in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, during a high-level security meeting on Wednesday and detonated explosives, seriously injuring the mayor and killing at least six people, according to local authorities. The mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, was in critical condition with head and stomach injuries, officials said. James Swan, an American diplomat who is the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia, had visited the mayor’s office earlier Wednesday but left before the attack, the authorities said. The Shabab, an Islamist extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility and said that Mr. Swan was the intended target, according to Radio Andalus, the group’s radio station. The Shabab, which seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, often target government offices and other high-profile places in Somalia’s capital.

North Korea

A day after two North Korean missile launches rattled Asia, the nation announced Friday that Kim Jong Un supervised a test of a new type of tactical guided weapon that was meant to be a “solemn warning” about South Korea’s plans to hold military exercises with the United States. The message in the country’s state media quoted Kim and was directed at “South Korean military warmongers,” the AP reports. It comes as US and North Korean officials struggle to set up talks after a recent meeting on the Korean border between Kim and President Trump seemed to provide a step forward in stalled nuclear negotiations. Although the North had harsh words for South Korea, the statement stayed away from the kind of belligerent attacks on the United States that have marked past announcements, a possible signal that it’s interested in keeping diplomacy alive.

United Kingdom

Boris Johnson will become Britain’s new prime minister on Wednesday. The governing Conservative Party revealed Tuesday that the Brexit hardliner won a ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members to replace Theresa May, who announced her resignation last month. Johnson, a former London mayor, had been the heavy favorite. He wooed Conservatives by promising to succeed where May failed and lead the UK out of the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31—with or without a divorce deal. Several Conservative ministers have already announced they will resign to fight any push for a “no-deal” Brexit, an outcome economists warn would disrupt trade and plunge the UK into recession. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is an eccentric character who is prone to gaffes, often projects a disheveled demeanor and has a tendency to offend allies and foes alike that has drawn comparisons to President Donald Trump.

Puerto Rico

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said late Wednesday that he will resign on Aug. 2 after nearly two weeks of furious protests and political upheaval touched off by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages between him and his top advisers. Puerto Ricans had already been frustrated with corruption, mismanagement, economic crisis, and the sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.. A crowd of demonstrators outside the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan erupted into cheers and singing after his announcement on Facebook just before midnight. Addressing the protests, Rosselló said, “The demands have been overwhelming and I’ve received them with highest degree of humility.” Rosselló, a Democrat elected in 2016, is the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of more than 3 million American citizens. However, the massive crowds showed no sign of dispersing as they also protested Rossello’s successor, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez, an embattled figure also tainted by the corruption scandals that have roiled the administration.

Mexico

Murders in Mexico jumped in the first half of the year to the highest on record, underscoring the vast challenges President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces in reducing violence in the cartel-ravaged country. There were 14,603 murders from January to June, versus the 13,985 homicides registered in the first six months of 2018. Mexico is on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year, an all-time high. For years Mexico has struggled with violence as consecutive governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting.

China

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said Tuesday the bureau has more than 1,000 open investigations into Chinese efforts to steal U.S. businesses’ confidential intellectual property. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Wray said China poses a bigger threat than Russia to the U.S. China is trying to “steal their way up the economic ladder at our expense,” he told the lawmakers. Over the past two years, the FBI, Justice Department and White House have accused the Chinese government of plotting to steal both U.S. government-funded research and private businesses’ intellectual property.

Volcanoes

Indonesia’s Tangkuban Perahu Volcano erupted Friday near the country’s third-largest city, sending a plume of ash into the sky that landed more than a mile from the volcano. The volcano, which erupted at 3:48 p.m. local time Friday, is located about 20 miles north of Bandung, the capital of West Java and home to more than 2.3 million people. Visitors and residents were warned to be alert for more possible volcanic activity. Indonesia is part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire and has dozens volcanoes, with some of the most active on the populated islands of Java and Bali.

Wildfires

There are currently 78 wildfires burning in Alaska, with most of them at zero percent containment. So far, these fires have consumed 2,056,514 acres (3,213 square miles – almost 3 times the size of Rhode Island. The largest of these is the Chalkyitsik Complex (4 fires) in the Upper Yukon Zone, fifteen miles east of Chalkyitsik. So far, 482,087 acres have been torched in mostly timber forest. Numerous structures threatened, with just two lost so far. In total, just 7 structures have been lost to these 78 fires.

A wildfire burning near Flagstaff, Arizona, has forced the evacuation of about two dozen homes north of the city and prompted authorities to give pre-evacuation notices to thousands more. The Museum Fire has torched more than 2.1 square miles in the Coconino National Forest and is 10 percent contained. The recreation area is known for horseback riding, camping, hiking and mountain biking. More than 500 firefighters and a dozen aircraft have been battling the blaze since it broke out on Sunday.

Lightning sparked more than a dozen wildfires Monday in northern Nevada. While many of the blazes have since been contained, crews continue to battle several fires sparked by a line of thunderstorms that swept through the region Monday afternoon. The Summit Fire near Winnemucca in Pershing County is the largest of these and has scorched more than 10 square miles as of Tuesday afternoon. The Midas Fire, located three miles southwest of the town of Midas in Elko County, has burned 2.6 square miles.

Eight firefighters and 12 civilians have been injured in wildfires burning through central Portugal. the fires began Saturday in the district of Castelo Branco, northeast of Lisbon, the capital. More than 1,000 firefighters, supported by 10 firefighting aircraft and hundreds of vehicles, are battling the fires. At least one village has been evacuated. In recent years, the country has witnessed some of its deadliest fires on record, with 106 people killed in 2017.

Weather

A relentless heatwave gripped the U.S. from the central states to the East Coast last weekend, killing at least seven. As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast. An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater. Temperatures reached the upper 90s from the Carolinas to Maine on Sunday, and the heat index hit 110 degrees in some places.

London and places across Europe sweltered under all-time high temperatures Thursday as the second heat wave this summer baked the continent. Paris soared to a record high of 108 degrees.  Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands also set all-time heat records, while London set a record for July of 98.4 degrees. So far, 6 deaths have been linked to the heat wave. Normally temperate Europe — where air conditioning is rare — isn’t equipped for the temperatures frying the region this week. So, tourists frolicked in fountains to seek relief, and authorities and volunteers fanned out to help the elderly, sick and homeless hit hardest by the heat. Trains were canceled in Britain and France, and French authorities urged travelers to stay home.

More than half a million homes and businesses in Michigan and Wisconsin remained without electricity Sunday morning after violent thunderstorms rolled across the Upper Midwest on Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s round of severe storms erupted over South Dakota, producing wind gusts up to 79 mph before moving into Wisconsin, Minnesota and eventually, Michigan. Numerous large trees were reportedly downed in Appleton, Wisconsin, by high winds. Many vehicles sustained damage from downed trees. Hail as big as baseballs that left numerous cars damaged along a Minnesota interstate Friday. A roof was ripped off one business, and siding was partially torn from a hotel in Wisconsin. Flash flooding closed several roads early Monday and sent water into businesses in areas in and around St. Louis, Missouri. Interstate 64 westbound was shut down in St. Louis after a car stalled in high water.

The death toll from monsoon flooding in South Asia rose to 164 Sunday Saturday as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt of it in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages were affected by the floods. More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, India.

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

Signs of the Times

July 19, 2019

­­Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God.  (Isaiah 43:1-3)

New Rules Stem Flow of Taxpayers Money to Abortion Clinics

A new Trump administration rule that went into effect Monday immediately ended taxpayer dollars going to abortion referrals at publicly funded family planning centers. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, sued the administration, along with 20 states and the District of Columbia, in an attempt to stop Health and Human Services, or HHS, from diverting Title X family planning funding going to abortions. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, with two judges appointed by Trump, rejected the plea. The administration formally notified clinics that it will begin to enforce the ban on abortion referrals as well as a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. The requirement that abortion facilities cannot be under the same roof as family planning clinics will take effect next year.

  • Planned Parenthood removed Dr. Leana Wen as president Tuesday citing the need for a more aggressive leader, less than a year after appointing her, an apparent victim of recent losses in court.

Judge Upholds Daleiden’s Right to Expose Planned Parenthood

Undercover investigator David Daleiden was vindicated in court Wednesday from the bogus lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed after his videos exposed the abortion giant for selling aborted baby parts. Daleiden has maintained from the beginning that he and the Center for Medical Progress followed all applicable laws in the course of its investigative journalism and that the lawsuit was politically-motivated retribution as opposed to a suit based on legitimate damages. In a big victory for the First Amendment freedoms of citizen journalists, a federal judge in San Francisco indicated his intent to decisively cut back Planned Parenthood’s retaliatory lawsuit against The Center for Medical Progress for the undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted baby parts. In his tentative ruling, which he instructed the parties to treat as if it were substantially final, Judge William Orrick III rejected Planned Parenthood’s false accusations that CMP citizen journalists, including David Daleiden, attempted to incite “threats” and “violence” by publishing the undercover videos.

President Trump Again Defunds UNFPA, Which Promotes Abortion

For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump has ordered the defunding of the UNFPA, a United Nations population control agency which promotes abortions worldwide. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order defunding the UN population group because it pushes abortions on other countries. He renewed the order again in 2018 and has renewed the order again this year. Trump’s decision means the pro-abortion UN group will not receive $32.5 million in taxpayer funds to promote abortion and population control around the world.

UK Parliament Votes to Impose Abortion on Northern Ireland

Members of UK Parliament (MPs) voted Thursday to impose abortion upon the region and people of Northern Ireland. The vote, which took place in the House of Commons this afternoon, saw MP’s support the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Bill, which would see unborn children stripped of protections by 328 to 65 votes – a majority of 263. The Bill will see the repeal of section 58 and section 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which are currently the only safeguards protecting unborn children from the threat of abortion in Northern Ireland. Michael Robinson, Director of Parliamentary Communications for pro-life SPUC, said: “The UK has one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world. Since 1967, our laws have permitted the killing of more than 9 million babies and injured countless women physically and psychologically. The Abortion Act has brought only misery and destruction. No society which is genuinely committed to equality and human rights could tolerate such a law.”

New Rule Limits Which Migrants Can Seek Asylum

A new rule that fundamentally changes U.S. asylum law which will dramatically reduce the number of migrants who can apply at the border went into effect Tuesday. An immediate legal challenge is expected. The new rule, published in the Federal Register, stipulates that any migrant who passes through another country before arriving at the US border must seek asylum there first instead of in the U.S. For example, migrants from Honduras or El Salvador who walk north to the U.S. border and pass through Guatemala and Mexico would be ineligible to apply for asylum in the U.S. Instead, they must apply in Guatemala or Mexico. The impact of the new rule is that, with limited exceptions, only people from Mexico could apply for U.S. asylum, and they make up a small number of current applicants.

Majority of Mexicans Oppose Flow of Migrants

According to a new poll, the majority of Mexicans say immigrants are a burden on their country, and favor deporting those migrants who travel through Mexico to reach U.S. More than 6 in 10 residents say they are frustrated by the heightened migration from Central America, because migrants take jobs and benefits that should belong to Mexicans, according to a Washington Post-Reforma survey. The findings negate the perception that Mexico is sympathetic to the surge of Central Americans through their country.

Obama Also Touted Deportation of Illegal Immigrants

Most Americans are surprised to learn that former President Barack Obama also touted the deportation of criminal aliens. In 2014, Obama explained his administration’s deportation policy in an immigration address from the White House. “We are a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing on threats to our security,” Obama said.

Antifa Terrorist Attack Against ICE in Tacoma, Washington

A domestic terrorist attack was carried out against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Tacoma, Washington. A member of Antifa, an organization that should be classified as a terrorist group, approached the facility with an AR-15, started threatening people and then proceeded to throw incendiary devices at the facility. He was shot and died as a result of his behavior. The 69-year-old armed man killed by Washington state police as he attacked a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center Saturday sent a manifesto to friends the day before the assault in which he wrote “I am Antifa,” and was being lionized by members of the leftwing group as a “martyr.” The group Seattle Antifascist Action described assailant Willem Van Spronsen a “good friend and comrade” who “took a stand against the fascist detention center in Tacoma” and “became a martyr who gave his life to the struggle against fascism.” Democrats have been calling for elimination of ICE for nearly a year. In the past few months, their rhetoric about the agency has escalated and a number of members have referred to ICE agents as Nazis.

Feds Release 3,100 Inmates under First Step Act

The Justice Department announced that more than 3,000 inmates are being released Friday from custody after their sentences were reduced for good conduct under the First Step Act, which President Trump signed into law in 2018, aiming to rehabilitate inmates to go back into their communities and avoid reoffending. “Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody and preparing them for a successful transition to life after incarceration,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. Out of the about 3,100 inmates released, the largest number were drug offenders with the second-largest group having committed weapons crimes. The third group were sex offenders.

U.S. Shoots Down Iranian Drone, Iran Captures Tanker

President Trump says a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between the two countries. Trump says the USS Boxer took defensive action after the drone closed to within 1,000 yards, ignoring multiple calls to stand down, in the latest “hostile” action by Iran. He’s calling on other countries to condemn what he says are Iran’s attempts to disrupt the freedom of navigation and global commerce in the strategic Persian Gulf waterway. Iran on Friday denied President Trump’s statement that a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone, suggesting that the U.S. shot down its own drone.

Meanwhile, Iran claimed Thursday that it seized a foreign-registered oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, the country’s state-run media announced. The ship was apparently captured Sunday. Twelve crew members were on the Panamanian-flagged vessel when it was taken near the Strait of Hormuz. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful organization with deep links to the military and business, said the tanker tried to smuggle a million liters of oil. Nationalities of the crew members were not known.

House Votes to Block Sales of Weapons to Saudi Arabia & Emirates

The House approved legislation Wednesday to block President Trump from selling U.S.-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, triggering a high-profile confrontation with the White House over the controversial transaction. The vote showcased the backlash against a pending deal to send $8.1 billion in bombs, precision-guided missiles, ammunition and other arms to the Saudis and its Middle East partners. A handful of Republicans and one Independent joined most Democrats in supporting the measures, despite a White House veto threat.  Democrats have expressed deep concern over the Trump administration’s pro-Saudi policies, even as the kingdom engaged in series of high-profile human rights violations – including the slaying of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Lawmakers have also grown increasingly alarmed by the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and created a horrific humanitarian crisis.

Global Health Emergency Declared over Deadly Ebola Outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency over the long-simmering Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the deadly virus spread to a populous border city with Rwanda. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. And more than 30 new cases are being reported each month in northeast DRC, which is largely a regional war zone. The committee reported 2,512 confirmed or probable current cases, including 136 health workers affected, and 40 deaths. This is just the fifth global emergency declaration in history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

Opioid Overdoses Drop as Fentanyl Deaths Skyrocket

Drug overdose deaths last year dropped for the first time in nearly three decades, according to a report this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data show that overdose deaths fell 5% in 2018, the first major decline during an addiction epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of people this decade. While the drop is encouraging, experts say more than 68,000 deaths last year from drug overdoses remains a significant public health challenge. Prescription opioid painkillers, long blamed as the root of the crisis, are fading as a cause of drug overdose deaths. The CDC reported 12,757 overdose deaths from prescription painkillers in 2018, down from 14,926 deaths in 2017. Four other drug categories – methamphetamine and other stimulants, cocaine, heroin and fentanyl – each caused more fatal overdoses last year than opioids such as oxycodone and Vicodin. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid often sold as a street drug, surpassed prescription opioids in 2015 as the most lethal overdose substance and now is linked to nearly three times as many deaths.

Economic News

The House of Representatives approved the Raise the Wage Act Thursday, which would boost the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade. In a 231-199 vote along party lines, the House passed the legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current rate of $7.25. In an even more drastic increase, the bill calls for having the same minimum wage for tipped workers, raising it from $2.13 an hour. However, the Senate is likely to vote it down.

America’s debt load is about to hit a record. The combination of cheap money and soaring debt helped fuel the decade-long economic expansion and bull market, but America’s gluttony of loans could work against it if its fragile economic balance shifts, CNN Business reports. In the first quarter of 2019, the United States’ total public- and private-sector debt amounted to nearly $70 trillion, according to research by the Institute of International Finance. Corporate America’s debt situation isn’t much better. An increase in bank lending has helped non-financial corporate debt climb to new highs: 74% of GDP, according to the IIF. Concerns about rising debt levels aren’t confined to the United States. Overall, the world is borrowing more than it is producing. It is living beyond its means. Such a massive pile of debt puts the U.S. and the at risk to sudden shifts in market conditions.

Last year, 22.5% of all CEO replacements were women. For the first six months of 2019, 21.6% of all CEO vacancies have been filled by women. That total has grown from 12.4% in 2010 and jumped over the 20% bar for the first time last year. A record 271 women were named as new CEOs last year, while 131 have taken on a new CEO role in the first six months of this year.

A shortage of canned vegetables is causing supermarkets across the country to post apologetic signs. The sign in Kroger reads, “Due to a poor harvest season, we are experiencing shortages on many of our canned vegetable items. We hope to be back in stock on most items by the end of August.” Similar notices have gone up in Walmart and other grocers. The shortage is due to the heavy rains in the Midwest that caused major crop losses.

China’s economic growth has slumped to its lowest level in nearly three decades as the world’s second largest economy feels the effects of a prolonged trade war with the United States. The country’s gross domestic product grew at 6.2% in the quarter ended June, the slowest quarterly growth rate since 1992 and down from 6.4% in the previous quarter, according to government figures released on Monday. The Chinese economy will continue to face “downward pressure” in the second half of this year, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement.

Persecution Watch

Life has become increasingly difficult for Christians in Nigeria, as persecution continues to rise and an average of 10 Christians are dying for their faith every day. Ninety-one million Christians live in Africa’s most populous nation, but many of them face consistent harassment and violence from Muslim extremists. David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, recently spoke about the struggles facing Nigerian Christians on the Pure Flix Podcast. He explained that “There are these Islamic terrorist groups with safe haven in the north and the government has done little to nothing to root them out. That makes the north of Nigeria one of the most dangerous places for Christians.”

Anti-Christian violence has continued to spread across the West African nation of Burkina Faso, with four more believers shot dead in cold blood at the end of June. According to Christian Persecution charity Open Doors USA, on June 27, heavily armed militants were spotted entering the village of Bani with the aim of hunting down followers of Jesus. The small community was gripped with a paralyzing fear as the militants proceeded to order everyone to lie down. They searched tirelessly for anything that might identify the individuals as Christ-followers. Then, tragically, they succeeded—four men were found to be wearing crosses around their necks. They were dragged away from the group and brutally executed.

Middle East

Palestinian terrorists claim to have shot down an Israeli drone over the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday. The Israel Defense Forces confirms a drone went down but says it’s not clear if the drone was shot down or suffered a technical failure. Israel is a world-leader in drone development and was one of the first to use drones in combat. Last Monday, the IDF shot down a drone that crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas in Gaza has attempted to launch drones into Israel before. In 2018, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that drones had dropped explosive devices onto Israeli homes in the south. The report raised the fear that this might become a new method of attack in the next round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Amid mounting tensions between Israel and Hamas, one of the terror group’s top officials in Gaza sent out a call on Friday to Palestinians throughout the world to attack Jews. At a speech delivered at a “March of Return” rally on Friday, July 12, broadcast on the terror group’s television station, Al-Aqsa TV, Political Bureau member Fathi Hammad said, “There are Jews everywhere. we must attack every Jew on planet Earth! We must slaughter and kill them, with Allah’s help,” He appealed to the “seven million Palestinians abroad,” to “lacerate them and tear them to pieces.”

Israel

High-profile Democrats are rejecting a controversial resolution from Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. affirming the right to boycott Israel, even as they rally behind her and two other first-term congresswomen attacked by President Trump. The Muslim lawmakers’ resolution likens Israel to Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan and the Soviet Union. While the resolution doesn’t explicitly name Israel or the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar told media outlets that the resolution concerns the Jewish state. California Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, one of the senior Jewish lawmakers in the House, told The Jerusalem Post that the resolution proposed by the fellow Democrat will not be taken seriously. “I can’t imagine that any committee is going to mark up or take seriously any pro-BDS resolution,” Sherman said.

  • An investigative reporter who has helped compile compelling evidence that Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., committed immigration fraud by marrying her brother and lying about it under oath now cites multiple sources within the Minneapolis Somali community who claim the congresswoman entered the United States in 1995 as a fraudulent member of the Omar family. In other words, her real name is not Omar, reports David Steinberg for Alpha News.

Iran

Iran’s foreign minister has suggested for the first time that the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program could be up for negotiations with the U.S., a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing nuclear deal. Mohammad Javad Zarif offered an initially high price for such negotiations – the halt of American arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf. But the fact that he mentioned it at all potentially represents a change in policy. Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.

A decision by the European powers not to enforce sanctions on Iran for its recent breaches of the JCPOA nuclear deal was met with exasperation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said on Monday that it “reminds me of Europe’s appeasement in the 1930s. Then as well, there were those who buried their heads in the sand and did not see the approaching danger. Apparently, there are those in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles fall on Europe. But then it will be too late.”

Syria

At least 12 people were killed and scores wounded on Tuesday in aerial strikes believed to have been carried out by the Syrian air force on a popular market in a village in opposition-held northwestern Syria, rescuers and residents said. Residents and rescuers said bombs dropped on Maar Shoreen village in southern Idlib province by planes which monitors said were Syrian army jets left a trail of death and destruction and wounded scores in a main street of the village’s market. Hundreds of civilians have been killed since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria began nearly two months ago, rights groups and rescuers said.

Russia has sent special forces in recent days to fight alongside Syrian army troops in northwestern Syria where they have been struggling for more than two months to seize the last opposition bastion, senior rebel commanders said. Moscow, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad, denied on Thursday that it had sent special forces to Idlib, maintaining that Russia has no ground troops in Syria. The rebel commanders said Russian officers and troops had been behind front lines directing the operation in northern Hama and adjoining Idlib province since it began in April, using snipers and firing anti-tank missiles. They said this was the first time Russian ground forces had joined in the battle.

  • Ezekiel 38-39 prophecies that Russia and Persia (Iran/Syria) will join forces for the end-time war against Israel

North Korea

North Korea has threatened to renege on commitments made to the United States on denuclearization, accusing the Trump administration of breaching the “spirit” of the negotiations by planning joint military exercises with South Korea. North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the military drills were a “rehearsal for war” and broke promises President Trump made when he met Kim Jong Un at a summit in Singapore in June 2018. “With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S. as well,” the statement said.

Italy

Police in northern Italy arrested three men, at least one of whom had been a member of a neo-fascist political party, after uncovering a massive cache of weapons, Nazi paraphernalia and a missile that they were allegedly attempting to sell. Fabio Del Bergiolo, 50, who had run for a legislative office as a member the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party, was among the three men arrested Monday. Police said their investigation began about a year ago in the city of Turin as authorities were looking into Italian extremists connected with a Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Multiple assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, bayonets and ammo were among the weaponry police seized from Del Bergiolo’s house. An air-to-air missile was also seized in Pavia and, while there were no explosives in it, was in working condition.

Turkey

President Trump has announced that the U.S. is going to halt sales of its F-35 stealth fighter jet to Turkey because the country received a new missile defense system from Russia. U.S. officials previously have expressed concerns about Moscow’s potential intelligence gathering if Turkey came to be in possession of both the advanced American aircraft and the Russian missile-defense technology. The U.S. initially agreed to sell 100 of the jets to Turkey – with the first two arriving in June.

Japan

At least 33 people were killed and dozens more injured in a suspected arson attack at one of Japan’s most famous animation studios Thursday morning. Police say a man “threw a liquid and set fire to it” in the attack at the Kyoto Animation’s 1st Studio building. At least 36 people were injured, some of them critically. The suspect, a 41-year-old man, was injured in the attack and was arrested after he was taken to a hospital. Police say he admitted starting the fire. Survivors who saw the suspect told local media that he was not one of their colleagues. His motive is unclear, though witnesses say they heard him complain that Kyoto Animation had plagiarized his novel before he splashed flammable liquid from a bucket and set it on fire.

Puerto Rico

An afternoon of extraordinary protests demanding the immediate resignation of Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico turned chaotic late on Monday when police in riot gear launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of thousands of demonstrators. Henry Escalera, the police commissioner, told reporters that some protesters had thrown cobblestones, bottles and tear gas of their own at the officers during the more than two-hour standoff. The tense confrontations marked an escalation of the dramatic political crisis that began in Puerto Rico after hundreds of pages of a private chat on the messaging app Telegram between Mr. Rosselló and some of his closest aides were leaked on Saturday, revealing a slew of crude and inappropriate exchanges. The leak, coming on the heels of high-profile federal corruption arrests last week, unleashed months of pent-up frustration over Mr. Rosselló’s handling of Hurricane Maria, his education policies and the federal oversight board that controls Puerto Rico’s troubled finances.

Earthquakes

According to recent data from Earthquake Track, the entire globe has averaged 193 earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater per day so far in 2019. That is very high, but it pales in comparison to what we have witnessed over the last week.  Within seven days last week, the planet has experienced an average of more than 677 earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater per day, more than 3 times above normal.

A magnitude 4.3 earthquake shook the eastern San Francisco Bay area at 1:11 p.m. Tuesday. Four minutes later, a magnitude 4.5 quake hit near Ridgecrest, which, earlier this month, was rattled by a pair of massive temblors, including the most powerful shaker (a magnitude 7.1) to strike California in 20 years. And, then, at 1:24 p.m., the Bay Area felt another rumble, this time a magnitude 3.2, again centered near Blackhawk, an unincorporated community east of Oakland. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries after any of Tuesday’s quakes. And the number of very large earthquakes is at a frighteningly high level as well.  According to the USGS, there were 121 earthquakes of at least magnitude 4.5 around the world within those seven days.

  • Jesus said some of the signs of the end-times were “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7)

A strong earthquake hit Friday near the Greek capital of Athens, causing residents to run into the streets in fear and firefighters to check for people trapped in elevators. The U.S. Geological Survey gave it a preliminary magnitude of 5.3. The quake sparked limited power cuts and communication problems around Athens and the fire brigade reported receiving calls about people being trapped in elevators. The most powerful quake to hit the Greek capital in the last 20 years came in 1999, when a temblor of magnitude 6.0 caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Wildfires

A heat wave combined with strong winds sparked fires throughout Israel on Wednesday, with hundreds being evacuated from threatened areas and 15 homes being damaged by the flames. Firefighters were able to get most of the fires under control toward the evening. Evacuations took place in several locations, including the towns of Aderet, Neve Michael and Roglit near Jerusalem, Or Yehuda near Tel Aviv, near the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and in Shavei Shomron in Samaria. In Or Yehuda, five houses caught fire in the Ramat Pinkas neighborhood, and firefighters had to rescue several residents. Over 120 cases of heat-related injuries around the country were reported.

Weather

The heat wave covering much of the United States has killed two people in Maryland and caused roads to buckle in Kansas where the temperature reached 100 degrees. With temperatures expected to rise into the mid-90s or higher in the central and eastern states, communities are opening public buildings as shelters and encouraging residents to check on relatives. It was 90 degrees or hotter for nearly 90% of the country this week. Organizers of the Verizon New York City Triathlon canceled Sunday’s scheduled event because of the extreme heat. The event had 4,000 entrees. Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 90s in New York City over the weekend, with the possibility of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in some parts of the tri-state areas and in Washington, D.C, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis. Dozens of record hot temperatures are likely.

Hurricane Barry pushed ashore along the Louisiana coast west of New Orleans on Saturday and quickly weakened to a tropical storm. Fears of devastating storm surges and catastrophic flooding didn’t materialize. However, tropical storm Barry’s slow slog inland brought flood and tornado warnings and downed trees from Louisiana to Mississippi early Sunday after forcing late night rescues. More than 150,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in the two states Sunday morning. The storm continued to afflict, an already waterlogged Mississippi and Louisiana on Monday, leaving more than 50,000 Louisiana homes and businesses without power. Up to 14 inches of rain had fallen just north of Lake Charles, Louisiana. In Alabama the rains overwhelmed sewer systems, disgorging. 250,000 gallons of raw sewage along Alabama’s coasts. The remnants of Barry brought flooding into southwestern Arkansas overnight Monday and early Tuesday. Several roadways were flooded and one woman had to be rescued after driving into swiftly moving water in Arkadelphia. An animal shelter was flooded, killing one dog and forcing others to swim to safety.

More than 100 people have died after monsoon rains triggered flooding and landslides in Southern Asia, including at least 50 people in Nepal in the past few days, officials said Sunday. Two more people were killed when a three-story building in India collapsed. Another 30 people were missing in Nepal, swept away by swollen rivers or buried by mudslides. Nine key highways remained blocked by floods and mudslide. In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains continue to batter parts of the low-lying country. About 40,000 people have had heir homes submerged underwater.

Signs of the Times

July 12, 2019

­­Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6)

Egypt Legalizes Churches in Sweeping New Approval

A committee set up by the Egyptian government has approved the legalization of 127 churches which were previously being run in an illegal capacity. A law passed in 2016 hoped to speed up the process of legalization, with thousands of churches being built without a permit and operating in fear of government reprisals. Prior to the law being passed, it was notoriously difficult to gain state approval with congregations finding themselves at risk of prosecution. Since the law passed, some 1,021 have been granted permits by the committee, according to International Christian Concern. While the committee still has many churches to legalize, this is a promising start for a country in which Coptic Christians have faced fierce levels of violence and persecution for decades.

Most Biologists Agree that Life Begins at Conception

A University of Chicago Ph.D. student recently defended a dissertation in which he asked thousands of biologists when life begins. A large majority of the biologists he surveyed, even those who are committed to the pro-choice position, said human life begins at conception. Steven Jacobs undertook his research for his dissertation in the Department of Comparative Human Development. The research took him five grueling years and roused the ire of many academics, who, according to the college fix, accused him of academic dishonesty, claimed he politicized science, and compared him to the Ku Klux Klan. Jacobs wanted to bring fact-based research into the debate over abortion in an effort to move the debate past the question of when life begins and into other questions by showing that there is already a scholarly consensus on when life begins.

Appeals Court Allows Defunding of Planned Parenthood

The three-judge 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously overruled several federal district judges, allowing the defunding of millions from Planned Parenthood to move forward. Planned Parenthood called this ruling “devastating.” Now the 11 judges of the full 9th Circuit have agreed to hear the case. The reality is this case is likely headed to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood takes the lives of over 300,000 babies each year, all while taking and spending our tax dollars on abortion. The premise is that U.S. citizens should not be forced to fund the abortion industry. The rule, which originated under President Reagan, requires federal Title X funding to go to facilities that do not provide abortion. That cuts out Planned Parenthood, which in recent years has taken $50 million to $60 million of those funds.

California Teachers Can Send Student for an Abortion Without Notifying Parents

Imagine sending your daughter off to school only to find out that she was headed for an abortion appointment instead. Then imagine this: her teachers knew and never told you. In California, parents don’t have to imagine it. Thanks to a new undercover video, they know — it’s already happening, reports the Family Research Council.  The Our Watch organization sent someone into a training session who then pushed “record.” What they caught was a coordinated effort to keep parents in the dark about one of the most dangerous decisions a teenager could ever make. “Regardless of how old the student is,” ACLU attorney Ruth Dawson says in the video, “they can walk into a doctor’s office and consent to services without their parental consent. Those services are pregnancy and prenatal care, contraception and emergency contraception, abortion — and for these there is no parental notification.” No matter what, she said, “Young people have the right to leave school and seek confidential medical services without the consent or notification of their parents and guardians.”

NYC Schools to Allow Children to Claim Whatever Gender they Choose

In New York City public schools, students can choose their classes, their sports, and how their genders, reports the Family Research Council. Starting this fall, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is radically changing the city’s policy on registered names, dress codes, bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletics. Carranza is giving the green light to everything from unofficial name changes to unisex school uniforms. “Schools are safe havens for students to develop their passions and discover their true identities, and these new guidelines celebrate and affirm all students,” Carranza stated. For the first time, kids in the 2019–2020 school year will be able to “self-report names and genders” when enrolling in the city’s public schools. Once the families submit their “name and gender change request form,” every piece of school-related data — including report cards, diplomas, and even official enrollment numbers — will reflect this non-reality. As if that weren’t enough, “school dress codes must be… free of gender stereotypes and must be written, enforced, and applied equally to all students regardless of gender.”

Trump Drops Census Citizenship Question, Orders count from Existing Records

President Trump on Thursday ordered the Census Bureau to try to figure out how many American residents are citizens, but ditched plans to include the question on the 2020 count, caving to political hurdles and legal realities. Speaking from the White House, Mr. Trump said he was issuing an executive order to all agencies in the federal government to pool their existing data and send it to the Commerce Department, which will try to come up with a count without having to stick the question on the census itself. Trump said the analysis will be able to calculate not just citizens and non-citizens, but will finally produce a count of the illegal immigrant population.

Top Psychologist Group Now Promotes Group Sex

The American Psychological Association has been known for taking extreme positions on health issues and lifestyle choices, such as its “guidelines for practice with men and boys.” The document asserts “traditional masculinity” is harmful, and “it is entirely normal for a boy … to wear a dress.” Now, the APA is advocating that “swingers” — who routinely exchange sexual partners among themselves — become a legally protected class with special rights and privileges. Liberty Counsel, known for defending religious and civil rights in court, said APA has created a task force “to refute monogamous marriage and to normalize ‘consensual non-monogamous’ relationships.” The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, with over 118,000 members.

  • The psychologists themselves have gone nuts and are in dire need of divine therapy

House Votes to End U.S. Involvement in Yemen and Iran

The House approved a measure Thursday that would force President Donald Trump to end U.S. military support of Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen. Next they passed a proposal that would bar Trump from launching a military strike against Iran. The twin legislative actions represent a new level of congressional push back against Trump’s foreign policy, as Democrats use their House majority to rebuke the president over his aggressive stance toward Iran and his cozy ties with Saudi Arabia. Both amendments are being considered as part of a broader defense bill. The Senate approved its version of the defense bill last month without those contentious add-ons. The two chambers will have to reconcile the competing versions in the coming weeks. Trump has already vetoed a stand-alone bill to end the U.S. role in Yemen. Republicans in Congress said that limiting U.S. involvement in Yemen would give Iran a green light to spread its influence across the region.

ICE Deportation Sweep to Begin this Weekend

ICE officers will begin President Trump’s promised deportation sweep this weekend, targeting about 2,000 illegal immigrants who have been ordered deported but are defying those judges’ orders to remain in the country, The New York Times reported Thursday. The operation is meant to target members of illegal immigrant families who have arrived in the border surge. They have gone through their court hearings, been ordered deported, have been contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about scheduling an orderly removal, and have ignored all of those entreaties. ICE officials have said any other illegal immigrants encountered at the same time are viable targets for arrest and deportation themselves. Democrats and immigrant-rights activists, moving to thwart the operation, took to Twitter to tell illegal immigrants not to open doors for ICE officers.

Judge Rejects Plan to Force Drug Companies to Display Prices

A federal judge on Monday blocked a Trump administration regulation that aimed to require drug makers include their prices in television ads. President Donald Trump vowed to lower pharmaceutical prices last year amid public outcry. However. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta struck down the plan one day before the disclosure rule was set to go into effect. Drugmakers fought the rule with a lawsuit in June. “No matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized,” Mehta wrote. “The responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance.”

Number of Terrorist Attacks Declining Worldwide

Thousands of terrorist attacks take place each year, most in regions suffering from broader patterns of political violence such as the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. Assaults in the U.S. and Europe comprise a small percentage. However, the number, prevalence and lethality of terrorist incidents has decreased significantly around the world since a recent near-term peak in 2014, reports the USA Today. At the same time, security experts say the threats are more widespread geographically, more liable to amplification as social media lowers the barrier of entry, and as terrorists and would-be extremists appear intent on adapting and changing their methods in an extremely worrying direction: less sophistication but higher impact.

Booming Economy Tough on Military Recruitment

The thriving U.S. economy has and created one of the toughest environments in decades for military recruiters. The sustained strength of the U.S. economy over the past five years has taken the recruitment challenge to a whole new level. The true depth of the problem came into focus last year when the Army fell short of its recruiting goal for the first time in over a decade. Consequently, the military is doling out bigger bonuses and tweaking its approach in order to attract the nation’s best young talent.

University of Texas Promises Full Scholarships for Some

In an effort to ease access to college, the University of Texas pledged Tuesday to provide full scholarships to in-state undergraduates whose families make $65,000 or less annually. The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted to establish a $160 million endowment from the state’s Permanent University Fund in order to offer the scholarships by fall 2020. The money will supplement existing federal and state financial aid programs. The move will allow the university to fully fund the education of more than 8,600 in-state students, or about a quarter of the university’s undergraduates. The endowment will also help alleviate some financial burden for an additional 5,700 in-state students from families with incomes of $125,000 or less.

Alaska to Slash Money for Universities

The University of Alaska could lay off more than 1,000 and cut dozens of programs, thanks to a dramatic slash in money it gets from the state – a 41% cut from a line-item veto by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Alaskan oil production and worldwide oil prices have declined in recent years, so the state has used billions in savings to balance its budget. But it’s running out of money. At the University of Alaska’s Anchorage branch, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen predicts around 700 layoffs and 40 programs eliminated if the Legislature fails to override Dunleavy’s veto. “Everyone can clearly see that the state of Alaska can no longer afford to continue down the path of oversized spending, outsized government, and out-of-line priorities,” Dunleavy said.

California Governor Signs Illegal Immigrant Healthcare Law

California has become the first state to offer taxpayer-funded health benefits to adults living in the country illegally. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes low-income adults age 25 and younger eligible for the state’s Medicaid program regardless of their immigration status. State officials expect the plan to cover about 90,000 people and cost taxpayers $98 million. California already covers children ages 18 and younger regardless of immigration status. The law will not give health insurance benefits to everyone 25 and younger, but only those whose income is low enough to qualify. Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders say they plan to further expand coverage to more adults in the years to come.

Economic News

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday strongly hinted at a potential rate cut later this month, citing unresolved trade tensions and worries over the weakness of the global outlook. Powell told House lawmakers that since the Fed’s last interest-rate policy-setting meeting in June, these two factors have the potential to drag down the U.S. economy and remain a serious concern. His testimony before the House Financial Services Committee comes as President Donald Trump continues his relentless public pressure campaign on the Fed to cut interest rates to juice the U.S. economy.

For the first half of the year, vehicle deliveries fell 2.4% to 8.4 million vehicles. This puts the pace for new vehicle sales on track to fall below 17 million for the year, which would be the worst level since 2014. These lowered estimates are a result of rising interest rates, higher prices and rising consumer debt. Greater reliance on ride-hailing vehicles (Uber, Lyft) may also have been a factor. Some analysts say that ‘carmageddon’ has begun.

The layoffs have started at Deutsche Bank as the struggling lender embarks on a dramatic overhaul that will reduce its workforce by 18,000. CEO Christian Sewing confirmed during a conference call that layoffs had started Monday in Asia. He said Deutsche Bank teams in other parts of the world would also be affected. Sewing unveiled a restructuring on Sunday that will eliminate roughly one in five jobs at the German bank. The bank has said its workforce will shrink to roughly 74,000 employees by 2022. Urgent action was needed after recent attempts at restructuring failed to produce consistent profits. The bank reported an annual profit last year for the first time since 2014.

Persecution Watch

At least 100 men, women and children have been incinerated in a “well-targeted attack” on Christians by jihadists in central Mali, according to reports. The exact number of victims who died in Sobame Da, a mainly Christian village, isn’t known because many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. The Barnabas Fund, a global ministry to the persecuted Christian church, said the heavily armed Muslim attackers struck at night. The Barnabas Fund contact said they “burned the entire village including all the people who stayed or did not dare to go out. Only a few men were able to escape.” The BBC reported it was just the latest and worst of recent attacks by jihadi groups.

Amazon.com has removed from its site books featuring the testimonies of people who formerly identified as gay or lesbian. Among the authors are Anne Paulk of the Restored Hope Network and pastoral counselor Joe Dallas, the Christian Post reported. Dallas’ book “Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual Identity” and Paulk’s book “Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction” were removed within the past few days. Paulk, a former lesbian, said in an interview with WND in February that the affiliated groups in the Restored Hope Network have helped many people overcome same-sex attractions through the power of God. Dallas, in an email to the Christian Post, said Amazon’s decision is “no surprise since today’s culture is caving to the goals of the LGBTQ political movement, which have always included the silencing [of] any disapproval of homosexuality.” The Christian Post also noted that Amazon has pulled the works of the late Joseph Nicolosi, a founder and president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, NARTH. Nicolosi advocated the practice of reparative therapy to help people overcome homosexual desires.

Israel

Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Tuesday that over the past three years, Mossad, the country’s national intelligence agency, has prevented at least 50 terror attacks in 20 countries planned by Islamic terror groups and Iran. Mossad also provided key information that thwarted a dozen attacks in Turkey, despite their strained relations. The other countries helped by Israel were not named in the Channel 12 report, although several are known. In June 2018,  for instance, the Mossad supplied European spy agencies with vital intelligence that headed off an Iranian-led plot to bomb a Free Iran rally just outside of Paris, which was attended by 25,000 people.

Middle East

Since the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June 2014, the Palestinian Authority has paid over 350,000 shekels (over $ 98,000) in terror rewards to the Hamas terrorist convicted of planning their abduction as well as to the families of two other terrorists who carried it out and who were later killed while resisting arrest, reports Palestinian Media Watch. Having now served five years in prison, Al-Qawasmi is having his salary doubled by the PA, from 2,000 to 4,000 shekels a month. The organizer of this murderous attack has already been paid 98,400 shekels by the PA since his arrest, says the watchdog, which says it has closely monitored the ‘Pay for Slay’ policy.

On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Palestinian Authority is liable for civil damages for terror attacks during the Second Intifada. The landmark decision was won by Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, an Israel-based organization that defends Israel and Jews through legal systems worldwide. In this case, it represented the families of eight victims of Second Intifada terror. The ruling could force the PA to compensate the families for as much as one billion shekels ($279 million) in damages. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) was an orchestrated period of violence encouraged by the PA, then led by PLO Chief Yasser Arafat.

Iran

The United States on Wednesday accused Iran of “nuclear extortion” and threatened further sanctions against Tehran, which has begun stockpiling and enriching uranium beyond the limits set in the 2015 accord that President Trump has abandoned. The United States called an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday in response to the Iranian moves, while a senior French envoy was in Tehran exploring ways to reopen negotiations on compliance with the deal.

Britain will soon get “slapped in the face” for last week’s capture of an Iranian supertanker, a cleric was quoted as saying Friday amid rising tensions between the two nations in the Gulf. The warning came Friday when the Iranian government called on Britain to immediately release the oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicious it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman accused London of playing a “dangerous game” a day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker. Gibraltar has insisted its decision to detain the Iranian tanker was taken alone and not on orders from any government. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory on Spain’s south coast.

The British government announced on Thursday morning that “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the strait of Hormuz.” The statement added that a British warship, HMS Montrose, was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away. We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) denied the accusations.

Syria

Britain has agreed to deploy additional special forces in Syria alongside France to allow the US to withdraw its ground troops from the ongoing fight against the remaining Isis forces in the country. US officials briefed on Tuesday that Britain and France would contribute 10% to 15% more elite soldiers, although the exact numbers involved remain secret. The decision was first reported in the journal Foreign Policy, which described the development as “a major victory … for Donald Trump’s national security team” because few other countries had been willing to help out.

At least 544 civilians have been killed and over 2,000 people injured since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria began two months ago, rights groups and rescuers said on Saturday. Russian jets joined the Syrian army on April 26 in the biggest offensive against parts of rebel-held Idlib province and adjoining northern Hama provinces in the biggest escalation in the war between Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his enemies since last summer. The Syrian Network for Human Rights,(SNHR), which monitors casualties and briefs various UN agencies, said the 544 civilians killed in the hundreds of attacks carried out by Russian jets and the Syrian army include 130 children. Another 2,117 people have been injured.

Afghanistan

Taliban and Afghan representatives, including some government officials, agreed on Tuesday to a basic road map for negotiating the country’s political future, a major step that could help propel peace efforts to end the long war, now in its 18th year. In a joint declaration after two days of unprecedented and often emotional discussions in the Qatari capital, Doha, the two sides emphasized a need to work for reducing “civilian casualties to zero” and assuring women their fundamental rights in “political, social, economic, educational, cultural affairs.” The declaration is not binding, and at best is a starting point for when the two sides meet later for negotiations that could lead to fixed terms.

Turkey

Russia began delivery of an advanced missile defense system to Turkey on Friday, a move expected to trigger U.S. sanctions against a NATO ally and drive a wedge into the heart of the Western military alliance. The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to a military air base near the capital Ankara, the Turkish Defence Ministry said, sealing Turkey’s deal with Russia which Washington had struggled for months to prevent. The United States says the Russian military hardware is not compatible with NATO systems and that the acquisition may lead to Ankara’s expulsion from an F-35 fighter jet program. Turkey says the system is a strategic defense requirement, particularly to secure its southern borders with Syria and Iraq. It says that when it made the deal with Russia for the S-400s, the United States and Europe had not presented a viable alternative.

Puerto Rico

The arrests Wednesday of two former senior officials who served in Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration have led the chair of the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico to call for the governor to step down. The federal indictment says the two former senior officials illegally directed federal funds to politically connected contractors. The arrests come a month after Congress approved a controversial disaster aid bill that earmarked additional funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Environment

The world is drowning in trash, and the waste generation rates are only increasing, according to the World Bank. Due to population growth and urban areas growth, the amount of trash countries produce is only expected to rise – by some estimates as much as 70% between 2016 and 2050. While much of the focus is on individuals and families and the amount of trash they generate, residential trash is only a fraction of the garbage produced by certain industries. Between 30% and 35% of the total amount of generated waste in most developed countries is attributed to building sector activities such as construction, renovation, and demolition processes, according to the official EU statistical data. Canada produces the most waste per capita. The U.S. ranks third in trash per capita, but first in total trash.

All of Mississippi’s 21 Gulf Coast beaches have been closed to swimming because of an expanding toxic blue-green algae bloom. Visitors can still use the beaches, the MDEQ said, but they should avoid contact with the water. The blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The cyanobacteria has been caused, in part, by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway, 27 miles upriver from New Orleans. For the first time in the spillway’s 90-year history, it has been opened twice because of flooding in the Mississippi River. The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana have asked for disaster declarations because of the damage done to their states’ fishing industries by the flooding. The flow of fresh water reduces salinity, making it difficult for oysters to survive. The runoff also is rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, that causes the cyanobacteria to bloom. The blooms deplete oxygen in the water, creating a “dead zone” that can result in fish kills and other devastating effects.

A mild winter and warm spring have led to an infestation of hundreds of millions of toxic caterpillars across parts of Europe. The plague of oak processionary caterpillars has led to schools and parks being closed, event cancellations and hospitalizations in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. A mature oak processionary caterpillar, named for their preference for oak trees and the way they travel in nose-to-tail processions, has as many as 700,000 hairs. The tiny hairs have a toxin that can cause rashes, eye irritation, coughing and allergic reactions. The hairs, which have hooks that grip the skin, are carried by the wind. Even their nests, which can cover several square feet, are too toxic to touch. In addition to their effects on humans, the 1-inch caterpillars devastate forests as they feed on young leaves of oak trees. The caterpillars typically emerge at the beginning of May to feast and turn into moths between July and September.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake rattled Southern California residents again last Friday evening (7/5), a day after a magnitude 6.4 quake caused roads to crack and gas lines to rupture near the Mojave Desert. This latest, larger earthquake was five times bigger and was centered about 11 miles north-northeast of Ridgecrest, California, and occurred at around 8:20 p.m. PDT. Ridgecrest is home to 28,000 residents. Friday’s temblor knocked several homes off their foundations in the Ridgecrest area, knocked out power to thousands, caused several fires to break and resulted in some minor injuries. Southern California could see as many as 30,000 aftershocks in the next six months and one or two of them could reach magnitude 6, seismologists say. A 4.9-magnitude earthquake was reported near Ridgecrest, California, on this Friday morning (7/12) — one week after the 7.1-magnitude temblor struck Southern California, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Climate Change

Scientists in Finland found “practically no anthropogenic [man-made] climate change” after a series of studies. “During the last hundred years the temperature increased about 0.1°C because of carbon dioxide. The human contribution was about 0.01°C”, the Finnish researchers bluntly state. This has been collaborated by a team at Kobe University in Japan, which has furthered the Finnish researchers’ theory, stating: “New evidence suggests that high-energy particles from space known as galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth’s climate by increasing cloud cover, causing an ‘umbrella effect.’” The Kobe research was recently published in the journal Science Daily. The findings are hugely significant given this ‘umbrella effect’ — an entirely natural occurrence — could be the prime driver of climate warming, and not man-made factors.

  • Whatever the cause of climate change, the Bible prophesies that 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)

Weather

The Mississippi River has been above flood stage for the longest recorded time in history and now Tropical Storm Barry will bring heavy rain and a storm surge of 3 to 6 feet to Southeast Louisiana. Parts of the French Quarter were flooded and a flash flood emergency was declared in New Orleans as heavy rainfall pounded the city Wednesday. Many drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles on flooded roads. The torrential rain was associated with an area of low pressure that developed into Tropical Storm Barry on Thursday. Barry is forecast to make landfall around Louisiana on Saturday as a major storm or hurricane. More than 4 million people are under flash flood watches from south-central Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle as the system moves over the warm waters. Barry was packing sustained winds near 50 mph, still well short of the hurricane designation of 74 mph, but could bring up to 20 inches of rain in New Orleans.

Signs of the Times

July 5, 2019

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

Supreme Court Dodges Debate Over Dismemberment Abortions

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Friday to revive Alabama’s ban on a specific grisly abortion procedure, but not before Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the institution for allowing “dismemberment abortions.” The case involved a 2016 Alabama law prohibiting dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion — a late-term procedure in which an unborn baby is torn apart limb by limb, until the womb is empty. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law, although two of the three judges indicated they would have upheld the law but were bound by Supreme Court precedent. “The notion that anything in the Constitution prevents States from passing laws prohibiting the dismembering of a living child is implausible,” Thomas wrote.

  • At some point, the Supreme Court will have to resolve this increasingly divisive issue. Their cowardice is only adding fuel to the fire.

NYC to Forgo $1.3M in Federal Funds In Order to Promote Abortion

New York City will forgo $1.3 million in federal funds for its public hospitals rather than follow a new Trump administration rule that prohibits health care providers from promoting abortion or making referrals for abortion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the rule in February impacting Title X, a government family-planning program. The new rule prohibits the use of Title X funds to “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” Critics such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio call it the “gag rule.” An appeals court panel in June let the rule go into effect. Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association and 20-plus states had sued to try and block the rule.

Babies Do Survive Abortions, Care Must be Provided

Three babies survived botched abortions but later died in 2018 in Minnesota, according to a new state Department of Health report. The news comes as Democrats in Congress block a federal bill to require that basic medical care be provided to newborns who survive abortions. Democrats have argued that legislation to protect abortion survivors is a waste of time and not necessary. But data from Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and other sources indicate that babies do survive abortions, and laws are needed to protect them.

Trump Is First President to Set Foot in North Korea

President Donald Trump met Sunday with Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, and became the first sitting U.S. president to step onto North Korean territory. “Stepping across that line was a great honor,” While Trump had said the meeting was supposed to be little more than a quick handshake, he and Kim wound up speaking for close to an hour in a nearby building. Trump told Kim after walking him on the North Korean side of the border, claiming “a lot of progress has been made” in the wake of their two past summits in Singapore and Vietnam. After meeting with Kim for nearly an hour, Trump said both sides will set up “teams” to revive negotiations to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a goal that has proved elusive for years.

  • North Korea accused the Trump administration Wednesday of talking out of both sides of its mouth — saying the U.S. is publicly pushing the narrative of open dialogue between the two nations but is “more and more hell-bent” on hostile acts. The United States and the other countries have accused North Korea of violating UN sanctions by importing more than the annual limit of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products, which are key for the Asian country’s economy.

Trump Administration Drops Plan for Citizenship Question in Census

The Trump administration has dropped plans to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census just days after the Supreme Court put a freeze on the move. The court said the government had provided a “contrived” reason for wanting the information and needed a better justification if it wanted to add it. The decision to back away from the controversial question was a victory for civil rights advocates concerned that the query would lead to an inaccurate count of immigrant communities that could skew representation and federal funding. However, contradicting both his Department of Justice and his secretary of Commerce,

  • President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to keep fighting to have a citizenship question added to the 2020 census, perhaps as an executive order.

Conservative Journalist Attacked by Antifa Protesters in Portland

An Oregon photojournalist who covers Portland’s frequently violent protest scene was taken to the hospital Saturday after being attacked by black-masked antifa activists. Andy Ngo, an editor at the online platform Quillette, said he was struck on the head and face “multiple times” by antifa protesters, who also threw objects and a milkshake at him as he tried to walk away. The attack, recorded in part by the Oregonian and posted on Twitter, came during Saturday’s Rose City Antifa counter-protest against a rally held by the far-right group Proud Boys in downtown Portland. Mr. Ngo, a gay, Asian, right-leaning journalist, had bloody cuts and bruises on his face. “I just got beat up by the crowd — no police at all — in the middle of the street,” Mr. Ngo said in the post. “And they stole my GoPro. And they punched me several times in my face and head, and I’m bleeding.” At the same protest, an elderly man was brutally beaten by the Antifa terrorists with baseball bats. Another man who came to his defense was cracked in the skull and suffered serious injuries.

Migration Update

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, and senior pastor of New Seasons Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, shared his firsthand experience touring a migrant detention center during a press briefing Monday. Instead of the deplorable conditions touted by the media, what he saw at the same facility was “drastically different.” Rev. Rodriquez said, “We found no soiled diapers, no deplorable conditions and no lack of basic necessities.” The pastors left encouraged by the commitment and dedication of America’s Border Patrol and immigration officers, “many of which are Latinos, by the way.”

The new president of El Salvador on Monday took responsibility for the June deaths of a father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande in a bid to reach the United States, saying the onus is on his government to make the country a safer place — and one where migration is “an option, not an obligation.” President Nayib Bukele, who took office a month ago with the promise of making El Salvador a safer and better place, said his government is responsible for fixing the problems that have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee in the first place.

Apprehensions by the Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexican line fell in June, according to preliminary data obtained by CNN. It marks the first month since January apprehensions have dropped. In all, there were 95,000 apprehensions on the border last month, compared to 132,887 in May. However, the June figures were still much higher than the same time last year, when 34,089 people were apprehended. A drop in border crossings is common during the summer months.

California Now Requires Background Check for Bullets

As of July 1st, a new California state law requires virtually all buyers to go through background checks before being able to buy bullets. California already had some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, banning most assault weapons and restricts the sale and possession of large capacity magazines. There’s also a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm, among other restrictions. The passage of Proposition 63, a gun control measure approved by 63 percent of California voters in 2016, strengthens those laws by taking aim at the sale of ammo. The new law — championed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, a longtime advocate of gun control — is meant to protect the public by keeping ammunition from getting into dangerous hands, the state says.

Economic News

The Labor Department reported Friday that 224,000 jobs were added last month — much better than expected, suggesting that the economy is stronger than what some analysts claimed. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. But the big rebound in jobs growth — only 72,000 jobs were added in May according to revised figures released Friday — may complicate the picture for the Federal Reserve. Investors were hoping for a half-point drop in interest rates soon, but that may not happen now, sending the Dow down Friday.

The U.S. economy broke a record for its longest expansion ever Monday. Economic expansion has continued for more than 10 years. Growth is now in its 121st month since the Great Recession ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. The rate of growth, however, has been slower than during other periods of economic expansion. For example, during that previous record-holding period in the ‘90s, the average growth was 3.6 percent per year. The 10 previous economic expansions, going back to World War II, averaged a 4.3 percent. But this current expansion period has averaged just 2.3 percent growth per year.

The Dow, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all finished at a record high on Wednesday. For the S&P 500, it was the third straight record day. The Dow closed 0.7%, or 179 points, higher, at 26,966 points, beating the previous record set last October. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.8%, at 8,170 points, surpassing its previous high set May 3. The stock market closed early on Wednesday at 1 pm ET ahead of the Independence Day holiday on Thursday. Markets will be closed on July 4.

Israel

Israel’s Ethiopian community protested the shooting of a teen by an off-duty police officer, shutting down roads throughout the nation on Tuesday with rallies that halted the flow of traffic for hours. Solomon Teka, 18, a member of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community, was shot to death on Sunday. Following his funeral in the city of Haifa, protesters swept the country, blocking major highways and battling with police in clashes that were described as “unprecedented. There were reports of extreme violence, including the torching of police cars, as major Israeli highways were completely shut down for hours, leaving tens of thousands of travelers stranded. By Wednesday morning, police had arrested 136 people. Over 50 policemen were wounded. Five people were taken to the hospital. Nineteen vehicles were damaged, including a number of ambulances.

Middle East

Many officials in Western nations, including the United States, have regarded the Muslim Brotherhood as a relatively moderate movement that has eschewed violence. But an official statement made it clear this week that as far as the Brotherhood is concerned, there will be no peace in the Middle East as long as Israel exists. And in a revealing video report, Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the United States and abroad made it clear that their ultimate objective remains the replacement of every governmental system on earth with Islamic law. “The Muslim Brotherhood condemns all forms of normalization with the Zionist enemy, and all the actions leading up to the Zionist-American deal, and confirms that all Arab regimes involved in the ‘Deal of the Century’ are anti-Arab peoples, and traitors to the Palestinian cause,” the Muslim Brotherhood said on its Facebook page.

Iran

The GOP-controlled Senate defeated a measure Friday that would have blocked President Donald Trump from launching a military strike against Iran unless he got explicit congressional approval. The 50-to-40 vote came after a rare congressional debate over war powers and amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The measure needed 60 votes to pass. Democrats and some Republicans have grown alarmed by the Trump administration’s rhetoric and actions on Iran. Speaking on Al-Alam TV,  Mojtaba Zonnour, chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament, said, “If America attacks us, Israel will survive for less than half an hour.”

British special forces seized a supertanker off Gibraltar carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European and U.S. sanctions against the war-torn country. Iran responded by declaring the action illegal and summoning the British ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Tehran to explain the ship’s arrest. The diplomatic row heightened tensions just as the U.K., France and Germany try to keep the Islamic Republic from walking away from an international deal to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Monday that the Islamic Republic’s stockpile of enriched uranium has exceeded the 300 kg limit set by the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The report comes two days after Iranian officials declared that if the European powers wanted to preserve the JCPOA they must find a way to accommodate Iranian demands for relief from economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a fresh ultimatum Wednesday over its civilian-use nuclear program, saying the country would on Sunday “take the next step” toward increasing its enrichment of uranium unless European powers are able to find a way to offset the impact of the Trump administration’s sanctions on its economy. The higher-level enrichment Rouhani said will commence July 7 is still far off the levels Iran would need to produce weapons-grade nuclear materials, but it narrows the time it would take to make a nuclear bomb.

Al-Qaeda

A U.S. military airstrike Sunday struck an Al Qaeda leadership and training facility in northern Syria where militants were “plotting external attacks” against American citizens, officials said. The U.S. Central Command said Monday in a statement the strike occurred near the northern province of Aleppo. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor, said Monday the strike killed eight members of the Al Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din, which is Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” The Observatory said the dead included six commanders: two Algerians, two Tunisians, an Egyptian and a Syrian. Al Qaeda-linked militants control wide swaths of northern Syria, mostly in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the war-torn country. U.S. military officials said northern Syria remains a “safe haven” for Al Qaeda leaders actively coordinating terrorist attacks.

Syria

After eight years of bloody fighting, the Syrian civil war may finally be coming to an end. The Syrian army launched an offensive to retake Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold. If Idlib falls, opposition against President Bashar Assad’s regime will virtually be over. The humanitarian cost of the offensive has been devastating. An estimated 526 civilians — 131 of them children — have been killed by the army’s relentless airstrikes since the end of April, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There is no safe place people can hide or run to for help, as even hospitals, clinics and ambulances have been targeted, despite strong condemnation from the U.N. Reports suggest the army may be setting crop fields on fire, cutting vital food supplies to the three million people who live in Idlib and the surrounding area. More than 300,000 people have been displaced, straining the overcrowded and under-supplied refugee camps in northern Syria.

Afghanistan

When the Taliban overran the district center of Maruf in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar this year, the government resorted to a familiar tactic: Simply relocate the district office 25 miles to the south to say it had not fallen. From its new location, the government tried to offer basic services and even sent a team of election workers to register voters before presidential elections scheduled for September. But in the pre-dawn hours on Sunday, the Taliban, whose fighters had encircled the old center of Maruf for nearly two years, came for the new location — ramming as many as four vehicles packed with explosives into the government compound, leaving a trail of death and carnage. Security officials estimated the number of dead, mostly police officers, at 34 to 50.

Russia

The U.S. is underestimating Russia’s aggression on several fronts, including in its use of propaganda and disinformation to sway public opinion globally, according to a Pentagon white paper shared with Politico. The “Strategic Multilayer Assessment,” which details national security threats posed by Russia, recommends U.S. intervention in Moscow’s provocative activities in order to avoid political warfare.  These activities include threatening other states militarily, or compromising their societies, economies, and governments by employing a range of means and methods to include propaganda, disinformation, and cultural, religious, and energy coercion “In this environment, economic competition, influence campaigns, paramilitary actions, cyber intrusions, and political warfare will likely become more prevalent,” Navy Rear Adm. Jeffrey Czerewko, the Joint Chiefs’ deputy director for global operations said. “Such confrontations increase the risk of misperception and miscalculation, between powers with significant military strength, which may then increase the risk of armed conflict.”

China

President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to resume high-level negotiations for a landmark new trade agreement, a development they hope will end a trade war has roiled markets and raised prices worldwide. The new talks are designed “to see if we can make a deal,” Trump told reporters at the end of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump said he will hold off on new tariffs on China as talks progress “at least for the time being.” He also announced that China agreed to buy more agriculture products from the United States. President Trump announced Saturday that U.S. suppliers will be allowed to sell components to Huawei following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Last month Chinese tech giant Huawei was placed on a blacklist that effectively bars U.S. companies from supplying it with computer chips, software and other components without government approval. The Trump administration has previously said Huawei is a national security issue, not a trade problem.

Hong Kong

A group of protesters smashed out the bottom of a floor-to-ceiling window at Hong Kong’s legislature Monday as a crowd of thousands marched through the city demanding democracy on the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China. Police repelled the protesters with pepper spray and tear gas. The use of police force comes after protesters surrounded and camped inside the building for hours. The protesters are opposed to a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposed legislation, on which debate has been suspended indefinitely, increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1, 1997. Protesters want the bills formally withdrawn and embattled leader Carrie Lam to resign. The demonstrations were condemned Tuesday by China’s mainland government as a challenge to Beijing’s authority which “trampled” rule of law and required swift prosecution.

Dominican Republic

The Senate’s top Democrat said Sunday that the U.S. government should step up efforts to investigate the deaths of at least eight Americans in the Dominican Republic this year. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives should lend support to the FBI and local law enforcement, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, noting the agency has offices in the Caribbean and the technical and forensic expertise to aid the investigation, the AP reports. Tainted alcohol is thought to be a possible explanation. “Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is cause for the recent spate of sicknesses and several deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, the feds should double their efforts on helping get to the bottom of things,” Schumer said in a statement.

Environment

Last winter was warmer than usual in Alabama, leaving residents facing an unpleasant hazard in summer: Wasps’ nest the size of small cars, containing thousands of irritable yellow jackets. The nests, also known as perennial nests, occur when numerous yellow jackets survive the winter. In a typical year, cold weather and the lack of food kill off all the members of a colony except the queen. These “super nests” can contain anywhere from 90,000 to 250,000 wasps.

Earthquakes

California hasn’t stopped shaking after its strongest earthquake in 20 years. The 6.4 magnitude quake that hit the Mojave Desert Thursday morning was followed by at least 159 aftershocks of magnitude 2.5 and higher, including six higher than magnitude 4. The quake, which was felt as far away as Las Vegas and Phoenix, hit near the town of Ridgecrest, around 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Kern County Fire Chief David Witt says the quake caused multiple injuries and at least two house fires as well as gas leaks and cracked roads in the town of 28,000. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for the county. A 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck early Friday near the same region. California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones says the quake will probably only have a “minimal” effect on the San Andreas Fault, but the region should still expect more aftershocks and possibly a larger quake.

Volcanoes

At least one person died Wednesday during a volcanic eruption on the Italian island of Stromboli. inlocal time Wednesday afternoon, sending ash and debris thousands of feet into the air. One person died while hiking on the volcano. One other person was reportedly injured during the blast. The Stromboli Volcano is one of the most continuously active volcanoes on the planet, and records show it has been continuously erupting since February 1934, but this eruption was unusually large, authorities said.

Wildfires

During an unprecedented heat wave, dozens of wildfires are burning in Alaska, which have prompted evacuation orders and air quality alerts in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas. Residents of two neighborhoods about 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks were ordered to evacuate just after midnight Sunday. Residents of three other neighborhoods in the area were told to prepare for evacuation. Some 120 fires were burning as of last Friday morning, the Associated Press reported. The National Weather Service issued a dense smoke advisory for Anchorage, as officials considered whether to ban outdoor grilling and cancel the city’s July Fourth fireworks.

Weather

Record-smashing heat has scorched Alaska over the past few days, and even worse heat is in store for the week ahead week. On Saturday, downtown Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, hit 83 degrees, breaking a record that had stood for 110 years. Anchorage recorded a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the city’s airport Thursday, smashing the previous record of 85 degrees. June was both the hottest and driest on record in Anchorage. Along the state’s northern coast, melting sea ice is the main worry because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The unusual springtime heat along the north coast melted sea ice at record rates. The ice disappeared far earlier than normal this spring, alarming coastal residents who rely on wildlife and fish.

Heavy monsoon rain killed at least 33 people in India and paralyzed the megacity of Mumbai, forcing government officials to close schools and businesses across the city. More than 14 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours Monday, triggering wall collapses in poorly constructed housing in three separate places, killing thirty. Two others died in a submerged vehicle in flash flooding. At least 12 people were killed and another 11 went missing Tuesday after heavy monsoon rains caused a dam to breach in western India. At least 15 people are dead and another eight remained missing Thursday after heavy monsoon rain caused a dam to breach in western India.

Heavy rain forced the evacuation of more than 1 million residents Wednesday in southern portions of Japan’s main island of Kyushu. Residents in three southern prefectures on the island were directed to head to shelters amid fears of landslides and flooding. Kyushu has been plagued by heavy rain since last Friday, where 31 inches has fell on parts of the island from a stalled front sitting over the region.

A tornado tore through a bustling city in northeastern China Wednesday evening, killing six and injuring at least 190. The large tornado tore through Kaiyuan City in China’s Liaoning Province around 5:15 p.m. local time. The twister reportedly knocked out power and damaged buildings along its path, particularly in the industrial district of Tiexi, the Global Times reported.

A freak summer hailstorm buried parts of a Mexican city in up to 5 to 6 feet of ice, engulfing cars on the street in a stunning display. Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco with a population of almost a million and a half people, saw at least six of its neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city blanketed in the massive hail accumulation on Sunday. At least 200 buildings and 50 vehicles were damaged. While hailstorms aren’t uncommon in summer in Jalisco, nothing of this magnitude has ever been recorded. Guadalajara is northwest of Mexico City and is about 5,000 feet above sea level.

  • 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)