Archive for September, 2019

Signs of the Times

September 27, 2019

­­God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Abortions Drop 7% to Historic New Low

The number of abortions dropped to a new all-time low across the United States in 2017. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group considered to have the most comprehensive abortion data, reported a 7-percent drop in abortions between 2017 and 2014, NPR reports. There were 862,320 abortions reported in 2017, down from 926,200 in 2014, according to the report. The abortion rate also fell to 13.5 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, down from 14.6 in 2014 and 16.9 in 2011. Not since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed abortion on demand in 1973 through Roe v. Wade have abortion numbers been so low.

Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Being Established

The city council of another Texas city voted this week to become a sanctuary city for the unborn, making it the sixth in the state and the ninth nationwide this year to pass such a declaration. Council members in Gilmer, Texas, voted 4-1 Tuesday to declare the town a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” one day after another Texas town, Tenaha, passed a similar ordinance. “[Gilmer is] a safe haven where the unborn has a right to come here and not worry about being aborted.” None of the cities have abortion clinics. One goal is to discourage the clinics from moving within their city limits.

Bodies of 2,246 Unborn Babies Discovered at Abortionists Home

The bodies of 2,246 aborted babies were found in the home of a recently deceased abortionist. Abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer performed abortions at The Women’s Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana and at other Indiana facilities until his medical license was suspended in 2016. As the watchdog group Operation Rescue has extensively documented, Klopfer had a history of abuses, including failing to report statutory rape of a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old. The remains were found when family members were going through the deceased Klopfer’s belongings and reported them to the county Sheriff.

Planned Parenthood’s Sex Curriculum in Public Schools

Many school districts are covertly teaching an extreme curriculum written by none other than abortion giant Planned Parenthood, the Family Research Council reports. Planned Parenthood’s Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) program, which has been infiltrating our nation’s classrooms with near impunity for years, has reached a nearly indescribable level of obscenity. The pornographic, anti-biblical, and anti-science curriculum has recently erased “biological sex” from their lessons and replaced it with the phrase, “sex assigned at birth.” And if that wasn’t enough, Planned Parenthood has even created an app called “Roo,” a chatbot that gives kids advice without parental consent. The app is designed to replace communication between a parent and a child on topics regarding sex, values, and important life decisions.

  • Our public schools have become indoctrination centers for the religion of secular humanism which exalts humans above God.

Arizona Court Upholds First Amendment Religious Liberty Rights

Two Arizona calligraphers at the heart of yet another religious liberty battle won a major victory Monday with the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling that business owners have the right to choose not to provide certain products to same-sex weddings. Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski own Brush & Nib Studio, a small business founded on Christian values. They say they serve any customer regardless of sexuality but draw the line at being forced to produce custom messages endorsing events that violate their beliefs. Since 2016, they’ve fought the city of Phoenix over an LGBT “anti-discrimination” ordinance they argued violated their freedom of speech and religion, because it threatened them with fines and prison time. The state’s highest court sided with them Monday in a 4-3 ruling that the ordinance “runs afoul of the First Amendment.

House Initiates Impeachment Process Against President Trump

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday against President Donald Trump, she said his contacts with Ukraine’s president “changed everything” for Democrats. Trump’s acknowledgement that he urged Ukraine to investigate his presidential rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, spurred Democrats led by Pelosi to expedite their investigations. “We have to strike while the iron is hot,” Pelosi told her caucus, according to a senior Democratic aide who was in the private meeting.  “This is a national security issue – a national security issue – and we cannot let him think that this is a casual thing.” She announced that the House “is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry” and that she was “directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” House Democrats have been investigating Trump on a variety of fronts since regaining control of the chamber in January, probing whether he has obstructed justice, profited unconstitutionally from his namesake business or fallen under the influence of foreign countries. Trump has dismissed the investigations as partisan harassment after special counsel Robert Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

  • Once an officeholder is impeached by the House of Representatives, a trial is held by the Senate to determine whether the accused is guilty of the charges. If a guilty verdict is returned, only then can the accused be removed from office. The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict President Trump.

Trump Opposes Globalism at U.N. General Assembly, Slams Iran

President Trump on Tuesday used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly to decry Iran’s “bloodlust,” while touting the importance of national sovereignty, warning: “The future does not belong to globalists.” “If you want freedom, take pride in your country,” he said. “If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty and if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their country first. The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.” Trump then pivoted to Iran, urging the Islamic regime to put its people first and to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons and support of terror in the region. He told delegates that the U.S. does not seek conflict with other nations but that “I will never fail to defend America’s interests.” Trump also condemned the clerical regime which rules Iran, for blaming “everyone else for the problems they alone have created,” even as “fanatics have long used hatred of Israel to distract from their own failures.”

Trump Touts Religious Freedom for All at Summit

President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance at a climate-change summit at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. Trump spent about 15 minutes at the summit and didn’t speak. He listened to remarks by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then departed for a scheduled speech at a religious freedom summit where he delivered a speech on religious freedom and global persecution against believers. President Trump said people of all faiths are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured and killed — often at the hands of their government — simply because they expressed their beliefs. With more than 80 percent of the world’s population living under religious restrictions, according to Pew Research Center, President Trump’s keynote address at an event called the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom is a major step for religious freedom. “This is the first time any leader of a nation has addressed the U.N. on religious persecution,” Pastor Robert Jeffress said. President Trump on Monday announced $25 million in funding to protect religious freedom and religious sites around the world, and asked the world’s governments to join together to end religious persecution.

U.S. at Odds with U.N. Decisions/Direction

A new State Department report shows that the United Nations is out of sync with U.S. interests in more than two-thirds of votes — likely raising further concerns within the Trump administration about the organization and America’s financial commitment to it. “The United States continues to be diplomatically isolated on development and Israel-related resolutions,” the report on voting practices at the U.N. in 2018 said. The U.S. and the U.N. General Assembly as a  whole were in alignment just 31 percent of the time in 2018, the same as 2017. This is down from the final year of the Obama administration, when they were in agreement 41 percent of the time. The U.S. voted against 70 percent of assembly resolutions requiring a vote, more than any other U.N. member state.

New U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft took her seat Thursday at the U.N. Security Council, finally bringing a permanent replacement for Nikki Haley seven months after she resigned. The former ambassador to Canada said, “I come to the U.N. not only as the president’s emissary but as a voice of America’s unwavering commitment to democracy, freedom, human rights and, whenever possible, the peaceful resolution of conflicts.” “In a world marked by humanitarian crises and geopolitical challenges, strong American leadership is absolutely critical and I intend to provide it,” she said.

Climate Change Activists Protest Prior to U.N. Summit

Activists calling for action on climate change disrupted morning commutes across Washington, D.C., Monday morning, just days after hundreds of thousands demonstrated alongside school children for Global Climate Strike rallies around the world. A boisterous crowd of at least 200,000 people turned out to chant and march in Manhattan last Friday, joining hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of protesters from Australia to Thailand to London. While supporters of all ages turned out, the day was billed as a walkout by high school students to call on world leaders to step up their efforts against climate change, carbon emissions and other environmental issues. New York City schools excused the city’s 1.1 million students from class in order for them to participate.

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

U.S. Immigration Laws Weak Compared to Other Nations

Jumping the border in Singapore is punishable by six months in prison — and not less than three strokes with a cane. In Russia, it can earn you up to two years in a prison labor camp. Pakistan goes as high as 10 years in prison, while India allows for up to eight years behind bars for those who sneak across its boundaries. It’s a far cry from the U.S., where illegal entry is a misdemeanor, with a maximum of six months in jail. In reality, most of those who are prosecuted — and only about 1 in 5 border jumpers are — are sentenced to time served and are out within days. The U.S. has one of the world’s weaker laws for illegal entry, according to the data in a study by the Library of Congress, which surveyed statutes in more than 160 nations and released its findings amid a heated debate over whether America’s penalties are too stiff.

Deal Signed With El Salvador to Stem Immigration

The Trump administration signed a deal Wednesday with El Salvador that would effectively seal off the region, preventing asylum-seekers traveling through Central America in order to enter the United States. This agreement, signed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, paves the way to send asylum-seekers to Honduras, one of the world’s most violent countries, like its neighbors. A similar arrangement was signed with Honduras last week; a more comprehensive agreement was previously sealed with Guatemala. President Trump said at a news conference at the United Nations that the agreements, coupled with a crackdown by Mexico following tariff threats by his administration, “will make a tremendous difference in our southern border.” Most families arrested or stopped at the US-Mexico border are from the area known as the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador. While they would not be returned to their home countries, they would be sent to other countries they passed through. For example, Hondurans must travel through Guatemala to reach the US by land. The deal completes a central component of Trump’s strategy to deter asylum-seekers from entering the US through Mexico.

  • The agreement was swiftly condemned by immigrant advocates. “We will say it again and again: people cannot be forced to seek safety in countries where they will not be safe,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, the advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA.

Limits Lowered on Admitting Refugees to Record Low

The number of refugees admitted for resettlement in the United States in the next 12 months have been lowered once again to a record low, according to new regulations announced by the State Department. The administration says it will admit 18,000 refugees in the next fiscal year, the lowest number since the program began in 1980, the Guardian reports. The cap was 30,000 last year and 110,000 in the final year of the Obama administration. President Trump also issued an executive order Thursday stating that the federal government will seek the approval of state and local governments before resettling refugees, both to “identify the best environments for refugees” and “to be respectful of those communities that may not be able to accommodate refugee resettlement.”

Immigration Update

A USA TODAY review of dozens of communities along the border – and some far from it – shows that local governments have spent at least $7 million over the past year to care for thousands of undocumented migrants released after being detained by the federal government. Leaders in those communities say it’s their moral responsibility to care for migrants who are often sick, exhausted from their journey and usually out of money. City leaders from both political parties say they are frustrated with the Trump administration for what they describe as an unfunded mandate, forcing local communities to pick up the pieces of a broken federal immigration system.

Homeland Security will finally end “catch-and-release” of Central American immigrant families caught crossing the border illegally, acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan announced Monday, saying the department has finally gotten a handle on the migrant surge that had sowed chaos at the border over the last year. McAleenan said families that attempt to claim asylum will usually be sent to wait in Mexico while their cases proceed in U.S. immigration courts. Those who don’t attempt to claim asylum will be quickly returned to their home countries. The announcement is a sign of how much progress McAleenan has made in changing the dynamics at the border, cutting record levels of families migrating illegally and striking a series of deals with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to gain their cooperation in repatriating their citizens.

Historically, 90% of the migrants who illegally crossed the southwest border of the United States came from Mexico. They were single adult men, typically seeking work in the U.S. They paid smugglers – known in Mexico as coyotes or polleros – to help them evade the U.S. Border Patrol. When caught, they were usually quickly deported. That border is nearly unrecognizable today, reports the USA Today. The percentage of adult males from Mexico crossing the border has plummeted. Meanwhile, the percentage of asylum-seeking adults with children in tow or children arriving without parents has soared, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, three countries in Central America with high rates of poverty and violence. Smugglers once guided groups of adult males through remote and often dangerous areas of the desert to evade the Border Patrol. Now, they are known to take migrant families and children to areas in plain sight of the Border Patrol, where the migrants simply surrender. Other migrants travel together in large caravans, perceived as a cheaper and safer alternative to traveling through Mexico to the U.S. border.

Billions of Birds Gone in U.S.

North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, a recent study said, which also found significant population declines among hundreds of bird species, including those once considered plentiful. Overall, the drop was from about 10 billion birds in 1970 to about 7 billion now. “Multiple, independent lines of evidence show a massive reduction in the abundance of birds,” said study lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy, in a statement. “We expected to see continuing declines of threatened species. But for the first time, the results also showed pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats, including backyard birds.” The cause is primarily habitat loss, as birds are losing the places they need to live, find food, rest and raise their young.

Colt Suspending Production of Military-Style Weapons for Civilians

The American firearms company Colt is suspending production of military-style weapons for civilian use, including the popular AR-15. Colt’s president and CEO Dennis Veilleux attributed the West Hartford, Connecticut-based company’s shift to changes in consumer demand and a market already saturated with similar weapons. The company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing, Veilleux said, adding the company also is expanding its lines of pistols and revolvers. Veilleux acknowledged there has been some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market for assault weapons.

Bans on Vaping Products Increasing

Walmart said it will stop selling e-cigarettes at its stores, becoming the latest company to crack down following an outbreak of illnesses and deaths associated with vaping. The nation’s largest retailer said it will complete its exit from e-cigarette sales after selling what’s currently available on store shelves. Walmart joins several other corporations limiting the reach of e-cigarettes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating more than 450 cases of a lung disease linked to vaping. Media giants Viacom, CBS and WarnerMedia all revealed this week that they would stop running advertisements for e-cigarettes.

Federal Agencies Binge-Buy in Last Month of Fiscal Year

Federal agencies have shelled out tens of millions of dollars on cars, movie cameras and other items in a contract spending spree that happens across government at the end of every fiscal year. All told, roughly 20% of the $500 billion in government spending each year on disclosed contracts is in the fiscal year’s last month, according to watchdog groups. The State Department dropped more than $33 million on passenger cars in the first two weeks of this month and the Justice Department spent more than $3 million on movie cameras, records show. Not to be outdone, the U.S. Mint has spent more than $60 million on raw gold and silver. An estimated $66 million has gone to debt collectors trying to claw back money spent on student loans, records show. During the final fiscal month last year, taxpayers picked up the tab for lobster tails, video games, golf carts and more, a report at OpenTheBooks.com found. Extrapolating from the past few years to 2019, it appears at least $100 billion will be spent in September.

Persecution Backfires Against Chick-fil-A

Eight years ago, boycotts were launched against Chick-fil-A restaurants after gay-rights activists protested the company’s support of a pro-family group and the son of the founder made a statement in support of traditional marriage. The result? The chain’s sales have more than doubled to $10.5 billion in 2018, up nearly 17% percent from the year before, making it the third largest fast-food restaurant, behind only Starbucks and McDonald’s, reports World Net Daily. The chain has opened nearly 700 more locations in recent years.

Economic News

Currently, annual U.S. interest payments represent just 9.8% of tax revenues, lower than any time in the 1980s and 1990s, when they peaked at 18.4%, according to the USA Today.

The average rent in the U.S. rose 3.3% in August from a year earlier, reaching $1,472, according to RENTCafe.

Sales of passenger vehicles plunged 31% in July, according to figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on Tuesday. It’s the ninth straight month of declines and the sharpest one-month drop in more than 18 years. The slump has prompted companies to slash over 330,000 jobs through the closing of car dealerships and cutbacks at component manufacturers

The average age of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads reached an all-time high of 11.8 years in 2018, according to research firm IHS Markit.

More than a decade into the longest economic expansion on record, almost two-fifths of Americans said in a new Bankrate poll that their main financial priority was just keeping their heads above water on living expenses rather than saving money. Another 19 percent of said dealing with credit card debt is their top priority.

In a new survey by New York Life, the No. 1 financial regret cited among U.S. adults is not saving for retirement.

According to a recent study by The Ascent, as many as 35% of millennials indicate that they own a credit card in order to make purchases they cannot afford, which will only sink them deeper and deeper in debt.

Persecution Watch

A group of Rohingya Christians amongst the 750,000 mainly-Muslim Rohingya people, who fled genocide at the hands of the Myanmar Army as refugees, are now doubly persecuted as they face renewed violence from Muslims within refugee camps in Bangladesh. A church leader has contacted Barnabas Aid to tell of an upsurge in violence this month and to plead for prayers for the isolated group of several hundreds of Rohingya Christian converts from Islam. Already belonging to what some have called the “most persecuted people on earth”, the small community of Rohingya believers are now being subjected to anti-Christian violence from extremist Muslim Rohingya around them in the camps in Cox’s Bazaar district.

Eritrea is the center point of some of the most intense persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times. As of September 17, 2019, three of the Witnesses have been unjustly incarcerated for 25 years. In addition, 39 men and 10 women who are Witnesses are also imprisoned. All Witnesses currently in prison have never been charged, appeared in court, or sentenced. Therefore, they do not know when they will be released. Four Witness men have died while in prison, and three died after they were released because of the harsh conditions they suffered.

Flee, convert or die – this is the stark choice repeatedly laid before the Christians of Burkina Faso by Islamist terrorists. “Stop doing the church services and turn to Islam, you and your congregation, or we will visit you and kill you,” they warned. The pastor and his extended family fled just in time, but four other local Christians were killed a few hours later when the terrorists arrived. Terrorist violence began in Burkina Faso in 2015, but in 2019 Christians became the primary target of the terrorists. Clinging faithfully to Christ, at least 59 of His followers have been killed by terrorists this year, singled out because of their active commitment to the Lord. Thousands of others have fled. There have been no reports of any renouncing their faith.

China has been harvesting organs from religious minorities and “prisoners of conscience,” a China Tribunal claimed Tuesday to United Nations. Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uyghurs, but also Tibetans and House Christians, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale,” China Tribunal lawyer Hamid Sabi said. There have been “hundreds of thousands of victims” in “one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” according to Sabi.

Israel

Israel’s recent parliamentary elections ended with a virtual tie between the two leading contenders, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White leader Benny Gantz. By week’s end, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had surprisingly handed Netanyahu an initial mandate to try to form a ruling coalition, urging him to pursue a national unity government above all. All the main players are saying good things about the unity idea, but it may just be posturing in order to paint everyone else as uncompromising and angling for a dreaded third election, notes ICEJ News. But it may also be a realization that there are greater concerns for the nation looming on the near horizon and they need to somehow close ranks and prepare for some expected regional turbulence ahead.

Iran

Britain has concluded that Iran was responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday. He said the UK would consider taking part in a US-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom’s defenses. Britain had previously held back from attributing blame for the drone and missile attack, after Saudi Arabia and the United States said Iran was responsible. Johnson said he would meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at this week’s UN General Assembly.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on 9/20 that the U.S. will send troops to the Middle East in response to an attack last weekend on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but officials offered few specifics about the scope of that response. Blaming Iran for a “significant escalation of violence,” Esper said nations in the region requested U.S. assistance, specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Esper described the mission as “defensive” and officials said it would be a “moderate” deployment and “not thousands” of troops.

On Monday, Iran said the British oil tanker Stena Impero was free to leave after two months of detention. Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee was quoted in FARS, Iran’s semi-official news agency, as saying the Iranian government had decided to condone the vessel’s previous violation of maritime regulations. The IRGC had seized the ship on July 19 and accused it of violating maritime rules and regulations in the Strait of Hormuz, FARS reported at the time. The ship’s seizure had been seen as a sign of retaliation against the previous British detention of an Iranian tanker at Gibraltar. The British released the tanker in mid-August.

Islamic State

The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for the bombing of a minibus that killed 12 people near the entrance to a major Iraqi pilgrimage center. The attack was one of the most lethal since the fall of the Islamic State’s de facto capital at the end of 2017. It was also one of the few Islamic State attacks south of Baghdad since the group’s self-declared caliphate collapsed. The bomb, left on the minibus by a passenger, exploded at a checkpoint at one entrance to Karbala. Iraqi security forces said they had arrested a cell of three young men who were responsible.

Afghanistan

At least 48 people have been killed in two separate suicide attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday. In Parwan province, to the north of Kabul, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted an election campaign rally where Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was set to speak, killing 26 people and wounding 42. Ghani was not hurt in the attack which happened at a checkpoint near the rally venue, according to Wahida Shahkar, a spokesperson for the governor of Parwan. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior, said that of the 26 people killed 22 were civilians and four were security staff. Women and children were among the victims, Rahimi confirmed.

Hong Kong

Protesters in Hong Kong trampled a Chinese flag, vandalized two subway stations and set at least two street fires on Sunday, as pro-democracy demonstrations took a violent turn once again. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, now in their fourth month, have often descended into violence late in the day and at night. A hardcore group of protesters says the extreme actions are needed to get the government’s attention. On Saturday, police used tear gas and rubber rounds against protesters who threw gasoline bombs toward them and set fires in streets. Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has agreed to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked the protests in early June. But the anti-government protesters are pressing other demands, including fully democratic elections in the semiautonomous Chinese territory and an independent investigation of complaints about police violence during earlier demonstrations.

Bahamas

Officials are grappling with how to deal with 1.5 billion pounds of debris left behind in Marsh Harbour after Hurricane Dorian decimated the community in Abaco, Bahamas. That number is from just one section of the areas that took the brunt of Dorian’s wrath. The landscape was littered after Dorian with splintered homes and buildings, boats, cars and every sort of debris associated with daily life. The death toll from the storm officially remains at 53, but 692 people are listed as missing. More than two weeks after Hurricane Dorian wiped out entire neighborhoods, East Grand Bahama still looks like a war zone, and the stench of death is everywhere say rescue workers. An estimated 4,000 Dorian survivors have sought refuge in Florida.

Brazil

Brazil’s president slammed socialism as a death-dealing ideology and defended his country’s sovereignty over the Amazon rainforest in a hard-hitting address at the United Nations on Monday. Jair Messias Bolsonaro, elected in October 2018 and inaugurated January 1, 2019, also exhorted the UN not to overstep its mandate and pointed to the Gospel as a guiding light. “We are not here to erase nationalities and overrule sovereignty in the name of an abstract ‘global interest,'” Bolsonaro said during general debate at the 74th U.N. general assembly. “When it comes to matters related to climate, democracy, human rights, to the equality of rights and duties between men and women and many others, all we need to do is contemplate the truth, following John 8:32,” Bolsonaro said. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Environment

The Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere released Wednesday offers a bleak picture. It warns that the world’s oceans have reached or are nearing critical tipping points: Oceans have gotten warmer, more acidic and are losing oxygen, resulting in a cascade of negative effects that are wreaking havoc on coral and other marine ecosystems, threatening the collapse of the world’s fisheries and turbocharging deadly hurricanes and tropical storms. As glaciers and ice sheets have melted faster, and rising temperatures have warmed the surface of the sea, the planet’s marine zones have absorbed the heat. But now, the systems are now at or near overload and threaten to collapse.

Planpincieux glacier on Italy’s Mont Blanc mountain rage is threatening to collapse at any moment, sparking evacuations and road closures in the area. About 250,000 cubic meters of ice is at risk of collapse from the glacier. The glacier has recently been moving about 20 inches per day, due to a fissure caused by higher-than usual summer temperatures in Europe. Experts are unable to predict exactly when the ice will break away. Most of the homes in the area are summer homes, and no residents in the town have been evacuated, though tourists have been banned from the dangerous area.

Earthquakes

At least 20 people have been killed in a magnitude 6.5 earthquake on one of Indonesia’s least populated islands. At least 20 were killed and about 100 were injured. More than 2,000 people took refuge in various shelters. The quake hit at 6:46 a.m. local time Thursday about 20.5 miles northeast of Ambon in Indonesia’s Maluku province. Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said dozens of homes, a number of buildings and other public facilities were damaged, including a major bridge in Ambon.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake rattled Puerto Rico just hours before Tropical Storm Karen was forecast to pound an island still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria two years ago. No serious damage or injuries were immediately reported from the quake, centered about 50 miles northwest of the island when it struck just before midnight Monday. Several strong aftershocks further rocked many residents. Meanwhile, a light rain was falling on San Juan on Tuesday morning as Tropical Storm Karen made its way toward the island. The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning, forecasting heavy winds and rain beginning later in the day.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul on Thursday, sending school children and residents into the streets and collapsing the minaret of a mosque in Turkey’s commercial and cultural center. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said the earthquake struck in the Sea of Marmara at 1:59 p.m. at 4.4 miles deep and was felt throughout the western Marmara region, which includes Istanbul. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said that there were no reports of deaths from the quake.

An earthquake hit western Albania last Saturday afternoon. Initial reports said the quake was measured at magnitude 5.8 and injured over 100 people. According to the Albania Defense Ministry, the Institute of GeoSciences, Energy, Water and Environment reported the quake struck 8 miles north of the port city of Durres at 12:04 p.m. local time. The Defense Ministry said the first quake was felt all along Albania’s west coast and far to the east. Witnesses in Durres and the capital of Tirana reported damaged homes and apartments. An aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 sent residents running out of homes and apartments. A total of 350 aftershocks have continued to rattle the Albanians.

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake damaged homes and buildings and cracked roads Tuesday in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Although local news reported deaths, those reports were unconfirmed. Injuries were confirmed in Mirpur. Giant cracks opened in roads near the epicenter, and media reports said cars fell into some of them. The quake struck at 4:01 p.m. local time about 2 miles southeast of the Mirpur district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and was felt across much of northern Pakistan. The temblor shook walls in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, about 55 miles northwest of Mirpur.

Weather

Tropical Storm Karen brought heavy rain to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday, triggering landslides and knocking out power. With the storm inching toward Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency Monday and ordered public schools closed on Tuesday in advance of Karen. Schools were also closed in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The slow-churning remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda dangerously flooded parts of Texas and Louisiana on last week, scrambling rescue crews and volunteers with boats to reach scores of stranded drivers and families trapped in their homes during a relentless downpour that drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey two years ago. The National Weather Service estimated that Jefferson County was deluged with more than 40 inches of rain in a span of just 72 hours. Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, said there had been a combination of at least 1,000 high-water rescues and evacuations to get people to shelter. More than 900 flights were canceled or delayed in Houston, and further along the Texas Gulf Coast, authorities warned that a levee could break near Beaumont in Jefferson County.

Residents of Arizona on Tuesday continued to clean up damage left behind by remnants of Hurricane Lorena. A possible tornado damaged mobile homes, knocked down trees and snapped power lines in Wilcox, Arizona, about 67 miles east of Tucson. More than 1,800 customers lost electricity. Earlier Monday afternoon, a tornado touched down in the Cave Creek and New River areas near Phoenix. There were no reports of damage in that sparsely populated area. It was the first time in five years the National Weather Service’s Phoenix office issued a tornado warning. The Phoenix area also saw street flooding that stranded vehicles across the metro area on Monday, including a school bus with about 120 children onboard.

Signs of the Times

September 11, 2019

­­Signs of the Times will be on vacation next week

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. (Ps. 37:7-9)

Missionary Helped Lead 1,000 North Koreans to Christ Before Being Killed

A Chinese missionary living along the border with North Korea shared the gospel with and discipled to 1,000 North Koreans before being killed by assassins working for the Pyongyang government, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs. The missionary, Han Chung-Ryeol or simply “Pastor Han,” lived in China near the border of the so-called Hermit Kingdom and regularly told defectors about God. One of those defectors was a man known as Sang-chul, who recounted his interaction with the pastor in a new Voice of the Martyrs video. “Pastor Han gave his life,” Sang-chul said. “But he gave hope to me and many other North Koreans.” On April 30, 2016, Pastor Han was killed by North Korean government assassins, who slit his throat and stabbed him in the heart. The North Korean government honored the assassins for killing a “terrorist-missionary.”

Planned Parenthood Partner Admits Selling Intact Aborted Babies

The CEO of StemExpress essentially admitted in court Thursday that her biotech company supplies beating fetal hearts and intact fetal heads to medical researchers. She also admitted at the preliminary hearing of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress that the baby’s head could be procured attached to the baby’s body or “could be torn away.” “That is an especially gruesome admission, but it begs the question: how did they get these fully intact human children?” says Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden at the hearing. “If you have a fetus with an intact head and an intact body, and intact extremities, that is something that would indicate that child was born alive, and then had their organs cut out of them, or that that child was the victim of an illegal partial-birth abortion,” he told LifeSiteNews.

More Big-Tech Censorship of Conservatives

Facebook refused to publish paid advertisements promoting Todd Starnes’ new book, “Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing A Nation.” Premiere Marketing says they were told Facebook had issues with the book’s title. Also, Starnes’ social media team noticed a massive drop in traffic whenever they mentioned the name of the book on Facebook. For example, they have over 265,000 followers. However, Facebook only allowed a few dozen people to see the posting. “This is basically a modern-day Big Tech book banning, folks,” says Starnes

Immigration Policies Working Says Politico

As much as President Donald Trump and his administration has taken heat for their policies to stem illegal immigration and border crossings, the moves are working, according to Politico, which usually leans left. The report cites government data for border arrests, which dropped to 51,000 in August, a 60% decrease from a peak in May. Credit the deal President Trump cut with Mexico in June to crack down on their own southern border, which helped send a message to migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. that it is “not as easy as they were told it was going to be,” Martha Bárcena, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., told Politico. Chicago-based pro-migrant group Alianza Americas Executive Director agrees that pressuring Mexico has worked to stem migration.

Sexual Assaults by Aliens in Sanctuary Maryland County

Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland – a self-declared “sanctuary” for illegal aliens – are criticizing conservative media and the Trump administration for drawing attention to the recent spate of illegal aliens arrested for sexual assault. Seven illegal aliens from Central America have been arrested in the county, just north of Washington, D.C., on sex crime-related charges since July 25. In July, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, a Democrat, signed an executive order prohibiting county law enforcement officers from asking about any individual’s immigration status. County law enforcement also is barred from working with federal immigration agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

North Carolina Releases Hundreds of Illegal Immigrants from Custody

Nearly 500 illegal immigrant offenders with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers have been discharged into communities throughout the Tar Heel State this fiscal year, which doesn’t end until next month so the number is likely to grow. So far 489 illegal aliens with ICE detainers have been discharged from North Carolina jails in the last ten months, including those charged with serious crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, arson and sex offenses. A Charlotte news outlet obtained the latest figures from ICE, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the article a senior DHS source condemns North Carolina law enforcement officials, reminding them that they are obstructing federal law and endangering the American public.

California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees

California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy. The bill passed in a 29 to 11 vote in the State Senate and will apply to app-based companies, despite their efforts to negotiate an exemption. California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, endorsed the bill this month and is expected to sign it after it goes through the State Assembly, in what is expected to be a formality. Under the measure, which would go into effect Jan. 1, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business. Ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft, along with app-based services that offer food delivery, home repairs and dog-walking services, have built their businesses on inexpensive, independent labor.

Economic News

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday he doesn’t “at all” expect the U.S. to enter a recession, though he hinted the central bank will likely cut interest rates as expected this month. “The U.S. economy has continued to perform well and is in a good place,” he said. He added, however, that the U.S. trade war with China has generated business uncertainty that, along with a slowing global economy, raise the risks of a downturn. As a result, he said, “We’re going to continue to act as appropriate to sustain this expansion.”

According to a produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, 60% of Americans see a recession as very or somewhat likely in the next year. That’s getting closer to the 69% who said so in November 2007, in advance of the Great Recession. Despite this, however, consumers are racking up debt at very high levels. According to the Federal Reserve’s consumer credit tracker, revolving credit — mostly credit card debt  — increased at an annualized rate of 11.25 percent in July, the most recent month for which data is available.

Household income in America was largely stagnant in 2018 after rising for three straight years, while poverty fell and more people went without health insurance. The median U.S. household income was $63,179, the Census Bureau said Tuesday, about the same as inflation-adjusted income in 2017. That followed gains of 3.2% in 2016 and 1.8% in 2017. While overall income was static, median inflation-adjusted earnings for all workers increased 3.4% to $40,247.

The record 10-year-old economic expansion continued to provide jobs to more Americans, lifting many out of poverty. There were 38.1 million people living in poverty last year, about 1.4 million fewer than in 2017. The poverty rate fell for the fourth straight year, from 12.3% to 11.8%. For the first time in 11 years, the rate was significantly lower than in 2007, the year before the Great Recession.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014, more Americans went without health insurance. About 27.5 million people didn’t have coverage, up from 25.6 million the prior year as the share of those uninsured rose to 8.5% from 7.9%.

United Kingdom

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has succeeded in his plan to suspend Britain’s rebellious Parliament for five weeks, but he has achieved little else in his first prolonged jousting with legislators determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The simmering showdown between Johnson and Parliament over Britain exiting from the European Union came to a head as lawmakers delivered three defeats to the government’s plans for leaving the European Union, before being sent home early Tuesday for a contentious five-week suspension of the legislature. In a session that ran well past midnight, Parliament ordered the government to release private communications about its Brexit plans and rejected Johnson’s call for a snap election to break the political deadlock. Parliament was then suspended at the government’s request until Oct. 14, a drastic move that gives Johnson a respite from rebellious lawmakers as he plots his next move. However, Johnson’s decision to suspend the UK Parliament for more than a month has been ruled unlawful by Scotland’s highest court of appeal, in the latest blow for the embattled Prime Minister.

Northern Ireland

As many as 20,000 pro-lifers descended on Belfast last weekend for the March for Their Lives, an event registering the public’s anger that the parliament of the United Kingdom has imposed legal abortion upon Northern Ireland. In July, Parliament voted 328-65 to repeal Sections 58 and 59 of Northern Ireland’s 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which forbid both women and doctors from committing abortions. Pro-lifers in and out of the province were outraged that the UK imposed their will on the people of Northern Ireland. On Saturday, concerned pro-lifers responded by marching to the Stormont parliament buildings where the Northern Irish assembly is located.

Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to annex parts of the West Bank if he wins re-election next week. Netanyahu told reporters at a press conference that, if re-elected and able to form a coalition, he would apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. He said he expected President Trump to present his Middle East peace plan just days after Israelis vote next Tuesday, September 17, and that in co-ordination with the U.S., he would also look to apply sovereignty over all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israel’s Iron Dome defense system downed incoming rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza on Tuesday night. A second rocket landed near Ashkelon, whose mayor Tomer Glam ordered all bomb shelters opened for residents of the city. Palestinian terrorists fired the rockets just hours after Netanyahu announced that he would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley if he commands a “mandate” in next week’s national elections. Israel holds the Hamas terror group responsible for all rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Following the rocket attack on Tuesday, Hamas forces evacuated posts throughout Gaza in anticipation of a retaliatory Israeli strike.

  • Israeli fighters on Saturday night bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a drone attack earlier in the day. The strike was carried out in response to an armed drone launched from Gaza that dropped an explosive device on an IDF vehicle. No one was injured in the attack.

Islamic State

The US-led coalition says American warplanes have dropped 40 tons of bombs on an Island in the Tigris River “infested” with ISIS members. The coalition said F15 and F35 warplanes took part in the bombing on Qanus Island in the central province of Salaheddine, north of Baghdad. Tuesday’s attack is part of operations carried out by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition against ISIS sleeper cells which have carried out deadly bombings in Iraq. The coalition said Iraqi special forces carried out ground clearance operations after the bombing.

Iran

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog confirmed Monday that Iran is preparing to use more advanced centrifuges, the third breach of limits set in the country’s unraveling nuclear deal with major powers. Iran’s latest violation of the 2015 agreement attempts to pressure European signatories to find a way to maintain oil shipments and ease the toll of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian economy., The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. Its collapse started with the United States unilaterally withdrawing from the deal last year and imposing increased sanctions. The other signatories – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, as well as the European Union – have been struggling to salvage the agreement and find a way to meet Tehran’s demands.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed intelligence during a press conference Monday evening indicating that Iran’s renegade nuclear program included a “nuclear weapons development site” at Abadeh, south of the major Iranian city of Isfahan. Addressing his words “to the tyrants of Tehran” he declared that “Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows when you are doing it, Israel knows where you are doing it. We will continue to expose your lies. What you see is a consistent pattern of Iranian lies, deception and violations.” Netanyahu showed satellite images of the alleged facility in central Iran, south of the city of Isfahan, from late June and late July that he said demonstrated that Iran has now destroyed the site.

North Korea

North Korea appeared to conduct another round of weapons tests on Monday, just after the country’s foreign minister said Kim Jong Un’s regime is willing to restart stalled negotiations over its nuclear arsenal. South Korea’s military said North Korea launched an undisclosed number of “projectiles.” North Korea has conducted a series of short-range missile tests in recent months, which the country’s state-run media portrayed as a rebuke to protest joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, expressed a willingness to resume talks with the Trump administration as early as this month. But she said the U.S. had to come to the talks with a new proposal. The last round of negotiations, during a February summit in Hanoi with President Donald Trump and Kim, collapsed in failure.

Afghanistan

A rocket exploded at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan just minutes into Wednesday, the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. A plume of smoke rose over central Kabul shortly after midnight and sirens could be heard. Inside the embassy. About an hour later the all-clear was given, with no injuries reported. It was the first major attack in the Afghan capital since President Donald Trump abruptly called off U.S.-Taliban talks over the weekend, on the brink of an apparent deal to end America’s longest war. Two Taliban car bombs shook Kabul last week, killing several civilians and two members of the NATO mission. Trump has cited the death of a U.S. service member in one of those blasts as the reason why he now calls the U.S.-Taliban talks “dead.”

The Trump administration’s decision to call off peace talks in Afghanistan will lead directly to more American deaths, the Taliban warned late Sunday in a shocking message that promised new, deadly attacks. The brazen threat came just over 24 hours after President Trump said he canceled a planned Camp David meeting with leaders from the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government in Kabul. The meeting presumably would’ve been the culmination of a year of negotiations with the Taliban aimed at finally forging peace in Afghanistan and bringing to an end America’s 18-year war in the country. But Trump abruptly canceled the meeting late Saturday night, citing a string of recent Taliban attacks that killed four U.S. service members and scores of civilians over the past three weeks.

Russia/Ukraine

Some of the highest-profile prisoners caught up in a bitter standoff between Ukraine and Russia have been released in a major prisoner exchange. The 70 people – 35 from each country – arrived in their respective countries Saturday after their overnight release, marking a deal that could help advance relations between the two countries and end 5 years of fighting in Ukraine’s east. President Trump praised both countries in a tweet Saturday morning, calling it “perhaps a first giant step to peace.” Among the prisoners released by Russia was Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, whose conviction for preparing terrorist attacks was strongly denounced aboard. Also released were 24 Ukrainian sailors taken with a ship the Russian navy seized last year.

Weather

With little left standing on their home islands, thousands of Hurricane Dorian survivors are seeking refuge in Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital city, which officials say is not equipped to handle the largescale inflow. Often carrying only a few days’ worth of clothing, they board boats, planes and helicopters to escape the destruction on Grand Bahama and the Abaco islands, where 70,000 people have been left homeless. The official death toll from the Category 5 storm that slammed into the islands on Sept. 1, has risen to 50, but some reports have said the final toll could be more than 3,000 dead.

A tornado and straight-line winds blew off roofs and destroyed buildings Tuesday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but some of the city’s warning sirens appear to have malfunctioned. Several businesses, homes and a hospital were damaged by the tornado and straight-line thunderstorm winds that ripped through southern sections of the city. More than 7,500 Xcel Energy customers in Minnehaha County remained without power as of 5 a.m. CDT. More severe storms and heavy rain could impact the area on Wednesday and Wednesday night before cooler, drier conditions move in on Thursday.

Signs of the Times

September 6, 2019

And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  (Luke 21:25-26)

Hurricane Dorian Devastates Bahamas, Misses Florida, Hits Carolinas

Hurricane Dorian has now moved away from the Bahamas, leaving chaos, devastation, and at least 30 dead behind it. Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands said that the death toll is expected to rise significantly when searches of hard-hit remote areas are completed. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people missing. The death toll could be “staggering” authorities say. The hurricane, which hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, is believed to have destroyed or severely damaged around half the homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, which are home to around 70,000 people. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that the storm had caused “generational devastation” in the islands, where rescue crews have yet to reach some areas and survivors are desperate for food, medicine, and water.

Hurricane Dorian spawned damaging tornadoes and its high winds and torrential rains felled trees, flooded roads and knocked out power to thousands Thursday morning from Georgia to North Carolina. More than 226,000 customers in coastal South Carolina were without electricity as of 11:45 a.m. Another 8,200 in North Carolina had lost power, as had 6,600 in Georgia. There was more than 100 road closures in and around the city of Charleston, South Carolina, because of flooding and other blockages. As much as 20 inches of rain in places was forecast in the counties around Charleston. Dorian howled over North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday, lashing the low-lying barrier islands as a weakened Category 1 hurricane. Destructive waves could reach nearly to the ceilings of one-story structures along the narrow strip of land, where many year-round residents were determined to ride out the storm. Virginia ordered evacuations along its shoreline. 370,000 have lost power in the Carolinas and Virginia as of Friday morning.

Historic Trial Begins over Undercover Abortion Videos

Pro-life advocates David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt’s historic criminal preliminary hearing began with a retired late-term abortionist, referred to in court as “Doe 3” admitting on video that she routinely “didged,” or killed the baby in utero with digoxin, because that gave her and the mother more “peace of mind.” It also prevented the “delivery of a live fetus,” which is “the biggest disaster and it never goes away,” Doe 3 said. Federal law obliges abortionists to attempt to resuscitate a baby who survives an abortion. The video’s screening in a San Francisco court is the first time the footage has been seen publicly because the undercover videos are under a federal injunction ban. Planned Parenthood abortion providers appeared under oath in court and admitted supplying the body parts of children in the womb to for-profit brokers like StemExpress. The two CMP investigative journalists are facing 15 felony charges for “intentionally and without the consent of all parties” recording “confidential” communications. They could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Philadelphia Bans Christian Foster Agencies

The briefs are flooding in at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case in which the justices are being asked to reverse a Philadelphia policy that critics say is causing “grave harm” to children. The policy bars faith-based foster-care agencies from helping needy children. “Religiously motivated providers and parents have played a critical role in filling this need for centuries from coast to coast, and to drive them out ignores the critical need and the grave harm to children that would be caused by their loss,” the lawmakers told the court. The city ordered Catholic Social Services to change its religious doctrine if it wanted to continue placing foster children as it had for a century. The city’s “nondiscrimination” policy requires any partner agency to place children with same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, sued the city and now are appealing to the Supreme Court. Becket senior counsel Lori Windham said that as Philadelphia “attempts to shamelessly score political points, dozens of beds remain empty and children are suffering the consequences.”

Pentagon OKs $3.6B Military Funds to Build Border Wall

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has approved the use of $3.6 billion in funding from military construction projects to build 175 miles of wall along the Mexican border. Pentagon officials say half the money will come from military projects in the U.S., and the rest will come from projects in other countries. The money will be used to build 11 border projects. President Trump declared a national emergency in order to use military construction and other federal funds to build the wall after Congress provided only a portion of the $5.7 billion the president wanted for the barrier.

Border Arrests Soar

From 1998 to 2018, the share of all federal arrests by country of citizenship rose from 28 percent to 40 percent for Mexican citizens and from 1 percent to 20 percent for citizens of Central American countries, reports the Justice Department. In two of three federal arrests, the arrested person is a foreign national. Meanwhile, the rate fell from 63 percent to 36 percent for U.S. citizens. Apprehensions in the five judicial districts along the Mexican border, home to a quarter of all drug cases in 2018, have nearly doubled in the last decade,” Judicial Watch said. The number of Central Americans captured by federal authorities in the five border districts tripled in one year alone and has risen 30-fold in the last two decades. The border districts in California, Arizona, New Mexico and western and southern Texas “have experienced an eye-popping 539.6 percent [increase] in immigration-related arrests in the last two decades.

Trump Administration Considering Red Flag Data Gathering

The Trump administration is considering a proposal that would use Google, Amazon and Apple to collect data on users who exhibit characteristics of mental illness that could lead to violent behavior, The Washington Post reported Thursday. Those ‘red-flagged’ would have their guns confiscated. The proposal is part of an initiative to create a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), which would be located inside the Health and Human Services Department, the report notes, citing sources inside the administration. The new agency would have a separate budget and the president would be responsible for appointing its director. HARPA would take after Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which serves as the research arm for the Pentagon. The idea was first crafted in 2017 but has since gotten a renewed push after mass shootings killed 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in August.

San Francisco Declares NRA a Domestic Terrorist Group

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has declared the National Rifle Association (NRA) a “domestic terrorist organization” after the July shooting in Gilroy, Calif., that left three people and the gunman dead. In a resolution passed Tuesday, the 11-member board declared the NRA “a domestic terrorist organization” and resolved that city and county officials should “take every reasonable step to assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors have with this domestic terrorist organization.” While the resolution has no legal weight, San Francisco officials said that it would encourage other cities and governmental agencies to make similar declarations.

Judge Rules Terror Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

The government’s watchlist of more than 1 million people identified as “known or suspected terrorists” violates the constitutional rights of those placed on it, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. But the judge is seeking additional legal briefs before deciding what remedy to impose. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga grants summary judgment to nearly two dozen Muslim U.S. citizens who had challenged the watchlist with the help of a Muslim civil-rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The plaintiffs said they were wrongly placed on the list and that the government’s process for adding names is overbroad and riddled with errors. The watchlist is disseminated to a variety of governmental departments, foreign governments and police agencies.

Contaminant in Vaping Products Linked to Deadly Lung Illnesses

Officials investigating a mysterious outbreak of lung disease — more than 200 cases have been reported in 25 states — detected an oil derived from Vitamin E in marijuana vaping products used in different parts of the country, The Washington Post has found. Vitamin E acetate is a common nutritional supplement also used in topical skin treatments, but it could be dangerous when inhaled, experts said. New York state officials are focusing their investigation of vaping-related illnesses on vitamin E acetate after finding very high levels of the substance in marijuana-containing samples being examined.

Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in Affluent Countries

Heart disease still claims the lives of more people globally, but in more affluent nations it has now ceded its place as the leading killer to cancer, a major new report finds. Around the world, 40% of all deaths are caused by heart disease, making it the No. 1 global killer. That means that of the estimated 55 million people who died around the world in 2017, approximately 17.7 million succumbed to heart disease. Cancer was the second leading killer globally, accounting for 26% of all deaths, the study authors said. For people living in “high-income” countries such as the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia, heart disease represented just 23% of deaths, while cancer was to blame for 55% of deaths

Economic News

Hiring slowed in August as employers added 130,000 jobs, further stoking recession fears and strengthening the Federal Reserve’s argument for another cut in interest rates this month. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%, just above a 50-year low, the Labor Department said Friday. Further dimming the latest employment snapshot: Payroll gains for and June and July combined were revised down by a total 20,000. More broadly, payroll growth has slowed to an average monthly pace of 158,000 this year from 223,000 in 2018.

  • Black unemployment fell to a record low in August, helped by a jump in the number of black women on the job. The unemployment rate for black workers fell to 5.5% from 6%. The previous record low of 5.9% was set in May 2018.

The American manufacturing sector shrank last month, according to the Institute for Supply Management. It’s the first time that’s happened since August 2016. Against expectations, the group’s manufacturing index, a key gauge for the industry, came in at 49.1. Any number below 50 indicates a contraction. This is the third time that the U.S. manufacturing ISM index has dropped below 50 since the financial crisis, and the previous two events did not trigger recessions. But it’s definitely not a positive signal.

Employers also announced the most layoffs of any August since 2009. Job cuts rose 38 percent over July, with 53,480 positions to be slashed from employer payrolls, led by workforce reductions in health care, which had been a mainstay of recent job creation. “Employers are beginning to feel the effects of the trade war and imposed tariffs by the US and China,” said Andrew Challenger, of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas which issued the report.

The Trump administration is proposing a sweeping plan to remake housing market, including privatizing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. The changes would end more than a decade of government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing giants that back half of the nation’s mortgages. The overall plan is made up of 50 proposals, including changes to mortgage rules that a senior Treasury Department official described as “incremental and realistic.” Experts fear that the proposals — some of which do not require congressional approval — could increase mortgage costs and upset the housing market.

The United States and China have agreed to return to the negotiating table in Washington to discuss trade. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since the trade war’s rapid escalation in recent weeks. The in-person discussions will resume in “early October,” according to a statement released in China Thursday morning by the country’s Commerce Ministry.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a double parliamentary defeat Wednesday after he failed in his bid to call a general election just hours after rebel lawmakers succeeded in forcing Parliament to block a “no-deal” Brexit. The development adds more confusion to what happens with Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union. It has been beset by multiple delays and conflicted votes. Next steps are far from clear: for Brexit, for Britain and perhaps for Johnson, who has insisted on taking a “do or die” approach to an EU departure.  Britain is scheduled to leave the 28-nation political bloc on Oct. 31. Johnson took over as Britain’s leader from Theresa May a little more than a month ago after he promised the ruling Conservative Party that he would to stick to the Oct. 31 timeframe with or without a formal withdrawal arrangement in place with the EU.

Middle East

On Tuesday evening, the Israeli military posted to twitter images of a Hezbollah compound it says the terror group is using to pursue Iran’s campaign to wipe out the Jewish state. We can now reveal that inside this Hezbollah facility is Iranian-supplied machinery used to manufacture precision guided missiles with an accuracy of less than 10 meters,” tweeted the IDF. The facility appears to be located near Nabi Chit, Lebanon, less than 100 kilometers from the Israeli border. The IDF added, “Iran is trying to turn its proxy Hezbollah into the first terror group in the world with precision guided missiles. We won’t let them.”

Reports emerged on Tuesday that Iran has begun construction of a large-scale military base near the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Al-Bukamal. The “Imam Ali” base is being built by and for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Analysts who reviewed satellite photos of the site estimated that it would become operational by early in 2020.

Hezbollah fired Kornet anti-tank missiles toward Moshav Avivim in Israel’s north last Sunday, but there were no casualties. Israel had prepared for the attack, which Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah promised would come in retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria against Iranian-trained Hezbollah operatives. The Hezbollah terrorists fired at an armored ambulance. There were soldiers in the vehicle, which the Kornet missile narrowly missed. Israel had prepared a counterattack, but called if off because there were no casualties in Hezbollah’s attack.

Iran

This move is yet another in a series of steps Iran has taken over the summer away from the 2015 nuclear accord. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s atomic energy agency would begin research and development on “all kinds” of centrifuge machines that can more quickly enrich uranium. Under the nuclear deal, Iran has been limited to operating 5,060 older-model IR-1 centrifuges. A centrifuge is a device that enriches uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas.

The United States on Wednesday blacklisted an “oil for terror” network of firms, ships and individuals allegedly directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of U.S. sanctions.  Washington also issued a new international shipping advisory about IRGC’s use of “deceptive practices” to violate U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales and warned that those doing business with blacklisted entities “are now exposed to U.S. sanctions,” said State Department official Brian Hook, who oversees Iran policy.

The United States offered millions of dollars to the captain of an Iranian oil tanker to hand over the ship that is currently at the center of a diplomatic spat, according to the Financial Times and confirmed to the AFP by the U.S. state department. The current whereabouts of the Iranian oil tanker are unknown amid reports that it may have ‘gone dark’ – turning off its transponder while in the Mediterranean west of Syria. The Adrian Darya 1, previously known as Grace 1, was detained by British authorities in Gibraltar on July 4 after it was suspected of moving oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. It was released on August 15 after Iran gave assurances it would not discharge its cargo in Syria – despite the last-minute US effort to prevent its release.

Syria

The U.S. says it has carried out an attack on leaders of a group it calls al-Qaeda in Syria, in the country’s rebel-held Idlib province. US Central Command said the operation had targeted those “responsible for attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners and innocent civilians”. No details were given but other reports say some 40 people died in a missile strike on a jihadist training camp. It was hit just after Syrian government forces began a truce in Idlib.

Afghanistan

A Taliban suicide car bomb rocked Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area that includes the U.S. Embassy — the second such attack this week that underscored Afghan government warnings that a preliminary U.S.-Taliban deal on ending America’s longest war was moving dangerously quickly. “Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said another 42 people were wounded and 12 vehicles destroyed in the explosion. Hours later, the Taliban set off a car bomb outside an Afghan military base in a neighboring province, killing four civilians.

Yemen

Yemen is reeling from what has been described as the deadliest attack so far this year after multiple airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition hit a detention center run by the country’s Houthi rebels, killing at least 100 people and wounding dozens. The center in southwestern Dhamar province had around 170 detainees. The Red Cross said 40 wounded were being treated for injuries while the rest were presumed dead. The Saudi-led coalition, which has waged war on the Iran-backed Houthis since 2015, has faced international criticism for airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals, and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians.

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared that Moscow will begin producing missiles that were previously prohibited under the Cold War-era nuclear weapons ban that was repudiated by President Trump earlier this year. Putin said that although the country would move forward with plans for the shorter-range, “tactical” nuclear weapons, Moscow would not deploy them unless the U.S. made the first move. The landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty officially ended on August 1, six months after the U.S. announced its intent to withdraw following repeated complaints dating back to the Obama administration that Moscow was cheating on the deal.

Hong Kong

Gas masks, goggles and hard hats were part of students’ uniforms Monday as they headed back to school in Hong Kong, holding signs showing their support Hong Kong’s anti-government protests. Some students boycotted class entirely, wearing all black and joining hands to show solidarity with those who have fought for independence from mainland China. Morning commutes were blocked by protesters as they tried to stop people from boarding the trains at multiple stations. The demonstrations, at times turning violent, have now lasted for nearly three months. People taking to the streets have asked for democracy and an independent investigation into police conduct throughout the protests. Their demands include dropping charges against arrested demonstrators, and withdrawing an extradition bill that allows mainland China to bring Hong Kong residents to stand trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam formally withdrew an extradition bill Wednesday as protesters have demanded, a “dramatic U-turn” for the chief executive. The bill allowing Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials has sparked massive protests that have rocked the city since June. Lam had previously suspended the bill, but protesters wanted it entirely withdrawn

Pestilence

African swine fever has wiped out a third of China’s pig population. Now government officials are discussing dramatic steps to stabilize the world’s largest pork market. The country is home to half of all the pigs on the planet. The meat is a staple of the Chinese diet. As of July, China had lost more than 100 million pigs to swine fever in the last year.

Wildfires

After years of destructive blazes, the U.S. wildfire season this year has been below average, and the Trump administration wants to keep it that way. The Interior Department has undertaken 2,500 fuel mitigation projects in 10 Western states. Officials are working with locals to clear brush, fortify firebreaks and thin overgrown forests on fire-prone public lands in accordance with President Trump’s Dec. 18 executive order on reducing wildfire risk. Those efforts have benefited from a cool, wet year that has significantly tamped down wildfire outbreaks in the Lower 48 states. A big exception is in Alaska, which has extended the end of its fire season from Aug. 31 to Sept. 30. Wildfires statewide have burned about 250 million acres this year. While Alaska is abnormally dry, the rest of the country is registering some of the lowest drought conditions since the U.S. Drought Monitor started keeping records in 2000.

The fast-moving Tenaja Fire continued to burn in Southern California on Friday morning after charring nearly 2,000 acres, triggering mandatory evacuations for hundreds of residents. The fire broke out around 4 p.m. in La Cresta, a small community perched above Murrieta that contains sprawling, multimillion-dollar estates. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for all residences along The Trails Circle in La Cresta and the Copper Canyon neighborhood south of Calle del Oso Oro between Clinton Keith and Murrieta Creek at Calle del Oso Oro.