Archive for October, 2019

Signs of the Times

October 31, 2019

­­But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

876 Abortion Clinics Have Lost Taxpayer Funding

A new report indicates President Trump has been responsible for de-funding almost 900 facilities that either perform or promote killing babies in abortions. Last May, the Trump administration published a new proposal for Title X that would prohibit Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses from receiving any of those tax dollars unless they completely separate their abortion businesses from their taxpayer-funded services. That mean housing their family planning services in separate buildings with separate staff from their abortion businesses and a denial of funds if they fail to do so. Federal courts eventually let the defunding rules move forward and Planned Parenthood and other abortion activists left the Title X program and gave up $60 million of taxpayer dollars. Power to Decide, a pro-choice organization that works to prevent unplanned pregnancies, says in a new report that 876 clinics across the country have lost funding.

Federal Court Blocks Alabama Law Criminalizing Most Abortions

A federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday blocking an Alabama law that would make abortion a felony in nearly all situations, regardless of the stage of the pregnancy. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson granted a motion for a preliminary injunction, temporarily preventing the law from being enforced as a lawsuit over the law brought by abortion providers moves forward. “The court is persuaded that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in showing that the Act violates an individual’s constitutional right to obtain a pre-viability abortion, and thus that it violates her constitutional rights,” the ruling said, noting that “banning abortion before viability violates Supreme Court precedent.” The law, known as the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, would make it a felony for anyone to perform an abortion, except in situations where a doctor determines that there is a “medical emergency” related to the mother’s physical condition or if the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” that would cause it to be stillborn or die soon after death.

Biden Denied Communion Over Abortion Support

A Catholic priest says he denied Holy Communion to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden at his parish in South Carolina on Sunday because of the Democratic presidential contender’s support for abortion. The Rev. Robert E. Morey told the Florence Morning News on Monday that, ““Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden. Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.” Biden says he is “personally opposed” to abortion, but insists that this should not affect political stances.

Biological Male Runner Named Female ‘Athlete of the Week’

A biological male runner who identifies as a female was named the Big Sky Conference women’s cross country athlete of the week last week, sparking – yet again – a debate over fairness in women’s sports and the collegiate rules that govern transgender athletes. The University of Montana’s June Eastwood won the honor, but last year Eastwood was known as Jonathan Eastwood and competed on the Montana men’s cross country and track teams. Eastwood finished seventh in May 2018 in the men’s 1,500-meter run at the conference’s outdoor championship. Eastwood’s picture and bio as a male athlete is still listed on the athletic department’s website as a former member of the men’s team. Now, though, Eastwood identifies as a female athlete and is listed on the website as June Eastwood and a member of the women’s team.

House Approves Impeachment Inquiry Rules

A sharply divided House voted Thursday to approve a resolution setting “ground rules” for the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, putting lawmakers on record over the contentious process while setting the stage for proceedings to move into the public eye after weeks of closed-door depositions. The measure passed largely along party lines, 232-196. Two Democrats defected on the vote. Republicans accused Democrats of launching a de facto “coup” against the president in a “pre-ordained” bid to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Democrats, though, maintained that the president’s own actions – pressing Ukraine to launch politically related investigations, and allegedly using military aid as leverage – brought the country to this point. The resolution authorizes the Intelligence Committee to conduct open, televised hearings in which minority Republicans have equal time to question witnesses.

DHS’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Causes Thousands to Abandon Asylum

The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy has done exactly what officials had hoped — convince illegal immigrants with bogus asylum claims to give up and return home, officials said this week, declaring the controversial policy a success. Of the 55,000 migrants who were subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols, as the program is officially known, a “small subset” have won their cases and been readmitted to the U.S. to proceed with asylum claims. Another 20,000 are still waiting in northern Mexico, Homeland Security officials say,  leaving tens of thousands who have given up their claims. Just as important are the would-be migrants that have not made the trip in the first place, Homeland Security said, cutting the number of illegal immigrant families nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico border by 80% from its record high in May. Still, agents arrested more than 850,000 illegal immigrants trying to sneak across the border in fiscal 2019, and officers processed about 126,000 more who showed up at ports of entry without papers but demanded entry. More than 150,000 are known to have evaded border authorities and made it in — and that’s likely a “conservative” estimate.

Child Immigrant Detentions at Record Level

The United States has detained more children trying to cross the nation’s southwest border on their own over the last year than during any other period on record, according to new figures released Tuesday. American immigration authorities apprehended 76,020 minors, most of them from Central America, traveling without their parents in the fiscal year that ended in September — 52 percent more than during the last fiscal year, according to United States Customs and Border Protection. Mexico is experiencing the same surge. Under pressure from the Trump administration, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stepped up immigration enforcement and detained about 40,500 underage migrants traveling north without their parents in the same period — pushing the total number of these children taken into custody in the region to more than 115,000. “These are numbers that no immigration system in the world can handle, not even in this country,” Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection, told reporters.

Scammers Dupe Thousands, Reap Millions

In the last year, a whopping 26,379 people reported being a victim of some sort of phishing scam. Together they reported nearly $50 million in losses, according to the FBI’s 2018 Internet Crime Report. While the number of reported scams increased slightly from the 25,344 phishing scams reported to the FBI in 2017, the losses skyrocketed by nearly $20 million. Scammers are getting more clever and devious in their phishing attempts. Hackers may use what’s known as social engineering to try and obtain or compromise information about you, which could then be used to gain access to something such as your bank account. Phishing scams are common, but particularly clever phishing attempts can deceive even those who are aware of them. The FBI warned of scammers spoofing legitimate FBI phone numbers in August, so it’s clear that you truly can’t trust any inbound call no matter what the caller ID says.

Twitter Announces Ban on All Political Advertising

Twitter will no longer allow candidates or issue-based organizations to run paid “political” advertisements, company CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” Dorsey announced. The new policy will apply not only to ads by candidates for office, but to anyone who wants to “buy ads for issues they want to push.” Twitter will release details on how exactly the new rules will work by November 15, with enforcement beginning on November 22, almost one year before the United States’ next presidential and congressional elections.

Swine Fever Expected to Wipe Out a Quarter of All Pigs

The World Organization for Animal Health says around a quarter of the global pig population is expected to die from African swine fever. The spread of the disease in the past year to countries including China, which has half the world’s pig population, has inflamed a worldwide crisis. Last month, the disease spread from North Korea to South Korea even after Seoul deployed snipers and hunters to keep wild pigs out. Veterinary scientists worldwide are trying to find a vaccine for the disease, but that it’s a “complex challenge” because of the nature of the virus. While the disease does not spread to humans, it is virtually 100% fatal once embedded in pig populations.

Californians Permanently Fleeing Blackouts and Wildfires

As Californians on Tuesday were forced to once again confront the dual threats of wildfires and forced blackouts, the apparent new normal is proving to be too much for some residents. The nation’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., will turn off the power for a third time this year to prevent powerful winds from damaging its equipment, which can lead to a blaze igniting. Up to 605,000 customers — about 1.5 million people — in 29 Northern California counties will be affected by this latest round of power cuts starting Tuesday. That means people who had the power go out Saturday and were still just getting the lights back on Monday are now faced with the prospect of being in the dark again for several days. The prospect of dangerous fire conditions combined with ongoing blackouts had many Northern California residents questioning if it was worth it to stay through to the next fire season. “I don’t want to go through this every year,” Judy Borberly told KTVU.

Signs of Coming Recession?

The following are signs that the U.S. economy is steadily weakening: U.S. business hiring has fallen to a 7 year low; Consumer confidence in the United States has now declined for 3 months in a row. Defaults on “subprime” auto loans are happening at the fastest pace since 2008; The percentage of “subprime” auto loans that are at least 60 days delinquent is now higher than it was at any point during the last recession; Vacancies at U.S. shopping malls have hit the highest level since the last recession; U.S. rail carload volumes have plunged to the lowest level in 3 years; Last month, existing home sales in the United States declined by another 2.2 percent; New home prices have fallen to the lowest level in almost 3 years.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate Wednesday by a quarter percentage point for the third time in the past three months. The move is likely to further trim borrowing costs on credit cards, home equity lines, adjustable-rate mortgages and auto loans. The latest reduction, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, undoes just a third of the Fed’s nine rate hikes from late 2015 through last year. Credit card rates are generally tied to the prime rate, which in turn is affected by the Fed’s benchmark rate. While the rate eventually should drop by about a quarter percentage point, it likely will take two to three months. The Fed’s prior two rate cuts since July have pushed down average credit card rates to 17.57% from 17.85%.

The nation’s gross domestic product – the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. – increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.9% in the July-September period, following 2% growth in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. Consumer spending grew a solid 2.9% in the third quarter, below the blistering 4.6% pace in the second quarter. Consumers generally have shrugged off the trade standoff, which has started to increase retail prices. The risk of a recession has eased somewhat in recent weeks after the U.S. and China agreed to a tentative truce in their trade war that likely suspends future tariffs on Chinese imports but leaves existing duties in place.

Manufacturing made up 11% of gross domestic product in the second quarter, the smallest share of GDP in data going back to 1947 and down from 11.1% in the prior period, a Commerce Department report showed Tuesday. The latest number compares with 13.4% for real estate, 12.8% for professional and business services and 12.3% for governments, according to the figures on GDP by industry.

While a $15/hour minimum wage may sound good and look good on paper, its negative effect on businesses and employees alike is often omitted from the debate. But CNN says layoffs are piling up for retailers as they maneuver to implement the problematic wage hike. Even though Target claims its $13-and-climbing minimum wage is “building a stronger business,” current and former employees with reduced hours and decreased benefits don’t feel stronger or better off – but rather weaker and financially worse off. Workers with the retailer – on condition of anonymity – shared with CNN Business their predicament because of the $15 minimum wage hike. “We’re begging for hours,” said Desire, who works at a Target in Virginia.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting was scheduled for mid-November in Santiago, but President Sebastián Piñera announced the cancellation Wednesday. His administration has struggled to suppress growing demonstrations in the capital city over issues of inequality. President Trump was scheduled to attend the forum Nov. 15-17, during which White House officials said he was planning to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a bid to lock down a “phase one” trade deal with China.

Persecution Watch

Churches in China’s central province of Henan have been forced by the authorities to take down the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping. Every state-registered “three-self” church and meeting venue in a city in the county of Luoyang received an order to remove the Ten Biblical Commandments from display as part of the authorities’ on-going campaign to “sinicize” (make Chinese) Christianity. In a classic case of Orwell’s Doublethink, China’s concentration camps have been re-labeled as counter-terrorism and de-radicalization centers that make people happy and secure.

Nine Christians were abducted in two separate armed attacks on Christian boarding schools in Kaduna State, Nigeria in early October. On October 3, just after midnight, gunmen entered a school in a remote area and seized its vice-principal, the matron and six female pupils. In a second midnight attack on October 10, 20 gunmen stormed a Government Technical School in the predominantly Christian district of Kajura and abducted the school’s principal, himself a Christian.

The first Chick-fil-A in Great Britain will shut down six months after it opened after a massive protest by a militant group of sex and gender revolutionaries. The Atlanta-based restaurant, one of the most popular in the nation, had opened a franchise in a mall about 90 minutes from London. Reading Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said it was staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the UK and certainly in Reading. “The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive towards equality,” read a statement from the group.

UK Gets Brexit Delay, Votes to Hold Early Elections

The European Union granted the UK a new Brexit delay to Jan. 31 next year, a move that temporarily staves off a chaotic U.K. departure from the bloc. The development comes just three days before Britain was due to become the first country ever to leave the 28-nation bloc on Oct 31. The British Parliament on Tuesday voted to hold early elections on Dec. 12. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was selected in a party leadership vote in July, wants a mandate to “get Brexit done.” Opposition parties want to keep close ties to the European Union or stay in the bloc.

Israel Prepares for Iranian Attack

The IDF air defense units and Israeli embassies around the world were on alert Tuesday amidst warnings that Iran may be preparing to launch attacks similar to the strikes on Saudi Arabian oil facilities earlier this month and/or terrorist attacks against Israel and Israeli or Jewish targets. “Iran wants to develop precision-guided missiles that can hit any target in Israel within 5-10 meters. It’s doing it,” Netanyahu said Monday evening during an event at the Jewish Agency.  “Iran wants to use Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen as bases to attack Israel with statistical missiles and precision-guided missiles. That is a great, great danger.”

U.S., Gulf Nations Sanction Iranian Financial Network

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf nations joined the U.S. in imposing sanctions on a financing network controlled by Iran’s military and several men linked to the Tehran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Top U.S. Treasury Department officials said the action is the largest ever by the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, whose membership also includes the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. The action is viewed by U.S. officials as a strategically important regional collaboration in the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign effort against Iran…

Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Killed by U.S. Special Forces

Sunday morning President Trump announced that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a special operations raid in northwestern Syria over the weekend. “Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death has violently been eliminated,” Trump said from the White House. Al-Baghdadi, the highest-ranking terrorist to be killed or captured since Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, headed the terrorist organization ISIS for the last five years. Until his death, al-Baghdadi remained one of the few ISIS leaders still at-large as his “caliphate” shrank and supporters were imprisoned. Officials said Baghdadi blew himself up as troops closed in on him. Unofficial sources say a mole inside ISIS helped the U.S. locate Baghdadi.

  • The military operation was dedicated to Kayla Mueller, a young Christian woman who was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic State. Mueller’s mother said Kayla would still be alive if “Obama had been as decisive as Trump.”

ISIS Still Strong Despite Baghdadi’s Death

Killing the Islamic State group’s founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will have little effect on preventing the terrorist network from conducting future attacks, the top U.S. official for counterterror operations said Wednesday, Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a congressional panel Despite a consistent U.S.-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria that effectively dismantled its so-called caliphate, the number of fighters in those countries aligned with the group has grown in the last five years from a low point of roughly 1,000 fighters, Travers told the House Homeland Security Committee. As many as 14,000 extremists remain there now, with roughly 2,000 in Syria from foreign countries. The Islamic State group maintains a network of roughly 20 affiliates around the globe, ranging in strength with some as few as hundreds of fighters. The affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as ISIS-Khorasan, has thousands, Travers said. “The insurgency has a lot of options,” he added.”

U.S. House Hits Turkey with Strong Sanctions

In a remarkable rebuke of a NATO ally, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a strong sanctions bill that could cripple Turkey’s economy and would punish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally by requiring an assessment of his net worth amid questions about his finances in Turkey. The sanctions are retaliation for Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria where they are trying to eradicate ‘terrorist’ Kurds who have been U.S. allies in the fight against President Assad of Syria. Turkey condemned the House vote, saying the sanctions bill is “incompatible with the spirit of our allied relations under NATO.”

Iran, Russia and Turkey Condemn US Troops in Syria

The governments of Iran and Russia issued a joint statement on Tuesday condemning the US military deployment meant to guard oil production facilities in northeastern Syria, ignoring US statements that the deployment was meant to prevent the facilities from being captured by the Islamic State (IS) terror militia and instead framing it as a simple theft of Syria’s natural resources by the US. “Any illegal exploitation of natural resources of a sovereign state without its consent is illegal and that is the view that we share,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. U.S. forces began moving into Syria’s Deir al-Zour province from Iraq after days of President Trump saying he wanted to protect oil fields there.

Governments in Lebanon and Iraq Toppling Amidst Protests

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced the resignation of his government in a televised statement Tuesday afternoon, acceding to the demands of protesters who have brought the countries economy to a near standstill in the last two weeks. The resignation also came despite violent attacks on protesters by supporters of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah. Meanwhile, two of the main supporters of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced on Tuesday that they supported his removal from office, possibly laying the groundwork for a new governing regime in Baghdad.

Argentina Peronists Regain Power

Argentina’s Peronists celebrated their return to power after incumbent President Mauricio Macri conceded defeat in a dramatic election that likely swung the country back to the center-left, saw the return of a divisive former president, and threatened to rattle financial markets. Thousands of jubilant supporters of Alberto Fernández and his vice presidential running mate, ex-president Cristina Fernández, waved sky-blue and white Argentine flags and chanted “We’re coming back! We’re coming back!” The election was dominated by concerns over the country’s economic woes and rising poverty, with voters rejecting austerity measures that Macri insisted were needed to revive the struggling economy. Fernandez said he would need the support of Macri’s administration to reconstruct what he called the inherited “ashes” of Argentina.

North Korea Launches More Missiles

South Korea’s military said North Korea on Thursday fired two projectiles toward its eastern sea, extending a streak of weapons tests apparently aimed at ramping up pressure on Washington over a stalemate in nuclear negotiations. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons were fired from a region near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The North’s latest launch follows statements of displeasure over the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and demands that the Trump administration ease sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang. Earlier this month, the North test-fired an underwater-launched ballistic missile for the first time in three years.

Earthquakes

Tens of thousands of residents who evacuated a sprawling Northern California wildfire fueled by high winds and drought conditions were rocked by another slap from Mother Nature on Monday when a magnitude 3.3 earthquake rattled the area. No damage or injuries were immediately reported from the temblor, centered a few miles from the roaring Kincade Fire, that struck at 1:10 a.m.

The second strong earthquake to strike the southern Philippines this week killed five people on Thursday. The quake struck about 25 miles southwest of the city of Davao on the island of Mindanao. It had a magnitude of 6.5. At least eight people were killed Tuesday when a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck about 60 miles southwest of Davao. Some of the buildings destroyed Thursday had been damaged in Tuesday’s quake. More than 12,700 people from nearly 60 villages were in evacuation centers when Thursday’s quake happened. At least 395 people were injured in Tuesday’s 6.6 magnitude quake, and more than 2,700 houses and buildings, including schools and hospitals, were damaged.

Wildfires

Residents of north San Bernardino were forced to flee overnight when a fast-moving wildfire engulfed several homes as it raced through neighborhoods early Thursday. Meanwhile, a second fire forced more evacuations in the Jurupa Valley near Riverside, California. Also on Wednesday, a fast-moving wildfire in Ventura County, California came dangerously close to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Nearby residents fled with whatever belongings they could carry and scrambled to get horses and other livestock out of harm’s way. . The fire burned more than 2 square miles within just a few hours. It was 5% contained Thursday morning The Easy Fire was threatening 7,000 homes affecting 26,000 residents, officials said.

The Getty Fire began on the west side of the 405 freeway near the Getty Center about 1:30 a.m. Monday when a tree branch was blown onto a power line by strong winds. By Wednesday, it had spread to just over 1 square mile and threatened more than 7,000 structures. In Northern California, firefighters appeared to be making headway on the Kincade Fire, which had burned nearly 120 square miles and was 45% contained as of Wednesday night. The fire, which started on Oct. 23 near Geyserville, has destroyed at least 266 structures, including 133 homes. About 126,000 people were under evacuation orders, although many were allowed to return home Wednesday. More than a million people remained without electricity Wednesday morning due to precautionary shutoffs aimed to prevent wildfires. All told, estimates say the outages affect more than 1.5 million people when taking into account household size and other factors.

A raging fire has destroyed much of Shuri Castle, a 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Seven buildings in the castle complex, including the main hall, burned to the ground. Windy weather helped fuel the flames, the AP report said.

Weather

More than 20 million US residents were living in areas under a tornado watch Thursday, forecasters with the National Weather Service said. Watches were in effect for parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia. The watch is in effect until midnight EDT.

Buildings were damaged and trees and power lines knocked down as the remnants of Tropical Storm Olga continued to march across the Southeast Saturday afternoon after spawning at least two tornadoes in Alabama. A museum housing a collection of classic cars valued at $6 million, including a Lincoln once owned by Elvis Presley, was also heavily damaged by the winds in Tupelo. Power was out to more than 130,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana Saturday morning. Flooding was also reported in parts of the state. A gust of 73 mph was recorded in Mandeville, across Lake Pontchartrain from the Louis Armstrong International Airport outside New Orleans.

A deluge of snow. Booming thunder and high winds. These extreme weather events are rarely seen at the same time — and they’re even rarer in Texas during the fall. But residents of Amarillo, Texas, experienced a thunder snowstorm on Thursday, bringing early snow and a weather phenomenon to the Texas Panhandle. Thundersnow is rare — studies show that only .07% of the snow in the United States is associated with thunder or lightning. The thunder snowstorm dropped 5.5 inches of snow in Amarillo.

  • From heat to tornadoes to hail, 2019 has been an eventful year for inclement natural events in Texas. In May, a massive storm produced more than 5 inches of hail in the state. Later that month, two separate tornadoes struck the same Texas town in the same day. And a South Texas heat wave set a record with a heat index of 128 degrees in June.

A key Australia river is disappearing amid an awful drought, leaving high and dry those who depend on it for drinking water and other uses. The Darling River, about 500 miles west of Sydney, has turned to parched earth pocked by stagnant pools of water. Drought conditions have plagued the river over the last two years. Locals also blame the government for poor handling of the river, specifically drawing water from it for irrigation and other uses downstream. Warmer temperatures aren’t helping. More than a dozen large towns in the same region face a “high risk” of running out of water. Last summer was the hottest on record, according to Reuters, and another scorching one is expected this year in Menindee, where temperatures regularly top 100 degrees.

 

 

Signs of the Times

October 24, 2019

­­So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Judge Rules Dad Has Say in Gender ‘Transition’ of 7-Year-Old

The judge presiding over the case of James Younger, the seven-year old boy whom the mother wants to put through chemical castration via a gender “transition, ruled that the father will have joint conservatorship over James, which includes making joint medical decisions for the child. Mr. Younger and his ex-wife, Dr. Anne Georgulas, were in court last week fighting over custody and decision-making abilities for James and his twin, Jude. Dr. Georgulas wants to continue to “transition” James “into” a girl called “Luna.” Mr. Younger wanted to take a “wait and see” approach rather than start the child on puberty blockers. Eleven out of 12 jurors decided Monday that Mr. Younger should not be granted Sole Managing Conservatorship over his twin boys. Dr. Georgulas admitted in court she is not actually the twins’ biological mother and used in-vitro fertilization via an egg donor to gestate them. Judge Kim Cooks also put a gag order on the father so that he cannot speak to the press about the case and decided that the father is not required to pay attorney fees. The judge’s decision means that the Save James website will have to be shut down.

Businesses Cut Ties with Church over Sermon on Transgenderism

A Missouri pastor’s Bible-based sermon on transgenderism has sparked vocal opposition from the local LGBT community and several local businesses to cut ties with the church. The Oct. 13 sermon by Keith Simon of The Crossing Church in Columbia, Mo., was based on Genesis 1:27 which “teaches that God created two genders,” Simon said. “Gender is not a social construct. Men and women are foundational to God’s plan. God is not pleased when we blur genders.” But Pastor Simon also said Christians must approach the issue with compassion for others because everyone – believers and transgender people alike – is broken.  However, Simon’s sermon prompted a Change.org petition urging the True/False Film Festival and Ragtag Cinema – both of which are sponsored by the church – to cut their ties with the congregation. The church began the sponsorships a decade ago as a way to partner with the community. “It’s hate speech, and it’s harmful,” the petition said of the sermon. The petition pledged a boycott of the festival and cinema until they severed their partnerships with the church

Transgender Cyclist Dominates Women Competitors

Transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon keeps dominating women’s cycling. And she keeps creating controversy all the way. Last weekend at the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester, England, the 37-year-old Canadian first set a world record in qualifying for the 35-39 age category 200-meter sprint, then went on to defend her title in the finals. Her success, however, has been overshadowed by frustrated competitors. In an interview with Sky News, former cycling champion Victoria Hood said, “It is not complicated. The science is there and it says that it is unfair. The male body, which has been through male puberty, still retains its advantage; that doesn’t go away. I have sympathy with them. They have the right to do sport but not a right to go into any category they want.”

Professor Fired for Saying Polar Bears are Thriving

Nobody has done more to sink the claim that climate change is endangering polar bears than zoologist Susan Crockford — and she paid for it with her job. After 15 years as an adjunct assistant professor, Ms. Crockford said the University of Victoria rejected without explanation in May her renewal application, despite her high profile as a speaker and author stemming from her widely cited research on polar bears. Ms. Crockford accused officials at the Canadian university of bowing to “outside pressure,” the result of her research showing that polar bear populations are stable and even thriving, not plummeting as a result of shrinking Arctic sea ice, defying claims of the climate change movement. Her dismissal, which she announced Wednesday in a post on her Polar Bear Science blog, has spurred alarm over the implications for academic freedom and the rise of the “cancel culture” for professors and scientists who challenge climate catastrophe predictions.

Witches Gather Friday Night to Cast Spells Against Trump

As if battling House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against him wasn’t enough, President Donald Trump will next have to face a “binding spell” cast by “thousands” of witches late Friday night. As Halloween approaches at the end of the month, several media outlets are reporting witches who oppose President Trump are planning to cast a “binding spell” on his administration. Such reports of witchcraft being used against the President are nothing new. Witches have been trying to cast spells against Trump since his inauguration in 2017. Scheduled for Oct. 25 at 11:59 pm, these self-proclaimed “witches” are planning to conduct a ritual which is meant to “bind,” but not harm the President unlike a “curse” or a “hex.” Last year, their 13,000-member Facebook group was casting spells against President Trump on a regular basis.

Opioid Makers/Distributors Settle Landmark Lawsuit

A key drug maker and multiple distributors facing a historic opioid lawsuit reached a landmark settlement Monday with two Ohio counties suing makers and distributors of the highly addictive painkillers. Terms of the settlement involving McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. amounts to about $260 million. A possible trial involving Walgreens was put on hold. U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster has encouraged a settlement, which would provide affected communities the funds to combat opioid addiction much sooner than the lengthy process of going through a trial and the likely appeals afterward.

Persecution Watch

A school-board member in the United Kingdom was suspended for questioning a staff decision to introduce, without consultation, LGBT Pride Month and LGBT books to the school library. Maureen Griffith, 74, has served since the early 1990s as a governor at the Alperton Community School in Brent, North London, reported Christian Concern, a division of the Christian Legal Center, which is representing her. “What has taken place at this school is a microcosm of what is happening across our society and sends a clear message to teachers, governors and students: if you oppose the LGBT agenda you will be silenced and punished,” said Andrea Williams chief executive of the center.

A public university that warned faculty to persuade professors not to grade based on merit. The College Fix reports such workshops are popping up at universities from Washington, D.C. to Idaho. Boise State University is hosting an event next week called “Inclusive Teaching Means Inclusive Grading, Too.” A workshop of the exact same name at University of Tennessee-Knoxville aimed “to engage instructors in conversations and activities designed to foreground diversity and inclusion in considerations of assessment and grading practices.” The University of Michigan held a faculty workshop with a similar name.

A 50-year-old Palestinian man, who converted to Judaism this year just before Rosh Hashana, has been held in captivity and tortured by Palestinian Authority (PA) forces over the past two weeks. The victim is a resident of Hebron and works at a supermarket in the Jerusalem area. He claims that his family had set him up for arrest in order to prove their allegiance to the Palestinian regime. His own siblings have mercilessly beaten him, while the PA has burned his arms and legs, Ynet reported.

Communist authorities destroyed a 3,000-seat megachurch over the weekend, using a large excavator to tear apart the building as members and citizens watched helplessly, according to China Aid. The large four-story building was located in the province of Anhui which has about 60 million residents. The congregation was part of China’s officially recognized network of churches. Communist officials lacked the proper legal paperwork to order the destruction, China Aid reported. “This is yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime,” said Bob Fu, president of China Aid.

On Russian TV, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov urged nations in the Arab world to band together to wipe Israel off the map. In an interview aired Tuesday, the head of the Chechen Republic told  Russian television network RT that Arab nations in the Middle East should join forces to attack Israel. In a meeting in Jordan in August, Kadyrov called Jews “the main enemy of Islam.” Around 95% of the citizens of the Chechen Republic are Muslim

Economic News

A fresh round of U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion in European goods took effect Friday in retaliation for what the World Trade Organization deemed were illegal subsidies for airplane maker Airbus. The case, which wove its way through the system for nearly 15 years, culminated in a ruling against the European Union. The new tariffs apply to a wide range of imports from the EU but are concentrated mostly on the four countries deemed responsible for the subsidies: France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. Large civil aircraft will be hit with 10% tariffs, while everything else included in this round will be hit with 25% tariffs. However, wine, cheese, fruit, seafood and clothing will also be hit with tariffs.

In a surprise move, opposition and rebel British lawmakers voted Saturday to postpone an important Brexit vote, legally forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request a delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union. A reluctant Johnson sent a letter requesting the delay late Saturday night, but he also made clear that he personally opposed delaying the U.K.’s exit, scheduled for Oct. 31. Johnson has repeatedly vowed not to delay Britain’s EU exit, saying that any delay increases the likelihood of a “no-deal” Brexit, which experts warn could harm Britain’s economy and lead to border chaos. But, on Friday Johnson said that if lawmakers want more time to scrutinize his Brexit deal, “they can have it, but they have to agree to a general election on Dec. 12.” He would need two-thirds support in Parliament for an election to be set. His last push for an election was rejected.

Israel

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition government, Israel’s political process continued on Wednesday evening as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz formally accepted the mandate to form a government during a brief ceremony at the President’s Residence. A few hours later at midnight, the clock started ticking on a 28-day period during which Gantz will attempt to form a governing coalition and avoid a third Knesset election that no one wants but which many analysts have said appears to be highly likely. While Netanyahu remains at the helm of his Likud party, his announcement marked the second time this year that he has been unable to form a government.

Syria

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under current plans all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence. The developments made clear that one of President Donald Trump’s rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to come to pass any time soon. “It’s time to bring our soldiers back home,” he said Wednesday. But they are not coming home. Reports of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the U.S.-allied Syria Kurdish forces despite a five-day cease-fire agreement hammered out last Friday between U.S. and Turkish leaders. Hundreds of trucks carrying American troops have crossed into Iraq in a long military convoy Monday, marking the largest withdrawal of US forces from Syria. The vehicles were pelted with rotten potatoes and tomatoes by Syrian-Kurdish people who feel betrayed by the withdrawal.

  • President Donald Trump is considering a proposal to leave about 200 American troops in eastern Syria to combat ISIS and prevent Syrian government forces and their Russian allies from seizing control of oil production facilities in the region, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed Monday.
  • President Trump announced Wednesday that conditions have been met between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for what he called a “permanent ceasefire” between the two sides and that the United States is lifting sanctions on Ankara that were implemented following the invasion of northern Syria.

Afghanistan

The United States is already reducing the size of its troop force in Afghanistan despite the lack of a peace deal with the Taliban, at a time when President Trump has expressed reluctance to remain engaged in costly wars abroad. In a news conference on Monday, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, confirmed that the size of the American force in the country had already quietly dropped by 2,000 over the last year, down to roughly 12,000. The eventual force size could drop to as low as 8,600. Rather than a formal withdrawal order, they are reducing the force through a gradual process of not replacing troops as they cycle out.

The Taliban stormed a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 15 policemen in the latest attack by insurgents, an Afghan provincial official said Tuesday. The multi-pronged attack on the checkpoint in the Ali Abad district of northern Kunduz province began late on Monday night and set off an hours-long gun battle, according to Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member. Along with the 15 policemen killed, two other officers were wounded in the assault, he said. The attack came as Afghan troops have been battling the Taliban for the past few weeks in Kunduz’s Dashti Archi area.

United Kingdom

Authorities found 39 people dead in a truck in an industrial park in England on Wednesday and arrested the driver on suspicion of murder in one of Britain’s worst human-smuggling tragedies. The truck and the trailer with the people inside apparently took separate circuitous journeys. British police said they believe the container went from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet, England, where it arrived early Wednesday. Police believe the truck traveled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, where it took a ferry to Holyhead in Wales before picking up the trailer at the dockside in England. Authorities say they have no idea how long the container was in Belgium. The truck was registered in Bulgaria to a company owned by an Irish citizen, but its point of origin was unclear. The 39 victims were Chinese nationals, police said Thursday.

Spain

The conflict with the restive northeastern region of Catalonia has entered a “new phase” with the sentencing of its former separatist leaders to prison this week, said Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez. On Friday, the Catalan independence movement delivered a new show of force in Barcelona. Five columns of separatist protesters marched from different parts of the region into the city amid a general strike. Friday afternoon’s demonstration drew about 525,000 people, according to local police. The large rally followed days of unrest in Barcelona and other Catalan cities to protest the jailing of nine separatist leaders over a failed bid to break away from Spain in 2017. The Socialist government of Mr. Sánchez has vowed to end the turmoil after protesters clashed with the police and set fires in the streets of Barcelona and other cities for four nights.

Bangladesh

Four people were killed Sunday when Bangladesh police fired on a crowd after clashes erupted over a Facebook post that angered Muslims. Thousands of people took to the streets in the town of Borhanuddin, in Bangladesh’s southern Bhola district, to protest the post that allegedly criticized the Prophet Muhammad. The offending post was published Friday from the account of a 25-year-old Hindu man in the area. The man told police his Facebook account was hacked. An angry crowd gathered in a field near the police station on Sunday demanding justice. Police said they had no plans to apply deadly force as the protest was calm at first, but some in the crowd became violent and started to throw stones and bricks at officers. Ehsanullah said police initially fired pellet guns in a bid to disperse the crowd after up to 100 people tried to break into the room where the officers were taking refuge. When that didn’t work, they used live bullets to protect themselves from the mob. Dozens of people, including police, were injured.

Puerto Rico

Officials with the Department of Housing and Urban Development purposely missed a September deadline to release billions of dollars in hurricane recovery funds to Puerto Rico, saying they don’t trust the U.S. territory’s housing agency to handle the money properly. Some members of Congress said the move violated federal law that was set in the appropriations bill that included the funds. The move was the latest in the continuing dispute between the Trump administration and Puerto Rico over federal support following Hurricane Maria, which devastated parts of the island just over two years ago.

Venezuela

Bartering at the pump has taken off as hyperinflation makes Venezuela’s paper currency, the bolivar, hard to find and renders some denominations all but worthless, so that nobody will accept them. Without cash in their wallets, drivers often hand gas station attendants a bag of rice, cooking oil or whatever they have. This barter system, while perhaps the envy of cash-strapped drivers outside the country, is just another symptom of bedlam in Venezuela – socialism gone wild.

Chile

Protests and violence in Chile spilled over into a new day and raged into Sunday night despite the president cancelling a subway fare hike that has prompted violent demonstrations. Officials in the Santiago region said three people died in fires at two looted supermarkets early Sunday – among 60 Walmart-owned outlets that have been vandalized, and the company said many stores did not open during the day. Five more people later were found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse and were not employees, authorities said. Authorities said 10,500 soldiers and police officers were patrolling the streets in Santiago as state of emergency and curfew remained in effect for six Chilean cities. Security forces used tear gas and jets of water to try to disperse crowds.

Environment

Thanks to unusually warm temperatures high above Antarctica this month, the ozone hole shrank to its smallest size on record, scientists reported Monday. An annual phenomenon in the stratosphere above Antarctica, the ozone hole is a dramatic thinning of the ozone layer that’s typically boosted in size by colder temperatures. This is the third time in 40 years that weather systems have caused warm temperatures that limit ozone depletion. The ozone layer is important because it acts like a sunscreen, blocking potentially harmful ultraviolet energy from reaching our planet’s surface. Without it, humans and animals can experience increased rates of skin cancer and other ailments such as cataracts.

A Chesapeake Bay landmark has been swallowed up by rising waters. Tens of thousands of teachers and schoolchildren have visited the Fox Island Education Center over the past 40 years, learning important lessons about Chesapeake Bay’s waters, vegetation, wildlife and ecology. Those lessons will be no more. The education center is closing at the end of its current season. Rising sea levels have claimed so much of the surrounding marshes and wetlands that it has become too hazardous for visitors, a problem that is exacerbated when severe weather hits the area. The island’s marshes and shallow grass beds that are now inundated by water protected the land from erosion. Now that they are gone, the island is washing away.

Wildfires

Rapidly spreading wildfires have forced evacuations in Northern California and Southern California. The town of Geyserville in Sonoma County was ordered to evacuate about 6:30 a.m. Thursday after the Kincade Fire grew rapidly overnight to over 15.6 square miles amid strong winds. Meanwhile, another fire broke out in north San Bernardino, about 55 miles east of Los Angeles. The Old Water Fire forced evacuations of about 80 homes. The fire was burning about 4 miles east of California State University, San Bernardino.

Power has been cut to more than 190,000 homes and businesses in Central and Northern California due to a high wildfire threat. PG&E has shut off power to about 179,000 customers in parts of 17 counties. About half of the SoCal shutoffs are in San Bernadino County, where a wildfire the Old Water Fire is burning. PG&E is warning that even more widespread outages are possible this weekend if the fire threat continues. Meanwhile, Southern California Edison has cut power to 15,000 in five counties, and is considering blacking out a total of nearly 300,000 customers in seven counties, according to the company’s website.

Weather

At least three tornadoes spawned by Tropical Storm Nestor overturned at least one semi-trailer on Interstate 4 and caused damage to homes and other buildings in central and southwest Florida. Nearly 18,000 people were without power in Florida at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The remnants of what was once Tropical Storm Nestor damaged several homes early Sunday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Nestor brought more than just tornadoes and rain to Florida over the weekend. The storm also pushed red tide closer to shore in some parts of Southwest Florida, bringing with it dead fish and sea turtles and causing respiratory issues for some people.

Severe storms ripped through the South Sunday night into early Monday, spawning a damaging tornado in Dallas and contributing to the death of one person in Arkansas. In Dallas, thousands of public school students in Dallas will be attending classes in different locations for at least the rest of the school year after the strong tornado left a 15-mile-long trail of destruction in the northern part of the city. Three people have been hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries. Several homes and businesses were damaged, power lines downed and tree limbs were scattered across roadways. The city said there were reports of gas leaks north of Walnut Hill in north Dallas. Seven people escaped a structure that collapsed in northwest Dallas. As of 8 a.m. Monday, more than 242,000 customers were without power in Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana.

  • Weather will continue to grow more extreme as the end-times continue to ramp up(Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

 

Apocalypse Soon? (Part One)

October 21, 2019

People Get Ready

The world is careening out of control, just as the Bible prophesied thousands of years ago. However, there are still many Biblical prophesies that remain to be fulfilled before Jesus returns.

  • Worldwide events, though, are accelerating so rapidly toward fulfilling these prophesies that Jesus’ return could well happen in the next ten to twenty years.

Unlike our Signs of the Times newsletter, which is published on a weekly basis about current events, the Apocalypse Soon posts provide a deeper understanding of the end-times, focusing on the prophecies of what’s coming and what Christians should do during these perilous times.

  • Signs of the Times has a micro focus while Apocalypse Soon has a broader, macro perspective.

This first Apocalypse Soon post is an overall summary of where we stand now and what to expect.

  • We’re not talking about becoming doomsday preppers concerned only about survival, but rather becoming spiritually ready to ‘arise and shine’ within the coming deep darkness :
    • Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1-2)

The Apocalypse

First, let’s understand what the term Apocalypse really means. The world uses the term to describe the catastrophic destruction of the world, often resulting in a dystopian society in the aftermath, as imagined in many books and movies.

  • Webster defines this worldly usage of the word Apocalypse as “foreboding imminent disaster or final doom.”

However, the term originated in the Bible and doesn’t mean that at all. It’s a Greek term, apokalupsis.

  • Strong’s Dictionary (G602) defines it to mean, “disclosure: – appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation, be revealed, revelation.”

It is the word used to entitle the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation:

  • “The revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 1:1 ESV)

This revelation was given to Jesus who passed it down to the Apostle John to record for posterity.

  • Because this revelation, and John’s Book of Revelation, ultimately prophesies the destruction of the earth, the world has appropriated the word to mean “imminent disaster” without the context of the rest of Jesus’ revelation – which includes the bringing forth of a new earth, new heavens and a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-2)

There are many other end-time prophecies contained in other books of the Bible.

  • In this series of blog posts, we will bring all of this together into one coherent study of the end-times, with the return of Jesus as our primary focus.

Jesus is Coming Again Very Soon

Jesus said He was coming again and we need to be ready – but ready for what?

  • We long for Jesus’ return because then we will be with Him forever.
    • But before that happens, though, difficult, perilous times are coming which will test the faith of many Christians because Jesus is going to shake and break this world like never before.

 I believe that Jesus’ return could well occur in the next 10-20 years, but no one can know for sure, because even Jesus doesn’t know:

  • “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.(Mark 13:32)

Notice, though, that the Scripture says we won’t know the day or the hour – that’s why Jesus tells us to keep watch for the signs of the coming end-times just as we mark the seasons:

  • At the end of His Olivet Discourse about what the signs of the end-times would be, Jesus said, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:32-33)

Some Christians believe that Christ could come at any moment now, but that’s not possible because there are still many Biblical prophecies that remain to be fulfilled – and Jesus’ testimony is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10)

  • However, many of the signs that Jesus and the Old Testament prophets gave to us are rapidly falling into place – wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, extreme weather and the gospel being preached to all nations – so it is coming relatively soon.

We are currently in the period Jesus calls the beginning of sorrows:

  • And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:6-8)

Signs of the End-Times

The re-establishment of Israel in 1948 fulfilled several Old Testament prophesies and was a clear indication that the countdown to Jesus’ Second Coming had begun:

  • Numerous passages in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied that Jews would be brought back from all parts of the world to repopulate the land that God promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
    • This was first thought to apply only to the return of the tribes of Israel from the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. But they never fully regained full official control of this vast territory until 1948.
  • Isaiah foresaw this remarkable event in which Israel was re-created when the peace documents settling World War II were signed, in effect establishing Israel in a single-day as Isaiah prophesied:
    • Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? (Isaiah 66:8)

Since that time, we have seen substantial progress toward many of the end-time signs given to us throughout the Bible. However, unlike Israel being reconstituted in a single-day, most signs build up over time and do not occur all at once (although there are some that the Bible says specifically occur in one day).

  • The visions that the prophets see are the end-result of forces that build over time (e.g. the increase in knowledge, the number of earthquakes, the moral degradation of society, etc.)
    • For example, the Babylonian conquest of Israel played out over many years and there were three stages of exiles, even though the prophets only saw the end result.
  • So too do we see the end-time prophecies evolving instead of happening in one fell swoop. After all, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)

Signs Yet to Be Completely Fulfilled

There are many end-time signs that have yet to be fully realized, but many of them have gotten very close, while others have begun ramping up.

Increase in Transportation and Knowledge – In a vision, God revealed to Daniel that: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)

  • In Daniel’s time, the fastest mode of transportation was via horseback. With the advent of the automobile and aircraft in the 1900s, the world has indeed vastly increased the ability of society to ‘run to and fro’ faster and farther. We’ve even sent men to the moon and are gearing up now for missions to Mars.
  • With the advent of computers and the internet, knowledge (or the access to knowledge) has increased in leaps and bounds to the point that we’re overloaded with information. Science has also been vastly increasing our understanding of the world and our genetic makeup, to the such that we are now genetically altering foods and performing genetic engineering on humans to cure disease. But many worry that we are ill-equipped to play God and will only cause unintended catastrophic consequences.
    • How much more progress in travel and knowledge are required for this prophesy to be fulfilled? Time will tell, but I believe that we can already check this one off as having been met.

Increase in Earthquakes – In Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse), the disciples ask what signs to look for: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

  • In Jesus’ answer shown above (Matthew 24:6-8), earthquakes and famines were two key events Jesus said to look out for: “and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matthew 24:7)
    • According to Wikipedia’s list of earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater, the 15th century had 2, the 17th century 7, the 18th century 13, the 19th century 29 and the 20th century 123.
    • Clearly, the number of large earthquakes has been increasing dramatically. Already, the 21st century has seen 12 (according to the British Geological Survey).
      • How will we know how much is too many, signifying that the last days are upon us? Can’t say, exactly, but when Jesus opens the sixth seal, “there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood.” (Revelation 6:12) By this time, the world will know it is well along through the Great Tribulation.
      • Two even greater earthquakes will occur, the first ending the second “woe” – “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city [Jerusalem] fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13 KJV)
      • The last one prophesied occurs when the angel pours out the seventh vial – “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” (Revelation 16:18)
    • Before those catastrophic events, the increase in earthquakes shows us that we are in the time period Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8, KJV), translated “birth pains” in the ESV, which is the literal translation, sorrows being implied).

Increase in Famines

  • Similarly, there has also been an increase in the number and severity of famines around the world:
    • Again, according to Wikipedia, the past 500 years have seen a large increase in the number of famines, from 6 in the 15th century, to 24 in the 17th century, to 30 in the 19th century, to 44 in the 20th The first decade of the 21st century recorded 12 famines, putting us on pace of 120 famines this century (although I believe Christ will return well before then).
    • The severity of famines has also increased, causing more and more death as total population increased. In the first half of the 20th century, seven famines killed an estimated 18 to 26 million people. From 1959 to 1961, the Great Chinese Famine is estimated to have killed more than 36 million people. Today, famines in Africa, North Korea, India and other areas of the world continue to add to the increasing numbers.
      • Again, there is no clear delineator to say that a certain number of famines means we have crossed the threshold from the “beginning of birth pains” to the birth of the Great Tribulation. But, the indicators suggest we are getting closer and closer.
      • The only mention of famine in Revelation is when Babylon is brought down in “one day” – “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” (Revelation 18:8)
        • We have to be very careful interpreting what “one day” means, since “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)

Increase in Pestilence – We have been seeing dramatic increases in the number of scary diseases (i.e. pestilence) in the form of microbes, bacteria and viruses that threaten to become epidemics or pandemics because many have become resistant to drugs and antibiotics.

  • The number and severity of outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, Cholera, Lassa fever, Marburg virus, MERS, MRSA, C-diff, Zika and the like have been steadily increasing, especially in the poorer sections of the world.
  • In addition, many viruses and bacteria have evolved to become resistant to the drugs that used to kill them, portending even greater increases in the number and severity of illnesses

Increase in Extreme Weather – Extreme weather is also an end-time sign and we see the frequency and severity of serious weather events rapidly increasing. Some call it global warming or climate change, but whether or not it is human-caused is immaterial, because the Bible prophesies in many places that our weather will grow increasingly severe.

  • End-time verses such as Daniel 9:26b speaks of a great flood; Ezekiel 38:22 foretells flooding rain and great hailstones; Luke 21:25 forecasts the sea and the waves roaring; Revelation 11:19 foresees lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail; while Revelation 16:8 prophesies that “the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him [i.e. the angel] to scorch men with fire” (i.e. global warming to the extreme).

Increase in Murders – We also are seeing the ramping up of one of the four ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

  • The Second Horseman brings a murderous spirit into the world: “Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.” (Rev. 6:4)
    • This is not warfare but rather individuals stirred up to commit murder, and we see that happening across the world, and right here in the U.S. where there were 255 mass shootings in the first eight months of 2019, way above previous annual totals, with ‘only’ 90 mass shootings in total from the years 1966-2012.

Economic Depression – Another sign that has not yet appeared in full is a severe economic depression. We had the so-called Great Recession which hit the world from 2007 to 2009, but that was only a harbinger of the economic doom the end-times will bring forth.

  • A severe economic downturn will be one of the forces (war being the other) that will bring the anti-Christ to take over global authority
    • This will ultimately culminate in the Third Horseman coming to fruition: “behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius and three quarts of barley for a denarius.” (Revelation 6:5-6)
      • These prices are about 10 times the normal prices in those days of old, and indicate severe shortages and horrendous inflation much like that seen in Venezuela over the past 3 years.

Gospel Preached to All the World – Although the Gospel has not yet been preached to every person, the Scripture actually specifies nations, not people

  • Through the miracle of computers and the internet, the goal of reaching every nation with the gospel has virtually been attained, but there are still a few people groups to go.

Increase in Persecution – In addition, persecution of Christians and Jews will also increase as we move deeper and deeper into the end-times, just as Matthew 24:9 prophesies:  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

  • The full realization of this prophecy is seen in Revelation 13:7 which says, “It was granted to him [ i.e. the anti-Christ] to make war with the saints and to overcome them.”
  • Reverend Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, reported that over a recent 10-year period, six-hundred-thousand Christians were killed because of their faith. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity says 900,000 Christians have been martyred in the last decade, 90,000 a year.
    • While there is some dispute over the actual number, there are at least thousands, if not tens of thousands of Christians martyred each year which go largely unreported in the mainstream media while they focus on Islamaphobia.

Increase in Self-Centeredness – The Apostle Paul described the end-times as being a time of self-gratification:

  • “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2Timothy 3:1-5)
    • This certainly captures what is going on in our world right now, with secular humanism exalting self above all else, and the fulfillment of fleshly desires over the things of the Spirit

Increase in Wars – In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, He said the end-times would be marked by “wars and rumors of wars.” (Matthew 24:6)

  • According to Wikipedia’s list of wars, the past 500 years have seen a tremendous increase in the frequency of wars from 29 in the 15th century, to 75 in the 17th century, to 278 in the 20th
  • The first decade of the 21st century saw 55 wars, putting humanity on pace for 550 wars over the course of the full 100 years (but Jesus is likely to return well before then).
  • Not only have the number of wars increased, but the intensity has as well. We’ve progressed rapidly from hand-to-hand combat to chariots to guns to bombs to missiles and atomic weapons, which were used to end World War II. Weapons of mass destruction are now in the hands of many nations.
    • How much more increase is required to fulfill the visions in Revelation? Not much.

Jerusalem as the Epicenter – The war that will usher in the anti-Christ and the seven-year Tribulation will revolve around Israel, with Jerusalem as the epicenter. Scripture is clear that God will judge the nations based on their treatment of Israel:

  • “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)
  • Israel has indeed become the center of worldwide concern as many Middle Eastern nations seek her annihilation. And, as Ezekiel prophesied in Chapters 38-39, the final war (Armageddon, centered around the hill of Megiddo in Israel) will also involve Russia (Rosh, Ezekiel 3:2) and Persia (Ezekiel 38:5, modern day Iran).
    • And, wonder of wonders, Russia and Iran have just recently become allies, with Russian troops now assisting Iran in their support of Syria’s King Assad and his war against internal rebels, bringing Russian and Iranian troops within Syria close to Israel’s borders. What’s more, Russia is helping Iran with its nuclear program, eventually yielding Iranian nuclear weapons, despite all the sanctions and treaties now in place with Iran.
    • However, this final war, which is won by Jesus Christ, is not the next one that will usher in the anti-Christ and trigger the seven-year Tribulation.
  • The next Middle East war, not the last one, will usher in the anti-Christ, the beast in Revelation 13 who will end the war by signing a peace pact with all the involved nations as described in Daniel 9:27:
    • Then he [i.e. the anti-Christ] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week
      • In this section of Daniel, one week (or seven days) is equivalent to seven years and this war ushers in the seven-year Tribulation as well as the anti-Christ who will seem like the world’s savior by bringing forth peace, but will actually be the instrument of Satan in his final attempt to expunge God and Christians out of existence.

The Seven-Year Tribulation

The 7-year tribulation, while will actually be quite peaceful for 3.5 years for everyone except Christians and Jews.

  • This will be the time-period when the anti-Christ initiates the so-called “mark of the beast” which will be required for everyone to buy and sell goods
    • (Revelation 13:16-17) “He [i.e. the anti-Christ] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
    • The Bible clearly warns everyone to not receive the mark – those who do will experience the full wrath of God when He brings this world to an end:
      • (Revelation 14:9-10) “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
    • It is in the second half of the Tribulation, that the really severe things begin to happen to the earth, resulting in its eventual complete destruction and ushering in the New Earth, the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens (Revelation 21:1-2). It is triggered when the anti-Christ sits on the throne of God in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem and declares that he is God
      • (Daniel 12:11)“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.” (i.e. 3.5 years)
      • Jesus says in Matthew 24:15-16, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
      • The Apostle Paul wrote in 2Thessalonians 2:3-4, “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.”
    • We see another sign here, what some call the Great Falling Away in which many Christians abandon their faith. Many surveys now show the percent of Americans calling themselves Christian has been declining for many years now
      • Of course, most of these are pseudo-Christians, that is, Christians in name only, those who think just going to church or having Christian parents automatically makes them Christian.
      • But this is not so. As Jesus told us in John 3:3, we must be “born again” and receive the indwelling of His Holy Spirit
    • In this “falling away” we also see Christian Churches succumbing to the ways of the world, especially in materialism, greed, sexuality and self-gratification, as well as New Age concepts such as worshiping the creation instead of its Creator.

We are not going to get into the whole debate about when the Rapture will occur, but suffice it to say that Christians who feel they won’t experience any of these difficult, perilous events are in for a major disappointment

  • Yes Scripture says that for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)
    • But before that Jesus says, Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake..” (Matthew 24:9)
      • Tribulation means trials, which we all will experience (i.e. the pestilence, famines and earthquakes mentioned in the preceding verses of Matthew 24, but not the especially severe tribulation of the woes and trumpet plagues when Jesus opens the seventh seal.

All these horrifying events will happen. That’s why prophet Joel says the day of the Lord’s coming is “great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11)

  • For true disciples of Jesus, His coming is a great, joyous occasion because we know we’re going to be with Him for all of eternity:
    • Jesus promised that, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:3)
      • So, it is a great day!
    • But for those who reject Jesus as the Son of God, it will indeed be a terrible day:
      • Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, (Zephaniah 1:14-16)

Jesus is going to shake things up but good:

  • When God (Jesus) came down upon Mount Sinai to give Moses the Ten Commandments, the mountain was shaken:
  • Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (Exodus 19:16-18)

When Jesus comes again, everything on earth and in the heavens will be shaken:

  • At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29)
  • I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. (Revelation 6:12-14)

Focus on Jesus

However, instead of focusing on all the devastation to come, Christians need to keep their focus on the things above, the eternal things, the things of God as manifested in Jesus:

  • (Colossians 3:2) “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

(Philippians 4:8) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

And finally, Hebrews 12:2 says we should keep on “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • And we Christians will join Him there!

Regardless of when Jesus returns, we should always live our lives as though His coming was imminent, because He will come as a thief in the night (i.e. when we least expect it or before we get right with God)

  • (2Peter 3:9-12) “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
  • (Revelation 22:12) “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.”
  • (1Thessalonians 4:16-17) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord.”

For those of us here and now, we must keep our focus on Jesus who is indeed alive, not dead and gone.

  • Unlike other ‘gods’ Jesus is nonetheless alive, even after His physical death on the cross. He was resurrected by God into Heaven after paying the price (His blood) to redeem us from our sins, Satan and this evil world. After Christ’s crucifixion, He appeared to over 500 people.
  •  (Revelation 1:18) I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
  • (Acts 1:2-3) He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the Slain Lamb of God

  • The Old Testament ritual given by God through Moses for the cleansing of sins was to slay a lamb every morning and evening for the sins of the people (Exodus 28:38-42)
  • Jesus came to be the One Lamb who would sacrifice Himself once for any and all who accept His gift of atonement for our sins.
  • (John 1:29) “The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

As the Lamb of God, Jesus is also our Ransomer (i.e. one who pays a ransom to rescue someone)

  • Jesus is our only link to God in this evil world and serves as our mediator and an intercessor pleading our case to God the Father.
    • For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. (1Timothy 2:5-6)
    • Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Despite being charged unfairly and punished unreasonably, Jesus was Silent like a Lamb

  • The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Messiah (Jesus) would be afflicted and killed but not open his mouth to protest His unjust persecution and death:
    • He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. (Isaiah 53:7-8)

Jesus died as a Lamb but is coming back as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

  • Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. (Revelation 5:5)
    • The scroll has God the Father’s instructions for bringing judgment upon the earth, as well as eternal life to those who accept Jesus. As each of the seven seals is loosened, judgments are released in the earth

Jesus is also the one we pierced:

  • Although none of us are actually the ones who killed (pierced) Jesus, He died for all our sins, so we are all responsible for His death:
    • (Revelation 1:7) “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

But now, it is important to recognize that Jesus is doing a new thing!

  • Jesus is coming again to create a new earth which will be like it was in the Garden of Eden – perfect, with no sin, no suffering, no death:
  • “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now, it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
  • “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)
  • Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)
  • Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

Therefore, we need to be singing a New Song in celebration and recognition of the old things passing away and the new things coming to pass:

  • (Psalm 98:1) “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
  • (Revelation 5:9) “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your  blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

For more information and Bible Studies go to the Gospel of Grace website at http://www.gofg.org

Signs of the Times

October 18, 2019

­­For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2Timothy 1:7)

Biblical Understanding Lacking in Believers & Unbelievers

According to a recent survey, the proportion of American adults who have a biblical worldview dropped to 7% in 2018, the lowest on record. The data confirmed what has long been known — a large majority of Americans are biblically illiterate and don’t understand Christian convictions. This is especially true regarding morally weighty topics such as abortion, religious liberty, and sexuality. Significantly, even professing Christians often struggle to defend a biblical ethic when it comes to these politically contentious issues, notes David Closson of the Family Research Council. “This widespread biblical illiteracy explains why Christian beliefs are increasingly dismissed as outdated or seen as hateful,” writes Closson.

  • The Bible teaches that we are all sinners saved by grace alone and that Jesus commands us to love everyone (Matthew 22:37-40)

40 Days for Life Campaign Saves 100 Babies in Just 2 Weeks

The latest 40 Days for Life campaign is well underway, and the pro-life organization is reporting remarkable progress so far. 40 Days for Life organizes round-the-clock prayer vigils outside of abortion facilities around the world, persistent displays to raise awareness that abortion is not only happening in a community, but that there are community members willing to oppose it. The organization says that since 2007, it has led to the prevention of over 16,000 abortions, the closing of over 100 abortion centers, and the quitting of almost 200 abortion workers. On Monday, 40 Days for Life tweeted word that the latest campaign, which had only been going on for two weeks, just saved its hundredth baby from abortion.

Baby Body Parts Testimony Brings Jury to Tears

There’s been a “game-changer” at the California civil trial in which Planned Parenthood is suing the investigators whose undercover videos exposed the abortion industry’s scheme to profit from the sale of baby body parts. For the first time, jurors were allowed to see portions of the videos that were released in 2015. “The jury was stunned. It was the first time during the three-week trial that they had seen any of the debated video. It was a game changer and a huge victory for the pro-life defendants,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. In addition, Planned Parenthood’s star witness, turned into a star witness for the defense when her testimony conflicted with prior statements and dispositions.

California Mandates Free Abortions at All Colleges and Universities

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law a radical bill that would force colleges to provide free abortions on campus. The pro-abortion bill, which passed the state legislature in September, mandates that all public colleges and universities provide abortion drugs for free to students up to 10 weeks of pregnancy starting Jan. 1, 2023. The bill promotes abortion instead of providing young women with pregnancy support and options. Now that the bill has become law, 34 public college campuses in the state will be forced to begin providing abortion drugs.

Christian Doctors Can’t Be Forced to Perform Transgender Surgeries

A federal judge handed Christian doctors and supporters of religious liberty a major victory Tuesday, ruling they cannot be forced to assist with gender-reassignment procedures, such as sex-change surgeries. The case stretches back to the Obama administration, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule requiring virtually every doctor to assist with gender-transition procedures as part of ObamaCare, Becket Law reports. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued an injunction against the rule in 2016, and the Trump administration followed by issuing a proposed new rule protecting the conscience rights of Christian doctors and other medical professionals. On Tuesday, O’Connor finalized his 2016 decision, ruling the Obama-era rule “substantially burdens” religious exercise rights in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law. O’Connor was nominated by President George W. Bush.

Attorney General Barr Blasts ‘Militant Secularists’

Attorney General William Barr blasted “militant secularists” and their attacks on Judeo-Christian values in a blistering speech at Notre Dame Friday, saying “religion has been under increasing attack” over the past five decades. Barr, a devout Catholic, told students and faculty at the university’s law school that “the problem is not that religion is being forced on others, the problem is that irreligion is being forced — secular values are being forced on people of faith.” Barr contends that many of society’s ills are caused because of the breakdown of religion in society. “This is not decay,” he said. “This is organized destruction. Secular forces and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia, in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

American Troops Pulled Out of Turkey/Syrian Chaos

President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, where they had long kept an uneasy peace among competing forces, left the region in upheaval Sunday. Administration officials denied that the United States had “abandoned” its Syrian Kurdish allies to Turkish forces that invaded northern Syria Monday President Trump signaled Monday that “big sanctions” will hit Turkey in response to the NATO ally’s decision to bombard U.S.-allied Kurds in northern Syria. Tensions soared Wednesday with the House voting overwhelmingly with Republican support to rebuke President Trump. A subsequent confrontation at the White House led to Democratic leaders walking out on the president who they said had a “meltdown.” Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed Thursday to halt the invasion for five days while Kurdish fighters leave a safe zone in northern Syria while the United States facilitates the withdrawal of YPG (a mostly Kurdish militia) from the affected areas in the safe zone,” said Vice President Mike Pence. Fighting continued Friday morning in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces, despite the U.S.-brokered ceasefire that went into effect overnight. U.S. Troops are “largely” out of the region, said Trump on Thursday.

  • The Islamic State is still active in the area, and there are reports that Russian and Syrian forces are moving in as well. Hundreds of Islamic State supporters escaped from a displaced-persons camp in northern Syria on Sunday amid heavy clashes between invading Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters.
  • Hours after reaching an agreement with Kurdish forces, the Syrian Army entered a key town near the Turkish border — a significant shift in the power dynamic. The return of government forces to northeastern Syria deals a blow to Kurdish-led forces who had been supported by the United States.
  • Russian mercenary forces have begun sweeping in to fill a security void left by withdrawing U.S. troops in northern Syria, with a video online showing the Moscow-backed mercenaries taking control Tuesday of what was previously an American military outpost.
  • Officials are reviewing plans to evacuate up to 50 U.S. nuclear bombs that have long been stored at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The weapons are now essentially “hostage” to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a senior official told The New York Times on Monday. The Cold War-era B61 nuclear bombs are said to be 100-250 miles from the Syrian border.
  • Thousands of Christians, Kurds and Yazidis are fleeing parts of Syria. The group In Defense of Christians, said they are “deeply concerned for the Christian and Yazidi communities of Northeast Syria should the Republic of Turkey move into the region. “There are over 40,000 Christians in the Northeast,” the group said. Two Christians were reported killed and others wounded within hours of Turkey’s invasion.

Judge Blocks Plans to Build Border Wall

President Trump’s proclamation declaring a border wall emergency is illegal, a federal judge in Texas ruled Friday, throwing a new hurdle in front of the government’s plans to build hundreds of miles of new barriers. Judge David Briones, a Clinton appointee to the court, said Congress took clear steps to try to limit how much border wall Mr. Trump could build using money appropriated in fiscal year 2019, and the president’s attempt to funnel Pentagon funds toward wall construction is illegal. The administration argued a federal judge had no power to personally constrain the president, the head of a separate branch of government.

Immigration Numbers Way Down

Illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border tumbled in September, officials said Tuesday, saying the administration has solved the migration crisis by stopping Central Americans before they ever reach the border. The 144,000 people nabbed at the border in May fell to 52,546 migrants in September. At one point CBP was detaining 5,000 people a day. That’s now 1,700. The U.S. still posted the worst overall year in more than a decade, with the Border Patrol apprehending about 850,000 illegal immigrants in fiscal 2019, which ended Sept. 30. Officers at the ports of entry encountered about 125,000 more unauthorized migrants, for a combined illegal immigrant population of nearly 1 million.

Immigration Prosecutions at Record Level

The Justice Department set a record over the last fiscal year, prosecuting more criminal cases against illegal immigrants and migrant smugglers than any other year on record, officials announced Friday. However, the numbers are still a tiny fraction of the overall illegal activity at the border. With nearly 1 million unauthorized crosses in fiscal year 2019, the government still only charged about 106,000 people with either illegal entry or illegal re-entry after a previous deportation. Another 4,297 people were charged with migrant smuggling, harboring or otherwise assisting in the illegal traffic.

Trial Underway of Illegal Immigrant Terrorist

Abdulahi Hasan Sharif of Somalia had himself smuggled from Somalia through Brazil and Central America. Then he entered the United States over the Mexico-California border and claimed asylum in 2011, reports Judicial Watch. Sharif went on to Canada, where he conducted a double vehicle-ramming and stabbing rampage in 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta, that severely injured a police officer and four other people. He was carrying an Islamic State flag in one of the ramming vehicles. The 32-year-old Sharif is now on public trial in Canada, facing 11 counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and dangerous driving.

Mexicans Protest Detention Center in Mexicali

Nearly 200 residents gathered in Mexicali Monday night to protest the Mexican federal government’s plan to convert a shuttered grocery store into a shelter for asylum seekers who have been sent by United States officials to Mexico to await the resolution of their immigration cases. Mexicali residents said they aren’t racist, xenophobic or anti-immigrant. Rather, they said, they oppose the shelter because it could draw crime to the neighborhood, threaten the safety of area school children and draw down home prices. In response to the opposition, Abraham Salcido, a spokesman for the Mexican federal government in Baja California, said the northern state has always been “a land of migrants.” He said opponents’ concerns that the asylum seekers are bringing disease and insecurity to the border city are “not true.”

1,000 ‘False Families’ Detected at Border in DNA Tests

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday that over 1,000 “false families” that were apprehended crossing the southern border have been detected thanks to DNA testing. ICE acting director Matthew Albence criticize a federal judge for limiting the agency’s ability to ask local law enforcement to hold illegal immigrants until ICE can apprehend them. “This decision will threaten public safety as it will lead to the release of criminal aliens back onto the street,” Albence said, according to the Washington Times. The judge issued a permanent injunction that prevents ICE from using electronic databases when issuing detainers after determining that the agency’s databases weren’t reliable enough.

Police Suicides Rising

The suicide of a police officer in Montgomery County, Maryland, this week is part of a surge in law enforcement officers across the country taking their lives, prompting police departments to address concerns about the mental health of their members. Psychologists and police officials say a number of factors — such as increased scrutiny, mandatory overtime, perceived hostility and physical danger — contribute to the daily stress on officers. Officers can become disillusioned by the job and how their department treats them, which can begin a downward turn toward hopelessness.

Columbus Day Being Replaced by Native Americans Day

For many Americans, the second Monday in October is a celebration of Italian heritage and Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the Americas. But a growing number of cities, states and universities are abandoning ship and replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, also known as Native Americans Day. At least eight states, 10 universities and more than 130 cities across 34 states now observe Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to the federally recognized Columbus Day, which many say glorifies the mistreatment and colonization of Native Americans. Although Italian explorer Christopher Columbus is often credited as being the “discoverer” of the New World, millions of people already inhabited the Americas, and the Vikings had reached North America nearly five centuries earlier.

Closing of Arizona Coal Plant Hurts Navajos

The pending closure of a massive coal plant on the Navajo Nation isn’t measured only by better air quality or the cost savings for the power companies that own it, reports the Arizona Republic. The aftereffects include hundreds of jobs lost in an area where high-paying work is hard to find. The lives disrupted and families scattered. The looming shutdown of the Navajo Generating Station forced hundreds of utility employees to relocate to new jobs and put most of the region’s miners out of work when the Kayenta Mine that fueled it closed in August. Most are Native American. The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribes are now trying to fill gaping holes in their budgets while already high poverty rates and substance addiction are expected to rise.

Economic News

The stock market rallied again on Friday after President Trump said the United States and China reached a preliminary trade agreement. Trump, who met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He Friday afternoon, called the initial deal “substantial.” Details of the agreement are still emerging, but it includes a halt on U.S. tariff increases. Trump told reporters that intellectual property theft, currency matters and agricultural purchases are also included in the deal.

China’s growth dropped to its lowest level in nearly three decades as the world’s second largest economy continues to feel the pain from its trade conflict with the United States. The country’s gross domestic product grew at 6% between July and September. That’s the weakest quarterly growth rate since 1992, and down from 6.2% the previous quarter.

President Trump’s mission to revive America’s coal industry is failing. U.S. power plants are expected to consume less coal next year than at any point since President Jimmy Carter was in office, according to government forecasts. Although Trump has tried to boost coal by slashing environmental regulations and installing a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA, coal keeps losing ground to cleaner and cheaper alternatives. Power companies are rapidly retiring coal-fired power plants and replacing them with much cheaper natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy.

The sharp rise in home prices since the housing market bottomed in 2012 has made homes less affordable for most Americans, but the run-up has especially affected African Americans whose typical incomes have climbed more modestly. The median-income black household could afford just 25% of U.S. homes on the market last year, down from 39% in 2012, according to data provided exclusively to the USA Today by real estate brokerage Redfin. By contrast, median-income white households could afford 57% of homes for sale last year, down from 69% 7 years ago. Data from the 46 largest markets show that prices have increased by 70% since 2012.

More than three years after Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed a breakthrough deal Thursday with EU negotiators that will enable Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the bloc. Johnson said a “great new deal” had been reached. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said an outline deal was in place. The agreement still needs to be ratified by EU leaders and Britain’s Parliament.

The United States and China have a “fundamental agreement” in the first phase of addressing key elements of the ongoing trade war between the two countries, as “substantial progress” was made last week, says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who also warned of new tariffs on Dec. 15 if the deal fails. He went on to say that he would describe phase one of the deals as “quite substantial. As the president has said, as soon as we get phase one complete we’ll move to phase two.” President Donald Trump has postponed tariffs, which were to begin on Tuesday, on a remaining $300 billion in Chinese goods, but Mnuchin said the tariffs will still go into play if China does not agree to the current deal.

Persecution Watch

Christians are in grave peril in Nigeria. The jihadist militia Boko Haram – which has pledged allegiance to genocidal ISIS – just killed two more Christian aid workers in Nigeria, reports ACLJ. Worse, they have reportedly vowed to kill every believer they capture in the future. The Fulani Herdsmen – another jihadist group that has been targeting Christians for slaughter – reportedly just kidnapped 6 teenage girls from a Christian school. They also brutally murdered a Christian pastor’s wife.

Middle East

The U.S. announced on Friday that it is delivering more missile-defense systems and troops to Saudi Arabia. This decision intensifies a face-off with Iran-which has warned that an attack on the country would trigger an “all-out war.” The Islamic Republic would be a vastly different opponent than it was when the U.S. last targeted the country directly in 1988, officials note. Iran now has thousands of missiles, many of them able to reach Israel, into the Mediterranean and evade Saudi defenses. Iran, through Yemen, successfully attacked a Saudi Arabian military base a few weeks ago.

Iran

Iran will further reduce its commitment to the nuclear deal signed with world powers by limiting international inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites, senior Iranian MPs have said. The move, which is expected to take place at the beginning of November, will be the fourth Iranian step away from the deal, and puts pressure on France, Germany and the UK to make some form of counter-move. The joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 but Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, placing pressure on Europe to save the deal. The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday sharply escalated economic pressure on Turkey by filing fraud and money-laundering charges against the country’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade sanctions.

Saudi Arabia

The Pentagon announced that it plans to deploy nearly 2,000 troops to Saudi Arabia to boost defenses against Iran. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the move would place new fighter jets and air defense systems in Saudi Arabia to help a key ally confront what the Trump administration has described as a heightened threat from Iran. The deployment, which officials said would place roughly 1,800 additional troops in the Middle East, is the second troop increase related to recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

Afghanistan

A special U.N. report has described the severe impact of election-related violence on Afghanistan’s civilians, mainly from the Taliban’s campaign targeting its presidential election last month. The report released Tuesday says attacks aiming to disrupt the electoral process killed 85 people and wounded 373 others across the country. The number includes 277 civilian casualties, 28 killed of whom were killed Sep. 28 on the polling day. More than one-third of civilian casualties were children.

At least 62 people were killed in an explosion during Friday prayers in a mosque in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, according to a regional spokesman. 36 other people were wounded in the explosion in the Haska Mina district, near the border with Pakistan. No-one initially claimed responsibility for the explosion. A Taliban spokesperson said the group was not responsible.

Hong Kong

As street battles between protesters and police continue to escalate in Hong Kong, China’s authoritarian President Xi Jinping warned Sunday any further attempt to divide the country will literally be crushed. “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” he said. China has seen growing international pressure due to the escalating Hong Kong pro-democracy protests during the last four months. The demonstrations began in June over a contested extradition bill and have snowballed into a wide-ranging anti-government, anti-police and anti-China movement. On Monday, police in Hong Kong said a homemade, remote-controlled bomb intended to “kill or to harm” riot control officers was detonated as the police deployed against renewed street violence.

Japan

The same day that a 5.3 earthquake struck Japan off the coast of Tokyo, a tornado ripped through Ciba, a town north of Tokyo and typhoon Hagibus made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu Saturday, flooding streets and causing at least one death in its wake. Some 600,000 people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the typhoon and 8 million were warned that they may need to leave their homes. As of Monday, At least 55 people were killed, 16 were missing and about 100 were injured after Hagibus had blown through. Many places in southern and central Japan remained flooded or were covered with mud and debris left by torrential rains and overflowing rivers. The town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture southwest of Tokyo, received 36.32 inches of rain. More than 3,400 homes across the country were flooded, and 38,000 people remained in shelters in 17 prefectures.

Venezuela

The failing socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. At a U.N. General Assembly meeting in Geneva on Friday, the Latin American country was elected to one of 14 new seats on the 47-member body. Maduro’s government, BBC News reported, hailed it as an “important achievement.” But his administration is accused of jailing, torturing and arbitrarily arresting opposition figures. And more than 50 countries, including the United States, no longer recognize Maduro as the country’s legitimate leader.

Mexico

State police expected the worst when they ventured into the wild township of Aguililla to serve a single warrant. Commanders sent 42 officers in five trucks. It wasn’t enough. More than 30 suspected drug cartel gunmen were waiting for them Monday, some in vehicles that were apparently armored, prosecutors in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan said. Officials said the gunmen opened up on the police convoy with .50 caliber sniper rifles and AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles. Thirteen officers were killed, some of their bodies still inside the patrol trucks when the vehicles were set afire. Nine other officers were wounded. The attack – the worst on Mexican law enforcement in years – came in a state where violence blamed on drug gangs has jumped in recent months.

Environment

Carbon dioxide emissions from cars have risen in nearly every major United States city over the past three decades, despite increased sales of alternative fuel vehicles and a concerted effort by many communities to promote cleaner transportation. Orlando’s carbon dioxide emissions nearly doubled in that time. Atlanta’s went up by 87 percent. And Dallas-Fort Worth saw a 133 percent increase. The number of vehicle miles driven in passenger cars and light-duty trucks went up nearly 46 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to the EPA.

From the littered beaches of India to the vast waste dumps of the USA to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world is drowning in trash. The rate at which waste is  generated is increasing, according to the World Bank. Because of population growth and the expansion of urban areas, the amount of municipal solid waste that people generate will continue to rise.

Earthquakes

A strong, shallow earthquake shook parts of the southern Philippines Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring dozens. The U.S. Geological Survey rated the temblor at 6.4 magnitude. It was centered about 5 miles from Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat province, southwest of Davao City. A girl died after she was hit by a collapsed wall in a house in Maguindanao province. More than 20 people were injured by falling debris. Several relatively strong aftershocks were felt after the quake. Schools were to be closed on Thursday so officials could inspect buildings for damage.

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake was widely felt across the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday night. The Los Angeles Times reports moderate shaking was felt at 10:33pm with the epicenter in the Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek areas. The US Geological Survey says weak shaking was felt in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Scientists say they don’t expect any major structural damages. The earthquake had a preliminary depth of about 9 miles underneath the surface, fairly deep for this area.

A major southern California fault capable of producing a magnitude 8 temblor started to move for the first time in 500 years following a series of earthquakes in the Mojave Desert over the summer, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science. The study found that the Garlock Fault – which runs east to west for 185 miles from the San Andreas Fault to Death Valley – has slipped .8 inches since July. This is the first movement documented on the fault in modern history. Satellite images show the fault creep began after Southern California experienced its largest earthquake sequence in two decades beginning on July 4. A magnitude 6.4 foreshock rocked the Mojave Desert about 120 miles north of Los Angeles before a magnitude 7.1 mainshock hit the next day in addition to more than 100,000 aftershocks.

Wildfires

The number of fires in the Amazon rainforest decreased by 35% in September. Even so, there were 19,925 fire outbreaks in September on the Brazilian part of the rainforest, which accounts for nearly 65% of the Amazon basin. Moreover, through the first nine months of the year, the number of fires soared by 41% compared to the same period in 2018. The primary cause is deforestation through the systematic chopping down of trees, which are either logged or burned, mostly to convert the land for raising cattle and growing crops. About 20% of the Brazilian portion of the rainforest has been cleared since 1970.

Of the estimated 738,000 homes and businesses that had electricity cut off by Pacific Gas & Electric last week, only a few dozen were without power by this week. Flames from the Saddleridge Fire, which started about 9 p.m. local time last Thursday in Sylmar, crossed over the 210 Freeway and later the 5 Freeway. The fire spread to about 8,391 acres this Thursday in the northern foothills of the San Fernando Valley and was 62% contained. Dozens of homes were destroyed and 100,000 people were forced to evacuate. At least two deaths were being blamed on the fire.

The Decker fire continues to burn in the Rio Grand National Forest in Colorado, consuming 8,570 acres as of Thursday. It is 30% contained. Active fire behavior continues with wind-driven runs, torching and spotting. Numerous structures are threatened, two have been destroyed. Evacuations and road closures remain in effect.

Weather

More than 500,000 people were without power Thursday morning as a bomb cyclone brought rain and heavy winds to the Northeast U.S. “Bomb cyclone,” is a term some meteorologists use to classify surface lows whose pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. Schools were closed or delayed in dozens of locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. There were also widespread closures and delays in Connecticut. Trees and powerlines were downed in at least seven eastern states, especially in southeast New England, where wind gusts up to 90 mph were clocked overnight.

A crippling snowstorm brought high winds and drifting snow to parts of the Northern Plains. Portions of at least two interstate highways in North Dakota were shut down last Friday as officials warned people to stay home and avoid all non-emergency travel. I-94 was closed westbound from Bismarck to Fargo, and eastbound from Bismarck to Valley City. I-29 was closed in both directions between Grand Forks and the Canadian border. A portion of U.S. Highway 2 was also closed. Between 50 and 100 cars were stuck for hours due to three trucks that had jackknifed. “I’m expecting massive crop losses – as devastating as we’ve even seen,” Jon Nelson, a state lawmaker. “The extraordinary intensity of this early winter storm threatens to test the limits of local response capabilities across a large portion of our state,” Gov. Doug Burgum said.

  • In Denver, Colorado, the temperature dropped 64 degrees from 3pm last Wednesday to 9am the next morning, one of the biggest temperature drops in history.

Signs of the Times

October 9, 2019

­­For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-21)

Judge Overturns Ban on Same-Sex Counseling

A federal judge has torpedoed the city of Tampa’s attempt to block licensed counselors from helping patients overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. Similar laws have been defeated in other jurisdictions. In Tampa, U.S. District Judge William Jung granted summary judgment to Liberty Counsel in its lawsuit against Tampa’s ordinance prohibiting “licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.” The ordinance, the judge said, “is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.” The judge’s ruling eliminates the potential for counselors to be fined for providing the therapy their clients seek. Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is a great victory for counselors and clients.”

Hundreds of Transgenders Wish They Hadn’t Changed

Transgenders – by the “hundreds” – are fed up with their lifestyle choice and are wanting to return to living as their birth gender, prompting the creation of an advocacy network to help them, according to a new report from the Christian Institute. According to the institute, former trans Charlie Evans said: “I’m in communication with 19- and 20-year-olds who have had full gender reassignment surgery who wish they hadn’t, and their dysphoria hasn’t been relieved, they don’t feel better for it. Evans, who was born female but lived as a man for nearly a decade, just last year accepted her true sex and went public about it. “Many people similarly discouraged have contacted her, by the “hundreds,” she said. So, she launched the Detransition Advocacy Network, which is providing help to those who want to live as their birth sex.

200,000 Students Expected to ‘Stand for Christ’ on Football Fields

Hundreds of thousands of students are joining together Wednesday on football fields across the nation to encourage their peers to pray, worship, read their Bibles, and commit their lives to Christ. Fields of Faith, a student-led ministry outreach part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) that started in 2004, has seen thousands of kids and young adults tackle tough topics and turn their lives around at the event. Students at over 500 fields nationwide will be helping their peers face challenges such as hopelessness, loneliness, depression, suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more with the hope of Christ. “In a world where bad news seems to be the norm, we’re happy to share the great news that lives are being changed through Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Fields of Faith,” Jeff Martin, FCA executive director said.

Supreme Court to Review Louisiana Abortion Regulations

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will take up the case of Louisiana’s admitting privileges law, which could have the potential of upending the high court’s most recent pro-abortion precedents. The case concerns Louisiana’s Act 620, which requires abortion centers to make arrangements for admitting women to hospitals within 30 miles in cases of life-threatening complications. A ruling is likely to be handed down during the already-contentious 2020 election year, in which abortion and judicial nominations will be major issues for both President Donald Trump and his Democrat opponent. It’s an open question whether a majority would take the opportunity to make a broader determination as to the underlying legitimacy of Roe v. Wade.

Aggressive Climate Change Protests Hit Europe, Australia

A group of extreme climate change activists around the globe has brought parts of London, France, Germany, and Australia to a standstill as they aggressively push politicians to cut carbon emissions. In London alone, the actions of the Extinction Rebellion group led to 319 arrests. Climate protesters in Australia and New Zealand also blocked roads, entered banks and energy companies on Monday. In Sydney, police were seen dragging elderly people and men in suits through the crowds as massive groups blocked roads in and out of the city. In all, police in Australia arrested about 30 people. In Britain, the aim of the group is to force the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025. Currently, Britain’s target is 2050.

Immigration Update

Immigrants who can’t prove they have health coverage will be denied visas, White House says. Starting Nov. 3, visas will be denied for immigrants who “will financially burden” the U.S. health-care system, according to a proclamation issued by President Trump. Foreign nationals must prove that they have insurance or can cover their own health costs before entering the United States, the White House said. The new rule comes as President Trump is intensifying his efforts to fulfill his campaign promises to curb immigration.

U.N. Sounds Alarm Over Cash Crisis

The United Nations is facing its worst cash crisis in nearly a decade and is warning that it may be unable to pay its bills by the end of the month, while urging member states to pay their contributions to the world body immediately. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote to member states this week, saying that as of the end of September, they have only paid 70 percent of budget contributions. While the U.S. is one of the countries that have not paid its contribution in full, an official from the U.S. Mission to the U.N. told Fox News that is in part because of differences in U.S. and U.N. fiscal years. “To date this year, we have contributed over $600 million to UN peacekeeping operations, and will be providing the vast majority of the $674 million we owe to the 2019 regular budget this fall, as we have in past years,” the official said. “Overall the United States, as the largest contributor to the UN, contributes roughly $10 billion annually in assessed and voluntary contributions across the United Nations system.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods Destroyed $5M Worth of Firearms

Dick’s Sporting Goods has destroyed $5 million of the chain’s gun inventory, its CEO said. After finding out that Dick’s had sold the Parkland shooter a shotgun, CEO Edward Stack decided last year the company would no longer sell firearm to anyone under 21. Dick’s announced it would destroy its inventory of weapons, rather than allow them to be sold by another retailer. Since then, about $5 million of the chain’s gun inventory has been turned into scrap metal, Stack said. Stack is a hunter and gun owner who believes strongly in the Second Amendment. The company, which his father started as a fish-and-tackle shop in 1948. Stack said the controversial decision cost his company about a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue.

Economic News

The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The deficit was $205 billion more than the previous fiscal year, an increase of 26 percent in just one year.

A survey released by the National Association for Business Economics lowered growth expectations for next year to below 2%, citing protectionism, trade uncertainty and slowing global growth. The New York Fed has lowered its fourth-quarter GDP forecast to just 1.3% growth.

In September, manufacturing lost 2,000 jobs. Over the past year, Pennsylvania has lost more than 7,700 jobs in manufacturing and Wisconsin has shed more than 5,200.

Gasoline prices have spiked in California, soaring well above what most Americans are paying at the pump. In some locations, Californians are paying $5 for a gallon of gas. A number of refinery outages tightened gas supply in the market. The average price of regular gas in California rose to $4.18 a gallon, the highest level since May 13, 2014. The national average is currently $2.65 a gallon.

Persecution Watch

Six Christians on their way to church in Batticaloa district, Sri Lanka were attacked and beaten with sticks by around ten villagers on 21 September, in one of a series of incidents of intimidation and harassment targeted at believers in less than two weeks. Five of the Christians were so badly injured that they were admitted to hospital. Local sources said the pastor and congregation have faced continuous harassment this year from the same group of villagers in Kalkudah. Two of the mob of attackers were arrested. Christians faced violent intimidation on 14 September when 15 police officers together with six Buddhist monks and around 100 villagers descended on Zion Revival Church, Gampaha district and demanded that Christians stop conducting worship services. On 11 September, a pastor in Passara, Badulla district, was told that three villagers had petitioned against the construction of the Assemblies of God church and his request for financial help from the Passara local authorities was blocked. This was despite the church having already received all necessary approvals for construction.

Syria

The White House announced Sunday evening that United States forces in northern Syria would move aside in advance of a planned Turkish military offensive. The move marks a major shift in US foreign policy and effectively gives Turkey the green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces. The group, long considered as among Washington’s most reliable partners in Syria, has played a key strategic role in the campaign against ISIS in the region. Following a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said that Turkey would soon begin a military offensive and US forces would not be involved in the operation. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a statement said. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.” American-backed Kurdish-led fighters in northeast Syria accused President Trump of a “stab in the back.”

  • Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s strongest Republican defenders in Congress, blasted Trump Monday over the decision saying it was “shortsighted and irresponsible.” Graham said, “This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I’m an ISIS fighter I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated you will soon see,” Graham said during an interview on Fox News.” Pat Roberson also denounced this Trump decision saying Trump could well lose his “mandate from heaven.”

Turkey

A planned Turkish military operation in northern Syria has now begun, the country’s president announced Wednesday, as Kurdish fighters say warplanes are already bombing civilian areas in the region. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that the maneuvers being carried out against Syrian Kurdish forces – which Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey – are part of Operation Peace Spring.”Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” he said in a tweet. The move comes in defiance of international criticism and just days after President Donald Trump announced U.S. troops supporting Kurdish forces in the area would be pulled back from the border zone. Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government’s chief spokesman, said Turkey seeks to “neutralize” Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria and to “liberate the local population from the yoke of the armed thugs.”

  • The Kurds were U.S. allies in the successful campaign to dismantle ISIS

Germany

Two people have been killed following a shooting rampage near a synagogue in the eastern German town of Halle, according to local police. One woman was killed close to the town’s synagogue around midday local time on Wednesday, before a gunman opened fire at a kebab shop roughly 600 meters away, fatally wounding a man. A police search for the perpetrators is now underway. At least one person is on the run and local residents were urged to seek safety, as the attack may have involved as many as three suspects. Several people were also injured in what local authorities described as a “rampage.” The incident near the synagogue comes on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

France

France has been rocked by a security breach that allowed an Islamist extremist to work in the heart of its counterterrorism apparatus for years, before he killed four of his colleagues last week. Mickaël Harpon, a 45-year-old convert to Islam, was allowed to continue working in the intelligence division of the Paris police, despite arguing with colleagues in 2015 that the terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was justified. Harpon’s colleagues mentioned the conversation to their superiors, but he wasn’t flagged in France’s security database that tracks extremists across the nation.

Russia

Western security officials say they have uncovered the existence of an elite Russian military intelligence unit dedicated to destabilizing Europe, the New York Times reports. The officials say Unit 29155 was behind a coup attempt in Montenegro, an effort to cause a political crisis in Moldova, and attempts to assassinate a Bulgarian arms dealer, as well as last year’s poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain. Officials say the top-secret unit, part of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, has been operating for at least a decade, but European security agencies only recently realized that incidents thought to have been unrelated operations had been carried out by the unit as part of a wide-ranging mission to undermine the West.

Iran

China National Petroleum Corp. has pulled out of a $5 billion natural-gas project in Iran as escalating tensions threaten to sever Beijing’s trade with Tehran, a key lifeline for the Islamic Republic. The exit by Beijing, which had vowed to resist U.S. restrictions on Iran, is a blow to Tehran’s attempts to fight growing economic isolation and comes after Washington brought new sanctions on Chinese companies still trading with Iran.

China

China demanded Washington lift sanctions on Chinese tech companies and warned Wednesday that it will “resolutely safeguard” the country’s interests. The Ministry of Commerce criticized curbs imposed on sales of U.S. technology to a group of Chinese companies as interference in the country’s affairs. American officials say those companies provide technology used to repress Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. “We strongly urge the United States to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang, stop interfering with China’s internal affairs and remove relevant Chinese entities from the Entity List as soon as possible,” a ministry statement said. “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard Chinese interests.” Despite the spike in tension, the ministry said Tuesday that a trade delegation was going ahead with a trip to Washington for talks aimed at ending the tariff war.

Hong Kong

The semi-autonomous Chinese city is in its 18th consecutive week of anti-government protests. The unrest has grown increasingly violent on both sides, with protesters using petrol bombs and setting fires, and police firing tear gas and water cannons. During citywide protests on October 1, police used lethal force for the first time, after protesters attacked several officers. According to a survey by the University of Hong Kong in June, nearly half of the city’s population is considering leaving. The city’s young professionals don’t just want to move, they want to move soon. YouGov’s survey found that a quarter of those who want to migrate are likely to do so within the next three years. Government data provided to CNN shows that the number of applications for a certificate that is necessary for Hong Kongers applying for visas overseas surged over 50% from May to August.

Japan

Japan’s fertility crisis is worsening, with data from the first seven months of this year showing the sharpest drop in births in 30 years, according to preliminary government data. Births fell 5.9% from January to July year over year, as the pool of women of childbearing age shrinks and more women delay having children or decide not to have them at all, figures from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare show. Japan’s birth rate has been falling since the late 1970s. In 2005, it reached a record low of 1.26 per woman, but then seemed to be on a path of recovery until it started to fall again in 2016, according to government figures. By 2018, it was at 1.42. Another cause for Japan’s declining birth rate is the fall in marriage rates, with having children outside of wedlock still frowned upon.

  • To maintain a stable population, countries need a fertility rate of 2.1. Last year, it was 1.72 in the United States but only 0.98 — or less than one baby per woman — in South Korea, where fertility rates have fallen to their lowest level since records began.

Ecuador

Ecuador’s president is accusing his political rivals of trying to orchestrate a coup this week after violent protests tied to rising fuel prices forced his government to relocate away from the country’s capital. Officials say about 350 people have been detained so far for blocking traffic, interrupting public services or attacking police following President Lenín Moreno’s decision to end government subsidies that have been keeping fuel prices down. Moreno says the subsidies have cost the government heavily in recent years and dropped them in a bid to stimulate Ecuador’s economy. “[This] is not a protest of social dissatisfaction faced with a government decision but the looting, vandalism and violence show there is an organized political motive to destabilize the government,” the embattled leader said

Mexico

Eleven people were arrested in southern Mexico on Tuesday after the mayor of their village was dragged out of his office, beaten, and then tied to a pickup truck and dragged through the streets of the town, according to officials. The State’s Attorney General’s Office in Tuxtla Gutiérre said in a news release that the incident happened early Tuesday in the town of Las Margaritas, when a group of people stormed Mayor Jorge Luis Escandón Hernández’s office. The angry group of farmers was demanding the mayor build a road he promised to construct during his campaign. State police were eventually able to rescue the mayor and said Hernandez was “safe and sound.” The incident caused a brawl between the locals and the police, leaving at least 20 injured and 11 arrested. This was the second attack this year by locals demanding the mayor fulfill his campaign promise to build the road.

Pestilence

An outbreak of a deadly and rare brain disease has killed at least 11 people in the United States so far this year. Scientists say the mosquito-borne illness, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), may be worse because of unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s one of just several diseases scientists worry are being affected by climate change. The nation’s changing climate patterns are bringing heatwaves, flooding, warming waters and droughts. These in turn alter the environment and the microbes, viruses and insects that inhabit it in ways that can cause them to increase or appear in new areas and at different times than before. The mosquitoes which transmit the EEE virus thrive in warmer temperatures and die off at the first hard frost. Earlier springs, later falls and hotter months in between contribute to higher mosquito populations and the greater chance of infection.

Wildfires

Power is being shut off to nearly 800,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers in California due to the threat of wildfires. Schools and universities were closed in some areas and residents stocked up on groceries, batteries and gas ahead of the blackouts, which PG&E said could last as long as five days. The preemptive outage stands to be one of the largest in the state’s history as windy, dry conditions raise the risk for wildfires in the coming days. Many of those affected are in the San Francisco Bay area and the northern part of the state, including San Jose, Oakland, Fremont, Santa Rosa, Hayward, Berkeley and San Mateo. In all, parts of some 34 counties in northern, central and coastal California face blackouts. The utility said the shutoffs were based on a fire weather watch from the National Weather Service. Winds up to 65 mph were expected in some areas, prompting the NWS to issue alerts for elevated, critical and extreme wildfire chances across large swaths of the state.

Gusty winds and dry conditions could send smoke plumes from the Decker fire in Colorado skyward, unfurling embers across the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, authorities say. The 6,326-acre wildfire, which started from a lightning strike Sept. 8, remained only 5% contained. It’s now burning 2 miles south of Salida, a city of about 5,200 people in Chaffee County. On Saturday, 300 people and 130 houses were evacuated from several subdivisions. However, some of those mandatory evacuations have now been lifted.

Weather

Portions of the central USA will feel downright winterlike over the next few days as a potent snowstorm and bitter cold take aim on the region. The powerful system is expected to produce heavy snow, as much as 12 inches, from the north-central Rockies into the northern Plains. Winter storm warnings and watches are already widespread across the region, all the way from Idaho to Minnesota. Significant travel impacts, tree damage and sporadic power outages will be possible where the heaviest snow occurs. Temperatures will also plunge by as much as 60 degrees in the span of 12 to 24 hours as the cold air swiftly replaces preceding mild conditions.

The Earth just had its warmest September on record. The past five years have been the warmest since modern records began in the 1880s, according to NASA. Globally, September 2019 was roughly 1.02 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average from 1981-2010. Regions with the most markedly above average temperatures included the central and eastern USA, the Mongolian plateau and parts of the Arctic. Much below average temperatures were only recorded in a few regions, including southwestern Russia and parts of Antarctica.

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

Signs of the Times

October 4, 2019

­­Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

500,000 Students Participated in Bring Your Bible to School Day

More than half a million students from across the United States will join the Bring Your Bible to School movement on Thursday, Oct. 3, reports Breaking Christian News. The annual student-led event, now in its sixth year, provides a unique opportunity for young people to share about their faith by highlighting its source—the Bible. This year, NFL Saints quarterback Drew Brees partnered with Focus on the Family to promote Bring Your Bible to School Day. “I took my Bible and sat it in my desk all day. I had a few kids… ask me about my faith and it was a great conversation. But I think the best experience I had was when my favorite teacher and I had a very awesome in-depth conversation about faith that didn’t turn into an argument but it ended up something we both agreed on. I plan on carrying my Bible with me every day at school now,” said 17-year-old Savvy.

Judge Hands Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Major Victory

In a stunning decision, a federal judge has ruled that officials at the University of Iowa violated the law when they kicked InterVarsity Christian Fellowship off their campus and that they are personally responsible for costs incurred by InterVarsity in defending its rights. InterVarsity had been on the University of Iowa campus for over 25 years. But in 2018, the University expelled the group from the campus for insisting that anyone in leadership must affirm its Christian beliefs. The University claimed that requirement was discriminatory. In the ruling last Friday, the court held that the University’s religious discrimination was so egregious that the officers involved—and possibly even the University’s president—would be personally accountable for any money InterVarsity lost fighting to stay on campus. “No group—religious or secular—could survive with leaders who reject its values,” noted the Becket Fund, the religious liberty law group who defended InterVarsity.

$33.6 Million of Planned Parenthood’s Funding Allocated to ‘Legitimate Health Care Groups’

The Trump administration has officially sent some of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding this past week to legitimate health care groups that provide tangible health care instead of abortions. Planned Parenthood refuses to follow a new Trump administration rule that requires it to segment out its abortion business from legitimate health care if it wants federal funding under the Title X program. Because the abortion giant is withdrawing from Title X, the $60 million in taxpayer dollars it received annually can be redistributed to groups that engage in legitimate women’s health care. “Today, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) announced $33.6 million in fiscal year 2019 funding awards to 50 current Title X grantees in order to supplement their family planning services… Today’s awards prioritize unserved and underserved jurisdictions and low-income individuals.

Legislators/Parents Fight Back Against Graphic Sex Ed for Kindergartners

“I dare you… Hold up the textbook in front of the camera and show them a picture of what 10-year-olds are going to be asked to see.” That was Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers’s (R) challenge to reporters, when they asked him about his fierce response to the radical Left’s sex ed. He pointed to a book, called It’s Perfectly Normal, that isn’t normal at all – “unless you’re one of those rare individuals who think teaching anal sex to five-year-olds is a good idea,” notes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “I couldn’t even read the manual to you over the radio,” State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Ariz.) told Perkins on “Washington Watch” Monday. “When [they] talk about comprehensive sex education,” she warned, “that’s exactly what they mean. It’s very comprehensive, very detailed—they leave nothing out… the only reason for that is because you are… giving them information to help sexualize them.” Outside groups like Planned Parenthood and GLSEN are trying to strip the state’s ban on “abnormal, deviate, or unusual sexual acts and practices” — and parents on both sides are furious. “These programs are going against the vast majority of parents—and what parents want taught to their children about this subject,” Senator Allen says. “In Arizona, we have local control over curriculum. So that means parents have got to be active in their school district to see what their school district might want to propose on this subject.” These outside groups “are counting on parents’ ignorance to push this agenda through,” notes Perkins. In Minnesota, hundreds of parents rallied against a new sex education proposal that is being considered in their state, which Planned Parenthood was promoting.

  • Planned Parenthood has been boasting lately about being the largest sex education provider in America.

Images of Child Sex Abuse Double on the Internet

Last year, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year. Each image documents a crime. More than a decade ago, when the reported number was less than a million, the proliferation of the explicit imagery had already reached a crisis point. Tech companies, law enforcement agencies and legislators in Washington responded, committing to new measures meant to rein in the scourge. Landmark legislation passed in 2008. Yet the explosion in detected content kept growing — exponentially. As with hate speech and terrorist propaganda, many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it, reports the New York Times. FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday that Facebook’s proposal to encrypt its popular messaging program would turn the platform into a “dream come true for predators and child pornographers.”

Teacher Fired over Transgender Pronouns Sues School

West Point High School French teacher Peter Vlaming is a soft-spoken man who was well loved by his students. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He was just looking to do his job. But when the school demanded that he use male pronouns for a biological girl student who had decided to identify as a transgender boy, Mr. Vlaming was faced with the choice: follow his beliefs and potentially lose his job — or violate his beliefs and keep it. Mr. Vlaming explained to the school that, as a Christian, he believes that God made humans male and female, and that a girl cannot become a boy. He tried to work with the school. He even agreed to call the student by her new masculine name. The school board fired him by unanimous vote. For insubordination. Now, he’s suing the school for wrongful termination.

U.K. Doctor Fired Over Transgender Pronouns

A seasoned British doctor lost his government job as a medical assessor after more than three decades because he refused to renounce his Christian belief that gender is determined at birth. Dr. David Mackereth, 56, a National Health Service employee, was fired from his post at the Department for Work and Pensions in July because he would not use a transgender pronoun, saying he believes “gender is defined by biology and genetics” and the “Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female.” This week he lost his case before an Employment Tribunal in England, where the judge ruled his beliefs were “incompatible with human dignity.”

Gender Dysphoria Proving Deadly To Thousands

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has documented thousands of deaths linked to the puberty-blocking drugs now increasingly given to children who claim to suffer from gender dysphoria (i.e. the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity to be at variance with one’s biological sex). Between 2013 and June 2019, FDA recorded 41,213 adverse events, including 6,379 deaths and 25,645 “serious” reactions in patients who took the hormone blocker known as Lupron. Lupron, is clinically approved for treatment of prostate cancer in men, endometriosis in women. Lupron is also being used — without formal FDA approval — as a puberty blocker on the increasing number of children and adolescents who are being diagnosed in the U.S. and the U.K. with gender dysphoria. This is being done — with the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society — despite the fact there is no evidence that such hormonal treatments actually benefit children and adolescents. Complications related to the drug’s use include malignant tumors, cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and blood clots, suicidal behavior and other psychological disorders, brittle bones and painful joints, and sterility. In 2017, AbbVie, which produces Lupron, sales of the drug were $669 million in the United States alone.

  • Once again, drug companies win at the expense of human lives – but this time, they are also messing with God’s biological order of creation.

Johnson & Johnson Settles Opioid Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday announced it had reached an agreement worth more than $20 million with two Ohio counties, becoming the latest company to settle a lawsuit to get out of the first federal trial over the nation’s opioids crisis. The deal with Cuyahoga and Summit counties comes a little more than a month after an Oklahoma judge ordered the health care conglomerate to pay $572 million over its marketing of opioids in that state, It was announced less than three weeks before the scheduled start of the first federal trial over the opioid crisis. Four other opioid makers also have reached settlements in recent months and won’t be defendants in the trial, scheduled for federal court in Cleveland. Like most of the others, Johnson & Johnson still faces some 2,000 other lawsuits related to the nation’s opioids epidemic.

Vaping is Destroying Lungs

Doctors still aren’t sure exactly what has caused a spate of vaping-related deaths and illnesses around the country—but they know it is doing horrific damage to people’s lungs. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say tests of lung tissue from 17 patients show a pattern of injury that looks like “toxic chemical exposure” of the kind seen in victims of chemical weapon attacks or industrial accidents, resembling mustard gas attacks exposure. The Mayo Clinic study found that “toxic chemical fumes,” not oils, may be to blame for the illnesses. “Their lungs and airways have been torched.” surgical pathologist Brandon T. Larsen told some patients, and they “will not recover and will end up dying,” Others are likely to suffer chronic respiratory problems.

Trump’s Immigration Agenda Suffers String of Losses

In just a span of several hours, a judge in California ruled against the administration’s plan to detain migrant families indefinitely, another California judge blocked ICE from relying solely on  databases when issuing detainer requests, and shortly before midnight, a Washington judge barred fast-track removals of illegal aliens. All three federal judges were appointed by former President Obama, revealing the heavy weight judicial appointments play in the fight over immigration policy. The Trump administration hit back hard against the string of rulings. “For two and a half years, the Trump Administration has been trying to restore enforcement of the immigration laws passed by Congress. And for two and a half years, misguided lower court decisions have been preventing those laws from ever being enforced—at immense cost to the whole country,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement over the weekend.

Percent of Foreign-Born in U.S. at Record High

Confirming the largest ethnic shift in more than a century, the U.S. Census Bureau released a survey finding a record 13.7% of the U.S. population, about 44.7 million people, were born in another country. It found that about 22 million of the foreign-born residents were not U.S. citizens. The majority of the non-U.S. born residents came from Latin America. The foreign-born resident rate has surged in California, Texas, Florida and New York, about 15% higher than elsewhere in the country. In 2018, the Trump administration proposed restoring the citizenship question, arguing it was “necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters.” The Supreme Court dealt the administration a setback, ruling the Department of Commerce had failed to provide an adequate reason for restoring the question.

Immigration Court Backlog Exceeds 1 Million Cases

The immigration court backlog now exceeds 1 million cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks immigration court data. Immigration courts, which fall under the Justice Department and decide whether to deport immigrants, have been bogged down over the years as more cases are added to the docket that can be addressed at any given time. President Trump has repeatedly criticized the nation’s immigration system, specifically taking issue with the practice of releasing immigrants while they await their court dates. To remedy that, his administration has sought to hire more immigration judges in the hopes of unclogging the court. Even so, the number of cases has continued to tick upward. The American Bar Association has previously proposed a major overhaul of the US immigration system, calling the courts “irredeemably dysfunctional.”

No Climate Emergency, Hundreds of Scientists Tell U.N.

Lost amid the coverage of Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg at last week’s U.N. Global Climate Summit were the 500 international scientists, engineers and other stakeholders sounding a very different message: “There is no climate emergency.” The European Climate Declaration, spearheaded by the Amsterdam-based Climate Intelligence Foundation [CLINTEL], described the leading climate models as “unfit” and urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to pursue a climate policy based on “sound science.” “Current climate policies pointlessly and grievously undermine the economic system, putting lives at risk in countries denied access to affordable, reliable electrical energy,” said the Sept. 23 letter signed by professionals from 23 countries. “We urge you to follow a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation,” the letter said.

European Court Forces Facebook to Remove Content

The top European court has ruled Facebook and other internet companies can be forced to remove certain content worldwide. The case revolves around an Austrian politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, who sought to have Facebook remove disparaging comments about her that had been posted on an Irish person’s page. The European Court of Justice ruled that Facebook must remove that information as well as block access to that it worldwide. . Europe has fewer guarantees of free speech and much more restrictive laws related to privacy. This is not purely a European issue for internet companies such as Facebook and Google, since the ruling demands worldwide compliance. Social media platforms are under increasing attention and criticism for the role they play in spreading false information, especially as it relates to elections and political discourse. There have been hearings in Washington DC and even calls to break-up major tech companies

Half of Californians Want to Leave

Just over half of California’s registered voters have considered leaving the state, with soaring housing costs cited as the most common reason for wanting to move, according to a new poll. Young voters were especially likely to cite unaffordable housing as a reason for leaving, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times. But a different group, conservatives, also frequently suggested they wanted to leave — and for a very different reason: They feel alienated from the state’s political culture.

World Trade Organization Authorizes $7.5B in Tariffs Against EU

The World Trade Organization has authorized President Trump to impose tariffs on roughly $7.5 billion worth of European goods, capping a 15-year transatlantic dispute over illegal subsidies to aircraft maker Airbus. The ruling opens the door to a major escalation in a broader trade war between the White House and the European Union  The record award from the WTO green-lights the Trump administration to slap countermeasures on the 28-member EU bloc. However, WTO arbitrators are expected to rule next year on how much the EU can impose in tariffs following a separate decision that went against Boeing. The U.S. has already announced plans to impose tariffs on EU cheeses, olives, whiskey, as well as aircraft and aircraft parts.

Trump’s Tariffs on China Bring in $35 Billion

President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Chinese products over the Asian superpower’s “unfair” trade practices has brought in tens of billions of dollars, prompting Republican lawmakers to propose ways to pass along the windfall to American taxpayers. Special levies on China, known as Section 301 duties, have brought in about $35 billion since they were imposed in July 2018 to combat Beijing’s “harmful industrial policies.” “We used to get most of our revenue from tariffs. But it’s very unusual because for the last 80 years tariffs have been a declining source of revenue, so this is the first time [in recent history] it’s been a rising source of revenue,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Economic News

The unemployment rate fell from 3.7% to 3.5%, the lowest since December 1969, the Labor Department said Friday. However, hiring slowed in September as employers added 136,000 jobs, doing little to ease recession concerns and at least opening the door to another Federal Reserve rate cut as early as this month. Partly offsetting the weak showing: Job gains for July and August were revised up by a total 45,000. July’s additions were upgraded from 159,000 to 166,000 and August’s from 130,000 168,000. Average hourly earnings edged down 1 cent to $28.09, pushing down the annual gain from 3.2% to 2.9%.

U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for the second month in a row in September, falling to a level not seen in 10 years. The Institute of Supply Management’s closely-watched manufacturing index dropped to 47.8 in September, its lowest level since June 2009. The index measures month-to-month changes in the industry. A reading above 50 denotes growth in the sector. “Global trade remains the most significant issue, as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019,” said Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee.

The retail apocalypse over the past several years has devastated America’s department stores, chains and mom-and-pops. Stores are closing at record levels. U.S. retailers this year have already announced more than 8,200 store closings — well above the previous record of 6,700 in 2017, according to Coresights Research. By year’s end, the annual tally could reach 12,000. And all of that has happened at a time when the economy was strong. But if the United States slips into a recession, as many economists fear it will sometime next year, the problems plaguing retail could get far worse. Store closings could accelerate and layoffs in the sector — a major provider of American jobs — could spread.

  • Many non-retail companies have also been announcing layoffs, including HP (Hewlett Packard), Ford Motor Company, Uber, John Deere, Bayou Steel, Daimler Trucks of North America, Genesis Healthcare and many others.

The federal government has once again dramatically expanded its exposure to risky mortgages, echoing concerns from before the Great Recession. Federal agencies have taken steps over the past four years that have cleared the way for companies to issue home loans that many borrowers might not be able to repay in a downturn, reports the Washington Post. This risk is the direct result of pressure from the lending industry, consumer groups and political appointees, who clamored for the government to intervene when homeownership rates fell several years ago.

The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline slipped by 1.9 cents per gallon last week to reach $2.64, according to industry analysts at GasBuddy. That price remains well above the $2.56 average just before the drone attack on two major Saudi Arabian processing plants but down from the peak of $2.68 reached following the attack.

Knifing Attacks in France & Finland

A French law enforcement official went on a knife rampage at police headquarters in Paris on Thursday, killing four officers and injuring others before being fatally shot. The 20-year police employee worked as an administrator in the intelligence unit and had not posed known problems until Thursday’s rampage. The attack came one day after thousands of French police officers joined a “march of anger” in Paris to protest what they claim are poor working conditions and to draw attention to an increase in suicides. The attacker was a recent convert to Islam.

A knife-wielding man, also armed with a gun, killed at least one person and injured 9 more Tuesday afternoon during a “violent attack” at a mall in central Finland, Authorities in Kuopio detained one person, described as a Finnish national. The knifing attack that took place at the Savon Vocational School, which is located inside the Hermann shopping center. Local media reported that the man was believed to be a student at the school.

Middle East

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Monday that destroying arch-rival Israel has become an “achievable goal” thanks to his country’s technological advances. “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer… a dream (but) it is an achievable goal,” Major General Hossein Salami said, quoted by the Guards’ Sepah news site. Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the imposter Zionist regime”, he said.

The conflict between Iran and the U.S. has created tensions throughout much of the Middle East. Now, the effect are also being felt in Lebanon, where Washington has slapped sanctions on the Iran-backed Hezbollah and warned they could soon expand to its allies, further deepening Lebanon’s country’s economic crisis. The Trump administration has intensified sanctions on the Lebanese militant group and institutions linked to it to unprecedented levels, targeting lawmakers for the first time as well as a local bank that Washington claims has ties to the group.

Iran

Iran will continue reducing its commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal until it reaches the “desired result,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, according to his official website. “We will continue the reduction of commitments,” Khamenei said in a meeting with commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards. “The responsibility is with the Atomic Energy Organization and they must be carry out the reduction …in a precise, complete and comprehensive way and continue until the time we reach a desired result.”

Syria

American counterterrorism officials are voicing increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow. The rise of this latest Qaeda branch in Syria, as well as the operations of other Qaeda affiliates in West Africa, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, underscore the terrorist group’s enduring threat despite the death of Osama bin Laden and being largely eclipsed in recent years by the Islamic State as the terrorist group of choice of global jihadis. The new Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, emerged in early 2018 after several factions broke away from a larger affiliate in Syria.

Afghanistan

The Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on a district headquarters in a remote district in northern Afghanistan early on Tuesday, killing at least 11 policemen. Taliban attacks have continued unabated even as Afghanistan held presidential elections on Saturday and the U.S.-Taliban talks over a peace deal collapsed last month. There were at least 68 attacks by the Taliban across the country during election day, most of them rockets fired from distant outposts.

North Korea

North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, in a display of its expanding military capabilities hours after saying it would resume nuclear diplomacy with the US this weekend. South Korean officials said the missile was fired from North Korea’s eastern waters, suggesting it may have been submarine-launched. North Korea has confirmed that its latest missile launch involved a new kind of ballistic missile that was launched from a submarine. North Korea having the ability to launch missiles from submarines is alarming because such weapons are harder to detect in advance. Japan said one of the missiles landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The North had not fired a weapon that reached inside Japan’s EEZ since Nov. 2017 at the height of an unusually provocative run in nuclear and missile tests. The launches, which were the North’s ninth round of weapons tests since late July, came hours after a senior North Korean diplomat said North Korea and the United States have agreed to resume working-level nuclear negotiations this weekend.

China

Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-capable missile designed to evade US defenses rumbled through Beijing on Tuesday as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power with a military parade that showcased its emergence as an increasingly ambitious global power. The military showed off China’s most advanced weapons, some being shown for the first time, as rows of soldiers marched in lockstep past President Xi Jinping and other leaders on Tiananmen Square, the country’s symbolic political heart. Thousands of spectators waved Chinese flags and fighter jets flew low overhead. The event marks the anniversary of the Oct. 1, 1949, announcement of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong following a civil war.

Hong Kong

As Beijing marked 70 years of Communist Party rule with a massive military parade, black-clad protesters in Hong Kong declared National Day to be a “Day of Grief.” A crowd estimated by organizers at 100,000 defied a protest ban Tuesday and marched through the city center, RTHK reports. Protesters tore down Chinese flags and banners marking the anniversary. They defaced photos of China’s President Xi Jinping. Tear gas was fired in at least four districts and much of the city’s subway system was closed down. Protesters in some areas barricaded roads, set fires, and threw Molotov cocktails at police. Police fired shots in locations, hitting one protester in the chest, who is now in the hospital in critical condition. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that her government would use emergency powers to ban face masks in public in a bid to end the city’s protests. Hong Kong also shut down all train service on Friday as part of an emergency declaration aimed at stopping the massive protests that have flooded the streets for four straight months.

Taiwan

A towering 460-foot-long arch bridge over a bay in eastern Taiwan collapsed Tuesday, sending a burning oil tanker truck falling onto boats in the water below. An air force helicopter, fishing vessels and more than 60 military personnel, including divers, were searching for possible victims. Six people are believed trapped on one of the fishing boats, the National Fire Agency said. Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung told reporters about five people were feared to have been on the bridge when it collapsed. Ten people were sent to hospitals, six of them with serious injuries.

Wildfires

The Decker Fire burning outside Salida continued to grow rapidly Thursday. In an update published about 8 p.m., officials estimated the fire at 5,348 acres, up from 3,746 acres on Wednesday. At 7 a.m. Thursday, a Type 1 Incident Management Team took over command of the fire which is burning “dangerously close” to several housing subdivisions. Evacuations have been ordered and several roads are closed. The fire was started by lightning on Sept. 8th.

Environment

In fast-thawing Siberia, extreme warming is warping the ground, upending agriculture and spurring an exodus of climate refugees. The permafrost that once sustained farming is in the midst of a great thaw, blanketing the region with swamps, lakes and bizarre bubbles of earth that render the land virtually useless. A Washington Post analysis found one eastern region has warmed by more than 3 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times — roughly triple the global average. For the 5.4 million people who live in Russia’s permafrost zone, the new climate has disrupted their homes and their livelihoods. Thousands are leaving the countryside for the regional capital.

Slow-moving convoys of tractors clogged up nearly 700 miles of major highways in the Netherlands on Tuesday, as farmers inched toward The Hague to protest what they claim is an attempt to blame them over nitrogen pollution. About 10,000 farmers participated in the protest to argue they are unfairly being blamed after a court ruling found that the Netherlands is violating European emission rules. The morning protest caused the worst morning commute in Dutch history, ANWB, a road and drivers’ organization, said. The idea that farmers are behind the bump in nitrogen pollution has prompted at least one political party official to suggest the country reduce the number of live animals it produces to cut down on the emission. In addition, a proposed package of measures to tackle the increase in pollution includes a plan to grant financial aid to farmers who want to stop operations or adopt more eco-friendly agricultural practices.

A gigantic iceberg broke off from the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica on Tuesday. The iceberg, named D-28, is over 600 square miles in size, which is bigger than the city of Los Angeles. It’s equal to about 27 Manhattan Islands. The last major calving event on the Amery Shelf was in 1963-64. “We don’t think this event is linked to climate change. It’s part of the ice shelf’s normal cycle, where we see major calving events every 60-70 years,” said Scripps’ Institute of Oceanography professor Helen Amanda Fricker.

Weather

Extreme weather caused by a wavy jet stream has kicked off the first 10 days of fall across the United States, leading to a series of record-breaking and unusual weather events to start the new season. Daily record highs were set on several days during fall’s first week in the South. More than a dozen cities in the East, from upstate New York to the Florida Panhandle, set all-time October record highs on Tuesday. Meridian, Mississippi broke the Mississippi state record high for October when it hit 101 degrees on Tuesday. On the opposite end of the spectrum, record cold temperatures have gripped parts of the Northwest to begin fall. Tuesday’s low in Great Falls, Montana, was just 9 degrees. A historic snowstorm in September’s final days blasted parts of the northern Rockies with heavy, wet snow and high winds, leading to power outages and tree damage. The top snow total from the storm was 52 inches about 10 miles south of the Canadian border in Babb, Montana.

  • 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)