Archive for January, 2020

Signs of the Times

January 24, 2020

Gospel of Grace website and podcasts available at www.gofg.org

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:13-17)

Trump First President to Attend/Speak at March for Life

President Trump became the first U.S. president to attend the March for Life in its 47-year history, which started the year after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s legal right to an abortion. In 2018 Trump became the first president to address the march by video, and in 2017 Mike Pence became the first sitting vice president to attend the Washington, DC, event. Trump, who described himself as “very pro-choice” in 1999, has been praised by March for Life for moves including appointing anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and cutting taxpayer funding for abortions. About half a million people traveled to Washington, D.C. on Friday for the event.

  • In his speech, President Trump said, “I want to thank every person here today and all across our country who works with such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure that parents have the care and support they need to choose life. Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full, God-given potential.”
  • President Trump also declared January 22 (the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision imposing abortion on demand across the country), to be “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.” In the proclamation, Trump declared that “every person — the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly — has inherent value” and said that the U.S. “proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death.”
  • There were 862,000 abortions in the United States in 2017. This is the lowest number since abortion became legal in 1973. However, abortion remains the leading cause of death in our country: that same year, 647,457 Americans died from heart disease, the second-leading cause of death.

Women’s March Draws Thousands, But Fewer than Previous Years

Women’s March activists turned out by the thousands last Saturday, hoping that their determination might make up for the absence of the millions who hit the streets across the country in 2017. Organizers had expected less than 10,000 in D.C. for this year’s “Women Rising” march — about a tenth of the 100,000 or so who turned out last year on an equally snowy and windy day, and a fraction of the 500,000 who jammed the street in 2017.  D.C. organizers said this year’s protesters arrived with “renewed energy to take on Trumpism.” Like the first protest a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the national Women’s March rallied in Washington, D.C., while sister marches took place in Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, among other cities. Marches and events were also held across five continents in cities like Oslo, Norway; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Lagos, Nigeria.

Supreme Court to Decide Religious School Choice

Three mothers from Montana were at the Supreme Court on Wednesday in a case that could decide if state funds can be used to help pay for tuition at religious schools. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, centers on a small state scholarship program, but the stakes could be huge in the national debate over religious school choice. Conservatives, having long sought legislative backing for voucher and tax credit programs, see the case as a potential judicial mandate for such programs. Teachers unions and civil rights advocates, meanwhile, say a ruling in favor of the Montana mothers would violate the Constitution and open the floodgates for religious school funding, which they say would hurt public schools.

Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Children Banned in Utah

The practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ children is now banned in Utah, making it the 19th state and one of the most conservative to prohibit it. The change in Utah comes after the state hammered out a regulatory rule that had the support of the influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Leaders had opposed a previous version because it didn’t have certain exceptions for clergy. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert took the unusual step of calling on regulators after a proposed law was derailed by changes made by conservative lawmakers. The original sponsor of the proposal, GOP Utah Rep. Craig Hall, applauded the rule going into effect, saying in a statement that it prohibits dangerous practices while protecting healthcare professionals.

  • And yet, there is a growing chorus of transgenders who regret having made that choice and now support such conversion therapy.

Murder Prompts NYC Police Union to Protest Sanctuary City Policy

A top New York Police Department union official on Friday called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to “own” the consequences of the city’s sanctuary policies — while insisting officers want to be allowed to work with federal immigration enforcement — after an illegal immigrant who was freed in November is alleged to have sexually assaulted and murdered a 92-year-old woman. Reeaz Khan, an illegal Guyanese immigrant, is accused of attacking the woman as she walked home on Jan. 6. ICE revealed this week that it had issued a in November for Khan, which was ignored under the Sanctuary City policy.

  • Federal authorities are turning to a new tactic in the escalating conflict over New York City’s so-called sanctuary policies, issuing four “immigration subpoenas” to the city for information about inmates wanted for deportation. “This is not a request — it’s a demand,” Henry Lucero, a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said. “Dangerous criminals are being released every single day in New York.”

Illegal Border Crossings Way Down

Illegal crossings plummeted across the border after the Trump administration made more asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. court. The drop has been most striking on the western Arizona border. Arrests in the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector nearly hit 14,000 in May, when the policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico took effect there. By October, they fell 94%, to less than 800. More than 55,000 asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico to wait for hearings through November, ten months after the policy was introduced in San Diego. The immigrants were from more than three dozen countries, and nearly 2 out of 3 were Guatemalan or Honduran. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups asked to put the policy on hold during a legal challenge. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Oct. 1 and has not indicated when it will decide.

  • Another massive migrant caravan has left Central America en route to the U.S., and Homeland Security said it’s keeping tabs on its movements and expects Mexico to step up and disrupt as much of the caravan as possible. Eight hundred Central American migrants were rounded up and hauled onto buses by Mexican national guardsmen and immigration agents after crossing into the country early Thursday. National guardsmen in riot gear advanced banging their plastic shields with batons and engaged the migrants. There was shoving and pepper spray as the migrants were rounded up.

More Americans Killed by Illegal Immigrants than Mass Shootings

According to a report from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for fiscal year 2018, just over 1,600 homicide convictions were on the criminal records of people arrested by ICE for being in the country illegally. ICE reported a similar number of homicide convictions (1,531) the previous year. According to Wikipedia, there were 323 mass shootings in 2018, resulting in 1,661 people being shot. Of those people, 387 people have died.

  • The meme floating around the internet says that 10.150 Americans were killed by illegal immigrants in 2018 and only 194 killed in mass shootings. It is wrong. Why exaggerate the truth which is bad enough and lose all credibility?

Huge Gun Rally that Raised Alarm Ends Peacefully

Twenty-two thousand gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, protesting plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation that became a flash point in the national debate over gun violence. The single arrest was that of a 21-year-old woman for wearing a mask in public. The size of the crowd and the expected participation of white supremacists and fringe militia groups raised fears that the state could see a repeat of the violence that exploded in 2017 in Charlottesville. But the rally concluded uneventfully around noon, and the mood was largely festive, with rally-goers chanting “USA!” and waving signs denouncing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Many protesters chose not to enter the designated rally zone, where Northam had instituted a temporary weapons ban, and instead packed the surrounding streets, many dressed in tactical gear and camouflage and carrying military-style rifles as they cheered on the speakers. But Democratic lawmakers said the rally wasn’t going to impact their plans to pass gun-control measures, including universal background checks and a one-handgun-purchase-a-month limit.

  • Last week’s arrest of Patrik Jordan Mathews and two other members of the neo-Nazi group the Base shifted to the courtroom Tuesday, as federal prosecutors outlined how the accused planned on inciting violence at a gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia. Amongst other tactics, the members planned on “ambushing” the police and firing upon “unsuspecting civilians.” All told, a total of seven members of the Base have been arrested.

Human Trafficking Now Second Largest Illicit Business

From middle America to big cities, traffickers are embedded, peddling flesh for profit. Human trafficking is the second-most illicit profit-producing business in the world, upwards of $150 billion a year for those criminal enterprises that are trafficking children, women, and men for sex. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, almost two-thirds of trafficking victims originate in the United States. Trafficking is moving beyond international cartel-based organizations to “Everytown, America.” The traffickers are essentially using victims as “rental property,” taking in steady profits from the use of their victim’s body. DeliverFund’s Michael Fullilove says, “While prices vary from locale to locale based on demand and the overall costs in the area as well as what customers are able to afford based on the economic situation in a given area, it is fair to say that victims can be sold for $200-$400 per hour and can be sold upwards of 6-10 times a night. This means that for a single victim, a trafficker can potentially earn between $375,000 and $1.25 million per year.”

  • Miami airport security personnel are now being trained to spot possible human trafficking situations in preparation for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2nd, an event that usually sees a surge in sex trafficking.

Meth and Cocaine Making a Comeback, Opioid Funds Redirected

Alarmed by a deadly new twist in the nation’s drug addiction crisis, the government will allow states to use federal money earmarked for the opioid epidemic to help growing numbers of people struggling with meth and cocaine. The little-noticed change is buried in a massive spending bill passed by Congress late last year. Pressed by constituents and state officials, lawmakers of both parties and the Trump administration agreed to broaden the scope of a $1.5 billion grant program previously restricted to the opioid crisis. Starting this year, states can also use those federal dollars to counter addiction to “stimulants,” a term the government uses for methamphetamine and cocaine. “Meth and cocaine are making a comeback and they are more potent than they were during the last wave,” says Mark Stringer, director of Missouri’s Department of Mental Health.

Sepsis Kills Twice as Many People as Previously Estimated

Sepsis kills more than twice as many people worldwide as once believed, according to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Sepsis is an out-of-control immune response to infection that harms organs, and people who survive it can have lifelong disabilities. In 2017, there were 48.9 million cases of sepsis and 11 million sepsis deaths worldwide — that’s one in five deaths that year. While low- and middle-income countries had 85% of the cases, sepsis remains the leading killer of hospital patients in the United States.

New Coronavirus Spreading Rapidly from China

Authorities announced a sharp uptick in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus to more than 600, and 17 have died thus far. Internationally, four cases of coronavirus have been confirmed among Chinese travelers in South Korea, Japan, and Thailand. The deadly coronavirus has afflicted two people in the United States, health officials confirmed Friday, both of whom had traveled to the epicenter cities in China. Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, a different coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travelers arriving from China.

  • In a step apparently unprecedented in the history of disease control, China has sealed off and locked down a city bigger than New York or London. Authorities announced Wednesday that public transportation was being shut down in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, and residents would not be allowed to leave by air or train. Residents tell Reuters that roads have also been blocked off and guards are patrolling highways. Authorities have also announced plans to seal off Huanggang, city of 7 million people east of Wuhan, and restrict travel out of nearby Ezhou, a city of 1 million.
  • The World Health Organization announced it is gathering a panel of experts on coronavirus Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, to determine whether the outbreak warrants being declared a global health emergency and how it can be managed.

Economic News

The student loan burden in the U.S. has risen to about $1.6 trillion, mostly because recipients have barely made a dent in paying down their loans, reports Moody’s Investors Service. While higher college enrollment rates and rising tuition costs used to the main reason for growing student loan balances, the report states that slow loan repayments have recently become the primary driver. The number of students enrolled in higher education has declined and the cost of attending college has stabilized relative to incomes. Only 51% of federal borrowers who were scheduled to start paying back their loans in 2010 to 2012 had made any progress after five years.

The global auto industry plunged deeper into recession in 2019, with sales dropping more than 4% as carmakers struggled to find buyers in China and India. The number of vehicles sold across major global markets dipped to 90.3 million last year, down from 94.4 million in 2018, and well below the record 95.2 million cars sold in 2017. According to the International Monetary Fund, the car industry accounts for 5.7% of economic output and 8% of goods exports. It is the second largest consumer of steel and aluminum.

National chains Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Papyrus, Express and Pier 1 Imports, as well as other retailers, have collectively announced 1,218 store closures this year, according to global marketing research firm Coresight Research. The fallout comes after a year in which retailers closed more than 9,200 stores. Foot traffic to stores fell 4.9% compared with the same period last year.

Persecution Watch

Boko Haram announced that it has killed Pastor Lawan Andimi, a leading Church figure, kidnapped in north-east Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group on 2 January. A video announcing the pastor’s murder, which took place on 20 January, was released Tuesday. It is not known how Pastor Andimi, who leaves behind a wife and seven children, was killed.

Three Christian teachers were murdered in an attack by Al Shabaab jihadists on a primary school compound in Kenya on 13 January. Another teacher was shot twice in the leg, and a fifth managed to escape when the militants struck the school’s staff quarters at 2 a.m. The gang then burned down the nearby police post, abandoned by its officers when the gunfire started, and bombed a telecommunications mast in the marketplace.

The victim of a Saturday stabbing attack near Hebron has expressed shock that numerous non-Jews just stood by watching without doing anything to help. “I had half a knife in my back and was shouting ‘soldier! soldier!’ Only one guy, named Meir Lapid, fought with the terrorist. There were some men and women who just stood, watched, and didn’t interfere. They didn’t call anyone. Nothing,” Moshe Greenblatt said.

Middle East

Over the past eight months, the U.S. has poured more than 20,000 additional troops into the Middle East to counter the escalating threat from Iran that peaked with the recent missile attack on American forces in Iraq. Despite President Trump’s pledge to bring troops home, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said Thursday the most recent forces to enter the region could be there for “quite a while.”

Israel

Dozens of world leaders descended upon Jerusalem on Thursday for the largest-ever gathering focused on commemorating the Holocaust and combating increasing anti-Semitism in the world today. Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Charles, Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Germany, Italy and Austria were among the more than 40 dignitaries attending the World Holocaust Forum, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. A delegation was comprised of Jews and 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders from some 28 countries on several continents, made a groundbreaking joint visit to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi German death camp” in Poland.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White Party and opposition leader Benny Gantz are scheduled to visit the White House next week for a development on the highly anticipated Mideast peace plan. Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release his long-awaited Mideast peace plan before his meeting with Netanyahu and Gantz. The proposal is purportedly “the most generous deal ever” for Israel, which could include Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and all settlements in Judea and Samaria, in addition to a demilitarized Palestinian state, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) announced Monday that they had thwarted over 560 significant terrorist attacks last year, including 10 suicide bombings, four kidnapping attacks and over 300 shootings. “Hundreds of Israelis have been saved thanks to your activity and I thank you for it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated. “This is a very great achievement that requires the combined effort of heart and mind.”

  • A cluster of balloons tied to an explosive device that was launched by terrorists from the Gaza Strip landed on Monday in the town of Mesilat Zion, just a short drive away from Jerusalem. A police sapper who was alerted to scene safety dismantled the explosive charge, with no injuries or damage.

Iran

Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq for closer evaluation of potential concussion injuries from the Iranian missile attack of Jan. 8, of a U.S. base in Iraq. The exact number of troops flown to Germany was not immediately clear, but officials said it was a small number. “As medical treatment and evaluations in theater continue, additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries,” a spokesman for the U.S. Command in Iraq said Tuesday evening.

An Iranian student who was denied entry to the United States on arrival and deported this week, amid objections from top Democrats and left-wing activists, has family ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah, a Department of Homeland Security official told Fox News. Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein was denied entry to the U.S. and detained on Sunday when he arrived on a student visa at Boston Logan International Airport. His detention sparked outrage from activists, who flooded the airport demanding his release. It also drew objections from Northeastern University, where Dehghani was due to be enrolled, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

An Iranian lawmaker has placed a bounty on President Donald Trump for $3 million, reported Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on Tuesday. “On behalf of the people of Kerman province, we will pay a $3 million reward in cash to whoever kills Trump,” lawmaker Ahmad Hamzeh told the Iranian parliament as quoted by ISNA. Kerman was the hometown of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone on Jan. 3.

Syria

U.S. troops last weekend reportedly found themselves in a standoff with Russian forces trying to gain access to key oil fields in northeastern Syria. The Saturday standoff — first reported by Turkish media outlets, citing unnamed local officials in the Turkey-Syria border region — seems to have ended without any shots being fired or any real risk of violence between the two sides. American military personnel reportedly stopped a Russian convoy near the town of Rmelan, and the Russian forces then apparently turned back and returned to their home base. Still, the near-clash serves as a reminder of the high stakes in Syria, where the U.S. military’s mission involves guarding oil fields and preventing them from falling into the hands of the Islamic State, Russian forces and other actors.

Yemen

On January 18, 2020, ballistic missiles struck a mosque at the al-Estiqbal military camp in Marib, killing at least 116 people in what was reportedly one of the deadliest attacks in Yemen’s civil war. Although there was no immediate claim by the Houthi rebels, Yemen’s government condemned the Iran-backed extremist group for the attack. Two days later, government forces engaged Houthi rebels east of Marib and killed senior Houthi commander Jaber Al Muwaed. Attempts at any conflict resolution have made little progress since the Houthis began invading the country in 2014. Iran has historically supported the Houthi rebels with funding, training, and weapons, with some Yemeni officials believing Iran’s support has been ongoing since the Houthi uprising in 2004.

Kenya

On Thursday, Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen Shabab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hours-long gunfight earlier this month on a sprawling military base in Kenya that houses United States troops. By the time the Shabab were done, portions of the airfield were burning and three Americans were dead. Surprised by the attack, American commandos took around an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle. It would require hours to evacuate one of the wounded to a military hospital in Djibouti, roughly 1,500 miles away.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced fired the island’s emergency manager, Carlos Acevedo, hours after a warehouse filled with undistributed emergency supplies was discovered. The emergency aid is believed to be from when Hurricane Maria hit the island two years ago, the governor said. Numerous pallets of water and other boxes with emergency supplies were found at a warehouse in the earthquake ravaged city of Ponce. Several residents were seen opening the rolling metal doors of the building and calling for authorities to distribute the supplies. Families began lining up Saturday afternoon outside the warehouse, hoping to get bottled water, food and emergency radios. On Sunday, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez fired two more officials involved hoarding the supplies.

Environment

A plague of millions of desert locusts is destroying crops and livelihoods as swarms spread across parts of East Africa, fueled by extreme weather. Unprecedented swarms – potentially carrying hundreds of millions of locusts – are sweeping through Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture said in a press release Monday. They can move more than 90 miles a day, stripping vegetation from crops and pastures. t’s the worst outbreak of locusts in Ethiopia and Somalia in 25 years, and the worst in Kenya in 70 years. Widespread heavy rains since October have contributed to the explosion in locusts. Females prefer to lay their eggs in moist, sandy soil because they need moisture to fully develop. Once hatched, they also need fresh vegetation to survive.

A giant pile of tires in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Guam will be removed, 50 years after it was placed on the ocean floor as part of an artificial reef project intended to boost fish populations. But instead of encouraging marine-friendly coral growth, officials say it may be contributing to high levels of zinc in local fish. “There’s only less than a dozen coral colonies actually growing on it … and there are really no fish aggregating around the structure,” officials said. An NOAA study found elevated levels of zinc in local fish, and documents from the Guam EPA say zinc leaching from the tires could be the cause. Nearly 2,500 tires will be removed during the remediation project. The reef was built between 1969 and 1973.

Volcanoes

Alaska’s Shishaldin Volcano stained a large area of snowpack after an eruption last weekend sent ash thirty thousand feet into the sky. The eruption occurred on Saturday amid clear skies, which made for stunning views of the volcano’s ash and lava. Most of the area of where the ash fell is unpopulated, but traces of ash were reported about 23 miles northeast of the volcano in the small community of False Pass.

About 6,000 Philippine families who lived on an island surrounding an erupting volcano will have to find new homes. The families lived in four villages on Volcano Island where the Taal Volcano has been belching ash and steam since Jan. 12. The volcano remains at Alert Level 4, which means a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days. The island was declared a national park long ago and was off limits to permanent villages, but the rules weren’t enforced. “We have to enforce these regulations once and for all because their lives are at stake,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said.

Wildfires

Australia’s catastrophic bush fires have been widely blamed on human-caused climate change, but evidence is mounting that the devastation has more to do with environmentalist policies than fossil fuel emissions. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken the brunt of popular anger for the wildfires, which have consumed about 15.6 million acres. But the devastation follows years of eco-driven government policies discouraging prescribed burns, tree-thinning and firebreak-building in the name of forest and habitat preservation, some scholars say. Combine that with population growth and prolonged drought after years of high foliage growth driven by above-average rainfall, and you have a recipe for disaster, said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute.

  • Three Americans died Thursday when a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed while battling wildfires in the Snowy Monaro region of Australia’s southern New South Wales state. Coulson Aviation in Oregon said in a statement that one of its C-130 Lockheed large air tankers was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission.

Weather

Cold-stunned iguanas fell from trees in South Florida Wednesday morning as temperatures in Miami hit 40 degrees – the lowest recorded there in more than nine years. Suburbs around Miami and Fort Lauderdale woke up to wind chills in the middle 20s.  Some residents of South Florida tweeted photos and videos of the cold-stunned iguanas Wednesday morning lying motionless on the ground. Because iguanas are cold-blooded animals, their metabolism slows way down and they become more and more lethargic as temperatures drop lower than what they are used to. They can become completely immobile when temperatures dip into the 30s and 40s. When that happens while they’re up in a tree, the large lizards come crashing down to the ground.

Dust storms, hail and flash floods have battered beleaguered Australian cities in recent days. The extreme weather has diminished the threat from scores of wildfires that continue to blaze across the country’s southeast. A hailstorm in the national capital Canberra on Monday damaged public buildings, businesses, homes and cars, cut power to some suburbs, brought down trees, caused flash flooding and injured two people. Hail struck Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, on Sunday and more hailstorms are forecast to return. The city has been choked by smoke from distant wildfires in Victoria state in recent weeks. To the west, a 186-mile wide cloud of red dust was carried by wind gusts up to 66 miles per hour and descended on the drought-stricken towns of Dubbo, Broken Hill, Nyngan and Parkes. Much of the dust is topsoil from New South Wales state farms.

Signs of the Times

January 17, 2020

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Transgender Mother Can Be Listed as Father on Birth Certificate

A biological woman who identifies as male and gave birth in December will be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate under a landmark decision by the state of Illinois. The state originally ruled that the transgender man, Myles Brady Davis, would be listed as the mother because Myles was the one who carried the baby. But then Lambda Legal sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Public Health on Myles’ behalf, and the state changed course. Myles’ spouse, Precious Brady Davis, was born male but identifies as a transgender female. Precious will be listed as the mother.

  • The insanity just gets worse and worse.

The Ten Worst Nations for Gender Equality are All Islamic

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, the 10 worst countries for gender equality are those in which Islam is the dominant religious demographic. As per the Qur’an, which is the central pillar of Islam, women are inferior to men in almost every conceivable way. The Qur’an is explicit with regards to the disparate rights and privileges afforded to men and women. The Qur’an holds: A sister is entitled to only half of that which her brother is entitled with regards to inheritance (Qur’an 4:11). A woman’s testimony is only half as valid as that of a man’s (Qur’an 2:282). Further, a woman’s husband can physically assault her for exercising her autonomy by disobeying him (Qur’an 4:34). A husband is entitled to have sex with his wife how and when he pleases (Qur’an 2:223). Female sex-slaves are expressly rendered the chattels of their male slave masters (Qur’an 4:24, 23:5-6). A man may have multiple wives (Qur’an 4:3) and he need not treat them all equally (Qur’an 4:129).

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28

Iran Admits Shooting Down Jetliner with Missile

Iran has admitted publicly that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner. The statement came Saturday morning and blamed “human error” for the shootdown on Wednesday that killed 176 people. The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq. A military statement carried by Iranian state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard. The statement also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.”

  • Protesters gathered for a third day Monday in Iran, after a violent weekend that pitted the demonstrators against riot police. Familiar chants of “Death to America,” were traded for “Death to the dictator” and “Death to the liar.” In one video, demonstrators chanted, “Khamenei have shame. Leave the country.” Video circulating on social media showed police beating protesters with batons, security forces running with rifles, and injured people being carried from the scene in Tehran’s Azadi Square. The sounds of gunfire could also be heard in some footage. CNN also cites videos that show the protesters being doused with tear gas by police in Tehran. The protests had started Saturday as pushback against the Iranian government, including Ayatollah Khamenei, after Iran “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian plane on Wednesday, which killed 176 people on board.
  • Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has defected, posting a goodbye letter to Iran on Saturday, calling out the government’s “hypocrisy” as she announced she had permanently left the country. Alizadeh did not disclose where she was going, but Iran’s ISNA news agency reported she had gone to the Netherlands. The Iranian report quoted Alizadeh’s coach as saying the athlete was injured and did not show up for trials ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She accused the Iranian government of “lying” and “injustice” toward Iranian athletes.

Historic Impeachment Trial of President Trump Began Thursday

President Trump’s impeachment trial began Thursday with the swearing in of senators and the presentation of the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, was sworn in to preside over the trial, which is focused on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will proceed “in earnest” next week. President Donald Trump plans to tap two long-time lawyers on Friday to lead his impeachment defense team – White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and private attorney Jay Sekulow (head of the American Center for Law & Justice) – as well as Alan Dershowitz, a noted Harvard law professor; Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who prosecuted the President Bill Clinton impeachment case, and Robert Ray, who replaced Starr as independent counsel during the last year of the Clinton presidency.

  • Separately on Thursday, the ‘nonpartisan’ Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion that the Trump administration violated the law by withholding $214 million in security assistance to Ukraine in the summer of 2019. The GAO is an independent watchdog agency that works for Congress.
  • The Office of Management and Budget disagreed, saying, “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

Virginia Becomes 38th State to Pass ERA

Virginia on Wednesday became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, setting up an expected legal battle over what happens next. Congress approved the ERA in 1972, including a “customary” but not constitutionally mandatory seven-year deadline for ratification by three-fourths of the states. When the number of states fell three short of the required 38 by 1977, Congress extended the deadline to 1982. But no additional states acted by the new deadline. In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Illinois followed in 2018. Opponents of the ERA also say that even with Virginia’s passage, the amendment is dead because the timeline for state action has long passed. Supporters say the deadline is subject to challenge, so off to the courts it will go.

  • Supporters say it’s a long-needed protection for women who continue to face discrimination in the workplace and struggle against domestic violence and sexual harassment. Opponents argue it’s an unnecessary amendment that could enshrine in the Constitution protections for abortion.

Texas First State to Reject Refugees under Trump Veto Plan

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott became the first in the nation to refuse to host refugees in his state, flexing the new veto the Trump administration created last year to give state and local officials a say in whether they become a destination for the migrants. More than 40 other governors, both Democrats and Republicans, have said they will accept refugees. But a swath of conservative states from Texas to Florida had held out, ahead of a deadline later this month. Mr. Abbott, a Republican, becomes the first to refuse — a major statement for a state that has accepted more refugees than any other in recent years. “It’s extremely disappointing to see Texas, which for years has led the nation in welcoming refugees, close its doors to those fleeing violence and persecution,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. Activists have sued to block the policy.

U.S. Violent Crime Rate Continues to Decrease

There were more than 1.2 million incidents of rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder reported in the United States in 2018 – a 3% decline from the previous year. The decrease in violent crime represents the continuation of a long-term trend. The U.S. violent crime rate stands at 381 incidents per 100,000 people, down from a high of 758 per 100,000 in 1991. Violent crime in the United States is most likely to be committed in urban areas. Even in many of the safest states in the country, there are cities with violent crime rates that exceed the national average by a wide margin. In some cases, a single city can account for over one-quarter of all violent crime in an entire state.

  • Surprisingly, Alaska had the highest state crime rate of 885 per 100,000 people, followed by New Mexico at 857. New York State was 25th at 350 while Illinois was 19th with 404 per 100,000 residents. The majority of the 68,495 violent crimes committed in New York State were reported in New York City. In Chicago, the most populous city in Illinois, 27,357 violent crimes were committed in 2018, more than half the total number of crimes reported in the state that year.

Wisconsin Ordered to Remove 209,000 From Voter Rolls

A Wisconsin judge on Monday found the state’s Elections Commission and three of its members in contempt of court and ordered the commission to remove up to 209,000 names from the state’s voter rolls, in a case that could have major implications later this year in a key battleground state. Saying in his ruling that “time is of the essence,” Judge Paul Malloy said that there is no time to wait for the case to make its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and ordered that the state pay $50 a day until it starts removing people from the voter rolls. Malloy also ordered that the three Democrats on the commission – Ann Jacobs, Julie Glancy and Mark Thomsen – pay $250 a day each. State Democrats in Wisconsin are fighting the lawsuit, saying the purge would unfairly affect their voters. Republicans, however, argue that they merely want to ensure that people who have moved are not able to vote illegally from their old addresses.

Past Decade Warmest in Recorded History

The last decade was the warmest on record, federal climate scientists announced Wednesday, with 2019 becoming the second-warmest year on record. Global temperature records began more than 140 years ago in 1880. The warmest year recorded was 2016, which was just .07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than last year. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two keepers of the world’s temperature data and independently produce a record of Earth’s surface temperatures and changes based on historical observations over oceans and land. The results of this year’s report closely parallel at least three other global temperature analyses.

  • 140 years is very short-term historically, but climate change proponents are claiming it was the warmest decade in history. Whether or not that’s true, and whether or not humans are to blame, is all immaterial. The Bible foretells of severe end-time weather and it does, indeed, appear to be ramping up (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Early Surge in Flu Cases Concerns the CDC

Flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations have risen sharply since October, with at least 6.4 million reported cases and 55,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 2,900 Americans have died so far from the flu, the CDC reported late last week. “The season started in earnest earlier than it usually does. It crossed the threshold of an outbreak earlier,” said the CDC. Flu cases are climbing toward the peak of the 2017-2018 season, which wound up being the deadliest in nearly a half-century. About 61,000 Americans died from the flu during the 2017-2018 season. The oddest part of this flu season is that the influenza B strain has proven to be dominant, with the more virulent influenza A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 playing only a supporting role.

Processed Foods Are Making Americans Fat

As more people eat cheaper processed foods, they are getting fatter, said researcher Leigh Frame, from George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “When comparing the U.S. diet to the diet of those who live in ‘blue zones’ — areas with populations living to age 100 without chronic disease — the differences are stark,” she said in a university news release. The foods most tied to weight gain? They include potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, refined grains, red meats and processed meats, the researchers said. Lower weight gain and weight loss are associated with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Americans are getting too little fiber, and more food additives like emulsifiers and gums, the researchers determined. In animal studies, emulsifiers in processed foods have been shown to alter the microbiome (the community of microorganisms in the body), increase blood sugar, cause excessive hunger, increase weight and damage the liver, the study authors said.

Streaming Services Hurt by Password Sharing

As the streaming wars heat up, the problem of consumers sharing their password with friends and family has become an epidemic. Of all consumers, 42% said they have used someone else’s online TV service password to access a service, according to Hub’s Video Redefined report. With younger viewers, the numbers are even more troubling, growing to a whopping 78% among 13- to 24-year-olds. The biggest loser is Netflix, as 69% of younger viewers admitted to using someone else’s password to access the service, but every major streaming service suffered from the same phenomenon. Rounding out the top three are Hulu at 59% and Amazon with 53%.ven though it only launched in November, Disney+ soared up the leader board with 53% of 13- to 24-year-olds accessing the service using someone else’s credentials.

  • The entitlement mentality has been growing as government provides more and more services for ‘free’ and is especially embedded in today’s youth.

U.S., China Sign ‘Phase One’ Trade Agreement

The U.S. and China signed a limited trade deal Wednesday, signaling a pause in the nearly two-year trade war between the world’s two largest economies and setting the stage for talks for a broader agreement down the road. The “Phase One” agreement, the product of months of negotiations between officials in Washington and Beijing, calls for China to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services over the next two years, including another $32 billion in agriculture products. China also promised not to pressure foreign companies to turn over their intellectual property for the right to do business there and to refrain from devaluing its currency to give its companies an advantage over foreign competitors. Meanwhile, the U.S. will keep in place most of the tariffs it imposed on $360 billion in Chinese products as trade tensions between the two countries escalated over the past 18 months. But Trump said those tariffs could be removed if a broader deal is reached.

  • China’s economic growth sank to a new multi-decade low in 2019 as Beijing fought a tariff war with Washington, but forecasters said a U.S.-Chinese trade truce might help to revive consumer and business activity. The world’s second-largest economy grew by 6.1%, down from 2018’s 6.6%, already the lowest since 1990, but still much higher than U.S. growth rates of around 3%.

Economic News

The American jobs machine churned out another 2.1 million new jobs in 2019, driving the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 1969. At a 3.5 percent jobless rate, employers report difficulty finding workers to fill the 7.3 million unfilled jobs in America.

Year-over-year wage growth reached 3.4 percent in February only to stall, ending the year a disappointing 2.9 percent. Researchers at Brookings Institution found 53 million workers aged 18 to 64 earn “barely enough to live on.” That is 44 percent of the labor market whose median earnings are just $10.22 an hour, or about $18,000 a year. Typically, these are low-wage workers in big box stores and malls, restaurants and bars, janitors and housekeepers, childcare workers and home health aides.

The fastest wage growth has been at the lowest end of the pay spectrum, partly because of labor shortages that give workers more bargaining power, and partly because states and cities have been raising their minimum wages. This year 24 states and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages, a record. The Federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Persecution Watch

Senior law enforcement officials in New Jersey on Monday disclosed that the bomb discovered in the van of the two individuals who carried out an anti-Semitic massacre in Jersey City on Dec. 10 would have caused dozens more deaths had it been detonated. The bomb was powerful enough to impact the length of five football fields, about 500 yards.

At least eight Christians have been killed in a terrible onslaught as a gang of 300 militants struck more Christian villages in Far North Cameroon this week. Four children and a young man were kidnapped. Most were husbands and fathers. Boko Haram tends to murderously target men, who are usually the main protectors and providers in communities. The heavily armed militants stood menacingly howling and chanting throughout the night, encircling the small villages, while some swept through the communities breaking into homes – killing, looting, burning and destroying as they went.

Middle East

On Wednesday evening, the Israeli Air Force carried out counter-strikes on Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip after at least four rockets were fired at communities in Israel earlier in the day. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system reportedly downed two of those rockets. Among the Hamas positions that the IDF struck on Wednesday were a base for Hamas forces and a facility for the production of weapons, the military announced.

The Trump administration last Friday rebuffed demands from Iraq’s prime minister to begin planning for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Iraq. But the State Department’s chief spokeswoman said the U.S. presence in Iraq is a “force for good” and U.S. officials would not discuss a military withdrawal. America’s military presence in Iraq has become a flashpoint between the two allies after President Donald Trump’s decision last week to kill a top Iranian general who was in Baghdad. The strike also killed an Iraqi military official, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of an Iran-backed militia organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Israel

As roughly 8,000 Muslim worshipers ended their prayers on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday, several hundred Arabs began to riot and violate public order, Israeli police said. In response, the district commander of the Israeli Police sent forces to restore order and eject rioters from the holy site. Despite capturing the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest – from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, when the Jewish state was under attack by the surrounding Arab countries, Israel gave the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic Trust, administrative control of the site. In the years since, the number of Jews ascending the Mount has grown significantly, despite the Waqf’s prohibition of non-Muslim prayer on the site.

Iran

France, Britain and Germany have initiated the process to hold Iran accountable for violating nuclear deal, opening way for possible sanctions. By activating the 2015 nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, the European nations are indicating they reject Iran’s withdrawal from the restrictions on its nuclear program. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and imposition of sanctions, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance. The dispute mechanism could lead to a return of U.N. sanctions but the other signatories, including Russia and China, have said they were still committed to preserving the deal. In a televised speech on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the country is now enriching more uranium than it did before reaching the nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.

  • Iran could succeed in enriching enough uranium for one nuclear weapon by spring, according to an Israeli IDF report. But it will take another two years to be weaponized sufficiently to be placed in a warhead, the report noted.

Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed and two others injured on Saturday in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, the US-led coalition in Kabul said in a statement. The service members were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. Last year was the deadliest in five years for the US in Afghanistan. Twenty-three service members were killed in 2019 during operations in the country.

Saudi Arabia

More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at US military installations will be expelled from the United States after a review that followed the deadly shooting last month at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. The Saudis are not accused of aiding the 21-year-old Saudi Air Force second lieutenant who killed three American sailors in the December shooting, but are said to have connections to extremist movements. They are also accused of possessing child pornography, according to a defense official and the person familiar with the situation. About a dozen Saudi trainees at the Pensacola base had been confined to their quarters as the FBI investigated the shooting as a potential terror attack, and the Pentagon initiated a review of all Saudi military trainees in the country, numbering around 850 students.

Russia

The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that would weaken his successor. Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that “not everything worked out.” Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev. The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency. Handing parliament more power at the expense of presidential authority could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia. Putin’s critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain his grip on control after 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers.

China

The number of babies born in China last year fell to a nearly six-decade low, exacerbating a looming demographic crisis that is set to reshape the world’s most populous nation and threaten its economic vitality, reports the New York Times. The birthrate in China fell to 10.48 per thousand last year, the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, a decline that has important implications for the country’s economy and labor pool. If birthrates continue to fall while life expectancy increases, there will not be enough young people to support the economy and the elderly, the fastest-growing segment of the population. While many countries are struggling with low fertility rates and aging populations, these issues are even more pressing in China, because the country’s underdeveloped social safety net means that most older adults rely heavily on their families to pay for health care, retirement and other expenses.

Travelers to three U.S. airports will be screened for a new, potentially deadly virus from China, the first such monitoring since Ebola. Travelers from Wuhan will be screened at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Two people in China have died from the pneumonia-like illness, and cases have spread to Thailand and Japan. There are no known cases in the United States. The “SARS-like virus” is one that doctors have never seen before, and is causing grave concern among global health officials.

Earthquakes

Another strong earthquake shook Puerto Rico early Saturday morning, just four days after a deadly 6.4-magnitude quake collapsed buildings and knocked power out to the entire island. The quake Saturday comes hours after a 5.2 magnitude aftershock rattled the island Friday. Hundreds of thousands lost power across the island due to Tuesday’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake, which damaged two power plants. Many people opted to sleep outside due to hundreds of aftershocks and 2,000 others were sleeping in shelters.

Volcanoes

Tens of thousands of people fled a volcanic eruption in the Philippines as the Taal volcano spewed steam and ash 40 miles south of Manila, the country’s capital and largest city. More than 30,000 people had evacuated as of Monday morning as red hot lava ran from the volcano and mud and ash fell from the sky. Plans were made to evacuate hundreds of thousands more as experts warned the eruption could escalate. But many were unable to leave due to lack of transportation and poor visibility, and others refused to leave their homes, farms and animals behind. Others worried about being separated from their families. Authorities warned of potential devastating pyroclastic flows (lava, pumice, ash and volcanic gases) and a “volcanic tsunami” for the volcano, which is centered in a lake.

Wildfires

The death toll has risen to at least 27 people from the Australian wildfires that have destroyed more than 2,600 homes and scorched more than 38,000 square miles, an area larger than the U.S. state of Indiana since September. Four of the casualties were firefighters. The National Parks and Wildlife Service dropped thousands of pounds of vegetables to assist the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby population, whose food sources were limited after wildfires tore through their habitats. The Bureau of Meteorology warned that trees burned in the fires are more likely to fall if the rain saturates the ground. The BOM said 1 to 3 inches of rain would fall in some areas of NSW between Thursday and Sunday.

Weather

On Wednesday, volunteers got water, food and fuel to hundreds of people stranded in mountain communities east of Seattle just hours ahead of the next winter storm. Towns along U.S. Highway 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish have been cut off since last Sunday night after heavy snow knocked down trees and power lines. The town’s mayor, Henry Sladek, said it could be several days before power is restored. Gusting winds knocked out power to more than 25,000 customers in western Washington.

Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country. Storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas due to icy weather, in Alabama from a deadly tornado and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet. A two-day outbreak of severe storms with damaging winds, tornadoes and flooding rain knocked trees onto homes, ripped away roofs and flattened buildings as it marched from Texas and Oklahoma to the East Coast Wednesday through Thursday, killing at least nine people along the way.

Heavy rain in recent days across the Southeast led officials along the Mississippi River to activate an emergency watch as high waters threatened another dam in the state. The Mississippi River is expected to reach flood stage in Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss., by mid-January. Officials urged residents to evacuate in rural Oktibbeha County as a precaution after heavy rains threatened to breach a dam. The county engineer had inspected the Oktibbeha County Lake dam, and reported extremely high water levels in the lake, noting “the dam could go at any time.”

Severe winter weather has left dozens dead across Afghanistan and Pakistan as officials work to reopen highways and evacuate people cut off by heavy snowfall and flash flooding. In Afghanistan, heavy snowfall and rain that has lashed the country in recent days has left at least 54 dead. Officials are concerned the death toll may climb after a severe cold snap over the weekend brought temperatures down to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Flash floods destroyed 131 residential houses. In neighboring Pakistan, much of the damage was reported in the southwestern Baluchistan province where at least 30 people were killed, mainly when roofs collapsed amid heavy snowfall. Heavy snowfall also forced closures of many highways.

Signs of the Times

January 10, 2020

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Former LGBTQs Share How Jesus Changed Their Lives

Many former members of the LGBTQ community told their stories of change at Capitol Hill recently. The group is part of the CHANGED community, an organization of people who previously identified as LGBTQ and believe their sexual identity was changed because of Jesus. April Lockhart, of New Mexico, told attendees at the event that she wanted to change from her lesbian lifestyle. “I had fully believed in this lie that gets perpetuated that people don’t change, they can’t change, and if you try to change them, it’s detrimental to their health. And I just want to say that’s a lie,” she asserted. Luis Ruiz, of Florida, said he was devastated when he found out he was HIV positive because of his homosexual lifestyle. “While I was searching for men, sleeping around a lot, I didn’t realize that there was a man looking for me,” he said. “And His name is Jesus. I was able to find a church where they loved me. And they taught me that my identity is not my behavior. My identity was not who I thought it was… But it was a child of God.”

United Methodist Church Plans to Split over LGBTQ Rights

Leaders from the United Methodist Church announced a tentative plan Friday to split the church over differences on same-sex marriage and the inclusion of gay clergy. The new conservative “Traditionalist Methodist” denomination wouldn’t allow gay marriage or gay clergy members. The proposal was signed in December after the “fundamental differences” within the church became irreconcilable. The division, which has been brewing for years, came to an impasse last May when delegates in St. Louis voted 438-384 to ban gay marriage and the inclusion of gay clergy. There are roughly 13 million church members around the world and about half of them are in the United States.

March Against Anti-Semitism Draws 25,000 to NYC Streets

Thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike took to the streets of New York City on Sunday, marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in a dramatic show of cross-faith unity after a string of bloody anti-Semitic attacks in the region. Chanting “No Hate, No Fear,” a crowd estimated at 25,000 assembled at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan under clear, crisp skies and a heavy police presence. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the crowd and announced $45 million in additional state funding to beef up security around house of worships, schools and other religious institutions. “An attack on any house of worship is an attack on all houses of worship,” said Ismael Claudio, bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ in Brooklyn.

Covington Teen Receives Settlement from CNN

CNN on Tuesday settled a defamation lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann over its botched coverage of a viral confrontation with a Native American elder that had portrayed the Kentucky teen as the aggressor. CNN settled with Sandmann for an undisclosed amount. The $250 million defamation suit sought damages for the “emotional distress Nicholas and his family suffered” in the fallout of the network’s reporting. Several mainstream media outlets, including CNN, portrayed the incident with Sandmann and the other teens as being racially charged before it was discovered by additional footage that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had provoked the confrontation by slinging racial slurs at the students as they were waiting for their bus following last year’s March For Life event in Washington D.C.

  • Following CNN and pro-life teenager Nick Sandmann’s settlement of a defamation suit over the former’s coverage of the 2019 March for Life, it appears other lawsuits have been filed against several media and political figures who falsely accused the pro-life teens of harassment.

U.S. Kills Iranian Terror Generals, Iran Fires Missiles at U.S. Bases in Iraq

The Pentagon launched an airstrike last Thursday that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. He was an influential figure in Iranian politics, and his death raises fears about possible retaliation against the U.S. Also  killed was Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several other officials from Iran-backed militias as they left the Baghdad airport.

  • Following the death of Soleimani, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. U.S. news reported some missiles missed their target with no casualties, while Iranian news reported the missiles struck as intended and caused 80 casualties. On Thursday, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force claimed that the missile attacks the other night were just “the first stage of a major regional operation aimed at expelling U.S. forces from the Middle East.”
  • Iran’s Parliament Tuesday approved a bill designating the entire U.S. military and Pentagon terrorist organizations. Lawmakers also backed a motion allocating $220 million to the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards Corp’s (IRGC) Quds Force to take revenge for Soleimani’s death. Iranian state television announced that Iran will pay the hefty sum of $80 million, representing Iran’s population of 80 million, to anyone who avenges Soleimani’s death by assassinating President Trump.
  • The Trump administration hit Iran with more sanctions Friday in the first concrete response to the missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States has sanctioned more than 1,000 Iranian individuals, companies and organizations since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and began a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Tehran to change its policies.
  • Iranian leaders denied Friday that their country’s missiles accidently shot down a Ukrainian jet that crashed after taking off from Tehran this week after the U.S. and Canadian officials said intelligence showed that the Iranian military gunned down the plane. All 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on a Boeing 737 were killed in the crash early Wednesday, just after Iran fired ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. Video shows that it was a missile, not mechanical failure, that brought down Flight 752 near Tehran on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
  • Iranian hackers looking to breach U.S. computer networks sharply intensified their efforts following the death of Soleimani, but have had limited success, according to internet security researchers and state government officials. Over the course of 48 hours, attacks traced to Iranian IP addresses nearly tripled against targets around the world, Cloudflare said, peaking at half a billion attempts per day.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday the attack that killed Iranian military leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani was in response to an “imminent attack.” “This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove this,” Pompeo told CNN. “He was actively planning in the region,” he said, adding the U.S. action “saved American lives.” President Trump said Thursday that Soleimani was planning to “blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.
  • Pompeo and President Trump laid the blame for the escalating hostilities between the U.S. and Iran on former President Barack Obama, accusing the previous administration of trying to appease the theocratic regime and arguing that the deal aimed at delaying Iran’s development of nuclear weapons only succeeded in funding regional terrorism. Pompeo accused Iran of working to thwart efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
  • Iranian resistance groups hailed the killing of Soleimani as a “major blow” to the repressive regime in Tehran — predicting that it will boost the morale of dissidents and bring what they see as the likely downfall of the regime’s one step closer.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Iraq has told all American citizens to leave the country immediately, the Guardian “U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land,” the embassy said in a statement.
  • Thousands of Iranians took to the streets over the weekend to mourn the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Lieutenant general and commander of the Quds Force Qasem Soleimani during an anti-U.S. demonstration after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran. A stampede erupted Tuesday at a funeral procession in the hometown of Soleimani, killing at least 56 people and injuring 213 others according to Iranian state television. As a result, the funeral was postponed.
  • In the wake of increased tensions in the Middle East, the United States will send about 3,000 more soldiers to the region to bolster existing forces. The troops will be sent to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary measure in response to increased threat levels – 14,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to the Middle East since May.

House Votes to Curb Trump’s War Powers in Iran

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a resolution designed to block President Trump’s ability to conduct a war with Iran, moving to reassert congressional power but bringing warnings from Republicans that lawmakers were undercutting the commander in chief at a critical moment in the Middle East. The nonbinding resolution calls on the White House “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military,” unless Mr. Trump receives congressional approval or “to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions,” as set out under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

  • Just more political posturing.

Trump Proposes Sweeping Rewrite of Environmental Regulations

Described as his biggest deregulatory move to date, President Trump on Thursday announced a sweeping rewrite of regulations to carry out the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act that will slash the time and paperwork required to get approval for bridges, highways and other projects. His proposal would limit environmental assessments of new projects to no more than a year and the more comprehensive environmental-impact statement to two years. The 1970 NEPA requires the federal government to take environmental changes into account when building or funding projects such as airports and military bases. The Trump administration has argued that these regulations haven’t been updated since the late 1970s.

2.5 Million ‘Extra’ Voters Found In U.S.

According to a Judicial Watch analysis of data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) this year, 378 counties nationwide have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark. Although San Diego County removed 500,000 inactive names from voter rolls following Judicial Watch’s settlement with Los Angeles County, San Diego still has a registration rate of 117% and has one of the highest registration rates in the county. “An unusually high registration rate suggests that a jurisdiction is not removing voters who have died or who have moved elsewhere, as required by [federal law].”

Knife Attacks in Austin and Paris Kill Three

One man was killed and several people stabbed during an incident in Austin, Texas, officials said Friday. Austin police tweeted that a suspect was in custody. The man killed was in his 20s and was pronounced dead at the scene. Several people with stab wounds were taken to hospitals, including a man in his 50s with a potentially life-threatening wound.

A man reportedly killed two people and wounded two others during a stabbing spree outside of Paris Friday before being shot dead by police. The incident occurred in the Hautes-Bruyères State Park in Villejuif, around four miles from the center of Paris, where four people were attacked. The attacker – whose identity has not yet been revealed – was shot and killed after being chased by responding officers.

  • What we really need now are new laws for knife control.

U.S. Court of Appeals Lifts Injunction Against Border Wall

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Wednesday that they are putting a stay on a District Court injunction that had blocked the use of military funds. The decision removes the prohibition as Trump appeals the lower court’s ruling. The Fifth Circuit’s order is not a definitive victory for the president, as the case remains ongoing. Still, the ruling noted that there is a “substantial likelihood” that El Paso County, Texas and the Border Network for Human Rights lack standing to bring the case. President Trump on Thursday touted the overnight court victory saying it allows him to move forward using military funds for the construction of a wall along the southern border.

Boy Scouts Face a Flood of Litigation over Child Abuse

Boy Scouts of America faces mounting legal liability as lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by leaders and volunteers continue to roll in, thanks in part to loosening statutes of limitations across the country. On Tuesday, lawyers with Abused in Scouting filed suit in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight men w. ho say they were abused as kids by Scout leaders and volunteers. Separately, attorneys Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn plan to file suit in California on behalf of 14 plaintiffs with similar claims. That “mass action” suit comes days after California’s Assembly Bill 218 took effect, allowing victims of child sexual assault to file suit until age 40 and opening a three-year window for those abused as children to sue for past incidents.

Cancer Rate in U.S. Drops Most Ever

Researchers on Wednesday reported the largest-ever one-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate, a drop they credited to advances in lung-tumor treatments. The overall cancer death rate has been falling about 1.5% a year since 1991. It fell 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, according to the new American Cancer Society report. That’s the largest drop ever seen in national cancer statistics going back to 1930. Lung cancer accounts for about a quarter of all cancer deaths. Most lung cancer cases are tied to smoking, and decades of declining smoking rates led to falling rates of lung cancer illnesses and deaths. Take lung cancer out of the mix, and the 2017 cancer rate drop is 1.4%.

Social Security Turns 80-Years-Old

On Jan. 1, Social Security marked its 80th anniversary of making payouts to retired workers. Today, it’s a program responsible for divvying out more than 64 million benefit checks each month, many of which wind up in the hands of seniors. According to data from the Social Security Administration, some 62% of retired workers receive at least half of their income from the program. Furthermore, over 15 million retired workers are being pulled out of poverty each month because of their payouts, based on an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

  • Every year, the Social Security Board of Trustees releases its short-term (10-year) and long-term (75-year) outlooks for the Social Security program. In the 2019 report, the Trustees estimated a $13.9 trillion cash shortfall between 2035 and 2093, with 2020 being the first year since 1982 where the program would spend more than it brought in. Although Social Security won’t go bankrupt, a lack of asset reserves would force an across-the-board cut to benefits that could total up to 23%.

Economic News

U.S. hiring slowed sharply in December as employers added 145,000 jobs, raising concerns that trade worries and a persistent downturn in manufacturing may be taking a bigger toll on the broader economy. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 50-year low of 3.5%, the Labor Department said Friday. Job gains for October and November were revised down by a total 14,000. October’s tally was nudged from 156,000 to 152,000 and November’s, from 266,000 to 256,000. “The economy is still creating more than enough jobs to keep pace with population growth,” economist Michael Pearce of Capital Economics wrote in a note to clients.

The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December by the most in more than a decade with order volumes crashing to near an 11-year low and factory employment falling for a fifth straight month. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity fell to 47.2 last month from 48.1 in November. It was the lowest reading since June 2009 and thwarted expectations for a leveling off in the pace of decline in a sector buffeted by the U.S.-China trade war. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector and a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

In 2017, the most recent year available, roughly 10% of workers were in “alternative employment arrangements,” which included being an independent contractor or on call, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly one-third of Americans perform some type of gig work – such as being a rideshare driver – over the course of a year, according to the company Staffing Industry Analysts.

As the U.S. farm economy reels from the worst harvest in decades after nearly two years of the trade war, U.S. grain growers are struggling to decide what crops might keep them in business. Across snow-covered North Dakota, U.S. farmers are stuck with fields full of weather-damaged corn — a crop they planted after the U.S.-China trade war killed their soybean market. President Donald Trump announced last month that China had agreed to double its pre-trade war purchases of U.S. agricultural products over the next two years as part of a Phase 1 trade deal. That brought little comfort to U.S. farmers because China still has not confirmed the commitment or signed any deal.

Borden Dairy Co., one of America’s oldest and largest dairy companies, on Monday became the second major milk producer to file for bankruptcy in the last two months. Tumbling milk consumption combined with the rising price of milk have crippled the dairy industry with debt. Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy November 12.

Pier 1 Imports plans to close up to 450 locations, nearly half of its 942 stores, the company announced Monday. The Fort Worth, Texas-based home goods retailer said the decision to reduce its store footprint is needed “to better align its business with the current operating environment.” The company will also close certain distribution centers and reduce its corporate expenses. Bed, Bath & Beyond is also in serious shape, contemplating its options as its stock plummets. Macy’s is closing at least 28 stores in the next couple months and one Bloomingdale’s location.

Persecution Watch

The Chinese government has tightened its reign on its citizens by announcing that all religious personnel of any faith must submit to and evangelize about the Chinese Communist Party. Starting on Feb 1, all religious groups must adhere to the new rules, which consist of six chapters and 41 articles. They require government approval for any type of gathering and total submission to the Communist Party. One law, Article 17, states: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party. “In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim, or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” said a Chinese Catholic priest, according to CBN.

Middle East

Unidentified planes struck targets in Syria near the border with Iraq on Friday, reports said, triggering “a huge explosion” amid soaring tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes targeted positions belonging to pro-Iran militias in the Boukamal area, near the border with Iraq. The UK-based organization, which documents the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the planes struck weapons depots and vehicles belonging to the militias. The U.S. carried out military strikes in the area on Dec. 29, killing 25 members of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia in retaliation to a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq that killed a U.S. contractor.

Israel

Israeli analysts have long warned that Israel’s security is closely tied to the degree to which its main ally, the U.S., is feared and respected in the Middle East. Therefore, the American elimination of two of Iran’s most senior terrorist leaders is sure to incur diplomatic and security benefits for Israel as well, at least in the short term, reports ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem).

Israel announced it has developed a new laser weapon designed to stop rockets, anti-tank guided missiles and other threats, The Jerusalem Post is reporting. Defense Ministry Gen. Yaniv Rotem said a series of successful interceptions on mortar shells, drones and antitank missiles have already been carried out. And Rotem added: “This is one system with many options – the weapon of the future.”

Kenya

A Kenyan airfield used by U.S. forces was attacked Sunday by the al-Shabab extremist group. The attack killed three American Department of Defense personnel and destroyed U.S. aircraft and vehicles. At least five attackers were killed. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility and asserted that “intense” combat with U.S. forces continued. It is the first known al-Shabab attack against U.S. forces inside Kenya, a key base for fighting one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. Although based in Somalia, al-Shabab frequently launches terror attacks in other African countries, most notably in neighboring Kenya. It has struck there more than 20 times in the past five years, killing at least 300 people.

Mexico

A family from Oklahoma, returning to the U.S. after visiting relatives in Mexico, was attacked by gunmen, and one relative says “bullets were everywhere” during the fatal incident in the sparsely traveled area near the Texas border, Oscar Castillo López, 13, was killed, while a 10-year-old relative was among four wounded in the attack, according to the attorney general’s office in the state of Tamaulipas. Jose Mendoza, one of the family members who survived the attack, said the family was on a two-lane highway paralleling the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Mier. The highway where the attack took place is considered to be in a high-risk area contested by Mexican drug cartels. It connects the city of Mier with Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, on the banks of the Rio Grande across the U.S.–Mexico border from Falcon Heights, Texas.

Earthquakes

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas. Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority reported an island-wide power outage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit just south of the island at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles.  Hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico could be without power for more than a year after a major power plant was heavily damaged during the series of earthquakes. According to the USGS, there have been more than 950 earthquakes and aftershocks recorded on Puerto Rico since Dec. 31.

  • Earlier, 5.8-magnitude quake hit Puerto Rico before dawn Monday, unleashing small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking some homes. The U.S. territory has been shaking for the past week. Another quake measured at magnitude 5.1 struck later Monday, at 10:51 a.m. local time, shaking power lines and frightening residents of southern Puerto Rico who had been waiting outside their homes due to fears the buildings were damaged and unstable. The flurry of quakes in Puerto Rico’s southern region began the night of Dec. 28, with quakes ranging in magnitude from 4.7 to 5.1, which have cracked many homes.
  • President Donald Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. The aid will allow for immediate federal assistance after recent earthquakes, and allows the U.S. government to provide immediate assistance, including restoring lost power. The total economic impact, including disruption from damage and power failures, could reach $3.1 billion.

The region near Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran was hit by an earthquake early Wednesday. The 4.9 magnitude temblor struck about 6 miles southeast of Borazjan and 40 miles from the site tied to Iran’s controversial nuclear program. According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake began about six miles below the surface, which suggests a natural event unconnected to a tumultuous day in Iran. Around 30 minutes later a second quake, this time measuring 4.5 magnitude, struck the same province which runs along the Iranian coastline. A similar earthquake struck the region in late December. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Wildfires

Australia’s navy rescued hundreds of people stranded on a Victoria beach Friday as 135 wildfires continue to rip through the nation’s eastern states, prompting the largest peacetime evacuation in the country’s history. At least 24 people are dead and 28 more are missing after the fires scorched more than 38,000 square miles, destroying nearly 2,000 homes in three states. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews declared a disaster across much of the coastal part of the state, allowing the government to order evacuations in an area with as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more vacationers. Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has committed an extra $1.4 billion to recovery efforts.

  • Thousands of people fled their homes and helicopters dropped supplies to towns at risk of nearby wildfires as hot, windy conditions Friday threatened already fire-ravaged southeastern Australian communities. The danger is centered on New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s most populous states, where temperatures and wind speeds are escalating after a few days of relatively benign conditions. Two out-of-control bushfires are expected to merge into a “megablaze” near the border of the two states late Friday.
  • Two dozen people have been charged with deliberately setting bushfires in New South Wales, where nearly 19,000 square miles have burned since September. In addition, 53 were accused of failing to comply with a total fire ban, and 47 discarded a lighted cigarette or match on land, police said. A Muslim teen who was accused along with his brother of starting a fire in Australia was seen laughing as he left court in Sydney on Tuesday.
  • The World Wildlife Fund in Australia estimates that as many as 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires that have scorched Australia. Smoke from the massive Australian wildfires has crossed the South Pacific Ocean and was detected in parts of South America, thousands of miles away, satellite imagery revealed Monday.
  • In 2018, around 140 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand helped fight wildfires in California and other western states. With wildfires now raging in Australia, the help is being repaid. Around 100 American firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks and at least 50 more were dispatched on Monday.

Weather

The contiguous United States saw its second wettest year on record in 2019, according to NOAA’s annual summary issued on Wednesday. The annual average precipitation for 2019 of 34.78” came in just 0.18” shy of the record-wet year of 1973. However, the last 24 months easily set a record for the wettest two-year calendar span in data going back to 1895. The national average temperature wasn’t especially hot by recent standards, but there were landmark heat extremes on either end of the nation, in Alaska and in Florida. In contrast to near-record global heat, temperature wasn’t a standout in 2019 when averaged across the contiguous United States. It was the 34th warmest year in records that go back 125 years.

Ice cover throughout the Great Lakes is nearly a record low for early January because warmer than average temperatures have dominated the region so far this winter. The total ice coverage on the five Great Lakes was 1.5% on Tuesday, or the second lowest for Jan. 7. Ice cover on that date has averaged about 13.9% since records began in 1973.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers have caused flooding that has killed at least 30 people in Indonesia’s capital city. Water reached higher than 8 feet in some places in Jakarta, flooding thousands of homes and businesses. More than 35,000 people fled their homes. Some spent the night on their rooftops awaiting rescue. It was the worst flooding since 2013.

Signs of the Times

January 2, 2020

Apocalypse Soon? Podcasts Available at gofg.org

 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 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. (2Peter 3:8-12)

65,000 College Students Ring in New Year Worshipping Jesus

It’s not your typical college New Year’s party — more than 65,000 young Christians gathering in an Atlanta stadium to kick off a new decade with worship, prayer and Bible teaching. The sold-out conference Passion 2020 saw thousands of millennials and Generation Zers – along with their church and campus leaders – filling up the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Passion founders Louie and Shelley Giglio as hosts and music by the Passion Band. Each year, students have joined together to raise money for different initiatives. Last year, almost 40,000 students gathered at Passion 2019 and were able to raise more than $400,000 to translate the Bible for deaf people across the world. This year, students will raise money for Share Light, a campaign to see the Bible scriptures translated into the 6,000 known languages during this generation’s lifetime.

Abortion Was the Leading Cause of Death Worldwide in 2019

More human beings died from abortions than any other cause of death in 2019, reports Worldometers. There were over 42.3 million abortions world-wide in 2019. In contrast, 8.2 million people died from cancer in 2019, 5 million from smoking, 13 million from diseases, and 1.7 million from HIV/AIDS. In America, just under 1 million babies are aborted every year. Though abortion rates have been dropping in the past decade, abortion remains the leading cause of death in the United States as well. An estimated 61 million unborn babies have been killed in abortions in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

  • In January, pro-life advocates will gather for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. to remember the anniversary of that infamous decision and call for restored protections for the unborn.

The Decline of Christianity and The Rise of the Nones

People of faith are still a majority, with more than 75% of the country ascribing to some religion. All combined, Christianity accounts for nearly 63% of the population. Yet all the growth is on the other side of the spectrum, the so-called ‘Nones,’ who do not have a religious affiliation. For the first time ever, the Nones are the largest demographic in the U.S., with 23.1% of the population, overtaking the Catholics and the evangelicals. Among those ages 18 to 22, more than 40% belong to the Nones, reports  Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University and a Baptist pastor. That includes atheists and agnostics, but the most growth within the Nones has been those who don’t so much actively question or reject God, as much as they don’t see a reason to bother with religion. These so-called ‘apathetics’ don’t attend services, don’t ascribe to any one creed, and often don’t even have much familiarity with the faith world. They account for a bigger share of the population than the agnostics and atheists combined, and their numbers are growing by millions each year.

First Transgender Returns to Birth Sex

Tthe first person to obtain a legal “non-binary” sex designation has successfully petitioned the court originally responsible for his “non-binary” status to order that the sex on his birth certificate be restored to “male.” James Shupe’s petition described his “non-binary” designation as a “psychologically harmful legal fiction.” He told PJ Media that he hopes this decision will prevent a woman currently seeking “non-binary” recognition from following the same lies. “The legal record has now been corrected and LGBT advocates are no longer able to use my historic non-binary court order to advance their toxic agenda,” he added. “I am and have always been male. That is my biological truth, the only thing capable of grounding me to reality.”

Transgender Absurdities Continue

A former Nike employee who identifies as “transmasculine” filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the company last week, claiming gender identity-based harassment due to the use of wrong pronouns. Jazz Lyles was a computer engineer at Nike from May 2017 to September 2018 and was often “misgendered” by employees, according to the lawsuit. Lyles prefers the pronouns they/them/their. “Employers like Nike have a responsibility to present a safe workplace and ensure that employees respect their coworkers’ gender pronouns,” Lyles’ attorney, Shenoa Payne, told CBS News. Nike, in a statement, said the company “is committed to a culture of diversity, inclusion and respect where everyone can succeed and realize their full potential.”

U.S. Mass Killings a Record High in 2019

A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA TODAY and Northeastern University shows there were more mass killings in 2019 than any other year. In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were shootings in which 210 people were killed. Most of the mass killings barely became national news, failing to resonate among the general public because they didn’t occur in public places. The majority of the killings involved people who knew each other – family disputes, drug or gang violence or people with beefs that directed their anger at co-workers or relatives. In many cases, what set off the perpetrator remains a mystery.

Church Shooter Gunned Down by Parishioners

Last Sunday, a man pulled out a shotgun during a Sunday church service and opened fire, killing two congregants before being fatally shot by parishioners. Texas officials hailed the state’s gun laws that allow weapons in places of worship. Two congregants, both volunteer members of the church’s security team, drew their weapons and confronted the gunman, fatally shooting him and saving an “untold number of lives” at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a town of about 17,000 people near Fort Worth. “Evil walked boldly among us, but good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse,” Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said.

Five People Stabbed at Hanukkah Party in New York

A knife-wielding attacker stabbed five people during a Hanukkah party Saturday night at a rabbi’s home in New York, the latest in a string of assaults targeting Jews in the region. One person remained in critical condition Sunday. The suspected attacker, Grafton E. Thomas, pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the stabbing “an act of domestic terrorism” and directed the state police hate crimes task force to investigate. He said the attack was at least the 13th incident of anti-Semitism in the state in the past few weeks. The black man used a machete to hack the five people and now faces hate crime charges after authorities discovered anti-Semitic journal entries at his home.

  • Police in London are investigating anti-Semitic graffiti found scrawled across shop fronts, restaurants and a synagogue as a possible hate crime. The South Hampstead Synagogue, located in a part of London with a large Jewish population, was also targeted. Images of the Star of David and messages apparently relating to the September 11 attacks were painted on buildings in the north of the city on Saturday evening. The numbers “911” refer to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jewish people were responsible for the September 11 attacks in New York.
  • Two female attackers yelled “I will kill you Jews” at a Brooklyn man before shoving him to the ground when he tried to film their anti-Semitic screed, law enforcement sources and witnesses said Wednesday. The two African American women approached the 22-year-old Hasidic victim in Broadway Triangle where they began taunting him with anti-Semitic slurs. The first woman began yelling at the victim before the second woman grabbed his cell phone, broke it in half and threw it to the ground. One witness too afraid to be named told The Post the women shoved the victim to the ground when he tried filming them and threw the phone in his face after breaking it. The victim sustained minor injuries after he was hit in the face with the cell phone.

Transgenders 58% More Likely to Commit Murder Than be Murdered

The Human Rights Campaign, which meticulously tracks transgender deaths across the country, is conspicuously not tracking them when they commit crimes. But in the U.K., analysts found that during the period of 2007-2017, transsexuals were 58% more likely to commit a murder than be murdered, reports the website National Justice. The report documents how a transsexual in Colorado and a partner shot nine students at their school, then later claimed the victims deserved it for their “transphobia.” In Maine, a transgender defended the murder of two parents because they failed to “accept” the “transition.” And in Maryland, a transgender who also was a mass shooter killed three before using the gun for suicide. In California, a Berkeley transgender activist was granted an insanity plea for stabbing two women, one to death. And in Texas, a transgender beat a baby girl to death and is facing the death penalty. Many times media reports omit the “gender identity,” National Justice said. According to gay activist groups, 24 transgenders have been killed in 2019 out of a population of 1.4 million , making their homicide rate 1.7 out of 100,000 – less likely to be killed than the average woman (1.8).”

Iranian Protesters Break into U.S. Embassy

Demonstrators shouting, “Death to America!” smashed their way into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday as protests intensified following U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 fighters of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. Embassy staff were reported to be safe. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who has condemned the airstrikes, urged protesters to leave the embassy area and halt the violence. No deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported at the protest, which included mourners from funerals held for some of those killed by the airstrikes. “Any aggression or harassment of foreign embassies and representations is an act that will be strictly prohibited by the security forces and will be punished by law with the most severe penalties,” Mahdi warned in a statement. The Pentagon was rushing reinforcements to the embassy.

  • The Pentagon immediately dispatched Marines from neighboring Kuwait to bolster security at the compound in what it dubbed a “crisis response mission.” Demonstrators dispersed Wednesday as the Marines fired rubber bullets and tear gas at them.
  • One of the men identified by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a leader of the Iran-backed siege of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was welcomed to the White House in 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Iran Joins with Russia & China in Naval Exercises

Russia, China and Iran launched their first joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman last week in a direct challenge to U.S. influence in the Middle East. The move reflects growing co-operation between the America’s two main rivals and the Islamic republic, which is reeling under economic sanctions imposed by Washington. “The most important achievement of these drills . . . is this message that the Islamic republic of Iran cannot be isolated,” vice-admiral Gholamreza Tahani said. “These exercises show that relations between Iran, Russia and China have reached a new high level.”

President Trump Signs Robo-Call Bill into Law

President Donald Trump signed a bill on Monday that increases fines on criminal robocall violations and cracks down on companies making the calls, as part of a federal push against telephone scammers. The move comes as part of crackdown against the targeting companies and individuals who have collectively placed more than 1 billion unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services. Monday’s bill, which passed in the Senate in May and the House earlier this month, came following the Federal Communications Commission’s announcement of a nationwide crackdown on illegal robocalls in June. The legislation imposes stiffer fines of as much as $10,000 per call on robocallers who knowingly flout the rules on calls. The bill also instructs the FCC to develop further regulations that could shield consumers from unwanted calls.

Vermont Institutes Mandatory Composting by July 1

Food scraps can’t go in Vermont landfills beginning July 1. Residents will have four ways to handle rotten leftovers and items such as peels, eggshells, seeds, pits, coffee grounds and oils, according to the state’s environmental conservation department. Vermonters can use a household compost bin, buy a Green Cone solar digester to break down the scraps, feed scraps to pigs or leave it to the composting professionals. The universal recycling law will require trucking companies to provide food scrap collection services to nonresidential customers and multi-unit apartment complexes. Restaurants, supermarkets and cafeterias must also comply with the law, which is the first state law of its kind. The state hopes to reach a 60% recycling rate through mandatory composting.

2019 Was a Tumultuous Year for Auto Industry

The global auto industry was shaken up in 2019 as never before. Mergers. Alliances. Plant closings. The longest, largest strike in decades. All of that activity was at least partly driven by the biggest change in the industry in more than a century: the move toward electric and self-driving vehicles. Auto companies are committing billions of dollars to develop the next generation of vehicles. GM’s three US plant closings during the year, which sparked a costly 40-day strike, were done to free up the money it said it would need for those vehicles. Volkswagen’s Audi brand and Daimler Benz, announced plans to cut thousands of jobs each, as they move toward electrification and autonomous driving. The year ended with Italian American automaker Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA Group agreeing to a merger to create the world’s third largest automaker. Volkswagen and Ford, meanwhile, have agreed to an alliance to similarly share resources.

Economic News

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will sign a “Phase One” trade deal with China on Jan. 15, and plans to visit China soon to start talks on a “Phase Two.” Trump and aides still have not provided documents detailing what the first phase of an overall agreement involves.

2019 was the second best year of the decade for stocks, thanks to favorable Federal Reserve policy and company valuations that kept on climbing. Even as the trade war with China and other US trade partners injected plenty of volatility into the market, stocks ended up on top. The Dow was up 22%, the S&P 500 gained 29%, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 35%. 2020 started off with a bang, with all three indices reaching record highs.

The retail apocalypse isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Nearly 9,100 store closures were announced in 2019, 55% higher than total closures in 2018, according to a recent report from global marketing research firm Coresight Research.

For many American motorists, $3-a-gallon gasoline is becoming a distant memory. Americans are likely to pay an average of $2.60 a gallon in 2020, according to fuel savings app GasBuddy’s annual forecast. On the whole, drivers haven’t paid more than $3 nationwide since 2014, when prices averaged $3.36. The highest national average price of gas was $4.11 on July 17, 2008, according to AAA.

Persecution Watch

At least nine Christians were recently murdered in Kenya for not reciting the Islamic statement of faith, the Shahada. The nine Christians were traveling by bus to Mandera when they were separated from the other passengers and killed in northeast Kenya by those believed to be Al-Shabaab militants. Two passengers are still missing. Local authorities believe they were also killed by the militants.

A group affiliated with the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a vicious mass execution that claimed the lives of eleven Christian aid workers. The killings were retaliation against the killing of leader Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up after being cornered during a raid by U.S. special forces at the end of October. The militant group known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province released a gruesome minute-long video of the shooting of one man followed by the beheading of 10 others. “This message is to the Christians in the world,” a man featured in the video explains. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.”

A Chinese pastor on Monday was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations,” although his only crime was to preach the gospel in an unregistered church, supporters say. The sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church was only the latest example in China’s crackdown on unregistered churches. Churches within China must register either with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (if they’re Protestant) or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Because such congregations face extreme regulations about what they preach, millions of Christians in the country worship at underground congregations.

Middle East

Iran has warned the U.S. of “consequences” after Washington carried out airstrikes against an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq. At least 25 people were killed and 51 wounded in the airstrikes that targeted five facilities controlled by Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria on Sunday. Kataib Hezbollah is a militia group that falls under the Iran-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq. The strikes represent the first significant US military response in retaliation for attacks by the militia group that have injured numerous American military personnel. The U.S. airstrikes Sunday by F-15 Strike Eagles included three targets in western Iraq and two in eastern Syria that were command-and-control facilities or weapons stockpiles of the Iranian-sponsored militia Kata’ib Hezbollah.

An announcement was made on Thursday by the organizing committee of weekly riots – overseen by the Hamas terror group – stating that the violent demonstrations may be coming to an end. The committee said the demonstrations will only take place once a month, beginning in March, the second anniversary of the riots. From the outset, Hamas used the riots to stage heated confrontations with Israeli troops, with terror group members acting as snipers, rock hurlers, and would-be infiltrators using women and children as human shields to mount their attacks. Israel consistently defended its border against attacks and infiltration attempts. Hamas also continued its rocket attacks on the Jewish state, with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad joining the missile launches as of late.

Israel

“Israel, for the first time in its history, is an exporter of energy,” said Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday morning.” “For the first time since its establishment, Israel is now an energy powerhouse, able to supply all its energy needs and gaining energy independence,” echoed Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu Steinitz made his remarks after a successful flushing test of the Leviathan gas rig on Tuesday. The Leviathan gas rig, which is located closer to shore than would be typical due to security concerns, has been the target of criticism by Israeli citizens living nearby. Some even evacuated their homes, not trusting the government’s assurances that pollution levels were safe.

Afghanistan

The Taliban said Sunday that they have agreed to a temporary cease-fire nationwide. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it is being suggested it would last for 10 days. It provides a window during which a peace agreement with the United States could be signed. A peace deal would allow Washington to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest. The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The U.S. currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Somalia

A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Saturday morning, killing at least 76 people. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory, and witnesses said the force of the blast reminded them of the devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds. The death toll could rise as scores of people were rushed to hospitals. The blast targeted a tax collection center during the morning rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend.

North Korea

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Wednesday threatened “shocking actual action” against the U.S. and also promised that the reclusive country will soon unveil new strategic weapons. Mr. Kim’s widely anticipated New Year’s Day speech kept open the door to continued denuclearization talks with the Trump administration while turning up the rhetorical heat and returning to his traditional, more aggressive stance.

Microsoft has been granted a court order to take over 50 websites it alleges were used by a North Korean hacking group to steal “highly sensitive information” from computers in the United States. Microsoft filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 18 against two unnamed people involved in the group, known as Thallium, which is alleged to have used the websites to send phishing emails to break into users’ accounts and gain access to their information.

China

Three researchers involved in the births of genetically edited babies have been convicted and sentenced for practicing medicine illegally, Chinese state media said Monday. Xinhua reports that lead researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan ($430,000). Two other people received lesser sentences and fines. He, the lead researcher, shocked the scientific world when he announced in November 2018 that he had helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies—twin girls born that month. He said he had used a tool called CRISPR to alter a gene in embryos to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus. The Xinhua report, citing court documents, said the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women. It is unknown what happened to the babies.

Mexico

A Mexican small-town police chief has been arrested on the suspicion of being linked to the brazen massacre of nine women and children from a Mormon community by drug cartel members last month, authorities said Friday. Fidel Alejandro Villegas, the police chief of Janos in the state of Chihuahua, was arrested by federal authorities on suspicion of involvement in the Nov. 4 attack in the Sonora state. Authorities said Villegas has ties to the drug cartel. His arrest is the fourth in the aftermath of the killing of three women and six children, who were members of the Lebaron family and held dual Mexican and American citizenship.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake lightly shook the Los Angeles area early Thursday, striking in the ocean off coastal Southern California. The quake began at 2:13 a.m. PT, centered in the Pacific Ocean about 15 miles south of Port Hueneme, a city roughly 60 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, the US Geological Survey says. The quake produced light to weak shaking, the USGS says. It felt like a quick jolt in Los Angeles-area communities such as West Hollywood, Marina del Rey and South Gate. No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Wildfires

About 30,000 people were urged Sunday to flee bushfires in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria before their escape routes are cut off. Three large fires are burning in East Gippsland, and officials said they cut off Princes Highway, the only way in and out of the area. The three East Gippsland fires have burned more than 380 square miles since starting on Nov. 21. Temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit are expected across the area, which like most of Australia has sweltered amid a prolonged heatwave. Authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the state’s southern coast this week In total, 140 wildfires are burning in Australia, and at least 13 people have been killed with more than 19,300 square miles burned. Seven people have died in the past 24 hours in the Australian state of New South Wales. Authorities warn that conditions will likely worsen over the next few days.

  • On Tuesday, the wildfires trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties, and caused at least two fatalities, with four people missing. Roads are clogged and long lines have formed Thursday at gas stations as tens of thousands of people try to flee parts of eastern Australia where fire conditions are worsening. Meanwhile, a navy ship is prepared to evacuate about 4,000 people trapped in the coastal town of Mallacoota.
  • Officials in Australia fear thousands of koalas may be dead in an area of New South Wales ravaged in recent months by wildfires. Up to 28,000 koalas lived in the region before the fires, and 30% of that region has been destroyed. Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate around 480 million animals have been killed in the wildfires,

Weather

High winds from a winter storm sweeping across the nation have caused tens of thousands of Ohio customers to lose electricity Monday morning. Blackouts hit more than 125,000 homes and businesses. Gusts reached 50 to 70 mph. Downed power lines forced the closure of State Road 56. The sprawling winter storm continued to deliver snow, ice and wind to portions of the Midwest and Northeast on Monday, wreaking havoc with holiday travelers from the Dakotas to Maine. Officials in the town of Otis, Massachusetts, declared a state of emergency Monday as the storm downed trees and power lines.

It’s finally starting to look like winter in the Russian capital after authorities dumped artificial snow in the center of Moscow in time for New Year’s Eve festivities. The country known for its rough winters has seen a mild stretch so far. On Dec. 18, the city broke a 1886 record when temperatures rose to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Moscow Times.