Archive for March, 2020

Signs of the Times

March 31, 2020

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Date: Tuesday, 3/31/2020

COVID-19 Update:

The death toll from the coronavirus in the United States exceeded 3,100 on Tuesday, according to state and county health agencies — more than the number of people who died in the initial Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people. The first coronavirus-related death was reported Feb. 29 in Washington state. Roughly three of four people in the U.S. are now or soon will be under instructions to stay indoors, as states and localities try to curb the spread of the coronavirus before hospitals are overwhelmed.

COVID-19 a Globalist Gateway to One-World Government

Draconian measures that violate constitutional law are being invoked under emergency declarations across the U.S.. While these seem appropriate to mitigate the deadly spread of COVID-19, the question for the future is how many of these measures will be rolled back. Already calls have come out from globalists to further push for a one-world government in order to better battle worldwide problems like pandemics. They point out that issues like climate change would benefit from global leadership. However, the Bible shows us that a one-world government will become a tool of Satan to install the anti-Christ as the global dictator.

  • It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:7-8)

Some Churches Hold Services Despite Social Distancing Orders, Pastor Arrested

While most churches have closed their doors in compliance with government recommendations to stop the spread of coronavirus, a few are making headlines for their defiance. The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida held a crowded service Sunday for its thousands of members, despite a ban of groups of 10 or more people and the church’s online streaming capability. Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, La., defied a shelter-in-place order by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, as hundreds gathered Sunday. Walmart is open near both churches because it has a grocery store inside, enabling it to meet the criteria for being classified essential, But Pastors Spell and Howard-Browne say feeding our souls and our spirits are also essential. But residents living near the churches are upset, demanding that the churches switch to online services.

  • Rodney Howard-Browne, the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church, was arrested Monday afternoon for defying government orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.Pastor Browne’s church went far beyond state, local and CDC guidelines for safety, including installing hospital-grade, anti-microbial air purification systems that are certified to destroy microbes.The church complied with social distancing orders by placing each family 6 feet or more apart from other attending families and gave each attendee a hand sanitizer.

NYC: Close Churches, Leave Abortion Centers Open

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to close churches and synagogues “permanently” if they refuse to stop services during the coronavirus outbreak. The Democrat mayor’s comments Friday sparked wide-spread outrage, and lawsuits are a near certainty if he follows through with the threat. Meanwhile, abortion centers were declared essential services and allowed to continue operating.

  • The Bible teaches us to obey the law of the land (Romans 13:1-7). However, threats to shut down churches permanently is the direction secular humanists want to move and they will seek every opportunity to push Christianity more and more out of existence.

Nearly Half of Americans Believe Coronavirus a Wakeup Call from God

A survey commissioned by Joshua Fund found that 44% believe the coronavirus crisis is a “wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God” and also “signs of coming judgment.” It found nearly a third see the current crisis as the part of the “last days” predicted in the Bible, and there is a feeling in the country “that Americans need to embrace faith and return to religion.” The poll also found 22% of self-identified non-Christian respondents and 40% of Christians said the crisis has resulted in more interest in God and spiritual matters.

States Refusing Entry from Other States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing “extensive community transmission” of COVID-19 in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut late Saturday urged residents to refrain from non-essential travel for 14 days starting Sunday, 3/28. Rhode Island called for police to stop cars with out-of-state license plates from entering their state and has sent National Guard members door-to-door to ask if anyone has arrived from out of state, in which case they will be placed in 14-day quarantine. Florida also said any NY arrivals would be quarantined for 14 days. Dare County, NC, a popular summer vacation area in the state’s Outer Banks, has established checkpoints around the county to stop visitors and non-resident property owners from entering. Texas will require Louisiana drivers entering the state to self-quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, air travelers from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, and anywhere in California and Washington will also be forced to self-quarantine for two weeks in Texas.

China Returning to Normal – Or Maybe Not

Shopkeepers in the city at the center of China’s virus outbreak are reopening but customers are scarce as authorities lift more of the anti-virus controls that kept tens of millions of people at home for two months. While other governments tighten travel and other controls, the ruling Communist Party has rolled back curbs on Wuhan and other areas as it tries to revive the world’s second-largest economy after declaring victory over the outbreak. Some residents of Wuhan have disputed that claim and say the government is lying. Since the start of the week, seven large funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains of around 500 people to their families every day, suggesting that far more people died than ever made the official statistics.

  • A 101-year-old Italian man has reportedly survived his battle with COVID-19. An official from the city of Rimini on the northeast coast of Italy says the man, identified publicly as only Mr. P., was released from the hospital last week. He was born during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920.

Kinsa Health Says COVID-19 in U,S, is Cooling Down

Kinsa Health, a company that makes “smart thermometers,” has used the data to create a “Health Weather” map of the U.S. The company, which has sold or donated its products to more than 1 million Americans, says it has been getting around 160,000 temperature readings a day since the coronavirus began spreading widely in the U.S., the New York Times reports. Kinsa says “atypical fevers” peaked on March 17 and have been declining since. There were spikes in Louisiana and New Mexico last week, the company says, but its map shows fevers were dropping in every county in the country by Friday.

Dr. Fauci Says Up to 200,000 Could Die from COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN that coronavirus infections and deaths have not begun decreasing “within the time frame that was originally estimated.” Fauci said he showed Trump the data and the president quickly agreed with the recommendation to extend the guidelines for social distancing and self-isolation through the end of April. Just last week, Trump said he wanted the country – most notably, the economy – “raring to go” by Easter. That was before Fauci said Sunday that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die because of the virus.

COVID-19 Death Rate Estimate Drops to 0.66%

Research, published in the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, estimated that about 0.66% of those infected with the virus will die. which is lower than earlier estimates of around 3%. The study takes into account potentially milder cases that often go undiagnosed — but it’s still far higher than the 0.1% of people who are killed by the flu.

MIT Study Says 6-Foot Distance Not Enough

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher’s findings suggest the current 6-foot social distancing rule to prevent spreading of the coronavirus might not be tough enough. Lydia Bourouiba, Ph.D., an MIT associate professor, found that when people exhale, droplets carrying the virus can travel in gaseous clouds as far as 27 feet.

8 Strains of COVID-19 Discovered Worldwide

At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientists are tracking by their genetic footprints. While much is unknown, hidden in the virus’s unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanks to quarantine measures.  Labs around the world are turning their gene sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task of rapidly analyzing the genomes of virus samples taken from people sick with COVID-19.

5-13 Minute Coronavirus Test Coming

A five-minute, point-of-care coronavirus test could be coming to urgent care clinics next week, and experts say it could be “game-changing.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization to Illinois-based medical device maker Abbott Labs on Friday for a coronavirus test that delivers positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes, the company said. The company expects the tests to be available next week and expects to ramp up manufacturing to deliver 50,000 tests per day. The test runs on the company’s ID NOW platform, a 6.6-pound portable device the size of a small toaster. There are currently about 18,000 ID NOW instruments in the U.S. – the most widely available molecular point-of-care testing platform in the nation. The new test comes in the form of a small cartridge that fits in the palm of your hand, said John Frels, Abbott’s vice president of research and development.

FDA Allows Emergency Use of Malaria Drug for COVID-19

A drug President Donald Trump backed as a possible “game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic received an emergency-use designation from U.S. regulators. The Health and Human Services Department accepted 30 million doses of the drug, hydroxychloroquine, from Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit, Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement late Sunday. Normally used to treat malaria, hydroxychloroquine yielded promising yet inconclusive results in a small coronavirus trial. While Trump has said the drug is safe, it does carry significant side effects. Some people have been sickened, with one reported death, after taking various versions to try to ward off the new illness.

  • A French study involving 80 patients infected with the COVID-19 virus being treated with a drug cocktail yielded promising results. Dr. Didier Raoult said 65 of the 80 patients involved in the trial were back home in five days. The participants took a combination of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin.

Companies Stepping Up to Make Ventilators

Ford and GE plan to make as many as 50,000 ventilators for coronavirus patients within 100 days and plans to continue producing 30,000 per month after that, the company announced Monday. James Dyson, founder of Dyson Ltd., designed a new ventilator in 10 days. He’s making 15,000 for the pandemic fight. Some hospitals in the United States are “hoarding” ventilators but they need to “release them” to hospitals that need them amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said Sunday.

Military Called Up, Also Suffering Infections

President Trump issued an order Friday to bring some former service members to active duty to assist in the coronavirus response. Those who are recalled will include people “with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities,” a Pentagon spokesman said.

The Pentagon on Monday announced it has confirmed 1,087 cases of coronavirus among active-duty military, civilians, dependents, and contractors within the force. Of the 1,087 total cases, 569 are active-duty military, 220 are civilians, 190 are dependents, and 64 are contractors. A military dependent and a contractor have died from coronavirus. A New Jersey National Guard member is the first U.S. service member to die from COVID-19.

The USNS Comfort has arrived at the front lines of the coronavirus fight in the United States. The Navy hospital ship, which contains 1,000 beds, a dozen operating rooms, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy and more. The White House said the 1,200 “doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, X-ray technicians, orderlies and other medical staff” on board the vessel “will augment and support New York City’s medical community and conserve hospital capacity by treating some non-COVID-19 patients.”

Rural Tourist Destinations Becoming COVID-19 Hotspots

Metropolises like New York City and New Orleans have seen a recent explosion of coronavirus cases. But rural counties in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, where hordes of visitors flock each year to ski or hike, are also experiencing some of the highest rates of coronavirus cases per capita in the nation, threatening to overwhelm local hospitals and challenging perceptions of the virus’ reach. Four counties – Blaine County, Idaho; Summit County, Utah; and Eagle County and Gunnison County, Colorado – lead the nation in per capita rates of confirmed cases, outside New York state and Louisiana. The rural settings are all affluent, mountain-ringed ski and hiking hamlets with populations under 55,000 that welcome millions of visitors each year. All have been grappling with a sudden surge in coronavirus cases.

Many U.S. Counties Without Infections

Among more than 3,100 counties in the U.S., nearly 1,300 had no confirmed cases of COVID-19, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed, as of Sunday. Of the counties without positive tests, 85 percent were in rural areas that generally saw less everyday contact between people. However, these counties  have had a higher proportion of people older than 60 — the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus — and far fewer intensive-care beds should they fall sick, The Associated Press reported.

L.A. Sheriff Abandons Effort to Close Arms Dealers

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was sued by gun-rights groups after trying to shut down firearms dealers in the wake of coronavirus concerns, said Monday that he is abandoning the effort. The sheriff said he’s heeding a federal Department of Homeland Security advisory issued on Saturday that listed gun and ammunition dealers as “essential critical infrastructure workers.” Villanueva called the non-binding memo “persuasive” and announced that his department won’t order or recommend closing businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition in the nation’s most populous county

Drug Cartels Hurt by Lack of Chemicals from China

The outbreak of COVID-19 has sent the price of heroin, methamphetamines and fentanyl soaring, as the likes of the Sinaloa cartel – and its main rival, the Jalisco “New Generation” – struggle to obtain the necessary chemicals to make the synthetic drugs, which typically come from China and are now in minimal supply. The cartels have continued their production at a slower rate, but the demand seems to be increasing during these times of uncertainty in America. The shutdown of cities in China and travel in and out of China have also negatively impacted the flow of chemicals and drugs to Mexico.

Food Banks Hit Hard by Lack of Supplies & Higher Demand

Food banks across the nation are facing a perfect storm as they try to help the growing number of hungry Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of people newly unemployed mean food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens are seeing a flood of new clients appearing at their doors, just as supplies are dwindling because of growing demand from consumers stuck at home.

American Farmers May Lack Workers, Affecting Production

American farmers are concerned. The coronavirus pandemic is posing a threat to their livelihoods, as it is for many others across the globe. But unlike some shelf-stable goods producers, farmers have very little flexibility. They’re on a strict planting and harvesting schedule and cannot ramp up or decrease production at will. April and May are critical planting and harvesting times for many U.S. farmers. If farmers can’t find enough workers or if their farming practices are disrupted because of the pandemic, supplies of fresh produce will dwindle and prices will soar.

Economic News

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the worst first quarter in its 135-year history by sliding more than 400 points Tuesday. Wall Street wrapped up a horrific three-month run defined by trillions in losses from an economy paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic. Just weeks ago, investors had been riding high from a historic bull market that put the blue chip index within a wisp of 30,000. Today it hit 21,917, down about 25%.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. could reach a staggering 32.1% in the second quarter as 47 million workers are laid off amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to estimates published in a blog by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That would be the highest jobless rate on records dating to 1948 and easily top the 25% rate during the Great Depression. Goldman Sachs sees the unemployment rate rising to 15% by the middle of the year. The investment bank now expects an annualized rate of contraction in the U.S. economy of 34% compared to the previous quarter.

Economic growth could pick up strongly this summer but still fall well short of its former pace, with the recession’s after-effects lingering well into next year as consumers remain skittish about venturing out to restaurants and other gathering spots. Some of the damage could even be lasting, leaving a smaller economy. Forty-nine percent of companies told Challenger, Gray & Christmas they are very or somewhat likely to conduct layoffs in the next three months, while 11% reported they have conducted permanent layoffs; another 7% have conducted temporary layoffs.

U.S. crude plunged nearly 7% and finished at an 18-year low of $20.09 a barrel Monday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to deal a devastating blow to energy demand. Global oil consumption will likely crater by 12 million barrels per day this quarter, or 12%, the steepest decline ever recorded, according to Bank of America.

U.S. gasoline prices have dropped to their lowest levels in four years, and they are almost sure to go lower as oil prices plunge. Price-tracking services put the national average Monday around $2 a gallon.

Macy’s is furloughing a majority of its 125,000 employees because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has sunk sales and forced it close to its stores. Neiman Marcus says it will introduce furloughs and temporary pay cuts, the latest retailer to deploy cost-saving measures.

The list of companies who are hiring workers during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, including Amazon, Aidi, Dollar General, Kroger, Albertsons, Publix, CVS, Walmart, Instacart, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns.

Some of America’s most iconic stores that temporarily shut down are now saying closures will last for many weeks – and possibly indefinitely. The latest casualties from the coronavirus economic deluge include Apple, Express, Urban Outfitters and Guess? Stores, all of which are closed “until further notice.” Nike, meanwhile, says company stores “will remain temporarily closed in multiple countries around the world.”

As many as 30,000 California restaurants could close permanently because of coronavirus restrictions that have shuttered dining rooms and led to widespread layoffs, the industry warned Friday, while urging the state to delay tax payments and planned minimum-wage increases to help the ailing businesses.

Amazon employees at a New York City warehouse are planning to walk off the job Monday, as a growing number of delivery and warehouse workers demand better pay and protections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island will strike until the building is sanitized in the wake of several workers testing positive for the coronavirus. New York Attorney General Letitia James is calling for an investigation of Amazon, after the online shopping giant fired an employee who staged a walkout in Staten Island.

The Federal Reserve has become deeply invested in corporate bonds, asset-backed securities, commercial paper, and exchange-traded funds, despite regulations prohibiting those measures. Theoretically, the Fed is only allowed to purchase or lend against securities that have government guarantees. However, under the emergency declaration, the Treasury, financed by the Fed, now is buying securities and backstopping loans. In short, the federal government is, in effect, nationalizing large swaths of the financial markets, and the Fed is creating the money to do it. The Fed announced $1-trillion a day in repurchase agreements (repo loans) and unlimited quantitative easing, according to Bloomberg News.

Persecution Watch

During the Cultural Revolution, China’s communist government offered monetary rewards to children who reported religious believers, including even their parents, to police. It’s still happening, reports Bitter Winter, an online magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China. The report said the current regime continues to use “this despicable method to crack down on religion.”

Russia Using Facial Recognition Tools to Catch Quarantine Violators

Russia under President Vladimir Putin has pioneered authoritarian tech: Last year, the Kremlin leader approved measures that would enable the creation of a “sovereign” Russian internet, able to be firewalled from the rest of the world. Perhaps the most well-publicized tech tool in Russia’s arsenal for fighting coronavirus is Moscow’s massive facial-recognition system. Rolled out earlier this year, the surveillance system had originally prompted an unusual public backlash, with privacy advocates filing lawsuits over unlawful surveillance. Coronavirus, however, has given an unexpected public-relations boost to the system. Last week, Moscow police claimed to have caught and fined 200 people who violated quarantine and self-isolation using facial recognition with a 170,000-camera system.

India’s Lockdown Turns Workers into Homeless Migrants

In one of the biggest migrations in India’s modern history, hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers have begun long journeys on foot to get home, having been rendered homeless and jobless by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Vast numbers of migrants — many of whom lived and ate where they worked — were suddenly without food and shelter. Thousands of migrants in Delhi, including whole families, packed their pots, pans and blankets into rucksacks, some balancing children on their shoulders as they walked along interstate highways. Some planned to walk hundreds of miles. But as they reached the Delhi border, many were beaten back by the police.

Sweden Shuns ‘Drastic’ Coronavirus Response

The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won’t find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home, if possible, and urged those over age 70 to self-isolate as a precaution. Yet compared to the lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, the government’s response to the virus allows a liberal amount of personal freedom. Sweden, a nation of 10 million, had a total of 3,447 confirmed virus cases and 105 deaths by Sunday.

Israel Lockdown Tightens, Netanyahu Quarantined

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went into quarantine Monday until the end of an epidemiological study which is expected to show that he wasn’t exposed to the coronavirus from an aide who tested positive. Netanyahu addressed the nation Monday evening to announce the tightening of restrictions on movement to stem the exponential growth of coronavirus contagion in Israel. Speaking from quarantine in his own house, Netanyahu said the government was imposing additional restrictions, including a ban on meetings of more than two people who are not in the same immediate family. The restrictions also prohibit guests from outside the immediate family at weddings and limit the number of people attending funerals to 20. At all meetings and events, people must maintain the two-meter (six -oot) safety distance to reduce the chances of being infected.

Iranian Prisoners Rioting over Coronavirus

Some of the 50,000 prisoners still incarcerated in Iran amid the coronavirus outbreak started a riot Monday, breaking cameras and causing other damage in two buildings that house violent criminals, state media reported. The chaos at the Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz is the latest in a series of violent prison disturbances across the country, which is battling the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. Iran has temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic, leaving behind bars violent offenders and so-called “security cases” — often dual nationals and others with Western ties.

Islamic State Prisoners Escape in Syria

Several Islamic State (ISIS) members escaped from a Syrian prison on Sunday by ripping off doors and using them to break down a wall during a “detention facility uprising,” authorities said. ISIS prisoners took over the first floor of the prison and tore down some of the internal walls. Some of them managed to escape and the search for them is ongoing. Inside, prisoners staged a riot that authorities struggled to control.

Taliban Remains on Offensive in Afghanistan Despite Talks

Taliban insurgents have killed 27 members of the Afghan security forces, police and government officials said on Monday, as a peace effort brokered by the United States struggles to get off the ground. The Taliban and the United States struck a deal last month allowing the United States and its allies to withdraw their forces in exchange for Taliban promises on preventing terrorism. Efforts to get talks going have been hampered by differences between the government and the Taliban on a prisoner exchange and on negotiating teams. The Taliban have not agreed to a ceasefire with government forces and fighting has not ended, although the insurgents have not announced any spring offensive, which they normally do at this time of the year.

Volcanoes

Indonesia’s most active volcano has spewed ash 5,000 meters into the air, prompting officials to tell residents to “stay calm and not panic.” It’s the second time this month that Mount Merapi has erupted. Mount Merapi is located in central Java. Authorities did not raise Merapi’s alert from its current third-highest level. “Local residents are advised to remain calm and go about their activities as usual, but stay alert for volcanic ash,” the agency said.

Weather

A severe weather outbreak hit the mid-South and Midwest on Saturday as at least two strong tornadoes struck northeastern Arkansas. A large tornado was captured on a highway camera moving into the east side of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The footage showed debris being lofted into the air and vehicles overturned in the area of the Mall at Turtle Creek. Hangars damaged at Jonesboro Municipal Airport, located just northeast of the mall. Six people were injured by the tornado and were taken to a local hospital. A second tornado was also confirmed by the NWS to the northeast of Jonesboro in southeastern Greene County. Twenty-two people were injured by the tornadoes, but there were no deaths.

Signs of the Times

March 27, 2020

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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 21:3-4)

Date: Friday, 3/28/2020

U.S. Stimulus Bill Approved by Senate Wednesday Night

The Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers, and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic. The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which passed it Friday afternoon after some contentious debate. President Trump said he would sign it immediately.

  • The measure focuses on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid. It would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits, and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. It also includes help for airlines and hospitals.
  • The bill would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 for most individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly with an extra $500 for each child. Assistance would start to phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 and for couples with more than $150,000 in income.
  • Unemployment insurance benefits would be expanded, increasing the maximum benefit by $600 a week for up to four months. Benefits would be available to workers who are part-time, self-employed or part of the gig economy. People who are still unemployed after state benefits end could get an additional 13 weeks of help.
  • Food assistance programs would get a boost as would programs to help low-income households avoid eviction and a program to improve internet access in rural areas.
  • Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages would be protected from foreclosures for as long as 180 days.
  • Students with federal loans could suspend payments until October. Students receiving Pell grants who have to drop out because of coronavirus would not be penalized.

G20 Nations Pledge $5 Trillion for Global Economy

President Donald Trump and other world leaders said Thursday they are trying to fight the coronavirus by injecting more than $5 trillion into the global economy, sharing more health data, and addressing potential trade disruptions. “Combating this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity,” said a statement from the leaders of the Group of 20 nations – the G-20 – following a videoconference.

U.S. Has the Most COVID-19 Infections

The United States now leads the world in coronavirus infections even after a spike of new cases reported in Italy. According to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 92,000 cases of the virus with over 1,300 deaths. Italy reported a total of more than 86,000 infections on Friday. The state of New York has nearly half of the U.S. cases at 39,140 with 385 deaths as of Friday. Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country, with 9,134. Italy reported 919 coronavirus deaths Thursday — the largest single-day toll reported by any country. Worldwide, more than 560,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 127,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

  • Throngs of revelers may have brought the coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations which critics maintain should have been canceled. The city’s poverty rate, lack of healthcare and affordable housing, and high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions may be driving its explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. epicenter of the outbreak. The city also reported Thursday that a 17-year-old teen died after contracting the virus, bringing the city’s coronavirus death total to 46 — more than half of the state’s total death count.
  • The Pentagon said Thursday cases of the coronavirus have quadrupled in the U.S. military since last week, with more than 280 service members now infected around the world. In addition, 62 contractors, 134 Defense Department civilians and 98 military dependents had tested positive for COVID-19.

Not Just the Elderly are Getting Sick & Dying

A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week based on almost 2,500 of the first U.S. cases in which the patients’ ages were known shows that nearly half of the 121 patients admitted to intensive care units were adults under 65. Of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 38% were between 20 and 54, and 20% of the hospitalized patients and 12% of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44. So it’s not just the elderly who are suffering severely from the coronavirus. The death rate, however, did fall heavily on older patients, with 34% of fatalities reported among adults aged 85 years or older; 46% among adults aged 65-84 years, and 20% among adults aged 20-64 years.

Medical Supplies/Equipment Insufficient

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey on coronavirus preparedness said they lack sufficient tests kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers, while 85 percent said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals. The survey findings, published Friday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are a warning that U.S. cities and towns could be quickly overwhelmed if community transmission of the virus spreads out of control.

A cache of medical supplies that was supposed to save Americans from deadly disasters lacked the funding over the past decade or more to prepare for a pandemic as widespread as the coronavirus, former managers of the stockpile told USA TODAY.  Overseen by a cadre of scientists, disease specialists and others at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Strategic National Stockpile houses roughly $8 billion in inventory for rapid deployment to anywhere in the nation in under 12 hours. But its inadequate supply of ventilators, respiratory masks and other personal protective equipment will leave critical shortages for U.S. hospitals scrambling to respond to the mounting coronavirus pandemic.

  • There also aren’t enough specially trained personnel, health care experts to operate the ventilators. “They’re very complex machines, and you don’t have enough respiratory therapists,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You’re going to have to train nurses and others to run them,” he said.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday his state’s hospitals can now split one ventilator between two patients—a “not ideal but workable” move made in anticipation of a ventilator shortage as the number of cases continues to rise. Multiple medical groups encourage triage instead, as it’s better “to purpose the ventilator to the patient most likely to benefit than fail to prevent, or even cause, the demise of multiple patients.”
  • As hospitals and nursing homes desperately search for hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus outbreak, federal regulators are preventing ethanol producers from providing millions of gallons of alcohol that could be transformed into the germ-killing mixture. The US Food and Drug Administration’s roadblock has been frustrating the health care and ethanol industries, which have been calling for a relaxed regulation to deal with the public health care emergency. The problem for the ethanol industry is that most plants make food-grade ethanol, one step below the highest pharmaceutical grade. Since the plants aren’t certified to comply with stringent production standards designed to protect quality of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements, the FDA doesn’t want the alcohol used for a product to be applied to the skin.

CoVid-19 May Become Seasonal

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Wednesday warned that the coronavirus could keep returning as a “seasonal, cyclic thing,” like the flu. “The reason I say that is that what we’re starting to see now, in the Southern Hemisphere … is that we’re having cases that are appearing at they go into their winter season. And if, in fact, they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we’ll get a cycle around the second time,” said Fauci. Fauci said the U.S. needs to develop a vaccine and test it quickly so it will be available for the next cycle as well as a “menu of drugs that we have shown to be effective and shown to be safe.”

World Leaders Testing Positive for Coronavirus

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus and will be self-isolating for the near future. The 55-year-old said he has “mild symptoms” of a persistent cough and a temperature but is otherwise okay. He said he will keep working from home at 10 Downing Street. If Johnson gets to the point where he could no longer work, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would step in. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he, too, is infected.
  • Prince Charles, who is first in line to the British throne, has tested positive for coronavirus after displaying mild symptoms, his office has announced. The Prince of Wales, 71, has otherwise been displaying good health and is working from home. His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative. They are currently at their home Burnham on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
  • After seven of their palace staff members tested positive for COVID-19, Malaysia’s king and queen are under quarantine.

U.S. Most Prepared for Pandemic Says Johns Hopkins

The United States was ranked the best-prepared country in the world to handle a pandemic in late 2019 by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The Global Health Security Index was “developed with guidance from an international panel of experts from 13 countries, with research by the Economist Intelligence Unit” from 2018 to 2019, The Washington Post reported last year. “More than 100 researchers spent a year collecting and validating publicly available data.” At the same time, the paper noted that the U.S. score was still not perfect, and that “factors driving down the U.S. score include the risks of social unrest and terrorism, and low public confidence in government.”

Louisiana Church Defies Statewide Ban on Large Gatherings

A Louisiana pastor continues to defy the state’s orders prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people by holding church services, the latest of which he claimed had over 1,000 attendees. The Rev. Tony Spell, who claims that congregants at Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central City, about 15 miles northeast of Baton Rouge, have been cured of cancer and HIV, said that coronavirus is “politically motivated.” Additional services on Tuesday, he added, attract an additional few hundred churchgoers. “If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” Spell told CNN. “But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”

Ecofacsists: Humans the Disease, Coronavirus the Cure

Posters claiming to be from a branch of the radical British climate-change group Extinction Rebellion have appeared on lampposts declaring the coronavirus “is the cure” and humans “are the disease.” A Twitter account bearing the name of the Extinction Rebellion East Midlands branch has taken responsibility for the posters. “Earth is healing. The air and water is clearing,” the Twitter message said. Extinction Rebellion says its objective is to use nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid “tipping points” in the climate system.

Terrorists See Coronavirus as a ‘Window of Opportunity

Jihadists and other militant extremists are seeing a world health crisis as a window of opportunity, reports the Washington Times. Leading terror organizations such as Islamic State have been calling on followers to increase attacks in recent days as world governments and militaries shift their focus to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. While it may be premature to draw a direct correlation to a recent wave of attacks from Africa to Afghanistan in recent days, counterterrorism experts point to a spike in extremist propaganda describing the coronavirus outbreak as being sent by God to assist the jihadist cause. Islamic State leaders quickly claimed credit for a deadly attack on Sikh worshippers in Kabul this week, and radical Islamist movements in Africa have stepped up their activity in countries such as Nigeria and Chad.

Senior Heart Attacks Drop by One-Third

A groundbreaking new study holds heartening news for older Americans. Since the mid-1990s, the number of seniors who suffered a heart attack or died from one dropped dramatically — by one-third. This is evidence that campaigns to prevent heart attacks and improve patient care are paying off, Yale University researchers said. The efforts have focused on lifestyle changes, including adoption of healthy eating habits and getting more exercise. They have also helped patients reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol, two key contributors to heart attacks. In-hospital care is also better now than it was in the 1990s, the report says.

Economic News

A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the economy faces an unprecedented blow from the coronavirus. Last week saw the biggest jump in new jobless claims in history, surpassing the prior record of 695,000 set in 1982, as the United States shut down much of the economy to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The yields on one-month and three-month Treasury bills Wednesday fell below zero for the first time since 2015. The three-month yield fell to minus 0.036%, an all-time low, while the one-month yield fell to minus 0.013% in mid-morning trade. Short-term yields, which broadly reflect the federal funds rate, have fallen dramatically since the Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate to zero earlier this month to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus. As the pandemic has roiled financial markets, U.S. government debt has seen yields fall and prices rise as investors have sought safety in high-quality bonds.

Cruise lines that kept their headquarters overseas to avoid paying American taxes won’t be getting a bailout from American taxpayers. The Cruise Lines International Association industry group says that while the cruise industry has been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus pandemic, major operators will not qualify for any of the $500 billion for large employers included in the stimulus bill.

Oil prices tumbled Friday after Saudi Arabia said it hasn’t recently held talks with Russia to end a price war that began earlier this month. Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, plunged by 6 percent to $24.77 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, slid 4.9 percent to $21.50. WTI crude oil has plunged 66 percent from its Jan. 6 high, putting pressure on U.S. shale producers who on aggregate need oil in the upper $40s to be profitable.

The National Restaurant Association’s estimate that up to 11 percent of the country’s restaurants could shut down permanently due to loss of revenue amid coronavirus-prompted closures. The association survey found that 3 percent of all restaurants had already closed for good.

Israel

Israelis will have to wait until next week to see how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will put together a new unity government, but his new partner Benny Gantz said Friday he was at peace with his decision to join forces with his former foe. Three inconclusive national elections in the past year showed neither Gantz and his opposition Blue and White Party nor Netanyahu’s Likud Party could muster a majority to form a government. Gantz had rejected calls for a national unity government under Netanyahu, saying repeatedly he would never do so. But in a pressure cooker situation between the coronavirus crisis and apparent polls showing he would fare badly in a fourth election, Gantz tossed in the towel Thursday and announced he would join Netanyahu in forming a new government.

As the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus continued to rise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered new restrictions and greater enforcement of the current lockdown. Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that Israelis will not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food and medicines and to reach the few workplaces still operating. Powers to enforce the quarantine will be expanded for the relevant authorities, including allowing police officers to fine violators on the spot. Food deliveries will still be permitted, as well as the operations of banks and other essential businesses. Public transportation will almost entirely cease.

Iran

The Trump administration on Thursday levied another round of sanctions against Iran, targeting 20 companies, officials and business executives that have helped U.S.-designated terror groups attack American forces in Iraq. The action follows a series of deadly strikes by Iranian-backed forces in Iraq in an escalation of hostilities between Tehran and Washington, and comes as the administration faces increasing pressure to ease its sanctions campaign while Iran struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

  • More than 300 people have died and a further 1,000 have fallen ill in Iran after consuming methanol in the belief that it will protect them against the coronavirus, according to local media.

Venezuela

The Trump administration has indicted Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on ‘narco-terrorism’ charges. The Justice Department unsealed indictments against Maduro and members of his inner circle Wednesday, a dramatic escalation in the administration’s bid to force the authoritarian socialist from power. The U.S.-supported Venezuelan opposition has struggled to maintain momentum in its campaign to oust Maduro. The administration also announced a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro’s capture or conviction, an extraordinary bounty on a man still recognized by the Russians, Chinese and others as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Earthquakes

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in the northern Pacific on Wednesday. The quake struck 136 miles south-southeast of Severo on Russia’s far eastern Kuril Islands, the US Geological Survey said. It was 37 miles deep. An NOAA tsunami website failed to issue alerts Monday after the earthquake near Russia.

A 5.0 magnitude earthquake rattled West Texas on Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake epicenter was about 27 miles west of Mentone, Texas, and was located 3 miles below the surface. It hit at 10:16 a.m CDT. The El Paso region isn’t accustomed to being rattled by earthquakes. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in the El Paso region.

Weather

Several buildings were damaged and minor injuries were reported after a large tornado moved through northeastern Mississippi Tuesday evening. A Dollar General store was destroyed in Tishomingo, near the Alabama state line. The National Weather Service in Memphis confirmed that the tornado moved through shortly after , 5:30 p.m. local time.

Signs of the Times

March 24, 2020

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Date: Tuesday, 3/25/20, 12:30pm (Pacific)

U.S Stimulus Bill in Limbo, But Getting Close

Senate Democrats blocked a massive coronavirus stimulus bill from moving forward Sunday as partisan disputes raged over the legislation aimed at arresting the economy’s precipitous decline. Lawmakers had hoped to pass the enormous $1.8 trillion bill by Monday, but Sunday night they were scrambling to revive talks. Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short; 47 senators voted in favor and 47 were opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. The number of “aye” votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears. Another Monday vote failed as well.

  • No bill has been passed as of 3 pm eastern, but negotiators say they are close

Executive Order Makes it a Crime to Stockpile & Price Gauge

President Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.” The Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging. He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”

Trump/Congress Ignored Early Warnings from U.S. Intelligence

President Donald Trump ignored reports from US intelligence agencies starting in January that warned of the scale and intensity of the coronavirus outbreak in China, The Washington Post reported Friday. Citing US officials familiar with the agencies’ reports and warnings, the Post reported that intelligence agencies depicted the nature and global spread of the virus and China’s apparent downplaying of its severity, as well as the potential need for government measures to contain it — while Trump opted to dismiss or simply not address their warnings. A source told CNN that the congressional intelligence committees were also briefed on the threat coronavirus posed in January and February.

COVID-19 Update

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the globe, with almost 400,000 confirmed cases reported as of early Tuesday and more than 17,200 deaths. The U.S. now has 48,000 confirmed cases, third most in the world with 646 deaths, sixth most. More than 100 Americans died Monday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. About 254,000 Americans have been tested, Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday. That total does not include local hospitals or local health care labs, he said. Johns Hopkins University reports that more than 100,000 worldwide have now recovered from the coronavirus.

L.A. Shifts from Containment to Treatment

A surge in coronavirus cases has Los Angeles County health officials telling doctors to give up on testing patients in the hope of containing the outbreak and instructing them to test patients only if a positive result could change how they would be treated, according to a new report. The advisory from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Thursday was prompted by a crush of patients and shortage of tests and could make it difficult to ever know precisely how many people in L.A. County contracted the virus. The department “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality. Doctors should test symptomatic patients only when “a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response.”

State Reports

New York has the largest number of cases at nearly 25,000 Tuesday, after seeing a 37.4 percent spike Monday. New Jersey has the second-highest number of cases, at 3,675 and Washington state has 2,223. The number of those sickened in California rose to 1,709.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday demanded the federal government take dramatic action to send thousands of stockpiled ventilators immediately to his state first, saying the Empire State’s immense coronavirus caseload threatened catastrophe in days without it. He says New York state needs 30,000 more ventilators on top of the 7,000 it has.

Anyone arriving in Florida from airports in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut during the coronavirus outbreak will have to self-quarantine for two weeks or risk facing criminal charges, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared in an executive order.

Crowds descended on California beaches, hiking trails and parks over the weekend in open defiance of a state order to shelter in place and avoid close contact with others. Instead, many public spaces were packed, prompting officials in some cities to order parks, recreation areas and beaches to close.

Arizona’s COVID-19 cases are accelerating quickly as more testing becomes available, with 326 identified cases and five known deaths reported Tuesday. The number of cases increased 39% since Monday. The number of cases is likely much higher than official numbers suggest. People have reported trouble getting tested, as health professionals confront confusion over who to test and a lack of supplies.

Authorities in Texas and Louisiana are seeking to close abortionists there as part of the stoppage of non-essential medical procedures in the face of the coronavirus emergency. All three abortion providers in Louisiana appeared to have stopped performing the procedure in compliance with Gov. John Bel Edwards, while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent out his order Monday. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued a cease and desist order Monday to a Cleveland abortion clinic that defied an order to stop performing abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy’s Infection Rate Slowing

The number of infections in Italy jumped to 59,138, while the death toll stands at 5,476. However, the number of new confirmed cases and deaths in Italy fell for the second straight day on Monday. The death toll in China, where the virus originated in late December and where the contagion rate has started to slow down, stood at 3,274, with at least 81,454 confirmed cases.

South Korea’s Case Curve Flattening

South Korea reported its lowest daily total of new coronavirus cases Monday as the nation ramped up quarantine restrictions for travelers over fears of a new wave of infections from hard-hit regions overseas. The 64 new COVID-19 cases brought South Korea’s total to 8,961 infections, the most of any Asian country outside of China, where the virus originated late last year. The death toll stood at 111. Of the new cases, 13 were from overseas travelers entering the country, Reuters reported, adding to the 74 imported cases South Korea reported last week.

Hong Kong Sees Second Wave Due to Returnees

Only a week ago, Hong Kong seemed like a model for how to contain the novel coronavirus, with a relatively small number of cases despite months of being on the front lines of the outbreak. That was in large part thanks to action taken early on, while cases were spreading across mainland China, to implement measures that are now familiar throughout the world: virus mapping, social distancing, intensive hand-washing, and wearing masks and other protective clothing. Hong Kong was proof that these measures worked. Now, however, Hong Kong is providing a very different object lesson — what happens when you let your guard down too soon. The number of confirmed cases has almost doubled in the past week, with many imported from overseas, as Hong Kong residents who had left — either to work or study abroad, or to seek safety when the city seemed destined for a major outbreak earlier this year — return, bringing the virus back with them.

More Foreign Governments Lockdown

Most of India is now under complete lockdown. In Delhi, the lockdown is extremely intense. No private vehicles are allowed on the roads, and no one can go out of the house even for a jog in the morning. No cabs, no flights, and no trains.

The UK is banning people from leaving their homes apart from for a few “very limited” reasons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday, as he imposed the most stringent restrictions seen in Britain since the end of World War II. Police will break up public gatherings and fine people flouting rules, Johnson said in a remarkable televised statement on Monday evening, dramatically ramping up the country’s response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa, Africa’s most industrialized economy and a nation of 57 million people, will go into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting Thursday to try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the president said Monday. South Africa will be the third country in Africa to close down all but essential economic activity, after Rwanda and Tunisia. South Africa’s coronavirus cases jumped by 47% on Monday from the day before with 128 new cases, increasing worries of exponential growth.

Israeli System Predicts Major Coronavirus Outbreaks in Advance

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot announced it has developed a method of tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) that may assist health officials and authorities in efficiently coordinating their response to the public health emergency by being “two steps ahead of the virus.” The system, established together with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Clalit Health Services, uses Big Data to predict where major outbreaks are likely to occur and which locations require an increased presence by medical services. By asking members of the public to fill in daily questionnaires on their well-being, checking whether they develop any coronavirus symptoms and matching the data sets with information on existing corona cases, the authorities can identify hot spots and areas, in which an outbreak is unlikely.

Summer Olympics Cancelled

The 2020 Summer Olympics will not start in July, a top member of the International Olympic Committee said Monday. The Tokyo Games set to begin July 24 will be postponed, likely until 2021. Details will be announced in 4 weeks.

Border Apprehensions Down 50%

Since the Trump administration ordered a shutdown of the U.S.-Mexico border, government officials are reporting a roughly 50% drop in illegal alien apprehensions. Under orders from the Centers for Disease Control, the Trump administration on Friday declared a lockdown of the southern and northern borders, permitting only the flow of “essential” travel. In that short time, border officials have revealed that they are seeing a huge drop in the flow of illegal aliens.

Chloroquine Sickening/Killing People

Health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump’s comments about using it to treat coronavirus. A Lagos state official told CNN that three people were hospitalized in the city after taking the drug. Officials later issued a statement cautioning against using chloroquine for Covid-19 treatment.

  • An Arizona man is dead and his wife is in critical condition after self-medicating with a substance containing chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug mentioned days prior by President Trump. Hospital authorities say the couple, both in their 60s, didn’t take that medication but instead ingested chloroquine phosphate, which is used to clean aquariums, the Arizona Republic reports. They both became extremely ill within 20 minutes.

Virus Rebels Endanger the World

Young German adults hold “corona parties” and cough toward older people. A Spanish man leashes a goat to go for a walk to skirt confinement orders. From France to Florida to Australia, kitesurfers, college students and others crowd the beaches. Their defiance of lockdown mandates and scientific advice to fight the coronavirus pandemic has prompted crackdowns by authorities on people trying to escape cabin fever brought on by virus restrictions. In some cases, the virus rebels resist. threatening police as officials express outrage over public gatherings that could spread the virus.

  • These rebels are not only endangering themselves but are also a criminal threat to others.

Economic News

The U.S. central bank announced it would go beyond its prior commitment of $700 billion in bond purchases to buy “the amounts needed” to keep markets functioning and the economy stable. It also announced significant new programs to keep credit flowing to businesses and consumers, including loans for students, auto buyers and small businesses. The central bank’s unprecedented plan to build out bond purchasing programs to backstop the U.S. economy failed to offset investors’ earlier disappointment with stalled stimulus legislation. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus, with an unprecedented 50% drop in gross domestic product.

The UK government said Friday that it will subsidize the wages of any worker facing unemployment because of the coronavirus pandemic. Finance minister Rishi Sunak told reporters that the government will cover 80% of worker salaries for at least the next three months up to a maximum of £2,500 ($2,900) a month, which is more than the average income. Sunak said the measures would apply to all companies, large or small. The measure was part of a bigger rescue package for British businesses, including tax relief totaling £30 billion and interest-free loans for up to 12 months.

Restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas aren’t the only businesses laying off employees and cutting hours as the coronavirus crushes the U.S. economy. So are law firms, marketing companies, insurance providers and countless other enterprises that may seem insulated from the more direct body blows of an outbreak that has triggered the shutdown of public gathering spots across the country. The vast majority of those affected are small businesses that lack the cash or credit lines that can prop up airlines and other large corporations for many months before they have to slash jobs. Firms with fewer than 500 employees make up 47% of private sector payrolls, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

Iran

Iran’s supreme leader refused U.S. assistance Sunday to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory claiming the virus could be man-made by America. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments come as Iran faces crushing U.S. sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets. But while Iranian civilian officials in recent days have increasingly criticized those sanctions, 80-year-old Khamenei instead chose to traffic in the same conspiracy theory increasingly used by Chinese officials about the new virus to deflect blame for the pandemic.

North Korea

President Trump has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offering to help the secretive, communist nation’s fight against the coronavirus, Kim’s sister said Sunday. The letter, which also expresses a desire to improve diplomatic relations. The letter came after North Korea again tested short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend, drawing protests from South Korea. So far, North Korea has not revealed any information about CoVid-19 within its borders.

Brazil

Seven years into an economic crisis, mothers and fathers have been forced to go abroad in search of work, leaving hundreds of thousands of children in the hands of relatives, friends — and sometimes, one another.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake crushed cars, left buildings cracked and sent panicked residents in the streets of Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday. The damaged structures included the capital city’s iconic cathedral, which was rebuilt after being toppled by another earthquake in 1880. A 15-year-old was in critical condition and several other people were injured. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 5.4. It struck at 6:23 a.m. local time Sunday, and the epicenter was 4 miles north of Zagreb at a depth of 6 miles. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years.

Weather

Six people are dead after heavy rains and flooding washed out a bridge in Southeast Indiana last Friday morning. The incident happened at about 5 a.m. EDT on Sanes Creek in Laurel, Indiana, located about halfway between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. As the water receded, rescuers discovered that the two vehicles hadn’t actually been swept off the roadway – the bridge had washed out. They initially found one car in the water, and a second one a short time later.

Signs of the Times

March 20, 2020

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you… God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  (Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 46:1-2)

Editor’s Note: In my 2010 novel, The Beginning of the End, I predicted that a virus pandemic would lead to a severe worldwide economic depression which would cause a war to break out that would then usher in the anti-Christ and Satan’s one-world government of Revelation 13. It appears that this sequence of events foretold in the Bible may be underway. The response of true born-again Christians must be to overcome fear (for God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind, 1Timothy 1:7)) and model Jesus in order to comfort and save as many people as possible before our time is up. Receive God’s perfect love that casts out fear (1John 4:18) and then pour it out into the world in both deed and prayer. As Paul wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) Most of all, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Chinese/WHO Misinformation Allowed Pandemic to Get a Head Start

Communist China told the world in early January there was no evidence that its Wuhan coronavirus spread human-to-human even as medical whistleblowers were warning of an epidemic and authorities shut down a wild animal market. “No new cases have been detected since January 3, 2020,” the Wuhan Health Commission said on Jan. 10. “At present, no medical staff infections have been found, and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.” On Jan. 15, WHO (the UN’s World Health Organization) tweeted to the world, “According to the latest information we have, there is no clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmissions and there are no infections reported among health care workers.” Five days later, China acknowledged humans-to-human spread, but on Jan. 19 the national health commission told the world the disease was “preventable and controllable.” On Jan 23, WHO’s emergency committee met in Geneva and then announced it was split on declaring the virus a global health emergency — so it did not.

  • If Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited, according to an analysis by Axios. The analysis comes amid a Times of London report that Chinese scientists destroyed lab research on the coronavirus and suppressed news in the early weeks of the outbreak.

Chinese Control of U.S. Pharmaceutical Supplies a Growing Concern

As the war of words between China and the U.S. over COVID-19 heats up, Chinese state media have raised the specter of using Beijing’s pharmaceutical leverage to block critical components and supplies for dependent U.S. drug companies. While India and several European nations play critical roles in the global medical supply chain, China is among the top providers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) — the basic components for antibiotics and other prescription drugs consumed by Americans. With the coronavirus crisis threatening to strain the U.S. government’s large stockpiles of such drugs, health experts warn that China’s own outbreak and related societal shutdown could mean major shortages ahead as Chinese factories struggle to keep up production of the APIs.

Chinese Province of Hubei Sees No New Cases

Officials say that for the first time since the outbreak began, there were no new locally transmitted infections and no new cases at all in Hubei province, where the capital, Wuhan, has been locked down since Jan. 23, the Guardian reports. There were, however, 34 new coronavirus cases in China among people who recently returned to the country from overseas.

  • Life at the epicenter of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been “greatly improving,” in China, said San Francisco native and Wuhan, China resident Doug Perez on Tuesday. Perez said that at the beginning of the outbreak he faced a “lot of hardship,” but in the past few weeks “the situation has transformed dramatically.” “Yesterday, for example, we only had one new case of coronavirus — one confirmed case in Wuhan,” said Perez. “So, the situation is greatly improving recently. And, we’re optimistic that we’re almost through it over here.”

Coronavirus By the Numbers

Another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic: The number of deaths worldwide has now passed 10,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases worldwide. As of early Friday, there have been 10,031 confirmed COVID-19 deaths worldwide out of more than 245,000 infections, according to the university. Around 86,000 patients have recovered. In the U.S. there were more than 14,200 confirmed cases, up from about 1,600 a week earlier, and deaths jumped to 205 across 25 states.

  • It took three months to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases worldwide. The second 100,000 only took 12 days.
  • More than 3,400 people have died from the virus in Italy, a toll exceeding that of China. Europe, where people are used to free movement, is now the center of the pandemic. Spain on Friday became the second European nation to register more than 1,000 deaths.
  • More than 99% of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority. The new study could provide insight into why Italy’s death rate, about 8% of total infected people, much higher than in other countries.
  • Appearing before the cameras coughing and sweating profusely, the man leading Iran’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak promised it was of no danger to his country. “Quarantines belong to the Stone Age,” Iraj Harirchi insisted. A day later, he himself would be in quarantine from the virus. Harirchi’s story is a microcosm of what has happened in Iran amid the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly nine out of 10 cases in the Middle East come from the Islamic Republic, which has reported nearly 15,000 people infected and at least 853 deaths amid fears that cases may still be underreported.
  • Analysts with the Economist Intelligence Unit predict that the coronavirus will infect 50 percent of the world population and have a fatality rate of up to 3 percent. Eighty-six percent of people infected with coronavirus are walking around undetected, according to a study released Monday in the journal Science. “It’s the undocumented infections which are driving the spread of the outbreak,” said co-author Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University. “The majority of these infections are mild, with few symptoms at all,” Shaman said.

President Trump Invokes Defense Production Act

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he will invoke a federal provision that allows the government to marshal the private sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, now describing himself as a “wartime president,” said he would sign the Defense Production Act “in case we need it” as the government bolsters resources for an expected surge in cases of the virus. The act, which was first enacted in 1950 as a response to the Korean War and has since been re-invoked more than 50 times since, will streamline production of medical supplies to help the country battle the coronavirus pandemic and require businesses to sign contracts or fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense.

  • President Trump also said he will expand the nation’s testing capacity and deploy a Navy hospital ship to New York City, which is rapidly becoming the epicenter of a pandemic that has rattled the U.S. economy and rewritten the rules of American society. A second ship will be deployed to the West Coast

Coronavirus Relief Coming with Checks to American Citizens

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled Thursday that the third phase of Congress’ coronavirus response plan would aim to deliver stimulus checks to the majority of Americans in a bid to provide relief to families under economic strain “as rapidly as possible.” While officials have indicated the rich would not be eligible, McConnell said Thursday the checks would go to everybody “from the middle class on down.” Initial estimates called for checks of $2,000 per adult and $500 per child. The amount would start to reduce for those making $75,000 and above and the checks would be limited to those who make $99,000 or less.

U.S. States Locking Down

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered his state’s 40 million residents to stay at home as much as possible in coming weeks, citing a model that suggests more than half of California’s population could become infected with the coronavirus in the next two months. Earlier in the week, he ordered home isolation for people age 65 and older and those with chronic diseases, and the closure of bars, wineries, nightclubs brewpubs and similar businesses across the state.

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses to try to limit the spread of the virus within the state. If they’re not closed by Saturday, they’ll face punishment including “citations, fines, or license suspensions.” All workers in non-essential businesses across New York state are required to stay home New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Friday morning. Civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that don’t comply with the new mandate will be enforced, Cuomo announced. New York has almost 40% of all U.S. confirmed cases.

Malaria Drug Shows Promise for Treating COVID-10

A common drug used to treat malaria might be the cure to COVID-19 until a vaccine is developed, doctors and researchers around the world say. Doctors in Australia, France and elsewhere say they’ve had success treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine, a readily available drug that treats malaria, lupus and arthritis.

Hospital Resource Shortages Necessitate Triage

Fearing a critical shortage of lifesaving resources as the coronavirus spreads, Washington State is engaged in grim discussions to determine which dying patients would get priority. Spain’s officials warned that the country’s health care system could soon be overwhelmed even as doctors were already being forced to choose which patients to save.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is getting his wish, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper is set to deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to New York to assess the state’s need for hospital beds as it faces the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo has been calling for the Corps of Engineers to be sent to his state to build hospital beds quickly and help deal with what he sees as the inevitable crush of COVID-19 patients flooding hospitals past capacity.

Canadian and Mexican Borders with U.S. Closing

Canada and the U.S. agreed to close their border to non-essential traffic. U.S. and Mexican officials are working on an agreement to ban “non-essential” travel between their border along the same lines of the deal that the U.S. announced this week with Canada. There are 118 confirmed coronavirus cases currently in Mexico.

Princess Cruise Line Has History of Disease Problems

Princess Cruises had a health problem long before back-to-back outbreaks of the new coronavirus on the Diamond and Grand Princess ships shut down the entire cruise industry. Their passengers fell sick extraordinarily often. Nearly 5,000 people onboard Princess ships in the last decade have suffered from bouts of vomiting, diarrhea – or both – in numbers widespread enough that government health officials issued alerts on 26 outbreaks. Princess, with 18 ships in the world’s largest cruise company.

White Evangelicals Support President Trump Despite Flaws

White evangelicals see him as a champion of their interests, even though they have mixed feelings about his personal conduct, according to a Pew Research survey. The feel that President Trump has worked to protect religious rights, oppose abortion and support believers persecuted for their faith, despite his character flaws. “Even among this strongly supportive constituency, most do not view Trump as a very religious, honest or morally upstanding person (though many white evangelicals say he is somewhat religious, fairly honest or fairly morally upstanding),” the new report said. The organization found that 63% of while evangelical Protestants, a significant demographic for Trump, say it’s very important for a president to personally live a moral, ethical life, 67% say it’s very important for him to stand up for religious beliefs, 34% say it’s very important for him to have strong religious beliefs and the same percentage say it’s very important that he share their beliefs.

Economic News

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank last Sunday took its most dramatic actions since the 2008 financial crisis to limit the economic and financial fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. The bank dropped rates a full percentage point to zero, announced at least $700 billion worth of bond purchases and took a variety of actions to enable banks to continue lending during the health crisis. On Tuesday, the central bank said it is establishing an emergency lending facility to support short-term commercial debt markets to help ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits jumped last week as employers were forced to cut jobs following weakening demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits, a key barometer for layoffs, climbed by 70,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 last week. That marked the highest level for initial claims since Sept. 2, 2017, when it was 299,000. If the outbreak worsens, some 24% of employers plan to downsize, according to a survey of business owners conducted March 7-13 by investment bank UBS.

Amazon is planning to hire 100,000 workers to deal with the large increase in online sales as Americans hunker down. Walmart has stated it will hire 150,000 temporary workers to keep merchandise flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Individuals and businesses will have an extra 90 days to file their taxes to the IRS without interest or penalties on taxes owed, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.

Even though the novel coronavirus has the United States essentially in lockdown mode, the American dollar continues to be viewed as the world’s safest and most stable currency. The value of the dollar is surging, up more than 7% against a basket of other currencies since hitting its lowest point of 2020 on March 9.

President Trump on Friday said he’s directed the U.S. Department of Energy to purchase crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to support the battered energy sector. The administration’s move to purchase oil comes after the worst week for crude since 2008 as investors worried over evaporating demand from the coronavirus pandemic.

YouTube is joining Netflix in reducing the data required for streams in Europe over concerns of a lack of internet bandwidth during the coronavirus pandemic. This will result in lower-quality streaming.

Israel

Israel’s cabinet unanimously approved emergency measures that went into effect Friday, putting the entire country under home lockdown for at least a week to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Everyone will remain at home except for workers whose labor is permitted under Finance Ministry directives. Israelis will be allowed out to buy food, medicine and essential supplies, and limited public transportation is available for those employed in essential jobs to get to work, but otherwise the country is in shutdown.

The political situation in Israel remains unresolved. The speaker of Israel’s parliament lashed out at the opposition Thursday, saying the current lockout at the Knesset was caused by a ploy from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s party to prevent a national unity government. The two sides are at tense loggerheads after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called earlier in the week for a government of national unity to fight the coronavirus, with the incumbent prime minister at the helm. That came only two days after Gantz was given the go-ahead to try to form a new government following the inconclusive March 2 elections in Israel.

Iraq

A military base north of Baghdad was struck by a barrage of rockets last Saturday morning, less than a week after it was hit in a strike that killed two American service members there. A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed Saturday morning that at least 25 107mm rockets struck Camp Taji at 10:51 a.m. there. Officials said three coalition troops and two Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the attack. The attack was unusual because it occurred during the day. Previous assaults on military bases housing U.S. troops typically occurred overnight like the one last week.

Iran

The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, keeping up its economic pressure campaign even as it offered to help Tehran cope with the coronavirus pandemic and called on the Islamic Republic to release detained Americans. Iran is considering freeing some U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference where he made clear Washington will maintain its maximum-pressure campaign to choke off Tehran’s ability to export its oil. The United States on Wednesday identified seven companies that it has blacklisted for trade in Iranian petrochemicals – three based in mainland China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa – the State Department said in a statement.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake shook the Salt Lake City area Wednesday morning, leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power and startling many residents who were still asleep in their beds. There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage but some buildings were damaged and the Salt Lake City airport was forced to close. The U.S. Geological Survey gave the quake a preliminary rating of 5.7 magnitude and estimated that 2.8 million people likely felt the shaking shortly after 7 a.m. local time.

Weather

More stormy weather was in the forecast Friday across portions of the eastern U.S., a day after severe storms lashed the central portion of the country with fierce winds and driving rain. Friday morning, thousands of people remained without power in Ohio after severe thunderstorms roared through the state, causing flooding and knocking down trees. Elsewhere, severe storms, including at least one possible tornado, struck parts of Arkansas on Thursday evening, damaging homes and causing widespread damage to trees and power lines. Storms and several tornadoes also hit portions of Texas on Wednesday and early Thursday, smashing homes and flattening trees.

“The impact of climate change is quite evident on the Panama Canal,” warned the administrator of the Panama Canal, Ricaurte Vasquez, on the 20th anniversary of the United States handing control of the canal over to Panama. Recurrent droughts have left the 50-mile-long system of locks with only 3 billion cubic meters of water this past year, instead of the 5.2 billion cubic meters needed for normal operation, according to the Panama Canal Authority. Lack of rain has lowered the levels in the freshwater lakes that feed the canal’s locks, which raise ships above sea level as they cross Panama.

The months of December, January and February – which meteorologists define as winter here in the Northern Hemisphere – were the second-warmest on record, federal scientists announced Friday. Only the El Niño-fueled winter of 2015-16 was warmer. Some of the most extreme warmth was in Russia, which smashed its record for warmest winter. Temperatures there were as much as a whopping 12 degrees above average, according to the country’s weather service. Global temperature records for the Earth only go back to 1880.

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

Signs of the Times

March 13, 2020

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.  (2Timothy 1:7, Psalm 23:4)

Church Engagement Down about Half Since 2000

The Barna Group, a research agency focusing on Christianity, has found that just one in four Americans can be considered “practicing Christians,” a significantly smaller percentage (25 percent) of the U.S. population than in 2000 when “45 percent of all those sampled qualified as practicing Christians.” According to Barna, the State of the Church 2020 report “Christianity in the United States has undergone dramatic change in the last few decades,” including “the manner in which Americans relate to Christianity.” Half of the practicing Christians “fell away from consistent faith engagement, essentially becoming non-practicing Christians… while the other half moved into the non-Christian segment This shift also contributed to the growth of the atheist/agnostic/none segment, which has nearly doubled in size during this same amount of time (2003: 11 percent vs. 2018: 21 percent).”

U.S. Attacks Iranian Group for Their Attack on U.S. Base

The Pentagon launched airstrikes Thursday targeting an Iranian-backed Shia militia group believed to be responsible for a rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops stationed at a base north of Baghdad. Multiple U.S. strikes targeted a Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. The strikes were a joint operation with the British. Two Americans and a British national were killed in a rocket attack on Wednesday at the Iraqi base, where U.S. military personnel are housed. A U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq confirmed three military coalition personnel died in the assault late Wednesday and that more than 15 small rockets hit Iraq’s Camp Taji base.

Technocrats and Socialists Cheer as Markets Crumble

Stock markets are crumbling. Oil has cratered. Interest rates are decimated. Economic indicators are pointed straight down. These are the very benchmarks of Capitalism and Free Enterprise, so why are technocrats and socialists cheering? Because they prefer global governance guided by Sustainable Development and technocracy (i.e. management by scientific principles) which would leave us with no moral compass. The downfall of capitalism is music to their ears because that is the major barrier in their way. They would actually like a severe depression and lots of deaths because that paves the way to more control and supposedly a more sustainable planet.

  • This is precisely what end-time prophecy shows, with the Four Horsemen (Revelation 6) bringing death and severe financial difficulties with war not far behind leading to the one-world government of Revelation 13.

Coronavirus Update:

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic as the global death toll rose above 4,600 and the number of confirmed cases topped 125,000. At least 44 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying over 1,300 illnesses and at least 36 deaths.

  • Chinese authorities are allowing citizens to reopen their business and are easing containment measures as the country’s health commission says the nation has made it past the worst of the coronavirus threat within its borders. New coronavirus cases in Hubei province, which contains Wuhan, totaled just eight on Thursday — the lowest number recorded so far.
    • China is claiming that the U.S. Army created the Coronavirus and used it to attack China. They are threatening to withhold key products and materials the U.S. will need to thwart the virus.
  • A new study suggests that the coronavirus COVID-19 can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. The research, published in the medRxiv depository, also notes that the virus can remain on copper surfaces for four hours and carboard for up to 24 hours.
  • Cancelled, closed or postponed to date in the U.S. – the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, Disneyland, Broadway shows, Coachella’s fabled music festival, Austin’s South by Southwest culture conference, and an alphabet soup of sports leagues: basketball’s NBA, hockey’s NHL, baseball’s MLB and soccer’s MLS.
  • Five states and several large urban school districts — including Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest — are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan and the District of Columbia have ordered all schools closed
  • President Trump announced travel restrictions from Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump is likely to make an emergency declaration on Friday afternoon, a move that would free up more federal resources to combat coronavirus. The declaration would also allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to head up certain aspects of the outbreak response.
  • Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak is being countered by Europe’s toughest restrictions on movement. Italy has extended a lockdown that covered 16 million people in the north to the entire country, affecting more than 60 million people. Under the strict new measures, public events will be banned, movie theaters will be closed, and funerals and weddings will have to be postponed. Restaurants and bars will be closed at dusk. Travel within the country will be severely restricted and schools and universities will remain closed.
  • North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single coronavirus case, but has closed schools, tightened a border lockdown, and quarantined thousands of people.
  • A project funded by billionaire Bill Gates is reportedly set to issue at-home testing kits for people who fear they have been infected with the coronavirus. Participants in the study will self-administer a nose-swab and send the sample to health officials for testing. Medical experts will then notify those who test positive for the respiratory illness.
  • The ongoing spread of coronavirus is forcing institutions around the world to rethink one particularly germy surface that most consumers touch every day: cash. On Friday, South Korea’s central bank said it was taking all banknotes out of circulation for two weeks — and burning some — to reduce the spread of the virus. China deep cleaned potentially infected cash with ultraviolet light and high temperatures, and in some cases, destroying them. Meanwhile, the Louvre museum in Paris this week banned cash amid the outbreak. I

Trump Sending Active-Duty Troops to Border after Court Losses

President Trump’s administration will immediately deploy 160 active-duty soldiers to two key cities along the U.S.-Mexico border in response to a series of adverse federal court rulings limiting the implementation of his restrictive border enforcement policies, as well as growing concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that it would deploy 80 active-duty troops to San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing and 80 more to El Paso’s Paso del Norte bridge as early as Saturday to provide “military police support, engineer, and aviation support” to customs officials at those two ports of entry.

  • The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked the U.S. government from sending asylum seekers to Mexico for the duration of their proceedings under the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” finding that the program was in violation of U.S. immigration laws.
  • However, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Trump administration to continue requiring thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications are considered, blocking a lower-court ruling that found the policy violated U.S. law and an international humanitarian treaty. The high court voted 8-1, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissenting, to leave the policy in place

140 Years to Deport Illegals Says ICE

Matt Albence, acting director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Wednesday that at current deportation rates it would take 140 years to remove all the illegal immigrants who came in during the border surge of the last two years. The border surge over the last two years added 900,000 more cases to ICE’s non-detained docket, which now totals more than 3.3 million. That far outstrips ICE’s ability to track down and deport people, he told the House Appropriations Committee. “Without additional resources to actually effectuate a judge’s removal orders, we will have an immigration enforcement and court system in which billions of dollars a year are spent to obtain orders, that are not worth the paper they are written on,” Albence said

Illegal Immigrant Felon Released, Assaults 3-Year-Old

In yet another instance of illegal immigrant felons being released in sanctuary cities, police and elected officials in Chicago have defended their dangerous sanctuary policy after a previously deported illegal immigrant felon that they released from jail sexually assaulted a 3-year-old girl. The Mexican man, 34-year-old Christopher Puente, has a lengthy criminal history that includes two felony convictions, yet Chicago Police freed him into the community after his latest arrest for theft. It didn’t matter to those in charge of serving and protecting Windy City residents that the violent illegal alien had served time for forced-entry burglary and forgery or that he was recently charged with battery against a woman.

U.S. Farmers Going Bankrupt, Committing Suicide

U.S. farmers are saddled with near-record debt, declaring bankruptcy at rising rates and selling off their farms amid an uncertain future clouded by climate change and whipsawed by tariffs and bailouts. For some, the burden is too much. Farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide, compared with other occupations, according to a January study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 450 farmers killed themselves across nine Midwestern states from 2014 to 2018, according to data collected by the USA TODAY. The deaths coincide with the near-doubling of calls to a crisis hotline operated by Farm Aid, a nonprofit agency whose mission is to help farmers keep their land. Even the $28 billion in federal aid provided by the Trump administration over two years wasn’t enough to erase the fallout from the trade war with China, many farmers said.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve took the highly unusual step of injecting more money into the bond market Thursday to ensure the financial system remains stable. The New York Fed will pump $1.5 trillion into the short-term lending markets that banks use to lend to each other on Thursday and Friday.

Oil prices suffered an historic collapse Monday after Saudi Arabia shocked the market by launching a price war against onetime ally Russia. Saudi Arabia had signaled its intention to go all-out for market share over the weekend after the acrimonious collapse of an alliance with Russia that had restrained oil supply in recent years, keeping a floor under prices. Saudi Arabia confirmed that it would jack up production by about 2.5 million barrels per day starting April 1. U.S. oil prices crashed as much as 34% to a four-year low of $27.34 a barrel, but returned to $32.34 Friday, still about $10 below recent levels.

  • Traders are bracing for Saudi Arabia to flood the market with crude in a bid to recapture market share. The shock to oil also rattled stock markets, which were already in a panic because of the coronavirus outbreak. World oil demand is expected to fall this year for the first time since 2009, as the coronavirus pandemic deals a sharp shock to the global economy. Gasoline could fall below $2 a gallon in the coming weeks due to the declining oil prices.

The Bank of England has slashed interest rates to a record low and launched other emergency measures as part of a dramatic and coordinated UK response to limit the economic fallout from the coronavirus. UK finance minister Rishi Sunak pledged to do “whatever it takes” to protect the economy. He announced £30 billion ($39 billion) in tax breaks and additional spending, including targeted coronavirus relief measures worth an estimated £12 billion ($15.5 billion). Banks in Italy and the United Kingdom are preparing to postpone mortgage payments for people affected by coronavirus as the number of cases in Europe rises sharply.

  • The European Central Bank, which meets Thursday in Frankfurt, is expected to push interest rates deeper into negative territory and announce other measures to fight economic damage from the virus. Did you catch that? “Negative territory.” That means banks will charge you for your various kinds of savings accounts instead of paying you interest.

The U.S. share of the international arms trade has grown dramatically in recent years. From 2015-2019, the nation’s export of military hardware amounted to a 76 percent increase over Russia, the world’s second-largest arms exporter. Russia’s share decreased by 18 percent between 2010-2019. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. has supplied military armaments to 96 countries, with Saudi Arabia being the largest recipient. Half of U.S. arms exports in the past five years went to the Middle East and half of those went to Saudi Arabia. Demand for the U.S.A.’s advanced military aircraft increased, particularly in Europe, Australia, Japan and Taiwan.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the formation of an emergency government to confront a growing crisis over the coronavirus, offering a potential way out of the deadlock that has paralyzed the political system for the past year. “It will be an emergency government for a limited period. Together we will fight to save the lives of citizens,” he added, saying that politics should be put aside. Later on Thursday, Gantz expressed willingness to discuss an emergency government, stating, “In light of the situation.

  • Netanyahu also announced on Thursday that Israel is closing its schools and universities in an effort to prevent coronavirus contagion. Israel also issued a ban on Thursday on the entry of any non-nationals incapable of self-quarantine, all but ending the nation’s generally robust incoming tourism industry.

Iraq

Two Americans and one Brit were killed as approximately 18 Katyusha rockets hit an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops Wednesday, the U.S. military said in a statement. Iraqi Security Forces found a rocket-rigged truck a few miles from  Camp Taji, which hosts Coalition personnel for training and advising missions. The attack comes just days after two U.S. service members were killed by enemy forces while advising and accompanying Iraqi Security Forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS terrorist stronghold in a mountainous area of north-central Iraq on Sunday. They are the first U.S. troops killed in Iraq this year. The previous American to be killed in action in Iraq was a U.S. Marine in August 2019. There have now been 21 American service members killed fighting ISIS since August 2014.

Iran

At least a quarter of Iran’s oil rigs are out of action as U.S. sanctions strangle the Islamic Republic’s vital oil industry, according to a Reuters review of financial documents and industry sources, dealing a potentially long-term blow to its oil industry. The lack of rig activity could damage the OPEC member’s capacity to produce oil from older fields, which require continuous pumping to maintain pressure and output. That would make it difficult for Iran to raise production back to pre-sanction levels even if tensions ease with the United States.

North Korea

North Korea fired three short-range projectiles off its east coast on Monday, South Korea’s military said, two days after the North threatened to take “momentous” action to protest outside condemnation over its earlier live-fire exercises. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the three launches were made from an eastern coastal town in the North’s South Hamgyong province. It said the multiple kinds of projectiles flew as far as 125 miles at a maximum altitude of 30 miles.

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the nation’s longest serving leader since Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, has ended any question about his political future by backing a constitutional amendment – quickly approved by the State Duma – that will allow him to stay in power until 2036. The Kremlin-controlled Duma passed the measure on third reading Wednesday 383-0, with 43 abstentions, to remove the constitutional barrier to the 67-year-old Putin staying in office beyond 2024. Kremlin critics denounced the move as cynical manipulation and called for protests on March 21.

Sudan

Sudan’s prime minister survived an assassination attempt on Monday after a blast in the capital, Khartoum, Sudanese. Abdalla Hamdok’s family confirmed he was safe following the explosion, which targeted his convoy. Sudanese state TV said Hamdok was heading to his office when the blast took place, and that he was taken to a “safe place.” Hamdok was appointed PM last August, after pro-democracy protests forced the military to remove the autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April and replace his regime with a civilian-led government. After months of negotiations, the military and the pro-democracy movement reached a power-sharing deal that established a joint military-civilian, 11-member sovereign council that will govern Sudan for the next three years. Military generals remain the de facto rulers of the country and have shown little willingness to hand over power to the civilian-led administration.

Environment

A study, which was published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, found that tropical rainforests around the world that have been untouched by logging or other harmful human activity are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. An international consortium of European and African scientists — led by the University of Leeds — examined more than 300,000 trees over the course of the last three decades in the Amazon and the African tropics. They found that tropical forests are now taking up a third less carbon than was previously measured in the 1990s.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck a spot off the coast of Northern California on Sunday. The earthquake hit at 6:59 p.m. and was centered in a spot 55.5 miles west of Ferndale, a town of about 1,300 people along the Pacific Coast. The earthquake had a depth of 1.2 miles. It was followed by a 4.9 magnitude aftershock. There was no reported danger of tsunami or reports of damage.

Arizonans in Yuma and parts of west Phoenix said they felt the effects of a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Baja California on Friday night. The earthquake occurred about 8:50 p.m. local time Friday and was centered in Alberto Oviedo Mota, Baja California, which is about 250 miles southwest of Phoenix.

Weather

Following a mild winter, flowers are blooming and trees are leafing out earlier than ever recorded across portions of the U.S., scientists announced this week. Locations such as Washington, D.C., and New York City are 24 days early; Philadelphia is 16 days early and Little Rock, Arkansas, is 9 days early. Phenologists – who study seasonal phenomena in the natural world – calculate the start of spring based on observations of ‘leaf-outs’ (the appearance of tiny leaves on trees), blooms for species active in early spring (such as lilac and honeysuckle) and weather events and temperature conditions.

Signs of the Times

March 6, 2020

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. (Psalm 91:5-7)

Bill to Save Abortion Babies Born Alive Fails Again in Congress

A first-year children’s doctor was approached by a nurse. “She told me there was a baby crying on the garbage can in the little treatment room,” he said. Sure enough, a baby had been abandoned in the medicine closet. This new doctor found him crying, wrapped in a hospital blanket and placed on top of a metal trashcan lid. The compassionate doctor, Rocco Pascucci, immediately started giving lifesaving care — warmth, oxygen, and nutrition — to the baby who was estimated to be at around 24 weeks of development. Once the little boy was stabilized, Dr. Pascucci was suddenly interrupted. “A high-risk OB/GYN came in and yelled at me,” Dr. Pascucci said. “He told me I had just saved an abortion. He got into a huff and walked out,” according to LifeSite News.

  • And so did Democratic lawmakers when they refused to support a bill that would save these live babies.

West Virginia Governor Signs Born Alive Bill Into Law

The governor of West Virginia signed a bill into law that protects babies born alive through botched abortions and penalizes doctors for allowing these babies to die. Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 4007 into law Monday, a bill that requires medical practitioners to use “the same degree of reasonable medical judgment to preserve the life of a fetus which is born alive as would be used in a live non-abortion birth of the same gestational age.” The bill also criminalizes the “failure to exercise such judgment” and makes such a failure of judgement a “violation of medical licensure standards.” “I truly believe that every human life, born or unborn, is a gift from God,” Governor Jim Justice tweeted Monday.

Undercover Videographer of Abortion Harvesting Faces Jail Time

Sandra Merritt, faces 10 years in prison, $2 million in civil judgments and $25,000 in fines – all for exposing the horrific and brutal TRUTH about Planned Parenthood’s barbaric “harvesting” of functioning brains, breathing lungs and still-beating hearts from fully born, fully alive babies. Sandra’s undercover videos revealed that Planned Parenthood doctors did not abort these babies but instead purposefully delivered these children alive for the express purpose of “harvesting” the organs while the babies’ hearts were still beating, while the babies’ lungs were still gasping for air to give voice to their cries, and while the brain waves and nerve centers of that child registered the sheer, excruciating pain of being dismembered ALIVE – all because organs cut from a living, breathing baby get a higher price than organs removed from an aborted corpse. Sandra is the first undercover journalist in all of California’s history to be prosecuted for the first amendment right of journalism.

  • Liberty Counsel is defending Sandra in this expensive court battle against Planned Parenthood. You can support her here.

Transgender Assaults in Women’s Bathrooms Rising

Transgender activists have insisted that allowing men who identify as women to use a bathroom with females poses no threat, but an alleged sexual assault case in a “gender-neutral” bathroom at a Wisconsin high school is only the latest case to refute that claim. The Family Research Council has produced a list of more than 20 “publicly reported” incidents in public bathrooms of women either being assaulted or having their privacy violated by men claiming to identify as women, the Christian Post reported. Along with schools, companies such as Target have set up gender-neutral bathrooms that allow either sex to use the same bathroom, despite concerns about privacy.

Coronavirus Death Rate 3 Times Seasonal Flu

About 3.4% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1%, but the virus can be contained, the WHO chief said on Tuesday. “To summarize, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. As of Friday morning, the virus has spread to more than 80 countries and territories and has infected over 100,000 people and killed over 3,400.

  • On Friday, President Trump signed an $8 billion emergency spending bill to fight the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. that has killed 14 people among 240 confirmed cases.
  • Scientific researchers from China have discovered that two different types of coronavirus likely are behind the worldwide outbreak. They found that 70% of the analyzed strains came from a far more aggressive form of coronavirus. About 30% were believed to have come from a less aggressive type. Researchers pointed out the more aggressive type was found to be prevalent in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan. However, the frequency of this type has gone down since then. They now believe that the development of the new variation of the virus was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.”
  • Scientists in Texas had developed a vaccine to protect against a deadly strain of coronavirus four years ago, but were forced to stop work on it because they did not have enough money to test it on humans, NBC News is reporting. The vaccine was developed in 2016, more than a decade after the viral disease SARS had killed more than 770 people in China. The disease was an earlier coronavirus similar to the one now impacting the globe.
  • Democrat Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca has been urged to resign after she enthusiastically supported a tweet suggesting that liberals infected with the coronavirus attend Make America Great Again rallies in order to contaminate Trump supporters. “For the record, if I do get the coronavirus I’m attending every MAGA rally I can.”
  • 328 illegal immigrants from China have been nabbed jumping the U.S.-Mexico border so far this year, according to Homeland Security data that raises the prospect a coronavirus carrier could sneak into the country via the border. Three other people from South Korea — another country with rapidly spreading cases — have also been arrested at the border.
  • Nearly 10% of Iranian lawmakers have been infected with the coronavirus, Iranian state media reported Tuesday. Iran says 2,336 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 77 have died, but the true number of people infected is believed to be much higher. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Iran is accused of concealing information about the virus as they struggle to contain the outbreak. Iran’s coronavirus crisis is now so severe that 54,000 prisoners are being released after posting bail and testing negative for COVID-19.
  • In Saudi Arabia, the government expanded its decision last week to ban foreigners from making the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina – home of the holiest sites in Islam. Now, it is banning its citizens and residents from visiting those sites. Iran has decided to cancel all Friday prayers in major cities. Friday is the main congregational day of prayer in Islam.
  • In a stark example of how a single coronavirus carrier can cause havoc, an Israeli who returned from Italy on Feb. 23 and tested positive for the virus has led to a Health Ministry order confining a high school and 77 soccer fans to home isolation.The Health Ministry has requested that the prime minister sign off on an order to prohibit gatherings of  more than 2,500 people to control the spread of the disease.
  • Italy announced Wednesday it will temporarily close all its schools and universities as the country continues to grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections. Those closures will begin Thursday and last at least until mid-March. Hospitals, particularly those in northern Italy, are struggling to handle all those infected.
  • Pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China, NASA scientists say. NASA and European Space Agency satellites first detected the plunge in NO2 levels over Wuhan, the city were the new coronavirus is thought to have originated. Eventually the decline spread across much of the country. Factories across the country remained closed as officials asked them to extend the holiday, and travel was severely restricted, so there were fewer vehicles on the roads.
  • The leader of a controversial religious sect at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea apologized Monday as the city of Seoul has started a murder investigation into the group, saying the church refused to cooperate with efforts to stop the virus. The head of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Lee Man-hee claims he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people to heaven as promised in the Bible. In the largest outbreak outside of China, the majority of the country’s more than 4,335 confirmed cases are members of the secretive group.

Cost to Resettle Immigrants Ranges from $60,000 to $133,000 Per Person

Research by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) finds that each refugee resettled in the U.S. costs American taxpayers between $60,000 and $133,000 over the course of a lifetime. CIS researchers said the average refugee will cost taxpayers roughly $60,000 over a lifetime, though adult refugees — due to their low educational attainment — cost taxpayers upwards of $133,000. “No plausible model, not even the National Academies’ best-case scenario, comes close to suggesting that refugees who enter as adults will be net fiscal contributors,” CIS researchers note.

Turkey Reignites European Immigration Crisis

European officials, worried about a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, are scrambling to contain the fallout from Turkey’s move over the weekend to open its western borders to more than 4 million refugees and migrants it has been hosting. A similar unchecked wave five years ago rocked the continent and scrambled the political landscape in Britain, Germany, Italy and countries across central Europe. The Greek military and police are clashing with refugees rushing to cross the border from Turkey as islanders to the south cope with hundreds of new arrivals. Across the continent, German politicians vow to keep borders shut even as thousands of protesters in the capital demand entry for desperate Syrians. In France, some wonder whether refugee tent cities will pop up in front of shops and restaurants again.

Supreme Court Rejects Gun Stock Appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal of the federal ban on bump stocks, devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to fire rapidly like machine guns. The justices did not comment in declining to review a lower court ruling that upheld the ban, which took effect nearly a year ago. President Trump said the government would move to ban bump stocks following a 2017 shooting in Las Vegas in which a gunman attached bump stocks to assault-style rifles he used to shoot concertgoers from his hotel room. By using the devices, which allow shots to be fired more rapidly, the gunman was able to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes. Fifty-eight people were killed, and hundreds were injured.

Medicare Not Allowed to Negotiate Drug Prices Like the VA

The law that established Medicare Part D said Medicare cannot interfere with negotiations between health plans and pharmaceutical companies. That means Medicare Part D, by law, cannot negotiate drug prices like other agencies and governments do. A recent study found that in 2017, Medicare spent nearly $8 billion on insulin. The researchers said that if Medicare were allowed to negotiate drug prices like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can, Medicare could save about $4.4 billion just on insulin. Other governments — like Canada — use their large buying power to negotiate better prices. “Medicare now accounts for a third of all drug spending. Legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate prices would help save taxpayers money,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. William Feldman.

U.S. Students Lag 30 Other Countries in Math

The latest results of an international exam given to teenagers ranked the USA 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries. America has a smaller-than-average share of top-performing math students, and scores have essentially been flat for two decades. One likely reason: U.S. high schools teach math differently than other countries. Classes here often focus on formulas and procedures rather than teaching students to think creatively about solving complex problems involving all sorts of mathematics, experts said. That makes it harder for students to compete globally, be it on an international exam or in colleges and careers that value sophisticated thinking and data science.

40% of Americans are Obese, 10% Severely Obese

In a sign that suggests America’s obesity epidemic is far from under control, a new government report shows that more than 40% of people in the United States are obese. And almost 1 in 10 is severely obese, the researchers added. “Over the time period from 1999 to 2018, the obesity prevalence increased about 12% — from 30.5% of Americans to 42.4% of Americans. Severe obesity almost doubled,” said study author Dr. Craig Hales. Much more than just a cosmetic issue, obesity is associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, gallbladder disease and more, according to the U.S. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Economic News

The labor market turned its second straight strong monthly results in February as employers added 273,000 jobs despite a slowing economy, worker shortages and early coronavirus fears. The unemployment rate fell from 3.6% to 3.5%, matching a 50-year low, the Labor Department said Friday. Also encouraging: Job gains for December and January were revised up by a total 85,000. Hiring for the 2020 census may have helped a bit, with the federal government adding 8,000 jobs. But many economists expect the labor market to soften in the months ahead as economic fallout from the coronavirus grows.

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates Tuesday in a rare emergency move, responding aggressively to the growing threat the coronavirus poses to the economy and financial markets. The Fed lowered its key federal fund rates by half a percentage point to a range of 1% to 1.25%. It was the largest rate cut since 2008. The Fed added that it’s monitoring developments “and will use its tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.” That could signal the Fed may be leaning toward an additional rate cut” at its March 17-18 meeting,

  • The interest rate cut will drive mortgage rates down, which are already near historic lows. Last week, rates fell to an average of 3.45% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 2.95% for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage.

The coronavirus is plunging the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which warned Monday that growth could be cut in half if the outbreak continues to spread. Global airlines stand to lose $113 billion in sales if the coronavirus continues to spread, according to the International Air Transport Association.

America’s services sector grew more than expected in February. The growth was across the whole industry: everything from orders to inventories and prices improved, according to data from the Institute of Supply Management.

The median amount baby boomers have saved for retirement is just $152,000, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Although that may sound like a good chunk of change, but that money may only last a few years.

Persecution Watch

Christian persecution watchdog organization Open Doors has released the 2020 Gender-Specific Religious Persecution Report, which studies global patterns of persecution for Christian men and women across the 50 countries on the organization’s 2020 World Watch List. Most startling is the finding that sexual violence against women is highly reported across all regions, leading Open Doors to declare it a global calamity. “The research shows that women are specifically targeted by efforts to hijack their faith through forced marriage to a spouse of another faith. Most frequently, however, Christian women are routinely victimized by sexual assault.”

Liberty Counsel is representing Christian UPS drivers who have been discriminated against because of their faith. Many have come forward with accounts of such discrimination. One, Pastor Randy Lankford, worked for UPS for over 28 years until the religious discrimination became so bad it nearly gave him a heart attack. As a pastor, back in 2013 Lankford held his own prayer groups with fellow UPS employees to “help their morale and calm the chaos that we deal with in many of the drivers’ lives.” Pastor Lankford reports, “We always did it on our time, never on company time. This is when the harassment and bullying by [UPS management] started.” His local UPS management then began an active campaign to shut down any and all prayer. Lankford first took his objections to site management, then to district and upper management. Sadly, his legitimate concerns resulted in increased harassment from UPS managers.

Israel

Israeli’s embattled prime minister declared Monday’s general elections the “biggest win” of his life when he claimed victory with over main rival Benny Gantz. With the Israeli election results finalized on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won, but has again fallen short of a parliamentary majority, extending the country’s year-old political deadlock. He is now forced to try and form a coalition government in the coming weeks by enticing rival politicians to join him. Netanyahu was unable to do so several times beforehand, prompting the third general election in less than a year in Israel.

Democrats blocked a bill on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have prohibited U.S. support for the anti-Israel BDS movement. Lawmakers defeated consideration of the bill by a tally of 219-194. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), would have expanded the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 to include prohibiting U.S. support for foreign boycotts of Israel from groups including the European Union and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Middle East

Syria’s official news agency said two of its warplanes were shot down by Turkish forces inside northwest Syria, amid a military escalation there that’s led to growing direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces. SANA says the jets were targeted over the Idlib region, and that the four pilots ejected with parachutes and landed safely. These confrontations have added to soaring tensions between Turkey and Russia, which support opposing sides of the Syrian civil war.

Iran

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran is blowing past limits on the amount of nuclear fuel it had agreed to hold, as Tehran responds to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. The U.N. watchdog in a new report released Tuesday also criticized Iran for failing to provide access to suspicious sites where it may be conducting nuclear-related work. “The numbers suggest a different reality — that Iran “now has a pathway to a bomb,” the New York Times reports.

Afghanistan

The U.S. signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last Saturday, a turning point in the 18-year war in Afghanistan. Under the deal, the United States will fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. The agreement comes after seven days of reduced violence in the country and sets the stage for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Under the agreement, the U.S. would draw its forces down to 8,600 from 13,000 in the next 3-4 months. The U.S. will free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and begin to remove economic sanctions on top Taliban leaders under the terms of the deal.

  • The Taliban have resumed attacks against Afghan forces soon after signing a deal to end their war with the U.S. military, raising concerns that the Americans are leaving their Afghan allies vulnerable to an insurgency unwilling to let go of violence as its main leverage. The Taliban have carried out at least 76 attacks across 24 Afghan provinces since Saturday, when they finalized an agreement for a troop withdrawal by the United States, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s national security council said. And on Wednesday, the United States conducted its first airstrike against the insurgents after an 11-day lull.
  • An attack on a Shiite gathering in Afghanistan’s capital killed more than 20 people. The attack comes amid heightened political tensions in Afghanistan surrounding disputed election results. The gathering in Kabul was attended by opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah. The Taliban issued a statement saying the group was not responsible this attack.

North Korea

North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into its eastern sea on Monday, resuming weapons testing after a months-long hiatus that could have been forced by the coronavirus crisis in Asia. The launches came two days after North Korea’s state media said leader Kim Jong Un supervised an artillery drill aimed at testing the combat readiness of units in front-line and eastern areas. Kim entered the New Year vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of “gangster-like” US sanctions and pressure, using a key ruling party meeting in late December to warn of “shocking” action over stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration. He also said the North would soon reveal a new “strategic weapon” and insisted the North was no longer “unilaterally bound” to a self-imposed suspension on the testing of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Russia

Vladimir Putin is supporting a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, and the Russian president is highly likely to see the amendment become the law of the land. Putin—who is close to the Russian Orthodox Church and has become even more conservative in his fourth term as president—said last month that same-sex marriage would never happen while he is in the Kremlin. The constitutional amendments submitted by Putin also include a section stating Russia’s “faith in God,” lawmakers said.

Weather

At least 25 people are dead, 3 are missing, 156 people were treated at the hospital and 50 buildings were destroyed after powerful tornadoes slammed Tennessee Monday, leaving thousands without power in and around Nashville. The tornadoes struck overnight, leaving a trail of death and destruction in central Tennessee just hours before voting was scheduled to begin in the state’s primary election. Part of Interstate 40 was closed by downed power lines and overturned tractor-trailers. Nashville schools are closed for the rest of the week.

February showed an incredible contrast in precipitation across the United States, from the waterlogged Southeast to bone-dry California. In the Southeast, it’s been one of the wettest Februaries on record. A number of locations from Mississippi to the Smoky Mountains picked up over 10 inches of precipitation in February. A number of locations in Northern California didn’t see even a drop of rain this February, including Sacramento and San Francisco.

The National Weather Service said February 2020 was “one for the record books” along parts of the East Coast due to a lack of snow. For the first time in recorded history going back to 1891, . Baltimore, Md., and Islip, N.Y, both received no snow in February, according to weather officials. Other places such as New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports and Atlantic City, New Jersey, only recorded a trace of snow on the leap day.

Warmer temperatures this winter have apparently stymied production of a special wine in Germany for the first time in recorded history. The German Wine Institute said Sunday that none of the country’s 13 wine-growing regions had the necessary temperatures of 19 degrees Fahrenheit in 2019 to produce ice wine. A succession of warm winters has cut into ice wine production recently, the institute said, noting that in 2017 only seven producers managed to make the pricey, golden nectar made from grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine.

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