Archive for May, 2020

Signs of the Times (5/29/20)

May 29, 2020

As it is written:“For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

103-Year-Old Woman Beats Coronavirus, Celebrates with Bud Light

Shelley Gunn describes her Polish grandmother, Jennie Stejna, as having a feisty spirit. Stejna certainly displayed that spirit as the 103-year-old woman recently survived a bout with the coronavirus. As Stejna’s condition worsened, Gunn said they called to say what they thought were their final goodbyes. But on May 13, Gunn said she got good news — Stejna had recovered. The staff gave Stejna an ice cold Bud Light to celebrate, something she loved but hadn’t had in a very long time. Stejna was the first resident in the nursing home to recover. They still have 33 cases of the coronavirus, Gunn said.

Churches Asking Supreme Court Friday to Overturn Attendance Limits

Pentecostal and Baptist churches in California and Illinois were pushing for the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to stop their states’ governors from limiting the number of people that can attend religious services as part of coronavirus social distancing measures, according to new filings sent to the court. The churches are asking the court to stop the worship restrictions before this Sunday, the Christian holy day of Pentecost. California recently loosened its restrictions to allow up to 100 people to meet for religious services.

Racial Killings Spark Violent Protests in Minneapolis and Louisville

At least seven people were shot, one critically wounded, Thursday night in Louisville as protesters turned out to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical tech, was shot eight times on March 13 after Louisville narcotics detectives knocked down her front door. No drugs were found in the home. Around 500 to 600 demonstrators marched through the Kentucky city’s downtown streets on Thursday night. It is not clear yet who fired the shots.

The governor of Minnesota on Thursday activated the National Guard, and 500 soldiers will report to Minneapolis, which has seen protests every night since Tuesday over the Monday death of George Floyd. On Monday, Derek Chauvin, who is white, was captured on video with a knee on Floyd’s black neck. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe before he died. Also Thursday, the mayor of Minneapolis declared a state of emergency. Looting, violence, smashed windows, and fires were widespread, Protesters broke in and took over the Third Precinct police station late Thursday and set it on fire. Several other buildings were also set on fire. The Ohio Statehouse was damaged by protestors late Thursday evening.

  • On Friday morning, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Tens of thousands of Coronavirus Tests have been Double-Counted

Tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests have been double-counted in the Government’s official tally, public health officials in the UK have admitted. Diagnostic tests which involve taking saliva and nasal samples from the same patient are being counted as two tests, not one, reports The Telegraph. The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England each confirmed the double-counting. It is not the first time the Government has been caught massaging the testing data. It was accused last month of including thousands of home tests which had been posted but not completed in a bid to reach its target of 100,000 tests. Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Ministers have already received an embarrassing slap on the wrists for their dodgy spin on testing figures. It seems they haven’t learnt their lesson. We need absolute transparency in the presentation of these figures”.

  • Evidence worldwide suggests that overall coronavirus statistics are far lower than what’s been reported for a variety of reasons including scaring people into compliance with unconstitutional lockdown orders.

CDC Announces COVIC-19 Death Rate is 0.26%, Similar to Flu

The coronavirus fatality rate estimate has fallen, according to the latest estimates of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to 0.26%, far below previous estimates. The updated CDC figures show a 0.4% death rate for symptomatic cases of coronavirus, down-grading the previously estimated fatality rate of 1% of symptomatic cases. With the CDC now estimating that more than a third (35%) of coronavirus cases are completely asymptomatic, the total fatality rate for the coronavirus is now believed to be 0.26%, just one-quarter of a percent and comparable to the seasonal flu.

COVID-19 Patients Not Infectious After Day 11

COVID-19 patients are not contagious 11 days after becoming ill, according to a study cited by the Singapore National Center for Infectious Diseases and the Academy of Medicine. “Scientifically, I’m very confident that there is enough evidence that the person is no longer infectious after 11 days,” NCID executive director Leo Yee Sin told Singaporean newspaper the Strait Times. “Based on the accumulated data since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the infectious period of SARS-CoV-2 in symptomatic individuals may begin around 2 days before the onset of symptoms, and persists for about 7-10 days after the onset of symptoms,” the study concluded.

Six-Foot Social Distancing Not Enough to Combat Aerosol Transmission

Mounting evidence about the transmission of the coronavirus suggests that the 6-foot social distancing guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) are incorrect, reports Newsmax.com. Three experts recently reported their research in the journal Science, saying the virus can remain airborne for hours and travel with air flow over distances greater than 6 feet. The researchers pointed out that the WHO recommendations are based on studies of respiratory droplets that were conducted in the 1930’s, before technology existed to analyze tiny aerosol particles like the ones that transmit COVID-19. WebMD says that COVID-19 is being transmitted via these aerosol particles and that masks are the best defense.

Virginia Requires Masks after New Spike in Cases

Virginians will soon be required to wear face masks in public to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Tuesday, the same day the state saw its biggest daily spike in new virus cases. The news comes after the state on Tuesday reported its biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases – 1,615 – a jump from the 1,483 new cases reported on Monday. Virginia began its first phase of reopening earlier this month.

WHO and CDC Differ in Face Mask Recommendation

The World Health Organization is recommending healthy people, including those who don’t exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, only wear masks when taking care of someone infected with the contagion, a sharp contrast from the advice given by American public health officials who recommend everyone wear a mask in public. “If you do not have any respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough or runny nose, you do not need to wear a mask,” says a video on the WHO website.

  • Many people complain that wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time makes them feel faint and dizzy. A face mask causes us to breathe back in the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we breathe out. The National Institutes of Health has stated that inhaling high levels of CO2 can be life-threatening. It triggers a condition called hypercapnia leading to headaches, vertigo, double vision, seizures, or suffocation.

Half of Americans Unsure Whether to Get Vaccinated

Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated while another 20% said they’d refuse. That’s result is surprising to infectious disease experts considering the effort going into the global race for a vaccine against the coronavirus. Among Americans who say they wouldn’t get vaccinated, 7 in 10 worry about safety and side effects.

Bill Gates & Other Pushing for ‘Full Vaccination’

Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder, advocated on Friday that we should close the borders to any country “till we get to that full vaccination” level. Even if people in that country have “very good concerns” against vaccinating, he wants to leverage government leaders to demand they fall in line. Gates also stated that he is willing to have severe adverse reactions (which includes death) from about 750,000 people across the world caused by vaccinating every person. He says we need the government to help force people who refuse to vaccinate, and to give those involved in this vaccination complete immunity from any legal liability, reports Liberty Counsel.

  • Bill Gates’ father was a eugenicist and president of Planned Parenthood, and he wants to use the weight of national governments to push entire nations to vaccinate their “full” population, which will put hundreds of billions of dollars in the pockets of vaccine investors (like himself). Gates himself is a Social Darwinist who believes in “evolving” the human race through social engineering and reducing world population by 0-15%

Contact Tracers Will Spy and Enforce Vaccine Compliance

All 50 states are ramping up some form of tracing by creating smartphone apps and hiring thousands to implement these programs. They are pushing for repeatedly quarantining healthy people for periods of 14 days at a time if they don’t have COVID-19 antibodies or a vaccination certificate if and when such vaccines become available. A recently trained and certified contact tracer has revealed to Liberty Counsel that as long as someone has not taken a government-approved vaccination, there is no limit to the number of times they can be “exposed” and subsequently quarantined for 14 more days — including people at work and places of worship.

  • Contact tracing and vaccination certificates represent the first step toward the ultimate “mark of the beast” described in Revelation 13:16-17 and 14:9-11.

Many Teachers & Students Will Not Return to Classrooms

Most Americans expect schools to reopen in the fall, but a stunning number of teachers and students may not be there. In an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, 1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopen in the fall, a potential massive wave of resignations. While most teachers report working more than usual, nearly two-thirds say they haven’t been able to properly do their jobs in an educational system upended by the coronavirus. A separate poll of parents with at least one child in grades K-12 finds that 6 in 10 say they would be likely to pursue at-home learning options instead of sending back their children this fall. Nearly a third of parents, 30%, say they are “very likely” to homeschool.

One-Third of Americans Anxious and Depressed Due to Pandemic

A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, which is a huge jump from before the pandemic. Rates of anxiety and depression were far higher among younger adults, women and the poor, which suggests the decline in mental health could be more about financial struggle than the virus itself. Even before the pandemic, mental health care in the U.S. was already severely underfunded, but almost none of the emergency coronavirus funds Congress approved have gone toward mental health programs and clinics.

Trump Issues Executive Order to Eliminate Bias in Social Media

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday to force social media companies to operate without political bias, saying platforms such as Twitter form a monopoly with “unchecked power.” “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office with Attorney General William P. Barr at his side. “There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction.” The order requires the Federal Communications Commission to craft a regulation that could exempt social media companies from protections under the Communications Decency Act, which shields companies from legal liability for material posted by their users, if they censor or edit content.

Nations Turning Back to Coal

The economic forecast this year is bleak, no matter where you are. When faced with an uncertain future, economies usually opt for the easiest, cheapest solution.. For many countries, when it comes to energy, the easy, cheap source is coal. The demand for fossil fuels fell sharply following the lockdown in March and April. With vehicles off the road and businesses shutting down, the demand for energy was at a historic low in many leading economies. Analysts say coal suffered the biggest hit from the COVID-19 lockdown, and some even declare that coal would never recover. But the way nations look at coal and the future is quite different. With most Asian countries in the developing stage, and with coal being the least expensive and readily available fuel from which to generate electricity, there is now increasing usage of coal.

NYC Facing Multi-Billion Dollar Deficit, Pleads for Aid

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday warned that the city faces a multibillion-dollar deficit amid the coronavirus pandemic, while pleading for federal and state assistance. New York City previously estimated $7.4 billion in lost revenue due to the coronavirus crisis, but on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city is projecting a shortfall of nearly $9 billion— possibly more—over the next two fiscal years. “This week I asked the state of New York for help. I asked the state of New York to give us a fallback, give us a safety net,” de Blasio said. “It’s something we need as a last resort if our federal government isn’t there for us, if we’re going to maintain basic services here in the city.”

PPP Funds Went to Affluent Firms that Pay No Taxes

The $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides low-interest loans that are forgivable if companies hit by the coronavirus use most of the money to pay employees, has been widely criticized for problems ranging from early bottlenecks that prevented small businesses from receiving money, to confusion that led millions of dollars to be handed out to relatively affluent firms. Now a Reuters analysis reveals a previously unreported aspect of the government relief program: The fund is giving millions of dollars in American taxpayer money to a number of firms that have avoided paying U.S. tax. In all, Reuters’ analysis of public data found around 110 publicly traded companies have each received $4 million or more in emergency aid from the program and 12 of these companies recently used offshore havens to cut their tax bills, the analysis found. Seven of them paid no U.S. tax at all for the past year.

Economic News

April’s personal consumption data showed a 13.6% drop in consumer spending despite governmental aid, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Friday. That’s equal to $1.89 trillion. About two-thirds of America’s economy runs on consumer spending, so this doesn’t bode well for the start of the quarter. The steep drop in spending is just the latest sign of an economy in a dire, pandemic-linked recession. The U.S. economy is likely to shrink at a staggering 30% to 40% annual rate in the current quarter, economists predict.

Another 2.1 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. In just ten weeks, 40.7 million have sought jobless benefits which represent the nation’s most reliable gauge of layoffs, 25% of all American workers.  However, the volume of claims has been steadily declining, and that trend is expected to continue. The flood of jobless claims is so great, overwhelmed state systems have struggled to process the millions of applications. While the backlog is easing, it is still significant.

Consumer confidence edged higher in May after two months of steep declines as businesses shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic gradually reopened, but the measure still hovers near six-year lows. The closely watched index of Americans’ outlook rose to 86.6 from 85.7 in April, the Conference Board said Tuesday, driven by a pickup in expectations for the next six months.

Off-price retailer Tuesday Morning filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday with plans to close 230 stores, more than a third of its stores. The company joins a growing list of retailers that have tumbled into Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the pandemic, including Hertz, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Gold’s Gym and J. Crew.

Boeing let go 6,770 workers Wednesday. That brings total job cuts at the company to more than 12,000 so far,  part of a plan to reduce 16,000 total jobs because of the rapid decrease in air travel during the pandemic.

General Electric is saying goodbye to the light bulb. The conglomerate is shedding a struggling business founded by Thomas Edison more than a century ago. After years of failing to find a buyer, GE announced Wednesday it will sell its 129-year-old lighting division to Savant Systems, a smart home company.

New Zealand Vanquished Coronavirus, Declares HIV is Next

New Zealand has all but eradicated the coronavirus from its shores with just one person in the nation of 5 million known to be still infected as of Friday morning. The country’s health authorities have not found any new virus cases for a week. Of the 1,504 people who were infected, 22 have died and all but one of the rest have now recovered. The nation’s borders remain closed and staying virus-free when they eventually reopen poses a big challenge. The country, which ended its 51-day lockdown earlier this month, is easing restrictions again on Friday and will allow gatherings of up to 100 people.

  • With COVID-19 apparently vanquished, health authorities believe they now also have a unique opportunity to break the chains of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. “We know there are a number of New Zealanders living with undiagnosed HIV infection. If we can find those individuals through testing, diagnose them with HIV and link them to care and treat them we will have broken the chain,” said Jason Myers, chief executive of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

China Bulldozes, Shuts Down Churches Amid Pandemic

The coronavirus that devastated China’s population hasn’t stopped the communist government from shutting down and even razing churches across the country. The persecution has impacted state-run churches and underground house churches alike, according to the watchdog Bitter Winter, which monitors religious freedom in China. “The Communist Party’s persecution of house churches is increasingly severe,” a member of a house church in the province of Jiangxi told Bitter Winter. “This is mainly because more and more people believe in Christianity.” On April 27, more than 30 officials razed the Jiangxi house church, telling members it had to be destroyed because it was privately owned and unapproved by the government. Still, the 20 or so church members continue to worship in secret. On April 24, local officials began destroying a large Three Self church in the province of Shandong at 5 a.m., with construction equipment knocking down walls and police guarding the scene.

At Least 20 Christians Killed in Nigeria in Fulani Militant Spree

At least 20 Christians were killed and several injured in four days of murderous Fulani militant attacks on 16 mainly-Christian villages in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Since January 2020, 107 Christians have been killed in 63 attacks on Kajuru communities. Forty-nine people have been injured, at least 66 men, women and girls kidnapped and 111 houses burnt. The raids have destroyed 32 villages since January, displacing 20,000 people, with attacks at their most severe in the past two weeks, as the Covid-19 lockdown continues.

Some Arab Leaders Secretly OK with Israeli Annexation

While publicly warning Israel not to move forward with annexation, some Arab world leaders are accepting the plan behind the scenes, reports World Israel News. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to formally annex parts of the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria has sparked a public outcry from the Arab world. Arab leaders warned that annexation, which is slated to move forward as early as July 1, could lead to civil unrest, regional instability, and violence. But behind the scenes, Arab world leaders tell a very different story. According to Israel Hayom, the rulers of Arab states including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are quietly accepting the annexation plan, despite public statements condemning Israel’s actions.

Swarms of Locusts Threatens India’s Summer Crops

An invasion by swarms of desert locusts has devastated crops in India’s heartland, threatening an already vulnerable region that is struggling with the economic cost of coronavirus lockdown. The situation has been particularly grim in central India’s Rajasthan, where millions of locusts have been attacking crops since April. The insects are now appearing in locations where they had not been previously sighted, nibbling their way across large swathes of farmlands in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states, too.

U.S. Disrupts Iranian Oil Deliveries to Venezuela

The Trump administration halted scheduled Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela Wednesday by threatening sanctions on the ships carrying the cargo, according to U.S. officials. Iran and Venezuela attempted to outmaneuver American sanctions by establishing a new oil partnership. Two Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ships were en route to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel, but scrapped their deliveries after the U.S. threatened sanctions, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised address: “We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism.”

U.S. Government Charges Dozens in Illegally Funding North Korean Weapons

The U.S. government has charged 28 North Korean and five Chinese individuals with facilitating more than $2.5 billion in illegal payments for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile program as part of a clandestine global network operating from countries including China, Russia, Libya and Thailand. A federal indictment unsealed Thursday alleges China had a role in facilitating illicit transactions through affiliates of telecom giants Huawei and ZTE.

Wildfires

Zombie fires — blazes that have smoldered underground in the Arctic after last year’s fire season — have erupted above the surface in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia, threatening the burn thousands of acres this season, scientists said. An unusually warm and dry season in the Arctic last summer helped spark wildfires from Alaska to Siberia. Some 3,000 wildfires were reported in Canada in 2019.

Weather

Tropical Storm Bertha made landfall on South Carolina’s coast Wednesday morning shortly after it formed, forecasters said. Bertha is the second named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which doesn’t officially begin until June 1. The main impact from Bertha will be heavy rain, up to 8 inches was expected. Bertha was a tropical storm for almost six hours before weakening to a tropical depression.

Miami was pounded by another round of heavy rainfall Tuesday evening, which resulted in severe street flooding in some parts of the city. One of the hardest-hit areas was in North Miami, where vehicles attempted to navigate roads that were covered in several feet of water. Miami International Airport received 5.5 inches of rain in a 90-minute span. The airport received at least 7.07 inches of rain Wednesday and at least 18.55 inches of rain in May, just shy of the May record of 18.66 inches. More than 13,000 homes and businesses were without power in Miami-Dade County Tuesday evening.

More than two dozen people had to be pulled from the rain-swollen Elk River in southwest Missouri over the holiday weekend. One man died when he was swept away by the fast-moving water after falling from his boat, and a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured when the canoe his was in was trapped underwater against a bridge. Throughout the day Saturday, the Highway Patrol’s water rescue team, the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office and the Noel Fire Department pulled 21 people out of the river. Heavy rain Friday caused the river to rise to 8.5 feet. The river is expected to reach 11.5 feet by Wednesday morning. Flood stage is 15 feet.

Signs of the Times (5/26/20)

May 26, 2020

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12)

Trump Deems Churches ‘Essential Services’

President Trump on Friday deemed churches and houses of worship “essential services” and called upon governors to allow them to open, saying he will “override” governors if they don’t cooperate. “In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said at a White House press conference. Some states have deemed churches “essential services” during the pandemic, but in other states – such as New York, Illinois and California – churches remain closed under order of their governors. Trump criticized governors for allowing businesses such as liquor stores and abortion clinics to remain open while forcing churches to close. He also said houses of worship could open safely while practicing social distancing.

DOJ Warns Nevada of Unequal Treatment of Churches

Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department is making good on its vow to side with the people against governmental overreach in keeping America shut down, admonishing Nevada on its ban on religious gatherings of 10 or more people. “The flat prohibition against 10 or more persons gathering for in-person worship services — regardless of whether they maintain social-distancing guidelines — impermissibly treats religious and nonreligious organizations unequally,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas Trutanich and Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband wrote in a letter to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat.

Chicago Mayor Sends Armed Police to Shut Down Church

Mayor Lightfoot actually send armed police officers to shut down the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Chicago in the middle of his sermon. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had dispatched three squad cards and two unmarked cars filled with armed officers. A representative from the mayor’s office was also present. Courtney Lewis, the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Chicago, was in the middle of his sermon when he heard loud banging on front doors. It was the police and they were denied entry into the sanctuary. It was “like the Soviet-style KGB,” he said. “Thankfully our doors were locked as a normal safety precaution we take each service to protect our members from the escalating gun violence in Chicago,” the pastor said.

Catholic College Closes Permanently, First of Many to Come

Holy Family College in Wisconsin has announced that they are closing their doors permanently. The forces to which the 85-year-old Catholic college succumbed are the same that haunt campus leaders at universities nationwide, particularly private schools that rely heavily on a steady flow of tuition dollars to keep doors open. The most powerful woman in the United States, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the majority of our Supreme Court justices are graduates of Catholic schools. The pandemic’s economic wake threatens to decimate what are arguably the most important Catholic schools: those in urban areas that serve disadvantaged kids. From inner-city parochial schools in St. Louis to the Catholic all-girls school Pelosi attended in Baltimore, it’s not too much to say that COVID-19 is in the process of killing scores of Catholic schools across the United States, notes World Net Daily (WND.com).

  • As the new economic realities set in, there will be many more closing down over the next few months – just what the secular humanist New World Order wants.

Memorial Day Revelers Crowd Beaches and Bars

Crowds of densely packed, barefaced, droplet-swapping Americans flooded on beaches, bar patios and pool decks over the Memorial Day weekend, fulfilling the fears of health experts who warned the nationwide relaxation of restrictions would help the coronavirus spread. The most dramatic images came from Missouri —  still in the midst of a local epidemic — where vacationers flocked to the Lake of Ozarks and packed themselves into bar patios and pools. Thick crowds were also spotted at beaches along the East Coast, on a weekend when American flags flew at half-staff in memory of the country’s nearly 100,000 confirmed victims of the virus. In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said a recent high school swim party contributed to the state’s “second peak” of infections but still encouraged residents to venture out. “We take the virus very seriously, the governor told Fox News. “It’s a risk, it causes death, but you can’t cloister yourself at home, that is just contrary to the American spirit.”

  • Missouri health officials called for partiers to self-quarantine after Ozarks pool party.

Lockdowns Prompt More Than 1,300 Lawsuits

Activities once viewed as mundane, like gathering for church or grabbing a burger at a local restaurant, have become subjects of a federal lawsuit as residents, businesses and even lawmakers have challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraging protests at state capitols and urging churches to reopen despite restrictions. More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases.

Coronavirus Cases Increasing in 18 States, Declining in 10

The number of new coronavirus cases has been rising in 18 states — including Georgia, Arkansas, California and Alabama. In 22 states, the numbers appear to be holding steady. And only 10 states are seeing declines in the numbers of new cases. Rural counties now have some of the highest rates of covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, a Post analysis found. In Arkansas, one of the few states that never enacted stay-at-home orders, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state seemed to be experiencing a “second peak.” Despite the warning, crowds gathered over the weekend without social distancing or masks. A month since Georgia took some of the earliest and most extensive steps to reopen parts of its economy, Covid-19 cases have largely flattened in the state, albeit with a slight recent uptick.

Democratic Areas Hardest Hit by Coronavirus

The death toll from the coronavirus has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest, and in New York City, reports the New York Times. The devastation has been disproportionately felt in areas where Democrats are dominant, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of the partisan divide are thinking about the virus differently. Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities.” The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed,” notes the Times.

Spain Study Says Lower Infection Rate in Essential Workers

A study in Spain has found a lower rate of COVID-19 infection among essential workers who were not confined to their homes compared to those in isolation. The study found that those in quarantine trended toward a higher infection rate than those out in the workforce, 6.3% vs 5.3%. “This should lead to a reflection on the role of general confinement,” wrote infectious-disease expert Didier Raoult of France on Twitter. For those over 60, 6.3% of those in quarantine were infected compared to 4.8% who were not.

Grocery Stores Not Reporting Coronavirus Cases

Grocery stores have been accused of suppressing information about outbreaks among their employees. The Washington Post interviewed dozens of current and former employees at more than 30 supermarkets who alleged that cases of infection – or even death – were covered up. The Post also found that store managers retaliated against employees who raised concerns. More than 100 infected workers were discovered at to have worked at two Walmarts in Massachusetts last month — only after local health officials investigated and tested the entire staff.

Nursing Home Testing Goals Won’t Be Met

Nearly two weeks ago the White House urged governors to ensure that every nursing home resident and staff member be tested for the coronavirus within 14 days. It’s not going to happen. A review by The Associated Press found that at least half of the states are not going to meet White House’s deadline and some aren’t even bothering to try. Only a handful of states, including West Virginia and Rhode Island, have said they’ve already tested every nursing home resident. Many states said the logistics, costs and manpower needs are too great to test all residents and staff in a two-week window. Some say they need another week or so, while others say they need much more time. And still other states are questioning whether testing every nursing home resident and staff, regardless of any other factors, is a good use of time and money.

Meat Industry Struggles to Return as More Workers Get Sick

More than 11,000 virus cases are tied to three major processors and more than 60 people have died throughout the industry, illustrating the challenge of reopening the country even for essential businesses. Farmers in North Carolina are being forced to euthanize 1.5 million chickens due to coronavirus-related staffing shortages at processing plants. There are about 170 million to 190 million chickens and turkeys in North Carolina where 2,006 workers in 26 processing plants have tested positive for COVID-19. “The continued lack of processing capacity over a long period of time with this ‘just in time’ process that we have on animal production, puts us in this very untenable situation,” said Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon.

Mayors Face Threats and No Pay

Mayors didn’t come up with the “locally executed, state managed and federally supported” approach that President Donald Trump has adopted for combating the coronavirus. But they’re the front-line commanders. While governors have been in the spotlight, mayors have been seeing up close, every day, how much longer a neighborhood bar and grill can go without customers before it must permanently shutter, how many masks the senior center has left, how long the food bank lines are and how many of their own employees might soon be out of a job. Some have faced death threats and racist attacks for their stay-at-home orders. At least one is forgoing her salary as she, like most mayors around the country, struggle with unprecedented budget holes. Others repurpose city workers, turning librarians into government aid researchers and parking enforcers into park rangers.

Living in High Altitudes Could Protect From Coronavirus

A new study suggests people who live in high altitudes might have protection from the novel coronavirus, though some experts say other factors might come into play. At higher altitudes oxygen molecules are farther apart than at sea level, making less of it available to inhale. This can cause an oxygen deficiency called hypoxia, that people who grow up in high altitudes such as Colorado tend to make up for with large lung capacity, the Miami Herald noted. And this higher lung capacity could be the reason people who live at higher altitudes seem better equipped to recover from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the researchers surmised.

Deadly Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago

Ten people were killed over the holiday weekend in Chicago, making it the Windy City’s deadliest Memorial Day weekend since 2015. At least 31 others were injured in shootings in the city since Friday night. Three of those shot were teenagers, one fatally. The Chicago Tribune notes that the death toll arrived despite the city’s stay-home order, bad storms, and additional police patrols. Last year saw five deaths.

Small Firms Leave $148B in Coronavirus Stimulus Untapped

Data from the Small Business Administration shows net weekly Paycheck Protection Program lending has actually been negative since mid-May, as fewer firms applied for loans, and some borrowers returned funds. All told, the SBA says it had approved $512 billion in PPP loans as of May 21. That’s $148 billion less than the $660 billion allocated to the program, which was designed to keep Americans on company payrolls and off unemployment assistance. Many of PPP borrowers haven’t touched their PPP loan deposits. The money left unborrowed and unspent under the program represents lost economic stimulus. Businesses were supposed to use the loans to retain workers, but many have been laying them off instead of tapping the money.

Economic News

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that sales of new single-family homes rose by 0.6% in April. This followed a decline of 13.7% in March. Over the past 12 months, sales are down 6.2%.

So far, Nevada is the state hit hardest by soaring unemployment caused by the pandemic, with a reported rate of 28%, highest in the U.S. and the worst in the state’s history.

Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, unable to withstand the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled global travel and with it, the heavily indebted 102-year-old car rental company’s business. LATAM Airlines Group, the largest carrier in Latin America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday. Lufthansa and the German government finalized the terms of a $9.8 billion bailout, following weeks of intense negotiations over the future of Europe’s leading global airline.

With global travel screeching to a halt during the pandemic, a number of Airbnb hosts are planning to sell their properties as well as the furniture they bought to deck out their homes. These desperate moves come as hosts face the possibility of losing thousands of dollars a month in canceled bookings while bills, maintenance costs and mortgage payments pile up.

Uber, the ride hailing company, said on Tuesday that it is cutting 600 jobs in India, roughly 25% of its workforce in the country. Uber will provide 10 weeks of pay and six months of medical insurance for affected staff.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose eight cents to $1.95 on Sunday, up from $1.87 a week ago. But today’s average is still substantially lower than this time last year when motorists paid $2.84 per gallon.

Israel’s Historic Opportunity to Annex Judea and Samaria in July

During a Likud party meeting on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recommitted to July 1 as the start date to begin moving forward with annexation of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. “We have a historic opportunity here that we haven’t had since 1948,” said Netanyahu, comparing sovereignty in Judea and Samaria to Israel’s Declaration of Independence 72 years ago. Over half a million Israelis live in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, territory that Israel gained from Jordan in 1967’s Six-Day War. Under Israel’s annexation plan, which has gained tentative approval from the U.S., Arab towns and cities in Judea and Samaria would remain under Palestinian Authority control.

White House Limits Travel to U.S. from Brazil Due to Coronavirus

The White House on Sunday said it was prohibiting most non-U.S. citizens from traveling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks, two days after the South American nation became the world No. 2 hot spot for coronavirus cases. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals do not bring additional infections to the United States, but would not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries. Brazil on Friday surpassed Russia to become the world No. 2 hot spot for coronavirus cases, second only to the United States, and now has over 347,000 people infected by the virus.

Islamic State Attack in Libya

“Islamic State said on Monday it was behind a blast in a small town in southern Libya on Saturday, the militant group’s first attack in the country for at least a year. The blast targeted a security point at the entrance to Taraghin, 590 miles south of Tripoli, but did not cause any casualties, a resident said. A local military commander, Abdesselam Shanqala, said the explosives were concealed in a vehicle belonging to the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA). An LNA military source said Islamic State was growing more active in the south after the arrest of one of its commanders.

Iran Delivers Oil to Venezuela

An oil tanker called “Fortune” has sailed into Venezuela from Iran, the first of five ships expected to arrive in a nation so starved of gasoline that the docking of a single tanker was hailed on Monday by government officials as a victory. The move represented a deepening of economic relations between Venezuela and Iran, two pariah states run by authoritarian leaders subject to punishing sanctions by the United States government. Representatives of both nations cast the transaction as a sign of strength and unity.

Earthquakes

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, had her news show interview interrupted by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake. She warned the host, Ryan Bridge, not to worry “if you see things moving behind me,” because the building she was in “moves a little more than most.” After the shaking stopped, she assured her interviewer “we’re fine. I’m not under any hanging lights, I look like I’m in a structurally sound place.” There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Weather

Powerful storms hammered Charlotte. North Carolina, Friday afternoon, killing two people and leaving behind widespread tree and power line damage. Another person was killed about 50 miles south in Lancaster, South Carolina, when a tree and a power pole were blown over and fell on a vehicle. Strong straight-line winds and torrential rain made travel difficult. The storms brought down large trees – some onto structures – and knocked out power to more than 120,000 homes and businesses in the Carolinas.

Signs of the Times (5/22/20)

May 22, 2020

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

DOJ Warns California Over Religious Discrimination

The Justice Department on Tuesday put California Gov. Gavin Newsom on notice, claiming that his plan for the state’s staggered re-opening from the threat posed by the coronavirus discriminates against religious groups and a return to in-person worship services. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, chief of the department’s Civil Rights Division, warned the governor that places of worship were being forced to take a back seat to a gradual resumption of operations at schools, restaurants, offices and shopping malls. Dreiband, in a letter to the governor, cast the policy as “differential treatment” that unfairly singled out religious worship for restrictions that the state would not impose on other activities.

Arsonist Burns Church after Pastor Challenges Safer-at-Home Restrictions

A church in Mississippi was destroyed by a suspected arson fire, about a month after its pastor filed a lawsuit challenging the city of Holly Springs on gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak. First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, burned down Wednesday morning. When investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office got to the scene, they found graffiti in the church parking lot that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.” Pastor Jerry Waldrop filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service.

Trump Pushes CDC to Issue Guidelines for Reopening Churches

President Trump urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday to issue new guidelines to speed up the reopening of churches, saying religious institutions are “essential” to the nation’s recovery, as he criticized Democratic governors for deliberately stalling efforts to get back to work and worship. During a visit to Michigan, which is ground zero for protests against extended stay-at-home orders, the president also gave his most vocal backing yet for Americans who are in some cases defying state restrictions and returning to their jobs after two months of lost income. The president disclosed that he had spoken with CDC officials about loosening guidance against churches holding in-person worship services.

Governors Seizing Control Over Churches

Many liberal governors who call for the separation of church and state now want the state to control the church, reports Liberty Counsel. Maine Gov. Janet Mills, whom Liberty Counsel is suing in federal court on behalf of Calvary Chapel of Bangor, is one such example. Gov. Mills prohibits ALL church gatherings, including drive-in church. She now says churches will not be able to reopen until she is satisfied with the “metrics,” but she will not say what the “metrics” mean. So, there is no way to know when Gov. Mills will be satisfied. Even after the “metrics” are reached, churches will have to apply to reopen, and will be chosen based on a checklist of requirements developed by the state. As of this writing, that checklist has not been released by the State of Maine.

In Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s locked-down state of Illinois, acts of solemn worship have been deemed a crime and Liberty Counsel’s client, Logos Baptist Ministries, was on the receiving end of not one, but two “disorderly conduct” citations…for opening the church for peaceful worship and devout prayer. Gov. Pritzker announced that Illinois churches will remain largely shut down until, among other things, a proper mass surveillance system is put in place to “monitor” its citizens. Democrats in the U.S. House are pushing a bill to spend one hundred billion dollars annually for contact tracing (a.k.a., spying) on “everyone” in America.

  • States are hiring thousands to perform ‘contact tracing’ which seems like a good idea on the surface, but it will become the basis for the rapid expansion of the surveillance state. Combined with street cams, facial recognition systems, and now thousands of ‘spies,’ government surveillance of its citizens will become commonplace and undoubtedly abused to further the agenda of the secular humanists in charge.

Washington State Setting Up Virus Isolation Camps

A Washington state lawmaker is alerting citizens to “isolation camps” set up in his state and others to house people who become infected with COVID-19, warning that contrary to the conventional narrative, they are not voluntary. State Republican Rep. Matt Shea of the Spokane area in eastern Washington, explained in a video interview with The New American magazine that the camps are part of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s policy of contact tracing, which has been implemented by many states. He explained that the tracers visit people who may have been infected and advise them they can isolate at a center to protect other members of their household. While the infected person may be asked to volunteer, the government makes it clear that people can be forcibly quarantined, Shea pointed out.

Homeschooling Expected to Surge after Pandemic Shutdown of Schools

The nationwide lockdowns may lead to a bigger shift in the way American families do school. A new RealClear Opinion Research poll of 2,122 registered voters reveals a big increase in parents who might keep homeschooling their children after the pandemic ends. The poll shows that 40 percent of families are more likely to use homeschooling or virtual school education after lockdown restrictions are lifted. Of those surveyed who said they would enroll their children in a home school or virtual school, 53 percent were Asian parents, 50 percent were African-American and 36 percent were Caucasian. In addition, 64 percent support having the choice of a public or private school, according to The American Federation for Children.

Planned Parenthood Gets $80M in Stimulus Money

Planned Parenthood is no “small” business. In 2018, the abortion provider reported net assets of $2.2 billion, so the idea that they would compete, let alone receive, stimulus loans is absurd. And yet, that’s exactly what dozens of its affiliates did. While mom and pop shops struggle to survive, the “abortion tycoon” managed to rip off $80 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), reports the Family Research Council. And the Trump administration wants it back. Now. “They just don’t qualify under the affiliate rules,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) insisted. “It’s as simple as that. Leave aside all the other issues, they do not qualify.”

35% of Coronavirus Infections are Asymptomatic, 0.4% are Dying

Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients are of great concern to public health officials and lawmakers due to their ability to spread the virus without knowing they’re sick themselves. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than a third (35%) of COVID-19 patients could be asymptomatic, its “current best estimate.” The CDC also notes that 0.4 percent of those who do show symptoms will die from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The most at-risk group is people 65 and older, with the CDC saying it expects 1.3 percent of those who symptoms to die.

UK Vaccine Trials Underway, U.S. Invests $1B in It

British researchers testing an experimental coronavirus vaccine are moving into advanced studies and aim to immunize more than 10,000 people to determine if the shot works. Last month, scientists at Oxford University began immunizing more than 1,000 volunteers with their vaccine candidate in a preliminary trial designed to test the shot’s safety. Drugmaker AstraZeneca said it had secured its first agreements for 400 million doses of the Oxford-developed vaccine, bolstered by a $1 billion investment from a US government agency, for the development, production, and delivery of the vaccine, starting in the fall.

  • About a dozen different experimental vaccines are in early stages of human testing or poised to start, mostly in China, the US, and Europe, with dozens more in earlier stages of development. Scientists have never created vaccines from scratch this fast and it’s far from clear that any of the candidates will ultimately prove safe and effective.

SARS Antibodies Stops COVID-19 Infection In Lab Test

An antibody from a patient who recovered from SARS has been shown to block COVID-19 infection in a laboratory setting, researchers said Monday in another potential breakthrough in the search for coronavirus treatment. Scientists based in Switzerland and the United States previously isolated the antibodies from the patient in 2003, following the SARS outbreak that killed 774 people. Both SARS and the pathogen which causes COVID-19 are coronaviruses, thought to have come from animals, and so their structures are similar. While there were no experiments on humans in the study, published in the journal Nature, its authors said their findings represent “proof-of-concept” that antibodies from SARS can prevent severe COVID-19 infection and spread.

Antimalarial Drug Taken by Trump Linked to Early Death

The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine being taken by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, a new study found, The analysis of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received hydroxychloroquine had a significantly higher risk of death as compared with those who did not. The paper, published Friday in the Lancet medical journal, found that people treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, were also more likely to develop a type of irregular heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death.

CDC Issues Guidance that White House Rejected

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly released more detailed guidance for schools, businesses, transit systems and other industries hoping to reopen safely amid the coronavirus pandemic after the White House had shelved the guidelines. The guidance provides specific instructions for different sectors to detect and trace the virus based on exposure and risk after the pandemic. The document omits a section on “communities of faith” that had troubled Trump administration officials and also tones down the guidance in several instances. For example, language that initially directed schools to “ensure social distancing” became “promote social distancing,” and the phrase “if possible” was added in several sentences.

CDC Says Infection from Virus on Surfaces is Unlikely

Wiping down groceries to protect yourself from the coronavirus might be overkill, according to the latest guidance from the CDC. The agency says in its updated guidelines that while it “may be possible” for someone to become infected by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching their face, it “does not spread easily” in this manner. The risk of the virus spreading from animals to people or vice versa is also considered low. “COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads,” the CDC says. “It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.” The agency warned, however, that the virus “is spreading very easily” between people.

  • John Whyte, chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD said, “Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious.”

Coronavirus Infections Peaked Last Month in U.S.

COVID-19 statistics indicate that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus peaked in the U.S. in April. The rate of increase for new confirmed cases has stayed below 2 percent for the past nine days, according to a Washington Times analysis of numbers tabulated by John Hopkins University. New case growth has stayed below three percent for 22 of last 23 days after averaging over 5 percent in early to mid-April. The number of reported daily deaths has dropped below 1,000 for two days in a row as of Monday, the first time in at least 50 days. A graphic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows U.S. deaths peaked around April 18 and then began a sharp decline.

  • Authorities are not seeing spikes in coronavirus cases in places that are reopening but are seeking increases in some areas that remain closed, U.S. health secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday.

Navajo Nation Has Highest Infection Rate in U.S.

The Navajo Nation now has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the country after passing New York. As of Monday, New York had 351,371 reported positive cases with a per capita rate of 1,806 positive cases per 100,000 residents. The Navajo Nation reported 4,071 positive COVID-19 cases. According to a 2010 census for the Navajo Nation, the total population is 173,667. This makes its per capita of about 2,344 cases per 100,000 residents. “The Navajo Nation is testing our citizens at a greater rate per capita than any state in the entire country and that’s a major reason why we have a higher numbers of positive cases,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release Monday. The Navajo Nation had a total of 142 deaths and 928 people have recovered from the virus.

25% of Tyson Employees at One Meatpacking Plant Test Positive

Of the 2,200 employees at Tyson Foods’ Wilkesboro, North Carolina, poultry facility, 570 employees tested positive or Covid-19. That’s a quarter of the staff. Tyson said Wednesday that a majority of employees with coronavirus were asymptomatic and otherwise would not have been identified as having Covid-19 had they not been tested. Tyson said it carried out “additional deep cleaning” in mid-May with limited operations. Production has ramped up since the cleaning, the company said. A USA Today study says that meatpacking plants are a breeding ground for airborne diseases like the coronavirus: a cramped workplace, a culture of underreporting illnesses, and a cadre of rural, immigrant and undocumented workers who share transportation and close living quarters.

At Least 4 States Combined Numbers from Two Different Tests

At least four states combined data from two different test results, potentially providing a misleading picture of when and where coronavirus spread as the nation eases restrictions, reports the USA Today. Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Vermont have said they’ve been adding two numbers to their totals: viral test results and antibody test results. Viral tests are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, and look for direct evidence someone currently has Covid-19. By contrast, antibody tests use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past. Combining the two tests’ results into one total provides an inaccurate picture of where and when the virus spread.

Surgical Masks Slash Coronavirus Spread by Two-Thirds

New research suggests that wearing a surgical face mask is an effective way of reducing the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Hong Kong scientists conducted a study on hamsters and found that two-thirds of those not protected by a face mask placed over their cages came down with the disease. This contradicts the previous theory that surgical masks were mainly effective in protecting others against the respiratory droplets of infected persons — but didn’t offer adequate protection for the wearers themselves. “The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,” said microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung of Hong Kong University.

Asian Americans Report Increased Hostility and Abuse

People of Asian descent have reported being shunned, verbally abused, name-called, coughed and spat on, even physically assaulted as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend American life. As the political rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic escalates, law enforcement officials and human rights advocates have seen an increasing number of hate crimes and incidents of harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans. Asian American doctors and nurses have also reported a sharp increase in racist verbal abuse and even physical attacks. The racial hostility has left Asian Americans in a painful position on the front lines of the response to the pandemic. Some COVID-19 patients refuse to be treated by them. And when doctors and nurses leave the hospital, they face increasing harassment in their daily lives.

Horrifying Surge in Domestic Abuse During Lockdowns

A spike in domestic violence caused by the COVID-19 lockdown is sending shockwaves around the globe — and driving victims in some countries to go to live television chat shows and social media for help, a satellite broadcaster revealed Wednesday. Middle East satellite broadcaster SAT-7 says interest in its live programs tackling domestic violence has skyrocketed since people have been told to stay home, and viewers’ cries for help on social media “never stop.” Since stay-at-home orders began, crisis support groups around the world have reported an alarming increase in the number of women and children being abused at home, with U.N. chief Antonio Guterres calling it a “horrifying global surge.” In the Gaza Strip, one agency reported a 30 percent increase in violence against women and children since the lockdown began. In Lebanon, a domestic violence helpline set up by the Internal Security Forces has seen calls double. And in Iran and Turkey, “many women dare not speak out” for fear of being beaten, according to a report by news organization Al-Monitor.

Police Officer Suicides Down in Midst of Pandemic

Suicides among law enforcement officers, which soared last year, have slowed markedly in the first months of 2020 as the deadly coronavirus pandemic has put increasing demands on officers to enforce local shutdown orders and placed them at risk of contracting the virus, according to data gathered by a police advocacy group. Officer suicides are down nearly 30% so far this year, compared to the same period in 2019. While the group is at a loss for a definitive explanation for the sudden, but welcome, lull, analysts suggest that the increased need for public services during the health emergency, and a corresponding wave of goodwill for those who provide it, may be helping to sustain morale.

U.S. Births Down in 2019, Fewest in 35 Years

U.S. births continued to fall last year, leading to the fewest number of newborns in 35 years. The decline is the latest sign of a prolonged national “baby bust” that’s been going on for more than a decade. And some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy will suppress the numbers further. The CDC found the number of births fell about 1 percent from 2018, to about 3.7 million. Birth rates continued to fall for teen moms and for women in their 20s. Aside from a one-year uptick in 2014, U.S. births have been falling every year since 2007, when a recession hit the country.

Trump Signs Executive Order to Make Pandemic Deregulations Permanent

President Trump announced an executive order Tuesday that aims to make hundreds of deregulations in the age of coronavirus permanent, something that would amount to a massive overhaul of regulatory policy. “We’ve done far more regulation cutting than any president in history,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting ahead of signing the order. The executive order tells regulatory agencies to look at more than 600 regulatory actions — mostly deregulations, but also regulations and guidance — taken during the coronavirus pandemic and tell the White House which ones should be made permanent. “If a bureaucratic rule needs to be suspended during a time of crisis to help the American people, we should ask ourselves if it makes sense to keep at all,” Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought said. Agencies will be told not to over-enforce regulations on struggling small businesses and nonprofits.

Trump Announced $16 Billion for Farmers

President Trump on Tuesday announced $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers to compensate them for lost business from the coronavirus outbreak. The direct payments, funded by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was approved in March and a commodity credit law, follows farm bailouts totaling $28 billion in 2018 and 2019. Those earlier payments compensated growers and ranchers for losses from tariffs imposed by China during the administration’s trade war with Beijing. Growers lost much of their customer base when restaurants were ordered to close during the outbreak. Much of the money will be used to purchase food to supply food banks around the country.

Some Medical Practices May Close Permanently

Operators of dental offices, eye specialty centers, women’s health facilities and other “nonessential” medical services have had significant reductions in their workloads since stay-at-home orders were implemented two months ago. As restrictions are eased, they see huge challenges in providing services and maintaining their businesses while changing how they serve patients. Data shows the U.S. has about 13,000 dermatologists, 18,000 obstetricians and gynecologists, 24,000 ophthalmologists and 110,000 dentists. Nearly 1.5 million jobs in the health care sector nationwide, or about 9%, were cut from February to April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a large proportion of those job losses were at dental offices. Dentists who have reopened in some parts of the U.S. are operating at about 25% volume. What’s more, procuring personal protective equipment, which has been prioritized for hospitals, has been almost impossible for some medical practitioners.

Election Judge Pleads Guilty to Ballot Stuffing

A former elected official in Philadelphia who accepted large payments from a political consultant to stuff ballot boxes for Democratic judicial candidates has pleaded guilty as part of a continuing federal investigation. The Justice Department announced Thursday that Domenick J. DeMuro, 73, who was an election judge in South Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive city voters of their civil rights by fraudulently stuffing ballot boxes in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections. The judge of elections is an elective office and a paid position in Pennsylvania municipalities responsible for supervising the local election process. The Justice Department said the case is part of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Economic News

Another 2.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. In just nine weeks, 38.6 million have sought jobless benefits. The latest claims tally was down from the 3 million who filed claims the week before, and the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March. Initial applications for unemployment insurance have now steadily declined seven weeks in a row. But the tens of millions of Americans who have applied for assistance in just over two months is a staggering number that has shattered all historical records.

A record 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, according to the Labor Department, leading to an unemployment rate that more than tripled the 4.4% jobless rate reported in March, and the 3.5% unemployment rate in February that represented a 50-year low.

Mortgage delinquencies surged by 1.6 million in April, the largest single-month jump in history. At 6.45%, the national delinquency rate nearly doubled from 3.06% in March, the largest single-month increase ever recorded, and nearly three times the prior record for a single month during the height of the financial crisis in late 2008.

Sales of existing homes plunged by 18% in April, notching the biggest decline in a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors. While the number of homes sold in April dropped, the median price of $286,800, was up 7% from a year ago

Grocery store bills shot up April, showing the biggest monthly increase in nearly 50 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly Consumer Price Index report. Consumers paid 2.6% more for groceries in April. It’s the largest one-month increase since February 1974. During the last 12 months, grocery prices rose 4.1%.

The coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty, the World Bank said on Tuesday. A recent surge of cases in developing countries is forcing the bank to deploy what it considers to be its “largest and fastest crisis response” ever. It said its emergency relief efforts had already reached 100 developing countries, which are home to 70% of the world’s population.

The number of women running Fortune 500 companies has hit an all-time record of 37. Even though the number of female CEOs is up, that’s still only 7.4% of the Fortune 500 ranked businesses. Last year there were 33, which was up from 24 from 2018. And 20 years ago there were only two female-led companies.

Retail Apocalypse Imploding

Pier 1 Imports, which previously said it would close half of its fleet of stores, now plans to close all of its locations. The retailer, based in Fort Worth, Texas, announced in a news release Tuesday that it was seeking bankruptcy court approval to begin an “orderly wind-down” when stores are able to reopen.

Retailer J.C. Penney plans to reopen about 115 of its stores on Wednesday that had been closed since March because of COVID-19. Forty-one stores previously reopened. The move comes days after the troubled chain filed for bankruptcy.

Target announced Wednesday that its Drive Up curbside pickup, in-store pickup and Shipt delivery grew by 278% in the last three months. Digital sales accelerated every month in the quarter and went from 33% in February to 282% in April compared to sales in the same time period last year.

Victoria’s Secret plans to permanently close approximately 250 stores in the U.S. and Canada in 2020, its parent company L Brands announced Wednesday.

L Brands also plans to permanently close 50 Bath & Body Works stores in the U.S. and one in Canada, according to information the company posted online as part of its quarterly earnings.

Macy’s, which shuttered its stores nationwide March 18 because of the coronavirus pandemic, expects to reopen 80 stores for Memorial Day weekend shopping on Friday. The reopenings come as Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said the company is forecasting a loss of up to $1.1 billion for the quarter.

Thousands of Iranians Seek Asylum – In Israel

Caught between an oppressive regime and the raging coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says thousands of Iranians are requesting help to escape to Israel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem said Wednesday it has seen a huge increase in the number of Iranians asking Israel for help as that country suffers from the brutal regime and the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. “Thousands of people are asking to come to Israel for medical assistance or to emigrate,” Yiftah Curiel, head of Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, told the Jerusalem Post. “There are lots of Iranians in Iran and in the diaspora who support Israel, reject the regime and want to see a different future between the two countries,” Curiel said.

Israeli Satellite Exposes New Iranian Weapons Depot in Syria

New satellite Images reveal that Iran is building a new facility at the Imam Ali military base in eastern Syria capable of storing advanced weapons systems. Analysis of the pictures conducted by the Israeli satellite imaging company Image Sat International (ISI) showed a tunnel being built at the base that can store vehicles carrying advanced weapons systems. The ayatollahs in Tehran have invested heavily not only in Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but also in Iran’s military presence in Syria and in arming the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon to help it wage a future war against Israel.

Jordan Threatens Israel with ‘Massive Conflict’ over Sovereignty Plan

Jordan’s King Abdullah II claimed on Friday that Israel’s plans to annex Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would lead to a “massive conflict.” Abdullah claimed he didn’t “want to make threats” related to backing out of the peace treaty Jordan signed with Israel in 1994, but added that Jordan aligned with “countries in Europe and the international community” whose foreign ministers are committed to blocking Israel’s declaration of sovereignty over territory it already controls. Israel took possession of Judea and Samaria from Jordan in 1967 when it defeated the Hashemite Kingdom and three other Arab nations that attacked the Jewish state during the Six-Day War.

U.S. Pulling Out of Open Skies Treaty, Citing Russian Violations

The United States announced its intention to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty that permits unarmed aerial surveillance flights over participating countries, saying Russia has repeatedly violated the pact’s terms. Senior administration officials said the pullout will formally take place in six months, based on the treaty’s withdrawal terms. It was the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to remove the United States from a major global treaty, following withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year.

Afghanistan’s Civilian Casualties Rise Following U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal

Since the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban, civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased compared with previous years, according to a new U.N. report. The mounting civilian toll belies U.S. expectations that the peace deal would lead to reduced violence in the war-ravaged country. Civilian casualties caused by Afghan government and Taliban attacks in April increased by more than a quarter when compared with the same month last year. Government operations caused 172 civilian casualties, 38 percent more than the previous year. Taliban attacks caused 208 civilian casualties, 25 percent more than in April 2019.

U.S. Sanctions Iran’s Interior Minister over Abuses

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s interior minister on Wednesday, accusing him of engaging in serious cases of human rights abuse. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli gave orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) of Iran to use lethal force in response to anti-government protests in November, leading to the killing of protesters, including at least 23 minors, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

Hong Kong Braces for Turmoil over New China Law

China is poised to pass a national security law for Hong Kong that the city’s opposition lawmakers, analysts and U.S. officials say could plunge the semi-autonomous territory into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The draft law bans “treason, secession, sedition and subversion.” Critics say it will curb freedoms and put Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists on a dangerous collision course with China’s central government in Beijing.

Environment: Greenhouse Gases Down 17% Due to Lockdowns

A study of the pandemic’s effects on the global energy system found that lockdowns, reduced driving and flying, and industrial cutbacks earlier this year drove emissions down to 2006 levels. The plunge is equivalent to more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide that never made its way into the atmosphere. But the drop in emissions, which reached its lowest level in early April, is believed to be temporary. Experts see greenhouse gas levels bouncing back later this year as the world gradually reopens.

Two Dams Fail in Michigan, Thousands Evacuated

Two dams have failed in a Michigan county, leading the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency and issue dire warnings to residents to evacuate affected areas. Thousands of Michigan residents were forced to flee their homes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic when a dam failed Tuesday, flooding homes downstream with as much as nine feet of water. On Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised that the state would “pursue every line of legal recourse” against those responsible. State officials say that in addition to historic rainfall, deferred maintenance at Edenville Dam is to blame. The AP reports that the hydroelectric dam, owned by Boyce Hydro Power LLC, had a history of safety violations over the entire 14-year course of time the company was authorized to operate the dam. In 2018, federal regulators had even revoked the dam’s license. About 11,000 people had been evacuated as of early Wednesday, leading to another dilemma: how to house locals in the county’s shelters while adhering to social distancing guidelines brought by the coronavirus.

  • Officials in Roanoke, Virginia, warned Thursday that a dam was in danger of failing as heavy rain continued to cause problems across Virginia and the Carolinas. Residents living below the Spring Valley Dam were told to evacuate their homes about 1 a.m. Thursday.

Cyclone Amphan Clobbers India and Bangladesh

People living in coastal areas of India and Bangladesh are beginning the long rebuilding process after Tropical Cyclone Amphan killed more than 90 and left millions displaced from their homes. Villages were inundated with water and homes were destroyed across the region. “It is believed that around 10 million people in Bangladesh are impacted by the cyclone, with half a million families potentially having lost their homes,” United Nations spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said More than 3 million people were still in shelters Friday in Bangladesh and India. There were concerns that the packed shelters could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections and exacerbate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • 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)

Biblical Guidance & Encouragement in Difficult Times – Podcast

May 21, 2020

Biblical Guidance & Encouragement in Difficult Times – Written Version

May 21, 2020

This moment in time is undoubtedly a very troubled, difficult time. The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the world and destroyed the economies of many nations. It is still an open question as to whether this pestilence is the one that leads to the severe depression and famine which then leads to the war that ushers in the antichrist and the 7-year Tribulation. If not, then we have to understand this one to be the ‘shot across the bow’ that God is allowing to happen to warn people that His many prophecies about the end-times are beginning to unfold in front of our eyes.

This podcast, though, is not about the end-times. That topic is fully covered in my podcast series Apocalypse Now? available on our Gospel of Grace website at gofg.org. Instead, we are going to study how Christians should respond to this, or any, difficult crisis, as well as to draw upon the hope and encouragement that is available to us through God even in the midst of such troubling and difficult circumstances.

After all, God’s Word tells us that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil; for You Lord God Almighty are with us; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort us. And You even prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, to paraphrase the twenty-third psalm.

Many Christians seem to believe that God’s promises only apply during good times. But when the bad times come, they immediately fall into fear and seek worldly means to deal with their difficult circumstances. But no, it is in the difficult times that we must cling all the more to the many promises of God.

The very first psalm tells us that the Godly “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” There is nothing in this Scripture that says it only applies to the good times. Instead, it is in the bad times that we must hold fast to our faith and the promises of God.

This is not the time to run off in our own strength and ideas. This, more than any time before, necessitates that our steps must be ordered by the Lord, as the Word tells us in Psalm 37:23. And, we must live out the words of Psalm 119:105 that says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Instead, today we see Christians getting caught up in the politics of the day instead of focusing on their relationship with the Lord. God’s plan, God’s wrath will proceed according to the prophesies no matter how much we might try to resolve the crisis through government. In getting caught up in the political fray, many Christians wind up operating out of anger and hate, which the Bible warns opens us up to attacks from Satan.

We can still have peace with God in the midst of all this turmoil. But that requires us to operate on the foundation of love. Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, mind and soul is the most important thing we can do. And then He said that the second-most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Many Scriptures, such as those about the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37, teach that the word neighbor means everybody. Liberals and conservatives. Democrats and Republicans. Trump and Pelosi, as well as homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves and plain old nasty, ungodly people.

We can’t do this in our own strength, because this type of love, agape love in the Greek of the Bible, is unconditional love. We don’t have it in our sinful nature, it only comes from above. It is the love with which God loves us despite our sinfulness, and we all are sinners as it says in Romans 3:23. We are meant to shine forth the light of agape love in the midst of the growing darkness of the world, as described in Isaiah 60;1-3. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

To accomplish this we must continually abide in Christ Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on the things above, not the things of the world, as prescribed in Colossians 3:2. We must focus on Godly things, not the things of earth, on, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4;8)

The things of the world will soon enough pass away  1John 2:17 says, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” And Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away,”

Our focus must be on eternity, not this brief passage of time. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” says 2Corinthians 4:17-18.

Does this mean that Christians will completely avoid the difficulties of the day? By no means, because Jesus tells us that, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus also tells us that, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

As sojourners in this world, we experience some of its difficulties as well. This doesn’t mean that God isn’t with us, but that if we wish to partake of the glory of God, we must also partake of the sufferings of Christ Jesus, In fact, the Word tells us to, “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1Peter 4:13)

The Christian life isn’t about avoiding difficulties, but rather showing the world how we cope with them through our faith and trust in God, not fearing death because, as the Apostle Paul said, “To die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Too often we mistakenly view death as a tragedy, Instead, it is getting to our reward and home in heaven earlier than expected. It is only a tragedy if someone dies before reconciling with God through Jesus Christ.

The Bible also tells us to expect increasing persecution as we move toward the one-world government run by the antichrist as prophesied in Revelation 13. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

In fact, we are also told to ‘agape’ love those who persecute us: Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Most of all, during these stressful times, we must not lose hope because without the hope of our eternal home in heaven that awaits us, we risk sinking into depression and despair. This opens a wide, gaping door for the enemy of our souls to come in and oppress us and make things ten times worse.

To avoid this all-too-common scenario, we must be in the Word of God even more diligently and seeking His face, His presence, His guidance, His encouragement all the more. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 1:13)

And if you find yourself succumbing to the trials and tribulations, meditate on this Scripture: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Peter 5:10)

The Lord God spoke encouraging words of hope to the captive Israelites in Babylon when He said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.., thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) They were going through difficult times as we are now when the Prophet Jeremiah delivered those words of God. Unfortunately, most of them chose not to believe this, not to apply those words to their situation.

These words don’t provide a means of escaping difficulties, but rather enduring them in hope and strength from God that points forward to the eternal life of bliss awaiting us in the future. As the Word tells us in Hebrews 12:2, we must, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Just as we will do someday soon.

Not only can we have the joy of the Lord in the midst of difficulties, but the Word tells us that this joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). In the midst of the growing darkness, we must strive to produce and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5:27. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” No, there are no government law or order that can prohibit us from doing so.

But in order to be longsuffering (i.e. forgiving), kind, good, faithful, gentle with self-control, we must first receive the love, joy and peace that we can only get through close communion with the Holy Spirit of God. So, cling to, and live out your faith without falling into anger, hate, despondency or bitterness. Hold fast to the hope and promises of God. As the Word says in Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The Beginning of the End ebook

May 21, 2020

My ebook, The Beginning of the End, is being featured today on eBookDaily.com at the bargain price of 99 cents at https://ebookdaily.com/bargain-kindle-books/2020-05-21/B005DTO3ME

Signs of the Times (5/19/20)

May 19, 2020

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Majority in U.S. Believe God Is Telling Humanity to Change

More than eight in 10 Americans say they believe in God, and a majority of them say they think “God is telling humanity to change how we are living” amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey by the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Additionally, 55 percent of those who believe in God say they think “God will protect me from being infected.” Only 9 percent of those who believe in God think “God has abandoned humanity.” Seventeen percent of Americans say they don’t believe in God. Meanwhile, 26 percent of Americans say the outbreak has made their “sense of religious faith or spirituality” stronger, while 1 percent say it’s now weaker. Most Americans (73 percent) say it’s the same.

  • The poll also found that 32% say they or a member of their household has been laid off; 11% say they or someone in their home has lost health insurance; and 14% say they, a close friend or relative has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Colorado Lowers its Corona Death Toll by 24%

Colorado made a stunning and significant change to the way it counts COVID-19 deaths which reduced the statewide figure from 1,150 to 878. The change came after Colorado’s Department of Public Health admitted that its COVID-19 death toll was counting those who tested positive for the coronavirus but had died of other causes. The 878 deaths are “due to” COVID-19, the health department said. There is a hodgepodge of ways states are counting COVID-19 deaths, which is why some people believe the U.S. COVID-19 death figure has been exaggerated. Some states count presumed coronavirus deaths along with confirmed cases under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued last month. Other states don’t count those deaths. Deaths have been classified as a COVID-19 death even after a physician or loved ones reported otherwise. And those who died “with” COVID-19 have been included in the count with those who died “of” COVID-19.

  • “The CDC criteria include anybody who has died with COVID-19, but what the people of Colorado and the people of the country want to know is how many people died of COVID-19,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis told “Fox News Sunday.”

Oregon’s Restrictions Ruled ‘Null and Void’ But Then Reinstated

The Oregon Supreme Court late Monday halted a rural judge’s order earlier in the day that had tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Earlier Monday, a judge ruled that Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions were “null and void” after the Democratic lawmaker failed to have her emergency orders approved by the state’s legislature in 28 days as prescribed by law. Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit brought by churches who said the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional. The suit argued that emergency powers only last for a month and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval. The judge agreed. The ruling invalidated Brown’s ban on churches gathering for worship but also struck down the entire stay-at-home order.

Wisconsin Governor Gives Up Trying to Impose Renewed Restrictions

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he’s given up trying to enact any more coronavirus restrictions after the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week struck down his “safer at home” order for overstepping its authority. Evers, a Democrat, blamed GOP legislators who would stand in the way of new statewide restrictions. Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Evers’ administration overstepped its authority by extending the lockdown order, which originally took effect in March, from its original end date of April 24 until May 26 without consulting legislators. Local officials are now left on their own to decide how to maintain social-distancing mandates.

President Trump Threatens to Pull Out of WHO

President Trump threatened to permanently withdraw U.S. funding from the World Health Organization on Monday as he described failures amid the coronavirus pandemic and an “alarming lack of independence” from China. Trump, writing to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also threatened to pull the U.S. from the organization “so clearly not serving America’s interests” if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days,” Trump said the WHO repeatedly made “grossly inaccurate or misleading” claims about the virus, including in reaffirming “China’s now-debunked claim that the coronavirus could not be transmitted between humans.” Trump accused the organization of “political gamesmanship” as officials “strongly praised China’s strict domestic travel restrictions, but were inexplicably against my closing of the United States border” to people from China.

President Trump Taking Hydroxychloroquine

The fallout from President Trump’s revelation that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine for ten days to ward off the coronavirus continues. The president’s physician, Sean Conley, released a short letter about the decision to prescribe the anti-malaria drug to Trump. “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” he wrote. Conley added that he would “continue to monitor the myriad studies investigating potential COVID-19 therapies.” Less than a month ago, the FDA issued a safety warning about it because of hydroxychloroquine risks including hearth rhythm abnormalities. Dr. Steven E. Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic said,. “In fact, there are serious hazards.”

Arrests Continue for Violators of Lockdown Orders

Hair stylists and barbers doing business out of their homes in defiance of stay-at-home orders are being persecuted and prosecuted. In Texas, Shelley Luther was arrested after she defied an order to close her salon during the COVID-19 outbreak. She spent two days in jail and was fined $7,000. In Michigan, Karl Manke’s professional and business licenses were suspended after he refused to close his barbershop.  Manke, 77, was charged with two criminal misdemeanors for defying the governor’s stay-at-home orders. In California, the state has threatened disciplinary action against open salons and said it is investigating 651 related complaints. The city of Los Angeles has filed criminal complaints against four hair salons and one barbershop that were open in violation of the city’s Safer at Home orders. The Ulster County Department of Health and Mental Health in New York announced that a barber had tested positive for COVID-19 after cutting hair while shutdown orders were in place. Financial pressure is cited as the chief reason they put their licenses at risk.

  • A 23-year-old New Yorker was arrested in Hawaii after violating the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine rules for out-of-state visitors, the Hawaii governor’s office said in a statement. The man posted photos on social media showing him hitting beaches to surf and sunbathe.
  • A New York church with 40 members held a drive-in service Sunday after being warned by police that it was a violation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Massena Police Department issued an informal cease-and-desist to the pastor. Before holding the service, he got permission from state and local officials. The pastor contacted the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, which sent a letter to the police department Friday, warning that legal action would be taken if police followed through on the threat.
  • In March, Pastor Howard-Browne of the River Tampa Church in Hillsborough County was arrested for unlawful assembly after hosting church services larger than 10 people amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, however, Liberty Counsel, the legal group representing Howard-Browne, reported that the charges against the Floridian had been dropped. A news release by Chief Communications Officer Grayson Kamm of the state attorney’s office asserted that Pastor-Howard-Browne has kept “responsible social distancing on his church campus” following the arrest and is in talks with community leaders concerning “the best path forward for his congregation.”

Unprecedented Range of Symptoms Attributed to Coronavirus

There’s never been a virus like the coronavirus, health experts say. “This gets into every major biological process in our cells,” said Nevan J. Krogan, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied HIV, Ebola, Zika, dengue and other viruses over the last 13 years. “At the molecular level, it’s something we’ve never seen before, and then look at what it does to the body — the long list of symptoms — we’ve never seen that before.” At first, the virus was thought to be mostly a risk to older adults and people with chronic illnesses; its primary point of attack, the lungs. Then 30- and 40-years-olds with the virus began dying of strokes. Recently, a small number of infected children have died of a mysterious illness resembling Kawasaki disease. Studies have found that damage from COVID-19, isn’t limited to the lungs; it can include the heart, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal system and bowels.

U.S. Sailors Test Positive for COVID-19 for Second Time

At least 13 sailors serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus a second time. All 13 sailors have again been removed from the ship and are in isolation at the U.S. Naval Base Guam. A small number of close contacts who were also removed from the ship, quarantined and tested. Before being allowed to return to the ship, all sailors who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 underwent at least two weeks of isolation and had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two.

  • Another sailor was removed from the ship after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that affects the lungs and involves similar symptoms to COVID-19, such as coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. An estimated 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis last year worldwide – more than any other infectious disease. Tuberculosis is considered rare in the United States.

Ups & Downs in Coronavirus Test Results

Texas saw its highest single day increase in positive coronavirus cases Saturday since the beginning of the pandemic. The state reported an increase of at least 1,801 positive coronavirus cases –– 734 of those originated from employees of meat plants. Texas has been leading the charge on reopening. In contrast, the percentage of positive tests and intensive care unit admissions in New York City have both dropped, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news briefing on Sunday. NYC is still in lockdown mode. Officials concerned about a virus resurgence have quarantined 8,000 people and reintroduced lockdown measures in  northeastern China.

  • These results typify the ongoing confusion the coronavirus has created. Midst claims that the number of cases and deaths are either over-or-under reported, the symptoms it causes, the way it is mutating, and whether a second wave is coming all remain in the ‘don’t know for sure’ column.
  • Testing has run into a new problem – not enough people are showing up to be tested. Testing capacity now exceeds the supply of patients, falling far short of reopening targets set by the CDC.

House Enabling Remote Voting in Historic Change

Neither Civil War nor Great Depression or any other national crisis has convinced the House of Representatives to allow lawmakers to vote by proxy — without being “present” as the Constitution requires. But that has changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the House approved rule changes so Congress can keep functioning even while it’s partly closed. The shift is expected to dramatically change the look, if not the operation, of the legislative branch — launching a 21st century WFH House, like others, “working from home.” The decision lets lawmakers cast votes and conduct committee meetings remotely during the pandemic in an effort to resume legislative work that has been on hold amid safety concerns over gathering in D.C.

Advances in Treatment and Vaccines Announced by Therapeutics & Moderna

Sorrento Therapeutics, a California-based biopharmaceutical company, says it may have found a way to eradicate the coronavirus. Sorrento announced it has found an antibody that could protect the body from the coronavirus and eliminate it from a person within four days. Sorrento officials say its treatment could be available months before a vaccine is ready. “We want to emphasize there is a cure. There is a solution that works 100 percent,” the company’s founder and CEO Dr. Henry Ji said. Sorrento tested billions of antibodies it collected over the past decade. Researchers narrowed down testing until they found one antibody that would block the virus from infecting health cells. The Moderna biotech company said that an early human trial of its vaccine successfully produced COVID-19 antibodies in participants and that it plans to launch a large clinical trial in July.

Abbott Coronavirus Test Has Potential Accuracy Issues

An Abbott Laboratories COVID-19 test has potential accuracy issues, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned, citing a number of studies that have raised doubts about the product’s ability to quickly diagnose patients. The FDA issued a public alert Thursday evening, saying that it had become aware of several scientific studies that had raised questions about the device, a printer-sized machine that can take a sample from a nasal swab and diagnose a coronavirus infection. The agency said that it was particularly concerned about false-negative results, in which an infected person is told by the test that they don’t have the disease.

Restaurant & Bar Owners Say Social Distancing could Bankrupt Them

Restaurant and bar owners say the problem with reopening under social-distancing rules is that they can’t make a profit with the few customers those rules require.  “If you talk to restaurants across the globe, the language might change, but the math is the same,” said Ryan Pernice, the owner of three restaurants in Georgia. “Restaurants and bars need volume and traffic to make them work.” Margins are razor thin, forcing eateries and bars to pack in customers every night, and especially on the weekends, in order to stay afloat. In the toughest markets, that means multiple waves of guests, and tables that are pushed together as closely as possible.

Lack of Child-Care Thwarting Reopening

COVID-19 has decimated the child-care industry, 90% of which is privately run, into a crisis the likes of which the nation has never seen. Already child-care centers were expensive to operate and stayed afloat on meager profits. Caregivers and other staffers, a third of whom have been laid off, often get by on poverty wages and public assistance, unable to afford childcare for their own children. Now child-care advocates argue the nation’s already fragile system is at risk of collapse. They are lobbying for billions more in federal aid to ensure reliable childcare is available to parents. Though in many places they were not required to close, since the pandemic began, nearly half of child-care facilities nationwide have shut down, some of them indefinitely as the coronavirus forced families to keep kids at home. Now, the push to reboot the nation’s economy is leaving millions of parents in a tough bind. They can’t go back to work without someone to care for their children.

California to Give 150,000 Undocumented Immigrants $500

California will be the first state to give cash to immigrants living in the country illegally who are hurt by the coronavirus, offering $500 apiece to 150,000 adults who were left out of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved by Congress. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would spend $75 million of taxpayer money to create a Disaster Relief Fund for immigrants living in the country illegally. Newsom noted that 10% of the state’s workforce are immigrants living in the country illegally who paid more than $2.5 billion in state and local taxes last year. Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove said Newsom should spend the money instead on food banks, equipment for students to continue their education online and local governments struggling with revenue losses.

68% of Unemployed Making More Now Than When Working

Over the past couple of months, 36.5 million Americans have filed new claims for unemployment benefits, and Congress understandably wanted to do something to address this unprecedented spike in unemployment.  But by giving all of these unemployed workers a repeating 600 dollar bonus on top of existing unemployment benefits, Congress has actually created a powerful incentive for unemployed Americans to stay unemployed for as long as the bonuses last.  According to a group of prominent economists at the University of Chicago, 68% of those who are currently unemployed are now bringing home more money than when they were employed

Economic News

General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will begin to gradually restart their US factories Monday, with some big changes put in place to help protect workers from the coronavirus. At Ford 59,000 factory workers, about 80% of the workforce, are expected to show up for work, according to the company. At GM, about 15,000 of the company’s 48,000 factory workers are expected to report to work on Monday, with more expected to report in coming weeks as the ramp up in production continues. Meanwhile, about a third of Fiat Chrysler’s hourly workforce, or about 16,000, are expected to start Monday.

According to a study that was just released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, more than 100,000 U.S. businesses have already permanently shut down during this pandemic, representing millions of jobs that are never coming back. According to a survey the Federal Reserve recently conducted, almost 40 percent of Americans with a household income of less than $40,000 a year say that they have lost a job during this crisis. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the real rate of unemployment in the U.S. is now 30.7 percent. Forty-two percent of workers experiencing recent layoffs will suffer permanent job losses, according to a paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is now projecting that U.S. GDP will shrink by 42.8 percent during the second quarter. U.S. factory output was down 13.7 percent last month, and that was the worst number ever recorded for that category.

Median home prices across the U.S. for the first quarter of 2020 rose to $274,600, an increase of 7.7% from the same period in 2019. Forty-six metros, particularly in Western and Southern markets, saw price jumps of double digits, including Boise City, Idaho (18.1%), Eugene, Oregon (14.5%), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (14.4%). NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun noted: “The first quarter price jumps mostly reflect conditions prior to the coronavirus outbreak and show the strength of the housing demand prior to the pandemic. Even now, due to very limited listings, home prices are showing no signs of buckling.”

Walmart saw its revenue grow by $10.7 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Online sales grew by 74%. The company says it has spent nearly $900 million on expenses related to COVID-19, which include cash bonuses to all hourly associates in the U.S. totaling approximately $755 million. In contrast, the coronavirus pandemic and store closures cut Kohl’s Corp. sales by 43.5% in the first three months of 2020 in comparison to last year.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed troubled department store chain J.C. Penney into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is the fourth major retailer to meet that fate. As part of its reorganization, the 118-year-old company said late Friday it will be closing some of its stores and will disclose details and timing in the coming weeks. It operates 850 stores and it has nearly 90,000 workers. It said that it received $900 million in financing to help it operate during the restructuring. Penney joins luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and Stage Stores in filing for bankruptcy reorganization. Plenty of other retailers are expected to follow.

Ninety-eight oil exploration and production companies in Texas with $75.7 billion of debt filed for bankruptcy from 2015 through 2020, according to the international law firm Haynes and Boone. That number is expected to grow even larger after crude oil prices plunged 52 percent this year, and as stay-at-home orders wiped out 30 million barrels per day of demand. In addition, Saudi Arabia and Russia ramped up production amid a price war. The companies’ vulnerability to foreign buyers raises the risk that the U.S. might lose control over valuable oil-producing lands in the Permian Basin, a swath of land in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico that helped the country become the world’s largest crude producer amid a shale boom.

Debt Load Sinking Many Countries

Three countries have already defaulted on their debt this year: Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon. More are at risk, according to Fitch Ratings. That matches the record for a single year. More defaults are probable this year, Fitch says. The most precarious sovereign debt is from four African nations: Gabon, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo and Zambia. At risk of joining them are El Salvador, Iraq and Sri Lanka, says Fitch.

Japan has Officially Entered Recession

Japan’s economy has entered recession, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will likely make things even worse. The world’s third-largest economy shrank 0.9% in the January-to-March period compared to the prior quarter. it is still the second straight quarter of declines — meaning Japan has now entered recession. Analysts warn that Japan’s first quarter does not capture the full effect of the pandemic.

Coronavirus Devastated Moscow, Now Surging Across Entire Country

Russia hit a grim Covid-19 milestone this week: According to Johns Hopkins University, the country now ranks second in the world for confirmed coronavirus cases, despite earlier claims that they had the virus under control. The Russian capital has been hardest hit. Of Russia’s total of 281,752 confirmed cases, over half — 142,824 — are in Moscow. But the virus is now spreading across Russia’s regions, an enormous landmass that covers 11 time zones and includes some of the country’s most remote and impoverished places.

Political Impasse in Afghanistan Finally Resolved, Peace with Taliban Next?

Afghanistan’s months-long election dispute, which resulted in the bizarre reality of two men taking the oath of office as president, reached a resolution on Sunday when President Ashraf Ghani gave his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, the leading role in the country’s peace process with the Taliban and a 50 percent share in the cabinet. The deal end the political crisis that had cast a major shadow over efforts to end the long war with the Taliban. It complicated Afghan negotiations with the insurgents after the United States agreed with the Taliban to begin a phased troop withdrawal.

Weather

Flooding has closed roads and driven people from their homes in Michigan and Ohio on Monday. Residents in several central Michigan counties have been ordered to evacuate because of widespread flooding and officials were warned at least two dams there could no longer contain floodwaters. In central Ohio, emergency personnel used boats to help residents get out of flooded neighborhoods north of Columbus. Meanwhile, west of Columbus near London, Ohio, residents were cleaning up debris left by a tornado that touched down briefly about 4:50 p.m. Monday.

Parts of southern Louisiana and Texas were inundated with rain Thursday and Friday, flooding homes and roadways and prompting high water rescues. A rain gauge in Covington reported 15.63 inches of rain late Thursday night, with more still coming down. Some roads in the area were still closed Friday afternoon, and first responders were standing by as the waters continued to rise. St. Tammany is directly across Lake Pontchartrain from the New Orleans area, where homes flooded overnight in St. Charles Parish. More rain was in the forecast for Saturday. Possible tornadoes killed one person, injured more than a half dozen people and left damage across a stretch of central Louisiana on Sunday night. Several mobile homes were flipped in the storm.

Signs of the Times (5/15/20)

May 15, 2020

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.   (1John 4:4-6)

Some Countries Reshutting After Reopening Due to Renewed Outbreaks

As many parts of the world, including the United States, explore ways to ease restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus, countries that had already opened up are closing down again after renewed spikes in infections, reports the Washington Post. Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections, almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. The reemergence of coronavirus cases in many parts of Asia is also prompting a return to closures in places that had claimed success in battling the disease, including South Korea, regarded as one of the continent’s top success stories. Germany, which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response, is warning that some areas may have to reinstate restrictions after localized outbreaks caused a rise in cases. Iran, the epicenter of the disease in the Middle East, with more than 110,000 reported cases, has ordered a county in the southwestern province of Khuzestan to reimpose a lockdown after cases spiked there.

  • The latest cluster in Wuhan, China, demonstrates how hard it will be to measure whether any location is truly free of coronavirus. The new cases there suggest the virus can flare up in patients up to 50 days after they have apparently recovered.

WHO Warns Coronavirus Could Be Here to Stay

Vaccine or no vaccine, the coronavirus could be here to stay, the World Health Organization warns. WHO emergencies director Dr. Mike Ryan said Wednesday that it is impossible to predict when or if the virus will disappear. “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Ryan said. “HIV has not gone away—but we have come to terms with the virus,” he said. He said the world “may have a shot” at eliminating it, but any vaccine would have to be highly effective and widely available. He noted that vaccines have failed to wipe out diseases like measles.

COVID-19 Survivors Might Be Affected for Years

With the coronavirus still being novel, having a lifespan of about half of a year worldwide, there remains potential long-term effects from those who had contracted the virus and survived. It is “this generation’s polio,” according to Dr. Nicholas Hart, who treated Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “COVID19 is this generation’s polio. Patients have mild, moderate and severe illness Large numbers of patients will have physical, cognitive and psychological disability post critical illness that will require long-term management.” Past world epidemics have shown effects can last more than a decade, and one study of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) survivors has shown higher cholesterol levels and more susceptibility to illness for as much as 12 years later.

Several Vaccines Likely Needed for Coronavirus

Several vaccines will likely be needed to combat the coronavirus and immunize groups of people in America and abroad, U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said in an interview. Collins, 70, is a physician and geneticist who leads the agency overseeing the U.S. research response to the pandemic. “My expectation is, and I am a bit of an optimist, that we don’t find out that there’s only one of these vaccines that works, but rather two or three of them come through the trials looking as though they’re safe and effective,” Collins said. “They’ll have somewhat different characteristics of where they work best, so we might need to do some matching then of which vaccine goes to which particular population.” He also said there’s enough money to rapidly manufacture 100 million vaccine doses by late fall and 300 million before January.

  • Thousands of doses of a potential vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome have been sitting in a freezer in Houston, Texas, shelved since 2016 after most of the world lost interest in the disease. Now, four years later, they have been given new life because scientists hope they will also work for COVID-19. Depending on the amount given to patients, anywhere from 23,000 to 230,000 doses of vaccine are at a storage facility called Cryogene in Houston.

Over 350K Sign Petition Against Mandatory Coronavirus Vaccination

In only four days, LifeSite’s petition rejecting mandatory coronavirus vaccination* has exceeded 350,000 signatures. “The enormous response to this petition shows that many people around the world absolutely will not accept a mandatory vaccine for the coronavirus,” said Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of advocacy of LifeSite. Over the next couple of weeks, LifeSite will be delivering this petition to governments around the world to make sure this message is heard, loud and clear. “Unwitting citizens must not be used as guinea pigs for New World Order ideologues, or Big Pharma, in pursuit of a vaccine (and profits) that may not even protect against future mutated strains of the coronavirus.”

Surplus of Ventilators Sent Abroad

President Trump’s crash program to bolster domestic production of ventilators has generated such a domestic surplus in mere weeks that the United States is now offering thousands of the life-saving machines to nations abroad as part of its global humanitarian relief effort. Administration sources now project the number of U.S.-manufactured ventilators will surpass 100,000 by July. National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Newsmax on Tuesday, “President Trump has organized the largest industrial mobilization since WWII, creating a domestic ventilator production capacity almost from scratch. “Now we are sharing the products of that leadership with our partners and allies around the world,” he added.

Number of Coronavirus Cases Declining in 28 States

The number of new coronavirus cases reported each day is going down in 28 states, including several that took steps toward reopening relatively early, like Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Colorado. A notable exception is Texas, where case numbers are up between 20% and 30% since the state began lifting stay-home restrictions on May 1. Thursday was particularly grim as the Lone Star State recorded 58 new deaths — the state’s highest one-day increase in coronavirus fatalities since the pandemic began. Seven states are still experiencing upward trends in case numbers, while numbers appear to be holding steady in 15 others. Meanwhile, state officials continue to lift stay-at-home restrictions.

Social-Distancing Drops by 17% as States Begin Reopening

The number of Americans who say they are social distancing amid the nation’s coronavirus pandemic – although still a majority – has dropped by 17 percentage points since late March as several states have ended stay-at-home orders, according to a new Gallup poll released Friday. But the drop isn’t just from individuals who live in states where they can now dine in restaurants, get haircuts at barbershops or visit parks. More people in states that still have stay-at-home restrictions are also no longer social distancing.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Lockdown

The Illinois state Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down an extension of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order that had been in effect since mid-March to limit the effect of the coronavirus. The 4-to-3 ruling essentially reopened the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants. Several bars across Wisconsin were flooded with patrons just hours after the ruling. The decision let stand language that had closed schools, however, and local governments can still impose their own health restrictions. That meant bar reopenings in some areas of the state only lasted a few hours before local officials intervened.

All 50 States Starting Contact Tracing Programs

  • Public health officials are counting on methodical contact tracing coupled with aggressive testing as the nation’s strategy to combat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. “This tidal wave has hit,” said David Levy, CEO of EHE Health. “Other than an effective antiviral or vaccine, the only solution is testing and tracing.” But Levy said the lack of a coordinated, national approach has left “50 different states and 50 different approaches” to control a virus that does not stop at state or county borders. If statesare unable to get adequate controls in place, some warn that a surge in infections would overwhelm the ability of contact tracers to help slow the spread. The disparity among states will become the basis for a national contact tracing registry which will then be digitized as the surveillance state begins to form, eventually leading to the ‘Mark of  the Beast’. (Revelation 13:17, 14:9-11)
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is ordering restaurants to keep a daily log of their dine-in customers if they want to reopen their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. California announced plans to hire 20,000 “investigators” for contact tracing, but will empower existing government employees to do the job until filling those positions. They are specifically focused on travelers and have already surveilled 11,574 travelers.
  • China already used their COVID crisis to mandate a new app that all citizens must use, and which tells the user whether they can enter any building – even their own homes – based on the government’s determination. Non-compliance is met with arrest and we are already receiving reports that the Chinese government is using this app to track, surveil and arrest known Christians and dissidents.

Mexican Border Shut Down Tight, Only 2 Enter U.S.

The Trump administration’s emergency coronavirus restrictions have shut the U.S. immigration system so tight that since March 21 just two people seeking humanitarian protection at the southern border have been allowed to stay, according to unpublished U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data obtained by The Washington Post. Citing the threat to public health from the coronavirus, the Trump administration has suspended most due-process rights for migrants, including children and asylum seekers, while “expelling” more than 20,000 unauthorized border-crossers to Mexico under a provision of U.S. code known as Title 42. Department of Homeland Security officials say the emergency protocols are needed to protect Americans — and migrants — by reducing the number of detainees in U.S. Border Patrol holding cells and immigration jails where infection spreads easily.

Priests, Pro-Lifers Arrested at Several Abortion Centers

A Catholic priest and pro-life activist were just arrested for refusing to leave an abortion center in the nation’s capital, and three more – one of whom is also a priest – were arrested inside another abortion facility. One facility, whose online reviews are replete with criticisms of it as “terrifying,” “dirty,” “filthy,” and “unprofessional,” shares a building with a D.C. Department of Health office. The activists are conducting a Red Rose Rescue during which they offer moms roses and beg them to not to go through with scheduled abortions. Two arrests and five trespassing citations were issued Wednesday during a Red Rose Rescue performed at an abortion mill in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Approximately 35 pro-life protestors appeared outside Heritage Women’s Center at 320 Fulton Avenue today beginning at 8:00 a.m.

3M More Unemployment Claims Filed, Over 36M in Past 8 Weeks

Another 3 million people filed initial unemployment claims last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor. That brings the total number of first-time claimants to 36.5 million since mid-March, and represents 22.4% of the March labor force. Prior to this year, the all-time record for the most new unemployment claims in a single week was 695,000 in 1982. Nearly 40% of those with a household income below $40,000 reported a job loss in March. Initial jobless claims are one of the most “real-time” measures of the economy. Most economic data lags behind by weeks if not months. As states begin to reopen their economies in the coming weeks, rehiring workers should offset further layoffs to some degree.

  • The jobs turmoil has been especially hard on people with disabilities, many of whom are employed in the retail industry, advocates and employment service providers say. It can be harder for Americans with a disability to find work as opportunities dry up, and they may have more trouble living independently.

Restaurant Apocalypse Underway

The National Restaurant Association says some $30 billion was lost by its members in March, and $50 billion in April. In the last week alone, several restaurants have announced that they won’t re-open, including the buffet chain Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, Jen’s Grill in Chicago and Ristorant Franchino, which has been serving patrons in the San Francisco area for over 32 years. Steve Hafner, CEO of Booking Holdings’ OpenTable and travel site Kayak, said that one out of every four restaurants won’t come back.

Federal Reserve Chairman Says More Economic Assistance Necessary

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that Congress might need to spend more on coronavirus relief to pull the nation out of an economic crisis that has cost more than 20 million jobs. “While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks,” Mr. Powell said in a webcast event. His comments came a day after House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion measure to provide more aid to states and cities, as well as for laid-off workers. Congress and the White House have already approved about $2.8 trillion in aid for businesses, workers and states to weather the crisis.

Pelosi’s $3T Corona Relief Bill Meets Republican Derision

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday pushed to rally support for Democrats’ latest $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, even as the White House has threatened to veto the legislation and Republican lawmakers have blasted it as a “parade of absurdities.” The White House, in a formal veto threat overnight, said the bill is packed with “ideological wish lists.” The new bill introduced this week is more than 1,800 pages long and has a price tag of roughly $3 trillion. The package includes another $1,200 stimulus payment for each family member in a household, totaling up to $6,000. The bill also extends the Paycheck Protection Program and adds $10 billion in COVID-19 emergency grants.

  • Lawmakers accused Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday of removing protections in her $3 trillion coronavirus bill preventing cash flow to Planned Parenthood. The proposal, includes language that removes taxpayer safeguards in the Paychecks Protection Program (PPP) that previously disqualified Planned Parenthood from receiving aid, they said.

Economists Predict 42% of Furloughs to Become Job Losses

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research predicted that more than 11.6 million of the layoffs during the pandemic, or 42%, will become permanent job losses. The manufacturing, hospitality and restaurant sectors are among the industries with a high percentage of businesses that aren’t expected to survive the pandemic, economists say. Eight weeks into the emergency, some companies without customers are shifting from furloughs to closures. Some colleges and universities, too, are being pushed to the financial brink. Overall, higher education institutions employ about 3.6 million people nationwide.

Economic News

U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, threatened stores across the country and weighed down a sinking economy. The Commerce Department’s report Friday on retail purchases showed a sector that has collapsed so quickly that sales over the past 12 months are down a crippling 21.6%.The sharpest drops from March to April were at clothiers, electronics stores, furniture stores and restaurants. A long-standing migration of consumers toward online purchases is accelerating, with that segment posting a 8.4% monthly gain.

  • Hospitals are also experiencing a severe drop in revenue as elective surgeries and other income-producing services have fallen dramatically. Industry experts say some hospitals will have to close their doors soon.

Farmers are facing severe economic hardship due to the coronavirus shutdown, Western Growers President and CEO David Puglia said on Thursday. They are going to need ongoing financial relief until restaurants reopen. farmers have plenty of crops but no one to sell to. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables grown in Florida are being plowed over or left to rot because farmers can’t sell to restaurants, theme parks or schools nationwide that have closed because of the coronavirus.

State tax collections are falling rapidly. In March and April, Georgia is showing a decline of more than $100 million in sales tax, fuel tax and other tax revenue compared with the same period a year ago. Tennessee’s tax revenue is down more than $120 million. Pennsylvania’s is off by more $760 million, and Texas, which also has been hammered by the downturn in oil prices, has seen tax collections plummet by nearly $1 billion. But much of the drop in those categories was the result of postponement of income tax filing dates until July 15.

The Labor Department released its monthly consumer price report on Tuesday, and the data revealed a 2.6% spike in supermarket prices last month led by higher costs for meat and eggs. That’s the largest one-month increase since 1974. Americans paid 4.3% more for meats, poultry, fish and eggs, the report said, while egg prices alone spiked 16.1%. Fruits and vegetable prices ticked up 1.5%. Breakfast cereal and bakery products were 2.9% more expensive in April.

TUI, the world’s biggest tour operator, has announced plans to scale back its global operations and cut up to 8,000 jobs as it prepares for a weaker travel and tourism market following the coronavirus pandemic. TUI posted a loss of  $804 million in the first three months of the year and needed a $2 billion loan from the German government as travel bans and lockdowns brought its business to a standstill. The company, which is headquartered in Germany, operates cruise ships, five airlines and more than 400 hotels, employing about 70,000 people worldwide.

Tesla’s standoff with California’s Alameda County officials has come to an end after the county agreed to let Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, reopen. Alameda County gave Tesla its blessing on the condition that it maintain “minimum business operations” and implement additional safety recommendations. The county said Tesla could possibly re-open as soon as next week, though the company has already begun production despite coronavirus concerns. Tesla CEO Elon Musk ignited an ongoing rift between the billionaire and California officials who argue his business operations continue to disregard workers’ safety. Musk had threatened to move his company’s headquarters out of state.

Majority of Palestinians Support 3rd Intifada

A recent poll, conducted in February by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, found 64 percent of 1,270 Palestinian adults living across Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip support a new intifada against Israel to stop the implementation of President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. Support for a new intifada was highest in the Gaza Strip (81.2 percent) compared to Judea and Samaria (52.8 percent). With regard to the PA resuming direct communication with the Trump administration, 76 percent voted against it and only 11 percent were in favor.

Islamic State Attacks Hospital in Afghanistan

The United States on Thursday blamed Islamic State militants — not the Taliban — for a gruesome hospital attack in Afghanistan this week that killed two newborn babies, and it renewed calls for Afghans to embrace a troubled peace push with the Taliban insurgency. But it was unclear if the U.S. declaration would be enough to bolster the peace effort and reverse a decision by the Kabul government to resume offensive operations against the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered the military on Tuesday to switch to “offensive mode” against the Taliban following the hospital attack in Kabul and a suicide bombing in Nangarhar province that killed scores of people.

Hindu Nationalists Ostracizing/Attacking Christians and Other Minorities

A dangerous ideology, Hindu nationalism, is gaining steam in India, the world’s largest democracy. It asserts that India is a nation for Hindus, thereby ostracizing Christians and other minorities. This movement often inspires mob attacks against Christians. Such attacks, when committed by Hindus, are rarely rebuked by the government, and the legal system often fails to bring perpetrators of mob violence to justice, reports the Family Research Council. Anti-conversion laws remain on the books in several Indian states. Supposedly intended to prevent forced conversions, in reality, these laws restrict the right to change one’s faith and discourage conversion away from Hinduism. Radicals often use supposed “forced” conversions as an excuse to justify mob attacks against Christians.

Ukrainian Police Demand Names/Addresses of All Jews

Ukrainian police officials at the national level are stepping in to investigate why a local police force demanded the Jewish community hand over a list of all Jews with their personal data., the head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee said Tuesday. Police had also demanded a list of Jewish students in universities with addresses and phones, claiming it was needed to “fight against transnational criminal gangs.” “It’s a total disgrace and open anti-Semitism,” Eduard Dolinsky, director general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It’s especially dangerous when it comes from a law enforcement agency that we have to fight the very thing it is perpetrating.”

China Attempting to Hack U.S. Coronavirus Research

The Trump administration warned Wednesday that the Chinese government is seeking to hijack U.S. research aimed at the COVID-19 pandemic and urged organizations to tighten cyber-security defenses. The public caution issued by the Justice Department indicated that the FBI had opened an investigation into suspected targeting by hackers linked to the PRC (People’s Republic of China). “These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property… and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” the Justice bulletin stated.

Officials Fear China is Developing Bioweapons Targeting Ethnic Groups

Chinese government deception regarding the coronavirus outbreak is raising new fears about Beijing’s biological weapons activities, including population-specific research on germ weapons capable of attacking ethnic groups, according to current and former U.S. officials. A senior Trump administration official told The Washington Times that China is known to be engaged in a covert program that includes development of biological weapons capable of attacking ethnic groups with pathogens. “We continue to have concerns with China’s BWC compliance as well as their international obligations,” the official said, referring to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, an international treaty that prohibits the development and production of biological agents.

Zimbabwe Dealing with Famine in Addition to COVID-19

Zimbabwe was already in a dire situation before coronavirus came to make things even worse. Zimbabwe has had normal rainfall in only two of the last five growing seasons. Last year saw the worst drought in decades, with temperatures reaching 122°F in some areas. By the end of 2019, Zimbabwe was experiencing one of its worst acute food insecurity situations, with at least 3.6 million rural people classified as in food “crisis” or worse. Many children were suffering from malnutrition and stunted growth. In January 2020, the overdue rains came at last, but many subsistence farmers had to plant late. Dry weather followed, leading to badly damaged crops. And then came the coronavirus. The poorest rural people, without radio or mobile phones, without church meetings, without visits from their pastors or even from their neighbors, have no idea what they should do about the virus.

  • Economically, there was already hyperinflation, shortage of currency, lack of fuel and long power outages. But then on March 30, the coronavirus lockdown began in Zimbabwe, bringing an immediate end to most opportunities to earn any money.Security forces have closed down almost everything, leaving thousands if not millions slowly starving to death.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck near Tonopah, Nevada, early Friday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Two more aftershocks near Tonopah both measuring magnitude 5.4 struck the area a short time later. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in the small town of Tonopah, located about three hours north of Las Vegas.

Wildfires

Wildfires in Southwest Florida have shut down Interstate 75 and forced hundreds of evacuations. A 20-mile stretch of the interstate, also known as Alligator Alley, remain closed Thursday and Friday after the fire jumped the highway. It has burned over 13 square miles and is only 10% contained as of Friday morning. Residents of about 600 nearby homes were told to evacuate. Two other large wildfires were burning Thursday morning on either side of the interstate about 14 miles east of Naples in Collier County. Residents of about 30 homes were told to leave. The fire destroyed several trailers and cars in the subdivision. The current wildfires are fast moving, fueled by low humidity and unfavorable wind conditions.

Weather

As of May 12, Phoenix has endured 13 days of triple digits in 2020, which is only two days shy of beating a 31-year-old record high for this time of year. According to NWS meteorologist Marvin Percha, the “climate norm” for May 12 is around four days at or above 100 degrees. The highest number on record is 15 in 1989. The first 10 days of May were the warmest first 10 days of the month on record.

At least one person was killed as Typhoon Vongfong moved into the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rains Thursday, blowing roofs off homes and creating challenges for local governments trying to shelter residents and maintain social distancing at the same time. Many homes were destroyed and power was knocked out in two provinces. The storm came ashore as the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane, with winds measuring about 115 mph shortly after landfall.

Signs of the Times (5/12/20)

May 12, 2020

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; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

Churches Fight Back Against Closures

Across the country, churches are striking back at governors’ and mayors’ shutdown orders, and with the backing of Uncle Sam, they’re beginning to notch some significant legal wins. An Oklahoma mayor caved and allowed houses of worship to open in time for Mother’s Day. A church in Kentucky won a ruling from a federal judge who said if Home Depot and Kroger, a grocery chain, could stay open under social distancing guidelines, so could Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville. And some pastors in California have vowed to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom and reopen in time for Pentecost on May 31. Last month the Justice Department faced down officials in Greenville, Mississippi, who issued $500 citations to parishioners who showed up for drive-in services on Palm Sunday. The Justice Department is now battling Gov. Ralph Northam, the Virginia Democrat who is defending his shutdown orders even after the orders led to a pastor being criminally cited for holding an in-person Palm Sunday service with 16 people — more than the 10-person limit Mr. Northam set for non-family gatherings.

  • Several church leaders announced Thursday, May 7, that they will reopen their churches on the Day of Pentecost, May 31, despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s continued lockdown. The group, led by Pastor Dan Carroll and Pastor Matt Brown, represents 1,500 churches in California. Gov. Newsom’s plan to reopen the state schedules churches to reopen in the third stage, a time for which has not yet been specified.

The Police State Growing by Leaps & Bounds

Roving neighborhood police patrols. Uniformed soldiers manning checkpoints. A vast surveillance network of hotel staff and health department officials on the lookout for anyone breaking quarantine. This isn’t an authoritarian dictatorship. It’s the U.S. state of Hawaii, where officials have been enforcing some of the strictest measures in the country aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. For some tourists who had escaped to the ‘aloha state’ to ride out the pandemic, flouting Hawaii’s rigid public health response has meant jail time. Last week, police arrested a California couple visiting Hawaii on their honeymoon after they ignored warnings to stay inside their hotel room. In late April, a Florida man and Illinois woman were also arrested by Honolulu police after breaking quarantine. Hotel staff notified authorities after seeing the couple return to their room with shopping bags and takeout food.

  • At least two people were hauled away by police after law enforcement officers tried to enter a diner that was illegally opened in Fresno, California. The diners were waiting in line outside the Waffle Shop. Officers ordered the diners to step aside so they could enter the establishment. When they refused, the officers forcefully shoved aside patrons. It was during that confrontation that at least two people were taken into custody.
  • The Colorado restaurant that flouted the state’s order and opened its doors for dine-in service amid the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in crowds of diners on Mother’s Day, has been shut down. Gov. Jared Polis on Monday ordered C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen in Castle Rock to closes. The restaurant’s license was also suspended indefinitely. Polis said the business was “causing an immediate health hazard” and would be shut until that is no longer the case.
  • The Village of Villa Park, Illinois closed their playgrounds and surrounded them with snow fencing to prohibit residents from using these facilities. The town also filled its skate park with wood chips.
  • A Michigan barber has scored an early victory in the fight to keep his shop open after a judge declined to shut him down despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide order that has closed businesses for weeks due to the coronavirus.

Digital Checkpoints Being Employed in Asian Countries

Another country announced it was moving to mandatory participation in their phone app for contact tracing surveillance. There are 16,000 new required check-in points across Singapore, reports Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel. “In Singapore, if you want to go work, attend school, shop, travel, buy groceries, or go to the doctor, you must check in with their app. Even before getting a haircut or a taxi, you will need you to check in with your phone.” In addition, Singapore is deploying robots with cameras and voice recordings to remind people to social distance in parks and nature preserves. Such digital surveillance has grown rapidly across China, India and now, Singapore. “With the stroke of a politician’s pen, voluntary contact tracing becomes mandatory surveillance as country, after country falls like dominoes to constant surveillance of their citizens.”

  • This shows what the globalist elite are trying to achieve worldwide, eventually coming to the U.S. It will start with ‘contact tracing’ which seems like a useful thing to do in this pandemic, but it’s where it leads that is troublesome. Already, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that business owners will be required to keep logs of the names and contact information of patrons who enter their establishments.

Ominous H.R. 6666 Bill Proposed for Contact Tracing

Lifesite News reports that House Democrats have proposed a measure to fund tracing of individuals believed to have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus and require them to quarantine. What makes the story seem so far-fetched is that the bill number is H.R. 6666. No joke!” The shortened title of the bill is, “COVID–19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act.” H.R. 6666 was introduced May 1, 2020 by 39 House Democrats, led by Illinois Representative Bobby Rush. The bill authorizes the Health and Human Services department to give out $100 billion dollars for fiscal year 2020 alone “to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.”

  • New York announced a plan to hire 17,000 people at a salary of $57,000 to expand the government’s ability to track and surveil its citizens, reports Liberty Counsel

The Federal Reserve is ‘Printing’ Dollars Out of Nothing

With a few strokes on a computer, the Federal Reserve can create dollars out of nothing, virtually “printing” money and injecting it into the commercial banking system, much like an electronic deposit, reports the USA Today. By the end of the year, the Fed is projected to have purchased $3.5 trillion in government securities with these newly created dollars, one of many tools it is using to help prop up the ailing economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Oxford Economics. “The way you and I have checking accounts in our banks, that’s how all these other banks have accounts at the Fed,” said Pavlina Tcherneva, an economist at Bard College in New York. “All the Fed does is literally credit them. They just type it in.” The net result is that it creates money out of thin air to finance the gigantic debt run up by Congress.

  • While the short-term results might be helpful, the long-term consequences are very ominous.

President of Tanzania Finds Coronavirus Tests Faulty

President of Tanzania John Magufuli, with a doctorate in chemistry, sent several samples from various items such as goats, sheep, rabbits, pawpaws (a fruit) and even car oil and sent them off to be tested for coronavirus. “We took the samples to the laboratory without them knowing.” They also gave the samples people’s names, gender, and age. “When we took samples from a Pawpaw we named it Elizabeth Ane, 26 years old, female. The result from the Pawpaw came back positive that it has corona… We took samples from (a bird) called Kware. The results came back positive… We took samples from a rabbit. The results came back indeterminant. We took samples from a goat and the results came back positive. We took samples from a sheep and it came back negative and so on and so on… That means all the pawpaws should be in isolation also… The goat should be in isolation also.” However, the car oil tested negative, so it doesn’t need to be isolated.

Majority of Americans Feel Government Not Doing a Good Job on COVID-19

Most Americans (54%) continue to say the U.S. government is doing a poor job preventing the spread of Covid-19, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS. And, while a growing share of the public feels the worst of the outbreak is behind us (44%, up from 17% in April), a majority (52%) still sees the worst on the horizon. Four-in-10 Americans say that they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, a figure that has nearly doubled in the last month. And most say the government is not doing enough to address the growing death toll (56%), the limited availability of testing (57%) or the potential for a second wave of cases later this year (58%).

  • Nearly one-third of Americans believe a vaccine already exists to prevent coronavirus infection but is being withheld from the public. Nearly half of Americans believe the COVID-19 virus was created in a lab.

Most Field Hospitals Treated Zero Coronavirus Patients

Field hospitals set up across the United States to help medical providers cope with the flood of coronavirus patients cost an estimated $660 million. But most are being dismantled without seeing a single patient, reports NPR. For example, a 1,038-bed field hospital in Stony Brook, New York, cost more than $155 million to construct but saw no patients. In Old Westbury, New York, $118 million was contracted for a 1,022-bed hospital. Again, no patients. One at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver provided 2,000 beds at a cost of more than $34 million. It saw zero patients. The only operation with a significant load was the $11 million Javits Center in New York, which treated 1,095 patients. One of the reasons the extra beds were not needed, the report explained, was because of stay-home orders reduced the spread of COVID-19.

Federal Appeals Court Again Upholds Trump’s Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood

When an 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a three-judge panel’s decision upholding the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life Rule,” the state of California asked the Court to rehear its en banc decision. Last Friday, the 9th Circuit refused to reconsider its 7-4 decision to uphold, according to the Court House News Service. The judges simply announced  that  the Court “has voted to deny the Petition of Plaintiffs-Appellees.” The Trump Administration’s Protect Life Rule required recipients of Title X family planning money not to refer clients for abortion as a method of family planning or co-locate with abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood opted out of the Title X program rather than accept the limitations.

Another Outbreak in Wuhan, China Forces Wider Testing

The Chinese city of Wuhan, believed to be the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, is planning to test all 11 million residents within the next 10 days after a new outbreak was reported over the weekend, according to a state media report. The new cluster of at least six cases is the first to be reported in Wuhan since the city emerged from an 11-week lockdown on April 8, stoking concern over a possible second wave of COVID-19. The new cases were all reported in the same residential neighborhood.

Japan Shows Masking Works

A new study from UC Berkeley finds that if the U.S. adopted Japan’s approach to the virus, new infections would drop by over 90 percent. Japan never implemented a nationwide lockdown as many restaurants and businesses remained open, yet they managed to keep its death rate from coronavirus at a mere two percent of that in the United States, adjusted for population. The reason: residents practice serious social distancing in public and always wear a mask. The study credits this low death rate to the fact that “nearly everyone there is wearing a mask.” The study also shows that if 80% of a closed population were to wear a mask, coronavirus infection rates would plummet to about one twelfth the number of infections, compared to a live-virus population in which no one wore masks.

Fauci, CDC, FDA Chiefs Enter Quarantine After Coronavirus Exposure

The heads of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are entering quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, also was entering quarantine because of contact with an administration staffer who had tested positive for the virus. Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Miller is the primary spokeswoman for the task force. Separately, Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant also has tested positive for Covid-19 as well as a valet to President Trump.

Fauci Warns Against Reopening too Quickly

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the White House coronavirus task force, warn ed in testimony Tuesday before the Senate Health Committee that reopening the economy before certain “checkpoints” are met could bring “serious” consequences. These checkpoints are part of the Trump administration’s coronavirus recovery plan. In order to proceed to the first of three stages, states would need to see an uninterrupted decrease in coronavirus cases over a 14-day period. Fauci warned that prematurely lifting coronavirus restrictions closing schools and businesses and limiting travel would lead to “suffering and death” and “turn the clock back instead of going forward.”

Vaccine Trials Won’t Start Until Winter

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19. He said he is hopeful that vaccine trials will begin this winter. He said that there are eight coronavirus vaccines under development.

$11B to States, Territories and Tribes for More Testing

Touting America as the world leader in coronavirus testing, President Donald Trump announced a “massive investment” in funding being sent to states and Native American tribes to conduct world-class coronavirus testing. “To further expand our nation’s testing capabilities… we are sending $11 billion to American state, territories and tribes,” Trump told reporters during a White House coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden on Monday. “This major investment will ensure that America continues to conduct more tests than any country on Earth by far…We have prevailed on testing,” Trump said Monday, clarifying the virus is not defeated. “You never prevail when… you are talking about, potentially millions of people around the world that are dying.”

U.S. Spent $100B on Pandemic Readiness in Past Decade

Over the past decade, the U.S. government spent nearly $100 billion on preparation for major health crises including pandemics, according to a 2018 paper on such funding — though the coronavirus outbreak still had Washington and states across the country scrambling to muster supplies and respond when it hit. The government spent between $10 billion and $12 billion each year from 2010 to 2018 across several agencies on programs that contribute to “biosecurity,” the management of “pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases,” and “multiple-hazard and general preparedness” programs that assist in readiness for and response to different types of health threats, including diseases like the coronavirus. COVID-19 seems to be the kind of problem the U.S. was preparing for, but a debate now rages in Washington over whether the money was spent effectively.

10,000 Cases and 30 Deaths Among Meat Plant Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said Monday that at least 30 meatpacking plant workers have died, and more than 10,000 meat plant workers have been infected or exposed to Covid-19. The union also continued its call for the White House to make the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for safe meat plant operations mandatory, especially in light of 14 plants reopening since President Trump announced his executive order. “Since the executive order was announced by President Trump, the Administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants,” the union said.

Initial Surge of Airline Bankruptcies Begins

Another major international airline has gone bust in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Colombian airline Avianca, the world’s second-oldest continuously running airline, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US Southern District of New York on Sunday, blaming its collapse on the “unforeseeable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.” Last month, Virgin Australia collapsed after failing to obtain a government bailout. In March, UK budget carrier Flybe shut down, saying its financial challenges were too great to withstand in the context of the pandemic. The International Air Transport Authority warned Thursday that airlines stand to lose $113 billion in sales if the coronavirus continues to spread around the world.

  • The number of U.S. air travelers this Mother’s Day weekend climbed to levels not seen since March, according to Transportation Security Administration figures. More than 215,000 people passed through airport security checkpoints on Friday, the data show. The last time TSA screened more than 200,000 people was on March 26. However, that was only 5% of the approximately 2 million the TSA screened on Mother’s Day last year.

Corporate Cost-Cutting & Layoffs Continue to Rise

Companies are turning to a range of different strategies to survive the pandemic. Many retailers are offering curbside pickup, while other shuttered businesses are selling discounted gift cards for a quick infusion of cash. Unfortunately, one of the most common strategies is to furlough or lay off workers to save on labor costs.

  • Uber used the popular teleconference Zoom software to conduct multiple meetings last week to inform 3,700 employees that they were laid off. Uber’s business is down by more than half. “As a result we are eliminating 3,500 front-line customer support roles,” Uber announced. Another 200 office staff were also laid off.
  • Revlon also announced cost cutting measures, the majority of which will come in the form of layoffs. The company is one of many in an industry that has faced reduced demand even before COVID-19 has kept most Americans confined to their homes.
  • With virtually all live events canceled for the foreseeable future, ticket exchange and sale company StubHub is facing an unprecedented situation. StubHub updated its refund policy as more than 20,000 events were nixed. They will not issue refunds until they receive a refund from the event organizers.
  • All Broadway shows will be canceled through Labor Day, the Broadway League, a trade organization that represents producers and theater owners, announced on Tuesday. A date to resume performances, which have been suspended since March 12, is still to be determined.
  • Steak n’ Shake, the fast-casual restaurant chain, has been forced to close 57 of its locations permanently due to the “adverse effect” of the coronavirus health crisis on its operations. At the end of 2019, Steak ‘n Shake operated 610 locations globally, though the vast majority were located within the United States.
  • Boeing was dealt a double blow in April as deliveries of new planes ground to a near halt and canceled orders continued to climb in response to an unprecedented drop in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Boeing has instituted incentivized but voluntary furloughs and retirements.

Public Corporations Received $1,3B of Small Business Loans

Nearly 400 publicly traded companies have received almost  $1.3 billion in federal forgivable loans meant for small businesses desperately trying to survive the coronavirus crisis, an independent analysis of financial record filings has found. The list of those pubic businesses that accessed Paycheck Protection Program money includes construction firms, tech companies and pharmaceutical corporations, according to the analytics firm FactSquared. Several large hotel groups and restaurant chains were each able to obtain loans above the $10 million maximum level because they filed more than one application, which is allowable under the CARES Act that Congress passed in March.

Economic News

Friday’s report from the Department of Labor showing overall unemployment at 14.7% for April also revealed racial differences. The unemployment rate for whites reached 14.2% in April, a historic high, while 16.7% of African Americans were out of work and the rate among Latinos soared to 18.9%. The unemployment rate for adult women rose to 15.5%.And the unemployment rate for teenagers, who often work for restaurants, stores and other businesses shuttered during the pandemic, doubled to roughly 32%.

Hawaii is facing it’s highest unemployment rate ever as strict stay-at-home orders and a virtual shutdown of the state’s once mighty tourism industry have left residents reeling, leaning on their savings or unable to pay rent and feed their families. Since March, the state’s unemployment rate has soared from 3% to 34%, one of the highest in the nation.

U.S. consumer prices declined for the second-straight month in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday. Prices fell by 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis in April, marking the largest drop since December 2008. Prices were dragged down primarily by falling gasoline and energy prices. But excluding volatile food and energy segment, prices still fell by 0.4%. That’s the largest monthly decline in the so-called core consumer price index since the BLS began tracking the data in 1957.

  • However, the prices American consumers paid for groceries increased 2.6% in April, marking the largest one-month rise in 46 years. The increase was particularly significant in the price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category, which rose 4.3%, as Americans rushed to grocery stores last month to stock up on supplies as the coronavirus crisis worsened. Fruits and vegetables went up 1.5%, while cereals and bakery products increased 2.9%.

U.S. credit card debt suddenly reversed course in March and fell by the largest percentage in more than 30 years. At the same time, savings rates climbed to levels unseen since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Americans are slashing their spending, hoarding cash and shrinking their credit card debt as they fear their jobs could disappear during the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia is pledging to make even deeper cuts to its oil production as the kingdom scrambles to revive the crude market it helped crash. The world’s largest oil exporter announced Monday it will slash oil production by another 1 million barrels per day in June. That’s on top of the record-setting cuts reached by OPEC and Russia in April to halt the historic collapse in prices during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Rise to Record High in 2019

American Jews were targets of more anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 than any other year over the past four decades, a surge marked by deadly attacks on a California synagogue, a Jewish grocery store in New Jersey and a rabbi’s New York home, the Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday. The Jewish civil rights group counted 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, finding 61 physical assault cases, 1,127 instances of harassment and 919 acts of vandalism. That’s the highest annual tally since the New York City-based group began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979. It also marked a 12% increase over the 1,879 incidents it counted in 2018.

Israeli Right-Wing Party Rejects U.S. Conditions for Annexing Judea and Samaria

The conditions America is imposing on Israel in order for the Trump Administration to recognize the proposed annexation of settlements by Israel are among the reasons the right-wing Yemina party is not joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Maariv reported Sunday. Among the conditions are a freeze on settlement expansion on those towns Israel will not annex and an agreement that the prime minister will negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the Trump plan, which includes a future Palestinian state – two policies to which Yemina says it cannot agree.

Weather

Thousands of people were without power in Maine Sunday after a punishing spring storm brought snow and high winds Saturday to New England. Much of the Northeast saw rare May winter weather conditions, with freezing temperatures, snow and high winds from late Friday through Saturday. The frigid cold, caused by a polar vortex that blasted in from the north, set a number of records across the region. Higher elevations in northern New York and New England saw snowfall accumulations of up to 10 inches, as traces of snow were reported from coastal Maine to as far south as New York City, where the flakes tied a record set in 1977 for latest snow of the season in Central Park.The polar vortex is a batch of cold air that stays trapped in the Arctic all winter, but a couple of times during the season, it can wander south and bring bone-chilling cold and snow to Canada and parts of the U.S.

Signs of the Times (5/8/20)

May 8, 2020

“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:1-3)

U.S. Economy Loses 20.5M Jobs as Unemployment Soars to 14.7%

The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7% — both record highs. In just one month, the losses have wiped out nearly all the nation’s job gains since the Great Recession of 2007-09. The jobless rate had touched a 50-year low of 3.5% in February before rising to 4.4% the following month amid the early effects of the crisis. Many workers incorrectly said they were employed but absent from work, Labor said. If they had been properly classified, the unemployment rate would have shot up to 20%..

  • The unemployment rate during the Great Depression reached 24.9% in 1933.

U.S. Goes Deeper and Deeper Into Debt

Over the past two months, Congress has approved some $2.4 trillion to combat the coronavirus crisis and the resulting financial fallout. That historical amount alone is larger than the economies, or gross domestic products (GDPs), of all but six other nations. And more could be on the way as Congress mulls additional relief. This from a government nearly $25 trillion in debt and projected to spend $1.1 trillion more than it was going to collect in taxes even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. Now, the coronavirus stimulus is expected to more than triple the original 2020 projected budget deficit to $3.5 trillion, 122% of GDP (i.e. it exceeds the total annual output of goods and services in the U.S. by 22%).

  • Not only is this unsustainable, but as the pandemic continues it will only get worse. The financial consequences are sure to lead to a full-scale economic depression.

States Forced to Cut Medicaid Due to Tax Shortfalls

States facing sudden drops in tax revenue amid the pandemic are announcing deep cuts to their Medicaid programs just as millions of newly jobless Americans are surging onto the rolls. And state officials are worried that they’ll have to slash benefits for patients and payments to health providers in the safety net insurance program for the poor unless they get more federal aid. State Medicaid programs in the last economic crisis cut everything from dental services to podiatry care — and reduced payments to hospitals and doctors in order to balance out spending on other needs like roads, schools and prisons. Medicaid officials warn the gutting could be far worse this time, because program enrollment has swelled in recent years largely due to Obamacare’s expansion.

  • Rand Paul said on Wednesday that while states continue to keep their economies shut down due to coronavirus, there will be an “economic calamity” because the federal government is already so deep in debt. “We have no money, we have no rainy day account, we have no savings account. The three trillion that we’ve already passed out is imaginary money,” the Republican Kentucky lawmaker said.

Meat/Food Shortages Escalate

Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., has set purchase limits of two items each for chicken, pork and beef at all its stores. Its competitors, including Costco and Food Lion, are also cracking down on how much meat shoppers can buy at a time as processing at U.S. meat plants has slowed down or stopped completely because of workers contracting coronavirus. The national meat shortage also struck Wendy’s. The fast food chain says some menu items are unavailable, and one analyst estimates nearly one in five of Wendy’s restaurants are out of beef. Around 1,000, or 18%, of Wendy’s 5,500 US restaurants are not serving any hamburgers or other meat-based items. Many meat suppliers have temporarily closed their factories because workers are falling ill from Covid-19.

  • American farmers are being forced to pour out milk, crush eggs, toss fresh fruits and vegetables, euthanize livestock and plow under perfectly robust crops. Meanwhile, Americans are lining up at food banks in unprecedented numbers, humanitarian leaders fear a global starvation pandemic is burgeoning, and grocery store shelves are sparsely filled. So why this disparity? About 50% of our food is now produced for restaurants, hotels, schools, and institutional users. Those markets have effectively dried up. In addition, the supply chain became far more centralized so that disruptions are magnified and harder to replace.

YouTube Censors Video Criticizing Fauci by Former Co-Worker

YouTube has censored a video featuring a virologist who once worked with Dr. Anthony Fauci who questions the government’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. In the video, Dr. Judy Mikovits contends the isolate-everyone policy is a big mistake and claims officials have a financial incentive to implement mass vaccinations. Mikovits claims Fauci was among the top health officials who framed her and destroyed her career because of her contrary views. YouTube CEO Susan Wojkicki said in an interview last month with CNN that “anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy.”

  • One week ago, as WND reported, YouTube removed videos of a press briefing in which two California doctors carefully laid out their case for ending the lockdowns implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

New Strain of Coronavirus More Contagious

Researchers have identified a more dominant and contagious form of the coronavirus that’s going to be challenging to contain and treat. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have identified the new strain that has dominated the world since mid-March. The Los Alamos team, assisted by researchers from Duke University and the University of Sheffield in England, identified 14 mutations of the current coronavirus. In addition to spreading faster than the original version of the virus, this dominant strain also makes people more vulnerable to a second infection. This discovery may also negatively impact scientists developing a COVID-19 vaccine since that research has been based on the genetic sequence of earlier strains and may be ineffective against this one. Researchers speculated that the virus mutates as it migrates around the globe, possibly mutating every 15 days.

New York Ordered Nursing Homes to Take in Infected Patients

Two weeks ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was first asked about his policy that forced nursing homes to admit patients infected with the coronavirus. “That’s a good question, I don’t know,” the governor answered, turning to an aide. On Tuesday, Cuomo was asked about a report from the Associated Press that his team had added more than 1,700 deaths to the count of those who died in nursing homes, bringing the total to at least 4,813. “I don’t know the details, frankly,” the governor answered, turning to an aide. With known nursing-home deaths representing 25 percent of all deaths in the state, it’s baffling that the governor didn’t know anything about his office’s fatal policy two weeks ago or the new death totals now, reports Fox News.

  • Nursing home deaths are a much bigger proportion of total deaths than is generally being reported. Many nursing homes were already known to have been doing a poor job of prevention with lax oversight. Now that’s coming home to roost and virtually no one is talking about it.

FDA Cracks Down on Faulty Antibody Tests

The Trump administration said Monday it will scrutinize coronavirus antibody tests more closely in response to fears that companies are selling faulty kits as the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic enters the critical phase of figuring out who has been infected, who is most at risk and whether the nation can reopen without major setbacks. Known as serological tests, the products help determine whether someone has been infected with the coronavirus and has developed natural defenses to it. Governors see the testing as key to deciding who might be safe to go back to work, though lab associations and others aired concerns about faulty tests on the market. A dozen tests have undergone early vetting, but more than 200 have entered the pipeline since the FDA issued its policy on March 16 allowing companies to validate and sell their tests without emergency use authorization. Now, they will have to submit applications and validate their tests.

Half of All U.S. Counties Have No COVID-10 Deaths

Fifty-two percent of all U.S. counties have not had a COVID-19 death, according to The Daily Signal as of May 4. In addition, 14% have each reported just 1 death; 14% have reported 2-5 deaths; 6% have reported 6-10 deaths; 3% have reported 11-15 deaths; and 11%) have reported more than 16 deaths. New York and New Jersey accounted for 38% of all cases and 48% of total coronavirus deaths. And just five states, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and California, accounted for 54% of all COVID-19 cases and 61% of coronavirus deaths.

  • This data shows that reopening rules must vary by region because ‘one-size fits all’ protocols will not fit at least half of U.S. counties.

Michigan Governor Sued Over Constitutional Violations

The Great Lakes Justice Center has filed a lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer alleging she violated at least six provisions in the U.S. Constitution. Her restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including banning travel between homes, have drawn mass protests. The complaint announced Wednesday challenges her claim that criminal charges can be filed and fines imposed against violators of her orders. The lawsuit was filed in Grand Rapids on behalf of several individuals and churches in the state. It alleges she has violated the First Amendment’s protections of the free exercise of religion, free expression and association.

  • Whitmer on Thursday signed an executive order to extend the state’s stay-at-home order through the end of May for nonessential workers while allowing for manufacturing workers to resume work next week.

Samaritan’s Purse Hit with Protest and Taxes

Samaritan’s Purse, which operated a field hospital in New York for the coronavirus outbreak, will have to pay state taxes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the group will have to pay taxes on their hospital because the state is “not in a position to provide any subsidies right now.” The field hospital, which is now shutting down after more than a month in the city, has served some 300 patients in New York City. Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said, “They’re the ones who called us originally,” referring to officials with the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “We didn’t call them; they called us,” he said. “And we agreed to go and we have not charged them one penny. All of our services have been paid by God’s people.” According to law, if you work in New York state for more than 14 days, you have to pay income tax.

  • In addition, LGBTQ advocates rallied on Sunday against the organization founded by Reverend Franklin Graham who they say has expressed anti-gay and anti-Muslim views.

Coronavirus Not Flattening In U.S. but Reopening Anyway

Millions of Italians were allowed to return to work this week after nearly two months in lockdown because of the coronavirus. Children are free to play outside in Spain again after the pandemic kept them indoors for six weeks. About half the states in the U.S. have taken similar steps to loosen the social distancing measures imposed to keep the virus from spreading, and others are considering it. Whereas those two hard-hit European countries have considerably slowed their rate of infection, the trajectory of U.S. cases looks like a straight line headed upward with no sign of a flattening yet in sight. The U.S. has had at least 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day since mid-March and several models say the number of cases and deaths will increase as restrictions are relaxed.

43 States to Ease Restrictions by Sunday, None Have Met Reopening Criteria

By this Sunday, at least 43 states will have eased restrictions — ranging from simply reopening parks to allowing more businesses to reopen. However, no states have met all of the White House’s guidelines on when they can safely start to reopen, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said. “To my knowledge, there are no states that meet all four of those criteria,” said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins. The first is to see the number of new cases decline for at least two weeks, and some states have met that criteria. The other three criteria are having “enough public health capacity to conduct contact tracing on all new cases, enough diagnostic testing to test everybody with Covid-like symptoms” and “enough health care system capacity to treat everyone safely.”

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied an application filed on behalf of a group of Pennsylvania businesses and a Republican state House candidate to halt an executive order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf that limits which industries can operate amid the coronavirus pandemic. The court denied the petition to stay the order without further comment.
  • A set of detailed documents created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places such as mass transit, day care centers, and restaurants during the still-raging pandemic has been shelved by the Trump administration, the AP White House officials don’t want to offer detailed guidance for how specific sectors can reopen, calling it a “slippery slope” because the virus is affecting various parts of the country differently.

New Mexico Invokes Riot Law to Control Virus in Gallup

All the roads into Gallup, NM, on the edge of the Navajo Nation are closed. The soldiers at the checkpoints have their orders: Outsiders must turn around and drive away. The threat of the coronavirus in Gallup became so serious last week that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act to lock down the entire city. The downtown of shops, bars and Indian trading posts is now nearly deserted. The lockdown comes as state and local authorities grapple with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States on the nearby Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Indian reservation, and a surge in detected cases in places near the reservation. With a rate of 46 deaths per 100,000 people, the tribal nation has a higher coronavirus death rate than every state in the country except New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The city of 22,000 serves as a regional hub for the Navajo Nation.

  • The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday voted to identify hotels refusing to take in the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic and said they could possibly be “commandeered.” Only 1,582 people have been placed in hotels, far short of the city’s goal of housing 15,000.

Gun Sales Soar by 71% in April

An estimated 1,797,910 guns were sold in April 2020 – a 71.3 percent increase from April 2019. March saw an even higher surge in sales, with 2,583,238 firearms sold – or 85.3 percent more than the previous year, according to data released late Monday by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers, said the NSSF had reached similar figures, though slightly lower at 69.1 percent. “This shows us there is continued appetite among Americans to be able to provide for their own safety during times of uncertainty. These are buyers who have witnessed their governments empty prisons… Police departments are stretched beyond capacity in many cases. Law-abiding Americans recognize this and exercising their right to own a gun and defend themselves and their loved ones,” the NSSF said.

Corona Confrontations Escalating

Calvin Munerlyn, a father of nine, was gunned down after turning a customer away for trying to enter a Family Dollar in Michigan without a mask. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton charged three suspects in the murder. Officials said Sharmel Teague and her daughter went to the Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan, Friday afternoon. Security footage showed Munerlyn and Teague got into a verbal altercation after he told the woman that her daughter needed a face mask to enter the store. Teague began to yell and spit at Munerlyn, who asked her to leave the store and instructed a cashier not to serve her. Later, two suspects, Larry Teague Sharmel Teague’s husband, and Ramonyea Bishop, her son, entered the store. Larry Teague confronted the security guard about disrespecting his wife and Bishop fatally shot him in the back of the head.

  • A man accused of shoving an Austin, Texas, park ranger into a lake while the ranger was explaining to a crowd the need for social distancing is embarrassed by his actions, his lawyer said. According to an arrest affidavit, ranger Cassidy Stillwell was talking to a crowd of people, described as “unlawfully drinking and smoking,” on a dock near Lake Austin. The ranger “was just telling us to spread apart to keep our distance and honestly was being super reasonable and understanding,” said a witness, who did not want to be named.
  • Two McDonald’s employees in Oklahoma City were shot and wounded by a customer who was angry that the restaurant’s dining area was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two other employees were injured. One employee was shot in the shoulder and another employee was shot in the arm. A female suspect was in custody after the Wednesday night shooting.
  • The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of salon owner Shelley Luther, who was jailed for opening in violation of the state’s rules, as Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order retroactively eliminating jail time as a consequence for violating the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
  • Two Texas state representatives on Tuesday got haircuts as an act of protest against Texas’ stay-at-home order that currently requires barbershops to be closed. There are thousands and thousands of other across the state of Texas that are being put out of business as a result of this,” one said of his act of civil disobedience. A female Texas bar owner, along with six heavily armed men who said they were there to protect her, were arrested Monday following a brief standoff with police while they were protesting the state’s lockdown measures.
  • On Tuesday, the first day a mall inn Atlanta was open again, a brawl among three women broke out that a security guard tried to break up. During the scuffle, a man suddenly “fly-kicks” one of the women taking part in the fight in the chest. He then picks up one of the other women and leaves. Only the security guard is seen wearing a mask.
  • A woman faces disorderly conduct charges after an altercation that began when a Walmart employee in Alabama asked her to wear a face mask in the store and ended with a police officer performing a “take-down” maneuver on her, The woman refused to leave the store and then resisted when the officer tried to detain her.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea stated outright this week that people are not permitted to gather for protests in public due to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement came a day after the Reclaim Pride LGBT advocacy group protested Mount Sinai hospital’s relationship with the Samaritan Purse Christian organization, which set up a field hospital in Central Park for COVID-19 patients in an effort to reduce Mount Sinai’s load.
  • The Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the largest law-enforcement union in the Big Apple, has come out against New York politicians’ priorities in handling the COVID-19 outbreak, arguing that police need to be let “out of the social distancing enforcement business.”

Local Communities Defying State/Federal Orders

In Albany, Georgia, town officials, business owners and church pastors are collectively rejecting Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow certain businesses to reopen and lift a shelter-in-place order. The residents of Albany say that they will determine when the right time to open will be, but they are not ready yet. Albany has seen the highest level of COVID-19 deaths in the state. The largely black community is in Daugherty County where Albany is the sole incorporated city and has recorded a staggering 1,716 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 278 cases per 100,000 in Fulton, the state’s largest county.

Hong Kong Suppresses Second Wave of Coronavirus

Hong Kong had just begun letting its guard down in late February when it was hit by a second wave of the novel coronavirus. The government then took quick, aggressive action to curb the second imported wave; they barred non-residents from entering the city, halted travelers from transiting through the city’s airport, and implemented strict quarantine and testing measures on all arrivals to the city, regardless of origin. Those under home quarantine were given electronic bracelets to track their location.

Economic News

About 3.2 million Americans filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, down from the 3.8 million people who filed claims the week before and the all-time high of 6.86 million applications filed in late March. Around 33 million Americans have applied for unemployment in just seven weeks, a number that exceeds all the jobs created since the Great Recession by more than 12 million.

  • A Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that 20 percent of Hispanic workers and 16 percent of black Americans report being laid off or furloughed, compared with 11 percent of whites.

Neiman Marcus filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the second major retailer pushed to do s o this week by the coronavirus pandemic, after J. Crew on Monday. The 113-year-old chain, known for its high-end stores, had been struggling with nearly $5 billion in debt even before the pandemic pressured it to shutter all 43 of its U.S. locations.

Starbucks said it will have “responsibly reopened” roughly 85% of its US stores by the end of this week following an extended closure spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Drive-thru and orders made ahead on its app or Uber Eats will be allowed, but dine-in services have been suspended.

Hertz has received a temporary lifeline from a group of its lenders, as it tries to find a way to survive near-zero travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company had missed an April 27 payment due to a group of lenders who lease vehicles used in Hertz’s day-to-day United States rental car fleet.

The UK car market suffered its worst month in more than seven decades in April as coronavirus restrictions forced dealerships to close, pushing sales of new vehicles down by more than 97%.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings warned investors that it might be forced to go out of business. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday, the company said its accounting firm has “substantial doubt” about Norwegian’s ability to continue as a going concern because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Norwegian suspended sailings of its fleets on March 14, along with an industrywide shutdown. That shutdown has been extended through at least June 30.

Supreme Courts Allows Netanyahu-Gantz to Form New Government

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may form a new government while under indictment, clearing the way for him and his main rival to join together in a power-sharing national unity coalition. The unanimous decision ended a more than year-long political stalemate and prevented the country from plunging into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year. Netanyahu and his rival-turned-partner, Benny Gantz, said they expected their coalition to be sworn into office next week.

Israel Continues Attacks on Military Targets in Syria

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Monday night carried out several strikes against military targets in Syria, including an attack that destroyed an important research facility. Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that the army’s air defenses “confronted a missile aggression” on Al-Sfira in the Aleppo area in the north of the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Syria quoted activists in the country who reported on a strike targeting “defense factories” in Al-Sfira which killed 14. The strikes resulted in the destruction of ammunition depots which are being established by Iran and Hezbollah near Israel’s borders.

Severe Flooding in East Africa

Torrential rains in East Africa have caused flooding and landslides, displacing 100,000 people in Kenya alone. At least 194 were killed. The waters have washed away 8,000 acres of crops that had escaped locust damage. Extreme rainfall began in mid-April and is forecast to continue until the end of May. In Uganda, a river burst its banks causing people to flee for safety. The waters of Lake Victoria have risen to unprecedented heights, forcing shoreline communities to abandon their homes. Rwanda, too, has seen houses, roads and crops destroyed, and people killed by mudslides. This on top of locusts, famine and a pandemic.

Train Runs Over Migrants in India

A train in India on Friday plowed through a group of migrant workers who fell asleep on the tracks after walking back home from a coronavirus lockdown, killing 15, the Railways Ministry said. The driver of the cargo train tried but failed to stop in time. The workers were walking to their home state of Madhya Pradesh in central India after they lost jobs when the country went into a strict lockdown on March 25. Most public transportation was halted. Earlier this week, the government started running trains to carry stranded workers to their home states. But a lack of trains led many to walk back to their villages.

Mercenary Attack in Venezuela Thwarted, Two Americans Involved

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says two American “mercenaries” have been apprehended after a failed coup attempt launched over the weekend. In a live address on state television late Monday, Maduro brandished what he claimed were the US passports and drivers licenses of the two men, along with what he said were their ID cards for Silvercorp, a Florida-based security services company. Footage posted on Maduro’s official Twitter account shows several unidentifiable men in a boat with their hands in the air and a helicopter overhead. The CEO of Silvercorp, Jordan Goudreau, told the Washington Post that two Americans acting within a larger force were captured Monday, along with six Venezuelans, after launching an operation to infiltrate Venezuela. Goudreau said other members of what he called “Operation Gideon” were captured or killed on Sunday.

  • President Trump said Tuesday that the failed raid in Venezuela involving two Americans “has nothing to do with our government.”

Environment

A chemical gas leaked from an industrial plant in southern India early Thursday, leaving people struggling to breathe and collapsing in the streets as they tried to flee. At least eight people were killed and nearly 1,000 suffered breathing difficulties and other reactions. Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from a village near the plant. The synthetic chemical styrene leaked from the LG Polymers plant in a city on India’s Bay of Bengal coast while workers were preparing to restart the plant after the coronavirus lockdown was eased.

During the pandemic, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose more than 50% in the first three months of 2020 compared to the same three-month period last year, ABC reported, citing preliminary satellite data released by the Brazilian Space Agency’s deforestation monitoring system. Around 80% of Brazil’s deforestation is done by the cattle industry, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Because of the increase in global demand for beef, cattle ranchers are expanding their herds. They are clearing the forest and burning what’s left to make way for pastures. The increase in deforestation leads to encroachment on indigenous lands.

Wildfires

Firefighters continued Friday to battle the raging Five Mile Swamp Fire in the Florida Panhandle overnight that has burned several buildings and forced people to flee their homes. It was one of three large wildfires burning in northwest Florida. The Five Mile Swamp Fire forced the closing of a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 through Santa Rosa County. The interstate remained closed Thursday afternoon, and the blaze had grown to more than 3 square miles and was 20% contained. At least 18 structures were destroyed or damaged by Wednesday night.

Weather

  1. A surprise cold spell is expected to drop temperatures in the northeastern U.S. lower than those in Alaska. Some cities will be colder on Mother’s Day than they were on Christmas day according to national weather predictions. “A weather pattern more fitting of early March in the Northeast will lead to the likelihood of cold winds, damaging frosts and freezes, as well as unusually large swaths of accumulating snow and lake-effect snow for May,” Accuweather said.

A powerful series of thunderstorms on Sunday in South Dakota left behind a wintery scene, blanketing areas with large hail that covered roads. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Rapid City said that scattered severe thunderstorms in the region on Sunday brought hail to parts of the Black Hills in South Dakota, the western South Dakota Plains, and northeastern Wyoming. The NWS said that hail larger than 1 inch in diameter and wind gusts of up to 58 miles per hour were reported in multiple locations.

A 15-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in Kansas was expected to be closed in both directions for hours Monday when a storm blew down utility poles and left power lines dangling over the roadway. As the storms marched eastward, damage was reported in Missouri, where at least one person was killed. The National Weather Service office in Kansas City, Missouri, said an 80-mph wind gust was recorded at the Johnson County Executive Airport between Olathe and Overland Park. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Lincoln and north of Abilene.

At least 100 are dead and 1,800 are homeless in eastern Kenya after severe rain and thunderstorms caused flooding and landslides over the last few days. At least 116 people died due to the flooding across 29 counties. Some houses were covered by soil, while others are uninhabitable because water is seeping from underground. Trees and crops in farms have also been destroyed.