Archive for August, 2020

Signs of the Times (8/28/20)

August 28, 2020

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

Ohio Mayor Surrenders City to Christ

Last weekend, Christians from multiple churches alongside elected officials in Ashland, Ohio participated in an act of corporate repentance and prayer before God in calling for a national and global revival. Hundreds of people from the community gathered at the special event held on Saturday at Ashland’s Freer Field, a 78-acre park near the city. The gathering is considered to be the first-ever “Sacred Assembly” in the area, as it featured a time of worship, prayer, and remarks from church leaders and several officials. After Ashland Mayor Matt Miller spoke, he took part in dedicating the city to Jesus Christ. “As I stand before you tonight, in the bright light of his Son, to the extent I am able, I give this City of Ashland to the LORD Jesus Christ. May this be a land where He rules supreme. May this be a land where His love is genuinely felt by believers and non-believers alike,” Miller declared.

30 Percent of Evangelicals Say Jesus Was Not God

A majority of Americans and nearly a third of evangelicals say Jesus was a “good teacher” but was not God, according to a new survey for Ligonier Ministries that was conducted by LifeWay Research. All total, 52 percent of Americans say they believe Jesus was a “good teacher, but he was not God,” according to the survey. Although the poll’s finding about the general population may not be shocking, Ligonier said it is surprising that nearly a third of evangelicals (30 percent) affirm the statement and believe Jesus was a good teacher and nothing more. Sixty-six percent of evangelicals disagree with the statement. “The confusion illustrated in these results suggests a dire need for Christians to be taught Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ,” Ligonier said in a news release.

  • The “falling away” is well underway as anti-Christ spirits of deception run rampant during the end-times. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first. (2Thessalonians 2:3 KJV)

Judge Rejects Los Angeles County’s Fourth Attempt to Shutter Church

Los Angeles County has been thwarted for the fourth time in its effort to shutter Grace Community Church for indoor services under the county’s novel coronavirus public-health order. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff rejected the county’s bid Tuesday for a temporary restraining order against the evangelical megachurch in Sun Valley, ruling that the county failed to present new law or circumstances. A full hearing is scheduled for Sept. 4 on the county’s request for a preliminary injunction on the church, which has held indoor worship since July 26 in defiance of the county prohibition. Grace church and Pastor John MacArthur filed a lawsuit two weeks ago accusing state and county officials of selectively enforcing its COVID-19 order by allowing mass gatherings such as protests but not religious services.

Two California Churches Fined for Conducting Services & Singing

A pair of California churches has been fined several thousand dollars for violating health restrictions and conducting indoor worship services during the pandemic. North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif., was fined $10,000 by Santa Clara County for conducting two indoor worship services that included singing. It also received a cease-and-desist order. “North Valley Baptist is failing to prevent those attending, performing and speaking at North Valley Baptist’s services from singing. This activity is unlawful,” the letter from the county read. Meanwhile, a California judge fined Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, Calif., a total of $3,000 for meeting indoors and held the church and its pastor, Rob McCoy, in contempt of court. “The same governor who encourages mass protests, bans all worship and is now fining churches for their right to assemble and worship,” said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver who represents the churches.

Ex-Planned Parenthood Director Describes Brutal Reality of Abortion at RNC

Abby Johnson took the stage of the Republican National Convention Tuesday evening to present a harrowing snapshot of the reality behind the euphemisms of abortion. Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood abortion facility director who converted to the pro-life cause in 2009, and has since exposed numerous details about the inner workings of the abortion industry. She now leads And Then There Were None, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people leave the abortion industry. Her story was turned into a successful motion picture last year, Unplanned. “For most people, abortion is abstract. They can’t conceive of the barbarity,” she said. “Nothing prepared me for what I saw on the screen: an unborn baby fighting back, desperate to move away from the suction,” Johnson added, who is post-abortive herself.

Thousands March in Washington D.C. for Racial Equality

Thousands were converging on the nation’s capital Friday to march for law enforcement reform and voting rights as America reels from police killings of Black people this year that fueled protests across the country. Excited demonstrators started lining up as early as 5 a.m. ET and soon a dense line weaved from the entrance down Constitution Avenue, almost reaching the Lincoln Memorial where speeches were beginning to take place midday Friday. At about 1 p.m., participants were planning to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Speakers at the Lincoln Memorial steps were calling for social justice. The march has been peaceful thus far.

Angry Mob Surrounds/Threatens Sen. Rand Paul and Other RNC Attendees

An angry mob surrounded Sen. Rand Paul and his wife as they were leaving the White House following the end of the Republican National Convention early Friday, and demonstrators harassed and threatened other supporters of President Trump as they left the event. An angry mob attacked Sen. Rand Paul and his wife as they were leaving the White House following the end of the Republican National Convention early Friday, and demonstrators harassed and threatened other supporters of President Trump as they left the event. Mrs. Paul took issue with some media coverage saying activists “confronted” her and her husband. “No @politico, we were not ‘confronted’ by protestors. We were circled by a hateful mob shouting vile expletives, preventing us from moving,” she said on Twitter. “Being swarmed by a threatening, screaming mob is violence.”

Buildings Burn to the Ground After Kenosha Shooting

Protesters took  to the streets Tuesday for a second night following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, now in serious but stable condition. His father says he is paralyzed from the waist down. Hundreds of protesters lingered near the courthouse beyond the 8pm curfew. Some threw water bottles and fireworks, prompting authorities to respond with smoke bombs and flash bang grenades. A car dealership that was seen up in flames during the first night of protests-turned-riots, while another dealership and other businesses were also targeted. Fires later consumed several stores and a restaurant in a residential neighborhood, not far from where a probation and parole office was seen in flames. A sheriff’s deputy was reportedly injured in the neck by fireworks.

  • The Department of Justice has deployed over 200 agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals to Kenosha. The federal law enforcement agents will “assist local authorities in the response to rioting and unrest.”

Three People Shot with 2 Dead in Kenosha, Teenager Arrested

At least three people were shot during a third night of protests two of whom died. Shots were fired around 11:45pm Tuesday during a confrontation between protesters and armed men who claimed to be protecting a gas station. After initial shots, a white man with a rifle ran away from a crowd, fell, then fired multiple shots into the crowd. Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with shooting the three thought of himself as a militia member trying to protect life and property, according to videos, interviews and social media posts.

Jacob Blake’s Mother Hurt & Disgusted by Violent Protests

Julia Jackson, the mother of Jacob Blake, condemned the violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “My family and I are very hurt and quite frankly disgusted. And as his mother, please don’t burn up property and cause havoc and tear your own homes down in my son’s name,” Jackson said in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

Louisville Police Arrest Nearly 70 Breonna Taylor Protesters

Dozens of protesters – including former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour — were arrested in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday during an event dubbed “BreonnaCon,” intended to draw attention to the March police-raid death of Breonna Taylor. Protesters arrived at Churchill Downs – the legendary racetrack home of the Kentucky Derby, which will be held Sept. 5 after being postponed in May because of the coronavirus. Police soon arrived in the area because protesters were sitting in the street, blocking cars from getting past the racetrack “Please get out of the road or you will get arrested,” police told the crowd. Later in the evening more people were arrested near Jefferson Square Park in the downtown area, which has been a central location for protests in the city.

Minneapolis Looting Follows Suicide of Gunman

A suspected gunman fatally shot himself Wednesday as Minneapolis police were moving in to arrest him for a slaying committed hours earlier, sparking looting in the downtown area. Officers did not open fire. Looting inside downtown businesses occurred after the shooting. Videos posted to social media showed people smashing windows and breaking into businesses to steal merchandise. Mayor Jacob Frey imposed an immediate curfew and requested assistance from the National Guard.

Businesses Leaving Portland After Months of Violent Protests

The months of protests and riots in Portland have prompted some businesses in the city to opt to move out completely or relocate outside its central district, according to a report on Monday. Greg Goodman, the co-president of the Downtown Development Group, said in a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and members of the Portland City Council that the exodus of companies “have most everything to do with the lawlessness you are endorsing downtown.” Goodman said exiting companies include Daimler Trucks North America, Airbnb, Banana Republic, Microsoft, Saucebox, and Google.

Covid-19 Cases Declining in U.S. as Hawaii Locks Down Again

Covid-19 cases are increasing in 10 states but decreasing in 21 states. Deaths are increasing in 11 states. Overall, total U.S. cases and deaths are still trending down. Hawaii’s coronavirus cases have jumped from a total of 1,688 since the start of the pandemic to 6,700, a rise of 5,012 in just 4 week. “In March and April, we were successful in flattening the curve,” Democrat Governor David Ige said Tuesday. “We need to get that back under control.” To do so, he’s placing the island of Oahu—the state’s most populous—back under a “stay-at-home, work-from-home” order that went into effect for two weeks starting at 12:01am local time Thursday.

Coronavirus Cases in Europe Rising Again But With Fewer Deaths

Coronavirus cases are surging again in Europe after months of relative calm, but the second wave looks different from the first: Fewer people are dying, and the newest and mostly younger victims of the pandemic need less medical treatment. Unlike the initial hit of the pandemic this spring, which overwhelmed hospitals and turned nursing homes into grim mortuaries, the European resurgence of recent weeks has not forced as many people into medical wards. But the increase is widespread, and it is unsettling societies that had hoped the worst was behind them.

University Reopenings Spur Covid-19 Outbreaks

Several universities that opened this week for in-person classes experienced outbreaks of coronavirus. More than 100 students at the University of Southern California have been placed under a mandatory two-week quarantine after officials say there was a rise in COVID-19 cases originating in off-campus housing. Iowa State University announced it has 130 reported cases of Covid-19 on campus after the school’s first week of class, a statement from the university said. The university said it tested 957 students, faculty and staff on campus between Aug. 17 and Aug. 23, with a positivity rate of 13.6%. The Ohio State University temporarily suspended 228 students who officials said broke guidelines around social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. After one week of in-person instruction, the University of Alabama has amassed 531 cases, putting the upcoming fall semester “in serious jeopardy,”

One Conference in Boston Caused 20,000 Coronavirus Infections

“Superspreading” events may be a leading reason that we can’t control the coronavirus, a new study in the emerging field of genomic epidemiology finds. In one of the largest genetic analyses of any American outbreak, sequencing the genomes of virus samples from in and around Boston revealed that a conference held by the biotech firm Biogen in late February spread a distinct substrain of the virus across the city, state and even much of the country. That superspreading event may be connected to about 20,000 Covid-19 cases in the Boston area, a researcher said on Tuesday.

NFL’s 77 Positive Virus Tests were False Positives

The company that handles the NFL’s testing program for the coronavirus said Monday that the league’s positive tests over the weekend were “most likely false positive results” related to “an isolated contamination” in a New Jersey lab. The announcement came after several NFL teams interrupted their practice schedules Sunday while the league said it was investigating the testing results from Saturday. Those individuals took subsequent point-of-care tests, processed at teams’ facilities, and all were negative.

  • No lab test is 100% accurate, but this level is extreme. Nevertheless, it calls into question how many false positives are included in the overall case counts.

ICE Family Detention Facilities Running at 7% Capacity

The Trump administration says that it’s running family detention facilities at just 7% capacity during the coronavirus pandemic as it tries to prevent an outbreak. No illegal immigrant has contracted the coronavirus in the federal government’s three family detention centers, but five new arrivals have tested positive for COVID-19, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That included three adults and two juveniles. Only one of them showed symptoms. The data comes as the administration battles in the courts with immigrant-rights activists, who have demanded a large-scale release of families, citing the pandemic. ICE says it’s released some illegal immigrant families and is detaining others at a slower pace.

California Abandons Green Energy Push to Keep Power On

California may allow four gas plants to continue operating after the state was poised to close them, citing future blackout threats, according to the Los Angeles Times. The four plants located along the California coast, which use ocean water for cooling purposes, were scheduled to close sometime in the next few years and be replaced by green energy sources as the state approaches its 2030 deadline to use 60 percent green energy by 2030. Blackout concerns, however, may allow the companies to receive extensions of up to three years to continue their operations after California saw rolling blackouts on Aug. 14 and 15 following a heat wave that caused failures within its electrical system.

Work at Home Slated to Become a Permanent Business Fixture

The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of Americans to abandon their offices in favor of working from home. Now there are signs this may not be a short-term phenomenon, but more of a permanent shift in favor of remote work even after a Covid-19 vaccine is in place. More than two-thirds (68%) of large company CEOs plan to downsize their office space, according to a survey released Tuesday by KPMG. The pandemic is proving employees don’t need to work in cubicles to be successful. And that in turn raises questions about the value of expensive office space, especially in high-priced cities like New York and San Francisco. “We’ve proven we can be very effective and productive in virtual work environments,” KPMG CEO Paul Knopp said.

Gun Sales Up 72%, Many First-Time Buyers

The National Sports Shooting Foundation now estimates that gun sales are up nationwide by almost 72% compared to this time last year. Security checks for January through July 2020 hit a record 12.1 million, up 71.7% from the 7.1 million check which occurred from January through July 2019.The trade association also says that first-time gun buyers played a heavy role in the increase. Nearly 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the very first time in 2020, says NSSF.

Millions Struggle Without $600 Extra Unemployment Benefits

Millions of jobless Americans have gone nearly a month without additional unemployment aid after Republicans and Democrats in Congress failed to reach a deal on another coronavirus rescue package this month. The lapse in benefits comes at a critical time for the more than 25 million out-of-work Americans who are struggling to cope without the additional aid, forcing some to yank money from their nest eggs or sink further into debt to make ends meet after a historic wave of job losses. On Aug. 8, Trump signed an executive action calling for a $300-a-week federally funded jobless benefit for workers who were unemployed because of the pandemic, but the measure has run into delays after reprogramming issues with state unemployment systems.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve on Thursday adopted a historic shift in its approach to interest-rate policy that places more emphasis on boosting employment and allows inflation to rise above the Fed’s 2% target during economic expansions, keeping rates lower for longer. The Fed is effectively saying it will err on the side of more job creation and not worry as much about spikes in inflation. In the current COVID-19-induced economic downturn, the new, long-awaited policy likely would keep rates near zero for several more years, economists say.

Another 1 million filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That latest surge means just over 58 million have sought aid for the first time in just 23 weeks. Six months into the pandemic, the leading issue is not new layoffs but rather the exceedingly slow pace by which workers are being rehired.

Of the 22 million jobs the economy shed in March and April, 9.3 million have been recouped over the past three months, Labor Department figures show. The vast majority of those payroll gains came from workers on temporary layoff or furlough who have been rehired as states allow the reopening of restaurants, shops and other businesses. In April, 18 million workers said they were on temporary layoff, a figure that tumbled to 9.2 million by July.

As more Americans seek jobless aid, the size of the weekly benefits they can receive has shrunk significantly. An extra $600 from the federal government ended in July, and Congress has not reached an agreement on a new relief package. Democrats want to offer that same $600 amount into next year. Meanwhile Trump issued a memorandum authorizing $300 a week in federal assistance for those out of work because of the pandemic. But unemployed workers who receive less than $100 in state aid won’t qualify for the extra federal benefit which has been delayed because of the required changes to the distribution systems at the state level.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s most recent survey, an estimated 3.6 million homeowners are in forbearance, meaning their lenders have temporarily halted or reduced mortgage payments for borrowers struggling to pay. Renters are in even greater trouble. Up to 15 million could face eviction, Oxford Economics said.

American Airlines says it will lay off or involuntarily furlough 19,000 employees as of October 1 unless the airline industry gets more help from Congress. The world’s largest airline, which had 133,700 employees heading into this year, says it will ultimately need to reduce headcount by “at least” 40,000 employees unless it gets more federal assistance. Under terms of the CARES Act, which provided up to $50 billion of help to the US airline industry, airlines could not lay off or involuntarily furlough staff until October 1.

  • Delta Air Lines is planning to furlough 1,941 pilots in October as the airline industry struggles to rebound from coronavirus-related fallout. United Airlines said Thursday that it will furlough up to 2,850 pilots this fall unless the federal government provides more relief.

Hamas Fires Six Rockets at Israel, IDF Strikes Back

IDF planes struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning after Israelis in the border area were shocked out of their beds by an early morning rocket attack. Residents of several communities were jarred awake by alarms around 5 a.m. after terrorists in Gaza fired six rockets at Israel. Residents of the towns and villages near Gaza have only 15 seconds to reach shelter before the rockets explode, but reports said this time the rockets appeared to strike only open fields and caused no injuries or damage. . In response, Israel’s Air Force just struck Hamas military targets in Gaza, including a weapons manufacturing site. Despite warnings from Israel that it would not tolerate continued rocket and incendiary balloon attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, scores of fires broke out this week in the areas along the Gaza border from hundreds of balloons launched by terrorists over the past few days.

Israel Launches Airstrikes on Hezbollah Posts

Israeli aircraft bombed several Hezbollah observation posts along Israel’s northern border early Wednesday after shots were fired from Lebanon toward Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, the army said. The bombing appeared to be the first Israeli airstrike on Hezbollah targets inside Lebanon since 2006, amid escalating tensions along the restive frontier. The announcement from the IDF came several hours after it reported a “security incident” along the Lebanese border on Tuesday night and ordered residents of surrounding area to shelter in their homes

Pompeo Says UN Sanctions Against Iran Will Return On 9/20

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Thursday, August 27, that the United Nations sanctions against the Islamic Republic will return on September 20. In a tweet Pompeo once again noted, ” Last week, the U.S. triggered the 30-day process to restore virtually all @UN sanctions on Iran after the Security Council failed to uphold its mission to maintain international peace and security. These sanctions will snap back at midnight GMT on September 20.” In another tweet Pompeo said if any member of the Security Council introduces a resolution to continue sanctions relief, the U.S. will oppose it. Earlier on Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council said they won’t act on a U.S. bid to reimpose multilateral sanctions against Iran, following a near-unanimous rejection of Washington’s standing to do so. Thirteen of the 15 members of the panel have said the U.S. can’t reinstate the sanctions because it withdrew from the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord that provided that authority.

Iran Provided Hezbollah With Stockpile Of Ammonium Nitrate In 2013

Iran’s material support of Lebanese Hezbollah is under intensified scrutiny, as officials continue their investigation into the deadly explosion of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut earlier this month. The port warehouse identified as the epicenter of the blast housed an untouched stockpile of ammonium nitrate for over six years – around the same time new reports indicate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force supplied over 650 tons of ammonium nitrate to Hezbollah in 2013. The material is often used in bomb making.

Wildfires

Historic wildfires are raging across California as a result of extreme weather conditions, forcing tens of thousands of citizens to flee their homes and businesses. More than 650 wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres in California in recent weeks after thousands of lightning strikes ignited the blazes amid dry conditions. Three groups of fires have flanked the San Francisco Bay Area on all sides, including two of the largest fire complexes in state history. Smoke has darkened the sky for many, too, and unhealthy air quality threatens the health of residents across Northern and Central California.

Weather

It could be days before the full extent of the devastation across Louisiana is known as crews work to get into inaccessible areas of the state’s low-lying wetlands. After coming ashore as a strong Category 4 hurricane at 1 a.m. CDT Thursday, Laura ravaged southern Louisiana and caused damage in east Texas. Late Thursday and early Friday, a downgraded Laura left pockets of damage as it moved inland across Arkansas into the Lower Ohio Valley. Four people were killed by falling trees in LouisianaMore than half a million Louisiana homes and businesses remained without electricity Thursday. Another 240,000 customers in Texas and Arkansas had no power. Trees were down in many Arkansas counties and some structures were damaged. A possible tornado tore a section of roof off the Refuge Baptist Church in Lake City, 15 miles east of Jonesboro.

In Louisiana, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office listed more than 60 stretches of roadway that are impassable. In Cameron Parish, Laura’s strong winds pushed a train off the tracks in Grand Lake, leaving a mile-long stretch of freight cars lying on their sides. Lake Charles, in Calcasieu Parish, saw extensive damage. Windows blew out of skyscrapers, a TV tower collapsed, dozens and dozens of homes and businesses lost roofs and walls. Trees were down everywhere. After losing electricity and water, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital had to evacuate patients to facilities across the state. Meanwhile, across Lake Charles, a large fire at a chemical plant forced residents to shelter inside with windows and doors closed and air conditioners turned off. The fire was still smoldering Friday morning.

  • South Louisiana officials feared an “unsurvivable” storm surge from Hurricane Laura with projections of up to a 20-foot storm surge in Cameron Parish. However, where the storm made landfall in Cameron Parish, the surge crested at about 9 feet. Laura’s storm surge still exceeded the all-time watermark in Cameron Parish.

Signs of the Times (8/24/20)

August 24, 2020

Behold,I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:20)

Franklin Graham Laments Dems’ Leaving God Out of Pledge of Allegiance

Evangelist Franklin Graham says he’s worried about America’s future if the nation takes God “out of government and public life” as the Democrats did in their nominating convention. Some of the sessions at the Democratic National Convention removed “under God” from the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. And there was a general lack of acknowledgement of God in the speeches. “In watching some of the Democratic National Convention on television this week, it has been interesting to see the absence of God. I don’t believe America’s finest hours will be in front of us if we take God out of government and public life. It is God who set the standards we are to live by.

Study: Lockdowns Had no Impact on COVID-19 Deaths

A study comparing daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Sweden, New York, Illinois and Texas indicates the lockdowns had no impact on fatalities. Dr. Gilbert Berdine, an associate professor of medicine at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, assembled the data and created a chart comparing deaths per million of population. “The data suggest that lockdowns have not prevented any deaths from covid-19,” he wrote in an article for the Mises Institute. “At best, lockdowns have deferred death for a short time.” He concluded: “After taking the unprecedented economic depression into account, history will likely judge these lockdowns to be the greatest policy error of this generation.”

Overall U.S. Covid-19 Cases/Deaths Declining But Rising in Midwest

Declines in the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths and in new cases indicate that the virus’ summer surge through the U.S. is waning. The 7-day average of coronavirus deaths dropped below 1,000 a day over the weekend for the first time since late July. Also, the average number of new cases dipped to about 42,600 as of Sunday, well below its peak in mid-July of around 67,000 daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of cases reported Monday were down to 32,340.

  • However, Infections are trending upward in the Midwest, even as the United States’ total caseload is declining. Seven-day averages for new cases rose over the past week in the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wyoming. At least two dozen new cases in South Dakota are tied to a motorcycle rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people earlier this month.

Covid-19 Cases Rising Again in Europe and South Korea

Vacationers are being blamed for a coronavirus relapse in Europe, dashing hopes that the continent could enjoy open borders and free travel after beating back the pandemic’s first wave. Italy and Germany reported that people infected abroad accounted for roughly a third of their new cases, and top vacation countries such as Greece are seeing their biggest outbreaks. South Korea, which in spring had celebrated hard-won gains against the coronavirus, is again banning large gatherings, closing beaches, shutting nightspots and churches, and removing fans from professional sports in strict new measures announced Saturday as it battles the renewed spread of the disease.

First Documented Case of Coronavirus Reinfection

After recovering from covid-19 in mid-April, a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was reinfected by a different strain of the coronavirus months later, a study says. Researchers say it’s “the world’s first documentation” of a patient who recovered subsequently being reinfected, and the case has implications for vaccine development. But some immunologists said this case was not a surprise and one called it “no cause for alarm.”

U.S. Schools Face Equipment Shortages & Zoom Outages

Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning. The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops. Desks are also in short supply. A Zoom outage affected Atlanta public school students on their first day back Monday. Zoom officials said they were aware of scattered outages across the U.S. as well as worldwide. They are investigating the cause.

CDC Updates School Opening Guidelines for Low Transmission Areas

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its school guidance Friday. The update adds more details to existing guidelines that will better inform administrators’ decisions about opening schools and limit risk, according to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. The updated guidelines emphasize the importance of keeping schools open if possible. The available evidence from countries that have reopened schools showed that Covid-19 “poses low risks to school-aged children – at least in areas with low community transmission,” Redfield said.

President Trump Touts Plasma Therapy for Covid-19

Infectious disease experts are cautioning that more data is needed before widely using blood plasma therapy as a possible treatment for COVID-19 after President Donald Trump announced its authorization Sunday. “This is a powerful therapy,” Trump said during a news conference, describing the authorization as “a very historic breakthrough.” It has already been used experimentally on 70,000 patients. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration approved plasma as a treatment for Covid-19. However, the World Health Organization said it’s still considered “experimental.”

Remdesivir Disappoints in COVID-19 Study

A new study is questioning the efficacy of Gilead Sciences Inc’s anti-viral medication remdesivir in COVID-19 patients. A randomized, controlled trial of remdesivir in 584 moderately ill COVID-19 patients hospitalized with pneumonia yielded disappointing results in research published on Friday in JAMA. Compared to standard care without remdesivir, a 10-day course of the drug did not show a statistically significant effect on disease after 11 days after treatment started. A five-day remdesivir course did make a statistically significant difference, but one so small that the researchers are not sure it really matters.

Trump Blocks FDA from Regulating Coronavirus Lab Tests

The Trump administration has blocked the Food and Drug Administration from regulating coronavirus lab tests, stunning health experts who fear poor quality tests will flood the market and further undermine efforts to track the U.S. outbreak. The FDA’s lengthy review process was blamed for holding up testing in the outbreak’s first crucial weeks.

Wisconsin Police Shooting of Black Man Raises Questions/Protests

The shooting of a Black man by Wisconsin police on Sunday night was captured on video, sparking immediate social media backlash, protests and a state Department of Justice investigation. Police deployed tear gas early Monday in an effort to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets following the incident. Officers from Kenosha Police Department responded to a domestic incident shortly after 5 p.m. and “were involved in an officer involved shooting,” The man who was shot, Jacob Blake, was airlifted to a Milwaukee hospital and in serious condition. Graphic video circulating on social media showed Blake being shot multiple times while reaching into his car where his three sons watched horrified.

Three Police Officers Shot in Maryland were Ambushed

Three Maryland police officers were “ambushed” and shot while responding to a call Sunday evening, authorities said. Prince George’s County police were responding to a reported home invasion around 6:30 p.m. in Hyattsville, a city about 32 miles southwest of Baltimore. Within seconds after they arrived at the scene “the were ambushed,” said Police Chief Hector Velez. The injured officers are expected to recover. Officers returned gunfire and took two men into custody unharmed.

Portland Riots Intensify

Heeding the advice of critics, Portland police say they repeatedly tried to deescalate with protesters Friday night. It didn’t work. As many as 200 demonstrators rampaged near a police station in the Oregon city, pelting a protective line of unoccupied police vehicles with golf balls, softball-sized rocks, metal railroad spikes, paint-filled plastic eggs and balloons filled with feces. A torn-apart street sign was also used to smash cars, slash tires and break windows, Officers said they didn’t intervene at that point because it was only property, and they figured allowing the rampaging to run its course might deescalate the situation. But after some protesters burst through the police car barricade officers said they used smoke grenades and made some arrests — then retreated, hoping things would calm down. police said.

Seattle Mayor Vetoes Council’s Budget that Cuts Police Funding

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Friday vetoed a City Council budget plan to slash funding to the police department and eliminate the city’s homeless outreach team, among other programs. The nine-member council approved the rebalanced budget that would have reduced police funding by 14% for the remainder of 2020. The move also would have resulted in the loss of 100 police officers through layoffs and attrition. The cuts would have totaled around $23 million of the remaining $127 million in the budget. “I continue to have concerns about council decisions to make cuts before they have a plan,” Mayor Durkan said.

534,000 Mail-In Primary Ballots Rejected

More than 534,000 mail-in ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year due to missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes and uneven enforcement of the rules. Officials worry that this could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election in November. Election experts said that the combination of the hotly contested White House race and millions of first-time mail voters could lead to a record number of ballot rejections and trigger a searing legal war over which are valid and who is the ultimate victor.

U.S. Postmaster Says He Will Prioritize Mail-in Ballots

The head of the Postal Service testified before a Senate panel Friday, dismissing accusations that he is sabotaging the agency to suppress mail-in voting as “an outrageous claim.” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promised that absentee ballots would be prioritized over regular mail and delivered on time. DeJoy said he planned to vote by mail himself. He also said that the recent delays in the postal service were not intentional but rather caused by recent moves to bar overtime pay and dismantle redistribute postal infrastructure. He has since suspended those efforts in order to get mail flowing better again.

  • Although it is widely thought that the U.S. Postal Service loses billions every year, it in fact generates positive cash flows of $3 billion each of the last three fiscal years. The ‘loss’ comes from a 2007 law that requires it to pay for future retirement benefits in advance, something no other government or private entity does..

House Passes Bill Funding Post Office & Stopping Cutbacks

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives voted on Saturday to provide the cash-strapped Postal Service with $25 billion and block policy changes that have stirred concerns about mail-in balloting ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The 257-150 vote sent the legislation dubbed the “Delivering for America Act” on to the Republican-controlled Senate. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that the Senate would “absolutely not pass” the stand-alone bill. The White House also strongly opposes the legislation and has said it would recommend that President Donald Trump veto the measure. But more than two-dozen House Republicans broke ranks to join Democrats in approving the bill, during a rare Saturday session called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the middle of the congressional August recess.

Only 1.7% of CEO’s at 50 Largest Companies are Black

Of the top 279 executives at the 50 largest companies listed in the S&P index, only 5 are black, reports the USA Today. That’s just 1.7%, and despite public proclamations supporting the abolition of racism. Business and diversity scholars say the executive suite is still one of America’s most exclusive and impenetrable clubs. “This stark racial divide has a cascading effect, stagnating income levels and helping worsen the race, class and wealth gap that is yawning even wider during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Economic News

Buoyed by record low mortgage rates and an influx of remote workers seeking more living space, existing home sales surged by a record setting 24.7% in July over June, with prices hitting an all-time high, according to the National Association of Realtors. This is the second month in a row of double-digit percentage sales gains.

  • The median national price for a home in July was $304,100 in July, the first time ever that price tag topped $300,000. In the Midwest, the median cost of a townhouse, home, or condo in July was $244,500, an 8% jump over that month last year. In the west, the median price was $453,800, an 11.3% spike over July 2019. And in the south, the median price was $268,500, 9.9% more than last year. Data for the east was not given.

Another 1.1 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, dashing economists’ hopes for a second-straight week with fewer than 1 million claims. Economists were optimistic that the U.S. jobs market would be on a steady trajectory toward recovery. All in all, nearly 28.1 million Americans were still claiming benefits in the week ending August 1, only about 200,000 fewer than in the previous week.

The $400 in extra unemployment aid for millions of out-of-work Americans is actually $300 in most states. And it won’t arrive for weeks, experts warn. Americans may just get three weeks’ worth of payments, according to guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will run the relief program through its Disaster Relief Fund following an executive action from President Trump earlier this month. States will have to reconfigure their systems to distribute the funds, which threaten to result in long delays

The personal savings rate in the United States was a whopping 19% of disposable income in June. The savings rate is down from a peak of 33% in April, but it’s still substantially higher than the 7.1% savings rate at this time a year ago.

American Airlines will temporarily stop flying routes to 15 small cities across the United States in October, signaling that some areas could wind up underserved as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the travel industry. The affected cities range from about 30,000 people, such as Williamsport and Del Rio, to the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek metro area that includes half a million people.

U.S. motorists drove 244.7 billion vehicle miles in June, 36.5 billion vehicle miles fewer (13%) than the same month a year earlier, as government lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus kept drivers home. The biggest year-over-year declines were in the Northeast at 19.2% and the West at 13.7%.

Tensions Rising in Israel/Gaza Due to Incendiary Balloons & Rocket Fire

Tensions have escalated in Israel’s south following hundreds of a dozen rocket attacks and incendiary balloons launched at Israel by terrorists in Gaza, where the Iran-backed Hamas terror group maintains an iron-fisted military rule over the Palestinians population. The top leaders of the Hamas terror group in Gaza have gone into hiding out of fear that they will be targeted in retaliation by Israel which recently hinted that it might return to the policy of taking out Hamas leaders with “surgical strikes” if terror attacks on Israel continue. Hamas leaders are caught in a tight squeeze between their policy of trying to defeat Israel militarily and the reality of a dire economic crisis due to the terror group’s mismanagement of resources, which has left most Gazans destitute and dependent on cash handouts, reports Ynet.

U.S. Coalition Troops Withdraw From Iraq’s Taji Base

United States-led international coalition troops withdrew from Iraq’s Taji military base on Sunday and handed it over to Iraqi security forces. The base, 12 miles north of Baghdad, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias targeting U.S.-led troops in recent months. “The movement of coalition military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the government of Iraq,” the coalition said in a statement. This was the eighth transfer of a coalition portion of an Iraqi base back to Iraqi forces.

U.S. Moves To Restore All U.N. Sanctions On Iran In Dispute Over Nuclear Deal

The United States moved on Thursday to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo, arguing Tehran was in violation of a nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 even though Washington itself abandoned that agreement two years ago. The United States submitted a letter to the 15-member U.N. Security Council accusing Tehran of non-compliance, starting a 30-day clock that could lead to a “snapback” of U.N. sanctions. All the remaining parties to the nuclear deal – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – immediately notified the Security Council, in letters seen by Reuters, that they did not support the U.S. move.

Wildfires

Massive wildfires ignited by lightning continued to rage Monday on all sides of the San Francisco Bay area, and much of Northern California was under a red flag warning as high winds with lightning threatened to spark even more flames. Three vast blazes are scorching Northern California, and more than 650 wildfires, most sparked by lightning, burned across the state over the last week. At least seven people have died and more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed or damaged. Nearly a quarter-million people are under evacuation orders and warnings as weather forecasts signaled the looming threat of more lightning with hot temperatures and unpredictable winds.

  • Three of the largest fires were burning in the Bay area: the LNU Lightning Complex to the north has burned 350,030 acres and was 22% contained; the SCU Lightning Complex to the southeast has burned 343,965 acres and was 10% contained; and the CZU Lightning Complex to the south has burned 74,000 and was 8% contained. Wildfires have burned more than 1.2 million acres of land in California since last month. In all of 2019, only 259,000 acres were consumed by fire.

Weather

Tropical Storm Laura is being blamed for killing least 13 people as it battered Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico over the weekend with high winds and flooding. On Monday morning, the storm was moving along the southern coast of Cuba, and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane. At its peak, the storm knocked out power more to than 1 million people in the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of thousands remained without power Monday morning. More than 1,000 people were evacuated across the country. Earlier, the storm brought strong winds and heavy rainfall to Puerto Rico, leaving about 200,000 homes and businesses without power Saturday night. More than 10,000 had lost water supply. The storm brought wind gusts up to 67 mph and dumped 3 to 6″ of rain in southern and eastern Puerto Rico.

Voluntary evacuations were issued for parts of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana as Tropical Storm Marco and Tropical Storm Laura directly targeted the state. The projected storm track for Marco shifted to the East throughout Saturday, putting nearly all of Louisiana in the cones of potentiality for both Marco and Laura. Both storms could strengthen into hurricanes over the Gulf of Mexico before striking the U.S. Marco is expected to hit Louisiana Monday afternoon with Laura possibly striking it Thursday morning.

Virus-free. www.avg.com

Signs of the Times (8/19/20)

August 19, 2020

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”  (2Timothy 3:1-5)

California Judge Rules for Church about In-Person Services

A California court rejected Friday efforts by Los Angeles County to require a popular megachurch to comply with pandemic orders, allowing the church to hold indoor services with singing and without attendance limits pending a resolution of the case. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church after the church began holding indoor services July 26 in defiance of state and county rules aimed at combating the novel coronavirus. The Thomas More Society, which represented the church, said the judge ruled “it is the County’s burden to show why it should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion.”

Court Suspends Rule Requiring Photographer Serve Same-Sex Unions

An order has been issued by U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky that halts the enforcement of a city ordinance that it says is likely to be found in violation of the U.S. Constitution. At issue is Louisville’s demand that photographers, if they provide services to traditional weddings, provide the same services to same-sex duos, even if their faith forbids it. The case involves photographer Chelsey Nelson and her Chelsey Nelson Photography. The court suspended the requirement, saying, “Nelson is substantially likely to succeed on her Free Speech claim.”

U.S. Cities Plagued by Rise in Deadly Shootings

U.S. cities are being plagued by a increasing gun violence this year, from New York and Milwaukee to Los Angeles and Denver. The violence — from nine people shot at a family picnic in Denver last weekend to three fatal shootings Wednesday in Indianapolis — comes amid a backdrop of nightly protests against police brutality, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic devastation caused by widespread unemployment. The number of gun-related deaths per day is already greater in 2020 that last year and is projected to keep rising. The number of people who have died from gun violence (excluding suicides) has risen to 49.7 per day, up from 41.7 last year and 34.0 in 2014.

  • Seventy-six people were injured and 14 were killed in 62 shootings in New York City last week. According to the New York Post, that was an increase of 26 shootings over the same week in 2019.

Portland Forced to Ignore 911 Calls Amid Protest Violence

Police arrested at least 13 people and seized metal poles, bear spray, and other weapons Saturday as hundreds of far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators swarmed downtown Portland, Oregon, the AP reports. More than 60 emergency calls to police went unheeded overnight in Portland as officers were preoccupied with hundreds of demonstrators downtown where they were pelted by rocks. On the 80th consecutive night of protests, the Portland Police Bureau declared a riot around midnight Sunday after a crowd of hundreds had blocked traffic for three hours by the Penumbra Kelly Building in the 4700 block of East Burnside Street, trespassed on the closed property and engaged in “violent, tumultuous conduct.” The targeted building is owned by the city and is used by city and county employees, including the Police Bureau. Some threw objects at police cars in the parking lot of the building and spray-painted over security cameras. Others shined green lasers at officers’ eyes and pelted police with softball-sized “river rocks” and glass bottles. The driver of a pickup truck crashed and was pulled from the vehicle and then brutally beaten by a mob after a confrontation with protesters. The Multnomah County Building was set on fire and vandalized Tuesday, the 83rd straight day of protests.

Decrease in Testing Might Be Cause of Case Rate Decline

Testing for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has dropped nationwide over the past two weeks. Official case counts have dropped nationally but reduced testing in some states makes it hard to place any confidence that infection rates are improving. As testing slowed, the percentage of positive case rates increased over the last week in 35 states as of last Friday.

More States Decreasing in Case Counts than Increasing

Covid-19 cases are increasing in seven states and three U.S. territories, but are declining in 20 states. Deaths are increasing in 10 states and Puerto Rico, Overall, the 7-day average of U.S. cases continues to fall, down to 50,543/day from the peak of 66,690 on July 19. The 7-day average number of deaths has plateaued at 1,062/day, down from 1,229 on 8/1 and way below the peak of 2,332 on 4/17.

International Covid Updates

  • Ireland reported its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since the start of May in an update the country’s chief medical officer called “deeply concerning.” Health officials confirmed 200 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Ireland has been among the slower members of the European Union to restart its economy. Nightclubs and pubs that do not serve food have remained closed throughout the country.
  • Italy has once again shuttered bars and nightclubs and mandated masks as cases of Covid-19 are increasing. Although only one-tenth of the March peak, the rising curve has concerned health and government officials. South Korea reported its highest case jump in months, with an outbreak linked back to a church in Seoul.
  • New Zealand’s election has been delayed by four weeks, to October 17, because of concern over the spread of coronavirus in the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced. The country reported 12 locally transmitted cases on Friday as it tackles a fresh outbreak that ended an enviable run of more than 100 days without any locally transmitted infections. The new cluster has prompted New Zealand to extend a lockdown on its most populous city, Auckland, as authorities scramble to trace the source of the outbreak.
  • Thousands packed into a water park over the weekend in the Chinese city of Wuhan — the first epicenter of the coronavirus that quickly swept the globe earlier this year. Massive crowds of bathing suit-clad partygoers standing shoulder to shoulder – and without any face masks – were photographed in Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park on Saturday to attend an electronic music festival.
  • Authorities in Melbourne, Australia will use high-tech surveillance drones to catch people outside not wearing masks as well as to scan for vehicles that are in violation of curfew by being more than 5km from home, reports 7News Melbourne.
    • Big Brother (aka New World Order) is ramping up as enabled by the latest technology.

Common Cold May Help Prevent or Lessen Severity of Covid-19

The common cold is a type of coronavirus, health experts say, so can it prevent you from getting COVID-19 or a severe case of novel coronavirus? Although A new study published in Science cautioned it is too premature to tell, they did find that certain cells in the human body — “memory T cells” — that recognize common cold coronaviruses can also recognize COVID-19 in some people. “This could help explain why some people show milder symptoms of coronavirus while others get severely sick,” said co-author of the study Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D.

Virtual Fall Schooling Forcing Employers & Employees to Be Creative

As the school year beings this fall amid the ongoing pandemic, many school districts are once again shifting much or all learning online. This is creating a lot of pressure and stress on working parents to figure out how to juggle work and home responsibilities. Employers must now grapple with how to adapt to a new reality that may require them to extend short-term fixes or create more long-term solutions, whether that’s staggering schedules, splitting jobs between two workers or offering leaves of absence. “I think employers had to very quickly allow a lot of things in the spring that they can’t sustain on an ongoing basis without a little more thought and a little more structure around it,” says Patty Pryor, a legal expert on disability and leave management issues.

  • Thirty-one percent of parents are likely to keep their child home this fall even if schools open for teaching in the building, while only 49% said they would probably or definitely send their child to school, according to a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics over the weekend.
  • A recent Washington Post poll found that 50% of working parents said it would be “harder” or “impossible” to do their job if their children’s schools only provide online instruction this fall.
  • More than 1 in 5 college students said in a new poll that they’re not enrolling in classes this fall.

Virtual Schooling Not Possible for Many Rural & Poor Families

Roughly 3 million students across the United States don’t have access to a home internet connection. A third of households with school-age children that do not have home internet cite the expense as the main reason, according to federal Education Department statistics. But in some rural places, a reliable connection can’t be had at any price. An AP analysis of census data shows that nearly half of students attending public school in eastern Kentucky lack home access to broadband. Many school districts have been scrambling  to set up paper-based alternatives to online instruction or create Wi-Fi hot spots in school parking lots and other public areas.

Reopening Colleges Sprout Coronavirus Cases

Multiple college campuses have already reported new cases of coronavirus. One of the largest public universities to try extensive on-campus teaching abandoned its efforts after just one week. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rapidly pivoted to online learning Monday after three residence halls and a fraternity house reported clusters of coronavirus cases.

Twenty States Threaten to Sue the U.S. Postal Service

At least 20 states plan to file lawsuits this week against the U.S. Postal Service and its new postmaster, Louis DeJoy, seeking to reverse service changes that have prompted widespread reports of delays and accusations of an intentional effort to thwart voters from mailing their ballots this fall. The suits, expected to be filed in federal court imminently, will argue that the Postal Service broke the law by making operational changes without first seeking approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. They will also argue that the changes will impede states’ ability to run free and fair elections. President Trump said last week that he was opposed to an emergency bailout for the agency because he does not want widespread voting by mail in the fall.

  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he is ‘suspending’ the new policies that were blamed for causing mail delays ahead of election. Amid intense scrutiny, he also said that he is expanding a task force on election mail and he expects the Postal Service to deliver “election mail on time and within our well-established service standards.”

Federal Court Strikes Down California’s Ban on High-Capacity Magazines

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down California’s ban on large-capacity magazines, labeling it a violation of the Second Amendment in a consequential 2-1 split decision ruling. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals maintained that the state’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition breached the core right of law-abiding citizens to self-defend. The majority said that the ammunition is “typically used for lawful purposes, and are not ‘unusual arms’ that would fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment.” “Armed self-defense is a fundamental right rooted in tradition and the text of the Second Amendment,” Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the panel’s majority.

U.S. Releases Oil Drilling Plan for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Interior Department on Monday announced a leasing program for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the first time the 19-million-acre refuge would be open for oil drilling. Leases could be auctioned off “right around the end of the year,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said. Bernhardt signed the Record of Decision, which will determine where oil and gas leasing will take place in the refuge’s coastal plain, a 1.56-million acre swath of land on Alaska’s north shore with the Beaufort Sea that’s home to polar bears and other wildlife. Congress approved the program in 2017, and the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in December 2018 concluded drilling could be conducted within the coastal plain area without harming wildlife.

Landlords & Renters Agree that Long-Term Leases are Undesirable

Pre-pandemic, there was great value and security in longer-term leases for both landlords and tenants. Under a typical year-long contract, residents have more time to make their space feel like home, while property owners avoid lost rental income and vacancy costs. But that framework doesn’t make sense for some renters and landlords in a post-outbreak world where financial uncertainty looms over the economy. Property owners set on cutting losses say they are offering more flexible agreements than they have since the financial crisis. And tenants who want the freedom to move if the pandemic flares up are asking for terms and concessions that would’ve been out of the question before the coronavirus gripped the nation. 

U.S. Infrastructure Neglected During Pandemic

Despite the importance of a reliable transportation network in the U.S., upkeep of critical infrastructure is being neglected during the pandemic due to reduced tax income. Roads, bridges, and railroads were already aging before the pandemic. Nationwide, 21.8% of roads are in poor condition, 7.6% of bridges are in need of replacement or repair, and there have been 4.8 derailments for every 100 miles of train track from 2015 to 2019, the most common cause of which are broken rails or welds. In some states, these figures are far worse, indicating a threat to not only the economy, but to public health and safety as well. 

Economic News

The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties soared to a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.22 percent of all loans outstanding at the end of the second quarter of 2020. The nearly 4 percentage point jump in the delinquency rate was the biggest quarterly rise in the history of Mortgage Bandkers Association’s survey.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.2% to 3,389.78, the highest closing level on record. That means this year’s bear market was the shortest in history, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The stock market has remained surprisingly resilient in the face of the economic downturn. Investors view the markets as forward-looking, anticipating how the U.S. economy and corporate earnings will perform in the next six to twelve months. Optimism has grown with hopes for a vaccine and further stimulus.

  • Despite the economic optimism of the stock market, economists and government officials, the ongoing pandemic will be soon be followed by a severe economic downturn which will eventually lead to the Middle East war that ushers in the anti-Christ and the 7-year Tribulation. Sorry to be the harbinger of bad news, but the Biblical prophecies must be fulfilled. However, the really Good News is that all this hastens the return of Jesus Christ for His millennial rule and reign on earth. (see The Four Horsemen Have Been Loosed)

Up to 300 Pizza Hut restaurants will be closed, most of them dine-in locations not well suited for carryout and delivery at a time when millions of people are sheltering and eating at home. However, that’s just a small fraction of the 6,700 Pizza Hut restaurants in the U.S. Overall pizza sales have exploded during the pandemic. Domino’s last month reported a 30% spike in quarterly profits. On Monday it said that it was hiring more than 20,000 people to handle surging orders.

The housing market continues to be a bright spot in the United States economy that has been ravaged by coronavirus. The government said Tuesday that building permits and housing starts both surged in July and easily topped economists’ forecasts. U.S. housing starts soared 22.6% in July over June, and were 23.4% higher than in July 2019.

Japan’s economy shrank at an annual rate of 27.8% in April-June, the worst contraction on record, as the coronavirus pandemic slammed consumption and trade, according to government data released Monday.

UAE Deal Signals End of ‘Land for Peace,’ Says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that a deal to establish full diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates proves that Israel doesn’t need to retreat from land in order to achieve peace with Arab states. Israel and the UAE announced Thursday they were establishing full diplomatic relations in a U.S.-brokered deal that required Israel to put on “temporary hold” Israel’s plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The UAE, like most of the Arab world, long rejected official diplomatic ties with Israel. Its accord could usher in agreements with other Arab states, undermining the Arab rejectionism that was a source of leverage for the Palestinians. Iran, of course, condemned the deal as “historic folly.”

UN Rejects U.S. Efforts to Extend Iran Arms Embargo

The United Nations Security Council on Friday rejected U.S.-led efforts to extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire this October. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the 15-member council, “Rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific UN restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade. The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.”

U.S. Seizes Cryptocurrency Assets Of 3 Terror Groups

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice seized nearly two million dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency assets from three U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations—al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas. The operation, which represents the largest seizure of terrorist groups’ cryptocurrency accounts, comes as federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly pursuing new pathways to stem the flow of terrorist financing and money laundering. The seized assets also included numerous websites and Facebook pages, along with 300 cryptocurrency accounts affiliated with the terror organizations.

Canadian Government Websites Shutdown by Hackers

The Canadian government said it was forced to shut down most of its online portals on the weekend after a sustained cyberattack over the last several days. At one point over the weekend, Canadian officials disclosed they detected as many as 300,000 attempted attacks to access accounts on at least 24 government systems. Government portals were directly targeted with a large amount of traffic using a botnet to attempt to attack the services through ‘credential stuffing’ in which stolen usernames and passwords are mined to fraudulently access personal accounts. In total, more than 11,000 out of 12 million personal accounts were compromised, including tax accounts and Covid-19 relief programs.

Mali President Resigns After Detention By Military

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned on Tuesday and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, plunging a country already facing a jihadist insurgency and mass protests deeper into crisis. Keita resigned in a brief address broadcast on state television after troops seized him along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other top officials. “If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” he said from a military base where he had been detained earlier in the day. It was not immediately clear who was leading the revolt, who would govern in Keita’s absence or what the mutineers wanted.

Environment

A stricken Japanese oil tanker that’s leaked tons of oil into the Indian Ocean off the island nation of Mauritius split apart Saturday, spreading remaining fuel into the area. The Wakashio struck a reef on July 25 and its hull began to crack after days of pounding waves before finally spitting this weekend. The ship was supposed to stay at least 10 miles from shore. Oil barriers were in place and a skimmer ship was nearby by the time the vessel broke apart. Most of the remaining 3,000 tons of fuel had been pumped off the ship in the past week as environmental groups warned that the damage to coral reefs and once-pristine coastal areas could be irreversible.

Wildfires

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency Tuesday over wildfires burning throughout California amid excessive heat wave blanketing much of the state with triple-digit temperatures. Lightning strikes set dozens of fires and thousands of people were under evacuation orders in many areas of the state. Newsom said Tuesday that crews were battling some 30 large fires.

The Vacaville-area fire is part of the LNU Lightning Complex fires — a series of wildfires that started Monday and Tuesday and have burned more than 32,000 acres in the northern Bay Area counties of Napa, Sonoma and Solano, state and county. Homes have burned in the fire, but it is unclear how many. 

In Monterey County, well south of San Jose, evacuations were issued for the Carmel Fire, burning southeast of Carmel Valley Village Tuesday. Late Tuesday, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office announced a mandatory evacuation due to another fire, the River Fire, which was only 7% contained Tuesday night.

An explosive wildfire burning in Northern California whipped up a rare and dangerous fire tornado on Saturday, triggering a dire ‘firenado’ warning from forecasters. The Loyalton Fire has burned some 20,000 acres north of Lake Tahoe since igniting Friday afternoon and is only 5% contained. On Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service office in Reno warned that the blaze had “extremely dangerous fire behavior,” with the potential for rotating columns and  fire whirls, otherwise known as fire tornadoes or a “firenado.”

Four major wildfires currently burning in Colorado are generating large plumes of smoke that can be spotted from space. The blazes have erupted over the past two weeks, as a persistent heat wave across the West combined with gusty winds and low humidity allowed the fires to spread. As of Tuesday afternoon, the wildfires had collectively burned more than 130,000 acres.

Weather

Sweltering California heat led to high demand on the state’s power grid Friday, prompting rolling blackouts across the state that left more than 350,000 homes and businesses without power in the evening hours. The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state power grid, declared a stage 3 emergency Friday night, which sets off rolling power outages when the demand for electricity is higher than the supply. It was the first time since 2001 that such an emergency was declared. High temperature records were broken in several cities Friday, including San Francisco, San Jose, Palm Springs and Long Beach.

Sunday’s high topped out at 130 degrees near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park, about 100 miles west-northwest of Las Vegas. That’s the highest since the record heat wave of July 1913. Named by prospectors trying to cross the desolate valley during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, Death Valley holds the world record for hottest recorded temperature, 134 degrees, set July 10, 1913.

The destruction caused by last week’s Midwest derecho (a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm) includes 8,200 homes and 13 million acres of cropland extensively damaged or destroyed. More than a half million people were without electricity in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Utility companies reported about 75,000 people remained without power one week later. Iowa homes, cornfields, utility companies and government agencies have losses estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Greenland’s melting ice sheet has passed the point of no return. In fact, glaciers on the island have shrunk so much that even if global warming were to stop today, the ice sheet would continue shrinking, a new study suggests. This “tipping point” means the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from melting glaciers.

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

Signs of the Times (8/14/20)

August 14, 2020

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Franklin Graham to Lead Prayer March in DC 9/26

On September 26, Franklin Graham will lead a prayer march in Washington, DC, from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol. “Our communities are hurting, our people are divided and there’s fear and uncertainty all around us,” said Franklin Graham. “Let’s join together and do the most important thing, and that is to pray. We’re going to pray that God will intervene and save this nation.” For more information click here.

Christian Worshipers & Black Pastors Threatened in Seattle

Hundreds of Christians in Seattle turned out Monday in the area formerly dubbed Capital Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, and were confronted by “violent protesters” who flashed knives, shouted obscenities at local Black pastors and hailed Satan, according to worship leader and political activist Sean Feucht. Worshipers sang Gospel music, prayed and some were even baptized, said Feucht, who is the founder of “Hold the Line” ministries. The massive service at Cal Anderson Park was held amid coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings but most people in the crowd were not wearing facial coverings or maintaining appropriate social distance

Pastor Threatened with Jail over In-Person Church Service

A superior court judge in Ventura County, California agreed to hold Pastor Rob McCoy in contempt of court. McCoy, the pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel Church, violated a restraining order that barred him from holding an indoor worship service. The pastor has been ordered to appear before the judge on Friday. Ventura County officials also asked Judge Vincent O’Neill to authorize and direct the sheriff to take all reasonable and necessary action to close the church property. The judge denied their request. Pastor Rob McCoy has expressed the church’s belief that neither the state or county has any business prohibiting indoor worship services based on irrational fear of COVID-19.

Pastor John MacArthur Conducts ‘Peaceful Protest’

John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church, was welcomed with cheers after he made a rather unusual announcement at the start of Sunday services. “I’m so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest,” Dr. MacArthur said. The congregation erupted into sustained cheers and applause. MacArthur made national news a few weeks ago when he announced that Grace Community Church would be defying Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order banning indoor worship services. A chaplain from the Los Angeles Police Department delivered the opening prayer.

  • If protesters are allowed to gather in large numbers with no masks or social distancing, a peaceful church service to protest inconsistently enforced restrictions is quite appropriate.

Sweden Never Locked-Down, Now COVID-19 Deaths are Near Zero

Recent data suggests that Sweden’s oft-derided approach of not locking down may have paid off in the long run. Unlike many nations, it never shut down its schools or economy and did not restrict individual freedoms to nearly the degree seen in the United States and much of Europe. The curve of cases and deaths flattened in July. Daily deaths fell to the low thirties in mid-June, and have been in single digits since July 20. Not locking down appears to have also benefited the country economically. While Sweden’s second-quarter GDP dropped an historic 8.6%, it still fared much better than others declines in Europe, such as Spain (18.5%), Portugal (14.1%), France (13.8%), and Germany (10.1%), as well as the overall European Union decline of 11.9%.

Excess U.S. Deaths Top 200,000 Since March

Across the United States, at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus, suggesting that Covid-19 total deaths have been undercounted.

Only Five States Still Increasing in Covid-19 Cases

South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii, Illinois and Vermont are the only states showing increases in their 7-day average number of new Covid-19 cases. Twenty-three states are decreasing. However, deaths (which lag cases by 7-14 days) are increasing in sixteen states. Overall, new cases per day has declined from its peak in the U.S. of 75,682 on 7/15 to 53,956 on 8/13. Total U.S. deaths have declined from a 7-day average of 1,229 per day on 8/1 to 1077 per day on 8/13.

  • There are many reasons why these numbers are not all that accurate. Excess deaths suggest the count is too low, while many other factors suggest an overcount. However, as long as the process remains the same, the overall trends give us a fairly reliable indication of whether things are improving or not.

Blacks & Latinos Hit Hardest by Covid-19

Black people and Latinos are four times more likely than white people to be hospitalized for COVID-19, and Black people are twice as likely as white people to die of the virus, according to a report published Thursday by the National Urban League. Those health results stem from people of color tending to live in more crowded housing, which allows easier transmission of the respiratory virus, and people of color being less likely to be able to work from home. Infection rates per 10,000 people are 62 for Blacks and 73 for Latinos, compared with 23 for Whites. Hospitalization rates per 100,000 people are 213 for Black people and 205 for Latinos, compared with 46 for white people. The proportion of employees able to work from home is 19.7% for Black people, 16.2% for Latinos and 29.9% for white people.

NYC Housing Homeless in Deluxe Hotels at Great Cost

Since the coronavirus began desecrating through New York more than five months ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been filling the city’s high-priced hotels with people experiencing homelessness in a bid to ease the burden on the shelter system and to curb the spread of the pathogen, ensuring that individuals have their own room and space to socially distance. But there is a growing divide between advocates who contend it’s the only practical answer – despite the exorbitant costs – and locals who it will fiscally bankrupt the city and spread crime. As it stands, at least 139 hotels (about 20% of 700 total hotels) are deemed home to people experiencing homelessness – a sharp rise from the estimated 40 hotels that were used in place of shelters prior to the pandemic. Around 13,000 individuals are believed to be living in such hotels across some of the five boroughs.

Wearing Mask Too Much Causes ‘Mask Mouth’ Dentists Say

Now that dentists have reopened their doors, they’re having patients show up with a nasty set of symptoms, which the doctors have dubbed “mask mouth.” The new oral hygiene issue — caused by wearing a mask all the time to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — is leading to all kinds of dental disasters like decaying teeth, receding gum lines and seriously sour breath, reports Technocracy News. “We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,” says Dr. Rob Ramondi, a dentist and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental. “About 50% of our patients are being impacted by this, [so] we decided to name it ‘mask mouth.’”

Thousands of Bikers Gather to Celebrate and Ignore Covid Concerns

Several acts performed to a packed crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, strong at a South Dakota biker rally on Sunday, Rolling Stone reports. The annual 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is being held at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, a biker campground and outdoor venue outside Sturgis, South Dakota. Few in the crowd appear to be wearing masks or practicing social distancing, but neither of those things are required in South Dakota. The AP reports as many as 250,000 were expected to attend the event, which goes through Aug. 16.

Americans’ Confidence in Police Falls to Historic Low

Americans’ confidence in the police fell to the lowest level recorded by Gallup in the nearly 30 years it’s been tracking this data, driven in part by a growing racial divide on the issue. Around 48% of Americans said they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police, down from 53% the previous year and all time high of 64% in 2004. The racial divide on this question, which has been growing for years, reached its largest point in 2020: 56% of white adults say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police while just 19% of Black adults say the same.

Portland Drops Charges Against Hundreds of Protesters

Hundreds of protesters in Portland who were arrested in the past 80 days of demonstrations will not face any charges, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Tuesday. The policy drops charges against people who were arrested for interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape, harassment and riot — unless they were accompanied by some other charge of physical violence or property damage. “The protesters are angry … and deeply frustrated with what they perceive to be structural inequities in our basic social fabric, and this frustration can escalate to levels that violate the law,” Schmidt said. “This policy acknowledges that centuries of disparate treatment of our black and brown communities have left deep wounds and that the healing process will not be easy or quick.”

Black Live Matter Members Call Chicago Looting ‘Reparations’

Black Lives Matter members in Chicago held a rally on Monday to support the more than 100 arrested last night following widespread looting and rioting that caused at least $60 million in property damage and saw 13 police officers injured. The rally was organized by Black Lives Matter Chicago and was held at a police station in the South Loop where organizers say individuals are currently being held in custody. Organizer called the looting tantamount to “reparations.” “I don’t care if someone decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store, because that makes sure that person eats,” said Ariel Atkins, a BLM organizer, according to NBC Chicago.

  • I’m confused. The looters are going to eat clothes?

Chicago Businesses & Residents to Leave Downtown after Looting

Chicago residents and businesses are fleeing the Magnificent Mile, said Alderman for Chicago’s 15th Ward Raymond Lopez on Wednesday. Portions of downtown Chicago were overrun by looters overnight, just days after a local musician was gunned down in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood by a suspected gang rival. Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast, and Irving North neighborhoods and neighboring commercial districts were targeted by “car caravans” of people who ransacked high-end stores. “The fear is spreading, the anxiety is spreading and we’re seeing individuals who used to see the downtown areas, like the crown jewel of our city, now wanting to leave… and stores who were just starting to get past the main riots and looting thinking that they may not stay on the Magnificent Mile anymore,” Lopez said.

  • The Ronald McDonald House in Chicago was vandalized during looting early Monday morning while families and their sick children huddled inside, the charity said Tuesday. The charity said more than 30 families and their sick children were sleeping inside when the looters, who had taken over downtown, ransacking stores and vandalizing properties, started attacking the building.

Seattle Police Chief Resigns after $4 million Budget Cut

Carmen Best, Seattle’s first black police chief, announced she is stepping down Monday after a city council vote approved cutting the budget by nearly $4 million and reducing the department by as many as 100 officers. Best said she will retire on Sept. 2 after more than 28 years on the force. The $4 million will come out of the department’s more than $400 million annual budget this year (a 1% reduction) and reduce the department’s 1,400 police force by 100 through layoffs and attrition. Best’s $285,000 annual salary and the pay of other top police leaders will also be cut, and officers will be taken off a team that removes homeless camps.

78% of CEOs Think Remote Work Will Continue Post-Pandemic

Nearly 4 in 5 CEOs think their workforce will continue working remotely even after the coronavirus pandemic ends, according to a new poll from PWC. Poll results show: that 78% of CEOs say remote work is “here to stay.” In addition, 54% of CEOs feel the shift toward a gig economy (i.e. freelance contractors with flexible hours but no benefits) over traditional jobs will continue.  And 54% of CEOs feel the shift toward a gig economy over traditional jobs will continue.

Supreme Court Rebuffs GOP about Mail-In Ballots

The Supreme Court denied the Republican National Committee’s request to retain Rhode Island’s requirement for obtaining a witness signature on mail-in ballots. State officials had decided to relax the burdensome witness requirement, which the Supreme Court affirmed.

  • The U.S. Postal Service warned on Friday that a flood of mail-in ballots may result in many being delivered too late to be counted in the November elections.

Many Americans Still Have Not Received their First Stimulus Check

After four months, many Americans are wondering when they’ll receive their first stimulus check. Some of the checks have been held up by glitches, programming errors and math errors on some tax returns. The group left on the sidelines includes families whose spouse is in jail or prison, someone whose spouse owes overdue child support, victims of identity theft and others. Hundreds of thousands of lower income families didn’t receive the extra $500 for qualifying children ages 16 and younger due to an IRS tool’s programming error in April and early May. Fortunately, some of that money finally began arriving in the mail in early August. 

Political Impasse on Second Stimulus Relief Deal

The Senate adjourned for its August recess on Thursday, joining the House, as Republicans and Democrats remain $1 trillion apart on a second coronavirus relief package. The major hurdle in negotiations is about $950 billion of aid that Democrats want to give states and cities.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week below 1 million for the first time since the economic shutdown. But the latest stream of applications is still historic, dwarfing the previous all-time weekly high of 695,000 during the economic downturn in 1982. And the latest tally means a stunning 56.2 million Americans sought unemployment aid in just 21 weeks.

Retail sales rose 1.2% in July, lower than economists expected. June’s reading was revised up to 8.4% from 7.5%..Industrial sales rose 3% month-over-month in July.

While the highest earners are mostly all re-employed, fewer than half of jobs paying less than $20 an hour have returned since the spring. The rich are recovering while the poor fall further behind, notes the Washington Post. White people are generally doing better than minorities, and corporate chains are enjoying record stock prices while smaller businesses fight to survive.

While millions of Americans are still struggling during the pandemic and economic downturn, the stock market is near record highs. The S&P 500 is nearing an all-time high again, after just 121 trading days since its prior peak in February That’s up 48% under President Trump despite the pandemic.

The owners of chains like Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s and The Cheesecake Factory are on a newly updated list of national restaurants that are facing the highest likelihood of not paying back their debts. When companies default on loans, they are often forced to file for bankruptcy protection, close locations or occasionally liquidate. Analysts are particularly concerned about the coming winter, which will eliminate outdoor seating options for many restaurants, and the demise of the extra $600 in unemployment benefits that had been available for jobless Americans.

A judge on Monday ordered ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft to treat their California drivers as employees instead of independent contractors, a shift that would guarantee benefits like overtime, sick leave and expense reimbursement for workers who make up much of the gig economy. But the ruling from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman won’t take effect right away as both Uber and Lyft said Monday they will immediately appeal to a higher court.

UK Recession in the Worst of Major Nations

UK economic output shrank by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, the worst quarterly slump on record, pushing the country into the deepest recession of any major global economy. Compared with the end of 2019, UK economic output fell by a cumulative 22.1% in the first six months of 2020, a worse outcome than Germany, France and Italy, and double the 10.6% fall recorded in the United States, the Office for National Statistics said. China, meanwhile, has already returned to growth, meaning the world’s second largest economy dodged a recession following its worst start to the year in decades.

Persecution Watch

Military and security forces stood idly by during a 24-hour curfew, as at least 33 people were killed on August 5-6 in Fulani militant attacks on five Christian communities in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, southern Kaduna State, Nigeria.

At least six people, mostly children, were killed and four others injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated on a road in mainly-Christian northern Burkina Faso on August 1.

Putin Says Russia First to Develop Vaccine

Vladimir Putin says Russia has registered a COVID-19 vaccine—a dramatic first among world nations—and one of his adult daughters has already been inoculated, Reuters reports, despite the vaccine not having completed clinical trials. “I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks,” he said Tuesday on state television. Russia will begin a larger Phase 3 trial with thousands of people while vaccinating millions of others, including front-line health workers, teachers, and others at risk. However, scientists are warning countries not to rush COVID-19 vaccines, which could prove harmful or give people a false sense of security.

New Zealand Back Under Restrictions After 102 Case-Free Days

New Zealand has reintroduced coronavirus restrictions in parts of the country after new locally transmitted cases broke the 102-day streak the country had gone without recording a local infection. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Adern confirmed four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases on Tuesday night, all within one household in South Auckland. “In line with our precautionary approach… we will be moving Auckland to level 3 restrictions,” said Ardern. The puzzling new outbreak grew to 17 cases on Thursday, with officials saying the number will likely increase further. And the lockdown in Auckland designed to extinguish the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days.

Israel and United Arab Emirates Agree to Normalize Relations

The historic announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalize their relations marks the third Arab state to make peace with Israel, following Egypt and Jordan. The Washington Post reported that President Trump, whose administration had a hand in the diplomacy, tweeted, “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!”

Israel Agrees to Suspend Annexation as Part of UAE Agreement

President Trump on Thursday said that as a part of the new peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s bid to apply sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria is “off the table.” Trump and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained that Israel had agreed to “suspend” the push for sovereignty. “The word ‘suspend’ was chosen carefully by all the parties,” Friedman told reporters, saying it means “a temporary halt. It’s off the table now but it’s not off the table permanently.”

Mysterious Incidents in Iran Continue to Vex Authorities

Seven boats at a shipyard in Iran caught fire Wednesday, the latest in a slew of mysterious incidents that have led to speculation that an international foe is perpetrating sneak attacks in an attempt to sabotage the embattled regime. The cause of the fire remains unclear. Two other fires have also puzzled Iranian officials: one at an industrial zone in Mashhad, where six gas storage tanks were engulfed in flames Monday, and another at a petrochemical facility in Mahshahr that was blamed on an oil leak. Over the last several weeks, explosions at a nuclear enrichment complex, a missile production factory, and a gas pipeline in an apartment building in Tehran have raised eyebrows, as some analysts have speculated that Israel could be the likely aggressor.

U.S. Seizes Iranian Fuel Cargo for Violating Sanctions

The Trump administration has for the first time confiscated cargo in vessels allegedly loaded with Iran fuel in violation of sanctions, U.S. officials said, as it steps up its campaign of maximum pressure against Tehran. Last month U.S. federal prosecutors filed suit to seize the four tankers of gasoline that Iran was sending to Venezuela, the latest move in the administration’s effort to stifle flows of goods and money helping to keep two of its top foes in power. At the time, it was unclear if U.S. authorities would successfully be able to take control of the tankers, after a similar effort to seize Iranian fuel through a U.S. forfeiture case was unsuccessful last year.

U.S. Seizes Virtual Currency Alleged To Fund Militant Groups

The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday that it has seized millions of dollars from cryptocurrency accounts that militant groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State, used to finance their organizations and violent plots. Law enforcement officials said the groups used the accounts to solicit donations, including a scam that sought to raise money from the sale of fraudulent personal protective equipment for the coronavirus pandemic. Officials described it as the largest-ever seizure of virtual currency funds related to terrorism. It’s also part of a broader Justice Department goal of dismantling financial networks for extremist organizations

Explosions Hit U.S. Coalition Supply Convoys In Iraq

At least two explosions have hit convoys supplying U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq in the last 24 hours, security sources said, the first on Monday evening near the southern border with Kuwait and the second on Tuesday north of Baghdad. The explosions, which caused no casualties but did some material damage, are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent weeks. An attack in southern Iraq on Sunday hit a convoy carrying supplies to coalition forces, the military said. Several thousand U.S. forces are still based in Iraq, leading a coalition whose mission is to fight Sunni Muslim Islamic State militants.

China Imposes Sanctions on 11 U.S. Citizens Over U.S. Hong Kong Sanctions

China imposed sanctions on 11 U.S. citizens including legislators on Monday in response to the U.S. imposition of sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials accused of curtailing political freedoms in the former British colony. Among those targeted were Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Pat Toomey and Representative Chris Smith, as well as individuals at non-profit and rights groups.”In response to that wrong U.S. behavior, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing on Monday. He did not specify what the sanctions entail.

Wildfires

A southern California wildfire that suddenly exploded in size burned structures and cars overnight in an area near Lake Hughes, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. The Lake Fire was first reported around 3:40 p.m. PDT. Within hours the fire had consumed some 15 square miles. Homes and vehicles were charred in its path. About 100 homes were evacuated. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The Lake Fire grew slightly to about 17 square miles, but was 12% contained as of Friday morning..

As crews battled to contain the Lake Fire north of Los Angeles, a second wildfire broke out nearby that forced more people to flee their homes. The latest blaze, dubbed the Ranch 2 Fire, erupted at about 3 p.m. PDT Thursday and had burned about 4.5 square miles with 0% containment, according to an update Thursday night. Evacuations were ordered for the Mountain Cove community in Azusa, a suburb of Los Angeles. Both fires are burning in separate sections of the Angeles National Forest, about an hour apart from each other. Several roads were closed in both areas.

Weather

With gusts up to 112 mph, an intense derecho downed trees, smashed sheds, flattened crops and damaged homes and buildings across a long stretch of the Midwest on Monday. Injuries were reported in several places, and one death in Indiana was attributed to the storm. More than 1 million homes and businesses were still without electricity Tuesday morning. “It’s one of the worst storms we’ve seen in terms of total number of customers impacted,” a MidAmerican Energy spokesperson said.

Farmers across a wide swath of Iowa are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of the rare wind storm that turned what was looking like a record corn crop into deep losses for many. The storm, known as a derecho, slammed the Midwest with straight line winds of up to 100 miles per hour on Monday, gaining strength as it plowed through Iowa farm fields, flattening corn and bursting grain bins still filled with tens of millions of bushels of last year’s harvest. Farms in Illinois and Indiana also reported crop and property damage, but not to the extent seen in Iowa.

July 2020 tied with July 2016 as the second-hottest month ever recorded for the planet Earth, according to a report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, records only go back 141 years.

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

Signs of the Times (8/10/20)

August 10, 2020

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1Peter 4:7-9)

Trump Signs Executive Orders Enacting $400 Unemployment Benefit, Payroll Tax Cut

With stimulus negotiations with Congress at an impasse, President Trump signed a series of executive orders on Saturday to provide temporary relief to Americans who are suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump signed four orders that will provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits, suspend payments on some student loans through the end of the year, protect renters from being evicted from their homes, and instruct employers to defer certain payroll taxes through the end of the year for Americans who earn less than $100,000 annually. But questions remain as to whether Trump has the legal authority to take these actions – or the money to pay for them. A number of economists and lawmakers (even some GOP) faulted the president’s executive actions as unworkable or legally questionable as well as “an administrative nightmare.”

Federal Spending on COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates Tops $9 Billion

The federal government has allocated more than $9 billion to develop and manufacture candidate vaccines. More than $2.5 billion more has been earmarked for vials to store the vaccines, syringes to deliver them, and on efforts to ramp up manufacturing and capacity. So far, the largest sums have gone to pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and a collaboration between Sanofi and GSK, as well as biotech firms Moderna and Novavax – all of which have candidate vaccines being tested in people. The vaccine candidates now receiving government funding are all based on new technologies, most of which have not been the basis of previously approved vaccines.

Ohio Governor Tests Positive, then Negative, Indicating a False Positive

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday using a rapid test – conducted as part of protocol to greet President Donald Trump at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport. Two PCR tests taken later that day ultimately found DeWine tested negative. “This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state,” DeWine said. DeWine’s COVID scare underscores the fact that not all tests work the same way, nor do they always provide identical results. Even the same test taken twice can show contradictory outcomes. Every test sometimes gives false positives, said Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

  • The CDC and the media have conspicuously avoided the subject of false positives. No test is perfect. It is incumbent upon them to provide data about false positives so that we can better interpret the total number of cases reported.
  • There are more and more anecdotal reports of people who haven’t even been tested who get reported as positive for the coronavirus.

Nearly 100,000 Children in U.S. Test Positive in 2 Weeks

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, at least 338,982 children have been infected with COVID-19 in the U.S.—and more than a quarter of those infections happened during a period of last two weeks of July, the New York Times reports. The actual numbers could be higher, because the report did not include complete data from Texas and New York. The Wall Street Journal reports that, as schools wrestle with whether to resume in-person classes in the fall, more information is coming out to suggest children are not as unaffected by the virus as initial reports suggested. In the U.S., 45 children under the age of 15 have died from COVID-19, more than 25 in July. More Michigan teens have tested positive after graduation proms and parties.

Coronavirus Infection Rates Very High in U.S. Prisons

As coronavirus has spread rapidly through prisons and jails around the country in recent months, a Texas lockup has emerged as the hardest-hit federal prison in the United States. More than 1,300 of the roughly 1,750 prisoners at FCI Seagoville prison have tested positive for the virus, according to data from the federal Bureau of Prisons — a stunning three out of every four inmates. So far, three inmates at the prison, have died from Covid-19. As the BOP has scrambled to stanch the spread of the virus in its facilities, the toll at Seagoville and elsewhere raises questions about whether the Trump administration is doing enough to release elderly and medically vulnerable prisoners — even as several high-profile inmates like former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine have been released from prison to home confinement.

NYT Destroys Liberal Narrative of Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone’

The New York Times surprisingly demolished the mainstream media’s previous narrative that Seattle’s police-free “Autonomous Zone” was a peaceful area with a block party atmosphere by speaking with local business owners who are now suing the city over the damage caused. Liberal news outlets largely downplayed the six-block downtown area, first dubbed the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) and later Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). CNN largely dismissed the chaos, while The New York Times itself celebrated the area as “a homeland for racial justice.” The Times report now paints the area as a graffiti-filled mess complete with shattered glass, broken streetlights, and gun-toting private security guards. A Black Lives Matter community guard told the Times he “was appalled by the violent tactics and rhetoric he witnessed during the occupation.” Business crashed as the Seattle police refused to respond to calls to the area, the Times now reports.

Portland Mayor Has an Attitude Adjustment About Protests

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler just a couple of weeks ago was marching with demonstrators against the federal courthouse in his Oregon city, earning a tear-gassing for his effort. Now he has done a complete about-face. He now urges demonstrators to stay home and has ordered city police to do “whatever is necessary” to quash ongoing violence. He has even accused some rioters of attempted murder after they barricaded a police precinct and set fires outside it — the same tactics they were using on the federal courthouse just weeks ago. The 57-year-old Democratic mayor pivoted late last week when the reality of events on the ground punctured his attitude about the protests and violence.

Christians Hold Worship Rally While Portland Protesters Light Fires

Thousands of Christians gathered outdoors in Portland on Saturday to sing spiritual music amid the state’s coronavirus social distancing measures—just hours before a riot was declared across town and a separate crowd lit fire to the city police union headquarters. Worshippers met in Waterfront Park on Saturday evening for an event dubbed “Riots to Revival.” Controversial Christian musician Sean Feucht, who has hosted similar gatherings on California beaches amid COVID-19 restrictions, led the crowd in song and some were even baptized. Most people flouted social distancing and did not wear masks or facial coverings. Under Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s latest executive order, faith-based gatherings are capped at 50 people for both indoor and outdoor services.

  • Meanwhile, about 5 miles away, a large crowd marched to the Portland Police Association office late Saturday, erected a fence, pushed dumpsters into the street to block traffic, set a dumpster on fire, vandalized the building with spray paint, and destroyed security cameras. The Portland Police Bureau declared a riot at 11:35 p.m. when people broke a window to gain access to the building and started a fire inside.

Protester Violence in Chicago Called a Criminal Behavior by Black Mayor

Police in Chicago said 100 people were arrested and 13 officers were injured after hundreds smashed windows, stole from stores and clashed with police early Monday in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district and other parts of the city’s downtown. About 400 officers were dispatched to Chicago’s downtown area after seeing posts on social media encouraging a “caravan” of cars to engage in looting. At one point, shots were fired at police and officers returned fire. “This was not an organized protest rather this was an incident of pure criminality,” Police Superintendent David Brown said. “This was an act of violence against our police officers and against our city.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, also black, called this incident “abject criminal behavior.”

In-Person Voting Divides Republicans and Democrats

The partisan divide between Americans who believe “it is safe now” to reopen businesses and vote, and those wishing to “wait several months” to resume such activities, persists as the pandemic continues, according to a new survey. Currently, 32% of Republicans believe it’s safe now to hold elections where many people vote in-person, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. That is a 6 percentage point drop from June. Comparatively, only 10% of Democrats believe it’s safe now to hold elections. In June, that number was at 12%. President Trump and many Republicans oppose mail-in voting due to concerns about fraud which Democrats say is not a problem.

12,000 Crew Members Still on Cruise Ships

As of last week, nearly five months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the cruise industry, more than 12,000 crew members remained on ships in U.S. waters, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s down from more than 70,000 in May. The Coast Guard “is tracking 57 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port. The Coast Guard says that number includes an estimated 209 Americans who are spread out among 37 of the ships. Cruise ships always require at least “minimum manning” for upkeep and to maintain basic onboard operations, though the number needed to keep things running varies by ship and is determined by the ship’s flag country. For crew members who aren’t needed, cruise lines must complete response plans and meet certain criteria to determine whether crew members can disembark.

Amazon Taking Over Mall Space for Fulfillment Centers & Warehouses

Amazon may soon turn empty Sears or MC Penney stores into fulfillment centers. Simon Property Group Inc., the largest mall owner in the U.S., is in talks with the online retailer on the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports. If the deal goes through, some of the abandoned department stores could be turned into Amazon distribution hubs, sources say. Both Sears and JC Penney have declared bankruptcy and have been closing dozens of stores. Some U.S. malls have already rented parking lot space to Amazon to use for its delivery fleet, and Amazon has even purchased entire failed malls and converted them to warehouses.

IRS Collects Monthly Record Income, But Debt Still Climbing

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service collected $563 billion in July, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday, setting a new monthly record for federal income and helping slow the growth of the record-shattering deficit that’s built up during the coronavirus pandemic. The CBO said about half of that money comes from the IRS’s delayed tax deadline from April to July. That pushed receipts up 124% compared to July 2019, CBO said, and it helped to soften what’s been a sharply climbing deficit. America was just $61 billion in the red for the month, compared to more than $864 billion in June, nearly $399 billion in May and more than $738 billion in April. All told, the deficit through the first 10 months of the fiscal year is now $2.8 trillion, double the previous record set under President Obama with two more months of pandemic spending still to go in this fiscal year.

Economic News

Although the nation has added more than 9 million jobs over the past three months, many have only been offered part-time shifts. Others say their employers have cut their pay, reports CNN. In July alone, when the economy added a total of 1.8 million jobs, the number of people working part-time rose by 803,000 to 24 million.

The savings rate – the portion of monthly income that households are socking away – hit a record 33.5% in April before edging down to a still outsized 19% in June, Commerce Department figures show. Before the pandemic, Americans were squirreling away an average 7.5% of income. From March through June, the latest data available, U.S. households banked an additional $916 billion of their income above pre-COVID levels, according to Moody’s Analytics, a stash that will top $1 trillion when July figures are included.

Up to 40 million Americans could be evicted by the end of this year, according to a new report published Friday by the Aspen Institute. The report warns that the United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in history if conditions do not change, with up to 43% of renter households facing eviction this year. People of color — particularly Black and Latino Americans — make up about 80% of those facing eviction. Last month, 26% of Black renters and 25% of Latino renters were unable to pay rent compared with 13% of white renters.

Protests Continue Against Prime Minister Netanyahu

Thousands of demonstrators thronged the streets near the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in central Jerusalem on Saturday night, as weeks of protests against the Israeli leader showed no signs of slowing. Throughout the summer, Israelis have called for Netanyahu to resign, protesting his handling of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges. In Jerusalem on Saturday, protesters held Israeli flags, blew horns and chanted slogans against Netanyahu. Some held posters that said “Crime Minister” or called him “out of touch.”

Lebanon’s Exploded Ammonium Nitrate Belonged to Terror Group Hezbollah

The ammonium nitrate that blew up last week in Beirut was owned by the Hezbollah terror group that intended to use the material in a war against Israel, said Israeli Channel 13 Arab Affairs reporter Zvi Yehezkeli. The leader of the Iran-backed terrorist organization, Hassan Nasrallah, is the person at the top responsible for the material having been in Beirut’s port before the massive explosion last week, claims Yehezkeli. “Hezbollah has a history with this material, they have been searching the world since 2011 to obtain it from all sorts of collapsing countries,” he said in an interview on Tel Aviv’s 103FM radio.

Lebanon’s Government Steps Down in Wake of Beirut Blast

Lebanon’s government stepped down on Monday night, less than a week after a massive explosion in Beirut killed more than 160 people and sparked days of violent protests. Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed the nation, announcing his resignation and that of his cabinet in the wake of the blast, which he called a “disaster beyond measure.” Diab berated Lebanon’s ruling political elite for fostering what he called “an apparatus of corruption bigger than the state.” Lebanon was already suffering through its worst economic crisis in decades, coupled with rising coronavirus rates and charges of corruption.

UK Pledges to Crack Down on  Latest Wave of Illegal Immigration

The U.K. government is promising to crack down on an “appalling” fresh wave of illegal immigration that has seen hundreds of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats — and the government is calling on France to do more to stop the crossings. At least 235 migrants in 17 boats landed or were picked up by British Coast Guard and Border Force boats on Thursday, surpassing last week’s record of 202 arrivals in one day. Successive British governments have for decades been struggling with the flow of illegal immigration across the Channel, both from migrants traveling on boats and those trying to smuggle themselves through ports of entry in the backs of trucks and other vehicles. Immigration activists have said that many migrants have legitimate reasons to go to the country and the government should offer legal routes to get there safely. The Telegraph reported that more than 3,000 migrants  have reached the UK so far this year, compared with 1,892 for the whole of 2019.

China Wants Trump Out of White House, Russia Wants Him In

China “prefers” to move President Donald Trump out of the White House in 2021, while Russia is working to keep him there by denigrating the campaign of Joe Biden, the U.S.’s top counterintelligence official warned Friday. William Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, in a press release said the U.S. government has assessed China prefers Trump lose the election, because Beijing considers him “unpredictable,” while Russia is working to undermine Biden. “Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” Evanina said.

Puerto Rico Primary Voting a ‘Mess’

Puerto Ricans demanded answers Monday after botched primaries forced officials to reschedule voting at centers that were lacking ballots, an unprecedented decision being called a blow to the U.S. territory’s democracy. The island’s elections commission remained silent as anger and embarrassment spread across Puerto Rico one day after hundreds of voters were turned away from shuttered centers that for unknown reasons received ballots several hours late or never received them at all. Gov. Wanda Vázquez and other officials from Puerto Rico’s two main parties demanded the resignation of Juan Ernesto Dávila, president of the election commission.

Environment

Canada’s last intact ice shelf has collapsed, researchers announced Thursday. A huge section of the Milne Ice Shelf, located on Ellesmere Island in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, collapsed into the Arctic Ocean. This created an “ice island” that’s about 30 square miles in size. In comparison, Manhattan Island in New York City is about 23 square miles.

More than 500 dams are planned to be built in protected areas around the world, according to a new study by the World Wildlife Fund. Protected areas are lands or waterways set aside as conservation spaces for animals and ecosystems. Building dams in them is counter to that objective. Dams alter the natural flows and destroy the native freshwater ecosystems that occur within a protected area. Dams can also interfere with processes like species migration, farming and sediment flows. The analysis found that at least 1,249 dams already exist in protected areas and at least 509 more are in the planning stages.

Earthquakes

A moderate 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook several states in the Southeastern U.S. on Sunday morning. The earthquake struck at 8:07 a.m.ET about a mile south-southeast of Sparta, North Carolina, on the North Carolina-Virginia border about 90 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the second earthquake in the area on Sunday. A smaller 2.6 magnitude struck about 2 miles south of Sparta at 1:57 a.m. Sunday. Twitter users from across North and South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee reported feeling the tremor. Houses shook for four or five seconds. No damage or injuries have been reported. It was the most powerful quake in the area since 1916.

Weather

On Sunday afternoon, Phoenix broke its all-time heat record for having the most 110-degree days in a year, the National Weather Service officials in Phoenix confirmed in a tweet. For 34 days this year, Phoenix met or exceeded 110-degree temperatures — the most in a year since the city’s previous record of 33 days set in 2011. With a high of 112 forecast for Monday and even higher temperatures near the end of the week, this is by far Phoenix’s hottest summer.

Signs of the Times (8/7/20)

August 7, 2020

“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:7-8)

U.S. Senate Warned: Extremists Are Winning

Antifa and other extremists are succeeding in their effort to shut down the free exchange of ideas through intimidation and violent retaliation, contends constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley. The George Washington University Law School professor testified on Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution that, “They are winning because universities are now effectively blocking conservative or opposing speakers to avoid violent clashes. They are winning because the media and politicians downplay such violence to avoid criticism. They are winning because local officials are ordering police to stand down or prosecutors to drop charges to avoid further conflict. They are winning because free speech itself is being viewed as a destabilizing factor in our schools and society.”

Extremists Used Sledgehammers, Molotov Cocktails & IEDs in Portland

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Thursday detailed to senators the assaults that federal law enforcement had been subjected to from rioters in Portland — saying officers had been attacked with weapons including sledgehammers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). “Our federal officers have faced assaults from bricks, baseball bats, sledgehammers, Molotov cocktails, mortar-style commercial-grade fireworks, accelerants, IEDs and other violent weapons,” Wolf told lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He also said that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law enforcement officers have experienced 277 separate injuries from minor to serious, including three officers who may have suffered permanent eye damage from being attacked by lasers.

Antifa Rioters Threaten to Tear Down Cross at Private College

A Christian college in Eugene, Oregon is standing against radical activists who want to deface or tear down a cross that has stood on the campus for decades. Members of Antifa claim the cross is a racist symbol and they want it removed from the private campus of New Hope Christian College. In a Facebook post, the college wrote that the cross embodies hope and the unconditional love from our Heavenly Father. “The history of the cross and how it came to reside on our campus has been well documented over the years, and there is no evidence to suggest our cross has direct roots to racism other than it once resided on Skinner Butte, the same location where racist events were held in the 1920s. People referring to our cross as the ‘KKK’ cross is false.” The school says the cross was not around at that time and didn’t even exist until many decades later.

America has Lost Confidence in Mainstream Media

Americans’ distrust for the news media to tell the story straight has reached unprecedented levels, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Knight Foundation and Gallup Inc., which have tracked public sentiment about media preferences for years. “Most Americans have lost confidence in the media to deliver the news objectively,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s senior vice president and chief program officer. “This is corrosive for our democracy.” More than 4 out of 5 Americans (86%), spanning all political sectors, say that news organizations advocate political viewpoints rather than report the news free of bias.

India Employs Hydroxychloroquine to Prevent Covid-19 in Slum

Asia’s biggest and densest slum shocked the world by announcing just one new positive COVID-19 case this past week. Dharavi is no ordinary slum. It is one of the densest in the world, housing more than a million people. India feared the worst when a cluster outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in Dharavi. Indian doctors used hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for prophylaxis (preventive) treatment—the same drug the American media have politicized. Dharavi’s COVID-19 infection rate dropped drastically from April through June. In July, new infections were very low, almost reaching zero in July.

As Schools Open, Troubles Continue

Two suburban Atlanta school districts that began in-person classes Monday with mask-optional policies face more questions about COVID-19 safety protocols after on-campus pictures showed students packed shoulder-to-shoulder in hallways. No one in pictures at Sequoyah High School in Hickory Flat or Etowah High School in Woodstock wore a mask. Sixes Elementary in the Cherokee County School district began in-person classes on Monday. But by Tuesday, a classroom was temporarily closed for deep cleaning and the teacher and 20 other students had been asked to quarantine for two weeks after a second grader tested positive.

  • Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school system, announced Wednesday that they will start the coming school year with remote learning for all students.
  • Y. Gov. Cuomo says schools can hold in-person classes if coronavirus infection rates are low, but it is unclear if NYC will do so.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he will issue an order that requires all students in the state, kindergarten through 12th grade, wear facial coverings while in school to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Arizona health officials laid out a three-part test for when they say it is safe for schools to reopen, in full or in part: Fewer than 7% of area residents test positive for COVID-19; Less than 10% of all visits to hospitals due to Covid-like symptoms; A rate of infection below 100 cases for every 100,000 residents.
  • A Yale student sued the university claiming that the online courses were inferior and seeks tuition refund.

Big Cities Enact Extreme Coronavirus Quarantine Crackdowns

Cities across the country are taking increasingly severe measures to force the curve of the outbreak downward, including power shutoffs, fines and more. Los Angeles sent police and a helicopter to a large house party in the Beverly Crest neighborhood after complaints from neighbors about the number of people there. Police cited and impounded some of the cars in the area but determined there were no noise violations and left. There was later a shooting at the party, which prompted even more scrutiny of the incident. In response, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday that private residences that repeatedly host large gatherings will have their power and water shut off. Los Angeles has also shut down 26 restaurants, a grocery store, a pool and 67 other businesses, and threatened fines and permit suspensions for many other non-compliant businesses.

  • In Costa Mesa, Manhattan Beach, and Santa Monica, first offenses for not wearing a mask will cost $100. It’s $300 in West Hollywood and $400 in Glendale for a first offense, $1,000 for a second and $2,000 for a third. Mask fines are gaining popularity outside of California as well. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday announced that his city will slap $250 fines on people going maskless in his city. And the entire state of New Mexico is subject to a $100 fine for not wearing a mask, which was upheld in court.
  • Many places, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City and others now have rules requiring people coming from coronavirus hotspots to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Chicago is enforcing the self-quarantine with fines of between $100 and $500, per day.
  • New York is taking a more direct approach, setting up checkpoints at many of the city’s entry points, using the sheriff’s office to stop travelers and, if they are coming from one of 35 jurisdictions that are in New York’s mandatory quarantine list, having them fill out a “traveler form.”
  • California officials have announced they will cut off water and power to anyone – whether in a church or a private home – who continues to worship or have Bible studies and prayer gatherings. California Christians now have a choice – serve the Lord or have their basic utilities cut off, notes Liberty Counsel.
  • The city of Los Angeles, through a cease and desist letter, has threatened Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur with a daily fine of $1000 or arrest if he continues to hold services.

Only 11 States Still Increasing in Covid-19 Cases

The number of states seeing increases in Covid-19 cases is down to just eleven from nearly half two weeks ago. Sixteen states are seeing declines in their 7-day average numbers of cases. Deaths, however, which lag cases by one to two weeks, are still seeing increases in their 7-average number of deaths. As a result, the overall U.S. 7-day average number of cases has declined from around 66,000 per day in mid-July to around 55,000 as of Thursday, August 7. The U.S. 7-day average number of deaths declined from 1229 on 8/1 to 1022 on 8/6.

States Ask Feds to Increase Supply & Lower Cost of Remdesivir

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general today asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invoke a federal patent law to increase supply and lower prices of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir. The group, led by California and Louisiana attorneys general, argue that the federal departments of Health & Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health should license Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug to other manufacturers to ease potential shortages and lower the drug’s price.Gilead charges $3,120 for a five-day course for patients with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Remdesivir supplies are “dangerously limited” and the price will “impede access to treatment” and strain state budgets, the attorneys general wrote in a letter to the federal agencies.

More Rioting and Violence in Portland

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Thursday evening condemned the actions of rioters who attempted to set fire to a police precinct and blocked the exits while officers were inside. “When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said. A riot was declared Wednesday evening when agitators descended upon the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct building, spray-painted over security cameras, broke a glass door with a 2×4, lit a fire using an accelerant and threw fireworks and other objects at officers.

Shots were fired early Wednesday morning as violent protests continued to rock Portland. Protesters-turned-rioters vandalized and broke into Portland’s Police Association office on Tuesday night, setting fires at the building and elsewhere nearby, police said Wednesday morning. While police were dispersing that crowd, they said shots were fired nearby in what appeared to be two separate exchanges. One vehicle was struck, but officers said they didn’t find anyone hit, and no witnesses would speak to officers about what happened. A different group gathered in downtown Portland for a largely peaceful, unrelated demonstration, police said. Despite instances of blocked traffic, authorities said they did “not interact” with the group.

  • “Left-wing activists bring a stack of Bibles to burn in front of the federal courthouse in Portland,” Ian Miles Cheong, the managing editor for Human Events, wrote in a live Twitter thread.

Minneapolis Proposal to Replace Police Not on November Ballot

The controversial proposal to disband the Minneapolis Police Department will be left off the ballot in November, meaning voters won’t get to decide on the issue until after the 2020 presidential election. In a 10-5 vote on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Charter Commission decided they need more time to review the proposal to prevent what some believe to be dangerously vague language. The proposed amendment would have replaced the police department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that backers said would take a more “holistic” approach, which wasn’t fully defined.

Facebook Removes Pro-Trump Ad for ‘False Information’

A pro-Trump ad was removed from Facebook after claims that it contained false information. “Facebook’s decision to take down this ad shows its anti-conservative bias,” said America First Communications Director Kelly Sadler. “America First Action has logged an appeal, but the threat of anti-conservative bias, targeting, and censorship remains ahead of Election Day in November and we must be vigilant in holding big tech, like Facebook accountable.” Facebook confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday that the ad had, in fact, been fact-checked. The ad in question was titled “On Hold,” and shows a woman calling 9-1-1 and being put on hold. The ad moves to show Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden saying “yes,” with a “defund the police?” banner. The ad is currently marked on Facebook with a label saying: “False Information. Checked by independent fact-checkers.”

  • Defunding the police could well cause delays in 911 emergency response. Facebooks ‘facts’ check is more about opinion that facts.

Facebook/Twitter Remove Trump Post for False Covid Information

Facebook took down a video post from President Trump’s personal page in which he said that children are “almost immune” from COVID-19. “This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” Facebook said in a statement. Twitter also took action late Wednesday. “The Tweet you referenced is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the tweet before they can tweet again,” the company said in a statement.

  • This was a stupid statement, but censorship is a slippery slope and violates First Amendment rights for freedom of speech.

Facebook Bans Pro-Trump PAC from Advertising on Their Platform

Facebook announced Thursday that it will ban pro-Trump super PAC, The Committee to Defend The President, from buying ads on its platform. “As a result of the Committee to Defend the President’s repeated sharing of content determined by third-party fact-checkers to be false, they will not be permitted to advertise for a period of time on our platform,” Facebook Policy communications director Andy Stone told FOX Business in a statement. The page will lose advertising privileges for a minimum of 90 days. The advertising ban will take effect on August 10, and would end around November 1.

Homicides Increasing in Large U.S. Cities

Homicides are up 24% in 36 of the 50 biggest cities in the U.S. midst the coronavirus pandemic, though other types of violent crime fell, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. Chicago has the most homicides at 433, followed by Philadelphia (243), New York (212), Houston (178), and Los Angeles (157), according to data through early July. A number of factors have likely contributed to the surge in homicides, say police, researchers, mayors and community leaders, including an increase in gun violence, fallout from the pandemic, the closing of churches, schools and other social institutions and “evidence of a fraying of the social order.”

  • On June 15, the New York Police Department announced Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to disband the department’s plainclothes anti-crime unit. Now NYC shootings are way up. Coincidence?
  • The Minneapolis Police Department has informed residents in an email that they should “prepare” to be robbed and to obey criminals. The new ‘defunded’ reality.

Gun Sales Set Records as Defunding Police Gains Momentum

July 2020 saw an estimated 1,795,602 gun sales—a new record and an increase of 133 percent over July 2019, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis of FBI data. July is the fifth consecutive month to set a gun-sales record. Chris Killoy, chief executive officer of Sturm, Ruger & Company, said the current spike in sales is unlike anything he has ever seen. The buying spree shows no signs of slowing down and heavy demand will “sustain itself” into the fall, Killoy predicted. The spike in FBI background checks and coinciding earnings at the gun-industry giant indicate an explosion of new gun ownership as Americans deal with the coronavirus outbreak. national unrest and calls to defund the police. FBI background checks indicate 2020 has now seen at least 10 million guns sold—many to first-time buyers and minorities.

Economic News

The U.S. added 1.8 million jobs in July as employers stepped up hiring in parts of the country that continued to let businesses reopen, even as COVID-19 spikes forced Sunbelt firms to pull back and lay off workers. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2% from 11.1% in June, the Labor Department said Friday. July’s job growth was down from the nearly 5 million recorded in June and about 2.1 million in May. Overall, the U.S. economy is down nearly 13 million jobs since the start of the pandemic. Nevada and New York have the highest unemployment rate at over 21%.

About 1.2 million people filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, down from 1.4 million the prior week and the lowest level since March. The big drop follows two weeks of increases in claims as coronavirus surges in the South and West led more than 20 states to halt or roll back the reopening of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other outlets. Yet last week’s total is still historically large. More than 55 million Americans have sought jobless benefits since mid-March.

Grocery prices in the United States are rising at the fastest pace in decades after the pandemic sickened food plant workers, broke supply chains and otherwise upended the complex network of farms, factories and shipping routes Americans rely on to eat. Beef and veal prices are up 20.2% since before the pandemic, while other staples like eggs (10.4%), poultry (8.6%) and pork (8.5%) have also seen significant increases. The sticker shock is hitting people already struggling with unemployment and lost income, forcing families to reckon with a scarcity of basic necessities.

American credit card balances fell by $76 billion between April and June, their steepest decline on record. This three-month period included the most restrictive period of the Covid-19 lockdown. It’s highly unusual for credit card debt to fall in the spring, according to analysts at the New York Fed. The only other time that happened was during the Great Recession.

After years of business attire becoming increasingly casual, the sudden transition to working from home for millions of Americans has undermined retailers that sell dress clothes. Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Ann Taylor, Loft and Neiman Marcus are among the retailers whose parent companies have entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in recent weeks, having experienced a sudden drop-off in sales due in part to what industry leaders are calling “casualization.”

Black-owned businesses have been hit substantially harder by the coronavirus pandemic than companies overall, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The report estimates that 41% of Black-owned businesses across the country shut down between February and April. About 32% of Latino businesses, 26% of Asian businesses, and just 17% of white business shut down over the same time span. The report cites lack of financial savings and less access to capital as the causes of the disparity.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have relocated out of large urban areas – either to try to avoid contracting the virus or because the resulting economic fallout cost them their job. Many of the areas shedding residents in recent years have struggled to bounce back from the Great Recession of 2008, driving thousands of people to different parts of the country to try to improve their economic future. Over the past decade, thousands of Americans have left the Midwest and Northeast to head south and west in search of warmer climates and better job opportunities.

149 Dead as Massive Explosion Shakes Beirut, Lebanon

A huge explosion near the center of Beirut killed at least 137 people, injured more than 5,000, made over 300,000 homeless as it sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital, shattering glass in people’s homes and causing apartment balconies to collapse. Several hospitals were among the many buildings damaged in the blast, which was felt up to 120 miles away, The blast occurred in the city’s port area, where there were warehouses containing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze that set off the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses. Officials say the detonation of ammonium nitrate that was being stored at a port is to blame and that initial information does not suggest it was an attack. The blast had the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake. Angry residents blamed their corrupt government for allowing the storage of dangerous substances near their homes. Documents have revealed numerous warnings about the ammonium nitrate, which was unloaded from a ship impounded in 2013. Investigators probing the devastating blast are pointing to a Russian ship docked in the city’s port for nearly seven years without appropriate security precautions that officials warned was “a floating bomb.”

IDF Jets Strike Syria in Retaliation for Bomb Attempt

IDF fighter jets, attack helicopters and aircraft struck military targets in southern Syria belonging to the Syrian Armed Forces on Monday night, making good on its promise that it would hold the Syrian government responsible for all terror activities against Israel conducted from Syrian soil. The targets that were struck included observation posts and intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery facilities and command and control systems on Syrian Air Force bases, the IDF reports. The event that sparked the attack took place shortly after midnight on Monday. IDF troops spotted a terror squad placing explosive devices next to the security fence.

Trump Imposes Sanctions Against Chinese and Hong Kong Officials

The Trump administration announced sanctions Friday against Chinese, Hong Kong officials over China’s crackdown on the once-autonomous city. Among the 11 officials being sanctioned is Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who the administration says is “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”

Wildfires

A wildfire burning on the southeastern edge of Salt Lake City forced evacuations and shut down Interstate 80 Thursday night. Residents of the Mount Aire community, a mix of year-round homes and rental cabins, were told to leave as the fire spread in Parleys Canyon. It was 0% contained as of Friday morning. The Salt Lake City area is experiencing above-average temperatures and low humidity. It was 98 degrees on Thursday.

The Apple fire, one mile northeast of Cherry Valley, California, is now 30% contained, having already consumed 28,085 acres and destroyed 13 structures. Evacuations remain in effect due to continued active fire behavior. Some road closures also remain in effect.

Weather

Tropical Storm Isaias flooded cars and homes, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands and spawned deadly and destructive tornadoes from the Carolinas to Connecticut. The storm made landfall at 11:10 p.m. Monday at the South Carolina-North Carolina border as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. One person was killed, three others missing and at least 20 injured Tuesday when a tornado scoured a mobile home park overnight in Windsor, North Carolina. At least 10 homes were destroyed. Then it swiftly moved on through eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, leaving almost three million people without power. Overall, six people died. Flooding and downed trees were widespread. Meteorologists called Isaias one of the most damaging storms the Northeast has ever experienced. Wind reports exceeded 90 mph in many areas, with 70 mph gusts recorded at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. A peak wind gust of 147 mph was reported atop Mount Gray in New Hampshire. Isaias also spawned the longest-travelling tornado in Delaware history – 29.2 miles.- downing many trees and damaging many homes. As of Friday, thousands are still without power.

At least 18 people have died and 16 are missing in South Korea after days of torrential rain caused flooding and landslides. The central region of the country has seen 44 consecutive days of rain in the country’s longest monsoon in seven years. Some areas received more than 26 inches of rain. Heavy rains are likely to persist through the weekend and Seoul could get another 6 inches of rain.

Virus-free. www.avg.com

Signs of the Times (8/4/20)

August 3, 2020

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths… There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 3:5-6, 16:25)

More People Turning to Prayer During Pandemic

More people than ever are turning to faith and religion during the COVID-19 pandemic says a new poll by Pew Research Center which found that almost 25% of those who seldom if ever pray said that prayer is now a part of their lives and the vast majority of people who pray said they have turned even more so to prayer during the outbreak. Dr. Harold G. Koenig, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an associate professor of medicine at Duke University, Medical Center, says that “Studies prove prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster,” he says, adding that an exhaustive analysis of 1,500 medical studies indicated that people who are more religious and pray more have better health.

California Pastor Sues the State Over Religious Freedom

California Pastor Che Ahn is challenging his State’s government and governor as they attempt to shut down the church’s ability to function according to its biblical mandate. Dr. Che Ahn, senior leader of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California; founder of the Harvest International Ministry (H.I.M.) with churches in 70 nations and 162 churches in California; and, International Chancellor of Wagner University, says the order to prohibit Christians singing in church services and hosting Bible studies and fellowship gatherings in homes is illegal. When Jesus was asked about the end-times and what were some of the signa, He cited persecution, deception and division at the top of the list (Mathew. 24). Pastor Che Ahn says, “If the people of God are not prepared amidst the escalation of demonic activity, apostasy and hostility, multitudes will be offended at God. Jesus warned, ‘Then many will fall away… because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.’ (Matt. 24:10;12). Lawlessness leads to lovelessness!”

  • “First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” Martin Niemoller, German Lutheran Pastor arrested during World War II and confined to Dachau camp but released in 1945 by the Allies.

Follow the Science? Which Version Becomes Political

Many view science as the final arbiter in establishing public policy. However, science has always changed over time as more knowledge becomes available. The atomic model taught years ago has been superseded by string theory. Now, as the world debates how to respond to the coronavirus, we see various scientific studies touting opposite conclusions. At first, studies were promoted saying masks don’t help. Now some studies say they are helpful, but other studies say they can cause unhealthy carbon monoxide buildup. Hydroxychloroquine has scientific studies saying it cures or helps Covid-19 patients, while other studies say it doesn’t. The problem is that these issues have become political, with the media siding with those who want more government control over our lives.

  • Government, prompted by the New World Order, desires greater control over the masses and so chooses the ‘science’ that provides the best excuse to enact draconian emergency orders. As the end-times roll on, such orders and censorship will become more frequent and obtrusive.

Social Media Decides to Become Arbiter of ‘Truth’

Social media has decided that they should become the arbiter over ‘truth,’ most recently with Twitter and Facebook not allowing posts and tweets promoting hydroxychloroquine despite enough evidence to the contrary to at least warrant further study. A recent Italian study found that hospitalized coronavirus patients who took anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin were 66% less likely to die. The state of Ohio last week withdrew its prohibition on prescribing hydroxychloroquine.

Twitter Censors Hydroxychloroquine But Not Threats to Exterminate Israel

In stark contrast to Twitter’s stand against hydroxychloroquine, company official Ylwa Pettersson told the Israeli Knesset last week that Iranian calls to wipe out Israel were just “foreign policy saber-rattling on military-economic issues [that] are generally not in violation of our rules.”

Doctor Fired for Touting Hydroxychloroquine

Dr. Simone Gold was told by her boss that she was terminated for “appearing in an embarrassing video” with other doctors touting hydroxychloroquine. This board-certified emergency medical physician with more than 31-years of experience in medicine is on the front lines of treating COVID-19. Over 17 million people watched the video before YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook removed it and then blocked access to the website of America’s Frontline Doctors. Squarespace erased her organization’s webpage. Dr. Gold rebuilt the website, but Squarespace went even one step further. This private company held hostage Dr. Gold’s URL so that she had to buy a brand-new URL. Anyone searching for the old web address still would not be able to find her new site.

Florida Couple Arrested for Violating Quarantine

Jose Freire Interian was walking his dog near his Key West, Fla. home when a neighbor began recording him on her cellphone. Hours later, police came knocking on his door with an arrest warrant, and whisked Freire and his wife to the county jail. The charge: violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. As a national debate swirls over masks and self-quarantines, communities are grappling over how aggressively they should enforce myriad emergency rules meant to control the spread of the novel strain of coronavirus. “It’s a national debate up until the health department tells you to quarantine, and then there’s no more debate,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz said Thursday.

  • Such enforcement is but a precursor of how ‘emergency’ powers will be used to control our everyday lives as the end-times continue to ramp up.

Congress Fails to Extend $600 Unemployment Payment

With aid expiring, the White House offered a short-term extension Thursday of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis. Democratic leaders panned the idea in late-night talks at the Capitol, opting to keep the pressure on for a more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the benefit ran out Friday. Republicans have been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but their resolve weakened with the looming expiration of the popular benefit.

$1.5 Trillion of First Relief Package Remains Unspent

Congress authorized $3.7 trillion in spending earlier this year to help address the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But about $1.5 trillion remains to be spent, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal watchdog group tracking the spending. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin and a fiscal conservative, told CNN this week that he’s opposed to additional new spending until there is more analysis of why the remaining $1.5 trillion remains unspent. “You might as well repurpose that, rather than authorize more,” Johnson said..

Survey Reveals Almost Half of Police Budgets to be Cut

Nearly half of 258 agencies surveyed this month are reporting that funding has already been slashed or is expected to be reduced, according to a report slated for release this week by the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-partisan research organization. Much of the funding is being pulled from equipment, hiring and training accounts, even as a number of cities also are tracking abrupt spikes in violent crime, the report concluded. Police funding in Los Angeles has been reduced by $150 million, and police funding in New York is slated to be slashed by a total of one billion dollars.

Feds Not Leaving Portland Until Courthouse ‘Safe and Secure’

Contrary to previous reports, Federal law enforcement agents will not be leaving Portland until the U.S. courthouse there is “safe and secure,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said late Wednesday, contradicting a statement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown earlier in the day about a “phased withdrawal” of federal officers. “Over time, if the Oregon State Police and the plan that has been put in place is successful, and we can responsibly draw down law enforcement assets there, then we will.” Police early Thursday cleared the park that had been used as the staging area for attacks on the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, as local officials began to make good on their promise to step up security so federal forces could draw back. The move came after another night of clashes that saw demonstrators throw objects and breach the fence surrounding the Hatfield Courthouse, and federal police push back with tear gas.

More than 150 Shots Fired During Portland Protests

More than 150 rounds were fired by protesters and one woman was shot in Portland on Friday night while protesters on Saturday – some of whom appeared to impersonate press – threw glass bottles and shined lasers at city police officers sent to quell the nighttime unrest witnessed for more than two months straight. The Portland Police Bureau said that the bullets struck at least eight occupied apartments and seven vehicles. One round struck a woman in the arm, and responding officers applied a tourniquet before she was transported to the hospital by ambulance with injuries that were not life-threatening. It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was linked directly to the demonstrations.

Grandmother Identifies Grandson as Portland Bomber

A Portland protester (white) was outed by his own grandmother after she identified him by the protective vest he wore and that could be seen in video footage — a vest she bought him, according to reports. The protester was caught on film throwing what appeared to be an explosive device at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, a frequent target for attacks during the roughly two months of protests in the city. The explosion from the device reportedly created a concussion that could be “heard and felt more than a block away,” police said.

Seattle PD Search Warrant Find Explosives, Weapons for Protesters

Seattle police who executed a search warrant of a van abandoned near a series of weekend fires recovered pyrotechnics, weaponry and riot gear believed to have been used during demonstrations in the area. A witness told police that people had surrounded the van earlier in the day, while its back doors were open, to show “improvised shields, gas masks, baseball bats and a large assortment of pyrotechnic explosives inside the van,” officials said. Police arrested at least 45 people as a result of the violenet demonstrations and 59 officers were hurt. One explosion occurred along the north wall of the police precinct on Pine Street which blew a hole in the wall of the building.

Shootings Spike in NYC

So far this year, New York City has reported more shootings than it did in all of 2019, killing or injuring almost one thousand people across the city’s five boroughs. A shooting in the Bronx on Saturday night marked the city’s 777th shooting of the year, one more than the 776 reported in all of 2019. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain, said that the elimination of the police Anti-Crime Unit and the contentious relationship between the police and the community have contributed to the increase. Others cite pandemic and economic distress as another contributing factor.

TB, HIV & Malaria Increasing Worldwide, Killing 1.5 Million a Year

It begins with a mild fever and malaise, followed by a painful cough and shortness of breath. The infection prospers in crowds, spreading to people in close reach. Containing an outbreak requires contact tracing, as well as isolation and treatment of the sick for weeks or months. This insidious disease has touched every part of the globe. It is tuberculosis, the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide, claiming 1.5 million lives each year, reports the New York Times. Until this year, TB and its deadly allies, H.I.V. and malaria, were on the run. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, consuming global health resources, these perennially neglected adversaries are making a comeback. “Covid-19 risks derailing all our efforts and taking us back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Dr. Pedro L. Alonso, the director of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program.

  • And yet, there has never been talk of a worldwide lockdown over TV, HIV and Malaria which kill far more people than Covid-19.
  • In 2018, 9.5 million people died of cancer worldwide, and over 9 million died from heart disease.

Coronavirus Cases Declining in Hot Spots, But New Ones Emerging

The 7-day average number of coronavirus cases in the leading hotspots of Florida, Arizona, Texas and South Carolina have now been declining for almost a week. However, cases are increasing in 17 states, including Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri and Alaska. Overall, the 7-day average number of cases in the U.S. has been declining over the past week. The 7-day average number of deaths, however, continues to climb in the previous hotspots as well as overall in the U.S. because deaths lag cases by 7-14 days.

Studies Indicate Covid-19 Death Rate Higher than Flu

Although the overall death rate for COVID-19 is still unclear, almost all  credible  research  suggests  it  is  much  higher  than  that  of  the  seasonal  flu,  which  has  a  death  rate  of around 0.1% in the U.S. Most studies indicate a mortality rate between. 0.5% and 1%. Dr. Nir Menachemi, a noted professor of health policy and management at Indiana University, conducted his own random survey of COVID-19 infections and fatality rates within his own state to try and gather more relevant information. His conclusions show that the death rate for COVID-19 is far lower than statistically reported, but still six times greater than the flu.

Arizona’s Excess Deaths Far Exceed Covid-19 Death Toll

Arizona saw far more deaths this June than a typical June in previous years, and well beyond the official counts for COVID-19 deaths. In June 2020, the Arizona Department of Health Services statistics show 6,265 people died. Last June, it was 4,689, meaning there were 1,576 more deaths than usual. This is substantially higher than the 952 deaths attributed to the Civid-19 in June, suggesting that the number of Covid-19 deaths may be higher than the number reported..

U.S. Schools Begin to Reopen With Troubled Results

The new academic year is underway in some parts of the country, with the first few days of school showing just how difficult reopening classrooms can be. Already in some states, schools that decided to open for in-person classes are quarantining staff members and students, and even closing temporarily as positive cases are found. Many schools in Indiana started on Thursday but optimism quickly diminished as staff members tested positive, and a high school was forced to close its doors. More than 200 employees of a single school district in Gwinnett County, Georgia, tested positive or were in quarantine last week before classes even resumed.

  • Many Arizona schools are opening virtually this week under an executive order that forbids reopening in-person classes until at least Aug. 17. After that, it’s up to individual districts and charter schools to decide when it’s time to reopen as well as how to do so.

Asymptomatic People May Be the Most Potent Spreaders

A recent study by NYU Langone Health revealed that people who are the least symptomatic of COVID-19 may have the highest viral load or quantity of the coronavirus and can be the most dangerous transmitters of disease, according to Scienmag. According to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, evidence indicates that people with COVID-19 may be most contagious in the 48-72 hours before symptoms are noticeable. The MIT scientists say that up to 25% of infected individuals remain asymptomatic and may unwittingly infect others.

Heart Damage Found in Covid-19 Patients Months after Recovery

Two German studies, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Cardiology, found heart abnormalities in COVID-19 patients months after they had already recovered from Covid-19 caused by the coronavirus. One study of 100 relatively healthy patients in their 40s and 50s found heart abnormalities in 78 patients, with 60 of those patients showing signs of inflammation in the heart muscle from the virus. Experts say the prevalence of inflammation is an important connection to COVID-19 as the disease has a clinical reputation for a high inflammatory response.

Old Vaccines May Work Against Covid-19

Results from a recent study show that individuals who had been immunized for other diseases, had much lower rates of infection than people who had not been inoculated for diseases such as measles-mumps-rubella and polio, or had not received flu vaccines. In particular, Blacks who had taken the pneumococcal vaccine had significantly lower rates of COVID-19 infection. This finding is significant in light of statistics from the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said members of racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness.

Economic News

The U.S. economy turned in its worst performance ever in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses across the country and consumers hunkered down at home. The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., was down 9.5% from the previous quarter, which translates to an annual rate of 32.9%. The free-fall was driven by a historic 34.6% pullback in consumer spending as states closed down nonessential businesses such as restaurants, malls and movie theaters. But nearly every corner of the economy was battered, including business investment, housing and exports.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, as the economy stalled amid surges of the coronavirus, and assistance from the federal government came to an end. Another 1.4 million people filed jobless claims for the first time as businesses given a green light to welcome back customers shut their doors again to slow the spread of COVID 19. In less than five months, a stunning 54.1 million have sought unemployment aid for the first time. The need for unemployment benefits continues to grow even as an extra $600 a week from the federal government ended last week.

At a time when the nation is reeling from the twin crises of an economic downturn and a global pandemic, long-standing gaps in pay are exacerbating the struggles of many Black women and Latinas who can barely make ends meet. Among Latinas, 51% do not currently have enough money to pay for basic needs like food and housing, while 48% of Black women cannot cover such fundamental expenses, according to a survey commissioned by the Time’s Up Foundation. Many more lack a financial cushion to fall back on, with 60% of Latinas and 55% of Black women saying they have less than $200 in savings.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that his city is now participating in a program receiving funding from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in which eligible residents will receive $500 in monthly “guaranteed income.” The money used to start the program will come from funds Dorsey gave that is allowing Pittsburgh and 15 other cities to help those who are struggling during the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Dorsey’s gift is benefitting cities including Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles, whose mayors formed the network Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.

Dunkin’ is permanently closing 8% of its United States locations, which amounts to roughly 800 restaurants. The company announced the changes in its second quarter earnings report. Dunkin’ described the closures as “real estate portfolio rationalization” and said the affected locations are in “low-volume sales locations” that only represent 2% of its U.S. sales in 2019. More than half of the closures are in Speedway convenience stores.

Lord & Taylor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday. Lord & Taylor was founded in 1826 and was the country’s first department store. All 38 Lord & Taylor locations have been temporarily closed since shutdowns started in March of this year. The parent company of suit sellers Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday.

  • Other retailers that have filed for Chapter 11 since May include Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, JC Penney, Brooks Brothers, and the company that owns Ann Taylor and Loft. With Paycheck Protection Program money now expired, more retail outlets and restaurants are expected to shutter their doors permanently.

European Union Reports Drastic Economic Contraction

The European Union reported that their economy shrank by 12.1% in the April-June quarter, more than the 9.5% decline in the U.S.. France, Italy, and Spain reported the most precipitous contractions for their coronavirus-battered economies, with the pandemic wiping out years of growth in a matter of weeks as the lockdowns closed shops, factories, and restaurants. The Spanish economy shrank by 18.5% in the April-June period from the previous quarter, the French economy nearly 14%, and Italy 12.4%. The Spanish contraction was by far the sharpest slump since the country’s national statistics agency began collecting data.

ISIS Releases Video Calling On Supporters To Commit Arson Attacks In U.S.

The Islamic State’s media wing has released a video calling for supporters in the United States to commit acts of arson. The 4-minute video, which was released over the weekend, was produced in both Arabic and English and features high-end video editing, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Center’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor. The narrator speaks about how ISIS supporters should fight “fire with fire” and includes an image of a military-style rifle while discussing how some would-be terrorists don’t have access to certain weapons. Instead, the narrator advocates for arson attacks and highlights the devastating effect that fires have had recently in places such as Australia, Greece, and the U.S.

Taliban Allowing Al Qaeda Training Camps Despite Agreement with U.S.

Just months after the U.S. signed a controversial deal with the Taliban to end the long-running war in Afghanistan – predicated on the notion that the insurgent group would not offer safe haven to Al Qaeda – local officials worry that terrorists still train and reign in parts of the country. Yasin Khan, the governor of the southern province of Helman, has pointed to an increasing Al Qaeda footprint in the district along the Durand Line with Pakistan as well as the border pockets between Afghanistan and Iran. Helmand has long been a bloody battleground for U.S. and Afghan troops, and has emerged as a Taliban stronghold. Khan also said the Taliban “are providing training and support to the Taliban,” in addition to supplying materials.

Russia Will Start Mass COVID Vaccinations in October

Clinical trials are not yet complete, but Russia plans to roll out a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign in October. Teachers and health care workers will be the first to get the coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which is reportedly set to begin Phase III trials—the stage at which it is determined whether a vaccine is actually effective—this month. “I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a congressional hearing Friday. Some are concerned Russia is using the vaccine race as propaganda, with state television claiming for months that Russia is in the lead, while there is little to no published scientific evidence supporting that claim.

Hong Kong Calls Off Elections for a Year

Local council elections in Hong Kong last year saw a surge of pro-democracy winners, and opposition parties had hoped to claim a similar victory in this year’s legislative elections set for Sept. 6. Those hopes will now have to wait: Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam announced at a Friday news conference that the elections have been postponed for a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The semi-autonomous city has had a recent surge of COVID-19 infections throughout July, with health officials warning that the outbreak needs to be brought under control. The delay, though, also has political overtones as China continues to crackdown on dissidents.

Earthquakes

At least three temblors rocked an area near Los Angeles early Thursday, shaking residents out of their sleep. No serious damage or injuries were reported. The magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit the Pacoima area at about 4:30 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Pacoima, in the northern San Fernando Valley region, is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The area experienced a magnitude 3.3 quake or aftershock about 10 minutes later, the USGS said. Then, two hours later the area was hit by a magnitude 3.9 aftershock.

Wildfires

Evacuation orders remained in place Monday for about 8,000 people in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California as a major wildfire spread to more than 41 square miles and is only 5% contained. the Apple Fire, began in the Cherry Valley community on Friday afternoon. Overnight, the fire burned up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, and the Forest Service closed the San Gorgonio Wilderness. One single-family home and two outbuildings were destroyed near Avenida Miravilla on Saturday. Overall, more than 2,500 homes have been ordered to evacuate, affecting some 8,000 people.

Weather

Baghdad hit 125.2 degrees Tuesday, the highest temperature ever recorded for the city in Iraq. The Middle East is in the midst of a heat wave. Other locations in Iraq as well as Saudi Arabia and Lebanon broke heat records this week as well, and Syria’s capital tied its all-time record. Two protesters were killed by security forces in Baghdad Monday in demonstrations against worsening power cuts amid the heat wave. Many residents have been relying on generators to power their homes after the state electrical grid failed.

While Florida may have been spared the worst of Tropical Storm Isaias, that won’t be the case for the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. Isaias is forecast to make landfall as a hurricane in the Carolinas on Monday night and will bring dangerous storm surge and flash flooding to most of the Eastern Seaboard over the next few days. Winds of at least 74 mph are expected.

Isaias left widespread damage across the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico before moving on toward the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas on Friday. Two people were killed, hundreds of thousands have no electricity, flooding pervades the islands and roofs were ripped off many homes.