Archive for September, 2020

Signs of the Times (9/25/20)

September 25, 2020

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:9-12)

‘Let Us Worship’ Gatherings in Florida Yield Healings and Salvations

Huge crowds of Christians and people hungry for the Gospel gathered in several cities across Florida over the past few days to stand together and proclaim the name of Jesus. The “Let Us Worship” tour led by praise leader Sean Feucht came to Lake Eola Park in Orlando on Saturday. Despite the rainy weather, thousands of worshippers poured their hearts out as they sang, danced, and repented of their sins. “Last night drug addicts and prostitutes off the streets were running to the altar to get saved!! The harder it rained, the more God kept pouring His Spirit out!!” Feucht wrote on Instagram. Then Feucht and his band headed to West Palm Beach where thousands more came out to worship at the Meyer Amphitheater.  

Ohio Gov Signs Bill Keeping Churches Open

On Wednesday, Ohio’s Republican governor Mike DeWine signed a new bill into law prohibiting public officials from shutting down houses of worship across the state despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation, House Bill 272, will go into effect in mid-December in the state. Sen. Terry Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained that he is thankful that the state is protecting religious freedom unlike other states that have imposed forced closures on religious communities. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen several states encroach on Americans’ First Amendment right of worship and assembly, disregarding it completely by forcing the closure of places of worship and religious institutions,” the state Senator said.

Religion Under Siege Says Attorney General Barr

Attorney General William P. Barr offered a vehement defense of religion’s role in America Wednesday at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, accusing “militant secularists” of eroding the nation’s moral standards to create a more powerful central government. Calling religion the “foundation of a free society,” Mr. Barr accused the anti-religion secularists of replacing traditional morality with “a new orthodoxy that is actively hostile to religion.” “The consequences of this hollowing out of religion have been predictably dire,” Mr. Barr continued. “Over the past 50 years, we have seen striking increases in urban violence, drug abuse and broken families. Problems like these have fed the rise of an ever more powerful central government.” Mr. Barr, decried big government, saying it “increasingly saps individual initiative, co-ops civil society, crowds out religious institutions and ultimately reduces citizens to wards of the state.”

Trump to Sign ‘Born Alive’ Executive Order Protecting Abortion Survivors

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is signing an executive order to ensure babies who survive botched abortions receive medical care. The president shared news of his decision during a pre-recorded, virtual appearance at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. “Today, I am announcing that I will be signing the born alive executive order to assure that all precious babies born alive, no matter their circumstances, receive the medical care that they deserve,” said Trump. “This is our sacrosanct moral duty.” He also revealed that his administration is increasing federal funding for neonatal research.

DC Church Sues City Over Virus Restrictions

A prominent evangelical church in Washington sued the city’s government for allegedly violating the First Amendment by restricting the size of religious gatherings but allowing for anti-racism protests. The lawsuit, filed by the Capital Hill Baptist Church, says D.C.’s government “favor(ed) certain expressive gatherings over others.” According to the Post, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has limited houses of worship’s services to only 100 people or 50% capacity during her phased reopening plan, but the lawsuit notes that she appeared at anti-racism rallies in June and allegedly has not enforced a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people.

Five Hymn Singers Arrested in Idaho Parking Lot

At least five Christians were arrested during a hymn sing in the parking lot of city hall in Moscow, Idaho. Hands up, don’t sing. The five individuals were cited for being in violation of Moscow’s mask/social distancing order, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said. As many as 200 people turned out for the “Flash Psalm Sing” sponsored by Moscow’s Christ Church. Two people were handcuffed as hundreds sang “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.”

Kroger Fires Workers For Refusing to Wear ‘Pro-Gay’ Apron

Two Kroger employees, 72-year-old Brenda Lawson, and 57-year-old Trudy Rickerd, say they were fired last April from a store in Conway, Arkansas for not wanting to wear aprons displaying a rainbow symbol. Lawson and Rickerd are Christians and view the rainbow symbol as a symbol of the LGBTQ community. “The Kroger Company, doing business as Kroger Store No. 625 in Conway, Ark., violated federal law when it fired two employees who asked for a religious accommodation to avoid wearing an emblem they believed contradicted their religious beliefs,” the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in the lawsuit it filed September 14th.

  • It’s sad that God’s rainbow symbol has become the source of political machinations. And God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13, KJV)

School Fires Christian Worker for Criticizing LGBT Curriculum

A British woman who was fired from her school assistant position for raising concerns about LGBT and sex education appeared before a tribunal Monday and told the court she was “shocked” when she was dismissed. Kristie Higgs, a Christian and a mother of two, had worked for six years as an assistant at Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire when she raised concerns on Facebook about the government’s Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, which includes transgender and LGBT sex education. Her son attended the school, which is run by the Church of England. According to Christian Concern, an anonymous person saw the Facebook posts and reported them to the school’s headteacher, who eventually dismissed Higgs. The mother reportedly was told the posts could “[bring] the school into disrepute.” “I have been punished for sharing concerns about relationships and sex education,” Higgs said in a news release.

RBG’s Death Stirs Praise But Yields Partisan Politics Over Replacement

Supreme Court Just Ruth Bader Ginsburg died earlier this week leading her to become the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capital. Hailed as a champion of women’s rights, her death prompted partisan political warfare over whether replacing her should be done by the sitting President or wait until after the November 3rd election. Historically, this situation has occurred several times. Each time, the political party holding the Presidency argued for an immediate replacement while the other party said it should await the election. This time, Democrats have said the Court should be expanded from nine Justices to thirteen or even fifteen, threatening to “pack” the court in retaliation for President Trump forcing a replacement through the Republican-controlled Senate.

  • The Post-ABC poll, conducted Monday to Thursday, finds 38 percent of Americans say the replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the current U.S. Senate, while 57 percent say the decision should be left to the winner of the presidential election.

Breonna Taylor Decision Prompts Protests But Her Boyfriend Fired First Shot

The decision to charge just one of the three Louisville police officers with “wanton endangerment” but not homicide stirred up more protests which resulted in a shooting incident. The fact that Breonna’s boyfriend fired first at the police as they executed their no-knock warrant was the basis for the lesser charge. That first shot wounded officer Jonathan Mattingly who had to be taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery. Noting that Mattingly had been called a ‘murderer’ prompted him to file a civil lawsuit. His attorney stated, “They called him a ‘murderer,’ when all he did was defend himself.” Todd McMurtry says he represents “John in his affirmative claims against people who slandered him by calling him a ‘murderer.’” At least 24 protesters were arrested Thursday night in Louisville during a second consecutive night of Breonna Taylor protests.

  • Portland rioters hurled a massive Molotov cocktail into a crowd of officers, broke windows and lit part of a police precinct on fire in riots that followed the Louisville grand jury’s decision.

DOJ Designates NYC, Portland, Seattle ‘Anarchist Jurisdictions’

The Justice Department on Monday singled out Portland, New York City and Seattle as “anarchist jurisdictions” – cities that the Trump administration said have allowed violence to persist during months of civil demonstrations over racial injustice and police brutality. The designation of the three cities – all led by Democrats – was in response to President Donald Trump’s Sept. 2 executive order, which threatened to withhold federal funding from cities where the administration said state and local officials have cut police department funding, refused offers for help from the federal government and failed to rein in violence. The Office of Management and Budget will send guidance on restricting the cities’ eligibility for federal dollars.

74 Portland Rioters Face Criminal Charges and Lengthy Sentences

U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, Billy J. Williams, reported that 74 people are facing federal charges for crimes committed adjacent to or under the guise of peaceful demonstrations in Portland since the protests and riots began back in May. “Violent agitators have hijacked any semblance of First Amendment protected activity, engaging in violent criminal acts and destruction of public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. Several of the charges being used to prosecute violent agitators carry significant maximum prison sentences. For example, felony assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Arson is also punishable by up to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Another Shooting at Portland Protest

A shooting broke out late Tuesday after a second consecutive nightly demonstration at a Southeast Portland building, on the same night that police arrested at least three people. A crowd of roughly 75 people left a park around 10 p.m. before marching on the Penumbra Kelly Building, which was the site of previous protests this year. The mass gathering blocked a nearby street in both directions. Two unnamed people who had left the prot41est later got into a scuffle a few blocks away, before one of the pair shot the other, police said. Paramedics rushed both to the hospital; injuries were described as serious but not life-threatening.

Coronavirus Continues to Mutate, New Variant Possibly More Contagious

A new COVID-19 mutation appears to be even more contagious, according to a study — and experts say it could be a response by the virus to defeat masks and other social-distancing efforts, reports Fox News. Scientists in a paper published Wednesday identified a new strain of the virus, which accounted for 99.9 percent of cases during the second wave in the Houston, Texas, area. People with the strain, known as the D614G mutation, had higher loads of virus — suggesting it is more contagious. Though the strain isn’t more deadly, researchers said it appeared to have adapted better to spread among humans.

Covid Infections Remain Persistently High, But Down From July Peak

Covid-19 case numbers remain persistently high across much of the country, though reports of new cases have dropped considerably since late July, when the country averaged well over 60,000 per day. States in the Northeast, where infections were highest this spring, have reported relatively low case numbers for months. Some places that suffered the most in early summer, including Arizona, Florida and California, have since seen steep declines. But some of that progress has been offset by rising case numbers on the Great Plains and in some Southern states. Deaths, though still well below their peak spring levels.

  • Thirty states showed increased number of cases this past week, 19 of them at near-peak levels with the other eleven increasing but well below peak levels (including Arizona).
  • Twelve states had increased death counts this past week, with North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Alabama and Virginia have the largest increases.
  • Overall, the U.S. 7-day average number of cases has risen from 34,558 on September 12 to 41,860 on September 24. The peak occurred July 20 at 66.690 per day.

Judge Orders Census to Continue Beyond September

A federal judge has prevented the 2020 census from finishing at the end of September and ordered the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident to continue for another month through the end of October, saying a shortened schedule likely would produce inaccurate results. Attorneys for civil rights groups and local governments said the shortened schedule would undercount residents in minority and hard-to-count communities. US District Judge Lucy Koh in California said inaccuracies produced from a shortened schedule would affect the distribution of federal funding and political representation.

Pentagon Misuses CARES Funds

The Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor. A $1 billion fund created by the Cares Act was supposed to be used to “prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.” But the Pentagon later decided to give most of the money to defense contractors for unrelated projects, many of which predated the pandemic, reports the Washington Post.

States Increasing Gasoline Tax

Several states have increased gas taxes in recent months to make up for sudden shortfalls in revenue devoted to road repairs. As Americans drive less during the pandemic due partly to social distancing and remote work arrangements, gasoline demand has fallen by 15%. Supporters say the increases, most of which were triggered automatically due to existing laws, are necessary to keep transportation infrastructure in good shape. Critics say the gas-tax increases are poorly timed and will hurt low-income drivers at a time when they are more likely to be facing unemployment, reduced hours or pay cuts.

Economic News

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased last week, supporting views the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was running out of steam amid diminishing government funding. The weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed that initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 870,000 for the week ended Sept. 19, with 26 million people receiving unemployment benefits in early September as the jobs market struggles to heal.

Deutsche Bank economists estimated that the world’s economy has already recovered about half of the GDP it lost and that it would get back to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2021. But the price of short-term stability could be steep in the long run, they say. “Massive fiscal and monetary policy stimulus” that came together to prop up the economy has caused debt to balloon and stocks to become potentially overvalued, posing “the serious risk of a looming global financial crisis… in the days to come.”

The U.S. economy is at a crossroads, with some analysts saying a failure by Congress to pass another stimulus package would tip the nation back into recession. Lawmakers remain deadlocked over a measure to provide another round of $1,200  checks to most households and more aid to struggling small businesses and unemployed Americans.

As of Aug, 31, 163,735 businesses have indicated on Yelp that they have closed. That’s down from the 180,000 that closed at the very beginning of the pandemic. However, it is a 23% increase in the number of closures since mid-July. The number of businesses permanently closing has increased throughout the past six months, now reaching 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won’t be reopening, Yelp reports.

  • New Jersey-based Ascena Retail Group which operates Lane Bryant, Catherines, Ann Taylor, Loft, Lou & Grey, Justice and Cacique stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and recently announced plans to shutter around 1,600 of the company’s 2,800 stores, including 600 tween retailer Justice.
  • With one in every six restaurants closed permanently or for the “long term,” the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year, according to the National Restaurant Association.
  • Sizzler USA, one of the country’s first casual restaurant chains, has filed for bankruptcy. The 62-year-old company said it filed for Chapter 11 because of Covid-19, which forced it to temporarily close its restaurants’ dining rooms. Sizzler USA also had problems paying rent. The filing is only for Sizzler’s 14 company-owned restaurants — not its international locations or more than 90 franchised U.S. restaurants.

Many of New York City’s biggest hotels closed their doors in March when the coronavirus wiped out tourism and business travel. The shutdowns were supposed to be temporary, but six months later, with no potential influx of visitors in sight, a wave of permanent closures has begun. Sinking under the weight of overdue mortgage payments and property taxes, some hotels have already shut down for good.

About three quarters of the country’s movie theaters are open, but Americans are not going back in significant numbers in the COVID-era, even with new films coming into the marketplace weekly, according to industry statistics.

About two-thirds of parents say they are providing financial support to their adult children during the crisis, helping to pay for everything from groceries to health care expenses. One in five has had their adult child move back home with them, according to a recent study.

Israel Back Under a Covid-19 Lockdown, Cases at Record High

Israel headed into a two-week lockdown Friday that will extend through the Yom Kippur and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holidays in a bid to stem the skyrocketing infection rate that saw the country reach a record number of infections. “Due to the sharp increase in coronavirus morbidity in Israel, we decided today on necessary measures to save lives. These lockdown measures are not easy but saving lives takes precedence over everything,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday. The number of those hospitalized has doubled in the past two months. Several hospitals reported they have exceeded their capacity and were sending coronavirus patients to other healthcare facilities.

Palestinians Miffed at Israeli/Arab Peace Deals, Boycott Meetings

Palestinians have chosen to walk away from their current chairmanship of Arab League foreign minister meetings, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki announced at a Ramallah press conference on Tuesday. “Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honor in seeing Arabs rush towards normalization,” Maliki said. The Palestinians were going to head the meetings for the next six months. The impetus for the Palestinian departure was the recent peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which Bahrain also joined. The Palestinians have recalled their ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in protest of the signing of the peace deals. Some Arab leaders expressed growing anger toward the Palestinians.

Qatar Accepts American ‘Deal of the Century’

The level of concern is also rising among Palestinians after Qatar accepted the American Deal of the Century as a basis for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a joint statement made by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani comes after lengthy contacts between the U.S. and Qatar. The statement includes, among other things, a clause in which Qatar recognizes the American vision as a basis for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Various elements in the Palestinian factions condemned the Qatari move and stated that it was a continuation of the trend of normalizing relations with Israel.

A Huge Blast Rocked a Hezbollah Stronghold in South Lebanon

According to the Lebanese media, a huge blast tore through a building in a key Hezbollah-controlled town called Ain Qana, an area in which the Lebanese military claimed Israeli aircraft had been operating since early on Tuesday. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Islamic terror group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction. It has successfully hijacked large portions of the Lebanese government. The cause of the explosion remains unclear. A Lebanese security official said the explosion took place in a Hezbollah arms depot. Israel has pounded Iranian positions in Syria with airstrikes in addition to assassinating Hezbollah terrorists operating there, but the IDF rarely confirms or denies such strikes, so it is unclear whether they were behind this explosion in Lebanon.

U.S. Imposes ‘Snapback’ Sanctions on Iran

President Trump issued an executive order Monday designed to implement a wide slate of U.N. “snapback” sanctions against Iran, including a ban on military imports and exports, that were due to be lifted under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. President Trump said in a statement. “The United States will not allow the Iranian regime to further advance capabilities to directly threaten and terrorize the rest of the world.” President Trump also said that Iran has repeatedly violated the 2015 deal by carrying out ballistic missile tests, supporting terrorism across the Middle East and continuing to enrich atomic material needed for a nuclear bombs beyond the limits set in the accord. But France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, the other key players in the 2015 deal, said they won’t honor the U.S. actions because Mr. Trump lost his right to weigh in when he took the U.S. out of the deal unilaterally in 2018.

Deadly Airstrike In Afghanistan Kills 40 Despite Ongoing Peace Talks

While representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban talk peace in Doha, the sides continue to launch deadly attacks in Afghanistan, leaving dozens dead. No one claimed responsibility, but Afghan officials believe armed groups linked to the Taliban are behind a string of attacks. On Saturday, at least 10 civilians and more than 30 Taliban fighters were killed in two airstrikes by Afghan government planes in the northern province of Kunduz. Although the sides have met a handful of times, they still haven’t agreed on the basic format of the negotiations, including which issues will be discussed and in what order.

Al-Shabaab Attacks Escalate As Somalia Prepares For Elections

As Somalis prepare for only their third general election in 60 years, al-Shabaab has been escalating its attacks throughout the country. More than a dozen deadly attacks were reported over the last week alone, underscoring al-Shabaab’s unrelenting campaign of violence despite ongoing U.S. airstrikes on the terrorist group. Al-Shabaab militants are responsible for the deaths of dozens of past delegates. In 2012, Somalia held its first presidential election in 45 years, resulting in the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). African Union and FGS forces have had some success in ousting al-Shabaab from the country’s major cities, and the FGS now maintains control of the capital, Mogadishu. However, al-Shabaab is still able to maintain an operational capability in Mogadishu and maintains camps in rural areas and along the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

Environment

Our oceans are now awash in at least 150 million tons of plastic, an amount that researchers say will soon surpass the weight of all the fish in the sea. Plastic pollution fouls the land too, and the air we breathe. Scientists now say plastic micro-particles literally rain down on us, introducing toxins into our bodies. Globally, only 9% of the plastic we’ve ever produced has been recycled. The other 91% has ended up in landfills or incinerated or scattered throughout the environment. Plastic recycling is not economically viable in the US and hasn’t been for a long time. So, we shipped our plastic waste to China. At one point, China was buying 70% of the world’s plastic. Then, three years ago, China shut down its foreign recycling operation. Since then, we’ve been burning around 14% of the plastic we produce, six times more than we recycle.

From 2000 to 2013, human activity encroached on 734,000 square miles of land (the size of Mexico) that had previously remained undisturbed, according to a study published in the journal One Earth. “Our results show that humanity’s footprint is eroding Earth’s last intact ecosystems, and greater efforts are urgently needed to retain them,” the study’s authors wrote. Most of the change happened in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannah and shrubland ecosystems, the study found, but Southeast Asia’s rainforests also saw rapid depletion.

Earthquakes

In a region already reeling from wildfires and smoke-filled skies, a moderate earthquake jolted Southern California late Friday. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.5, the U.S. Geological Service reported. It jangled nerves, but no injuries or damage were immediately reported. The quake was centered in the city of South El Monte in the San Gabriel Valley, east of downtown Los Angeles.  It struck at about 11:40 p.m. PST. The quake was felt as far away as Palm Springs, about 80 miles east. The location was close to where a magnitude-5.9 quake struck in 1987, killing several people and causing more than $200 million in damage

Wildfires

The Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service said that more than 9,000 firefighters are still battling large wildfires across Oregon and Washington. In Oregon, fires have killed at least nine people and scorched more than 1.7 million acres. Thousands of evacuees are still in emergency shelters and hotel rooms. One fire is still burning underground, which one firefighter said could burn for months making some evacuated homes still vulnerable.

Dozens of firefighters were battling small blazes that flared up overnight around a historic observatory in Southern California on Monday as the state approached nearly 4 million acres burned in a record wildfire season. A spokesman for the team responding to the Bobcat Fire, Larry Smith, said adverse winds overnight whipped up the fires days after the blaze came within 500 feet of Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains. The fire expanded by 6,000 acres overnight. About 4,000 people remained under evacuation orders in the region.

The Bobcat Fire was one of 27 major fires burning around the California. In an historic wildfire season, nearly 8,000 fires have burned 3.6 million acres — a massive increase over the same time last year, when 157,000 acres had burned in just over 5,000 fires.

Weather

A prolonged drought is plaguing the U.S. West. Utah is suffering the worst level of drought with 100% of the state experiencing some level of drought, including 84% in the extreme or exceptional category, according to droughtmonitor.com. Arizona is at 100% as well, with 57% extreme to exception. Similarly, Colorado is 100% in drought, with 50% in the extreme to exceptional range. Nevada is at 100% and 48% extreme/exception while New Mexico is 100% and 34% extreme/exceptional. Surprisingly, California is not as bad with 84% of its land area experiencing some level of drought and just 3% extreme/exceptional.

Tropical Storm Beta, the 23rd storm of the relentless 2020 hurricane season, is expected to bring days of flooding downpours to portions of storm-weary Texas and Louisiana this week after making landfall on Monday. The National Hurricane Center said over 12 inches of rain fell in some areas that had been already drenched by Hurricane Laura over a week ago. More than 100,000 gallons of domestic wastewater spilled in each of five locations across Houston. First responders conducted nearly 100 high-water rescues in Houston. High water kept several roads in Houston still closed Wednesday morning. Non-essential city employees were told to report to work two hours later than usual Wednesday. All Houston Independent School District facilities were closed Wednesday, although virtual online learning wasn’t affected.

It will cost up to $1.4 billion to repair most of the power outages caused by Hurricane Laura in Louisiana, according to the state’s largest and most widely affected power company.

Signs of the Times (9/18/20)

September 18, 2020

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Ephesians 12:17-19)

16,000 Accept Christ, 1.8 Million Watch Greg Laurie’s Virtual ‘Cinematic Crusade’

Pastor Greg Laurie on Tuesday said 1.8 million people watched Harvest’s A Rush of Hope evangelistic film Labor Day weekend, with 16,000 making professions of faith for Christ. Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, is the host of the one-hour movie, which features clips from three Erwin Brothers films and performances from Christian artists For King and Country, MercyMe and Jeremy Camp. It streamed for free over last weekend. The film answers “life’s greatest questions,” as Laurie put it. The movie streamed for free Labor Day weekend. Laurie called the Labor Day screening “phase one” in the Rush of Hope campaign. Phase two, he says, involves purchasing “television time for next weekend and beyond.”

Calif. Church That Faced Fines Moves to Outdoor Services

A California megachurch that defied its county’s health restrictions and held indoor services has changed course and is now holding outdoor services in its parking lot. North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif, had tallied more than $50,000 in fines, with its pastor, Jack Trieber, recording social media-style videos urging the county to back down. But on Sunday, Trieber led the congregation in an outdoor service and indicated the church would be in the parking lot for the near future, although he still hopes the two sides can come to an agreement. Attendees stayed in their cars and tuned to a radio station to hear him, honking their horns in place of “amens.”

Trump Admin Expands Pro-Life Protections and Women’s Health Abroad

On September 14, the Trump administration reaffirmed its commitment to pro-life values in a proposal which would extend the reach of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy. The policy, formerly known as the Mexico City policy, currently requires non-governmental organizations to agree, as a condition of their receipt of U.S. federal grant money, to neither perform nor promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. The new rule would apply this policy to contracts and subcontracts as well as grants. As noted by The Hill, these contracts “make up about 40 percent of global health aid.”

Austin City Council Slashes Police Budget, Diverts Funds to ‘Abortion Access’

A controversial new budget approved by the Austin, Texas, city council last month cuts millions of dollars in funding from the police department and redirects it to a wide variety of programs, including an increase in taxpayer money for abortion access. The 2020-21 budget, approved Aug. 13, slashes about $20 million from the budget for the Austin Police Department by eliminating vacant police officer positions, canceling cadet classes and cutting overtime costs, among other items. The city council diverted the $20 million to fund violence prevention, mental health response and other public health services, including an additional $100,000 in funding of the city’s “abortion services” fund, which received $150,000 in last year’s budget but will get $250,000 in 2021.

New Netflix Film ’Cuties’ Sexualizes Children

Video streaming giant Netflix is drawing criticism once again, this time for hosting and promoting the film “Cuties,” which sexualizes 11-year-old girls, reports Family Research Council. Having failed to learn its lesson after the trailer generated outrage last month, Netflix has gone ahead and made the movie available on its platform, despite many critics describing it as “child pornography.” As Tony Perkins of FRC writes, “Netflix is deeply intertwined with the agenda of the sexual revolution. Just last year, Netflix threatened to boycott Georgia if a pro-life law went into effect. Legalized abortion perpetuates the myth that there are ‘no consequences’ to engaging in sex outside of marriage, and it is often used by sexual abusers of children to cover up their crimes. By releasing the film “Cuties” to its viewers, Netflix is now actively participating in the sexual exploitation of minors.”

Feds Unveil Plan to Make Coronavirus Vaccine Free for All Americans

The Department of Defense and federal health agencies have outlined plans for a coronavirus vaccine which will be free for all Americans. The agencies are looking at January for a potential beginning of a vaccination campaign, although it remains possible that this could come later this year. Vaccinations would start gradually among some segments of the population – such as health workers, other essential workers, and the more vulnerable – before eventually ramping up for distribution to all who want it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s playbook, the vaccination campaign will be “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses.”

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told senators the administration will need about $6 billion to distribute a vaccine nationwide, but the funding is locked up in stalled talks between Democrats and Republicans over a coronavirus relief bill.

U.S. Covid Cases Ticking Upward After School/College Outbreaks

Daily US coronavirus cases have been ticking upward over the past five days. New daily cases averaged about 39,700 over a week as of Thursday, 13% higher than the week before. This comes after weeks of decline from a summer surge that saw a peak weekly average of 67,300 on July 22. Fifteen states are now reporting increases in their 7-day average number of cases. The recent upward trend follows the reopening of schools and colleges across the U.S. which have seen a number of outbreaks.

  • Arizona Statue University announced Friday that 1,580 students have tested positive as have 30 staff and faculty members. Meanwhile, the University of Arizona reported a total of 1,951 cases campus-wide at since Aug. 4 as of Thursday evening. These figures are in line with those reported at numerous colleges and universities across the nation.

Europe Reenacts Strict Anti-Contagion Measures as Covid Case Increase Once Again

European countries are responding to increasing caseloads of Covid-19 with a second wave of strict anti-contagion measures: viral “red zones” have been declared in France, some 1.5 million Britons have been ordered not to socialize outside their households, Spain’s leaders are discussing targeted lockdowns, and epidemiologists have warned that Athens may soon need to be partially quarantined from the rest of Greece.

Reporter Exposes Suppression of Low COVID-19 Rates in Nashville

Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s office was put on the defensive Thursday over the apparent suppression of COVID-19 data showing low risk of transmission of the disease in bar and restaurant settings. Fox-17 reporter Dennis Ferrier uncovered a series of emails between the Democratic mayor’s senior staff and the Metro Health Department that revealed that contact tracing attributed only 80 cases of the virus to bars and restaurants out of roughly 20,000 for the area. One email from late June shows a staffer in the mayor’s office instructing a health department official that the data was “not for public consumption.”

Judge Rules Some PA Covid Restrictions Unconstitutional

A federal judge on Monday ruled that some of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions implemented amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional — marking a win for businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the forced shutdown. U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, who was appointed by President Trump, sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders in their lawsuit against Wolf, a Democrat, and his health secretary. The ruling found that Wolf’s restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down were unconstitutional. The Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights, Stickman wrote in his ruling.

Many States Keep Inconsistent Data About Antigen Tests

More than 20 states either don’t release or have incomplete data on the rapid antigen tests considered key to containing the coronavirus. The lapses leave officials and the public in the dark about the true scope of the pandemic as untold numbers of cases go uncounted. Federal officials prioritize the tests to quickly detect COVID-19’s spread over slower, but more accurate, PCR tests. The patchy data on COVID-19 antigen testing carries enormous consequences as officials decide whether to reopen schools and businesses.

Thousands of NC Residents Incorrectly Told they had Coronavirus

More than 6,700 individuals in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina were told in a text message sent from Mecklenburg County Health Department on Friday that they tested positive for COVID-19 and over 500 people were told through a county email that they were also infected with the novel coronavirus. But the results were incorrect due to a technical error by Health Space, the company they use for contact tracing, according to a statement on the county’s website.

Lack of Vitamin D Increases Risk of Covid-19 Death by 77%

A lack of Vitamin D increases the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 by 77%, a study published Thursday by JAMA Network Open found. “Given that vitamin D deficiency is common, supplementation of vitamin D intake might reduce the likelihood of developing COVID-19,” said Dr. David O. Meltzer, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. He and his researchers found that 22% of the test subjects who had a deficiency of Vitamin D contracted COVID-19. But of the 60% with adequate vitamin D levels, just 12% were infected.

  • Researchers found a 9% increase in COVID-19 mortality when the respiratory hazard index, a measurement of air quality, increased.

Rochester Officials Tried to Hush Daniel Prude’s Death

The Rochester Police Department and other officials in the upstate New York city attempted to keep the death of Daniel Prude quiet, according to documents released by the city Monday. the documents show how information was withheld for months after Prude, a Black man, died after police pinned him to the ground with a hood over his head in March. On one police report, an edit reads, “Make him a suspect” rather than simply referring to Prude as an individual, as the officer writing the report initially had. Other documents show police and city officials attempting to avoid releasing video of the encounter publicly. “This initial look has shown what so many have suspected that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” said Mayor Lovely Warren in announcing Chief La’Ron Singletary’s termination.

Louisville Agrees to $12M Settlement for Breonna Taylor Shooting

Louisville’s metro government announced a $12 million financial settlement Tuesday with the family of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman fatally shot by police in her apartment six months ago. In addition to the payment, the deal includes several policing reforms, including a requirement that commanders approve all search warrants before they go to a judge. The accord will also provide housing credits to officers who agree to live within the city, and it would seek the authority for drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in any shooting. The large settlement in the civil suit brought by Taylor’s family comes as a Jefferson County grand jury may screen the case for criminal charges soon.

Lancaster PA Arrests 13 Rioters, 9 Held on $1M Bail

Thirteen people were arrested early Monday morning on a slew of felony and misdemeanor charges including arson, riot, vandalism and criminal conspiracy following overnight rioting. The violent protests erupted overnight Sunday following the police shooting of Ricardo Munoz, who charged at cops with a knife. One of the accused rioters is another white “privileged 20-somethings” like those arrested in earlier NYC rioting. This woman was identified as an “ally” of her college’s Black Student Union.

Shootings of Police Continue to Escalate

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced on Saturday two of its deputies had been shot multiple times in Compton as they sat in their vehicle. LASD said the two deputies were in surgery and were “fighting for their lives,” adding the suspect in the shooting was still at large. FOX 11 Los Angeles said the surveillance footage of the attack confirms the attack was a “straight ambush.” Protesters reportedly shouting slogans like “Death to the police!” showed up at the hospital treating two law enforcement officers who were ambushed. ‘Y’all gonna die one by one,’ a man could be heard shouting.

FBI Directors Says Antifa Under Investigation

Speaking in front of the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray reconfirmed Antifa is a dangerous ideology fueling riots across the country and that FBI agents are conducting investigations into individuals affiliated with the movement. “Antifa is a real thing… a movement.. and we have any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists and some of those individuals self-identify with Antifa,” Wray said. Attorney General Bill Barr has also confirmed the investigations. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler claimed in July, when riots were raging, that Antifa is a “myth” made up by Republicans. 

U.S. to Block TikTok and WeChat Downloads Starting Sunday

The Department of Commerce said Friday that it would start banning U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat beginning on Sunday. Starting Sunday, companies will be prevented from distributing TikTok and WeChat for download in the U.S. from app stores, such as those operated via Apple and Google on any devices. WeChat is a social messaging app owned by the Chinese company Tencent, and TikTok is a video-based social media platform owned by the China-based ByteDance. These apps are believed to allow China to spy on and collect data from users and is deemed a threat to national security.

Federal Judge Issues Temporary Injunction Against U.S. Postal Service

A Federal judge issued a temporary injunction against the U.S. Postal Service due to concerns that operational changes were purposely causing mail delivery slowdowns. Stanley A. Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, said President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are “involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” that could disrupt the 2020 election. The decision could cast the Postal Service into more tumult just as states have begun to send out mail ballots for the Nov. 3 election.

Economic News

Another 860,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. Despite the slight improvement from the previous week, last week’s claims were still about four-times higher than they were before the pandemic. Continued jobless claims, counting workers who have filed for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 12.6 million, down from 13.4 million in last week’s report.

Medical debt is piling up as millions of unemployed Americans struggle to stay afloat after losing their health-insurance coverage following a historic wave of layoffs this year. Consumer finance company Credit Karma conducted an analysis of nearly 20 million members in the U.S. and found that they have a total of $45 billion of medical debt in collections, which averages to about $2,200 of debt per member. “This is a lot of money when you consider nearly half of Americans don’t have $400 saved in case of an emergency,” noted Credit Karma.

  • A separate survey during the pandemic shows that 56% of U.S. adults had medical debt sent to collections. Nearly two-thirds owe under $5,000, while 5% owe more than $50,000, according to a Debt.com survey.

Mortgage delinquencies are up 450% from pre-pandemic levels, with around 2.25 million mortgages at least 90 days late in July. Markets with the biggest delinquency increases in July were Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando, New York and New Orleans.

The pandemic is robbing low-income Americans of a college degree. One analysis found that about 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed financial aid applications this year, and low-income college students are dropping out in record numbers, often because they lack Internet connection to take online classes.

Israel Signs Peace Agreement with UAE & Bahrain in White House Ceremony

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House to mark historic normalization agreements between Israel and the two Arab countries. For years, Israel has had covert relations with many of the Sunni Gulf states, driven in recent years by a mutual de facto alliance against Iran. The UAE and Bahrain are also close allies of the US, with each country hosting a significant US military presence. “This day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace,” said Netanyahu.

Israel Busts Iranian-Hezbollah Terror Cell in Jerusalem

The Shin Bet revealed on Thursday that they had shut down a joint effort by the Iranian Quds Force and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to recruit Israeli and Palestinian civilians and residents to carry out terrorist activities in Israel. The recruitment network was uncovered through a joint investigation by the Shin Bet, the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 investigation unit and other security agencies, the Shin Bet said in a statement. The investigation revealed that Hezbollah organizes conferences in Lebanon for young Palestinians for the express purpose of identifying potential terrorist recruits from Israel and Judea and Samaria.

New Covid Lockdown in Israel as High Holy Days Arrive

Israelis are preparing to celebrate the holiest days on the Jewish calendar under a second Covid-19 lockdown. Rabbis must arrange worshipers into clusters of 20 to 50, separated by dividers, determining the size of the groups based on complex calculations involving local infection rates, and how many entrances and square feet their synagogues have. Masks will be required, and many seats will have to remain empty. With the virus rampaging again, Israel became one of the few places in the world to go into a second lockdown. The rules took effect on Friday, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

Christian Persecution and Violence Spiraling in Africa

Another 58 people were murdered and 17 kidnapped by militants earlier this month in a mainly-Christian area of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reports Barnabas Aid. “People were killed with every sort of weapon,” said a villager. At the end of May, another 58 people died in anti-Christian attacks in Burkina Faso. In August, a group of children were killed, which is unusual as men tend to be the main targets. The youngsters, on their way home by cart after a day grazing their families’ livestock, were killed by an improvised explosive device planted on the road in a mainly-Christian area. These are just a few examples of the spiraling level of persecution and violence against Christians in Africa.

Christian Girls Are Being Kidnapped at an Alarming Rate in Egypt

Coptic Christian girls in Egypt are being abducted and trafficked at alarming rates, CBN News reports. The “Jihad of the Womb,” report, by advocacy group Coptic Solidarity, states a good portion of these abductions are blown off by Egyptian authorities as marriages, even though coercion was used to force these young girls into abduction. According to the report, at least 500 women and girls were abducted this way. A former Islamic kidnapper stated they use “rented apartments in different areas of Egypt to hide kidnapped Coptic girls. There, they put them under pressure and threaten them to convert to Islam.

Iran Says 1,044 Centrifuges Active At Underground Plant

The head of Iran’s atomic agency said Sunday that 1,044 centrifuges were active at the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, in line with steps to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal. The suspension of all enrichment at the underground facility near the Shiite holy city of Qom was one of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities that it accepted in return for the lifting of international sanctions in the 2015 landmark accord. Tehran first announced the resumption of enrichment at Fordow last November, the fourth phase of its push since May 2019 to progressively suspend commitments to the deal.

Afghanistan, Taliban Begin First-Ever Peace Talks

Afghanistan’s warring sides started negotiations on Saturday for the first time to seek ways to end decades of war. The meetings bring together delegates appointed by the Afghan government and representatives from the Taliban. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the opening ceremony, which was held in Qatar where the meetings will take place. The discussions are important in the search for lasting peace that will also provide an exit for U.S. and NATO troops after nearly 19 years. Among the government-appointed negotiators are four women, who vow to preserve women’s rights in any power-sharing deal with the fundamentalist Taliban.

Wildfires

Dozens of wildfires have been burning their way through swathes of the U.S. West Coast over the last month, killing more than 30 people and forcing tens of thousands from their homes. The wildfires are burning millions of acres in California, Oregon and other parts of the western U.S., devastating towns and blanketing communities in thick smoke. Scientists say the region’s wildfires are the worst in 18 years. The wildfires from California to Washington state have burned about 5 million acres, nearly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. Many residents returning after evacuations have found only charred rubble.

  • Four people have been arrested on suspicion of arson in West Coast areas under siege from the destructive and deadly blazes. In Oregon, Domingo Lopez, Jr., was arrested early Monday for setting “multiple” fires along a freeway in Portland, hours after he was released from custody for setting another brush fire along the same roadway.
  • The National Weather Service said Monday that smoke from the wildfires on the west coast of the U.S. could be seen across the country at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and in New York City.

Weather

Moving at an agonizingly slow 3 mph, Hurricane Sally finally came ashore at 4:45 am local time with top winds of 105mph, making landfall Wednesday morning near Gulf Shores, Ala., as a Category 2 storm. Sally pushed a surge of ocean water onto the coast and dumped torrential rain that caused dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and well inland. More than 24 inches of rain was recorded at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Officials in parts of Florida and Alabama asked residents to shelter in place Thursday and avoid calling 911 except in cases of a life-threatening emergency, as first responders, National Guardsmen, utility crews and others work through the flood waters and rubble left behind by Hurricane Sally. First responders in boats and high water vehicles aided hundreds of people stranded in flooding and storm surge. At least three deaths were connected to Sally. Nearly 400,000 homes and businesses remained without power across the Deep South early Friday.  

The Atlantic Ocean had five active tropical cyclones at the same time Monday for only the second time in history. The only other time was on September 11-14, 1971.

A 44-square-mile chunk of ice, about twice the size of Manhattan, has broken off the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf in northeast Greenland, leaving scientists fearful over its rapid disintegration.

More than 50 people are dead after heavy rains caused landslides that collapsed three gold mines in eastern Congo on Friday. “The diggers and the transporters of the stones were swallowed up by the waters,” said Alexandre Bundya, the mayor of Kamituga, where the mines were located. Days of heavy rains led to the disaster at the artisanal mines.

  • 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 (9/11/20)

September 11, 2020

 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)

More Than 12,000 Christians Worship at California Capitol

More than 12,000 of all races and backgrounds gathered in the sweltering heat to worship Jesus Christ at the state capitol building in Sacramento, California. The Christians did so in defiance of Governor Gavin Newsom, the Democrat governor responsible for shutting down many churches across the state, reports Todd Starnes. “America was founded on the freedom to worship,” said Sean Feucht, organizer of the ‘Let Us Worship’ rally. “Politicians can write press releases. They can make threats. They can shut down parks. They can put up fences. But they can’t stop the Church of Christ from worshipping the One True God.”

Seattle Tries to Prevent Outdoor Worship, But God Wins

The City of Seattle shut down a local park in advance of a massive gathering of Christian worshippers. Christians were banned from the park, but not Black Lives Matter or Antifa. “This is extraordinary: Seattle denies Christians permit to worship peacefully OUTSIDE and then puts up fences to block them – but allows for outdoor protests and camps,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote on Twitter. But instead of canceling the event, the Christians simply relocated the service to the street and called it a “worship protest.” Thousands of Christians sang together, “Our God reigns,” as they stood in the streets and atop of nearby buildings.

Judge Bans Pastor John MacArthur from Holding Indoor Services

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued an order banning Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from conducting, participating in or attending any indoor worship services. “In an inexplicable ruling, the judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ So, 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all,” Pastor MacArthur said in a statement to The Todd Starnes Radio Show. “That is not what our founders said. Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.” 

Churches Open Doors to Largest School District in Texas

On Sept. 8, eight Houston churches that are part of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church hosted hundreds of Houston Independent School District students citywide for the first day of virtual school as part of the “Sanctuary of Learning.” After the school district, the largest in Texas, opted for online-only teaching due to the pandemic, many working parents were left with few options, until local congregations opened their doors, providing ample space for social distancing, Wi-Fi and volunteers so that students have a safe place to learn. The “Sanctuary of Learning” was inspired by the partnerships that many of the churches have with the schools. The program provides a safe and stimulating environment for children while their parents were away at work. In addition to showing virtual lessons, participating churches offer enrichment activities in the afternoon. Some sites provide extended-care for parents who have to work late.

Big Tech Censorship Strikes Family Research Council

Wednesday, one hour before the Family Research Council (FRC) was going to go live with a policy-focused broadcast, they suddenly couldn’t inform their partners of the broadcast via text. FRC’s text-messaging vendor MobileCause’s CEO, Victor Limongelli, sent an email terminating FRC’s contract. Limongelli said FRC contract was terminated because they are a ‘hate group.’ Tony Perkins, President of FRC, said, “They dropped us based upon our religious views; simply because we stand for biblical truth on the issues of the day. This is a stunning incident of big tech censorship and religious discrimination, pure and simple.”

As Many as 1 out of 5 Churches May Not Survive the Pandemic

Barna Group president David Kinnaman is projecting that 1 out of every 5 churches in America “could be forced to shut their doors in the next 18 months” In an interview on NPR’s program “Here And Now” earlier this week, Kinnaman said their surveys show confidence among pastors that their churches will make it through the pandemic has declined from more than 70 percent in May to around 58 percent now. During the boom years, many large churches went deep into debt to fund elaborate building programs that included bowling alleys, coffee bars and all sorts of other amenities that they didn’t necessarily need, and now that very hard times have arrived many of those churches will go belly up, notes The Economic Collapse.

Charities Take a Big Hit in Pandemic, Losing Billions

Charity organizations have lost billions in revenue during the pandemic, making the sector one of many to seek support from Congress at a time when negotiations over another COVID-19 relief package show little sign of a breakthrough, reports The Hill. Traditional methods of fundraising for charities — concerts, festivals and galas — have all been canceled or significantly scaled back due to public health concerns. Nonprofits and charitable organizations are now looking ahead to the holiday giving season in hopes of donations to make up for shortfalls over much of the year. The Salvation Army said it’s too early to know exactly how much revenue has been lost, but the organization noted that all of its thrift stores were closed during the height of the pandemic. Last year, those stores accounted for $600 million in revenue overall.

Covid-19 Updates

Only nine states are showing increases in the 7-day average number of new coronavirus cases, down from 18 states a week ago, with 35 states having declining numbers. The states showing increases are North and South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Arkansas. Overall, the 7-day average number of cases in the U.S. has declined from a high of around 67,000/day on 7/19 to 35,629 on 9/10. The 7-day average number of Covid-related deaths has declined from 1,226 on 8/1 to 702 on 9/10.

  • At least 7,000 health workers worldwide have died after contracting COVID-19, according to human rights organization Amnesty International as of 9/5.

International Covid-19 Updates

The Netherlands in the past day has recorded the highest number of newly reported Covid-19 infections for months, the county’s health minister said on Wednesday. There were at least 1,140 newly reported Covid-19 cases in the past day, de Jonge said. That is approaching the Netherlands’ single-day record, which was set on April 10, at 1,335 new infections.

  • India’s rapidly increasing coronavirus caseload made it the world’s second-worst-hit country behind the United States on Monday. The 95,735 cases added in Wednesday (over double the current U.S. infections/day) pushed India’s total past Brazil with more than 4.2 million cases; the United States has seen more than 6.2 million people infected. Despite over 2 million new cases in the past month and the virus spreading through smaller towns and villages, the government has continued relaxing restrictions to resuscitate the faltering economy.

Communities With College Students Have Severe Outbreaks of Coronavirus

Across the country, Coronavirus outbreaks among college students have become an urgent public health issue. Of the 25 worst outbreaks currently in the U.S., communities with many college students represent 19 of them. They span the map from Georgia Southern University to the University of North Dakota, from Virginia Tech to Central Texas College. In some of the college towns, like Pullman, Washington, home to Washington State, students aren’t even taking classes in person, yet are still crowding apartments and filling local bars.

Reopening of Schools Fraught with Problems

At least six teachers have died from covid-19 since their schools reopened in the fall. In Georgia, one school district was forced to send hundreds of people home to quarantine after just one day of school prep on campus. Another district in that state ordered 900 children and staff to quarantine after being exposed to the virus during the first week back in class. A school district outside Buffalo, New York, has delayed the start of online-only learning programs until further notice for grades 5-12 because of mass staff resignations and leaves of absence, the superintendent announced last Friday. 90 staff members have taken a leave of absence due to Covid-19 and 111 staff members resigned.

Counterproductive Protests Drive Black Police Chiefs to Resign

Two more high-profile Black police chiefs announced this week that they plan to step down amid protest unrest, spurring more questions about whether Black Lives Matter is hurting rather than helping Black Americans. In New York, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said Wednesday that he refused to “sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character.” Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall submitted her resignation Tuesday after coming under criticism for her handling of anti-police protests. They are departing a month after the retirement of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, the city’s first Black female chief, who fought for months to squelch protest rioting as the City Council, which has no Black members, voted to cut the department’s budget.

Young Wealthy White Activists Arrested for Protest Violence

One of the Black Lives Matter protesters now facing felony rioting and misdemeanor graffiti charges — after a window-smashing free-for-all in Manhattan — is a wealthy Upper East Sider whose mother is an architect and whose father is a child psychiatrist. Clara Kraebber, 20, is one of eight wealthy white youths arrested last Friday night after a roiling, three-hour rampage that police say caused at least $100,000 in damage from Foley Square up to 24th Street. “Every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground!” the group chanted as it moved up Lafayette Street while busting the plate glass facades of banks, Starbucks and Duane-Reades.

Protest Arms Race Portends Increased Violence

Antifa member Michael Forest Reinoehl shot and killed a pro-Trump counter-protester only to die himself Thursday in a shootout with federal agents who had come to arrest him outside Olympia, Washington. His actions shatter any conception of left-wing protesters shunning the use of deadly weapons while their counterparts on the far right show up in groups that wear military fatigues and openly carry pistols and assault rifles. Those who study extremism say that the events in Portland in the past week underscore the potential for demonstrators on both sides to arrive armed, vastly increasing chances that peaceful protests can turn violent.

Chicago, New York City Reeling from Holiday Weekend Gun Violence

A violent Labor Day weekend in Chicago saw 10 murders, 38 shootings and 51 shooting victims between 6 p.m. on Friday and 11:59 p.m. Monday. Including an 8-year-old girl. So far in 2020, figures from the Chicago Tribune show that at least 175 children ages 16 or younger have been shot in the nation’s third largest city, with at least 21 of them dying. Meanwhile, the New York Police Department told Fox News it reported 5 murders, 22 shootings and 28 shooting victims between Friday and Monday. Early Monday morning, a 6-year-old boy was exiting a car with his mom in Brooklyn when he and his mother were shot. NYC reported 160 gun arrests last week, and 37 more on Monday.

Court Denies Trump Directive to Not Count Illegal Immigrants in Census

A federal court on Thursday blocked a memorandum signed by President Trump seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census, saying such action would violate the statute governing congressional apportionment. A special three-judge panel out of New York wrote that the president’s argument that undocumented immigrants should not be counted runs afoul of a statute saying apportionment must be based on everyone who is a resident of the United States. The judges ruled that all residents must be counted for apportionment purposes regardless of their legal status.

Microsoft Says Russian, Chinese and Iranian Hackers Attempting to Impact Election

Russian military spies who hacked and leaked Democratic emails to inject chaos into the 2016 presidential election are active again, targeting political parties, advocacy groups and consultants, Microsoft reported Thursday. China and Iran are also attempting to penetrate the Microsoft email accounts of people affiliated with the political campaigns, though the efforts against the campaigns of President Trump by Iran and Democratic nominee Joe Biden by China were not successful, the company said. The Republican National Committee also was unsuccessfully targeted by Iran. The news is consistent with recent statements by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the three countries being active in the lead-up to the Nov. 3 election.

Most Americans Plan to Vote Before Election Day

About six in 10 registered voters nationwide say they want to cast their ballots before Election Day, a significant departure from previous years that will force the candidates to reshape how they campaign in the election season’s final weeks, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted by Ipsos. In 2016, about 4 in 10 ballots were cast early. Fear of the coronavirus and doubts about the reliability of mail voting are weighing heavily on Americans as they decide how to safely ensure their vote will be counted in this fall’s presidential election, according to the survey. The likely surge in early voting and mail ballots will test election systems nationwide, many of which are ill-prepared to contend with an unprecedented volume of early votes.

Astronomers Fail to Find Technological Signs of Alien Life

Working on a project known as “Looking for E.T.,” astronomers in Australia completed “the deepest and broadest search” looking for technological signs of extraterrestrial civilizations at more than 10 million star systems and have come up empty. Technosignatures are defined as “potentially detectable signatures and signals of the presence of distant advanced civilizations,” according to NASA. To date, no presence of another civilization has been found, the researchers acknowledge in a recent report.

Youth Suicides Continue to Increase, Experts Don’t Know Why

The rate of suicide among those aged 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rise occurred in most states, with 42 experiencing significant increases. The suicide rate increased from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 in 2018. The 2016–2018 suicide rate among persons aged 10–24 was highest for Alaska (31.4 per 100,000). Other states with the highest suicide rates for that period include South Dakota (23.6), Montana (23.2), Wyoming (20.5) and New Mexico (19.6). States in the Northeast were among those with the lowest suicide rates: New Jersey (5.7), Rhode Island (5.9), New York (5.9), Connecticut (6.3), and Massachusetts (6.4). There are many theories on the underlying causes, the rise of social media prominent among them, but researchers say there isn’t enough data to draw firm conclusions. Suicide rates are not increasing in every country that has seen a rise in social media use.

Senate Democrats Defeat GOP Coronavirus Relief Package

After Senate Republicans crafted a targeted, $300 billion COVID relief package, Democrats blocked the legislation, yet again. In need of 60 votes to avoid filibuster and begin discussion, no Democrats joined Leader McConnell’s effort to deliver additional relief to the American people. Leader McConnell challenged his Democratic colleagues to voice their oppositions, rather than blindly blocking the legislation. “Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief. They blocked money for schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance, and the Paycheck Protection Program,” reported TownHall.com.

Economic News

The pandemic recession plunged dozens of large American companies into bankruptcy this summer. Countless more are on their way. Despite unparalleled aid from the Federal Reserve and Congress, large company bankruptcies spiked 244% in July and August from the same period of 2019, according to research from investment bank Jefferies. Some experts say this is just the tip of the iceberg of bankruptcies to come.

About 857,000 Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance last week, up about 20,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. More than 55 million workers have filed for benefits over the past six months. The weekly figures have trended down since peaking at 6.2 million in early spring, The previous all-time high for weekly claims on a non-seasonally adjusted basis was about 1 million during a recession in 1982.

U.S. manufacturing activity increased more than expected in August as new orders surged to their highest level in over 16-1/2 years The upbeat report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) strengthened expectations for a sharp rebound in economic activity this quarter, though the outlook remains uncertain as money from the government dries up.

Amazon announced it will hold a Career Day on September 16 at which it will have 33,000 job openings for corporate and tech positions. All of the new employees for these roles will be paid at least minimum wage at $15 per hour with up to 20 weeks of parental leave.

More than 60% of New York restaurants surveyed by the New York State Restaurant Association said they are likely or somewhat likely to close by the end of the year without some form of financial relief as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on businesses across the U.S.

A new report by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of young adults — 52% (26.6 million)— lived with one or both of their parents in July, higher than any previous measurement. Pew defined a “young adult” as anyone that is in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket.

Marriott will lay 673 workers at its Bethesda, Maryland, headquarters due to the slump in travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. Americans are increasingly opting for Airbnb and other short-term rental alternatives rather than hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bahrain Second Arab Nation to Establish Diplomatic Ties With Israel

Last month, Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to end decades of enmity in a historic deal. Now Bahrain is set to become just the second Arab nation to establish ties with Israel. “Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region,” Israel, Bahrain and the United States said in a joint statement Friday.

First African Nation to Open its Embassy in Jerusalem

Lazarus Chakwera, president of the southeastern African country of Malawi, announced his plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem during a State of the Nation address to the Malawian parliament on September 4. “My administration recognizes that foreign relations have a significant role to play in promoting the socioeconomic development and growth of Malawi,” Chakwera said. The announcement was met with applause by the Malawian parliament. Chakwera, a Christian with a PhD in theology, became president in June. Christians make up over three quarters of Malawi’s population according to a 2018 census.

Kosovo Becomes First Muslim Country to Open Embassy in Jerusalem

President Donald Trump announced last Friday that Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize economic ties as part of U.S.-brokered talks that include Belgrade moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Serbia’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nod to both Israel and the United States. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the U.S. embassy there in May 2018. The administration has encouraged other countries to do the same but has been widely criticized by the Palestinians and many in Europe who favor the Palestinians in their conflict with the Jewish state. Until now, Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, has never recognized Israel.

U.S. Cuts Troop Presence in Iraq

The U.S. is drawing down its military forces in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000, the top commander in the Middle East said Wednesday. The move is in keeping with President Donald Trump’s pledge to cut the number of U.S. military personnel deployed overseas. This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” Gen. F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said. McKenzie said the decision was taken because the U.S. had “confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”

Beirut Port Struck Again by Large Fire

A huge fire broke out Thursday at the Port of Beirut, the site of last month’s catastrophic explosion and fire that killed nearly 200 people and devastated parts of Lebanon’s capital. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire at a warehouse storing oil and tires, near where the fatal explosion occurred 40 days ago. Smoke covered the capital and firefighters and ambulances rushed to the scene. Army helicopters were taking part in efforts to extinguish the fire.

Resurgent ISIS Violence Underscores Revitalized Threat In Syria

In August, ISIS fighters carried out more than 35 attacks and killed at least 76 pro-Assad regime fighters across Syria in the Homs, Deir Ez Zor, Raqqa, Hama, and Aleppo governorates. Since losing its territory in Syria, ISIS has shifted its strategy in the country from holding territory to an insurgency against the state. Nonetheless, the increased volume of violence, sophistication of attacks, and total number of pro-regime casualties demonstrates ISIS’s “robust logistical and strategic capability,” despite the defeat of its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Hong Kong Independence Protests Start Up Again

Hong Kong police have arrested between 90 and 289 people at anti-government protests over the decision to postpone elections. One woman was arrested on charges of assault and spreading pro-independence slogans. Such slogans are illegal under the newly enacted National Security Act.

Fire Destroys Most of Europe’s Largest Refugee Camp

Europe’s largest refugee camp, the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, has long been a desperate makeshift home for thousands of refugees and migrants. For years, rights groups warned that these squalid conditions would sooner or later prompt a humanitarian disaster. On Tuesday night, that disaster came. A fast-moving fire destroyed much of the camp, leaving most of its 12,000 residents homeless.

Environment

In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, parts of southern Louisiana have become a mosquito paradise—and hell for livestock. Swarms of thousands of mosquitoes have killed hundreds of cows, along with deer, horses, and other animals, the USA Today reports. The insects have been draining blood from the animals, leaving them anemic, and some have died from exhaustion after constantly moving to try to escape the swarms. One deer rancher lost 30 of his 110 animals to the mosquito swarms. Louisiana State University AgCenter agent Jeremy Hebert says the mosquito population explosion is by far the worst he’s ever seen. “As soon as you would walk outside, your legs would turn black from the sheer amount of mosquitoes,” he said.

Apocalyptic Wildfires Decimate U.S. West Coast

The scale of the fires burning in the Western U.S. right now is unprecedented. More than 90 major fires that have burned more than 4,200 square miles – the size of 14 New York Cities –are raging in 13 Western states, killing eleven people thus far:

  • More than 10% of Oregon’s population—over half a million people—have been forced to evacuate due to wildfires have burned more than 1,400 square miles in the state of 4.2 million this week. The rest of the US Pacific Coast is also on fire, with wildfires burning 937 square miles in Washington state this week (and killing a 1-year-old). And in California, 4,844 square miles have been scorched this year so far, and 29 major wildfires are still burning. One, in the northern part of the state, has killed at least 10 so far.
  • Almost 1,000 fires have raged in California since Aug. 15, many sparked by lightning strikes. A heat wave over Labor Day weekend that fueled new wildfires across California has pushed the state to set a new record for the number of acres burned. As of Monday, wildfires have scorched over 3 million acres of land in the Golden State. Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said the new record was so striking because of how early it was set. The fire season usually runs through the end of October. Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and about two dozen others around California. In the central part of the state, the explosive Creek Fire has grown to more than 135,000 acres in just three days after erupting over the weekend. At least 65 structures have been destroyed as evacuations remain in the area.
  • More than 200 people had to be rescued by helicopters early Sunday when a fast-growing wildfire cut off the only escape route near Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno, California. At least 20 people were injured, some critically, with broken bones, with burns and many with lacerations and abrasions.. The fire, which began about 6:45 p.m. PDT Friday, forced evacuations in Fresno and Madera counties.
  • In Oregon, a fast-moving wildfire caused “catastrophic damage” and probably loss of life in the town of Blue River, east of Eugene, Lane County officials said. At least 80 to 100 homes burned. In Oregon and Washington state, almost 250,000 homes and businesses in the two states were without power due to wildfires, and the small town of Malden, in Washington’s Whitman County, was devastated by flames. Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz tweeted that “we’re still seeing new fire starts in every corner of the state.”
  • A firework at a gender-reveal party triggered a wildfire in southern California that has destroyed 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) and forced many residents to flee their homes, the fire department said Sunday.

Weather

This past July held the crown for the hottest month ever recorded in Phoenix, but its reign didn’t last long. August quickly took the title for the hottest month on record in Phoenix since tracking began in 1896. August’s average of 99.1 degrees surpassed July’s 98.9 degrees. The unusually hot August made this summer the hottest summer ever recorded in Phoenix.

Heat records fell all over California on Sunday as an epic heat wave continued to sweep the state. Woodland Hills in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley recorded a high of 121 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles County, Other areas in southern California had recorded all-time highs Saturday, including El Cajon at 114 degrees.

Residents of the Denver, Mile High City, will go from experiencing record heat to preparing for a sudden snow storm. The city is expecting a more than 60-degree drop in daily high temperatures, from 101 degrees on Saturday to a predicted 32 degrees on Tuesday along with some snow.

Dozens of trailer trucks were blown over in winds that gusted up to 99 mph Tuesday in Utah. Four drivers were taken to hospitals after at least 37 semi-trucks and other high profile vehicles were knocked sideways by the winds. The weather system dropped temperatures as much as 60 degrees in 24 hours and brought the powerful winds to Utah, as well as heavy snow to parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

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

Signs of the Times (9/4/20)

September 4, 2020

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea,” (Psalm 46:1-2)

California Church Refuses to Close Despite Fines

The pastor of a large California church said Tuesday his congregation will not stop meeting for indoor worship despite fines from the county that have topped $50,000. Jack Trieber, pastor of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif., said in a new video on the church’s Facebook page that Santa Clara County posted an additional order on the church’s doors this week and is fining the congregation $5,000 for each service.

Los Angeles County Takes Parking Lot Back from Church

For the past 45 years Grace Community Church has leased a large portion of its parking lot from Los Angeles County. On Friday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works terminated that agreement – no doubt in retaliation for the church invoking its Constitutional rights to gather for Sunday worship. “If Grace fails to vacate the premise as required, the District may enter the premises and remove Grace’s personal property,” the letter said. The California mega-church was given 30-days to vacate the property. The church had been paying $8301.41 per month to use the parking lot.

D.C. Mayor Proposes to Remove Federal Monuments

The White House on Tuesday criticized the mayor of Washington, D.C., for publishing a new report that recommends the federal government consider removing or relocating the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument and multiple other historical properties. The report recommends the federal government “remove, relocate, or contextualize” eight statues or memorials, including the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. Others include statues or memorials of Andrew Jackson, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason, Albert Pike, Christopher Columbus and Francis Griffith Newlands. The report also recommends the city rename 21 public schools, including ones named after Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, Zachary Taylor, Francis Scott Key, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson. House Republicans on Friday demanded that Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser “immediately suspend” the “radical” proposal. “These monuments are in place to represent American values and heritage—not simply to reflect your notion of ‘contemporary DC values,” they said.

WHO/CDC Admit: No Direct Evidence Masks Prevent Viral Infection

The World Health Organization’s June 5, 2020, guidance memo on face mask use states there’s no direct evidence that universal masking of healthy people is an effective intervention against respiratory illnesses. “At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID- 19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” A policy review paper9 published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in May 2020 — the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s own journal — has also reviewed “the evidence base on the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical personal protective measures … in non-healthcare settings,” and they too found no direct evidence of benefit.

90% Who Test Positive for COVID-19 are Not Contagious

A New York Times report found that as many as 90% of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have such insignificant amounts of the virus that they don’t need to be isolated or traced. “Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time,” the report said. The Times has now modified its call for more testing by saying everyone should get a rapid test. A rapid test has a higher threshold for the quantity of the virus needed to render a positive result. The Times acknowledged that in “what may be a step in this direction, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would purchase 150 million rapid tests.”

Only 6% of Deaths Were Solely Due to Covid-19

The CDC’s website states that, “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.” Some of the most common additional conditions mentioned in the study are: influenza, pneumonia, hypertensive diseases, heart disease, cardiac arrest, heart failure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, renal failure, etc. How many of the 94% would have died anyway? No one knows, making the overall numbers inaccurate to an unknown degree.

CDC Advises States to be Ready to Distribute Vaccine by November

Amid reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling some health officials around the country to be ready to start distributing a coronavirus vaccine by November, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer said Thursday that the company may have an effective vaccine by the end of October. That timeline is “conceivable” but not likely, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said.

  • Odds are that a vaccine rushed to market will be less than fully effective and likely to come with unanticipated side effects.

CDC Issues Unprecedented Eviction Ban

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued an unprecedented order barring landlords from evicting tenants who can’t afford rent because they lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ban applies to tenants who expect to make less than $99,000 ($198,000 for joint-filing couples) this year. Renters are still required to pay what they owe, but cannot be kicked out of their place through the end of 2020. Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, however, will be allowed to proceed. The CDC director has authority to implement measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease, though it’s not clear whether the federal law granting that power would override a rental contract. One landlord advocacy group warned the order could end up causing a financial crisis for landlords.

Covid-19 Updates

U.S. Covid-19 cases have begun creeping back up, partially driven by increasing cases at colleges and universities (see below). There are now 18 states with increasing cases, up from 11 last Friday. California reported 3,707 deaths connected to COVID-19 in August, up 18% over July. But infection and hospitalization rates have been in decline in recent weeks, and average daily deaths also began dropping in recent weeks. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he is wary of a COVID-19 spike as displaced Hurricane Laura victims scatter across the state and first-responders and volunteers flow into the most damaged areas to help.

Former FDA Head Says Sweden’s Herd Immunity Approach Unsuccessful

Sweden should not be America’s model for pandemic response, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Sunday. Some people have pointed to Sweden as a successful model for the softening of guidelines – but Gottlieb wrote, “The country experienced 5,821 Covid deaths in a population the size of North Carolina. And Sweden is far short of herd immunity, even as the country’s economic recovery ranks among the worst in its region.”

Colleges & Universities Experience Covid-19 Outbreaks

Numerous colleges and universities report rapid rise in Covid-19 cases after just one week of in-person classes.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed a SWAT team to the State University of New York College at Oneonta to help contain a surge in coronavirus cases that developed at the school. The state team will include 71 contact tracers and eight case investigators. Oneonta’s total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has reached 105, representing 3% of the faculty, staff and students who are on campus.
  • Arizona State University announced on Monday night that the number of students who are known to have COVID-19 is now 775, which is up from 452 last Friday.
  • At the University of Georgia, nearly 800 students tested positive for COVID-19, the first full week of classes, and the university has set aside or rented nearly 500 rooms on and off campus for students in quarantine or isolation.
  • Faculty at the University of Alabama received an email from higher-ups warning them not to reveal to the rest of the class if anyone in that class tested positive for the coronavirus—despite the school having “one of the largest coronavirus clusters reported at any academic institution,” with cases surpassing 1,000. Now, Boston University professors have received a similar message, with the school’s provost noting “the health of our community—faculty, staff, and students—is best served by ensuring the strict privacy of everyone’s test status,”
  • As COVID-19 outbreaks crop up at college campuses across the country, some schools are reverting to online classes and, in some cases, even sending students back home. Dr. Anthony Fauci says don’t sent them home because that would spread infections all over the U.S. and possibly to older family members.

Reporter Says Riots Being Financed and Coordinated

Shelby Talcott, a Daily Caller reporter, has been in a half a dozen riot-ravaged cities over the last few months — and the things she’s seen are tough to shake. “This is far more organized than I think people realize,” she warned. There are the loads of bricks and frozen water bottles trucked in to use as weapons. Rocks, glass, and firecrackers. Then, there’s the money trail — a seemingly endless cash flow that’s bankrolling plane tickets, hotel rooms, even clothes. “They’re becoming more coordinated,” she warned.

  • Police in Portland, Oregon, said Monday they arrested two protesters carrying guns Sunday night amid an unruly demonstration outside a county office building that houses the sheriff’s department.

Kenosha Arrests Mostly Out-of-Staters

At least 175 people have been arrested during the recent civil unrest in Kenosha, Wis., with 102 having addresses listed outside of the city, according to numbers released by police on Sunday. The arrests were related to the protests that have occurred every night, and have sometimes turned into destructive rioting, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 23. Kenosha police have arrested nine people traveling in vehicles with out-of-state license plates which contained fireworks, helmets, gas masks, protective vests, and suspected controlled substances.

Trump Moves to Defund Riot-Torn Cities

President Donald Trump has ordered his administration Wednesday to investigate defunding riot-roiled, Democrat-controlled cities that “permit anarchy, violence, and destruction,” according to the New York Post. The Trump administration is ordering federal agencies to report to the White House Office of Management and Budget areas where existing federal funding can be redirected away from New York City, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Portland for their “lawless” protests that have been allowed to continue. “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” Trump wrote in a five-page memo. All four cities have experienced varying amounts of violence and destruction of property amid the summer-long protests against police brutality, systemic racism and Trump himself.

Rochester Black Man Suffocated by Police

Seven Rochester, New York, police officers have been suspended with pay over the death of Daniel Prude, the Black man who asphyxiated in March after cops put a hood over his head. His death only just made headlines, after his family released video of the fatal incident. Mayor Lovely Warren said Thursday, “There cannot be a justice system for white people and a justice system for Black people.”

Antifa Shooter in Portland Kills Member of Right-Wing Group

The fatal shooting of a supporter of Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon, last weekend shone a spotlight on the right-wing group based in Washington state and its founder, Joey Gibson. Gibson described the victim as a “good friend” and supporter of Patriot Prayer, a loosely organized band with a distaste for big government. “Patriot prayer is about using the power of love and prayer to fight the corruption both in the government and citizen levels that seek to gain power through division and deception.” •     A man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Oregon, last week was killed Thursday as investigators moved in to arrest him, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday. The man, Antifa supporter Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, Washington, about 120 miles north of Portland.

Left-Wing Groups Demand Resignation of Democratic Portland Mayor

Left-wing groups in Oregon demanded that Portland’s Mayor, Democrat Ted Wheeler, resign after the death of a right-wing protester over the weekend, saying Mr. Wheeler has allowed the city to spiral out of control. Portland police declared a riot Monday night after left-wing protesters marched on the apartment building where they believe Mayor Ted Wheeler lives, launching fireworks at the building and starting a fire in the occupied building. Witnesses and police said some of the 150 or so rioters smashed windows of an apartment building, stole furniture then used it as kindling to light the fires.

Shooting/Assaulting of Police Increasing

Two St. Louis police officers responding to a shooting call were shot themselves Saturday by a gunman who was arrested after he barricaded himself in a home in the Tower Grove South neighborhood, police said.

  • Two Chicago cops were shot and the suspected gunman was wounded by police early Sunday after a traffic stop in the Homan Square neighborhood on the West Side.
  • A police officer is dead this morning after being killed in the line of duty in Ohio, and a manhunt is underway to find the suspect or suspects who shot him.
  • A Portland man has been arrested after chasing two federal officers on an Oregon roadway and trying multiple times to hit them with his car – successfully crashing into their vehicle twice, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.
  • A Black Lives Matter organizer was arrested in Johnston County, Iowa, on Tuesday and charged him with nine felony counts of assault with intent to injure a peace officer. The assaults occurred during a demonstration outside the University of Iowa president’s residence. According to criminal complaints, Matthew Bruce pointed a laser beam light into the eyes of multiple police officers during the demonstration. Several officers needed medical treatment following the incident.

Online Schooling Means Online Testing Which Requires Proctoring

Testing for online students during the pandemic has become a major issue. Without proctoring, cheating is easy. An artificial proctoring program, HonorLock, has seen booming sales but some students and teachers are circulating petitions to warn about using software that hasn’t been fully vetted. HonorLock records video — and much more — of students as they take tests, and uses AI to point out any behavior that looks like cheating. “It seemed like, amidst this crisis, this global pandemic happening, we were being propelled into the software that the university might not have done a lot of research on,” said Amanda Kemper, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She brought her concerns to her professor, who ultimately decided the class would shift to an unproctored take-home exam since the class syllabus hadn’t mentioned HonorLock.

Divorce Rate Up 34% During Pandemic

Divorce rates have spiked in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic as couples have been stuck at home for months. The number of people looking for divorces was 34 percent higher from March through June compared to 2019, according to new data collected by Legal Templates. The combination of stress, unemployment, financial strain, death of loved ones, illness, homeschooling children, mental illnesses, and more has put a significant strain on relationships.

Food Banks Report Rising Numbers Lining Up in Cars

Across the five boroughs of New York City, the hungry number in the hundreds of thousands, the Food Bank of New York estimates. Until the pandemic struck the city, the La Jornada food pantry used to hand out groceries to roughly 1,000 families a week. Now, the figure tops 10,000. And volunteers serve lunch every day to 1,000 — many of them hungry kids who used to get school lunches. The New York Post reports, “The line stretched a quarter-mile before the sun was barely up Saturday, snaking around corners like bread lines in the 1930s. But the hungry in Queens are today’s New Yorkers, left jobless by the coronavirus. In Alameda County, California, vehicles are lining up as early as seven in the morning and this will run for six straight hours. “Hundreds of cars slowly snake their way through the parking lot… driving everything from Toyota’s, BMW’s, to Mercedes, all coming to get food.”

Treasury Department Enacts Deferral of Payroll Taxes

The Trump administration on Friday allowed employers to suspend collection of some Social Security taxes, although business groups don’t like the idea and it may create political headaches for Republicans. Democrats are already saying it would undermine retirement benefits. The Treasury Department guidance came late in the day, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention and a speech by President Donald Trump in which he promised to protect Social Security and Medicare. It allows employers to offer their workers a temporary deferral of the 6.2% payroll tax employees pay into the Social Security Trust Fund for the rest of this year. The taxes owed would not be forgiven, and instead would come due in 2021.

  • The U.S. government will implement an across-the-board payroll tax deferral for roughly 1 million federal employees starting in mid-September, potentially forcing those workers to take a temporary financial boost now that they will have to repay next year.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August as businesses shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic continued to reopen and bring back workers, more than offsetting a fresh wave of layoffs by firms that have exhausted their federal loans. August’s payroll gains were healthy but mark the second straight monthly slowdown in hiring after employers added a record 4.8 million positions in June and 1.8 million in July. The U.S. has recouped slightly only 11.5 jobs of the unprecedented 22 million wiped out in early spring. The unemployment rate fell to 8.4% from 10.2% in July, the Labor Department said Friday.

Government hiring helped boost the increase in jobs with the addition of 344,000 employees, which accounted for about one-fourth of the total gains. The increase stemmed largely from the federal government’s hiring of 251,000 workers, 238,000 of whom were temporary Census workers. Local governments hired 95,000 employees last month while state governments shed 2,000 workers.

More than 833,000 Americans sought unemployment assistance last week as parts of the economy remained shuttered due to COVID-19, a 7,591 rise from the prior week. This is still far higher than the numbers of people filing for unemployment before the pandemic. In addition, millions of out-of-work people have now gone more than a month without the additional $600 in jobless aid.  

The federal budget deficit is projected to hit a record $3.3 trillion as huge government expenditures to fight the coronavirus and to prop up the economy have added more than $2 trillion to the federal ledger, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The $3.3 trillion figure is more than triple the 2019 shortfall and more than double the levels experienced after the market meltdown and Great Recession of 2008-09. The spike in the deficit means that federal debt will exceed annual gross domestic product next year – a milestone that would put the U.S. where it was in the aftermath of World War II, when accumulated debt exceeded the size of the economy.

The stock market ended its historic rise with a 4% slide on Thursday followed by a 2% decline Friday. Thursday’s massive drop was led by big sell-offs in red hot tech leaders such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, pulling the Dow down over 800 points. The slide came just one day after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both hit new all-time highs on Wednesday.

Automobile sales have declined in 2020 due to the economic downturn and record unemployment. The Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit that tracks the industry, projected 2020 U.S. sales of about 13 million vehicles, down from a previous forecast of about 17 million. However, with the pandemic crippling mass transit, auto sales are expected to rebound in 2021.

Gasoline prices are lower than they have been in over a decade. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.23 on Thursday, well below last year’s national average of $2.57. And it’s the lowest Labor Day price since $1.82 per gallon in 2004. 

United Airlines said in an internal memo that it plans to furlough 16,370 employees in October, becoming the latest U.S. carrier to announce massive layoffs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the travel industry. Under the terms of a $25 billion bailout fund that was created earlier this year as part of the CARES Act, airlines are prohibited from cutting jobs or reducing workers’ pay through Sept. 30. United received $5 billion through the program.

First Ever Flight Between Israel & United Arab Emirates

The first-ever commercial Israel-United Arab Emirates flight took off from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport at 10:30 a.m. Monday morning, bound for Abu Dhabi and scheduled to land in the UAE at 3:30 p.m. In another first, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that the flight crossed Saudi airspace on the way to its destination. Previously, Israeli planes have been banned from flying over Saudi Arabia. The word “peace” was painted in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the side of the El Al aircraft making the historic journey. Aboard the plane was an Israeli delegation made up of many of the Jewish State’s prominent public servants, who traveled to meet their Emirati counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation on matters ranging from technology to biomedical engineering and tourism.

Israel Now Has Highest Coronavirus Infection Rate in World

Israel’s soaring coronavirus infection rate is now the worst in the world, statistics from Johns Hopkins University showed Thursday. Over the past seven days Israel averaged 199.3 new infections per million people. That puts Israel in the ignoble position of having the highest rate of new cases, followed by Brazil, Spain, the United States and France.

  • Pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6-7)

Coronavirus Resurgent in Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy & Belgium

If Italy was the harbinger of the first wave of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic in February, Spain is the harbinger of its second, notes the New York Times. France is also surging, as are parts of Eastern Europe, and cases are ticking up in Germany, Greece, Italy and Belgium, too, but in the past week, Spain has recorded the most new cases on the continent by far — more than 53,000. With 114 new infections per 100,000 people in that time, the virus is spreading faster in Spain than in the United States. after one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns, which did check the virus’s spread, it then implemented one of the most rapid reopenings. The return of nightlife and group activities were instituted far faster in Spain than most of its European neighbors which has contributed to the epidemic’s resurgence.

Germany Halts Protest March to Enforce Social Distancing

Berlin police ordered a halt to a demonstration Saturday protesting the German government’s Covid-19 response, citing the crowd’s failure to abide by social distancing guidelines. Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, including a large contingent of far-right groups and members identifying with the QAnon conspiracy platform. Few of the demonstrators wore masks or followed social distancing guidelines as they waved flags and marched towards the Brandenburg Gate for a final rally, where about 20,000 people from Germany and other European countries were expected to gather. About 3,000 police officers were deployed to monitor the march after concerns about whether social distancing rules would be followed.

Riots Erupt in Sweden After Quran Burned

Over 300 rioters hit the streets in Sweden on Friday night after far-right activists publicly burned a copy of the Quran. The unrest erupted in Malmo after a right-wing Danish politician was barred from entering the country for an anti-Muslim rally. His supporters responded by burning the holy book, triggering riots that included burning tires, stones thrown at police, several injured officers, and a handful of arrests.

African Countries Face Hunger Crisis

Chad is facing floods in the capital, drought in the south, and epidemic disease in the east. Christians face violent persecution and Islamic missionaries have stepped up their work, seizing opportunities created by the Covid-19 situation. “Poor Christians in Chad presently are worried about food, health, housing, education of children, the survival of their faith,” said Pastor Clément, Director of a Coalition of Evangelical Churches in Chad.

  • Another West African country suffering greatly from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic is Burkina Faso. The number of people in need of emergency food has tripled to 3.2 million as Covid-19 measures created a major socio-economic crisis that has continued months after the original restrictions were lifted. Terrorist violence, often targeting Christians, has separated farmers from their land, leaving much-needed crops to rot in the fields.
  • The Famine Early Warning Systems Network reports a rise in urban food insecurity too. In the 29 countries it monitors in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, nearly 100 million people need food assistance in 2020.

Wildfires

There are currently 9 large-scale inident-1 fires burning in California, as well as 4 incident-2 fires and 12 additional fires being handled locally. Oregon has 2 incident-1 fires, 2 incident-2 fires and 4 others. Colorado also has 2 incident-1 fires 1 incident-2 fires and 1 other, while Arizona also has 2 incidet-1 fires 7 others. Incident-1 fires are the most serious and call in firefighters from all over the nation, while Incident-2 fires are handled with regional personnel.

  • Overall in 2020, the U.S. has recorded 40,528 fires which have burned 4,434,509 acres. This is more than last year (34,446 fires, 4,101,339 acres) but less than the 10-year average (42,954 fires, 5,649,102 acres.)

Weather

The toll of Hurricane Laura has been severe, but not as bad as expected. At least 14 deaths were caused by the hurricane, 8 of which were due to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. As many as 17,000 evacuees sought shelter in Louisiana and Texas hotels. With 308,000 Louisiana homes and businesses still without power as of Monday morning, officials said outages could last for weeks. About 500 electricity transmission towers are down in the Lake Charles area alone. Texas still had 57,700 without power. More than 17,000 linemen from at least 29 states are making repairs. More than 180,000 people also have little or no running water. At least 183 water systems remain shut down. Schools in Louisiana’s Calcasieu and in Cameron parishes will remain closed until further notice. Calcasieu School Board officials said 97% of their 70 sites and facilities have substantial damage. Six parishes have been declared federal disaster areas.

Flooding from unusually heavy summer rains in Sudan has killed at least 90 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes in the African nation. More than 37,000 homes have been destroyed and 39,000 houses have been damaged. In recent days, the floodwaters have spread into the capital city of Khartoum where residents were building barricades as the Nile River flowed into several districts.

Powerful Typhoon Maysak on Thursday flooded homes and vehicles and knocked down trees and utility poles on South Korea’s southern and eastern coasts. The typhoon knocked out electricity to more than 270,000 homes, and caused two deaths. Maysak is the fourth typhoon to hit the Korean Peninsula this year and the second in less than a month. Last week, Typhoon Bavi damaged homes, buildings and crops on the peninsula. Typhoon Haishen is expected to reach the Korean coast on Monday after passing near parts of southern Japan.

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

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

September 1, 2020

The Bible is very clear that showing others mercy and love is foremost of all:

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13 NKJ)

Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

Angry judgment without mercy is harsh and hostile.

Speaking the truth without love is condemning and judgmental.

Without love and mercy, not only do we drive unbelievers away, the opposite of the Great Commission, and we ourselves do not “grow up in all things into Him who is the Head – Christ.”

The great divide in our country today is between:

Those who have (Biblical) Truth but lack mercy (compassion)

Those who exhibit mercy (compassion) but lack Truth.